Creatures of the abyss, p.1
Creatures of the Abyss, p.1Murray Leinster
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Creatures of the Abyss
By Murray Leinster
[Transcriber Note: Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
A BERKLEY MEDALLION BOOK published by THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING CORPORATION
COPYRIGHT (C) 1961, BY MURRAY LEINSTER
_Published by arrangement with the author_
BERKLEY EDITION, AUGUST, 1961
_BERKLEY MEDALLION BOOKS are published by Berkley Publishing Corporation 101 Fifth Avenue, New York 3, N. Y._
Printed in the United States of America
The moment arrived when Terry Holt realized that he was simply holdingthe bag for Jimenez y Cia.--Jimenez and Company--in the city of Manila.He wasn't getting anywhere, himself. So, painfully, he prepared to windup the company's affairs and his own, and start over. It seemedappropriate to take inventory, consult the police--they'd been bothamiable and co-operative--and then make new plans. But first it would bea good idea to go somewhere else for a while, until the problempresented by _La Rubia_ and radar and fish and _orejas de ellos_ hadbeen settled. He was at work on the inventory when the door opened, thewarning-bell tinkled, and the girl came into the shop.
He looked up with a wary eye, glancing over the partition separating theworkshop area in which the merchandise sold by Jimenez y Cia. wasassembled. There were certain people he felt should not come into theshop. The police agreed with him. He was prepared to throw out anybodywho came either to demand that he build something or else, or to demandthat he not build it or else. In such forcible ejections he would bebacked by the authorities of the city and the Philippine Republic.
But this customer was a girl. She was a pretty girl. She was pleasantlytanned. Her make-up, if she wore any, looked natural, and she carried asizable parcel under her arm. She turned to close the door behind her.She was definitely from the United States. So Terry said in English,"Good afternoon. Can I do something for you?"
She looked relieved.
"Ah! We can talk English," she said gratefully. "I was afraid I'd havetrouble. I do have trouble with Spanish."
Terry came out from behind the partition marking off the workshop. Theshop was seventeen feet wide and its larger expanse of plate glass said,"_Jimenez y Cia._" in large letters. Terry's now-vanished partnerJimenez had liked to see his name in large print. Under the name was theline "_Especialidades Electronicas y Fisicas._" This was Terry's angle.He assembled specialties in the line of electronics and modern physics.Jimenez had sold them, not wisely but too well. At the bottom corner ofthe window there was a modest statement: "_Orejas de Ellos_," whichmeant nothing to anybody but certain commercial fishermen, all of whomwould deny it.
The girl looked dubiously about her. The front of the shop displayed twoglaringly white electric washing machines, four electric refrigerators,and two deep-freeze cabinets.
"But I'm not sure this is the right shop," she said. "I'm not lookingfor iceboxes."
"They're window-dressing," said Terry. "My former business associatetried to run an appliance shop. But the people who buy such things inManila only want the latest models. He got stuck with these from lastyear. So we do--I did do--_especialidades electronicas y fisicas_. ButI'm shutting up shop. What are you looking for?"
The shop was in an appropriate place for its former products. Outside onthe Calle Enero there were places where one could buy sea food inquantity, mother-of-pearl, pitch, coir rope, beche-de-mer, copra, fueloil, Diesel repair-parts and edible birds' nests. _Especialidades_fitted in. But though it was certainly respectable enough, thisneighborhood wasn't exactly where one would have expected to find a girllike this shopping for what a girl like this would shop for.
"I'm looking," she explained, "for somebody to make up a special device,probably electronic, for my father's boat."
"Ah!" said Terry regretfully. "That's my line exactly, as is evidencedin Spanish on the window and in Tagalog, Malay and Chinese on cards youcan read through the glass. But I'm suspending operations for a while.What kind of special device? Radar--No. I doubt you'd want _orejas deellos_...."
"What are they?"
"Submarine ears," said Terry. "For fishing boats. The name is no clue atall. They pick up underwater sounds, enabling one to hear surf a longway off. Which may be useful. And some fish make noises and thefishermen use these ears to eavesdrop on them and catch them. Youwouldn't be interested in anything of that sort!"
The girl brightened visibly.
"But I am! Something very much like it, at any rate. Take a look at thisand see what my father wants to have made."
She put her parcel on a deep-freeze unit and pulled off its papercovering. The object inside was a sort of curved paddle with a handle atone end. It was about three feet long, made of a light-colored fibrouswood, and on the convex part of its curvature it was deeply carved inpeculiar transverse ridges.
"A fish-driving paddle," she explained. "From Alua."
He looked it over. He knew vaguely that Alua was an island somewherenear Bohol.
"Naturally a fish-driving paddle is used to drive fish," she said."To--herd them, you might say. People go out in shallow water and form aline. Then they whack paddles like these on the surface of the water.Fish try to get away from the sound and the people herd them where theywant them--into fish-traps, usually. I've tried this, while wearing abathing suit. It makes your skin tingle--smart, rather. It's a sort ofpins-and-needles sensation. Fish would swim away from an underwaternoise like that!"
Terry examined the carving.
"Of course we think there's something special about the noise thesepaddles make. Maybe a special wave-form?"
"Possibly," he admitted. "But--"
"We want something else to do the same trick on a bigger scale.Directional, if possible. Not a paddle, of course. Better. Bigger.Stronger. Continuous. We want to drive fish and this paddle's limited inits effect."
"Why drive fish?" asked Terry.
"Why not?" asked the girl. She watched his face.
He frowned a little, considering the problem the girl posed.
"Oh, _ellos_ might object," he said absently.
"_Ellos_," he repeated. "It's a superstition. The word means 'they' or'them.' Things under the ocean who listen to the fish and thefishermen."
"You're not serious." It was a statement.
"No," he admitted, still eying the paddle. "But the modern, businesslikefishermen who buy submarine ears for sound business reasons call them_orejas de ellos_ and everybody knows what they mean, even in themodernized fishing fleet."
"Which," said the girl, "Jimenez y Cia. has had a big hand inmodernizing. That's why I came to you. Your name is Terry Holt, I think.An American Navy Captain said you could make what my father wants."
Terry nodded suddenly to himself.
"What you want," he said abruptly, "might be done with a tape-recorder,a submarine ear, and an underwater horn. You'd make a tape-recording ofwhat these whackings sound like under water, edit the tape to make thewhackings practically continuous, and then play the tape through anunderwater horn to reproduce the sounds at will. That should do thetrick."
"Good! How soon can you do it?" she asked.
"I'm afraid not at all," said Terry. "I find I've been a little tooefficient in updating the fishing fleet. I'm leaving the city for thecity's good."
She looked at him inquiringly.
"No," he assured her. "The police haven't asked me to leave. They'reglad I'm going, but they
"_The Redhead_," he told her. "It's the name of a fishing boat. She'sfound some place where fish practically fight to get into her nets. Formonths, now, she's come back from every trip loaded down gunwale-deep.And she makes her trips fast! Naturally the other fishermen want to getin on the party."
"The bonanza voyages," Terry explained, "started immediately after _LaRubia_ had submarine ears installed. Immediately all the other boatsinstalled them. My former partner sold them faster than I could assemblethem. And nobody regrets them. They do increase the catches. But theydon't match _La Rubia_. She's making a mint of money! She's found someplace or she has some trick that loads her down deep every time she putsout to sea."
The girl made an interrogative sound.
"The other fishermen think it's a place," Terry added, "so they gangedup on her. Two months back, when she sailed, the entire fishing fleettrailed her. They stuck to her closer than brothers. So she sailedaround for a solid week and never put a net overboard. Then she cameback to Manila--empty. They were furious. The price of fish had gonesky-high in their absence. They went to sea to make some moneyregardless. When they got back they found _La Rubia_ had sailed afterthey left, got back before they returned--and she was just loaded withfish, and the market was back to normal. There was bad feeling. Therewere fights. Some fishermen landed in the hospital and some in jail."
A motor truck rolled by on the street outside the shop of the nowmoribund Jimenez y Cia. The girl automatically turned her eyes to thesource of the noise. Then she looked back at Terry.
"And then my erstwhile associate Jimenez had a brainstorm," said Terryruefully. "He sold the skipper of _La Rubia_ on the idea of short-rangeradar. I built a set for him. It was good for possibly twenty miles. So_La Rubia_ sailed in the dark of the moon with fifty fishing boatsswearing violent oaths that they'd follow her to hell-and-gone. Whennight fell _La Rubia_ put out her lights, used her radar to locate theother boats who couldn't see her, and sneaked out from their midst. Shecame back loaded down with fish. There were more fights and more men inthe hospital and in jail. Some of _La Rubia's_ men boasted that they'dused radar to dodge their rivals. And that's how the police gotinterested in me."
The girl had listened interestedly.
"Oh, Jimenez began to take orders for radar from other fishing boatowners. If _La Rubia_ could dodge them by radar, they could trail her byradar even in the dark. So the skipper and crew of _La Rubia_ promisedblood-curdling things as Jimenez's fate if he delivered a radar set toanybody else. Then the skippers and crews of other boats made even moreblood-curdling threats if he didn't deliver radar to them. So Jimenezran away, leaving me to hold the bag."
The girl nodded.
"And therefore," said Terry, "I'm shutting up shop. I'll turn theinventory over to the police and go off somewhere until someone learnswhere _La Rubia_ gets her fish. When things calm down again, I'll comeback and start up business once more--without Jimenez. I'll probablystick to electric-eye doors, burglar alarms, closed-circuit televisionsystems and things like that. Then I might make this underwaterbroadcasting device, if your father still wants it. I'd better not now."
"We heard about your problem," said the girl. "Almost exactly the wayyou just explained it."
Terry stared. Then he said politely, "Oh. You did?"
"Yes, I thought--"
"Then you knew," said Terry more politely still, "that I was leavingtown and couldn't make the gadget you want? You knew it before you camehere?"
"Why," said the girl, "your plans seemed to fit in very nicely withours. We've got a sixty-five-foot schooner and we're sailing around. Myfather wants something like--what you described. So since you wantto--well--travel around for a time, why not come on board our boat andmake the thing we want there? We'll land you anywhere you like when it'sfinished."
"Thanks," said Terry with very great politeness indeed. "I think I madea fool of myself, explaining. You knew it all beforehand. I'm afraid Ibored you horribly. You probably even know that Jimenez took all thefunds when he ran away."
She hesitated, and then said, "Y-yes. We thought--"
"That I should have trouble raising steamer-fare to any place at all,"he said without cordiality. "And I will. You had that information too,didn't you?"
"Please!" she said with distress. "You make it sound--"
"Did you have any idea what I'd charge to assemble the device you want?"
"If you'll name a price."
Terry named one. He was angry. The sum was far from a small one. It was,in fact, exorbitant. But he felt that he'd made a fool of himself,responding to her encouragement by telling her things she already knew.
She opened her purse and peeled off bills. She put them down.
"I'll leave the paddle with you," she said crisply. "Our boat is the_Esperance_. You'll find it...." She named the anchorage, which was thatof Manila's most expensive yacht club. "There's a launch which willbring you out whenever you're ready to sail. It would be nice if youcould sail tomorrow--and nicer if you could come aboard today."
She nodded in friendly fashion, opened the door--the bell jangled--andwent out.
Terry blinked. Then he swore and snatched up the pile of bills. Twofluttered to the floor and he lost time picking them up. He went outafter her, the money in his hand.
He saw a taxicab door close behind her, three or four doors down thestreet. Instantly the cab was in mad career away. The taxicabs of Manilaare driven by a special breed of chauffeurs. It is said that they areall escaped lunatics with homicidal tendencies. The cab went roaringdown the Calle Enero's cluttered length and turned the corner.
Terry went back to the shop. He swore again. He looked at the money inhis hand. It totalled exactly the excessive amount he'd named as theprice of an electronic fish-driving unit, including an underwater horn.
"The devil!" he said angrily.
He felt the special indignation some men feel when they are indifficulties which their pride requires them to surmount by themselves,and somebody tries to help. The indignation is the greater as they seeless chance of success on their own.
Terry's situation was offensive to him because he shouldn't be in thiskind of situation at all, or rather, his troubles were not foreseeableby the most competent of graduate electronic engineers. He'd trained forthe work he'd undertaken. He'd prepared himself for competence. Atgraduation he'd encountered the representatives of at least three largecorporations who were snapping up engineers as soon as they left thecloistered halls of learning. Terry'd asked how many men were employedin the category he'd fit in. When one representative boasted that tenthousand such engineers were on his company's payroll, Terry declined atonce. He wanted to accomplish something himself, not as part of a teamof some thousands of members. The smaller the organization, the betterone's chance for personal satisfaction. He wouldn't make as much money,but--
It was a matter of simple logic. If he was better off with a reallysmall company, he'd be best off on his own. And he'd nearly managed it.He'd worked only with Jimenez. Jimenez was the sales organization. Terrywas the production staff. In Manila there was certainly room for specialelectronic equipment--_especialidades electronicas y fisicas_. He shouldhave had an excellent chance to build up a good business. Startingsmall, even without capital, he'd confidently expected to be goingstrong within months. There were taxi fleets to be equipped withshort-wave radio. There were burglar alarms to be designed andinstalled, and all sorts of setups to be engineered. And these thingswere still in demand. His expectations had a solid foundation. Nobodycould have anticipated the disaster caused by _La Rubia's_ phenomenalsuccess in commercial fishery. It was even irrational for it to be adisaster to Terry. But it was.
More immediately, though, he was indignant because this girl had knownall about him when she came into the shop. She'd probably ev
He fretted. He needed the money. But he objected to being tricked. Hewent back to the probably senseless business of taking an inventory.Time passed. Nothing happened. Nobody came to the shop. The police hadbeen firm about _La Rubia_ crewmen calling on Terry to make threats.They'd been equally firm about other people calling to makecounterthreats. No casual customers entered. Two hours went by.
At four o'clock the door opened--with the sound of its tinklingbell--and Police Captain Felicio Horta came in.
"_Buenas tardes_," he said cordially.
Terry grunted at him.
"I hear," said Horta, "that you leave Manila."
Terry asked evenly, "Is that a way of asking me to hurry up and do it?"
"_Pero no! Por supuesto no!_" protested Horta. "But it is said that youhave new and definite plans."
"What do you know about them?" demanded Terry.
Police Captain Horta said pleasantly, "Officially, nothing. Privately,that you will aid some _ricos americanos_ to do experimentsin--_oceanografia_? Some study of oceanic things. That you regret havingagreed to do so. That you consider changing your mind. That you areangry."
The girl, of course, could have inferred all this from his angry chargeout of the shop with the money in his hand, too late to stop hertaxicab. But Terry snapped, "Now, who the devil told you that?"
Police Captain Horta shrugged.
"One hears. I hope it is not true."
"That what's not true? That I leave? Or that I don't?"
"I hope," said Horta benignly, "that you do as you please. I am not onduty at the moment. I have my car. I offer myself to chauffeur you ifthere is any place you wish to go--to a steamer or anywhere else. Ifyou do not wish to go anywhere, I will take my leave. With no pre ...prejudice," he finished. "We have been friendly. I hope we remain so."
Terry stared at him estimatingly. Police Captain Horta was a reasonableand honest man. He knew that Terry had contributed to matters giving thepolice some trouble, but he knew it was accidental on Terry's part. Hewould hold no grudge.
"Just why," asked Terry measuredly, "did you come here to offer to driveme somewhere? Is there any special reason to want me to get out oftown?"
"That is not it," said Horta. "It could be wished that you would--take acertain course of action. Yes. But not because you would be absent fromhere. It is because you would be present at a special other place. Thematter connects with _La Rubia_, but in a manner you could not possiblyguess. Yet you are wholly a free agent. You will do as you please. Iwould like to make it--convenient. That is all."
He paused. Terry stared at him, frowning. Horta tried again.
"Let us say that I have much interest in _oceanografia_. I would like tosee certain research carried on."
"Being, I'm sure, especially interested in fish-driving," said Terryskeptically. "You sound as if you were acting unofficially to getsomething done that officially you can't talk about."
Horta smiled warmly at him.
"That," he pronounced, "is a logical conclusion."
"What's the object of the--research, if that's what it is? And why pickme?"
Horta shrugged and did not answer.
"Why not tell me?"
"_Amigo_," said Horta, "I would like nothing better than to tell you. Iwould be interested to see your reception of the idea. But it would befatal. You would think me cr-azy. And also more important persons. Butespecially me."
It was Terry's turn to shrug his shoulders. He hesitated for a longmoment. If Horta had tried to apply pressure, he'd have turned obstinateon the instant. But there was no pressure. First the girl and now Hortatried to lure him with mystery and assurance of interest in high places.
"And _La Rubia's_ involved in the secret?" demanded Terry.
"Innocently," said Horta promptly. "As you are."
"Thank you for faith in my innocence," said Terry with irony. "Allright. If I'm involved, I'm involved. I'll try to devolve out of beinginvolved by playing along."
He turned to the workshop space at the back of the store. He found boxesto pack his working tools and the considerable stock of small partsneeded to make such things as burglar alarms, submarine ears and theassorted electronic devices modern business finds increasinglynecessary. He began to pack them. Surprisingly, Horta helped. Any man ofSpanish blood is apt to be sensitive about manual labor. If he has anofficial position his sensitiveness is apt to be extreme. But Horta notonly helped pack the boxes with Terry's stock of parts; he helped carrythem to his car outside. He helped to load them.
Terry turned the key in the door and handed it to him, with the nearlycomplete inventory of the shop's contents.
"Jimenez having run away, I leave the shop in your hands," he observed.
Horta put the key and document away. He started the motor of his car anddrove along the Calle Enero. He drove with surprising moderation for apolice officer authorized to ignore traffic rules on occasion. Presentlythe dock-area of Manila was left behind, and then the rest of thecommercial district, and then for a time the car tooled along widestreets past the impressive residences of the wealthy. Some of thearchitecture was remarkable. A little further, and the harbor--thebay--appeared again. The car entered the grounds of Manila's swankiestyacht club. The design of the clubhouse was astounding. The car stoppedby the small-boat pier. There were two men waiting there. Without beinggiven any orders, they accepted the parcels Horta handed out. Alsowithout orders, they carried them out to the float. They loaded theminto the brass-trimmed motor tender which waited there.
"They knew we were coming," said Terry shortly. "Would I have beenbrought anyhow?"
"_Pero no_," said Horta. "But there are telephones. When we left theshop, one was used."
The men who'd carried out the parcels vanished. Terry and Horta steppedaboard. The tender cast off and headed out into the harbor. There was aPhilippine gunboat and a mine-layer and an American flattop in plainview. There were tankers and tramp steamers and a vast array of smallercraft at anchor. A seemingly top-heavy steamer ploughed across oilywater two miles distant. The tender headed for a trim sixty-five-footschooner anchored a mile from shore. It grew larger and seemed more trimas the tender approached it.
The smaller boat passed under the larger one's stern, and the name_Esperance_ showed plainly. On the starboard side a boat boom projected.The tender ran deftly up and a man in a sweat shirt and duck trouserssnubbed the line. He said cheerfully, "How do you do, Mr. Holt?" Then henodded to Horta. "Good to see you, Captain." He offered his hand asTerry straightened up on deck. "My name's Davis. We'll have your stuffaboard right away."
Two young men in dungarees and with crew cuts appeared and took over themotley lot of cartons that Terry and Horta had made ready.
"Have you everything you need?" asked Davis anxiously. "Would some extrastuff be useful?"
"I could do with a few items," said Terry, stiffly.
He had quickly developed an acute dislike for the patent attempt toinduce him to join the _Esperance_. He had no reason for his objection,save that he had not been informed about the task he was urged toundertake.
"Also," he added abruptly, "Captain Horta didn't think to stop at myhotel so I could get my baggage."
"Write a list of what you want," suggested Davis. "I'm sure somethingcan be done about your baggage. Make the list complete. If something'sleft over, it won't matter. There's a desk in the cabin for you to writeat." He turned to Horta. "Captain, what's the news about _La Rubia_?"
"She sailed again yesterday," said Horta ruefully. "She was followed bymany other boats. And now there is a moon. It rises late, but it rises.Many sailors will be watching her from mastheads. It i
His voice died away as Terry went down the companion ladder. Belowdeckswas attractive. There was no ostentation, but the decor was obviouslyexpensive. There were armchairs, electric lamps, a desk, and shelvesfilled with books--two or three on electronics and a highlycontroversial one on marine monsters and sea serpents. There were someon anthropology. On skin diving. On astronomy. Two thick volumes onabyssal fish. There was a shelf of fiction and other shelves ofreference books for navigation, radio and Diesel maintenance and repair.There were obvious reasons for these last, but no reason that could beimagined for two books on the solar planets.
Terry sat at the desk and compiled a list of electronic parts that hewas sure wouldn't be available in Manila. He was annoyed as he realizedafresh the smoothness of the operation that had brought him to the_Esperance_. He found satisfaction in asking for some multi-elementvacuum tubes that simply couldn't be had except on special order fromthe manufacturers back in the United States. But it took time to thinkof them.
When he went abovedecks, half an hour later, he had listed just sixelectronic components. The tender was gone, and Horta with it. Davisgreeted Terry as cordially as before.
"The tender's left," said Terry with restraint. "Here's my list."
Davis did not even glance at it, but beckoned to one of the crew-cutyoung men who'd unloaded the tender.
"This is Nick Alden," he said to Terry. "He's one of the gang. See aboutthis list, Nick."
The crew-cut young man put out his hand and Terry shook it. It seemedexpected. He went forward with the list and vanished down the forecastleladder. Davis looked at his watch.
"Five-thirty," he observed. "A drink might not be a bad thing."
He went below, and Terry surveyed the _Esperance_. She had the look of apleasure craft, but was built along the lines of something morereliable. There was an unusual power winch amidships, with anextraordinarily large reel. Next to it there was a heavy spar by whichto swing something outboard. There were two boats, well stowed againstheavy weather, and a number of often-omitted bits of equipment, so thatthe schooner was not convincing as the hobby of a mere yachtsman.
Then Terry saw the brass-trimmed tender heading out from the yacht-clubfloat again. Foam spread out from its bow. A figure in it waved. Terryrecognized the girl who'd come into the shop of Jimenez y Cia. She wassmiling, and as the launch came nearer it seemed to Terry that there wastriumph in her smile. He bristled. Then he saw some parcels in the bowof the tender. Next to the parcels--and he unbelievingly suspected whatthey were--he suddenly recognized something else: his suitcases andsteamer-trunk. In order to sail with the _Esperance_ he need not goashore to get his belongings. They were brought to him. He becametotally convinced that these people had assumed he'd do what they wantedhim to, without consulting him. He rebelled. Immediately. Any time otherpeople took for granted that they could make plans for him, he wouldbecome obstinate. When he was in a fix--and now he was practicallystranded in Manila with a need to go elsewhere for a time and no moneywith which to do it--he was especially touchy. He found himself scowlingand angry, and the more angry because what was required of him wouldhave been very convenient if there'd been no attempt to inveigle himinto it.
The launch came around the _Esperance's_ stern. Davis came from belowwith two glasses. The girl said cheerfully, "Howdo! We've got your extraitems. All of them. And your baggage."
Terry said curtly, "How did my list get ashore?"
"Nick phoned it," said Davis. "By short-wave."
"And where the devil did you find the stuff I named?"
"That," said Davis, "is part of the mystery you don't like."
"Right!" said Terry grimly. "I don't like it. I don't think I'll play.I'll go ashore in the tender."
"Hold it!" said Davis. But he was speaking to the operator of thetender. The crew-cut Nick was in the act of handing up the first pieceof baggage. Davis waved it back. "I'm sorry," he said to Terry. "We'llstay at anchor here. If you change your mind, the tender will bring youout any time."
Terry brought out the sheaf of bills the girl had left in the shop ofthe vanished Jimenez. He held them out to the girl. She put her handsbehind her back and shook her head.
"We put you to trouble," she said pleasantly, "and we haven't been frankwith you. That's to make up for it."
"I won't accept it," said Terry stiffly. "I insist."
"We won't have it back," said Davis. "And we insist!"
Terry felt idiotic. There was enough of a breeze to make it impracticalsimply to put the batch of bank notes down. They'd blow away. The girllooked at him regretfully.
"I'm truly sorry," she said. "I planned the way we went after you. Youare exactly the person we're sure to need. We decided to try to get youto join us. We couldn't explain. So we asked what you were like. Andyou're not the sort of person who can be hired to do what he's told andno questions asked. Captain Horta said you were a gentleman. So since wecouldn't ask you to volunteer blindly--though I think you wouldvolunteer if you knew what we're about to do--we tried to make you comefor the adventure of it. It didn't work. I'm sorry."
Terry had the singular conviction that she told the exact truth. And shewas a very pretty girl, but she wasn't using her looks to persuade him.She spoke as one person to another. He unwillingly found himselfmollified.
"Look!" he said vexedly. "I was leaving Manila. I need to be away for awhile. I am coming back. I can do any crazy thing I want for some weeks,or even a couple of months. But I don't like to be pushed around! Idon't like--"
The girl smiled suddenly.
"All right, I'll keep the money."
The girl smiled more widely and said, "Mr. Holt, we are off on a cruise.We'll put in at various ports from time to time. We think you would fitinto our party. We invite you to come on this cruise as our guest. Youcan be helpful or not, as you please. And we will _not_ try to pay youfor anything!"
Davis nodded. Terry frowned. Then he spoke painfully.
"I have a gift for making a fool of myself," he said ruefully. "Whenit's put that way, fine! I'll come along. But I reserve the right tomake guesses."
"That's good!" said Davis warmly. "If you do find out what we won't tellyou, you'll see why we didn't."
He waved to Nick and the tender operator. The parcels came onto the_Esperance's_ deck. His baggage followed. He picked up one of the newcardboard parcels and examined its markings.
"This," he said more ruefully still, "has me stymied. I'd have sworn youcouldn't get one of these special tubes nearer than Schenectady, NewYork. But you found one in Manila in minutes! How did you do it?"
The girl laughed.
"Terribly simple!" she said. "We'll tell you. But not until we're underway, or you might be so disgusted with the simplicity of it that you'dwant to go ashore again."
Creatures of the Abyss by Murray Leinster / Science Fiction have rating 4.1 out of 5 / Based on33 votes