"She's off," said Ramsey.

"How's the slug's compensator system?"


Ramsey looked to the tow board. "Following the pressure curve."

"Blow the slug's bow and stern tanks," said Sparrow. "She's not at --"

"Blow them anyway. Water pressure will hold the air until we reach operational depth. We're going to need all the help we can get and as soon as we can get it."

Ramsey's hands moved over the tow board carrying out his orders.

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They inched upward. Ramsey stared at the red dials of the slug's pressure system. "Bow tank's beginning to bubble."

They could feel it in the deck: a return to normal climb gradient, speed picking up.

"Bow tank just blew," said Ramsey. "There goes the stern." He wiped perspiration from his forehead.

"That was the thing Les should have considered," said Sparrow. "Now we know we can get off. As long as we have external weight which we can drop for the initial buoyancy."

"How do you know that Les didn't --"

"I know my shipmates," said Sparrow. "Learn something from this, Johnny, and you'll make a good submariner. Never head into anything with a sub unless you have already worked out a plan for coming out the other side."

Ramsey chose his words carefully. "What's your plan for making the big come-out on the other side -with the oil?"

"Not just one plan," said Sparrow. "I have plans for every contingency I can think of. And for some maybe I shouldn't have thought of."

"Like for instance?"

Sparrow turned and looked full at him. "Like for instance my crew going psychotic, one by one."

Ramsey's eyes widened. The words leaped out before he could stop them. "And what about yourself?"

Sparrow's eyes glittered. "That's one of the ones maybe I shouldn't have thought of," he said. He swung back to the controls.

He's like a piece of machinery, thought Ramsey. Great God in heaven, what went into making a man like that?

Bonnett entered carrying a hypodermic, its needle covered by a sterile pad. "Time for your shot, Skipper."

"In my left arm?" asked Sparrow.

"Well --"

"Don't I get to keep any dignity?" asked Sparrow.

Ramsey grinned.

"I swear you guys take a perverse delight in this," growled Sparrow.

"It's really too much for your arm," said Bonnett. He glanced up at the static gauge. "Six thousand feet! What're we doing up here in the shallows?"

Sparrow chuckled. "Okay, take my mind off my troubles." He backed away from the board. "Take over here, Johnny.

Ramsey stepped into control position. Behind him, he heard Sparrow grunt. "Easy, Les!"

"Easy as I could, Skipper. There. Have Joe check you on his watch. You seem to be coming along okay."

"I should be. I've three nursemaids."

Sparrow moved up beside Ramsey. "Hold us on course sixty-four degrees, forty-five minutes."

Ramsey turned the helm, looked up at the sonoran chart. "That'll bring us around Nordkapp." He did some mental figuring, glanced at the shaftlog counter. "About twenty-six and a half hours."

Sparrow looked startled.

"He's good with figures," said Bonnett.

"He's also too interested in where we're, going to be and when," said Sparrow.

"That Security pap is for the birds," said Ramsey. "I wish to remind you that we found a dead man aboard this vessel, that we've been sabotaged right and left, that --" He broke off, staring at Ramsey.

It was Bonnett's turn to look startled.

And now I'm in over my head, thought Ramsey. My plan had better be right or I won't . . . come out the other side.

Sparrow looked at the timelog. "Time for Les to go on watch now." He gestured for Bonnett to take the helm. "Put us on auto-pilot. Steady as she goes."

Ramsey went to the aft door, found Sparrow staring at him. The captain turned deliberately away, moved closer to Bonnett. "Stand by the search board as soon as we're on auto-pilot."

"Aye, Skipper."

Ramsey went out the door, swung it almost closed behind him, stood there with his ear to the crack. Bonnett said, "How's Joe?"

"He's all right. He'll stand his regular watch."

"What's with this Long John Ramsey? Skipper, could he be a phony?"

"No doubt of it," said Sparrow. "The only question in my mind is: What kind of phony?"

"Could he be a --"

"He very definitely could be. Someone loaded us with spy beams and trapped that Security officer."

"But Ramsey wasn't aboard then."

"That's what bothers me. Unless there was something wrong with the Security man's timing. That would explain it."

"I'll watch him, Skipper."

"You do that. I'm also alerting Joe."

Ramsey tiptoed away from the door. Well, I did it, he thought, I'd better be right. He shuddered, turned at the end of the companionway, dropped down to his cabin level. He paused in front of Garcia's cabin, looked at the blank metal of the door. Again the thought passed through his mind: I'd better be right.

He went into his cabin, closing the door softly behind him, locking it. Then he brought out the telemeter, unreeled the tapes. There was response for Sparrow's time in the tunnel repairing the pile controls, but now Sparrow was under rigid control. The wave patterns on the tapes were like the path of a rubber ball bouncing between two walls.

I have to be able to crack that control at will, thought Ramsey. He has to fail -- just once. At the right time and at the right thing.

And another part of his mind said: That's a helluva way to make someone well.

He fought down that thought. It has to be. It's accepted practice. It works. Most of the time.

Sparrow's advice came back to him: "Never head into anything unless you have already worked out a plan for coming out the other side."

Ramsey sat down on his bunk, reset the telemeter, sealed it, slid it back beneath his desk.

What if my plan doesn't work? What's my alternative for that contingency?

He lay back on his bunk, staring at the rivet pattern overhead. Around him, the muted throbbing and humming of the subtug took on a fantasy life. As though it knew where it was going and how to get there.

Ramsey fell into a troubled sleep, awoke for his next watch to find his body soaked in perspiration, a disturbing half memory of a dream -- no, a nightmare -- which he could not bring to consciousness.

The automatic timelog read twelve days, seven hours, and five minutes from departure. Last half of Garcia's watch, first half of Bonnett's. The red dot on the sonoran chart stood well into the shore off Nordkapp: shallow water with the Ram creeping along the bottom in one hundred fathoms.

In the control room, a brightly lighted sweep of bulkhead, telltales flashing, heavy shadows on the undersides of levers and valve wheels. Wavering admonitions of dial needles. The two men bent over their work like laborers in a metal cave.

Bonnett looked up to the static pressure: 260 pounds to the square inch. "What's the skipper thinking of, coming in close like this?"

"Don't ask so many questions." Garcia made a minute adjustment in the bow planes, watched the depth repeater. "We're twenty feet from bottom."

Sparrow ducked through the door from the aft companionway. "Anything showing on the search board?" His voice was husky with a sense of fatigue. He coughed.

"Negative," said Bonnett.

"This is their water," said Sparrow. "They've no shore stations along the north coast; only along the Norway reaches."

"This is still awful close," said Bonnett. Again he looked to the depth gauge. "And awful shallow."

"You don't think this is a safe place for us?" asked Sparrow.


"Good. That means they don't either. They know this is a deep tug. They're out scouring the Norwegian basin. The sill depth there is right on our known limit."


"So we're going to shoot right across the shallows." He glanced at Garcia, then up to the sonoran chart "Course seventy degrees, Joe."

Garcia swung the helm, watched the compass until they were heading true, then he, too, looked at the chart. "Novaya Zemlya," he whispered.

"We're shallow enough to start taking outside samples," said Sparrow. "Les, look for an isobaric surface running almost parallel with our course. We could use the shielding of some cold water."

Bonnett pulled down a density-gradient chart for the area, checked the isobaric differences, ran a siphon sample of the exterior water. "Give us sixty-nine degrees for five minutes," he said.

Garcia touched the helm. They watched the thermocouple repeater. Suddenly, it dipped fifteen degrees. "Resume course," said Sparrow.

The Ram returned to seventy degrees, cruising under the sheltering mask of the cold current which spilled down around them.

"Steady as she goes," said Sparrow. "Push search to limit. It's a straight run from here on in."

"It's Novaya Zemlya, isn't it?" asked Garcia.

Sparrow hesitated, then: "It's obvious anyway. Yes."

"That's an EP rocket-testing base," said Bonnett. "It'll be bristling with buzzards and snoopers."

"We dug the well right under their noses," said Sparrow. "If we could dig without their hearing us, we ought to be able to drain it dry undetected."

"Are they tapping the reservoir, too?"

Sparrow grinned wolfishly, his long face glistening in the multihued lights of the control board. "That's the beauty of it. They don't even know it's there."

"Lord," whispered Bonnett. "A fresh well. What're we looking for in the way of landmarks?"

Again Sparrow hesitated while his eyes sought out the red dot on the sonoran chart. It wouldn't even be a secret from the EPs if they spotted us here, he thought. Now, we're in God's hands for sure.

"We're looking for a narrow fault fissure," he said. "It's called the gut and it slants right up into the island shelf. You can't miss it once you range across it. Depth down to 3600 feet and only 400 feet across."

"Fissure is right," said Garcia. "Do we go down into that thing?"

"No. It's our trail. We track it in." Again he looked at the chart. "Thirty-three hours at this rate." He turned to the aft door. "Call me if anything develops."

And he was gone down the companionway.

"If anything develops," muttered Bonnett. "We're sitting ducks. The only development we'll get is a fish in our belly. That'll wake him!"

"I think he's right," said Garcia. "They're all out in the deeps looking for us. This is going to be a milk run."

"I'm curdled already," said Bonnett. He fell silent, watching the search board.

The Ram drove onward, headlong across the shallows like a frightened fish. The hands of the timelog swept around, around.

"Relieving Mr. Garcia on watch." Ramsey spoke as he ducked through the door into the control room. He could sense the immediate stiffening of the two men on the board, the mounting tension.

Garcia made an attempt at casual banter. "Look who's gone all Navy formal on us."

Ramsey took up his position beside Garcia. "What course?"

"Seventy degrees." Garcia surrendered the helm.

"Busting right across the shallows," said Ramsey. "If we make this, I'm going to burn a candle to St. Cuthbert."

"That's not good talk," said Bonnett.

"Have you heard what the EPs have done now?" asked Ramsey. "They've put engines in Novaya Zemlya. When we get close they're going to move it right out of our way, let us go lumbering off into Siberia."

"Clever chaps," said Garcia.

"Skipper's going to run us right into an EP trap net," said Ramsey. "Well spend the rest of the war in a prison camp being brainwashed while they take the Ram apart bolt by --"

"Button your bloody lip," said Garcia. "We're going to pull this one off. And when we set foot on that blessed dock I'm going to take an obscene pleasure in pushing you --"

"That will be enough!" said Bonnett. "This is no time for fighting among ourselves."

"You wouldn't say that if you knew all about this wise guy," said Garcia. "The superior brain: knows all, sees all, tells nothing!"

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