THE SORCERESS OF KARRES — Snippet 20
She was quite reluctant to even touch the box again. On the other hand, she was now very sure that she shouldn’t let it fall into the hands of Mebeckey and his cohorts. If she left the box here they might come back and find it. But she couldn’t just take it, since that would be rather obvious. Looking at the wall and the faint line where someone had obviously dusted often, the box had been lying on that shelf for many years. The box, however, was almost the same size and shape as the box her breakfast had come in. That was now in the previously empty trash-can attached to a post just down the road.
Goth went and fetched it, and put it under the cloth. It was much the same height, and nearly as wide. Unless they looked closely no one would never know that a substitution had been made.
She couldn’t cope with actually touching the box for more than a few seconds. But with a little experimentation, she discovered that a bit of cloth — anything — between her and it, and she felt fine. She settled for taking two squares of kitchen towel and wrapping it in that and putting it in a carrier bag. It wasn’t a very large box. She’d have to get something else to put it in once she got back to what she had decided would be “her” apartment.
Perhaps it was having been taken by surprise once before that made Goth more wary. This time she actually spotted her assailants before they got to her, although they were well hidden. She didn’t have time for any fancy maneuvers. She just ducked under the reaching hands and ran.
There were three of them: the woman Marshi, a tall balding man with a few grizzled whiskers and an aquiline nose, and, although wearing a hooded top and sunglasses, the fellow from the van who Goth had had arrested, ran after her. They came after her.
As she dived over a fence, Goth cursed her ill luck. They must have been watching Pausert’s home.
Then she realized that she had a more immediate problem. The garden she had jumped into had a squat but vicious looking dren-hound, still blinking itself awake from where it had slept in the morning sun. The beast was looking at her incredulously, as if to say “you dared jump into my garden?”
Goth knew that the one thing she dared not do was to run — and even no-shape wouldn’t help. The dog could certainly smell her, and she really hadn’t completely mastered no-scent yet. Not well enough to fool a dren-hound, for sure.
Here pursuers appeared. One of them, the woman, had a small clype gun in hand. Goth ducked behind the dren-hound’s kennel. A clype needle screamed off the roof. That distracted the dren-hound. He noticed strangers leaning over his gate. The toothy animal plainly wasn’t too bright. It barked and rushed at them,
The laughter of the tall bewhiskered man and his companion stopped abruptly as the dren-hound jumped up at the gate, that was swinging open under their weight. Goth ran, jumping the fence into the next yard, ignoring the noises behind her. Someone yelled at her, but Goth just kept right on running, until she got behind a small greenhouse. There she took refuge in no-shape. That still left a locked gate and an angry householder between her and getting away. But a little patience and she was able to go on her way, as the irate woman told the local policeman all about the disturbance.
“Some people chasing a young girl. About fourteen years old, I’d guess she was. They ran off when I came out. Lucky for them my neighbor’s dren-hound is a soppy old thing. Doesn’t bite.”
Goth slipped away, grinning. It was a pity the dren-hound wasn’t a biter. She’d take the long way back to the apartment and to make absolutely sure she wasn’t being seen, and go in no-shape.
Within a hundred yards it became obvious that no-shape wasn’t going to be enough. The three in the red people carrier were very slowly cruising towards her. The hooded fellow was driving. The man with the grizzled whiskers was reading out co-ordinates from a wrist communicator.
They must have a tracking spy lock on her. Just as they had followed Pausert, they could follow her, even if they could not see her. Then, belatedly, it occurred to her — they had probably been using a spy ray to watch Pausert’s home. And what had she done? Walked in and shown them where to find the map! And now they knew what they were looking for, and knew how to find her, too. Being in no-shape wouldn’t protect her from projectiles or blaster-fire, or even just being grabbed.
A short way down the road was a stop for the monorail system. Goth could see a monorail car arriving, and took off for it at a sprint. She vaulted the automatic ticket gate and then hastened to find a place to change via light shift into someone unobtrusive. No-shape on crowded public transport really didn’t work.
A frumpish old lady appeared on the platform — who looked rather like the woman who had called the police earlier. Goth needed models to get the light shift right and she figured this one would do fine. She started to run, and then slowed to a hasty shuffle when she realized that frumpish old ladies usually didn’t run as if an enraged bull-bollem was after them.
She bordered the monorail car. It was fairly full, but Nikkeldepain folk were generous about letting an old lady past, or even offering her a seat. She politely decline the offers and made her way to the back door, which was intended as an exit. In typically orderly Nikkeldepain fashion all the cars had a forward entry door and a rear exit. And people were of course scrupulous about using them as intended.
Nikkeldepain had some good points, if you liked everything done just so. Goth had often wondered what made the captain, and indeed, to a lesser extent her father, behave as they did. The answer was obviously growing up on Nikkeldepain. Whatever else she achieved back in time, Goth realized that she was learning a lot about what motivated Captain Pausert. That was probably a good thing, she supposed, given that she was going to marry him.
The car jolted, and, just before it took off, three panting red-faced passengers forced their way into the crowded monorail car. They were looking around, and looking puzzled.
Grizzled-whiskers was talking into his wrist communicator. There were various shields available that could scramble the satellite-tracking. Goth wished she’d thought of getting herself one. She could ‘port the communicator elsewhere. But that would be quickly replaced, and Goth didn’t want to advertise her klatha powers further than she had to.
Her pursuers began making their way down the car towards her as the car sped on toward its next stop. The Nikkeldepain citizenry were much less polite to the three now pushing their way through the crowd. They weren’t old or infirm, and they were lacking in manners, as far as the locals were concerned.
The car slowed and stopped at the next station. Goth stood up and got off along with five or six others, as the pursuit pushed their way through. The automatic door mechanism wasn’t a complicated one, and Goth had had a few minutes to study it. She ‘ported the person detector away, and joined the group walking off, as behind them the three struggled with the door. The car began to move again. The door was closed and the car’s safety system said that it could.
When they were out of sight, Goth turned back and waited for the next monorail car. Given the way the system worked they’d be getting off at next station to come back at the same time that she got on at this one — unless they were sharp-witted enough to wait for her, or to split up, of course. She’d deal with that if they were.
The car rolled and swung on, on a rail to somewhere. Goth had no idea where it was going, or what she would do when she got there. She was also not at all sure about the strange box in the carrier-bag. Was it their “map”? And, if so, where was it a map to?