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Do Unto Others: Chapter Ten
Last updated: Monday, July 19, 2010 19:09 EDT
Alex sat back, stretched and tried to relax. The responsibility was crippling his mind.
“Okay, I’ll consult with the younger three when they get back. What I want to do now is discuss the known and potential threats.”
He looked at Shaman and Jason and waited for the discussion to start.
Jason said, “Bryan is not a threat to the daughter. The daughter seems genuine in not wanting the hassle of the money. I think it’s unlikely she’s a threat to him.”
“I concur,” Shaman said. “The staff are corruptible, as we have seen, but I don’t think they are a direct threat. They’ve had lots of opportunity, and they are treated well. They also know the repercussions now.”
Alex said, “Her uncle Joe’s a tightwad. The threat he poses is that he’s more concerned with a few marks than with maximum safety. He wants every penny staying in the family. He even got second rate security for himself.”
Jason nodded. “Yeah. He’s also been managing the mine the last year. He’s apparently great with figures. He does the books, the father does the engineering and is the official face, because he’s a much nicer person.”
Shaman said, “I expect he’s going to push to get rid of us as soon as the threat level drops. In that regard, we should certainly not give him any information, and we need to express that concern, diplomatically, to the father.”
“Definitely,” Alex agreed. “What about the mother?”
Jason said, “I did a news search. She got a large chunk when they divorced. She’s got decent investments, and salaries from several charities. She puts on a pretty face to raise awareness and money. No one here likes her, not even the staff. She’s gotten a couple of presents from Bryan when the company struck big, graciously presented for her help in getting them started. It seems likely those were intended to avert lawsuits or such. She’s got no legal claim on anything because of prenups and such, and even if she had ill will, she’d have a huge legal battle to get anything, after the fact. It would also be very suspicious if all three died and she then filed suit. It wouldn’t be rational, but she’s not entirely rational herself. A bit narcissistic. Lots of people suspect the charity is as much about keeping her name out there as giving.”
“But she hasn’t angled for more?”
“She cashed the transfers from Bryan but never asked for anything, and has legitimate salaries from the charities. Her books look honest from all reports and the overhead is moderate according to the groups that watch charities. So she doesn’t seem to have any motives.”
“So, threats are external, and might involve duplicity of staff.”
“That,” Jason said, “and schoolmates who might see a few potential marks. Hangers on, not real threats, but there could be a lot of them.”
Shaman had a look of concentration around his coffee.
“They’ll distract us from actual threats. I suspect that’s how they’ll be used, rather than directly. We’ll have to maintain a cordon against any random contact.”
“She’ll hate that.”
“We’ll hate it as much.”
Bart sat in the house office, watching everyone. Joe had his man from Ex Ek, Maur Junet, who had a good reputation as a professional. Bryan had Helas and Nick Haugen from Cady’s team. Caron had Bart.
He remained a stone in the corner. He wasn’t really needed here, so of course, he was alert. Threats could come from anywhere. Still, Bryan’s office, with his daughter and his brother, with all the physical security, and Elke and Jason outside, should be secure.
This was the very typical and boring aspect of bodyguarding. They were talking, he was standing. He’d note anything Alex might need to address, or anything he might find useful for protecting Miss Prescot. Otherwise, he was the goon against the wall. His opinion was not wanted, so he didn’t listen too closely, even though he heard everything.
Joe Prescot had an interesting concept.
“We have plenty of room for charity. We can give a few billions where it’s needed, and generate a lot of goodwill.”
“We already do,” Bryan said. “I’m concerned that too much will engender further demands until we start losing capital, or that when we do peak out, which inevitably will happen, we’ll have to cut charity to retain financial soundness. That will create ill will. You know charity is something to be cautious with. We can’t have entire nations dependent upon us. It’s bad for them and us.”
Caron said, “Not any one place, of course. I think Uncle Joe is right, though. If we spread it out, small amounts in wide dispersal can accomplish a lot, do create a lot of positive feeling, and if we can even knock a naught off our ridiculous total, we’ll look a lot better. I hate to say we’re trying to appease the socialists—“
“But that’s what you are proposing,” Bryan said. “Look, I’ll consider it. We have billions going out anyway, and I’m gratified my family is charitable, even given the odd circumstances. Possibly I can send more, and we agree we don’t mind. Remember, though, that the ore won’t last forever, we won’t be without competition forever, and time spent doing that is time not managing the income side.”
Joe said, “I know people we can hire or contract. They are reliable too, because I know that is a concern.”
“That helps. I’ll look at that too.”
“Tad,” Caron said, “I know how much we give, and I don’t care about how it’s perceived. I’d just like to have a normal life, or something close to one.”
“I know, Merch,” he sighed. “Whatever we can do, I’m willing to try, but I don’t think you can ever be less than a billionairess.”
“Even that would be an improvement,” she said.
“I’ve made my case. I’ll help however I can between classes. I need to go study some more.”
“I love you, daughter,” he reminded her.
“And you, Father. And you, Uncle.”
She nodded coolly at Bart and headed for the door. He joined her.
That was a problem he couldn’t begin to address. He just wished her well with it.
Once back in her rooms, Caron looked at Alex.
“I’m going to a concert,” she announced. She needed to get away and do something.
“Yes, Miss. When?”
“Right now. You said impromptu was fine?”
“It is. Bart, Jason, please get cars. Where are we taking you?”
“Berit is performing at Hedgwick. My family owns a box there.”
“Excellent. We’ll just show up then? No one else will be using it as a favor?”
“No, I checked the schedule. It will be vacant.”
“What are you planning to wear?”
“A basic dress and one of the bodices, why?” She was mostly used to personal questions, but they still took her off guard now and then.
“So we’ll wear slacks and casual shirts with blazers.”
“Ah, so. I’d like to arrive early. I may be able to talk my way into backstage. I was considering calling ahead, but I presume that’s out?”
“Yes. We’ll work on it when we arrive. We can leave in a few minutes.”
Even an “impromptu” trip involved a lot of planning, albeit done very fast. One of Cady’s people would drive and stay with the limo. Alex would remain to coordinate as needed. The rest would go along. Gear, commo, armor, water, supplies, vehicles and guards all moved in a ballet. It took Caron twenty minutes to change into a dress and wrap, by which time everyone was formed up to escort her.
Downstairs, into the carriage house, into three vehicles, and off in three directions.
En route, Caron busied herself with the office, shuffling messages and invitations and mail. That was part of the passive measures used to keep her safe—all the communication funneled back through the house, and gave no indication she was on the road. An expert could probably determine lags and digital coding differences, but Agent Cady had people to take care of that, too. Anyway, she hated being bored and tried to use her time wisely.
The drive was uneventful, though the team kept eyes out the windows in all directions while moving, and constant coded contact with Alex. They were paid to do so and always did. She appreciated it, it just emphasized threats as much as it reassured her.
The limo pulled up to the entrance, the driver braked smoothly but fast, and Aramis hit the door. Bart and Jason were half a step back.
Caron was used to the idea now, and stepped out a moment behind them. Shaman and Elke filled in the sides and Aramis brought up the rear.
Other people used this aerial walkway, but most of them didn’t recognize her, only that it was someone surrounded by a block of guards.
They flowed down a walkway, into the atrium, and into an elevator for the restricted area.
They had the elevator alone, and nothing happened. The door opened, Aramis led the way to a courtesy cart, and they rolled down a tiled and muralled hallway, around two turns. Caron flushed in embarrassment. It was like being royalty. She was a country girl who did some mining. It still felt wrong.
“Right here,” she said, indicating the door to the box. They already knew from maps and earlier reconnaissance trips, of course.
Jason and Elke went in first, scanners out. Their inspection took seconds, Jason nodded, and the rest came in.
From the polarized window, Caron could see scaffolding and equipment running up. It was two hours until showtime, but stage setup was still in progress.
She used her current throwaway phone rather than the courtesy phone in the box. It seemed so paranoid, but she’d play by their rules. That was why they’d been hired.
A generic female voice answered, “Hello?”
“Would you tell Miss Berit that Caron Prescot of the Prescot mining family would like to meet her, when and if it’s convenient.”
“I can relay the message. Stand by, please.”
While she waited, she watched her escorts check the box over again, scan for mics and cameras, move furniture and decorations around, and generally inspect down to the paint. Everything they displaced went exactly back where it came from, though anything that could be turned was, and some furniture was relocated. Planned randomness.
The voice came back on the phone, “Miss Prescot, Berit says she can welcome you in about fifteen minutes, but not for long.”
“That’s wonderful. Thank you very much.”
Elke asked, “She said yes?”
“Very good. Bart and Aramis will go with you. I’ll secure here and come along if time permits. Jason’s managing. Jason?” she asked as she turned to him.
Without looking up from his terminal he said, “Sounds good.”
Another few minutes carting down tunnels brought them to a well-lit corridor of dressing rooms. Some were open and vacant, others closed. A roped and screened barrier led to the stage, and handlers moved around that way, finishing the set.
There were several rooms in use for various members of the band, dancers, crew. One in particular had an obvious bodyguard in front. He was muscle in a suit, with a practiced faint scowl. He looked reasonably competent and alert, but didn’t project much presence. On the other hand, the Ripple Creek guards didn’t generally. When they did, though…
“May I help you?” he asked.
“Caron Prescot. I hope I’m expected,” she said.
He looked over the entourage.
“The invitation is for Miss Prescot, and males are not allowed in Berit’s dressing room.”
Aramis looked the man over. He was big, bulky, reasonably well-trained, and he had to know Prescot’s detail were Ripple Creek. The way he looked at Elke said he knew she could kick his ass and wasn’t comfortable with their presence. Bart and Aramis made him very twitchy. That was silly. No one was going to fight over this.
“Please inquire,” Elke said. “We cannot leave her unattended.”
Bart added, “Please tell her Bart Weil is with the party and would like to meet her again.”
“I’ll relay that,” the man said, looking put upon. He opened the door and slipped inside.
A few moments later he opened it again and ushered them through it. Beyond that was a phone screen and another door.
Inside that, the room was brightly lit, had makeup smells and jabbering artists, someone with a tray of snacks, someone at a rack of outfits, all of them female and most of them young and supple.
From a makeup chair, a woman called, “Bart! My favorite German!” She bounced to her feet, bounded over and threw herself on him.
The hug looked amusing. Berit was small and perhaps sixty kilos. Bart was near two meters and more than twice her mass. She looked comfortable in his presence as she stepped back. She sighed.
“I see we’re both moving up in our jobs. I could not afford you now.”
“I hope you will not need me,” he said. “It’s nice to see you again, though. You look well, and I’ll enjoy the show.”
“Thanks! But I’m being rude.” She turned and said, “Miss Prescot! So interesting to meet you.”
Berit was probably quite pretty with those Nordic cheeks and black hair. Her makeup, though, was designed to make her look like a pop star, and to do so under the bright houselights. Up close it was overdone and garish.
Her body, however, was the product of money and exercise. She might not have biosculp; her curves looked very natural, but she had rock hard muscles. She fit an ideal very few people even bothered with. It made her very visible.
Caron’s response was interesting. She was partly meeting a celebrity, but she had her own visibility now, with all that money. She was also meeting someone who knew Bart fairly casually, who was attractive. Bart had spurned her teases. She was probably wondering how he felt about Berit. Aramis watched, curious and amused.
Of the two, he’d choose…well, both, of course. He wasn’t going to think about that. Berit was older, thirty-two? he thought he recalled, and had just barely faint wrinkles and almost no visible age from gravity. Caron was twenty-two and still flush with youth. She had nothing to be jealous of, but Bart’s prior snubbing and the warm greeting he received here threw her off a little.
Meanwhile, he was on duty. He was professionally expected to examine everyone and everything here in detail and he did so. Not bad. Eight attractive women chattering in Norwegian, giving him the eye, which he could coolly ignore behind his ballistic shades while enjoying every minute of it. Nothing obviously a weapon, no threatening movements, no trouble at all. So he eyed them right back.
By the time he was done, Elke was in the process of snapping photos of the two, with their cameras and her own. The two were comfortably close and swapping contact info, and a signed picture with attached Muzikflash from Berit.
Aramis took Berit’s offered hand, accepted a gentle but firm shake with a slight bow and said, “It was good to meet you,” even though he actually hadn’t. Manners were part of the job, as was meeting people in passing with no time to talk. He’d met probably fifty high profile people this way, not counting principals, and been in the room for hundreds of others.
In short order they were back in the bay next to the Prescot family box.
As they moved inside, Caron grabbed a phone off the counter, then and dropped into a sprawl in a reclining couch.
“Yes, Suite Seventeen. Please send up some cold cuts, cheeses and a variety of breads. Welsh Rabbit would be nice, and some London broil, but medium, not rare. Assortment of beers and a sweet red please. Ta.”
It was still an hour to showtime, and there wasn’t much to do. They spent the time checking status, messages, news and general status. The arena filled up from scattered to packed, and the noise rose slightly, though the screens damped it a lot.
Aramis wasn’t sure what to do with those. The view and sound quality would be increased with them open. So would visibility and threat level. It was one of those things they had to accept. Still, a crowded concert reduced the possibility of several types of attack. Also, the darkened box, relative to the hall, would make them harder to see.
A few minutes shy of showtime, there was a chime and flash from the door. Jason answered it, handed something back without looking. Elke snagged it, nodded, signed it and handed it back. Then Jason pulled a cart in, closed and latched the door.
“Food,” he said.
Caron asked, “How was it signed for?”
Elke said, “I have an account with you, remember? So I signed.”
“Ah, of course. The bookkeepers can fix it.”
She stood and pulled lids off serving platters. The London broil was rather fragrant. Fruit and cheese and crackers were in arrays worthy of a recipe page. It was almost a shame to eat it.
Caron popped a clear bulb of beer that foamed perfectly. It was amber and clear. She used tongs to pull a few pieces of meat and cheese onto a bed of crackers and sat back down.
“Please, help yourselves,” she said.
Elke said, “Thank you” and grabbed a couple of cubes of cheese. She nibbled one, and looked surprised and happy.
That was one of the advantages of tremendous wealth, Aramis noted. Caron never had to eat bad food, nor even merely good food. It was hard not to gain weight, in fact. He’d had to up his activity level with a second session each day.
If only he hadn’t stuffed himself with sandwiches right before they left. Still, there’d be plenty here in a while.
Jason kept general watch. Elke monitored sensors through her glasses and comm. Bart and Shaman sat at the front, looking at slight cross angles. Shaman wasn’t going to see much of the show, though Aramis suspected that wasn’t really a problem.
He couldn’t count how many concerts and events he’d been present at and not seen. It was just part of the job.
Roaring cheers indicated activity on stage. Aramis checked the door again and looked out and across the audience, as lights played over them.
Then the stage started flashing, with bass and percussion beats with oscillations and fluctuations of something pop and dance. Caron could see quite well at the angle the steps and balcony offered. Aramis made another ongoing assessment. Nothing was likely to come from the stage, and little could reach from other angles. So why was he nervous?
It was probably the damned lights, which were possibly just ultra bright diodes, but might be xenon or some other halogen. They were enough to hurt.
Elke asked, “Shaman, have you pain killers?”
“Not OTC. I strip my kit down to major gear only. Sorry. Problem?”
“Just a headache behind the eyes,” she said. “Probably all the stage lights. The color contrast is annoying.”
Jason said, “I have some. You should look the other way.” He handed her a package. “Might want to put your shades on, too. Your pupils are a bit dilated.”
“Ah, that’s probably residual stim. I took one earlier. Thank you,” she said, and swallowed two pills. She popped open a bulb of juice and washed them down, then swapped off with Bart toward the back of the box.
While lighting was not directly a medical issue, the annoying side effects of that, and the volume, could be issues. Horace didn’t appreciate it. To his mind, this was excessive. He wasn’t up on modern pop music, so it was entirely possible this was some style or trend. It was not good, though. The flicker rate wasn’t fast enough to cause much in the way of seizure response, but he agreed it was unpleasant. He didn’t have a headache himself, but that was due to him spending most of his time watching the back of the hall. Aramis had donned his shades again, though.
Horace glanced toward the back, and rose to his feet at once, feeling a rush of concern.
Elke looked woozy, now. Her breathing was noticeably rapid and shallow.
“Elke. Toxin.” That had to be symptomatic, and not of bright lights and a stim.
“Y-yes,” she agreed with a slow nod, and started slumping.
Jason punched his mic and shouted, “Evac! Get Cady. Medical support. Miss Prescot, lie down, you have been poisoned.”
“What? I’m fine,” she insisted. Then she looked at the plate. “Oh, God.”
Horace took a glance to confirm Jason had her under control, and went back to work on Elke. He was very angry, because the rules dictated he use Elke as a test subject until he knew what the problem was, then abandon her to save their principal.
Elke was rapidly losing consciousness, losing muscle control, and losing autonomic functions.
“It’s a metabolic depressant or a neurotoxin,” he said. “Induce vomiting.”
Prescot was lying down. Jason unceremoniously rolled her halfway over and shoved fingers down her throat. She didn’t have time to protest, but thrashed and twitched, gurgled and puked all over his hand and the carpet. He pulled them out long enough for her to gasp a breath, then did it again.
Elke, though…Horace tried his fingers and nothing happened. He shoved a tongue depressor far back. Nothing. Cursing, he reached for a chemical inducer.
Elke nodded her head and fluttered her eyes halfway. “Wuzza?”
“Elke, can you gag?”
“No eazly,” she muttered.
He grabbed her chin, dumped a vial down her throat, and waited while it flowed down.
A few seconds later, Elke thrashed in semiconsciousness, and gushed sour-smelling, biley vomit with chunks of cheese and beef. She moaned and rolled to her hands and knees and heaved while twitching, then collapsed again.
“Use this,” Horace said as he handed another vial to Jason. “Empty her as much as possible.”
“Please stop,” Prescot moaned. She had a sizeable puddle in front of her already, on the carpet, her hair, her dress.
As she spoke, Jason poured the syrup into her mouth and twisted her head until she swallowed and choked, then twisted her whole body back over in time for her to spew.
Bart was at the door, and pulled it open to admit Cady. She had a full paramedic kit and a gurney, one of her people had another, and the rest of her team had a perimeter set already. They had real guns. The gurneys were marked as arena property.
“Vitals,” Horace said. “Apparent metabolic depressant or neurotoxin. Vomiting induced. Help Elke, keep me informed.” He shifted at once to Prescot, who was twitching, moaning, sweating and losing consciousness all at once.
He reached over, unzipped her corset armor, pulled the shoulder straps of her dress, yanked it down to her waist and tore her bra off in front. Cady was ready, bent down and slapped sensors onto her skin.
“That is not a healthy rhythm,” he said as soon as he glanced the waveform.
Cady said, “Move,” and shoved past Jason. She snapped Elke’s jacket and blouse open, and cut one strap of her body armor, then flopped it aside and sliced her elastic support shirt with a hook knife. Her assistant passed down more leads and she pressed them on. “Take care of that armor,” she said.
Jason took orders at once, whipped out a knife and cut the other strap. Horace was more impressed. The man could move from leader to follower and back in a moment. First class.
Cady said, “Same rhythm, toxicity probably a little more advanced.”
That rhythm was familiar, though.
“Probably a fish or shell toxin,” he said.
Cady replied, “I concur. What do we have to counter?”
“Nothing on hand. Keep respiration up.” He just hadn’t anticipated a neural or cardiac condition in a nubile, healthy 22 year old, nor in an athletic 32 year old. There was a limit to how much gear he could carry even in a briefcase and shoulder bag, in addition to weapons and other gear.
Jason asked, “Will any stimulants work? I have three.”
“No,” Horace shook his head. “It takes a specific acetylcholine stimulant. Donepizil, Pyridostigmine, distilled nicotine in the field.”
“Cigar?” Jason asked.
Horace spun around. Jason was peeling the label off a huge Cuban.
Jason continued, “Exaltado. Genetically boosted nicotine.”
“Yes, lots of smoke.”
Cady said, “That’s going to cause gagging if they’re nonsmokers.”
“It can’t hurt, might help, and we don’t have any time to waste. Do it.”
Jason pulled out a lighter, and spun the cigar while drawing fast. He got it lit to an angry orange coal.
Cady said, “Try to breathe that fast and you’ll choke out. Shaman, you monitor. I’ll cover Prescot, you take Elke.” She shifted sides.
Jason nodded, drew a huge puff on the cigar, handed it over and gave Elke a lungful. He just had time to reflect on how fucked up it was to be shotgunning an unconscious comrade with puke all over her lips, before he leaned back, grabbed the cigar from Cady and took another puff.
No niceties. They were trying to get a lot of nicotine in fast. The cigar was wet with spit. Cady used to be a man, part of him said.
Shut up and smoke.
He had a good puff, and the lacy traces of the last one were just curling from Elke’s lips as he leaned down and hit her again.
She coughed and moaned. “Wha?”
He gasped, “Nicotine as antitoxin. Shut up and breathe, Elke.”
Dammit, he had to get a good, clean breath in between. Mouth to mouth was draining the regular way. This way…he was buzzing from the cigar and oxygen deprivation.
Cady coughed deeply. She obviously wasn’t a smoker. Her eyes were tearing up and weepy red. That explained why she didn’t know how to draw properly.
Both victims were coughing now, but that meant they were still breathing. Prescot flinched a little as Cady mashed lips on her again, but she tried gamely to inhale.
Elke moaned. “Please…roll over.”
“Sorry, Elke.” Blow. “I know it feels like shit. Hang in there.”
She clutched at her guts. “Siiick,” she said.
“Going to puke?”
Elke coughed, hacked and moaned again.
Behind him, he heard Shaman say, “Transport arriving in three minutes. Keep at it.”
Jason grabbed the cigar and drew again. Damn, it was going down fast. Two people drawing pretty much nonstop, and big lungfuls, kept the coal hot and bright.
“I want pyridostigmine as soon as they’re here,” Horace said. “Chain of custody.”
“Say again?” Bart asked.
Shaman jabbed a finger for emphasis. “Make sure it’s our people who bring it!”
Yes, it was paranoid, but someone had already infiltrated the food service concession on short notice. They could trust their own people…probably.
“We’re being stupid,” Cady said.
She flicked ash off the cigar, shoved the mouth end between Caron’s lips, said, “Seal on this,” and pinched her nostrils. Then, carefully, she wrapped her own lips past the coal and blew. She didn’t get as much inflation, but that had to be twice the nicotine with none wasted in her lungs.
“Brilliant,” he said as he took the stub and did the same with Elke, pressing her lips around it. Smoke eddied out of her nose before he was done. He didn’t burn his tongue on the coal, but he could certainly feel the heat.
Horace kept an eye on the map. There was a chronological juggle between being exposed, and not moving fast enough.
“Transport now,” he said. He grabbed Caron’s legs, Jason grabbed under her shoulders, and they raised her onto the gurney. When he looked up, Elke was already on the other. He quickly threw a sheet over Prescot’s bare breasts. It wasn’t that critical but he didn’t want some paparazzi selling pics to some pervert. This was a medical emergency, not a beach.
Elke went first. Again, it was a threat issue. Better someone try to shoot her than Prescot. It was aggravating, but business. The second gurney was surrounded by all four team members, and four of Cady’s fell in as the cordon collapsed. A crowd stared, but didn’t have time to comment before they crossed the mezzanine, into two held elevators, trailing a cloud of cigar smoke, and to hell with the hall regulations and European law.
The ride down was too slow to suit him, but there was nothing he could do at this point.
At the ground floor, they pushed through the door before it fully opened. The operators went into goon mode and just shoved people out of the way, waving batons and shouting as needed, though they managed to cut a pretty good hole just from presence. Cady’s eyes streamed tears and she still coughed from the smoke, staggering and gripping the gurney for balance. Jason was upright but obviously not tracking well. Still, there was most of a cigar’s worth of genetically enhanced nicotine in the bloodstream of the two women, and their EKGs were faint but present.
Two ambulances were right on the curve, and they were company vehicles, with a lot of trauma gear. Perfect for someone shot, stabbed or caught in an explosion. Not perfect for a poison in the food. He’d have to make a report on that. Still, they did have Pyridostigmine as far as he knew.
A man handed him two syringes. He looked familiar, but Horace wanted to be sure.
“Vouch!” he demanded.
“Yes, he’s mine,” Cady said. “I’m going to be sick now.” She bent over at the curb and vomited.
Horace said, “Get me a vein,” and tapped the first syringe. That should be enough. Better a little low than too much. Competing neurotoxins would be really bad.
Jason got a vein by the expedient method. He wrapped a hand around Prescot’s arm and clenched, and shoved her fist into a ball with the other hand. Horace saw a nice vein pop up. Cady was back on her feet with an alcohol pad, and swabbed the area off.
Phenomenal teamwork, he thought, and stuck the needle in and plunged it.
“Now Elke,” he said.
“Got it,” Cady agreed, grabbed the other syringe. She jabbed Elke as two men loaded Caron, then jumped back down for Elke and rolled her into the second one.
The vehicles were not intended for more than one caregiver. Horace went with Miss Prescott though he really wanted to be with Elke. He had Aramis and Bart up front. Elke had Cady for care, with Jason of course, and one of Cady’s drivers. Cady’s team piled into two limos and drove block and tail.
“Where are we going?” Bart asked. “Family hospital is Mercy Gardens.”
“Negative. Divert somewhere else right now.”
“Understood, though there isn’t anywhere closer.”
Horace said, “All the more reason not to go there.”
“Diverting to Lady of Peace.”
“Do not announce that anywhere.”
“Roger, obviously.” He heard a radio comment cut off in the middle. Aramis had killed the radio.
Bart juggled radio, shouted instructions, driving and phone. Horace heard him say, “AIC Cady, we will need immediate security at the door. Armed. Do you have weapons with you?”
“Shotguns and a couple of carbines.”
“The hospital won’t like that.”
Horace raised an eyebrow. Had Bart ever sworn in English? That laconically? It was probable he was more worried about Elke than Prescot.
Aramis flipped his phone.
“Boss, scramble me at once and dial me back out. Thanks…Yes, we have an emergency and are en route to your location. Stand by for medical staff.”
He handed the phone to Horace, who grabbed it. Aramis then lit a monitor and zoomed in on the hospital.
“Hello. Attending physician speaking. Two victims. Paralytic toxin with muscle flaccidity and no tetanus. Nicotine is palliative, so it's likely to be a cholinergic antagonist. They’ll need ACE inhibitor, full cardiopulmonary support and dialysis."
“Er…sir, is this a nerve gas attack?”
“No. Ingested poison. There is also a security issue. Patients will be escorted by armed undercover officers.”
“I can’t allow that unless it’s cleared through the police.”
“Then please start clearing. We’re arriving in two minutes. I have your floor plan on screen. Where are we going?”
“Sir, we’ll take care of that after triage.”
“I will have our supervisor call you at once and explain the situation. Expect the police to be advised, too.”
“Very well, sir. We’ll have a room standing by as soon as we can verify.”
“Very good. Arrival pending,” he said, and clicked off. They’d discuss it alright, though they were not likely to like his method.
Aramis took the phone back and called Alex.
“Aramis here. Please call the hospital and the police and clear our arrival and equipment with them ASAP.”
Horace checked the monitors again. Still alive.
He faced Aramis and said, “Stow weapons on the gurney. We’ll secure the facility from the inside,” he said. “Inside, turn left, Isolation Room One. If it’s occupied, we’ll proceed to Two.”
“And if that’s occupied?”
“That would mean a serious disaster already happening, and someone with lesser needs getting unceremoniously shoved out the door by Bart.”
“We have an open bay,” Bart announced as he whipped into the hospital ER zone. He’d driven manual the whole way without a hitch.
“Arriving. Out fast.”
Bart led the way, Aramis a moment behind. They looked big, intimidating, and their expressions suggested no one should argue. They shoved the doors wide faster than the servos could open them, then turned left immediately inside the door, pushed into the isolation room. Horace rolled Caron in, two others wheeled Elke in right behind. The lead men kicked the releases. The doors wooshed shut and sealed. Aramis shoved a manual bolt in place. Jason ripped the panel off the controls with a pair of pliers and cut wires.
“Who’s outside?” Bart asked, snagging a shotgun from under Caron’s gurney.
“Both original drivers and two of mine,” Cady said. “Stand by.” She rapidfired into her mic, then said, “They have the outside door under surveillance and cover, discreetly.”
“Good,” Bart said. “I have escorted a high profile patient before. I expect we will have security at the door—“
Bang! Bang! Bang! “Open this door!”
Horace went to work. He wanted everything set up before he allowed anyone else in, and he would supervise the procedure until the end.
“Cady, I need a high dose of stim for me, please.”
Cady was good. She had the IV lines hung, and a tray of every acetylcholine stimulant or inhibitor he might need. She rolled over a dialysis machine and an external pacemaker. She reached into a drawer and grabbed out a pack of stimulants, peeled one out and slapped it onto his neck where it would absorb faster than the arm, but without shocking his system too much.
Jason knew enough to roll sensor pads up, slap them on, and step back. He’d correctly placed them on the upper curve of the right breasts and just outside and down from the left.
“I can hand implements if you need, or help with the door.”
“Help with the door,” Horace said.
He sprinkled a pinch of powder over each of them, more as a tradition and habit for himself than from any expectation it would help. Neurotoxins were very powerful natural magic themselves. One had to actually cleanse the blood, and fast.
“Watch for V Fib,” he told Cady. “Advise me if you see it and prepare to shock or pace. I’m going to cut down for dialysis.”
Behind him, he could hear Bart and Alex arguing with hospital security.
Aramis said, “I don’t care who you are. We have our own doctor, we just need the facilities. Everything else can proceed as normally, and we apologize for the inconvenience.”
It was obvious there wasn’t going to be any shooting. The doc sounded as if he was trying to guess if they were undercover UN cops or soldiers. For now, that was fine. They were not going to admit that a Prescot was in there, and they were not going to let anyone else in.
“You’ve shut down the whole ER! We have to cordon and evac, and—“
“And if I’m really a threat you should not be discussing your security protocols with me, should you?” It sounded as if Aramis was enjoying being reasonable with someone so distraught.
That seemed to shut the man up. Then Aramis got on his phone and talked at length. That was not Horace’s concern, though. Right now, he had two young women to save. He ignored everything but their vitals and treatment.
Jason knew he was stressing out. There was nothing more he could do, except let a real physician and an advanced EMT handle things. It would be a waste of a beautiful woman to lose Prescot, and a black mark they didn’t need, but he was more worried about Elke. Beautiful. Deadly. A good friend and a fine operator. He also knew if she did die, he wouldn’t have anyone to take revenge on. It would just be one of those things.
One of his character flaws was not dealing well with not getting his way. He wasn’t as bad as Alex, but his anger lit off when he was blocked, and there was not a damned thing he could do about this. He steamed and twitched. He was moderately nauseous from the cigar as well.
At least I have plenty of adrenaline if I need to kick someone’s ass, he thought. It helped calm him just a few percent.
He was too pissed to think straight, so he left the ugly expression on his face, the one that said, “I want to kill you. Please give me an excuse,” and let Aramis argue with the rentacops outside the door.
Yeah, he was pissed. He was better trained, but they were still part of the same career, and “rentacop” was a phrase he tried not to use, even about mall security.
He looked over, and Bart seemed twitchy, too. Bart almost never betrayed emotion. That was a little reassuring, but then he remembered why they were both nervy. They had a woman down, with a neurotoxin.
If he prayed, he’d pray for Shaman to outdo himself. The man was a master with a knife, pliers and cargo tape. How was he with all the high tech gear and a high tech problem?
Horace breathed a sigh and stretched kinks from his back. It had taken an hour, but he was sure he had both women stabilized and breathing normally. They’d need some recovery time, but they were definitely going to live.
Somehow, Alex was in the room. How or when that had happened, he didn’t know. Somehow, he’d gotten in, and none of the crowd of staff outside had.
Horace looked over at him and asked, “How is the burden?”
Alex looked as exhausted as Horace felt.
“New Scotland Yard, UN Bureau of Safety, British Region. Local police. Board of Health. Corporate. National and UN Disease Vector Control. A bunch of pissed hospital administrators. It doesn’t end. The important thing is, we’re all alive.”
“We should all stay that way, too. I am confident both women will survive, barring unforeseen disasters.”
Alex grinned and looked younger and more awake at once. “Good. When can we transport?”
“At once, and we should. The longer we’re in a hospital, the longer someone has to mix up drugs, food, atmosphere or other issues.”
“Understood. I’ll get us transport. Five ambulances. Jason, let’s make calls.”
“Yes, sir!” Jason agreed, with a grin of his own. He let his weapon down on its sling, took three bounding steps, and grabbed Horace in a tight embrace.
As Horace returned it, Jason said, “Well done, my friend. You have confirmed your reputation as a miracle worker.”
“Was there ever any doubt?” he replied. Hugging was not normal for him. This wasn’t the most comfortable act, but it was heartfelt.
“Not of your abilities, just that some things are not fixable.”
“Luckily, sometimes a cigar is not just a cigar.”
Another man was very upset with that turn of events. They’d saved her. A neurotoxin he was assured killed in minutes, before it was possible to reach a hospital, and they’d saved her, and that frightening freak of a woman with them, nor had any of the others suffered. It was impressive, and Bryan Prescot was certainly getting his money’s worth, but that just drove home that he had to go down. He cheated businesses, governments and now death.
How to reach him, though? The inside intel source was iffy at this point; hell, unreliable. Bloody loyalties. The guards were, grudgingly, the best. Short of large bombs, what was there?
Some of the spy gadgets were defeated, others showing obvious false images, and the “good” ones couldn’t be trusted. Most of them could be abandoned, but one set of cameras…
She really was a very pretty girl. Very pretty. It was a shame he’d had to have that camera removed, but he had a good archive.
If he played it right, he might get a closer look soon enough. Move or kill the father, get the daughter, and take the money. It was not an easy challenge, but there were more zeroes involved than most astrophysicists dealt with. That made it worth it.
So, this attack had failed. It was time to change tactics. They’d be harder to reach on that desolate rock, but harder to protect as well, and channels were slow and limited. They should just be encouraged to go there. It might take a year to work it, but that was a fair timetable. Also, most of the family hadn’t spent much time there. There were arrangements in place they couldn’t know about, and wouldn’t be able to respond to.
The game was more exciting as it progressed.
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