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The Pharaoh's Secret (NUMA Files 13) Clive Cussler 2022/7/22 13:55:20

Renata was glancing around, getting her bearings. “I’m no hydro engineer, but does it make any sense to have a bypass tunnel running at ninety degrees to the course of the river?”

“No,” Joe replied quickly, “and I am an engineer. That water has to be coming from somewhere else.”

On the floor, a new argument broke out. This time, the words were more hushed and the flow of the conversation too quick to catch.

“Probably arguing about whether to get on the tram,” Joe suggested. “For the record, I wouldn’t.”

“Unfortunately,” Kurt said, “that’s exactly what we have to do.” He unzipped his own waterproof pouch, pulled out a 9mm Beretta and began easing down the stairs. “Let’s go.”

Inside the security center of the Osiris hydroelectric plant, the malfunctioning camera had been detected. A security guard on duty had flipped through the options for resetting the camera and had tried everything from changing the contrast and brightness settings to cycling it on and off several times. When the effort failed, he called his supervisor.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“Looks like the sensor burned out,” the supervisor said. “We’re still getting a little bit of detail around the edges, but everything else is just flared. Can you replace it?”

“As long as we have a new sensor,” the technician said. He went to a supply cabinet, rummaged through the boxes stacked on the shelf and found what he was looking for. “This is the one.”

“How long will it take?”

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“No more than twenty minutes.”

“Better get to it,” the supervisor said, taking over the command seat in front of the computer screen and getting comfortable. “I’ll wait here. Check in with me when you’re ready to test it.”

The technician grabbed a set of tools and was about to step out when the camera came back online.

“That’s strange,” the supervisor said. He cycled through the diagnostic checks. Everything suddenly looked fine. But for how long?

“Better go replace it anyway,” he said. “If it’s a bad sensor, it could go out again at any moment.”

The technician nodded and stepped out. The supervisor glanced at the clock on the wall. He had a little more than an hour to go before the third shift took over.

A mile from the Osiris compound, Edo was already packing up. He folded the tripod and stowed it, snapped the lens caps over the laser emitter and the sighting unit and slid the entire thing into a box. He placed the box on the passenger seat so he’d be ready to toss it overboard should anyone stop him.

He gave the boat a shove, pushed it back into the river and climbed on board. Firing up the engine, he bumped the throttle to quarter speed. There was no need to draw attention to himself and no reason to hurry.

The plan was to wait a mile downstream from the Osiris plant. He would be near the west bank, sitting at anchor with every light in the boat switched on. Assuming the three infiltrators escaped unharmed, they would drift down the river, spot him easily and swim up to the stern.

It was a simple plan, he thought. Simple plans were the best. There was little that could go wrong with them. But, the cautious part of his mind nagged at him, little did not mean nothing.

He pulled a Russian-made pistol from a shoulder holster and advanced a shell into the chamber. He hoped he wouldn’t need it, but he liked to be prepared.

Joe and Renata followed Kurt down the stairs, moving quickly and quietly. In single file, they cut across the floor of the generator room, arriving at the yawning section of the wall just as it began to close.

“Inside,” Kurt said, ducking into the darkness. Joe and Renata followed, and all three were in the tunnel when the door finished shutting.

The door sealed to the ground and the darkness was nearly complete. In the distance they could see the lights of the tram striking the walls and ceiling as it moved off.

Another tramcar sat empty on the rails beside them.

“Should I see if I can get this thing started?” Joe asked. “Or do we hike?”

Kurt looked down the line. The other car was speeding away, showing no signs of stopping.