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Chapter 13

  • The ship lurched slightly. In the outside screens, the lights around, th_rowd that was waving good-bye, and the floor of the crater began receding.
  • The sound pickups were full of cheering, and the boom of a big gun at one o_he top batteries, and the recorded and amplified music of a band playing th_raditional "Spacemen's Hymn."
  • "It's been a long time since I heard that played in earnest," Jacquemont said.
  • "Well, we're off to see the Wizard."
  • The lights dwindled and merged into a tiny circle in the darkness of th_rater. The music died away; the cannon shots became a faint throbbing.
  • Finally, there was silence, and only the stars above and the dark land and th_tarlit sea below. After a long while a sunset glow, six hours past o_arathrum, appeared in the west, behind the now appreciable curvature of th_lanet.
  • "Stand by for shift to vertical," Captain Nichols called, his voice echoin_rom PA-outlets through the ship.
  • "Ready for shift, Captain Nichols," Jacquemont reported from the duplicate- control panel.
  • Conn went to the after bulkhead, leaning his back against it. "Ready here, Captain," he said.
  • Other voices took it up. Lights winked on the control panels.
  • "Shifting over," Nichols said. "Your ship now, Captain Jacquemont."
  • "Thank you, Mr. Nichols."
  • The deck began to tilt, and then he was lying on his back, his feet agains_he side of the control room, which had altered its shape and dimensions.
  • There was a jar as the drive went on in line with the new direction of th_ift and the ship began accelerating. He got to his feet, and he and Charle_atworth went to the astrogational computer and began checking the data an_etting the course for the point in space at which Koshchei would be in _undred and sixty hours.
  • "Course set, Captain," he reported to Jacquemont, after a while.
  • A couple of lights winked on the control panel. There was nothing more to d_ut watch Poictesme dwindle behind, and listen to the newscasts, and tak_urns talking to friends on the planet.
  • They approached the halfway point; the acceleration rate decreased, and th_ravity indicator dropped, little by little. Everybody was enjoying the ne_ense of lightness, romping and skylarking like newly landed tourists on Luna.
  • It was fun, as long as they landed on their feet at each jump, and the foo_nd liquids stayed on plates and in glasses and cups. Yves Jacquemont bega_osting signs in conspicuous places:
  • > **WEIGHT IS WHAT YOU LIFT, MASS IS WHAT HURTS > WHEN IT HITS YOU.
  • > WEIGHT DEPENDS ON GRAVITY; MASS IS ALWAYS CONSTANT.**
  • His father came on-screen from his office in Storisende. By then, there was _0-second time lag in communication between the ship and Poictesme.
  • "My private detectives found out about the  _Andromeda_ ," he said. "She'_oing to Panurge, in the Gamma System. They have a couple of computermen wit_hem, one they hired from the Stock Exchange, and one they practicall_hanghaied away from the Government. And some of the people who chartered th_hip are members of a family that were interested in a positronic-equipmen_lant on Panurge at the time of the War."
  • "That's all right, then; we don't need to worry about that any more. They'r_ust hunting for Merlin."
  • Some of his companions were looking at him curiously. A little later, Pie_udvyckson, the electromagnetics engineer, said: "I thought you were lookin_or Merlin, Conn."
  • "Not on Koschchei. We're looking for something to build a hypership out of. I_ had Merlin in my hip pocket right now, I'd trade it for one good ship lik_he  _City of Asgard_  or the  _City of Nefertiti_ , and give a keg of brand_nd a box of cigars to boot. If we had a ship of our own, we'd be selling lot_f both, and not for Storisende Spaceport prices, either."
  • "But don't you think Merlin's important?" Charley Gatworth, who had overhear_im, asked.
  • "Sure. If we find Merlin, we can run it for President. It would make a bette_ne than Jake Vyckhoven."
  • He let it go at that. Plenty of opportunities later to expand the theme.
  • The gravitation gauge dropped to zero. Now they were in free fall, and i_asted twice as long as Yves Jacquemont had predicted. There were a fe_isadventures, none serious and most of them comic—For example, when Jerr_ivas opened a bottle of beer, everybody was chasing the amber globules an_atching them in cups, and those who were splashed were glad it hadn't bee_ot coffee.
  • They made their second, 180-degree turnover while weightless. Then they bega_ecelerating and approached Koshchei stern-on, and the gravity gauge bega_limbing slowly up again, and things began staying put, and they were walkin_nstead of floating. Koshchei grew larger and larger ahead; the polar icecaps, and the faint dappling of clouds, and the dark wiggling lines on the otherwis_niform red-brown surface which were mountain ranges became visible. Finall_hey began to see, first with the telescopic screens and then withou_agnification, the little dots and specks that were cities and industria_enters.
  • Then they were in atmosphere, and Jacquemont made the final shift, t_orizontal position, and turned the ship over to Nichols.
  • For a moment, the scout-boat tumbled away from the ship and Conn was back i_ree fall. Then he got on the lift-and-drive and steadied it, and pressed th_rigger button, firing a green smoke bomb. Beside him, Yves Jacquemont put o_he radio and the screen pickups. He could see the ship circling far above, and the manipulator-boat, with its claw-arms and grapples, breaking away fro_t. Then he looked down on the endless desert of iron oxide that stretched i_ll directions to the horizon, until he saw a spot, optically the size of _ive-centisol piece, that was the shipbuilding city of Port Carpenter. H_urned the boat toward it, firing four more green smokes at three-secon_ntervals. The manipulator-boat started to follow, and the  _Harriet Barne_ , now a distant speck in the sky, began coming closer.
  • Below, as he cut speed and altitude, he could see the pock-marks of open-pi_ines and the glint of sunlight on bright metal and armor-glass roofs, th_lunt conical stacks of nuclear furnaces and the twisted slag-flows, like th_ncient lava-flows of Barathrum. And, he reflected, he was an influential non- office-holding stockholder in every bit of it, as soon as they could scree_torisende and get claims filed.
  • A high tower rose out of the middle of Port Carpenter, with a glass-dome_ushroom top. That would be the telecast station; the administrative building_ere directly below it and around its base. He came in slowly over the city, above a spaceport with its empty landing pits in a double circle around _raffic-control building, and airship docks and warehouses beyond. More stee_ills. Factories, either hemispherical domes or long buildings with rounde_ops. Ship-construction yards and docks; for the most part, these were empty, but on some of them the landing-stands of spaceships, like eight-and ten- legged spiders, waiting for forty years for hulls to be built on them. A fe_pherical skeletons of ships, a few with some of the outer skin on. It wasn'_ntil he was passing close to them that he realized how huge they were. An_tacks of material—sheet steel, deckplate, girders—and contragravity lifter_nd construction machines, all left on jobs that were never finished, th_right rustless metal dulled by forty years of rain and windblown red dust.
  • They must have been working here to the very last, and then, when th_vacuation elsewhere was completed, they had dropped whatever they were doing, piled into such ships as were completed, and lifted away.
  • The mushroom-topped tower rose from the middle of a circular building pile_evel on level, almost half a mile across. He circled over it, saw an airshi_ock, and called the  _Harriet Barne_  while Jacquemont talked to Jerry Rivas, piloting the manipulator-boat. Rivas came in and joined them in the air; the_overed over the dock and helped the ship down when she came in, nudging he_nto place.
  • By the time Conn and Jacquemont and Rivas and Anse Dawes and Roddell an_outsko and Karanja were out on the dock in oxygen helmets, the ship's airloc_as opening and Nichols and Vibart and the others were coming out, towing _ouple of small lifters loaded with equipment.
  • The airlocked door into the building, at the end of the dock, was closed; whe_omebody pulled the handle, it refused to open. That meant it was powered fro_he central power plant, wherever that was. There was a plug socket beside it, with the required voltage marked over it. They used an extension line from _ower unit on one of the lifters to get it open, and did the same with th_nner door; when it was open, they passed into a dim room that stretched awa_head of them and on either side.
  • It looked like a freight-shipping room; there were a few piles of boxes an_ases here and there, and a litter of packing material everywhere. A lon_ounter-desk, and a bank of robo-clerks behind it. According to the air- analyzer, the oxygen content inside was safely high. They all pulled off thei_ishbowl helmets and slung them.
  • "Well, we can bunk inside here tonight," somebody said. "It won't be s_rowded here."
  • "We'll bunk here after we find the power plant and get the ventilator fan_oing," Jacquemont said.
  • Anse Dawes held up the cigarette he had lighted; that was all the air-analyze_e needed.
  • "That looks like enough oxygen," he said.
  • "Yes, it makes its own ventilation; convection," Jacquemont said. "But you g_o sleep in here, and you'll smother in a big puddle of your own exhaled CO_2.
  • Just watch what the smoke from that cigarette's doing."
  • The smoke was hanging motionless a few inches from the hot ash on the end o_he cigarette.
  • "We'll have to find the power plant, then," Matsui, the power-engineer said.
  • "Down at the bottom and in the middle, I suppose, and anybody's guess how dee_his place goes."
  • "We'll find plans of the building," Jerry Rivas said. "Any big dig I've eve_een on, you could always find plans. The troubleshooters always had them; security officer, and maintenance engineer."
  • There were inside-use vehicles in the big room; they loaded what they had wit_hem onto a couple of freight-skids and piled on, starting down a passag_oward the center of the building. The passageways were well marked wit_irection-signs, and they found the administrative area at the top and center, around the base of the telecast-tower. The security offices, from whic_olice, military guard, fire protection and other emergency services wer_andled, had a fine set of plans and maps, not only for the building itsel_ut for everything else in Port Carpenter. The power plant, as Matsui ha_urmised, was at the very bottom, directly below.
  • The only trouble, after they found it, was that it was completely dead. Th_eactors wouldn't react, the converters wouldn't convert, and no matter ho_any switches they shoved in, there was no power output. The insid_elemetered equipment, of course, was self-powered. Some of them were dead, too, but from those which still worked Mohammed Matsui got a uniforml_isheartening story.
  • "You know what happened?" he said. "When this gang bugged out, back in 854, they left the power on. Now the conversion mass is all gone, and th_lutonium's all spent. We'll have to find more plutonium, and tear this whol_hing down and refuel it, and repack the mass-conversion chambers—provide_othing's eaten holes in itself after the mass inside was all converted."
  • "How long will it take?" Conn asked.
  • "If we can find plutonium, and if we can find robots to do the work inside, and if there's been no structural damage, and if we keep at it—a couple o_ays."
  • "All right; let's get at it. I don't know where we'll find shipyards lik_hese anywhere else, and if we do, things'll probably be as bad there. We cam_ere to fix things up and start them, didn't we?"