The wire cutters clicked softly – almost without a sound.
“We’re all still here, right?” Private Eckstrom said. “Looks like you made the right call, Colonel! The timer is off. The bomb’s diffused.”
Graham continued to look into Peggy Lee’s eyes. She looked so small now, like a balloon slowly losing air. Her shoulders sagged; he thought she might collapse. Her eyes were resolute, however, as she mouthed the words “I am so very sorry,” and then said to the soldier, “Same wires for the other bomb.”
Private Eckstrom nodded, walked over to the bomb that was attached to the servers, and quickly disarmed it. “All clear!”
“Good work, soldier,” Graham said as he released Peggy Lee. “Now, take Ms. Swenson down to Holding Cell B and make sure that she has everything that she needs to be comfortable. Then meet me in the dining hall for the debriefing. Afterwards, we will reassign stations and shifts and start the long process of getting this mess cleaned up as quickly as possible.”
Graham left the Brain Room and walked to the dining hall. Approximately twenty soldiers stood in a group near the waterfall, waiting for him. When he emerged, the soldiers all cheered. Charley rushed over to him and shook his hand. “Good job, Graham. So we’re safe now, right?”
“Yes, the bombs are diffused.”
“That’s great, sir! Did you hear that, men, the facilities are secured!” The soldiers clapped and hollered.
“You did it,” Charley said, turning back to Graham. “They got the Battery Station, sure, but that’s small potatoes compared to the Brain Room. Hell of a job in there, Colonel. Hey, by the way, here’s your pass card. I recovered it off of that monster Ian. Man, he’s a brute, eh? He was still giving us some trouble down in the holding cell. But we took care of it.”
“Thanks again for showing up just in the nick of time. I’m afraid of what would have happened had you not been there.”
“All in a day’s work, right? I think that I might have scraped some of the skin off of my right hip getting around that corner, but I needed to lose a few pounds anyway – easier than dieting!”
“Yeah, well, like I said, I’m sure glad you got through.” Graham didn’t feel like laughing or celebrating. He just had to get through this confab without breaking down. Then he would have a chance to catch his breath and figure out what it all meant. “Now, is everyone here? I’d like to get started.”
“Looks like a full house, chief. Private Eckstrom just arrived. Take it away.”
Graham stood in front of the small crowd, cleared his throat, and then began to explain what had happened. He skipped over his plans with Peggy Lee to see the stars and Charley’s seeking out wine for them. And of course, he skipped the kiss. He detailed the destruction in the Battery Station and then talked about the fight, emphasizing Charley’s last minute heroics. He did not know exactly what to say about Peggy Lee. She had helped save the Brain Room, but she was responsible for the destruction of the Battery Station. Instead of going into great detail, he simply said that she had a change of heart and had turned against Ian in the end.
At the end of the debriefing, Graham announced that almost everything would go back to the normal schedule. He ordered a replacement shift of soldiers to take over for the soldiers who had been tied up in the Brain Room. He figured they deserved the rest of the night off. Then he told them that the boat for the mainland would leave the Platform at the scheduled time the following morning – only now with two prisoners in the place of two honored guests.