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."