The Shaman of Karres – Snippet 05

“Try to make a modification on the klatha cocoon I put you and Goth into. An airtight one,” said Pausert. He started working through the klatha patterns in his mind… a change there…

“Move them across in those clumping cocoons? I guess they won’t know what they are,” said the Leewit, reluctantly. She had not liked being trapped in one, even if it had saved her life.

“No, they weren’t airtight, but I hope I can change that. There are far too many for me to do individual cocoons. But I thought I would make a tunnel between the holds…”

“It’ll take a lot out of you, Captain,” she said warily.

“I know. You three may have to hold the fort before I can undo it. We’ll be locked onto this hulk, and that means you’ll have to move these people out of the hold, because this hold plainly is losing pressure slowly.”

“Right, Captain. How many people?”

“A lot. Keep them out of the control room.” Inside the suit, sound was deadened, but in the headlight he could see wide-eyed, terrified people reaching frantic force-cuffed arms to them. There was no time to waste. Pausert concentrated. He knew every detail of the Venture‘s hull. She was his ship, he loved her. So envisaging layers of the cocoon from just outside the hold-door-frame extending into space was easy enough. Now to work the klatha patterns, to trace them in his mind and to change them slightly to be impervious even to air. Captain Pausert could feel himself sweating inside the suit. Such klatha use took enormous amounts of energy out of the user.

“Near lined up as I can get it, Captain,” said Vezzarn’s voice across the suit radio. “Can’t get a perfect match.”

That could be a problem. No match, no hold door-opening.

You make vatch-eggstuff, big dream thing! I didn’t know you could do that. I thought everything in in the dreamplace was soft.

The vatchlet almost distracted him from the pattern he was building out, layer by exhausting layer. “What?”

That’s what everything hard in my place is — not like in the dream place. I can go through anything in the dream place, and anywhere. Eggstuff, I can’t. I have to undo. I must go talk to the others. This could affect the new game.

Pausert had the answer. He simply kept extending the klatha force cocoon… right through the hull. Metal was no barrier. He could see the transparent cocoon stuff coming through the wall…

There was of course still vacuum in the space outside the hull, but also inside the klatha-force tunnel he’d created. And now that hull was not entire — the cocoon of klatha-force cut right through it. And the hull-section — part hull, part door and severed leaking hydraulic servos — sucked out. Captain Pausert heard Ta’zara yell in shock, but he was too exhausted to care.

“Vezzarn, get the hold door slid open. Ta’zara, see if you can cut that bar with your blaster. I’m just going to sit…” He did, before he fell over, as Ta’zara adjusted his blaster and took careful aim at the bar the prisoners were tethered to. The poor prisoners panicked and tried to retreat. That was probably better than having them close in, anyway, thought Pausert.

Ta’zara burned through the bar — a tough job with a blaster that really wasn’t designed for that. The melted end glowed white-hot — he still had to hold off the prisoners with the blaster as the ones just back from the front tried to shove the others forward to escape.

“Atmospheric pressure reading from the Venture‘s hold zero point seven eight ship normal. Looks like you did it Captain,” said the Leewit. “You all right?”

“Yes. Just dead-beat and starving,” he answered.

“Use the glucose syrup tube in your suit, Captain,” said Ta’zara.

Pausert could have kicked himself for not thinking of that earlier. But that was the problem with being too tired. Thinking logically was difficult. Sucking on the tube even seemed hard work, but it did revitalize him a bit.

“Is there enough atmosphere for me to crack my helmet and talk to these people?” asked Ta’zara.

“Yes. It’s losing a little pressure. Down to point seven seven eight ship normal. Safe enough but it must be leaking. There is no time to waste. I can pump more air in to our hold…”

“Don’t,” said the captain, tiredly. “Let’s get them across, close up and then do it.” 

Ta’zara had cracked his helmet-seal and now Captain Pausert could hear the panic and pandemonium from the prisoners — after all, they didn’t know that he and Ta’zara weren’t just pirates, or just what was going on. “Shut UP!” Boomed the broad man from Na’kalauf. “We’re here to rescue you. Be calm.”

That might have reduced the volume by a tiny bit, but it did change the tone. “The end of the bar is still too hot for you to get past. Don’t push! You will be safe!” shouted Ta’zara, trying to physically hold them back.

Judging by the noise, that wasn’t working too well. Tired or not, Pausert knew he had to intervene. He put a tiny klatha force cocoon on the glowing end of the bar and it dropped off, heat trapped inside. From a two-finger wide gap, with a molten, dripping end, it was now the size of a large fist, the one end not even glowing. “Ta’zara. Bend it. Use them.”

 A glance from the big Na’kalauf man plainly took in the instruction and the new situation, and he bellowed at the frantic prisoners. “Pull! This way.”

He led by example. The bar bent and the prisoners were able to thrust their way to freedom. Several of them were down, but Pausert was not sure if they were dead or just injured. They had to be pushed and dragged along, until they could let those beyond them off. In the meanwhile, Ta’zara was shoving them toward the Venture‘s hold. He came back and helped Pausert to his feet. “Move you across now, Captain. The Leewit charged me with seeing to your safety.” 

Pausert was too tired to quibble, and anyway, his crossing the slippery transparent klatha-cocoon stuff was an encouragement to the others. Some had panicked and run. A few were helping others, but most of them were fearfully milling around, instead of moving into the light of the Venture‘s hold. Moving was a good idea, Pausert felt. The hulk of the pirate ship could break up more, and anyway, they were bleeding the Venture‘s air into the hulk. He said as much to Ta’zara, who nodded and went back. Pausert could hear him chivvying the prisoners along, getting them to carry some of those who were either unconscious or injured, or possibly dead.

Part of the problem was that there were a lot of people to move into a fairly full cargo-hold. After a while, Pausert got up enough strength to help marshal them around a bit.

“Captain,” said Vezzarn across the suit-radio. “We’re drifting in on those asteroids. I’m going to need to apply some thrust soon, Captain.”

“Get Ta’zara across from the hulk and close the hold doors,” said Pausert urgently.

“I am just back,” said Ta’zara. “I could find no more prisoners. I have carried the last three over. I think they are dead.”

Even if they were, there must be seventy people here, crowded into the hold. “Close the doors,” said Pausert, “And try to be gentle with the thrust, since no-one is strapped in.”

He was relieved to see the hold doors close. That had been his major unspoken stress. With that off his shoulders, all he wanted now was to lie down… and eat. The burst of power Vezzarn gave to the tubes was about as gentle as possible, but there was a limit to how little you could do with rocket tubes. It wasn’t a Pausert trademark takeoff, but still enough to knock most of them off their feet — except Ta’zara. He stepped over them to the captain, and picked him up as if he was a rag-doll.

“Taking you through to the Leewit, Captain,” he said firmly, and pushed and stepped his way through to the inner door to the hold. That was locked, but Ta’zara called through the radio, and got it unlocked. He put the captain down, and pushed back the four people who tried to follow. The Leewit was there already, getting his helmet undogged, and just about pouring some sickly-sweet gunk into his mouth. Well, normally it would have been sickly. Now, it tasted like nectar. “Help me carry him to his cabin,” she said. “He’s pushed it too far, again.”

Pausert didn’t try to resist, or walk. The Leewit was right, and she sounded far too worried for him to have argued, even if he felt he had the strength.

“We’ll deal, Captain. You just recover,” said Ta’zara.

And he was happy to do that, right now.