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"okay. just rest now."


"yes, tina?"

"who will be making the report, sir?"

"i don't know. let's not worry about reports now. let's just concentrate on getting through this."

"yes, sir."

as he approached beth's lab, he heard tina's recorded voice say, "do you think they'll ever get the sphere open?"

beth said, "maybe. i don't know." "it scares me."

and then tina's voice came again:

"do you think they'll ever get the sphere open?"

"maybe. i don't know."

"it scares me."

in the lab, beth was hunched over the console, watching the tape.

"still at it, huh?" norman said.


on the tape, beth was finishing her cake, saying, "i don't think there's a reason to be scared."

"it's the unknown," tina said.

"sure," beth said onscreen, "but an unknown thing is not likely to be dangerous or frightening. it's most likely to be just inexplicable."

"famous last words," beth said, watching herself.

"it sounded good at the time," norman said. "to keep her calmed down."

onscreen, beth said to tina, "you afraid of snakes?"

"snakes don't bother me," tina said.

"well, i can't stand snakes," beth said.

beth stopped the tape, turned to norman. "seems like a long time ago, doesn't it."

"i was just thinking that," norman said.

"does this mean we're living life to the fullest?"

"i think it means we're in mortal peril," norman said. "why are you so interested in this tape?"

"because i have nothing better to do, and if i don't keep busy i'm going to start screaming and make one of those traditional feminine scenes. you've already seen me do it once, norman."

"have i? i don't remember any scene."

"thank you," she said.

norman noticed a blanket on a couch in the corner of her lab. and beth had unclipped one of the workbench lamps and mounted it on the wall above the blankets. "you sleeping here now?"

"yeah, i like it here. up at the top of the cylinder - i feel like the queen of the underworld." she smiled. "sort of like a tree house when you were a kid. did you ever have a tree house when you were a kid?"

"no," norman said, "i never did."

"neither did i," beth said. "but it's what i imagine it would be, if i had."

"looks very cozy, beth."

"you think i'm cracking up?"

"no. i just said it looks cozy."

"you can tell me if you think i'm cracking up."

"i think you're fine, beth. what about tina? you've seen her injury?"

"yes." beth frowned. "and i've seen these." she gestured to some white eggs in a glass container on the lab bench.

"more eggs?"

"they were clinging to tina's suit when she came back in. her injury is consistent with these eggs. also the smell: you remember the smell when we pulled her back in?"

norman remembered very well. tina had smelled strongly of ammonia. it was almost as if she'd been doused in smelling salts.

beth said, "as far as i know, there's only one animal that smells of ammonia that way. architeuthis sanctipauli."

"which is?"

"one of the species of giant squid."

"that's what attacked us?"

"i think so, yes."

she explained that little was known about the giant squid, because the only specimens studied were dead animals that washed ashore, generally in a state of advanced decay, and reeking of ammonia. for most of human history, the giant squid was considered a mythical sea monster, like the kraken. but in 1861 the first reliable scientific reports appeared, after a french warship managed to haul in fragments of one dead animal. and many killed whales which showed scars from giant suckers, testimony of undersea battles. whales were the only known predator of the giant squid - the only animals large enough to be predators.

"by now," beth said, "giant squid have been observed in every major ocean of the world. there are at least three distinct species. the animals grow very large and can weigh a thousand pounds or more. the head is about twenty feet long, with a crown of eight arms. each arm is about ten feet long, with long rows of suckers. in the center of the crown is a mouth with a sharp beak, like a parrot's beak, except the jaws are seven inches long."

"levy's torn suit?"

"yes." she nodded. "the beak is mounted in a ring of muscle so it can twist in circles as it bites. and the radula - the tongue of the squid - has a raspy, file-like surface."

"tina mentioned something about a leaf, a brown leaf." "the giant squid has two tentacles that extend out much further than the arms, as long as forty feet. each tentacle ends in a flattened 'manus' or 'palm,' which looks very much like a big leaf. the manus is what the squid really uses to catch prey. the suckers on the manus are surrounded by a little hard ring of chitin, which is why you see the circular toothmarks around the injury."

norman said, "how would you fight one?"

"well," beth said, "in theory, although giant squid are very large, they are not particularly strong."

"so much for theory," norman said.

she nodded. "of course, nobody knows how strong they are, since a living specimen has never been encountered. we have the dubious distinction of being first."

"but it can be killed?"

"i would think rather easily. the squid's brain is located behind the eye, which is about fifteen inches across, the size of a big dinner plate. if you directed an explosive charge into the animal anywhere in that area, you would almost certainly disrupt the nervous system and it would die."

"do you think barnes killed the squid?"

she shrugged. "i don't know."

"is there more than one in an area?"

"i don't know."

"will we see one again?"

"i don't know."

the visitor

norman went downstairs to the communications center to see if he could talk to jerry, but jerry was not responding. norman must have dozed off in the console chair, because he looked up abruptly, startled to see a trim black seaman in uniform standing just behind him, looking over his shoulder at the screens.

"how's it going, sir?" the seaman asked. he was very calm. his uniform was crisply pressed.

norman felt a burst of tremendous elation. this man's arrival at the habitat could mean only one thing - the surface ships must be back! the ships had returned, and the subs had been sent down to retrieve them! they were all going to be saved!

"sailor," norman said, pumping his hand, "i'm very damn glad to see you."

"thank you, sir."

"when did you get here?" norman asked.

"just now, sir."

"do the others know yet?"

"the others, sir?"

"yes. there's, uh, there's six of us left. have they been told you're here?"

"i don't know the answer to that, sir."

there was a flatness to this man that norman found odd. the sailor was looking around the habitat, and for a moment norman saw the environment through his eyes - the damp interior, the wrecked consoles, the foam-spattered walls. it looked like they had fought a war in here.

"we've had a rough time," norman said.

"i can see that, sir."

"three of us have died."

"i'm sorry to hear that, sir."

that flatness again. neutrality. was he being proper? was he worried about a pending court-martial? was it something else entirely?

"where have you come from?" norman said.

"come from, sir?"

"what ship."

"oh. the sea hornet, sir."

"it's topside now?"

"yes, sir, it is."

"well, let's get moving," norman said. "tell the others you're here."

"yes, sir."

the seaman went away. norman stood and shouted, "yahoo! we're saved!"

"at least he wasn't an illusion," norman said, staring at the screen. "there he is, big as life, on the monitor."

"yes. there he is. but where'd he go?" beth said. for the last hour, they had searched the habitat thoroughly. there was no sign of the black crewman. there was no sign of a submarine outside. there was no evidence of surface ships. the balloon they had sent up registered eighty-knot winds and thirty-foot waves before the wire snapped.

so where had he come from? and where had he gone? fletcher was working the consoles. a screen of data came up. "how about this? log of ships in active service shows no vessel currently designated sea hornet."

norman said, "what the hell is going on here?"

"maybe he was an illusion," ted said.

"illusions don't register on videotape," harry said. "besides, i saw him, too."

"you did?" norman said.

"yeah. i had just woken up, and i had had this dream about being rescued, and i was lying in bed when i heard footsteps and he walked into the room."

"did you talk to him?"

"yes. but he was funny. he was dull. kind of boring."

norman nodded. "you could tell something wasn't right about him."

"yes, you could."

"but where did he come from?" beth said.

"i can think of only one possibility," ted said. "he came from the sphere. or at least, he was made by the sphere. by jerry."

"why would jerry do that? to spy on us?"

ted shook his head. "i've been thinking about this," he said. "it seems to me that jerry has the ability to create things. animals. i don't think that jerry is a giant squid, but jerry created the giant squid that attacked us. i don't think jerry wants to attack us, but, from what beth was telling us, once he made the squid, then the squid might attack the habitat, thinking the cylinders were its mortal enemy, the whale. so the attack happened as a kind of accident of creation."

they frowned, listening. to norman, the explanation was entirely too convenient. "i think there is another possibility. that jerry is hostile."

"i don't believe that," ted said. "i don't believe jerry is hostile."

"he certainly acts hostile, ted."

"but i don't think he intends to be hostile."

"whatever he intends," fletcher said, "we better not go through another attack. because the structure can't take it. and neither can the support systems.

"after the first attack, i had to increase positive pressure," fletcher said, "in order to fix the leaks. to keep water from coming in, i had to increase the pressure of the air inside the habitat to make it greater than the pressure of the water outside. that stopped the leaks, but it meant that air bubbled out through all the cracks. and one hour of repair work consumed nearly sixteen hours of our reserve air. i've been worried we'll run out of air."

there was a pause. they all considered the implications of that.

"to compensate," fletcher said, "i've dropped the internal pressure by three centimeters' pressure. we're slightly negative right now, and we should be fine. our air will last us. but another attack under these conditions and we'll crush like a beer can."

norman didn't like hearing any of this, but at the same time he was impressed with fletcher's competence. she was a resource they ought to be using, he thought. "do you have any suggestions, teeny, if there's another attack?"

"well, we have something in cyl b called hvds."

"which is?"

"high voltage defense system. there's a little box in b that electrifies the metal walls of the cylinders at all times, to prevent electrolytic corrosion. very slight electrical charge, you aren't really aware of it. anyway, there's another, green box attached to that one, and it's the hvds. it's basically a low-amp stepup transformer that sends two million volts over the cylinder surface. should be very unpleasant for any animal."

"why didn't we use it before?" beth said. "why didn't barnes use it, instead of risking - "

" - because the green box has problems," fletcher said. "for one thing, it's really sort of theoretical. as far as i know, it's never actually been used in a real undersea work situation."

"yes, but it must have been tested."

"yes. and in all the tests, it started fires inside the habitat."

another pause, while they considered that. finally norman said, "bad fires?"

"the fires tend to burn the insulation, the wall padding."

"the fires take the padding off!"

"we'd die of heat loss in a few minutes."

beth said, "how bad can a fire be? fires need oxygen to burn, and we've only got two percent oxygen down here."

"that's true, dr. halpern," fletcher said, "but the actual oxygen percentage varies. the habitat is made to deliver pulses as high as sixteen percent for brief periods, four times an hour. it's all automatically controlled; you can't override it. and if the oxygen percentage is high, then fires burn just fine - three times faster than topside. they easily go out of control."

norman looked around the cylinder. he spotted three fire extinguishers mounted on the walls. now that he thought about it, there were extinguishers all over the habitat. he'd just never really paid attention before.

"even if we get the fires under control, they're hell on the systems," fletcher said. "the air handlers aren't made to take the added monoxide by-products and soot."

"so what do we do?"

"last resort only," fletcher said. "that'd be my recommendation."

the group looked at each other, nodded.

"okay," norman said. "last resort only."

"let's just hope we don't have another attack."

"another attack ..." there was a long silence as they considered that. then the gas-plasma screens on tina's console jumped, and a soft pinging filled the room.

"we have a contact on peripheral thermals," tina said, in a flat voice.

"where?" fletcher said.

"north. approaching."

and on the monitor, they saw the words:

i am coming.

they turned off both the interior and exterior lights. norman peered through the porthole, straining to see out in the darkness. they had long ago learned that the darkness at this depth was not absolute; the waters of the pacific were so clear that even a thousand feet down some light registered on the bottom. it was very slight-edmunds had compared it to starlight - but norman knew that on the surface you could see by starlight alone.

now he cupped his hands by the sides of his face to block out the low light coming from tina's consoles, waited for his eyes to adjust. behind him, tina and fletcher were working with the monitors. he heard the hiss of the hydrophones in the room.

it was all happening again.

ted was standing by the monitor, saying, "jerry, can you hear me? jerry, are you listening?" but he wasn't getting through.

beth came up as norman peered out the porthole. "you see anything?"

"not yet."

behind them, tina said, "eighty yards and closing ... sixty yards. you want sonar?"

"no sonar," fletcher said. "nothing to make ourselves interesting to him."

"then should we kill the electronics?"

"kill everything."

all the console lights went out. now there was just the red glow of the space heaters above them. they sat in darkness and stared out. norman tried to remember how long dark-vision accommodation required. he remembered it might be as long as three minutes.

he began to see shapes: the outline of the grid on the bottom and, dimly, the high fin of the spaceship, rising sharply up.

then something else.

a green glow in the distance. at the horizon.

"it's like a green sunrise," beth said.

the glow increased in intensity, and then they saw an amorphous green shape with lateral streaks. norman thought, it's just like the image we saw before. it looks just like that. he couldn't really make out the details.

"is it a squid?" he said. "yes," beth said.

"i can't see. ..."

"you're looking at it end-on. the body is toward us, the tentacles behind, partially blocked by the body. that's why you can't see it."

the squid grew larger. it was definitely coming toward them.

ted ran from the portholes back to the consoles. "jerry, are you listening? jerry?"

"electronics are off, dr. fielding," fletcher said. "well, let's try and talk to him, for god's sake."

"i think we're past the talking stage now, sir."

the squid was faintly luminous, the entire body a deep green. now norman could see a sharp vertical ridge in the body. the moving tentacles and arms were clear. the outline grew larger. the squid moved laterally.

"it's going around the grid."

"yes," beth said. "they're intelligent animals; they have the ability to learn from experience. it probably didn't like hitting the grid before, and it remembers."

the squid passed the spacecraft fin, and they could gauge its size. it's as big as a house, norman thought. the creature slid smoothly through the water toward them. he felt a sense of awe, despite his pounding heart.

"jerry? jerry!"

"save your breath, ted."

"thirty yards," tina said. "still coming."

as the squid came closer, norman could count the arms, and he saw the two long tentacles, glowing lines extending far beyond the body. the arms and tentacles seemed to move loosely in the water, while the body made rhythmic muscular contractions. the squid propelled itself with water, and did not use the arms for swimming.

"twenty yards."

"god, it's big," harry said.

"you know," beth said, "we're the first people in human history to see a free-swimming giant squid. this should be a great moment."

they heard the gurgling, the rush of water over the hydrophones, as the squid came closer.

"ten yards."

for a moment, the great creature turned sideways to the habitat, and they could see its profile - the enormous glowing body, thirty feet long, with the huge unblinking eye; the circle of arms, waving like evil snakes; the two long tentacles, each terminating in a flattened, leaf-shaped section.

the squid continued to turn until its arms and tentacles stretched toward the habitat, and they glimpsed the mouth, the sharp-edged chomping beak in a mass of glowing green muscle.

"oh god..."

the squid moved forward. they could see each other in the glow through the portholes. it's starting, norman thought. it's starting, and this time we can't survive it.

there was a thump as a tentacle swung against the habitat. "jerry!" ted shouted. his voice was high, strained with tension.

the squid paused. the body moved laterally, and they could see the huge eye staring at them.

"jerry! listen to me!"

the squid appeared to hesitate.

"he's listening!" ted shouted, and he grabbed a flashlight off a wall bracket and shined it out the porthole. he blinked the light once.

the great body of the squid glowed green, then went momentarily dark, then glowed green again.

"he's listening," beth said.

"of course he's listening. he's intelligent." ted blinked his light twice in rapid succession.

the squid blinked back, twice. "how can he do that?" norman said.

"it's a kind of skin cell called a chromatophore," beth said. "the animal can open and close these cells at will, and block the light."

ted blinked three times.

the squid blinked three times. "he can do it fast," norman said.

"yes, fast."

"he's intelligent," ted said. "i keep telling you. he's intelligent and he wants to talk."

ted blinked long, short, short.

the squid matched the pattern.

"that's a baby," ted said. "you just keep talking to me, jerry."

he flashed a more complex pattern, and the squid answered, but then moved off to the left.

"i've got to keep him talking," ted said.

as the squid moved, ted moved, skipping from porthole to porthole, shining his light. the squid still blinked its glowing body in reply, but norman sensed it had another purpose now.

they all followed ted, from d into c cyl. ted flashed his light. the squid answered, but still moved onward. "what's he doing?"

"maybe he's leading us. ..."


they went to b cyl, where the life-support equipment was located, but there were no portholes in b. ted moved on to a, the airlock. there were no portholes here, either. ted immediately jumped down and opened the hatch in the floor, revealing dark water.

"careful, ted."

"i'm telling you, he's intelligent," ted said. the water at his feet glowed a soft green. "here he comes now." they could not see the squid yet, only the glow. ted blinked his light into the water.

the green blinked back.

"still talking," ted said. "and as long as he's talking - " with stunning swiftness, the tentacle smashed up through the open water and swung in a great arc around the airlock. norman had a glimpse of a glowing stalk as thick as a man's body, and a great glowing leaf five feet long, swinging blindly past him, and as he ducked he saw it hit beth and knock her sideways. tina was screaming in terror. strong ammonia fumes burned their eyes. the tentacle swung back toward norman. he held up his hands to protect himself, touched slimy, cold flesh as the giant arm spun him, slammed him against the airlock's metal walls. the animal was incredibly strong.

"get out, everybody out, away from the metal!" fletcher was shouting. ted was scrambling up, away from the hatch and the twisting arm, and he had almost reached the door when the leaf swung back and wrapped around him, covering most of his body. ted grunted, pushed at the leaf with his hands. his eyes were wide with horror.

norman ran forward but harry grabbed him. "leave him! you can't do anything now!"

ted was being swung back and forth in the air across the airlock, banging from wall to wall. his head dropped; blood ran down his forehead onto the glowing tentacle. still the arm swung him back and forth, the cylinder ringing like a gong with each impact.

"get out!" fletcher was shouting. "everybody out!" beth scrambled past them. harry tugged at norman just as the second tentacle burst above the surface to hold ted in a pincer grip.

"off the metal! damn it, off the metal!" fletcher was shouting, and they stepped onto the carpet of b cyl and she threw the switch on the green box and there was a hum from the generators and the red heater banks dimmed as two million volts of electricity surged through the habitat.

the response was instantaneous. the floor rocked under their feet as the habitat was struck by an enormous force, and norman swore he heard a scream, though it might have been rending metal, and the tentacles quickly drew down out of the airlock. they had a last glimpse of ted's body as it was pulled into the inky water and fletcher yanked down the lever on the green box. but the alarms had already begun to sound, and the warning boards lit up.

"fire!" fletcher shouted. "fire in e cyl!"

fletcher gave them gas masks; norman's kept slipping down his forehead, obscuring his vision. by the time they reached d cylinder, the smoke was dense. they coughed and stumbled, banged into the consoles.

"stay low," tina shouted, dropping to her knees. she was leading the way; fletcher had stayed behind in b.

up ahead, an angry red glow outlined the bulkhead door leading to e. tina grabbed an extinguisher and went through the door, norman right behind her. at first he thought the entire cylinder was burning. fierce flames licked up the side padding; dense clouds of smoke boiled toward the ceiling. the heat was almost palpable. tina swung the extinguisher cylinder around, began to spray white foam. in the light of the fire norman saw another extinguisher, grabbed it, but the metal was burning hot and he dropped it to the floor.

"fire in d," fletcher said over the intercom. "fire in d." jesus, norman thought. despite the mask, he coughed in the acrid smoke. he picked the extinguisher off the floor and began to spray; it immediately became cooler. tina shouted to him, but he heard nothing except the roar of the flames. he and tina were getting the fire out, but there was still a large burning patch near one porthole. he turned away, spraying the floor burning at his feet.

he was unprepared for the explosion, the concussion pounding his ears painfully. he turned and saw that a firehose had been unleashed in the room, and then he realized that one of the small portholes had blown or burned out, and the water was rushing in with incredible force.

he couldn't see tina; then he saw she had been knocked down; she got to her feet, shouting something at norman, and then she slipped and slid back into the hissing stream of water. it picked her up bodily and flung her so hard against the opposite wall that he knew at once she must be dead, and when he looked down he saw her floating face-down in the water rapidly filling the room. the back of her head was cut open; he saw the pulpy red flesh of her brain.

norman turned and fled. water was already trickling over the lip of the bulkhead as he slammed the heavy door shut, spun the wheel to lock it.

he couldn't see anything in d; the smoke was worse than before. he saw dim patches of red flame, hazy through the smoke. he heard the hiss of the extinguishers. where was his own extinguisher? he must have left it in e. like a blind man he felt along the walls for another extinguisher, coughing in the smoke. his eyes and lungs burned, despite the mask.

and then, with a great groan of metal, the pounding started, the habitat rocking under jolts from the squid outside. he heard fletcher on the intercom but her voice was scratchy and unclear. the pounding continued, and the horrible wrenching of metal. and norman thought, we're going to die. this time, we're going to die.

he couldn't find a fire extinguisher but his hands touched something metal on the wall and norman felt it in the smoky darkness, wondering what it was, some kind of protrusion, and then two million volts surged through his limbs into his body and he screamed once, and fell backward.


he was staring at a bank of lights in some odd, angled perspective. he sat up, feeling a sharp pain, and looked around him. he was sitting on the floor in d cylinder. a faint smoky haze hung in the air. the padded walls were blackened and charred in several places.

there must have been a fire here, he thought, staring at the damage in astonishment. when had this happened? where had he been at the time?

he got slowly to one knee, and then to his feet. he turned to e cylinder, but for some reason the bulkhead door to e was shut. he tried to spin the wheel to unlock it; it was jammed shut.

he didn't see anybody else. where were the others? then he remembered something about ted. ted had died. the squid swinging ted's body in the airlock. and then fletcher had said to get back, and she had thrown the power switch. ...

it was starting to come back to him. the fire. there had been a fire in e cylinder. he had gone into e with tina to put out the fire. he remembered going into the room, seeing the flames lick up the side of the walls. ... after that, he wasn't sure.

where were the others?

for an awful moment he thought he was the only survivor, but then he heard a cough in c cyl. he moved toward the sound. he didn't see anybody so he went to b cyl.

fletcher wasn't there. there was a large streak of blood on the metal pipes, and one of her shoes on the carpet. that was all.

another cough, from among the pipes.


"just a minute ..."

beth emerged, grease-streaked, from the pipes. "good, you're up. i've got most of the systems going, i think. thank god the navy has instructions printed on the housings. anyway, the smoke's clearing and the air quality is reading all right - not great, but all right - and all the vital stuff seems to be intact. we have air and water and heat and power. i'm trying to find out how much power and air we have left."

"where's fletcher?"

"i can't find her anywhere." beth pointed to the shoe on the carpet, and the streak of blood.

"tina?" norman asked. he was alarmed at the prospect of being trapped down here without any navy people at all. "tina was with you," beth said, frowning.

"i don't seem to remember," norman said.

"you probably got a jolt of current," beth said. "that would give you retrograde amnesia. you won't remember the last few minutes before the shock. i can't find tina, either, but according to the status sensors e cyl is flooded and shut down. you were with her in e. i don't know why it flooded."

"what about harry?"

"he got a jolt, too, i think. you're lucky the amperage wasn't higher or you'd both be fried. anyway, he's lying on the floor in c, either sleeping or unconscious. you might want to take a look at him. i didn't want to risk moving him, so i just left him there."

"did he wake up? talk to you?"