Hvs.tCF 116:1/Text

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Hooking in at Topstation was part of a regular preparedness drill Charlie ran every ten turns, so even under a full-scale crisis like this one, things went according to procedure.

The Foxers placed his wheelie on the little landing, spun the door open, and disappeared upward into the darkness. Red light shone down through the boltshaft, as they each cast an emergency powerball. A moment later, they flew back down and hauled him up through the hatchway.

Once they were inside the bunker, Tondelayo locked his wheels into the platform sockets, while Queenie secured the door behind them. Tondy brought down the headset, and Queenie relayed Delta's waiting switchboard report onto the main wall, via Foolcast.

Info at last! Glowing pictograms of his own design indicated action on 40. Also, all Shockmancy functions were down, citywide.

He'd assumed as much. This almost had to have been an attack on the portal column from below, which had led him to worry that Parson's Dirtamancer was now in play. But no enemy units had been spotted other than the one, so this was more than likely Lilith's work.

Nothing new from the Magic Kingdom, of course. The pictogram for Parson's last position was gray and hashed, coding it as stale and unreliable. Switch traffic seemed to consist of FOPS communications piling up everywhere, plus a great deal of sidewide noise from a number of panicked Archons who were violating their training, and making Delta's job harder. When this was over, they'd have to have some meetings about that.

Cold metal discs contacted his scalp, and finally he could begin to sense the hundred and seventeen brilliant channels of the 'dish network. Even as Tondy was completing the hookup, he hungrily sorted his way through the hierarchy… or tried to, anyway.

The connection was maddeningly slow. He'd forgotten how bad an un-Shocked connection could be. Normally Topstation had the second best hookup in the tower, due to its direct physical contact with the antenna which bore the max-sized Arkendish. But that was not as good as touching the 'dish itself. And with Shockmancy down everywhere, Topstation was the only way he could get ondish, short of having the 'dish brought down to him (a time-consuming process which would lose him the use of many channels) or actually going up to the top of the tower (his option of last resort).

The hierarchy trickled and stuttered through his mind, eventually yielding the channel he was after: Cast Claim.

He carefully verbed out some proposal language which matched his long-established contingency plans, watching the 'dish slowly accept his instructions, thought by thought, word by word, into its basic template. Even for simple Language, this was agonizingly slow, and required all of his precious concentration.

When it was done, he read it over and winced a bit. He hadn't had time to word it very cleverly. But time was money, time was magic, time was lives… He sent it off to Parson without personal embellishment.

A lot of work needed to be done, yet. But having accomplished this much, he could deny himself no longer. With teeth-clenching slowness, he sorted his way down to the very bottom of the hierarchy, down to the pitiless depths of the Gardening Channel.

Opening his head to the power of the flower, he let the pain escape him for a few beautiful moments.

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