T’nT Telzey & Trigger by James H. Schmitz

They stood listening.

“It’s got them,” Wergard said then, low-voiced. “If it hadn’t, they’d be aware of us by now, and we’d hear them moving around.”

“Might as well give them a third dose, to be sure,” Dasinger remarked.

“Why not?” Wergard agreed. He took a third tube from the sack, adjusted its settings, squinting through the dusk, then discharged its contents up across the embankment. The copies of the diagrams, briefly borrowed from the files of Banance Protective Systems, had showed that beyond the fence above the embankment was the area patrolled by a dozen Brisell dogs, dependable man-killers with acute senses. The three canisters Wergard had fired into the area were designed to put them out of action. They contained a charge stunning canine olfactory centers, approximately equivalent, Telzey had gathered, to the effect which might have been achieved by combining the most violent odors obtainable in their heaviest possible concentration, and releasing the mix in a flash of time. The canine mind thus treated went into prolonged dazed shock.

“Getting anything so far?” Dasinger asked her.

She nodded. “There is a psi-blocked area around. It seems to be where the house is. If Noal and Larien are here, they’re in that area.”

She’d kept bringing up impressions of both Selk brothers on the way from Orado City—things she knew about them from Hishee Selk’s recalls and reflections, and from the visual and auditory recordings her own senses had registered. After they’d passed through the gate, she’d been searching mentally for anything which might relate to those impressions, blocking off her awareness of Wergard and Dasinger. There’d been occasional faint washes of human mind activities hereabouts, but they carried unfamiliar patterns. She’d fastened on the most definite of those and was developing the contact when Dasinger addressed her.

She mentioned this now, added, “It’s one of the Colmer guards outside the house. Nobody’s expecting trouble there. I can’t tell yet what he’s thinking, but nothing’s worrying him.”

Dasinger smiled. “Good! Keep your inner ears tuned to the boy! That could be useful. Let’s move on—starting from here, as ghosts.”

He reached under his collar as he spoke, abruptly became a bulkier smoky figure, features distorted though still vaguely distinguishable. There was a visual dispersion effect connected with the coverall suits, increasing with distance. Wergard and Telzey joined him in apparent insubstantiality. They went around the embankment, came to the fence.

It was more than a fence. Closely spaced along the rails topping it, twenty feet above, were concealed pickup devices which registered within the house. The diagrams had listed and described them. Now reasonable caution and the equipment in the suits of the three trespassers should give the devices nothing to register.

They moved slowly along the fence, twelve feet apart, not speaking here though they carried distorters which smothered voice tones within the distance of a few feet, until Wergard, in the lead, reached a closed gate where the road they’d been following turned through the fence. His wavering contours stopped there; and Telzey and Dasinger also stopped where they were. Wergard was the burglary expert; his job was now to get them through the gate. It was locked, of course. The relays which opened the lock were in the house, and the lock itself was a death trap for anyone attempting to tamper with it. However, nobody had seemed concerned about those details, and Telzey decided not to worry either. Wergard was doing something, but she couldn’t determine what. His foggy shape blurred out a quarter of the gate. Which wasn’t bothering Wergard; the effect wasn’t a subjective one. Telzey could see a faint haze about herself, which moved as she did. But it didn’t interfere with her vision or blur her view of herself. She looked over at the house, still more than half hidden here by intervening trees.

It was a large windowless structure. A pale glow bathed the lower section of the front wall. That came from a lit area they’d have to cross. Closer to them, on this side of the trees, the ground was shadowy, heavily dotted with sizable shrubs, through which she could make out the outlines of a high hedge. This was where the Brisell pack prowled. She thought she could distinguish something moving slowly on the ground between two shrubs. It might be one of the dogs. Otherwise there was no sign of them.

A voice suddenly said something.

Telzey didn’t move. She hadn’t heard those words through her ears but through the ears of her contact. He was replying now, the sound of his own voice less distinct, a heavy rumble. She blinked, pushing probes out quickly into newly accessible mind areas, orienting herself. The contact was opening up nicely. . . .

A hand tapped her shoulder. She looked up at Dasinger beside her. He indicated the gate, where Wergard had stepped back and stood waiting for them. The gate was open.

The thing she’d thought she’d seen moving occasionally on the ground between two shrub clusters was one of the Brisells. He was lying on his side as they came up, and, except for jerking his hind legs slightly, he wasn’t moving just then. Two other dogs, not far from him, had been out of sight behind the shrubs. One turned in slow circles, with short, staggering steps. The other sat with drooping head, tongue lolling far down, shaking himself every few seconds. They were powerful animals with thick necks, huge heads and jaws, torsos protected by flexible corselets. None of them paid the slightest attention to the human ghost shapes.

Dasinger beckoned Telzey and Wergard to him, said softly, “They’ll be no good for an hour or two. But we don’t know that our business here will be over in an hour or two. We’ll get their handler in the shelter now. Then it should be worth a few minutes finding the rest of the pack and putting them out till tomorrow with stun charges.”

Wergard nodded; and Dasinger said to Telzey, “Stay here near those three so we don’t lose you.”

“All right.”

She watched them hold their guns briefly to the heads of the dogs. Then the blurred shapes moved soundlessly off, becoming more apparitional with each step. In moments, she couldn’t see them at all. The dogs lay unmoving now; and nothing else stirred nearby. She went back to her contact. Human thought whispers which came from other minds were reaching her from time to time, but she didn’t try to develop those touches. The man she’d started working on was in charge of the Colmer Agency group and stationed near the entry of the house, directly beyond the lit area. She should get the best results here by concentrating attention on him.

His superficial thoughts could be picked up readily by now. It was the thinking of a bored, not very intelligent man, but a dangerous and well-trained one. A human Brisell. He and his group were in the second hour of an eight-hour stint of guard duty. He was looking forward to being relieved. Telzey gave the vague flow of thoughts prods here and there, turning them into new directions. She got a self-identification: his name was Sommard. He and the other Colmer guards knew nothing of what went on inside the home, and weren’t interested. On arrival, they’d been admonished to constant alertness by a Mr. Costian. Sommard figured Mr. Costian for a nervous nut; the place obviously was well protected without them. But that wasn’t his business, and he was doing his duty, however perfunctorily. His attention never wandered far. Two other guards stood to his right and left some fifty yards away, at the corners of the house. The remaining two were at the rear of the building where there was a service entry. . . . That checked with what the Kyth Agency had established about the defense arrangements.

There was a sudden wash of mental brightness. It steadied, and Telzey was looking out of Sommard’s eyes into the wide illuminated court below the house where the estate road terminated. Keeping watch on that open area, up to the fence on the far side and the locked road gate in the fence, was his immediate responsibility. If anyone not previously authorized by Mr. Costian to be there appeared in the court, there’d be no challenge. He’d give his companions and the people in the house a silent alert, and shoot the intruder. Of course, no one would appear there! He yawned.

Telzey let the view of the court go, made some preparations, reduced contact, and glanced at her watch. It had been four and a half minutes since the Kyth men left her. She began looking about for them, presently saw a haziness some twenty feet away, condensing slightly and separating into two shapes as it drew closer. A genuine pair of ghosts couldn’t have moved more quietly. “The section’s taken care of,” Dasinger was saying then. “Anything to report?”

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Categories: Schmitz, James