Eddie was pretty sure it wasn’t a trap or anything like that, but he wasn’t taking any chances. He crossed the twenty feet to the unconscious Armelle on his belly, inching along. It was an exercise in stealth that even a hunting cat would have been proud of.
Of course, a hunting cat would have been in tall grass or woods, at night. Eddie was on a tile floor, in the stark flicker of fluorescent dramatically. His shoes squeaked dramatically every time he moved, while his brown jacket and worn blue jeans were a fine contrast against the surgical white of the tile.
It took him a quarter of an hour to reach Armelle. By that time, she was already starting to move as she recovered. He grabbed the collar of her lab coat and went into reverse, laboriously retracing his squeaky steps back to the cover of the control consoles. He was halfway across the floor when her eyes finally opened and she stared up at him.
“What are you doing?”
He held a finger to his lips, wincing as her question echoed around the huge room.
“Ssshhh! Cain’t take no chances, y’know. No tellin’ who might be watchin’.”
With a slightly dizzy motion, she struggled upright, but stopped short of actually getting to her feet. She settled for sitting cross-legged on the floor as she felt the back of her head. There was a bump on it, but the skin wasn’t broken and the ache would pass.
Another rubbery squeak brought her attention back to Eddie, who was still inching backward along the floor.
“Eddie, do you see anyone else in here?”
He shook his head, but gestured with a stealthy finger at the walls and balconies of the floors above.
“Could be cameras erry’where, ‘Melle. No tellin’ who might be watchin’.”
Armelle shook her head, sighed, and got painfully to her feet. After swaying slightly, she pulled him up, as well.
“If there are cameras, you’re not going to hide from them by lying on the floor, Eddie. They’re probably infrared, so they’d pick up your body heat, if nothing else. Now, where’s Vančura got to?”
Eddie gave her a solemn look.
“Never came t’ru. ‘e could be jus’bout ennytime.”
She was puzzled.
“Sure. ‘s a time-machine, yeah? Lost in ennytime, dat’s where ‘ol Vancy could be. ”
She laughed softly, but her eyes turned towards the STAd and there was concern in them.
“I don’t think you quite grasp how the the STAd works, Eddie.”
The little man gave her an arch look and turned away muttering. She just barely caught the words, but what she did hear stopped her in her tracks.
“..nnerstand it jus’bout well as ennyone else roun’ere, I figures.”
End Chapter 18– Part 3
As anyone who knows me could tell you, I would never use one of my novels as an allegory, to make a point, or to teach a moral. I take them much more seriously than that. However, that doesn’t mean that – every once in a while – I’ll point something out that I think is important. In this case… intelligence can be independent of our standards. In other words… maybe Eddie ain’t so dumb as he looks…
Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!
Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten, Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen, Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen