Chapter Twenty-Six

“I understand you’re not a professional reporter, Captain,” the attractive brunette said in an almost soothing tone. “And I know it makes people a bit nervous the first time they have to go through an interview like this. But I promise you, I’ve done this hundreds of times, and none of my interviewees have ever died yet.”

The man sitting across the small desk from her in the uniform of a merchant service deck officer, grinned and chuckled just a bit nervously. Then he nodded.
“I’ll, uh, try to bear that in mind, Ms. Brulé.”
“Good. And remember, we don’t have to get it perfect the first time. Just tell us what really happened, in your own words, and then we’ll play it back and if you realize you’ve misspoken at some point, we can correct it. And if you realize you’ve left anything out, we can put it in at that point, too. The object is to get all of the information into the right people’s hands, not to try to be perfect while we do it. Okay?”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
“Good,” the brunette repeated, then looked directly into the waiting pickup.
“This is a recorded interview with Captain Tanguy Carmouche, commander of the New Tuscany-registry freighter Antelope, concerning certain events which occurred in the San Miguel System. I am Anne-Louise Brulé, conducting this interview for the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Trade, and the Treasury. This record is being made on July 7, 1921 Post Diaspora, on the planet of New Tuscany.”
She finished the official tag, then turned back to Captain Carmouche.
“Very well, Captain Carmouche. Could you please explain to us, in your own words, exactly what happened?”
“In San Miguel, you mean?” Carmouche said, then grimaced in obvious embarrassment. “Sorry. I guess I really am a little nervous.”
Brulé smiled encouragingly, and the captain cleared his throat and straightened slightly in his chair.
“Well, we’d arrived in San Miguel early last month to collect a cargo which had been chartered before this Constitutional Convention in Spindle voted out its ‘constitution.’ Now, San Miguel’s always been part of the Rembrandt Trade Union, and the Union’s always favored using its own bottoms instead of chartering foreign-registry ships, so there’ve been occasional problems for skippers who don’t belong to the RTU, but generally, we’ve been able to work things out without too much trouble.
“This time, though, when Antelope made her parking orbit, we were boarded by a Manticoran customs party, not one from San Miguel or the Trade Union. That was unusual, but I just figured it was part of the new political set up, so I didn’t worry about it too much. Until, that is, the Manties started tearing the ship part looking for ‘contraband.'”
Carmouche’s face tightened in remembered anger, and he shrugged jerkily.
“I wasn’t any too happy about that,” he said. “I mean, I can understand wanting to keep a handle on smuggling, especially out here in the Verge. I don’t have a problem with that. For that matter, I know our own customs people keep a close eye on ships entering New Tuscany, especially if they aren’t regular visitors on this run. But there’s courteous ways to go about it, and then there’s ways that . . . aren’t so courteous. Like the way these bas –”
He broke off, shook himself, and grimaced.
“Sorry,” he said again. “I meant like the way these people did it. I don’t necessarily expect anyone to bow down to me. I mean, I know I’m merchant service, not the Navy. But, by God, Antelope is my ship! I’m the one responsible to the owners, and even if I’m only merchant service, there’s a certain amount of respect any skipper has a right to expect out of visitors aboard his ship. I don’t care who they are!
“But these people didn’t waste any respect on anyone aboard Antelope. They were rude, insulting, and what I have to think was deliberately antagonistic. They didn’t make requests; they demanded whatever it was they wanted. They insisted on bringing aboard all kinds of scanners and detection equipmet, too, and they went through every cargo space with a fine tooth comb. Took hours, given the size of our holds, but they insisted. Just like they insisted on checking every bill of lading individually against its cargo container — didn’t matter whether or not the container’s port-of-origin customs seals were intact, either. They even made us open a whole stack of containers so they could physically eyeball the contents! And they made it pretty clear that if we didn’t do exactly what they wanted, they’d refuse us entry for the planet and prohibit any orbital cargo transshipment.”
Carmouche leaned forward in his chair, his face and body language both more animated in an evident combination of anger and increasing confidence under Brulé’s encouraging, gravely sympathetic expression.
“Well, I managed to put up with their ‘customs inspection’ without popping a blood vessel or slugging anyone, but it wasn’t easy. We got them back off the ship — finally — and we got our clearances from them, but that was when we found out we were going to have to submit to a medical examination before we were allowed to take on or discharge cargo. We weren’t discharging cargo, anyway, and they damned well knew it. And I’ve never been asked for a medical certification to take on cargo! At a port of entry, sure. Anyone wants to keep a close eye on anyone who might be bringing in some kind of contagion. But when there’s not going to be any contact between any of my people or the planetary environment — for that matter, not even between any of my people and an orbital warehouse, for God’s sake, since the cargo was coming aboard in San Miguel shuttles! — it didn’t make any sense at all. For that matter, they’d checked our current medical records as part of their customs inspection!
“I didn’t understand it then, but it started making sense later, when I realized it didn’t have anything to do with medical precautions. Not really. No matter what we did, there was always another hoop waiting for us to jump through before we were going to be allowed to load our cargo. After the medical examination, they insisted on checking our engineering logs to make sure we weren’t going to suffer some sort of catastrophic impeller casualty in heavily traveled volumes of the star system. And after that, they decided they had to inspect our enviro plant’s waste recycling and disposal systems, since they didn’t want us littering in their precious star system!”
He shook his head angrily.
“The only thing I could come up with, since every one of those ‘inspections’ of theirs was completely bogus, as far as I could tell, was that it was a systematic effort to make it very clear that Antelope wasn’t welcome in San Miguel. The RTU’s always been protective of its own interests, but I was under the impression from everything everyone was saying before the Constitutional Convention that the Manties supported free trade. Well, maybe they do, and maybe they don’t, but I can tell you this — if they do think free trade is a good idea, they obviously don’t think it’s a good idea for everyone! And after I figured out what was going on, I asked around. There were a couple of other ships in orbit, but we were the only one from New Tuscany. And by the oddest coincidence, we were also the only one being subjected to all those ‘inspections.’ Which suggested to me that maybe what this was all about was the fact that we hadn’t ratified their ‘constitution,’ and this was an example of payback. I don’t know about that for sure, of course, but as soon as I got back to New Tuscany, I spoke to the Ministry of Trade about it, and I don’t mind telling you I was just a bit hot when I did. Apparently, I’m not the only New Tuscan skipper this has happened to, either. Or that was my impression, anyway, when they asked me to make an official statement for the record.”
He looked at Brulé and raised an eyebrow, but she shook her head with a commiserating smile.
“I’m afraid I don’t really know about that, Captain Carmouche,” she said, in the tone of voice someone used to add “and if I did know, I couldn’t tell you,” without ever saying so out loud.
“Well, whatever,” Carmouche said after a moment, “that’s about the size of it. Were there any specific questions you wanted to ask, Ma’am?”
“There were a few points where the ministries wanted a little more detail, Captain,” Brulé said, keying a memo pad and glancing down at the display. “Let me see . . . . All right, first, did you get the name and rank of the Manticoran officer in charge of the original customs inspection?”
“No,” Carmouche replied with another grimace. “Never offered it. Suppose I should have insisted, but it’s the first time I ever had a regular navy officer come aboard my ship and not give his name and rank. Personally, I think he didn’t want me to have it in case I ended up lodging any formal protests. Of course, I didn’t know then that I was going to be doing that, either. So, instead of asking, I –”

About Eric Flint

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29 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 98

  1. arthur Piantadosi says:

    Well well well… Bogus complaints from a lying swine of a captain. Did anyone else notice that he didn't mention the Manticoran officer's name or rank? And the inspection was legitimate, they were just doing the stuff ANY people are supposed to do. This part reminds me of On Basilisk Station when Honor was inspecting all those foreign flag vessels and Manticoran vessels at Basilisk. Boy were there protests then!

  2. Erik says:

    And so, the disinformation begins….

  3. Mike_G says:

    Hmm. OK, any guesses? Is this a setup of some sort? Or is this just like how the traders in Basilisk reacted to Honor instituting customs searches?

    And if the guy was so upset, why wouldn't he even have asked for a name?

    • Sounour says:

      I guess it's a setup … the president of New Tuscany and the Mesa representative were talking about something very similar to this in an earlier snippet

    • Erik Ker says:

      This is part of Mesa's attempt to make SKM look bad. Remember the planned complaints about shipping harrassment?

    • Harpoon says:

      It's a setup to justify the Sollies getting involved.

      • Mike_G says:

        Of course it's going to be the excuse used. But is it actually a setup? As in, they might have been fake inspectors? Or maybe somebody sent them a bogus tip, encouraging them to be harsh with this ship?____Or is this really official Manticore policy, designed to send home the message "if you wanted open access to the Empire ports, you should have joined the Empire". Would there really be anything wrong with that?____Or did it even happen at all?

      • Mike_G says:

        Of course it's going to be the excuse used. But is it actually a setup? As in, they might have been fake inspectors? Or maybe somebody sent them a bogus tip, encouraging them to be harsh with this ship?

        Or is this really official Manticore policy, designed to send home the message "if you wanted open access to the Empire ports, you should have joined the Empire". Would there really be anything wrong with that?

        Or did it even happen at all?

        • MadMcAl says:

          It is either a complete fiction or blown up beyond any recognition. We know that Manticore is more than slightly in favor of free trade. Considering that large parts of their wealth is generated by the junction and the free trade flowing through it understandable.
          And they have absolutely no need to punish New Tuscanny in this fashion. They WANT the new tuscans to see what their goverment cut them out from.
          Also think about it. A RMN-custom-team? A RMN-officer? The RMN is actively partaking in a little neighbourly blunder called second havenite war. It is strained to the point of breaking and doesn't have the manpower to post custom teams in all its new… belongings.
          They have customs in Manticore, Basilisk, Trevors Star and Lynx Terminus. Propably in Lynx. But for the rest there was no time to build them up. Sure, if a RMN-ship was in orbit just at this moment and somebody gave them a tip that this ship had contrabands comparable to the Jessyk-freighter from SoS 1… then of course.
          But that would be happening once, maybe twice and then the RMN would be more carefull. Also they would excuse the trouble.

          So no, it was either a typical customs affair as happening everywhere in civilized space, that has been a bit "tweaked" into anything complainable, or the good captain is a actor from the outset.

          • Thirdbase says:

            At no time did Captain Tanguy Carmouche say it was a RMN customs officer, he said it was "Manticoran customs party, not one from San Miguel or the Trade Union." Since they have joined the Star Empire, any customs party will be a Manticoran customs party. By bending the truth over what really happened, it is easy to make a simple examination into a persecution.

            • Sounour says:

              although the RMN should enforce customs inspections it's not unusual for the local authorities to do so if no RMN vessel is available or the vessel is unwilling … I just think of Basilisk where the civilians did them …

            • MadMcAl says:

              Important difference, you are right. And so sneaky. But even if the RTU-customs where renamed into Manticorean customs the thing about free trade still is true. And if that wasn't the first occurence, well, one occassion could be a gruntled lokal goverment with a grudge. Two times or more? No way.

          • If you notice, he also says he doesn't know the officer's name. BOGUS! And you're right about customs. This part reminds me a lot of On Basilisk Station, when Honor was stopping foreign flag vessels at Basilisk. Plus a lot of the things he complained about are things any customs party might do. "We were the only ones to be searched" NONSENSE!

  4. Alsadius says:

    It's fairly obviously part of the setup the Sollies are putting on.

  5. Harpoon says:

    To bring back something from the 80s, "Is it real, or is it Memorex?"


  6. Summertime says:

    This may be the beginning of a vast disinformation campaign to blacken Manticore's name in prelude to more dastardly deeds by maniacal Mesan manipulators.

    • MadMcAl says:

      NO! REALLY? What incites these ideas into your brain?
      But real now, we all know that. The discussion so far rotates around 4 possibilitys.
      1. The occurence was real and caused by new "Manticorean" customs officers a little bit overzealous.
      2. The occurence was created by Mesans in manticorean uniform to spark a incident.
      3. The occurence was a standard customs inspection done thousands of time in civilized space and is just blown up by the "good" captain.
      4. The "good" captain is an actor from the beginning and Antilope never went to San Miguel.

      I for one discount the first two points outright as this was obviously not to only such occurence the ministry worked on. And booth the first and the second option are something that might happen, once or even twice, but will be snuffed out as soon as Manticore discovers them.

  7. zakryerson says:

    I love the name of the ship.

    A bunch of incompetent _privateers_.

    And I only know the song because I wanted too see if there were any videos of "The White Collar Holler" or "The Mary Ellen Carter" on YouTube, and found that the only ones are concert versions.

    There is a Clip Art Animated Video of "Barrett's Privateers". :)

  8. Erik Ker says:

    Why have my last two comments not made out of moderation? Why will the system not send me my password, since the password I think it is, is clearly not working? What have I said or done that was so offensive?

  9. rboatright says:

    because the moderator is a human being with a job and a life and health issues…
    Once you have an approved posting, your posts go through without delay. Until then, until you've been ok'ed ONCE you are stuck in moderation, and I had a couple of days where I could not get to it.

    It's not my full time job. I'm Eric's lackey, but not a full-time-lackey.

    Sorry. They've been posted now.

  10. catboy says:

    30 days intill henk!

    • MadMcAl says:

      I know you are learning disabled. And that you have problems with your keyboard. But there are ways around it. A relative easy way would be using either Babylon (and yes, Babylon costs money, so I wouldn't suggest it) or use either IE or Firefox with the google bar. There is a spell proving integrated.
      I have nothing against people with problems to write. My sister has dyslexia, so I understand the problems you have. But your disability makes it almost impossible for me at least to understand what you are writing (and it seems that I am not the only one at that) so you close yourself off from interesting discussions.
      I will try to interpret your post.
      If I understand you correctly you are trying to tell, that it are only 30 days until the book comes out.
      If so, please answer with a simple yes.

      • catboy says:

        yes though there is no spell-cheek here

        • MadMcAl says:

          But either the google bar or babylon work here nontheless. Not in Opera though, but in the IE.
          If you have the google bar (get it from google, it is free) go into the options of the bar (not of the IE of Firefox), click on the Tools-tab on the left, then check the box besides Spell Check with the green hook and ABC as icon in front of it.
          After that, when you have typed your post, but before you click on SUBMIT COMMENT you click on the same button in the google bar. Then it will show you the words it doesn't recognize in red and gives you a list of options for the word if you click on it. Very easy and comfortable.
          Do yourself and us a favor and try it please.

  11. Summertime says:

    MM, I favor a combination of your points 2 and 4. Mesan agents did the deed, but the Captain was in on the plot.

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