The Sea Without a Shore

BOOK: The Sea Without a Shore
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The Sea Without a Shore

David Drake

LEARY AND MUNDY RETURN in the RCN SERIES.

#10 in the nationally best-selling Republic of Cinnabar Navy space adventure series.

Cinnabar's chief spymaster is a mother also--and her son is determined to search for treasure in the midst of a civil war. Who better to hold the boy's hand—and to take the blows directed at him—than Captain Daniel Leary, the Republic of Cinnabar Navy's troubleshooter, and his friend the cyberspy Adele Mundy?

The only thing certain in the struggle for control of the mining planet Corcyra is that the rival parties are more dangerous to their own allies than to their opponents. Daniel and Adele face kidnappers, hijackers, pirates and a death squad—even before they can get to their real business of ending the war on Corcyra. Only with planetary peace can the boy they're escorting get on with
his
mission.

The boy thinks the treasure he's looking for is a thousand years old. Daniel and Adele know that it's probably a dream—

But if the treasure
is
real, it just might be tens of thousands of years older than anyone imagines, and incalculably more valuable!

BAEN BOOKS by DAVID DRAKE

The RCN Series

With the Lightnings  •  Lt. Leary, Commanding  •  The Far Side of the Stars  •  The Way to Glory  •  Some Golden Harbor  •  When the Tide Rises  •  In the Stormy Red Sky  •  What Distant Deeps  •  The Road of Danger  •  The Sea Without a Shore

Hammer’s Slammers

The Tank Lords  •  Caught in the Crossfire  •  The Sharp End  •  The Complete Hammer’s Slammers, Vols 1–3

Independent Novels and Collections

All the Way to the Gallows
  •  
Cross the Stars
  •  
Foreign Legions
, edited by David Drake  •  
Grimmer Than Hell
  •  
Loose Cannon
  •  
Night & Demons
  •  
Northworld Trilogy
  •  
Patriots
  •  
The Reaches Trilogy
  •  
Redliners
  •  
Seas of Venus
  •  
Starliner

Into the Hinterlands
with John Lambshead

The General Series

Hope Reborn
with S.M. Stirling (omnibus)  •  
Hope Rearmed
with S.M. Stirling (omnibus)
  •  The Tyrant
with Eric Flint  •  
The Heretic
with Tony Daniel  •  
The Savior
with Tony Daniel (forthcoming)

The Belisarius Series with Eric Flint

An Oblique Approach  •  In the Heart of Darkness  •  Belisarius I: Thunder Before Dawn
(omnibus)  •  
Destiny’s Shield  •  Fortune’s Stroke  •  Belisarius II: Storm at Noontide
(omnibus)  •  
The Tide of Victory  •  The Dance of Time  •  Belisarius III: The Flames of Sunset
(omnibus)

Edited by David Drake

The World Turned Upside Down
with Jim Baen & Eric Flint

T
HE
S
EA
W
ITHOUT A
S
HORE

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2014 by David Drake

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

A Baen Books Original

Baen Publishing Enterprises

P.O. Box 1403

Riverdale, NY 10471

www.baen.com

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3639-6

eISBN: 978-1-62579-280-8

Cover art by Stephen Hickman

First printing, May 2014

Distributed by Simon & Schuster

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Drake, David, 1945–

The sea without a shore / David Drake.

pages cm

Summary: “Cinnabar’s chief spymaster is a mother also, and her son is determined to search for treasure in the midst of a civil war. Who better to watch over him than Captain Daniel Leary, Cinnabar’s troubleshooter, and his friend cyberspy Adele Mundy? The only thing certain in the struggle of the mining planet Corcyra is that the rival parties are more dangerous to their own allies than to their opponents. Daniel and Adele face kidnappers, hijackers, pirates and a death squad—even before they can get to their real business of ending the war and escorting the boy on his mission”— Provided by publisher.

ISBN 978-1-4767-3639-6 (hardback)

I. Title.

PS3554.R196S425 2014

813’.54—dc23

2014001467

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Pages by Joy Freeman (www.pagesbyjoy.com)

Printed in the United States of America

Electronic Version by Baen Books

www.baen.com

To Ramsey and Jenny Campbell

Acknowledgments

How many times have I thanked Dan Breen for being my first reader? This is another time, and believe me, it’s heartfelt this time as well.

Dan, Dorothy Day, and my webmaster Karen Zimmerman archive my texts in widely separated locations. That way if the asteroid strikes while I’m still working, my publisher will nevertheless have the most nearly complete version of the manuscript. (Well, I suppose it depends on how big the asteroid is.)

Dorothy, Karen, and Evan Ladouceur provide help with continuity and in their various expertises. For this particular novel, Fred Kiesche and John Lambshead also provided bits of data which I needed. Silly as it may sound, I really will stop work while I search frantically for some point that not one reader in a thousand would notice if I got it wrong. The help I get from my friends is of much more importance than it might seem to a rational person.

Many people provide help for my writing. My wife, Jo, makes my comfortable life possible. I get very focused when I’m working, and I’m working just about all the time. That I’m healthy, well-fed, and live in a clean house is almost entirely due to Jo; we even have an active social life.

My sincere thanks to all those I’ve mentioned and to the many others who are part of my life and therefore of my work.

—Dave Drake

Author’s Note

I’m going to try an abbreviated version of my usual boilerplate here: I translate the words my characters speak into modern English, and also I translate weights and measures into formats in current use.

It’s been a long time since anybody has complained about me using modern English instead of nineteenth-century fustian as though I were a reincarnation of William Morris (heaven forefend!). I do get more or less polite queries about the weights and measures, though.

I generally use historical models in which to find plots for novels in the RCN series. In this case I formed the action on two incidents which occurred in the fifth century BC. One of these was the civil war on the island of Corcyra, a colony founded by Corinth. The other was the Egyptian revolt against Persia (during a period of Persian instability) and the Athenian expedition to support the Egyptians when Persia attempted to reassert control.

Neither of these things sounds very major, does it? Even if you know some classical history, it’s unlikely that you’ll remember either of them. But between them they led to the Peloponnesian War, which plunged the Greek world into a century of large-scale warfare, followed by Macedonian conquest (the Macedonians weren’t Greek by Greek law, any more than the Thracians or the Carians were Greek) and another century of war, and finally by Roman conquest and a peace of tourists and tax gatherers.

It’s very hard to predict where a present action is going to lead, but it’s a good bet that violent actions are going to lead to violent results; and those results may continue a long way down a very bad road. I suppose it’s fitting that the Roman general who completed the conquest of Greece did so by razing Corinth.

I used to think it would be nice if present-day leaders knew more ancient history. The reality is that Messrs Cheney and Rumsfeld didn’t seem to know anything about Vietnam. Of course they hadn’t served in Nam, as I had.

Finally a note about the dedication. In 1977 Jo and I visited England—my first trip out of the country which didn’t involve me wearing a uniform. Friend and writer Ramsey Campbell and his wife Jenny put us up in Liverpool for two days. Jenny cooked us a full English breakfast (with kippers!), which was delicious, and Ramsey gave us a tour of Liverpool that included Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (aka Paddy’s Wigwam).

The cathedral is a modern structure and has had more than its share of detractors (note the nickname; Liverpool is heavily Irish). That said, the interior gave me a feeling of peace and happiness which I’ve never felt in another building.

I’m not religious (and was raised to be anti-Catholic), so I didn’t expect to have a positive reaction. That’s anecdotal evidence, but it was (and remains) my truth. I moved the cathedral into this novel, and I decided this was a good time to thank Ramsey and Jenny for their kindness.

—Dave Drake

david-drake.com

And all around the organ there’s a sea without a shore

Of human joys and wonders and regrets

To remember and to recompense the music evermore

For what the cold machinery forgets …

—Alfred Noyes

The Barrel-Organ

CHAPTER 1

Bantry Estate, Cinnabar

Daniel Leary, otherwise Captain Daniel Oliver Leary, Republic of Cinnabar Navy—but here merely “Master Daniel” or “Squire”—stood poised in the bow of the skiff with his arms at his sides. The throwing stick was in his right hand with the line nocked in the cleft and the lure dangling. Hogg knelt in the stern, holding the tiller/throttle of the tiny motor that edged the boat toward the floating weed.

The lure was a streamlined tube about the size of a plump man’s middle finger. Its batteries powered the caged contra-rotating props, but control signals came down the line from the handset now resting on the planks in front of Hogg.

When the lure hit the water, it would circle until it picked up the pattern of electrical impulses given off by the nerves of the species it was set for, then home on that source. It was set now for floorfish; two or three sprats would fillet into an excellent dinner for Daniel and Miranda, his fiancée, who was waiting in the manor.

Daniel tensed to make the cast. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, boy,” Hogg said. “Another ten feet, and
don’t
tell me your arm’s strong enough to cast into the center from here.”

The skiff continued to creep toward the weed. Hogg spoke quietly so as not to disturb the prey, but his voice was as harsh as a rough-cut file. Here off the coast of the Bantry estate their relationship was the same as it had been twenty years earlier when the old poacher took it on himself to teach the young master how to fish and to hunt, and how to be a man.

Teaching Daniel to be a man wasn’t part of a plan, but Hogg was a man himself and made assumptions. If he’d been asked, he would have said that Corder Leary wanted a son who would stand up for himself, who would carry out his duties, and who would take responsibility for his own actions.

Overhead, a trio of Barranca birds sailed southward, following the cold current which had bent toward shore during the volcanic eruption hundreds of miles out in the Western Ocean. The birds were so high that even Daniel’s sharp eyes couldn’t distinguish the two separate pairs of wings on each. The occasional low-frequency grunts of the birds communicating were barely audible, even to ears trained to recognize them.

Looking back on his childhood, Daniel suspected that his father had been too busy chasing money and power to spare any thoughts for the boy who lived with his mother on the Bantry estate. Still, Speaker Leary wouldn’t have minded what Daniel was learning, any more than he would have cared about the weather over Bantry while he was comfortable in the Leary townhouse in the capital, Xenos.

Hogg switched off the motor. It was inaudible even while it was running, but Daniel had felt the vibration through the thin soles of his moccasins. The skiff drifted forward on momentum. Daniel swung his right arm up in parallel with the keel. At the height of its arc, his fingers released the line which he’d clamped to the throwing stick till that moment. The lure sailed off in a flat curve that plopped it into the center of the large patch of weed.

“A
nice
cast,” said Hogg softly. “You haven’t forgotten everything I taught you, I guess.”

“I haven’t forgotten not to draw to an inside straight, either,” Daniel said. He remained upright for a better view, though standing in the small boat would have been dangerous despite the skiff’s broad bottom if the water hadn’t been still and Daniel’s own balance perfect. The skills he’d gained as a boy on Bantry had been sharpened since he’d entered the Naval Academy and begun running along the spars of starships.

Instead of circling as expected, the lure vanished instantly. “It looks like it just sank,” Daniel said, squinting. He had a pair of multifunction RCN goggles on his forehead, but they wouldn’t help him look through the water. “Do you suppose the motor failed?”

“The motor’s running fine, and the props are free,” Hogg said testily, looking at the readout on his control unit. “It’s just got a bite.

“Unless”—Hogg’s delay was too short to have allowed Daniel to speak even if he’d intended to—“that
bloody
weed has caught it. It’s the deep-sea weed with thicker hair. But the lure
seems
okay… .”

He and Daniel were in the channel between Borden’s Cay and the mainland, but recent nor’westers had brought considerable oceanic debris through the inlets, including unfamiliar fish parboiled by the volcano. This patch of weed looked from any distance like the normal inshore variety; but as Hogg had said, it was the open-water species whose clumps were tied together by tendrils sturdy enough to withstand serious storms.

“Want to haul back the lure and try near the creek mouth?” Daniel said, frowning.

He was closer to the weed. He could have noticed before Hogg did that it was slightly darker than it should have been, but Hogg had spent most of his sixty years learning the tricks and whims of nature on the Bantry estate. Missing something that Hogg also had missed wasn’t a good reason to kick himself.

“It’s still running true,” Hogg said, “so don’t get in front of yourself. Maybe we’re just having fisherman’s luck.”

Hogg had been concentrating on the holographic readout hovering above the control unit; his fierceness suggested he was planning to take a bite out of the display. A brief smile turned his unshaven face into something remarkably ugly.

Daniel smiled also. Like Hogg, he was used to having luck when he was fishing. Most of it was bad.

The channel wasn’t much over a quarter mile wide here. Similar vegetation grew on both the cay and the mainland; but the trees on the mainland shore were taller, and they were much taller farther inland, where storms less often drove salt water over the roots.

Birds shrieked and clucked, but they remained hidden in the foliage. Insect-eaters wouldn’t be out in numbers until nightfall, but Daniel was surprised not to see the fish-eaters which were usually snatching meals from the surface of the water or gorging on carrion on the mud. A skiff with two fishermen wasn’t reason to frighten them under cover.

“We’ve got one,” Hogg said, adjusting both thumb controls of the handset. “We bloody
have
got one.”

The lure was multifunction. When it was attached, the controller sent impulses into the nervous system of the fish. You couldn’t actually control the behavior even of a fish, but a disruption equivalent to an unscratchable itch would eventually bring the prey thrashing to the surface as it tried to rid itself of the irritation.

Daniel set the throwing stick down on the floorboards. He touched the trident with hooked barbs of spring steel, then thought again. The pole was only six feet long. That was as much as they wanted to carry in so small a boat, but it wasn’t enough to reach the center of the weed from where they now floated.

“I’ll go in,” he said. He didn’t want to foul the lure’s prop in heavy weed. Hogg grunted agreement, still concentrating on the controller.

Sitting down, Daniel pulled off his moccasins. He probably ought to take off his baggy trousers also, but sometimes small crustaceans clung to floating weed, and he didn’t want to transfer them to his wedding tackle. As he started to his feet again, the skiff rocked violently.

“Bloody hell and damnation!” Hogg said, looking up from the display but not dropping the controller.

Daniel’s first thought was that there had been another subsea earthquake, a tremor like those which the volcano had spawned in recent months. The weed lifted in a great swell. Instead of subsiding, it hung in streamers on the dark, twitching mass which floated on the surface of the water.

“On my sainted mother’s soul,” Hogg said in a tone of reverence. “We’ve got an adult. What’s
it
doing here?”

Daniel had heard enough stories growing up on Bantry—some of them from Hogg himself—to know that if Hogg’s mother had been a saint, it was only by comparison with Hogg’s father. That aside, there was no doubt that they’d caught an adult floorfish.

If caught was the right word.

“The volcano must have brought it up,” Daniel said. Adult floorfish meandered across the bottom at three thousand feet or deeper, though their eggs hatched in marshes and the sprats spent their first two years in coastal waters. “It’s sixty feet long if it’s an inch.”

“And the flesh is no good for anything but feeding pigs,” Hogg said with a tone of regret. “Even if we could land it.”

He adjusted his controller again.

The floorfish continued to quiver, so Daniel didn’t rise from his knees. There wasn’t any real risk. When Hogg released the lure, the fish—it was really a blanket with a mouth at one end and a body filled by the gut which processed ooze that the mouth sucked in—would sink back to the bottom.

Daniel grinned. The worst danger that the floorfish posed was that if it didn’t find its way back out to sea soon, the warmth and higher oxygen content of the surface waters would probably kill it. In that case, its many tons of rotting flesh and partially digested ooze would make a considerable area uninhabitable until the process was complete. Fortunately, nobody except hunters and sport fishermen spent much time in this swampy portion of Bantry.

The fish continued to wobble like a huge jelly while Hogg stabbed at his controller. “It won’t release!” he snarled. “I don’t know if something’s corroded or the probes are just too deep in that thick hide.”

He stuck his hand into a baggy pocket and brought out a folding knife with a knuckleduster hilt; the blade snicked open. “
I
say we cut the line and chalk it up to experience.”

“Do you have another lure?” Daniel said.

Hogg shrugged. “Back to the manor,” he said. “We’ve got three sprats now in the cold chest. That’s enough for dinner; and if it’s not, well, me and Em—”

That would be the Widow Brice.

“—can find something else. She’s not big on fish anyhow.”

That was all true, but

“I’ll fetch the lure,” Daniel said, swinging his right foot into the water carefully. “I was figuring to go in with the trident anyway.”

He eased over the side by stages, gripping the gunwale with both hands and lowering himself carefully to reduce the splash. The water was noticeably warm; more sign of the volcanic disruption, he supposed.

Hogg had leaned to his left instinctively to balance Daniel’s weight. “I can’t turn off the current or the fish’ll go right back to the bottom,” he said. “That means it’s going to keep on shivering like that.”

“Right,” said Daniel, breast-stroking away from the skiff with his head out of the water. “Well, if it swallows me, you can cut me out with that knife of yours.”

The weed wasn’t as thick as it looked from even a short distance away. The tendrils which bound palm-sized clumps into mats the size of a soccer pitch parted as easily as gauze between Daniel’s hands. He wouldn’t want to swim miles through the weed, but he thought he could if he had to. Twenty yards was no problem.

The line of optical fiber was invisible except that when the sun caught it at the right angle it became a slash of light from the water to the lure on the black/brown skin. Daniel was probably brushing it as he swam/paddled toward the floorfish, but its touch went unnoticed in the weed.

The floorfish had a fringe of fins all along its side. They extended about the length of Daniel’s forearm and were stiffened with cartilage, not spines. They appeared to undulate gently, but there was enough power behind the continuous motion to push at Daniel like a strong current when he was close enough to touch the fish.

Daniel paused, then dived and came up like a sprat trying to escape a predator. His outstretched hand gripped the lure, and his weight pulled it free as he slid down the slimy side of the floorfish.

“Master!” Hogg shouted. “Back away! Keep the bloody lure on your bare skin and in the water between you, okay? Don’t bloody argue!”

“Between” wasn’t a direction, but Hogg must mean the floorfish if he wanted Daniel to back away. The older man’s voice wasn’t panicked, but there was more stress in it than Daniel remembered since the night Hogg had readied the Bantry tenants against trouble that might sweep in from the darkness. He’d handed the seven-year-old Daniel Leary a shotgun and told him to aim for heads because face-shields weren’t as tough as the body-armor which the attackers might be wearing.

No one came to Bantry that night. In the morning, Daniel and the others learned that Speaker Leary had drowned the Three Circles Conspiracy in blood, wiping out the leaders of the Popular Party and their families—save for a few of the proscribed who happened to be off planet at the time the crisis broke.

One of those survivors was Adele Mundy, sixteen-year-old daughter of Lucius Mundy, the leader of the Popular Party. She had just left to study in the Academic Collections on Blythe. At the time, Adele’s name wouldn’t have meant anything to Daniel, or for that matter to Corder Leary. The girl was a scholar and wholly apolitical.

Daniel, a newly made lieutenant, had met Adele, then Electoral Librarian on Kostroma, five years ago. That meeting had changed their lives. Both of them were better off by orders of magnitude than they would have been without the other’s support.

The floorfish submerged like a mass of sludge slipping into the channel. Suction tugged at Daniel, but because the fish’s body shaped itself to the water, it was much less of a problem than what a sinking ship of similar size would have caused. The fish left behind an effluvium of ancient mud, cloying and slightly sulfurous.

Something lifted briefly above the undulating weed, then slipped back. Daniel knew what Hogg had seen from the height of the boat.

He knew why Hogg was worried, too.

Daniel splashed, hoping that he was moving toward the boat as Hogg had ordered. It wasn’t a very effective way to proceed, but he wasn’t about to stretch his legs out behind him to backstroke properly. That would put his bare, kicking feet very close to the head of the wolf eel, and the predator’s jaws were armed with six-inch fangs.

Wolf eels attached their sucker tails to floorfish. They didn’t harm or even affect the huge scavenger, but when the giant maw rooted up some lesser muck-dweller, the eel snatched it for a meal.

BOOK: The Sea Without a Shore
2.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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