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The other robot fell in beside them.
Turning to him, Beth asked, "Could you suggest to your partner that he
loosen his grip?"
The mechanical man continued to look straight ahead, making no
Beth decided that protesting wasn't going to help. She tried to think
of other things besides the painful grasp of the strong metallic
fingers on her arm.
Rods of light ran along the low stone ceiling, giving off a harsh,
whitish glare. It was the sort of light that made you want to shield
your eyes.
The robots escorted her through what felt to be at least two miles of
twisting tunnel. Beth had the impression that the cell she awoke in
must have been deep underground and that they had been climbing
They came to a high, wide teakwood door. Both robots ha] ted Nearly a
half minute passed before the door, creaking, swung open.
The black robot let go of her, the other one gave her a forward shove.
Beth went stumbling ahead as the big teak door shut behind her.
She was in a vast, chill circular room. The ceiling was so high above
her that it was lost in shadows. About a hundred yards in front of her
rose an immense golden Buddha, seated on a jade pedestal. It was at
least a full hundred feet high and glowed a pale amber in the dim,
watery light of the enormous room.
Rubbing at her arm, she took a few tentative steps in the direction of
the Buddha. Each of her unsteady, shuffling steps echoed in the huge,
cold room.
"Good afternoon, Miss Kittridge."
There was a high back wicker chair in the deep shadows at the base of
the towering gilded Buddha. Slumped in the chair was the figure of a
darkhaired young woman, wearing dark trousers and a dark shirt. "You
must be Tora Hokori." Beth approached the seated figure. "Not
Closer now, Beth noticed that the young womau in the chair had blank
staring eyes and that she wasn't breathing. Stopping a few feet from
the chair, Beth said, "This is only an android duplicate." "Come over
here, please."
Beth realized that the voice hadn't been coming from the slumped
In the shadows behind the high back chair sat an array of complex,
bulky medical equipment, plus terminals, monitoring units and a voxbox.
Resting on a small white table, with an intricacy of twisting colored
wires spider webbing out from it, was a large chromed cylinder.
"The train accident," said Beth softly.
"My body," explained Tufa Hokori's voice from the voxbox,
"didn't survive the wreck."
"But they saved your brain."
"Yes, we have extremely skilled people working for us. We can afford
them obvious]y--and we have other ways of acquiring them."
Beth glanced over at the silent android. "Not quite skilled enough
"Thus far, no," admitted Tufa. "[?or some reason my new body continues
to reject my brain."
Beth said, "Pity."
"That's one of the things I wish to talk to you about," the voxbo
informed her. "Providing, that is, you're interested in remaining
"Golly, what a story." In her enthusiasm Natalie nearly backed into
three of the stacked sumo bots "This']} give me a terrific angle and,
despite the critics who share your view, Gomez, that I'm a cold,
heartless reporter, it will demonstrate that I'm capable of finding my
way through to the human angle in what is otherwise a grim yarn
"Button your boca," advised Gomez, cordially taking ho}d of her arm.
"But even you ought to be able to see this' Il make a great lead,"
persisted the redhead. "Hardbitten, grizzled private up pauses in his
pursuit of vicious Teklords to phone [?risco and determine the fate of
his own plague-stricken family and--"
"Bastante," Gomez said to her as Jake stepped clear of the vid phone
alcove. "What's the latest news on Kate, amigo?"
"Everything's about the same as it was when I left California,"
he answered.
"That's good, isn't it?"
"Dan doesn't think so." Jake sat, somewhat wearily, at the desk,
moving aside two of the stacks of old posters. "I still have the
feeling he believes I'm letting him down."
William S h at her
"That's a standard impression all kids his age try to give," said his
partner. "I worked the same dodge on my padre back then."
"What a great angle," murmured Natalie. "Jake, would you mind telling
me if you--"
"No more inquiries, chiquita."
Jake spread out the maps and charts that Yoshiko Kiru had just vidfaxed
to him. "Here's the Kenkoo Spa and environs."
Pulling free of Gomez's grip, Natalie moved forward and jabbed a finger
at the topmost map. "Bingo," she said.
Jake looked up at her. "Now what?"
"Well, just take a gander at what lies less than half a mile from the
darn spa." Her finger tapped a spot on the map. "That happens to be
the Juunigwatsu Temple. It's one, I learned after some diligent
digging, that's been shut down and untenanted for several years. We
already know, at least I'm convinced of the fact, that Tora Hokori has
a hidden headquarters in a temple right here in Kyoto. So there's an
abandoned temple and it's within sneaking distance of the spa where Dr.
Hyaku is almost certainly holed up churning out the plague virus."
"Yeah," acknowledged Jake, "it could be the same temple she's using as
a base."
Gomez studied the map over his partner's shoulder. "Be that as it may,
we have to concentrate on getting into the Kenkoo Spa first."
"But while you two fellows are doing that," said the redhead, "I can
explore the situation at the temple."
Gomez shook his head. "No, that's far from smart. Bearding the
lion--or in this case the tiger--in her lair isn't the thing to do
right now."
"Darn it, Gomez, you persist in assuming that I'm utterly
"It would be best," Jake told her, "if you wait until we've
investigated the spa."
"A firstclass reporter," suggested Gomez, "is also a good listener." "I
can listen and talk at the same time. And I really think that--"
"Take a look at this set of plans." Jake turned to another sheet.
"There seems to be an entire floor beneath the main building of the spa
"Be a nifty place," observed Gomez, "to stick a clandestine lab."
"You get down there by way of this pass way near the public baths
Gomez backed up. "Any idea on how we get ourselves inside the spa
Jake grinned. "A few."
"ext time we flip a coin," grumbled Oomez.
[ "Your shawl is slipping," said }ake.
I I It was dusk and they were moving across the landing area next to
the Kenkoo Spa. The oncoming night was cold, the mist was growing
thicker again. The blossoms on the dozens o1: cherry trees that
surrounded the spa were grey and sooty.
Gomez, his shoulders hunched and covered with a bright scarlet shaw},
was riding along in a gunmetal robochair. "I still don't know why I
volunteered for this part."
"Because you make a more convincing invalid than [ do." Jake was
wearing a white medical jacket.
"On the contrary, amigo, I happen to be bursting with vigor." His
chair carried him down the gravel path toward the spa.
The building was large and had a crimson and gold pagoda-style roof.
Sooty doves were roosting on it, cooing.
"In a way, even though she's been some help," said }ake, walking beside
the ehak, "I wish you hadn't invited Natalie Dent."
"I had little or no choice in the matter. She's a very determined
muehacha," said his partner. "First place, she rightly senses that
much of what I do is extremely newsworthy. Secondly... well, hell, I
don't like to sound vain, but I really think the lass has a crush on
me." [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]