The Road Of Danger – Snippet 57


CHAPTER 16: Ashe Haven on Madison


          The Savoy and the pursuing cruiser had vanished into the Matrix. Neither Cory nor Cazelet could predict the result of chase, and they knew Adele too well to offer hopeful platitudes. Yes, Daniel was very skilled, but so was Captain Regin of the Estremadura, and the cruiser’s large crew made it handier than the yawl.


          Adele had nodded at the analysis and turned to what she could control. She lost herself in the broad expanse of the data she had harvested from Platt’s station until a purple crawl at the bottom of her display announced Osorio arriving with vehicles on quay. The slug at the close of the message indicated it was from the command console, where Vesey was acting as watch officer–despite being captain now and no longer required to stand watches.


          “I’ll go down and meet him,” Adele said, letting the console reform her words into a prose response. She transferred her work to the signals console then, stripped the work off the BDC console instead of locking the files.


          Only then did she get up. “Our passenger has arrived,” she said to Cory and Cazelet. She preceded Tovera out of the BDC.


          Daniel generally had stood watches also, even when the Princess Cecile had enough officers that it wouldn’t have been necessary. Captains were permitted to be eccentric.


          Adele glanced down at her clothing. She was still wearing the outfit she had put on to visit the Assumption Library… which she hadn’t entered after all. The clothes were rumpled from hard use, despite being covered by borrowed garments while she and Tovera cleared Platt’s station.


          In particular, there was a blotch on the arch of her right boot. It was almost certainly blood, though she couldn’t say without chemical analysis whether it was Platt’s blood or that of his victim.


          Kostroman nobles were permitted to be eccentric also. It was unlikely that Osorio would observe any more than Principal Hrynko looking disheveled when at leisure on her own yacht.


          Tovera stepped in front of her, the attaché case waist-high and slightly open. Before Adele entered the corridor, she looked back and said to the young men watching her, “Continue with what you’re doing.”


          Then–because they would understand–she added, “I would much rather remain here doing something useful instead of this play-acting.”


          As they strode together toward the forward companionways, Tovera said quietly, “You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t believe it was useful, mistress.”


          Adele sighed and said, “What I should have said is that I don’t care to do this sort of thing, despite the frequency with which I’m called on to do it. I suppose I would be wiser to adjust my attitude rather than to expect the universe to change reality.”


          They went down by the bow companionway instead of the one immediately outside the BDC hatch in the stern. The central corridor on D Level ran past bulk storage compartments to the boarding hold, but A Level was familiar territory to Adele and required less of her conscious mind. She nodded by rote to crewmen going sternward or calling their respects through open hatchways, but her brain kept poring over the question of whether they would meet the Savoy on Cremona–and what Adele would do if they didn’t.


          Platt’s files indicated that the Estremadura sent its prizes to Westerbeke to be condemned. Adele had not yet constructed an excuse for Principal Hrynko to take her yacht to that out of the way port in the Funnel. Of course they could ignore duty and simply focus on saving Daniel; but Daniel wouldn’t approve of that decision, and neither would she.


          Adele and Tovera stepped into the boarding hold just as Osorio reached the guards. Heberle, a Tech Three and the senior spacer on duty, had just started talking on her commo helmet when a rigger with a sub-machine gun patted her wrist and pointed toward the Principal and her aide. Heberle braced to attention and shouted, “Her Ladyship!”


          Tovera giggled. There were as many guesses about how to treat Principal Hrynko as there were Sissies. Adele had decided that lack of uniformity in address was less of a danger than trying to drill the crew into a particular form and have a confused spacer blurt something about Lady Mundy. Even sober that could happen; and sufficiently flustered spacers could probably find a drink to relax them.


          “Master Osorio,” Adele said. Looking beyond the Cremonan to the train of vehicles which had brought him–a ground car and a pair of small tractors pulling carts filled with luggage–she added, “And what is all this? Do you mistake my yacht for a merchant vessel?”


          “I have lived on Madison for three years, your Ladyship,” Osorio said with a deep bow, “but I am going home to stay now with those of my possessions which I haven’t disposed of here.”


          He gestured toward the car. “I sold my aircar, for example. Surely it will be possible to stow my household goods on so large a vessel?”


          He probably sold the aircar at a very tidy profit, Adele realized. They weren’t manufactured on Madison, and Osorio–as a government representative–wouldn’t have had to pay the heavy import duty levied on luxuries.


          Rather than answering directly, Adele turned to the detail commander and said, “Heberle, can that quantity of cargo be stored aboard without harming our combat efficiency?”


          Heberle had a muttered conversation with the other ship-side spacer in the guard detail. She looked back at Adele and said, “Yeah, we can stuff it in, likely. We’re low on some of the fungibles, and there’s room in the forward magazine besides. What doesn’t fit there we can cram into the cabin you assigned his nibs, I guess.”


          “All right,” said Adele. “Inform Captain Vesey that I want this cargo loaded. Also tell her that I want to lift off as quickly as possible when that task is complete.”


          She looked at Osorio, who seemed startled. “Come with me to the bridge, then, my man,” she said. “I usually watch liftoffs from a console there. You can sit at the training seat on my console.”


          Adele turned and started back the Up companionway. Tovera was immediately behind her. Spacers banged into the entry hold as Adele left it, on their way to striking down the passenger’s luggage.


          Osorio followed–she glanced out of the corner of her eye as she entered the armored tube–after a moment of puzzled hesitation. He hadn’t expected to be treated as a foreigner of no importance.


          Adele smiled faintly. It was as well that the Cremonan attaché wasn’t travelling with servants, though they could be stowed also–with as little ceremony as the luggage, and probably with what a landsman would consider as little comfort.