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Chapter 18 The Treason of Bish Ware

  • I wanted to find out who had been splashed, but Joe Kivelson was too bus_irecting the new phase of the fight to hand out casualty reports to th_ress, and besides, there were too many things happening all at once that _ad to get. I went around to the other side where the incendiaries had me_heir end, moving slowly as close to the face of the fire as I could get an_hooting the burning wax flowing out from it. A lot of equipment, includin_wo of the three claw-derricks and a dredger—they'd brought a second one u_rom the waterfront—were moving to that side. By the time I had gotten around, the blowers had been maneuvered into place and were ready to start. There wa_ lot of back-and-forth yelling to make sure that everybody was out from i_ront, and then the blowers started.
  • It looked like a horizontal volcanic eruption; burning wax blowing away fro_he fire for close to a hundred feet into the clear space beyond. The derrick_nd manipulators and the cars and jeeps with grapnels went in on both sides, snatching and dragging wax away. Because they had the wind from the blower_ehind them, the men could work a lot closer, and the fire wasn't spreading a_apidly. They were saving a lot of wax; each one of those big sausages tha_he lifters picked up and floated away weighed a thousand pounds, and wa_orth, at the new price, eight hundred sols.
  • Finally, they got everything away that they could, and then the blowers wer_hut down and the two dredge shovels moved in, scooping up the burning sludg_nd carrying it away, scattering it on the concrete. I would have judged tha_here had been six or seven million sols' worth of wax in the piles to star_ith, and that a little more than half of it had been saved before they pulle_he last cylinder away.
  • The work slacked off; finally, there was nothing but the two dredges doin_nything, and then they backed away and let down, and it was all over bu_tanding around and watching the scattered fire burn itself out. I looked a_y watch. It was two hours since the first alarm had come in. I took a las_wing around, got the spaceport people gathering up wax and hauling it away, and the broken lake of fire that extended downtown from where the stacks ha_een, and then I floated my jeep over to the sandwich-and-coffee stand and le_own, getting out. Maybe, I thought, I could make some kind of deal wit_omebody like Interworld News on this. It would make a nice thrilling feature- program item. Just a little slice of life from Fenris, the Garden Spot of th_alaxy.
  • I got myself a big zhoumy-loin sandwich with hot sauce and a cup of coffee, made sure that my portable radio was on, and circulated among the fir_ighters, getting comments. Everybody had been a hero, natch, and they wer_ll very unbashful about admitting it. There was a great deal of wisecrackin_bout Al Devis buying himself a ringside seat for the fire he'd started. The_ saw Cesário Vieira and joined him.
  • "Have all the fire you want, for a while?" I asked him.
  • "Brother, and how! We could have used a little of this over on Hermann Reuch'_and, though. Have you seen Tom around anywhere?"
  • "No. Have you?"
  • "I saw him over there, about an hour ago. I guess he stayed on this side.
  • After they started blowing it, I was over on Al Devis's side." He whistle_oftly. "Was that a mess!"
  • There was still a crowd at the fire, but they seemed all to be townspeople.
  • The hunters had gathered where Joe Kivelson had been directing operations. W_inished our sandwiches and went over to join them. As soon as we got withi_arshot, I found that they were all in a very ugly mood.
  • "Don't fool around," one man was saying as we came up. "Don't even bothe_ooking for a rope. Just shoot them as soon as you see them."
  • Well, I thought, a couple of million sols' worth of tallow-wax, in which the_ll owned shares, was something to get mean about. I said something like that.
  • "It's not that," another man said. "It's Tom Kivelson."
  • "What about him?" I asked, alarmed.
  • "Didn't you hear? He got splashed with burning wax," the hunter said. "Hi_hole back was on fire; I don't know whether he's alive now or not."
  • So that was who I'd seen screaming in agony while the firemen tore his burnin_lothes away. I pushed through, with Cesário behind me, and found Joe Kivelso_nd Mohandas Feinberg and Corkscrew Finnegan and Oscar Fujisawa and a doze_ther captains and ships' officers in a huddle.
  • "Joe," I said, "I just heard about Tom. Do you know anything yet?"
  • Joe turned. "Oh, Walt. Why, as far as we know, he's alive. He was alive whe_hey got him to the hospital."
  • "That's at the spaceport?" I unhooked my handphone and got Dad. He'd hear_bout a man being splashed, but didn't know who it was. He said he'd call th_ospital at once. A few minutes later, he was calling me back.
  • "He's been badly burned, all over the back. They're preparing to do a dee_raft on him. They said his condition was serious, but he was alive fiv_inutes ago."
  • I thanked him and hung up, relaying the information to the others. They al_ooked worried. When the screen girl at a hospital tells you somebody'_erious, instead of giving you the well-as-can-be-expected routine, you kno_t is serious. Anybody who makes it alive to a hospital, these days, has a_xcellent chance, but injury cases do die, now and then, after they've bee_rought in. They are the "serious" cases.
  • "Well, I don't suppose there's anything we can do," Joe said heavily.
  • "We can clean up on the gang that started this fire," Oscar Fujisawa said. "D_t now; then if Tom doesn't make it, he's paid for in advance."
  • Oscar, I recalled, was the one who had been the most impressed with Bis_are's argument that lynching Steve Ravick would cost the hunters the fou_illion sols they might otherwise be able to recover, after a few years'
  • interstellar litigation, from his bank account on Terra. That reminded me tha_ hadn't even thought of Bish since I'd left the Times. I called back. Da_adn't heard a word from him.
  • "What's the situation at Hunters' Hall?" I asked.
  • "Everything's quiet there. The police left when Hallstock commandeered tha_ire-fighting equipment. They helped the shipyard men get it out, and the_hey all went to the Municipal Building. As far as I know, both Ravick an_elsher are still in Hunters' Hall. I'm in contact with the vehicles on guar_t the approaches; I'll call them now."
  • I relayed that. The others nodded.
  • "Nip Spazoni and a few others are bringing men and guns up from the docks an_utting a cordon around the place on the Main City Level," Oscar said. "You_ather will probably be hearing that they're moving into position now."
  • He had. He also said that he had called all the vehicles on the First an_econd Levels Down; they all reported no activity in Hunters' Hall except on_eep on Second Level Down, which did not report at all.
  • Everybody was puzzled about that.
  • "That's the jeep that reported Bish Ware going in on the bottom," Mohanda_einberg said. "I wonder if somebody inside mightn't have gotten both the ma_n the jeep and Bish."
  • "He could have left the jeep," Joe said. "Maybe he went inside after Bish."
  • "Funny he didn't call in and say so," somebody said.
  • "No, it isn't," I contradicted. "Manufacturers' claims to the contrary, ther_s no such thing as a tap-proof radio. Maybe he wasn't supposed to leave hi_ost, but if he did, he used his head not advertising it."
  • "That makes sense," Oscar agreed. "Well, whatever happened, we're not doin_nything standing around up here. Let's get it started."
  • He walked away, raising his voice and calling, "Pequod! Pequod! All hands o_eck!"
  • The others broke away from the group, shouting the names of their ships t_ally their crews. I hurried over to the jeep and checked my equipment. Ther_asn't too much film left in the big audiovisual, so I replaced it with _resh sound-and-vision reel, good for another couple of hours, and then lifte_o the ceiling. Worrying about Tom wouldn't help Tom, and worrying about Bis_ouldn't help Bish, and I had a job to do.
  • What I was getting now, and I was glad I was starting a fresh reel for it, wa_he beginning of the First Fenris Civil War. A long time from now, when Fenri_as an important planet in the Federation, maybe they'd make today a holiday, like Bastille Day or the Fourth of July or Federation Day. Maybe historians, _ouple of centuries from now, would call me an important primary source, an_f Cesário's religion was right, maybe I'd be one of them, saying, "Well, after all, is Boyd such a reliable source? He was only seventeen years old a_he time."
  • Finally, after a lot of yelling and confusion, the Rebel Army got moving. W_ll went up to Main City Level and went down Broadway, spreading out sid_treets when we began running into the cordon that had been thrown aroun_unters' Hall. They were mostly men from the waterfront who hadn't gotten t_he wax fire, and they must have stripped the guns off half the ships in th_arbor and mounted them on lorries or cargo skids.
  • Nobody, not even Joe Kivelson, wanted to begin with any massed frontal attac_n Hunters' Hall.
  • "We'll have to bombard the place," he was saying. "We try to rush it and we'l_ose half our gang before we get in. One man with good cover and a machin_un's good for a couple of hundred in the open."
  • "Bish may be inside," I mentioned.
  • "Yes," Oscar said, "and even aside from that, that building was built with ou_oney. Let's don't burn the house down to get rid of the cockroaches."
  • "Well, how are you going to do it, then?" Joe wanted to know. Rule out fronta_ttack and Joe's at the end of his tactics.
  • "You stay up here. Keep them amused with a little smallarms fire at th_indows and so on. I'll take about a dozen men and go down to Second Level. I_e can't do anything else, we can bring a couple of skins of tallow-wax dow_nd set fire to it and smoke them out."
  • That sounded like a pretty expensive sort of smudge, but seeing how much wa_avick had burned uptown, it was only fair to let him in on some of the smoke.
  • I mentioned that if we got into the building and up to Main City Level, we'_eed some way of signaling to avoid being shot by our own gang, and got th_ave-length combination of the Pequod scout boat, which Joe and Oscar wer_sing for a command car. Oscar picked ten or twelve men, and they got into _orry and went uptown and down a vehicle shaft to Second Level. I followed i_y jeep, even after Oscar and his crowd let down and got out, and hovere_ehind them as they advanced on foot to Hunters' Hall.
  • The Second Level Down was the vehicle storage, where the derricks and othe_quipment had been kept. It was empty now except for a workbench, a hand forg_nd some other things like that, a few drums of lubricant, and several pile_f sheet metal. Oscar and his men got inside and I followed, going up to th_eiling. I was the one who saw the man lying back of a pile of sheet metal, and called their attention.
  • He wore boat-clothes and had black whiskers, and he had a knife and a pisto_n his belt. At first I thought he was dead. A couple of Oscar's followers, dragging him out, said:
  • "He's been sleep-gassed."
  • Somebody else recognized him. He was the lone man who had been on guard in th_eep. The jeep was nowhere in sight.
  • I began to be really worried. My lighter gadget could have been what ha_assed him. It probably was; there weren't many sleep-gas weapons on Fenris. _ad to get fills made up specially for mine. So it looked to me as thoug_omebody had gotten mine off Bish, and then used it to knock out our guard.
  • Taken if off his body, I guessed. That crowd wasn't any more interested i_aking prisoners alive than we were.
  • We laid the man on a workbench and put a rolled-up sack under his head for _illow. Then we started up the enclosed stairway. I didn't think we were goin_o run into any trouble, though I kept my hand close to my gun. If they'_nocked out the guard, they had a way out, and none of them wanted to stay i_hat building any longer than they had to.
  • The First Level Down was mostly storerooms, with nobody in any of them. As w_ent up the stairway to the Main City Level, we could hear firing outside.
  • Nobody inside was shooting back. I unhooked my handphone.
  • "We're in," I said when Joe Kivelson answered. "Stop the shooting; we'r_oming up to the vehicle port."
  • "Might as well. Nobody's paying any attention to it," he said.
  • The firing slacked off as the word was passed around the perimeter, an_inally it stopped entirely. We went up into the open arched vehicle port. I_as barricaded all around, and there were half a dozen machine guns set up, but not a living thing.
  • "We're going up," I said. "They've all lammed out. The place is empty."
  • "You don't know that," Oscar chided. "It might be bulging with Ravick's thugs, waiting for us to come walking up and be mowed down."
  • Possible. Highly improbable, though, I thought. The escalators weren'_unning, and we weren't going to alert any hypothetical ambush by startin_hem. We tiptoed up, and I even drew my pistol to show that I wasn't bein_oolhardy. The big social room was empty. A couple of us went over and looke_ehind the bar, which was the only hiding place in it. Then we went back t_he rear and tiptoed to the third floor.
  • The meeting room was empty. So were the offices behind it. I looked in all o_hem, expecting to find Bish Ware's body. Maybe a couple of other bodies, too.
  • I'd seen him shoot the tread-snail, and I didn't think he'd die unpaid for. I_teve Ravick's office, the safe was open and a lot of papers had been throw_ut. I pointed that out to Oscar, and he nodded. After seeing that, he seeme_o relax, as though he wasn't expecting to find anybody any more. We went t_he third floor. Ravick's living quarters were there, and they wer_agnificently luxurious. The hunters, whose money had paid for all tha_agnificence and luxury, cursed.
  • There were no bodies there, either, or on the landing stage above. I unhooke_he radio again.
  • "You can come in, now," I said. "The place is empty. Nobody here but u_igilantes."
  • "Huh?" Joe couldn't believe that. "How'd they get out?"
  • "They got out on the Second Level Down." I told him about the sleep-gasse_uard.
  • "Did you bring him to? What did he say?"
  • "Nothing; we didn't. We can't. You get sleep-gassed, you sleep till you wak_p. That ought to be two to four hours for this fellow."
  • "Well, hold everything; we're coming in."
  • We were all in the social room; a couple of the men had poured drinks or draw_hemselves beers at the bar and rung up no sale on the cash register. Somebod_lse had a box of cigars he'd picked up in Ravick's quarters on the fourt_loor and was passing them around. Joe and about two or three hundred othe_unters came crowding up the escalator, which they had turned on below.
  • "You didn't find Bish Ware, either, I'll bet," Joe was saying.
  • "I'm afraid they took him along for a hostage," Oscar said. "The guard wa_nocked out with Walt's gas gadget, that Bish was carrying."
  • "Ha!" Joe cried. "Bet you it was the other way round; Bish took them out."
  • That started an argument. While it was going on, I went to the communicatio_creen and got the Times, and told Dad what had happened.
  • "Yes," he said. "That was what I was afraid you'd find. Glenn Murell called i_rom the spaceport a few minutes ago. He says Mort Hallstock came in with hi_ar, and he heard from some of the workmen that Bish Ware, Steve Ravick an_eo Belsher came in on the Main City Level in a jeep. They claimed protectio_rom a mob, and Captain Courtland's police are protecting them."