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Chapter 23

Flying at a brisk but less than eye-gouging speed, it took them nearly two hours to reach the part of the road Lisa had pointed out; after that they drifted above the trees at much slower speed for several minutes as Lisa searched in silence for the exact spot. Tirrell, having spent much of their flying time imagining what Martel would do with whatever discovery Jarvis had come up with, was almost literally aching with the desire for immediate action. But he managed to keep his mouth shut and let Lisa proceed at her own paceand within fifteen minutes his patience was rewarded as she suddenly swooped downward.

"This is it," she called decisively, paralleling the road at a height of about three meters. "Here's where I flew next to him; he stopped about here and we talked; and then he went around this curve. Then" she pulled up again, losing Tirrell and Tonio for a half second before the righthand matched her maneuver"I started to head home, looked..." She hovered for a moment, then pointed. "He turned off and I saw his lights go through there."

"Great." Tirrell fixed the view in his memory. "Let's head down and take a look."

There was no real road anywhere near the place Lisa had indicated, but it took only minutes to confirm that the grassy lane cutting between the trees led all the way back to the main road, and that it was both wide enough and firm enough to handle moderately heavy vehicles. "I think," Tirrell said with satisfaction, "that we've got him. Let's go. And watch out for a path leading on a little to the eastwe've still got to hit a rockmud patch before we reach his cabin, and the most likely spots on the map are still east of us."

Flying low, they set off between the trees. Lisa fell into formation beside them, and for a long moment Tirrell debated silently the wisdom of letting her come along. Still, it shouldn't really be dangerous if they got there before Martel showed up; and the girl was clearly determined to help; and, actually, an extra preteen really would be handy to have along.

His rationalization complete, Tirrell put the question out of his mind and settled down to the task at hand.

Colin was playing in the living room and Jarvis had just finished clearing the dishes from their mid-morning brunch when the knock came on the door. "Dr. Jarvis?" a muffled voice called. "This is the police. Open up, please."

For a long instant Jarvis stood frozen in place. Somehow, he'd expected them to come in a midnight or dawn raid, when the detectors he'd set up around the cabin might have given him some warning. But he always turned them off when Colin was likely to go out... and now he had only seconds before they charged in and carted him, Colin, and all of his papers away. Too little time to do anything with the papersfar too little to set off the smoke bombs hidden around the cabin's periphery. But if he could buy a bit more time...

Three silent steps took him into the living room where Colin, his cat's-cradle frame sitting ignored in front of him, was looking questioningly toward the door. "Shh!" the scientist whispered, putting a finger across his lips. "Get up onto the couch. Quickly."

Clearly picking up Jarvis's tension, the boy obeyed at once, and was huddling wide-eyed at one end when Jarvis reached him. "Miribel," the scientist said; and as Colin's eyes rolled up and closed, Jarvis picked up the limp body and shifted it into a prone position. He'd never left the boy in hypnotic sleep for more than half an hour at a time, but past experience with such things suggested it would be several hours before Colin got hungry enough or uncomfortable enough to come out of it on his own. With luck, that might give Jarvis enough time to do what he had to.

He was out of the living room and nearly to the door when it suddenly emitted the crack of breaking wood and swung inward with a crash.

The blurry figure that shot in through the opening actually flew past him before it could react to his presence, and he glanced back just as the boy braked to a midair halt. The adult charging in on foot, of course, had no such problem. "Dr. Jarvis?" he asked with the tone of one who already knows the answer.

"Yes. I was coming, you know," he added, eyeing the damaged door.

The other's expression remained cold. "Dr. Jarvis, I'm Detective First Stanford Tirrell, Ridge Harbor Police. We'd like to search your cabin."

"Of course," Jarvis said calmly. "I can save you the trouble, though: Colin's asleep on the living room couch."

A flicker of surprise touched the detective's facesurprise, probably, at such a straightforward admission. "Show us," he ordered.

"Certainly." Turning, Jarvis retraced his steps and, with the righthand hovering watchfully at his shoulder, led the way back to the living room.

"Tonio, watch him," Tirrell said. Stepping to the couch, he gazed at the sleeping boy's face for a moment. "Colin?" he said tentatively. "Wake up, Colin."

"I'm afraid that won't do any good, Detective," Jarvis told him. "He's going to be asleep for the next few hoursa side effect of some medicine I've been giving him. And he mustn't be moved until he awakens, either."

Tirrell favored him with a long, speculative look. "Colin?" he said, louder this time. "Colin!"

There was, predictably, no response. Gingerly, the detective reached down and touched a forefinger to the base of Colin's neck. After a moment he straightened. "And why can't he be moved?" he demanded.

"The drug couples strongly with the inner-ear balance system and several delicate brain structures," Jarvis said, frowning slightly. By now the rest of the police should surely have moved in... if there were any more police. Could Tirrell possibly have come alone? That was almost too much to hope for. "Shifting his position, even with teekay, could be dangerous."

"How dangerous?"

"I don't know. I didn't think it worth experimenting with," he said dryly.

Tirrell grimaced. "Yeah. All right, we can afford to wait. Maybe." He stepped to the window and gestured. Jarvis waited tensely; but the only person who came through the front door was a slender preteen girl.

"Is he all right?" she asked, ignoring Jarvis completely as she flew into the room.

"I think so," Tirrell told her. "But apparently we're not going to be able to move him for a few hours. I want you to stay with me and help keep an eye on Jarvis here while Tonio watches out for Martel and his gang. Tonio, find some place where you'll be out of sight but have a good view of the area. If you see anyone at all, get down here fast and let me know. Got it?"

"Right," the boy said and disappeared.

Jarvis eyed the girl, who was in turn watching him with a mixture of distaste and curiosity. "Is Ridge Harbor using girls as righthands now?" he asked.

Tirrell shook his head. "Lisa just came along to act as a guide."

The girl's face suddenly clicked. "You're the one who stopped me on my way here last June, aren't you?" Jarvis said, nodding. "What did you do, Detective, send my picture around to all the hives in the area?"

"As it happens, Lisa recognized your picture at the police station." Tirrell glanced around the room. "Where's your radiophone?"

"I'm afraid it's out of order," Jarvis said, almost too quickly.

Tirrell gave him a long look. "How very convenient. Show it to me; maybe I can fix it."

Jarvis glanced once at Colin's limp form, lying there beneath the seascape painting Miribel had given him so long ago. "All right," he said. "But I don't think it'll do any good."

He led the way into the study and pointed out the phone. "Thank you," Tirrell said. "Please sit over there against the wall. Lisa, watch him closely."

Jarvis did as he was told. "Tell me," he said as Tirrell got to work on the phone casing with a pocket screwdriver, "just how widespread is knowledge of my... involvement with Colin's kidnapping?"

Tirrell frowned up at him briefly. "Not very. Your poster identified you only as a material witness. Why?"

Jarvis shrugged. "The smaller the number of people who know what I'm doing out here, the better my chances of convincing everyone that it should be kept secret, at least for now."

"So you'd like to keep all this a secret, would you," Tirrell said. "We'd take Colin back to Ridge Harbor and you'd settle back in at the university, career and reputation intact, um?"

"My career and reputation are completely unimportant. Colinand what may be happening inside himis just the opposite. We might be on the brink of the most drastic change in Tigrin society since the teekay ability first appeared."

Tirrell snorted. "Impressive wordsespecially coming from a man who kidnapped his own son to do his experiments on. You'll forgive me if I remain unconvinced."

"His son?" Lisa looked startled. "Colin?"

"Yes," Jarvis nodded. "Detective Tirrell was just guessing, of course, but there's no reason now to deny it." He looked back at Tirrell. "Would you care to know just why I chose Colin?"

"Because you knew his birthday, I'd imagine."

"A minor point only. Mainly, it was because I knew he'd have a good chance of handling what I might be doing to him. I knew my own temperament and physical stamina and those of his mother Miribel, so his genetic background is good; and, more importantly, I knew the reputation of the Brimmers, who'd been given custody of him. I knew they would give him solid moral and ethical training. I don't know if that'll be enough. I hope so."

Tirrell looked up from the workings of the phone, where he'd been testing for loose wires. "What have you done to him?" he asked quietly.

Jarvis smiled tightly. "I've possibly made him the most important man on Tigris."

"How?"

This was it. The detective was listening; and if Jarvis could convince him of the need for secrecy there might still be a way to work out a deal. If not... "I'd be happy to. But perhaps Lisa should wait somewhere out of earshot for the rest of this discussionoutside the window there, for instance, where she could still watch me."

Tirrell held the scientist's eyes a moment longer before turning to look first at the window and then at Lisa. "I don't think that'll be necessary," he said. "She can stay and listen."

Jarvis hadn't expected that. "Detective, as I said before, the fewer that know anything about this, the better. Lisa is only a kid"

"She's almost a teen," Tirrell interrupted. "And she's demonstrated an ability to keep secrets reasonably well. Besides, I don't especially trust your motives in wanting her outside."

Jarvis looked at Lisa, thoughts tangled with indecision. Even a single hint of this dropped into a hive would start rumors traveling like a firestorm, with effects potentially as devastating. But if he didn't talk now, his next chance would be at an official police interrogation... and more than rumors would spread from that. Lisa, he decided at last, was probably the lesser of the two risks. "All right," he sighed. "There is, I think, a reasonably good possibility that Colin will pass the first stages of puberty without undergoing Transitionand if he gets that far he'll have a fifty-fifty chance of keeping his teekay well into adulthood."

Lisa gasped. "You can stop Transition from coming?"

He shook his head. "Possibly... but not the way you're hoping. If the method works at all, the treatments will have to be started very young. There's nothing I can do for you; the metabolic changes that would be needed would be far too drastic to be safe. I'm sorry."

"What sort of changes are involved?" Tirrell asked.

Jarvis looked at him, glad for an excuse to turn away from Lisa's disappointment. "For the time being that has to remain my secret," he said.

"So you can make all the money from the process?"

"I'm not going to make a bill on this," Jarvis growled, annoyed at the other's attitude. "If you'd bother to think about it for ten seconds, you'd realize what a potential bombshell a discovery like this is. Handled wrong, it could literally drive Tigris into another Lost Generation situation."

"I realize what a mess this is a damn sight better than you might think," Tirrell retorted icily. "Why the hell do you think I kept your role as quiet as I could, otherwise?" He leveled a finger. "And if you're really worried about the effect on society, why'd you start the project in the first place? You could have thrown away your notes and that would've been the end of it."

Jarvis shook his head. "Because we need this, Detectiveit's the only way to get back to a stable society. Besides, scientific knowledge can never be buried for very long. If I can find the right approach, sooner or later someone else will hit it, too... and that someone might not want to let all of Tigris in on it. He might keep it for his own use, or at least play politics with it."

Lisa inhaled sharply. Tirrell looked up at her, his own face rigid. "Yeah," he said to her. "He would, wouldn't he?" Looking back at the disassembled phone, he seemed to come to a decision. "All right, Doctor, you've made your point. You're getting out of here right now, along with all your notes and any of the chemicals you used. Lisa and Tonio will take you to Barona and send more police back to wait with me until Colin can travel."

A cold knot rose into Jarvis's throat. Was the discussion going to be closed, just like that? "Detectiveto let more people know about thiscertainly before the results are even inwill just cause panic and"

"Doctor, I'd rather broadcast your story all over Tigris than let a certain person get at youand that man is right now combing this area. There are police units standing by ready to move in, but if we can't call them the only other thing to do is risk flying you out of here ourselves."

"So why can't you and the kids handle him?" Jarvis frowned, his stomach tightening as the detective's sense of urgency began to seep into him. Tirrell clearly wasn't stupidand he clearly understood the implications of hauling Jarvis and his notes into a police station, where any chance to keep this quiet would be gone forever. If Tirrell was that worried about this guy

"Because he's a fagin, and his preteen entourage outnumbers us by about seven to one," the detective growled. "Come on, get your stuff together."

Jarvis stood up and made a fast decision. "All right, but you and Colin can come, too. He's just in a hypnotic sleepI only gave you the other story so you'd stay long enough to hear me out."

"You what? Damn it all, JarvisAll right. Lisa, watch him and make sure he doesn't destroy anything while I go and whistle down Tonio."

He'd taken two steps toward the study door and Jarvis was reaching for the first of his notebooks when a short, barklike shout drifted in from outside... and, simultaneously, all the windows abruptly blew outward.


Chapter 22 | A Coming Of Age | Chapter 24



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