IN THE STORMY RED SKY – snippet 7:
Huxford turned and fumbled with the hatch controls for a moment before he managed to work them. The dogs disengaged and the hydraulic rams swung the armored panel outward. He stumbled through as soon as there was space for his slender, handsome figure.
Adele wondered if Huxford knew her reputation as a pistol shot. He’d given no indication of knowing anything about her background save her RCN rank. It might well be that he was just afraid that Mistress Sand would hear that he’d offended one of her top agents. He could lose the position that gave him such status among the members of his class.
Adele smiled again, tightly and without humor. As was generally true of her smiles.
Rene Cazelet, wearing a commo helmet, looked through the hatch without entering the BDC. “Mistress?” he said quietly.
Rene was the grandson of Mistress Boileau, the long-time Director of the Academic Collections on Blythe. Mistress Boileau had given Adele sanctuary when the Proscriptions slaughtered the members of the Mundy family on Cinnabar. In return, Adele had taken in her grandson when the Fifth Bureau, Guarantor Porra’s personal security service, executed his parents.
“Yes, it’s all right,” said Adele, walking toward the hatchway. She felt tired and shaky from the adrenalin she hadn’t burned off. “I’ll go back to my quarters and change into civilian clothes. I have some business to transact before liftoff tomorrow.”
“We thought of coming in, Tovera and I,” Cazelet said. His family had been in shipping; it was to the RCN’s benefit that Adele had asked Daniel to grant him a midshipman’s slot aboard the Milton. Though Rene lacked formal training, he had more practical experience in starships than most Academy graduates. “But we didn’t think you needed help.”
“Not with that one,” said Tovera contemptuously. “Though would you like…?”
She dipped one finger in the direction of her left side pocket; the bulge there was Adele’s pistol. Tovera knew that she’d never be human, but she could learn to act the way humans did. She’d attached herself to Adele Mundy as a model of behavior whom a conscienceless sociopath could emulate.
“When I change,” said Adele. She felt worn. Perhaps it was age, or it could be the fact that she didn’t sleep well. She hadn’t slept well for almost twenty years.
They started down the corridor. She and Cazelet were side by side, with Tovera a pace behind.
Riggers stood in the rotunda for the stern dorsal airlocks. That was their action station, though they weren’t wearing hard suits while the Milton was in harbor.
The watch commander was Barnes; Adele had first met him on Kostroma before she joined–well, became a part of–the RCN. He and his friend Dasi didn’t have the best minds in the RCN, but they knew their duties and were cheerfully willing to carry out any orders Captain Leary gave. They’d been promoted from leading riggers to bosun’s mates when they followed Daniel from the corvette Princess Cecile to a cruiser with five times the complement.
“Good morning, ma’am,” Barnes said cheerfully. As Adele and her companions walked on, she heard Barnes telling his riggers, “That’s Lady Mundy in the Whites, you who don’t know it. If she tells you to jump, you jump. You don’t and I’ll beat you to an inch of your life if she hasn’t already shot you dead.”
Adele didn’t look around. She used to wince when she heard her shipmates make that sort of comment, but now she took it as a mark of rough affection. She wouldn’t shoot a spacer for being slow and stupid, of course; or even for dumb insolence. Probably not for dumb insolence.
“I was wondering, mistress…,” Tovera said. “Whether Mistress Sand knows about the business.”
Adele thought for a moment. “I doubt it,” she said. “She’d have told me herself. But she’s not going to hear about it from me or from either of you. It was a reasonable decision.”
A party of officers was coming the other way, returning to the BDC now that it was clear. “Good morning, Officer Mundy,” Lieutenant Commander Robinson said, dipping his head with a careful politeness which wasn’t the due of a signals officer.
“Sir,” said Adele, nodding in reply. Salutes weren’t given aboard ships in commission, so she hadn’t embarrassed herself by forgetting to offer one to the First Lieutenant.
She’d examined Dan Robinson’s record–of course–and found nothing of concern in it. She was glad that the man seemed to be smart enough to understand that things weren’t always done by the book when Daniel Leary was in command.
“According to my research…,” Rene Cazelet said quietly when the BDC party had passed, “a warrant officer leading an assault similar to the one on Fort Donoumont would normally have been given an award. If there ever were an assault similar to that one, mistress. The RCN Star is almost required. Because there’s nothing higher.”
Bullets through the doorway taking Woetjans in the chest. Stepping in, shooting the guard twice in the face. Into the inner office, the fat Alliance communications specialist reaching into her drawer and jerking as her face deformed above Adele’s sight picture….
“To say so, Midshipman Cazelet,” Adele said, her voice trembling despite her efforts to control it, “would imply that a Mundy was intriguing for vulgar honors, to the discredit of her house. We will hear no more of it.”
She and Tovera were billeted forward, adjacent to the captain’s space cabin and beyond that the bridge. As Adele entered the compartment, she turned to meet Cazelet’s eyes.
“But thank you for your concern,” she said.