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Nimisha's Ship

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Nimisha's Ship

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Author: Anne McCaffrey
Publisher: Del Rey / Ballantine, 1999
Corgi Books, 1999
Bantam UK, 1998
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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: First Contact
Galactic Empire
Space Opera
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Synopsis

Nimisha Boynton-Rondymense was the body-heir of Lady Rezalla and, as such, was the heiress of one of the First Families on Vega III. But even as a child she eschewed the formalities of her aristocratic background and was happiest in her father's shipyard. By the time she was in her twenties she was the designer of the most advanced space yacht in the galaxy, and was owner of the Rondymense shipyards.

It was on a test of her Mark 5 prototype that things went wrong. In an empty space field, suitable for test runs, she was suddenly confronted with the boiling white pout of a wormhole, was sucked in, only to be thrown out into an unknown dimension of space. She was not the first. As she explored this new, unfamiliar section of the universe she found traces of ships that had been marooned over many centuries.

Not knowing if she would ever return to the world she knew, Nimisha chose to land on 'Erewhon' - fascinating, terrifying, beautiful and frightening - and inhabited not only by three survivors of a previous Vegan ship but by something else...


Excerpt

Lady Rezalla Boynton-Chonderlee was often bemused and puzzled by her body-heir, Nimisha Boynton-Rondymense, as the child began to develop a personality. She was, indeed, all and more that a womb-mother could wish in her body-heir: beautiful, intelligent, healthy, and obedient in almost every matter. Lady Rezalla considered the infrequent displays of temper and minor rebellions against necessary protocol only to be expected in the very young. Nimisha was certainly not as wayward or overindulged as some of the children of her contemporaries.

However, as Nimisha grew past the nursery stage and started the formal tutorial lessons, she showed decided preferences that were unexpected. She loved to take first mechanical and then robotic units apart, a hobby that struck her womb-mother as unusual. Lady Rezalla consoled herself that at least Nimisha showed an aptitude for something that kept her occupied for hours. Lady Rezalla knew that some of her social peers had... difficult... children with tendencies to be violent or abusive as the very young often were. Even in the best families. She privately admitted to some anxiety that Nimisha's mechanical avocation might be considered "quaint" for someone in the most prestigious social level of Acclarke City on Vega III. On the positive side, the Boynton-Chonderlee-Rondymense connection was sufficiently powerful to permit much that might have been censored or condemned in a lesser Family.

"It's in the genes she inherited from me, Rezalla," Lord Tionel Rondymense-Erhardt remarked on one of his visits to see the daughter he had contracted to provide Lady Rezalla. Though he would have been perfectly willing to have had a much longer contract with the elegant Rezalla, she had never given him the least bit of encouragement for an extension. This disinterest both annoyed and intrigued him since he was much in demand as a sire in the best Acclarkian circles. Still, he enjoyed her company and excruciatingly accurate remarks about their society and peers. She was not averse to his visits since she felt that her body-heir by him was quite the best of the lot he had so far sired. She was less sanguine about the way he encouraged Nimisha in her whimsical bent, happily answering her questions or giving her a pointer when she seemed at a standstill in reassembling what she had taken apart.

"It has obviously escaped your attention, my dear Rezalla," he remarked one day after explaining to Nimisha the function of the tiny chips she had spread out on the floor, "that she invariably improves the design and function of whatever she's tinkering with. I find that most ingenious of her. Most ingenious. If she continues to develop this aptitude, why I might just leave her my shipyard. No one else I've sired shows the least bit of interest in spaceship design. Much less doing any work of any description. I have grave concern that what nine generations have built up in the Rondymense Ship Yard GmBH might decline and disappear in the next one."

"My body-heir," Lady Rezalla replied, rather more dismayed than pleased by Lord Tionel's remarks, "will have no need for unsuitable bequests, Lord Tionel."

"You were happy enough to find ten thousand shares of Rondymense stock in her birth-gift portfolio," he remarked. Then he went on in his softest, most persuasive voice, his blue eyes dancing, though his face had assumed a properly repentant expression. "Don't be angry with me, Rezie. There's nothing unsuitable about a firm that has been designing spaceships and in profit for over two hundred years. Surely the financier in you appreciates that!"

The point was well taken, Lady Rezalla had to admit in all fairness. She herself had increased her holdings and wealth due to a nearly infallible instinct for the profitability of new businesses. Tionel was not given to casual remarks. She knew very well that his body-heir, Vestrin, a decade older than her Nimisha, was a disgrace to his sire. He seemed to have no interest in anything that wasn't "thrilling, exciting, or totally new," which included dangerous hunts and rather nasty jokes on those who might be considered "close" friends. Tionel could do worse than sign the Rondymense Yard over to his girl child if he wished it to continue. Nimisha need not do anything in such a well-run establishment. Rezalla didn't know how much Tionel did in the administrative end of the business, but she was quite capable of instructing her daughter in the financial aspects sufficiently to keep the Yard in profit. Especially as many contracts from the Admiralty were awarded to Rondymense Ship Yard GmBH. It was always good to
be "in" with the Admiralty, especially as she had recently acquired the controlling interest in a small freighter company.

"I have never faulted you on your business acumen, Ti," she replied, relenting as they both watched Nimisha's careful reassembly of a robotic toy, the gift of her Great Uncle Dahmison. While expressing appreciation for the gift, Lady Rezalla wondered if Uncle knew which sex the child was. But it was certainly the sort of thing Uncle would give: It made the most appalling noise. Children liked noise; Rezalla didn't. "You've always been lucky with your designers."

"My designers?" Lord Tionel looked insulted and gestured at Nimisha. "I'm my designer. I am responsible for all the innovations at the Yard. And half of what the Vegan Fleet uses."

It was Lady Rezalla's turn to be surprised, and despite her many years of schooling her expression to show only what she wished an audience to see, it was a full minute before she could respond with cool dignity.

"You never mentioned that, Tionel." It was as near a reprimand as she could bring herself to make. Members of the First Families had to set good examples to everyone, even their peers, but they delegated duties; they didn't do them.

"I thought everyone knew," Tionel replied with a properly cool indifference and a shrug of one shoulder. "Ah, very nice, Nimi," he said as his six-year-old offspring presented him with the repaired toy. He set it on the floor and pressed the activating stud. It began its series of acrobatics, making Nimi clap her hands. "What did you alter in its circuitry?"

"She's made it quiet!" Lady Rezalla said, her voice echoing her delight. So Nimisha had noticed her distaste for the sound it had made. "Such a dear child."

"Well done, Nimi, well done!" Lord Tionel clapped his hands and, without a glance at his former contractual spouse, held his arms out to the child. She promptly climbed into his lap and put her arms about his neck, a show of affection that caused Lady Rezalla to regard Lord Tionel with dismay. He noticed. "Nonsense, Rezie. I am her father and I like to cuddle my children."

"How ... how exceedingly ... old fashioned of you," Lady Rezalla said, seething with a variety of emotions, the most dominant being envy.

Nimisha would never have dared to climb onto her mother's lap. But then, Rezalla had never indicated that such a display would have been acceptable. Lady Rezalla did not like her exquisite self handled. What with Nimisha's preoccupation with mechanical things, her fingers and hands were rarely as clean as they should be, though Nurse did the best she could. Oddly enough, Nimisha did not have even a smudge of dirt on her clothing.

If Tionel wished to have his fashionable tunic and trousers marred by dirty fingers, that was his choice. He had always been a tactile person. If she had once found this trait of his charming, she did not think unessential personal contact dignified. Certainly not in their social sphere. At least Nimisha was still very much a child, so such a display could be condoned. She and her sire seemed to have established a bond that was not entirely due to the child's interest in taking things apart. It did the child no hard to receive paternal caresses--if not carried too far. Lady Rezalla was fair-minded. She thought she and Nimisha had an excellent relationship; certainly she enjoyed her daughter's company whenever she chose to take her anywhere. For the first time, Lady Rezalla realized how odd her own behavior might look to others. Very few of her social friends bothered to have their child-heirs accompany them as much as Lady Rezalla did. But she genuinely liked the child and thought her occasional observations
clever. Rezalla also thought herself quite broadminded in rearing Nimisha. The child's only flaw, as her mother saw it, was this fascination with dismantling and reassembling mechanical and chippy things.

She did remonstrate with Tionel when he started presenting Nimisha with birthday gifts of a construction nature; things to assemble even down to schematic drawings and instructions. To offset Tionel's influence, Lady Rezalla subtly began to emphasize the feminine instruction that all girls of their social level had to acquire and display suitably in Acclarkian society. She was quite successful in such tuition. By the time Nimisha was eight, she insisted on choosing her own apparel. As she displayed an innate good taste, as well as a sense of color and design, Lady Rezalla stopped fretting about he child's quaint preference for mucking about with greasy gears and engines and the chips she so enjoyed fooling with. What only Nimisha's Nurse knew was that her charge knew how to strike a balance that permitted her time to do what she really wanted--to examine things mechanical and improve them--and time to satisfy a mother whom she genuinely loved and respected, at least in matters of dress and deportment.

"Actually, good design is good design anywhere," Nimisha told Nurse after a shopping session with her mother. "And choosing clothing isn't much different from choosing the right chassis for a sleek skimmer."

Such a remark merely proved to Nurse that her charge was cle...

Copyright © 1998 by Anne McCaffrey


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