anything but the water and the sky. His heart gave a
lurch and seemed to go out of rhythm for several beats,
and he almost spilled the spare parts from the makeshift
tray balanced on his legs.
Jackson’s buzzards! This far north, they could mean
Only one thinga wolfshark!
With frantic haste he gathered the bits of the fish-
finder and thrust them in a bag where at least he could
find them again, and scrambled to his feet. There was
one other way of tracking oilfish besides using electronic
aids, and that was to follow a wolfshark as the buzzards
did, until its eagerness for prey led it to a school. It
could sense the same nutrient-rich currents as all the
other fish, and those currents always defined the oilfish’s
Of course, not all such currents held oilfishthere
were too many of them. But it was an idea.
He hesitated, eyes screwed np against the glare, raising
the sole of one foot to rub it on the calf of the opposite
leg as he always did when concentrating on a problem.
There were several factors to weigh before a decision
was reached. First off, this wolfshark must be a whopper
to have so many blizzards trailing him. Second, he was
already four days from home, and a wolfshark finding
plenty of prey might kill the clock around for a week
before tiring and turning towards the equator again.
Third, although he had heard about using a wolfshark as
a pilot on the traces of an oilfish school, he had never
known anyone really do itit was needlessly chancy
now that everyone sailing from Grarignol could afford a
Finally, if a wolfshark that size decided to attack his
trawler, it could probably sink it with a single fierce
Bracy drew a very deep breath. Now was the time for
desperate measures, he concluded, and went to see
whether he was equipped for the job.
Stores were no problem, apart from water, and unless
the weather broke he could keep the solar still going.
– Power, likewiseduring the day he drew enough to
move the boat at a sluggish walking pace from silicon-
dynide sails spread to catch the sun, and at night he
could spare a little of his stored reserves. He could tisk a
couple of days on the wolfshark’s trail.
Defending himself if the beast turned nasty was an-
other matter altogether. His only weapons were two
fish-gaffs, rather corroded from long use and one in par-
ticular looking likely to snap soon, and an unreliable
self-seeking seine, not much use for anything except
bringing up jellyfish to be melted in the sun.
One moment! An inspiration struck him. In the
emergency locker he had at least half a dozen signal
rockets, which on a sparsely populated world like this
needed to reach stratospheric altitude if they were to be
any use. They weighed sixty-five pounds apiece, and
were triggered automatically by contact with sea-water
at one-hour intervals after the life-raft was cast over-
He spent fifteen sweaty, swearing minutes manhan-
dling two of them into position on the forward rail, and
fishing up a bucket of sea-water to fire them with. If
luck and judgement combined, he could give even a mon-
ster wolfshark a meal worth remembering with these
Then, feeling remarkably cold despite the heat of the
day, he fed power to the weakly-responding reaction jets
and the trawler began to creep in the wolfshark’s general
He was about a mile distant when the skimmer came
It seemed to appear from nowhere. It was so low in
the water, even the shallow troughs of this oily swell had
concealed it until it got up on its planes and spewed a
frothy plume astem. There seemed to be nothing of it,
toojust a platform with a slightly raised rim forward,
and a man lying on it, his face masked with a visor
against the sun.
Bracy gulped. Going after the wolfshark? Yes! For
he was lying on the butt of a harpoon-gun, and a gleam
of sun caught the barbs of the missile.
He saw the wolfshark then, and wished he hadn’t