This section deals with the attempt to rescue Admiral van Wijk.
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The Commander said to the reception robot. "Code five. Open the door." the door opened.
Sil and George went out first. It was still raining so George opened his umbrella to shelter the two of them. George said to Undepoldus. "We are ready. Which way do you want to go?"
Undepoldus moved to George's shoulder with his brown patch in front. He then turned his brown patch to the left. When George and Sil had turned left and started walking along the street, he resumed his place on George's collar. They had walked nearly 400 metres before Undepoldus stirred. He then indicated a right turn.
George said to Sil,. "I wonder where he is leading us. It could be Soho or Piccadilly."
Sil answered. I hope it's not far in this rain. I'll be glad when we get to a covered strip."
Sil's wish was soon answered. Undepoldus directed them left onto a strip. They sat down and George folded his umbrella. They had hardly done so when Undepoldus showed that a change was needed. Undepoldus pointed the way to a downward ramp. At the bottom they took the strip going to the right. Before they found a place to sit, Undepoldus showed that they should change again. It was up a ramp this time. George saw that the direction indicator showed Piccadilly. The seats were full so they had to stand. They felt the strip dip and rise again then Undepoldus directed that they should get off.
After a few paces in the Piccadilly direction he indicated right and a few metres further on, left. They were in Soho, not far from Piccadilly. Their position was well within the area that they thought the hideout was located. Then Undepoldus started crawling towards George's left arm. He wanted to be put down.
The short street was empty but for George and Sil. Nobody appeared to be watching. Undepoldus went to a door beside a shop and began to attack the concrete surround near the bottom of the door. Within seconds he disappeared in the hole he had made.
George said to Sil. "I think that we had better move on and leave him to it. There is nothing that we can do now." They walked on and paused by a shop window for a moment. It was filled with models wearing women's dresses. When they had reached the corner Sil said. "If we walk round the block, we will be less noticeable. Undepoldus seems to be able to look after himself. How he knew where to come beats me."
"I'm just as amazed as you are. How he could navigate around a place he has never been before is incredible. Perhaps he may be able to find a way to tell us how he did it when he is bigger."
As they turned the corner into Shaftesbury Avenue they saw a man in Jewish garb approaching them. He gave the discreet Spacer sign so they knew it must be the Commander. They stopped and looked into a shop window. It was full of toys so there were plenty of things to look at. As the Commander got closer, Sil said to George. "So your uncle is on his own now.?"
"Yes, he is holed up in fifteen Romilly Street." George answered.
The Commander passed by as if he had not heard a word.
George and Sil walked on to the corner of Frith Street. The rain had stopped , so he lowered his umbrella. A woman dressed all in black overtook them. "Go on, they have seen you, but are not sure that you are connected with the Admiral."
George and Sil crossed Frith Street and continued along Shaftesbury Avenue. As they reached Greek Street they saw an irate woman arguing with a traffic policeman. She said. "I have every right to park my floater here. My cousin lives here and she has invited me to stay."
The policeman had a noter in his hand. "Madam, I will allow you ten minutes to see your cousin. If you have not moved your floater by then it will be confiscated. This is a residents only zone."
"But I will be resident here." She answered. Sil and George walked on until they were out of earshot.
Their ears were then assailed by a police siren followed by a message. "Emergency. This strip will stop in one minute. Emergency. This strip will stop in fifty-five seconds." Another police floater further up the street was repeating the same message. The strip guides were all flashing red with the warning. 'Get off this strip. This strip will stop in forty-five seconds." The display clock was counting down the seconds as they watched.
Sil said. "The police are having a busy day. They have parking problems, strip problems and our problems to sort out. People flooded off the strip and made the footpath very crowded. The police warnings continued. The strips in both directions were slowing down noticeably. George and Sil had to press themselves against a shop front to stay out of the way of the crowd that was now walking towards Piccadilly Circus. The strips stopped and the police floater nearest to them lowered itself onto the strip walkway. George and Sil decided to go with the crowd back to Greek Street. They could then get away from the crush in Shaftesbury Avenue.
They were not alone. Hundreds of people were now walking down Romilly Street and further up Greek Street to Old Compton Street. When they reached Romilly Street they could see even more people walking up Frith Street towards Old Compton Street. Strip stoppages were not common but most people had experienced at least one at some time or other. There was no panic. The Londoners just seemed to be glad that it had stopped raining.
When they reached Old Compton Street they could see a Police floater parked further up the street near the next road junction. George and Sil went with the crowd along Old Compton Street until they reached Frith Street. They stopped on the corner, both wondering if they should try to go against the stream of people back towards Romilly Street. Several other people stood nearby, watching the tide of people flowing towards Old Compton Street.
George recognised the Commander's floater as it progressed slowly up Frith Street towards them. Lan Fang could not float lower than 50 metres in this area so she was moving as slowly as she could without drawing attention to herself. When she saw George and Sil she stopped and spun the floater through 360 degrees. George took this as a signal to go away from Romilly Street so he and Sil started moving towards moving towards Soho Square. The floater flew over them in the same direction. Lan Fang could land in Soho Square to set down or pick up passengers. George said. "It is difficult to know what was the best course of action at the moment without a communicator. Maybe Lan Fang can tell us what is happening."
Sil said. "I know that you are worried about Undepoldus. He has shown how intelligent he is and he has chosen to go into that house on his own. If he wanted you to be with him he would have stayed with you until you had gone through the door. I think that he must know that his small size and ability to go through walls will enable him to move around undetected. If there are any mouse holes in the house, he can use them and he would be in his element in a typical cavity wall. I don't think you should worry too much George. He will be O.K."
"Thank you Sil for your words of comfort but I really like the little fellow. I want to make sure that he comes to no harm but I would dearly love to know what he is doing right now."
When they reached Bateman Street they were approached by an old man with a grey beard and a turban. He looked as if he had just arrived from the Punjab and needed help with directions. He said. "George, go back to the Club. You can't do any more here. The police have the area surrounded. They have staged a series of incidents so that it does not look like they have set up a cordon. The Commander is returning to the Club but Jane and I are still on watch. Boku has sent images of two people who have been following Martha. She will go the rendezvous soon. I will be there and so will Jane. The trap is set now. We will catch the kidnappers within half an hour. Good luck both of you. I will see you in the Club later."
Gurprit left the two of them before either could answer. George said. "If we make for Oxford Street, we can take the strip back most of the way."
Fast walking provided a substitute for action. Both wanted to be really doing something to help the Admiral but neither was in a position to do anything constructive at the moment.
The strip at Oxford Street was crowded. It was filled with shifters who had started early and those who were about to start an evening shift. There was a sprinkling of shoppers with bags bearing the names of famous stores. It was so ordinary that the problems that were worrying George and Sil seemed to belong to another world.
The mixture of travellers changed when they switched to the Southampton Row strip. People with suitcases were more in evidence, presumably heading for the Euston Moveway Terminus.
Sil and George had to cover most of the rest of the journey to the Club on foot but it did not take them long. The Club's outer entrance door was closed as they approached but it opened as soon as they stopped in front of it. They were expected and recognised visually. The inner door was closed. George said. "Code five. Lieutenant George McFigg and Lieutenant Sil Agonistes."
The door opened. The reception area was empty. Only the robot was on duty.
They immediately went to the Embassy office to see the Rear Admiral. He was expecting them and had a tray of coffee and biscuits ready for them.
"Welcome back George. I think that we will have some good news shortly. Undepoldus has done a marvellous job. Have a look at these." He produced a series of printouts. At first they looked like the image of Sergeant Fisher but there were two men and a woman in the first set and two women in the second set. George recognised one of the two women as the Admiral.
"Who are the others sir." he asked.
The other woman with the Admiral is Mrs. Fisher - Sergeant Fisher's wife. She had been kidnapped just before Sergeant Fisher arrived here last night. We don't know the identities of the other three yet but we presume that they are part of the kidnapper's gang."
"How did Undepoldus send you these pictures?"
"He didn't. When we knew you had left him at 15 Romilly Street we told the police and they tapped the vidcom lines. The kidnappers saw these images appearing in different parts of the house but could not work out how they appeared. They contacted some others in their gang to ask them what the pictures meant and how they got there. The call was traced. The police in Southampton have that location surrounded now. They are waiting for the word to move in. Lieutenant Chao thinks that she has seen Undepoldus on the roof of the house. The police would like you to go and pick him up as soon as the Admiral and Mrs. Fisher have been freed. They will provide a floater to take you there."
The vidcom sounded. Superintendent Abdullah's face appeared. "Superintendent, any news?
"Yes sir. One of our operatives has been using a remote listening device to monitor No. 15 Romilly Street. He reports that there has been a power failure and that floors have collapsed in several rooms. The occupants think that the house is falling apart. Our monitors have reported that the vidcom unit in the house is running on internal emergency power. We have had a sighting of the worm on the roof of the house but it has since disappeared. The occupants of the house have seen a lot of people walking by and do not know that we stopped the Shaftesbury Avenue strip. Their associates have had to escort your Spacer Martha Dawson through the crowds of pedestrians. This has made their job more difficult and slower, and they have not been able to check if they were followed. Your very efficient Spacer, Miss Adedeyo, is close on their tail. They have never seen her. Our people were following her but lost her several times. She has switched disguises twice without us knowing. One minute she is a high school girl, then she is an office girl, then a tart, and back to a schoolgirl but from another school. I wish we had some policewomen like her. She is a one-woman police force on her own."
"Thank you Superintendent. Your commendation of Lieutenant Adedeyo is noted. When do you expect to close in."
"Any minute now sir. Excuse me sir, I have an image on my other vidcom." There was a short pause. "I will stop talking and patch it through. Then you can see for yourself."
There were still crowds of people walking along Romilly Street. The view was from a floater using a telephoto lens. They saw Martha, accompanied by a man in the crowd. Not far behind was another man who showed himself by continually looking behind him. Almost next to him, carrying a large schoolbag, was a dark-faced schoolgirl in a straw hat. The man ignored her completely. He was evidently looking for someone trying to hide in the crowd. There were so many people following him, his task would have been impossible if there was someone tracking Martha among them. They could all see how well Boku had blended in to the crowd. There were quite a lot of other schoolgirls in front and behind. As they approached No. 15 the camera focused in closer. Boku stopped to look at the dresses in the nearby shop window. They saw her bend down and then she was hidden by the people walking past. The schoolgirl had disappeared. A short girl wearing jeans and a t-shirt took her place. She looked like a hippie with unkempt dreadlocks. The man with Martha pushed the call button by the door. His accomplice walked across the street to look in a shop window, trying to look as if he were not involved. There was no answer to the call. The man pushed the call button again and held it for a few seconds. Nobody came to the door. In desperation the man tried using the ancient door knocker. After a minute the door opened. As he and Martha started to go in, the other man ran across the street to follow them in. The door closed. Immediately afterwards Boku went up to the door and pulled the lock out by the handle. She pushed the door open and stood to one side to see what happened. As a man arrived in the doorway she went up to him as if to say something. He sank to his knees and collapsed. Boku's actions had not gone unnoticed by the passing crowd. They stopped and formed a semicircle around the doorway to watch. Boku turned to them and bowed. She grabbed the man by the wrists and dragged him out of the doorway onto the footpath. She then stood beside the door again. The man who had accompanied Martha appeared to see what had happened. He collapsed before Boku got to him. There was a glimpse of Martha retreating out of view. Boku parked the second man next to the first, stood back and bowed to the crowd again. She resumed her place by the door. A woman appeared next. Undepoldus had produced a good likeness of her. She saw the two men lying on the footpath and the crowd looking at them. She produced a small pistol out of her bra. The crowd backed away. Then a brown hand grabbed the pistol and then let go of it. The woman's face was a picture of horror. The end of the gun had been bent sideways. Boku pointed at a place on the footpath next to the men. The woman almost collapsed as she sank down onto the damp pavement.
Boku stepped back again and bowed. She picked up the broken gun and pulled it apart. The shells dropped on the ground. She then offered pieces of the gun to the crowd. None accepted. There was a crash from inside the house. Boku looked into see what had happened. She went inside and slowly came out backwards dragging another man by the wrists. The police floater was now within a few metres of the scene, hovering a few metres above the crowd. The crowd had seen the floater and assumed that Boku was a plain clothes policewoman because the police in the floater did not intervene.
Martha came to the doorway and pointed at a first floor window. The floater's camera focused on it. On the windowsill was Undepoldus. There was a perfect round hole in the glass near him. The floater moved over to the window and a policewoman used her stick to break the glass. She ignored Undepoldus and went inside. Undepoldus reared and climbed into the floater, unseen by the crowd. The floater went away a few metres and continued to show what was happening.
Another floater arrived. and stopped next to the window. The floater door was opened and Mrs. Fisher was helped to step from the windowsill into the floater. Admiral van Wijk was next, followed by the policewoman. The floater went away. Martha and Boku gestured for the crowd to stand back so that there was room for another police floater to land. Boku picked up the shells and pulled them apart, pouring the explosive powder in the gutter that was still wet with the rain. She bowed again, but this time Martha joined her. Martha went back into the house and came back a minute later with a man draped over her shoulders in a fireman's lift. All the kidnappers in the house and outside had been accounted for. She placed him on the footpath with the others and bowed to the crowd. They then took off their wigs, showing themselves to be Spacers. The crowd applauded.
It was not a police floater that landed but the Commander's. Lan Fang had been given authorisation to land in a public street. Martha and Boku got in and the floater lifted away. The show was nearly over. One of the men got up and looked as though he would try to get away. Then he saw that there were no gaps in the crowd and a police floater was hovering almost above him. He stood there looking defeated as another police floater landed. A news service floater appeared just in time to see the men and the woman being handcuffed and ushered into the floater.
A policewoman stood in front of the door to prevent anyone from going inside.
The camera floater withdrew and stopped transmitting.
The next section covers the occurrences immediately after Admiral van Wijk was rescued.
Viewers familiar with this subject may pass on to the following section.
Please select PASS or CONTINUE.