The Shaman of Karres – Snippet 09

Chapter 3

Goth had left Karres before the captain. Without saying proper goodbyes, which she was still kicking herself about, but…

She shook herself vigorously. No use being melancholy and miserable about it, even if she was both of those. She’d been taken in one of Karres’ fast two-man ships as far as Parisienne — a world undistinguished for anything much except being inside the Empire, a place of gentle and beautiful warm oceans, and the major producer of sheen fabric. Sheen was harvested from the cocoons of a local sea creature, the squill, which had failed to thrive anywhere else. It was pretty, shimmery, strong and soft. There were plenty of fabrics that filled that brief, but sheen had one other desirable property — it wicked moisture away very effectively. You were never sweaty in sheen. It was very popular on hot worlds. It did have one other, much less popular feature. It didn’t last. The cocoons broke down to release the sea-squill young three hundred and seventeen Parisienne days after it had been secreted. The fabric, even spun, did the same. Every year there was a rush to get the new sheen garments to the markets as fast as possible. Customers liked their cloth as quickly as possible, and prices were determined by the time since harvest. As a result, Parisienne saw a great deal more fast ships than most worlds, so it was a good spot to blend into the traffic to her next destination.

Her pilot was none other than Olimy, who they had rescued what seemed like forever-ago back on Uldune. He set her down on a small island.

There was literally not another person there — which made it a perfect landing-spot for a small spacecraft of extremely advanced design that Karres did not wish to advertise. All the stealthing and cloaking gear in the galaxy couldn’t stop an accidental sighting — but darkness and twenty miles of surrounding ocean did.

“Your mother put together some tourist gear for you,” he said, handing her a small bag. “There will be several dive boats along during the day. They always land the passengers here to have a little shore time — you just join them when they leave.”

“Where is the nearest spaceport?” she asked.

“Pagette. The boats all come from Moonah-town. It’s a small port, not one of the big centers, but it’s got a hover-rail link to Pagette. It takes about three hours, so the dive trips are cheaper than the nearer places. There are enough people, not too obvious. I’ve used the route a few times now. It’s easy and safe enough, and with the tourists, simple not to be noticed.”

“No one told me anyone was looking for me,” said Goth. “Anything else I’m not being told, Olimy?”

“We don’t know if anyone is looking for you. We do know someone was tracking Captain Pausert’s cargo, for some reason, but we dealt with that. We’re just not taking chances with you. The prognosticators thought this would be a good place to land you, so here you are,” he said cheerfully. “You’d better look at the papers that are in the bag with your money. You’ll want to adjust your appearance.”

He climbed back into the ship, and Goth was left to watch the small craft rise and vanish in a way that the Empire and many others would love to know more about. And then she was alone on the beach, listening to the lapping waves as the sky began to lighten with the dawn. It was quite cool at this time of day, so Goth looked in the bag, thinking she’d add a few layers.

That, she realized rapidly, wasn’t going to happen. The bag had a towel and a skimpy swimsuit, jeweled sandals, and a twisted object that folded out into a broad-brimmed hat, and some fashionable eye-shades — and that was it, besides a sequined purse.

The purse, which she examined in the light of Parisienne’s slightly mauve new-risen sun, had a cool quarter of a million Imperial maels in it, an Imperial passport in the name of Leinna Dol Armoth and some sun-screen and hair-ties. She sighed. Hair ties. Essential survival equipment, when you are cast away on a desert island, with no breakfast. Almost less useful than all the money — which was a lot, even for Karres.

So, hungry and a little irritable, Goth sat down to wait. She could have tried to catch some fish or eat the local shellfish, she supposed, but she had no idea if anything was edible, or tasty, and it wasn’t worth experimenting for the short time she expected to be here. She sat in the sun, and then when that gotten too hot, moved into the shade. Out on the purplish-blue water she could see other islands and what could be a boat in the distance. She got herself changed, and wrapped herself in the towel — it was still cool enough to make that a good thing. She thought about burying her clothes, but as everything that wasn’t beach on the island was cloaked in low green vegetation, out of which various odd-shaped trees grew, she settled for ‘porting them into a hole in a tree trunk, a long way up one of the trees.

A startled-looking, long-beaked emerald-and-ruby shimmery bird emerged from the hole seconds later, and flew off squawking indignantly. That made Goth jump — and then laugh. She hadn’t laughed since they told her what she was going to have to do, all on her own.

It wasn’t as good as breakfast and a drink, but it did make her feel much better. So she found a patch of sun behind some trees, and went to sleep. She awoke much later, hot, to the sound of voices and laughter. It was apparent that the tourists had arrived on the island. She went out to join them. There were several boats at anchor along the jetty that jutted out into the bay in front of the island. Her clothing was a close match for what most of the people playing in the shallow water or sitting or lying on the sand were wearing. Goth sat down among them and applied sun-screen, and looked about for something to eat… which she failed to see.