The next morning, after enjoying a blissful night together, Jim and Elizabeth began making phone calls to different media outlets and science agencies in hopes of borrowing a robot cam that could navigate the confining tunnel in search of baby Clarissa.
After being turned down a number of times, they finally found a willing donor. Adroit Broadcasting Channel 32 said they would lend their cam if they received full broadcast rights to Elizabeth’s story, as well as full ownership of any electronic images that the sensor stored in its memory. Of course they would agree. For the station it meant an inside scoop on a story that has plagued the community of Galendein for months, and this was possibly a chance to garner fame for helping to capture the kidnappers. They would send a reporter and a camera operator over this afternoon. Momentarily relieved, they relaxed with a couple of beers and tuna sandwiches on the couch in front of the tele-screen. The 12 o’clock news spewed forth from the screen within the wall. It began with the story that had the community and planet frozen in fear. A story so unusual and mysterious that it was news on every colonized planet and even Earth, though the amount of each communities own trouble and turmoil tended to over-shadow this bizarre curiosity. The anchor-woman continued over the now familiar lines of the story as she had done for the last two months, except now there appeared to be a twist.
“For the first night since the kidnappings began over two months ago, no babies are missing as of this afternoon. All children have been accounted for today, and none have been reported missing. Police believe they know of the location where the kidnapper, or kidnappers, had attempted the sixty third kidnapping. It is believed that the father, having been awakened by his child’s crying, scared the kidnapper away. However, the kidnapper was not identified, nor seen, and the only evidence is a device of some sort found in the baby’s room. Police will not issue any information on what that devise is, but the father has said that he has never seen anything like it before.”
Jim turned off the television, “That’s good news.”
Elizabeth put her arms around him and curled up her legs on the couch. “Yes, I suppose so, but I just want my baby back. Even if the kidnapper stopped all together now, I wouldn’t feel whole again without Clarissa in my arms.”
About one thirty p.m. the robot cam from channel 32 came, escorted by two men; Ron Dancruff the reporter, and Steven Handlbeir the operator. They listened to Elizabeth’s story in detail while Ron took notes, and then they were shown the tunnel in the basement.
Steve sighed and showing some discomfort said, “You have no idea where this leads?”
“Nope,” Jim simply put.
“Well, I can’t say I like risking such a valuable piece of equipment. I mean, that tunnel could collapse, or drop off, or whatever. I’m going to have to check in with my supervisor.”
While Steve went upstairs to make the call via the small communicator in his ear, the others stood nervously in the cellar awaiting the word. Ron began to pace, “You know I wouldn’t worry. I’m sure we’re going to get the go ahead. The robot cam can move slowly and this story is really important to the network.”
He was trying to assure Elizabeth, who had become visibly distraught, but it wasn’t working. She was realizing more and more that no one really cared about the lives in danger, just whether or not it was important to them. “You guys do realize that there are lives in danger here. They may not be related to you, but they are human beings who have been stolen from the ones who love them. There is a chance that they are still alive and we have to try and save them! Don’t you care?” There was an uneasy silence. “Huh?”
Ron was stunned, he couldn’t find any words and she was right, he didn’t think he did care. He had never thought about it before, he wasn’t personally involved so he just tried to ignore it, except for the purpose of bagging a first rate story. “I’m sorry.”
Jim began to console Elizabeth. Steven returned with the word. “Well it’s a go! They’ve decided the story is worth the risk. We’ll just go slow.”
Elizabeth burst into tears. “The story is worth the risk! The story! What about my baby? Do they give a shit about the babies!?!”
Steven stepped back and took a long look at Ron. Jim knew better then to try and quiet Elizabeth down, besides he fully agreed with her attitude, so he merely held her close and let her cry into his chest. A long tense silence overcame the news men, they could find no words except the ones used to apologize and they knew that would mean nothing to Elizabeth. She saw right through their false sentimentality, they had been nailed. Jim realized that it was up to him to keep things moving along, despite Elizabeth’s ethical challenge. Even if she was critical of the men’s motives now, she needed them to help her find Clarissa. If she chased these guys off she would regret it later, and he wanted to save her from that.
“Look…,” he begun, still holding the sobbing woman close to his chest, “…regardless of how we all feel we must continue. If not for the lives of the babies that have already been endangered, then for the ones that will be. This is the only lead we have to the whereabouts of not only the victims, but the perpetrators as well.”
The newsmen nodded. “I’m going to go get Agent E.I.S. out of the van.” Steven took the cellar stairs two at a time as he bounded on his way to retrieve his equipment. Ron began writing some things down as Jim attempted to get Elizabeth to go upstairs with him.
“You need to lie down for a little bit, until you feel better. I’ll watch these guys and make sure we get going on this. K?”
She nodded and put her arm around his shoulders and he held her around her waist as they slowly walked up the stairs. Once there, Jim guided her to her bedroom and helped her lay down. “If you feel better come back down, other wise I’ll come check on you in an hour.”
He shut her door as he saw Steven walking slowly into the house, his two muscular arms carrying a couple of large heavy metal cases. “Can I help you with that?” Steven put the cases down, brushed his pony tail from resting on his chest, swinging it around to his back, and pushed his large framed glasses back against his face.
“Yes please. Go ahead and pick one. Just be careful not to bang it into anything.”
Jim picked one up and the two men made their way downstairs, slowly. Once they were before the hole, Steven laid both cases down and opened them. Each case held half of Agent E.I.S. The front half of it consisted of a small round tinted sphere attached to a metal neck that appeared to have the ability to elongate, bend up or down, and rotate 360 degrees. The neck was attached to a rectangular “body” with two rubber and metal appendages that craned out to either side. The back of this half ended in a cube shaped piece that appeared to lock into a section of the front part of the second half. This piece also had two rubber and metal appendages that craned off a rectangular metal body that concaved into a thin line at its end.  Each appendage had claw-like feet that could either scrape across cement or dig into dirt to propel itself along.
Steven attached the sections, they connected together seamlessly. He pulled out a thin metallic book from his backpack and looked around for a place to set it down. “Can you bring a table down here with a clean, flat surface?”
“Sure, sure.” Jim hurried upstairs.
“What did you say to that woman, Ron?” Steven inquired.
“I don’t know. I guess I wasn’t being sensitive enough. Her child is missing. I’ll make sure my tone is right and I am saying the right things when she comes back.” He motioned toward the hole. “What do you think?”
“Well, it’s a long shot. I mean, a human didn’t burrow through here, I’m quite sure of that. We are on a planet that we don’t know a whole lot about yet, so I guess it could be that something did. We have to check out this lead, I mean there really isn’t anything else to go on.”
“There’s that device they found.”
“True, but that doesn’t lead us anywhere and as far as a story goes the authorities are going to sit tight on that, we aren’t going to get any word on what that is until after they solve the case. It would seem that a humanoid would be the owner of that and not something with a three foot diameter. But this is all we got. The producer thinks this could be something big, we got to check it out.”
“I’ll just stand around crossing my fingers.”
“Yeah, Agent E.I.S is going to do all the hard work.”
The cellar stairs creaked and Jim was bounding down them with a wooden end table. He stopped a few feet from the hole and put it down. “Will this do?”



“Why? Why is he going over to some strange woman’s house to look at her cellar? Why is he getting involved in the tragic disappearance of her daughter?” These questions assaulted Jim as he drove over to Elizabeth’s house. “Hell, he knew why. She’s a beautiful woman, and he’s an interested single guy. Still, why get involved with her trauma?” He was never one to get involved with women who had heavy issues. If they were stressed out neurotics, emotionally bankrupt due to being abused and battered, or on some moral crusade against the crimes of humanity, he stayed away from women that had more problems then he did. This was simply because he had a hard enough time dealing with his own issues, and besides he was trying to have fun.
Elizabeth. Elizabeth was different. His attraction to her wasn’t just about her beauty. This woman is dealing with extreme turmoil in her life, and yet she continued to hold on to her humor and her reason. She’s strong and resilient, traits that are so rare in people, and what he has found to be sorely lacking in most women, or at least the ones he had been seeing. He should probably face it, he had been dating weak minded individuals, and that had never mattered before. Yeah, she had lost it, and at that moment she opened up and showed that she was also vulnerable. She let him soothe and comfort her, and no woman had ever let him do that without having to prove himself first, of course most of his relationships with women to this point had been based solely on sexual attraction. There was much more to her then her beauty and sexuality and he was very interested in what that might be. There was also something changing in him, his perspective altering, growing, and he damn well needed to see where that was leading.
As usual, rain fell in great buckets along the metal streets, wood houses and manicured Earth-like lawns. The soil and seed were imported from Earth, computerized machines were installed underneath to control the amount of heat, chemicals, and water needed to keep the vegetation alive. If there wasn’t enough from Taneria’s climate, naturally, then it was produced. Likewise if there was too much, it was diluted, dried or cooled by the machines and the science of chemistry to obtain the needed balance for sustainability. Jim’s car stopped automatically at the coordinates that Elizabeth had provided, which he had punched into its computer earlier. Before he had reached the porch step, she had opened the door and was beckoning him inside her county style two story home with gabled roof and wrap around porch.
He entered quickly, and without even saying hello she had him follow her across the wide plank heart pine wood floors through beautifully decorated high ceilinged rooms to the cellar door. Opened, its stairs descended into pitch darkness, and the smell of mildew and the aroma of Taneria’s odd soil filled the cement stairwell.
“Where’s the light?”
She looked innocently up into his eyes, “I’ve been having electrical problems for awhile now. We have to go down and screw in the bulbs.”
His face screwed up a little and he gave a worried grin, his eyes rapidly moving about in search of a safe way down. “Don’t worry, I know the way. The cellar is pretty empty and worn down. This house has been here for at least fifty years, built by early settlers, so it’s a bit run down in parts. Steven was going to remodel it, but he never got around to it before he left.”
She took his hand and led him down into the cellar. It was not long before they stopped and Elizabeth screwed in a light bulb that had been resting in its socket. It lit up about a thirty foot radius within the fairly large cellar. The cement walls were cracking and crumbling and there were wooden beams with metal brackets placed in key positions to reinforce the floor above. In separate heaps scattered about the floor were piles of Taneria soil.
“Everything here remained relatively the same after Clarissa vanished except for this.” She walked between some beams to a part of the wall where the cement had fallen, exposing a hole in the soil about the size of a very large gopher.
“What is it?”
“It’s a tunnel stupid,” she said jokingly, and smiled.
“A tunnel?” Jim raised his eyebrows and took a step back. “To where?”
“That I don’t know, but I was hoping you could help me with that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s obviously how the kidnapper entered my home. I told the police but they didn’t buy it because they couldn’t imagine how a human could fit through that opening. But a small human could. If we find out where the tunnel leads, we will find out more then we know now.”
“OK. In theory that all makes sense, although I’m not sure even a small human could navigate that, but you don’t have any proof. Even if you did, how can we explore it without risking our lives in doing so?”
Elizabeth bowed her head a little and sadly said, “I don’t know, but it’s the only lead I have. I just want to find my baby.”
Jim softened like a piece of warmed cheese and put his hand upon her elbow. She immediately put her arms around him and drew him in tightly. They held each other there. “It will be ok Elizabeth, we’ll figure something out. Maybe we can acquire a robot cam and have it investigate where the tunnel leads.”
Her head felt good against his shoulder. In his arms she felt secure and far from worry. “That sounds good,” she lifted her head and looked into his eyes. It looked as though she wanted the same thing and he bent his head down toward her to prove it. Their lips met and their tongues parted them. Whatever they were going to do, it was going to have to wait. Awhile.

Signals channeled the airwaves, sharp and direct. Sliced easily through softness, and drove through dense matter. Emanating from a strong and vibrant power source they transmitted forth from a planet far out in space. Their receiver stood motionless in his apartment, his appendages wrapped about him as his antennae pulsated alertly. His wings spread out fan-like to help draw in the clicks and clatter of the message.
It came from the Queen of his kind, three times him in size and power. She is insistent and wants to know why he has taken so long to exterminate the Riachen. Does he need assistance? To accept the help she offers would damage his credibility as the foremost indomitable warrior in her entourage. Concentrating all his strength he attempted to respond. It will cost him all his energy for the time being and he will have to rest for hours before he can return to the hunt. He communicates, through his antennae, a polite decline to her offer and a reassurance that the Riachen horde burrowed here will be exterminated within a couple days. Also, he has located the entrance to their burrow and sensed the presence of a Riachen Mother within. In fact it was her power that had stopped him from exterminating the horde upon discovery. Now he is building and storing the needed energy to fight her. “Do not worry, my Queen. Your best and brightest charge will rid one more planet of this scourge that threatens the born!”
The communication complete, he returned to human disguise and stood before his patio. Bowing his head one final time before the coming battle, he fell into the meditative slumber needed to rebuild his energy.