The Road Of Danger – Snippet 53


          Daniel sipped the liquor and sluiced it around the inside of his mouth to get the flavor. It was smooth, though from the tingle he suspected that it was roughly the same proof as industrial alcohol from the Power Room. It had the floral taste which its color suggested.


          He swallowed. The aftertaste reminded him of a wreath left over from a funeral held some weeks past. He took two proper swallows and handed the bottle back.


          “I don’t think we’ll have serious problems,” Daniel said honestly. “Your spacers are experienced, and I’ll have a chance to get to know them on the leg to Cremona. Getting through the patrols above Sunbright will be a little trickier, sure, but I know how difficult it is to intercept a little yawl like this in anything but a dedicated pirate-cruiser with a crew which knows its business. I won’t promise, exactly, but, well–“


          He grinned, but what he was about to say was the truth if ever he’d spoken it.


          “–I’d be pretty disappointed if somebody trained on Novy Sverdlovsk could do a better job of ship handling than a Cinnabar Academy graduate.”


          An amber light pulsed from behind, flooding the compartment and startling Daniel. He jumped to his feet and turned; his left arm was out with the fingers spread, prepared to block whatever had started to happen.


          The console display had been pearly and neutral; now it sequenced from bright amber to black. Daniel lowered his arm sheepishly and said, “What is that, mistress?”


          “That’s an incoming call,” said Lindstrom, rising to her feet also. “But it’s the landline, so it must be a wrong number. I haven’t given the number to anybody; I just use it to call out.”


          There’s one person who could find an address that everybody else thinks is secret, Daniel thought. He sat at the console, his back to the owner, and brought up a menu.


          “What are you doing?” Lindstrom


          The incoming call was an icon to the right. Daniel opened it. Without hesitation, Adele’s voice said, “I need to speak to Lieutenant Pensett immediately. This is Principal Hrynko, and I need him at once.”


          “Speaking, Lady Hrynko,” Daniel said, as smoothly as if they had rehearsed the routine. “Go ahead.”


          “On the basis of information given by a man named Petrov,” Adele said, “a platoon of Marines is coming to search the Savoy and arrest you. If they find contraband, that is, and I gather that they will. They’re not treating this as an emergency, though, so you have at least an hour to return here. Ah, where you’ll be welcome, of course.”


          Daniel felt his lips purse as he considered. Changing from his initial wording–of course Adele was sure he would have at least an hour, because she wouldn’t have said so otherwise–he said, “Warn me if there’s a change in the troops’ schedule, if you please. I’ll be here, and I’ve–“


          He brought the whole communication’s suite live.


          “–switched on the microwave in case something happens to the landline. I believe we can lift off comfortably ahead of their arrival. S–“


          He caught himself.


          “Pensett, that is, out.”


          “If you say so, Master Pensett,” Adele said. Her voice was as cold and dry as a desert night. She broke the connection.


          “What’s going on?” Lindstrom said. She had heard the whole conversation, but she obviously hadn’t been able to take it in. “They won’t arrest us. Do you know how much money I’ve put in the hands of the Port Commissioner?”


          “Hogg!” Daniel called, but his servant already stood in the interior hatchway. He held one carbine muzzle-upward by the grip like a large pistol, and the other by the fore-end, butt forward toward Daniel.


          “We won’t need those, Hogg,” Daniel said tartly. “I don’t propose that you and I fight the Fleet by ourselves. Or even one cruiser squadron.”


          He turned to the owner, who was now gaping at Hogg instead of at Hogg’s master. He said, “Kiki, do you know where your men will be now?”


          “Pretty much,” she said. “I’ve been doling out their pay from the last run at a bit each night so they don’t wind up broke or dead right away. There’s maybe a half dozen bars along the water that they might be at, starting with El Greco’s.”


          “Find them,” Daniel said. “Get them aboard fast. Hogg, escort her in case somebody needs convincing or is just too drunk to walk.”


          “As the master says,” Hogg murmured. He disappeared into the entry hold. The arms locker banged closed a moment later.


          “What are you doing, Pensett?” Lindstrom said. “They can’t be going to arrest us, I tell you!”


          If Adele says that’s what’s happening, Daniel thought, it’s happening. I’d believe her over a choir of angels singing otherwise.


          Aloud he said, “I’ll running through liftoff checks and making sure the tanks are topped off. Now, move it! You have forty-five minutes. I don’t care if the men come aboard drunk, but I’ll lift short-handed if I have to.”


          Lindstrom opened her mouth, perhaps to object that she owned the Savoy. She deflated and turned silently toward the hatch. Hogg said, “Shake a leg, sister! You heard the young master!” but the prodding was unnecessary.


          Daniel started the pumps that circulated reaction mass to the plasma thrusters and studied the flow. There was corrosion or a pinch in the line to #1 thruster, but it wasn’t serious enough to change his plans. He began to whistle.


          Father and I went down to camp, along with Captain Bony….


          He felt very much alive.