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Emile and the Dutchman

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Emile and the Dutchman

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Author: Joel Rosenberg
Publisher: Signet, 1986
Series: Metzada Mercenary Corps: Book 2

1. Ties of Blood and Silver
2. Emile and the Dutchman
3. Not for Glory
4. Hero

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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The crudest, most ruthless officer in the Thousand World Contact Service, Major Alonzo Norfeldt - alias the Dutchman - finds himself pitted against the most cunning and deadly of intergalactic aliens... while partnered with an idiotic greenhorn.



I hated the Dutchman at first sight.

"An officer is courteous at all times, in his encounters with subordinate and superior officers"--it says so, right on the very first page of Contact Service Rules, Regulations, and Proprieties.

"You the tin god Stan Morrissey sent me?"

Space aboard Major Alonzo Norfeldt's cabin was mainly lacking. The atmosphere wasn't improved by the stench of cheap wine mixed with the nauseating reek of stale tobacco. The fat man was no visual thrill as he lay back on the rumpled linen of his bunk, scratching at his hairy belly, just above the waistband of his shorts.

If he had bathed in the past week, there was no solid evidence.

I gave a mental shrug. This was the Dutchman? He didn't look like he was capable of much, unless you thought not bathing was a big trick.

Which I didn't.

"Sir. Second Lieutenant Emile von du Mark reporting to the Team Leader as per Regulation--"

"Shut the fuck up." He cut me off with a thump of his hand against the nearest bulkhead. "Listen real good, Mister; I'll only say this once: I don't ever want to hear you quoting regs at me. Ever. And regardless of how disreputable I look--or am--you just remember two things. If you can count that high."

He held up a stubby finger. It wasn't well manicured, but the nail wasn't bitten, either. The Dutchman wasn't the nailbiting type. "One, I'm a damn good Contact Team Leader. Matter of fact, I'm the best there is."

He tapped the finger against the diamond in his Team Leader's ring, his nail clicking. Tick. Tick.

"Two"--another finger--"I'm your superior officer. Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good." He grunted as he sat up, rubbing his face in his hand. "Just siddown. Please." He gave a quick longing look at the corked bottle beside his bed before regretfully returning his attention to me. "What do they call you?"

"Emile, sir," I said. It's pronounced Eh-meal. Not Ay-muhl, not Ehmil, not anything else. I don't mind nicknames for other people, but any variation on my name grates.

"Oh." He gave an amused little half-smile at that."You heard of me, Emilesir?" He reached a hand under his pillow and brought out a well-chewed cigar, then stuck the soggy end in his mouth while he fished around on the floor for his lighter.

"Yes, sir. I've heard of you." I wanted to leave it at that, but he pressed.

"And what have you heard, Herr Leftenant ffonn doo Mark?" A vague smile played across his lips; a childhood memory of my cat playing with a captured baby mole sprang up.

"That you are a competent--"

"None of that. I asked you what you heard."

I shrugged. To hell with him, too. "I have heard that you are a tyrannical, overbearing Team Leader, with a record of four good, solid Contacts--and two Drops--but an absurdly high fatality rate among your subordinate officers. I have heard that you are a drunkard, sir, and a smoker--both of which are manifestly obvious. I have heard that the Contact Service may have declared you an officer, but that you surely are no gentleman. Sir."

The Dutchman threw back his head and laughed. "You got guts, Mark."

I started to smile.

He stuck out his hand; I accepted it automatically. I returned his pressure quickly enough to prevent him from cracking my knuckles.


"Me, I've always thought more highly of brains," he said, turning the pressure up.

While he attempted to grind my knuckles into sand, he took a moment to look me up and down. I squeezed back, remembering my Command & the Nature of Authority instructor explaining the importance to a commander of establishing, right up front, that he was in charge. But Captain Patel had also declared, in his musical Hindi singsong, that it was high art to do it without being a jerk.

The Dutchman didn't seem to care about high art.

"I guess I have to take what I can get," he said, releasing my hand. "Hot pilot?"

Supposedly, there used to be some sort of superstition among flyers against admitting that you were good. There isn't anymore, and even if there was, I wouldn't care.

"Yes, sir." I don't need to brag about it; it's just a fact.

"How'd you get stuck with me? Hang on a sec," he said, as he resumed his search for his lighter, finally locating it underneath a discarded sock.

He fired it up and brought his cigar to life, and blew a foul cloud of smoke in my direction.

"After Graduation, the commandant--"

"Stan Morrissey. Classmate of mine."

"So he told me. General Morrissey offered me a staff job, said he thought I was too inexperienced to go out on First Assignment just yet." Manny Curdova had taken the Personnel job that the general had offered him; as I stood there, looking down at Norfeldt, I wondered if I wouldn't have been much wiser to do the same thing.

Norfeldt shook his head, several of his chins waggling in syncopation. "You shoulda listened. Breaks old Stan's heart, sending out green kids every year, seeing what comes back. When it comes back." He gave me a sideways look. "You look a little like his son; maybe that's why he wanted to give you a break. Hmmm. Any idea why he didn't hold you back for another year at Alton?"

"I was third in my class. Sir. And number one in flying class, sir."

"Oh? Which ones?"

"Every one, sir."

I was proud of it, too. Maybe I should thank my ancestry for my ability in the air, but coming in third in my class hadn't come easily to me, not easily at all. I'd worked hard for four long years at the Contact Service Academy; aside from qualification courses, I'd been hard pressed to get in ten hours a month in the air.

And then, on Graduation Day, for the Commandant to call me into his office and suggest I take a staff post--temporarily, he said. Hah.

"Big deal." The Dutchman dismissed four years of backbreaking and mindbending work with an airy wave. "First Assignment is the real graduation, Emmy." He snickered at my wince.

"You psi-neg, kid?"

I started to bring a hand up to point at the See-No-Evil-Speak-No-Evil-Hear-No-Evil patch above my uniform blouse's left pocket, then caught myself. If he didn't want to see for himself...

"Yes, sir. And fully conditioned, sir." Not that I know a whole lot about how Gates work, but what little I do know can't be pried out of me by threat or bribe. Or psi, for that matter: to an esper with his eyes closed, I'm not even there.

"Yeah. I got the Three Monkeys myself."

Which was obvious. A Thousand Worlds Contact Service Contact Team Leader has to be psi-neg. The most common problem espers in the Service have is adopting the frame of reference of contactees--dangerous; we're supposed to protect humanity's interests. The human race doesn't need another Xeno War, and if we ever have one, it had damn well better be farther from a draw than the last one.

"Then I'd better tell you this before we go on down to the Rec to brief Buchholtz and McCaw: First Team did a pretty one-shot spectogram; the major continent on this dirtball planet we're going onto as Third Team has huge deposits of germanium. That mean anything to you?"

I wanted to answer, to say that I knew that germanium was the only metal that grabfields could get enough of a hold on to squeeze into a quantum black hole, the sine qua non of a Gate.

I wanted to, but I couldn't; the conditioning runs very deep--when you've cooperated with it, that happens. Supposedly, after a few years, it wears off enough to allow a reasonable amount of judgment.

But I was fresh out of the Academy, and this was a Navy ship, not a Contact Service scout; I didn't know that we couldn't be overheard. "Nothing in particular, Major."

He smiled and nodded. "Just checking. C'mon; you might as well meet the rest of the team."

Copyright © 1986 by Joel Rosenberg


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