“Oh, Christ!” Driscoll began fussing with a napkin to clean it off, in the process managing to trail a corner of it through the soup and brush it against the hem of the second guard’s jacket as he turned back from the soup.
Driscoll moaned miserably and started dabbing it off, but
was shoved away roughly. “Get off, you clumsy asshole,” the guard growled. Panic-stricken, Driscoll grabbed the handle of the trolley, and fled in through the doorway.
Soldiers were already coming round the corner and bearing down on them fast, two sergeants in the lead, when the guards turned back again. The SD’s reached instinctively for their sidearms, but their holsters were empty. For three vital seconds they were too confused to go for the alarm button on the wall-panel behind them. Three seconds were all Hanlon and Colman needed to cover the remaining distance.
Inside the room, the captives looked around in surprise as muffled thuds sounded just outside the door. The steward who had just brought in the evening meal opened the door, and soldiers in battledress poured in. Wellesley gasped as he saw Lechat with them. “Paul!” he exclaimed. “Where have you been hiding? You’re the only one they didn’t pick up. What-”
Lechat cut him off with a wave of his hand. “Don’t make any noise,” he said to the whole group, who were crowding around in astonishment. “Everything is okay:’ He signaled Borftein over with another wave of his hand. Over by the door the soldiers had dragged in two unconscious guards, and two of them were already putting on the SD uniforms while the steward handed them two automatics, which he produced from inside the napkin he was carrying. “There isn’t a lot of time,” Lechat advised Wellesley and Borftein. “We have-to get you downstairs and into the Communications Center. Now listen, and I’ll give you a quick rundown on the situation. .
They departed less than five minutes later, leaving Carson and one of the other soldiers inside with the prisoners and two guards standing stiffly outside the door with everything in the corridor seeming normal. Hanlon took Wellesley, Borftein, and Lechat to a storeroom near the Communications Center where they could remain out of sight .Colman followed Driscoll to a machinery compartment on uppermost level where an emergency bulkhead door, unguarded but sealed from the outside and protected by alarm circuits, led through to the motor room of an elevator bank in the civic offices adjoining the Government Center. Colman traced, checked, and neutralized the alarms. Then he double-checked what he had done, and nodded to Driscoll, who was waiting by the door; Driscoll opened the latches and swung the door outward while Colman held his breath. The alarms remained inactive. Sirocco was waiting on the other side with Bernard Fallows, who was wearing engineer’s coveralls and carrying a toolbox.
“Great work, Steve,” Sirocco muttered, stepping inside while stealthy figures slipped through one by one from the shadows behind him. “How did the Amazing Driscoll go over?”
“His best performance ever. Everything okay out there?”
“It seems to be. How about Borftein and Wellesley?” Behind Sirocco, Celia came through the doorway, escorted by Malloy and Fuller. Stanislau was behind, carrying a field compack.
Colman nodded. “Gone to the storeroom with Hanlon and Lechat. Everything was quiet upstairs when we left”
Sirocco turned to Malloy, while in the background the last of the figures came through. “Okay, you know where to go. Hanlon should be there now with the others.” Malloy nodded. “We’ll make a soldier out of you yet,” Sirocco said to Celia. “You’re doing fine. Almost there now.” Celia returned a thin smile but said nothing. She moved away with the others toward the far side of the compartment. Meanwhile Stanislau had set up the compack and was already calling up codes onto the screen. He had practiced the routine throughout the day and was quickly through to the schedule of SD guard details inside the Government Center,
The next part was going to be the trickiest. The information obtained by Stanislau had confirmed that the outside entrances to the complex, which had already been bypassed, were the most strongly guarded, and the three inner access points to the Communications Center itself- the main foyer at the front, the rear lobby, and a side entrance used by the staff-were covered by less formidable, three-man security teams. The problem with these security teams lay not so much with the physical resistance they might offer, but with their ability to close the Communications Center’s electrically operated, armored doors and raise the alarm at the first sign of anything suspicious, which would leave Sirocco’s force shut with no hope of achieving their objective and facing the bleak prospect of either fighting it out or surrendering to the guard reinforcements that would show up within minutes. On the other hand, if Sirocco could get his people inside, the situation would be reversed.
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