So they walked around to the back of the building. Goth was now really quite nervous. She would have done this in no-shape or light-shifted to look like something that belonged here, but she couldn’t do that in his company. The “close your eyes” trick would never work twice.

She found herself appealing to the Toll teaching pattern in her head. And yes, there was an answer. Not quite as good as no-shape or a light-shift, but it would make them a lot harder to notice, without being obvious to young Pausert. He could go on imagining they were just incredibly lucky. She’d bent light around herself and others before. Made refractory illusions of light-shifts. She could also bend light around the air. It was tricky. Air was not co-operative about staying in the same place. The molecules moved unpredictably. But an illusion could be created in it.

Goth tried to trace the klatha patterns in her head, but it was like herding smoke. The best she could do, unpracticed, was to create a greenish haze around them. And that made her sweat.

“Guess we just hope no-one is looking out of the window,” said Pausert, his voice sounding a little uneasy.

“Nothing to stop us walking here. You said the gardens are open to the public. Try to look like you’re having fun.”

“Oh, but I am. Really. I haven’t made a lot of friends here.”

“You don’t fit here too well,” said Goth. “Don’t worry, eventually you’ll find a place and people that you do fit in with perfectly.”

“You sound like you know,” said Pausert, half-smiling.

“Do, I guess. I’ve been a lot of places.” She did not add that quite a lot of them had been with him.

By this time they had reached the down-pipe, in among some bushes. Here, at the back of the institute, the gardens sloped away to open land beyond the city edge, and scattered small-holdings and farms. There was nothing that close at hand that they were likely to be seen, unless it was by someone wandering in the slightly unkempt gardens.

“You first,” she said, pointing at the pipe. That way she could hide him in a light shift while he climbed. He stood just a little straighter at what he plainly perceived as a responsibility, and set off up the pipe. Goth hid him in a light shift, merely patterning his back to look like the wall and pipe. By the way he huffed and puffed, she thought critically, he was not as fit as he could be. About time she got to work on that! She wondered if there was some local equivalent of the mountain bollem she could talk him into hunting with her. There was nothing like that for getting you in shape.

When he was up, she followed him, climbing the pipe as easily as a staircase. Soon they were both on the roof tiles, moving to the rows of skylights. The institute roof was taller than any of the other buildings in the area, and so not overlooked. It was gently sloping and not difficult to move on, just a little hot. Goth was glad it was winter. Pausert was sparkling with the sheer adventure. It was Goth’s turn to be wary now. She was learning a great deal by being responsible for him, for a change.

They peered down through the first skylight. The plants looked quite different from above and Goth couldn’t be sure just where her patch of maroon leafed markers were. But Pausert had a good sense of direction — or just knew the place very well — and had them move on. At the third skylight he tried found what he was looking for. “Okay, now if we tie the rope to that bar…”

“If we just sit still and watch for the patrols,” said Goth firmly.

“Well, all right. It’s just that I have math homework to do. You will tomorrow, too.”

Goth had not previously encountered “homework.” It didn’t sound like she was going to enjoy it, though. They watched. After about twenty minutes they had the patrol schedule sorted out. It seemed that orders had come down for more patrolling, and maybe even IR beams, but the security patrol had had many peaceful years of drinking tea and occasional saunters through the beds of plants from a hundred worlds, and weren’t about to let a bunch of kids change that.

They tied the rope securely, after a short but fierce debate about who could tie the better knots, and dropped down into the dense foliage of a makemake tree. At least, that was what Goth thought Pausert said. It seemed a strange thing to call anything. After another heated debate both of them went down. Goth did put her foot down little this time and went first in spite of his protests. She soon wished that she hadn’t. Makemake was obviously “make you itch,” but after her first brush with the leaves she carefully avoided them, ‘porting some out of the way, rather than touch them. She could think of no way of telling Pausert about it, so he just had to find out for himself.

Once down onto a narrow little walkway, they stood and scratched their arms and legs, until, avoiding any more leaves, they made their way to the edge of the bed and down into the corridor between the botanical beds. It had all seemed quite easy so far, but a few yards from the locker below the planting of maroon leafed Mularina tremblence from Coolumns world, they must have walked through one of the infrared beams. Goth had forgotten them.

A siren sounded. “Back to the rope, quickly,” said Goth. They ran back and crawled under the stinging foliage. Goth did a light-shift on the rope, just where it was visible above the tree.

“It came from here. From this sector,” said the lead guard.

“Probably a bird or something,” said the second security guard. “They keep getting in.”

“Someone could be hiding in the bed. It’s one of the ones with a sampling walkway.”

“Don’t be crazy. That’s a makemake tree. No-one would go near it. You itch for days.”

Goth knew all about that. It was hard staying still and not scratching. She still didn’t have her coat.

“I think we’ll just have to keep watch here for a bit. Radio in and have them activate the beams again. That way we’ll know if whatever it is decides to go anywhere.”

After a while Goth decided to risk a peep. And a quiet scratch. The two guards were sitting on the edges of the plant beds, right next to the locker that held her coat. It was probably too big to ‘port, but she tried anyway, out of sheer frustration — and was rewarded by her miffel-fur coat. Her teleporting abilities must be getting better with practice and age. And so they need not have come down here, and had the encounter with the makemake tree. Now, would patience serve? The itching was something fierce.