Garcia's limp body was extruded from the tunnel mouth like an insect from its burrow. Ramsey eased him to the deck. Sparrow followed.
"I almost drowned him in detergent getting him into his suit. It's already too hot."
Ramsey bent over, unzipped the front of Garcia's suit. Sparrow helped him pull the limp figure from it. They hustled Garcia into the decontamination chamber. Sparrow removed his own suit, went in with Garcia. Ramsey took the suits, stuffed them into the tunnel mouth, stripped off his own and pressed it in after the others. He closed the door, wedged it with the Stillson wrench.
The door to the decon chamber popped open. Sparrow emerged nude, dragging Garcia after him in like condition. "We'll have to replace every drop of his blood," said Sparrow. "Get in there and shed your clothes, then come up to the rec room." He stooped, lifted Garcia over his shoulder and went up the ladder to the catwalk, muscles knotting on his legs and back with the strain of the load.
Ramsey paused to speak into his chest mike. "Les, Skipper is bringing Joe up. Better lend a hand." Then he ducked into the decon chamber, slapped the medium-jet control. The harsh streams, designed for a man in a protective suit, bit into his flesh with a stinging pressure. Ramsey shucked out of his clothes, kicked them into a corner, stopped the spray, went out, and followed Sparrow's wet footprints up the ladder.
In the rec room, Sparrow had Garcia stretched out on a cot, a plasma bottle hung above him, its tube leading into a vein. Sparrow was setting up a blood-exchange unit on the opposite side of the cot, adjusting the vein and artery taps, the flow meters, the height of the armrest.
Ramsey went to the live-blood storage, checked the automatic circulation and revitalization systems, found them operative.
"Blood ready," he said. He turned.
Sparrow said, "Right." He plugged the blood exchange into the live-blood circulating system, put a hand on the valve. "Monitor what we pump out of him."
Ramsey went to the head of the blood-exchange unit, glanced at the taps which Sparrow had adjusted to Garcia's arm. The engineering officer's breath was coming in slow, shallow rhythm, the movement of his chest discernible. The skin of his face and chest had a mottled blue cyanotic appearance.
Sparrow opened the exchange valve. Blood from Garcia's body began to flow into the unit's lead-lined
storage system as the new blood was pumped into his body. Immediately, Ramsey's monitor snooper swung far right, stuck there.
"He's off the meter, Skipper."
Sparrow nodded. "Shall I use it all?"
"What do you mean?"
"There won't be any blood left for us."
Ramsey's memory flashed back to a vision of the tunnel snooper jammed in the red. "Well get by with plasma," he said.
"My thought. I'm glad you agree." He came around the cot, unhooked the plasma tube from Garcia's left arm. "If we need it, that is. And I'm more apt to than you are. I was in that tunnel."
"Let's save a couple of changes for you," said Ramsey.
"You never can --"
"I'll be all right."
Ramsey fell silent, watching the monitor dial. It stayed against the right-hand pin.
"I got his shots into him and took my own before you came up," said Sparrow. "We'd better check you now."
"Go ahead," said Ramsey. He held out his left arm, kept his gaze on the monitor dial. "Three changes through him by now for sure and he's still off the meter. Skipper, I've never heard of --"
"This is the de-carb," said Sparrow. "It'll hurt." He grasped Ramsey's arm, injected the serum precipitate into the muscle. "Don't worry about Joe. He's in God's hands, now."
"Aren't we all," said Ramsey.
"Skipper!" It was Bonnett's voice over the intercom.
Sparrow stepped to a wall mike, flipped the switch. "Go ahead."
"I've just checked out the pile. All secure."
"Set course for Charleston," said Sparrow. "Force speed."
"Aye. How's Joe?"
"It's too soon to know."
"Tell me if --"
"We will." Sparrow closed the switch.
Garcia stirred on the cot; his lips moved and he twisted his head from side to side. Suddenly, he spoke, his voice surprisingly strong. "I've gotta do it, Bea! They'll get at me through our kids, don't you understand?" He seemed to be listening.
"I can't tell anybody! They'd shoot me!"
"Easy, Joe," said Sparrow.
Garcia's eyes flickered open, closed, opened. He stared blankly at Sparrow. "Where's Bea! Did they hurt her?"
"She'll be all right," said Sparrow.
Garcia shuddered. "If we could've just gone somewheres and changed our name. That's all." He closed his eyes.
"Do you know where you are?" asked Sparrow.
Garcia nodded. "Nightmare."
"He's on the meter," said Ramsey. "But so far into the probable fatal that --"
"Be quiet," said Sparrow. He checked the change-count dial in the blood system. "Eight down."
"And sixteen to go," said Ramsey.
Sparrow reduced the rate of flow.
"You should've left me in there," said Garcia.
"Don't talk foolish," said Sparrow.
"I was trained Buenos Aires spy school," said Garcia. "Twenty years ago. Then I came up here an' met Bea. So I quit. Easy. They'd taught me how to hide in plain sight."
"He shouldn't be talking," said Ramsey. "Blood pressure's up."
"Gotta talk," said Garcia. "They found me six months ago, said 'Come through, or else!' Our kids. Y' understand?"
"Sure, Joe," said Sparrow. "Now, please be quiet. Save your strength."
"First time in my life I ever belonged anywhere -- really belonged -- was with your crew," said Garcia. "With Bea, sure. But that's different."
"You have to conserve your strength," said Sparrow.
"Why? So Johnny Security can take me back to stand trial?"
"I'm not Security, Joe."
"He's a BuPsych," said Sparrow. "They put him on to ride herd on me."
Ramsey's mouth dropped open.
"I spotted that the day we first went down overlimit," said Sparrow. "It was the way he treated Les."
"Security, too," said Garcia.
"Only by adoption," said Ramsey. "And I can't --"
"If you spill this," said Sparrow, "I'll --"
"I was about to say that I can't hear so well," said Ramsey. He grinned, then frowned and looked down at Garcia. "Did you have anything to do with the death of that Security inspector?"
"Nothing, so help me God," said Garcia.
"How about the sabotage?"
"That was my old friends just being doubly sure." He shook his head. "I was just supposed to tip off the location of the well when we reached it. Instead, I set it off while we were still in our own waters. Thought they'd just force us up, capture us."
"How'd you do it?" asked Sparrow.
"By stepping up the sono-pulse system, keyed to weak tube plate."
"When did you decide not to tip them to the well?"
"I never decided to do it."
Sparrow seemed to relax.
"I told Bea to take our kids and go to Security as soon as we were out of pursuit range with the Ram." He fell silent.
"Try to rest," said Sparrow.
Garcia sniffed. "What's the needle say now, Johnny?"
Ramsey looked at Sparrow, who nodded assent.
"P-F," said Ramsey.
"Probable fatal," translated Garcia.
"The needle has come down some," said Ramsey.
"Do you want to chance an overdose of de-phos and de-calse?" asked Sparrow.
Garcia looked up at him. "Carry on the jolly battle a little longer, eh?" He smiled. "If you say so, Skipper. But keep me under morph, will you?" His grin became tight, like a death's head. "Convulsions are so messy!"
Sparrow took a deep breath, hesitated.
"It's his only chance," said Ramsey. "If you can call that a chance."
"All right," said Sparrow. He stepped to the pharmacy rack, readied the shots, returned.
"The morphine," reminded Garcia.
Sparrow held up an ampule.
"Thanks for everything, Skipper," said Garcia. "One favor: Will you look after Bea and the kids?"
Sparrow nodded curtly, bent, and administered the injections -- one, two, three.
They watched the morphine take effect. "Eight more blood changes left in the machine," said Ramsey.
"Give him maximum flow rate," said Sparrow. Ramsey adjusted the valve.
"Now, Johnny, I want the whole story from you," said Sparrow. He spoke without taking his gaze from Garcia.
"Evidently, you already know it," said Ramsey.
"Not in detail. That's what I want now."
Ramsey thought: The cloak-and-dagger role is a farce. Sparrow's had me spotted for some time -- and that's probably Garcia's doing. I've been flying blind and didn't know it. Or did I? He thought back over his vague feelings of misgiving.
Sparrow said, "Well?"
Stalling for time to think, Ramsey said, "How much detail?"
"Start from the beginning," said Sparrow.
Ramsey mentally crossed his fingers, thought: This is the crisis. If Sparrow's really psycho, he'll blow. But I have to chance it. I don't know how much he's discovered. I can't pull any punches.
"You can start right now," said Sparrow. "That's an order."
Ramsey took a deep breath, began with the message from Dr. Oberhausen and the conference with Admiral Belland in Sec. I.
"This telemetering equipment," said Sparrow. "What does it tell you about me?"
"That you're like a part of this submarine. You react like one of its instruments instead of like a human being."
"I'm a machine?"
"If you want."
"Are you sure of your little black box?"
"The body's own juices don't lie."
"I suppose they don't. But interpretations can be mistaken. For instance, I don't think you've correctly evaluated the adjustment we have to make to exist down here in the deeps."
"How do you mean?"
"Do you recall the day you broke down in the shack?"
Ramsey remembered his fear, his inability to move, the reassuring influence of Sparrow. He nodded.
"What would you call that experience?"
"A temporary psychotic break."
Ramsey stared at Sparrow. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Would you say that all of your actions aboard the Ram have been completely sane?"
Ramsey colored, feeling the hot flush of blood in his face. "What kind of a machine are you now, Skipper?"
"A computing machine," said Sparrow. "Now listen to me and listen carefully. Here in the subtugs, we have adapted to about as great a mental pressure as human beings can take and still remain operative. We have adapted. Some to a greater degree than others. Some one way and some another. But whatever the method of adaptation, there's this fact about it which remains always the same: viewed in the light of people who exist under lesser pressures, our adaptation is not sane."
"How do you know?"
"I've had to know," said Sparrow. "As you've observed, my particular adaptation has been machine-like. Considered in the light of human normality, you psych people have a name for that adaptation."
"So I've compartmentalized my life," said Sparrow. "I have a part of me -- call it a circuit if you want -which keeps me going down here. It believes in the hereafter because it has to --"