Into The Maelstrom – Snippet 34
A large statue of Brasilia dominated the center of the harbor front. Seats surrounded the raised semi-circular platform on which it was displayed. Allenson glanced at his data pad and discovered they had time in hand so he suggested they sit.
He contemplated the golden statue. Brasilia was the Mother of the Nation. The statue crystallized the genius, the guiding spirit, of Brasilia. She took the form of a naked woman sitting bolt upright on a world. A thin swathe of material concealed her modesty. In her left hand she held an oval shield crackling with an energy field. In her right a power lance, butt down beside her foot. An ancient armored helmet tilted back on her head to show her face. Her eyes fixed the far horizon.
The weaponry was traditional, supposedly the arms of the early knights when Brasilian civilization clawed its way out of the Dark Age. Later generations used similar devices for aristocratic hunts. The social purpose of the activity was not so much to obtain food as to demonstrate the prowess of the user. Now such things were only seen on monuments or as stylized remnants on ceremonial costumes. There had been a brief resurgence of interest in dueling using knightly garb but the fashion soon died out.
Todd fidgeted with the restlessness of the young and got up to look out over the harbor. Allenson had learnt to rest when he could. He shut his eyes and tilted back his head to enjoy the warmth of the sun on his face.
He must have dozed because Todd’s voice sounded a long way off.
“Strewth, what the devil happened to her?”
Allenson twisted around to find Todd just behind him. His nephew bent down to observe the harbor through a pair of binoculars mounted on a pedestal. There was a loud clunk.
“Damn,” Todd fished in his pocket for a small coin. He slipped it into a slot in the pedestal eliciting another clunk. Noticing Allenson was awake, he beckoned. “Have a look at this, uncle.”
Allenson bent down and peered into the binoculars. The instrument was trained on a ship out in the harbor. He had to widen the lens distance and correct the focus for his eyes before he could clearly see it. The vessel had a twin hull, a most unusual configuration that maximized the surface area to volume ratio. Ship’s architects normally considered the opposite to be best practice. The color scheme was the light grey used by the Brasilian Navy. Blast damage had trashed one of the hulls. No doubt this rather than the novel design had caught Todd’s attention. Some attempt had been made to hide the wreckage with screens but a gust had blown the canvas off.
Blast-damaged ships in peacetime were not something one expected to see in a harbor. Frame ships tended to arrive in good shape or not at all, although fortunately total losses were rare. Heavy naval warships could withstand a fair battering and make port but reports of a naval battle would have been all over the news channels by now.
“Quite a mess, isn’t she?” asked a voice.
Allenson straightened to find himself addressed by man in the uniform of an officer of a civilian ship’s line. The officer had short brown hair that stood vertically upwards like a startled comic book character.
“Indeed, which ship is she?”
The officer tapped his nose.
“Ah that’s top secret. O’Brien, I’m the purser of the Greenfields.”
He held out his hand and Allenson took it before introducing himself and Todd.
“I know who you are. Your pic is all over the vids. You’re the man who’s going to shake things up in the colonies,” O’Brien said cheerfully. “You’ll lose in the end, of course, but with a bit of luck you’ll give our masters a good kick up the jacksy. God knows they could do with it.”
He gestured to the ship in the harbor.
“None of the crew’ve been allowed ashore but our boson reckons he’s seen her before. She’s known as the Twin-Arsed Bastard for obvious reasons.”
“I don’t suppose that’s her name on the muster roll,” Todd said.
“Her official name is the Reggie Kray, named after a famous twin from the mythology of Old Earth. She’s a research ship. Makes you wonder what they were researching.”
He lifted a hand.
“The passengers will be coming aboard the Greenfields soon. I for my sins have to be there to listen to their whines. Fair currents, General.”
Allenson and Todd strode into the reception.
“Captain-General Allenson and Lieutenant Allenson,” boomed the voice of the maître de at the door.
Allenson vaguely anticipated guests wearing the somber dress of the Ascetics of Trinity. The merchants of Trent danced to a different tune. Clothes shimmered in cloth weaves that polarized and refracted light. An outfit rippled through the spectrum from red to green as its occupant rotated against the angle of the light – and that was only one of the men. The ladies sported metallic streamers in silver, gold and polished bronze from their hair and arms.
He had been concerned that he would look like a peacock in his dress uniform but he was completely upstaged. However, it was noticeable that a momentary hush fell on the hall as the guests gave him the once over. A tall man with sharp features and a thin mouth pushed through the crowd as the babble of conversation restarted. His suit was bright lemon yellow with silver piping and he wore a small pillbox hat in scarlet with silver tassels.
The man spoke with an unusual accent.
“General, I’m Venceray, your host.”
Allenson knew little about the leader of the independence movement in Port Trent other than the basic details. He was rich with business interests in cross-Bight transport. Venceray guided him through the reception person by person proffering the necessary introductions. The sea of unfamiliar names and faces flowed past Allenson leaving little trace in his memory. Not that it mattered. Conversation never got beyond social platitudes.
“When did you come to the ‘Stream?” Allenson asked Venceray, during a pause in the circulation.
“I was born here. My father was a younger son of a Brasilian trading gens so he drew the short straw and became the colony representative. He married one of his servants and had me so there was nothing to return home for if you see what I mean. We were never going to inherit. The family made it clear my mother was unacceptable. Eventually we built up our own business which prospered. My father bought an estate inland and retired to look after it leaving me to run the family company. He’s quite the country gentleman now.”
“I see, Allenson said, and he did. Venceray’s future like his own was bound up in the Cutter Stream because they had no home to go back to. The social extreme between his Brasilian parents explained his odd way of speaking.
“My contemporaries are at best neutral to the idea of independence. Fortunately most care little for politics. There only a few outright Homeworlder activists but they’re making waves. I think we can keep most of Trent neutral provided we keep the Trinity radicals in check. Any suggestion of redistribution of wealth to the great unwashed to drink themselves to death on will arouse fervent opposition.”
“And what are the political opinions of the, ah, great unwashed?”
“Who knows, who cares? I doubt they’ve got any opinions worth considering.”
Allenson wondered if news from Paxton had overtaken him.
“I suppose there is no word of the official Declaration of Independence yet?”
Venceray shook his head.
“Pity,” Allenson said. “It would help us to control the Homeworlder faction if we could use legal sanctions. We can’t lock people up for treason to a state that doesn’t yet exist.”
He looked around and noticed a well-dressed couple slipping out through a side door.
“Is it just me or has the room thinned out?”
“I hoped you wouldn’t notice. The ship carrying the new governor from Brasilia touched docked earlier this morning. He must be installed in Government House by now.”
“So?” Allenson asked.
Venceray’s lips compressed.
“He has asked to meet the heads of the best families in Port Trent. People will want to go and pay their respects as soon as possible so as not to be thought disloyal. There is even talk of setting up a Homeworlder Militia”
A surge of fury choked Allenson. He froze until he was sure he could maintain an outward composure.
“The Governor can meet whomsoever he chooses but you will arrest him if he tries to arm our enemies.”
“On whose authority?” Venceray asked.
“Mine,” Allenson replied. “You will arrest him on my authority.”