The Shaman of Karres – Snippet 14

Chapter 5

Captain Pausert found himself up before Judge Amorant — very briefly. The judge wasn’t much interested in keeping them in prison. Unfortunately the prosecutor was not of the same mind. “I see no reason why bail should not be granted,” said the judge, looking at the papers.

“Your Honor, they pose a serious flight risk. They have a spacecraft, and nothing to lose,” said the prosecutor.

The judge sighed. “Bail is granted with the conditional limitation that the prisoners not be permitted to pass though the spaceport air-lock. Bail is set at ten thousand maels. Settle it with the clerk or be returned to jail. Dismissed.”

So they filed out, with Captain Pausert wondering what to do now. They could draw ten thousand maels on the Venture‘s account with the Daal’s Bank. But the Leewit wasn’t going to sit patiently and wait. He could, possibly, use the Egger route, a way of transporting himself outside of space and time, but he didn’t think he could deal with doing so without help and also transporting the other two. And he couldn’t exactly leave them here. He paid the bail to buy time to think about it.

They were met outside the court by a rather grave-faced Chief-Inspector. “I am sorry about that,” said the policewoman awkwardly. “I should have anticipated that the prosecutor would try to stop bail and Judge Amorant would meet them half way. He makes an effort to be seen as fair. The best I can do is to offer to let you use the communicator in my office. Look, the young lady would be entirely free to leave the ship, to come to you. My officer reports he’s done a thorough search, found nothing and he’s desperate to escape another poker game. He wants to know who taught her to play cards.”

Pausert couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of the Leewit fleecing a green policeman. “That would be your fault, Vezzarn,” he said to the old spacer. “He taught both of my nieces.” In turning to look at the old spacer, Pausert noticed something odd — the scarecrow who had been put in the cell with them was also there. He blinked but said nothing about it. “I’ll take you up on your offer of being able to talk to my niece,” was all he said. 

 So the Chief-Inspector took Pausert and Ta’zara up to his office. Vezzarn said: “I’ll just as soon wait out here, Captain. Police offices make me nervous.”   

“They might ask where you learned to play cards,” said the captain, waving. He noticed the scarecrow man was still there. They went in and soon were talking to the Leewit — with a slightly alarmed looking policeman in the background. “Reckon I’ll stay put, so long as I know you’re all right,” she said, firmly, when he’d explained the situation, sounding very like her older sister, and giving Pausert a brief twinge of heart-sore. “But this fellow c’n leave,” she gestured at the policeman, “if you want him to. I’ve gotten all the money he had in his wallet, and I won’t take IOUs.” She looked at the Chief-Inspector. “You should pay him better.”

The captain was getting better at reading the Leewit by now. Good enough at it to figure out that there was something that she wasn’t saying in front of the policeman, and that she wanted him out of the Venture. So he played along. “All right. I suppose so,” he said with a suitable show of reluctance. “You can let him out then.”

“Right, Captain. I’ll be seeing you, soon. You give me a bollem-call, when you get here. Out,” said the Leewit.

“A bollem-call?” asked the Chief Inspector.

She was quick, Pausert thought. “A hunting call from our home world,” he explained, which was true, but didn’t explain just how it worked.

“Well, you’re free to come and use the communicator until the case, Captain,” she said. “I’ll be glad to have my assistant back. Now, you’ll need to find someplace to stay. I gather you have sufficient funds?”

“I guess I’ll need them,” said Pausert.

The Chief-Inspector grimaced. “Yes. The Boromir is good and clean — about the best medium priced of the accommodations. Otherwise the Deward is the most expensive, and there are whole rows of flop-houses along the Airlock-roads. The closer you get to each lock, the more likely you are to get robbed, especially if you’re drunk. I can take you anywhere you want to go, except the spaceport.”

“We’ll find our own way,” said Captain Pausert. “We’ve got time and it’s not like we could go anywhere before the trial.”

“True,” said the Chief-Inspector and let them go on their way.

Outside they found Vezzarn, and the fellow who had been put in their cell. Now Pausert could finally ask him: “What are you doing here?”

The man grinned disarmingly. “They let me out along ‘o you. So I just follered along. And it’s too late to get back in jail for a sleep now. ‘sides I come down and woke up, and listened to the Judge and that there prosecutor. You ain’t bonded to no-one are you?”

“No,” admitted Pausert. “My ship is sitting on the landing ground outside the spaceport…”

“Captain!” They were hailed from across the street by someone with a familiar face — Pausert recognized the man as the lean planar-faced fellow, Farnal, whom they’d rescued. He was standing in a group of the freed pirate slaves.

“Hello,” said Pausert, slightly warily.

“Captain,” said the man, hands out in appeal, “is there any chance of taking us as passengers to any other world? These poor souls don’t have access to funds, and if they stay here, they’ll be little more than slaves. I can pay, but… not a great deal.” 

“Please, Captain?” said one of the women. “There’s not much work here a decent woman can do, and this place is so expensive. We’ll never get out. I’ve got a family on Marcott.”

Pausert sighed. “Right now I am as stuck as you are, good folk. I’ve been charged with piracy and theft by that fellow Stratel that we rescued with you. I can’t go back to my ship until the case is heard.”

“What?” exclaimed Farnal, “That worm!”

“Pretty good description,” agreed Pausert. “The local police seem sure we’ll get off, but then, they were sure we could go back to the ship too. If we do get off, well, the ship could manage twenty people. It’d be uncomfortable and crowded, but there has to be another Empire world close by where at least you can breathe the air within a week or two.”

Farnal seized his hands. “Captain. You are a good man. I… I had no idea what happened here in the Empire. It is more rotten than I believed.”

“Where are you from then?” asked the captain, who knew, but was fishing.

“Iradalia. I was on a mission to investigate the slave trade, particularly the traffic through Karoda.” He almost spat that word out.

Pausert was glad the other rescuers were all talking at once. Karoda and Iradalia!  There was something very odd about that. “How long do have before the case, Captain?” asked someone in the hubbub.

“Four days,” he answered. “I gather we’ve been pushed up the roll.”

“Four days!” The woman who had exclaimed, shivered. There had been a limit to what the crew of the Venture 7333 could do about the rescued people’s clothing — and the slave-takers hadn’t cared. It was easy enough on the ship to turn the heating up but here… well, evening was coming on and it was already cooler. They might be in an enclosed dome, but plainly the sun did some of the warming of this environment.

“We will make some kind of plan, Salla,” said the gaunt man, looking worried nonetheless. He’d plainly taken on responsibility for the group. They had neither the money nor mental fortitude to do it for themselves.

Pausert felt sorry for them, but that was the difference between these, and Karres people. Karres witches, with or without klatha skills, would have made their own plans. “You could get arrested, and spend the night in jail,” he suggested. “I gather it’s the best and safest place to sleep around here.”

“And they give you breakfast,” volunteered the scarecrow local. “Just korma porridge, but it don’t cost anything and it is food.”

Their planar-faced leader looked somewhat taken aback. “I have never broken the law…”

“I think,” said Ta’zara with that gravelly firmness that quelled the other voices, “That you should go into that police station there, and ask for Chief-Inspector Salman. Tell her that someone threatened to harm you if you were to talk about the space rescue. Then she will have to protect you as witnesses.”