Dasinger shook his head. “I can’t risk becoming involved with them here anyway. Technically it’s an illegal operation. The Kyth Agency won’t be conducting it unless we come up with evidence that justified the illegality. I resigned yesterday, and Wergard and some others got fired. We’ll be acting as private citizens. But that’s also only a technicality, and the Service is unpredictable. I don’t know what view they’d take of it. We might have them blocking us instead of helping. Can you find someone else?”
She nodded. “I can get you a telepath. Just one. The other psis I know won’t touch it. They don’t need the fee, and they don’t want to reveal themselves—particularly not in something that’s illegal.”
“Who’s the one?” Wergard asked.
“I am, of course.”
They looked at her a moment. Wergard said, “That isn’t what we had in mind. We want a pro who’ll take his chances for the money he’s getting. We needed information from you, but no more than that.”
Telzey said, “It looks like it’s turned into more than that.”
Wergard said to Dasinger, “We can’t get her involved.”
“Corvin Wergard,” Telzey said.
He looked back at her. “Yes?”
“I’m not reading your thoughts,” she said. “I don’t have to. You’ve been told who I am, and that I’m sixteen years old. So I’m a child. A child who comes of a very good family and has been very carefully raised. Somebody really too nice to get shot tonight, if something goes wrong, by a Colmer guard or Joca Security people, or ripped up by Brisells. Right?”
Wergard studied her a long moment. “I may have had such notions,” he said then. “Perhaps I’ve been wrong about you.”
“You’ve definitely been wrong about me,” Telzey told him. “You didn’t know enough. I’ve been a psi, a practicing psi, for almost a year. I can go through a human life in an hour and know more about it than the man or woman who’s living it. I’ve gone through quite a few lives, not only human ones. I do other things that I don’t talk about. I don’t know what it all exactly makes me now, but I’m not a child. Of course, I am sixteen years old and haven’t been that very long. But it might even be that sometimes people like you and Wellan Dasinger look a little like children to me. Do you understand?”
“I’m not sure,” Wergard said. He shook his head. “I believe I’m beginning to.”
“That’s good. We should have an understanding of each other if we’re to work together. The agency would save the fee, too,” Telzey said. “I don’t need it. Of course, there may come a time when I’ll ask you to stick your neck out for something I’d like to have done.”
Wergard asked Dasinger, “Has that been the arrangement?”
Dasinger nodded. “We exchange assistance in various matters.” He added, “I still don’t want you in this, Telzey. There will be risks. Not unreasonable ones; but our people are trained to look out for themselves in ways you’re not. You’re too valuable a person to be jeopardized on an operation of this kind.”
“Then I can’t help you help Noal Selk,” she said. “I’d like to. But the only way I can do it is by going along with you tonight. It would take more time than you have to hunt around for somebody else.”
Dasinger shook his head. “We’ll use a different approach then. With a little luck, we can still save Noal. He isn’t your problem.”
“How do you know?” Telzey said. “He mightn’t be if he were someone I’d only heard about. If I helped everybody I could help because I happen to be a psi, I’d have no time for anything else the rest of my life. There isn’t a minute in the day I couldn’t find someone somewhere who needs the kind of help I can give. I’d keep busy, wouldn’t I? And, of course, everything I did still wouldn’t make any real difference. There’d always be more people needing help.”
“There would be, of course,” Dasinger agreed.
She smiled. “It gave me a bad conscience for a while, but I decided I wasn’t going to get caught in that. I’ll do something, now and then. Now, here I’ve been in Hishee Selk’s mind. I’m still in her mind. I know her, and Noal and Larien as she knows them—perhaps better than most people know the members of their family. So I can’t say their problem isn’t my problem. It wouldn’t be true. I simply know them too well.”
Dasinger nodded. “Yes, I see now.”
“And I,” said Wergard, “made a large mistake.”
Dasinger looked at his watch. “Well, let’s not waste time. The plan goes into operation in thirty minutes. Telzey, you’re going high style—Joca Village level. Wergard, take her along, have her outfitted. Scratch Woni. We won’t need her.”
The only entry to the secluded Selk estate in Joca Village was a narrow road winding between sheer cliff walls. Two hundred yards along the road was a gate; and the gate was guarded by Selk employees.
Up this road came a great gleaming limousine, preceded by a cry of golden horns. It stopped near the gate, and Larien Selk’s three guards moved forward, weapons in their hands, to instruct the intruders to turn back. But they came prepared to give the instruction in as courteous a manner as possible. It was unwise to offer unnecessary offense to people who went about in that kind of limousine.
Its doors had opened meanwhile; and, gaily and noisily, out came Wergard in a Space Admiral’s resplendent and heavily decorated uniform; Dasinger with jeweled face mask, a Great Alzar dandy; Telzey, finally, slender and black-gowned, wearing intricate silver headgear. From the headgear blazed the breath-stopping beauty of two great star hyacinths, proclaiming her at once to be the pampered darling of one who looked on ordinary millionaires as such millionaires might look on the lowest of bondsmen.
Weapons most tactfully lowered, the guards attempted to explain to these people—still noisily good-natured, but dangerous in their vast arrogance and wealth and doubly unpredictable now because they were obviously high on something—that a mistake had been made, that, yes, of course, their passes must be honored, but this simply didn’t happen to be a route to the estate of the Askab Odarch. In the midst of these respectful explanations, an odd paralysis and confusion came to the guards. They offered no objection when men stepped out from behind the limousine, gently took their weapons and led them toward the small building beside the gate, where Wergard already was studying the gate controls. The study was a brief one; the gate’s energy barrier, reaching up to blend into the defense shield of Joca Village above, winked out of existence a minute later and the great steel frames slid silently back into the rock walls on either side. The instruments which normally announced the opening of the gate to scanners in the Selk house remained inactive.
The limousine drifted through and settled to the ground beside the road. The gate closed again, and the vehicle was out of sight. Joca Village security patrols would check this gate, as they did the gates of all Village residents, several times during the night, and leaving the limousine outside would have caused questions. Whether suspicions were aroused otherwise depended mainly on whether someone began to wonder why Larien Selk’s three gate guards were men who hadn’t been seen here before. Measures had been taken to meet that contingency, but they were measures Dasinger preferred not to bring into play at present. The goal was to get Telzey into the house quickly, find out where Noal Selk was, pick him up if he was here and get back out with him, with no more time lost than could be helped. Whether or not his brother came along would be determined by what they discovered. With luck in either case, they’d be out of Joca Village again, mission accomplished, before the next patrol reached the Selk estate.
Only Dasinger, Wergard, and Telzey had gone through with the limousine. They emerged from it quickly again, now in fitted dark coveralls, caps and gloves, difficult to make out in the nighttime half-dark of the cliff road, and with more sophisticated qualities which were of value to burglars seeking entry into a well-defended residence. They moved silently along the road in the thick-soled sound-absorbing boots which went with the coveralls, Wergard carrying a sack. The road led around a turn of the cliffs; and a hundred yards beyond the turn, Dasinger said, “You might give them the first blast from here.”
They stopped. The rock wall on the left was lower at this point, continued to slope downward along the stretch of road ahead. Wergard opened the sack and took out a tube a foot long and about three inches in diameter. He lifted the tube, sighting along it to a point above the cliffs on the left, pressed a trigger button. Something flicked silently out of the mouth of the tube and vanished in the dark air. They went on fifty yards, stopped again, and Wergard repeated the performance. The next time they stopped, the cliff on the left had dwindled to a rocky embankment not much more than twelve feet high. Larien Selk’s big house stood in its gardens beyond the embankment, not visible from here.