No conceivable force could penetrate Terri's shield. Yet he was defenseless.
It was a nice little party, but a bit obvious. Terri Mac saw through it before he had taken half a dozen steps into the apartment. A light flush staining his high cheek-bones. "This is ridiculous," he said.
The light chatter ceased. Cocktail glasses were set down on various handy tables and ledges; and all faces in the room turned toward a man in his late fifties who sat propped up invalid-wise on pillows in a chair in a corner of the room.
"The Comptroller is perspicacious," said the old man, agreeably, waving one hand in a casual manner. "On your way, children."
And the people present smiled and nodded. Quite as if it were an ordinary leave-taking, they pushed past Terri Mac and filed out the door. Even the blonde, Terri had picked up at the embassy ball and who had brought him here, strolled off casually, but in a decidedly less drunken fashion than she had exhibited earlier in the evening.
"Sit down," said the old man. Terri Mac did so, gazing searchingly at the skinny frame and white eyebrows in an unsuccessful effort to connect him with something in memory. "This is ridiculous," he repeated.
"Really?" The old man smiled benignly. "And why so?"
"Why--" the situation was so obvious that Terri fumbled--a little at a loss for words. "Obviously you intend some form of coercion, or else you would have come to me along recognized channels. And any thought of coercion is obviously--well, ridiculous."
"Why? You senile old fool, don't you know that I'm shielded? Don't you know all government officials from the fifth class up wear complete personal shields that are not only crack-proof but contain all the necessary elements to support life independently within the shield for more than twenty hours? Don't you know that I'll be missed in two hours at the most and tracked down in less than sixty minutes more? Are you crazy?"
The old man chuckled, rubbing dry hands together. He said, "I'm shielded too. You can't get at me. And now the room's shielded. You can't get out of it."