“Where does it lead?” Maddalena demanded.
“I told you, didn’t I? The hospital’s power-plant is
down there, all its automatic service controls, all its sup-
plies of things like activated water, oxygen, life-sustain-
ing nutrient flows, artificial tissue-synthesisthe whole
“Why in the galaxy, then, do you just leave the tunnel
open like that?” Maddalena exclaimed, astonished.
“Anyone likely to come this way in the normal course
of events is a Corpsman, and too sensible to pry into
dark corners,” Langenschmidt grunted. “I’m going to
have your hide, Noleyou realise that, don’t you.? Leav-
ing the kid in an unlocked room! ”
“Yes, but” Nole recognised the futility of making
excuses, and turned away.
Men and women were joining them now from every
direction, one or two in the same self-sterilising whites as
Nole, the majority in casual clothing, having been routed
out of their quarters or called back from recreation.
Langenschmidt briefed them crisply on the situation.
Dismayed, they exchanged glances.
“Is there any risk of him doing deliberate damage?”
one of the earliest arrivals inquired.
“No, but he’s probably in panic. He ran as soon as he
saw us. Any suggestions?”
For a moment there was silence. Then an elderly
woman who had apparently left the solar therapy room
to come here, for she wore only a muslin thigh-length
shift, spoke up.
“Not more than two people to go after him, wearing
respirators, and carrying cylinders of some anaesthetic
would be easier than trying to reason with him.”
“Great,” Langenschmidt said. “Let’s”
“Just a moment,” Nole put in. “How about the radia-
“What?” Langenschmidt biinked. “We’re on fusion,
aren’t we? What radiation?”
“I have a couple of cases at the moment in need of iso-
tope treatment. I’m processing iodine-131 and potas-
sium-40. I’m not saying he will, but he might go too
close to the bombardment source.”
“Marvellous,” Langenschmidt said bitterly. “So we
don’t just go after him looking like monsterswe go
looking like mechanical men, in armoured suits. Well, if
it’s got to be done, it’s got to be done. Volunteers?”
“I’ll go,” Nole muttered. “My fault.”
Bracy Dyge was hardly thinking at all now. The ef-
fect of irrational terror had been multiplied a score of
times in his mind by the combined impact of the drugs
he had been given and the violent expenditure of energy
while he was fleeing from unnamable horrors. To find
himself among machineryseemingly without end, floor
to ceilingwhich at any moment might devour him as
the naked woman behind the window had appeared to
be being consumed, was more than the fragile web of his
self-control could stand. He was moaning and panting as
he stumbled around the banked machines seeking a place
When he first came down here, it had been dark, but
some distant switch had been turned and now the whole
huge room glowed with sourceless light. Was there no
shadowy corner for him to skulk in?
Movements at the corner of vision terrified him; lamps
signalling on instrument panels made him jump. Even the
high-ozone smell, indicative of the immense power slum-
bering within the apparatus, was fearful to him who had
never before been so near a fusion plant.
Gasping for breath, he halted on a gleaming panel set
into the floor, which was warm to his bare feet, and
heard a noise behind him. Jerking his head around, he
saw two white, bulky forms like distorted human beings
approaching noiselessly, carrying what his fright-warped
eyes interpreted as guns. He screamed wordlessly and
ran forward again, randomly, to begin a deadly game of
cat-and-mouse all over the big hall.
It was not long before his remnants of cunning discov-
ered that there was one place where his pursuers were
reluctant to go; twice, he saw them sidle away from a
large black machine the body of which was a metal tube
as long as his ann, with thick power cables snaldng away
from it across the floor. Why they avoided it, he
conidn’t guess, but as soon as he found a means of doing
so, he dived for this tabooed zone.
Bat those attending him had not bothered to remove