"Hit the sack, Joe," said Bonnett. "That's an order."
Garcia glowered at Ramsey, turned away, went out the aft door.
"What're you trying to prove, Johnny?"
"How do you mean?"
"Baiting Joe like that."
"He baits easy."
Bonnett stared at him. "One way to wreck a ship is to destroy crew morale," he said. "There will be no more such actions from you on this cruise."
"You sound like one of the old ladies of Security," said Ramsey.
Bonnett's face darkened. "Knock it off, Mr. Ramsey. This won't work with me."
It's already working, thought Ramsey. He said, "This is going to be a really gay bunch when we get to Novaya Zemlya. All of us looking over each other's shoulders."
"How do you know where we're headed?" gritted Bonnett. "You weren't here when Skipper announced our destination."
"I read tea leaves." Ramsey nodded toward the depth-gauge graph tape. "Are we looking for that?"
Bonnett snapped his attention back to the tape. A sharp line broke off the tape, came back on after a brief interval.
"That a development," said Bonnett. "Buzz the skipper."
Ramsey depressed the black toggle of the number-one call button. "Shall I hold course?"
"No. Quarter back on --Signal!" He slapped the button for the range computer, shut off the drive. "Eighteen miles. Intercept course."
Ramsey whirled the helm to the right. "Have they heard us?"
"There's no telling," said Bonnett. They coasted silently while he watched the pipes on his screen.
Sparrow entered the control room. "Signal?"
"Heading 270 degrees," said Bonnett.
"What's the depth here?"
"Four hundred feet, give or take a few."
"You're forgetting something," said Ramsey. He pointed to the tape record of the deep fissure.
"Hide in that thing?" Bonnett's voice rose half an octave. "We couldn't maneuver. Straight down the alley and they'd have us bottled up."
The Ram's deck began to tip to the left as they lost way.
"Give us headway," ordered Sparrow.
Ramsey eased in the drive. He watched the pulse-reader showing bottom depth below them. Abruptly, it fell off beyond the meter setting. Without being told, Ramsey brought the helm up to left until they were
over the fissure.
"Down into it," said Sparrow.
"What if it narrows down to nothing?" asked Bonnett. "We couldn't back out without fouling our tow-lines. We'll be --"
"Watch your board," ordered Sparrow.
The oscillations on the screen damped down, then blanked out.
"Full speed," said Sparrow. "Down farther, Johnny!"
Ramsey felt the excitement gripping his stomach. "The walls of this fissure are hiding our sound!"
"If we hit something, we've had it," said Bonnett.
Sparrow glanced at the big static pressure gauge: 1240 pounds. "Give us a pulse sweep on those walls -- fifth-second intervals."
"Whatta you think I'm doing?" muttered Bonnett. Sparrow grinned. He put a hand on Ramsey's shoulder. "Ease her up."
"No, depth. Set us level."
Ramsey brought up the bow planes. The Ram's deck came up to level.
"One degree right," said Bonnett. Ramsey swung the helm.
"We're doing twenty-two knots," said Sparrow. "If we can just put --"
"Two degrees right," said Bonnett.
"Coax a little more speed out of her," said Sparrow.
Ramsey fined down the setting on the magnometer for the induction drive.
"Open the silencers," said Sparrow.
Sparrow's fingers dug into Ramsey's shoulder. "Do it!"
Ramsey's hand went out, jerked down the big red handle above the helm. They could feel the added surge of power.
"Twenty-eight knots," said Sparrow. "There's life in the old girl yet."
"Two degrees left," said Bonnett. Ramsey complied.
"An EP subcruiser can do forty-five knots," said Bonnett. "Are you trying to run away from them?"
"How fast were they closing us at our last known position?" asked Sparrow.
"Estimated search speed of twenty knots," said Bonnett. "Say forty-five or fifty minutes unless they were on us and upped speed when we went out of sound. Then maybe only a half hour."
Sparrow looked at the timelog. "Well count on a half hour." He waited silently. "Two degrees left," said Bonnett. Ramsey brought the helm over, straightened them out on the new course.
"She's narrowing down," said Bonnett. "No more than 300 feet wide here." He reset the ranging computer. "Now it's down to 250. Here's --Two degrees left!"
Ramsey swung the helm.
"We're all right if we don't scrape the slug off on the walls of this hole," said Sparrow.
"Three degrees right."
"Two hundred feet," said Bonnett. "Minus . . . minus . . . 185 . . . 200 . . . 215 --Two degrees right."
The Ram tipped to the rudder response.
"Give us the silencer planes," said Sparrow.
Ramsey pushed up the big red handle. They could feel the drag.
"Half speed," said Sparrow. "How far to the canyon rim?"
"I can only guess," said Bonnett. "Too sharp an angle to get a difference reading."
"Well, guess then."
"Eighteen hundred feet."
"Hear anything behind us?"
"Motors off," said Sparrow.
Ramsey silenced the drive.
"Now, do you hear anything?"
Bonnett fussed with his instruments. "Negative."
"Full speed," said Sparrow. "Two degrees on the bow planes."
"Two degrees on the bow planes," acknowledged Ramsey. He brought up the planes, eased in the drive, sent them surging upward.
"One degree left," said Bonnett.
Ramsey swung the helm.
Sparrow looked at the pressure reading: 860 pounds. They were above 2000 feet. Still the Ram coursed upward.
"Half speed," said Sparrow.
Ramsey brought back the throttle control to the mid-notch.
"I can give you a rim reading," said Bonnett. "About ninety fathoms."
"Five hundred and forty feet," translated Sparrow. "Are you sure of that sill depth?"
Bonnett rechecked his instruments. "Reasonably sure. I can give you a better reading in a minute."
Again Sparrow looked to the pressure gauge: 600 pounds.
"Make it eighty fathoms," said Bonnett. "I was getting angular distortion."
"Four hundred and eighty feet," said Sparrow. "Less than a thousand to go. Quarter speed, if you please."
Again Ramsey brought the throttle bar back a full notch.
"Hear anything, Les?"
The pressure gauge climbed past 400 pounds to the square inch: above 1000-foot depth.
"I make that canyon rim in 460 feet of water," said Bonnett.
"Anything on the phones yet?"
"Give us full power until we reach maximum speed," said Sparrow. "Then shut everything down and coast up onto the rim. Set us down gently as you can."
Ramsey's eyes widened.
"Now," said Sparrow.
Ramsey shot the throttle forward. The subtug leaped ahead. They watched the pitlog sweep through twenty-three knots.
"Now!" barked Sparrow.
Ramsey killed the drive, freed the induction system to allow the propeller to spin free. He jockeyed the planes to keep them on an even keel with the least drag.
"We're over," said Bonnett.
Ramsey watched the pitlog, began counting off the time-over-distance until he was certain the tow had cleared. Then he brought the bow planes down.
They grounded in mud with almost no headway.
"I'm hearing them, Skipper," said Bonnett. "About ten miles behind us and to the --"
"They've gone into the gut after us," said Ramsey.
"Lift us," said Sparrow. "Force speed!"
Ramsey jerked into motion, fed power into the drive, eased them off the bottom, pushed the throttle to the final notch.
Sparrow watched the timelog. Five minutes. "Kill the drive."
"Still silent," said Bonnett.
"Five minutes more," said Sparrow.