"We're cleared," Daniel said as he pushed back from the comm station. He glanced around and nodded. "Do we have leave, Captain?"
At least he was polite enough to ask for it. Her last comm officer had been left behind on a fringe world when he pushed her one too many times, thinking he could win command. Not of her ship. Daniel, at least, knew who was in charge.
At least that had been part of the reason they dropped him off. Besides, he wasn't a very good comm officer.
Daniel, the only one in the control with her, waited patiently.
"Leave for everyone," she said. "Two days local, plus tonight. Announce it. I expect them all back early in the morning of the third day. They can all collect their payment chits, too."
She could almost feel the joy spread through the ship as she quickly released the codes for their chits. Two days on Terra Nova was a gift. They'd worked hard. They couldn't off-load their shipment for three days since the buyer had to come in from out of town. There was no reason why her crew of eight shouldn't enjoy some down time.
She let them all leave and they didn't take long. She sealed the ship closed, announced to the Port Tower that no one should be going in and out without her authorization, and then headed for the market. She couldn't see any of her crew; they'd scattered to the winds.
Captain Tamary always felt odd when she went searching out fortune tellers as soon as she could, no matter what the port. There was something so plainly old-world to it that her crew laughed and didn't come with her any more.
She hadn't been to Terra Nova in a few years. This one was close enough to earth that there were often the Old Ones here. She'd met with more than one in her previous visits.
Tamary had been away for a while, though. Things had changed. There'd been trouble in the Inner Worlds while she was off in the fringe . . . But she had been off in the fringe because a very wise Old One had told her to get clear of the area before the trouble started.
The market area had changed a bit. She had trouble finding the little tent, hidden back in a shadowy corner. It looked out of place here, with the arcane symbols embroidered into the cloth. She didn't like to think how much work that must have been. She suspected the tent was ancient and from earth -- and probably worth more than most things for sale here in the market. Even the illegal things.
An aircar swept overhead just as she opened the flap and stepped in, but once through that opening all link to the modern world disappeared.
"Ah, there you are," the woman behind the table said, her fingers fluttering. She spoke as though Tamary had just stepped out for a few minutes, instead of being gone for years. "I expected you two days ago."
"We got held up by a storm on Tempest," she replied. "I assumed you knew."
The woman made a sound of amusement and bent over th table, looking into the crystal ball. Colors swirled.
"How do you do that?" Tamary asked.
"Huh. What do you have for me?"
They wouldn't have much time. Someone came to the flap and paused there, even as the woman leaned forward and the colors swirled more brightly.
"You live a life of movement, of flux. The doors are opening --"
The person walked away.
"Not much time," the woman said, leaning closer. "The spy?"
"Was quite annoyed when I kicked him off ship on one of the least populated backwater worlds of the Pavo Fringe. What an unpleasant bastard."
"Good. Your cousin escaped from the rebel prison and he's on Grant. You need to go get him before the boy gets into more trouble. He has information. Take it to Paradise. I'll meet you there in three months."
"Fast turn around," she said softly. "Must be important."
"We think so. Do you have any questions?"
"Yes. How old is the tent?"
She glanced around, startled and then laughed. "It was in the family a hundred years or more before humans went to the stars. And it will be yours if you ever settle down."
"That's not going to happen, Aunt Rosa."
"I suspect not. I've certainly not seen it in any of my readings."
"I never know when you are joking or not, you know."
Aunt Rosa smiled. "Go. Spend some time with your new crewman. You'll like him."
"I am not going to go hunt him down just because you want to play matchmaker, Aunt Rosa," she said and stood.
"No, of course not."
She gave the woman a very brief hug and hoped she found time to stop by before she left world again. Tamary missed her family.
She went to dinner. She supposed she shouldn't have been surprised to run into Daniel there. Well, at least she didn't have to eat alone. . . .
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