WHEN THE TIDE RISES – snippet 25:



            Though the Ladouceur wasn't large even for its class, a cruiser's bridge was still far more spacious than that of the Princess Cecile. The command console sat in the middle of the circular compartment; by rotating on its axis, the captain could face any quarter. Eight junior positions surrounded it with the primary operator's back to the bulkhead. Because Adele's display was live, she leaned to the side to look past. It took her a little aback to see that Daniel was staring directly at her already.

            "Daniel," she said, still using the link. The buzz of the High Drive and the whir/skree/clank of the various systems operating within the cruiser's steel hull made it impractical to talk unaided, even when both parties were in the same compartment. "Would it really be safe for Blantyre to land on rock? That is a dangerous business, isn't it?"

            Daniel shrugged. "It could have its moments," he said. "Thrust reflected between a solid surface and the hull can set up a standing wave if you're not careful. But there's eight ships on the ground now, Adele, and I don't believe that the Bagarian Cluster is that thick with master pilots."

            He cleared his throat and grinned. "I'm just as pleased that Seward decided to take over the job himself, though. All Blantyre's experience has been on simulators, and those were emulating the Sissie. A 5,000 ton freighter is quite different–and I'm afraid much more different than Blantyre would realize until she started down."

            Adele nodded in understanding. It hadn't been a bluff, exactly–Blantyre really would've tried to bring the DeMarce in. It might've been suicidally dangerous, but that was regularly a part of being an RCN officer.

            "We'll be coming out of the shadow of the planet in ninety seconds," she said. "You'll be able speak to the ships on the ground, then. Dodd's Throne doesn't have a system of communications satellites, and though I could've used the Moore County as a transponder–"

            She smiled slightly. She was making what was for her a joke.

            "–I didn't think that was necessary."

            "Quite right," agreed Daniel; dryly, she thought. "Break. This is the IBS Ladouceur. Merchant vessels at Mine Compound 73, do not attempt to lift. Warships and troops of the Independent Republic of Bagaria have taken control of the planet. Bagarian registry ships will be examined and released, but the Babanguida and Vieux Carree will be taken to Pelosi for condemnation by a prize court."

            Daniel took a deep breath; his first since he began speaking, Adele thought. In a firm, coolly distant voice he added, "Vieux Carree, shut down your plasma thrusters. If you lift off the ground, you will be infallibly destroyed either by the ships landing at Compound 73 or by the vessels waiting in orbit. Spacers, I'm Commander Daniel Leary of the RCN, and I assure you that you will not escape me! Over."

            Adele didn't recall hearing Daniel boast except when he did it for effect. That included the effect his heroism had on foolish young women, of course, but she supposed that was pardonable. A rational survival plan for the human species would certainly involve spreading the genes of warriors like Daniel Leary as widely as possible.

            She grinned, then made a series of quick commands that burped further information to the Alliance vessels. It wasn't anything she'd planned to do, but she had the clips in her data unit and it seemed a suitable time to disseminate them.

            "Captain," Adele said. "I transmitted excerpts from The Conquest of Dunbar's World to the ships on the surface. I thought it might add point to your threat."

            "Bloody Hell, Signals," Daniel said, but he chuckled. "They'll think I'm a posturing idiot, over."

            "Yes sir," said Cory unexpectedly from the Battle Direction Center. Adele had keyed the command channel rather than a two-way link. "But a very handsome one, sir. Five out."

            He has a sense of humor, Adele thought. Of course Cory may always've had a sense of humor, but when he first met Lieutenant Leary aboard the tender Hermes he wouldn't've had the calm courage to joke in the midst of a tense situation. Daniel might not've been able to make Cory an astrogator, but he had made the boy a man.

            Daniel cleared his throat. "Ship, this is Six," he said. Borries looked at him but Sun, the only other junior officer on the bridge besides Adele, continued to stare at his display. The gunner seemed to be willing a target to approach so that he could blast it.

            "The situation on the ground appears to have settled out peaceably, as it should've done," Daniel continued. "The two Alliance prizes've shut down their thrusters and're waiting to be boarded. Our companion vessels have landed and will take charge of them momentarily. When they've all lifted to orbit, we'll set a course back to Pelosi. You're heroes, fellow spacers, and don't think the folks in Morning Harbor won't know it! Six out."

            "Squadron Six, this is Independence Five," said Vesey. "Emergency, emergency. The crews–the non-RCN spacers–are out of control and are looting ships. Repeat, they're looting the ships, the country craft as well as the prizes. Over!"

            She was speaking through  a laser communicator. The high pitch of her voice might've been an artifact of transmission, but the words rattled out faster than Vesey ordinarily spoke.

            Adele was filtering the cruiser's internal chatter away from Daniel. She'd set outside calls to appear as a text crawl on his display. She highlighted this one in red, then copied Daniel as she replied, "Independence Five, this is Squadron. Hold for the Captain."

            "Vesey, this is Six," said Daniel. "How many men can you dispose, over?"

            "Only the twenty-five I brought with me, sir," Vesey replied, audibly calmer just for the fact of a reply. "And we don't have sidearms. Blantyre's probably the same. The crews are completely out of control, and the Bagarian officers are bloody useless! Over."

            "All right, Vesey," Daniel said. His fingers stabbed buttons, setting up equations on a pilotry screen. "Hold what you've got. If they won't listen to spoken orders, then we'll provide them with something they will listen to. Break, Woetjans? Prepare as large a party as you can trust for dismounted action. Over."

            "Aye aye, sir," said the big bosun cheerfully. She and her riggers were all aboard, though some of them still wore the rigging suits they'd need when the Ladouceur set course for home. "What can you expect from wogs, hey? Rig out."

            "Ship," Daniel resumed. "We'll begin our landing approach in thirty, that's three-zero, seconds. We're going to take charge of the situation on the ground. Six out."

            Tovera was sitting at the station next to Adele's, unused because the Ladouceur was so badly under-crewed. She took her little sub-machine gun from its case and slipped it into a shoulder holster, then looked at Rene on the jump seat of Adele's console.

            "How good a shot are you, boy?" she asked.

            "Mistress?" said Rene, straightening and trying to keep his face expressionless. "I've never used a gun."

            He flashed a glance toward Adele, but she remained silent.

            "Then you'll have to get close, won't you?" Tovera said. She giggled. "All right, boy. Stay with me, and I'll make sure you get close."

            The roar of the thrusters cut off any further discussion.