Spacer Fires From Heaven 111
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    "Spent most of the night on it."
    "What address in Poughkeepsie?" Lucky looked confused.
    "The address in her head."
    "The collection point, when the project is finished," I explained tersely. "We're all going to show up there at some point. Won't that be a fun reunion."
    "It's a disused industrial complex that's been unowned for a number of years, yet has been receiving large shipments of scientific and electronic equipment."
    I blinked. I never expected it to be that blatant, I confess. I certainly wouldn't have done it that way. But regardless. "Gee. What—"
    "Did you call Trent?" Lucky interrupted.
    "What? No, why?"
    "Your brain, your business," she shrugged after a hesitation, but left no doubt that she had reservations. I tried to assuage them.
    "I talked to that short blonde woman, at Lancaster."
    "She's a student!"
    Yup. Reservations. "Yeah, but she managed to straighten me out in about three seconds," I pointed out. "I trust that she knows what she's doing."
    "She didn't know what you looked like before," Lucky countered.
    "If it will make you feel better, I'll call Trent," I sighed.
    "I cannot stay, I must find my parents," Hans repeated.
    "Hans, could we please have a plan here?" she snapped, startling me; that's my line.
    "Where are you going to look?" Scott inquired.
    "Can I recommend that you make a plan soon, my friends?" the Muse suggested, glancing out the window.
    "Why is that?" I asked.
    "Because there are several people who do fit properly into the scene outside. I'd say that someone cast some additional extras."
    Scott flowed over and peeked out.
    "I'll check the back," Lucky announced.
    "See the two in the bad-fitting suits over there?" Muse indicated. They were pretty obvious.
    "It's not all that surprising," the robot observed, "considering that I own this as a matter of public record."
    "So they're going to incite a riot outside?" I speculated.
    "At the moment they're just watching the building."
    "And doing such a wonderful job of looking obscure, too," Muse remarked. "Sends shivers up the spine, I do hate bad actors."
    "Yeah, they're back there," Lucky announced.
    "Oh, for pity's sake," I muttered. And here we were, on the first floor.
    "Let's not worry about it," Scott suggested. After all, they were just watching. Lucky sniffed around for explosives, just in case. "Until we come up with someplace else to go, we're going to be here. They know where this is. Let 'em watch."
    "We're not doing anything they can see anyway," I agreed. "We have to prioritize here." In the back of my mind I could feel a smile starting. It wasn't a nice smile, but I felt better than I have in weeks. They've finally made a mistake.
    The problem throughout this whole escalating disaster has been that we haven't been able to see or touch who was doing it, there were too many layers of agency. If they had left it where things stood last night, they might have been okay—they might still be okay, I suppose, but now we've got a better chance. We're 80% gone, it wouldn't take much to get us the rest of the way out of the picture, and Shapiro has whipped up enough anti-variant feeling in the city that they'll have a damn hard time replacing us even if they want to. Not good enough, apparently, and as a consequence they're making themselves visible.
    "Hello, K. Robeson Enterprises," Stephanie murmured into the phone. "Okay, I'll—he's in a meeting, no, I'll take a message."
    "Hans, your parents." I addressed him. "What is going on? Who are these people? I realize that this is..."
    "I would like to talk to you all in private. Without the villains," he added.
    Stephanie tick-takked over. "Mr. Silver? Mr. Stevens just called to that he'd finished the dig."
    "Excellent. Thank you!"
    "Not a problem."
    "We're going to leave the building," Scott announced in a somewhat sudden change of plans. "The place might be bugged."
    Muse glanced around with a shrug. "I should think I would be able to detect a sound system. It would be best if you could leave unobtrusively." He paused thoughtfully. "Miss Stephanie, have you ever considered a career in theater?"
    "Excuse me?"
    "Come with me, I'm sure you'll be perfect. Give us thirty seconds," he told the rest of us.
    "Thirty seconds for what?" she asked.
    "Come along, come along. Tish-tosh, nothing to worry about."
    "What is the idiot doing?" Hans wanted to know.
    "I believe he's going to draw off the people watching the front of the building so we can get out of here without being followed," Scott explained. We got ready to move, agreed to head off in separate directions and meet at Copley Place in one hour. Hans was going to be pretty obtrusive in his costume; all of his things were back at the house. I offered to go and get his bag for him, since he obviously didn't want to go near the place.
    Across the street an argument was breaking out, directly in front of the watchers. Between Muse's grand oration and Stephanie's heaving assets, they were well distracted, and we had all the time in the world to slip out and saunter casually off in our different directions. I made my way to the scene of yesterday's battle and picked up Hans' bag, headed for the rendezvous.
    We wound up in the parking garage, where Scott headed for the secret tunnel entrance. We passed through old battle sites, deeper into the winding ways. I followed Scott with an increasing sense of bemusement.
    At last we stopped in a chamber which had once been fitted out for Dawn's sacrifice. At the moment, one quadrant was occupied by computer equipment. I was not in the least surprised to see our base system echoed yet again on a screen facing me. A television talked to itself quietly in a corner.
    "What is this place?" Hans asked in a wondering tone.
    "My secret headquarters," Scott replied proudly. Obviously, comic books are good for something after all. Maybe I should read more of them. I made a mental note to not underestimate Scott, ever again.
    "Shovels" Stevie emerged from a pile of equipment with a broad smile, dusting his hands. "Hi. Took me a while to deal with the smell of burned raven feathers, but other than that this is one of the easier jobs I've had to deal with."
    Lucky leaned on the wall and started laughing quietly, arms crossed over her stomach.
    "Underground," was Albert's only comment, tapping dubiously at the bricks with his cane. "I trust you've installed an adequate ventilation system?"
    "Oh, yeah, that was no problem, just rigged it through the air conditioning system at Copley Plaza."

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson