Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 30
Newtown on Peltry
Adele stared at the text from Guy Mignouri, the 5th Bureau Resident in Newtown, for some seconds longer than the words themselves required: it is not suitable to meet now. i will inform you further in a few days.
Adele cued the link to Tovera, who sat opposite her on the striker’s seat of the signals console. “Tovera, we’re going visiting. It’s possible this will involve forced entry.”
“Should I bring something bulkier than the usual?” Tovera said.
“No, it’s likely to be very short range if it comes to that,” said Adele. Neither she nor Tovera was skilled with long arms, and Tovera’s miniature sub-machine gun had always proven as satisfactory as one throwing heavier slugs could have been. “But now that I’ve thought about it, I should have backup. Break. Captain Vesey, this is Mundy.”
Adele did not refer to herself as “Signals” or “Signals Officer Mundy” as she might have done at other times when she was being formal. Her present request had nothing to do with her RCN duties.
“Go ahead, Mundy,” Vesey said. Though Vesey was in command of the Princess Cecile during Daniel’s absence, she chose to remain at her normal duty station in the Battle Direction Center in the stern.
“I’m going to visit associates,” Adele said. “They didn’t respond as I expected when I informed them of my presence. It’s possible that there’s something wrong. I would like a squad to back me up at a short distance. Six should be enough. I hope to wave them off after the door is opened to me normally.”
“Do you want Woetjans to lead?” Vesey said. “And what sort of tools? Over.”
“I’ll have Hale to lead if you don’t mind,” Adele said, adding the junior midshipman and sending her the early part of the call. “She’s here at the navigation console at the moment. Woetjans is checking the A Ring antennas, and I don’t see that I need her for this.”
That was true, but it was also true that Woetjans tended to act quickly and with great force, as a bosun was required to do. Hale was cool in a crisis, but she was much less likely to get physical.
“And I don’t want to march through the city like an assault force,” Adele said. “I don’t want any weapons visible. I truly don’t expect serious violence.”
“We’ve got collapsible handcarts in a locker,” Vesey said. “One of them will hold guns politely, over.”
Hale was already alerting spacers for the duty, pinging them individually instead of using the general push. She was the kind of officer which the RCN needed.
“That will be very satisfactory,” Adele said, rising to her feet. “I’ll inform you of the results on my return. Over, that is out.”
“Sun is opening the arms locker,” Hale said. Sun was the gunner’s mate — the Sissie didn’t rate a Gunner — and doubled as armorer. “And I told Evans to bring a long-handled maul. That will fit in the cart also. We’ll meet the squad in the entry hold.”
Evans was a short, broad Power Room technician who was good-natured and extremely strong. Almost as strong as he was stupid, Adele would guess.
“There shouldn’t be any shooting,” Adele said as she strode quickly to the down companionway. “If there is, Tovera and I will start it.”
Unless they’ve shot both of us in the head, Adele thought. She couldn’t help being precise, but at least she had learned not to say everything she was thinking. At that, she could imagine Tovera shooting back after being killed the way a headless chicken ran about.
Barnes was still closing his boots as he stumbled into the boarding hold a moment after Adele. Dasi, his partner and fellow bosun’s mate, was helping Sun shift two sub-machine guns, two stocked impellers, and a carbine — Hale’s weapon of choice — into the cart which Evans and Bledsoe had assembled. The maul was already there.
It was a remarkable performance. Aloud Adele said, “It makes me proud to be a Sissie.” Or at least it would have if she hadn’t already been proud.
“Can you tell us what to expect, mistress?” Hale said. Other spacers were looking toward the group from hatchways and the quay; that was inevitable and not a problem.
“What I’m afraid of,” Adele said, “though I don’t expect it, is that agents of the 5th Bureau have taken over the office of my associates.”
She didn’t bother explaining that her associate was also a 5th Bureau agent. The details didn’t matter to the Sissies; all they needed was to be told the situation they might be facing.
“It’s only three blocks,” Adele added. “And I hope just to knock on the door and be admitted. If you stay fifty feet behind me, you’ll be close enough to call if I need you.”
Adele was wearing a civilian suit in light green, cut much the same as a set of utilities. Tovera’s suit was on the tan side of cream; her attaché case was brown and looked like leather even from quite nearby. The material was actually an expensive composite and would stop anything short of a slug from a stocked impeller.
The ground floors of the buildings facing the harbor were ship chandleries and bars, while the upper stories were spacer’s lodgings, brothels, and pawn shops. The next block inland was inexpensive shops below civilian apartments. By the third block back from the water, the buildings were duplexes and private residences, many of them with a ground vehicle parked on gated driveways.
The Residence looked like a single-family residence — and probably was that as well as containing communications equipment. The walls were of dark blue brick, fired from a local clay, and the curtained windows seemed normal unless you recognized the frames as being much wider than the outer glass alone would have required.
Tovera pushed the button on the call plate and said, “Mistress Simmons and her secretary to see Master Mignouri.” When she got no response, she rapped sharply on the panel — and still got no response.
Adele was holding her data unit. She keyed the Execute button to signal the door’s electronic latch. There was an internal clunk and the panel swung open. It was five centimeters thick and made of armor plate.
Both Adele and Tovera had their weapons out, but beyond was only a second door, this one opening inward. It had a latch but no visible lock. The handle rotated easily, but the panel rattled against a bolt on the other side when Tovera shoved against it.
Adele turned and called, “Evans!” The squad of spacers was only ten feet back instead of fifty, but there hadn’t been much traffic on the street — and anyway, it didn’t matter.
Hale had removed the tarpaulin covering the handcart, but Evans didn’t bother to reach in for his maul. He rushed to the door, lowered his shoulder, and slammed into it. The panel broke lengthwise in the middle.
The halves dangled — one side by the hinges and the other by the bolt near the top edge of the panel. Evans’ mindless straight-ahead smash had been the best way to deal with the problem, which Adele found disturbing.
A cabinet had been slid against the inside of the door, but Evans rolled it back — it was on casters — in the same rush that had taken him through the door panel. Beyond was a reception room with chairs against the walls and a small table holding a vase of flowers probably picked in the front garden. A woman leaned on the table, weeping into her hands.
“Don’t shoot!” Adele shouted as Barnes and Dasi rushed past her brandishing weapons. Evans was picking himself up from the floor when the cabinet — a musical instrument, Adele now saw — rolled back.
Tovera took the weeping woman by the hair and shouted, “Who else is in the house?” while looking up the staircase. The woman continued to sob.
“Bledsoe, with me!” Hale said and started up the stairs, holding her carbine forward in both hands. The tech following her had one of the sub-machine guns.
“Don’t shoot my husband!” said the woman who had been crying, the first intelligible words she had spoken.
“Hold up, Hale!” Adele said. “Tovera, let her go.”
Tovera released the woman’s hair and stepped against the wall. She kept her weapon raised, but she had stopped pointing the muzzle at the stairs when Hale started up.
“Who are you, mistress?” Adele said. “And who is your husband?”
“I’m Yvette Mignouri,” the woman said. She closed her eyes and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. She was younger than Adele had guessed — probably mid twenties — and would be attractive after she washed her face and calmed down. “My husband is Guy Mignouri. Please, why have you attacked us? There’s nothing here to steal!”
“Call your husband down,” Adele said. “Tell him not to carry a weapon.”
“He can’t come!” Yvette cried. “He can’t move! He’s had a stroke! Please leave us alone!”
“I’ll check!” said Tovera as she slipped past the spacers on the stairs. The other spacers were backing to the nearest wall and pointing their guns upward — with the exception of Evans, who didn’t have a weapon. He was scratching his crotch with a puzzled look.
“I was directed to call on Guy Mignouri, the 5th Bureau Resident in Newtown,” Adele said. “When I didn’t get a satisfactory reply to my queries, I came to view the situation for myself. Why didn’t you report that your husband was incapacitated?”
“He’s here all right,” Tovera called from the stairhead. “Hooked up to what I’d call a first aid machine. It seems to be keeping him alive, but he’s not going to get better any time soon. If he ever does.”
“Guy will get well!” Yvette said with a quaver that suggested she might be about to resume crying. “He’ll be removed if they learn and this is his first field posting. He’ll never get another if he’s removed now!”
He can’t do his job so he has to be removed, Adele thought. She didn’t say that out loud. She had learned long before Mistress Sand recruited her that other people didn’t see the obvious as clearly as she did.