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The Far Side of the Stars: Chapter Four

       Last updated: Wednesday, June 4, 2003 00:32 EDT



    Militia aircars were parked across both the east- and westbound monorail sidings at the head of the court. The slowing tramcar sensed that the stop was blocked and began to accelerate again. The half-dozen other passengers in the car with Hogg and Daniel gaped and chattered about what was going on.

    Daniel grabbed the emergency stop cord and pulled hard, cutting the current to the magnets that levitated the car above the rail. They slid to a screeching, sparkling halt between the two police vehicles. A heavy-set passenger lost his balance and slammed into the front of the car with an angry shout.

    Hogg stepped out and held the door open. Daniel let go of the cord and followed his servant. He was aware of the gabbling of his bruised fellow passengers only as he might have noticed the twittering of birds when he walked past a hedge on important business.

    There were a dozen Militia personnel in riot gear in the court, but they were in a tight, frustrated-looking group under the eyes of a civilian woman with the red-and-gold Leary rosette on her collar and a man in the uniform of the RCN's Shore Police with a stylized gorget. Two aircars had landed in the court proper. One was an enclosed van with SHORE POLICE/REPUBLIC OF CINNABAR NAVY on the sides.

    The other vehicle wore Militia markings but was of much higher quality than those the Republic bought for its national police. Daniel didn't recognize that particular aircar, but he'd seen earlier versions of it before his break with his father. Speaker Leary kept a small fleet of them for his use and that of his personal security detachment.

    "Stop right where you are!" said the maybe-Shore Policeman, pointing his left index finger at Daniel while his right hand hovered over his holster. "You've got no business here!"

    "I'm a resident," said Daniel, continuing to walk forward. "And besides, I'm Lt. Daniel Leary."

    "I don't care if you're--" said the cop; he was certainly a cop, whatever his precise affiliation. Daniel drove a straight left into the man's solar plexus, doubling him up as suddenly as a thrown brick.

    "When the man tells you he's a Leary, you'd better care, buddy," said Hogg said as he sauntered past at Daniel's heel, putting on a pair of mesh-covered gloves. He kicked the fellow's knees out from under him.

    A Militiamen laughed. Speaker Leary's official looked at him; she didn't frown or even raise an eyebrow, but he fell silent anyway.

    Daniel walked around the van. The other side was hinged down; four men in nondescript coveralls were loading sheet-covered bodies into it. There were several in the vehicle already, stacked on the floor like cordwood.

    "Who--?" Daniel said. He had no particular emotion at this moment, just a need to gather information.

    He snatched back the sheet from the face of the corpse being lifted into the van. It was a man with a sunburst tattoo on his right cheek: nobody Daniel knew, and anyway a man.

    "You there!" a man in the utility uniform of an on-duty RCN commander. "Lieutenant! Stop where you are. You have no business here."

    Four footmen from Chatsworth Minor stood in a tight circle, surrounded by SPs and Leary retainers. Another Mundy servant was on a stretcher by the front door, his head bandaged. Daniel wasn't sure, but the fellow looked like the day-shift doorman.

    "I have every business here," he said, his voice ringing from the facades to either side. "I was told that my shipmate Adele Mundy was in difficulty. Where is she, if you please?"

    Eyes peered out from the drawn blinds of the silent houses. None of the residents or servants showed themselves openly, but Daniel knew every soul in the court was watching unless they were in a sick bed or drunken stupor.

    There were half a dozen uniformed SPs and an equal number of folk in coveralls; workmen, Daniel supposed. Garbage collectors, one might say. Corder Leary's personnel amounted to six or seven besides the woman watching the Militia.

    The RCN commander--who was no more a part of the RCN Daniel served than he was a priest--held a phone. He looked hard at Daniel; Daniel stared back, giving him no change. The phone came up toward the commander's face, then lowered again.

    "Lieutenant," he said, "you may go into your dwelling if you like, but you're to stay there until the street is reopened in a few minutes."

    "Where is Adele?" Daniel demanded. He wasn't shouting, exactly, but he was speaking very distinctly in a voice that could've been heard on the bridge of a warship during action.

    Good God, how many bodies were there? A couple more lay behind the footmen and guards nearer the house, and the pavement Daniel crossed toward the commander looked like it'd been painted red.

    "Lieutenant, that's none of your concern!" said the commander. He looked toward the heavy-set man beside him. The latter wore a midshipman's hollow pips, but he was muscle pure and simple.

    "The Hell it's none of my--" Daniel said, and this time he was shouting.

    "Sir, she's all right!" cried one of the footmen. "She and that snake of hers--"

    A Shore Policeman grabbed the servant by the throat and raised his riot baton. He shouted "You were warned, boyo!"

    "Hogg," Daniel said, but he didn't need to give the order. A four-ounce deep-sea sinker had already spun out of Hogg's hand, trailing a shimmer of monocrystal fishing line.

    The weight toonked into the SP's skull, just behind the right ear. Hogg recovered it neatly into the gloved hand which held the sinker on the other end of the line. A bullet couldn't have dropped the fellow more neatly.

    The 'midshipman' reached for his belt holster. Daniel caught his right thumb. "Don't!" he said, and as the heavy's knee came up Daniel shifted his hip, took the jolt on bone, and felt the scrunch of cartilage tearing as he dislocated the fellow's thumb, he'd told him....

    There were guns out, SPs or whoever they were but Speaker Leary's retainers were armed also. There'd been a bloodbath an hour ago in this quiet court and there was about to be another because some flunky had lashed out when Daniel Leary asked about a friend.



    "Stop!" shouted the leader of SPs "For God's sake, put your weapons away, now! Now!"

    Nobody moved for a moment, not even Hogg--though his two sinkers cotinued to spin in opposite directions. His long folding knife was out in his left hand.

    "This is Speaker Leary's son," said a well-groomed man in civilian clothes with a Leary flash. He might have been a lawyer or an accountant, one who was abnormally careful to stay fit. "Sir."

    The 'sir' was perfunctory.

    Daniel stepped back. He was trembling with surges of the adrenaline he hadn't burned off in the past few seconds.

    "Yes, I take your point," the commander said, grimacing in disgust at the situation. "Look, we're all on the same side."

    His glance took in Daniel. Daniel was glad of it, but he could only manage a nod as he twisted his hands together to work out the incipient cramps.

    The burly midshipman was holding his right hand in his left. The shock wore off; he muttered in delayed pain.

    "Will you shut up, for God's sake?" the commander shouted, letting off his own stress. Calmly to Daniel and the head of the Speaker's detachment he continued, "Lt. Leary, your friend's safe. She was called off on business that had nothing to do with this. I give you my word of that."

    Daniel straightened and took a deep breath. "Very good, Commander," he said, his voice almost under control. "I'm glad to hear it."

    "And now...," the commander said. "Just go inside and let us clean up the mess, all right? There'll be a firetruck along to wash the pavement as soon as we've got the debris out of the way. Just a few more minutes."

    Daniel took a deep breath. "Yes, all right," he said. "I need to change clothes."

    He saw the footmen standing silently terrified in the midst of strangers holding guns. Two of them were talking in low voices to Hogg, who ignored the SP on one side of him and the blocky civilian with a sub-machine gun on the other. Hogg's line and sinkers were in the palm of his right hand, and he'd folded the knife away wherever it was he kept it.

    "I'll take my people with me," Daniel said, keeping his tone mild. There'd be time enough to shout if the need arose. He nodded toward the footmen. "Of course."

    Since Adele wasn't present, the four were his responsibility. They straightened, looking expectant and desperately hopeful.

    "Yes, take them, then," said the commander. He turned to the footmen and said, his voice suddenly harsh, "I won't tell you lot not to talk. But I'll point out the obvious--getting too public is going to bring you to the attention of whoever sent these fellows the first time. Understand?"

    Three of the footmen nodded agreement. The fourth stood with his mouth open in abject fear.

    "Let's go," said Daniel, deliberately walking through the guards and carrying the footmen with him out the other side on the way toward the house. They had to step between the two sprawled corpses. Daniel managed to do that without looking down; he wasn't sure how the servants managed.

    "I've been talking to the boys, master," Hogg said when they were out of earshot of the security people. "Seems this was because of the former owners, the Rolfes, getting stroppy about the way they lost their freehold."

    "Ah?" said Daniel. "Yes, that would explain it."

    The injured doorman was sitting up, supported by one of Speaker Leary's people. He tried to stand as Daniel approached with the other servants.

    "You men," Daniel said, looking over his shoulder at the footmen. "Bring your colleague inside, if you will. I'll send for a doctor."

    "He's likely all right," said the civilian who'd been tending the doorman, handing his charge over to the footmen. "Keep checking him during the night for concussion, that's all."

    The major domo himself opened the door. The household staff was gathered in the lower hall, watching intently.

    "I was thinking, master...," Hogg said. The court shook with the thrum of fans lifting a heavy aircar; the vanload of bodies was on its way off to somewhere suitable. Having waited for the vibration to subside, Hogg continued, "I was thinking that if you didn't need me yourself tonight, I'd go tend to some business of my own?"

    Daniel looked at his man. "Yes, I'll be all right, Hogg," he said. "Unless there's something I can do to help you?"

    "No need you getting involved, master," Hogg said, walking off down the hall through the gaggle of house servants. "I'll get some gear from my room."

    He looked back over his shoulder. Hogg was balding and a little overweight. His clothes, from heavy ankle boots to the kerchief around his neck, were scruffy and decidedly rural: a perfect Sam Bumpkin disguise for a man who was smart and just as ruthless as a weasel. "Tovera 'n me'll be plenty for this business, never fear."

    "I'm not afraid," Daniel said quietly to Hogg's back.

    He looked at the house servants. "Get on to your duties," he said in feigned exasperation. "And if you don't have duties, at least don't hang about in the hall here."

    Daniel started up the stairs. "Sir?" called the major domo. "Is there something, ah, in particular you'd like us to do?"

    Daniel looked back over his shoulder. "No, just keep things ready for Officer Mundy's return." He paused, then continued, "I'll be going out myself shortly. My former command's docked at Harbor One. I think I'd like to see her before she's sold."




    The tram rattled off the main line onto a spur; trees with long, dangling branches framed the entrance to the route. Daniel would know what they were, Adele mused. She found the thought so comforting that she brought her data unit out of its thigh pocket and switched it on.

    "Mistress?" said Lt. Wilsing, raising an eyebrow.

    "I wondered what the trees were," Adele said. She slid her control wands from their pocket in the case. For a trained user, the wands gave much greater speed and precision than any other interface. "I decided it'd be a good test to look them up for myself, since Lt. Leary isn't here to identify them for me."

    "Here in the entrance corridor, you mean?" Wilsing said. "They're Maranham cypresses, brought back by Captain St. Regis when he opened Maranham three hundred and fifty years ago. This is quite a famous grove, as a matter of fact."

    "Thank you," said Adele, dryly. Well, that was another way of getting the information....

    They entered a broad commons encircled by a ring of neat brick houses set well back from the tramway. It was late evening; the sky remained bright but the ground was in deep shadow.

    "The fourth house...," Wilsing said. "There."

    The tram moaned to a halt; on this lightly used byway there was no need for sidings. Wilsing removed the special key he'd thrust into the control panel, sending the car directly to the destination he'd programmed instead of halting for additional passengers that the central transportation computer had determined it could carry efficiently.

    "The service has aircars, of course," Wilsing said as he snapped the key onto his belt pouch, then bowed Adele off the car ahead of him. "But Mistress Sand prefers that we remain as unobtrusive as possible."

    Adele smiled faintly. She agreed with the policy, but she rather suspected that Wilsing and the others of his type whom Mistress Sand used as flunkies would rather cut a wide, flashy swath through Cinnabar society. The need for quiet competence was at least one of the reasons that Sand came to people like Warrant Officer Adele Mundy when she needed real work done....

    Wilsing paused on the brick pavement as the tramcar purred away, gesturing toward the open space within the monorail track. Pieces of naval paraphernalia were displayed there. Near at hand was a plasma cannon, its muzzle raggedly eroded. Farther around the circle was the lump of a High Drive motor, and in the center rose a starship's antenna.

    Wilsing pointed to the antenna. "Commander Stacey Bergen conned the Excellence to Alexandreios from the truck of that mast," he explained. "I've heard that described as the most amazing feat of astrogation since Cinnabar returned to the stars."

    "Lt. Leary believes his Uncle Stacey was a uniquely skilled astrogator," Adele said as she surveyed the small park. It was really an outdoor museum, the sort of exhibit that retired RCN officers would create for their own sort. The fact they'd given Commander Bergen pride of place would mean a great deal to Daniel... which was almost certainly why Wilsing mentioned it. Perhaps the young man had virtues beyond those of good breeding after all. "I don't know of anybody better qualified to judge than Daniel."

    Wilsing led Adele up the path to one of the houses nestled back among the trees. Bands of light marked the edges of the crazy-pavement ahead of them, advancing as they did; a porch light shone over the door in dim sufficiency.

    The servant who opened the door was too senior to wear livery. He bowed low and said, "Lt. Wilsing, I believe you know the way to the red drawing room. The Captain left a decanter and glass on the table for you. Mistress Mundy, you're awaited in the library. Will you please follow me?"

    The servant--the only person visible apart from Wilsing, who absented himself into a side chamber with a nod--led the way through a pair of rooms whose furnishings were as simple as they were exotic. All the furniture was hand-crafted from strikingly-patterned wood, though the pieces in the first room were as different from those of the second as either was from anything native to Cinnabar.

    The house had a hallway along the side; doors of a simpler pattern than the ones Adele passed through nested in the left-hand wall of each room. The hall was for servants, not the owner and his guests.

    The door of the third room was open; Adele saw glass-fronted bookcases within. "Please go through, mistress," the servant said, bowing again. As Adele entered the library, he closed the door behind her.

    Bernis Sand rose from a banquette in a corner and gestured Adele to the other end of its upholstered curve. "Good of you to come, Mundy," she said. "Here, sit down. Can I offer you refreshment? My friend Carnolets keeps an impressive cellar."

    "Nothing, thank you," Adele said. "Well--water, if that's possible? My throat's dry, I find. Very dry."

    "Yes, of course," Sand said, touching a call-plate set into the table in the center of the banquette. She was a stocky woman of indeterminate age, almost sexless in the library's muted light. She wore a pants suit of brown herringbone twill, nondescript from any distance but of natural fabric and the best workmanship. "I hear you had some trouble this evening. Is there anything I should know about it?"

    Adele shook her head curtly. She sat on the banquette, concentrating on her action so that she didn't have to meet the spymaster's eyes. "It was a private matter," she said. "It's been resolved, or it shortly will be."

    Her left hand, the hand she'd killed with again tonight, twitched with an incipient cramp. She massaged the palm with her right thumb and fingers, staring at the rich honey-on-bronze grain of the table and seeing instead the face of the gunman as her first pellet blew two teeth out through his left cheek.

    The servant set a carafe and glasses on the table and silently vanished again. "Mundy?" said Mistress Sand. "Are you sure you wouldn't like something stronger?"

    "Very sure indeed," Adele said in a steady voice. She poured herself a glass of water and drank, pleased to note that her hand barely trembled.

    Sand seated herself on the other end of the banquette; she and Adele weren't quite facing one another across the small table. She glanced at the tantalus in an alcove near the door, but instead of getting a drink she took a tortoiseshell snuffbox from her waistcoat and poured a dose into the cup of her left thumb.

    "Do you know anything about the Commonwealth of God, Mundy?" she asked conversationally, then lifted the snuff to her nose.

    "I know very little about any part of the Galactic North," Adele said. She'd brought out her data unit and its control wands without conscious consideration. "My family had no business interests in the region. I've sometimes considered--"

    She looked at Sand with a wry grin.

    "--that there might be interesting pre-Hiatus volumes in what passes for the libraries of various local rulers, but I'm not going to live long enough to catalog a fraction of what I could find in attics here in Xenos."

    In the center of the room stood a globe whose continents were set in seas of contrasting semi-precious stone. The planet wasn't Cinnabar or any other world Adele recognized.

    Sand blocked one nostril with her index finger, snorted, then sneezed violently into the handkerchief she'd taken from her right sleeve. She looked up, her expression shrewd.

    "The Commonwealth isn't very prepossessing for a fact," she said. "Half the local captains are pirates if you turn your back on them, and the central government makes up with brutality for what it lacks in competence. But it's big--loose as it is, the total trade out of the Commonwealth supports a good tenth of the merchant houses in Cinnabar and our allies. For generations the Commonwealth's been more or less friendly to us. If it should side openly with the Alliance, there'd be serious effects for our relations with the smaller states which depend on trade with the North."

    Adele found what she'd been searching for in the holographic display hanging above her data unit. She leaned back against the cushion and smiled coldly at Sand. The mere cite was enough to bring the episode of family history vividly to her mind.

    "In the aftermath of the Three Circles Conspiracy," she said, her tone dryly precise, "an RCN battleship under Admiral O'Quinn fled to the Commonwealth. I would have thought that the Commonwealth's refusal to return the vessel and its crew of mutineers would have seriously soured relations."

    "Yes, the Aristoxenos," Sand said, nodding. "Most of her officers turned out to have been members of the Popular Party. A cousin of yours was the first lieutenant, I believe?"

    "Yes," Adele said. Her smile was as cold as the winter moon. "Commander Adrian Purvis. My closest living relative as a result of his having successfully fled."

    "In fact the Aristoxenos is part of the problem," Sand explained, rising and walking over to the tantalus. "But you see, the Commonwealth of God has its own internal divisions, rather worse than those which beset the Republic sixteen years ago. O'Quinn made his first planetfall on Todos Santos in the Ten Star Cluster where Governor Sakama had already been pursuing a policy independent of the government on Radiance."

    Without turning, Sand held to the light a glass of liquor the color of sun-struck brass. "With a modern battleship and an RCN crew to support him," she continued, "Sakama took an even stronger line. The Aristoxenos practically annihilated a Commonwealth fleet six months later, guaranteeing that the central government would be content with lip service from the Cluster."

    "I see," said Adele. She poured more water, but she didn't feel the need to drink it. Having a real question to deal with had jerked her mind out of the blood-drenched groove it'd been running in ever since she shot the gunman this afternoon.

    She'd had no choice. He'd attacked and she'd defended herself. She'd had every legal and moral right to shoot the man....

    But only sociopaths like Tovera killed without regret, because they had no consciences and no souls. That wasn't Adele Mundy. Not yet.




    "Warships degrade without maintenance," she said aloud, meeting Sand's eyes as she turned. "Ships do and crews do as well. Has the Cluster been able to maintain the Aristoxenos? Because if not, I doubt it's an effective fighting unit by this time."

    "'Effective' is a relative concept, Mundy," Mistress Sand said. "Given the sort of small, indifferently-crewed ships that make up the Commonwealth naval forces, yes--the Aristoxenos is still effective, at least as a deterrent. And the drubbing she doled out to the central government fleet created a legend that fifteen years doesn't erase."

    Adele turned up her left palm. "Go on," she said quietly. The quickest way to learn what Sand wanted from her was to sit and listen.

    "The Ten Star Cluster lies on the shortest routes from Cinnabar to the Galactic North," Sand continued. "The Republic had more serious concerns at the time than the defection of one battleship--"

    Adele nodded curtly. The Alliance had massed naval forces to threaten several Cinnabar dependencies. Had the conspirators successfully gained power in Xenos, Alliance squadrons would almost certainly have swept in to support them. The actual fighting didn't go beyond isolated single-ship actions, but there'd been no certainty of that before the fact. Speaker Leary hadn't been about to order the RCN to send to the back of beyond a powerful force which might be needed to defend Cinnabar itself.

    "--and later, capturing or destroying the Aristoxenos at the cost of permanent hostility from whoever ruled the Ten Star Cluster looked like a very poor bargain. Besides--after tempers had cooled, there was very little stomach for executing a thousand or so mutineers."

    Adele thought of the pair of soldiers cutting off the head of her little sister Agatha, who'd managed to avoid capture for several weeks before she was caught. The act had shocked the consciences even of those who'd ordered the Proscriptions.

    "Yes," she said without emotion. "I can imagine that would be a problem. A practical politician might decide to live and let live."

    Sand seated herself again across from Adele. She sipped from her crystalline drink tumbler, but her movements appeared to have been less a matter of thirst than an excuse to turn her back while she spoke difficult truths.

    "The situation was--is--satisfactory from Cinnabar's point of view," Sand said. She shrugged. "Politics is the art of the possible, after all. It remains a serious thorn in the flesh of the authorities in Radiance, however. Quite apart from the insult, tribute from the Ten Star Cluster had provided a third of the central government's revenues. After the Aristoxenos arrived, that of course ended. And now...."

    She drank, her eyes holding Adele's over the glittering crystal arc. She set the tumbler down and continued, "I have reports that Alliance personnel are building a modern naval base on Gehenna, the only satellite of Radiance. If the Commonwealth government were to reconquer the Ten Star Cluster with Alliance support, the ramifications for the Republic would be very serious."

    "I can see that," Adele said carefully. "What I don't see..."

    As she chose her words, she let her eyes rove slowly over the ranks of glass-fronted bookshelves. She couldn't read the spine stampings from where she sat, but it was obvious that this was a real collection rather than yea-many books by the yard that one often found in households whose noble residents chose to affect erudition instead of sporting prowess or a taste for the graphic arts.

    A space captain with a real affection for literature had ample time and opportunity to pursue his hobby. Carnolets was apparently one of those captains. Adele felt a surge of warmth toward a man--or woman; she had no way of knowing--whom she'd never met.

    "... is why you sent for me," she continued, locking her gaze with the spymaster's. "If there's a naval base on Gehenna, then it's a matter for the whole RCN. Not for me."

    "The Senate doesn't want a war," Sand said bluntly. "And the shipping firms, from the largest to captain-owned tramps, really don't want a resumption of hostilities. The Cinnabar ambassador to the Commonwealth, Train of Lakeside, believes the base on Gehenna is still years from completion. If he's correct, then there's no need for precipitate action on our part."

    Sand drank. Lowering the tumbler she went on, "I can't prove Train is wrong, but I will say that if that good gentleman said the sun would rise in the east I'd want a second opinion. I want you to determine the actual progress on the base."

    Information cascaded across Adele's holographic display under the direction of her control wands. Gehenna was fully a third the diameter of its primary, Radiance, but it was uninhabited, cold at the core, and lacking a significant atmosphere. A great deal of water was trapped within the mantle, though, offering reaction mass for the plasma thrusters that lifted starships into hard vacuum where they could use their antimatter High Drive motors.

    Gehenna would make a very suitable naval base for someone who was willing to trade a degree of discomfort for nearly complete secrecy.

    "Are you going to send a ship to the Radiance system?" Adele said. She'd almost said, "--send the Princess Cecile?" but that would never happen again.

    She continued to scroll through data. The best way to learn what you needed to know was simply to study what had been published, correlating the bits in your mind and noting the anomalies. When things didn't fit it meant that somebody was lying, and the mere fact of the lie would often show you the truth behind it.

    "The Commonwealth embargoed Radiance to foreign naval vessels three years ago," Sand said, her tone bleak with suppressed anger. "Ambassador Train was quite angry about it, because he'd been intriguing to have his private yacht declared an RCN warship so that its crew and maintenance would come out of the naval appropriation. It didn't cross his mind to report the matter through official channels, however."

    "How, then?" Adele said, looking up from her display for the first time in minutes. Had some Commonwealth magnate expressed a desire for a trained librarian?

    "Count Klimov and his wife Valentina from Novy Sverdlovsk plan a private expedition to the Galactic North," Sand said. "They're quite real--they have no connection with either me or Cinnabar more generally. But they're buying the Princess Cecile and have hired Lt. Mon as her captain. I want you to go with them as signals officer."

    "Ah," Adele said. She shut down her data unit and crossed her hands on the table. Her eyes were unfocused; her mind spun as she dealt with the implications of the spymaster's simple statement. A plum job like that made it obvious why Mon had been so excited when he came looking for Daniel... but that was the only part of the business which was obvious.

    "You of course know Lt. Mon," Sand said quietly, setting down the empty tumbler. "Are your relations with him good?"

    "Yes, certainly," Adele said with a flash of irritation. "He has my confidence, of course. But...."

    She rose to her feet and slid the data unit away in its pocket. "Mistress Sand," she said. "I understand the importance of the matter to, to the Republic. But I don't wish to give you an answer immediately, because if I must my answer will be no."

    Sand nodded calmly. "I appreciate your concerns, mistress," she said. "I'll expect your answer when you're able to provide it."

    Adele turned to the door as the servant silently opened it. She wondered how long it would take to get a tram out here to Portsmouth....

    "Mundy?" the spymaster asked. Adele turned. "Would your decision become easier if the Klimovs hired Lt. Leary instead of Mon as their captain?"

    Adele smiled, though only someone who knew her well would recognize the humor in the expression. "Yes," she said, "it would. But the likelihood of Daniel maneuvering a fellow officer out of a position he desperately needs is something less than the chance that Daniel will decide to join a celibate religious order."

    She was still grinning as the servant led her to the front door where Lt. Wilsing waited for her.

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