The Road Of Danger – Snippet 63


          Hogg grinned with pride. He knew even less than the spacers did of Daniel’s plans, but he knew the young master was about to stick it to the other fellow.


          Lindstrom and the crewmen looked blank–or blankly horrified, in the case of West. Still smiling, Daniel rotated his seat to face the display again. Three process clocks were counting down, but the PPI was blank: the Savoy was her own separate universe here in the Matrix.


          There were solid reasons why Daniel should not do what he was about to. The best were that he might fail–unlikely–or that some critical piece of the Savoy might break and leave them at the gunboats’ mercy. Beyond those material dangers was the fact that even if successful, he would be marking the Savoy and himself for special attention from the Alliance forces.


          Some–Adele, for one–might even have added that such boastful behavior was beneath a noble of Cinnabar.


          Others were entitled to their opinions. He was Captain Daniel Leary, RCN, and he saw nothing wrong with grinding an opponent’s face in the dirt when he saw the chance.


          “Extracting!” he called to his companions, and he pressed Execute.




Halta City on Cremona


          “Your Ladyship?” Vesey called over the crackles, hisses and pings which filled the boarding hold. Adele turned to see the slim blond woman emerging from the companionway, looking concerned.


          An instant later, the main hatch undogged in a clanging chorus which overwhelmed any attempt at speech. The hold was the corvette’s largest empty volume; echoes from its steel surfaces multiplied sounds a thousand fold.


          The ramp began to squeal down on the thrust of hydraulic rams, allowing steam and ions to curl into the hold. The bite made Osorio close his eyes and sneeze, though the spacers–Adele included–took the familiar unpleasantness without reaction.


          “Captain?” Adele said. She didn’t really expect Vesey to be able to hear her, but she cocked an eyebrow toward the younger woman to show that she had heard. What in heaven’s name is Vesey coming to me here for?


          Adele glanced at Master Osorio out of the corner of her eye, but he was too lost in the misery of the moment to be interested in what the Principal was doing. She nodded toward Vesey and moved to the back of the compartment, through the spacers who would be her escort.


          Adele didn’t care for commo helmets, but under ordinary circumstances she would have been wearing one now. They were short-range, but when their signal was piggybacked onto the local communications net–as Adele regularly arranged every time the Sissie made landfall–they could cover as much of the planet as the system itself did.


          It was acceptable–necessary, in fact–for Principal Hrynko to be eccentric. It would send the wrong signal if she were technically proficient, however; that might cause the Cremonans, or at least the more sophisticated elements of Cremonan society, to take precautions which wouldn’t occur to them while dealing with a blustering, arrogant noblewoman from a third-class planet.


          Mind, “third class” was more complimentary than any term Adele would use for Cremona, but the locals probably didn’t see it that way. Proving how benighted they were.


          “Your Ladyship!” Vesey said. Her lips were almost touching Adele’s right ear, but she had to shout regardless. “Since the Savoy wasn’t in harbor, I asked Lieutenant Cory to check local records of her. It doesn’t, that is, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem, but I’m afraid there’s no evidence that she or a vessel that could be her has landed in the past five days.”


          Adele turned to Vesey and forced a smile. “Thank you, captain,” she said, enunciating clearly but not trying to bellow over the ambient noise. “I’m sure that the appropriate parties are dealing with the situation in their usual able fashion.”


          Vesey was covering a tragic expression with professional calm. If Osorio hadn’t been present, Adele would have patted her hand–as a bit of theater for the younger woman rather than anything Adele herself found natural.


          As soon as The House of Hrynko reached orbit above Cremona, Adele had entered port records and the records of all the major trading houses in Halta City. Cazelet–and a moment later, Cory–had informed her that the Savoy wasn’t among the hundred-plus ships in Halta Harbor nor in any of the outlying anchorages scattered across Cremona.


          The yacht’s sensors were set to automatically search for starships on the surface of any planet they orbited. The information was not infrequently useful; and besides, it was always Adele’s goal to have more data rather than less.


          Vesey didn’t know that. She had always been an excellent astrogator and had improved her ship handling to a high degree of skill under Daniel’s tutelage, but she had no more concept of what an information specialist really did than Daniel himself.


          Daniel, however, assumed that Adele knew or could quickly learn everything. That wasn’t precisely true, but it was actually a better default option than Vesey’s subconscious belief that the only data Adele had were those things which Adele had explicitly stated she knew.


          It didn’t matter that Vesey had gone out of her way to provide Adele with unnecessary information. It did matter that she’d tried to help Adele and that she had come down to the entry hold in person to take the sting out of what she knew was bad news.


          Adele compromised between a coldly professional response and the pat–or even hug, though she never could have brought herself to hug another person in public–by adding, “I understand your concern, Captain Vesey, but I have trained myself to examine probabilities. In this case, the probabilities–based on the considerable information about the personnel that we’ve both amassed over the years–are overwhelmingly in favor of a good result.”


          The boarding ramp clanged against its cradle on the yacht’s starboard outrigger. Woetjans shouted, “Hup!” and led a team of riggers to roll out the pontoon-supported gangway which would reach the rest of the way across the slip.