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Chapter 10 Mayday, Mayday

  • Getting a ship's boat berthed inside the ship in the air is tricky work unde_he best of conditions; the way the wind was blowing by now, it would hav_een like trying to thread a needle inside a concrete mixer. We submerge_fter the ship and went in underwater. Then we had to wait in the boat unti_he ship rose above the surface and emptied the water out of the boat berth.
  • When that was done and the boat berth was sealed again, the ship went dow_eventy fathoms and came to rest on the bottom, and we unsealed the boat an_ot out.
  • There was still the job of packing the wax into skins, but that could wait.
  • Everybody was tired and dirty and hungry. We took turns washing up, three at _ime, in the little ship's latrine which, for some reason going back t_ailing-ship days on Terra, was called the "head." Finally the whole sixtee_f us gathered in the relatively comfortable wardroom under the after gu_urret.
  • Comfortable, that is, to the extent that everybody could find a place to si_own, or could move about without tripping over somebody else. There was a bi_ot of coffee, and everybody had a plate or bowl of hot food. There's alway_lenty of hot food to hand on a hunter-ship; no regular meal-times, an_verybody eats, as he sleeps, when he has time. This is the only time when _hole hunter crew gets together, after a monster has been killed and cut u_nd the ship is resting on the bottom and nobody has to stand watch.
  • Everybody was talking about the killing, of course, and the wax we had in th_old, and counting the money they were going to get for it, at the new eighty- centisol price.
  • "Well, I make it about fourteen tons," Ramón Llewellyn, who had been checkin_he wax as it went into the hold, said. He figured mentally for a moment, an_dded, "Call it twenty-two thousand sols." Then he had to fall back on _encil and paper to figure shares.
  • I was surprised to find that he was reckoning shares for both Murell an_yself.
  • "Hey, do we want to let them do that?" I whispered to Murell. "We just cam_long for the ride."
  • "I don't want the money," he said. "These people need every cent they ca_et."
  • So did I, for that matter, and I didn't have salary and expense account from _ig company on Terra. However, I hadn't come along in the expectation o_aking anything out of it, and a newsman has to be careful about the outsid_oney he picks up. It wouldn't do any harm in the present instance, but as _ractice it can lead to all kinds of things, like playing favorites, colorin_ews, killing stories that shouldn't be killed. We do enough of that as it is, like playing down the tread-snail business for Bish Ware and the spacepor_eople, and never killing anybody except in a "local bar." It's hard to draw _ine on that sort of thing.
  • "We're just guests," I said. "We don't work here."
  • "The dickens you are," Joe Kivelson contradicted. "Maybe you came aboard a_uests, but you're both part of the crew now. I never saw a prettier shot on _onster than Walt made—took that thing's head off like a chicken on a choppin_lock—and he did a swell job of covering for the cutting-up. And he couldn'_ave done that if Murell hadn't handled the boat the way he did, and that wa_o easy job."
  • "Well, let's talk about that when we get to port," I said. "Are we going righ_ack, or are we going to try for another monster?"
  • "I don't know," Joe said. "We could stow the wax, if we didn't get too much, but if we stay out, we'll have to wait out the wind and by then it'll b_retty cold."
  • "The longer we stay out, the more the cruise'll cost," Abdullah Monnahan, th_ngineer, said, "and the expenses'll cut into the shares."
  • "Tell the truth, I'm sort of antsy to get back," Joe Kivelson said. "I want t_ee what's going on in Port Sandor."
  • "So am I," Murell said. "I want to get some kind of office opened, and ge_nto business. What time will the Cape Canaveral be getting in? I want a bi_argo, for the first time."
  • "Oh, not for four hundred hours, at the least," I said. "The spaceships alway_ry to miss the early-dark and early-daylight storms. It's hard to get a bi_hip down in a high wind."
  • "That'll be plenty of time, I suppose," Murell said. "There's all that wax yo_ave stored, and what I can get out of the Co-operative stores from crews tha_eclaim it. But I'm going to have a lot to do."
  • "Yes," I agreed. "Dodging bullets, for one."
  • "Oh, I don't expect any trouble," Murell said. "This fellow Ravick's shot hi_ound."
  • He was going to say something else, but before he could say it there was _errific roar forward. The whole ship bucked like a recoiling gun, throwin_verybody into a heap, and heeled over to starboard. There were a lot o_ells, particularly from those who had been splashed with hot coffee, an_omebody was shouting something about the magazines.
  • "The magazines are aft, you dunderhead," Joe Kivelson told him, shovin_imself to his feet. "Stay put, everybody; I'll see what it is."
  • He pulled open the door forward. An instant later, he had slammed it shut an_as dogging it fast.
  • "Hull must be ruptured forward; we're making water. It's spouting up the hatc_rom the engine room like a geyser," he said. "Ramón, go see what it's like i_he boat berth. The rest of you, follow him, and grab all the food and war_lothing you can. We're going to have to abandon."
  • He stood by the doorway aft, shoving people through and keeping them fro_amming up, saying: "Take it easy, now; don't crowd. We'll all get out." Ther_asn't any panic. A couple of men were in the doorway of the little galle_hen I came past, handing out cases of food. As nothing was coming out at th_nstant, I kept on, and on the way back to the boat-berth hatch, I pulled dow_s many parkas and pairs of overpants as I could carry, squeezing past Tom, who was collecting fleece-lined hip boots. Each pair was buckled together a_he tops; a hunter always does that, even at home ashore.
  • Ramón had the hatch open, and had opened the top hatch of the boat, below. _hrew my double armload of clothing down through it and slid down after, getting out of the way of the load of boots Tom dumped ahead of him. Jo_ivelson came down last, carrying the ship's log and some other stuff. _ittle water was trickling over the edge of the hatch above.
  • "It's squirting up from below in a dozen places," he said, after he'd seale_he boat. "The whole front of the ship must be blown out."
  • "Well, now we know what happened to Simon MacGregor's Claymore," I said, mor_o myself than to anybody else.
  • Joe and Hans Cronje, the gunner, were getting a rocket out of the locker, detaching the harpoon and fitting on an explosive warhead. He stopped, whil_e and Cronje were loading it into the after launcher, and nodded at me.
  • "That's what I think, too," he said. "Everybody grab onto something; we'r_etting the door open."
  • I knew what was coming and started hugging a stanchion as though it were _ong-lost sweetheart, and Murell, who didn't but knew enough to imitate thos_ho did, hugged it from the other side. The rocket whooshed out of th_auncher and went off with a deafening bang outside. For an instant, nothin_appened, and I told Murell not to let go. Then the lock burst in and th_ater, at seventy fathoms' pressure, hit the boat. Abdullah had gotten th_ngines on and was backing against it. After a little, the pressure equalize_nd we went out the broken lock stern first.
  • We circled and passed over the Javelin, and then came back. She was lying i_he ooze, a quarter over on her side, and her whole bow was blown out to port.
  • Joe Kivelson got the square box he had brought down from the ship along wit_he log, fussed a little with it, and then launched it out the disposal port.
  • It was a radio locator. Sometimes a lucky ship will get more wax than th_olds' capacity; they pack it in skins and anchor it on the bottom, and dro_ne of those gadgets with it. It would keep on sending a directional signa_nd the name of the ship for a couple of years.
  • "Do you really think it was sabotage?" Murell was asking me. Blowing up a shi_ith sixteen men aboard must have seemed sort of extreme to him. Maybe tha_asn't according to Terran business ethics. "Mightn't it have been a powe_nit?"
  • "No. Power units don't blow, and if one did, it would vaporize the whole shi_nd a quarter of a cubic mile of water around her. No, that was old fashione_ountry-style chemical explosive. Cataclysmite, probably."
  • "Ravick?" he asked, rather unnecessarily.
  • "You know how well he can get along without you and Joe Kivelson, and here's _hance to get along without both of you together." Everybody in the boat wa_istening, so I continued: "How much do you know about this fellow Devis, wh_trained his back at the last moment?"
  • "Engine room's where he could have planted something," Joe Kivelson said.
  • "He was in there by himself for a while, the morning after the meeting,"
  • Abdullah Monnahan added.
  • "And he disappeared between the meeting room and the elevator, during th_ight," Tom mentioned. "And when he showed up, he hadn't been marked up any.
  • I'd have thought he'd have been pretty badly beaten—unless they knew he wa_ne of their own gang."
  • "We're going to look Devis up when we get back," somebody said pleasantly.
  • "If we get back," Ramón Llewellyn told him. "That's going to take some doing."
  • "We have the boat," Hans Cronje said. "It's a little crowded, but we can mak_t back to Port Sandor."
  • "I hope we can," Abe Clifford, the navigator, said. "Shall we take her up, Joe?"
  • "Yes, see what it's like on top," the skipper replied.
  • Going up, we passed a monster at about thirty fathoms. It stuck its neck ou_nd started for us. Monnahan tilted the boat almost vertical and put o_verything the engines had, lift and drive parallel. An instant later, w_roke the surface and shot into the air.
  • The wind hit the boat as though it had been a ping-pong ball, and it wa_everal seconds, and bad seconds at that, before Monnahan regained even _emblance of control. There was considerable bad language, and several of th_rew had bloody noses. Monnahan tried to get the boat turned into the wind. _ircuit breaker popped, and red lights blazed all over the instrument panel.
  • He eased off and let the wind take over, and for a while we were flying i_ront of it like a rifle bullet. Gradually, he nosed down and submerged.
  • "Well, that's that." Joe Kivelson said, when we were back in the underwate_alm again. "We'll have to stay under till the wind's over. Don't anybody mov_round or breathe any deeper than you have to. We'll have to conserve oxygen."
  • "Isn't the boat equipped with electrolytic gills?" Murell asked.
  • "Sure, to supply oxygen for a maximum of six men. We have sixteen in here."
  • "How long will our air last, for sixteen of us?" I asked.
  • "About eight hours."
  • It would take us fifty to get to Port Sandor, running submerged. The win_ouldn't even begin to fall in less than twenty.
  • "We can go south, to the coast of Hermann Reuch's Land," Abe Clifford, th_avigator, said. "Let me figure something out."
  • He dug out a slide rule and a pencil and pad and sat down with his back to th_ack of the pilot's seat, under the light. Everybody watched him in a silenc_hich Joe Kivelson broke suddenly by bellowing:
  • "Dumont! You light that pipe and I'll feed it to you!"
  • Old Piet Dumont grabbed the pipe out of his mouth with one hand and pockete_is lighter with the other.
  • "Gosh, Joe; I guess I just wasn't thinking… " he began.
  • "Well, give me that pipe." Joe put it in the drawer under the charts. "Now yo_on't have it handy the next time you don't think."
  • After a while, Abe Clifford looked up. "Ship's position I don't have exactly; somewhere around East 25 Longitude, South 20 Latitude. I can't work out ou_resent position at all, except that we're somewhere around South 30 Latitude.
  • The locator signal is almost exactly north-by-northeast of us. If we keep i_ead astern, we'll come out in Sancerre Bay, on Hermann Reuch's Land. If w_ake that, we're all right. We'll be in the lee of the Hacksaw Mountains, an_e can surface from time to time to change air, and as soon as the wind fall_e can start for home."
  • Then he and Abdullah and Joe went into a huddle, arguing about cruising spee_ubmerged. The results weren't so heartening.
  • "It looks like a ten-hour trip, submerged," Joe said. "That's two hours to_ong, and there's no way of getting more oxygen out of the gills than we'r_etting now. We'll just have to use less. Everybody lie down and breathe a_hallowly as possible, and don't do anything to use energy. I'm going to ge_n the radio and see what I can raise."
  • Big chance, I thought. These boat radios were only used for communicating wit_he ship while scouting; they had a strain-everything range of about thre_undred miles. Hunter-ships don't crowd that close together when they'r_orking. Still, there was a chance that somebody else might be sitting it ou_n the bottom within hearing. So Abe took the controls and kept the signa_rom the wreck of the Javelin dead astern, and Joe Kivelson began speakin_nto the radio:
  • "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. Captain Kivelson, Javelin, calling. My shi_as wrecked by an explosion; all hands now in scout boat, proceeding towar_ancerre Bay, on course south-by-southwest from the wreck. Locator signal i_eing broadcast from the Javelin. Other than that, we do not know ou_osition. Calling all craft, calling Mayday."
  • He stopped talking. The radio was silent except for an occasional frying-fa_rackle of static. Then he began over again.
  • I curled up, trying to keep my feet out of anybody's face and my face clear o_nybody else's feet. Somebody began praying, and somebody else told him t_elay it, he was wasting oxygen. I tried to go to sleep, which was the onl_ractical thing to do. I must have succeeded. When I woke again, Joe Kivelso_as saying, exasperatedly:
  • "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Mayday… "