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"the squid was out there?"

norman briefly told her about his attack.

"jesus. i'm sorry, norman. i'd never have left if i had any idea."

she certainly didn't sound like somebody who was cracking up, norman thought. she sounded appropriate and sincere. "anyway," he said, "i injured it, and harry thought it wouldn't come back."

harry said, "and we couldn't decide who should stay behind, so we both came."

"well, come this way," beth said. she led them back, through the crew quarters, past the twenty bunks for the crew, the large galley. norman paused at the galley. so did harry.

"i'm hungry," harry said.

"eat something," beth said. "i did. they have some sort of nut bars or something, they taste okay." she opened a drawer in the galley, produced bars wrapped in metal foil, gave them each one. norman tore the foil and saw something that looked like chocolate. it tasted dry.

"anything to drink?"

"sure." she threw open a refrigerator door. "diet coke?"

"you're kidding. .....

"the can design is different, and i'm afraid it's warm, but it's diet coke, all right."

"i'm buying stock in that company," harry said. "now that we know it'll still be there in fifty years." he read the can. "official drink of the star voyager expedition."

"yeah, it's a promo," beth said.

harry turned the can around. the other side was printed in japanese. "wonder what this means?"

"it means, don't buy that stock after all," she said. norman sipped the coke with a sense of vague unease. the galley seemed subtly changed from the last time he had seen it. he wasn't sure - he'd only glanced briefly at the room before - but he usually had a good memory for room layouts, and his wife had always joked that norman could find his way around any kitchen. "you know," he said, "i don't remember a refrigerator in the galley."

"i never really noticed, myself," beth said.

"as a matter of fact," norman said, "this whole room looks different to me. it looks bigger, and - i don't know - different."

"it's 'cause you're hungry." harry grinned.

"maybe," norman said. harry could actually be right. in the sixties, there had been a number of studies of visual perception which demonstrated that subjects interpreted blurred slides according to their predispositions. hungry people saw all the slides as food.

but this room really did look different. for instance, he didn't remember the door to the galley being to the left, as it was now. he remembered it as being in the center of the wall separating the galley from the bunks.

"this way," beth said, leading them farther aft. "actually, the refrigerator was what got me thinking. it's one thing to store a lot of food on a test ship being sent through a black hole. but to stock a refrigerator - why bother to do that? it made me think, there might be a crew after all."

they entered a short, glass-walled tunnel. deep-purple lights glowed down on them. "ultraviolet," beth said. "i don't know what it's for."



"maybe it's to get a suntan," harry said. "vitamin d." then they came into a large room unlike anything norman had ever seen. the floor glowed purple, bathing the room in ultraviolet light from beneath. mounted on all four walls were a series of wide glass tubes. inside each tube was a narrow silver mattress. the tubes all appeared empty.

"over here," beth said.

they peered through one glass tube. the naked woman had once been beautiful. it was still possible to see that. her skin was dark brown and deeply wrinkled, her body withered.

"mummified?" harry said.

beth nodded. "best i can figure out. i haven't opened the tube, considering the risk of infection."

"what was this room?" he said, looking around.

"it must be some kind of hibernation chamber. each tube is separately connected to a life-support system - power supply, air handlers, heaters, the works - in the next room."

harry counted. "twenty tubes," he said.

"and twenty bunks," norman said.

"so where is everybody else?"

beth shook her head. "i don't know."

"this woman is the only one left?"

"looks like it. i haven't found any others."

"i wonder how they all died," harry said.

"have you been to the sphere?" norman asked beth.

"no. why?"

"just wondered."

"you mean, you wondered if the crew died after they picked up the sphere?"

"basically, yes."

"i don't think the sphere is aggressive or dangerous in any sense," beth said. "it's possible that the crew died of natural causes in the course of the journey itself. this woman, for example, is so well preserved it makes you wonder about radiation. maybe she got a large dose of radiation. there's tremendous radiation around a black hole."

"you think the crew died going through the black hole, and the sphere was picked up automatically by the spacecraft later?"

"it's possible."

"she's pretty good-looking," harry said, peering through the glass. "boy, the reporters would go crazy with this, wouldn't they? sexy woman from the future found nude and mummified. film at eleven."

"she's tall, too," norman said. "she must be over six feet."

"an amazon woman," harry said. "with great tits."

"all right," beth said.

"what's wrong - offended on her behalf?" harry said.

"i don't think there's any need for comments of that kind."

"actually, beth," harry said, "she looks a little like you."

beth frowned.

"i'm serious. have you looked at her?"

"don't be ridiculous."

norman peered through the glass, shielding his hand against the reflection of the purple uv tubes in the floor. the mummified woman did indeed look like beth - younger, taller, stronger, but like beth, nevertheless. "he's right," norman said.

"maybe she's you, from the future," harry said.

"no, she's obviously in her twenties."

"maybe she's your granddaughter."

"pretty unlikely," beth said.

"you never know," harry said. "does jennifer look like you?"

"not really. but she's at that awkward stage. and she doesn't look like that woman. and neither do i."

norman was struck by the conviction with which beth denied any resemblance or association to the mummified woman. "beth," he said, "what do you suppose happened here? why is this woman the only one left?"

"i think she was important to the expedition," beth said. "maybe even the captain, or the co-captain. the others were mostly men. and they did something foolish - i don't know what - something she advised them against - and as a result they all died. she alone remained alive in this spacecraft. and she piloted it home. but there was something wrong with her - something she couldn't help - and she died."

"what was wrong with her?"

"i don't know. something."

fascinating, norman thought. he'd never really considered it before, but this room - for that matter, this entire spacecraft - was one big rorschach. or more accurately, a tat. the thematic apperception test was a psychological test that consisted of a series of ambiguous pictures. subjects were supposed to tell what they thought was happening in the pictures. since no clear story was implied by the pictures, the subjects supplied the stories. and the stories told much more about the storytellers than about the pictures.

now beth was telling them her fantasy about this room: that a woman had been in charge of the expedition, the men had failed to listen to her, they had died, and she alone had remained alive, the sole survivor.

it didn't tell them much about this spaceship. but it told them a lot about beth.

"i get it," harry said. "you mean she's the one who made the mistake and piloted the ship back too far into the past. typical woman driver."

"do you have to make a joke of everything?"

"do you have to take everything so seriously?"

"this is serious," beth said.

"i'll tell you a different story," harry said. "this woman screwed up. she was supposed to do something, and she forgot to do it, or else she made a mistake. and then she went into hibernation. as a result of her mistake, the rest of the crew died, and she never woke up from the hibernation - never realized what she had done, because she was so unaware of what was really happening."

"i'm sure you like that story better," beth said. "it fits with your typical black-male contempt for women."

"easy," norman said.

"you resent the power of the female," beth said.

"what power? you call lifting weights power? that's only strength - and it comes out of a feeling of weakness, not power."

"you skinny little weasel," beth said.

"what're you going to do, beat me up?" harry said. "is that your idea of power?"

"i know what power is," beth said, glaring at him.

"easy, easy," norman said. "let's not get into this."

harry said, "what do you think, norman? do you have a story about the room, too?"

"no," norman said. "i don't."

"oh, come on," harry said. "i bet you do."

"no," norman said. "and i'm not going to mediate between you two. we've all got to stay together on this. we have to work as a team, as long as we're down here."

"it's harry who's divisive," beth said. "from the beginning of this trip, he's tried to make trouble with everybody. all those snide little comments ..."

"what snide little comments?" harry said.

"you know perfectly well what snide little comments," beth said.

norman walked out of the room. "where're you going?"

"your audience is leaving."


"because you're both boring."

"oh," beth said, "mr. cool psychologist decides we are boring?"

"that's right," norman said, walking through the glass tunnel, not looking back.

"where do you get off, making all these judgments of other people?" beth shouted at him.

he kept walking.

"i'm speaking to you! don't you walk away while i'm speaking to you, norman!"

he came into the galley once more and started opening the drawers, looking for the nut bars. he was hungry again, and the search took his mind off the other two. he had to admit he was disturbed by the way things were going. he found a bar, tore the foil, ate it.

disturbed, but not surprised. in studies of group dynamics he had long ago verified the truth of the old statement "three's a crowd." for a high-tension situation, groups of three were inherently unstable. unless everybody had clearly defined responsibilities, the group tended to form shifting allegiances, two against one. that was what was happening now.

he finished the nut bar, and immediately ate another one. how much longer did they have down here? at least thirty-six hours more. he looked for a place to carry additional nut bars, but his polyester jumpsuit had no pockets.

beth and harry came into the galley, much chagrined.

"want a nut bar?" he said, chewing.

"we want to apologize," she said.

"for what?"

"for acting like children," harry said.

"i'm embarrassed," beth said. "i feel terrible about losing my temper that way, i feel like a complete idiot. ... beth was hanging her head, staring at the floor. interesting how she flipped, he thought, from aggressive self-confidence to the complete opposite, abject self-apology. nothing in between.

"let's not take it too far," he said. "we're all tired."

"i feel just awful," beth continued. "really awful. i feel as if i've let you both down. i shouldn't be here in the first place. i'm not worthy to be in this group."

norman said, "beth, have a nut bar and stop feeling sorry for yourself."

"yes," harry said. "i think i like you better angry."

"i'm sick of those nut bars," beth said. "before you came here, i ate eleven of them."

"well, make it an even dozen," norman said, "and we'll go back to the habitat."

walking back across the ocean floor, they were tense, watching for the squid. but norman derived comfort from the fact that they were armed. and something else: some inner confidence that came from his earlier confrontation with the squid.

"you hold that spear gun like you mean it," beth said. "yes. i guess so." all his life he had been an academic, a university researcher, and had never conceived of himself as a man of action. at least, nothing beyond the occasional game of golf. now, holding the spear gun ready, he found he rather liked the feeling.

as he walked he noticed the profusion of sea fans on the path between the spacecraft and the habitat. they were obliged to walk around the fans, which were sometimes four and five feet tall, gaudy purple and blue in their lights. norman was quite sure that the fans had not been down here when they first arrived at the habitat.

now there were not only colorful fans, but schools of large fish, too. most of the fish were black with a reddish stripe across the back. beth said they were pacific surgeonfish, normal for the region.

everything is changing, he thought. it's all changing around us. but he wasn't sure about that. he didn't really trust his memory down here. there were too many other things to alter his perceptions - the high-pressure atmosphere, the injuries he had received, and the nagging tension and fear he lived with.

something pale caught his eye. shining his light down on the bottom, he saw a wriggling white streak with a long thin fin and black stripes. at first he thought it was an eel. then he saw the tiny head, the mouth.

"just wait," beth said, putting her arm on him. "what is it?"

"sea snake."

"are they dangerous?"

"not usually."

"poisonous?" harry said.

"very poisonous."

the snake stayed close to the bottom, apparently looking for food. the snake ignored them entirely, and norman found it quite beautiful to watch, particularly as it moved farther away.

"it gives me the creeps," beth said.

"do you know what kind it is?" norman said.

"it may be a belcher's," beth said. "pacific sea snakes are all poisonous, but belcher's sea snake is the most poisonous. in fact, some researchers think it's the deadliest reptile in the world, with venom a hundred times more powerful than the venom of a king cobra or the black tiger snake."

"so if it bit you ..."

"two minutes, tops."

they watched the snake slither away among the fans. then it was gone.

"sea snakes are not usually aggressive," beth said. "some divers even touch them, play with them, but i never would. god. snakes."

"why are they so poisonous? is it for immobilizing prey?"

"you know, it's interesting," beth said, "but the most toxic creatures in the world are all water creatures. the venom of land animals is nothing in comparison. and even among land animals, the most deadly poison is derived from an amphibian, a toad, bufotene marfensis. in the sea, there are poisonous fish, like the blowfish, which is a delicacy in japan; there are poisonous shells, like the star cone, alaverdis lotensis. once i was on a boat in guam and a woman brought up a star cone. the shells are very beautiful, but she didn't know you have to keep your fingers away from the point. the animal extruded its poison spine and stung her in the palm. she took three steps before she collapsed in convulsions, and she died within an hour. there are also poisonous plants, poisonous sponges, poisonous corals. and then the snakes. even the weakest of the sea snakes are invariably lethal."

"nice," harry said.

"well, you have to recognize that the ocean is a much older living environment than the land. there's been life in the oceans for three and a half billion years, much longer than on land. the methods of competition and defense are much more highly developed in the ocean - there's been more time."

"you mean a few billion years from now, there will be tremendously poisonous animals on land, too?"

"if we get that far," she said.

"let's just get back to the habitat," harry said.

the habitat was now very close. they could see all the streaming bubbles rising from the leaks.

"leaking like a bastard," harry said. "i think we've got enough air."

"i think i'll check."

"be my guest," beth said, "but i did a thorough job." norman thought another argument was about to start, but beth and harry dropped it. they came to the hatch and climbed up into dh-8.

the console


norman stared at the console screen. it remained blank, just a blinking cursor.

"jerry, are you there?" the screen was blank.

"i wonder why we aren't hearing from you, jerry," norman said.

the screen remained blank.

"trying a little psychology?" beth said. she was checking the controls for the external sensors, reviewing the graphs. "if you ask me, the person you should use your psychology on is harry."

"what do you mean?"

"what i mean is, i don't think harry should be screwing around with our life-support systems. i don't think he's stable."


"that's a psychologist's trick, isn't it? to repeat the last word in a sentence. it's a way to keep the person talking."

"talking?" norman said, smiling at her.

"okay, maybe i am a little stressed out," she said. "but, norman, seriously. before i left for the ship, harry came into this room and said he would take over for me. i told him you were at the sub but there weren't any squid around and that i wanted to go to the ship. he said fine, he'd take over. so i left. and now he doesn't remember any of that. doesn't that strike you as pretty screwy?"

"screwy?" norman said.

"stop it, be serious."

"serious?" norman said.

"are you trying to avoid this conversation? i notice how you avoid what you don't want to talk about. you keep everybody on an even keel, steer the conversation away from hard topics. but i think you should listen to what i'm saying, norman. there's a problem with harry."

"i'm listening to what you're saying, beth."


"i wasn't present for this particular episode, so i don't really know. what i see of harry now looks like the same old harry - arrogant, disdainful, and very, very intelligent."

"you don't think he's cracking up?"

"no more than the rest of us."

"jesus! what do i have to do to convince you? i had a whole conversation with the man and now he denies it. you think that's normal? you think we can trust a person like that?"

"beth. i wasn't there."

"you mean it might be me."

"i wasn't there."

"you think i might be the one who's cracking up? i say there was a conversation when there really wasn't?"


"norman, i'm telling you. there is a problem about harry and you aren't facing up to it."

they heard footsteps approaching.

"i'm going to my lab," she said. "you think about what i've said."

she climbed the ladder as harry walked in. "well, guess what? beth did an excellent job with the life-support systems. everything looks fine. we have air for fifty-two hours more at present rates of consumption. we should be fine. you talking to jerry?"

"what?" norman said. harry pointed to the screen:

hello norman.

"i don't know when he came back. he wasn't talking earlier."

"well, he is now," harry said.

hello harry.

"how's it going, jerry?" harry said.

fine thank you. how are you? i am wanting so much to talk with your entities. where is the control entity harald c. barnes?

"don't you know?"

i do not sense that entity now.

"he's, uh, gone."

i see. he was not friendly. he did not enjoy to talk with me.

norman thought, what is he telling us? did jerry get rid of barnes because he thought he was unfriendly?

"jerry," norman said, "what happened to the control entity?"

he was not friendly. i did not like him.

"yes, but what happened to him?"

he is not now.

"and the other entities?"

and the other entities. they did not enjoy to talking with me.

harry said, "you think he's saying he got rid of them?

i am not happy to talking with them.

"so he got rid of all the navy people?" harry said. norman was thinking, that's not quite correct. he also got rid of ted, and ted was trying to communicate with him. or with the squid. was the squid related to jerry? how would norman ask that?

"jerry ..."

yes norman. i am here.

"let's talk."

good. i like that much.

"tell us about the squid, jerry."

the entity squid is a manifestation.

"where did it come from?"

do you like it? i can manifest it more for you.

"no, no, don't do that," norman said quickly.

you do not like it?

"no, no. we like it, jerry."

this is true?

"yes, true. we like it. really we do."

good. i am pleased you like it. it is a very impressive entity of large size.

"yes, it is," norman said, wiping sweat from his forehead. jesus, he thought, this is like talking to a child with a loaded gun.

it is difficult for me to manifest this large entity. i am pleased that you like it.

"very impressive," norman agreed. "but you do not need to repeat that entity for us."

you wish a new entity manifested for you?

"no, jerry. nothing right now, thank you."

manifesting is happy for me.

"yes, i'm sure it is."

i am enjoying to manifest for you norman. and also for you harry.

"thank you, jerry."

i am enjoying your manifestations also.

"our manifestations?" norman said, glancing at harry. apparently jerry thought that the people on the habitat were manifesting something in return. jerry seemed to consider it an exchange of some kind.

yes i am enjoying your manifestations also.

"tell us about our manifestations, jerry," norman said.

the manifestations are small and they do not extend beyond your entities but the manifestations are new for me. they are happy for me.

"what's he talking about?" harry said.

your manifestations harry.

"what manifestations, for christ's sake?"

"don't get mad," norman warned. "stay calm."

i am liking that one harry. do an other.

norman thought: is he reading emotions? does he regard our emotions as manifestations? but that didn't make sense. jerry couldn't read their minds; they'd already determined that. maybe he'd better check again. jerry, he thought, can you hear me?

i am liking harry. his manifestations are red. they are witful.


witful = full of wit?

"i see," harry said. "he thinks we're funny."

funny = full of fun?

"not exactly," norman said. "we entities have the concept of ..." he trailed off. how was he going to explain "funny"? what was a joke, anyway? "we entities have the concept of a situation which causes discomfort and we call this situation humorous."

hume or us?

"no. one word." norman spelled it for him.

i see. your manifestations are humorous. the entity squid makes many humorous manifestations from you.

"we don't think so," harry said.

i think so.

and that about summed it up, norman thought, sitting at the console. somehow he had to make jerry understand the seriousness of his actions. "jerry," norman explained, "your manifestations injure our entities. some of our entities are already gone."

yes i know.

"if you continue your manifestations - "

yes i am liking to manifest. it is humorous for you.

" - then pretty soon all our entities will be gone. and then there will be no one to talk to you."

i do not wish that.