"Good idea."

Ramsey brought his hand around to the side of his neck, passing it over the faint scar which covered the pellet.


"What'd you find in the spare?" he asked.

Garcia shook his head. "Nothing."

"Skipper checked the shack while I was dismantling that tube," said Ramsey. "Negative here, too."

"Hadn't you better get started?" asked Garcia.


"Building your little gadget."

"Sure." Ramsey turned back to his bench. As he turned, the speaker above the seismoscope rasped to an upper-range sound. Ramsey's eyes snapped to the scope. The pulsing green line made a sharp upsweep, repeated.

Bonnett's voice came over the speaker from the control deck: "Skipper."

Sparrow's bass tones: "What is it, Les?"

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"Seismic shock somewhere astern."

"I have it here," said Ramsey. "Torp blast. It's in the same range as the EPs' 24-K fish." He scribbled some figures on a note pad, picked up a slide rule, set it, read it. "About a hundred miles astern. Well within range of drift for that little package we left behind us."

"Would they waste a torp on that little thing?" asked Sparrow, then answered his own question. "What's the matter with me? Of course they would. All they'd see on their gear would be the signal. They'd think it was us lying doggo."

"That's the way I figure it," said Ramsey. He looked at Garcia. "What do you say, Joe?"

Garcia was trembling, face pale. He shook his head. Ramsey stared at him questioningly. He appeared extremely agitated.

Sparrow's voice boomed from the speaker: "All hands: as soon as I am finished with work here, I will relieve Mr. Bonnett." There was the sound of a throat being cleared.

Ramsey glanced at the wall chrono. "About time. Les has been on three straight watches."

The skipper's voice continued: "At that time I will post a new watch schedule in the wardroom. It is to go into effect immediately."

Garcia had brought himself under control. He said, "What's eating the skipper? He sounds angry."

Ramsey outlined the new watch schedule.

"What the bloody!" said Garcia. "As if we weren't nuts enough already!"

Ramsey stared at him. That was an odd reaction for an engineering officer, he thought. For a psychologist, okay. But not for Garcia.

In his quarters, Sparrow wrote: "I must make certain there is no opportunity for anyone to activate a spy signal when we reach the well." He penned his signature, made the final period an exclamation point, closed the log, and returned it to its hiding place.

The timelog repeater on his cabin bulkhead showed seven days, nineteen hours, twenty-three minutes from point of departure.

Sparrow stood up slowly, left his room, closing the door meticulously behind him. He turned, strode forward to the wardroom. As he passed the shack, he heard Ramsey saying: "This stabilizes the micro-timing of the take-up spool. It has to be right on."

Garcia's answer was lost to Sparrow as he stepped into the wardroom, closing the door meticulously behind him.

They dropped the signal squirter in the next watch. Sparrow noted the time -- seven days, twenty hours, forty-eight minutes from departure -- and entered it in the main logbook. He added the position from the sonoran chart: sixty-one degrees, fifty-eight minutes North Latitude, seventeen degrees, thirty-two minutes West Longitude. The squirter was set for a four-hour delay.

"Very good, Johnny," he said. There was no warmth in his tone.

Ramsey said, "We make do with what we have."

"Let us pray that it works," said Sparrow. He looked at Garcia. "But we won't count on it."

Garcia shrugged. "It could work," he said. "If anybody hears it." He stared coldly at Ramsey.

Sparrow thought, Joe's suspicious. Oh, Lord! If Ramseys a spy, he'd key that squirter to a wave length the EPs are listening to. It'll tell them we're onto the spy beam and they'll redouble their patrols!

"Am I relieved now?" asked Ramsey.

"Until your watch," said Sparrow. He stared after Ramsey.

In his quarters, Ramsey brought out the telemeter box, examined the tapes. Sweeping disturbance lines hit his eyes. Now Sparrow was reacting. But what reaction! They reminded Ramsey of a feedback record. Each succeeding wave worse than the one before. The whole area from the discovery of the spy beam was a scrambled record of disturbance.

The room seemed to grow smaller around Ramsey, pressing in upon him.

Sparrow's losing touch with reality. I'll have to do something. But what?

He took deep breaths to calm himself, forced his mind to orderly channels.

I've been with Sparrow a week. I've observed him in all manner of stress. The big elements should be in my hands by now: enough to make some kind of a plan of action. What do we have here? He made a mental list:

We started out with evidence of rigid self-control. But only after we knew that he could react. There is some indication of religious paranoia. A tendency to paranoiac type was Obe's earlier classification.

But there are things that don't fit the pattern. He thinks clearly in a stress situation where you'd expect a breakdown. Extremely masculine type. A leader. But not totally despotic, or even nearly so. And he's a brilliant submariner. At times you'd think the boat was a part of him or vice versa. That he was a built-in component: Captain, Submariner type: Mark I. Portable.

Ramsey's back stiffened. Part of the boat. Mechanical. What better way to describe rigid self-control?

He recalled his own feeling of synchronous intermingling with the boat. Fleeting as that had been -- one instant in the shack. And then gone beyond recapture.

It'd be a strong survival adaptation.

Captain, Submariner type: Mark I. Portable. That may be closer than I'd imagined.

He rubbed at a burning sensation in his eyes, glanced at his wrist watch. Two hours until his next watch and he was aching with fatigue. He put away the telemeter, flopped sideways onto his bunk. Almost immediately, he was asleep and dreaming.

A giant surgeon with Sparrow's face bent over him in his dream. Little wires. Nerves. One here. One there. Soon he'll be built into the boat.

Electronics officer, Submariner type: Mark I. Portable.

It was Garcia's watch.

Timelog reading: eight days, four hours, and nineteen minutes from point of departure.

Bonnett on stand-by, dozing on a tall stool in front of the control search board.

The Ram at cruising speed making twenty knots.

Garcia lounged against the guardrail in front of valve master control, eyes idly taking in the gauges, now and then a glance at the auto-pilot indicator.

The search board emitted a soft buzzing.

Bonnett's head snapped up. He looked to the green face of the scope at his left, kicked the switch which automatically silenced the Ram's motors.

They coasted quietly.

"What is it?" asked Garcia.

"Metal. Big. Coming our way."


"Dunno yet."

"Is it an EP?"

His hand adjusted a dial and he looked to a gauge above it. "One. Coming fast like she owned the ocean. In these waters that means EP. Buzz the skipper."

Garcia pushed a button on the call board.

Presently, Sparrow joined them, bending his tall figure for the aft doorway. He buckled his belt as he stepped across the control deck.

Bonnett nodded toward the search board.

The Ram's deck had been slowly tipping to starboard as she lost headway. Now, she was pointing by the nose and the starboard incline was steep enough that Sparrow had to steady himself on the main grab-rail. He swept his gaze across the search board, asked, "How far to bottom?"

"Too far," said Bonnett.

Garcia, one hand on the valve-board rail, turned toward them. "I hope you two decide what we're going to do before we turn turtle. We're almost at a standstill."

Sparrow's gaze again went to the search gauges. The other sub was less than three miles distant, coming fast. As he looked, the detection equipment suddenly resolved its signal into two images. "Two of them traveling tandem," said Sparrow. Through his mind sped a quotation from the tactical handbook: "Submarines stalking each other under the sea are like blindfolded adversaries with baseball bats, locked in a room together, each waiting for the other to strike."

"They're going to pass inside of a thousand yards," said Bonnett.

"If they hold their present course," said Sparrow. "And that could be a trick to throw us off guard."

"They must be asleep not to've spotted us before this," whispered Garcia.

"Their metal-detection gear isn't too hot," said Sparrow. He turned to Garcia. "Joe, drop four homing torps, five minutes delay, set to swing around in front of them. Then give us just enough push to get underway and take us down to absolute."

Garcia's hands moved over the control board, adjusting a vernier, setting a dial. He slapped one hand against a switch, turned to the drive controls. The Ram picked up speed slowly, nose pointing into the depths. The deck righted.

Sparrow and Bonnett watched the detection gear.

"Drift," said Sparrow.

Bonnett's hand swept over his drive switch. They floated downward silently.

"Give us a little more," said Sparrow.

Again the engines took up their slow turning.

Garcia whispered: "They're not blind; they're deaf!"

Sparrow held up a hand to silence him. He glanced up to the big static pressure gauge; 2790 pounds to the square inch . . . 2800 . . . 2825 . . .

Slowly, the indicator hand swept around: 2900 . . . 2925 . . .

Above the gauge, the flat bronze plate stamped with the Ram's weight and specifications. Someone had used red paint to fill the indentations showing pressure limit: 3010 pounds.

The hand of the dial pointed to 2975 . . . 3000 . . .

Perspiration stood out on Garcia's face. Bonnett pulled nervously at an ear lobe. Sparrow stood impassively, feeling the boat around him. "Ease her off," he whispered. He wet his lips with his tongue.

The knowledge of the outside pressure was like an actual physical weight pressing inward against his skull. He fought against showing his feelings.

The dial steadied at 3008, slowly climbed to 3004, stayed there.

Bonnett whispered, "They're almost on top of our --"

A dial fluttered wildly and they felt the whump! of a detonation through the hull. Sparrow's glance darted to the static pressure gauge: it made a stately fluctuation through 3028, back to 3004.

Garcia whispered, "I heard that the Barracuda took 3090 before she imploded."

"There's a bigger safety factor than that," said Bonnett.

Sparrow said, "May the Lord take their souls and grant them mercy. Even as it may come to pass with us. God forgive us that we do this not in anger, but out of need."

Garcia fingered the beads of his Rosary through his shirt.

A sudden thought passed through Sparrow's mind. He looked down at his first officer. "Les, what do you do when the heat is on?"

"Huh?" Bonnett glanced up at him, back to the dials.

"What do you think about?"

Bonnett shrugged. "I remind myself I been married four times -- four beautiful babes. What more could a man ask?"

"Every man to his own philosophy," said Sparrow.

Ramsey entered the control room, took in the scene, whispered, "The silence woke me up. Are we hunting something?"

"And vice versa," said Garcia. "Get in here and help me on the board."

"You were not called to duty," said Sparrow.

Ramsey hesitated.

"Get in here with Les," said Sparrow. I'll stand by with Joe." He backed away from the controls.

Ramsey stepped into the vacated spot.

Sparrow moved up to stand beside Garcia.

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