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The legion of lazarus, p.7
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       The Legion of Lazarus, p.7

           Edmond Hamilton
 
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  CHAPTER VII

  There was Christina, and there was Shearing, and there were two more hedid not know, leaning over him. The drug was wearing off a little, andHyrst could see them more clearly, see the bitter disappointment intheir eyes.

  "Is that all?" Christina said. "Are you sure? Go back again--"

  They took him back again, and it was the same.

  "That's all MacDonald said? Then we're no closer to the Titanite than wewere before."

  Hyrst was not interested in the Titanite. "Vernon," he said. Somethingred and wild rose up in him, and he tried to tear away the straps thatheld him. "Vernon. I'll get him--"

  "Later, Hyrst," said Shearing, and sighed. "Lie still a bit. He's onBellaver's yacht, remember? Quite out of reach. Now think. MacDonaldsaid, You won't get it, it's where nobody will ever get it--"

  "What's the use?" said Christina, turning away. "It was a faint hopeanyway. Dying men don't draw obliging maps for you." She sat down on theedge of a bunk and put her head in her hands. "We might as well give up.You know that."

  One of the two Lazarites who had done the latent probe on Hyrst saidwith hollow hopefulness, "Perhaps if we let him rest a while and then goover it again--"

  "Let me up out of here," said Hyrst, still groggy with the drug. "I wantVernon."

  "I'll help you get him," said Shearing, "if you'll tell me whatMacDonald meant when he said _nobody will ever get it unless I show themhow_."

  "How the devil do I know?" Hyrst tugged at the straps, raging. "Let meup."

  "But you knew MacDonald well. You worked with him and beside him foryears."

  "Does that tell me where he hid the Titanite? Don't be an ass, Shearing.Let me up."

  "But," said Shearing equably, "he didn't say _where_. He said _how_."

  "Isn't that the same thing?"

  "Is it? Listen. Nobody will ever get it unless I show them where. Nobodywill ever get it unless I show them how."

  Hyrst stopped fighting the straps. He began to frown. Christina liftedher head again. She did not say anything. The two Lazarites who had donethe probe stood still and held their breath.

  Shearing's mind touched Hyrst's stroking it as with soothing fingers."Let's think about that for a minute. Let your thoughts move freely.MacDonald was an engineer. The engineer. Of the four, he alone knewevery inch of the physical set-up of the refinery. So?"

  "Yes. That's right. But that doesn't say where--Wait a minute, though.If he'd just shoved it in a crack somewhere in the mountains, he'd knowa detector might find it, more easily than before it was dug. He'd haveput it some where deep, deeper than he could possibly dig. Maybe in anabandoned mine?"

  "No place," said Shearing, "is too deep for us to probe. We've examinedevery abandoned mine on that side of Titan. And it doesn't fit, anyway.No. Try again."

  "He wouldn't have brought it back to the refinery. One of us would besure to find it. Unless, of course--"

  Hyrst stopped, and the tension in the sick-bay tightened another notch.The ship lurched sharply, swerved, and shot upward with a deafeningthunder of rocket-blasts. Hyrst shut his eyes, thinking hard.

  "Unless he put it in some place so dangerous that nobody ever wentthere. A place where even he didn't go, but which he would know aboutbeing the engineer."

  "Can you think of any place that would answer that description?"

  "Yes," said Hyrst slowly. "The underground storage bins. They're alwayshot, even when they're empty. Anything hidden near them would beblanketed by radiation. No detector would see anything but uranium.Probably even you wouldn't."

  "No," said Shearing, looking amazed. "Probably we wouldn't. Theradioactive disturbance would be too strong to get through, even if wewere looking for something beyond it, which we weren't."

  * * * * *

  Christina had sprung up. Now she bent over Hyrst and said, "But is therea way it could have been done? Obviously, the Titanite couldn't havebeen put directly into the bin with the uranium--if nothing else, itwould have been shipped out in the next tanker."

  "Oh, yes," said Hyrst. "There would be several ways. I can think of acouple myself, and I've never even see the layout. The repair-liftshaft, I know, goes clear down to the feeder mechanism, and there's somekind of a system of dispersal tunnels and an emergency gadget that tripsautomatically to release a liquid-graphite damping material into them incase the radiation level gets too high. I don't remember that it everdid, but it's a safeguard. There'd be plenty of places to hide a leadbox full of Titanite."

  "_Unless I show them how_," repeated Shearing slowly, and began to undothe straps that held Hyrst to the table. "It has an ominous sound. I'llbet you that locating the Titanite will be child's play compared togetting it out. Well, we'll do what we can."

  "The first thing," said Christina grimly, "is to get rid of Bellaver. Ifhe has the slightest suspicion where we're headed he'll radio ahead andhave all Titan alerted."

  Hyrst, sitting up now on the edge of the table, hanging on against thelurching of the ship, said, "That's right--he owns the refinery now,doesn't he? Is it still working?"

  "No. The mines around there played out, oh, ten, fifteen years ago. Theactivity's shifted to the north and east on the other side of the range.That is what may possibly give us a chance." Shearing staggered withHyrst across the bucking deck and sat tailor-fashion in the bunk, hiseyes intent. "Hyrst, I want you to remember everything you can about therefinery. The ground plan, exactly where the buildings are, the hoists,the landing field. Everything."

  Hyrst said, showing the edges of his teeth, "When do I get Vernon?"

  "You'll get him. I promise you."

  "What about Bellaver? He's still behind us."

  Shearing smiled. "That's Christina's job! Let her worry."

  Hyrst nodded. He began to remember the refinery. Christina and the othertwo went out.

  A short while later a number of things happened, violently, and in quicksuccession. The ship of the Lazarites, pursuing its wild and headlongcourse through the swarming debris of the Belt, was far ahead ofBellaver's yacht but still within instrument range. Apparently indesperation it plunged suddenly on a tangential course into a cluster ofgreat jagged rocks all travelling together at a furious rate of speed.The cluster was perhaps two hundred miles across. The Lazarite shiptwisted and turned, and then there was a swift bright flowering offlame, and then nothing.

  "She's blown her tubes," said Bellaver exultantly, on the bridge of hisyacht. The instruments had lost contact, chiefly because the cluster wasso thick that it was impossible to separate one body from another.

  Vernon said, "They're not blanking my mind any more. It stopped, likethat."

  But he was still doubtful.

  "Can you locate the ship?" asked Bellaver.

  "I'm trying."

  Bellaver caught his arm. "Look there!"

  There was a second, larger and more brilliant, flash of flame.

  "They've hit an asteroid," he said. "They're done for."

  "I can't locate them," Vernon said. "No ship, no wreckage. It could be atrick. They could be holding a cloak."

  "A trick?" said Bellaver. "I doubt it. Anyway, we're running low onfuel, and I'm not going to go into that cluster and risk my own neck tofind out. If by any chance they do come out again later on, we'll dealwith them."

  But they both watched the cluster until it had whirled on out of sight.And neither eye nor instrument nor Vernon's probing mind coulddistinguish any sign of life.

 
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