The Road Of Danger – Snippet 16


          He paused and felt his grin harden before he went on, “But I’m Six, and you know that too. I’m going to do this because I think I’m the right choice for the job, and the Princess Cecile isn’t going to become a democracy on my watch.”


          Adele rotated her seat so that she faced the other officers. For her to do that could only be a piece of theater, as everybody on the bridge knew. She said, “I would appreciate it if you explained your logic, Captain Leary.”


          Nobody else would have asked, Daniel realized, so Adele had asked. You never had to wonder if Adele Mundy would do whatever she thought was necessary.


          But not in this case necessary for her. She understood already, which is why she had made such a circus turn out of her question.


          “Of course, Adele,” Daniel said. He never treated Adele casually when they were on duty in public. His choice of address created a deliberate balance to her over-formality.


          “First…,” he said to the group. “I personally, and the Princess Cecile through me, have been tasked to remove from Sunbright a presumed Cinnabar citizen going by the name of Freedom. This is our sole duty at the moment; we have no greater purpose. Not so?”


          Cory was blushing in embarrassment; Vesey looked pale and miserable; and Cazelet had a withdrawn expression as though he had just been told the date of his execution. None of them spoke, but Woetjans nodded vigorously.


          “I can easily play an RCN lieutenant beached on half-pay by the Treaty of Amiens,” Daniel continued. “That’s what I’d be now if I hadn’t been extremely lucky.”


          For an instant he thought that both Vesey and Cory were going to protest, but neither of them did. Adele’s sniff had a suggestion of humor in it, though, if you knew her well.


          “Any of the three of you–“


          Daniel gestured to the commissioned officers. Even Cazelet had passed the tests for lieutenant, though he hadn’t been–and, if the present peace continued, might not be for a decade–granted the rank.


          “–can command the Sissie in my absence. A yacht owner would be lucky to hire a captain as skilled.”


          “And the mistress can be the owner, right?” Woetjans said, excited as the concept came into focus in her mind. “She can carry it off because she is a fine lady, even though she’s, you know, the mistress too!”


          That was exactly the conclusion that Daniel had come to also. As he opened his mouth to say so, however, Vesey objected, “But why would a yacht be carrying a passenger? Perhaps you–“


          She turned to Daniel.


          “–should be the hired captain, but when you get to Madison you quit for some reason?”


          “Oh, that’s no problem,” Woetjans said with a toss of her big hands. “Six can play at being the lady’s fancy man. And, you know, looking for an easier berth.”


          Vesey, Cory, and Cazelet went perfectly blank. From the stiffness of Daniel’s own face, he supposed he did also. Hogg guffawed, and Tovera tittered like a crazed weasel.


          “Based on my past experience,” Adele said calmly, “it should be quite easy to get people to believe that.”


          “I dare say it would,” said Daniel, pleased that he sounded relaxed. “But I think we’ll explain that Bernhard Sattler and Company handled the yacht’s refit on Kronstadt in return for her ladyship–“


          He dipped in his seat as though bowing.


          “–delivering me to Madison to make an inspection.”


          He cleared his throat and went on, “Now, we have to assume that a trading firm will be knowledgeable about ships, and the Sissie is obviously Kostroman built. How do we explain a Cinnabar noble owning a yacht built on Kostroma?”


          “I’ve looked into that,” said Adele before anyone else spoke. Her control wands dipped and crossed; the hologram of a ship formed in the center of the compartment. “To begin with, I won’t be a Cinnabar noble–“




          “–because for our purposes it makes much better sense that I be a Kostroman,” Adele said. “As some of you will remember, I was for a time in Kostroma City as Electoral Librarian.”


          She smiled. Daniel smiled back more broadly, and Woetjans–who then had been building bookshelves for the Electoral Librarian on Lieutenant Leary’s orders– nodded with enthusiasm. Adele had met Hogg and Tovera on Kostroma also, but the servants held their silence; they had no part of this discussion.


          The post on Kostroma had provided Adele with shelter of a sort, food of a similar sort, and even her pay occasionally. In those categories she was better off than she had frequently been since the Proscriptions which followed the Three Circles Conspiracy had left her a penniless orphan.


          Otherwise the post had very little to recommend it, even before the bloody coup which made Adele–because she had survived–a member of the RCN. Depending on how you judged time, that had happened either several years or a lifetime in the past.


          “I don’t think I’ll have difficulty in convincing those we meet on Madison,” she said, “that I’m the deposed Principal Hrynko, travelling for my health. That is, the former chief of the Clan Hrynko, who retained enough power to negotiate the transfer of power to her stepson rather than to have him replace her in a less expensive manner.”


          “That’s not the Sissie,” said Woetjans. She had focused on the holographic ship in the middle of the compartment instead of listening to what Adele was saying. “This one’s got the E and F rings staggered instead of straight.”


          The Bosun frowned, then added, “I’ve seen Kostroman ships rigged that way, but never the Sissie. Even if she’d been changed to the standard rig before we grabbed her, her hull’d be dimpled where the mast steps used to be.”


          Daniel smiled with the delight of a happy infant. “I wouldn’t have noticed that, Woetjans,” he said. “I didn’t notice it. But I will another time, thanks to you.”