The Road Of Danger – Snippet 80

–that was a matter of definition. But they’d back each other against outsiders and back the Squire no matter how hard things got, and that was good enough for a Bantryman like Daniel Leary.

Freedom was so lost in his own problems that Daniel might not have gotten a reaction if he’d stuck his thumbs in his ears and waggled his fingers. “But it all went wrong,” the rebel said miserably. “We didn’t take Saal immediately as I’d hoped, but the rest went to plan. We took most of the planet like water soaking into a cloth. Blaskett couldn’t stop us, and Pleasaunce couldn’t send him more troops in the middle of war with Cinnabar.”

He raised his hands, apparently gesturing to an unseen audience. “I thought it was just a matter of time before the Alliance evacuated Saal and the people of Sunbright could work out their own destiny!”

“Instead Saal held out,” Daniel said. That was a foregone conclusion when disorganized militia faced regular troops in prepared positions. The first rush might have succeeded, but when it didn’t, the chances of a rebel military victory evaporated. “And the armed bands that you’d created found that it was easier to take the rice themselves rather than to fight Alliance soldiers in pillboxes. Before long, most of your forces were mercenaries or opportunists, I suspect.”

“It was worse than that,” Freedom said. He was a healthy, well-fed young man, but Daniel had seen prisoners in labor camps who looked less wretched. “And I didn’t set up all the bands, but I made them possible, yes. Don’t think I don’t know that.”

He met Daniel’s eyes. He said, “Brutes have become warlords, and the farmers are slaves. I wanted to get rid of Blaskett, but I’ve created a hundred Blasketts, and each one is worse than the one before. And there’s nothing I can do!”

Daniel considered the situation. Freedom’s political naivety startled him, though not in itself: he had learned about practical politics in his cradle as the son of Speaker Leary, but he understood that most people didn’t have such a background.

The surprise was that this young innocent, Daniel would have said, had done such a brilliant job of setting off the rebellion. The fact that Freedom hadn’t understood what he was doing didn’t detract from the skill with which he had done it. And even now, without Freedom’s coordination, government forces should be able recover Sunbright with the modest increase in forces which the Treaty of Amiens made possible.

“Sir?” Daniel said. “You’re confirming what I was told aboard the blockade runner that brought me here. But I think Sunbright will settle down if you leave; and anyway, you won’t have to watch it get worse. It certainly will get worse, I’m afraid, if you continue to direct the rebellion. You’re really very good at it, if you don’t mind me saying so.”

“I can’t leave,” Freedom said. He sounded as though he had just announced that his infant son was terminally ill. “Don’t think I wouldn’t have done that, but–”

He jerked his head backward without actually turning to face or point toward Captain Kidlinger.

“–I’m never alone when I’m around ships. Except in Saal, I mean. The blockade runners only land where they’ll be protected by the missile batteries, so the gangs are always around. Even if I could convince a ship captain to take me aboard, the gangs trading with them wouldn’t permit it. I’m pretty sure that they’d kill me and hide my body rather than let the government use me for propaganda against them.”

He grimaced. “Kidlinger would kill me,” he said. “He’d like to kill me now, I think, but he still imagines that he can rule Sunbright some day.”

Daniel smiled wryly. He had expected the rebel leader to produce some altruistic reason why he couldn’t abandon “his suffering people” here on Sunbright. Daniel wasn’t an expert on accents like Adele, but he’d give odds that Freedom’s voice still carried a hint of an upper-class Xenos drawl.

Aloud he said, “You mentioned Saal, sir. Can you get into the city?”

Freedom looked at him. He said, “Can you get me off planet, Lieutenant Pensett?”

“If you can get into Saal, sir,” Daniel said, “I think I should be able to arrange something. I gather you can?”

“Yes,” said Freedom. With sudden decision, he said, “Pensett, I’m going to tell you something that nobody else on this planet knows. My name is Tomas Grant, and I’m the Field Supervisor of the Saal Water Department.”

A deputy department head would have access to the main governmental database… and if that deputy was a little more computer savvy than most of his municipal peers, it explained how the Sunbright rebels had gathered such extremely good intelligence from the start of the rebellion


Daniel smiled slowly. Freedom–Grant–looked as stiff as if he were tied to a post to wait for the firing party.

“Fair is fair, Master Grant,” Daniel said. “My real name is Daniel Leary. I’m an RCN captain on active duty, and I’m here to get you safely off Sunbright. I have a reputation for carrying out my assignments.”

That was a case of Daniel shading the truth. His orders said nothing about keeping Freedom safe. But he was Captain Daniel Leary, and by now his superiors should be expecting him to exceed his orders.