* * * * *
Hesitantly, Dan moved to the carrier. The bluff was all right up to a point--but the point had just about been reached. He took his seat. Blote moved a lever. The familiar blue glow sprang up. "Kindly direct me, Dan," Blote demanded. "Two twenty-one Maple Street, I believe you said."
"I don't know the town very well," Dan said, "but Maple's over that way."
Blote worked levers. The carrier shot out into a ghostly afternoon sky. Faint outlines of buildings, like faded negatives, spread below. Dan looked around, spotted lettering on a square five-story structure.
"Over there," he said. Blote directed the machine as it swooped smoothly toward the flat roof Dan indicated.
"Better let me take over now," Dan suggested. "I want to be sure to get us to the right place."
"Very well, Dan."
Dan dropped the carrier through the roof, passed down through a dimly seen office. Blote twiddled a small knob. The scene around the cage grew even fainter. "Best we remain unnoticed," he explained.
The cage descended steadily. Dan peered out, searching for identifying landmarks. He leveled off at the second floor, cruised along a barely visible corridor. Blote's eyes rolled, studying the small chambers along both sides of the passage at once.
"Ah, this must be the assembly area," he exclaimed. "I see the machines employ a bar-type construction, not unlike our carriers."
"That's right," Dan said, staring through the haziness. "This is where they do time...." He tugged at a lever suddenly; the machine veered left, flickered through a barred door, came to a halt. Two nebulous figures loomed beside the cage. Dan cut the switch. If he'd guessed wrong--
The scene fluoresced, sparks crackling, then popped into sharp focus. Blote scrambled out, brown eyes swivelling to take in the concrete walls, the barred door and--
"You!" a hoarse voice bellowed.
"Grab him!" someone yelled.
Blote recoiled, threshing his ambulatory members in a fruitless attempt to regain the carrier as Manny and Fiorello closed in. Dan hauled at a lever. He caught a last glimpse of three struggling, blue-lit figures as the carrier shot away through the cell wall.