The Shaman of Karres – Snippet 32
Sitting in the cleared cabin, Goth thought about her situation. They had brought her bag from the hotel, hastily and badly packed. She could wait until they decided to take steps to make her a slave or toss her off the ship into space. She could do her best to see that went badly wrong for them. Or…
Or she could take steps before they even tried. The best and simplest step, now that she’d established that this was definitely the ship she needed to be on, was not to be there when they came hunting for her. So she stepped into no-shape, and took herself into the gangway — just in time, as the mate came along and locked her cabin door. But she was no longer inside it.
Goth set off to explore the ship. It was plain to her that it was a space-travelling garbage dump. The crew obviously had no love for it. There were quite a lot of cabins they could have put her in, it turned out, even a long-unoccupied stateroom of dusty splendor, and very little clutter. It even had its own robobutler — in need of restocking, but that she could do, and did, from their stores. The luxurious room would do for a base, and had, in addition to the standard lock, a plain old-fashioned sturdy bolt. Even in a time of hyperelectronic locks, that was hard to beat.
The ship had a lower crew number than it was built to carry — seven that she’d been able to count. Goth decided they were as dodgy a lot as she’d ever encountered. She checked out the ship’s guns and its missile pods, and found them to be in good order. They plainly expected trouble. She checked out the hold, expecting to find trading goods of some kind, even if it was as useless as a tinklewood fishing-rod. But most of it seemed given over to food, drink, building materials and agricultural tools — and weapons. Military grade blasters in one crate, and two crates of power units for various caliber blasters. Any customs inspector might have had a few questions about those, but it was plain this ship had few troubles in that respect.
Goth spent a happy hour re-organizing the consignment labels. The blasters became canned soup, and the power units became toilet paper. The toilet paper became nails… and so on. There’d be no way of telling what was in the crates without opening the lot. And if they needed power-units in a hurry, they were in for a nasty shock.
No-shape wasn’t as tiring as some kinds of klatha. But Goth was still glad to return to the abandoned stateroom and use the robobutler, which was an excellent, top-of-the-range product. She laid down to sleep on the dusty bed, which made her sneeze a bit, but it was still more comfortable than the cubby-hole they’d put her in would have been.
She awoke to the sounds of take-off, and hastily got herself strapped in. Not long afterward, that she heard the sound of doors being crashed open down the passage. Some yelling. It seemed like they’d discovered she wasn’t locked up in the cabin they’d put her in. How the Leewit would have enjoyed that!
Then she heard someone trying the door of the stateroom. It was bolted. “She must be in here!” said a female voice.
“But… but it’s the boss’s cabin!” said another, shocked voice.
“Where else could she be?”
“Lots of places,” said the other voice, plainly uneasy.
“But this door is locked.”
“Forz might have locked it. Or the Skipper.”
“Yeah? Well you go and check. I’ll stay here.”
Goth could have kicked herself for not thinking this through. As quietly as possible she slid the bolt open, unlocked the door and turned the lights out. She just had time to do that when the sound of several people outside alerted her to their return.
“It’s a re-enforced door,” said a voice she recognized as the mate. “If she’s locked herself in, we’ll have to wait until we get to Lumajo to get a cutting torch.”
Someone then tried the door. “Great Patham, Felap! What an idiot you are. It’s open.” The door swung open.
“Ought we to go in, Forz? It’s the boss’ cabin,” said the same nervous voice.
“If you don’t tell him, I won’t,” said Forz.
“Yeah. But he might find out…” the whiney-voice sounded like that might be a really bad idea.
“Skaz, shut up. Get in and search”
Someone flipped the light on. Goth was safe in no-shape. Then she realized that she should have stayed lying on the bed, because the dust betrayed her. And by the drawn weapons they were planning on tossing her out of that airlock, dead. “Someone’s been here! Jines, you and Felap search the bathroom.”
They did while the others peered in cupboards and corners and under the bed. Which was quite fun, except for the dust. Goth felt that sneeze building, and building. You can’t stop a sneeze.
She hastily ‘ported a glass into the bathroom and dropped it. And muffled her sneeze as best as possible. Luckily, the breaking glass had had enough effect to make the sneeze irrelevant. “You broke one of the boss’s glasses!” yelled one of the searchers, with the meaty sound of blow.
“Ow! I didn’t! Jines, you must have done it. You always blame me! Stop hitting me. I’ve cut myself.” Whiny Felap fled the bathroom, clutching a bleeding hand. “Forz. It wasn’t me. Stop her.”
“Don’t you drip blood on the carpet! Get out, you fool. Come on, all of you out. She’s not here. I’ll lock it up as soon as you’re out. I’ll bring you back to clean up the glass later, Felap.”
Goth got out too. That was a little tricky because you could still be bumped into, in no-shape. And you could have someone stand on your foot in their space-boots, and not be able to yell. Goth did shove the woman really hard, so she fell and nearly shot the mate, Forz.
It was all Goth could do, watching the fight, to not betray herself by laughing. She had to bite her sleeve, and retreat a bit, in case they heard her snorting, trying to breathe, not sneeze again, and stop laughing. They’d been all for killing her and dumping her out of an airlock, and had had something to do with the disappearance of Pausert’s mother, at least. They were in for a rough trip, she decided. Besides, they ought to keep their ship cleaner.
Goth soon had a fairly firm understanding of the crew and the workings of the Bolivar. Getting to know them didn’t help Goth like them one bit more. They had two theories on what had happened to her. The one was that she’d fled the ship before take-off, which was possible. Their watch was not very good, they even admitted that themselves. That worried them a lot. They really didn’t want anyone disturbing their very profitable business. The second idea was that she was still on board, hiding. And, as Forz held by that theory, they searched. And searched. Goth could have followed them around. But it was easier to sit in Forz’s cabin and wait. It was boring, so she whiled away her time making holes in his socks, cutting the stitching on the back of his trousers so they would rip suddenly and soon. It wasn’t a very grown-up thing to do, Goth admitted. But who wanted to be grown-up all the time? She’d had to be, and pretend to look that way, for too much time on this trip. She just wanted to go back to the Venture and back to being herself. And back to the captain. That couldn’t happen, yet. So instead she unpicked stitches.