IN THE STORMY RED SKY – snippet 22:
The remaining structures were one or two stories, built from precast panels; windows ran the full height of the walls. They were painted in varying bright pastels, though, and the flowers and geometric designs stencilled on the walls gave them even more individuality.
“Ship,” said Daniel, speaking into the microphone discretely clipped to his left epaulet. In other circumstances he might’ve worn a commo helmet, though that was technically improper with either form of dress uniform. He preferred not to take chances in the presence of Senator Forbes, however. “I’m leaving the Millie in the capable hands of Mister Robinson. He’ll announce the leave roster when the vessel’s squared away.”
Actually, Robinson would announce the leave roster as soon as the civilian brass had gotten safely out of the way. Daniel didn’t want a party of rambunctious spacers to shove the governor into the harbor as they rushed toward bars at the other end of the pier. They wouldn’t mean any harm by it, but folks who spent their working life in the Matrix were hard to discipline. Their attitude differed from that of civilians whose daily concerns didn’t include the risk of being lost forever in a universe which wasn’t meant for human beings.
“Six out, Millies!” Daniel concluded. He’d never commanded a ship with so large a complement before. He suspected that he’d have forty or fifty spacers in the local jail by morning… though it was possible that the Millies would completely overwhelm the local authorities. That would be even worse, but he’d deal with whatever happened.
“Captain?” Senator Forbes said. “Master Beckford is sending an aircar for me. It’ll be able to land here aboard ship, won’t it?”
Daniel’s face went hard. He wasn’t looking at Forbes, but he knew Adele could see his expression. There were any number of ways a civilian flying an aircar into the hold of a warship could go wrong.
“Your pardon, Senator,” Adele said in her usual tone of clipped certainty. “I checked with Lieutenant Commander Robinson before I transmitted your message to Mount Marfa. On his recommendation, I directed the vehicle to wait for you on shore for the sake of your safety.”
“What sort of nonsense is that?” Forbes said in amazement.
As she spoke, there was a clang and a squeal from above. A topsail yard rotated slowly across the hatchway while riggers shouted angry recriminations at one another. They were working to clear tangles, tears, and very possibly missing spars. This was the Milton’s first landfall after a voyage on which her captain had wrung the rig out properly.
Things did snap and fall and were dropped. Even without that, the air currents around the big ship changed as spacers opened hatches. That created a tricky environment for a pilot who wasn’t used to it.
If Daniel had offered those reasons, Forbes might well have ordered him to keep the Milton closed up over her crew until she’d left with her friend. With the decision already made and laid to her protégé, however–
“Mister Robinson is quite right, Senator,” Daniel said smoothly. “The Gods alone know what sort of ham-fisted foreigners Master Beckford found to fly for him on this benighted mudball.”
He coughed into his hand and added, “Incidentally, I understand the lieutenant commander is related to you. An excellent officer, milady. The Milton is fortunate to have him.”
Forbes looked at him, suddenly without expression. Daniel had been feeling–well, smug, if he had to be honest; smugly self-satisfied. Though he’d been sure nothing showed beneath his blandly professional smile.
“Captain Leary,” Forbes said. Her voice sounded like a hen scratching through gravel, but she didn’t raise it. “Do not patronize me.”
Daniel let his face go blank. Hogg shifted; Daniel didn’t glance to the side to see what his servant was doing.
“Senator,” he said. He dipped his chin in acknowledgment.
The ramp boomed onto the outrigger. Clamps locked it in place with a quick whang/whang.
Forbes glanced over her entourage. The servants with the trunk met her eyes with the dull disinterest of draft animals. Platt, her male secretary, was tall, soft, and effete; an ageing queen unless Daniel misjudged him. He pretended to be looking at his feet. DeNardo, the Senator’s, well, companion, smiled back. He probably wasn’t any smarter than the two porters, but he had a sunnier disposition.
“Come along,” Forbes said. “We’ll wait on shore, as Captain Leary thinks best. Lady Mundy, accompany me if you please. I’d like to have someone to talk with until Prince Willie arrives. He wasn’t known for being punctual even before he emigrated to this godforsaken place.”
Adele turned toward her, pointedly without looking at Daniel. She slid her data unit into its pocket. “Yes, all right, Senator,” she said.
She and Forbes walked down the ramp, step and step. Tovera followed a little behind and to the left of the others; her right hand was inside the attaché case.
Daniel followed Forbes’ back with his eyes. “I misjudged that one, Hogg,” he said quietly.
Hogg brought his right hand out of his pocket. He snicked opened the blade of his knife, then clicked it closed again.
“You got away with it by dumb luck this time, young master,” he said. “But don’t make a habit of it if you plan to get older.”