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?”