The Road Of Danger – Snippet 55


          Civilian vessels were even less sprightly than warships. The Savoy was straining upward at less than two gees, as much as her three thrusters could manage. Daniel could have walked about the cabin if that were necessary; holding a normal conversation wasn’t a strain.


          Savoy, the Estremadura was alerted twelve hours ago to make a particular effort to capture you,” Adele said, her voice sounding even more emotionless than usual. “The information provided to the Estremadura includes the four alternative course plans in your computer for the route from here to Cremona. The cruiser entered the Matrix as soon as imagery of your liftoff reached its location three light-seconds out. Ah, over.”


          “Roger, Hrynko,” Daniel said, smiling in fond amusement. “Thank you for the warning. I think we should be able to put matters right shortly. Savoy out.”


          He realized that though Adele might worry in part because the patrolling cruiser was targeting the Savoy, most of her concern was because she herself wasn’t aboard the blockade runner to work some sort of magic. Perhaps she would have come up with some amazing trick–she certainly had before–but Daniel didn’t imagine it would be necessary. A yawl commanded by Captain Daniel Leary, RCN, ought to be able to run circles around the yokels here in the Macotta Region.


          The Savoy‘s only acceleration couch was his on the command console. The four crewmen–West and Edmonson wore the ship’s two rigging suits–were seated on the folded-down bottom bunk, and Hogg was on Kiki’s couch with her. He sat at the foot and wasn’t being over-companionable, but Daniel knew that his servant hadn’t asked her before he chose his location.


          He thought of warning the others, but the Savoy didn’t have a PA system. Nor was there room for the whole console to rotate as it was designed to do, and Daniel wasn’t willing to turn the seat alone at this juncture: he needed to keep his eyes on the display more than he needed to keep the others abreast of what he was doing.


          The Savoy was thirty miles above Madison’s surface. If Daniel had been commanding an RCN ship, he would have switched to the High Drive by now to conserve reaction mass. On a commercial vessel there were other factors to consider. The throats of Savoy‘s High Drive motors were already badly eroded. It made sense to minimize the further damage inevitable when anti-matter atoms which hadn’t combined in the reaction chamber flared into an atmosphere.


          Daniel finally shut down the thrusters. Instead of switching directly to the High Drive, he adjusted controls to bring the electrical balance of the yawl’s surface as close to zero as possible.


          “Preparing to insert!” he shouted. He wasn’t sure if anybody but Hogg–who had covered his ears–could hear him. Though the ship was simply coasting on inertia, the thrusters’ roar had been numbing to unprotected hearing. Like most civilian spacers, the Savoy‘s crew didn’t bother with pansy frills like sound-cancelling earphones or even ear plugs.


          “Pensett, what are you doing?” demanded Lindstrom, who must have heard something after all.


          “Inserting!” Daniel said as he pressed the red Execute button. The console was so old that the keyboard was real instead of virtual, and the tactile thunk through his thumb was immensely satisfying.


          The yawl slipped from normal space into the Matrix. The physical sensations accompanying the change of state were entirely imaginary and in Daniel’s case had differed on each of the by-now thousands of times that they had occurred. This time he felt as though he had dropped fifty feet, been brought up short by a rope anchored in his solar plexus, and then dropped twice more in similar fashion.


          He leaned back on the acceleration couch, gasping and hoping that his insides would settle down before long. Knowing that the experience was purely psychological didn’t make it any less real–or exhausting.


          “What in hell have you done, Pensett?” said Lindstrom, bending over Daniel’s couch to shout. Hogg had gotten up also. Obviously neither of them had been as badly affected by the recent insertion as Daniel was. “We don’t have any way on yet!”


          Daniel set the rigging to deploy, extending the antennas and unfurling the initial sail set, before he looked up at the owner. He didn’t care to have anybody bellowing at him, but he formed his lips into an engaging smile.


          The expression was as much for her sake as his own. He didn’t want Hogg to change the situation with the enthusiasm he’d been known to show when he decided that somebody was threatening the young master.


          “We had an Alliance cruiser coming down on us, Kiki,” Daniel said. “We won’t need to go far, I hope, to confuse them for long enough that we can set off in proper fashion.”


          West–the oldest of the crewmen; he was sixty if he was a day–and Hargate had risen and were settling their helmets in place. It was nearly certain that the rigging wouldn’t work properly the first time it was deployed after liftoff, so the crewmen were preparing to go out to clear kinks and jams.


          Daniel straightened. He thought for an instant, then said, “No, stay inside for now. As the boss says–“


          He grinned as he nodded to Lindstrom, who had returned to her couch. Hogg remained standing in the center of the compartment.