The Road Of Danger – Snippet 50


CHAPTER 14:  Ashetown on Madison


          Adele entered the Battle Direction Center and sat at the empty console beside Cory’s. She had left the borrowed over-garments in the three-wheeler when she and Tovera abandoned it in an alley behind a row of brothels.


          Someone would probably steal the vehicle before morning, but that didn’t matter. There was no harm done if the car remained where it was for however many days it was before the authorities discovered the owner’s body was one of many at a massacre site.


          “Mistress!” Lieutenant Cory said. “I didn’t expect you back here. Ah–that is, I’m glad to see you. It feels, well, I’m used to being on the bridge, so this station isn’t… I mean, even though it’s a promotion to First Lieutenant.”


          Adele looked at him. The others present in the BDC were Fiducia, the missileer’s mate, and Knibbs, a technician whom Cory had been instructing in astrogation simply because he was willing to learn.


          And Tovera, of course. It was easy to overlook Tovera, while things were quiet.


          Captain Vesey, as she had become, was at the command console on the bridge. Although she would not have questioned anything Adele did, Adele would feel constrained in Vesey’s presence. Vesey felt that she ought to understand what Lady Mundy was doing.


          Cory didn’t feel anything of the sort. If Adele had begun tap dancing on the seat of her console, the most Cory might have done was ask if he could help. She’d chosen the BDC for no better reason than that.


          “I suppose it’s the opposite with me,” Adele said. “I thought this would be a more comfortable setting for a task I have to do. Though I hadn’t connected the cause and effect until you spoke, Cory.”


          In fact, she realized, she wasn’t making many connections at all since the shootings. She had subconsciously divorced herself from everything that was going on around her.


          She felt a touch of wry humor, though nobody looking at her face would have recognized it. The disconnected way she had felt since leaving Platt’s sanctum wasn’t very different from her normal state of existence.


          Cory’s enthusiasm cooled as Adele looked at him without emotion. “Ah…,” he said. “I’m watch officer, but since it’s quiet I thought I’d go over procedures with Knibbs here. If you’d like us to leave…?”


          “Not at all, Cory,” Adele said as she synched her personal data unit with the console. She preferred to use her little unit as an interface. She found the wands with which she controlled it to be her fastest and most efficient input method. “Strictly speaking, this isn’t really RCN business.”


          “I better get back to the Power Room,” muttered Knibbs. He got up without looking at Cory or Adele. Fiducia had already slipped out of the BDC.


          I didn’t care, Adele thought wearily. But I couldn’t have cleared the compartment more quickly if I’d waved my pistol.


          “I could–” Cory said.


          “Sit down,” Adele said, much more sharply than she had intended. She grimaced. She was on edge, but that was no excuse for snarling at a–well, at a friend–who was simply trying to be polite in a confusing situation.


          She met Cory’s eyes and tried to smile. “I uncovered a sexual predator here in Ashetown,” she said. She was explaining as a more tangible form of apology to him. “I’m transmitting the information to the authorities. As I say, it isn’t strictly RCN business, though it seems to involve Fleet officials in some fashion or other.”


          “Sexual predator…,” Cory repeated. Something had changed in his face, though Adele couldn’t have said exactly what the difference was. He cleared his throat and said, “Mistress, if you thought it might be better for a couple of us to talk to the fellow informally…?”


          And what is there in your background that causes you to react that way, Lieutenant? Adele thought; her face remained expressionless. Aloud she said, “Thank you, Master Cory, but I’m sure no further action will be necessary.”


          “Yes, mistress,” Cory said. He relaxed and his smile spread. Perhaps he understood more than had been in Adele’s words. He’d been in close contact with her for long enough to know what she was besides a scholar and a signals officer.


          She checked her display; the file transfer was complete. She hadn’t dumped the whole assemblage which she had netted from Platt’s consoles, just enough from a quick sort to give the proper authorities a handle on the rest.


          “Ah,” Cory said. “If Fleet officers are involved, could I help? Even if they weren’t, you know, it would be an honor to help. And Rene too, of course, though I think he’s in town now looking for clothes.”


          Cazelet looking for clothes? But of course: lingerie or the like for Elspeth Vesey; to be given her after she stepped down as captain of The House of Hrynko.


          Adele thought of the mass of data. Her two unofficial aides could be useful, during the initial sort and probably later on as well.


          “Yes,” she said, transferring a file to Cory’s console. “This man claimed to have been Chief of Systems at Fleet Prime and in line for the post of Technical Director. I don’t know what period this would have been going on, but today he appeared to be in his sixties.”


          “Yes, mistress,” Cory said; he was already at work. “Is there anything in particular I should be looking for?”