The Shaman of Karres – Snippet 19

Goth could see that it was more than just a question of getting out of the cabin. They could hardly run this rig without at least some of the crew of the ship, if not the captain, being in the know. And in space… well, the captain was the law, the judge, the jury and even the executioner if need be. Goth could take the Egger route out of here, or could simply vanish with a light-shift. But that wouldn’t exactly help Mindi. The kidnap gang could easily kill her to do away with a witness, and dump her out of an airlock. They probably would, if Goth just left her there.

It was just as well that Pausert wasn’t here, because he’d have broken out and be knocking heads together already, Goth thought. Goth planned on doing the same, but she wasn’t going to miss any heads that should get knocked. They were going to regret kidnapping a Karres witch. Of that she planned to make absolutely certain.

It might be just as well the captain wasn’t there, but thinking about what he might do to them made her smile.

The hyper-electronic force-cuffs were a problem. The force-field they generated between them was not something she could ‘port away. She could port the solid part of the mechanism — or bits out of it away, but that risked either a rapidly contracting or expanding forcefield. Ai best that could cut her hands off, at worst expand and kill her. It was why police forces across space used them. They couldn’t be cut or broken off. Without the correct unlocking code the prisoner was in for a worse fate, trying to escape them. Of course, there were ways of dealing with even that problem — a lock was still a lock, and experts like Vezzarn could deal with them, easily, especially on the cheaper ones.  Captain Pausert’s klatha skills with cocoons would work. The Daal of Uldune would have something in his laboratories too.

There was just one problem. They weren’t here, and she was. All she had was the ability to teleport, to shift light around and the ability to read from contact the histories of places. Strong emotions left imprints. Thinking of that she turned to touch the wall… and wished she hadn’t.

She and Mindi were far from the first victims to be kidnapped and held here. Fear and hurt were in these walls — not in her bunk. The reason, when she looked carefully was possible to see. It was new. There were scars where the old one had been torn out… the walls carried hope, despair and a ram. Not everyone who had been in here had been ready to give up.

But, by the fact that it was still ongoing, that she and Mindi were prisoners now, they probably hadn’t succeeded in their brave effort.

When two of their captors came to check, feed, and, it seemed, to question her, Goth was ready for action. It was Jaccy, who, it seemed was the leader of the kidnappers with one of his henchmen. They had Clipe needlers, and nerve-jangler whips at their belts, or, in Jaccy’s case, his hand. He wasted no time in using it either, swinging it at Goth’s face. She ducked, only getting a few of the tendrils across her scalp.

It was enough to make her yell. And to ‘port the charge unit out of it as he raised it to hit her again. The whip itself had soft, spongy tendrils, intended to cling and transmit. Without the charge unit it was a bit like being hit by a dust-cloth. But Goth did her best to yell the walls down. The Leewit would have been proud of her. It made the unpleasant Jaccy smile and tell her to shut up, and if she yelled again, he’d hit her again. “And it won’t help you to scream, anyway. The cabin is soundproofed. Now I want some answers. You make them good or I’ll hit you again. Where did all the money in your purse come from?”

Goth had had time to think about this. If they gotten the idea that she had family or friends who might look for her, they might just try to kill her. Most likely they would kill Mindi as well. “I stole it,” she said, sullenly. She took the opportunity to ‘port the power unit out of the Clipe needlers. No sense in making it easy for them, should they decided to kill the two of them anyway.

That was enough to make the thugs pay attention. “What? Where from?” demanded Jaccy.

“Gambling syndicate, back on Merega V. Illegal, so they couldn’t set the cops on me. I still wanted to get a long way away. So I took this ship, because she’s fast. I reckoned on Morteen I could get some fake documents, and make my way to somewhere out of reach.”

Jaccy actually laughed at that. “You’re gonna be out of reach, all right, once you get to Karoda.”  He raised the whip again. “Now, I’m gonna teach you a little lesson…”

“Don’t! Please don’t!” begged Mindi. “She’s… she young.”

“Aw shut up,” said Jaccy and turned to swing the whip at her.

Goth realized that the red-head probably wouldn’t figure out that she should act as if it hurt. She had to work fast. She’d figured out exactly what was needed to make the light switch work, and ‘ported part of that out. The little cabin plunged into darkness, as the butt of the second thug’s jangler was ported into her hand. It still had its charge unit, unlike Jaccy’s. The force-cuffs stopped Goth getting the sort of swing in that she’d have liked, but the yells and screams said she’d gotten a good few tendrils on both of them. She kept it up, until she had the door open. Then it was time for a good strike with the whip at Jaccy’s throat, jam the switch on her whip, and to assume no-shape.

Jaccy was screaming at his henchman to get it off him. To kill her. Goth took the opportunity to relieve both of them of their Clipe pistols.

“My gun! It’s gone! She’s gotten my gun!” yelled the second thug. They both bundled out of the door, slammed it, and bolted it behind them. That was fine from Goth’s point of view, because she was already out of the cabin. They couldn’t lock it because Goth had the key — which she ‘ported into the bathroom. Mindi would be safer in for now — if Goth could keep them out — or if she had the brains to lock the door. For good measure Goth ported a Clipe pistol and its power unit back into the prison-cabin too.

The cabin was down a little passage from the stateroom she’d been kidnapped from, presumably some kind of servant’s room. Now free of the jangler, Jaccy and his henchman staggered in, unaware that Goth was in there with them. It took a while for Jaccy to stop swearing, and a terribly upset Yelissa to stop fussing and crying over him, and the henchman to stop apologizing. “I’m sorry, boss. I don’t how she got my gun.”

“Patham’s seventh Hell! You’re an idiot, Mogon!” snarled Jaccy, unaware that his gun too was missing. “Now just what the hell are we going to do? She’s got the key and your gun.”

Goth was rather interested in finding out herself. So she waited. It seemed that none of them really knew either, and the best answer they could come up with was to call in the rest of their crew.

That was useful too, and revealed that Goth had been completely right — some part of the ship’s crew had to be involved. In all, there were six of them. A steward, the ship’s purser, and Jacci, Mogon, Yelissa and the other gamblers. “We’ll have to tell the Old Man,” said the purser, worriedly. “He’s not going to be pleased.”

“He’s made enough money off us,” snapped Jaccy. “First time he’s had to lift a finger.”

“He was angry when he had to replace that bunk,” said the purser, wringing her hands.

“We paid for it. And we got a good haul out of that Leinna’s purse. I say we just kill them and move on.”

“How? I mean she’s gotten the key, and a gun. If she hasn’t locked the door we could rush her, maybe surprise her. But if we have to batter it open, she’ll have plenty of time to be ready to shoot us.”

“Starve her out,” said Mogon. “She’s a madwoman.”

“She’s a tough one. Must be a high gravity and high toxin world she comes from. She took a lot of knock-out, and she took on two of us, with force-cuffs on. I don’t know how long she can go without food. Can we cut her water off?” Jaccy asked the crew-members.

“Not easy. That’s engineering’s area. And you know the Chief Engineer… well, he’s not going to just do it,” said the purser, looking at the steward. “Not without coming to look at the problem. From inside the cabin.”

“If the captain told him to?” asked Jaccy.

“Not if Patham himself told him to,” said the steward. “He’s a tough old bird, and his engineers listen to him, no one else. It’s always just about open war between engineering and the topside crew. He’s the best, the sheen-trade needs the best, and he knows it.”

“We could negotiate. Lure the two of them out, promise to let them go, and then deal with them,” said Yelissa. “They’d be so much happier if they cooperated. That poor Mindi has been so sad.”

“Oh shut up, woman,” said Jaccy. “Mind you, you might have a point. Let the two of them go hungry a day or two. And then we’ll negotiate. We can yell through the door, she should hear it. We’ve got a few days until we reach Tardelote. And when they’re good and hungry we can dope the food we send in.”

That was enough to give Goth ideas. They must have a stock of that knock-out drug and at least she knew who the enemy were, and that the Chief Engineer was probably someone who would help, and the captain, wasn’t. And for now, Mindi was safe enough. Goth hoped she had the sense to use the bathroom light, because the cabin light wasn’t ever going to work again.