that would pass him within some four or five miles and
if extended would eventually approach the island where
the Corps Galactica maintained its repair base, a kind of
muted exultation filled him. He could see now that the
buzzards were too full already to make more than token
swoops on what the wolfshark killed, yetas though ad-
miring the energy of the beastthey none of them made
to flap back to the south and their breeding-mats.
It’ll break all the records. I never even heard of such a
He put aside the unlined harpoon which his hand had
automatically sought for the first shot. With fingers as
exact as a surgeon’s, he loaded a harpoon with line at-
tached, and laid the gun in its firing-notch.
Then he closed his left hand on the control levers, and
without a tremor fed power to the reactor.
The skimmer leapt up on its planes with a shriek loud
enough to startle a wolfshark at twice this range, and in-
stantly the wheeling buzzards disgorged the last food
they had eaten and climbed a safe hundred feet into the
sky. Just audible over the thrum of power from his
craft, Kolb heard their whickering cries, like the neigh-
ing of frightened horses.
And one of his questions was answered, anyway. This
wolfshark had been attacked before, often enough to
recognise a skimmer for the danger it represented. It for-
got its business of stitching a line of destruction across
the peaceful ocean, and spun around in the water to con-
front the fragile boat. It lowered its tail and spread its
fans, and its head rose to the surface.
Kolb’s self-possession wavered, so that he had to cling
desperately to his unverbalised decision: it ‘doesn’t matter
if I die or not! Thinking of it as huge, and seeing how
huge it was, were two different things.
How big, then? Fifty feet from fan-tip to fan-tip, os-
cillating in the water like a manta ray, but having a ta-
pered body which was all keel for the muscles driving
those fans, perfectly streamlined; a mere twitch, a single
shrug of those muscles would hurl it torpedo-swift on
anything else which swam the waters of Cyclops, and
jaws which could open to engulf a man would clamp
serrated rows of fangs into, and through, the victim. The
bite killed, and the Idller forgot. In summer, it was never
hungry. It swallowed what its )aws held, and that suf-
ficed until the next kill, minutes later.
Kolb silenced the yammering alarms in his mind and
lined up the sights of his gun rock-steady on the centre
of the maw.
And then, with the distance closing to two hundred
yards, a hundred and fifty, there came the boom.
It rocked the skimmer. It starded the wolfshark. It was
the noise of a Corps Galactica spacecraft braking at the
edge of atmosphere to put down at the repair base.
By a reflex not even the danger of death could over-
rule, ex-spaceman Justin Kolb glanced up, and the sun
shone full on his wholeface visor, triggering and over-
loading the glare response, so that he was blind. He cried
out, his hand closing on the trigger of his gun. The har-
poon whistled wide of a target, and the wolfshark
During the flight Maddalena Santos had mostly- sat
staring at nothing, turning over and over in her mind the
decision which now confronted her: to stay on, or not,
in the Patrol Service.
Three other passengers were aboardpersonnel from
an airless Corps base further out towards the limits of
the explored galaxy, on rotating local leave and very ex-
cited about it. Two of them were men. The fact that
these men looked at her once only told her something
about the effect of the last twenty years on her appear-
It was one thing to know that she was assured of an-
other two centuries of life. It was another to realise on
this first visit to civilisation in so long a time how deep
the impact of two decades on a barbarian world had
She was assured of her longevity by the Patrol’s pay-