CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

"I'm not sure it's such a good idea, ma'am. It could be dangerous. We can certainly help them, but still..."

"I can't have them there forever. The sooner they're gone, the better."

"I don't mean to question you, ma'am, but can't you just, well, release them? Officially?"

"It doesn't work that way. Stockwell built in a failsafe, to make sure there wouldn't be any 'private arrangements' between clients and personnel. The doctors have to sign off before a release can be issued to security. If a release is issued before that, the upper security division is automatically notified. Which means an investigation. Something we definitely don't need."

"No, ma'am. But surely an escape..."

"If this were a prison situation, it would be disastrous. But this is a different ballgame. To the people actually involved, it can be anything from an inconvenience to a political disaster. But to the facility personnel, an escape is an embarrassment, and definitely not good for the career of the head of facility security. I know the man. He's smart, cool-thinking, and ambitious. When they escape, the first thing he'll do - after initiating a search - is contact me. As the 'principal', it's up to me to decide how far to take it. And I'm going to tell him it would be better for both our careers if this little episode just 'disappeared'. By the end of the day, there'll be no record left that any of you were even there."

Kurt sighed. He had to remember Carla was a game player. They all were at that level. Far above the trenches. They made their political moves and the minions had to deal with all the repercussions. In this case, making sure they lived through the escape.

"Very well, ma'am." He had a feeling he now knew what her next reaction would be. "Uh, there's one other problem."

Carla sighed. What else was new? This whole damn enterprise was nothing but problems.

"What now?"

"The, uh, pills for Randy, ma'am. He's only got a few days worth, and I have no idea how to get more. You saw the lab report. We don't know what that last medication is."

"Well, he'll just have to go without them. From what I read, it's better to get him off them anyway."

"That could be dangerous, ma'am. Those drugs aren't meant to be just stopped like that."

"I'm well aware of that. But we really have no choice, now, do we? You just make sure you're out of there before he runs out. I don't want any more problems on that end. Understand? Get him out of there and keep him away from Barish's people. Anything else that you want to do is your affair. Just make damn sure you keep me informed."

"Yes, ma'am." Kurt hung up, gritting his teeth. At least he knew now where she stood. Randy was merely a commodity to her, something to be used for her purposes. Apparently, it no longer mattered to her if he was alive or dead - as long as neither this Barish nor Stockwell had him. Well, he could certainly see to that. He would make sure Carla didn't have him, either.

Now the immediate problem was the pills. He and Daryl had already discussed the possible problems they would be facing. Correction, that Randy would be facing. Now that no help would be coming from Carla, they would have to approach Sam. He'd been dealing with this thing a hell of a lot longer than they had. Who knows? Maybe they'd get a miracle dropped in their lap.


*****

Carla took a walk around the office complex to clear her head. Randy's health was of little consequence to her now. The experiment had effectively been killed. Barish was finished as far as Stockwell was concerned. The general may be willing to work with various agencies; he was not one to work with individuals in those agencies who couldn't deliver. Barish had gotten sloppy in his surveillance of his people. Too bad. Barish was now just one headache less.

She still had to deal with the investigation for Stockwell. So far her people - rather, Stockwell's - had not reported any suspicious telephone calls. She smiled at that. Sullivan had already contacted her, from the sheriff's office, of all places, and told her that she needed something solid by Wednesday morning. Knowing the team had only arrived back from their little European trip on Monday night, she knew the listeners had missed something. She would have to find out who was on during that interlude. Scapegoats were always good to have handy. In the meantime, she was doing everything she was supposed to. And with the exception of Bad Rock, there was just no discernible connection between the team and the 'rescuers'.

Now she had to decide just where her plan was to go from here. She could count on her two Ables to get Sam and Randy out of Dinosaur. Then what? She knew Kurt was not at all happy with her response to Randy's predicament. She wasn't naive enough to think that neither he nor Daryl had connected the dots to Bluebird. This was the only weakness in her plan. They were never to have gotten that much information. They were never to have gotten directly involved in any of this. They were surveillance. There was a reason for that. Mainly their test scores. Each of them had shown a reluctance to deal with certain scenarios. Their loyalty to the organization had limits. Not enough to wipe them out of the system, but it was there.

So what was she going to do with them once they left the facility? Chances of Barish salvaging the experiment were very slim, considering everything her two people had managed to pull off, as well as Peck & Company. Her need for any of them was definitely nearing an end. There was just one thing left to do - make sure Peck met up with the team again. And, like the others, it made no difference if he were dead or alive. Just so the team found him. That would destroy any connection between the men and Stockwell. A powerful and effective weapon in the general's arsenal. And a great blow to his ego.

So now she could definitely say that, once they left the facility in Dinosaur, the health and well-being of any of the four made no real difference to her. The only thing left now was to punish Stockwell for trying to cut Carla out of the loop. Via the team. And she would make sure he knew she was involved. Nothing he could ever prove, nothing he could come close to proving. But he would know. And that's all she needed. For Stockwell to know that she could be a damaging enemy - but she was choosing to stay on his side. Yes. Her choice.

Sighing with satisfaction, her decisions made, Carla headed back to her office. To let Maggie know where Face was - at least for the time being...


*****

Sam had finally made up his mind. It hadn't been difficult, once he'd realized how long they'd been here, and how low Randy's supply was. His original plans had been to be settled in San Francisco at this point. In a place where he could have Randy safe and secure for the withdrawal. He went along with Randy on the plans for their escape. They would need them in place for afterward. But there was no way they were going to be on the road now. Randy was going to be here, with doctors to help him, when he ran out of those pills. Sam owed him that.

There was a knock at his door. Kurt? Or Daryl? He had a hard time remembering which one was which.

"Sam? If you don't mind, we'd like to discuss some things with you."