The Road Of Danger – Snippet 27


          Tovera nodded. The spacers pushed open the doors and marched into the atrium. Adele followed them, and Tovera brought up the rear with her attaché case held waist high in her left hand. Though the building didn’t have a military detachment, the pair of security guards inside were fingering their shock rods as they scowled at Woetjans and her spacers.


          Adele felt the humor of the situation, though she didn’t let it reach her lips. With Tovera in the room, nobody else could be considered really dangerous. The mental smile hardened: except perhaps for Tovera’s mistress.


          The double-height atrium was semicircular, with doors opening off the curve. There were dozen people watching Adele’s arrival at ground level, and a similar number peered down over the mezzanine rail.


          “I am the Principal Hrynko!” Adele said, her words filling the big room. She had grown up in a family of politicians; even her little sister Agatha had known how to project her voice. “I am here to meet your Admiral Jeletsky, as one leader to another!”


          The male receptionist at the central island was in urgent communication with someone over the intercom, but he kept his eyes on Adele and her entourage. Nobody actually responded to Adele.


          She pointed to a man in lace-trimmed trousers and jacket who stood at the open door to his office. The style had been briefly popular on Pleasance about five years earlier, marking the fellow as a local who was trying to pass as a citizen of an Alliance core world. He was probably a mid-level functionary and therefore as frightened of overstepping his authority as he was of doing the wrong thing.


          “You!” Adele said, pointing with her right arm. “Take me to the Squadron Commander!”


          “Mistress?” said the receptionist in a desperate voice. “Your Ladyship? Please, someone is coming. He’ll be here very shortly, so if you–there he is! Deputy Quinley, the, ah, Principal Hrynko is here to see you.”


          Quinley was short, tubby, and at the moment red-faced. Over an ordinary business suit with puffed sleeves he wore a blue sash; the pretty blond aide trotting with him through an interior doorway was trying to tug wrinkles out of its glossy fabric.


          He stopped and straightened when he saw Adele. Bowing, he said with unexpected dignity, “Your Ladyship, I am Deputy Controller Quinley. How may the Alliance serve you here on Madison?”


          “I am here to see Admiral Jeletsky,” Adele said. “I am a leader, and I will meet with your leader.”


          What Adele was really here to do was to cause a stir that would cause all departments in the building to check on what was happening–and by so doing, to open their systems to her personal data unit. She wasn’t looking for information at the moment; that would require her input, choosing the pathways and circumventing security. All she expected to get from this were the internal addresses.


          “Your Ladyship,” Quinley said quietly but firmly, “Admiral Jeletsky is a Fleet official. Unless you’re here to declare war, your business is with the Sector’s civil government. I am the highest Alliance representative available. If you’ll come back to my office, we will deal with your concerns as expeditiously as possible.”


          He looked at Woetjans and added, “My office isn’t overly large, Your Ladyship. It would be better if you left your companions here to amuse themselves. And better still if they were to wait outside.”


          Adele looked stern in a calculated fashion for a moment. Then she said, “My secretary will accompany me.”


          To the Bosun she added, “Woetjans, you may wait at the litter while I deal with this bureaucrat.”


          If Quinley was offended by the description, he avoided letting the fact show. “Follow me, please,” he said and walked back the way he had come. Adele, Tovera, and finally the aide followed.


           A security guard opened the door into a hallway. He and Quinley exchanged glances; then the guard faced front and stood with no more expression than the wall behind him while “the Kostromans” passed.


          Quinley’s office was on the ground floor, but the back wall was glass with a door into the small garden beyond. The deputy controller touched a belt fob as he entered, and the sidewalls became a creamy blank. Everything in the office was virtual except for the chairs and desk of a synthetic with the sheen of black onyx.


          “If you’ll give me a moment, please,” Quinley said, sliding behind the desk and bringing up a display on which he concentrated.


          Adele had to restrain her reflex to take out her data unit. As a loud semi-barbarian, she was a harmless joke. If she showed herself to be technologically capable, she would become more interesting–especially since Quinley was showing himself to be a good deal more than a pompous nonentity also.


          The aide smiled brightly and said, “Won’t you be seated, Your Ladyship, mistress? And can I have some refreshment brought to you?”


          Adele sat down. Though the chair looked like stone, it deformed firmly but comfortably to her weight. She said, “No, I have my own food aboard the yacht.”


          Tovera stood against the wall, on the hinge side of the door panel. If it opened, she and her attaché case would be concealed from the person entering. Neither Quinley nor the aide paid her any attention: Tovera was as colorless as the walls.