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The Pharaoh's Secret (NUMA Files 13) Clive Cussler 2022/7/22 13:55:19

“That’s it,” she said. “The alarms are off and interior cameras frozen. They’ll continue to display a recorded loop for the next twenty-five minutes. Until then, we should be able to move about freely.”

“So much for the alarm system I spent good money on last spring,” Kurt said.

“Remind me to get a dog,” Joe replied. “Low-tech works best.”

Renata nodded and put the small device back in her pouch and zipped it closed.

“Let’s go,” Kurt said.

They moved down the hall and quickly found the stairwell. Three flights down, they heard a high-pitched humming sound.

“Generator room,” Joe said.

Kurt cracked the door and looked inside. They were still one story above the bottom floor. The room itself was huge, a distance of several hundred feet to the far wall and sixty feet from floor to ceiling. A row of circular housings dominated the interior. Each was thirty feet across and at least half as high.

“Looks like the inside of the Hoover Dam,” Joe said.

“Power station,” Kurt said, “just like the plans indicated.”

“Were you expecting something else?” Renata asked.

“I’m not sure,” he replied. “Had a feeling this would be something more if Hassan was hiding out down here.”

“Looks legit to me,” Joe said. “The water turns the big impeller out in the river, which is connected to these dynamos by reduction gearing.”

“I agree,” Kurt said. “It also looks empty. Not only don’t I see Hassan, I don’t see anyone. Maybe he did turn the phone off and leave. Could he have possibly known we were tracking him?”

“I doubt it,” Renata said.

As they eased the door shut behind them, Kurt moved forward, crouching. Joe and Renata joined him.

The elevator door on the far side of the long room opened. A group of men stepped out and began walking across the floor. Three were dressed in black uniforms, three others in various garb that looked vaguely Arabic, and the last man wore a dark business suit, white shirt and no tie.

The men were momentarily out of view before reappearing on the far side of one of the generators. At almost the same time, the humming sound filling the room changed in pitch and began to slow.

“Someone’s shutting off the power,” Joe noted.

“If they’d have done that five minutes ago, they’d have saved us a lot of stress,” Kurt said.

The whining generators slowed and finally stopped. Green lights on top of each dynamo housing switched over to amber and then to red. The men below continued to a spot near the far wall, where they paused at a computer panel.

“You’ve seen how we generate power,” one of the men said, his voice carrying through the now quiet room and up to the three infiltrators. “Now you’ll see the reason you have little choice but to comply with our demands.”

“This is ridiculous,” one of the Arab men said. “We came here to speak with Shakir.” He spoke heavily accented English. By the nods and other g

estures it seemed obvious that he spoke for the other two.

“And you shall,” the man in the suit replied. “He’s looking forward to negotiating with you.” This man sounded European, either Italian or perhaps Spanish. English must have been their common language.

“Negotiate?” the Arab man said. “We were promised assistance. What kind of a trick are you pulling, Piola?”

Kurt noticed a reaction from Renata as the name was mentioned.

“No tricks,” Piola replied. “But it’s important that you understand the nature of your position before you begin to barter. Lest you make a foolish mistake.”

Beside them, one of the uniformed men tapped away at a keyboard. When he finished, a wall panel slid upward like a garage door opening. Beyond it lay a dark tunnel. The only features Kurt could see were a pair of metallic rails shimmering with a dull gloss and the curved side of a large-diameter pipe. A white tramcar with a blunt nose waited on the rails. It reminded Kurt of the driverless SkyTrain cars becoming common at many airports.

“Based on the geometry, I’d say that’s the same pipe that tried to wash us off the ladder,” Joe said.