Sardis had got a legal name change, so Nic couldn't easily track him after that. That had taken him only until about 10 P.M. hacking through old, low-security files. A little after two in the morning Nic had fallen asleep with the name "Rachel D. Hammister" in the search field for about the thousandth time.
Nic awoke the next day to the sound of the communicator. Someone was contacting him, which was odd. He wheeled his chair over there and unconsciously tried to restore order to his hair, even though no one could see him. He opened the line. "Hello?" The sleepiness in his voice was only loosely disguised.
It was the United representative. "I sent you those scientists, they should arrive this evening or night after being cleared and checked."
Nic took a moment to recall the context of the conversation. "Ah yes, good. Glad to hear it."
"I trust your work has been going well today?"
"Oh, very well, indeed."
"You sound like you just woke up."
"That's because I have been working so hard, such hard concentration can often resemble sleep."
"I trust these scientists will relieve your need of such 'concentration' habits."
That was not a question. The representative wanted results. "Oh yes, as a team we will be moving much faster."
"I will check in with that in the next week or so, Q. The United Prisoner Redemption program directors are not very keen on programs that cost millions in rare materials and turn out no results. They remove such programs."
The clever placement of that word left no doubt in Nic's mind as to what kind of pressure he was under.
Nic finished the conversation and flipped off the communicator. Just what he needed. An inspection to make him nervous.
He didn't do much that day. He fiddled with the dining hall mainframe some, mostly just removing the codes he had tried so that Ephesus would have a clearer path. He wondered what his next stall tactic would be. The last thing he wanted was to actually make a breakthrough on Red Rain, since that would force him to actually choose between those two factions.
Ephesus and Smyrna arrived late in the day, too late to do any work, which made Nic glad.
Dr. Smyrna was the first through the door, and he heard, "The scientist grants you permission to pass."
Nic greeted them, "Welcome to my newest lab. It's somewhat better fitted than the one you destroyed on Mars, especially since you destroyed that one."
Smyrna was not amused. "I figured you might have something to do with our sudden summons, especially after the kind of security they put us through."
Nic smiled cruelly, "Oh, were they rough on you? Not nearly as rough as they were on me. You just went back to your little camp and lived together as a happy disgusting family. Tell me, has your daughter blown up any other buildings lately?"
Ephesus shot back at him, "You have nothing over us, now. We're all prisoners of the United, thanks to your Red Rain schemes. We could all be happily working on Mars if you would have just stuck to the science they assigned you."
Nic responded, "It might interest you that I am now doing exactly that. As it is, they have assigned me to work on Red Rain, and I needed both of you to do that. At least you two get back to working with science!"
Ephesus snorted, "You make it sound like a priesthood from which we were excommunicated."
Nic smiled again, "I do not think I am familiar with these terms. I am not one of you religionists, remember."
Ephesus retorted, "May God remember it whenever justice catches you and your executed. I assume you understand that term."
Dr. Smyrna had had enough. "Alright, enough, both of you. It seems to me that none of us want to be here in the lab, though all for different reasons. Since we are here lets learn to be content in this situation, and just do whatever it is they have for us. What do you need us to do, Nic?"
Nic's grin exactly resembled the one he had when he had caught Philadpelphia in the security room. "Oh, a few odds and ends for starts. Smyrna, I will need you to help me stabilize some heavy ions to build more powerful synthetic acids and bases. Ephesus, I have some special tasks for you."
Ephesus was suspicious, "Like what?"
"First of all, the kitchen mainframe."