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mechanic, one of the serf people in the circuit a body of slim human type
enclosed by a fitted yellow coverall which left only the face exposed. The
face was a mask of vivid black and yellow lines. Neto was almost within
speaking distance before the human features concealed by the Fossily face
pattern began to be discernible.
That was the disguise Neto had adopted for herself. Fossily mechanics, with
their tool kits hung knapsack-wise behind their shoulders, were employed
almost everywhere in the circuit and drew no attention in chance encounters.
Moreover, they had a species odor profoundly offensive to Elaigar nostrils.
Their coverall suits were chemically impregnated to hide it; and the resulting
sour but tolerable smell also covered the human scent. A second yellow tool
bag swung by its straps from Neto's gloved left hand. In it was a Fossily suit
for Telzey, and black and yellow face paint.
* * *
Essu returned not long afterwards. Telzey touched his mind as he appeared in
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the portal down in the great hall, and knew he'd carried out his assignment. A
pack of circuit diagram maps was concealed under his uniform jacket. He hadn't
let himself be seen.
He joined them on the gallery, blandly accepting the presence of two wild
humans and the fact that
Telzey and Neto were disguised as Fossily mechanics. Telzey looked at Thrakell
Dees.
Thrakell could be a valuable confederate. Could be. She wasn't sure what else
he might be. Neto suspected he was a murderer, that he'd done away with other
circuit survivors. There was no proof of it, but Telzey hadn't taken her
attention off him since she'd caught him stalking her in his uncanny manner on
the gallery, and there'd been an occasional shimmer of human thought through
the cover pattern, which he'd changed meanwhile to that of a Fossily mechanic.
She'd made out nothing clearly, but what she seemed to sense at those moments
hadn't reduced her uneasiness about Thrakell.
"Thrakell," she said, "before we get down to business, I'm giving you a
choice."
He frowned. "A choice?"
"Yes. What I'd like you to do is to give up that Fossily cover and open your
screens for a minute, so I
can see what you're thinking. That would be simplest."
Thrakell shook his head. "I don't understand."
Neto chuckled softly.
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- Chapter 18
"Oh, you understand," Telzey said. "You wanted to come along when I try to get
out of the circuit, so you are coming along. But we didn't get off to a good
start, and I don't feel I can take you on trust now.
You could prove I can by letting me look at your mind. Just the surface
stuff I want to know what made you decide to contact me, that's all."
Thrakell's small eyes glittered with angry apprehension. But his voice was
even. "What if I refuse?"
"Then Essu will take your weapons and circuit key pack."
Thrakell looked shocked. "That's completely unfair! If we became separated,
I'd be confined to whatever section I happened to be in. I'd be helpless!"
"Well, that will make you see to it we don't get separated," Telzey said. "I
don't think we should now.
Which will it be?"
Thrakell jerked his head sullenly at Neto. "What about her?"
"She's sure of me," Neto told him. "Quite, quite sure! She's already been all
through my mind, that's why!" She laughed.
Essu, round white eyes fixed on Thrakell, reached for a gun on his belt, and
Thrakell said hastily, "Let the Tolant have the articles then! I rarely use a
weapon, in any case. I detest violence."
Essu began going over him with his search devices. Telzey and Neto looked on.
Telzey could, in fact, be very sure of Neto. Neto had known no hope of escape
from the circuit. She'd lived by careful planning and constant alertness for
the past two years, a vengeful, desperate ghost slipping about the fringe
areas which would open to the portal keys she'd obtained, as wary of the few
wild humans who'd still been around at first as of the Elaigar and their alien
servants. There were periods when she no longer believed there was a world
outside the circuit and seemed unable to remember what she had done before she
met the Elaigar. At other times, she was aware of what was happening to her
and knew there could be only one end to that.
Then, once more trailing the murderer who could slip up on you invisibly if
you weren't careful, trying to determine what sort of mischief he was involved
in, she'd touched a new mind.
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In moments, Neto knew something like adoration. She'd found a protector, and
gave herself over willingly and completely. Let this other one decide what
should happen now, let her take control, as she began doing at once.
Neto's stresses dissolved in blind trust. Telzey saw to it that they did.
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- Chapter 18 [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]