come near after all, for it was gigantic beyond his worst
nightmaresits span as great as the entire length of his
The scene of the man on the skimmer confronting the
horrible aquatic killer lasted just long enough to burn
into his memory, before a sonic boom thundered across
the sky and the tableau, one second old, dissolved into a
chaos of spray and shrieking cries from the buzzards,
which had withdrawn to a safe height after vomiting
their half-digested stomach contents.
The skimmer vanished as suddenly as it had appeared,
in a whirlpool generated by the passage of the wolf-
shark, and a dozen fragments sailed into the air to land at
distances up to a hundred feet away. Of the man who
had been on it, Bracy saw nothing more for the moment.
Chiefly, this was because he was no longer wasting time
on looking. He had stopped his engines on solar power
and feverishly switched to stored reservesnot that that
would enable him to outrun the monster, but at least it
would give him a chance to dodge if he timed the ma-
He waited, wholly tense. Would the beast ignore him,
or? No, his luck was out. For, having turned in a lazy
circle, it was rising to the surface again and surveying
the upper side of the sea.
This was an old rogue, clearly, as well as a monster.
No sooner had it sighted the trawler than it buried itself
Bracy was yelling at the top of his voicehe had no
idea what words he was uttering, but they might have
been curses. By crazy guesswork he aligned the trawler
on the wolfshark’s course, slopped water over the firing
mechanism of both rockets, and buried himself into the
well of the deck, hoping the blast would be deflected
Onetwothree heartbeats, as widely spaced as
measured footfalls, intolerably slow.
And the universe exploded.
Dazed, he picked up his bruised body, feeling as if it
belonged to someone else, and put his head over the
well’s edge to look at the deck. Two of his solar sails
were ripped, and the plastic awning which had given
him shade had blown clear out of sight; there were
char-marks on the planking and the window of the
stemhouse was smashed.
Bat there had been a very satisfactory- calamity twenty
yards from his bows. He could tell, even before looldng
over the side, because the buzzardsnot choosy about
what carrion they atehad descended already to replace
the food wasted in panicky vomiting.
The writhing corpse of the wolfshark, torn almost in
two, was pumping its life’s blood in great oozing gouts
into the ocean.
Limp, Bracy had to cling to the railand instantly
snatched his hand away. It was still hot from the blaze of
the rockets’ exhaust. A miracle I didn’t set the ship afire,
he thought wanly.
He looked apatherically at the water. Now he’d lost
two solar sails, and his pilot to an oilfish school, for
He stiffened abruptly. What was that in the water
yonder? Something writhingas though beating at the
The man from the skimmer! Still alive, floating on
some buoyant section of his crafteven having the
strength to utter faint cries, now that Bracy’s ears were
attuned to the sound half-masked by the whinnying of
With infinite effort he put the trawler about and drew
alongside the floating man. He was by then too weak to
help himself; Bracy had to gaff him through a pair of
cross-belts on his back. And small wonder he was weak.
When he was dragged from the water, he proved to
have lost one leg from the knee down to the fangs of the
“Don’tworry,” the man whispered, seeing Bracy
stare aghast at the injury. “Suitwill stopthe bleeding.”
What suit? Bracy peered closer. The man’s skin was
covered with a transparent film of some kind, that must
be it, and it was contracting now of its own accord,
forming an automatic tourniquet around the amputated
leg so that the flesh turned death-white and the bleeding
reduced to a capillary leakage.
Well, that fettles it, Bracy thought glumly, and went