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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAnything You Can Do ... - Chapter 21
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Anything You Can Do ... - Chapter 21 Post by :Arun_Pal_Singh Category :Long Stories Author :Randall Garrett Date :May 2012 Read :2350

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Anything You Can Do ... - Chapter 21

Captain Davidson Greer sat in a chair before an array of TV screens, his gray-green eyes watchful. In the center of one of the screens, the Nipe's image sat immobile, surrounded by the paraphernalia in his hidden nest. Other screens showed various sections of the long tunnel that led south from the opening in the northern end of the island. At the captain's fingertips was a bank of controls that would allow him to switch from one pickup to another if necessary, so that he could see anything anywhere in the tunnels. He hoped that wouldn't be necessary. He did not want any of the action to take place anywhere but in the places where it was expected--but he was prepared for alterations in the plan. In other rooms, nearly a hundred other men were linked into the special controls that allowed them to operate the little rat spies that scuttled through the underground darkness, and the captain's system would allow him to see through the eyes of any one of those rats at an instant's notice.

The screen which he was watching at the moment, however, was not connected with an underground pickup. It was linked with a pickup in the bottom of a basketball-sized sphere driven by a small inertial engine that held the sphere hovering in the air above the game sanctuary on the northern tip of Manhattan Island. In the screen, he had an aerial view of the grassy, rocky mounds where the earth hid the shattered and partially melted ruins of long-collapsed buildings. In the center of the screen was a bird's-eye view of a man holding a rifle. He was walking slowly, picking his way carefully along the bottom of the shallow gully that had once been upper Broadway.

"Barbell," the captain said. A throat microphone picked up the words and transmitted them to the ears of the man in the screen. "Barbell, this is Barhop. There are no wild animals within sight, but remember, we can't see everything from up here, so keep your eyes open."

"Right, Barhop," said a rather muffled voice in the captain's ear.

"Fine. And if you do meet up with anything, shoot to kill." There were plenty of wild animals in the game sanctuary--some of them dangerous. Not all of the inhabitants of the Bronx Zoological Gardens had been killed on that day when the sun bomb fell. Being farther north, they had had better protection, and some of them, later, had wandered southward to the island. Captain Greer knew perfectly well that Stanton, bare-handed, was more than a match for a leopard or a lion, but he didn't want Stanton to tire himself fighting with an animal. The rifle would most likely never be used; it was merely another precaution.

It would have been possible, and perhaps simpler, to have taken Stanton to the opening by flyer, but that would have created other complications. Traffic rules forbade flyers to go over the game sanctuary at any altitude less than one thousand feet. One flyer, going in low, would have attracted the attention of the traffic police, and Stanley Martin wanted no attention whatever drawn to this area. Even the procedure of instructing the traffic officers to ignore one flyer would have attracted more attention than he wanted. They would have remembered those instructions afterward.

Stanton walked.

Captain Greer's eye caught something at the edge of the screen. It moved toward the center as the floating eye moved with Stanton.

"Barbell," the captain said, "there's a deer ahead of you. Just keep moving."

Stanton rounded the corner of a pile of masonry. He could see the animal now himself. The deer stared at the intruder for a few seconds, then bounded away with long, graceful leaps.

"Magnificent animal." It was Stanton's voice, very low. The remark wasn't directed toward anyone in particular. Captain Greer didn't answer.

The captain lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair, his eyes on the screens. The Nipe still sat, unmoving. He was apparently in one of his "sleep" states. The captain wasn't sure that that was the blessing that it might have seemed. He had no way of knowing how much external disturbance it would take to "wake" the Nipe, and as long as he was sitting quietly, the chances were greater that he would hear movement in the tunnel. If he were active, his senses might be more alert, but he would also be distracted by his own actions and the noises he made himself.

It didn't matter, the captain decided. One way was as good as another in this case. The point was to get Stanton into an advantageous position before the Nipe knew he was anywhere around.

He looked back at the image of Stanton, a black-clad figure in a flexible, tough, skin-tight suit. The Nipe would have a hard time biting through that artificial hide, but it gave Stanton as much freedom as if he'd been naked.

Stanton knew where he was going. He had studied maps of the area, and had been taken on a vicarious tour of the route by means of the very flying eye that was watching him now. But things look different from the ground than from the air, and no amount of map study will familiarize a person with terrain as completely as an actual personal survey.

Stanton paused, and Captain Greer heard his voice. "Barhop, this is Barbell. Those are the cliffs up ahead, aren't they?"

"That's right, Barbell. You go up that slope to your left. The opening is in that pile of rock at the base of the cliff."

"They're higher than I'd thought," Stanton commented. Then he started walking again.

The tunnel entrance he was heading for had once been a wide opening, drilled laterally into the side of the cliff, and big enough to allow easy access to the tunnels, so that the passengers of those old underground trains could get to the platforms where they stopped. But the sun bomb had changed all that. The concussion had shaken loose rock at the top of the cliff and a minor avalanche had obliterated all indications of the tunnel's existence, except for one small, narrow opening near the top of what had once been a wide hole in the face of the cliff.

Stanton walked slowly toward the spot until he was finally at the base of the slope of rock created by that long-ago avalanche. "Up there?" he asked.

"That's right," said Captain Greer.

"I think I'll leave the rifle here, Barhop," Stanton said. "No point in carrying it up the slope."

"Right. Put it in those bushes to your left. They'll conceal it, won't they?"

"I think so. Yeah." Stanton hid the rifle and then began making his way up the talus slope.

Captain Greer flipped a switch. "Team One! He's coming in. Are those alarms deactivated?"

"All okay, Barhop," said a voice. "This is Leader One. I'll meet him at the hole."

"Right." Captain Greer reversed the switch again. "Are you ready, Barbell?"

Stanton looked into the dark hole. It was hardly big enough to crawl through, and ended in a seeming infinity of blackness. He took the special goggles from the case at his belt and put them on. Inside the hole, he saw a single rat, staring at him with beady eyes.

"I'm ready to go in, Barhop," Stanton said.

He got down on his hands and knees and began to crawl through the narrow tunnel. Ahead of him, the rat turned and began to lead the way.

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The big tunnel inside the cliff was long and black, and the air was stale and thick with the stench of rodents. Stanton stood still for a minute, stretching his muscles. Crawling through that cramped little opening had not been easy. He looked around him, trying to probe the luminescent gloom that the goggles he wore brought to his eyes. The tunnel stretched out before him--on and on. Around him was the smell of viciousness and death. Ahead ... _It goes on to infinity_, Stanton thought, _ending at last at zero_. The rat paused and looked back, waiting for him to
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The arrival of the great Stanley Martin was a three-day wonder in the public news channels. His previous exploits were recounted, with embellishments, several times during the next seventy-two hours. The "arrival" itself was very carefully staged. A special ship belonging to the World Police brought him in, and he was met by four Government officials in civilian clothes. The entire affair was covered live by news cameras. No one on Earth suspected that he had been on Earth for weeks before; a few _knew it, but it never even occurred to the rest. Later, a special interview was arranged. Philip
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