The Road Of Danger – Snippet 32


          The last stage of Adele’s search was to locate the terminus where the call had originated. Since she had given herself full access to the civilian communications system within hours of the Sissie‘s landing on Madison, that wasn’t very difficult either.


          As she expected, Cory and Cazelet were now echoing her search instead of wasting time on a freighter of no significance. She smiled, this time with complete justification.


          The call had come from a secure warehouse a few blocks from the harbor. The district was a mix of similar wholesale/storage facilities and tenements, saved from being a slum by the commercial activity bustling in it. Cory had already found real-time satellite imagery, so Adele decided to enter the site’s internal communications system.


          And failed. As best Adele could tell, the line by which the signal had been sent to the Estremadura simply did not accept incoming data. She didn’t doubt that there was a way to conduct two-way traffic from within the warehouse, but it was separate from the line which delivered information–or orders–to the waiting cruiser. At a guess, it was hardwired to a location at some distance from the warehouse.


          Adele touched her lips with the tip of her tongue, considering how to proceed. A flicker on her sidebar caught her attention–as Cazelet had clearly meant it to do. She called it up with her wands


          “Mistress?” Cazelet said, using the intercom to include Cory in his discussion. “I followed the money trail for the rental. It led to Forty Stars HQ; the only further information is the slug Platt/Restricted.”


          “Very good, Cazelet!” Adele said. “Could it have come from the Fleet Intelligence Bureau?”


          “Adele, there was no further evidence,” Cazelet said, with no more sign of irritation beyond the fact that he was repeating what he had already said.


          Adele grimaced. Cazelet had a right to be peevish: she had treated him as though he was one of the many who used words in a sloppy fashion when reporting to her.


          “But I then did a sort through general records for other files marked that way,” Cazelet continued, obviously working very hard not to sound smug. “I found references to the Estremadura had the same slug, and there was a further notation to refer all reports to the Intelligence Bureau and take no further action.”


          “Caz, that’s bloody brilliant!” Cory said.


          “Yes, Cazelet,” Adele said. “I agree.”


          She started to examine what Cazelet had found, though his oral report had probably covered everything of interest. She noticed Cory had put an icon on the sidebar also, to a very different location from Cazelet’s. Adele followed it, smiling as broadly as she ever did.


          The link took her to real-time security camera outputs; four of them. Two gave kitty-corner views of a walled courtyard; one was an exterior view of the street beyond the gate of that courtyard; and the last was toward the gate from the inside, from a camera mounted on the roof of the building which the courtyard served.


          This was the warehouse which Adele had viewed through satellite imagery. Cory had penetrated it after all.


          “The exterior guard posts aren’t shielded the way whatever’s going on inside is,” Cory said with quiet pride. “I thought it might be that way.”


          “You’ve both done very well,” Adele said. And if your teacher were a third party, I would say that she has done well also.


          The sliding gate in the courtyard wall was steel and wide enough to pass a full-sized truck. To the left of it, a cylindrical tower peeked over the high wall. There were firing slots on the tower’s inner side, but the armored door was open for ventilation; a guard with a carbine lounged in it.


          The front of the single-story building was pierced by four roll-up vehicular doors and a pedestrian door in the middle. There were gunports in the doors, though none in the masonry itself. Whatever the building might have been originally, it wasn’t a simple warehouse now.


          “There’s a vehicle…,” Cory said. “Yes, it’s turning in. It’s a delivery truck.”


          Adele didn’t expand the image from the gate camera beyond its present quadrant of her display. That scale was sufficient, and something of even greater interest might be about to happen in the field of one of the other cameras.


          The high angle didn’t give my detail of the black van other than the presence of two figures in the cab. The driver stuck her head out and called something; very likely she had honked as well.


          The guard who had been dozing in the tower doorway got up and disappeared inside. After a moment, the gate opened slowly, jouncing on at least one flat roller. The truck pulled in, but the gate started to close before the driver and her assistant got out of the cab. That was surprisingly good procedure, given the slovenly fashion in which the guards seemed to behave in general.


          The pedestrian door into the building opened. Two guards, in khaki like the man in the tower, stood in the doorway; they held carbines, but the muzzles were lowered.


          The woman and the man from the truck wore nondescript civilian clothes. They walked around to the back of their vehicle and pulled out a boy of eight or ten. His wrists and ankles were bound, and he appeared to be gagged as well; the camera’s resolution wasn’t good enough for Adele to be sure.


          They carried the boy to the door, holding him by the elbows. He tried to kick, but he went limp when the driver clipped him over the ear with her free hand. They handed him to the guards, then walked quickly back to the truck while the door into the building closed.