dubious of your ability knowingly to play a double role.
“Hence I trailed you at a discreet distance while he went to Thursday
Landing to investigate other aspects of the case. Albeit my assignment
had its vexations, I pinpointed the spot where you were brought and
called Sir Dominic, who by then had returned to Lannach. Underground and
surrounded by metal, your bracelet was blocked from us. We concluded
immediate attack was the most prudent course–for your sake
particularly, Donna. While Sir Dominic flitted down in armor, I blasted
the cannon and entrance. Shortly afterward I landed to assist and, if
you will excuse my immodesty, took the single prisoner we got. The rest
were either dead or, ah, holed up sufficiently well that we decided to
content ourselves with a nuclear missile dispatched through the
“The resultant landslide was somewhat spectacular. Perhaps later you
will be interested to see the movie I took.
“Ah … what he has learned has made Sir Dominic of the opinion that we
must speed directly to Dennitza. Nevertheless, I assure you he would in
all events have seen to your repatriation at the earliest feasible
Chives lifted her tea tray. “This is as much as I should tell you at the
present stage, Donna. I trust you can screen whatever you wish in the
way of literary, theatrical, or musical diversion. If you require
assistance of any kind, please call on the intercom. I will return in
two hours with a bowl of chicken soup. Is that satisfactory?”
Stars filled the saloon viewscreen behind Flandry’s head. The ship went
hush-hush-hush, on a voyage which, even at her pseudospeed, would take a
Terran month. The whisky he had poured for them glowed across tongue and
“It’s a foul story,” he warned.
“Does evil go away just because we keep silent?” Kossara answered.
Inwardly: How evil are you, you claw of the Empire?–but again without
heat, a thought she felt obliged to think.
After all, his lean features looked so grim and unhappy, across the
table from her. He shouldn’t chain-smoke the way he did; anticancer
shots, cardiovascular treatments, lungflushes, and everything, it
remained a flagellant habit. One could serve a bad cause without being a
bad man. Couldn’t one?
He sighed and drank. “Very well. A sketch. I got a lot of details from a
narcoquiz of our prisoner, but most are simply that, details, useful in
hunting down the last of his outfit if and when that seems worthwhile.
He did, though, confirm and amplify something much more scary.”
Memory prodded her with a cold finger. “Where is he?”
“Oh, I needled him and bunged him out an airlock.” Flandry observed her
shock. His tone changed from casual to defensive. “We were already in
space; this business doesn’t allow delays. As for turning him over to
the authorities when we arrive–there may not be any authorities, or
they may be in full revolt, Merseian-allied. At best, the fact he was
alive could trickle across to enemy Intelligence, and give them valuable
clues to what we know. This is how the game’s played, Kossara.” He
trailed out smoke before he added, “Happens his name was Muhammad
Blood beat in temples and cheeks. “He got no chance–I don’t need
“Maybe your people will,” he said quietly.
After a second he leaned forward, locked eyes with her, and continued:
“Let’s begin explanations from my viewpoint. I want you to follow my
experiences and reasoning, in hopes you’ll then accept my conclusions.
You’re an embittered woman, for more cause than you know right now. But
I think you’re also intelligent, fair-minded, yes, tough-minded enough
to recognize truth, no matter what rags it wears.”
Kossara told herself she must be calm, watchful, like a cat–like
Butterfeet when she was little … She drank. “Go on.”
Flandry filled his lungs. “The Gospodar, the Dennitzans in general are
furious at Hans’ scheme to disband their militia and make them wholly
dependent on the Navy,” he said. “After they supported him through the
civil war, too! And we’ve other sources of friction, inevitable; and
thoughts of breaking away or violently replacing the regnant Emperor are
no longer unthinkable. Dennitza has its own culture, deep-rooted,