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The Shadow of Saganami: Chapter Twenty Nine

       Last updated: Wednesday, June 30, 2004 00:12 EDT



    “And I suppose Aleksandra’s going to say this isn’t significant, either,” Henri Krietzmann said sourly.

    “Of course she is,” Joachim Alquezar snorted.

    The two of them sat on the seaside villa’s terrace, gazing out across the ocean into the ashes of sunset. Stars had just begun to prick the cobalt vault above them, the remnants of a light supper lay on the table between them, a driftwood fire burned in a stone and brick outdoor fireplace with a copper hood, and Alquezar leaned back in a chaise lounge. An old-fashioned wooden match flared in the twilight, and smoke wreathed upward as he lit a cigar. Krietzmann sniffed appreciatively at the aromatic tendrils, then reached for his beer.

    “I’m beginning to really, really dislike that woman,” he said almost whimsically, and Alquezar chuckled.

    “Even Bernardus dislikes her, whether he’s willing to admit it or not,” the San Miguelian said. “After all, what’s not to dislike?”

    It was Krietzmann’s turn to snort in bitter amusement, but there was an unpalatable amount of truth in Alquezar’s quip.

    “I just don’t understand the way her mind works,” the Dresdener admitted after a moment. “Bad enough Nordbrandt and those ‘Freedom Alliance’ maniacs are blowing people up and shooting them almost at random on Kornati, but at least everyone realizes they’re lunatics. Westman, though.” He shook his head, scowling at the memory of the reports from Montana which had arrived only that morning. “Westman is Old Establishment. He’s not a marginalized hyper-nationalist politician -- he’s a wealthy, propertied aristocrat, or what passes for one on Montana. And he’s smarter than Nordbrandt. She started off with a massacre; he started with a joke. She followed up with assassinations and scattered bombings; he followed up by blowing up the headquarters of one of the most hated off-world organizations on his homeworld… and still did it without killing a single soul. He’s like, like --“

    ”Like that ante-diaspora fictional character Bernardus was talking about?”

    “Yes, exactly!” Krietzmann nodded vigorously. “What was his name… the Crimson -- No! The Scarlet Pimpernel, that was it!”

    “Maybe so,” Alquezar said. “But I hope you won’t think me shallow for pointing out that I, and the other RTU shareholders and directors, aren’t exactly amused by his choice of targets. However much debonair style and elegance he may display as he goes about his nefarious business.”

    “Of course not. But,” Krietzmann gazed at him levelly in the light of the oil lamps burning on the table as darkness settled fully in, “I hope you don’t expect me to shed a lot of tears over your losses, either.”

    Alquezar looked at him sharply, eyebrows lowered for just a moment, then snorted and shook his head.

    “No,” he said softly, and paused to draw upon his cigar. The tip glowed like a small, red planet, and he launched an almost perfect smoke ring onto the evening breeze. “No, Henri. I don’t. And I shouldn’t. But the fact that I feel that way, and that other people on San Miguel and Rembrandt -- like Ineka Vaandrager -- are going to have even stronger feelings about it, is only another proof of Westman’s shrewdness. He found a target guaranteed to polarize feelings on both sides of his particular political divide, and that takes brains. You say you have trouble understanding Aleksandra’s take on this? Well, I just wish I understood how someone who’s obviously as bright as Westman is could have bought into something like this in the first place. He ought to be getting behind us and pushing, not blowing us up!”

    “Bright isn’t the same thing as well-informed or open-minded,” Krietzmann pointed out. “And everything I’ve been able to piece together suggests that Westman takes the Montanan fetish for stubborn individuality to previously uncharted heights -- especially where Rembrandt and the RTU is concerned. Not to put too fine a point on it, he hates your guts. He doesn’t really care why you people were so busy sewing up the Cluster’s shipping. All he knows -- or wants to know -- is that you were doing it, that you were about as ruthless about it as you could possibly have been, and that his world’s one of several which feels it was royally screwed by your so-called ‘negotiating technique.’”

    The Convention President shrugged.

    “I don’t really blame him for that. If you people had ever bothered to enmesh Dresden in your cozy little empire, I’d probably resent you just as much as he does. The only real difference between Westman and me is that, first, I believe Bernardus when he tells me how he first conceived of the Trade Union, and why. And, second, whatever his real motives -- and yours -- might’ve been before the Star Kingdom turned up on our doorstep, annexation by Manticore represents the greatest single opportunity, and not just in economic terms, which has ever fallen our way. I’m willing to forgive an awful lot to capitalize on that opportunity. But Westman’s too focused on the old equation to realize how completely it’s been changed.”

    “That’s basically what Bernardus said,” Alquezar said. “I suppose I follow the analysis intellectually. It’s just that the mindset which can ignore all of that is so far away from the universe I live in that I can’t get my understanding wrapped around the possibility it can even exist. Not on any emotional level.”

    “You’d better,” Krietzmann said bleakly. “In the end, I think he’s more likely to succeed in killing the Constitution than Nordbrandt is.”

    “Really?” Alquezar cocked his head. “I don’t think I disagree with you, but I’d like to hear your reasoning.”

    “How much reasoning’s involved?” Krietzmann grunted. “Oh, all right.”

    He leaned back in his own chaise lounge, cradling his beer mug.

    “At the moment, oh my esteemed fellow conspirator, you have about sixty-two percent of the delegates in your vest pocket. And Nordbrandt’s extremism’s actually pushed about ten percent of that total into your corner, I’d estimate. But Tonkovic and Andre Yvernau -- and Lababibi -- have an iron lock on the other thirty-eight percent. They’ve got most of the Cluster’s oligarchs, aside from the delegates you and Bernardus can deliver from the RTU planets, and Nordbrandt pushed about ten percent of them away from your side and into Tonkovic’s pocket when she punched the economic warfare button. Most of them could care less what happens on Kornati… as long as it doesn’t splash onto their own comfortable little preserves. But with her blowing up banks and shooting bankers, not to mention the local oligarchs, her particular version of destabilization threatens to spill over into other systems, and they’re not about to sign on to anything that would, as they see it, hamper their existing political and law-enforcement machinery for dealing with neo-bolsheviks and anarchists on their own worlds. And, since it takes a two-thirds majority to vote out a draft Constitution, as long as she can hold on to the five or six percent of the delegates you still need, she can stonewall the entire process and try to extort concessions out of you. Out of us.”

    “We agree so far,” Alquezar said as Krietzmann paused to sip beer. “But that still doesn’t explain why you should think Westman’s more dangerous than Nordbrandt.”

    “Oh, don’t be Socratic, Joachim!” Krietzmann said a bit impatiently. “You know as well as I do that Aleksandra Tonkovic and Samiha Lababibi have absolutely no intention of actually blocking the annexation. If they do kill the Constitution, it’ll be by accident, because they genuinely believe that line Aleksandra was spouting right after Nordbrandt’s first attack -- that Manticore won’t let the process fail. I think they’re both -- especially Aleksandra -- too prone to view the Star Kingdom through the distortion of their domestic political experience, but that’s how they see things. At the moment, at least. But if anything ever happens to crack that sublime confidence of theirs, they’ll probably stop holding out for impossible demands and settle for the best fast, down-and-dirty compromise they can get.

    “But if Westman pisses off enough of your oligarchs -- the ones you and Bernardus roped up and convinced to support the annexation in the first place -- we’re screwed. If he ever convinces enough of them that he and people who think like him can inflict serious damage on everything the Trade Union’s managed to build up, a significant percentage of them -- possibly an outright majority -- would switch over to Tonkovic’s side in a heartbeat, and you know it. And if they do, they’ll shift the balance drastically. Not just here at the Convention, either. If Rembrandt and San Miguel and the rest of the RTU planets start opposing annexation, instead of supporting it, it’s going to fail.”

    “You’re right,” Alquezar sighed after a moment. “That’s another reason Bernardus went home to Rembrandt. He wanted Vaandrager out of the chairmanship before she could build a support bloc strong enough to challenge his control or get herself too deeply burrowed into the system government. Because she’s exactly the sort to do what you’re afraid of, especially if Westman can convince anyone outside his home system to throw in with his Montana Independence Movement.”

    “So,” Krietzmann said, “what do we do about it?”

    “If I had the answer to that one,” Alquezar replied sourly, “I wouldn’t need to worry about Aleksandra and Samiha. I could just wave my magic wand and fix everything!”

    “Well, we’re going to have to come up with something.”

    “I know. I know.” Alquezar drew on his cigar again. “I sent a memo to Baroness Medusa this afternoon, right after the dispatch boat from Montana got here. I expressed very much the same concerns you just have, and I suggested to her that it might be time for Her Majesty’s official representative here to take a more… direct approach.”

    Krietzmann looked at him with a hint of uneasiness, and the San Miguelian shrugged irritably.

    “It’s not an ideal solution, even if she does step in, and I know it. The problem is, I think we’re fresh out of ideal solutions, Henri.”




    “…not an ideal solution, Milady,” Gregor O’Shaughnessy said, “but I’m afraid of the way the situation’s escalating.”

    “Madam Governor,” Rear Admiral Khumalo said heavily, “I must reiterate my concerns about becoming overly involved on the local level in the Cluster’s politics.”

    “With all due respect, Admiral,” O’Shaughnessy shot back a bit sharply, “you were the one who wanted to intervene against Nordbrandt after the first Kornati bombing in Karlovac.”

    “Yes, I was, Mr. O’Shaughnessy,” Khumalo rumbled. “But that was rather a different situation from this, as I hope you’ll admit. Nordbrandt is a killer, a murderess on a mass scale. Dropping Marines onto Kornati, assuming the local planetary government invited us to do so, to hunt down a cold-blooded, calculating killer would be one thing. Dropping Marines onto Montana to go after one of its most prominent citizens, who’s apparently well on his way to becoming some sort of folk hero -- or antihero -- and hasn’t killed a a stray dog yet, much less members of the local parliament, would be another thing entirely.”

    “But we’re already engaged there on a day-to-day basis,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We’ve had a presence in the system -- and, arguably -- a responsibility to support President Suttles’ government ever since he gave us permission to station your support ships there. For that matter, we could provide the support direct from those ships.”

    “Those ships are neither designed for nor capable of providing that sort of support,” Khumalo said frostily. “Ericsson is essentially, nothing more than a freighter hull wrapped around machine shops and storage for spare parts. Her entire complement’s under two hundred -- technicians, not combat personnel. And Volcano’s only an ammunition ship, with an even smaller crew. They’ve got military grade impellers, compensators, and particle shielding and minimal sidewalls, but they aren’t warships and they are totally unsuited to this sort of task. Even assuming that asking any of our ships to perform that task was a good idea. Which it isn’t.”

    “I think --“ O’Shaughnessy began, but Dame Estelle raised her hand. He closed his mouth, looking at her, and she smiled crookedly.

    “In this instance, Gregor, Admiral Khumalo has a point,” she said. “A very good point, in fact. There’d be substantial local popular support if we intervened in Split. So far, Nordbrandt’s still at the stage of evoking far more horror, revulsion, and repugnance than widespread support. She’s done a lot more damage to her own planet than Westman has, and she’s made it perfectly clear she’s escalated her strategy of pure terror to go after anyone who ‘collaborates’ with us or the elected Kornatian government on any issue, not just the annexation.

    “She’s using a sledgehammer, a brute force approach. Westman’s using a rapier. So far, at least, his target selection’s had exactly the opposite effect from Nordbrandt’s. As far as I can see, there’s no immediate danger of his turning around Montana’s support for the annexation, but he’s more likely to have that effect in the long run than she is. More to the point, from the perspective of the Convention, he’s more likely to generate a significant shift in the balance of power between Alquezar’s Constitutional Unionists and Tonkovic’s Constitutional Liberals. But from our tactical perspective, the most significant difference between him and Nordbrandt is that we’re the air cav, rushing to the rescue, if we go after her, whereas we become the sinister foreign conquerors on Montana if we intervene in their local affairs to go after him and make even the tiniest mistake.”

    “But, Milady,” O’Shaughnessy protested respectfully, “I’m afraid we’ll be making a mistake anyway, and not a tiny one, if we don’t take action in regard to Montana.”

    “Personally,” Khumalo said, “I’m still in favor of dropping a battalion or so of Marines on Nordbrandt’s head. Let’s go in fast and hard, yank her up, and hand her worthless, murderous ass to the Kornatian courts. Let them execute her after a scrupulously fair trial before a jury of her fellow citizens -- God knows they’ve already got enough evidence to hang her two or three times! All we’d do would be to apprehend her, then stand aside and let the local legal establishment do its job. As you say, she’s hardly a poster girl for the orderly political process on Kornati, and this steady expansion of her ‘manifesto’ shows a degree of creeping extremism that comes pretty damned close to classic megalomania. She’s starting to remind me of Cordelia Ransom!”

    He snorted, and several of his listeners, including Dame Estelle Matsuko, winced at the all too apt comparison.

    “Dispose of her, first, and we free ourselves to go after Westman in the most effective manner and without distractions. And as a bonus, when we do, we’ll already have buffed up our halo by helping take out someone who’s obviously a stone-cold terrorist and assassin.”

    “It’s tempting, Admiral,” the Provisional Governor replied. “Believe me, it’s very tempting. But I’m still leery of sending in our own troops, especially in that kind of strength. The domestic political situation is… complex, and as far as we can tell from here, very much in a state of flux. The only thing I can think of that could begin to legitimize Nordbrandt’s efforts in the eyes of a significant percentage of the Kornatian public would be for us to go after her in a way that validates her charges about her own government’s corruption and our imperial pretensions. If we appear to be supporting a suppressive regime simply because its opposition doesn’t want to be ‘taken over’ by the Star Kingdom, we could lose any moral high ground in a hurry.”

    “With all due respect, Madam Governor,” Khumalo said, deliberately using the same formula O’Shaughnessy had, “if we can’t act on Kornati, where can we act? This is a clear-cut, unambiguous example of terrorism against the legally elected government of a sovereign planet. Mr. Westman, so far, has only stolen a few hundred thousand dollars worth of Manticoran property, embarrassed a dozen or so of our nationals, and destroyed several hundred million dollars worth of private property, none of which was owned by his own government or any citizen of his planet. And, I repeat, so far he’s been extraordinarily careful not to kill or even injure anyone.”

    “You’re right.” Medusa really wished she could disagree. She had an uncomfortable suspicion that she wanted to do that because her private estimate of Khumalo was so low. Which, she admitted as she considered his analysis, might have been just a bit unfair of her.

    “I think,” she said, looking around the conference table at O’Shaughnessy, Khumalo, Captain Shoupe, Commander Chandler, and Colonel Oliver Gray, the commander of her own Marine contingent, “we’re all at least in agreement that, at the moment, the two star systems which present actual threats to the annexation and to the security of the Constitutional Convention are Montana and Split? “

    ”I’m sure we all agree on that much, Milady,” O’Shaughnessy said. “I ‘d like to point out one additional difference between Westman and Nordbrandt, however.”

    “Go ahead,” she invited.

    “All reports from Split,” her intelligence chief said, letting his eyes travel around the conference table, “indicate that, despite all the damage she’s done, Nordbrandt’s still operating effectively on a logistical shoestring. She’s using civilian small arms and explosives, not military-grade weapons, and so far there’s no indication she possesses sophisticated communications or anti-surveillance gear. And, frankly, I think one reason she’s launched this campaign of assassination against local landowners and industrialists is that she doesn’t have the military wherewithal to take on really hard targets. She got away with her initial attack because of lengthy, meticulous preplanning and because no one saw it coming, and most of her successful bombing attacks since have been possible only because the local authorities are still gearing up to go after her and because she’s chosen targets on the basis of their vulnerability, not their importance. She’s going after the ones she can hit, not necessarily the ones she’d like to hit.

    “Westman’s a whole different breed of ’cat. He’s obviously much better funded, and the Montanan government’s managed to trace at least one purchase of Solarian coms and encryption software he made before going underground. They think he’s acquired at least some off-world military supplies, as well. He’s definitely used military-grade explosives in at least one strike, and according to our local Manticoran surveyors, the guerrillas he deployed for his first attack were armed with what appear to have been fairly modern Solly military small arms. In addition, his two operations to date have displayed an impressive degree of intelligence-gathering capacity and planning capability, and he’s demonstrated he most certainly can hit hard targets.

    “Nordbrandt and the FAK probably took weeks to plan that first bombing attack. Westman and his Montana Independence Movement mounted their first operation within twelve hours of the time our surveyors went into the field. Not even our people knew where they were going until they actually started out, so there’s no way he could have known in advance, either. Which means he put the entire thing together on the fly, and carried it off faultlessly, with a maximum of twelve hours of planning time. And when he went after the RTU’s facilities, he slid right through the kind of security Nordbrandt’s been very careful to stay well clear of to hit a pinpoint target with devastating effectiveness. Not only is he using a scalpel instead of a chainsaw, but he’s using it much, much more effectively than she is.”

    “So you’re arguing,” Dame Estelle said, “that even if Nordbrandt’s killing more people and wreaking more general destruction, Westman’s the more dangerous, harder to suppress of the two threats?”

    “More or less. But what I was really trying to say, Milady, is that while I’m willing to concede Nordbrandt is the more appropriate target at the moment, in the long run, we’re going to have to deal with both of them, and the sooner the better in either case. I’d really prefer not to see us get bogged down or locked into a focus or concentration on the FAK that distracts us from acting against the MIM at the earliest possible moment. And I think it’s essential to come up with strategies against both threats.”

    “I see.” Baroness Medusa leaned back, steepling her fingers across her midsection, and let her chair rock gently while she pondered. Both Khumalo and O’Shaughnessy had valid points. But given her severely limited resources, how could she deal with either of them, far less both?

    Silence stretched out for several minutes while her subordinates watched her think. Then her eyes narrowed. She considered possibilities and options for a few more moments, then let her chair come back upright with an air of finality.



    “Very well,” she said crisply. “Admiral, your point about Kornati is well taken. I’m not sure we have the resources to actually swoop in and scoop Nordbrandt out of the woodwork for the local authorities, but Split’s definitely the place for us to make our presence known and offer direct cooperation to the local government and its law-enforcement agencies. At the same time, I feel a definite lack of firsthand, reliable analysis on the situation there. Not just where the terrorist threat’s concerned, but on several fronts. That being the case, I want a trustworthy set of eyes on the ground. Someone who can give us a clear, accurate idea of exactly what’s going on and how best to deal with it. And I want a presence in the system to back him up -- an impressive one.”

    “Milady?” Khumalo said cautiously, when she paused.

    “I want Hexapuma.”

    “Madam Governor,” the rear admiral began in instant, automatic protest, “Hexapuma’s the most powerful, most modern unit I have. I can’t in good conscience recommend diverting her from her current duties to act as a local policeman in Split.”

    “I don’t recall asking you to recommend anything, Admiral,” the baroness observed, and Khumalo’s dark face flushed.

    “No, Ma’am,” he said stiffly. “But I am the station commander. The deployment of my assets is my responsibility.”

    He stopped short of pointing out that his use of the verb “recommend” had been an act of courtesy on his part. Along with the responsibility for the deployment of his units came the legal right to decide what those deployments ought to be, regardless of anyone else’s ideas. But courteous or not, he obviously intended to be stubborn about it, and Medusa locked eyes with him for a moment, then nodded in grudging respect for his moral courage… if that was what it was.

    “Very well, Admiral,” she said, dropping back from openly confronting her military commander, “what would you recommend?”

    “We don’t need Hexapuma for this particular operation, Madam Governor,” he said, still very formally. “Any of our older units could perform the same function. If we feel a cruiser’s necessary for reasons of prestige, Captain Anders’ Warlock could handle the assignment equally well. And using an older unit would allow me to retain Hexapuma where she’ll be most effective against pirates or other external threats. Moreover, Warlock has a larger Marine detachment than Hexapuma, and Captain Anders has been in the Cluster for almost seven months, substantially longer than Captain Terekhov. As such, he’s had much more opportunity to develop a feel for local political nuances.”

    O’Shaughnessy stirred in his seat, but a quick glance from the Provisional Governor kept his mouth shut on whatever he’d been about to say. Then she looked back at Khumalo.

    “I see your logic, Admiral. But, forgive me, wouldn’t it be fair to say that, barring a direct attack by the Solarian League or some incredibly long-range invasion by the Republic of Haven, even your older units ought to be markedly superior to anything they’re likely to meet? Specifically, exactly what sort of pirate do you anticipate meeting out here that’s so dangerous only a ship as powerful as Hexapuma could reasonably expect to defeat it?”

    “Well,” Khumalo said slowly, his expression manifestly unhappy, “if you put it that way, Milady, it does sound unlikely. Although,” he added, rallying gamely, “it’s a naval officer’s responsibility to plan for the unlikely, as well as the likely.”

    “Of course,” she agreedy. “But, to continue, you also mentioned the fact that Captain Anders has been in the Cluster longer than Captain Terekhov has. That’s certainly true, and the point clearly has merit. However, meaning no disrespect whatever to Captain Anders, my impression of Captain Terekhov is that he has considerably more facility when it comes to ‘thinking outside the box.’ In this sort of situation, I rather think mental flexibility and the willingness to consider… unconventional realities, shall we say? -- outweigh simple time on station. And while I certainly respect Captain Anders, I think we might also agree that Captain Terekhov's Foreign Office experience could be rather useful to us in the present circumstances."

    Khumalo's eyes flickered. He seemed about to say something, but then visibly restrained himself, and she hid a thin, unamused smile. She'd wondered how much it bothered him to have a senior subordinate whose diplomatic experience vastly exceeded his own.. The answer, apparently, was that it bothered him quite a lot.

    Which is just too bad for him, she thought coldly. I need Terekhov, and I mean to have him.

    “As to the fact that Warlock has a larger Marine detachment,” she continued aloud, “I’m not at all convinced this is a situation in which simple numbers can provide a solution. It isn’t the total number of troops which can be deployed, not given the difference between our technical capabilities and those of the locals. It’s the effectiveness with which our Marines can be deployed that’s going to matter, and, again, with no disrespect to Captain Anders, I have a higher degree of confidence in Captain Terekhov’s ability to employ his forces effectively.”

    She paused and smiled pleasantly at the rear admiral. He looked back at her, his expression set, and she cocked her head to one side.

    “Finally,” she continued, “it’s my understanding that after Captain Saunders, Terekhov is your senior ranking officer. Since I scarcely believe it would be appropriate to transfer Hercules to Split, that means he’s the most senior officer you could send, doesn’t it?”

    “Yes, Ma’am,” Khumalo admitted in a rather tight voice.

    “Well, under the circumstances, I believe it would be most appropriate to assign this responsibility to the most senior officer we have available. Whoever we send is going to be dealing with the highest levels the Kornatian and Montanan governments. Both from the perspective of courtesy and proving to them that we take this situation seriously, we ought to send them an officer senior enough to command their respect while demonstrating our own.”

    Khumalo said nothing for a second or two. Legally, Baroness Medusa couldn’t directly order him to send Hexapuma to Split or Montana. He was the Talbott Station commander. The Provisional Governor might request or suggest. She could assign specific tasks, require him to perform specific duties. But the actual management of the military resources under his command when it came to accomplishing those tasks or duties was his affair. He was the one with the legal authority to employ those units as he felt best.

    But any station commander who blithely ignored the desires of his civilian superior was almost as big an idiot as one who acquiesced in those desires against his better judgment. And while Khumalo continued to feel this particular mission would scarcely represent the most effective employment for HMS Hexapuma, the Provisional Governor had made several telling points. Points which would loom large if he chose to ignore them and his superiors in the current Admiralty decided to question his own judgment.

    “Very well, Madam Governor,” he said, unable to totally keep an edge of harshness out of his tone. “I’m not certain I’m fully convinced, but you’ve made several valid arguments. More to the point, perhaps, you’re Her Majesty’s direct political and administrative representative here in the Cluster. As such, it’s clearly the responsibility and duty of Her Majesty’s Navy to aid and assist you in any way possible, including the provision of the military support you feel would be most appropriate in support of your overriding mission. I'll recall Hexapuma and place her at your disposal for this operation.”

    “Thank you, Admiral,” Dame Estelle said, with a gracious smile warm enough Khumalo actually found himself smiling back.

    “Where, precisely, is Hexapuma at the moment?” she asked.

    “Nuncio, Milady,” Captain Shoupe said promptly, like the excellent staff officer she was. She glanced at Khumalo from the corner of one eye but kept her attention focused on the Provisional Governor. “Assuming Captain Terekhov adheres to his projected schedule, he’ll be there for another day or so. Of course, something could’ve come up to delay his departure. If nothing has, however, he should be departing for Celebrant within the next twenty-four to forty-eight standard-hours. His voyage time from Nuncio to Celebrant should be about ten and a half T-days. We’d have to dispatch couriers to both systems to ensure that he got the recall order.”

    “But he’d most probably be in Celebrant when he received it?”

    “Yes, Milady. He would.”

    “Good!” Dame Estelle said, with an enthusiasm which brought a puzzled expression to Rear Admiral Khumalo’s face. She smiled broadly at him. “If he starts from Celebrant,” she said, “it would scarcely be out of his way at all to drop by Rembrandt on the way to Split, now would it?”

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