The Road Of Danger – Snippet 09

The Road Of Danger – Snippet 09


CHAPTER 3: Holm on Kronstadt


          The vehicle Hogg had found for them was a surface car with friction drive–a roller on a single central strut–but an air cushion suspension. Adele, in the back seat with Daniel, didn’t know what the advantage or claimed advantage was over vectored thrust like the armored personnel carriers which had become familiar to her, but no doubt there was one.


          “It rides very smoothly,” Daniel said, approvingly but perhaps with a touch of wonder.


          Adele sniffed. Hogg had a remarkable facility for finding vehicles, but they never rode smoothly when he drove them. This car had the logo of the Macotta Regional Authority on its front doors. She doubted that Hogg had simply stolen it, but anything was possible with that old poacher.


          “And just in case you was wondering how this happened to show up–” Hogg said, patting the fascia plate with his left hand; they swerved toward but not quite into a heavy truck speeding along the other lane of Dock Street with a load of frozen sheep carcasses “–we’re testing her for the repair depot and it’s all open and above-board.”


          “I’m glad to hear that, Hogg,” Daniel said, smiling but definitely sounding as though he meant the words. “And I’m also glad not to have to walk back from headquarters.”


          We were apparently all thinking the same thing, Adele realized. Well, by now we know one another well enough to be able to predict certain responses.


          “Ah…,” said Hogg, this time without turning his head toward his master in the back seat. “Your liquor cabinet’s short of a couple bottles of that apple brandy you picked up on Armagnac. There wasn’t time enough to get into a poker game, but I can find something to replace the booze by tomorrow morning, I figure.”


          Adele’s personal data unit balanced on her lap while she sorted the information which she had trolled in squadron headquarters. She shifted to a cultural database with her control wands, then said, “The local liquor is plum brandy. There appear to be better brands and worse ones, but from commentaries I’ve found, I think absolute alcohol from the Power Room would be a better choice than the low end of the spectrum.”


          She scrolled further down and added, “In fact, I think paint stripper would be a better choice than the low end.”


          “Perhaps Hogg and I could arrange a taste test,” said Tovera, the first words she had spoken since she arrived beside Hogg. “I’m sure there’s paint stripper we could requisition from Squadron Stores. Or–“


          She paused. Tovera was short, slim and colorless, a less memorable person to look at than even her mistress.


          “–perhaps I could get it by killing the supply clerk and everyone else in the warehouse.”


          Hogg guffawed. “Spoiled for choice, aren’t we?” he said.


          Daniel grinned also, but Adele noticed that the humor had taken a moment to replace a perfectly blank expression. Tovera was an intelligent sociopath. She had neither conscience nor emotions, but a strong sense of self-preservation made up for those absences.


          Tovera had learned to make jokes by studying how normal human beings created humor. Similarly, she functioned in society generally by copying the behavior of those whose judgment she trusted.


          Tovera trusted Adele. If Adele told her to slaughter everyone in a warehouse–or anywhere else–the only question Tovera might ask was whether her mistress had any preference for the method she used.


          “I’m sure,” Adele said in the present silence, “that if I do ask Tovera to wipe out a nursery school, I’ll have a very good reason for it.”


          The men laughed, and Tovera smiled with appreciation.


          Hogg thrust the steering yoke hard to the left, sliding neatly between the tail and nose of a pair of heavy trucks in the oncoming lane. Adele blinked. A stranger might have thought that it was a skilled though dangerous maneuver; she had enough experience of Hogg’s driving to know that he’d simply ignored other traffic.


          They had pulled onto the quay separating the last two slips–31 and 32–in the Kronstadt Naval Basin. They sped past a squadron repair ship–which was undergoing repair herself; all twelve of her High Drive motors were lined up beside her on the concrete–and pulled to a halt beside the corvette–and sometimes private yacht–Princess Cecile.


          “Welcome home, boys and girls!” Hogg said. He gestured toward the ship with the air of a conjurer.


          The Sissie lay on her side like a fat, twelve-hundred ton cigar. Within the corvette had five decks parallel to her axis; the bridge was on A–the topmost–Level in the bow, and the Battle Direction Center with its parallel controls and personnel was at the stern end of the corridor.


          At present the dorsal turret, near the bow with two 4-inch plasma cannon, was raised to provide more internal volume. The ventral turret, offset toward the stern, was under water and therefore out of sight.


          Adele put her personal data unit away and got out. Instead of going to the catwalk immediately, she stood for a moment looking toward the Princess Cecile over the car’s roof.


          Adele had first seen the corvette cruising slowly above Kostroma City, launching skyrockets and Roman candles from her open hatches as part of the Founder’s Day festivities. Then the vessel was merely an object: large, noisy, and unpleasantly bright to look at. Adele now knew that to save spectators’ eyesight, the Sissie‘s thruster nozzles had been flared to reduce the intensity of her plasma exhaust, but at the time the light had seemed to stab through her slitted eyelids.


          Since then, Adele had spent almost as much time on or about the corvette as she had away from it. With Daniel as captain, they had fought battleships, entered enemy bases, and travelled to the edges of the human universe.


          At various times the ship’s rigging had been burned off; it had lost the outriggers on which it floated following a water landing; and portions of its hull had been melted, dented, or holed. After each battle the rebuilt Princess Cecile had arisen as solid as before, ready to take her captain and crew to the next crisis.


          Hogg was joking, but the Princess Cecile really was more of a home than Adele had ever had on land.


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14 Responses to The Road Of Danger – Snippet 09

  1. Greg D says:

    What’s it say about me that I laughed out loud at Adele’s joke?

  2. Maggie says:

    @2 It says that you are no more a sociopath “without emotions” than Tovera. Honestly, it puts me out of patience to read the constant harping on Tovera’s “imitation of emotions”. Had Tovera been so incapable of empathy why (in the last part of What Distant Deeps)was she desperately trying to get Adele to distract the wounded Woetjens from going out on the hull?? I am willing to believe that Tovera has one heck of an anti-social aspect to her personality, but a complete sociopath with no emotions? Not Pygmalion likely!!

  3. summertime says:

    Maggie, I agree with you about the harping on Tovera’s deficiencies. Hate it. I also am tired of Adele constantly being depicted as nihilist and hating herself. One or two mentions per book on peoples’ personality traits should be sufficient.

  4. Willem Meijer says:

    @2 and 3
    Hear! Hear!

  5. laclongquan says:

    Reading a Drake work, deal with his style! That’s the way things roll.

    It’s not as if he write this way the first time. It certainly will not be the last.

  6. Fritz says:

    See also the beginning of What Distant Deeps:
    “I’ll start out with what in my days as a lawyer we would call boilerplate”
    This also seems to be boilerplate, but the author needs to bring new readers up-to-date…

  7. PeterZ says:

    Maggie, I agree totally. Why does a sociopath need to associate with others? If people matter not at all to Tovera, why does this woman insist on associating with them? Why not ditch Adele for the nearest 5th bureau thug? Tovera has had more than enough occasion. It can’t all be explained by self preservation only. Tovera must feel some affinity to her cohorts. That speaks to her having emotions.

    Methinks (in this) the author doth protest too much!

  8. PeterZ says:

    To clarify, Tovera would be more suited as a 5th bureau operative than as Adele’s body guard. That is if Tovera truly had zero concern for killing. These two characters are as human as any we have met in these stories. They try to be unflinchingly honest with themselves and fail. They are not as they themselves believe they are.

    I suspect Drak’s repetitiveness is his way to draw this truth to our attention. Or he may just be lazy and begins with the same Boilerplate.

  9. Mike says:

    Different characters, different authors, but … I think that some of what Lois Bujold wrote about Bothari’s relationship with Cordelia is also true about Tovara and Adele (and for that matter, Adele and Daniel). Tovara hangs around Adele because Adele allows Tovara to be a better person than she was before. By this I mean that Tovara likes herself better as a follower of Adele than she did before she met Adele. Similarly, Adele likes herself better as a friend of Daniel than she did without him.

    I think this is a simple but profound part of why people end up joining things. We are all individuals, but millions of years of evolution has bred us to need to be social animals. Who among us hasn’t experienced the pleasure of being part of a successful team?

  10. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @9 – Mike

    You asked: Who among us hasn’t experienced the pleasure of being part of a successful team?

    I think just about any Cubs fan could raise their hand to that question. :-)

  11. PeterZ says:

    Robert, I sure hope you were comiserating and not poking us poor Cub fans through the bars. We are afflicted with a curse that we cannot remove. Taking pot shots at us is a bit cheap! ;-)

  12. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Now PeterZ, I believe that the Cubs are under a curse but Cub fans are just crazy. [Very Very Big Evil Grin]

  13. PeterZ says:

    I gotta tell you Drak, there is nothing like riding the L every day during the summer to Addison st. Buy $1.50 bleacher tickets, spend another $2.00 on a hotdog and pepsi (no coke!) and still have the .75 cents from you original $5.00 for the ride home.

    Do that 3-5 days a week every and its hard not to become a Cub fan. Do that between the ages of 11-13 and you become a Cub fan for life. To this day my favorite seats are bleachers.

    So, yeah I may be wrong or I may be crazy but its a Cub World Series I am loooking for.

  14. Mike says:

    You aren’t wrong or crazy, just doomed.

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