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sent the others sprawling in back of her.
The door remained visible for about another minute and a half, and the
Cloptans tried just about everything from firing energy weapons and
conventional pistols at it to pounding on it, but it did no good. Then it
winked out, and they were left alone in the suddenly silent and very deserted
"It ain't fair!" Audlay cried. "Everybody got to go but us!"
The Well at Entrance Hall 9
disengage from the kite which lay, crashed, nearby and reform himself into a
practical shape.
He was most conscious of the silence, sudden and absolute, but he was too
experienced to dwell on it at the moment. Instead, he went over to the kite,
put out two strong armlike pseudopods, and turned it over.
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Its struts were splintered, and it was virtually broken into two pieces:
whatever had ridden in on it must have taken a terrible jolt.
But there was nothing in the harness. It looked in fact as if the straps had
been burst, as if by something suddenly enlarging to a point where the straps
could no longer contain it.
If so, where was it?
He looked around and saw the door behind him, as transparent as glass. He saw
the girl check the baby, smile, and walk through into the chamber where he now
was, the invisible surface parting as if it were a thin curtain of water. The
girl stopped, then looked around in wonder at the whole of the enormous
chamber. Then the baby moved and made a sound, and all her attention came back
to it.
Now Campos, looking very comical, picked herself up and almost stormed
through. She spotted the colonel immediately, paying little mind to the girl.
"So? Where is she?" Campos asked, eyeing the broken kite. Her voice echoed in
the vastness of the hall.
"She's not here," the colonel responded, gesturing toward the underside. "I
can't explain it. It couldn't have been more than a matter of seconds, a half
minute at most, until I was able to regain my composure and check it. I still
had hold of it!"
Campos reached into a pocket, took out another in the dwindling supplies of
Taluud's cigars, and lit it. "I don't like this. I say we go with the original
plan and all get the hell out of here before it closes on us!" The colonel
looked around at the eerie, empty hallway with its incredibly high, nearly
endless ceiling and vast expanse, and said, "I tend to agree. I-" Suddenly,
Dillians burst through the door, Tony with Gus on her back. "Who the hell said
you all could come?" Campos snapped at them. "And why bring him?" It was
clear she meant Gus.
"Because he asked us to," Anne Marie answered matter-of-factly. She looked
around the great hall, as did Tony, and both gasped at the scale. It made all
of them seem like a speck of dirt on a nice, clean floor.
"Well, everybody can turn around and get out right now!" Campos thundered.
"All of us!"
"Lost your nerve? So soon?" Gus taunted, then frowned. "Hey! I don't hurt no
more! in fact-"
He rolled off Tony's back and onto the smooth floor, then looked down at his
side. Almost on impulse, he tore off the bandages. Underneath there was
nothing but smooth, undisturbed skin. Not even a scar was visible.
"Well, I'll be damned! I'm beginnin' to like this place!" he said wonderingly.
Campos was growing increasingly nervous. "Well, I, for one, do not! We go!
Now!" She looked at the other Cloptans coming toward the door. "If we don't,
it's going to be an even bigger mess! About the only ones missing are-" At
that moment Lori and Julian came into view behind the Cloptans; they could
see but not hear the Cloptan group scatter as they passed and saw the Cloptans
firing wildly, but then first Lori and then Julian were inside the hall, their
hooves abruptly clattering against the smooth floor.
"I had to open my big mouth," Campos said grumpily. "All right! Out!" "Who's
gonna make us?" Gus asked him. "You?"
"Colonel, I am suddenly very weary of that one. He has been a burden for too
long," Campos said to the Leeming. "Will you please see to him?" The colonel
moved close to Gus, who had no armor and no defense and was still all too
visible to everyone there. The Leeming hesitated just a moment, and Gus asked
him, some obvious nervousness in his voice, "Well, Colonel, you and I gonna
finally finish it here, huh?" [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]