Repairmen of Cyclops by John Brunner

from its water-proof holster. Maddalena felt a twinge of

worrywas it wise to have given him the weapon when

any instruction had necessarily to be theoretical? She

had restrained him from firing it only with difficulty,

but she dared not let him see a bolt actually fireden-

ergy guns were not the sort of weapons common fisher-

folk could afford, and their discharge was extremely

conspicuous, especially over water where they raised a

wall of steam fifty or more feet high.

Too late to change her mind nowtime was wasting,

and well before midnight they had to explore the house,

the nearby estate and the high ground behind, among the

trees. For that, in Maddalena’s judgement, was the only

place a spaceship could put down near here, unless it

landed on water, and that too was an attention-getting

event attended by clouds of spray and high waves.

Almost certainly among the trees, she had concluded.

And going at a snail’s pace, it would talte a couple of

hours to carry out their preliminary survey, let alone

prepare counter-action against Rimerley and his staff.

“Anchor!” she told Bracy.

Silent as a ghost, he lowered it to the bottom and gave

a cautious tug to ensure it had gripped. On his whispered

confirmation, Maddalena let herself over the side and,

using a stroke that created minimum disturbance in the

water, set off for the shore.

There were lights on in the extension of the house that

ran along the sea-bed, but the room within was empty.

On a low table lay the remains of a mealthe eater, ap-

parently, had had little appetite tonight. Through win-

dows higher up, women could be seen moving about

three of them in all, one in white, the others in dark

green gowns.

Maddalena led Bracy some distance along the shore

before heading inland. She had already got a clear idea

of the layout of the house: the seaward side was the

owner’s, the landward included servants’ quarters and all

the domestic and mechanical offices. There seemed to be

no trace of children; presumably either Rimerley was

unmarried or he maintained a separate establishment else-

where. Or, of course, he might be old enough to have

children already grownshe had somehow been thinking

of him as a young man, greedy and ruthless, rather than

an old man, merely callous.

Their first stop was the dock where the skimmers

were moored. No one noticed them as they bent over

first one, then the other, of the graceful craft. From

there, they went to the ‘copter. The mechanic was just

finishing his job, wiping his hands and putting away

some tools. They waited for five minutes to let him get

clear, and then Maddalena tossed a small sticky object at

the side of the machine. It clung as it touched.

Now, anyone attempting to leave the island by skim-

mer or ‘copter would attract the unwelcome attention of

a homing rocket with a shaped-charge head, unless he

was sufficiently observant to remove the sticky objects

Maddalena had planted.

Which she doubted. The said person was likely to be

in a wild panic.

“Door shut,” Maddalena whispered very softly. “Now

the ventilators.”

The house’s air-conditioning system was quite conspic-

uous from the trawler: two high circulating stacks led

down to the pump-chamber on the roof. Bracy had as-

sured her that he, accustomed to grappling with solar

sails in unexpected gales of wind, could get to the top

easily; nonetheless, she waited with heart in mouth and

hand on gun while he scaled the intake stack and placed

at the top the three glass canisters tied into a bundle with

an explosive cord which she had given him. There was a

radio-activated fuse on the end of the cord.

She had been puzzling for some time over the matter

of where Justin Kolb would be located; it wasn’t until

she was planning this job on the air-conditioning that she

saw the most likely possibility. Any sensible doctor tak-

ing patients into his private dwelling would put them at

the terminal end of the air-circulation system, in case

they had infections which draughts could carry to the

other occupants. As soon as Bracy had come down

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Categories: John Brunner