The Road Of Danger – Snippet 49


          “I’ll pay you,” Platt said, breathing quickly. “I can pay any amount, any amount. I’m a very important man!”


          Platt had fouled himself when his leg bent. He was an aging fat man who wore only his own feces and a child’s blood, and he was bragging about his importance.


          “You must be very important,” Adele said in a calm, reasonable tone. “To be allowed to do this.”


          She gestured toward the operating table with her right hand.


          “Even on a frontier world like Madison, that’s amazing.”


          “I was the Chief of Systems at Fleet Prime on Pleasaunce!” Platt said. Adele wasn’t sure whether it was breathy enthusiasm or only pain which she heard in his voice. “I should have been promoted to Technical Director, but some officious fool started making trouble and I had to, well, I came here. I–“


          He paused and panted for a moment while he retrieved the thread of his argument. At last he said, “I know powerful people here. They’ll give you whatever you ask to free me. Anything! Just ask.”


          “Your protector is Commander Doerries of Fleet Intelligence here?” Adele said. She backed a few steps to glance sideways at her data unit without looking away from Platt.


          “That doesn’t matter!” Platt said. “I can get you more money than you dream, that’s what matters!”


          “No,” said Adele, “it isn’t. Even if I cared about money, it wouldn’t matter now.”


          She shot Platt through the eye; twice, as she had been trained to do. He spasmed and went flaccid.


          You don’t torture a cockroach.


          “Coming through!” Tovera said from the doorway. “Coming through!”


          Adele slid the data unit into its proper sheath beneath the borrowed trousers. She continued to hold the pistol out. It would have cooled sufficiently to pocket by the time she stepped into the open air again.


          “I’m almost done here,” she said, turning. “Bring a–ah. Yes, of course you would.”


          Tovera gave Adele a snake-like smile. She held two of the automatic carbines which dead guards had dropped.


          “Step clear, mistress,” she said, holding one of the carbines sideways at her waist. The other was slung over her shoulder.


          Adele obediently walked toward the door. When Tovera was satisfied that Adele was at a safe distance, she fired into the first console. Because the impellers were smoothbores, rifling didn’t twist the barrel to the side but the fully automatic burst did lift the muzzle slightly under recoil.


          The thirty osmium pellets spaced themselves across the body of the console and halfway into its nearest neighbor. Sparks, fragments, and the sizzle of short circuits followed the line of destruction.


          When the weapon was empty, Tovera tossed it into a corner–the muzzle glowed a yellow which shimmered toward the white–and unlimbered the other carbine. Her second long burst was in perfect alignment with that of the first.


          She dropped the carbine onto the steel floor; it sizzled and stank in blood. “I’ll lead,” she said, drawing her sub-machine gun as she stepped ahead of Adele at the door.


          “No problems?” Adele said.


          “The woman on the console tonight had her girlfriend in to improve the time,” Tovera said. “I expended six rounds instead of three, that’s all.”


          She held up a keychip in her left hand. “I thought we’d leave the van here and go out in the girlfriend’s car,” she said. “Nobody will connect that with this business if it gets noticed before we’re back aboard the Sissie.”


          “All right,” said Adele. It was very improbable that anyone would notice the slaughter for days if not weeks, given the care that Platt and Doerries had taken to keep the location secret.


          Adele didn’t care. She wasn’t sure she cared about anything at the moment.


          The three-wheeler’s back wouldn’t have held an adult, but they easily folded the drugged boy into it. Tovera got into the driver’s seat and switched the vehicle on. Adele took out her personal data unit by rote.


          “The boy back there?” Tovera said without looking at Adele.


          “He was dead,” Adele said. She opened the gate for Tovera to accelerate into the street, then started it closing again.


          Adele looked at her servant. “Tovera?” she said. “Does what happened to those children disturb you?”

          Tovera did not look away from the road. “It bothers me, mistress,” she said, “because it should bother me. It bothers you.”


          “Yes, it bothers me,” said Adele. She thought about Agatha. “It bothers me a great deal.”




          Daniel and Hogg got out from opposite sides when the aircar landed. Its fans blew grit across their ankles as it lifted and curved away from the quay where the Savoy was berthed. Watchly didn’t look back at them.


          “I chatted some with Martensen, the guard back to the farmhouse, you know?” Hogg said in a quiet voice, his hands in his pockets. He hadn’t spoken about the farm or the people there during the return journey.


          “Ah?” said Daniel. Kiki Lindstrom came to the Savoy‘s entry hatch, probably summoned by the sound of the aircar. She didn’t call to them or start across the catwalk. Her face was impassive in the high light standards on the quay.


          “We didn’t talk about much,” Hogg said, still facing in the direction Watchly had driven off. “But his boots were Fleet issue. And the poncho he was wearing had G 37 stencilled on the back.”


          “Ah,” Daniel repeated in a brighter tone. “There’s a destroyer G 37 in Fleet service. Probably not first-line by now; the class was laid down about twenty years ago, which is a long time for a destroyer.”


          “Martensen isn’t a kid,” Hogg said reflectively. “He’s a husky fellow, though.”


          He shrugged. “Anyway,” he said, “I thought you might want to know.”


          “Yes,” said Daniel, “thank you. It confirms my suspicions.”


          He didn’t know what it meant. The fact that an Alliance officer was pretending to be a Cinnabar officer certainly meant something, but it might simply be that the Chief was a grafter who thought that patriotism would make former RCN Lieutenant Pensett more willing to lend himself to some black-market scheme.


          Daniel touched the RCN document case in his pocket. Adele would be able to open it safely, he was sure, but he didn’t want to take it straight back to the Princess Cecile. There was an obvious chance that Martensen or someone of his ilk was watching “Pensett’s” activities, or that Lindstrom herself would contact her backer if she decided Daniel’s behavior was suspicious.


          Daniel–or perhaps Hogg–would have a chance to deliver the package tomorrow, when he was sure that Adele had returned to the Sissie. He wasn’t going to risk this heaven-sent opportunity to meet Freedom without a better reason than he had thus far.


          “Let’s go aboard, Hogg,” Daniel said, “and choose our bunks.”


          There was an old girl who lived in Cairo Port…, he whistled as he preceded Hogg across the catwalk. How I wish that she was dead!