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.“I had me a little plan to get us off the ship.Mighta worked.We mighta got off without killin’ hardly anybody”—he shrugged—“or I mighta still blown up your ship.That was always plan B.When I heard your plan, I figgered it ’ud be easier—an’ safer—for us an’ the princess.But only if I dusted off plan B an’ made it part o’ plan A! Well, the plans worked, yours an’ mine, an’ here we are.I’m sorry if I killed some good fellas, but I ain’t that damn sorry.” He pointed at the pistol on Rajendra’s belt.“You can try to shoot me now, an’ maybe that’ll prove you ain’t as yellow as I think you are, but I’ll kill you an’ you’ll just be dead instead o’ helpin’ out now, when your princess needs you.Or you can prove you weren’t never yellow at all—just confused an’ a little scared, in a fix you hadn’t come upon before.I’ve heard that happens to folks.You can prove that by bein’ a good captain for what’s left of your crew, an’ by helpin’ Larry an’ Captain Lelaa—if she’ll have you—navigate our way to the boosum o’ Larry’s lovin’ home.”Slowly, Rajendra sat.Some of what Silva had said must have struck a chord, because he lowered his eyes and then stared at the few distant flickering fires that marked the grave of his ship and crew.His expression was desolate.“Who is to be in charge, then?” he finally asked, controlling his voice.“Lieutenant—rather, Minister—Tucker,” Princess Rebecca said in a tone that brooked no argument.“Now that we’re all on the same side, she is the highest-ranking official present, myself excluded.If you prefer, you may consider her as my proxy, but you will obey her.”“What about him?” asked the engineer, referring to Silva.“As has been most.eloquently.presented, if Mr.Silva is to be arrested, I must have Captain Rajendra arrested as well.What purpose would that serve? Mr.Silva will retain his position as my chief armsman and personal protector—provided he at least consults me before destroying any more of His Majesty’s property.”Dennis looked at the girl.He’d more than half expected her to despise him for what he’d done, and the relief he felt was indescribable.“Well,” he said, a bit huskily, “I’ll sure try.”Sandra took a deep breath.“All right, let’s get on with it.Captain Lelaa, you have the helm.Lawrence, assist her with the compass, if you please.Captain Rajendra? I assume this vessel has a sail?”CHAPTER 24“Report from the crow’s nest, Captain,” Reynolds said.“Sail on the horizon, bearing zero one zero.”“Very well.Helm, make your course zero one zero, if you please,” Matt ordered.He raised his binoculars.“Making my course see-ro one see-ro, ay!” replied Staas-Fin at the wheel.“Uh, Skipper?” Reynolds continued.“Wouldn’t this be a good time to put my plane in the water and let me fly over there and have a look?”Matt restrained the grin that tried to form.Reynolds took his new calling as a naval aviator very seriously, and by all accounts he was a good pilot.He and his small flight and maintenance crew cared for the Nancy meticulously.They’d even worked out a number of the problems associated with stowing, rigging out and recovering the plane, and protecting it from the elements.They still hadn’t had a chance to actually fly the thing yet, and partially that was due to the time it required to launch and recover the aircraft.Mostly, Matt admitted to himself, he personally didn’t want to risk the valuable, fragile resource the plane represented, or the young, excitable, but steady ensign he’d grown so fond of.So far, in addition to his Special Air Detail duties, Reynolds had been stuck in his old job as bridge talker, for the most part.He was starting to feel a little put-upon and it showed.“Not just yet, Ensign.The sea’s got a little chop to it.Besides, I expect that’ll be Achilles, based on our position.If we spot anything on the horizon we’re slightly less sure of, you can risk your crazy neck in that goofy contraption then.”“Aye-aye, Captain,” Fred replied, a little wistfully.The sail was indeed Achilles, and they easily overhauled her at twenty knots by early afternoon.Both ships flew their recognition numbers as they approached, even though each captain would have known the other’s ship anywhere.It was a procedure they’d agreed on in advance among themselves—just in case.Walker slowed to match Achilles’ nine knots.It was a respectable pace, considering the wind and the drag of the freewheeling paddles.Jenks was undoubtedly conserving fuel, and running the engine wouldn’t have given him a dramatic speed increase in any event.Matt recognized his counterpart standing on the elevated conning platform amidships, between the paddle boxes.Stepping onto the port bridge wing, he raised his speaking trumpet.“It’s good to see you, Achilles!” he shouted, his voice crossing the distance between the ships with a tinny aspect.“You cut a fine figure, Captain Reddy,” Jenks replied.“Your beautiful ship is quite the rage aboard here! To have you so effortlessly come streaking alongside within an hour of sighting you has been a marvelous sight to behold, while we here labor along and toil for every knot! I must protest your choice of such a drab color for such an elegant lady, however! Gray, for heaven’s sake! And I do fear I perceive a streak or two of rust! Clearly you’ve had a difficult passage!”Matt laughed.He couldn’t help it.For the first time, perhaps, he caught himself liking Jenks.“Rust, he says!” the Bosun bawled on the fo’c’sle.“Did you hear that, you shif’less pack o’ malingerers? If there’s a speck of rust anywhere on this ship, I want it chipped and painted if you have to hang over the side by your useless tails!”Lord, thought Matt yet again, in spite of everything, some things never change.Thank God [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]