This section deals with the efforts made to locate Admiral van Wijk.
Viewers familiar with this subject may pass on to the next section.
Please select PASS or CONTINUE.
He picked up the menu and dialled 666 cups of coffee. The effect was not immediate but it did not need to be. As he saw Spacers saunter into the lounge in ones and twos he pointed to the woman in front of him and gave a thumbs down signal. The woman collapsed in her seat. George went over to her and put his arm out to Undepoldus. Undepoldus quickly resumed his resting place on his collar.
George saw that Boku Adedeyo was the first to come up to his
table, closely followed by Jane Wanneroo. He said to both of them.
This woman is an imposter. The real Admiral van Wijk must be in
danger. Jane, raise the alarm. Boku, don't let this woman get
away. I dare not do much because of our little friend here. I
have to look after him."
Other Spacers arrived, curious to know what was happening. George explained.
"This woman has taken the place of Admiral van Wijk. She looked the part and would have got away with it if it had not been for Undepoldus. The admiral was expected and so the usual identity check must have been bypassed. She was very well briefed because she didn't make a slip. However, now I come to think of it, the excuse she gave to me for not asking for a share was a little bit too glib. She needed an excuse not to share with me because I would have found her out in seconds. I am sure that Boku could make sure that she won't escape but we need to get her into a secure place as soon as possible."
Martha made a contribution. "If she is a fake, she may be carrying a radio. She should be searched."
The other Spacers needed no second bidding. Every scrap of clothing was taken off her and she was unceremoniously probed for a hidden device. She seemed resigned to her fate.
The George thought of the wig and hat. He picked up the hat and found that the wig was attached to it. He removed the wig and shook it. There was nothing there. The inside of the hat was bare too. Then George felt the hat-band. He found what he was looking for. Under the hat-band was a minicorder. There was no sign of an antenna. George checked the hatband itself to see if it could have been used as an antenna. He couldn't see anything obvious. He decided that all the clothes should be passed on to Gurprit. He was an expert in bugging devices.
Boku had nothing to do for a moment. Other Spacers had taken the woman away. She said to George. "That was too easy. She didn't even struggle. I know that when people tangle with me, they soon learn not to struggle. Last night was not the first time I have helped the local police. That woman has got an escape route. She obviously knows a lot about Spacers so she knows that she will not be purposely harmed. I think that she expects to be traded with the real Admiral van Wijk."
"That is smart thinking Boku. I think that case four will be declared shortly if it has not been declared already. The Commander will be in his cabin, directing operations. Rear Admiral Chebychev will be dealing with the London police. We have to think of a way of rescuing Admiral van Wijk. Have you got any suggestions Boku?"
"There is one way, but it would be difficult to organise quickly. If the Commander knows of a Spacer who could pass as the imposter for a few minutes, She could take the imposter's place. I could guard her. Now I come to think of it. I have an idea. I will see you later George."
Boku left, leaving George alone with Undepoldus. A robowaiter appeared and removed the glass of water and the bowl. When the robowaiter tried to clean up the mess where the bowl had been, George realised that it could be damaged by the acids in the slurry. He ordered it to stop trying to clean the table and to arrange that the table was replaced.
George wondered what Boku's second idea was. With thirty-five female Spacers in the Club, there would be a good chance that one of them would look enough like the imposter to try to get to Admiral van Wijk. It was close to midday so it was possible that the most likely candidate was out sightseeing or shopping. George tried to think of any way that he and Undepoldus could help. If Undepoldus was a bloodhound, he might be able to sniff out where the imposter had come from. At least, Undepoldus knew what the imposter smelled like. It was also possible that he also knew what the Admiral smelled like if the imposter was wearing her clothes. The little worm had already shown that he was very bright but there was no way that he could help with this problem. George started to sum up mentally the things that Undepoldus had shown that he could do. He could recognise humans he had met before. He could also detect when someone was not who she seemed to be. He didn't have any eyes to see with yet he was able to identify people at a distance. He had no ears yet he seemed to understand what was wanted of him. The way he acted in front of Jane Wanneroo last night seemed to show that he recognised her and that he knew that she had been hurt by his digestive juices. He didn't go to Marita when she wanted him to. Whenever I want him to come to me he does so very quickly for a creature that has no legs. George thought for a moment that Undepoldus must be telepathic but although the talent would explain a lot of his actions, it wouldn't fit all of them. If telepathy applied, he would have identified the imposter while he was still on my collar. He could have done something to warn me. As I sit here thinking he would have made some response to my thoughts.
George then decided to try to start again from first principles. He reminded himself that because of the way things went last night, he had completely forgotten to apply the rules of First Contact.
One: Observe the entity and note what it does.
Two: Note if the entity is observing you and is not showing any signs of aggression. If so, do the things that humans do that demonstrate to the entity how you move, communicate and feed.
Three: Face the entity. If the entity is watching but shows no signs of aggression, turn left and walk ten paces. Stop. Turn left again. walk another ten paces. Stop. Turn left again. Walk a further ten paces, stop, turn left and walk the final ten paces to where you started. Movement in a square in a regular manner will show the entity that you are intelligent and can count. The entity may gather that we use the base 10 for our numbering system. If the entity is still watching but has made no response, walk another square clockwise. Then walk backwards ten paces to show that you have not marked out any territory to claim it.
Four: Show that you can defend yourself in a non-aggressive manner. From facing the entity turn left or right and walk twenty paces. Find and pick up a small stone. If there are no alien artefacts in the way, throw the stone in the same direction as you were walking.
George realised that he had done none of these things to demonstrate what he was to Undepoldus. On the other hand, Undepoldus had done many things that showed that he had his own first contact procedures. Nevertheless George could not think of any way that the information he had could be used to establish useful communication with Undepoldus. Perhaps Undepoldus was still too immature to communicate or perhaps he had not shown Undepoldus that he himself was not intelligent enough to communicate.
George remembered the story that King Psammetichus of Egypt caused a child to be brought up without ever hearing a word spoken in its presence. The child ended up effectively dumb. All languages are acquired skills.
Then George recalled that Undepoldus had no eyes or ears or speaking apparatus. Was there any way that he could begin to communicate with Undepoldus? He felt in his pocket for the holo of Admiral van Wijk. Then it came to him. It was clear that Undepoldus could see, however he did it without recognisable eyes. Undepoldus had been on his collar when he first studied the holo of the Admiral. If he could see, he would have seen it too. When the stones had been put in the bowl and a glass of water had been put next to the bowl, Undepoldus had seen these things because he had gone straight up to them. Undepoldus had also seen the imposter. Was Undepoldus capable of comparing a small holo image with a real person? It seemed that he might be able to. The way Undepoldus dealt with the imposter may have been a chance event or it could have been a deliberate action. George took the holo out of his pocket and held it in front of his collar. Undepoldus did not react. Then George realised that one holo was not enough. He would have to show Undepoldus a lot of holos so that he would be able to understand what holos were. George got up and started to go to the Commander's cabin. He had just left the lounge when he saw the imposter walking towards him. As she got closer she said.
"Hello George, How do I look?"
It wasn't the imposter's voice but it was familiar. George stopped for a moment then said. "It's Martha, isn't it?"
"Very good George. You recognised my voice but do I look the part?"
"You had me quite fooled until you spoke. How was it done?"
"Boku organised it. She had a holo taken of the imposter with the make-up restored. The holo was projected in front of my face and theatrical make-up was used to match the contours and colours of the holo. It is strange to look in a mirror and see someone else's face looking back at you. I was just coming to see you to see if you think I would pass as the imposter."
"I think that you are a bit taller and thinner than the imposter but it would need someone who knew the woman well to tell the difference. How will you be able to find out where the woman came from?"
"Boku had that worked out too. Boku said that she would like to spend a few minutes alone with the woman to find out who she was and why she had impersonated Admiral van Wijk. She found out that she is called Michelle Parkhouse and is an actress. She had been told that she should go from the Strand to the Spacer's Club to see Rear Admiral Chebychev. She was expected so there would be no formalities. The idea was a set-up by a vidcom network that was going to do a programme about Spacers. The real Admiral was in Chichester but the Spacer's Club would not check because they had been sent a signal to the to say that she would be coming."
"She was very well prepared. She seemed to know Spacer protocol off by heart."
"She has played the part of a Spacer in several vidcom plays and knew the basics to start with. All she had to learn was that there was new information to be gained about the Undepoldus mission. Her job was to say as little as possible and try to get you to tell her everything you knew. She even had the excuse prepared not to share with you. It was in one of the plays she acted in."
"What is she doing now?"
"She is having lunch with Rear Admiral Chebychev. She has been told that we think that Admiral van Wijk has been kidnapped and is in danger. The story that she had been told was a cover for a more sinister operation."
"Won't the people who sent her here expect her back soon?"
"No. She was told to do shopping and sightseeing as Admiral van Wijk would have done in case we became suspicious and had her followed. I am just going out now to visit some of the famous sights in case they are watching. I then have to go and sit on the steps around Eros in Piccadilly Circus between 16:00 and 16:30. They will then pick me up and take me back to the vidcom studio to give a report on what I have found out."
"What about the recording on the minicorder. Won't they expect you to have it?"
"Gurprit has made a new recording, using a processor to emulate your voice. You give her a very long lecture on the rock samples brought back with the Undepoldus mission. It is largely a transcription of Peter Whitfield's paper. It could hardly be more boring."
"What if they have heard of the worm Undepoldus. How is that covered?"
"The woman knew nothing about it until you showed him to her. The people who sent her may have heard of him but they didn't say anything to her about an alien creature. I think that they may have heard something and wanted confirmation. They must have tapped into our communications somehow to have learned that Admiral van Wijk was coming here."
"George said. "In a way that is nearly as serious as the kidnapping. How will we be able to keep track of you after they pick you up?
"I will be followed by several Spacers. I will also drop passive resonators when I can do so unobserved. They look like dead flies and cockroaches, so nobody would look at them twice unless they saw a lot of them together. Gurprit is attempting to make the processor network do a voiceprint search for Admiral van Wijk's voice. She may have been near a processor and said something that was traceable. Remember, she is a very experienced Spacer. She must be good to have earned the promotion to Admiral."
"I am sure that those who have kidnapped her would also expect her to be resourceful. Does the Commander know what her specialities are?
"I don't know. You had better go to see the Commander to suggest that as a way of trying to find her. I had better go now. I don't want to have to rush to Piccadilly Circus."
"Good luck Martha."
"See you George."
George remembered that he was on his way to the Commander's cabin anyway. When he arrived he found the Commander and several other Spacers studying the London map of strips and moveways. As they were busy, he did not interrupt their discussion. He went to the wall where the Commander had his collection of holographs on display. He replaced the holo of Admiral van Wijk and pointed to the holo of himself for the benefit of Undepoldus. He then pointed to the holos that Undepoldus had encountered. Undepoldus remained unmoved. George then decided that he should read out the names of the Spacers aloud but quietly in case Undepoldus could hear what he said. He started at the top. "Sil Agonistes, Marita Anderson." and continued through the dozen or so names until he got to "Anne-Marie van Wijk."
The Commander heard him talking apparently to nobody and asked. "What are you doing George?.
"I'm telling Undepoldus the names of the Spacers he has met, sir."
"I see. No. I don't see. Undepoldus cannot hear you, he hasn't got any ears."
"I know, but neither have snakes but they can sense vibrations. Undepoldus has not got any eyes either but you have seen him move about as if he can see. I am trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. If he can hear, it was worth while. If he cannot hear, I have lost nothing."
"OK George. He is in your care and you should be the best judge of what to do with him."
"I was just discussing the kidnapping with Martha. Do you know what Admiral van Wijk's specialities are? She may be doing something to try to rescue herself. I know that she likes sailing at Chichester but was she an engineer or a pilot or something?"
"Good thinking George. Let me see. She is fluent in Dutch, English and German and she knows something of other languages too. She has a degree in engineering and trained as a navigator at the Spacers College. When she was at school she did illustrations for her school magazine and she had an exhibition of her artwork when she was at University. She is a talented lady."
"That may be a clue." George said. "When the imposter was searched she did not have a pen or a pencil or anything to write with in her handbag. Admiral van Wijk may have been able to keep something to write with without attracting the attention of her kidnappers."
"It isn't much but it is something to think about. If she wrote a note or drew a picture and dropped it near where she was kidnapped, it would have been picked up by cleaning robots by now."
Jane had been studying the map carefully. "If we knew when the Admiral left Chichester, we could make an estimate of the time when she arrived at the Waterloo moveway terminus. She could have taken the surface strip over Waterloo Bridge and then along Kingsway or she could have gone underground. The surface strip is the best route but it has been cold and wet so I would think that she went underground. I don't think that she would have taken a taxi. The only place where the kidnappers could be sure to see her would have been at Waterloo. They then took her somewhere. It could not have been very far away because Miss Parkhouse departed from the Strand and arrived at 10:46. The Admiral had to be taken somewhere, stripped of her clothes, and made to tell what she knew. Then Miss Parkhouse had to be dressed in the Admiral's clothes and made up to look like the Admiral. When Martha was made up it took around twenty minutes. I think that it would have taken half an hour to complete the changeover. The surface strips from Waterloo to here take eleven minutes. The underground strips take fourteen minutes and take longer to access. I would say nearly twenty minutes altogether from the moveway exit to our front door. This accounts for fifty minutes. I therefore conclude that the Admiral was held within a few minutes strip time of the Waterloo terminus. She may still be there. Miss Parkhouse was told to go to Piccadilly Circus. It is likely that the kidnappers would not have chosen a place to meet her that was very far from their hideout. The Strand is not far from Piccadilly Circus. If we knew when the Admiral left Chichester we could narrow the search area to within a few kilometres."
The commander was impressed by Jane's deductions. "That was very good Jane. The ticket that the Admiral used is in her handbag and Martha now has it while she is travelling around London. We can't find out when the Admiral left Chichester without that ticket."
"Yes we can sir." Gurprit interjected. "I took the liberty of duplicating it. I have the original card. It has the Admiral's fingerprints on it. It was bought at 08:47 in Chichester. There is a medium moveway from there that links to the London - Portsmouth fast moveway at Petersfield. I will calculate the arrival time at Waterloo shortly sir."
After a pause while he consulted a moveway timetable he said. "I estimate that her journey took between fifty-three and fifty-eight minutes sir."
Jane said. They had only ten minutes to take the Admiral somewhere and to send Miss Parkhouse back in her place. That is only five minutes each way. If anything, it is likely to be nearer Piccadilly but it has to be close to Waterloo as well."
The Commander said. "We know where to look but even so, it is still too big an area to search in an hour or two, even if every Spacer in London took part. Has anyone else any ideas that would help to reduce the search?"
George said. "I regret that I think that the search area could be larger than Jane has suggested. It would have been impossible to have kidnapped the Admiral at the Waterloo Terminus and then taken her somewhere on the strips. I think that someone posed as a Spacer and said that he had a floater waiting to take her to the Club. She is a VIP, so she might not have thought it unusual. Once she was in a floater, it would have been easier to overpower her and take her anywhere without anyone knowing."
Jane said. "I had it all worked out nicely but you are right George. Robocameras would have monitored a struggle so the kidnappers would have done all they could to evade detection."
Sil had been standing next to Jane but had not said a word since George had arrived. Now she made a contribution. "If George is right and they used a floater, they would have had to keep it in a floater park for a while. They didn't know exactly when the Admiral would arrive so they would have had to arrive and park early enough not to miss her. Every floater that parks at a public parking place like the Waterloo Terminus is automatically registered when it arrives and when it leaves. The floater's owner has to use a card to pay for the parking time. There will be a record of all floaters that have used the park. There could not have been many floaters that left the park between 9:40 and 9:50. If we present this information to the London Police, they could check which floaters were used and who used them. It is a slim chance but it is possible that the floater's owner or the person who used it lives in the area near Waterloo."
"That is excellent Sil." said the Commander. I will ask the Rear Admiral to pass that on to the London Police." He activated his vidcom. "Case five. Number One." There was a pause and Rear Admiral Chebychev's face appeared. "Ivan have you got any news?" he asked.
The Commander summarised Sil's suggestion. "Very good, Ivan, I will contact Superintendent Abdullah at once." The screen faded. Everyone was silent for a while as each wondered what else could be done. Eventually the Commander spoke.
"There is nothing else we can do now and I am sure that all of you would like some lunch. If you have any more good ideas, we can discuss them in the dining room. I will see you there."
George thought that Undepoldus would like some lunch too. He was just about to leave when he saw the original fish tank that Undepoldus had arrived in. It was on the floor next to the Commander's desk. "Sir, with your permission I would like to give Undepoldus something to eat. His old tank is here. May I use it?"
"Of course George. I'm going to lunch. Shut the door when you leave."
George picked up the tank and put it on the Commander's desk, next to the stripway map. Undepoldus had already started moving as George positioned the tank. George put his hand on the top of the tank to make it easy for Undepoldus to get into it. Once Undepoldus was settled, George said. "I will leave you here for a few minutes Undepoldus while I get my lunch. I will be back soon." Undepoldus began attacking a rock.
George thought to himself: 'It is about as useless as talking to a kitten.' as he left the Commander's cabin and shut the door.
Lunch was a very sombre affair. Spacers had a lot of resources but technically London was a foreign country. They could not do anything that would interfere with the local authorities. Rear Admiral Chebychev visited their table to tell the Commander that the police had been informed of the likely time, place and method by which Admiral van Wijk had been kidnapped. He had no other news. Spacers following Martha had nothing to report. He left, looking as troubled as those having lunch. When they returned to the Commander's cabin they found Undepoldus on the stripway map. He had burned a patch in a blank area and was lying in line with it. George went over to him to let him crawl up his arm when he noticed something odd about he blackened patch on the map. It looked like a face. He invited the others to have a look at it. Jane said with an air of astonishment. "It is a picture of Sergeant Fisher, Superintendent Abdullah's assistant."
The all looked and could see that the image looked distinctly like Sergeant Fisher.
The Commander activated his vidcom "Case one, number one." When the Rear Admiral's face appeared he said. "Undepoldus produced this picture, do you recognise who it is?" He held up the burnt part of the map so that the Rear Admiral could see it. It took a while for the rear Admiral to answer.
"If it is who I think it is, I had better ask Superintendent Abdullah to come and see it - alone. It looks like Sergeant Fisher. Undepoldus has only seen three men with hair - all non-Spacers - Peter Whitfield, Superintendent Abdullah and Sergeant Fisher. Clearing."
George looked at his little friend and wondered. How could a creature that small show such intelligence and ability? He said to Undepoldus so that everyone could hear. "You are a very clever little fellow. We do not know yet what your picture means but I am sure that it is intended to help us."
George put his hand on the desk so that Undepoldus could climb up his arm. Undepoldus ignored the hand and went across the desk to the edge. He then went around the edge of the desk until he was on the side nearest the door. He then rolled off the desk and bounced a little on the floor. As George ran around the desk to pick him up he saw that Undepoldus was apparently unharmed by the drop. He was making his way towards the door.
The Commander said. "If that isn't a sign that he wants to go somewhere, I don't know what is."
Jane opened the door to let Undepoldus pass through. Undepoldus was making his way along the corridor towards the reception area. George picked him up with both hands and carried him to the reception desk. There was a map of the Club layout on the desk under glass. Undepoldus did a circuit of the map and put a small spot of brown liquid just outside the entrance. He then absorbed the liquid again. The Commander had watched just as closely as anyone. He said. "Case five. Gurprit, get a tracker for George. Sil, George, change to mufti. Jane, come with me. All return here in five minutes."
The front door of the club closed. The reception robot activated the emergency lighting. Two Spacers arrived in reception to find it empty of people. One said. "I am Commander Surgeon Michael Smith, identify me."
The robot replied "Identified. Commander Smith, please state your requirements."
"What is the emergency?"
The robot replied. Case five status has been activated, authority Commander Sincayvitch."
The other Spacer repeated the procedure. "I am Lieutenant Chao Lan Fang, identify me."
"Identified Lieutenant Chao. Please state your requirements."
"Report location of Commander Sincayvitch."
"Commander Sincayvitch is in cabin two."
"Report names of Spacers in Cabin two."
"Commander Sincayvitch, Lieutenant Commander Wanneroo."
Sil arrived wearing pink jeans, a pink pullover and a grey jacket. She had a blonde shoulder- length wig.
The Commander Surgeon asked her. "Lieutenant, please tell us what is happening?"
"Admiral van Wijk has been kidnapped. Commander Sincayvitch, Lieutenant Commander Wanneroo, Lieutenant McFigg, Lieutenant Singh and myself are trying to find ways to locate the Admiral. The alien worm Undepoldus has given us an indication that it can assist in the search. The others will return here shortly sir."
"May we be of assistance?"
"I think so sir. Please offer your services to the Commander. He will be able to advise you sir,"
"Thank you Lieutenant. Is the worm Undepoldus intelligent?"
"It would seem so sir. It unmasked a woman who was posing as Admiral van Wijk It has drawn a picture of a police sergeant and it has indicated that it wishes to leave the Club sir."
"That is a fine achievement for a worm isn't it?"
George arrived with Undepoldus. he was wearing a tweed sports jacket and flannels with a light grey roll-neck sweater over his formfit. He was carrying a large golf umbrella. Undepoldus was almost invisible, resting in his favourite position.
George greeted Commander Smith. "Lieutenant George McFigg sir - with Undepoldus. I trust that you would like to assist us in the present emergency sir?"
"I don't yet know how I can help. It seems that you have a provisional plan of action with the worm's assistance."
"I hope that it will not be necessary but your medical skill may be needed by Admiral van Wijk. We do not know what state she is in. We only know that she was waylaid on her way here and that an imposter took her place sir."
"I understand Lieutenant. Commander Sincayvitch is coming along the corridor - in mufti. At least, I think it is him."
Commander Sincayvitch was dressed entirely in black in the style of an orthodox Jew. He had long curly sideburns, a droopy moustache and a wispy goatee beard.
"How do you like it George? This outfit belonged to my great grandfather. I am sure that he would spin in his grave if he knew I was a Spacer and was wearing this suit. Jane will be my opposite number. She is dressed as an orthodox Moslem lady. You wouldn't be able to recognise her when she is wearing the chador. She will be tracking you and reporting to me. Sil is dressed as a typical London girl. She will act as your girlfriend. Two people walking arm in arm are less likely to be thought of as snoopers. Michael, good to have you on board. We hope that we won't need your specialised knowledge but it is good to know that you are here. If you would like to join the Rear Admiral, I am sure that he will appreciate your assistance. Lan Fang, take a floater. Give it my name and the number three zero four two. It will then be under your control. Use it discreetly to observe us, particularly George and Sil. Stay in contact with the Rear Admiral."
The next section deals with the attempt to rescue Admiral van Wijk.
Viewers familiar with this subject may pass on to the following section.
Please select PASS or CONTINUE.