By the time Beert was gone the deputy director was already scrambling back down the ladder, shouting my name in a very unfriendly way. I didn't look at him. For that matter, I didn't stop to rejoice, or even take a deep breath; I had more important things to take care of.
First priority was giving Pirraghiz the orders to pass on to the sub crews: "Tell them all to turn off their transit machines and keep them off. Make sure they do that! Then," I added as an afterthought, "tell them all to head out to deep water and stay there." I didn't want any of them where somebody could try a depth bomb.
When I was sure she was passing the word on I turned back to die deputy director, interrupting his tirade. "I'm sorry, Marcus," I said, reasonably politely, "but I'm too busy to talk to you now."
That was nowhere near the kind of deference he was used to, and it made him yell even louder. "The hell you say! You've got a lot of explaining to do, Dannerman!"
I sighed, and put it less politely. "Shut the hell up," I ordered.
Amazingly, he did. Or else had a heart attack. He turned a peculiar color and sat down heavily on die nearest flat surface. Whatever he was doing, I let him do it and went back to Pirraghiz. "Have they all done what I said?" I demanded. She raised one of her lesser arms to fend the question off while she was meowing into the microphone and listening to the yowls that came back.
Then at last she turned that great pale face toward me and said, "They are doing it, Dannerman, but not without much trouble and fighting."
"Doing it isn't good enough! Make sure it really gets done, by every last one!"
"Yes, Dannerman," she sighed, and began polling the subs one by one. When it occurred to me to turn around again, Pell wasn't there anymore. He had evidently gone out of the sub again-probably, I thought, to line up a firing squad for me.
At that moment I didn't take much interest in what Pell might be up to. I was tired and cranky and not all that sure in my mind that I had done the right thing by letting Beert go. But it was done. Whatever the consequences might be, I had no way to deflect them.
Of those consequences there turned out to be plenty, though it took me a while to find out what they all were.
The deputy director didn't come back that day, but Lieutenant Colonel Makalanos did. He gave me another of those unfriendly looks, but he didn't say anything. He just sat down, silently watching my every move and occasionally stealing glances at the news screen he had brought with him. I wasn't ready to talk to him, so I did my best to pretend he wasn't there. It wasn't that hard. There was plenty of back-and-forth talk with the subs to keep me busy.
They had followed my orders. Every one of them had turned off its transit machine, and they were all slipping quietly away from the shallow coastal waters. None reported any human attempt to bother them.
It was time to start asking them questions. I did-at length- and the answers came back the same way. After nearly an hour of that I sighed and turned around to face Makalanos. "All right," I said. "I'd better tell you what they say the subs were doing so you can pass it on to the deputy director."
He leaned back and scratched his chin. "I was hoping you might," he said.
I let that go. "The freed crews, the Docs and the warriors, are all in control now. There was a lot of fighting. In the Sixteen Plus Eight and One-I mean in sub twenty-five-their Dopey tried to activate the methane release manually. They had to kill him. Four or five of the other Dopeys got killed too, but only one warrior died-his Dopey happened to have a weapon at the wrong time, so that was a close one. And," I added, "we were right about the methane, I think, although none of the controlled crews were ever told what was going on and the Dopeys, the ones that survived, aren't talking. Starting a couple of days ago the crews began receiving objects through their transit machines. They were tapered metal cylinders that they'd never seen before, and their orders were to push the things out through the disposal hatch. The crews weren't told what the objects were supposed to do. Dr. Schiel's idea was that they might use incendiaries, or maybe just high explosives, to blow up and release the trapped methane. It looks like he was right. I would guess," I said, striking off on my own, "that the bombs were meant to be triggered from the scout ship, but I don't think they were all in place yet. The sub crews were still busy emplacing the things when we blew the main ship up."
I stopped there. Makalanos was staring at me. "Jesus," he said. "And they're still out there, those live bombs?"
It was a dumb question, but it was one I hadn't thought of. "Shit," I said. "I guess somebody's going to have to pick them up and disarm them before we're through. Anyway, get the word out. The D. D.'s going to want to know all this."
"Oh," he said, gesturing to one of the cameras, "the word's out, all right, though whether anyone is paying attention right now, I don't know. They've got other things on their minds." And he turned his news screen around so I could see what was on it.