The Shaman of Karres – Snippet 15

“What?” said the Planar-faced man, looking puzzled.

“I c’n threaten you!” offered the scarecrow, generously.

“And I too,” said Ta’zara. “You are afraid, because I was a threat on the ship. And now you have seen me on the streets.”

“But… but you aren’t dangerous. I mean you were just helping to keep order,” said one of the people they’d rescued.”

“But I am dangerous. The most dangerous man you may ever meet,” said Ta’zara calmly. “It is to whom I am dangerous that you do not know. But the police will believe you. They want to. And then you can testify at the case.”

“Let us do this,” said their leader. “I do not like to bend the truth, but I can see that it will serve us all and justice best in the long run.”

So the group of rescued passengers headed toward the police station, which gave Pausert and his companions a chance to move away. “You know, Captain, once that prosecutor gets back to that Stratel fellow, they probably will be looking for witnesses against us. And possibly trying to get us back in jail,” said Vezzarn nervously. “I know the type. It’s how they work, Captain.”

“Yes,” said Pausert. “They’ll certainly try to arrest Ta’zara. For menaces. You just gave them reason, Ta’zara.”

“But you are planning to get us back onto the ship, Captain,” said Ta’zara, imperturbably. “You and the Leewit.”

The captain shook his head. “I just hope the police don’t read me as well as you do. I was planning to fly off and leave them to it, but maybe I need to re-think this. In the light of something that came up.”

“I know how you call bollems,” said Ta’zara, with just a hint of a smile. “How do you plan to do this, Captain?”

The captain looked at the scarecrow-gatherer, who was in a conversation with Vezzarn — a conversation that involved lots of wild gestures. He seemed very busy with it. “I was going to pay him to lead us around, outside, to the ship.”

 Ta’zara nodded. “He drinks too much, Captain. Also uses some kind of narcotic drug. He may be less than reliable.”

“Yes. But he’s not young. And it is tough out there, I gather. He’s still alive, so he must be quite good at it. And all we have to do is take a walk around the domes. I can get us in to the field with the ship.”

Later, in a small eatery that the gatherer recommended as cheap but good, with prices that made Captain Pausert’s frugal Nikkeldepain upbringing reel. They put this to the gatherer and discovered they were wrong about just walking. The gatherer, whose name it turned out was Nady, just laughed.

“So it can’t be done?” asked the captain, wondering if, with his klatha skills and Vezzarn’s mastery of lock-picking, and Ta’zara being something of a one man army, they could get through the spaceport itself.

“Well now, it’s not that it cain’t be done. You cain’t just walk around. You’d have to go down North Valley, and over Kassarite pass, ‘n down Jagged-Ferd Gorge. And then the port’s got a wall around it, to keep the porpentiles out. I could get you that far. But you cain’t get through the wall, and it’s got detectors along the top.”

“You get us there, we’ll deal with that,” said the captain.

“Oh, I c’n do that. But you’re gu-nna have to kit up. You’ll die in them clothes.”

“How much?” asked Vezzarn. He’d dealt with enough smuggling operations in the past, Pausert knew. He’d be the best to negotiate a deal.

Nady rubbed the side of his long bony red-tipped nose, thoughtfully. “You really reckon you can do it? Well, then. I reckon I c’n do you a deal. Less we talk about here…” He looked around warily, “the better. Come on. Let’s get moving.”

So they did, trooping out after him. He seemed in a tearing hurry, suddenly. “We are being followed,” said Ta’zara, quietly.

Nady looked back and swore. “It’s some of that Kranslit Bormgo’s goons.”

“Let us go down this little side walkway,” Ta’zara, calmly, steering him by an elbow.

“But it’s a dead end,” protested Nady.

“Perfect. It will not take long,” said Ta’zara. “Wait.”

Their two followers came around the corner hastily, looking for them. And then, they saw Ta’zara detach himself from the wall he’d been leaning against — between them and the way out. They were big, heavy-set men. One man behind them didn’t seem to worry them that much. One of the two reached for a pocket… but his hand never gotten there. The Na’kalauf bodyguard moved so smoothly it was actually deceptive. It didn’t look fast, but he somehow chopped down hard on the reaching forearm, and then literally banged their heads together. As they fell, he reached out to squeeze something in their necks. Squeeze and hold, until he dropped them. “We can leave now,” he said.

“Great Patham!” exclaimed Nady. “I ain’t picking fights with you, broad-feller. Let’s go quick before their friends find ’em.”

So they followed, into a somewhat more seedy area, the apartment blocks going right up to the dome. He led them into one of these. Up flight after flight of stairs, leaving Vezzarn panting, and even the captain breathing a bit harder. Sitting in a command chair kept your wits fit, not your legs. Eventually they stopped at a very ordinary looking door. Their guide knocked on it, a complicated pattern of taps. A voice spoke through the speaker grill. “Who is it?”

“Nady Darrish. I’ve come about the pipes.”

There was a pause. And then the wall behind them swung open — not the door. “This way,” said Nady. “Quick. She don’t keep it open long.”

They went in down a passage and up yet another stair, through what was plainly a blast-door from a space-craft. It swung open as they gotten there to reveal a neat office, as might have belonged to any minor businessman. That was a bit worrying, Pausert thought. It was plain they were dealing with some kind of criminal, and he’d had concluded after his various experiences that the really powerful ones tried not to look it.

The woman sitting at the desk didn’t look at all criminal. Her age was hard to guess, but it was somewhere between thirty and fifty. She was perfectly made-up, neat hair, good clothing but not too revealing. She had the kind of face which said to a smart gambler: do not play cards with me. And behind her stood another Na’kalauf warrior, plainly her bodyguard. Neither the man nor Ta’zara gave any sign of recognizing or even acknowledging the other.

“Ah. The spaceship captain and his associates. Well done, Nady,” said the woman.

“And you are?” asked Pausert.

“I am Me’a,” she said with just a hint of a wry smile. “Don’t cross me, or you will regret it.”

“I actually don’t want to cross you at all. I just want out of this dome and back to my ship,” said the captain.

“And I want to know exactly what is going on,” she answered. “So perhaps if you help me, I can try help you. Although I am not sure even I can get you through the spaceport locks.”

“They was talkin’ about going around outside,” said Nady. “Seemed to think they could get through the wall.”

She looked at them. “That would be worth doing, if you could get back into your ship once you were there. We’ve thought about it.”

“Why haven’t you done it?” asked the captain. He was sure now that he’d landed up right among the smugglers. That could be tricky, as he really didn’t need the police regarding him as a prime suspect after all. She was undoubtedly dangerous, and she had a bodyguard who was also a Na’kalauf warrior.

She shrugged. “Most ships are not allowed to remain long. Daytime landings only. And the perimeter wall has heat and sound sensors in it, so cutters and explosives cannot be used. They used to have infrared scanners on the field, but the system broke down — and they hadn’t ever had an incident, so they didn’t bother to replace it.” She grimaced slightly. “We keep a close eye on what they have. There are easier ways for small volumes. They would not work well on people… Captain Pausert.”

Pausert wondered if he should try a klatha cocoon on her, or the bodyguard. “How did you know that?” he said as calmly as he could.