“There are six of them,” said Cleeve Freer as the lights on the shore got a little closer. “Or, at least, six of them who are carrying lights.”
“Can you guys take them?” Ellison asked.
“There are thirty of us. If they don’t have guns, then definitely,” said Cleeve. “If they do have guns, we’ll need to take them by surprise.”
“If you could take at least one of them prisoner, that would be good,” said Welton. “It would be good to be able to take someone before the board to explain how they got here and what they were able to bring with them.”
“Why do you even allow people to have private gates?” asked Ellison. “And if you don’t want guns and electricity on the grid, why do you allow them to bring in anything they want? You could just, I don’t know, filter it with your computers, right?”
“Well, if they’re a big enough financial contributor, and they have a strong need for it…” Welton trailed off.
“For example, Lifeworks has a private compound and brings in their employees, and their clients, and their clients’ families, and they have specialized equipment, too. We don’t actively monitor it because there are trade secrets and intellectual property issues involved.”
“And this cult?”
“They’re a private spiritual retreat that brings in objects of devotional significance,” said Welton. “I wasn’t privy to the original discussions, but I understand religious rights were involved.”
The lights moving on the shore stopped.
“Did they see us?” Ellison whispered.
Cleeve put a hand on Ellison’s shoulder and squeezed, a signal to keep quiet.
They waited in silence for a couple of minutes, then the lights started moving again, at a slower pace.
“I don’t think they saw us,” said Cleeve softly. “Not in this dark. And not with them having lights on of their own. Those lights are killing their night vision.”
Someone came up to them. With all the ship’s lights doused, Ellison couldn’t see who it was. They whispered that it was time to go. Ellison stumbled after them and eventually wound up in the hands of the ship’s sailors, who bundled him and Welton into a boat and lowered them into the water.
The nice thing about moving across the top of the water is that they didn’t have to worry about tripping over anything. The boat slid slowly and silently towards the shore. Then Ellison felt a bump, as an oar touched the bottom of the bay, or possibly a jutting rock, and the boat stopped. They sat waiting as the group of lights got closer and closer.
There was a splash up ahead. Maybe one of of Clinio’s team getting out of their boat. Or maybe just a wave hitting the shore. Ellison couldn’t see.
He peered ahead into the dark, towards where he thought Clinio and his fighters went ashore and noticed that he could almost make out shapes. He couldn’t tell if it was dawn approaching or the cloud cover clearing up, but they all soon be visible to whoever was coming.