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The Wizard of Karres: Chapter Thirteen

       Last updated: Thursday, June 17, 2004 00:02 EDT



    The free Sedmon, still in the portside alleys of Gerota Town, had to pause and lean against the wall to cope with the nausea and the pain.

    “What’s up, chum?” said one of a pair of crop-haired spacers who had just turned the corner. “Too much of the local rotgut?”

    The Sedmons were now very wary of even the most innocuous seeming encounter. The free Sedmon watched these two with some caution. “Just stomach cramps. I ate some dodgy local food.”

    The other spacer grinned. “Stick to the grog next time. At least you’ve got a decent excuse for being sick. You need any help?”

    The Sedmon was still far from trusting. The two of them were coming a little too close, and something in the second fellow’s voice sounded a bit off. “Just trying to find the rest of my crew. There are ten of us off the Vanel. Have seen a bunch of guys—one of them the size of two of me—trundling around? They’re probably looking for me by now. Or do you know where ‘Voyager Smiles’ is? It’s a posh little gift-shop we were heading for.”

    If they had been thinking of any funny stuff, the two weren’t any more. “Thora’s place? It’s just around the corner to your left,” said the first speaker, tugging at his friend’s arm. “Come on, Merk. We’ve got things to do.”

    Sure enough, the Sedmon found what he’d set out looking for. The gift shop was an expensive-looking establishment in a considerably more respectable street a mere two blocks from the space-port. A much safer street, too, from its appearance.

    Inside, the Sedmon gave the haughty proprietress a near heart-failure. The Daal’s agents did have certain code recognition symbols—individual ones, so not a bit of good came of torturing or drugging them out of someone. The words that Thora Herrkin heard from the lips of the slightly shaky-looking man were not something she was prepared for. But she knew that she’d better give him the best co-operation and help possible.



    The Sedmon in the truth-shock chair, on the other hand, was giving his captors as little help as possible. It was possible for him to do that, because, now that he was aware of what was coming, he could split the electroshock between the selves of the hexaperson. The sensation made all of them feel more than a little ill, but it was bearable.

    So, he just resigned himself to a period of unpleasantness. Indeed, he was almost serene about the whole matter. One of the great advantages of being a hexaperson was that he had complete and total confidence in his closest associates. And why not? They were him, after all.



    Evening and the local ISS headquarters were both close. For the sort of money the Daal had on call, recruiting a few ex-troopers willing to do a great deal with no questions asked had been an easy enough task. And from Thora, who was now very eager to oblige, the Sedmons knew of the disastrous happenings on Pidoon—and that the Venture had, once again, abruptly and mysteriously disappeared.

    “Some of them are still on the run, Sir. It’s a bit confusing but a woman reputedly called Captain Elin and a couple of her men are hiding out somewhere—along with a local hoodlum called Fullbricht. The ISS can’t find them, but my partners know where they are. They’re in a small farm just outside town next to the lake. Fullbricht keeps a boat there he uses for dropping, ah, ferroplast ‘statues’ into the water.”

    The Sedmon scowled—not at the ruthlessness involved in submerging corpses, but at the pettiness of the whole situation. Local criminals and their pitiful attempts at being murderous. Bah. In times past, the Daals of Uldune had terrified entire star sectors. They were moments—not often, but this was one of them—when the Sedmons regretted their modern civilized ways.

    The hexaperson cheered himself up with the thought that, on the other hand, they still weren’t all that civilized.

    “We’ll arrange a visit, then,” he said coldly, “just as soon as we have the matter in hand dealt with.”

    A shifty looking man in spacer’s clothes was ushered into the back office of the gift ship where the Sedmon had set up his makeshift temporary headquarters. The man handed over a spaceship lock-key and a chronometer. “The chronometer got brought to the hock-shop about twenty minutes back. One of the boys extracted the key from Slick Wullie.”

    “Ah,” said the gift shop proprietress. “Do you want him dealt with?”

    The free Sedmon winced. His captive clone was being tortured again. “No, there is no point in drawing attention to the matter any further. Is my ship still being watched?

    “Not since about ten minutes back,” said the ever-efficient Thora.

    “Good. Let us proceed, then.”

    The Sedmon, along with Thora and the hired mercenaries, went back to the Thunderbird in a non-descript van. A few minutes later, they set off for ISS headquarters with a cutter and two cylinders. One had a highly illegal anesthetic in it. It was nearly odorless, and fast acting. The other was a rather unpleasant standby. But the Sedmons were rather tired of taking the pain, and they’d never been fond of the ISS to begin with.



    There was a small basin in the corner of the ISS rooms, where a fastidious torturer could wash his hands between beatings. The drainage pipe from the basin bubbled as the gas was pumped through. But, as Sedmon inside was cued by Sedmon outside, his screams hid the noise quite well. The hexaperson encountered the strange sensation of having one of themselves gently pass out.

    Somewhat regretfully, the Sedmon satisfied himself with simply extracting his clone. If he’d had the time and the additional space in his vehicle... A number of ISS agents would have become ferroplast statues providing shelter for fish at the bottom of a lake.

    But, he simply left them there. He consoled himself with the thought that recovering from that particular anesthetic was an excruciating experience if you didn’t possess the antidote—of which he had enough for his clone but no one else. That was partly why he’d picked it. Well. That was mainly why he’d picked it.

    Not all that civilized, even the modern Daal of Uldune.



    Fifteen minutes later, the plain van and two other vehicles were making a visit to a small farm by the lakeside.

    One of the ex-soldiers, a former sergeant in the Imperial Naval Infantry, studied the place through his nightscope. Then, he offered the device to the awake Sedmon, while the clone in the car went through waking up with the help of a well-paid medical assistant. If Thora thought the two looked remarkably alike, she was sensible enough not to say anything. Or question the money in her account.

    The Sedmon using the nightscope examined the farm carefully. The incredibly expensive device’s sophisticated thermo-imaging even allowed him to study the farm’s inhabitants. Quickly, he was able to determined that there were three people in the building. The crew of the Venture—including the one the Sedmons were particularly concerned about—were not among the inhabitants. The Sedmons would have been surprised if they had been, but having the assumption confirmed caused a momentary—and most disconcerting—spike of anguish.

    Across light years, the hexaperson issued a collective sigh. Not because of the disappointment, so much as the simple fact of it. They had lived a life of splendid isolation, after all, and the recognition that they now intended to give it up—if at all possible—produced very mixed feelings.

    The Sedmon watching through the nightscope didn’t personally recognize the trio in the farm. But the Sedmons back in the tower at the House of Thunders had access to a great many records.

    They found her. And her associates.

    The Sedmon turned to Thora. “There is an Imperial bounty on her head. A million maels, I believe. Her real name is Nairdoo Sheyan. Among other things, she’s wanted for the mass murder of the miners on Coolum’s world. The second one, Henry Bagr, is worth a mere fifty thousand. The third, I believe, is your local Fullbricht fellow. He’ll be worth something too, I imagine, though not much.”

    “Do we get a cut?” inquired Thora. She looked as if she regretted the words almost as soon as she said them.

    But Sedmon smiled at her. “You can have it all, Thora. You’ve been most efficient and helpful, and I believe in rewarding those of my subordinates who are. Your talents are clearly wasted, anyway, just smuggling and spying and selling expensive trinkets.”

    A thought came to him. “Although, before I leave the planet, I’ll want to purchase a suitable trinket for... ah, someone. A young lady.”

    “I have just the thing.”

    “Good. And now, let’s finish this business.”

    The smile was still on the Sedmon’s face, but it had become a very grim sort of thing. He had no way of knowing it, but at that moment Thora had no doubt at all that her boss was in the direct line of descent from the Daals of Uldune who had committed far worse crimes than even such as Nairdoo Sheyan.

    “The reward specifies ‘dead or alive,’” he murmured. “Make that ‘dead,’ if you please. The Sheyan creature has been threatening certain, ah, interests of mine. And I’m not in a charitable mood.”

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