Oriel asked, “Can’t you go inside the gun and remove the bullets?”
James shook his head. “I can’t. Those guys ... I’ve been reading reports. I....”
His mother said, “We aren’t going to do anything yet. I’ve been up thirty some hours, and so have you. They are keeping him alive, for whatever reason, so we need to let them do that. That rig they have over his face, it is keeping him breathing. If we pulled him out, we could kill him.
“James, get some sleep. When it’s time to move, I want you fresh. I’ll stay here. I know how to drive this thing now and I will keep out of sight.”
He nodded. Oriel went with him, as the Empress stayed at the screen.
There was one bed, and he sat down on it—his father’s bed.
“I will come back and check on you in a little while.”
“No, wait,” he said, holding out his hand for her. Oriel sat beside him. “Thank you for coming to help. This is too big a job. My father tried to do it all himself, and it may have killed him. I feel dead myself.”
“I understand. My father is dead, and I can remember that time. It is very much like now. You must sleep, I know this. I will bring some more food in a little while, and we will rescue your father, and rescue all those agents.”
She kissed him, and slipped out of his hand.
He was asleep before she had gone five steps.
Oriel scanned the status board. There was always something new to deal with. She glanced through the items, turning off the alarms before they had a chance to sound.
One caught her eye. “Island Exit activated, South America,” followed by a set of coordinates. Later she would look at it.
Diana was sitting beside the other screen, her hand resting on the mouse, doing nothing. It was the picture of Oriel’s own mother, as she had waited beside the bed of her father before the cancer took him.
Rebellion flared a little. I hope they don’t just wait there until he dies!
Maybe they are too close to him. Too afraid to move.
After disposing of the most critical items on the status board, she walked over to Diana.
The lady looked tired, and worn out. Not at all like the Empress of the Earth. She smiled at Oriel.
“No change. They have him in a private room—with a nurse and three gunmen.”
Oriel pulled up another chair. “Is there any chance they have seen the monitor?”
“I don’t know. No one has reacted. I keep the peephole tiny and hide in the shadows. They can’t hear us talk, can they?”
Oriel shook her head. “No. The sphere goes to a camera off in some rock chamber, James told me. It is just like a television when we see it on the screen.
“Do you want me to watch awhile, while you get some sleep?”
Diana put her hand across her face, massaging the aches. “No. Not for awhile. I can’t lose him again.”
They sat in silence.
One of the gentle alarms went off several minutes later.
Oriel got up and said, “I’ll take care of that, and then go get some food. Is there anything you want?”
Diana shook her head. “Thanks for sitting with me. I kept wishing for my mother. But I couldn’t bring her into this. We all might be killed.
“I guess I sound like Bob.”
The Admiral listened to the report, frustrated at the man. Years ago, he had given up paper reports. Everything had to be done face to face. No paper trails, no way for subordinates to hide behind cut and paste wordage.
“Is there anything there?” he demanded.
The technician shook his head. “I can’t tell. The room is supposed to be radio secure, but I get some slight noise. I did a manual sweep of the room and I thought I had something, but it turned out to be a wristwatch. I was ready to confiscate it, but when I checked my watch, I detected the same noise. They are tiny computers, after all.”
Forsythe dismissed the man. It was frustrating, knowing that there was someone still running the teleporters—more reports were coming in all the time of systems being reactivated—and not knowing if they were aware he had their Emperor.
Being a hidden power had its advantages, but it also had its drawbacks. How can I threaten them with his death, if they don’t know I have him? I can’t go to the media. And if I am still as hidden as I pay my people to be, they won’t even know I’m here.
But, there was always the second plan. And if that worked, then things would be different indeed.
Mayor Norris of Big Lake pointed to the ripple in the fast flowing stream moving over the spillway.
“I think it’s cutting under the concrete apron. If that weakens, I worry.”
The town had nothing like an engineering department, but Jess Folsom had been around when the dam had been built. He nodded. “I don’t think it was ever designed to handle this much flow. A big thunderstorm, maybe, but that was all. Can’t we stop it?”
The Mayor shrugged. “I have no way to contact him, if he doesn’t pick up his money. We could go public, but I don’t know what the feds would do to us. Local people know this is Emperor work, but none of the big news people have paid us any attention.”
Jess looked over at the spillway again. “Which is worse?”
The creek was bank full already, winding its way down the valley. No one had ever considered the idea of flood-plain building restrictions. For the first time in history, the highway into town had water flowing over the asphalt. If the dam broke, nothing would be left.
“You’re right, Jess. Get some people and make some sandbags, and then I’ll call KLAS-TV in Las Vegas.”
“Sandbags? Make ‘em out of what?”
“Plastic trash bags, I guess. Use your imagination.”
Oriel snapped awake. She had stepped back to her apartment and on impulse, had called her mother, just to hear her voice. They had talked a few minutes—she was always worried about her little girl off in wicked Paris. Oriel had let fall a hint that she was seeing someone.
That had started a marathon questioning session. “Yes, he is nice. No, we haven’t had sex yet. Yes, he is respectable. He has even introduced me to his mother. No, no more questions. I love you Mother.”
She had collapsed on the bed, for just a minute, and from clock on the wall, she had slept for three hours. What must they be thinking back at Base?
She changed clothes and headed to pick up the food.