Chapter Eleven; Capt. Donovan Paulwell
Dinner with Madame Rhyse
Three days into our R & R on Cyberus I was summoned, given six hours to put myself together.
I don't know what they thought I was doing that required six hours, but.
A well dressed flunky picked me up on the roof of the Hotel flew me to the Hawking Building. Surrounded by flunkies, I was escorted to the 'private' domain, a version of a 19th century mansion, left in a study to be served liquor by a 'bot.
I got to gape space wasters called art, burn time, then into a dining room, where Ms. Anisette Rhyse sat, not at the head of the long table, but to the right of the 'throne'.
"Good evening, Captain Paulwell," she said in her melodious voice, "I hope you enjoy the dinner I have prepared."
Prepared, like she stood over a fire and cooked it herself.
I babbled innocuous, she tossed back pointless.
She was smaller, thinner, older than images portrayed. Considering she had the benefit of every possible form of enhancement, I'd make her plus fifty, maybe sixty.
The meal began, soup, bread, salad, main course, desert, each with a separate wine in a separate glass.
Pushed to the fringe of control. I could not see spending an hour eating one meal. Especially with all the different cutlery.
Ready to leap from the table she noticed I'd reached the extent of domestication, stopped savouring whatever, rose to her full height, which was my solar plexus, and waited, expecting me to rise as a medieval courtier.
When I did, she directed me back to the art gallery, took a flimsy chair to one side of a small table, directing me to take it's brother. With more iron in her voice she got to the point;
"I want to apologise for the danger you were subjected to..."
"Wasn't your fault," I flicked, sipping cognac or whatever it was the tin man served me.
"Of course it was my fault. I insisted you take Gye Tomaka aboard."
"You couldn't know..."
"Excuse me?" she snipped as if I'd used an obscenity.
I looked at her. I looked at her and looked at her until it came clear; she had put Gye on my ship....
"Captain, I knew Dalmar would learn Gye Tomaka the security officer on your ship and demand him. That is why I had a security detachment just beyond your sensor range. Hawking has gained justification to cease to fly Dalmar corridors."
I guess I didn't understand.
"Due to their attack on our ships; to wit, the Presidium, Hawking will cease to fly Dalmar space, and refuse to pay their tolls."
I almost shouted; "You want to tell me..."
"Rudeness is not tolerated, Captain. I will explain. That is the purpose of this
dinner. To clarify."
She was so fragile I could cripple her with a slap. Though I wouldn't do it, it was taking a lot of effort not to.
"I believe Mr. Tomaka explained the conflict between Dalmar and Sagir."
She sipped her drink, maybe thinking I was so stupid I needed time to process the data. As if cued I'd gotten the drift, she continued;
"Pirates are not romantic when you are the target of their attacks. Hence, the choice; destroy Sagir and each of their ships, which would be genocide, and most welcome by Dalmar. Or, weaken the Dalmar Empire to such extent it would not have the energy nor ability to interfere with Sagir."
"You used Gye, you used my ship as bait." I charged.
"Yes, we did."
I had never felt such rage; it paralysed me.
Images flipped in and out of my mind, words I'd shared with Gye, events that had passed.
Sagirs were Pirates.
That was their basic profession.
What Rhyse was explaining, what Gye had inferred; because the Dalmar make
the life of a Sagir impossible, all that was left is Piracy.
As Hawking is the Merchant King, getting rid of piracy was more important to them then curing a disease, or preventing a Nova.
"You think your company is powerful enough to topple the Dalmar Empire?" I say quietly.
She nodded brightly, "Yes."
I put down the glass, shook my head.
"Of course, Sagir will take the initiative." She admitted.
"How you know they won't become bigger Pirates than they are today?" I stabbed.
She dismissed that as if I'd said there were fairies in her garden, then studied me with that depreciating look I'd gotten from my teachers when I didn't grasp a concept.
"Captain Paulwell, you have spent time with Gye. You must have concluded he was not a mindless beast, he was not a vicious savage. His existence was the result of the kind of oppression the Dalmar have inflicted upon Sagir for the past century."
I cleaned my glass, then put it direct; "What happened to Gye?"
"I don't know, yet. I assume he may have escaped..."
"Or he could be dead."
"Or he could be dead," she said softly.
"This isn't even politics! It's profit margin!" I couldn't sit and listen to her. I felt as if I'd vomit on her Persian carpet.
"Captain Paulwell, please, sit down."
"I don't want to sit down, Ms Rhyse! I don't want to hear anymore! I thought I was a master of the expedient but I'm wrong. You are. Moving lives around like pieces on a chess board! Taking advantage of people who have no where to go...and don't tell me he's a Eugenic, he's a human being! He has a right to life..."
"You need not tell me that, Captain." echoed her voice, "Although my love is not carnal, it is of substantial consistency."
She used the word love unlike I'd ever heard. It came ponderous, I had no doubt of it. I looked at her, all the beauty money could buy. All the artifice and over concentration on manners her kind affected. But there was no fraud here, she did love him.
She considered her admission a moment, then;
"For centuries we, normals, decided Eugenics were to solve their own problems, construct their worlds as they chose, hopefully, omit us. That is not possible. What they do effects us. Just as what we do effects them."
She stood, glided to the mantle above a fireplace, pressed a button and in the air came a hologram of our quadrant of space. Each Eugenic planet was coloured orange. Human occupied worlds were green.
"Notice our lanes, where we trade, obtain raw materials, where we bring them..."
lines filled the space. "Dalmar." She enlarged the world for a moment, then let it
sink to size;
"Notice how our shipping lanes pass through Dalmar Space. Notice Sagir. Notice how Dalmar prevents Sagirs from crossing this line. Hence, Sagir can not trade. Sagir has no economy. Their currency is not accepted beyond their world. Unlike Dalmar, Molbe, Tellur...who use our currency."
"So you think we normals can interfere in a Gennie problem?"
"Captain Paulwell, admit to me, here, in absolute privacy, that you believe Gye Tomaka, and those of Sagir deserve the treatment they receive?"
Playing devil's advocate;
"I don't know the treatment they receive. I heard what you've said, and what Gye
told me, but there is..."
"No proof? Of course there is proof. You prefer not to see it. But you deceive yourself. I admit my affection for Gye. Will you admit yours?"
"Yeah, I like him."
"Good, because I want you to take command of the Invictus, fly through Sagir
space and pay them for the privilege."
"The Invictus?" I nearly fell over.
Of all ships in creation, this was the best. It had been built on military standards and exceeded them. It's weaponry was more diverse and better than the Admiralty of the United Planets.
"You have a week to learn the ship, your Presidium will be put in dry dock, refitted
She paused a moment, then continued;
"Your job will be escorting the 'Twin Cities'. The Invictus will travel to..." she pointed to Smudge, which was in the virtual centre of the grid; "collect a group of negotiators who will be billeted in the civilian section of the ship and manage contact with Sagir."
"You're serious." I blurt.
"The Invictus will manage Security for our Trading Fleet....."
"And Sagir will no doubt use the value it gets from trade to build a military, buying weapons and warships from Hawking...."
"Jeeves will see you out," she says.
Up rolled a tin man.
Before I left, I gave her a look, recalling her first words to me;
"We are all mercenaries."