Page 110 of Overload

At least, he thought, he would block Archambault's way out.

His engineer's mind was icy cool. He stopped, aware of the need for a fast decision, yet taking time to think deliberately, carefully, assessing possibilities.

Somewhere underneath where he was standing, Archambault was swimming, undoubtedly with a bomb or bombs. Where would he direct the bombing?

There were two possible targets. One was the pumps, another the condensers further into the plant.

Blowing up the pumps would be damaging enough; it could put all of La Mission's generators out of use for months. But a bomb in the condensers would be far, far worse. Rebuilding them might take a year.

Bob Ostrander knew about explosives. He had studied them at engineering school and since. A five-pound dynamite bomb, no larger than a loaf of bread, could pass through the pumps and enter the condensers. Perhaps Archambault had released such a bomb, or was about to. All that he needed to do was set the timing mechanism and drop it: it would find its way through the pumps to the condensers. The condensers had to be protected. To do so meant shutting down the entire plant. Now.

There was a wall telephone in the pump house. Bob Ostrander went to it and dialed 2 for the main control room.

A ringing tone and a click. "Chief operator."

"This is Ostrander. I want you to hit the trips on all units and stop the circulating water."

Reaction was instant as the operator protested, "You'll blow the rupture discs. Besides, we should warn Energy Control . . ."

"Goddammit! Don't give me an argument!" Ostrander gripped the phone and shouted, knowing at any moment an explosion might rip apart the pump house or the condensers. "I know what I'm doing. Hit those trips! Hit them now!"

* * *

Georgos knew nothing of what was going on above him. He only knew, as the wire mesh cylinder continued to revolve, that his escape route was cut off. Not that he had really expected to escape; he had known from the beginning of this mission that his likelihood of surviving it was slight. But he didn't want to die in here. Not this way. Trapped . . .

He thought, with mounting panic: Maybe the mesh cylinder would stop. Then he could cut two more holes. He turned sharply to inspect it.

At that same instant while turning, his wire cutters, fastened to his wrist by the looped cord, broke loose. The knot had opened . . .

The cutters were yellow, intended for easy visibility. He could see them falling . . .

Instinctively, Georgos rolled over, kicked bard and dived, following the glimpse of yellow. His band was outstretched. He almost had them.

Then he felt a sudden rush of water and realized he had gone too deep and was being sucked into a pump. He attempted to turn back. Too late! The water engulfed and held him.

He let his mouthpiece and air tube go and tried to scream. Water filled his lungs. Then the pump impeller blades, seven feet across, seized him and chopped him into little pieces.

The air tank was chopped up too; the bombs, unfused and harmless, passed through the pumps.

Only seconds later, all pumps slowed and stopped.

* * *

In the main control room, the chief operator, who had just punched four red trip buttons one after the other on separate consoles, was glad the responsibility wasn't his. Young Ostrander had better have a damn good explanation for taking La Mission 1, 2, 3 and 4-Producing three 3million two hundred thousand kilowatts-off the line without warning. To say nothing of blowing all the turbine rupture discs, which would take eight hours to repair.

As he logged the time-3:02 pm.-the direct line phone from Energy Control Center began ringing. When the chief operator picked it up, a voice demanded, "What the hell's going on? You've put the system into blackout."

* * *

Bob Ostrander had no doubt that his decision to shut down all generators had been the right one. He foresaw no problem in defending it.

Blowing the turbine rupture discs-a safety feature anyway-was a small price to pay for saving the condensers.

Immediately after giving the shutdown order, Ostrander and the watch foreman had inspected the condensers, leaving the pump house to do so. Almost at once they saw a series of metal objects-the cylindrical bombs. Not knowing if they were dangerous or harmless, the two men gathered them up and ran to the river, where they flung them in.

Now, having returned to the condensers, and taking a second look around, Ostrander had time to reflect that nothing yet had happened in the pump house. Presumably Archambault was still down there and capable of doing damage, though it was possible the revolving wire mesh cylinder had diverted him. Ostrander decided: he would get back to the pump house and figure what should be done next.

About to leave, he noticed some small pieces of debris which appeared to have come through the pumps and had collected on a condenser. He was looking at one of the pieces and reached out to pick it up, then stopped. Bob Ostrander swallowed and felt sick. It was a human hand, peculiarly stained.


Goodness!-bow quickly the time had gone. Karen was shocked to realize it was well past 2 pm.

It scarcely seemed any time at all since she had promised Nimrod she would go to Redwood Grove Hospital, yet several hours had gone by. Of course, the shopping had taken longer than expected-didn't it always?-but she had bought a pretty dress at a bargain price, a pair of shoes, various items of stationery she needed, and a necklace of crystal beads which caught her eye. Ile necklace, which fortunately was inexpensive, would be just right for her sister; she would give it to Cynthia on her birtliday, which was coming soon. Then Josie had a list of drug-store items they needed and that consumed still more time. But it had all been successful and Karen really enjoyed the shopping, which they did in a big, colorful mall only two blocks from the apartment building. Another good feature of the shopping mall was that Karen could go there directly in her wheelchair, controlling it herself, which she preferred to do.

One thing they did not need to do today was buy food because Karen would be at Redwood Grove during the electric power cuts. It looked as if these were going to be frequent until the OPEC oil mess was cleared up, which she hoped to goodness would be soon.

She hadn't let herself think too much about all that time she would have to spend at the hospital, but knew she would miss greatly being at home in her apartment. Ile hospital was reassuring, especially now, with its reliable supply of electricity. Just the same, it was an institution, fairly spartan, and as for the food there-yech!

The hospital food was another reason they were running late.

Josie had suggested, and Karen agreed, that it would be more pleasant if they had lunch at the apartment before leaving and, in any case, lunch at Redwood Grove would probably be over by the time they got there. So, when they came back from shopping, Josie prepared a meal for them both while Karen continued writing a new poem she intended to send to Nimrod.

Now, with lunch over, Josie was busy putting into a suitcase the things Karen would need at the hospital.

With a sudden surge of affection, Karen said, "Josie, what a dear, dear person you are! You do so much, never complain, and give me far more than I can ever give to you."

"You give me enough, just being with you," Josie said, without looking up as she continued to pack the suitcase. Karen knew that open displays of affection embarrassed her housekeeper-aide, but would not be put off.

"Josie, stop that and come here. I want to kiss you."

With a shy smile, Josie came.

"Put your arms around me," Karen told her. When she did, Karen kissed her and said, "Darling Josie, I love you very much "

"And I love you," Josie said, then broke loose and went back to her packing.

As she finished, she announced, "We're all set. I'll go down now and bring Humperdinck around. Will you be okay if I leave you?"

"Of course. While you're gone I'll make a phone call."

Josie put the telephone headband onto Karen. Then a minute or two later, as Josie left, Karen heard the apartment door close, Karen touched the telephone microswitch with her head. In her earpiece she heard a ringing tone, followed by a voice. "Operator. May I help you?"

"I have manual service, Operator. Will you dial for me, please?" Karen gave the number of her telephone, then the number she was calling-her parents' house.

"One moment." there was a series of clicks, then a ringing tone. Karen waited for the call to be answered-as it usually was on the second or third ring-but to her surprise the ringing continued. Karen had talked with her mother early this morning and knew that Henrietta Sloan was feeling unwell and did not intend to go to work today, nor did she plan to go out.