WHEN THE TIDE RISES — snippet 28


WHEN THE TIDE RISES – snippet 28:



CHAPTER 12: Morning City on Pelosi


            Adele hadn't imagined there'd be a parade when the squadron and the two Alliance prizes returned to Pelosi. She hadn't dreamed there'd be a parade.

            "Mistress?" said Rene Cazelet. He was trying to keep his voice down, which meant he had to lean very close to her ear to have a chance of being heard over the cheering crowd. "How did they learn about the victory in time to do this? It must've taken days to prepare, surely?"

            "I was wondering the same thing," said Adele. That was of course true. Because she was Adele Mundy she was already in the process of getting an answer by entering a local database.

            Her personal data unit didn't have enough power to transmit more than a quarter mile or so, and Pelosi didn't have a public communications system that was worthy of the name. There were–there had to be–private commercial systems, however. Adele'd tied her data unit and the RCN commo helmets worn by at least one spacer on every parade float into the microwave communications system belonging to Fidelity Mercantile Corporation, Minister Lampert behind a corporate veil.

            The ten floats which carried naval officers, whether or not they'd been on Dodd's Throne, were (as before) flatbed trailers covered with bunting and pulled by eight-wheeled tractors. There was nothing complicated in that, though Adele strongly doubted the Bagarian government could've put even so simple a business together in the hour and a half since the squadron reached Pelosi.

            Canvas murals hung across the fronts of buildings all the way from the docks to the House of Assembly. They couldn't possibly have been created since the squadron arrived, even if the paint were still wet.

            As best Adele could tell, the paint had cured properly. Even if it hadn't, the images depicted–though they weren't in any sense realistic–did make direct reference to the events on Dodd's Throne.

            "Hurrah for Lady Leary!" somebody shouted. The crowd took up the theme raggedly, mixing, "Lady Leary!" and "The Admiral's Lady!" with similar but unintelligible cheers. The result was a sort of muddy good-humor.

            Tovera laughed. Rene said in scandalized horror, "Mistress! They mean you!"

            "Then they're idiots," Adele said, concentrating on her search. Well, trying to concentrate on her search. Most people were idiots, not just this mob of goggle-eyed, garishly dressed, wogs shouting in the–

            She caught herself and sat bolt-upright in a flush of embarrassment. She'd allowed her anger to control her; which she never did, which she couldn't afford to do. She was holding both wands in her right hand so that her left could reach into her tunic pocket, just because civilians were happy and foolish.

            And what would her mother Evadne have said about Adele referring to foreigners as wogs, even in the quiet of her own mind? Adele winced. Her mother would've been horrified at the disrespect for foreign cultures which she knew were just as valid as that of a Cinnabar noble.

            Adele had seen a great deal more of foreign cultures than her mother, a very parochial woman despite her principles, had done. Some of those cultures were entirely worthy of disrespect.

            But Evadne would also have considered the term "wog" to be common, the sort of word used by untutored spacers and rural louts like Daniel's servant Hogg. In that she would've been quite correct. By thinking the word, Adele had disgraced her station as Mundy of Chatsworth.

            She, Tovera, and Rene were on the tenth and last float. Daniel was at the front, bowing to the crowd, with Minister Lampert on one side of him and Generalissima DeMarce on the other. Hogg stood behind them, looking rumpled and thick with his hands in his pockets.

            Hogg was rumpled. He wasn't thick, though, and Adele had a very good notion of what he was holding in those pockets, ready to use on anybody he thought was a danger to the young master.

            The trailers in between–the quality of bunting decreased from the front to the back of the procession; that draping Adele's was canvas decorated with what seemed to be house paint–carried Hoppler and Seward, then apparently everyone on Pelosi who could claim to wear a naval officer's uniform.

            Vesey, Blantyre, and Cory rode the ninth float. Vesey seemed uncomfortable but the two midshipmen were in their element. Well-dressed youths were throwing flowers to Blantyre over the Bagarian soldiers lining the parade route, while not only women but some heavily made up men tried to get through to Cory.

            "The traders, the country craft we found on Dodd's Throne…," Adele said, scrolling through data. She'd started with the files of Fidelity Mercantile. She could've transferred from there to other databases, but Lampert's information provided all she needed. "They arrived back on Pelosi several days before we did. They brought reports about what'd happened."

            "Of course!" Rene said. "We couldn't travel any faster than the Babanguida, and she'd have been a bucket even with a proper crew. But–"

            He looked at Adele with a frown.

            "–surely they didn't bring positive reports, did they? They were near as anything, well…. Except for Commander Leary, they'd have been robbed of everything."

            "Lay-dee Lear-ee!" shrieked at least a dozen spectators. They were better organized than the Bagarian Navy–or for that matter than the clerks of Fidelity Mercantile. Lampert should hire a few of them, assuming they could read and write. "Lay-dee Lear-ee!"

            Adele was smiling; good. That was the right attitude to take toward well-intentioned people who didn't have the advantages of education and intelligence, but who nonetheless insisted on opening their mouths.

            "It appears that they took being robbed as a given if they met Bagarian warships," Adele explained as she reflexively tried to bring order to Lampert's files. "Rather like crashing if your thrusters fail on landing. You hope they don't fail, but if they do the crash is inevitable. When Daniel–"

            A mistake. She didn't underline it by trying to correct the personal reference.

            "–stopped the business and saw to the return of whatever hadn't been drunk, they were delighted. And of course the citizens here really wanted a–"

            The word "citizens" made her look up from the data unit's holographic display. Stretching across two building fronts above the cheering crowd was a painting on a tarpaulin large enough to cover half a dozen cargo pallets. A female figure–the prominent bust made that obvious–in a white uniform (with a scarlet cloak added, but that was a minor license for this artist) bestrode, literally a starship. From the turrets drawn all over the vessel's hull it was no ship ever built, but the legend Generalissima DeMarce was painted prominently on the bow.

            The figure had a pistol in one hand, a stocked impeller in the other, and with both was shooting at attackers who waved Alliance flags. Because they were more or less in scale with the ship, they barely came up to the ankles of the giantess.

            "They wanted a victory," she concluded, but her voice had dropped to a whisper. "By all the Gods."

            On the figure's left, red letters with an arrow read Captain Adele Mundy. On the right, a similar legend and arrow–in violet–read Grand Admiral Leary's Wife.

            "I don't remember having that much fun when we took over the DeMarce," said Tovera. Her voice was chirpy, though she had to shout to be heard.

            "There weren't any Alliance personnel!" Rene said. "Why, this is infamous! And we didn't shoot anyone. We scarcely had to threaten Captain Seward!"

            "Right, no fun at all," said Tovera. "Well, better luck next time, boy."

            She was baiting Rene, a positive sign. Tovera's sense of humor, grim and deadpan though it was, was a human trait. Adele didn't suppose her servant would ever develop a conscience, but this was a step in the right direction.

            "I prefer to think of it as amusing, Rene," Adele said as she sent a text message to the commo helmet Hogg wore; he'd pass it on. The information she'd gleaned from Lampert's files wouldn't surprise Daniel, but he might as well have the details before DeMarce and Lampert spoke to him in private.

            Partly because of what she was thinking about the Bagarian government and partly because she found Tovera's sense of humor infectious, Adele added, "I find my trigger finger gets quite enough exercise as it is without me needlessly adding to the list of people I intend to shoot."

About Eric Flint

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