James had several screens open before him. His father was still breathing. Oriel had jumped out of her bed, rattling off high speed French as she realized she had overslept. He closed that one. She would be back soon, he was sure.
In another window, he was reading the decrypted logs. When he took over from his mother, and sent her off to sleep, he carefully located the exact byte where the encrypted and clear text parts of the log met and sliced out the encrypted part, used the password and then rejoined them.
The log file was fascinating reading.
It started with plain text. His father kept a log of his experiments before he discovered the teleportation. He had been bitter about his layoff. James hadn’t realized how much so. His father had always been a quiet man, keeping his angers to himself. It had been quite a shock to learn what the man was capable of.
So that was what the skyrocket was all about! I wish I’d been home when it finally worked.
The details of the lightning trap had been removed from the log, edited out manually. There were other gaps too. Several times, his father rambled on about the theory of how the spheres worked, and then just when it started to get interesting, the entry would just stop, sometimes in the middle of a sentence.
But the discovery of the teleportation was there in minute detail—his trials and errors, what worked and what didn’t. There was a wealth of practical details.
And then, he read the incident of Willis. The death of their dog changed the tone of his log entries. From that moment on, he was serious. For days, the entries were more an argument with himself about the idea of burning his notebooks and smashing the apparatus.
James sat up in his chair.
“This evening, while working on the tracking system, I saw something, that as a father, I wish I had not seen.”
There was more. Enough to bring the memory of that moment with Suzie back in sharp detail.
Oriel called out, “I’m back.”
James collapsed the window, his heart beating loudly.
“Hi.” He swiveled in the chair, to see her walking up behind him. “Have a nice nap?”
She blushed, “Sorry.”
“No problem. I just checked on you when you were late. Better to be safe than sorry.” He noticed the bag in her arms. “What did you bring me?”
They ate next to the screen, talking in low tones so as not to disturb Diana.
“I’ve been reading my father’s logs—looking for hints as to how to pull him out of there.”
“Not yet. I’m not that far into the history. Did you know that the first version of teleportation was deadly? You went through it and your blood came out the other way.”
She shivered. “I’m glad I didn’t know that.”
“I’ll keep reading. Do you have any ideas?”
“For your father, no, other than to distract the guards long enough to pull him out. For the agents that have been arrested, I think that should be easier, if we had a place to send them.”
“Don’t bring them here?”
Oriel shook her head sadly. “Your father was wise in this. There are many agents, I am certain some of them are working for their governments.”
“What makes you think so?”
“Human nature. It is weak. Look at this.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a stack of euro notes of various sizes.
“I could not earn this much money in a year. And yet it is like dirty napkins in this place. These dropboxes are full of cash, and we are too busy to bother to launder them. There are a dozen payments we haven’t bothered to pick up.
“People will make compromises with their souls for this.
“You shouldn’t have brought me here. I lust after this.” She dropped the money back into her bag.
He smiled at her. “But sometimes you have to just trust people.”
She nodded, “Yes, but not all these agents. The odds are against it.”
“We still have to rescue them. They are my father’s agents. We owe them.”
“What about this Archer? He is hidden and safe.”
From his terrace, Archer could watch the boats on their regular trek across North Sound where tourists could wade out on the white sandbars and feed the stingrays. He had done it a couple of times himself—although he had more of an adrenaline rush from taking off his wristwatch than he had of any fear of the evil looking creatures.
How many days will it take before I’m not afraid anymore?
There was a knock on his glass door, from the inside.
A young man stood inside, waving at him.
Archer froze for a moment. He could run, he could greet the intruder, or he could press the button on his watch that would shift him to another one of his five hideaways.
“Are you coming in? I’d rather not come out there, if you don’t mind,” his visitor asked.
The voice decided him. Archer came inside and looked at the boy carefully.
“Do I know you?”
“No. But I know you. Your hair looks different.”
“How did you get in here? I have an expensive security system.”
The young man gave him a sardonic look. “Hardly a question Gregory Archer should ask, is it?”
“My name is Bluthman. Gerold Bluthman.”
“I’m James. You work for my father.”
Archer nodded, “Have a seat.” He did the same.
“I had my hand on my watch, until I heard your voice. You sound very much like him. Is he alive?”
James frowned. “For the moment. We’re working on his rescue. He has been poisoned and is in a coma.”
Archer drew in a deep breath. “I was afraid of something like that.” He reached up and removed a dark hairpiece.
“What can I do to help?”
“Doctor, do you have good news for me?” The Admiral expected good news from all his people. He was frequently disappointed.
“He is stabilized. I can’t get him much better with my hands tied like they are.”
“I don’t want his recovery. Not yet. You can’t hold an angry snake in your hands. You either have to let it go, or chop off its head. I much prefer him unconscious.
“You can, of course, help me tame him.”
“Give me a couple of days. It’s risky.”
“I thought you said that he won’t improve without a change of treatment. Why wait?”
The doctor paused, “Okay, I am not ready.”
“You can be replaced.”
“And it would take time to replace me! I have the drugs, but it will be a very risky dance with the dosages. Give me two days.”
“One day, no more. I have my own risks to weigh.”
“I may have just killed my son. I had no choice. He was unconscious, and the pickup was sinking in the flood. I could have dived through the portal myself, but with the blood loss, I would be unconscious and no help to anybody.
“It was the only way. I just hope he lives through the night.”
James flicked on past the story of his hospitalization. Some other time, he could think about that.
I owe my life to this invention. It’s as simple as that. Once I lost control of the pickup in the water, I was done for.
“James, are you okay?” Oriel asked.
“Yes. Fine. What do you need?” He closed the log window.
“Archer just sent a message. He’s ready on his end.”
“You have them located.”
“Yes. We could do it now.”
They walked over to Diana.
“Wait just a second.” She was reading something in a monitor window.
James looked over at the view of his father. He was breathing without the respirator, but he looked very thin and tired. How many more days in this cave before I look like that?
Diana looked up. “James, we need to move your father now.”
She waved at the screen. “I started following the doctor that’s treating him. He gets all his orders in person, but he’s a doctor and doctors keep records.
“He knows the poison, and knows what to do to bring Bob out of it, but he has orders not to.
“Instead, they are going to make a zombie out of him.”
“It’s some kind of top secret drug treatment. It dulls certain brain centers. The doctor’s boss wants to be able to be in control of my husband’s mind as they wake him up. He wants to use him to gain control of the teleporters.
“But once they start the drug treatment, it permanently affects his mind! James, we have to stop him.”
He nodded and looked at Oriel. “Your plan. Can you do it?”
She nodded, suddenly afraid. “The bullets?”
“It’ll take me ten minutes, maybe fifteen.”
“Okay, I need to change.” She pressed her watch and vanished.
James felt a shiver. “Mom, get ready. Collect all the medical gear you will need. We have at least two hospitals in the database. Steal everything. We’ll pay them back later.”
“Be ready to handle bullet wounds as well.”
Mother and son looked at each other for one long moment, and then he broke away at a run. Time was slipping away.