"I'm certain of that, sir." Barf bit his lip. "And while one of our portals might happen to be working . . . is there anything else critical that ought to be moved?"
"No . . . we'll be short on food sooner than I'd like, but right now the Stutts need to depend on their own portals . . . if for no other reason than we might be able to figure out if Igor's damaged any of them."
Night of the sixth day, and I have this last facility to scout. Then I'll think about how much I can realistically do.
Just driving by on the highway, a glimpse showed a whole lot more lights on at Number Three. Mostly at the Museum end.
I hope they think that was a daring raid to rescue the Black Widows. Not a scouting trip to check out how to liberate a portalmaker . . . because what idiot scout would care about four women in a holding cell?
Portal Facility Four looked like business as usual. Not much cover on the south side where the trucks were departing, but on the west side, a narrow side street, with a not-really-a-park, just a roughly maintained bank of a concrete lined drainage with some trees sticking up out of the brush where they'd stopped mowing.
A quick slash and levitate, then he backed the car down the slope into the cleared spot and dropped the cut brush on the car
Probably just scratched my paint. He trotted up the slope to the road and walked to the road that paralleled the security fence, and along it to the point closest to the building. Closed his eyes so he could see the density points of pressureplates, the wire loops of circuit detectors . . . half of them not working.
Overconfident, lazy. Not keeping up the maintenance
He mapped a path through through all the sensors, backed off to let a car drive past, stayed back to watch two patrol vehicles inside drive by, one each way. Used the time to set his camo to "medium mown grass."
Then he ran and jumped. Levitated. Rolled the landing and held still. No alarm, no under the surface detectors on this side. He trotted for the building spotting doors . . . a blank one over there . . . no outside handles. Well, finally an emergency exit! He leaned to feel for alarms . . . reached a hand up and rested it near the alarm on the other side of the wall . . . reached mentally and bent a few wires. Checked, no one near . . . he pulled out the worker's overalls he'd snagged from the first Portal, and climbed into them. Switched his camo to solid tan, and walked down the hall, heading toward the portal machinery.
Stepped into an empty office and opened his shields to feel for the portalmaker . . . close, good he was on this side of the big bay where the portal actually formed. And as the portal clased, he could feel the effort and mental reach for the next destination, the . . . challenge, the interest in seeing the multiverse . . . the pop of pain to remind the youngster to go to this specific place . . .
This kid's going to get along with Henrik just fine.
:: Who is Henrik? ::
Axel swallowed. :: A free portalist. Finish your shift. We'll talk then. ::
Axel closed his shield tight, and moved away. Found stairs and climbed a level, peeked out, too many people. He dropped down to the basement and a found the computers, a chemistry lab . . . A lavatory right under the control room. It looked unused.
Who wants to feel the mental screams of a portalmaker when they're sitting on the toilet?
A glance at his watch. Four hours and they should shut down.
Only two other people in the basement. Axel scouted out what he needed, then tucked himself out of sight and relaxed. Because the kidnapping of portal makers starts this morning.
Fifteen minutes to six he sent an impression of sleep to the pair of people down here, and moved boxes into the lavatory until he had a nice stable pyramid under an empty spot on the floor above. The people above shut down the stations, and wished their coworkers a good moring and left.
Axel started to cut an angled hole . . . paused as people entered above . . .
:: The cleaning crew. I go to sleep to the sound of the vacuum every "night." They don't take long. ::
Axel chewed his fingernails until they'd rattled away.
:: Wait a sec . . . Gut, security has locked up. But you may have trouble getting in. ::
Axel slashed carefully, angled up and outward of the concrete circle partly so he could put it back, mostly so it didn't fall on his head.
He heaved it up and slid it aside, boosted himself up.
:: Now let's see how they monitor you . . . right basic vital signs. Let me see if I can record a loop and play it back to them . . . no problem. ::
He stepped over to the coffin and lifted the lid. "Hi, I'm Igor."
"Pleased to," the kid coughed, and spat, "Meet you. I'm Leon, with a number that probably doesn't matter any more."
He got the kid wiped down and into the overalls, dropped him through the hole and only had to half carry him up the stairs.
Easiest escape ever. Even the part that involved throwing the kid over the fence.
They drove off into the quiet morning, merged with traffic and . . .
"Not even a car chase? Not that I'm complaining, mind you. That was quite . . . slick."
Axel grinned. "What I would like to do is also rescue at least one more of your collegues. If I'm quick, I can get in and out before anyone discovers that you are misssing and they beef up security everywhere."
"Can I help?"
"Only by staying still and quiet in the car, so I don't have to detour to leave you someplace safe."
"Rats. I mean, yes, of course. There's four of us, I guess, I've been out of touch for . . . years? What's the date?"
"March 18, 3740."
"What? That was only four months! Damn. Umm, seventeen. I'm still seventeen."
Axel craned his neck as he passed the third Portal facilities. In the morning light any extra security was much less obvious, but the parking lot at the far end by the museum was empty.
"Not that one?"
"The portalmaker's very old. I'd most likely kill him, trying to save him. We'll try the next one."
"Yeah . . . there's just not enough time to do this three more times. So I'm starting with you two young ones." He pointed at the second portal campus from the highway. A T shaped building, the cross bar the offices, the stem the working parts of the portal, with the vehicle access at the end. He took the next exit.
"The problem here is that there's no place to hide the car except in plain sight in the parking lot of this big manufacturing plant." He turned and reached under the dash to turn off the legal ID and turn on the first fake ID. The gate opened and let him in. He turned left and circled the plant. "I scouted it out three days ago. See the stormdrain covers?"
"All in a line, aimed straight at the Portal Building?"
"Yep. It'll be a bit tough getting from the stormdrains into the building, but it'll get me past all the outer perimiter defenses." He turned into a parking spot by a manhole cover. "So . . . just lean back and relax, sleep. It's two hours before they shut down this portal, so the portalmaker can sleep, which is probably how long it'll take me to get in."
A little bit of Levatation and push-pull effects and the minor dust cloud concealed a fast levitation of the nearest cover. He dropped in, clinging to the lip long enough to pull the cover almost into place. A quick light to look down and drop a couple of feet into six inches of slime . . . Levitation and pull to get the cover into place then he headed down the pipe.
And pretending he didn't hear a mental laugh from Leon :: Splat! Secret Agent skidding around in the mud! ::
A small rill of water running down the center of the eight-foot diameter concrete pipe. Slime halfway up both sides, dry at the top and hazardously slippery where he had to walk. He counted manhole covers. Half a mile to the street, and on to the grounds of the portal facility. Where their parking lot also needed drainage. And a final junction where the drain turned to the left. He let the light fade and reched out mentally People over there. The density chunks of cars above, unmoving.
Ahead . . . dirt. To the right . . . dirt.
How far am I going to have to go to find a door? And where the Hell is the bloody building?