[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

touched. Jensen swung her legs off the bed and walked stiffly toward the
table. Her bruises were
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84 / WALTER JON WILLIAMS
bothering her. She kept her eyes on Tvi's stunner. Stand-
ing by the table, she seemed to hesitate, then looked at the stunner again and
sat down where she'd been told.
Tvi touched another button. Jensen's ankles came inevi-
tably together. Her hands were freed, Jensen removed the food tray's lid and
began to eat.
Tvi's upper stomach rumbled. No one had said anything about feeding her.
Jensen took a mouthful of roast amette, winced, and concentrated instead on
the softer vegetables. Tvi settled back in her chair.
"You must have got the wrong person, you know,"
Jensen said. "I'm not worth much ransom."
"You're not being held for ransom," Tvi said.
Jensen didn't seem terribly surprised. The human took another shaky forkful.
"Why then?" she asked.
"1 daresay you would know best, ma'am," Tvi said.
On me vid. Allowed Burglars were always polite. Style counted a full ten
points, after all.
"Why am I still alive?" Jensen asked.
This wasn't bad, really, Tvi thought. A civilized con-
versation between a kidnapper and her victim. An occasion for her to play the
suave mastermind. "No need for any-
thing so extreme as murder, ma'am. You'll just be our guest for a few days."
"Until what?"
Tvi decided to feign a knowing silence. Much as she might enjoy playing the
part of a cultured kidnapper, she hadn't actually been told the reasons for
Jensen's abduc-
tion. She knew Maijstral was involved in it somehow, and that the Fate of the
Empire was at stake, but other than that she'd been kept in the dark.
THE CROWN JEWELS t 85
Amalia Jensen just shrugged. She swallowed her coffee.
"Well," she said, "they probably haven't told you."
Tvi ground her teeth. This human was sharp. She de-
cided to take another tack, another brand of sophistication.
Elegant mercenaries were at least as much fun as elegant masterminds.
"That hardly matters," Tvi said. "I was paid well."
Jensen looked at her and put her forkful of pureed manna back down on her
plate. "I could arrange that you be paid more."
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"Miss Jensen. I seem to recall, not a moment ago, you said you weren't worth
much ransom." Tvi's upper stom-
ach rumbled. The roast arnette, she observed, was under a white sauce.
Jensen smiled thinly, then winced and dabbed her split lip with a napkin.
"Things can be arranged. What would you say to forty novae?"
Tvi's ears pricked forward. That wasn't bad money, not really, assuming that
Jensen could actually deliver and Tvi collect. But against the Fate of the
Empire, she concluded, it was nothing. She waved a languid hand. "You do me a
disservice. Miss Jensen, if you believe that a mercenary of my standing will
change sides after already embarking on an adventure. I take pride in seeing
my contracts through, you see."
"I apologize," Jensen said, smiling again. "I did not mean to impugn your
professionalism."
"Apology accepted. After meeting Kho my colleague, 1 can understand that you
might mistake me. He is none of mine, I assure you. A creature of my
employers."
"I understand." Tvi's lower stomach had joined her upper in a distressed
chorus. She snarled beneath her human holographic smile.
Amalia Jensen seemed to perceive Tvi's rumbtings. She
86 / WALTER JON WILLIAMS
held up the plate of amette. "Would you like the roast?"
she asked. "I'm afraid my mouth's a little . . . tender, this morning."
"1 am peckish. If you wouldn't mind."
"Not at all." Jensen tottered to her feet, holding out the roast. Tvi rose to
a half crouch, one arm extended. Jensen flung her plate at Ronnie Romper's
grinning head and sprang, her hands clawed, her ankles still tethered
together.
Tvi had been half expecting this the Baron's lecture about preparedness hadn't
fallen entirely on deaf ears, and
Miss Jensen had turned far too pleasant all of a sudden.
Tvi fired her stunner in the middle of Jensen's arc, and the captive's leap [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]