The Road Of Danger – Snippet 77

What a remarkably stupid person you are, mistress

, Adele thought. Aloud she said, “Members of my staff have negotiated to purchase and crew a pair of small freighters, but the discussions weren’t secret. All the drafts we’ve written are contingent on there being money in the account, of course.”

She coughed to get a moment to think. How would Daniel handle this? Very possibly by sweeping the woman into his arms and kissing her. Adele couldn’t see the utility in adopting that course herself.

“As experienced businesspeople…,” she said, trying to smile. “I think the increase in your profits from the elimination of the Estremadura should be obvious.”

That was literally true. The statement didn’t imply that Adele thought Mistress Corton would see it, or even that she would be able to put on a tunic right-side to in the morning without help.

“Look, let’s move on,” Brock said. His fists were clenched and he deliberately stared toward the outside door so that he didn’t let his eyes fall on Mistress Corton. “Yes, we’ll transfer the funds now and be done with it.”

He turned to his console. Addersheim and Master Corton brought out personal data units not very different from Adele’s own.

Adele glanced at her own display. A pulsing red alert signal suffused it, then coalesced into the words–in block letters and still red–Emergency! Gunmen have captured your car!

“Stop!” Adele said to the startled outfitters. That probably confused them more than it warned them, but a part of Adele’s upbringing demanded that she not take money under false pretences. Whatever was going on outside, it certainly changed the circumstances under which she had negotiated the loan.

She had several options, but she chose to activate the active sound cancellation field and communicate by voice. The little data unit’s capability didn’t compare to that of her console on the Sissie, but it would do for now.

“Go ahead,” Adele said. She was focused on the display, but she was vaguely conscious that Tovera had stepped in front of her in case one of the outfitters was able to read lips.

Mistress,” said Cory, “you need to get out now. There wasn’t any trouble at first because they didn’t think you’d get the loans, but now that it looks like you did, there’s a dozen or more interests that’ve gotten together to stop you.”

Adele was looking at the data which the Princess Cecile streamed to her. Cazelet was probably responsible for that, since Cory was talking.

There’s naval and military officers and politicians, afraid of the power Lady Hrynko is getting,” Cory continued. “There’s some investors in the Estremadura, and the leader’s one of the Friends, a big man here, a fellow named Mangravite. There’s a gang, half a dozen gangs, on the way to the Wartburg warehouse now, but the first bunch already grabbed your aircar. Over!

Adele expanded the map to fill her display; Cazelet had also included nodules with background data on each of the parties involved in this alliance against her. The tiny bead representing her location at the Wartburg Company was a mile and a half from the corvette’s berth in the harbor.

If the aircar had been available, the only risk if they left now would have been an accident caused by Tovera’s overly precise driving. As it was–

The disorganized nature of the attack worked in her enemies’ favor: red beads scaled to the degree of threat were approaching along all the routes leading to the warehouse. The force leaving the Sissie–a very large blue bead–would be able to shoot its way through any of them, but not quickly on the streets of an unfamiliar city.

“Yes, all right,” Adele said. “We’ll meet you on the way.”

She shut down the cancellation field and rose. Tovera stepped aside; she was holding her small sub-machine gun openly. The expressions of the Santina and Loeser representatives ranged from uncertain to terrified, but Brock was merely guarded. His right hand was below the surface of his desk.

“Master Brock,” Adele said. “Can you drive one of the trucks at your loading dock now?”

“Yeah, if it’s any of your business,” Brock said. The growl in his voice wasn’t anger. “I can. Going to tell me what this is all about?”

“People are coming here to kill me,” Adele said. “The leader is a man named Mangravite. You will drive me and my aide to the harbor, if you please, which will also lead most of the attackers away from your warehouse. From my reading of Master Mangravite, he’s hoping to eliminate one–”

She glanced at the other outfitters, ignoring their gabble.

“–or several of his rivals in the process.”

That bastard,” Brock said, rising to his feet. He dropped the shoulder holster and thrust the long pistol he had taken from his desk under his belt. “I’ll give him process.”

He strode through the door; Tovera was last in the short line. Outside stood the secretary, holding a shotgun that had been out of sight when Adele arrived.

“Grampa?” he said, alarmed but not frightened. Brock didn’t exclude him from the meeting. He was on guard outside.

“Organize the crews,” Brock said. “It seems we’re going to have visitors. There’s guns in the locker for the ones who can use them, but have Busoni decide who to trust.”

“I’m coming along!” the youth said.

“You bloody well aren’t,” said Brock as he reached from the elevator control. He took up as much room as Adele and Tovera together. “And try not to get killed! Somebody’s got to run this company if I buy the farm, and it’s not your bloody father!”