The dance had been nerve-wracking for Alop. In the press of the dance floor, almost anything could have happened. Sending the crew along had seemed reasonable. People expected young men to go to a dance, but it had been such a damn sinking display of wealth and status. Ever since the Solstice Epidemic, men capable of Seaguard work were scarce, rare enough that clans considered them their most valuable assets, and arranged their marriages with care and considerable negotiation. A young woman who could command as her escort a dozen-four eligible bachelors, all Seaguard, made too big of a splash.
She would make a splash even without them. Alop shook his head. As long as people believed her to be Ms. Politkofsky, the granddaughter of Lana Politkofsky, all was well, but the façade would surely crumble.
Alop's com-unit jangled with a text. "Sabestes Matlawko hailing Alop Fennako."
He hadn't seen that name in a while. The crafty old outlaw usually went by Bise Politkofsky or Rockfish Littlemara. You couldn't get much past a Littlemara outlaw. Alop was in a position to know, he was married to Bise's little sister.
The message was simple enough. "Request private meeting. Zenhedron Plaza. Sending."
The kind of privacy Oldman Bise would want was hard to come by. They couldn't speak within hearing of Shewolf or near any public-safety monitors in Fennako City. But, if they moved into the open, they could be seen and recorded on video.
Dressed inconspicuously—a dark park, a knit watchcap, and long trousers covering his boots—Alop hurried up the steep lane to the Zenhedron, a huge copper-sheathed dome sunk into a plaza atop Lawrock. Salt air had darkened the copper roof to the rich patina of Fennako green.
The plaza overlooked the city and commanded a dizzying view of Tristan Bay, the harbor, and in the distance, other islands. Wind gusted over an expanse of flagstone. They'd have rain.
Only a few people were in the plaza, probably most were inside where it was warm and dry. Alop thrust his hand into his pockets and ambled as if out for a stroll.
A man in a dark parka and watchcap stood near a bench. He glanced up, light winking off his bi-adjustable lenses. Yes, that was the old outlaw, his brother-in-law dressed in the garb of an ordinary mariner—or a spy. But then Alop had dressed in similar fashion, so that made two spies.
"What are you about?" Alop asked casually, as if this were a chance encounter.
"Just observing the tide."
Wispy fog drifted over the roofs of Fennako City, swirling between chimneys, obscuring the harbor and hiding the more distant islands. A green ferry was pulling into dock, right on time.
Bise turned with a spectacled glare. "Alop, what's going on between my granddaughter and that man? His name is Tyee, I believe."
Ah yes, the expected accusations. Alop shrugged. "They seem to enjoy each other's company."
Bise's bi-adjustables reflected watery light. "And you had nothing to do with it?"
"Grumpy uncles tend to spoil the fun."
Bise removed his hands from his pockets. "I think it a bit strange none the men on Shewolf's crew are older than two-dozen years old. And all of them are Fennako sept."
No, one really couldn't slip anything past Bise. Alop shoved his hands deeper in his own pockets. "They're good men, the best."
"Of course." Bise dropped his voice to conspiratorial tones. "And you want one of them to be king."
YOU ARE READING
The Return of the Cybernaut PrincessScience Fiction
A long-lost princess, a mariner, and a sentient ship battle intergalactic intrigue in a quest for love, identity, and to save their planet from a deadly cyber-virus. The Princess- Having fled her planet as a small child, the princess has little kno...