It didn't take the Doc and the Christmas tree as long as I feared to get some of the systems running, and then the wall over the controls blossomed into a display. A golden dot marked our position. There weren't any other dots nearby, which I thought was good, and at the top of the picture was an irregular mass which I took to be the coast.
I grunted at him as I tried to figure out what to do. Back in those New Jersey summers with Uncle Cubby, my parents had sometimes taken me out for a fishing trip in Uncle Cubby's seldom-used cabin cruiser. I wished I had paid more attention to the charts. What I saw looked nothing like any coastline I remembered.
Then I saw one of the problems. I was accustomed to maps in which up was always north. Evidently the Beloved Leaders had no such prejudice. I guessed the land had to be east, and-once I craned my neck to peer at it sidewise and got the Doc to widen the view-it made sense. Island that forked at one end, like an alligator's opened jaws, narrow body of water behind it and then the mainland-"Long Island," I announced. "Great! That water over on the left has to be New York Bay. That's where we want to go! Tell the Doc, Pirraghiz!"
She didn't move right away. She was looking at me puzzledly again. So was Beert, and I realized I had used the English names for what I saw, since the Horch language didn't have any. When I explained to them that "New York Bay" was one of the busiest harbors on Earth, and we would have no trouble making contact there, Beert swung his neck around closer to me. "First answer a question for me, Dan. What will you do when you get there?"
"Call the Bureau," I said promptly. "See if they can get this sub under wraps before the Others can see what we're doing-"
I stopped there; what I had just said didn't sound right to me. Before I could figure out what it was, Beert went on. "And then?"
To tell the truth, I hadn't thought much about that "then." Especially about what then would mean for him and Pirraghiz. "Why," I said, "I guess we'll let the Bureau figure out what to do next."
"What you mean," he said meditatively, "is that you will turn this vehicle, and us, over to your human spy organization. Who will question us, and no doubt do their best to copy its technology, both Others and Horch."
"I guess that's about the size of it," I admitted.
He sighed-that shrill Horch whistle of released breath that meant resignation. He didn't say anything. He just nodded to Pirraghiz, who spoke to Wrahrrgherfoozh.
The Doc touched only a few dots on the board, but I felt the results at once. The submarine was turning and beginning to accelerate. The picture on the wall whirled to a new orientation, and we were beginning to go home.
That felt good. It felt like things were going to work out after all. It even felt as though I were going to get that steak before long, and sleep that night in a real bed… and maybe even see Pat…
But we weren't there yet.
The air fresheners had removed a certain amount of the stench from the sub, and things were quieting down. Cowed by the Horch fighting machine looming over him, the Dopey was still muttering-but softly, and to himself. Pirraghiz and the other Doc were in close conversation with each other. It looked as though they had left the navigation to Beert's Christmas tree. Beert himself was standing by the control board, gazing at the changing display that showed where we were moving. I didn't think he was seeing it, though. His neck was waving a slow sine, as though he were deep in thought.
When he saw me looking at him he turned his head toward me. "I have reasoned out," he announced, "that your order to kill the little one was a ruse of some kind, not an actual intention."
"That's right, Beert. It was a trick," I admitted. "We Bureau agents are full of tricks, but listen, Beert, I don't mean to trick you. When we get to the Bureau they will know how much we all owe to you and Pirraghiz, because I'll damn sure make sure they understand."
"I will be grateful for that," he said sadly.
And made me feel like a rat. Or, more accurately, made me feel that he was feeling the way I had when the Horch machines were working me over. Alone. Depressed. Pretty near hopeless. And all of it my fault.
There wasn't anything I could do about it, though. I tried to take his mind off it by changing the subject. "Listen, Beert, I've been meaning to ask you. What did Kofeeshtetch mean about the nexus thing helping the Eschaton?"
It didn't cheer him up. He gave me a three-snake shrug. "Perhaps it is something to be used when the Eschaton comes."
"Yeah, but," I said, "nothing physical is going to survive to the Eschaton, is it? Isn't everything supposed to go back into a kind of a point at the Big Crunch? So how would they get it there without its turning into a mess of quarks or something?"
He shrugged again. "I do not know. The cousins have not yet shared that kind of knowledge with me."
Pirraghiz didn't know, either. Neither did the wounded Doc. If the Dopey knew, he wasn't telling. I added that to the lengthening list of questions I was not likely to get answers to any time soon.
Anyway, other things were beginning to jostle for attention in my mind.
Like Pat. Very much like Pat. I was deeply, excitingly aware that every minute that passed was getting me closer and closer to the minute when I could actually see and touch her again.
And although that was fine, it wasn't all fine. Another itchy little needle of reality was beginning to force itself upon me.
Pat already had a Dan Dannerman. What was she going to do with me?
As we approached New York's Lower Bay I got one more of those nasty little stabs of reality.
Pirraghiz assured me that the other Doc had assured her that, yes, it would be possible to bring the sub close enough to the surface to be awash, and yes, there was a hatch that I could use to get out of, and then-
Well, then what should I do? Wave to a passing Staten Island ferry and hitch a ride to shore? Use a flashlight-if I could find anything like a flashlight-to send a message in Morse code-if I could remember the Morse code-to-
Well, to whom?
And what about security?
The sub's display was really great stuff. I could see the wide-open mouth of the bay, Coney Island on one side, Sandy Hook on the other; I could see little splotches that had to be Ellis Island and Liberty Island; I could even see the long old piers that stuck out into the Hudson from every side. And I could also see objects moving around that I supposed were tankers and cruise liners and excursion boats, and what was I going to be doing about them? Not to mention any U.S. Coast Guard stuff that might be patrolling against just such a Horch sub as ourselves; no doubt the human race had figured out that the Beloved Leaders had sneaked in underwater vessels that had given them the opportunity to kidnap and bug a lot of mariners.
According to Wrahrrgherfoozh, the Horch stealth capabilities were a lot more effective than any primitive human sonars. But I didn't want to take the chance of being depth-bombed by some jumpy lieutenant in a Coast Guard corvette.
I studied the display. "Change of plan," I said.
Both Beert and Pirraghiz turned to me, Pirraghiz's expression wondering, Beert's merely resigned.
"I don't think we'd better get into all that traffic," I told them. "Better if we can find some quiet bay somewhere along the shore. Show me what's down-here."
I put my finger on the barrier island that began around the Highlands and went south. Why did I pick there? I don't know. Maybe I thought we might just pull in at Uncle Cubby's old boat dock and knock on his door.
I didn't think it long. Uncle Cubby was long dead. I had no idea who owned his house, and didn't want to investigate. "There's a bay," I said, pointing between the Sea Bright barrier island and the shore. "Let's take a look."