The Road Of Danger – Snippet 15


          Vesey said, “Isn’t there still a problem with shipping goods to the rebels from Cinnabar territory? If the Funnel authorities capture some of the ships, that is, and they’re bound to capture some.”


          Hogg sat quietly on the jump seat across from Daniel at the command console; Tovera faced Adele at Signals. The servants had no business at this meeting of the ship’s command group, but there was no reason to exclude them either. Nobody worried about either of them speaking out of turn.


          “Sattler owns a one-third interest in Calpurnius Trading on Madison,” Adele said. She didn’t react sharply to the interruption, as Daniel had seen her do in the past. He had the feeling that this was what she had planned for the next point in her presentation anyway.


          “All goods for the rebels are purchased and shipped by Calpurnius,” she went on, flicking a wand to cascade files to the officers listening to her.  None of them bothered to examine the data now; or ever would, Daniel surmised. “I doubt that Sattler’s financial involvement would appear to anything less than a full investigation, and that by unusually competent investigators. He hasn’t put Alliance-Cinnabar relations at risk.”


          Daniel didn’t try to hide his smile this time. Adele had found the link in a matter of minutes. Granted that she had been in Sattler’s office, but it was pretty certain that she would have done the same thing just as quickly if she had been given access to the Calpurnius Trading offices.


          “But Madison is an Alliance world,” Vesey said, frowning in puzzlement. She didn’t doubt what Adele was saying, but she didn’t understand it. “It’s a sector capital, in fact?”


          “This far out from Pleasaunce…,” said Midshipman Cazelet. His family had owned a shipping line operating from the Alliance capital, Pleasaunce, before they had incurred the displeasure of Guarantor Porra and disappeared into his dungeons. “It’s just a matter of knowing who to slip the bribe to. And the bribe won’t have to be very large, I’d expect.”


          “There’s a political aspect as well,” Daniel said, speaking to end the discussion before Adele did so. She had a tendency to jerk the leash harder than necessary to bring her wandering listeners back to the path she had chosen. “Madison is a sector capital, but Sunbright and its problems are in a different sector.”


          He coughed and added, “Go on, Officer Mundy.”


          Adele smiled minusculely, not at him but very possibly toward his image on her display. “Master Sattler has no immediate plans to send someone inspect his investment on Madison,” she said in her usual dry tone, “but based on similar situations on other planets, it wouldn’t surprise the staff of Calpurnius Trading if he chose to do so. I propose that I go to Madison as a passenger on the Princess Cecile disguised as a private ship, and that I present my credentials as Sattler’s agent to his partners there.”


          “By the gods yes!” said Cory in beaming excitement. “The ship is private, after all, except we’re under RCN charter right now.”


          Daniel didn’t interject, but the circumstances were more complex than Cory implied or perhaps even knew. Daniel personally owned the Princess Cecile; he had bought the former Kostroman corvette out of RCN service several years earlier with some of the prize money which he had gained in the course of a short but very fortunate career.


          However the Sissie‘s present charter was not with the RCN but rather with the External Bureau so that she could carry an official to an Alliance protectorate without Cinnabar naval involvement. There hadn’t been time to change the paperwork in the rush after they had arrived on Cinnabar, then lifted at once with the dispatches to Admiral Cox.


          While his officers chattered and his conscious mind focused on a legal technicality of the sort his sister Deirdre, a banker, spent her life with, Daniel’s subconscious fitted the varied pieces into a decision. He said, “Fellow spacers?”


          The two lieutenants and Cazelet continued arguing about whether to arrive on Madison as the Princess Cecile; whether to pretend to be a Trinidad-registered schooner; or whether to land on Trento and send the “inspector” to Madison on a short-hop freighter. They also disagreed about who should pretend to be Sattler’s representative, though all agreed that it shouldn’t be Adele.


          “Pipe down and listen to Six!” Woetjans said; even Daniel jumped. The bridge was armored, but he was willing to bet that everybody in the rotunda beyond the closed hatch had heard the bosun’s shout.


          The three officers sat upright at their consoles, their eyes straight ahead and their lips tightly together. No one spoke. Adele’s smile was too slight for anyone but a close associate to have recognized the expression, but it was enough to make Daniel grin broadly in return.


          “Thank you, fellow spacers,” he said politely. “I will visit Calpurnius Trading myself. If this excellent plan works out, the representative will continue from Madison to Cremona and then on to Sunbright. Officer Mundy’s virtues are too well known for me to bother listing them in this group, but I do not believe she could pass as a working spacer on a blockade runner.”


          Vesey’s face went blank; Cory and Cazelet stared at one another in surprise. It took Woetjans a moment to put Daniel’s deadpan words together with their meaning; then she laughed as loudly as her shouted command of a moment before.


          “Sir?” said Cory. “You can’t take a risk like that yourself–it wouldn’t be proper. I can–“


          Cazelet and Vesey had their mouths open to object and doubtless to offer their own proposals. Daniel stopped all three of them with a cold smile and a raised finger. He said, “I’d hate to think that my Bosun had more authority aboard the Princess Cecile than I do. But I’m sure Woetjans would be willing to restore order, eh?”


          “Sorry, Six,” Vesey muttered to her hands, though she hadn’t actually spoken. Cory and Cazelet just nodded.


          “You’re good officers,” Daniel said, looking again around his command group. “You wouldn’t be aboard the Sissie if I didn’t trust you, you know that.”