Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 16

Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 16

I wonder if all that’s natural or if he’s disguised? Indiana thought. Hell of a disguise, if he is. Nobody’s going to think twice if they notice him. For that matter, you could look straight at him and never “notice” him at all! Probably something we should bear in mind for future use.

“Nasty weather for an off-worlder to be out touring the sights,” he observed out loud, and the other man chuckled.

“I hadn’t expected it to be this lousy,” he agreed. “And if you think it’s bad now, you should’ve been standing out here with me waiting for the last hour or so.”

“Waiting for what?” Indiana asked.

“I appreciate your caution, Talisman,” the other man said, “but if I were a scag my fellow scags would already have pounced, don’t you think? And I promise you, if I were a scag I’d already have signaled the sniper team to take you down rather than let you stand there with a gun in your hand!”

“I see.” Indiana glanced around — he couldn’t help himself — then shrugged and holstered the pistol. The other man had a point, after all. Not that the fact that he did proved he wasn’t a scag playing some sort of complicated game. On the other hand, he obviously did know Indiana’s codename, which was at least a tentative vote in his favor.

“I don’t know you,” he said conversationally, and the stranger nodded.

“I know. To be honest, that’s why I set up the meet out here, where there wouldn’t be a lot of witnesses if you reacted…energetically to the surprise of a new face.” He shrugged. “There’s been a change of plans, unfortunately, and I’m your new contact.”

“What kind of change of plans?” Indiana’s voice was tauter than it had been, and the other man smiled slightly.

“I’m afraid I can’t be a lot more specific than that,” he said. “I have to worry about everyone’s security, not just yours and not just my own. I can tell you it doesn’t have anything to do with anything that’s happened here in Seraphim, though. In fact, I’ll go ahead and admit that it’s more of a logistic problem than anything else. They needed your previous contact somewhere else, so they sent me in to sub for him.”

“They did, did they?”

“Caution is good; I like that. On the other hand, if all we do is stand here and be suspicious of one another we’re not going to accomplish a lot except to freeze our asses off. So. I believe the phrase you’re looking for is ‘It is dearness only that gives things their value.'”

Indiana felt his shoulders relax and drew a deep breath.

“‘And it would be strange if an article like Freedom should not be highly rated,'” he replied.

“True enough,” the other man agreed, then grimaced slightly. “On the other hand, if we’re going to use Thomas Paine, I really would have preferred to get the quotation at least remotely right.”

“Maybe.” Indiana looked at him for a moment, then smiled. “On the other hand, if the scags were to…acquire partial knowledge of our recognition phrases, let’s say, they might just end up researching the quotation without realizing how much we’d paraphrased it.”

“I see.” The other man tilted his head to one side, eyes narrowing. “Clambake didn’t mention that you were the one who’d chosen the recognition phrase. I thought he had.” He nodded slowly. “I don’t know if it would really have done any good, but it was probably a wrinkle that was worth incorporating. Oh, you can call me Firebrand.”

“‘Firebrand’?” Indiana repeated, and grinned. “I like it. It’s got a more…proactive feel to it than ‘Clambake.'”

“I’m glad you approve,” Firebrand said dryly. “And I suppose that’s Magpie still in the car?”

“Yes,” Indiana confirmed. “You want to sit in the car to talk? The heater’s not much, but it’s at least a little warmer than standing out in the open this way.”

“Actually, I’d rather step inside the warehouse,” Firebrand demurred. “No offense, but I prefer a more solid roof and walls between me and any scag surveillance platforms that might happen by.”

“I don’t have any problem with that,” Indiana said and turned to beckon to Mackenzie. She looked at him for a moment, then opened her door, climbed out into the steadily strengthening rain, and joined the two men.

“Step into my office,” Firebrand invited, and led the way into the abandoned warehouse.

It was cold, drafty, and dreary. Abandoned stacks of plastic pallets leaned drunkenly, and a derelict forklift — not one of the grav-lifters the transstellars used in their warehouses, but a genuine, old-fashioned, pre-OFS forklift — loomed in the shadows. Raindrops drummed on the roof, and Indiana and Mackenzie heard the waterfall sound of runoff pounding down through holes to splash on the warehouse floor. It was a thoroughly miserable venue for a meeting, Indiana reflected, watching the plume of his breath. And it was also a perfect metaphor for what had happened to Seraphim since the Office of Frontier Security had come to the star system’s “rescue.”

“So you’re Clambake’s replacement,” he said, and Firebrand nodded.

“Like I say, we’ve had to make a few adjustments. On the other hand, one of the reasons we’ve done it is that we’ve been able to accelerate our plans a little bit.”

“You have?” Mackenzie asked, eyes narrowing, and he nodded. “How much?”

“To be honest, we’re still in the process of establishing that,” Firebrand admitted. “The biggest problem is that shipping’s scarce enough out this way, except for Krestor’s and Mendoza’s, that we have to be careful about our arrangements.” He chuckled suddenly. “There are some advantages to dealing with that crowd, though — not to mention the simple satisfaction of using their own ships against them! Their freight agents are about as corrupt as they are themselves, after all, and smuggling’s always a growth industry in the Protectorates. No one in the League has anything like a reliable estimate of the size of the ‘gray economy’ out here, but everyone knows damned well that it’s huge, so we might as well take advantage of it. Unless things change in the next month or two, what we’ll actually be doing is shipping your goodies in covered by Krestor shipping manifests. They’ll just sort of wander away from the rest of the queue once they hit dirt-side.”

 

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16 Responses to Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 16

  1. Terranovan says:

    Uh-oh, Firebrand! A code name used in “Shadow of Saganami” and “Storm from the Shadows” by a MESAN agent!!!

    • 4th Dimension says:

      Yup. Mesan agent provocateur, as per blurb.

    • Richard H says:

      It’s handy for the readers, but it seems like poor operational planning to use the same code name after a bunch of your plans already failed under the same name.

      Then again, I suppose it hardly matters when even the people who’d twig on it wouldn’t find out until after they were embroiled in the mess.

      • RichardK says:

        As intended – Mesa wants all of these failed revolutions blamed on the Manty’s. What better way than to connect them all to the same agent.

        • John Roth says:

          Interesting idea, but I don’t think so. Most of these people aren’t going to compare notes about the code name of whoever they were talking to; they’re going to compare notes about who that agent told them was his sponsor.

          The other reason I don’t think so is that in Shadow of Saganami that code name is used to connect the arms dealer from Kornati (sp??) to the one on Montana, and that guy was a known Mesan agent.

          Of course, that won’t matter to whoever’s got the propaganda blast ready to go.

          • Richard H says:

            >The other reason I don’t think so is that in Shadow of Saganami that code name is used to connect the arms dealer from Kornati (sp??) to the one on Montana, and that guy was a known Mesan agent.

            Basically this. What I was remarking on was that this Firebrand guy was stirring up revolts *against* the Manties, which is how they know he exists… and now he’s stirring them up and claiming those same people are *supporting* the revolts.

            The blurb tells us that these actions in the name of Manticore aren’t going to end up being left out to dry, but someone with a brain in ONI is going to figure out who is actually behind it pretty quickly once they hear the name “Firebrand”.

            On the other hand, as John Roth observes, the public isn’t going to hear any of that.

            • JeffM says:

              But at that time, he was actually working for Frontier Security rather than having switched full time to working for Mesa…

              • Drak Bibliophile says:

                At that time, he was “on leave” from Frontier Security and was working for Mesa with the knowledge of his FS superiors.

              • hank says:

                To be pedantic, at his 1st meetings with Nordbrant & Westman he was still working for the Gendarmarie. He then went on leave (actually on loan to Manpower) for the rest of Shadows of Sag. and had been hired by Mesa by the 1st time we saw him in Storm.

  2. John Roth says:

    He does get around, doesn’t he?

  3. Margo says:

    Maybe the timeline of this book starts concurrently with Storm from the Shadows? About 6 months or T-year before – scene setting?

    • John Roth says:

      The book has a date at the beginning of each new month. Chapters 1 and 2 are in February 1922 PD, Chapters 3 and 4 are in March 1922 PD. Storm from the Shadows ends in December 1921 PD.

  4. John Roth says:

    I wonder if that disguise is part of the MAlign bag of tricks. I don’t remember him being described that way before.

    • Drak Bibliophile says:

      John, here’s how he’s described in his first appearance in Shadow of Saganami.

      Quote

      “For a day or two,” the other man said. He was obviously the senior of the two, and his physical appearance — medium brown hair, medium brown eyes, average features, medium -complexion — was so eminently forgettable that Nordbrandt felt irritably certain he’d never bothered with a disguise in his life.

      End Quote

  5. Margo says:

    Oops, don’t read chapter heads very often!

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