The Road Of Danger – Snippet 40


          Adele’s mind cascaded analyses:


          I don’t believe that.


          It is possible that a Naval Intelligence section here on the fringes of the empire could go rogue.


          If Cinnabar’s Naval Intelligence is behind the Sunbright rebellion, it means the war will resume very shortly.


          None of the thoughts reached her tongue. She looked at a couple walking beside a pool in the garden, not far from the causeway. The man was… over-attentive; the woman shied away, but not very far away. From their clothing, they both worked in the government offices on the Phoenix.


          Osorio must have taken Adele’s silence as meaning that she had not understood the importance of what he had just told her. He leaned forward and said urgently, “The Cinnabar Navy wants the Forty Stars Squadron concentrated around Sunbright with the Funnel Squadron. Then Cinnabar will capture Madison! But Admiral Jeletsky here knows that and he won’t be tricked away. You can see that he’s ready to move at any moment, though. The squadron has been on high alert for twenty days!”


          “I see,” Adele said, since she realized that she was expected to say something. “I still don’t understand what this has to do with me. With the Principal of Hrynko.”


          Osorio started back. There was nothing in her words to disturb him, so he must be reacting to her face.


          Adele had been considering options for correcting the situation if she learned that Cinnabar personnel were really behind the rebellion on Sunbright. It certainly wasn’t the section on Kronstadt, but some other element of the RCN might be responsible.


          Mistress Sand would need to be informed, but time would be of the essence. It might be best to solve the problem first, then report it. Adele was confident that she and Tovera would be able to take care of the matter without help from Xenos.


          “While the Alliance navy can’t catch many of our supply ships,” Osorio said, meaning the blockade runners which were making him and his friends rich, “the Governor of Sunbright has commissioned a private vessel, the Estremadura, which is another matter. It operates in the Madison System–where ships from the Funnel Squadron would not be permitted–and along the route from here to Cremona. It carries ships it captures to a prize court on Westerbeke, where they’re always condemned.”


          He puffed up his chest with an air of angry injustice. “And,” he concluded, “they always know the real cargo, no matter how careful the owners have been in creating believable documents!”


          “I still don’t see–” Adele began, though in fact she finally had a glimmer of understanding of what the Cremonan was getting at.


          “You will see!” Osorio said. “You have a real warship, do you not? You can fight. The port officials here say this.”


          “Yes,” said Adele. Her suspicion, unlikely as it had seemed, was correct.


          “We will hire you!” Osorio said. “The Friends of Sunbright will hire you to protect our shipping. You will have a Cremonan commission so that you will not be pirates, you need not be afraid. We have power in our government!”


          The Government of Cremona is a joke, Adele thought. And if a Cremonan naval vessel attacks an Alliance naval vessel, it’s an act of war. Even if both ships are auxiliaries.


          “You are authorized to commit your government and to pay the fee I might demand for undergoing this danger?” Adele said coldly. “I would need proof, which I doubt you could provide.”


          She pursed her lips and added, “I would be paid in Alliance thalers. If I were to do this. Or Cinnabar florins, that would be all right.”


          “Then you will do it!” Osorio said. Which was, after all, what Adele’s answer implied, despite the qualifiers she had used to couch it. “I do not have this authority, no no, but you will take me to Cremona. The Council of Friends will meet you; and when we have agreed, the government will issue your commission. On my honor as a gentleman of Cremona!”


          I have heard oaths that impressed me more, Adele thought. Aloud she said, “I will give this matter thought, Master Osorio. I will inform you if I decide we have anything further to discuss.”


          In other words, she thought, I will talk the matter over with Daniel and we will form our strategy together. But I really want to look into your claim that Cinnabar provided missiles at the beginning of the rebellion.


          Reacting–again–to Adele’s lack of immediate response, Osorio said, “Come!” as he rose to his feet.


          He made an upward gesture with both hands as though he were tossing grain to winnow out the chaff. “We will eat together and you will understand my position. They have good wines here on Madison, very good wines!”


          I already understand your position, Adele thought. You, however, don’t appear to have heard a word that I’ve said.


          The Cremonan attaché shied again at her expression, which this time pleased her sourly. Aloud but calmly she said, “I now will go about my business. I do not require your presence, Master Osorio. If I wish to see you again, after I have considered your proposals, I will inform you.”


          “Can I carry you somewhere?” Osorio said, waving vaguely toward his car.


          Not a single word, Adele thought.


          “All I want of you,” she said, “is your absence. Do you understand?”


          “Yes,” Osorio said with a false smile. “Yes, of course, Your Ladyship. We will speak soon!”


          He sauntered toward the causeway and his vehicle. Adele watched him for a moment–Osorio was the sort who might suddenly turn around to offer some further absurd argument–before she took out her data unit. The Principal of Hrynko didn’t have to be a technological illiterate, but Adele hadn’t chosen to emphasize her abilities in front of the Cremonan.