The Road Of Danger – Snippet 42


CHAPTER 11: Ashetown on Madison


          “I look forward to hearing from you soon, Your Ladyship!” said Osorio as they settled to the quay beside the Princess Cecile. The aircar’s running lights gleamed from the water of the slip and the wet aluminum surface of the catwalk.


          “Thank you,” Adele said, opening the door and getting out. Because the passenger compartment was enclosed, the Cremonan could no longer see her face. She preferred the anonymity, because her mind was far away from Osorio and his problems. “I will inform you of my decision.”


          She started across the floating catwalk to the corvette’s boarding ramp. She sniffed. Indeed, her duties to the ship and to the Republic itself were far from her mind. Well, there would be time for them later, if there was a “later.”


          “Hail to Lady Principal Henkow!” shouted Gildas, a Technician and one of the spacers on guard in the entrance hold. He was willing and good-hearted, but she had met spaniels whom she thought were of greater intellectual capacity.


          This was a typical example of Gildas overdoing a task out of enthusiasm and stupidity. Dasi, the chief of the watch, had been talking on the internal communicator mounted beside the hatch. He turned and snarled Gildas into silence.


          The business helped Adele back into what passed for normalcy with her. There was no harm done: the real Principal Hrynko would have stupid, ignorant spacers in a crew she hired also. The aircar purred away behind her.


          “Ma’am?” Dasi said. “Six is on his way down here. Ah, Lieutenant Pensett is, you know?”


          At least he didn’t shout loudly enough to be heard three slips over, Adele thought grimly. Well, she and Daniel had known all along that most spacers weren’t skilled at deceit; and besides, it was unlikely that anyone was looking for evidence that the Sissie and her crew were not what they pretended to be.


          “Why–” she began aloud.


          Her question was interrupted–and answered–by the speaker above the main hatch. In Vesey’s voice, it announced, “Ship, this is the captain. In a moment our passenger, Kirby Pensett, will address us from the entry hold. Those of you who do not have access to a good display may either go to the bridge or to the BDC, or join Pensett in person in the hold. Captain out.”


          Daniel strode out of the companionway, talking over his shoulder to Hogg. He was wearing mottled RCN utilities without insignia, typical garb for an officer on half-pay who didn’t have family money to fall back on. He caught Adele from the corner of his eye and brightened beyond his normal infectious enthusiasm.


          He makes even me happier. Well, less grim.


          Daniel bent close to her ear and murmured, “Adele, I’ll be travelling to Cremona and I hope Sunbright as captain of the Savoy. I worked out the details with the owner this evening.”


          Hogg, standing close, grunted. Though he wasn’t looking at them, he was certainly listening.


          “That is, Hogg and I are going,” he said with an affectionate grin toward his servant.


          Spacers were coming down the companion way with bangs and chatter; others pushed in from the axial corridor to the stern. The hold was filling up.


          “Excellent,” Adele said. “A Cremonan backer of the rebels wants me to carry him home to meet his consortium. They hope to hire the House of Hrynko to attack an Alliance privateer that is capturing blockade runners leaving Madison.”


          Twenty-odd spacers were within the compartment, so she and Daniel were scarcely talking in private. Boots on the steel deck and echoing conversations in a score of hoarse whispers were too loud a backdrop for any crewman to overhear them. It was equally unlikely that it would matter if one of them did.


          Daniel pursed his lips. He said, “Do you expect to accept the offer?”


          “I wanted to hear your opinion,” Adele said austerely.


          No additional crewmen were joining those already in the compartment, though the audience had spilled onto the upper edge of the boarding ramp. It must be about time for Daniel to make his address.


          “Yes,” he said, a placeholder as he considered the situation. “I recommend that you take this agent to Cremona and listen to the proposition. It’s likely to give us–“


          He grinned broadly.


          “–to give you, that is, an opportunity to get information that we couldn’t get any other way. Beyond that–“


          He shrugged.


          “–we don’t have enough data to make a decision. Decide as seems best to you at the time; with, one hopes, more information.”


          “I agree,” Adele said. She tried to clear her throat of the lump there. “I hope we’ll meet on Cremona, then.”


          She nodded toward the loudspeaker. There was an audio/video pickup in it, though they had to be switched on from the bridge.


          “Yes,” Daniel repeated, facing the speaker and letting his face settle into his usual cheerful grin. “Fellow spacers!” he said. He waited for the cheers of his immediate audience to die down.


          She and Daniel had come to the same conclusion after viewing the data. That was scarcely surprising: it was the correct conclusion, and Daniel rarely made mistakes in the professional arena.


          Her lips quirked slightly in the direction of a smile. Since he had met Miranda Dorst, he had been less often involved with mindless young women in his private capacity, too; though Adele wasn’t sure that he had yet come to view those bimbos as mistakes.


          “I’ll be leaving the Sissie this evening,” Daniel said. He had obviously decided to drop the pretence of “The House of Hrynko” for the time being. Though the hatch was open, sound propagation out of a crowded compartment would be extremely poor. “I hope to rejoin her and you after we’ve reached our destination separately. Now–“