Chapter 16 (part 2 of 2)

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Maggie woke to a yellow haze. She heard a voice speaking, realized it was her own. But someone else's questions were running through her brain: Where is Semarritte's clone? Why did you lie to Primary Jagget? Where did you expect to meet Semarritte's clone? How many Terrors is Seinarritte's clone carrying? You testified that Veriasse and the clone have told you several conflicting stories about their plans; how do you know that they have not planted bombs on each world they have visited?

The questions were all ringing through her mind, and Maggie willed herself not to answer. Her voice quit speaking.

Maggie's head felt as if it would split. Some viselike instrument was crushing her temples. She tried to move her arms and kick, but could not move.

Nearby, Jagget or one of his clones said, "Sedate her again, quickly."

"No!" she shouted, and was swallowed by the cold.

She woke, perhaps hours later, with a headache. She was in a small, cold room made of stone. It had one light, no windows, no furnishings. The white walls were cracked, like rough skin. Maggie felt her head. Her mantle was gone. From the cold seeping to her bone, she realized so were her underwear and her shoes. She had only the pale green robe she'd worn for the past few days. The place was empty, except for some dirt on the floor and her own ripening scent.

There was one door in the room. Maggie got up off the floor, approached the door. It slid open. Two Jaggets stood against the far wall of a corridor, and they smiled at her. They wore crisp, identical tan military fatigues.

"Are either one of you Primary Jagget?"

As one, the Jaggets shook their heads. One answered, "He's asked you to join him for lunch."

"Lunch? Was I out all night?" Maggie asked.

"Yes," the Jagget answered. "We found it desirable to sedate you. We don't like strangers walking around our compound." Maggie looked deeply into the Jagget's dark eyes, saw them glittering with something that might have been madness. She'd reacted to it instinctively the night before.

"I see," she said softly.

"Shall we go to lunch?" the other Jagget offered.

"Please." Maggie nodded so that one of them would lead the way.

"We don't like to walk in front," one of the Jaggets said. "Please, you lead."

"But I don't know where we're going."

"Just walk," the Jagget offered. "We'll tell you when to turn."

Maggie shrugged, headed down a hall dirty with disuse till it reached a side passage. "To the right," a Jagget said. He guided her through an underground construction facility, and everywhere Jaggets in dull brown coveralls hauled containers, worked at monitoring stations, or stood supervising others. She could not guess from the odd components what they were making. It looked to be some type of personal flier in a new design.

They climbed some stairs that led to the surface. It was a cool day with blue skies and fresh snow on the ground. Once she saw the compound in the daylight, Maggie saw that this was a military installation. Several towers held gun emplacements, and on the perimeter of the city she spotted heavy generators that powered energy shields. Only then did she notice the faint shimmering in the sky above as sunlight refracted on the shields.

They climbed a stair that zigzagged uphill to a large house, a stately affair with marble columns. Primary Jagget sat under the portico at a table covered with a white cloth. Sunlight splashed down upon him. The day seemed cool to Maggie, with snow on the ground in most places, but Jagget luxuriated in the thin sunlight, as if it were a warm and pleasant day. Lunch waited on the table. Wine goblets were filled, and an assortment of silver platters held steaming foods. Two Jaggets busily served vegetables onto plates.

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