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.“He’s dead,” said one of the men.“I shall put another dart into him,” said the other.“Do not be a fool,” said the first.“Can you be sure he is dead?” asked the other.“See?” said the first.“There is no breath.If he were alive his breath, its vapor in the cold, would be clearly visible.”“You are right,” said the second man.Neither of these men, I gathered, had ever hunted the swift sea sleen.I was pleased that once, in kayaks, with Imnak, I had made the acquaintance of that menacing, insidious beast.“Aiii!” cried the first man, as I leaped upward, striking him aside with my right hand.It was the second man whom I must fist reach.He was the more suspicious, the more dangerous of the two.His weapon contained a dart, at the ready.The weapon lifted swiftly but already I was behind it.The other man had not reinjected a dart into the riflelike contrivance he carried.I turned to him when I had finished the first.I did not realize until later he had struck me with its stock from behind.His scream was long and fading as he fell to the ice below the cliffs.I quickly sorted through the accouterments of the second man.I must move quickly.Not only was dispatch of tactical significance but exposure to the arctic winter could bring a swift death on the summit of the ice island.In moments I wore one of the light, plastic suits, with hood, with the heating unit slung at the hip.I did not know how long the charge in the unit would last but I did not expect to be needing it long.I then took the sack of darts from the second man and threw it, on its strap, about my shoulder.I gathered in the two weapons which they had carried.Another object lay on the ice, a small, portable radio.A voice, in Gorean, was speaking urgently on the device, inquiring as to what was occurring.I did not attempt to respond or confuse the operator.I thought it better to let him ponder what might have happened high above on the surface of that rugged island of ice.If I responded I was sure I would be soon marked as a human intruder.If my voice would not betray me surely my failure to produce code words or identificatory phrases would do so.As it was the operator could speculate on possibilities such as a transmitter malfunction, an accident, or an attack of wandering ice beasts.An investigatory party would soon be sent forth to investigate.This did not displease me.The more men there were outside the complex the fewer there would be inside.The various hatches, also, I was confident, would not open from the outside.If they did, the mechanisms could always be jammed or destroyed.I knew I had at least one ally within, Imnak, who would risk his life to protect me.He had already done so.In short order I managed to find one of the ventilator shafts through which fresh air was drawn into the complex; there was a system of such shafts, some for drawing in fresh air and others for expelling used, stale air.Kurii, with their large lungs, and the need to oxygenate their large quantities of blood, are extremely sensitive to the quality of an atmosphere.Ship Kurii, crashed or marooned on Earth, have usually made their way to remote areas, not simply to avoid human habitations but to secure access to a less polluted, more tolerable atmosphere.Kurii, incidentally, because of their unusual lung capacity, can breathe easily even at relatively high altitudes.They have little tolerance, however, for pollutants.Kur agents on Earth are almost always humans.I could not remove the grating at the top of the shaft.It was fixed into the metal, welded therein.I stepped back and depressed the firing switch on one of the tubular weapons.I then set another dart into the breech.It was not, however, necessary.The metal was broken loose and twisted crookedly upward.The opening was not too large, but it would be enough.I felt around inside the darkened shaft with my hand, and then with the barrel of a weapon.I could find no handholds or footholds.I did not know the depth of the shaft, but I supposed it must be a hundred or more feet, at least.I had no rope.I slipped into the shaft, sweating, my back against one side, my two feet against the other side.Thus began a slow and tortuous descent, inch by inch.The slightest mistake in judgment, as to position or leverage, and I would plummet within the shaft, helpless, until I struck its bottom, however far below it might be.It took more than a quarter of an Ahn to descend the shaft.The last twenty feet I slipped and, pushing and thrusting.fell clattering to its bottom.The grille at the lower end, some seven feet above a steel floor, and opening into a hall, was not fixed as solidly as the one above.Indeed, to my amazement, I lifted it out.“What kept you?” asked Imnak.He was sitting on two boxes, at the side, whittling a parsit fish from sleen bone.“I was detained,” I said.“You were very noisy,” said Imnak.“Sorry,” I said.I saw that the screws holding the lighter grille in place had been removed.That is why it lifted out.“You removed the screws from the grille with your knife,” I said.“Would you have preferred to kick it loose?” asked Imnak.“No,” I said.Then I said, “How did you know to find me here?”“I thought you would have difficulty explaining your right to enter to the guards at the hatches,” said Imnak.“Surely there are many ventilator shafts,” I said.“Yes,” said Imnak, “but not many with people crawling down them.”“Here,” I said, handing Imnak one of the tubular weapons, and several of the darts from the bag which I carried,“What good is this?” asked Imnak.“It blows apart the meat, and there is no place to put a line on the point.”“It is good for shooting people,” I said.“Yes,” said Imnak, “it might do for that.”“It is my intention, Imnak,” I said, “to locate and detonate the device concealed in this complex which is intended to prevent the supplies here from falling into the hands of enemies.”“That is a long thing to say,” he said.“I want to find a switch or lever,” I said, “which will make this whole place go boom bang crash, as when the dart hits a target and makes a big noise.”“I do not know the words ‘boom’ and ‘bang’,” said, Imnak.“Are they Gorean?”“I want to make a thing like thunder and lightning, crash, crash,” I said, angrily.“You want to cause an explosion?” asked linnak.“Yes,” I said [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]