The Shooting Star

The Mystifyer
Wolf knew it. He frowned and sat back in the luke-warm tropical seawater, trying to think of a plan for Federi. The real problem wasn’t the processor, or the ship sinking. The processor was finished; this ship would ha e to be controlled manually. The problem was the steering, and the dri es. He’d ha e to try to resurrect the dri es. The solar dri es were bound to be depleted. That left the fuel cell dri es. Wolf meandered o er to where they sat, bulky structures too large for the water to reach them in any case. How had !irian managed to disable these" The bioluminescence threw a dismal green glow o er the bilges. #t least there was light. He glanced at the lake around his knees. His prime concern tonight was to keep them from sinking; in the daylight, things might look different. There was a kind of compounding that you strewed o er a leak like sugar, and that combined with the e$isting surface and e$panded with the seawater to make a coating. They sometimes used this substance to repair leaks on the %olar Wind. &f he could bring Federi some of it'

The pumps were another problem. Firstly they had to be reconnected, too. %econdly they depended on at least a dri e working; probably, on the ()*. Which was fried from the water, and from !irian disabling it. Without the ()*, no pumps. Without pumping the water out of the bilges, no ()*. +h dear, He watched the water swish from one side of the bilgerooms to the other, erratically like someone rinsing their mouth. -y the mo ements of the ship he knew it without ha ing to go abo e the deck. There was a storm building, probably hundreds of fluffy white clouds in the moonlight at this point, mirrored by hundreds of wriggly little white heads on the choppy wa es. They could con erge within minutes to a real hell-raising hurricane. Federi and crew were in for a rough night. There was no way he was deserting them in this crisis. #ilyss was doubling up for him on the %olar Wind; she’d agreed to let him know when to teleport into the heads and emerge innocuously as though he’d ne er left the ship. He glanced up at the unlikely man without bandanna who was watching his mo ements intently. Federi had done it again. -een so good at obser ing that he’d become practically in isible. /(aptain,0 said Wolf, /this is close-on irreparable.0 /1ou’re not allowed to 2captain’ me,0 Federi pointed out, /unless you’re 3oining my crew.0 Wolf laughed. /1ou are (aptain Federi now, you understand,0 he said.

Federi smiled. /%ay, Wolf. That thing you were in enting. That mist-creation machine.0 /The 4ystifyer,0 growled Wolf. /(ompletely pointless in ention that,0 /Why do you say that"0 /(aptain sure doesn’t want it,0 He noted with surprise the slyness that crawled o er his friend’s face. /Why, Federi"0 /%o he won’t miss it" Want me to test-dri e it for you"0 /1ou want it"0 asked Wolf in surprise. /&’ll bring it, Whate er for, Federi"0 /1ou’ll see,0 smiled the )irate. /Think you could build me a really big one" &’ll pay you well,0 /&’ll do it for friendship,0 said Wolf. /Then &’ll gi e you a cash gift, out of friendship,0 replied Federi. /+ur own de ices, Wolf. &f & buy it, & own the de ice. 5ight"0 /5ight,0 grinned the engineer. 6...7

11 Auckland

Federi stared at the grey-green wa es that were rolling away wildly underneath the %hooting %tar’s prow. From where he stood on his bridge he could appreciate 3ust how fast the ship was going. 5aindrops splattered across the windscreen that had been repaired in %amoa; )aean was right, 2flying’ was about atmospheric effects, not merely speed. The ship would be worse off if he slowed down, he knew this. &t was a pretty bumpy ride in any case; but bumping across the tops of the swells was better than being tumbled around in their middle. Hydrofoils were a must. -ut in his mind’s eye the %hooting %tar e ol ed. There was some e$treme material he needed to get his hands on; super-strong and minimally elastic telescoping beams; neo-can as sail fabric. He’d seen something somewhere in the %herman Files, from the heady days before the *nicate descended' and he was going to turn the %hooting %tar into something like that. Hydrofoils would help lift her out of the bumpiness of the water and buffer her. #nd now he’d fetched the 8e il aboard. When he’d brought #damson, he hadn’t thought that the man would be unwilling to hand o er his ile associates. He hadn’t thought he’d ha e yet another hostage 9 and one that ought to be a friend, He’d sa ed the man’s life, for the lo e of the 5osetta :ala$y, What was this deal" ;ights of a ship appeared in the distance. Federi peered into the rain. # radar he’d not been able to secure; but by now, with the help of Wolf’s programming, he could access the satellite.

<$cept that he wasn’t sure that the system worked, e en though Wolf had tested it; because the ship ga e no satellite signal at all. He came a bit closer and peered through the hea y rain, through his binoculars that !irian had fetched for him. White sails. &t looked like' he smiled. The %olar Wind, Well, if he’d seen her, she sure had the %hooting %tar by now. He acti ated his com to the machine room. /Wolf, we’re testing the %uper-4ystifyer. )lease direct the machine fifty degrees north-west, and gi e it all she’s got.0 /#ll she’s got" That will mystify an area the si=e of >ew 1ork,0 said Wolf. /’s long as there’s still ocean left for us to sail on,0 replied Federi. /#uthorities, Federi"0 asked the young engineer. /Worse,0 laughed Federi. /(ompetition, 1ou did o erride our satellite signal"0 /First thing, Federi,0 said Wolf. ? 5adomir ;ascek peered out through the window of the %olar Wind’s bridge. /-loody pea soup out there,0 he growled. /(an’t see anything for the rain.0 /%end the minicam, (aptain"0 asked his daughter, who was keeping him company on the bridge, one of his grandsons on her lap. /& could swear there was a boat out there a moment back,0 said the (aptain moodily. /-ut now there’s 3ust rain and mist.

>othing on the satellite either. 4ust ha e been a trick of the light.0 5ushka smiled and acti ated the bu==cam. &t came flying out of the top of the main mast and bu==ed off in the direction they thought they’d sighted the boat. >othing but intense mist, lying under the hea y downpour. The sea was warm; the rain cold. The bu==cam returned. />o boat,0 said 5ushka.