It wasn't a bay. It was the mouth of a river that I had forgotten about, but that was just as good.
Slowly and carefully the Christmas tree piloted us upstream on this nice, wide river with no boats visible anywhere on its surface. I never took my eyes off the display. Not far ahead I saw something that stretched clear across the river, which worried me for a moment. A dam? So we'd have to go back and try again?
But it was a bridge. And off to one side of it was a system of docks with small objects moored to them: a boat basin,
"That'll do," I said, hoping I was right.
In fact, it did very well. The Christmas tree brought us to the surface, the robot opened the hatch and I climbed out into a cold, wet-but Earthly!-drizzle.
I saw lights up on the road. I found a little driveway that led up to them, and when I was at street level, there, right across the road, was a large and lighted seafood restaurant.
When I was inside the cashier gave me a thoroughly funny look-reasonably enough; I was tattered, unwashed and long unshaven-but she pointed me to a telephone anyway. There was a scattering of diners in the place, curiously, most of them in uniform. They were staring at me, too. I turned my back on them.
Naturally I had no encryption facilities. I didn't even have a payment card, and the restaurant's smells of good, hot human food were driving me crazy. But I managed to get a collect call through to the Bureau in Arlington.
The duty officer must have thought I was crazy, too, but she listened as I talked: "This is Senior Agent James Daniel Danner-man calling. I'm the one that-ah"-I tried to figure out how to put it-"the one you haven't seen for quite a while because I've been away. A long way away. Relay this information immediately to Colonel Hilda Morrisey or Deputy Director Marcus Pell. I require immediate pickup and a full squad to take charge of important assets."
There was a moment's silence while she thought that over. "I thought Brigadier Morrisey was dead," she said doubtfully.
I don't know which shook me up more, Hilda dead or Hilda a brigadier. But I didn't have time to think about it. "Tell somebody in authority at once," I ordered, and got the restaurant cashier to tell me where I was so I could pass it along. "And most of all," I finished, "tell them no shooting."
I guess she did pass the word along, because in about twenty minutes half the helicopters in the world seemed to be jockeying to land in the restaurant parking lot, and I could hear sirens coming toward us from the highway.
It's amazing what the Bureau can do when it puts its mind to it. Although the gaggle of Bureau people who popped out of the first two choppers claimed to be from the New York office, I didn't know a soul among them. But they knew me. "Jesus, Dannerman, how the hell many of you guys are there, anyway?" one of them asked wonderingly, and didn't wait for an answer. "Never mind. Let's get some damage control going here."
They did. Faster than I would have believed possible, the next few choppers of federal police and the co-opted local cops had the place sealed off. They blocked the bridge at both ends, with roadblocks on our side to keep anybody from getting near the boat basin. A couple of uniformed noncoms were going from table to table in the restaurant to tell the late diners that everything was all right, they just couldn't leave just yet because (showing a lot of imagination) there was a boat down there with a leaky fuel tank and they didn't want anybody hurt in a possible explosion. They were erecting screens around the sub itself, and a Bureau colonel named Makalanos, this one by then already up from Arlington, was on the phone to arrange for a Navy submarine to tow the Horch ship to a secure place, underwater.
It was this Colonel Makalanos who got back into the sub with me.
I don't know what he had expected to find, but his eyes popped when he saw the Dopey, the Docs, the Horch machines… and Beert. "Mother of God," he whispered, and then pulled himself together. "Tell the Meows and those other things what's going on, Dannerman," he ordered. "They'll all go with the sub, and I'll put a couple of guards on board, too. You? No, not you, Dannerman. I'm taking you straight to Arlington so you can explain all this to the deputy director."
I don't know what Beert had expected, either. He didn't say. He just listened while I told him what the colonel wanted, his neck down around his midsection, his head tipped upward to regard me sorrowfully. "I'll come back to you as soon as I can," I promised. "Just don't let the machines do anything, all right?"
He didn't answer that. He had stopped looking at me and was staring at the four husky Bureau people who were climbing in, their weapons at the ready.
"Ah, Beert," I said. "Listen, everybody's going to be really grateful to you for your help against the Others. It'll be all right."
He twisted his neck to look at me again. "I hope that is so," he said.