The Road Of Danger – Snippet 10

 

          “Hey Six?” called a Power Room tech, one of the four spacers in the guard detail at the head of the boarding bridge. “They’ve got a real flap on here. Every bloody ship in the harbor’s working up her thrusters and taking stores aboard.”

 

          Adele instinctively reached for her data unit to check the name of the speaker, a squat, androgynous woman who was cradling a sub-machine gun. Her face was familiar, but Adele didn’t connect names and faces very well.

 

          Daniel grinned and said, “As well they should be, Damion. Thanks to the fast run that you on the Ship Side and the riggers both made possible, the Macotta Squadron is able to lift in time to prevent another war.”

 

          Adele’s lips twisted wryly. Though she wasn’t good with flesh-and-blood people, she’d never had a problem keeping authors and their respective documents straight.

 

          The boarding bridge was a twenty-foot aluminum catwalk extending from the concrete quay to the Princess Cecile‘s starboard outrigger. There it met the ship’s boarding ramp–the main entry hatch in its fully lowered position.

 

          Three pontoons supported the catwalk. It was wide enough for two people to walk abreast, but Adele knew that Daniel in the lead and Tovera following closely behind were both ready to grab her if she started to topple into the water.

 

          Hogg, at the rear of the short procession, swam like a fish. He would drag Adele up from the bottom of the slip if that were required… and would dive down again after her data unit if it somehow had slipped out of its pocket. Every member of the Sissie‘s crew knew that Adele would rather be stripped naked than to lose her data unit.

 

          “I was thinking, master….” Hogg called. “If you weren’t going to need the car right away, this might be a good time for me to top off the liquor cabinet.”

 

          Daniel turned and stepped aside for Adele as he reached the ramp. “Officer Mundy?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. She hadn’t spoken of the course of action she had planned while sorting data from the headquarters computers.

 

          Adele stepped onto the ramp. It was thick steel and seemed as solid as the continent itself after the queasy flexing of the catwalk.

 

          “I’m sorry, Hogg,” she said over her shoulder. She spoke loud enough for Daniel to hear, but the question was really the servant’s. “Captain Leary and I will be going into town as soon as he’s changed out of his Whites and I’ve briefed Cory and Cazelet. We’re going to visit Bernhard Sattler, the merchant who acts as Honorary Consul for the Alliance on Kronstadt. I hope that Sattler will give us information that will help with the mission we’ve been assigned.”

 

          And whether or not Sattler is consciously helpful, I expect that the data I draw from his files will prove useful.

 

***

 

          Daniel had changed into a 2nd Class uniform–gray with black piping–because that was the proper garb for visiting a civilian of no particular importance, but it was also a great deal more comfortable than his Dress Whites. At this point Adele was in charge because she had a plan; he was following her orders. He was pleased that she had ordered him to wear his Grays, though.

 

          He wasn’t sure why Tovera was driving while Hogg sat beside her in the front seat; presumably it was something the two of them had worked out. Hogg liked to drive, but nobody–his master included–wanted to ride with him a second time. Driving gave Hogg great pleasure, though, and Daniel loved as well as valued the man. Hogg was his servant, certainly; but he was also Daniel’s father in the non-biological sense.

 

          “Kronstadt doesn’t have formal diplomatic representation with the Alliance,” Adele said, her eyes on the display she was manipulating. Daniel didn’t imagine that what she was looking at had anything to do with what she was saying: the ride to Sattler’s warehouse was simply an opportunity to give him background while she delved much deeper herself. “An honorary consul is a private citizen with an Alliance connection of some sort. He helps Alliance citizens who are having problems. Our External Bureau calls the equivalent official a consular agent.”

 

          “He helps spacers who’ve been rolled and missed their ships?” Daniel said. “That sort of thing?”

 

          Adele shrugged without, Daniel noticed, affecting the way her control wands moved. She claimed the angle and position of the wands provided her with quicker, subtler control of her holographic display than any other form of input device.

 

          Daniel believed her, but the only other people he had seen using wands were Adele’s protégés Cazelet and Cory. From their expressions as they struggled, they didn’t get the results Adele did.

 

          “Yes, usually spacers,” she said toward the blur of light that coalesced at the point where her own eyes focused, “but it can be any Alliance citizen who’s been robbed or has some other kind of legal problem. From information in the regional computers, I believe I can find a great deal more in Master Sattler’s own files.”

 

          Tovera swung the car so wide around dining tables outside a restaurant that Daniel was afraid that they would scrape the front of the shop on the opposite side of the street of segmented paving blocks. Buildings in this older section of Holm–along the river, the original starship harbor–were faced with pastel stucco. Enough of the covering had flaked off to show that the walls beneath were brick or stone, definitely not things to drive into with a plastic-bodied vehicle.

 

          About the best thing one could say about Tovera’s driving was that her collisions were likely to be at much slower speeds than those of Hogg. She was mechanically overcautious instead displaying Hogg’s incompetent verve.

 

          Daniel coughed to clear his throat. Something must have showed in his expression, because Adele glanced toward him and said, “I expected to face danger in the RCN. I hadn’t appreciated how much of it would involve riding in vehicles which my shipmates were driving.”

 

          They had reached a warehouse building with double doors along the front. Tovera pulled the car to a halt abruptly enough to tilt the bow forward. The air-cushion suspension damped the jolt better than Daniel had expected when he braced his hands against the seat ahead of him.