Diamond Star

Diamond Star by Catherine Asaro Read Free Book Online

Book: Diamond Star by Catherine Asaro Read Free Book Online
Authors: Catherine Asaro
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction, Action & Adventure, Space Opera
it."
    "Good." Del's tension eased. He turned to Ricki and indicated Mac. "My front-liner, he work out details with you."
    Ricki's smile dripped satisfaction. "I'm glad to hear that."
    Mac stared at her, and hoped to blazes he wasn't looking at the catalyst for an interstellar catastrophe.

    III: First Step
    Fitzwilliam R. McLane, aka Fitz, wasn't the only general Mac knew, but he left the others in the dust when it came to the force of his personality. His grey hair resembled iron, and his grey eyes were set under brows of the same color. He sat in his big chair behind his big desk and regarded Mac with a considering stare.
    "What does it mean, exactly?" Fitz asked. "He'll sing in those things the kids watch?"
    "That's right," Mac said, uncomfortable in his chair despite its smart-tech, which kept shifting the cushions, trying to relax him. "And he'll go on tour with the other band."
    To Mac's surprise, Fitz smiled. "Who would have guessed? Of all the ways I thought he might find to get away from us here at the base, I never would have come up with this. I thought he'd go to the Skolian embassy when he realized we wouldn't stop him."
    "I'm not so sure he wants to go home," Mac said. "Except for his sister's kids. He's been sort of surrogate father to them."
    "Two boys, right?" Fitz asked. "One grown and the other--what? Ten?"
    "Eight, actually," Mac said. "They use an octal system, so they say ten. The other boy is eighteen. I don't know much else; the family kept them away from our Allied delegation." Dryly he said, "We weren't exactly welcome on Del's world."
    "So I gathered." Fitz tapped his desk, bringing up a screen, and flicked through a few displays. "The sister never married?"
    "I don't think so." From what Mac understood, the Skolian government had interfered for some reason, something to do with her children, but he had no idea what. He was still figuring out the convoluted relationship between the Skolian Assembly and the Ruby Dynasty. The Assembly and royal family split the rule of the Imperialate, half an elected government and half dynastic. But that had only been since the war, which had ended with a bizarre twist when the Ruby Pharaoh overthrew her own government. Before that, she had been a titular ruler without political power.
    From cryptic remarks Del had made, Mac gathered that in the past, the Assembly had mistreated his family in some way, spurring the pharaoh's coup at the end of the war. Politics had poisoned his family in some inscrutable Skolian way Mac had yet to figure out, but Del wouldn't talk about it.
    "Do you think Del wants to stay on Earth?" Fitz asked.
    "Yes, I think so, if this business with Prime-Nova works out," Mac said. "If he bombs, they'll probably drop him after his contract ends. I don't know what he'd want to do then."
    Fitz sat, rubbing his chin. "How much time is involved in making and marketing these cubes?"
    "His contract says he has to complete both within three years."
    "And his tour?"
    "It depends on how he does," Mac said. "If he plummets, they'll yank him after a few performances." He hoped he wasn't being prophetic. "Mind Mix is one of their biggest acts. They can't risk an unpopular opener."
    "Do you think he will--what was the word? Plummet."
    That was the billion-dollar question. Literally. "He has the talent," Mac said. "What he does with it is a different question. He's never performed in concert. He breaks rules, too, and he walks the edge of what the censors will allow. He could fail miserably." He paused. "With Prime-Nova backing him, though, he has a chance of a good career."
    Fitz smiled wryly. "It isn't what you usually associate with the Ruby Dynasty."
    No kidding. Mac was having trouble deciphering the general's reaction. "If you want the contract broken, we can manage. It will take lawyers, but given Del's identity, I think we can do it."
    "Broken!" Fitz actually laughed. "Mac, it's brilliant. You've convinced him to stay on Earth and given him a reason to

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