'Time?' said Merv.
Scant glanced at his moonometer. 'Thirty seconds left.'
Merv finished cinching the straps exactly how they had been. Pausing only to dab sweat from his brow, he made a second incision with his scalpel. This time in the clone's arm, and inserted the seeker-sleeper. While Scant sealed the cut with a blast of magical sparks, Merv rearranged the cleaning paraphernalia over the trolley's false section.
Scant bobbed impatiently. 'Eight seconds, seven. By the gods, this is the last time I break the boss out of a clinic and replace her with a clone.'
Merv spun the trolley on its castors, pushing it through the open doorway.
'Five four ..'
Scant did one last check around, running his eyeballs across everything they had touched.
They were out, pulling the door behind them.
Corporal Grub slumped slightly, then jerked to attention.
'Hey what the? I'm really thirsty? Is anyone else thirsty?'
Merv stuffed the night vision goggles into the trolley, blinking a bead of sweat from his eyelid. 'It's the air in here. I get dehydrated all the time. Terrible headaches.'
Grub pinched the bridge of his nose. 'Me too. I'm going to write a letter, as soon as the lights come back.'
Just then the lights did come back, flickering on one after another down the length of the corridor.
'There we go,' grinned Scant. 'Panic over. Maybe now they'll buy us some new circuits, eh brother?'
Doctor Argon came barrelling down the passageway, almost keeping pace with the flickering lights.
'Your leg is better then, Jerry?' said Merv.
Argon ignored the pixies, his eyes wide, his breath ragged.
'Corporal Kelp,' he panted. 'Koboi, is she? Has she '
Grub rolled his eyes. 'Calm yourself, Doctor. Miss Koboi is still suspended where you left her. Take a look.'
Argon flattened his palms against the wall, first checking the vitals.
'Okay, no change. No change. A two minute lapse, but that's okay.'
'I told you,' said Grub. 'While you're here, I need to talk to you about these headaches I've been having.'
Argon brushed him aside. 'I need a cotton bud. Scant, do you have any?'
Scant slapped his pockets. 'Sorry, Jerry. Not on me.'
'Don't call me Jerry!' howled Jerbal Argon, ripping the lid from the cleaning trolley. 'There must be cotton buds in here somewhere,' he said, sweat pasting thin hair across a wide gnome's forehead. 'It's a janitor's box for heaven's sake.' His blunt finger scrabbled through the trolley's contents, scraping across the false bottom.
Merv elbowed him out of the way before he could discover the secret compartment or spy screens. 'Here were are, Doctor,' he said grabbing a tub of buds. 'A month's supply. Knock yourself out.'
Argon fumbled a single bud from the pack, discarding the rest.
'DNA never lies,' he muttered, keying his code into the door. 'DNA never lies.'
He rushed into the room, roughly swabbing the inside of the clone's mouth. The Scant brothers held their breath. They had expected to be out of the clinic before this happened. Argon rolled the cotton bud's head across the sponge pad on his clipboard. A moment later, Opal Koboi's name flashed onto the board's mini- plasma screen.
Argon heaved a massive sigh, resting his hands on both knees. He threw the observers a shamefaced grin. 'Sorry. I panicked. If we lost Koboi, the Clinic would never live it down. I'm just a little paranoid, I suppose. Faces can be altered, but '
Copyright 2005 by Eoin Colfer. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Penguin Group (UK). No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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