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The Sorceress of Karres: Prologue

       Last updated: Monday, September 14, 2009 21:35 EDT



    Captain Pausert was delighted to have the familiar decks of the Venture 7333 under his feet again. The Imperial palace and the capital were all very grand and beautiful, if you liked marble and columns. Pausert preferred good, honest, unpretentious hull-metal.

    He celebrated their return to space in their own ship with one of his trademark bad take-offs. Goth shook her head. “You’ll be the death of us yet, captain,” she said, smiling at him and getting up with her familiar, lithe, cat-like grace. “I really need to learn some more ship handling.”

    She would have to, in fact. With Hulik do Eldel having returned to Uldune with the Sedmons, they had only the old spacer Vezzarn as crew. And, of course, the Leewit. But the Leewit was still only seven years old. She was useful on comms and on the nova-guns, but the mathematics of astrogation and the engineering side of the Venture were still a bit much for her.

    Goth, on the other hand, was soaking it all up like blotting paper. She might only be not quite fifteen Karres yeas old — the same age now, as Maleen was when he’d first encountered the witches on the Empire world of Porlumma — but she was as reliable as any crewman. On difficult or dangerous sections of their journeys he would split watches with her, rather than with old Vezzarn. She had an iron nerve and a lot of common sense. Not for the first time Captain Pausert wondered what he had done to be so lucky.

    But then luck too was a klatha thing. And he’d always been a lucky gambler. He smiled to himself. He wondered if the Leewit, cardsharp extraordinary, had actually figured out that the captain played to lose. Just enough, to keep her happy and bathing without a fight. “We’ll put in some teaching time,” he said. “It’s so good to be back on the Venture. Just us, the old team back together again, eh!”

    “We need to use the Sheewash drive to get us back to Karres,” she said. “A couple of bursts will save us months of traveling, Captain.”

    “Sure. And I won’t try the modification I had in mind,” he said cheerfully.

    “Clumping well better not,” said the Leewit, who had just walked in to the control room. “I’ve decided that I have to learn astrogation math,” she announced. That was a reversal of her gleeful announcement of a few days earlier, when she’d told them all that she was going to be a healer and had no need of it.

    “Good,” said Goth, nodding approvingly. “You never know when the captain might need you.”

    They set up the focus for the klatha energies of the Sheewash drive — which amounted to nothing more than some twisted wires. The wires formed a three dimensional pattern and means of directing the vast amount of klatha force the witches channeled through their secret space-drive. The shape was important, Pausert gathered. But he wondered if it had to be wires. And what happened if you changed the pattern?

    He’d experimented with the problem, in fact — but the results of his experiments, so far, had not always been too easy to fix. So for now he’d stick to the tried and tested way. But he supposed that it was in his nature to want to push those limits. That had been why life on Nikkeldepain had been difficult for him. Nikkeldepain worked by the rules. Lots of rules. Rules to be obeyed without question. At least it had until Vala and the lattice ship got there! The show on the lattice ship had been a rare treat. And while it had nothing to do with his eventual decision to part ways with Nikkeldepain, it seemed to be a trigger to the sequence of events that had changed things.

    He tore his mind away from thinking about his youth and concentrated on the matter in hand. Soon an orange ball of furious energies danced above the truncated cone of twisted wires and the Venture 7333 raced along at a pace that the fastest naval chaser could not dream of. Pausert melded well with the two young witches, and the ship hurtled onward through space.

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