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Chapter 7 Aboard the Javelin

  • We heard nothing more from Bish Ware that evening. Joe and Tom Kivelson an_scar Fujisawa slept at the Times Building, and after breakfast Dad called th_paceport hospital about Murell. He had passed a good night and seemed to hav_hrown off all the poison he had absorbed through his skin. Dad talked to him, and advised him not to leave until somebody came for him. Tom and I took _ar—and a pistol apiece and a submachine gun—and went to get him. Remembering, at the last moment, what I had done to his trousers, I unpacked his luggag_nd got another suit for him.
  • He was grateful for that, and he didn't lift an eyebrow when he saw th_rtillery we had with us. He knew, already, what the score was, and the rules, or absence thereof, of the game, and accepted us as members of his team. W_ropped to the Bottom Level and went, avoiding traffic, to where the wax wa_tored. There were close to a dozen guards there now, all heavily armed.
  • We got out of the car, I carrying the chopper, and one of the gang ther_roduced a probe rod and microscope and a testing kit and a microray scanner.
  • Murell took his time going over the wax, jabbing the probe rod in and pullin_amples out of the big plastic-skinned sausages at random, making chemica_ests, examining them under the microscope, and scanning other cylinders t_ake sure there was no foreign matter in them. He might not know what _iterary agent was, but he knew tallow-wax.
  • I found out from the guards that there hadn't been any really serious troubl_fter we left Hunter's Hall. The city police had beaten a few men up, natch, and run out all the anti-Ravick hunters, and then Ravick had reconvened th_eeting and acceptance of the thirty-five centisol price had been vote_nanimously. The police were still looking for the Kivelsons. Ravick seemed t_ave gotten the idea that Joe Kivelson was the mastermind of the hunters'
  • cabal against him. I know if I'd found that Joe Kivelson and Oscar Fujisaw_ere in any kind of a conspiracy together, I wouldn't pick Joe for th_astermind. It was just possible, I thought, that Oscar had been fosterin_his himself, in case anything went wrong. After all, self-preservation is th_irst law, and Oscar is a self-preserving type.
  • After Murell had finished his inspection and we'd gotten back in the car an_ere lifting, I asked him what he was going to offer, just as though I wer_he skipper of the biggest ship out of Port Sandor. Well, it meant as much t_s as it did to the hunters. The more wax sold for, the more advertising we'_ell to the merchants, and the more people would rent teleprinters from us.
  • "Eighty centisols a pound," he said. Nice and definite; quite a differenc_rom the way he stumbled around over listing his previous publications.
  • "Seventy-five's the Kapstaad price, regardless of what you people here hav_een getting from that crook of a Belsher. We'll have to go far enough beyon_hat to make him have to run like blazes to catch up. You can put it in th_imes that the day of monopolistic marketing on Fenris is over."
  • When we got back to the Times, I asked Dad if he'd heard anything more fro_ish.
  • "Yes," he said unhappily. "He didn't call in, this morning, so I called hi_partment and didn't get an answer. Then I called Harry Wong's. Harry sai_ish had been in there till after midnight, with some other people." He name_hree disreputables, two female and one male. "They were drinking quite a lot.
  • Harry said Bish was plastered to the ears. They finally went out, around 0130.
  • He said the police were in and out checking the crowd, but they didn't mak_ny trouble."
  • I nodded, feeling very badly. Four and a half hours had been his limit. Well, sometimes a ninety per cent failure is really a triumph; after all, it's a te_er cent success. Bish had gone four and a half hours without taking a drink.
  • Maybe the percentage would be a little better the next time. I was surely ol_nough to stop expecting miracles.
  • The mate of the Pequod called in, around noon, and said it was safe for Osca_o come back to the ship. The mate of the Javelin, Ramón Llewellyn, called i_ith the same report, that along the waterfront, at least, the heat was off.
  • However, he had started an ambitious-looking overhaul operation, which looke_s though it was good for a hundred hours but which could be dropped on _inute's notice, and under cover of this he had been taking on supplies an_mmunition.
  • We made a long audiovisual of Murell announcing his price of eighty centisol_ pound for wax on behalf of Argentine Exotic Organics, Ltd. As soon as tha_as finished, we loaded the boat-clothes we'd picked up for him and his trave_it and mine into a car, with Julio Kubanoff to bring it back to the Times, and went to the waterfront. When we arrived, Ramón Llewellyn had gotten thing_leared up, and the Javelin was ready to move as soon as we came aboard.
  • On the Main City Level, the waterfront is a hundred feet above the ship pools; the ships load from and discharge onto the First Level Down. The city roo_urves down all along the south side of the city into the water and abou_ifty feet below it. That way, even in the post-sunset and post-dawn storms, ships can come in submerged around the outer breakwater and under the roof, and we don't get any wind or heavy seas along the docks.
  • Murell was interested in everything he saw, in the brief time while we wer_oing down along the docks to where the Javelin was berthed. I knew he'd neve_ctually seen it before, but he must have been studying pictures of it, because from some of the remarks he made, I could tell that he was familia_ith it.
  • Most of the ships had lifted out of the water and were resting on the wid_oncrete docks, but the Javelin was afloat in the pool, her contragravity o_t specific-gravity weight reduction. She was a typical hunter-ship, a hundre_eet long by thirty abeam, with a squat conning tower amidships, and turret_or 50-mm guns and launchers for harpoon rockets fore and aft. The only thin_pen about her was the air-and-water lock under the conning tower. Julio, wh_as piloting the car, set it down on the top of the aft gun turret. A coupl_f the crewmen who were on deck grabbed our bags and hurried them inside. W_ollowed, and as soon as Julio lifted away, the lock was sealed.
  • Immediately, as the contragravity field dropped below the specific gravity o_he ship, she began submerging. I got up into the conning tower in time to se_he water of the boat pool come up over the armor-glass windows and th_utside lights come on. For a few minutes, the Javelin swung slowly and move_orward, feeling her way with fingers of radar out of the pool and down th_hannel behind the breakwater and under the overhang of the city roof. The_he water line went slowly down across the windows as she surfaced. A momen_ater she was on full contragravity, and the ship which had been a submarin_as now an aircraft.
  • Murell, who was accustomed to the relatively drab sunsets of Terra, simpl_ouldn't take his eyes from the spectacle that covered the whole western hal_f the sky—high clouds streaming away from the daylight zone to the west an_ighted from below by the sun. There were more clouds coming in at a lowe_evel from the east. By the time the Javelin returned to Port Sandor, it woul_e full dark and rain, which would soon turn to snow, would be falling. The_e'd be in for it again for another thousand hours.
  • Ramón Llewellyn was saying to Joe Kivelson: "We're one man short; Devis, Abdullah's helper. Hospital."
  • "Get hurt in the fight, last night? He was right with us till we got out t_he elevators, and then I missed him."
  • "No. He made it back to the ship about the same time we did, and he was al_ight then. Didn't even have a scratch. Strained his back at work, thi_orning, trying to lift a power-unit cartridge by hand."
  • I could believe that. Those things weighed a couple of hundred pounds. Jo_ivelson swore.
  • "What's he think this is, the First Century Pre-Atomic? Aren't there an_ifters on the ship?"
  • Llewellyn shrugged. "Probably didn't want to bother taking a couple of step_o get one. The doctor told him to take treatment and observation for a day o_o."
  • "That's Al Devis?" I asked. "What hospital?" Al Devis's strained back would b_ood for a two-line item; he'd feel hurt if we didn't mention it.
  • "Co-op hospital."
  • That was all right. They always sent in their patient lists to the Times. To_as griping because he'd have to do Devis's work and his own.
  • "You know anything about engines, Walt?" he asked me.
  • "I know they generate a magnetic current and convert rotary magnetic curren_nto one-directional repulsion fields, and violate the daylights out of al_he old Newtonian laws of motion and attraction," I said. "I read that in _ook. That was as far as I got. The math got a little complicated after that, and I started reading another book."
  • "You'd be a big help. Think you could hit anything with a 50-mm?" Tom asked.
  • "I know you're pretty sharp with a pistol or a chopper, but a cannon'_ifferent."
  • "I could try. If you want to heave over an empty packing case or something, _ould waste a few rounds seeing if I could come anywhere close to it."
  • "We'll do that," he said. "Ordinarily, I handle the after gun when we sight _onster, but somebody'll have to help Abdullah with the engines."
  • He spoke to his father about it. Joe Kivelson nodded.
  • "Walt's made some awful lucky shots with that target pistol of his, I kno_hat," he said, "and I saw him make hamburger out of a slasher, once, with _hopper. Have somebody blow a couple of wax skins full of air for targets, an_hen we get a little farther southeast, we'll go down to the surface and hav_ome shooting."
  • I convinced Murell that the sunset would still be there in a couple of hours, and we took our luggage down and found the cubbyhole he and I would share wit_om for sleeping quarters. A hunter-ship looks big on the outside, but there'_ery little room for the crew. The engines are much bigger than would b_eeded on an ordinary contragravity craft, because a hunter-ship operate_nder water as well as in the air. Then, there's a lot of cargo space for th_ax, and the boat berth aft for the scout boat, so they're not exactly buil_or comfort. They don't really need to be; a ship's rarely out more than _undred and fifty hours on any cruise.
  • Murell had done a lot of reading about every phase of the wax business, and h_anted to learn everything he could by actual observation. He said tha_rgentine Exotic Organics was going to keep him here on Fenris as a residen_uyer and his job was going to be to deal with the hunters, eithe_ndividually or through their co-operative organization, if they could get ri_f Ravick and set up something he could do business with, and he wanted to b_ble to talk the hunters' language and understand their problems.
  • So I took him around over the boat, showing him everything and conscriptin_ny crew members I came across to explain what I couldn't. I showed him th_cout boat in its berth, and we climbed into it and looked around. I showe_im the machine that packed the wax into skins, and the cargo holds, and th_lectrolytic gills that extracted oxygen from sea water while we wer_ubmerged, and the ship's armament. Finally, we got to the engine room, forward. He whistled when he saw the engines.
  • "Why, those things are big enough for a five-thousand-ton freighter," he said.
  • "They have to be," I said. "Running submerged isn't the same as running i_tmosphere. You ever done any swimming?"
  • He shook his head. "I was born in Antarctica, on Terra. The water's a littl_oo cold to do much swimming there. And I've spent most of my time since the_n central Argentine, in the pampas country. The sports there are horsebac_iding and polo and things like that."
  • Well, whattaya know! Here was a man who had not only seen a horse, bu_ctually ridden one. That in itself was worth a story in the Times.
  • Tom and Abdullah, who were fussing around the engines, heard that. The_nocked off what they were doing and began asking him questions—I suppose h_hought they were awfully silly, but he answered all of them patiently—abou_orses and riding. I was looking at a couple of spare power-unit cartridges, like the one Al Devis had strained his back on, clamped to the deck out of th_ay.
  • They were only as big as a one-liter jar, rounded at one end and flat at th_ther where the power cable was connected, but they weighed close to tw_undred pounds apiece. Most of the weight was on the outside; a dazzlingl_right plating of collapsium—collapsed matter, the electron shell collapse_nto the nucleus and the atoms in actual physical contact—and absolutel_othing but nothing could get through it. Inside was about a kilogram o_trontium-90; it would keep on emitting electrons for twenty-five years, normally, but there was a miniature plutonium reactor, itself shielded wit_ollapsium, which, among other things, speeded that process up considerably. _artridge was good for about five years; two of them kept the engines i_peration.
  • The engines themselves converted the electric current from the powe_artridges into magnetic current, and lifted the ship and propelled it.
  • Abdullah was explaining that to Murell and Murell seemed to be getting i_atisfactorily.
  • Finally, we left them; Murell wanted to see the sunset some more and went u_o the conning tower where Joe and Ramón were, and I decided to take a na_hile I had a chance.