8

The fourteen hours he spent drifting weightless in the dark made an experience Bresnahan was never to forget, and his friends were never to ignore. He always liked crowds afterward, and preferred to be in cities or at least buildings where straight, clearly outlined walls, windows, and doors marked an unequivocal up-and-down direction.

Even Silbert was bothered. He was more used to weightlessness, but the darkness he was used to seeing around him at such times was normally pocked with stars which provided orientation. The depths of Rain-drop provided nothing. Both men were almost too far gone to believe their senses when they finally realized that the bubble they were still following could be seen by a glow not from their suits’ lights.

It was a faintly blue-green illumination, still impossible to define as to source, but unmistakably sunlight filtered through hundreds of feet of water. Only minutes later their helmets met the tough, elastic skin of the satellite.

It took Silbert only a few moments to orient himself. The sun and the station were both visible — at least they had not come out on the opposite side of the satellite — and he knew the time. The first and last factors were merely checks; all that was really necessary to find the lock was to swim toward the point under the orbiting station.

“I don’t want to use the sonar locator unless I have to,” he pointed out. “There is sonar gear on the sphere. I should be able to get us close enough by sighting on the station so that the magnetic compass will work. Judging by where the station seems to be, we have four or five miles to swim. Let’s get going.”

“And let’s follow the great circle course,” added Bresnahan. “Never mind cutting across inside just because it’s shorter. I’ve had all I ever want of swimming in the dark.”

“My feeling exactly. Come on.”

The distance was considerably greater than Silbert had estimated, since he was not used to doing his sighting from under water and had not allowed for refraction; but finally the needle of the gimballed compass showed signs of making up its mind, and with nothing wrong that food and sleep would not repair the two men came at last in sight of the big lock cylinder.

For a moment, Silbert wondered whether they should try to make their approach secretly. Then he decided that if the Weisanens were there waiting for them the effort would be impractical, and if they weren’t it would be futile.

He simply swam up to the small hatch followed by Bresnahan, and they entered the big chamber together. It proved to be full of water, but the sphere was nowhere in sight. With no words they headed for the outer personnel lock, entered it, pumped back the water, and emerged on Raindrop’s surface. Silbert used his laser, and ten minutes later they were inside the station. Bresnahan’s jump had been a little more skillful than before.

“Now let’s get on the radio!” snapped Silbert as he shed his space helmet.

“Why? Whom would you call, and what would you tell them? Remember that our normal Earth-end contacts are part of the same group the Weisanens belong to, and you can’t issue a general broadcast to the universe at large screaming about a plot against mankind in the hope that someone will take you seriously. Someone might.”

“But…”

“My turn, Bert. You’ve turned what I still think was just a potentially tragic mistake of Weisanen’s into something almost funny, and incidentally saved both our lives. Now will you follow my lead? Things could still be serious if we don’t follow up properly.”

“But what are you going to do?”

“You’ll see. Take it from me, compromise is still possible. It will take a little time; Aino Weisanen will have to learn something I can’t teach him myself. Tell me, is there any way to monitor what goes on in Raindrop? For example, can you tell from here when the lock down there is opened, so we would know when they come back?”

“No.”

“Then we’ll just have to watch for them. I assume that if we see them, we can call them from here on regular radio.”

“Of course.”

“Then let’s eat, sleep, and wait. They’ll be back after a while, and when they come Aino will listen to reason, believe me. But we can sleep right now, I’m sure; it will be a while yet before they show up. They should still be looking for us — getting more worried by the minute.”

“Why should they appear at all? They must have found out long ago that they can’t get back to the station on their own. They obviously haven’t found us, and won’t. Maybe they’ve simply decided they’re already fugitive murderers and have settled down to a permanent life in Raindrop.”

“That’s possible, I suppose. Well, if we don’t see them in a couple of weeks, we can go back down and give them a call in some fashion. I’d rather they came to us, though, and not too soon.

“But let’s forget that; I’m starved. What’s in your culture tanks besides liver?”

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