Book should be available now so this is the final snippet.
What Distant Deeps — Snippet 57
The fifth freighter was the most distant of the lot, straggling a good hundred thousand miles behind the next ahead. It was sending also, but Adele didn’t have time to determine the content by an optical enlargement of the vessel’s laser head.
“Freighter Bonaventure,” she said tartly, “switch to short wave immediately or correct the alignment of your laser communicator. All ships, hold for revised course data which will we transmit to you shortly. Acknowledge this communication, over.”
Daniel hadn’t exactly said he was refiguring courses for the transports, but that seemed likely. Rather than give fuzzy information, Adele was adding concrete details which would make what she said believable. The civilian captains were certainly confused and probably terrified, but they had to be made to obey the Princess Cecile implicitly. Otherwise —
Firing on Palmyrene cutters was an act of war against a nation which was officially a Cinnabar ally. Still, Daniel would get away with that if a court martial resulted — as it might — so long as he could provide proof of Palmyrene intentions. They were, after all, foreigners; and uppity foreigners at that.
Firing on Cinnabar transports was a different matter; especially if one or more of the ships were owned by Senators, as was often the case. There was a great deal of money to be made on the fringes of civilization. The fact attracted investors with the power and connections to get away with cutting corners.
Speaker Leary almost certainly invested in that sort of operation. Adele smiled like a crack in an ice floe. Well, they could probably square him through Deirdre.
“I’m ready!” Daniel shouted, leaning forward to grab his commo helmet. He settled it on his head and, doing so, for the first time adjusted the console so that the bulk of his rigging suit didn’t crush him against the virtual keyboard.
“Cinnabar vessels,” said Adele, “hold for Captain Leary. Captain Leary, go ahead.”
Her job wasn’t over, of course: she simply reverted to the data collection which was ordinarily her first priority in a potentially hostile situation. Her equipment was copying information from the transports’ databases — mostly logs and course data and not important. It was good to have it against necessity if it were available, however.
Adele frowned, then felt her lips move into a smile of sorts. She assumed anything unfamiliar was potentially hostile. She liked to believe that she was less paranoid than Tovera, who always considered who to kill first — if necessary — when she met a group of people, but in truth mistress and servant shared a similar mindset.
Neither of them were going to change. They were very useful to their associates the way they were; and anyway, they probably couldn’t change if they’d wanted to.
“Fellow spacers,” said Daniel in a formally friendly tone, “I regret this inconvenience, but the security of Cinnabar demands it. You were being used by unscrupulous foreigners in a fashion which would certainly have led to your execution as traitors to the Republic.”
He paused to breathe, but he wasn’t giving up his virtual podium. The captain of the Bonaventure had adjusted the freighter’s sending head, but its packets of coherent light were still missing the Sissie’s receptors.
No matter: the civilians had nothing important to say except, “Yes sir!” The combination of dire threats coupled with unmistakably lethal force should be sufficient to frighten them into doing just that.
“I am transmitting course calculations to you,” Daniel continued, “now.”
He hit a virtual key, dispatching the material he’d queued before taking over the communication duties. Adele wondered if the Bonaventure would be able to handle the change — any change. In fairness to the captain, the freighter hadn’t been so terribly out of position when it arrived at this present stage of the voyage.
“This will take you to your planned destination, Zenobia,” Daniel said, “but in a single transit. The Princess Cecile will wait till you’re under way, then meet you in Zenobia orbit and give you further instructions. Under no circumstances are you to land on Zenobia or to do any other thing than what I have told you. Please acknowledge your receipt and acceptance of my orders ASAP, over.”
Three ships responded instantly with versions of “Received and accepted.” The Bonaventure’s reply was so curt that it could scarcely have been anything else — though the actual message would have to wait for Adele to run the visual imagery through a conversion program.
The captain of the Gerdis said, “Captain Leary, you have no authority over my vessel.”
“Break!” said Daniel. “Sun, one round and don’t hit them, over.”
The freighter captain was saying, “My orders come from –”
“– the agent from whom I received my contract. It seems to me you’re acting more like a pirate than –”
“Bloody hell, Leary!” The civilian’s hectoring tone of an instant before had risen to a bleat.
“Gerdis, I don’t have time to argue,” Daniel said in a voice like an avalanche, “and neither do you. Either you will accept my orders, or I will launch missiles, and if by some chance you escape them, I will infallibly hunt you down and hang you. I’m a Leary of Bantry, and you have my word on it! Over!”
“Received and understood,” the civilian said. “Preparing to execute the course change. Gerdis out.”
Daniel gripped the fascia plate of his console for a moment, his eyes closed. When he opened them, he looked toward Adele and grinned. She acknowledged with a nod, but as usual she was watching her friend’s image inset onto her display.
“Ship, this is Six,” Daniel said over the general push. “We’ll wait till all the transports have gotten under way, then proceed to Zenobia to meet them.”
He cleared his throat, then continued, “Now — I won’t pretend that it’s going to be simple after we extract in the Zenobia System. I expect the Palmyrene forces to keep their distance for the present because the transports won’t be able to land if the planetary defenses are alerted. If I’m wrong, we may find the whole Horde waiting for us. We’ll deal with the situation as it arises. Up Cinnabar, Sissies!”
“Up Cinnabar! rang through the ship. Adele shouted also. This sort of display no longer embarrassed her. Yes, of course it was a tribal bonding ritual — but she was no longer Esme Rolfe Mundy’s daughter, she was a valued warrior of her tribe.
She couldn’t imagine how Daniel would go about fighting the entire Palmyrene fleet if that was what they found above Zenobia, but she was sure he would try.
And Signals Officer Adele Mundy would be fighting beside him.