IN THE STORMY RED SKY – snippet 19:
The High Drive motors buzzed, holding a 1g acceleration to give the Milton the illusion of gravity while waiting for clearance to land in Hereward Harbor. The vibration sawed at Adele’s skull.
She supposed her headache was a result of their strikingly unpleasant extraction from the Matrix. She’d felt as though ice water had replaced the marrow of every bone in her body. She didn’t see an obvious connection between that and now feeling as though her head were splitting, but she doubted it was a coincidence.
“Adele, are you feeling all right?” someone asked.
Adele opened her eyes. She hadn’t realized they’d been closed until the shock of light dizzied her. She blinked but put both palms on the console to steady herself.
Rene Cazelet had spoken over a two-way link from the astrogation station across the bridge. He must’ve been watching her through the camera in her own console.
“Tend to your own work, if you please,” Adele said. She kept her tone neutral, but she cut power to her camera. Rene would take that as a sharp rebuke, which is exactly what she meant it for.
Oddly enough, Adele immediately began to feel better. The surge of adrenalin from her anger had apparently settled whatever biochemical imbalance was causing the headache.
She smiled faintly. Perhaps she owed Rene an apology. After the Milton had landed she’d give him one, but for now she had work to do.
Cory was handling ordinary communications with Paton Control on the ground in Hereward City, the regional capital. Paton didn’t have either guardships in orbit or a Planetary Defense Array, a constellation of nuclear mines whose focused blasts could destroy even a battleship. There was nothing either to protect or to steal here.
Das, the Resident of the Veil, had thirty worlds under his authority, a larger number than most of Cinnabar’s regional governors. That was only because none of the worlds was significant. The gross economic product of all thirty together was less than that of any of the five suburban boroughs of Xenos.
Normally Adele would’ve felt that her primary duty was to gather information from the ships in Hereward Harbor and from the Residency databases–particularly anything that Das and his cronies tried to keep secret. For now she left that to her equipment and, opening a shielded link to the command console, said, “Daniel, Senator Forbes has just entered the BDC. Lieutenant Robinson admitted her. So that you know.”
“Umm,” said Daniel. They didn’t bother with protocol when they used a two-way link. In fact, Adele had difficulty remembering to use protocol at any time. “Well, I’d rather she were there than up here. I’ll be interested to see if Robinson reports it, though.”
After a pause he added, “And make sure she can’t speak to anyone on the ground, if you please. Ah–you can do that?”
“Yes, Daniel,” Adele said aloud. And I can count to eleven without taking off my shoes… but that she didn’t say. She’d already snapped at one friend as a result of the headache which was fast fading to a memory.
She grimaced. Before turning her attention to the information which was flooding into her electronic nets, she repowered the camera and switched to the link with Cazelet. “I’m sorry, Rene,” she said. “Extraction gave me a headache, but it seems to be gone now.”
“I thought for a moment I’d lost the use of my legs,” Cazelet said. “This was a bad one, all right.”
After pausing again, he added, “I’ve drafted landing plans for every berth in Hereward Harbor; none of which will be needed, of course. If there’s some data stream that you won’t have time to review till later, I could look at it.”
There’s nothing on Paton for which I require help, Adele thought. She said, “All right. The Veil Protective Service is the closest thing to a military here. I’m particularly interested in any contacts between them and the Hegemony.”
She didn’t bother to tell Cazelet how to find VPS databases or how to enter them, nor did she tell him that contact with the Alliance was even more important than contact with the Headman Terl and his successor. Rene would ask for help if the information were unexpectedly well protected, but he was clever and had picked up specialist knowledge and tools from her in the past. There weren’t likely to be any problems.
Cazelet’s help wasn’t necessary to her. That she apologize by permitting him to help was necessary.
Adele started with on the ships in the harbor. There were two Protective Service gunboats. The Cockchafer had been deadlined for repairs: three of her High Drive motors had failed on her most recent cruise, and the remaining three could go the same way momentarily. She was likely to remain in dock for the foreseeable future because her log listed the replacements as OUT OF STOCK/ON ORDER FROM XENOS.
Presumably more was going on than the log showed, since High Drive motors were more or less interchangeable. Still, the situation didn’t constitute a threat to the Republic or to the Milton’s mission.
The Moth had just completed a cruise touching seven of the worlds administered from Paton. She could lift again within a day or two if necessary, though it was hard to imagine any real need for that.
Local information confirmed the judgment of the Sailing Directions that there wasn’t a problem with piracy in the Veil. The Cinnabar Residency didn’t produce anything worth stealing, and the Hegemony had a small but very efficient anti-pirate squadron which enthusiastically exercised its treaty right of hot pursuit into Cinnabar territory. The Moth couldn’t do more than show the flag, but that was all she would be required to do.
Most of the forty-odd vessels in Hereward Harbor were local traders: the largest was a little over 1,500 tons, and a number were well under a thousand. A hulk, formerly the 3,000-ton freighter Jinyo Maru, provided shops and accommodations for both ground and space elements of the Veil Protective Service. A slightly smaller freighter, the Sallie Murchison, had brought a semi-annual shipment of merchandise to the Residency’s only off-world trading house, Cone Transport. The Cone factor in Hereward would break up the cargo and transship the smaller packets to outlying worlds.