“We’ll see, little sister! We’ll see!” she said.
Then she was gone.
* * *
“Are you angry with her?” Trigger asked, an hour later, perched on the edge of Telzey’s bed while they both took cautious sips from cups of very hot broth. It was early morning now, and they were alone in the house. The Hana and the Old Galactic had left with Pilch’s people days ago, and Trigger had gathered they were going first to bring the news that the Veen War was over to the other Hanas currently in Hub laboratories. Afterward, they’d all be off together to the Hana planets to make arrangements which would avoid further problems.
Telzey shook her head.
“I’ll forgive her this time,” she said. “She took a chance on her own life helping me get through the Hana shield, and she knew it. Then she seems to have spent around a week of her time here, to make sure I’d recover.”
Trigger nodded. “Yes, she did. You were looking pretty dead for a while, Telzey! They said you’d be all right, but I wasn’t at all certain. Then Pilch appeared and took over, and you started to pick right up.” She sighed. “Pilch has her ways!”
Telzey sipped her broth meditatively. The Hanas hadn’t been the only ones who’d had trouble with the Veen. It appeared that conflict wasn’t much more than a minor skirmish on the fringes of the ancient war which blazed through the empire of the Old Galactics and destroyed it, before the survivors of those slow-moving entities brought their own weapons into full play and wiped out the Veen. “The Old Galactics weren’t too candid with you either, were they?” she said.
“No, they weren’t,” said Trigger. She regarded Telzey soberly. “It looks as though we got a bit involved in galactic politics for a while!”
Telzey nodded. “And I personally plan to keep out of galactic politics in the future!”
“Same here,” Trigger agreed. “It doesn’t—” She raised her head quickly as the ComWeb chimed in the hall. “Well, well! We seem to have been restored to the world! Wonder who it is. . . .”
She hurried from the room, came back shortly, smiling. “That Pilch!”
“Who was it?”
“Ezd Malion. Calling to say he was going to town early and did we want any groceries.”
“No idea that it’s been ten days since he talked to us last?” asked Telzey.
“None whatever! He’s just picking up where he was told to leave off.”
“That’s about what we’ll be doing,” she said. “But at least we know we’re doing it.”
The last thing she remembered feeling was a horrid, raging, topsy-turvy confusion. Her mind seemed simultaneously ripped apart and squeezed to a pulp. She hadn’t been able to begin to think. Then there’d been nothing.
Now there was something again. The confusion was gone. She found herself here, and thinking—
Lying on her back on some soft surface, dressed. There was light beyond her eyelids which she wasn’t going to open just yet. The attack on Casmard’s space yacht hadn’t killed her, or injured her physically. What about the others?
Her mind screens opened cautiously.
Trigger was close by, probably in the same room, asleep. Sleeping comfortably. There were no immediate indications of Casmard, which wasn’t surprising since she’d never tried to touch his mind before. She didn’t start searching for him. If neither she nor Trigger had been harmed in the attack on the yacht, he should be all right, too, at the moment.
But there’d been a fourth person on the yacht—a man named Kewen, Casmard’s navigator in the Husna Regatta. Telzey did want to know immediately about him.
She put out search thoughts designed to awaken a response in the subconscious levels of Kewen’s mind if they touched it. Eventually, one of them did. Telzey followed it up, and eased herself very gently into that mind. Kewen also was placidly asleep. She studied his mental patterns carefully for a time, secured a number of controls on them. Before she was done, she was picking up occasional washes of faint thought from other sources. There were minds of psi type about, apparently unscreened, apparently non-telepathic.
That should be significant; in any case, it could produce immediate information. Finished with Kewen, Telzey waited for the next wisp of other-thought, touched it when it came, blended awareness with it, moved toward an unguarded psi mind and ghosted inquiringly around there.
She gained information—and what she learned increased her caution. She withdrew from the psi as imperceptibly as she’d approached.
Then at last, almost an hour after she’d first come awake, she opened her eyes.
* * *
There was diffused light glow on the ceiling, barely required here. Daylight coming through a large shuttered window on the right made a pattern of bright lines on the carpet. She was lying on a couch, and Trigger lay on a couch across the room from her, red-bronze hair spilling over her face. They were dressed in the clothes they’d worn on Casmard’s yacht before the attack. Arranged along the floor in the center of the room was the luggage they’d had on the yacht.
Telzey gave Trigger’s half-shielded mind a nudge, and Trigger woke up. She’d been close to awaking for some while. She lifted her head, looked over at Telzey, came up on an elbow and looked around. Her glance held on the row of luggage. She sat up, put a cautioning finger to her lips, got off the couch and went over to the luggage. She opened one of the suitcases.
Telzey joined her there. Trigger was unsealing a secret compartment in the suitcase. She brought out a cosmetics purse which she set aside, then a small bag which she opened. There were a number of rings in it. Trigger selected two, gave one to Telzey, put the other on her finger, returned the bag to the compartment, and closed that and the suitcase.
She put the cosmetics purse in her jacket pocket and watched Telzey very carefully fit on the second ring.
“That on-and-off husband of mine,” Trigger said then in a normal voice, “is a security gadget nut. He insists I carry what he calls the minimum line around with me when we’re not together. Every so often it turns out to be a good idea. We’re distorted and scrambled now, so I guess we can talk. What’s happened?”
“I’ve found out a few things,” Telzey said. “Better get your O.G. shield closed tight, and keep it tight.”
“Done,” said Trigger. “Psi stuff around, eh?”
Telzey nodded. “Quite a lot of it! I don’t know what that means yet, but it could mean trouble. About what happened to us—somebody seems to have turned a stun beam on the yacht and knocked us out before they grappled and boarded.”
“A rough beam that was!” Trigger said.
“What did it feel like to you?”
“Well . . . let’s say as if my head turned into a drum half the size of the universe and somebody was pounding on it with clubs. But I’m all right now. Do you know who did it, where we are, and what’s happened to the Askab and the navigator?”
“More or less, I do,” Telzey said. “We’re on Askanam, in the Balak of Tamandun—Casmard’s balak. More specifically, we’re in a section of a palace which belongs to the man who’s been Regent of Tamandun in Casmard’s absence. He was presumably responsible for the attack on the yacht.”
“To have Casmard kidnapped?”
“Apparently. I’m pretty sure Casmard’s somewhere in the palace, and I know Kewen is. We’re here because we happened to be on the yacht with Casmard.”
Trigger said, after a moment, “From what I’ve heard of Askanam politics, that doesn’t look too good.”
“I’m afraid it isn’t good,” Telzey agreed. “When we’re missed, all anyone will know is that Casmard’s yacht appears to have vanished in interstellar space with all aboard.”
“How does the psi business fit in?”
“I don’t know yet. There’re a number of psis of assorted types not very far from us. Anywhere up to two dozen of them. One had an unguarded mind and I tapped it. But I discovered then that some of the others were screened telepaths. I could have been detected at any moment, so I pulled out before I got as much information as I wanted. I’m not sure why they’re here. There was something about a Glory Day—a big annual holiday in Tamandun—coming up. Something else about arena games connected with Glory Day festivities.” Telzey shook her head. “Those psis aren’t Askanam people. At least, the one I was tapping isn’t. She’s a Federation citizen.”
“They might be helpful then,” Trigger suggested.
“They might. But I’d want to find out more about them before I let them know I’m also a Federation psi who’s probably in a jam. And I’ll have to be careful about that because of the telepaths.”