Sargasso of Lost Starships Rehidden
Copyright 2010 Poula Anderson
A Gender Switch Adventure
Basille Donovan was drunk again.
She sat near the open door of the Golden Planet, boots on the table, chair tilted back, one arm resting on the broad shoulder of Wocha, who sprawled on the floor beside her, the other hand clutching a tankard of ale. The tunic was open above her stained gray shirt, the battered cap was askew on her close-cropped blond hair, and her insignia--the stars of a captain and the silver leaves of an earl on Ansa--were tarnished. There was a deepening flush over her pale gaunt cheeks, and her eyes smoldered with an old rage.
Looking out across the cobbled street, she could see one of the tall, half-timbered houses of Lanstead. It had somehow survived the space bombardment, though its neighbors were rubble, but the tile roof was clumsily patched and there was oiled paper across the broken plastic of the windows. An anachronism, looming over the great bulldozer which was clearing the wreckage next door. The workwomen there were mostly Ansans, big women in ragged clothes, but a well-dressed Terran was bossing the job. Donovan cursed wearily and lifted her tankard again.
The long, smoky-raftered taproom was full--stolid burghers and peasants of Lanstead, discharged spacewomen still in their worn uniforms, a couple of tailed greenies from the neighbor planet Shalmu. Talk was low and spiritless, and the smoke which drifted from pipes and cigarettes was bitter, cheap tobacco and dried bark. The smell of defeat was thick in the tavern.