“You know lattice ships?” he asked.

She nodded. “Yeah. And I know what I’m doing. Take care of those little ones.”

She was reluctant to leave, Goth discovered. She had never thought that she’d appreciate a champion. That was not the kind of thing Karres witches found necessary too often. Mind you, they’d let Pausert be one. It had seemed right. But the lattice ship would leave Nikkeldepain soon, and she still had the better part of six months to spend here.

She clambered up the beam like a monkey, and was not that surprised to see the third member of the chase-pack waiting up there in the high shadows. And he’d seen her, too. Well, he was probably their cat-burglar. She should have realized that they’d have hired one for the break-ins. She’d just have to hope that she could climb quicker, and that he wasn’t going to start shooting.

The light up in the beams and rafters of the lattice-ship was not that good. It made moving fast risky. Goth just hoped it made shooting riskier. He was climbing about as fast as she was. She was tempted to ‘port a small bird perched on a nearby rafter into the folds of her pursuer’s coveralls, to distract and delay him. But she knew she didn’t have much klatha energy left and figured she’d be smarter to save it for later.

She swung down to the aisle behind the sideshow stalls where she and the Leewit had had their act. It was quicker to run than it was to climb, so, no surprise, Mebeckey and Marshi were very close. She dropped into the gap next to Timblay the folding man’s stall — he was bad-tempered at the best of times — and slipped out of the narrow passage that led to his boxes and paraphernalia as quickly as possible. Within seconds, she was back onto the main aisle.

They’d seen her drop into the gap and ran there.

So did several other people, some of them of considerable size and bulk. Goth had to dodge sideways to avoid being flattened.

“What are you doing here?” demanded one of the large men who had now cornered the two perps in the narrow passage.

Once more, Mebeckey attempted to use his false identification. “Special Investigations, Nikkeldepain Police. We believe you’re harboring a fugitive,” he said, flashing the card.

“Yeah? Let’s see that card again.”

“You’re obstructing police investigation. We’re in hot pursuit –”

“Let’s see the card again, mister,” said the big roustabout, his arms folded.

“I will warn you just once more. You’re obstructing the course of justice!” Mebeckey reached into his jacket. It was going to be a gun that came out this time, Goth suspected, and readied herself to act.

A shriek, a crash and the tearing of synthasilk turned heads. It was the third member of the group, who’d apparently tried to climb faster than he could really handle. He fell right through a sideshow awning, which probably saved his life. But landing in the same environment as Merisco and his dancing jungle-cats nearly lost it for him again. He did, however, cause enough of a distraction for Mebeckey and Marshi to flee.

Goth stood quietly in the shadows and watched as the cat-burglar was very ungently evicted from the premises of the circus. The images of Mebeckey and Marshi had also been captured, even if they hadn’t. They had been chased. The ticket office was informed, and given pictures of the three. Goth wished that they’d caught them and turned them over to the local police, but that wasn’t the circus way, unless the crime involved was something like murder or kidnapping. It wasn’t worth getting bogged down with local law enforcement.

Goth couldn’t be too sure they wouldn’t be back. She couldn’t spend too long in the circus, either. The security systems were on full alert now, and there were some fairly sophisticated gadgets and some very-far-from-stupid people here. They were plainly still looking for her, or anything odd. She figured it would be best to get out while the getting was good. The map could wait for a day or two until she could collect it.

So Goth left, quietly, into an open field on the far side of the lattice ship. Walking along toward the monorail she spotted the red people-carrier bumping its way towards her. She was getting powerfully tired of them by now! At least the vehicle had the advantage of being very recognizable.

Reluctantly, she decided she had no choice but to use some more klatha. The limit on her ‘porting was a few pounds and had slowly increased with age. There were a few rocks of the right size in the field. She ‘ported one into the motor of the red vehicle. She had the satisfaction of seeing it come to an abrupt halt, and the three climb out and open the hood. They’d not fix that in a hurry!

For good measure she also ‘ported Mebeckey’s wallet—she’d seen it twice and that was enough — into her hand. That would cut, temporarily, his access to cash for things like replacement vehicles, although the others would probably have at least mono-rail fares. A pity, but she couldn’t see any easy way of dealing with that. So she left them trying to fix the vehicle and boarded the monorail car.

She soon realized that she’d underestimated Mebeckey and his cohorts. The woman, still panting, boarded the monorail just before it left the station. She looked around and sat down, making no attempt to get closer to Goth. But she had her wrist-communicator. Goth wondered why the desperate need to keep her in sight. They could track her anyway.

Then it occurred to her. The map-box! They were worried she might stash it or pass it on to someone. Ha. A lightshift image of a carrier bag was not a hard task, even as klatha-depleted as she was.

So, just as the monorail was about to leave the next station, she jumped up, raced to a door, and appeared to throw a carrier bag onto the dock. Then, made as if she was going to follow the bag onto the dock.

That last little subterfuge probably wasn’t necessary, though. Marshi wasn’t even looking her way any more. The woman was frantically pushing back the closing door in her part of the car. She managed to leap onto the dock just as the monorail took off again.

Goth kept the image of the carrier bag intact until the very moment when Marshi, with a triumphant little yell, bent over to snatch it up. The look on the woman’s face when the bag just vanished was priceless.

The monorail was much too far away by now for Marshi to continue her pursuit. Goth leaned back in her seat and considered her situation. First and foremost, it was by now obvious that she had to lose the spy lock and put these three out of commission for a long time. That was easier said than done, of course. It was at times like this that she would have appreciated getting back onto the Venture and getting as far away as the ship could take her — and Pausert — away from here. Or even, as awful as it was, the Egger route. But there were things that had to be sorted out here. And she knew that she would be here for another six months.

The monorail took her back to the center of Nikkeldepain city, with the car getting fuller and fuller. Goth was grateful now for the tour that Pausert had given her. The Central Museum of Historical Nikkeldepain seemed like a place that would upset the locals sufficiently.