"What's been going on?" asked Coogan. He looked up at Sil-Chan out of the corners of his eyes.
The Mundial native hitched himself forward and leaned an elbow on the desk. "There's a new government, Vince, and they're planning to destroy the Library. And that gourd-head Patterson has been giving in to every order they send. Do this! Do that! He does it! He told us flat out he wouldn't defy a government order." Sil-Chan's mouth set in a thin line. "It's against the Library Code!"
"Who is we?" asked Coogan. "Huh?" Sil-Chan looked blank. "The we you said hasn't decided whether to exterminate Pchak," said Coogan.
"Oh." Sil-Chan leaned back. "Only about a third of the home staff. Most of the collection crews are joining us fast as they come in."
Coogan tapped a finger against the desk. Some eight thousand people, more or less, he thought. He said, "What's your plan?"
"Easy." Sil-Chan shrugged. "I've about fifty men in Section 'C' on the sixty-ninth level waiting for the word to move against Pchak and his bodyguards. Another three hundred are topside ready to jump the government ship."
Coogan tipped his head to one side and stared at Sil-Chan in amazement. "Is that your ultimatum?"
Sil-Chan shook his head. "No. Where's Patterson?"
Something decisive meshed in Coogan's mind. He got to his feet. "Patterson's dead. I'm director. What's your ultimatum?"
There was a moment's silence with Sil-Chan looking up at Coogan. "How'd he die?" asked Sil-Chan.
"He was old," said Coogan. "What's your ultimatum?"
Sil-Chan wet his lips with his tongue. "I'm sorry to hear that, Vince." Again he shrugged. "But this makes our job simpler. You're a man who'll listen to reason." He met Coogan's stare. "This is our plan. We take over this Pchak and his ship, hold him as hostage while we convert every broadcast channel we have to public support. With five thousand channels telling the --" "You bone-brain!" barked Coogan.
"That's as stupid a plan as I've ever heard. Adams would ignore your hostage and drop a stellar bomb in our laps!"
"But, Vince --"
"Don't but, Vince, me," said Coogan. He came around the desk and stood over Sil-Chan. "As long as you're running around disobeying the orders of your superiors you'll refer to me as Mr. Director and --"
Sil-Chan charged to his feet, glared up at Coogan. "I hate to do this, Vince," he said, "but we have organization and purpose. You can't stop us! You're relieved of your directorship until such time as --"
"Shut up!" Coogan strode around behind his desk, put his hand on a short lever low on the control panel. "Do you know what this is, Toris?"
Sil-Chan's face showed uncertainty. He shook his head.
"This is the master control for the gravitronic unit," said Coogan. "If I push it down, it shuts off the unit. Every bit of soil, everything beyond the Library shell will drift off into space."
A pasty color came over Sil-Chan's features. He put out a hand toward Coogan. "You can't do that," he said. "Your wife and family -- all of our families are up there. They wouldn't have a chance!"
"I'm director here," said Coogan. "The position is my earned right!" With his free hand, he moved four switches on the control wall. "That seals off your sixty-ninth level group behind fire panels." He turned back to Sil-Chan. "Now, get in touch with every insurgent under you and have them turn in their arms to robots which I'll release for the job. I know who some of your men are. They'd better be among the ones you contact. If you make one move I don't like, this lever goes down and stays down!"
"You!" said Sil-Chan. He ground his teeth together. "I knew I should've carried a blaster when I came in here. But no! You and Patterson were the civilized types! We could reason with you!"
"Start making those calls," said Coogan. He pushed his desk visor toward the other man.
Sil-Chan jerked the visor to him, obeyed. Coogan gave his orders to robot dispatching headquarters, waited for Sil-Chan to finish. The Mundial native finally pushed the visor back across the desk. "Does that satisfy you?" he demanded.
"No." Coogan steepled his hands in front of him. "I'm arming some of the staff I can trust. Their orders will be to shoot to kill if there's a further act of insurrection." He leaned forward. "In addition, we're going to have guard stations between sectors and a regular search procedure. You're not getting another chance to cause trouble."
Sil-Chan clenched and unclenched his fists. "And what do you intend to do about this Pchak and his Leader Adams?"
"They're the government," said Coogan. "As such the Code requires that we obey their orders. I will obey their orders. And, any man on the staff who even hints at disobedience, I'll personally turn over to Pchak for disciplinary action."
Sil-Chan arose slowly. "I've known you more than sixty years, Mr. Coogan. That just shows how little you can learn about a rat. After you've lost the Library to this madman, you won't have a friend left here. Not me, not the people who trust you now. Not your wife or your family." He sneered. "Why -- one of your own sons, Phil, is in with us." He pointed a finger at Coogan. "I intend to tell everyone about the threat you used today to gain control of the Library."
"Control of the Library is my earned right," said Coogan. He smiled, pushed down the lever in the control wall. The wall made a quarter turn on a central pivot. "Toris, send up a repair robot when you report back to Pchak. I've special installations I want to make here."
Sil-Chan came to the edge of the desk, staring down at the lever which had controlled the movement of the wall. "Tricked me!"
"You tricked yourself," said Coogan. "You did it the moment you turned your back on our greatest strength -- obedience to the government." Sil-Chan grunted, whirled and left the office. Coogan watched the door as it closed behind the other man, thought, If I only had as much faith in those words as I'm supposed to have.
She was a pretty woman with hair like glowing coals, small features except for a wide, sensual mouth. Her green eyes seemed to give off sparks to match her hair as she stared out of the visor at Coogan.
"Vince, where have you been?" she demanded.
He spoke in a tired voice. "I'm sorry, Fay. I had work that had to be done."
She said, "The boys brought their families from Antigua for a reunion and we've been ready for you for hours. What's going on? What's this nonsense Toris is bleating?"
Coogan sighed and brushed a hand through his hair. "I don't know what Toris is saying. But the Library is in a crisis. Patterson is dead and I've nobody I can trust to hold things together."
Her eyes went wide; she put a hand to her mouth, spoke through her fingers. "Oh, no! Not Pat!"
"Yes," he said.
"I guess it was too much for him," said Coogan. "He was old."
"I couldn't believe Toris," she said.
Coogan felt a great weariness just at the edge of his mind. "You said the boys are there," he said. "Ask Phil if he was part of the group backing Toris."
"I can tell you myself he was," she said. "It's no secret. Darling, what's come over you? Toris said you threatened to dump the whole surface off into space." "It was an empty threat then," said Coogan. "Toris was going to disobey the government. I couldn't permit it. That would only --"
" Vince! Have you gone out of your mind?" Her eyes registered amazement and horror. "This Adams means to destroy the Library! We can't just sit back and let him!"
"We've grown lax in our training." said Coogan. "We've had it too easy for too long. That's a situation I intend to correct!"
"But what about --"
"If I'm permitted to handle things my way, he won't destroy the Library," said Coogan. "I was hoping you'd trust me."
"Of course I trust you, darling, but --"