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Gomez, casually, eased his right hand into the jacket pocket that held his
borrowed stun gun The door slid open.
There was a bright cozy parlor across the threshold,
furnished in black and white. There was a comfortable sofa, an armchair and
wall high bookcases.
But there was no sign of Jake, or anyone else, in the cell.
Bascom was looking rumpled again. He was sitting on the edge of his desk, legs
dangling, and noodling out a chorus of a twentieth century bop tune, "Un Poco
Loco," on his saxophone.
The desk vidphone buzzed.
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The Chief of the Cosmos Detective Agency set the sax aside. "What?" he asked,
turning toward the phone-screen.
The image of the metal head of the switchboard got was wiped off, replaced by
Rex/GK-30. "Excuse my barging in on you, Bascom," the robot said. "But these
two tykes are getting anxious for news."
Behind the large got Bascom saw Dan and Molly standing. "Nothing new since
last time we talked, kids,"
he said, shaking his head sadly.
"Are they alive?" asked Dan.
"There's no report of a crash, Dan," replied Bascom.
"I've been urging a few of my contacts back in DC to find out what the
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OCO knows about this."
"You're sure it is the OCO?"
"At least a contingent of that esteemed organization,
"Aren't you doing anything else?"
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"Dan, I've got five of my best operatives on this. And I've put out the word
to our informant network. Sooner or--"
"But right now, you aren't even sure if my dad and Sid are still alive?"
"I'm betting that--"
"The Teklords are also involved in this frumus, kiddo," cut in Rex.
"Here, take a gander at this gink."
A vidclip of a dark, thickset man filled the screen. The man was walking, head
down, across the lobby of a hotel.
"This is Roberto Martinez," explained the robot. "I glommed this from a
secsyst cam in the lobby of Hotel and."
"Martinez is the bozo who came in, interrupted ne'er-do-well uncle while he
was chinning with waltzed the guy out and possibly into oblivion." connected
with one of the Mexican Tek cartels?" "Yep, the
Navarro Cartel, biggest one in Borderland." Frowning, Bascom tapped the bell
of his saxophone. "Usually they hire outside help for these simple chores," he
said thoughtfully. "They must've been in a rush to
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"Important holocall coming in," blurted out one of the holograph stages..
"I'll get back to you, Dan. Don't worry."
Bascom crossed to the platform and activated it.
The life-size projection of a man in a yellow suit materialized. He was pudgy
and he had no head. There was just a blurred ball of pale blue light resting
on his shoulders. "I understand you're interested in the present whereabouts
of Jake Cardigan and Sid Gomez, Bascom.
Making a slow half circuit of the stage, Bascom said, "You don't usually deal
in this sort of information, Wordsworth."
"I came across this gem of intelligence by chance," said the headless
informant. "Being dedicated to the cause of justice, I decided to risk my
anonymity by contacting you in person in this manner."
"How much?"
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"Naturally my first concern is the safety of your operatives and--"
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"Your price?"
A coughing noise came out of the blur. "Five thousand dollars."
"Three thousand tops." "I know where your ops are languishing, Bascom.
"Forty-five hundred."
"Thirty-five hundred."
"Four thousand dollars or I depart."
"Deal. Now tell me where--"
"Jesus! Got to go. Stand by until later, Bascom." There was a faint popping
sound and Wordsworth was gone.
"Shit," observed Bascom.
R6ENT HECTON'S OFFICE was small, crowded with too many metal chairs, data
boxes neo wood packing crates and bundles of old fax memos His desk was wedged
in a corner and there were two dozen small vidscreens in the walls to the left
and right of it. "You're not paying attention, Cardigan," he complained from
the metal chair that was jammed behind the narrow gunmetal desk.
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"I'm still admiring the decor." Jake was straddling a chair, facing the OCO
"This is a temp setup, purely functional." He gestured at a bank of
viewscreens to his left. "What do you see there?"
"Assorted views of what I assume is the jungle outside, shot with nitecams."
Nodding slowly, Helton said, "What you don't see, however, is as much as a
trace of your damned missing partner."
"True," agreed Jake.
"Notice Screen Seventeen."
This showed a white metal lab table, bright lit from overhead, upon which
sprawled a large robot dog. "Defunct dog," said Jake.
"That's one of the two highly efficient robot tracking dogs that were sent to
locate Gomez, incapacitate him and then signal our people,"
continued Helton. "They never fail."
"Until tonight."
"Both of these dogs were rendered inoperative by a highly sophisticated
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sonic weapon." He put both elbows on the desk, leaning forward, eyeing
Jake. "Where'd Gomez get such a weapon?"
"The gift shop at the sky port
Helton's frown deepened. "Do you bastards have allies on this island?"
"Sure. We sent a whole troop of them here on the off chance we'd someday be
high jacked He grinned. "C'mon, Helton, be rational. I
have no idea what Gomez used on your mechanized mutts."
"I want him here." He tapped the desktop with a blunt forefinger. "He has to
be brought in--now."
"So keep looking for him."
The agent said, "No, you're going to help me round him up, Cardigan."
"No, I'm not, nope."
"My instructions are not to harm you, not seriously," he told Jake.
"Still, we have some gadgets here that--"
"How about a Devlin Gun?" asked Jake. "That might scare me into
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cooperating." After exhaling slowly, then inhaling, Helton advised him, "You
don't want to know anything about the Devlin
Jake said, "Almita's working for Carlos Zabicas. He's got the guns and--"
"Zabicas hasn't got them."
"Oh, so? Then who did you guys arrange to--"
"Right now all you have to worry about is helping me get Gomez herded in
here." Helton stood. "We're going out into the jungle, you and I, Cardigan,
"And I'm what--bait?"
"Yeah, exactly."
Jake shook his head. "I decline."
"Then I'll have to persuade you."
Jake asked, "How high up in the OCO does this go?
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Who told you to waylay us but not knock us off?."
Smiling, Helton answered, "Maybe nobody ordered me to spare your lives," he
suggested. "Perhaps I'm simply conning you, Cardigan. It might be that your
only real chance of surviving depends on your helping me lo cate Gomez.
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Otherwise--" [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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