Though Hell Should Bar The Way – Snippet 01

Though Hell Should Bar The Way

David Drake

Though Hell Should Bar the Way

David Drake


Roy Olfetrie planned to be an officer in the Republic of Cinnabar Navy, but when his father was unmasked as a white-collar criminal he had to take whatever he was offered.

What is offered turns out to be a chance to accompany Captain Daniel Leary and Lady Adele Mundy as they go off to start a war that will put Roy at the sharp end.

Duty snatches Roy from the harem of a pirate chief to a world of monsters, from interstellar reaches in a half-wrecked starship to assassination attempts at posh houses. Roy has the choice of making friends or dying friendless; of meeting betrayal and responding to it; of breaking his faith or keeping it at the risk of his life.

Pirates, politics, and spies–and waiting for Roy if he survives all the rest, a powerful warship.

The action doesn’t slow–nor can Roy, for if he does the only question is which of the many threats will be the one to catch and kill him. But Captain Leary himself has given Roy a chance, and Roy is determined make the most of it — THOUGH HELL SHOULD BAR THE WAY.

“…Then look for me by moonlight,

Watch for me by moonlight,

I’ll come to thee by moonlight,

though hell should bar the way.”


“Now watch that you don’t take this corner too short again!” Cady snarled as we approached the entrance of Bergen and Associates. “If you knock the gate post down, the repairs come straight out of your pay!”

“Yes,” I said, not shouting, not mumbling, just speaking in an ordinary voice. If I didn’t say anything, he’d keep shouting at me, and I was already nervous about turning into the shipyard.

I had clipped the corner of the Petersburg warehouse yesterday, the first time I drove the chandlery flatbed. There was no real harm done: paint smeared on the side of the truck, and wood splinters bristling on the edge of the building.

I’d sanded the corner off and repainted it on my own time; not even Cady could claim that the battered old truck was damaged so that it mattered. You could’ve used it for a gunnery target and it wouldn’t look any worse than it did already.

Still, it saved Cady from finding something else to ride me about. Though he’d have managed regardless, of that I had no doubt. Cady didn’t have any real rank at the Petersburg Chandlery, but he’d married old Fritzi’s daughter. Any time Fritzi wasn’t watching, Cady acted like he was the boss.

I downshifted into the creeper gear and started hauling on the big horizontal steering wheel. I was trying to watch in both side mirrors while Cady kept yammering at me. I got the nose through and stuck my head out of the cab to shout at the watchman: “Petersburg to pick up three High Drives for reconditioning?”

The watchman was missing his left ear and the sleeve on that side was pinned up. He squinted at his display and called back, “That’s Bay One, to the left. Back right up to the dock. I’ll let ’em know you’re here.”

Bergen and Associates was big for a private yard. A trio of four- to six-thousand-ton freighters were being serviced now, and the docks could hold vessels much bigger than them. I was facing Bay 2 in big red letters across a trackway two hundred feet wide. I turned left, keeping close to the administrative buildings along the back fence, and pulled up when I thought I’d gone far enough.

“If you’ll get out and guide me,” I said to Cady, “I’ll back up to the loading dock.”

“Who do you figure you are to give me orders, Academy boy?” Cady said, leaning against the cab door to face me. He was a big fellow and not as fat as he was going to be in a few more years of beer and fried food.

“I’m not ordering you, Cady,” I said. I wished I’d come alone, but this really was a two-man job. I unlatched my door. “Look, you back her up and I’ll guide you, I don’t care.”

“Well, I bloody care!” Cady said. “You don’t need a guide. Just do your bloody job!”

I hopped out of the cab and walked toward the admin building. An old spacer came out the door, calling something behind him. “Hey, buddy?” I said. “I need a ground guide over to Bay One. You got a minute?”

I wasn’t going to back through the shipyard without a guide. There wasn’t a lot of traffic, but a lowboy was trundling past behind a tractor right now.

Besides, it’d just be stupid. I couldn’t help that Cady was being a jerk, but he wasn’t going to make me stupid.

“Yeah, sure,” the spacer said. “You’re here for those High Drives I want rebuilt?”

I opened my mouth to agree when the door opened again, and I recognized the girl who’d come out behind him.

“Roy!” she said. “Roy Olfetrie! It is you, isn’t it?”

“Hi, Miranda,” I said. “Gosh, I hadn’t thought to run into you. What’re you doing at Bergen’s? Working in the office?”

Miranda was dressed pretty well for a clerk, but she and her mother could sew like nobody’s business. She’d never looked out of place when our families got together after her father died as an RCN captain, leaving his widow and two children on a survivors’ pension.

The woman in RCN utilities who followed Miranda out of the office was six and a half feet tall. Her open left palm looked like she could drive spikes with it, and the expression she gave me made me think that I’d do for a spike if I got out of line.

“Not exactly,” Miranda said with the laugh I remembered from the old days. “My husband owns the yard. I’ve come up in the world, Roy.”

I smiled, but I guess there was something in my face because Miranda suddenly looked like I’d started sobbing. Which I hadn’t done, even when it first happened.

“Ma’am?” the spacer I’d first spoken to said to Miranda. “I need to get back to the Pocahontas. And kid?” This to me. “I figure Chief Woetjans can guide you as well as I could.”

“Look, kid!” Cady shouted from the truck. “We got work to do. Get your ass back in here!”

“In a bit!” I called over my shoulder. I felt hot because of what I’d done to Miranda, or anyway how I’d made her feel even though I hadn’t meant to. “Look, Miranda, the problem was nothing to do with anybody but Dad himself. I couldn’t be happier that you’ve been doing well. I don’t know anybody who deserves it more.”

“I heard about the trouble,” she said, turning her eyes a little away. “I was very sorry.”

Everybody on Cinnabar had heard about “the trouble,” I guess, at least if they paid any attention to the news. That was just the way it was, same as if I’d been caught in the rain. Only a lot worse.

“Well, it’s not so bad,” I lied. “I dropped out of the Academy and got a job with a ship chandler for now. After things settle down I’ll look for something –”

“Watch out!” Miranda shouted, looking past me.

I hunched over. Cady’s big fist grazed my scalp, but he didn’t catch me square in the temple like he’d planned to do.

I punched him twice in the gut, left and right. I’d boxed at the Academy. I didn’t have the footwork to be welterweight champion, but the instructors said I had a good punch. A bloody good punch, and I was mad enough to give Cady all I had.