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: