"You certainly called the shot," said Ramsey.
"Don't brag your luck," said Sparrow. "It'll change."
"What makes mariners so superstitious?" asked Ramsey.
"Awareness of the limits of our knowledge," said Sparrow. "And experience with the reality of luck."
"It's a wonder we don't have government-issue rabbits' feet."
"I'll suggest it when we --"
"Pack!" Ramsey slapped the silencer switch. "They're onto us, Skipper! They were lying doggo!"
Sparrow kicked the alarm buzzer, brought the engines to life.
"They're right in our path," said Ramsey. "Range fifteen miles."
"Sure-kill range," said Sparrow. He brought the sub-tug and tow around to the northeast, pulled the power bar to its last notch.
Bonnett and Garcia hurried into the control room.
"A pack on us," said Ramsey.
"On the controls, you two," said Sparrow.
Bonnett and Garcia moved into their battle stations, Bonnett at the helm, Garcia on the torpedo board. Sparrow stepped to Ramsey's side.
"There's bottom at 8800 feet," said Ramsey.
"We'll have to chance it," said Sparrow. "Les, take us down. Johnny, monitor the atmosphere."
Ramsey opened the control valve on the anhydrase generator one notch.
The subtug's deck slanted downward.
"Joe, call the depths," said Sparrow.
"Sixty-eight hundred feet and 2880 pounds . . . 7000 feet and 3010 pounds . . . 7500 and 3235 . . . 8000 and 3440 . . . 8500 and 3655 --"
"Coast in," said Sparrow.
Bonnett silenced the drive.
Garcia's voice continued: "-- 8600 and 3700 . . . variation, Skipper --"
"-- 8700 and 3750 . . . that's nine pounds over normal, Skipper --"
"-- 8750 and 3780 . . . that's eighteen pounds over . . ."
"Noted. Les, flatten the glide angle and give us the bow eye on the main screen."
"Bottom is forty feet," said Ramsey. "The pack is closing fast. Range about eleven miles."
The big screen above their heads showed its pie slice of light and, abruptly, bottom mud.
"Drop the slug in first," said Sparrow.
Bonnett brought up the bow planes until they felt the drag of the slug behind them. The Ram settled onto bottom mud in 8800 feet. The big static pressure gauge read 3804 pounds even: Twenty pounds above normal for the depth.
"Pack range nine miles and fanning out," said Ramsey. "I count sixteen of them."
"Fanning out," said Sparrow. "That means they're confused by our --"
"Two breaking away toward the surface," said Ramsey. "They think we've floated up."
"Over normal pressure," said Sparrow. "There's a cold density layer above us confusing our sound pattern. Unless they detect metal, we're safe."
"Unless we implode," said Bonnett.
"If we had some ham we'd have some ham and eggs, if we had some eggs," said Ramsey.
"The important thing is for us all to relax," said Sparrow. "We don't want the same complications we had last --"
"Complishmashuns," said Garcia. "Alla time talk-talk-talk-talk. So he can psycho . . . psy --So he can find out what makes us go tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. Don't y', Johnny boy?"
Ramsey raised his eyebrows, looked at Sparrow. Sparrow shrugged, said, "Come along, Joe. You need a shot."
"Need a whole bottle," said Garcia. "Need a shycoan'lyst like Johnny boy here. Don' I, Johnny boy?"
"I'm ordering you to come with me, Joe," said Sparrow.
Tears welled up in Garcia's eyes. "I need a conscience," he sobbed. "I wanna confess, but no one --"
"Come along!" Sparrow grabbed Garcia's arm, jerked him toward the aft door.
"Easy, Skipper," said Ramsey.
Sparrow took a deep breath. "Right."
"I'll come quietly," said Garcia. "No need get excited. I don' wanna be any trouble. I been enough trouble. I been terrible trouble. Never forgive me. Never."
He allowed himself to be led out the door, still mumbling, "Never . . . never . . . never . . . never . . ."
"Quoth the raven," said Ramsey. He rubbed absently at the still-sensitive bruise on his jaw where Bonnett had hit him.
"That figures," said Bonnett.
"Head thumper. BuPsych rang you in on us."
"Not you, too, Brutus," said Ramsey.
"Sure, it figures," said Bonnett. "Hepp went loco, so they rang you in on us to find out why."
"Sure. You want to see which of us is next."
"Me, if I hear any more of this nutty talk. I've --"
"Otherwise you're a spy," said Bonnett. "I guess you're not that."
"Of all the --"
"I'm trying to apologize," said Bonnett. "It isn't easy. Basically, I don't like head thumpers. You screw-doctors are all alike. Superior . . . know-it-all. Explanations for everything: Religion is a manifestation of deep-seated anxieties which --"
"Oh, knock it off," said Ramsey.
"What I'm trying to say is that I've felt better ever since I pounded you. Call it a cathartic. For a minute I had the enemy in my own hands. He was an insect I could crush."
"So I've never had the enemy in my hands before." He held up his hands and looked at them. "Right there. I learned something."
"This may sound asinine."
"Say it anyway."
"Maybe I'd better not."
"Nothing was ever more important than for you to focalize that thought," said Ramsey. And he thought: No matter what I do, I'm cast in the role of analyst!
Bonnett rubbed his hands against his shirt, looked at the control board. "When you meet your enemy and recognize him and touch him, you find out that he's like yourself: that maybe he's part of you." He shook his head. "I'm not saying this right."
"I can't do it." Bonnett lowered his head, stared at the deck.
"What's it like? Try a comparison."
In a low, almost inaudible voice, Bonnett said, "It's like when you're the youngest and weakest kid on the playground. And when the biggest kid smacks you, that's all right because he noticed you. That means you're alive. It's better than when they ignore you." He looked up at Ramsey. "Or it's like when you're with a woman and she looks at you and her eyes say you're a man. Yeah, that's it. When you're really alive, other people know it."
"What's that have to do with having the enemy in your hands?"
"He's alive," said Bonnett. "Dammit all, man, he's alive and he's got the same kind of aliveness that you have. Each of us is the enemy" -- Bonnett's voice grew firmer -- "to the other and to himself. That's what I mean: I'm the enemy within myself. Unless I master that enemy, I always lose."
Ramsey stared at Bonnett in amazement.
"Not the kind of thinking you'd expect from me," said Bonnett.
Ramsey shook his head.
"Why not? I feel things just like anybody else. So I hide it most of the time. Who am I hiding it from?" He sneered. "Me. That's who."
"What set you off?"
"I found someone I could talk to, someone who had to keep his professional mouth shut because --"
"Just a minute." Ramsey's gaze, never off the search-board instruments for more than a few seconds, had caught a sharp needle deflection. "Sonic search blast. There's another. If they're spaced on us, our hull will stick up like a sore thumb: a fat metal finger."
"They won't look for us down here."
"Don't count on it. There's anoth --"
"What's going on?" Sparrow ducked through the door into the control room.
"Sonic search bombs," said Ramsey. "The EPs are looking for a metallic bounce labeled Fenian Ram."
Sparrow moved closer to stand at Ramsey's shoulders. "And here comes one ranging over us."
"Fast," said Ramsey. He put his hand on the anti-torp volley switch.
"Leave that alone," said Sparrow. "They won't use a fish on an unidentified bump."
"He's inside of a mile," said Ramsey. "In the six-thousand foot level. There goes another search bomb."
They felt the dull bump of it through the hull.
"If one of our external fittings implodes, the shock wave'll crack us like --"
"We've all read the manual, Les," said Sparrow. He turned away from the board, bent his head. "Lord, we who have no right to ask it, do plead for your mercy. Thy will be done. . . . Whatever."
"He's turning away," whispered Ramsey.
"Lord, turn not away from thy --"
"That EP sub," said Ramsey. "He's turning away."
Sparrow lifted his head. "Thank you, Lord." He looked at Bonnett. "Joe's under sedation. Go back and stay with him."
Bonnett went out the aft door.
Sparrow again moved to stand beside Ramsey. "That was a good thing you did for Les."
"I stood outside the door until he'd shed the load on his chest," said Sparrow. "You're a much deeper man than I'd suspected, Johnny."
"Oh, for Heaven's sake!"
"Yes, for Heaven's sake," said Sparrow. "You're a devious one."
Ramsey closed his eyes in exasperation, opened them. I'm the father-confessor whether I like it or not, he thought. "Garcia is off his rocker," he said.
"I've shipped with Joe for quite a number of years," said Sparrow. "I've seen him drunk before. Pressure drunkenness is no different. He's not the kind to make false accusations. That would be bearing false witness against --"
"He's just talking to --"
"He's troubled in the spirit," said Sparrow. "He needs someone like you -- a confessor. Did you ever stop to think that you boys are like priests in the way --"
"I've heard it mentioned," said Ramsey, and realized he had made a confession of identity.
Sparrow smiled. "Always have a way out the other side, Johnny. Have your safe line of retreat prepared. Joe hates you right now because he doesn't want to admit he needs you."