Read 03. The Maze in the Mirror Online

Authors: Jack L. Chalker

03. The Maze in the Mirror (4 page)

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She turned, went back into the library and opened the compartment to the wall safe and twirled the combination. Once open, she took out
a large box and then closed the safe again, putting the box down in front of her. She opened it and removed from its form fitted foam a large but light pistol resembling a German automatic. On it she placed a small sight-like device that more resembled a tiny motor of some sort, screwing it in, then checking it. She set the device according to a click stop dial, then examined the rather standard-looking clips. She removed one, untroubled by the fact that it appeared to have no bullets in it and no way at its shiny top to insert them, pushed a small button, and got a tiny red symbol in a window in the clip.

Satisfied, she pushed the clip into the pistol and stuck it half inside her jeans. Then, checking the security panel one more time, she turned out all of the downstairs lights and then went to the intercom.

"Diane, I think we're gonna have visitors tryin' to get this guy back. Radio Philadelphia that we will probably be under attack shortly. Get Sam on the radio if you can. He knows this place better'n anybody. You tell 'em to call up the line and get Stan back here with reinforcements, and watch it just comin' into the entry point 'cause it's probably covered. Where's Cal?"

"Back up in the loft, probably. I'll notify him."

"No heroics. No use in him getting killed. Just tell him to lay low and keep outta sight and in touch and help if he can, understand?"

"Yes, Ma'am. You want me to come up and help you out?"

You stay locked in there 'til somebody from the Company with the U.S. Marines attached gets in here. You're the only way we can talk to anybody
now. Call it in-U[now!]"

This was getting to be a real pain and fast. As bad or worse than the old days. She also had twin concerns, neither involving herself. On the one hand, she needed to protect this' Bond character, whether he was anything like the fictional one or not, and she had real concerns for Dash. If anything happened to him, or if he woke up to find dead bodies around, he might never get over it. As it stood, she hoped she could hold out and that he'd just sleep right through it. Hell, Dash was the kind that could sleep through World War II.

She took her position again to the side looking out the front window. The back was potentially more vulnerable but the drifts against it were high and there weren't that many ways in except through solid doors. It sounded like the wind was whipping up out there and that'd make it maybe five below with a stiff wind to get it down further and blow up new powder, and there wasn't a whole hell of a lot of cover and protection out there if you wanted to get to the house itself. Not even Eskimos could afford to just sit out there in that stuff and bide their time, and the odds were that whoever was chasing him was no better dressed for this kind of weather than Bond had been. Unless, of course, they had pushed him in a guided chase to this very point, where they knew it was lightly defended and remote and without direct Company access.

She had a sudden, horrible thought. What if it was Carlos and he picked this of all spots to push Bond into 'cause Bond wasn't the only thing he wanted here?

One of the floodlights suddenly went out, then
another. She didn't wait for the series and got to the intercom.

"I think somebody's shootin' out the floods," she told him. "They can't wait much longer in this weather. We need help and fast!"

"I can't get through to them," Diane reported. "I've been trying since we talked a few minutes ago. The ham channels are jammed with static- you can't hear anything but noise and I'm sure I don't sound any better."

"Try the CB. They may not have thought of that," Brandy told her. "Get somebody to call the cops. Say we got armed prowlers."

"I'll try. Hold on." There was a pause for what seemed several minutes, then, "No good. I'm getting nothing but dead air, like I'm not on antenna at all. We're cut off." She paused a moment. "Uh oh. I'm getting energy surges and activation sequences like mad. The alarm system's working down there now for all the good it'll do us. Or maybe it's Cal with reinforcements."

"Maybe, but I ain't gonna bet the farm on it. Look, I'm gonna keep the intercom on open, so you can hear what's happenin' here. You keep tryin' to get through to anybody and I don't care who you talk to or what you got to tell 'em, understand?"

"O.K. At least if it's going off here it's going off and registering at both switches, too. That should bring some security people here pretty quick."

Could be. But if they had to shoot their way through it might take a real long while.

She crept back upstairs, staying out of any light, and went back to the guest bedroom. Bond had lapsed back into sleep, perhaps a more peaceful
kind. She thought about waking him up, but he wouldn't be much good overall, not with those painful, bandaged feet. He wasn't going anywhere, and so what could he do? Shoot a couple before they shot him? Maybe the guy from the movies could do it all, but the more you looked at this guy the less you saw him doing that kind of thing.

She checked once more on Dash, then went back downstairs into the dark. About the only thing you could see was a couple of the little lights from the satellite system that always sent power and a little heat back to the dish to keep it from freezing up and the little red lights from a couple of backup battery flashlights plugged into the walls. The one thing they couldn't do was cut the power into here. That was fed from lines deep underground to the substation itself and wasn't part of the regular central Pennsylvania power system. And if they managed to cut that they'd also shut down the substation, leaving them trapped here and their cronies down below in the Labyrinth sitting ducks for an inevitable quick security team attack.

They, too, were taking a big chance.
That thought helped sustain her. They had limits and their clock was running. They couldn't sustain this blackout for long, and they couldn't take all night to attack due to the weather and the uncertainty of how close reinforcements might be.

She heard something on the side and pulled out the pistol, then moved to the source of the sound. She might have expected them to try her greenhouse first. All that glass probably looked real tempting, but the shutters were down now for extra insulation and heat retention and if they tried cutting through the outer glass as it sounded like and hit those shutters . . .

There was a sudden flash and a scream and the sound of electricity surging through vibrating metal. She couldn't see anything, but she was pretty damned sure that somebody had just been fried.

They were far too smart to try the doors, and now the greenhouse had proven nasty-and they hadn't even hit the bad traps yet had they managed to bypass the shutters. Next they'd try the frontal assault. She walked back to the living room and thought she saw shadows through the living room picture window even though it was pitch dark. Well, she didn't need light.

Certain that Cal was either captured, dead, or well away, she brought up the pistol and let it do its thing. It moved her hand, faster than she, and fired on its own. The "bullets" were tiny electrical pulses that showed dull red in the dark. They struck and went right through the window and she heard a couple of men's voices cry out. The pistol stopped firing and she had full control again.

The reflex action when fired upon through a window was to fire back. Some of the men outside did just that with weapons similar to hers. The special "glass" was strictly one way for that; their shots bounced off. She hoped the ricochets nailed some of their buddies but they probably just went harmlessly off into the air where they dissipated. She wondered if they'd try real bullets. They'd mess up the window but a submachine gun sprayed on there would produce wonderfully devastating ricochets-for the gunners. They might have figured that this was a lightly manned and very minor and isolated substation, but the guy
who lived here made his living protecting Company property. Sam had warned that there was no system that was unbeatable or didn't have some weak points, but what you bought was time. Time to get help, or time to be rescued. She was in a nice, warm house she knew well. They were out in cold and wind bitter enough to give a man frostbite just walking a mile in it improperly clothed and protected. More important, they had only one exit and it was the equivalent of a highway with noplace to hide from passing cars. If they were discovered, it was all over and they were trapped.

Clearly the men outside were getting frustrated fast. They weren't even trying the conventional doors and windows, since if even the greenhouse and the living room picture window were traps they knew what the usual places must be like.

She was almost beginning to enjoy this and anticipate their actions. Next they'd either try and find a ladder in the barn and get to the roof or they'd try chopping through someplace or, maybe, if they got desperate enough, they might try starting a fire. She certainly hoped so. The exterior fire suppression system would spray enough water to coat them with what would be hard ice in a very short time.

The one thing she'd always hated about this area was the bitter cold, the feeling of never being really warm. Now, suddenly, she found herself feeling quite good about bitter cold, snow, and ice. They were allies that even the best security system couldn't provide on its own.

They did in fact seem to be all around, and not at all reticent about shouting orders. She didn't recognize the language but that was to be expected.

The odds were that they spoke something beyond anyone's ability on this world to understand. Of course, to her it kind of sounded like the Chinese army.

That thought did worry her a little. The house was protected from casual attack, from people wanting in even if they had the usual tools and weapons. It was not a house built by the Company, though, but an old estate house that had been in the hands of one family for almost two centuries before the last heir, a writer, committed suicide here and it was sold to the Company through a blind. A bazooka, for example, would still blow in that steel door.

She decided to retreat upstairs and let the first floor fend for itself, something it was doing quite well.

Bond stirred. "What is happening?" he managed.

"They're here. They got us cut off for a little bit and they been tryin' to get through the security system, so far with heavy losses," she told him, some pride in her voice. "Still, they been awful quiet all of a sudden for a fairly long time. Either they gave up, or got in the barn to warm up a little, or they're settin' up and plannin' somethin'."

"Probably the latter. They won't give up. They can't. They will die first. There is a drug-most of them are slaves to it. If they return without me, or without proof of my death, they won't get it and they will die horribly. You can not believe what lengths they will go to."

She felt a knot in her stomach. "Yes, I can, too. They once had me on that shit."

"And you kicked the habit?" He sounded more
than impressed. "Oh, of course, that was the old drug where you had a chance. Organic stuff from way up the line. This is all synthetic, much nastier, but you know their desperation."

She nodded. The idea of a drug even more powerful than the most powerful ever known before was her worst nightmare come true. She had become a whore, a slave, a double agent, and more under that old one, and it had taken everything she had and all the knowledge and skills of the Company's super medical technology to break her free of dependence on it. Most never could break if, the treatment either broke them or they lived on a level of it rather than try. If it wasn't for Sam she couldn't have, either. The worst part was how utterly selfish the addiction made you. You'd rob, betray, even kill innocents, even those you loved, to sustain it, but never once did she think of killing herself because that would deny her the next fix. Those poor devils out there would get in or die trying.

"The rest are probably Ginzu," he told her. "A fanatical warrior cult that considers a commission a debt of honor and who would prefer death to dishonor. They are quite skilled with knives that they create themselves and which they can use to inflict extreme torture. I escaped from them, which is where my wounds come from. I should prefer to die rather than fall into their hands again."

She nodded. Suddenly there was a series of thumps from the roof, and she thought fast. Normally the roof was slick and she could make it slicker, but right now it was piled up with snow and there might be a possible footing. Right up top
was an old widow's walk with attic access. Even it was electrified and fortified just in case, but it was also far weaker, being original to the house. But if they could get in the attic . . .

There was the sound of muffled blasts from the roof. Conventional shotgun, it sounded like- maybe Cal's from the barn. Loaded up and at close range it would blow that old attic door right off its hinges.

There was the sudden sound of movement, and then two sharp, piercing cries of pain. At least they hadn't broken the energy grid and were paying the price.

"Do you think they got in?" Bond asked worriedly.

She shook her head. "No way of knowin' without stickin' my neck up there which I ain't about to do. On the other hand, I don't hear no footsteps on the ceilin', neither. Let me get back in the hall. There ain't but two ways down from there without choppin' holes."

She stood in the center and waited, the only light coming from the night light in Dash's room. By God, if they got in and headed for Dash they was gonna have to roll over her dead body!

Suddenly there was the soft sound of something moving, a creaking sound down the hall at the end nearest Dash, and she felt a sudden chill as some of the outside cold rushed excitedly into the warmth of the house. They
got in, damn them!

They made a fair amount of noise as they moved the trap up and away, and she armed the pistol again and aimed it right at the opening. Anybody coming down there was gonna get smeared.

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