Authors: Joe Poyer
CHAPTER ONÈYou are Dr. Mortimer Keilty?'
Keilty looked up from the scattering of papers and books on the table that served him for a desk. His eyes refused to focus for a moment and he rubbed the back of a dirty, sunburned hand across his forehead.
`Dr. Keilty?' the naval officer standing in front of him repeated impatiently.
Keilty reached over and shut off the tape recorder. The empty reel, which had been spinning for almost an hour, stopped its subdued clatter. He sat back down heavily and regarded the officer across from him with bleary-eyed distaste and absolutely no curiosity whatsoever.
`What the devil do you want?' he asked mildly.
The naval officer, startled, shifted uncomfortably. He tossed his credentials case onto the table so that it fell open to his I.D. card — a practiced gesture he was proud of.
`Hell, James Bond couldn't have done that better,' Keilty said, reaching for the case. The other flushed angrily.
`Lieutenant Commander Michael Redgrave, Bureau of Naval Intelligence,' Keilty read slowly, then tossed the case back. `So?'
'My instructions are to discuss with you something of the utmost importance to the security of the United States,' Red-grave answered seriously. 'The Bureau of Naval Intelligence, under direct orders from the Pentagon, has reviewed your file and decided that you are the man it needs.' He grinned a. friendly, comradely grin, 'Almost amounts to a command, you know.
`That's nice. Now get the hell out of here so I can get back to my work.' Keilty picked up his pencil stub and began correcting a much edited, dog-eared manuscript.
Redgrave shifted from foot to foot and looked around the cluttered room for a chair.
Finding none, he perched on the edge of the rickety table. Keilty looked up.
`Perhaps you didn't hear me. I ...'
`Beat it,' Keilty said, and went back to the manuscript. `Now look here ...' Redgrave exploded, 'either you listen to me or ...
`Shall I throw you out in tiny pieces, or will one pulpy lump do?' Keilty stood up and started around the table. He was almost six-two, and weighed well over two hundred pounds. Redgrave looked at the massive bare chest and sunburned expanse of shoulders and retreated backwards to the door.
'Lanahan, O'Malley,' he shouted. `Get in here! '
The door shot open and two shore patrolmen with rather ugly black service automatics in their hands stepped through, the pistols aimed at Keilty's midsection. Forty-five caliber, standard Colt side arm, Keilty decided, and my, didn't they look purposeful. Bet they could clean up a barroom brawl or a crap game faster than any squadron of marines.
Lanahan, a thickset, muscular individual with a crusty red scar running from ear to ear by way of the bridge of his nose, made the mistake of stepping around Redgrave, so that Red-grave was between him and Keilty for a brief moment. A lesser man would have ignored the unintended challenge. But not Keilty. He stepped quickly to the left, his right forearm sweeping Commander Redgrave up under the chin and catapulting him back into O'Malley. Lanahan, he caught round the gun wrist with his left hand and reversed into a hammer lock, then threw him onto the two sitting on the floor. From there, it was a simple matter to confiscate both weapons and deposit the three sailors in the middle of the gravel path leading to the bungalow.
Keilty went back to his manuscript and the window that opened onto the blue and green reaches of the quiet Gulf of Mexico, and watched the three sailors trudge back down the path. Rather sheepishly too, he decided.
It didn't take long for the U.S. Navy to return. Keilty's mildly alcoholic fog was punctured by the sound of his name shouted over a bull horn.
He went out, blinking in the late afternoon sunshine. Some one hundred yards offshore stood a Coast Guard cutter. Red-grave, looking very unhappy, stood next to a rear admiral on the forward deck. Keilty noted that although no one stood particularly near the deck gun, its canvas cover was unlashed and folded neatly on the deck forward of the mount — and that a two-foot magazine stuck out of the left side.
Keilty sauntered down to the beach and sat down on the edge of the grass, out of the sun.
He raised his half-empty pint of Gilbey's London Dry and toasted the cutter.
`You are Dr. Keilty?' the admiral shouted at him.
`Sounds familiar enough,' he yelled back. 'Go on.'
`Dr. Keilty, I am Admiral Rawingson, Naval Intelligence, Washington. We have something very important to discuss with you; may we come ashore?'
`Nope, say what you have to say from there, then beat it.'
`Dr. Keilty,' the admiral shouted again, 'this matter is very confidential.' He looked round at the grinning coastguardsmen with the senior service's disdain for amateurs.
Keilty considered for a moment; he shook out a Chesterfield and crumpled the empty pack, making great show of his deliberation. The admiral respected it. Half a cigarette later, he took it out of his mouth and waved.
'Hi, Jack, how are the girls in Miami since I left?'
`Great, how's Charlie?'
The admiral swung around and stared at the Coast Guard lieutenant on the bridge. Before he could say anything, Keilty hollered, 'Bring 'em ashore, Jack. Tie up at the dock, so they won't get their white bucks wet.'
The sound of the cutter's diesel engines increased as it swung round for the dock. Jack Weston brought it alongside smartly, aft of Keilty's twenty-four-foot overnighter. Keilty took the bowline and snubbed it down.
The two naval officers jumped down on the dock, but Keilty ignored them. Clapping Weston on the back, he led the way up to the patio.
`Sit down, gentlemen, sit down.' Keilty folded into a chair and shouted, `Margaritta: A lithe, dusky-skinned brunette appeared, wearing a very brief bikini. She stopped beside Keilty's chair, and ran a long finger over his ear. Redgrave flushed, Rawingson softened.
`Glad to see you at least put the top on for our visitors.'
Hmmm,' she said. 'Hello, Jackie, how are you?' She had a dusky voice to match her skin.
`Margaritta, this is Lieutenant Commander Michael Redgrave and Rear Admiral Rawingson. I, uh . . . didn't catch your first name, Admiral?'
'Uh, it's Peter.'
`Fine, Peter, Pete Rawingson, Margaritta. We're very informal here, Admiral, first name basis only,' he explained.
`How do you do, gentlemen,' Margaritta murmured again.
Redgrave managed to get out a strangled sound while Raw-
ingson stood and reached across the table to shake hands. Margaritta let her fingers slip slowly across his palm. Rawingson sat down looking much happier.
`Rustle up something to drink, sexy.' When she disappeared inside, Keilty laughed.
`She's a friend – out visiting for a while.
Redgrave let out a long, unsteady breath.
`Dr. Keilty,' Rawingson interrupted, 'this is all very interesting, but we have something extremely important to discuss with you.
Rawingson looked pained. 'Now look, Doctor, I realize that the Navy has treated you pretty shabbily in the past, but we are prepared to let bygones be bygones.'
Keilty exploded with laughter. 'You're prepared, hell, that's great. I'm forgiven.' He leaned across the table and growled, `What makes you think it works both ways? You birds kept me going for two years on a project with nothing but a lousy letter of commitment, then decided not to sign the contract after all. Instead, you gave me my walking papers, classified my work, rescinded my classification, and kept my reports.
Two years of work for absolutely nothing.'
To fill the sudden silence, Redgrave said brightly, 'Well, ah, we did pay your expenses.'
Keilty regarded him in such a way as to make Redgrave look around unconsciously for a hole to crawl into.
Àccording to the letter of intent, it was supposed to be a cost-plus-incentive fee. I not only lost my shirt, but I didn't even make a profit. For crying out loud, I'm a capitalist. I work for profit. You ask me to work for you, you damn well better pay me. That's why I pay you to protect me from our communist friends across the sea.'
`But, look here, Dr. Keilty, you're a scientist. After all, the Navy did pay your expenses for two years. We realize you did not make a profit, but as a scientist, you're not ...'
`Shut up, idiot,' Rawingson glared. 'You've ..
`You fathead. You imbecilic, unctuous offspring of a slimy .. Keilty broke off, breathing hard.
`No one, no one comes to me and says, you are a scientist. As a scientist you should not make a profit because it's indecent. That just isn't done.
He lowered his voice and went on. 'I will repeat again. I am an American citizen. I am also a capitalist. And the last time I looked it up in the Constitution, I was still guaranteed the right
to make a living. Don't come into my home and accept my hospitality and then ask for anything but a personal favor, unless you damn well make it worth my while to waste my time. That's my value – my time – past time in learning what I know, present time in sitting here listening to your insults; and future time, if I take your job. Jackass!' he finished.
Keilty subsided and Margaritta reappeared from the bungalow, swinging towards them, balancing the tray easily against the roll of her hips. She served the drinks and started to fold gracefully to the grass alongside Keilty. He caught her on the way down.
`Beat it, beautiful, men-talk. Give Jack's sailors a treat. Go for a swim off the pier.
`Nothing doing,' Weston shouted after her. 'You stay away from there. I want those characters in shape to sail that boat to Miami.'
`She swims with nothing on,' he explained to the Admiral. `Claims it's more natural that way.'
Rawingson nodded sagely.
`Dr. Keilty Redgrave began.
`Shut up, idiot,' Rawingson repeated in a weary tone. 'If you had read the report I sent down to you, we wouldn't have this mess now.'
`But, sir, I ...'
`Will you shut up,' he shouted savagely, then turned to Keilty. and in a milder tone, said, '
Look, Doctor, I know you are upset about what happened before. But I am here to see that it doesn't happen again. If we could talk to you alone for a few minutes, I am sure you will see the significance of what I have to say.' He glared meaningfully at Weston.
The coastguardsman started to rise.
`Sit down, Jack. He stays,' Keilty said to Rawingson. 'He's family and besides, I want a witness.'
Rawingson frowned. 'What's your clearance, Lieutenant?' `Top Secret.
`Well – all right. Remember it.
Rawingson put his brief case on the table and opened it. From the pier, long, drawn-out wolf whistles and a faint splash sounded.
'Oh God,' Weston groaned. 'She did it.'
Keilty grinned. Rawingson spread out an extremely detailed map. Keilty did not recognize it at once.
`This is a chart of the Strait of Malacca – Sumatra to the south; Malaysia, north.' Rawingson pointed out Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. 'I don't have to emphasize to you the importance to world trade — particularly Western trade —of this strait. Four major shipping lanes and numerous smaller ones pass through these straits from the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal.' He paused to see if this had sunk in. Keilty was staring at the map. Weston was hunched in deep concentration.
'If,' Rawingson continued, 'this strait were closed to us somehow, it would be a severe blow to our prestige and influence in the Far East.'
'Us, means us and Britain, I suppose?'
'Yes, Doctor, it does, but additionally, Australia, Japan, Scandinavia, et cetera.'
'I thought the British and Australians patrolled this area just to keep it safe for democracy?'
`They do, but in this matter they have asked our help, since it also concerns us. Let me finish setting the stage.'
'Be my guest.' Keilty looked mournfully at his drink, then picked up the admiral's untouched glass.
'If, as I said, we should find this strait closed to us, it would be costly beyond computation. We should have to detour our shipping nearly seven thousand miles 'round Australia from the Pacific, three thousand miles from the South China Sea through the Celebes, Coral, down into the Arafura and Timor Seas and into the Indian Ocean. A delay of weeks and months.
`From the western approaches, we would have to reverse the procedure. And we would have to abandon our economic and shipping influences in the Far East. And if that is the case, we would be finished forever in Southeast Asia. In addition, it would be a ruinous blow to Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia alone does an import—export business in excess of eight hundred million dollars per year — the vast majority of which goes through Singapore. And as you can see by the map, Singapore is strategically situated at the head of the strait. During the war, the Japanese tied us up good in the China Sea and the CBI by taking Singapore. With it, they were able to control the entire Indo-China peninsula and what was then the Dutch East Indies. They forced our shipping right out of Southeast Asia and forced us to institute the airlift over the Himalayas and build the Burma Road to get supplies in from the Indian staging areas.'
`Get to the point, Admiral. I know all that. This area is a British and Australian responsibility and they seem to be doing a pretty decent job, as usual.'
`Yes, well unfortunately, the straits are international waters. In the past few years since the end of the war in Indo-China, communist guerrilla activity has increased tremendously. Malaysia never did quite suppress the communist insurgents. Within six months of the time the United States withdrew from Vietnam, the communists were active again in Northern Malaya. The straits and the Bay of Bengal have become the new Ho Chi Minh trail for men and supplies into the south and across to Indonesia where the PCP is ...'
'I read the papers, Admiral. The Red Chinese are protesting their innocence everytime someone even so much as hints the insurgent movements are starting up again. And the Soviets are all sweetness and light again as usual. But I got the impression that the Malaysian and Indonesian armed forces were keeping well ahead. So ?'
'Just this. Three months ago, the Vietnamese built a scientific research station about thirty-five miles off the eastern coast of Sumatra, almost directly opposite and south of Singapore. The station is located in the Riouw Archipelago, and is shielded on the north, west, and south by several islands. It faces directly up the strait. Since it is in international waters, the Indonesians and Malaysians have both been refused entry or inspection. The Vietnamese claim it is purely a scientific research station to investigate currents in the southern end of the straits in preparation for later oil exploration. As you may know, the currents are very tricky.'
'British photo reconnaissance shows an honest-to-God research station there and nothing else.'
'Nuts. Since when have that bunch ever done any scientific research? They wouldn't know what the words mean.'
'Precisely. In addition to photo reconnaissance, the British have also sent two submarines in. The first was warned away; the second, chased out and damaged somewhat by destroyers. It was a nuclear sub.'
Jack whistled. Keilty was looking interested now. The sound of splashing, whistling, and catcalls from the pier went unheeded.
'What about underwater demolition teams?'
`They have sent in three divers to date. None of them have returned. It would appear that it is impossible to find out what they are doing.'
Rawingson paused and regarded Keilty. 'That's why they turned to us and we have come to you.'
'Ho-ho, so that's it,' Keilty exclaimed. 'The light is beginning to dawn.
Ì thought it would,' Rawingson smiled. 'We are well aware of the subsequent work you have been doing with dolphins since leaving our, well ... shall we say – employ.'
`Let's not,' Keilty muttered. 'I take it you are interested in Charlie?'
`Tricky, ain't they?' Jack grinned.
`just a moment, Lieutenant ...' Rawingson sputtered.
Àll right, no internecine quarrels. But I agree with Jack, Admiral.'
Ìf half of what you claim about this dolphin is true, Doctor, he's just what we need,'
Redgrave said seriously.
Keilty stood up. 'Admiral, can I clobber him again, or just refuse him drinks?'
`For God's sake, shut up, Redgrave. One more word out of you and you'll wind up counting gooney birds on Johnson Island for the Interior Department.'
`But I only meant ...'
`Shut up,' the admiral roared. He breathed deeply for several seconds, then turned back to Keilty, a serious, almost pleading look on his face.
`Look, Doctor, we need your help. This is serious.'
`Me, or my dolphin? And besides, you still haven't told me what the problem is. For all I know, it really is a legitimate research station.'
`Yes, you're quite right. Please sit down. Rawingson reached into the brief case and took out a sheaf of papers. 'This,' he said slowly, 'is a series of reports concerning the movement of certain high-ranking military personnel in the Vietnamese armed forces.
`To a last man, they have all been trained in Hanoi and Moscow.'
Rawingson paused before going on. 'Both of you,' he said, looking from Keilty to Weston, 'both of you are to give me your word that you will not repeat a word of this to anyone. Very few people know of it, and that's the way we want it kept.' He selected a slim manuscript with the green top-secret
cover sheet of the U.S. Government and the maroon cover sheet of the British Government.
'As I explained, and as you know, the straits are of extreme strategic and tactical importance to us. Their protection was just one of the reasons we risked a land war in Indo-China. But, we also found, that short of a nuclear war which could never be justified, we could not hold South Vietnam. But the war did achieve one limited objective, we managed to keep the straits open. So, we took our losses and pulled out. As long as noncommunist governments sit astride the straits, Vietnam will never be a major power. And they know it and so do their friends the Russians. We suspect but can't prove that Vietnam is encouraging the rebirth of communist insurgency movements in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, but under much tighter control than ever before. Vietnam took their lumps for awhile from Cambodia and Laos when the local communists refused to play their game but it looks like even that problem is being solved. Cambodia knows that the Vietnamese can make a great deal of trouble for her at a very critical time. China is trying to prop her up but ...
Ìt all comes down to control of the straits. Control would not only give Vietnam tremendous leverage but would also allow her to outflank friend and foe alike. And, it would be a huge bulwark against the Chinese. It is beginning to sound as if they have in mind a revival of the old Japanese Sphere of Greater Co-prosperity with themselves playing the Sons of Heaven.
'A greatly entrenched Vietnamese government on the southern flank, just waiting for a funny move and the Russians in the north . . . the possibilities of the situation are enough to make your mouth water if you sit in the Kremlin. So, the first step must be to neutralize the British, Australian, Indonesian and Malaysian fleets in such a way as to neutralize an advantage to the U.S. Seventh Fleet and to destabilize the Malaysian and Indonesian governments and give the local insurgents a hard crack at them. With governments that are at least forced to be friendly, if not in actual sympathy with, the Vietnamese to the south, then Cambodia, Laos and Thailand will have to fall into line.
China will then be caught in a huge pincer, encircled if you will and if it comes to war, she would not stand a chance, even with all her hundreds of millions. If her industrial base is destroyed by Soviet missiles she becomes the agrarian society of the last century and easy prey to all comers.
'The specter of the Soviet Union without the counterbalancing threat of the Red Chinese is something we don't want to have to face in the near future.
Rawingson held up a ticketed folder.
'In this report, gentlemen, is incontrovertible proof that the Vietnamese have succeeded in manufacturing at least one five-megaton nuclear bomb.'
'My, my,' Keilty whistled, 'how dey do spread.
'We have very good reason to believe that bomb is being planted on the floor of the Malacca strait.'
Èxtremely good. The President has directed us to co-operate in every way with the British.'
Keilty and Weston exchanged long, sober looks. Margaritta came running lightly up the gravel path, fastening the top of her bikini. She disappeared into the bungalow, ignored by the four men.
`What good is it going to do them down there?' Keilty asked.
'If that bomb is detonated, it will destroy the British fleet and send billions of tons of radioactive water over the Malay Peninsula. The Vietnamese will have Singapore relatively unharmed. The Malaysian armed forces in combination with the Singapore police will be pushed back into the interior with the loss of eighty-five percent of their bases, munitions and other material. Vietnamese and probably Cambodian troops will occupy the peninsula without much opposition while the Indonesians recover their own losses; Congress, and the Australian and British Parliaments will spend weeks arguing about what it all means by which time, no matter what they decide, we will have been presented with a very effective and clever fait accompli.'
`Looks like I called the wrong parties tricky,' Weston grinned. 'My apologies, Admiral.'
'Not a very pretty picture, Admiral,' Keilty said thoughtfully. 'Allow me to fill in the rest of it. You want me to persuade Charlie to scout out this installation ...'
Ànd find us a way to destroy it,' Rawingson interrupted.
. . and find you a way to destroy it. Quite a task for one silly dolphin.'
`You mean, you don't think he can do it?' Rawingson asked quickly.
Weston laughed and got up and went into the house for another bottle.
'Hell, there's no question but what he can do it,' Keilty continued, 'if
'If I decide he should, and if I can explain it to him.'
'If you decide he should. Good God, man, this is no time for personal considerations. We need you.'
'Well . . . that's settled. At least now you're saying so openly,' Keilty said, watching narrowly as Jack returned and poured rum into the glasses. He reached out and tipped the bottle, making it run out faster. Jack looked pained as he held it up and measured the level.
'I just wanted to make sure you were asking, not demanding.'
'What did you mean by explaining it to him – who's him?'
'Charlie, for crying out loud, who else. Look, Admiral, maybe this will work and maybe it won't. Explaining things to a dolphin is a little bit different than briefing a bunch of wet-eared naval officers.
`For one thing, dolphins think differently than we do. They have no politics – so they have no concept of good and evil. Evil to them, or what can be translated for evil, is the concept of shark or killer whale – their natural enemies – and then, not all sharks, only those which prey on dolphins.
'In addition, Charlie won't do everything I want him to –only what makes sense to him.
And I am going to have one heck of a time trying to explain this.'
Rawingson took a long pull at the drink Weston had poured him.
Ìt's funny. We had expected a lot of difficulties, even to the dolphin not being able to do the job. But we never expected that the dolphin might altogether refuse.'
`There may be one other difficulty. How extensive will this reconnaissance need to be?'
Rawingson sat forward. 'We want a Combined Strike Force of Malaysian, Indonesian and Australian/New Zealand naval units to destroy the research station. The Vietnamese know this but are gambling they can finish before we can move. Naturally, none of the governments involved will act until they have proof . . . or figure the odds are running out. The Malaysians have had a lot of pressure put on them by the Vietnamese lately in the South China Sea and they don't want to worsen the situation if the bomb does not exist.'
'You want a comprehensive survey then. What are you looking for?'
`That we don't know. How would you go about planting a bomb in a couple of hundred feet of water — a very precise bomb, intended to do a precise job. We have specially designed underwater cameras and radiation counters to use for this job. We'll strap them on the fish ...'
`Not fish, Admiral — dolphins are mammals. And he may not take kindly to being loaded up with equipment.'
`Well, in this matter, I'll defer to you — you know best.' `Well, well, will wonders never cease?' Keilty muttered to himself.
`The problem remains — we must have that information. And there seems to be no other way to get it:
Keilty stood up. 'Let's go ask Charlie what he thinks. The most he can do is say no.
The admiral winced, but followed, stumbling over Redgrave, who in his haste to make amends, botched the job of holding the admiral's chair. Rawingson mentally aimed a kick at Red-grave's neatly pressed backside. Keilty led them around the side of the bungalow, past a neat flagstone patio where Margaritta was sunning herself, one slim ankle in the air and sans bikini. Rawingson grabbed the Lieutenant Commander by a lapel and dragged him on.
On the leeward side of the island, Keilty had constructed a series of three shallow pens –much like Olympic-sized swimming pools – divided by cyclone fencing. The pens were each marked off with colored files of nylon mesh curving to a common opening on the seaward side.
He stopped by the middle pen, while Jack walked over to a small shed that housed the generator. When he opened the metal hatch, the sound of a small diesel motor could be heard faintly.
'Jack helps me with these experiments quite a bit,' Keilty explained. 'Charlie and the rest know him almost as well as me. Jack's a better scuba-diver than I am, so he does most of the underwater work.'
'Our reports did not say that he participated in your work,' Rawingson said thoughtfully. '
There seem to be quite a few holes in our intelligence,' he finished, turning a baleful eye on Redgrave.
'All set,' Jack called, and came trotting back.
Keilty bent down and reached into the water for a switch set flush with the wall of the pens. A high-pitched squeak sounded, muffled by the water.
'That's the call,' Keilty said. 'It's a tape recording of my voice shouting "Hey, Charlie"
over and over again, about four times normal speed. It goes through loudspeakers spaced around the island and out on the reef. If Charlie is anywhere around, he'll hear it and come on in.'
'What happens if he doesn't hear it?'
'It'll keep playing until he does.'
Keilty paused to stare out across the lagoon. A triangular dorsal fin with a thin wake curling up and around was heading towards the pools, about a hundred yards from the opening.
'Better stand back – this is an old trick of his,' Keilty called, stepping back. They could now see a gray torpedo shape shoot unerringly into the mouth of the pool and race up the fifty-meter length between the red and green files of mesh. Ten feet from the edge of the pool, the dolphin slammed around in a flashing broadside that sprayed water over the edge of the pool and the watching men.
'I guess we didn't move back far enough,' Keilty grinned sheepishly. Redgrave surveyed his soaking-wet whites and splotched bucks with dismay.
The dolphin swam leisurely back to the wall and flipped the switch to cut off the underwater call. Then he backed off a few feet and heaved himself half out of the water and onto the sloping edge. Charlie surveyed the four men with his bright eyes, his short, stiff neck twisting from side to side. Keilty sat down next to him with his bare feet dangling in the cool water and thumped the dolphin on the back of his head.
Charlie opened his mouth, revealing four rows of conical, very sharp teeth, and issued a cross between a grunt and a whistle, while Keilty taped a small microphone next to the dolphin's blowhole, clipped an earphone into the dolphin's auditory hole, and fastened another microphone around his own neck. He plugged both microphones into a mixer and tuned it quickly.
'Charlie's microphone feeds through a transphonemator that breaks down his click and whistle speech into the proper pitches for direct translation into English equivalents.
Dolphin speech is composed mostly of broad-band clicks between two kc and four kc per second. In the beginning we taught Charlie to speak English more as a test of his intelligence than anything else. The dolphin language, which is quite similar to that of other Cetacea – whales, et cetera – is also quite difficult to produce without the transphonemator. It's a simply structured language, a straightforward "working" language with a small vocabulary of some three hundred different word symbols, each with a single meaning.
Keilty patted Charlie fondly on the head. 'He's pretty intelligent, he is. He not only learned to use the transphonemator to translate his language symbols – their meaning that is – into human terms, but he invented new dolphin words and added them to his vocabulary at a phenomenal rate.
'We found,' Keilty went on, 'that the whole key to effective and quick communication between man and dolphin lay in the initial use of the transphonemator to come up with enough common symbols to give us a reference ground – a kind of Rosetta Stone affair.
Ònce he had learned to speak to us so that his language made sense to us, we began to teach him to think in word symbols. Charlie describes the thought process as a mixture of English and dolphinese, although neither is particularly suited to the thinking process in this form. His biggest problem, as you might suspect, was in English words that have more than one meaning, such as hear, here. So far, he's not come up with any great earth-shaking philosophies, but then he still isn't clear as to what abstract thinking is. He can reason quite well, but not so well where abstracts are concerned.'
`Then you just reverse the translation process in order for the dolphin to understand you?'
`No, not at all, or at least not any more. Dolphins speak and hear about four times as fast as we do. This also translates to their movements and perceptions. Dolphins are extremely fast, as are all sea creatures. In the water they are extremely quick because they are essentially weightless and actually have three dimensions to move through, while we have only two — except by artificial means. So they have to be very perceptive and fast.
`Now, because they do hear and speak and because he now knows English, my voice is merely recorded and played back instantly, but four times faster than normal. I am gradually teaching him to understand me without the speed-up process, but it is like trying to understand a seventy-eight record at sixteen rpm. About twenty years ago, Dr.
John Lilly down in the Virgin Islands noticed that his dolphins were repeating a series of sounds over and over. When they taped and slowed them down, they found that the dolphins were actually saying words in English, but four times as fast. They also found that these dolphins could understand some words they were saying. But still it is a long way from isolated words to entire sentences and conversations four times as slow as you are used to. In fact, Lilly had a girl live in the same pool with a dolphin for over a year, ten hours a day, five and six days a week. Before the year was up, they understood each other quite well without using any artificial means of communication.
Ènglish is basically a sentence-oriented language — subject, verb, and modifiers for each as needed. On the other hand, a language such as French, where meaning depends on word variation, might be easier to teach a dolphin, as their language is sound-symbol oriented and each sound means a specific thing, and there isn't the logical progression through a sentence as there is in English. Then again, I may be completely wrong. We will have to try it to find out. Chinese, on the other hand, might even be better. It's a tonal language as is dolphinese —with each sound-symbol having essentially one meaning.
Ànyway, Charlie has become so good at using the trans-
phonemator and has developed such a sense of humor that you sometimes forget that it is a dolphin speaking to you. We've installed a TV set and a microfilm reader that he can watch ...'
`You mean he can read?' Rawingson asked, amazed.
'Of course. Why not? From speaking a language, it's not so hard a step to breaking down the relatively simple code we use for writing. Anyway,' Keilty continued, 'he can use both whenever he wants. In two years, Charlie has developed a large vocabulary and a fairly good grasp of abstracts for one who never even dreamed of their existence a short time before. I'd say this his general level of intelligence is about on a par with a twelve-year-old in abstract matters, and level with an intelligent full-grown man in most other things.
Charlie had been fidgeting through Keilty's long dissertation and finally broke into the conversation, interrupting Red-grave who had been about to ask a question.
`What's up, doc?' Charlie's voice was a well-modulated imitation of Keilty's.
Both of the naval officers started and stared at each other. Charlie slid back part way and slapped the surface of the water with his tail.
Keilty looked pained. 'Cut out the funnies, Charlie, this is serious business. These gentlemen are here to ask our help. They have come to us because you are the only one that can do what they want, so quit clowning around.'
'Okay, sorry,' Charlie replied, still in a creditable imitation of Keilty's voice.
jack bent over to pat his head. Keilty then explained briefly what they would need from Charlie and that it would give him a chance to ride in an airplane again. They would even put him by the window for the entire trip this time. Keilty did not explain why they needed the information, as it would only have confused the dolphin, or so he thought. He played up the airplane ride and the chance to see new territory.
The dolphin acquiesced easily enough, then demanded to know why.
Òh brother, you would have to ask that.'
'Darned right. If you want me to go traipsing across the world, then you had better tell me why.'
'Look, Charlie,' Keilty said. 'I've tried to explain to you before about Communism as a political rather than economic system and our own ...'
`Yeah, with that cornball analogy of the dolphins versus the sharks,' Charlie interrupted. '
What it all amounts to is that each of you wants the other of you to think and act the way he does, right?' Charlie finished smugly.
Keilty did a double take. 'Now how the devil did you arrive at that conclusion? I've been trying to pound just that idea into your thick head for nearly a year.'
Ì've been sitting out on the reef thinking about it since last night's newscast. Eric Sevareid gave me the due.'
Èric Sevareid?' Keilty cried.
`Yep, he was talking about religion.'
Ì give up.' Keilty threw up his hands. 'You see,' he said, turning to Rawingson, 'why the scientific method isn't much help here. Our own informal way sometimes works best.
This is what I tried to convince those idiots of, back in Washington. But no – now everything has to be done by the book. Nuts! '
Àll right,' he said, turning back to the dolphin, 'now that you have figured that out, are you convinced that we are right, or do you still maintain ... ?'
`So are they convinced that they are right, apparently,' Charlie interrupted.
`So what? This is the side I live on,' Keilty shouted. `Yeah. But that doesn't alter anything.'
Keilty sat back down beside the dolphin and scratched its leathery-hided head while the dolphin blinked in contentment like a sleek, bullet-shaped cat.
'I should know better than to argue philosophy with you,' he said accusingly. 'And so should you. We still have to build that frame of reference for abstractions, and you know it.'
The dolphin gave an almost human sigh and wriggled into a more comfortable position.
Keilty dipped a bailing can full of water and poured it over the dolphin's exposed back.
`Hey, that feels good.
Keilty continued to dip and pour. 'Still, you haven't explained to me why you want me to do all this for you.'
Keilty paused a moment, marshaling his thoughts. 'Remem ber a few weeks back when I explained to you about explosives?'
The dolphin thought for a moment, then brightened. He fastened his great eyes on Keilty.
'Yes I do. The expanding gases that tear things apart.'
`How about nuclear explosives?'
`What about them?'
'Well that's what my enemies intend to use. At sea, my friend. In the water. Boom. Dead fish all around. Poisoned water, et cetera.'
'The fish don't bother me,' Charlie said, rolling onto his left side for a better look at the two naval officers. 'Who are these cats?'
Keilty motioned the two slightly thunderstruck naval officers to approach.
`This one is Rear Admiral Peter Rawingson and this other is Lieutenant Commander Michael Redgrave. They are the people who need your help.
Charlie regarded them for a moment, his eyes clouding slightly.
'Pardon my not shaking hands, but I'm not equipped for it as you can see.' He eyed Keilty again. 'Let me think about it. I'll let you know.'
Charlie slid back into the water, then poked his snout out. Keilty picked up the microphone lead. 'You said I can look out the window?'
`That's right, Charlie,' Keilty soberly answered him.
Charlie rose half out of the water for a long half a minute. Keilty could almost see the blood churning through his brain as the dolphin decided.
'All right then, I will.' He waited for Keilty to undo the microphone, then submerged.
Charlie dove towards the center of the pool and disappeared out into the lagoon.
Rawingson let out his breath in one short gust. 'That,' he stated, 'is the damnedest thing I have ever seen. That crazy fish sounded and acted human.'
'What's your definition of human, Admiral?' jack asked, peering out towards the lagoon after the dolphin. 'He thinks, he rationalizes, and he is emotional. What else do you need to be human? A soul? What's that?' Jack turned towards the others, standing near the pool in the gathering dusk. The offshore breeze that always sprang up an hour before sunset had died away to nothing and the silence was nearly complete, broken only by the occasional call of an island bird. The sun had slipped beneath the western horizon to their backs and the light was fading fast in the brief tropical twilight. Already, in the east, single stars were glimmering fitfully. Jack shivered slightly and in a faraway voice said, '
You know, gentlemen, Mort here and I have argued for months about this. But I still maintain that Charlie and his race are the first real contact with an alien life form we've ever knowingly had. They are so completely different from us in mental processes that there is very little natural common ground. So don't be fooled by Charlie's apparent humanness. It's all learned.'
The darkness grew and silence held the four, men until Margaritta, padding up quietly behind on bare feet, softly announced dinner.
The dolphin swam strongly out into the lagoon, troubled by the two strange men he had just met and the information Keilty had given him. He clearly recalled every word and intonation of the conversations concerning human relations that he had had with Keilty.
He realized that Keilty was what humans called a rationalist. But beneath, and even more important, Keilty was an optimist. He had never dearly understood what optimism was until Jack had explained, using Keilty's relationship with Margaritta to put his point across. Even then, it had taken some time for him fully to grasp this totally human idea.
The terms, or temperamental viewpoints of optimism, pessimism, and cynicism, etc., are related to the sense of time, since they are all concerned with what might happen tomorrow. Until Charlie had been taught by Keilty what tomorrow meant, he had never considered the concept of time. Dolphins had and needed no concept of time.
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow were needless, one and the same. There were no passing seasons to stimulate them in the sea; no need to build shelters. Their home was the sea and the sea furnished them both food and shelter. If food became scarce, they went somewhere else where food was more plentiful. They were born, lived, and died in the sea. They had no religion, because the sea supplied them with all they needed. Hence they had no need of a promised land or a better tomorrow, as all tomorrows were equally as good as today. The sea was bountiful. Keilty had once told Charlie that his race was either the most advanced or the most degenerate that he, Keilty, would ever encounter – and he was not sure which. Looking at it from Keilty's human standards, Charlie was not so sure either. But from the dolphin's point of view, he was sure that he was content – and probably degenerate, though the idea continued to bother him.
So Charlie had had to discover the idea of time. Jack suggested that he watch the sun and had given him a rudimentary counting system to use. Since that day, he had counted four hundred and seventy-three periods of alternating daylight and darkness. They still meant nothing to him, but he could see somewhat the importance of time to humans.
gave the equivalent of a human shrug.
He was very much troubled by what Keilty had asked him to do. And, as he had lately found himself coming to do more and more when he had a problem, he filled his lungs and sounded for the base of the reef. The water was cool and dark some seventy feet down, and into one of the many empty overhangs, he could insert his body to satisfy his survival instincts. Any enemies had to approach from the front. He wriggled his bulk in and relaxed to think through the problem. First of all, before meeting Keilty he had never had a problem in his life. Dolphins lived by the old axiom 'all things come to him who waits' – without realizing it. Then, he had learned that in the world of humans there were such things as problems.
He had decided on the spur of the moment to involve himself in a human problem. He had always been reluctant to do this before. He stayed near Keilty because he was as curious as Keilty was. But now, why all of a sudden had he said yes? He had insufficient data to go on and basically he could see no real differences in the two opposing sides. He did not understand the ideologies or ramifications involved for humans, and he sensed that it would be better if he did not. His own kind were satisfied with their few problems and certainly did not wish for human problems. Degeneracy again, he decided.
Perhaps it was Keilty – there was a compatibility between them that he did not recognize as friendship since that concept was alien also. He considered Keilty to be one of the herd in which he grew up – a part of the family so to speak. Keilty now wanted his help.
If he did help, it would make Keilty happy. He recognized that he had never been dependent on Keilty the way humans were dependent on each other. Margaritta again –or was it Keilty? He had never been held captive, nor did Keilty feed him. He was free to come and go, and he did as it pleased him, and Keilty had never interfered.
Charlie was faced with a dilemma – not of deciding whether or not he would help, because he had already told Keilty he would – but of resolving his own conflict: to become involved in a human problem.
He could see the problems in taking sides with either faction, could see the factions factionating down through a series of images to infinity, as if in parallel mirrors.
His justification of the course he had taken was honestly rationalized – mostly because, lacking the distinction between honesty and dishonesty, he chose this course because he wanted to help. And because he was rather curious. And now that he thought about it, he realized that Keilty had played on the right chord in offering him a chance to watch out the window of the airplane. He had flown once before and had been completely captivated by the process of flying. Another chance was too good to pass up. Perhaps he was not so honest after all, he decided. Then it came to him that he had a better understanding of honesty than Keilty thought he did, or himself for that matter. It troubled him a little that perhaps he was becoming a bit too human.
Cold tropical rain pounded the decks and upper works of the H.M.S. Bradley, wallowing heavily in the stormy waters of the Strait of Malacca.
`Meteorological report says the rain will last another twenty-five minutes, sir.' The rain-slickered executive officer recapped the speaking tube and turned to the captain.
`You chaps about ready?'
Keilty nodded to Rawingson. 'We're about set, Admiral, Captain, can you swing this pogo stick into the wind when I give the signal, then cut your engines long enough for Charlie to get away?'
`Yes, I think so. Wouldn't do to cut up our spy, now would it?'
Keilty swung down the ladder, muttering to himself. Charlie was ensconced in his tank, fastened to the starboard bow just inside the railing, and looking very unhappy.
Keilty flipped on the transphonemator.
`This damned stuff chafes,' was the first thing Charlie said. He didn't understand the deeper meanings of profanity but agreed with Keilty that for emphasis, it had no substitute.
`Knock off the griping, I gave you your chance when we were fitting it out,' Keilty growled humorously.
`Maybe, but there's a big difference between just trying this junk on and actually wearing it.' The dolphin was loaded around his shoulders with equipment to power and control the two TV cameras mounted on either side of his head to give a stereo effect. They were encased in watertight rectangular and contoured plastic kits 18" x 20" x 3". The equipment was slung around his shoulders in two pocketed belts that resembled oversized cartridge belts. A flexible metal strip ran the length of his back from shoulders to tail to serve as an antenna.
Keilty peered over the spray-lashed side of the destroyer and came back to the tank. 'It looks pretty rough down there. Do you think you can get into the water without any trouble?'
Charlie peered at the series of mirrors, shielded from the rain, that angled over the side to give him a view of what was below. 'Really kicking up a storm down there, isn't it?' He contemplated for a moment. 'When you're ready, drain the
water out of the tank first. I don't want it twisting me around. Swing the board over and then dump. And for God's sake, warn me first. That's a long way down.'
Àll right, we're ready,' Keilty shouted towards the bridge, and waved an arm. Then he pulled out the stops in the bottom that drained the tank.
Charlie grunted as the supporting water ran out and he settled into a rather flaccid heap.
With the help of two British sailors, Keilty wheeled the tank over to the railing, then pulled away the sides. Charlie now lay poised on a swivel board, half over the rail. With the microphones and tape recorders unplugged, Keilty was unable to understand Charlie'
s high-pitched squeaks of complaint. He waited, grinning into the mirrors and stroking the dolphin's flank to calm him, judging the depth of the waves. A few seconds later, the destroyer buried its bow in a deep wave that washed solid spray over them. The following wave was the one he had been waiting for. It built under the bow, lifting the ship over its crest, then slid past as the bow sliced down, cleaving the water into a churning furrow, down into the trough. As they crested again, Keilty waved his arm vigorously to port and the helmsman on the bridge peering at him through the revolving screen, turned the destroyer into the beginning of an S-curve. The bow plowed through the furrow into the next wave and Keilty slapped Charlie on the side and upended the board. The dolphin gave a powerful kick with his tail and shot clear in a long curving arc that carried him away from the destroyer's side. He disappeared into the boiling green water less than six feet below with hardly a splash, and sounded desperately.
The helmsman swung the helm back, slewing away from the spot where Charlie had disappeared and bringing the thrashing propellers clear of the furiously swimming dolphin.
The fast-swinging bow smashed into another wave, just below the crest, and the destroyer rattled and shook along its stern as tons of sea water smothered the bow.
Without their life lines, Keilty and the two sailors would have been swept overboard. As it was, they were nearly drowned as the water flung them around like corks before it cascaded off the decks. Breathing heavily, the three pushed to the rail, but there was no sign of the dolphin in the churning leaden-green waters below.
Keilty straightened up from where he had been leaning over the rail and glanced at the two ratings. 'Thanks, fellows,' he
said briefly, grinning at both, and made his way across the heaving deck and up onto the bridge. Halfway up the ladder, he frowned, suddenly apprehensive about what he had done.
Charlie swam strongly below the turbulent wake created by the ship. Five minutes out from his point of entry, he began swimming aimlessly, as Keilty had instructed him to do. If the research station had spotted the ship, they would surely be listening on sonar for more underwater trespassers, and would have spotted the dolphin leaving the ship.
From there, his cover would be good if he could find and blend in with a school of good-sized fish. Keilty had once explained to Charlie how sonar worked, but Charlie had been way ahead of him – had in fact been amazed at the limitations of the human device.
After what he judged was sufficient time, he began swimming in the general direction of the Vietnamese research station. By now, he had gotten out of the storm area that had carried on north on the prevailing winds. The sun was shining strongly enough on the surface to light quite dearly the thirty-foot or so depth at which he was swimming. The water tasted and smelled different to Charlie. This was the first time he had ever been away from the waters that he knew around the Keys. He was not afraid, since fear was an alien abstraction to him. What he felt was more an extension or a heightening of his senses that put him on edge, made him doubly alert – a feeling he had felt before when his few natural enemies were in the neighborhood: sharks, and once a killer whale that he had identified from the descriptions once given him by his master. He was nervous, but since this feeling had never been described to him by humans, he did not recognize it as a human feeling.
Charlie swam on, from time to time noticing strange fish with which he was not acquainted. Other than that, it seemed to him much like swimming in the open ocean at home. The water was delightfully warm and he swam happily, beginning to lose his nervousness as he became used to the new surroundings. About an hour after leaving the ship, he began to pick up the scent of man and seconds later his own variety of sonar showed a large bulky object, or series of bulky objects, dead ahead.
As he swam closer, he began to make out the image of some type of strandlike obstruction reaching to near the surface. When he sounded for air, he was only some ten feet from the buoyed net. He swam up and nudged it playfully. Nothing happened. The bright yellow buoys fastened all along the top bobbed erratically, but the net remained in place. Keilty had described netting to him and told him he could expect to run into some type of it. Charlie swam back and forth along the netting for a ways, then sounded, swimming down along the net to see how deep it went. The mesh was quite fine, about half an inch wide, and beyond he could now see what was another, thicker net made of steel cables.
Charlie swam back to the surface to consider for a moment. He picked up the sound of a boat's propellers moving through the water quite fast. Above him, the mirror image of the underside of the surface was broken quite suddenly by a V-shaped trail and a turbulent wake as a twenty-foot patrol boat passed over him.
Charlie swam quickly to the surface, careful to keep the equipment strapped to him out of sight as much as possible. He was beginning to think this was all rather ridiculous and not in keeping with his fine sense of dolphin propriety, but Keilty had warned him to be careful.
He chased after the patrol boat, slapped the surface with his tail to attract their attention, then showed his dorsal fin. The boat rounded an him in a sweeping turn and came back under full power. Charlie dived and stayed below the surface out of their sight.
Apparently they were satisfied that it was only a fish that had disturbed the net, as they roared off towards the research station barely visible in the humid mist. Charlie listened to the sound of the propellers disappearing in the distance, then swam back to the net. He was careful not to touch it this time.
When the net was before him, he cruised slowly along, ascending at the same time until he was again at the surface. The top of the net was flush with the surface and there was about twice his length between it and the next fence, which, according to what Keilty had told him, was presumably charged. He considered the distance, then backed off and shot forward into the air over both nets at once. He caused a loud smack as he splashed back into the water, but surfacing again to look around, he could not see that it had tripped any alarms or alerted anyone. He wondered briefly what alarms were as he cruised around the surface, waiting to see if anything would happen now. Keilty had said that he should avoid alarms but had neglected to tell him what they were.
With his beak out of the water, he cleared his lungs through his blowhole, then refilled them to capacity with fresh air. Sighting on the station lying across the oily sea from him in the tropical afternoon, he sounded as deeply as he dared, and swam forward. He was not too sure of the distance because, out of the water, appearances were still deceptive to him, but he surged forward at close to twenty-five knots.
Shortly, a long thick column that he had spotted with his sonar, minutes before, appeared in front of him, and he braked with his tail and surfaced carefully.
The Vietnamese had obviously made no attempt to hide the presence of the tower. The main platform reared nearly sixty feet above the choppy waves and rested on a series of concrete and steel pillars, which Charlie could see were mounted on concrete caissons sunk deep into the sea floor. The platform itself was triangular in shape and supported the main derrick, which rose another one hundred and twenty feet. A large revolving aircraft strobe light was mounted on the top of the derrick, which was painted fluorescent yellow. Two smaller cranes were stationed at the midpoints of two of the equilateral sides. Two housing structures, one of them extending the width of the base, took up two thirds of the deck. The building at the apex of the triangle supported a helicopter landing pad, while the largest building provided space for air conditioning machinery, pipe racks, and equipment storage. The deck itself was twenty feet thick and contained living and working areas.
A small, heavily guarded boat stage was attached to the forward main support. One small powerboat was tied up at the moment, while the guards smoked and lounged in what little shade was provided by the deck. Charlie could see a narrow ladder mounted between the two buildings and reaching the top of the deck near the drilling rig. Several black oil drums were clustered at the top.
Small groups of men were working near the derrick, but other than that, the deck was deserted. He caught the sound of one of the patrol boats approaching, and taking another deep breath, he submerged carefully and moved forward.
The water seemed to be quite thick and was full of refuse that hampered his vision. He swam between the columns, around a second and a third, until he emerged on the other side. Turning to his left, he swam out of the refuse-laden water and switched on his cameras. Immediately, he received a pulse close to his ear that told him the humans were aware that he had activated his equipment. He swam slowly forward until a large pillar again appeared. The water was much heavier here, with a nauseating taste to it, and the current so slow that he was barely able to detect it. He was directly in front of the pillar, some forty feet away. He could see practically nothing visually, but his sonar defined everything sharply for several hundred yards in every direction. Satisfied, he waited for the double pulse that would mean that Keilty was seeing what he saw. It did not come. Puzzled, he swam closer, cutting the distance in half. He could just make out the hazy image of the tower substructure with his eyes, but still no pulse. When he was less than ten feet away, the pulse came suddenly. They must be blind back there, he muttered to himself.
Now he began to swim even more slowly, letting himself rise up the pillar until he nudged something above him. He backed away to investigate and saw that it was some kind of barnacle-encrusted shelf. Then he saw that the pillar fitted neatly into the center of the shelf. Something shiny attracted his attention to the leg of the tower and he moved over to investigate. As he watched, a glistening drop broke away and formed a bubble, which shot towards the surface. When the next one detached itself, he snapped at it with his beak and immediately his mouth filled with a thick cloying taste that burned.
Violently, he expelled all the stored air in his lungs and rushed for the surface. He broke the surface in a jump that carried him half out of the water. He drew in deep draughts of water, sloshing it from side to side until he was able to clear some of the taste from his mouth. The burning was not quite so bad now and he lay quietly on the surface, shuddering through his entire length, fighting to regain his breath. Though he did not know it, what he had tasted was a much higher concentration of the substance in the water around him — lubricating oil to keep sea life from encrusting the retractable legs of the sea tower.
Three quick pulses were repeated over and over. Keilty was sending a query, puzzled as to why the transmission had broken off. Charlie pulled himself together, and began swimming slowly. It was quite dark where he was, although a ring of bright sunlight showed all around. He deduced that he was under whatever the pillars were holding up.
Off to his right, a long shaft — sunk straight down into the water — blocked the light from a small segment of the circle. Charlie swam to it, and taking a deep breath, he began to swim down the column hesitatingly. The pulses came again to show that Keilty was interested in what he saw. The shaft was quite a bit thicker than the others and was formed of segments rather than being one continuous column. It ended forty feet below the surface in a large bulbous structure some twenty feet across that looked like a flattened rubber ball.
There was a large hatch, which he investigated, making sure that the camera picked up a good image of the hatch and its opening mechanism. He swam around the structure and then under it. Beneath was a heavy steel plate that flared upward, supplementing the spheroidal steel structure. This steel plating was featureless, without even rivet holes, which would have been meaningless to Charlie anyway.
The dolphin bumped at it with his nose, smelling the steel, but not tasting it. He had learned his lesson. He became aware of the chafing of the equipment belts around his shoulders in the form of a violent itch. To scratch it, he tried to rub his back against the plating. Suddenly, his ears were filled with an insistent chattering. At the same time, Keilty began sending excited pulses to tell him to stay where he was. Charlie held motionless, his back bumping against the plating while the chattering continued. Keilty pulsed the code that indicated to him that he was to swim slowly forward. As he did so, the chattering lessened in frequency.
He backed and turned in obedience to the pulses until Keilty had him swimming slowly beneath and almost touching the flattened sphere. The chattering was continuous now.
After about fifteen minutes, Keilty directed him to get what pictures he could from beneath the structure. By the time Charlie had finished, the sun was halfway below the horizon. In response to Keilty's signals, he surfaced cautiously some five hundred yards from the tower structure.
The red sun painted the white steel tower golden in the dwindling twilight, licking drops of quicksilver from the long swells pushing up the strait. Charlie paused to breathe and then began swimming slowly towards the structure in a circling maneuver. The main deck of the tower was clearly lighted against the deepening blue of the eastern horizon.
Lights were appearing on the tower and the superstructure of the drilling rig. The monotonous clanking of the drilling machinery served to cover the faint noises the dolphin made as he swam to within fifty feet of the tower and began to circle it.
The figure of a man appeared briefly near the railing, clearly outlined against the sky.
He fumbled briefly with something
near the railing and Charlie sounded, startled as floodlights bathed the area around the tower. Charlie's thoughts were strictly dolphinic as he rose again to the surface, this time staying completely underwater, except to breathe. He began to swim away from the lighted area, until the shadows were deep enough to surface. By now he was some eight hundred feet away from the station. He took a good look, letting the cameras pan over the scene. The tower was too far away to detect details, and his sonar told him that there were several surface craft making random search patterns around the station.
He let himself settle again until he was about twenty feet below the surface, and began extending his sonar field. His maximum sonar range was ten miles or so, although he was not aware of the distance in human terms.
The station commanded most of his field to the east, and to the west he could just barely make out the dim echo of the Bradley. The sharply defined echoes and subechoes from the station said 'human' to Charlie, as they were sharp but vibrating at the same time. He concentrated on the station, laying out its underwater pattern until he was sure where every underwater leg and support was. Then he began to examine the area around the tower – the island rising beyond, the slope of the channel bottom to the island shore.
Except for the crosscurrents which he could detect, the picture was relatively un-interesting: volcanic sand bottom with a profusion of marine growth.
Charlie narrowed his sonar beam until it was pulsing outward in a forty-five-degree arc, and started sweeping around in a circle:
A clearer, tighter picture built up: the island sloping away into a narrow channel, the bases of several more distant islands showing, and schools of unfamiliar fish. Charlie pivoted slowly on until the beam was fanning an open area of channel between two islands that led away to the South China Sea.
A reflection appeared. At first Charlie thought it was a whale. Then he noticed it was resting on the bottom. The object was near the limit of his sonar's capability. Keilty had said to get back as fast as possible, so he could not waste any time for a closer look. He waited, sorting out the multiplicity of reflections until he isolated the one he wanted.
There, shimmering near the limits of his awareness, was the peculiar echo and sub-echo of metal. Charlie was puzzled. The object seemed to be resting less than a mile from the base of a large island. He
watched it for a while, examining the blurred image as best he could until he had it as sharply defined as possible. Suddenly he remembered. He had seen a submarine once before in his home waters, and had chased it for miles, watchings its strange antics as it maneuvered around several surface ships in the area.
His curiosity satisfied, he completed his sonar sweep and surfaced for a last look around.
The sun had set and darkness had swiftly blanketed the area. He could see nothing of the tower now but the lights in the rigging and the floodlit expanse of water all around.
He wondered again about the submarine and its presence near the base of the island, then forgot about it as a wide beam of light, mounted on the drilling rig, began to sweep the water beyond the limits of the floodlights. He watched the distended oval of light ripple across the water to him, and taking a breath, settled slowly. Seconds later, it passed over him, creating a pattern of tangled silver on the mirrorlike underside of the surface. They were certainly being careful, he thought, then turned away and swam strongly for the netting.
A few minutes later, he surfaced again only twenty feet from the net. Complete darkness had fallen by now, and turning, he could see the bright ring of floodlights glowing like a broad band of fire on the surface. Above was the flickering searchlight, with the aircraft warning lights dangling below.
He had done as Keilty had asked him to. Keilty had explained about the Geiger counter before they left the Keys. The fact that it had worked — the loud clicking — meant they had found the bomb. Now, he wondered, what was the next step?
He thought he knew enough about humans to guess. The bomb posed a threat to one side
— Keilty's side. But it was the upper hand for the other side. That meant that Keilty's side would have to go and take it away. In the process, a lot of people could get killed.
That last fact meant little to him, no more than if he were a human and knew that several dolphins might be killed if, say, sharks attacked. If you could find enough foolhardy sharks, he thought seriously.
So long as Keilty was not killed, the death of a human meant little to him, because beyond Jack, Margaritta, Keilty, and now Rawingson, he knew very little of humans.
And, he suspected, he knew little — important data, that is — about the four he did know.
The fact that he had found the bomb meant that he had now taken sides in human affairs.
Something he had wondered about
– and had halfway decided not to do – ever since he had started watching the TV set Keilty had installed in his pen.
He thought to himself, without humor, that he had come to the point were he was studying humans, as much as Keilty was studying his people. Who had the upper edge here: Keilty, because he was a trained observer, or himself, because the television and the microfilmed books gave him – with his totally fresh viewpoint – a greater insight into the mind of humans, a mind which he was coming more and more to discover was not only a product of the particular society in which a man lived, but in addition, contrary to the widespread human concept, did little to shape an individual's relations with other humans?
As Keilty had once told him, a human was a totally selfish animal. He loved because he liked the feeling. He helped someone in need because it made him feel good. He was patriotic because it satisfied what was left of his almost atrophied herd instincts. Charlie took this one step further. Man did not live on a rational level, but on an emotional level.
Charlie's people, on the other hand, more closely approached the rational level, and he was discovering, in reviewing his past life now that he had the mental tool – vocabulary
– to work with, that in the dolphin, emotions were almost atrophied and the herd worked and existed together on a rational level.
Now that he was discovering the effects of emotions, he was beginning to realize just how strong they could be.
Not far away, the silence was shattered by the passage of a patrol boat touring the net perimeter. Startled, he dove, suddenly aware of the dangers to which he had left himself open. He executed a fast 36o° turn, sonar and hearing tuned to the sharpest possible degree. The images were familiar: the tower; odd schools of fish, nothing big; the patrol boat; and dimly, the Bradley. The submarine was completely out of range now.
He watched the patrol boat, and as soon as it was far enough away, he cleared the nets in one jump and headed quickly back to the Bradley.
The lights went up in the crowded wardroom, highlighting the wreaths of cigarette and pipe smoke coiling suddenly in the steaming air. Keilty sat to one side of the long captain's table, silently listening to the quiet arguing of the gathered officers and civilians.
Keilty's contempt for the military and civil service mind had never been stronger. They had been sitting for hours in the crowded wardroom, all through the hot, sticky late afternoon, debating the pros and cons of the information that Charlie had brought back. It was all there for them to see, but some remained stubbornly unconvinced. Sitting next to him, almost wilting in the heat, was a slight, balding man. He drummed nervously on a small sheaf of papers until they were almost unreadable – the penciled calculations were smeared and blurred with perspiration.
Keilty had been on deck earlier in the evening, shortly after Charlie had returned, when the MTh had come sliding up alongside the Bradley. Lines were secured as he slouched on the railing, watching. The American secretaries of State and Defense, the British Foreign Secretary and Minister of War, and their Australian, Malaysian, New Zealand and Indonesian counterparts, and respective retinues came aboard the destroyer. The seas were beginning to pick up and the ship was rolling heavily in the increasing swells. They had gone below, some of them already green, and a few moments later a messenger had come for him. Keilty finished his cigarette and went below. They were waiting for him, impatiently, and with a barrage of questions.
He produced an extremely black Connecticut-broadleafwrappered and foul-smelling cigar, and lit up. Puffing on it with relish, he began to answer questions. The small wardroom soon filled with the cloying stench but the questions went on and on. Finally Keilty had to admit defeat. The smoke was getting to him as well. As unobtrusively as possible, he extinguished the cigar and covered it with an empty paper cup. Later, the tapes were produced and he narrated the now-familiar scenes as Charlie approached the station, examined the structure and support columns, the blur of motion as he surfaced and tried
to rinse the taste of the oil from his mouth, and the underwater shots of the bomb housing.
The silence was nearly complete when he finished, broken only by the whirring of the overworked and totally ineffective air conditioner.
`There, gentlemen, you have it. It's as plain as the warts on a hog what is going on. What'
s to be done is now your bailiwick.' And he sat down.
As the argument renewed and dragged on, he talked quietly with the balding man next to him. It turned out that he was Dr. Iver Jensen, a Pentagon expert on the effects of nuclear weapons. So far, he had not been asked to speak.
Keilty turned his attention to the discussion. Some Australian official was pooh-poohing the idea first of all, that there was a bomb, and secondly, that the subsequent detonation of said nonexistent bomb could do the damage expected. He was supported by several others, notably the Americans. The Malaysians were looking extremely worried. Keilty glanced across the wardroom at Rawingson's set expression and decided it was time to do something.
He stood up and whistled. The piercing scream of the whistle echoed in the steel-walled wardroom, overriding even the nasal tones of a loud-mouthed American general who turned surprised and angry eyes on Keilty. Keilty paid no attention. He had disliked this man ever since he had seen him on television years before, defending a particularly obnoxious right-wing group.
The American Secretary of State turned and peered at him through his steel-rimmed glasses. 'You have something to contribute, Dr. Keilty?'
'Nope, but Dr. Jensen does. Why don't you all shut up and listen to him for a while. You fatheads are not making much sense anyway.'
Admiral Rawingson, grinning widely, told a junior officer to shut up and sit down, then settled back comfortably and waited.
'Some of you here,' Keilty continued, unabashed at the angry mutterings, 'know who Dr.
Jensen is – you explain to the guy next to you if he doesn't. Dr. Jensen?' Keilty indicated the audience and the speaker's position.
Jensen stood up, all traces of his nervousness disappearing quickly as he adopted his favourite speaking attitude and launched into his speech.
'Gentlemen, we have beyond a certainty established that the Vietnamese have now manufactured, not one, but several nuclear bombs. There is no reason to doubt that fact any longer. At the latest count, there are some fourteen nations with nuclear weapons.
Now, thanks to Dr. Keilty's dolphin, we know where at least one of these bombs is. It is sitting not twenty-five miles from us, forty-five feet below the surface of the entrance to the Strait of Malacca.
He waited until the angry murmuring from both sides of contention died away somewhat.
'Whatever you believe at the moment is of no importance. There can be no doubt about it. That bomb is there. The radiation readings are too strong to be anything but those from a crude fusion device, poorly shielded ...' Jensen raised his hand to forestall a question. 'No, the radiation is much too strong to come from drilling or current-tracing processes.
Jensen pulled the tripod-mounted blackboard around and quickly sketched the outline of the strait – essentially a narrow channel running southeast to northwest and widening gradually at the two-hundred-mile point until it was nearly two hundred miles wide at the five-hundred-mile extreme length. At the entrance to the strait, he drew in the island of Singapore and the Malay Peninsula, and directly south, dotted a group of islands that filled the entrance, leaving only narrow channels. With a series of dots he indicated the major concentration of the various fleets in and around the strait. To the south, he drew the ragged outline of the coast of Sumatra and its islanded shore.
'Now, gentlemen,' he went on, turning to face the others, 'you are all pretty much familiar with this area by now. As you can see, the Vietnamese research station and the bomb –are here in the center of these islands at the head of the strait. These islands are volcanic in origin and their peaks are quite lofty, rising some eight and nine thousand feet. These two islands are our two containment islands.By that,I mean that these two islands will absorb a good portion of the blast and shock wave, thereby protecting the two mainlands from bomb damage per se. The smaller islands forming the apex of the triangle will seal off the South China Sea from both the bomb blast and the resulting tidal wave. Now, because the wind currents in this area are northerly, and quite strong at high altitudes, the majority of fallout in the form of radioactive rain will be carried north across Singapore and southern Malaya state.
`The channel of the Malaccan strait is four to five hundred miles long – only two hundred of which are important to us. These two hundred miles are the narrows, the area where guerrilla infiltration is the heaviest and where the Malaysian and Indonesian patrols are concentrated. I don't think anyone here will dispute the fact that it is only the presence of these fleets that prevents a major infiltration south into Sumatra as well as north into the southerly portions of Malaya.' Jensen beamed around the room. 'As you remember, prior to the Communist coup which failed a few years ago, the Indonesians were ready to mount an all-out offensive on both the Malay Peninsula and the Malaysian-held half of Borneo. A foothold in Sumatra would be an extreme danger to both nations.
`But, to continue, the strait is relatively shallow – roughly twenty-five fathoms – and only about thirty miles wide.
'If, gentlemen, this five-megaton bomb is exploded in its present location, a tidal wave will sweep up this channel, carrying everything with it to destruction. If you don't believe me, and I see a great number of you don't, it can be proven with a few simple calculations. Permit me?
`The shallow underwater bursts,' Jensen said, juggling the stub of chalk, 'of the Bikini "
Baker" tests in the late 1940s, give us a set of data from which we may extrapolate. Our problem is first to determine pressure variance between open-water explosions and open-channel – such as the strait – explosions at equal distances. We do this as the Bikini tests were conducted in open water, and therefore, the data we have is based on open-water explosions.
'If we assume a radius of one hundred miles for easy calculation, and draw a rough sketch of the blast area:
we can find the amount of water moved above the line A—A by the simple relationship: Q equals AV, where Q is the flowrate (in miles 3/hr. in this case), A is the area of the wavefront at a distance which I'll call R, and V is the speed at which the wave-front is moving. If we put them all together in an equation and solve it, we get: Q =0.5(27* R)V = RV
100 * V
assuming, of course, that depth equals unity.
`Now, if we picture the Strait of Malacca as looking like this: we can assume that the arc length of the wavefront at one hundred miles will be just a bit greater than thirty miles; say, closer to forty, since any wave produced will overlap the land. If so, once again we can find the amount of water moved, but in this case, just the amount up the strait, by using the relationship Q =AV again, but adding in the forty-mile wavefront, like this:
again assuming that depth equals unity.
Now, let's examine this a little. Assuming that there are no flow losses nor any areas where pressures will be equal – equal point pressures, in other words – the amount of water moved by an exploding bomb in the open sea will equal the amount of water moved in a closed channel. Or:
`Now, apply Bernoulli's principle: pressure is proportional to the square of the velocity.
Or in this case, we find that the pressure will be sixty-one and sixty-two hundredths times greater in the channel than in the open sea.
Ìn other words, gentlemen, this all means that the velocity of water moved up that channel will be seven point eighty-five times faster than it would begin the open sea, and further, the pressure behind that wavefront of moving water will be sixty-one point sixty-two times greater in that channel than in the open sea.'
Jensen paused in his whirlwind delivery. 'Stick with me, gentlemen, we've just begun.
And we haven't even come to the bomb yet,' he said with a grin.
Keilty craned closer for a better look. The calculations were just so much Greek to him.
He was a psychologist and had flunked second-year high-school algebra while a freshman in college.
`Do you gentlemen realize the significance of these two equations. They are going to cause a wave, and quite a wave at that, as you will see in a moment. But let's go on.
Based on constants used in the Kutter-Ganquillet formula for open-channel flow: N=0.010 for a smooth surface
N= 0.050 fora natural channel
we can state that the pressure change in the channel will be only one fifth of what we calculated just now, since we have been assuming that the strait's channel had a smooth bottom. So now we have:
and because of the bad sea conditions expected tomorrow as well as pressure absorption out into the open sea, we shall assume a maximum dispersion of four and still get: P P=12.32/4
which simply indicates that any bomb exploded in a thirtymile-wide channel would effect a water-pressure force equivalent to that produced by a bomb at least three times its size, exploded in open water.
Jensen paused again, this time waiting for the conclusions to sink in. Keilty, who had only a layman's hazy idea of the sizes and potential power of thermonuclear weapons, was puzzled at the deeply shocked silence and then the flurry of activity that followed.
Common sense told him that any bomb exploded in a confined area would do more damage than one exploded in
open surroundings. He did not realize, however, the magnitude, size, and power involved. Slide rules were hurriedly consulted and notes and equations began to fill scratch pads, but Jensen did not wait. He went on at breakneck speed.
'Now, gentlemen, comes the real corker. We know that a five-megaton bomb will be equivalent to a fifteen-megaton bomb in this situation, a seven to a twenty-one, ten to thirty, twelve to thirty-six, fifteen to a forty-five, et cetera. We can extrapolate from a simple chart; I believe it is figure six point seven nine from the Effects of Nuclear Weapons, an Atomic Energy Commission publication – I forgot to write it down earlier,'
he admitted somewhat sheepishly. 'Anyway, figuring our five-megaton bomb to equal fifteen megatons – which is fifteen thousand kilotons for ease in calculation – we can easily extrapolate from known graphs.
'Since the chart is scaled to eighty-five feet, we must rescale the graph: Scale height = 180 / (15,000) 3'
According to this graph, the scale factor will be:
Scale factor= .036(16.26) = .585
and the resultant wave height:
Wave height = .585(15,000)' =71.7 ft.
All of which gives us a wave that even at the two-hundredmile mark from surface zero will be seventy-one feet high for a five-megaton bomb. The wave height from this bomb at thirty miles from surface zero can be derived:
Scale factor= .18(16.26) = 2.93 ft.
Again the wave height would be:
Wave height =2.93(15,000)% =370 ft.
which means that this wave will be three hundred and seventy feet high thirty miles from the explosion site or surface zero!'
By now, the gathered military and government officials had received so many shocks that they merely greeted the result that they had all been afraid to admit was the only answer, with silence.
'A last thought, gentlemen,' Jensen said, rubbing off the blackboard. He turned to face the assembled wardroom. 'The force of this wave along its thirty- to forty-mile-wide front will be on the order of one hundred billion pounds! The coast of Malaya bordering on the strait is low-lying flatlands, while the coast of Sumatra is fairly high, shading up to coastal mountain ranges. A wave of this size and with this much power behind it in a channel as narrow as Malacca will most surely be a breaker type of wave, and not a long swell.
'If you are at all familiar with tidal waves, you know that no matter how great the wave or the force it packs, it is a long swell in the open ocean over which ships ride, hardly knowing they have been caught in a tidal wave. However, when these tidal waves approach shallows and bays or harbors, they become immense breakers. That is the situation we face here.'
Jensen turned quickly to the commander of the Bradley, 'Captain, would you say that you could ride out a fifty-foot wave — a breaker wave — let alone a three-hundred-and-seventy-foot breaker?'
'Well, I don't know,' the captain answered slowly. 'A fifty-foot breaker maybe. But any ship smaller than ours would not stand a chance.
'Exactly, sir, anything smaller would not stand a chance against a wave of this size. And most of your fleet is composed of motor torpedo boats, corvettes, and small minesweepers —and destroyers such as yourselves. Thank you, gentlemen.' And he sat down. A complete and dead silence answered the end of Jensen's lecture.
From where he sat, Keilty spoke up again. 'How about that? With one fell swoop, the Vietnamese are going to wipe out not only your naval squadrons but shore-based installations as well. With the Malaysian armed forces disorganized and in retreat up the peninsula or engaged in rescue work, the Australians, New Zealanders and the Indonesians helpless because of their parliaments and their own lack of naval craft, the insurgents backed by the Vietnamese are going to come down that peninsula and beat the hell out of whoever is left.'
His voice was heavy with sarcasm as he went on. 'They will close the world's busiest shipping lanes to whoever they want and scare the hell out of the Philippines, Japan, India, Thailand, et cetera.
'That bomb will kill thousands of your troops and sailors, wreak havoc with the Indonesian fleet in the strait and the
Australasian fleet in Singapore and throw you all the hell out of the Indo-China peninsula.'
Keilty's voice was calm but his face was angry and red. Everyone in the steaming wardroom was quiet, listening to him expound the fears they were loath to admit.
'Perhaps you will bomb,' he continued, his voice beginning to rise. 'The U.S. won't be able to give you much help. We are overextended in this area now since Congress'
cutback last year.
'What will you do?' he challenged the British Foreign Secretary. 'Use nuclear bombs on Vietnam? Invade? Not likely. It's been tried before.
'Can't you people realize that this is big, not just an isolated incident, but part of a well-planned scheme to kick you people all the hell out of this part of the world. You don't play around with nuclear weapons for kicks, and they know it as well as you.'
'Face it,' Keilty's voice was very cold, 'they have you if that bomb goes off.' He paused for a moment, then went on, 'Your problem is to see that that bomb does not go off. It's as simple as that.'
There was silence for a moment when he finished speaking. Finally, the British Foreign Secretary spoke. 'Thank you, Dr. Keilty. We are well aware of the problems we face here. However, there are certain ramifications, such as incursion on a sovereign nation's territory, world opinion ...'
'Nuts,' Keilty interrupted shortly. 'World opinion be damned. You and the French let yourselves be swayed by world opinion in fifty-six, and as a result, Nasser made laughing stocks out of you.
The American Secretary of Defense coughed and fidgeted. Keilty grinned.
'This time,' he went on, 'you are going to make asses out of yourselves if you continue to sit around down here and let that bomb go off. As for world opinion, the Vietnamese have dug themselves their own grave. This research station has received a fair amount of publicity in the past few months. So turn it against them. Pull a surprise raid and disarm the bomb before they can set it off.'
A signalman came in hurriedly, saluted, and handed a flimsy to the H.M.S. Bradley's captain. He read it through and looked up solemnly.
'Gentlemen, there seems to be a Vietnamese warship on
course for the station. Satellite reports indicate that she left Saigon earlier today. Our intelligence believes the ship to be a destroyer delivering the trigger device and that it will take the people off the research station. Their estimated time of arrival is nine hundred hours tomorrow.'
Ànd,' Keilty interrupted, 'you have a heavily armed destroyer, a hundred marines, and two MTBs. And your last chance.' He stood up abruptly and went on deck, pausing to speak briefly with Charlie in his tank near the bow where they were preparing to take him below. After a few minutes he left and climbed forward over the winch until he was leaning against the railing at the bow of the ship. He watched the curving knife edge of the prow slash methodically into the marching procession of whitecaps, the water curling away to either side of the bow, half as high as the deck, in black sheets. The lifting crash of the bow against the waves set the entire ship to shuddering under the sharp concussive shocks. He stayed there watching, wondering what they were deciding below, feeling that he had made a fool of himself with his outbursts.
He turned and clambered back to Charlie's tank, hoping that at least if they didn't have sense enough to put a stop to the Vietnamese foolishness, they would have brains enough to dear out of the strait as fast as possible.
When Keilty returned to the wardroom an hour later, he found himself stopped at the hatch by a marine guard with a Sten gun, fully cocked.
`Sorry, sir, but ye dinna go in there.
Keilty looked the brawny Scotsman up and down, noticing the set and intelligent face, and decided against making a fuss.
'Do me a favor,' he said. 'Get Admiral Rawingson out here. He'll get me a pass or whatever the devil I need.'
The marine hesitated a moment, then turned and spoke briefly into the intercom. The hatch opened seconds later.
`There you are,' Rawingson growled. 'Wondered where you got to.' He put a hand on Keilty's shoulder and pulled him in, saying to the guard, 'It's all right, Corporal, we need him in here.'
As Keilty entered, he noticed that now, not only was the cooling system prevailing against the pre-monsoon heat, but cooler heads prevailed also. The men were grouped around a large map tacked on the display board at the end of the room. There was no more angry discussion, nor were insults or imprecations being tossed back and forth.
Instead, they were listening closely to the American Secretary of Defense as he carefully went through the various alternatives. Keilty moved halfway into the room and perched on a table. He pulled a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket and thumbed an old, worn Zippo to light it, then settled down to listen. Rawingson sat down on the bench below him and bummed a cigarette, then turned his attention also to the map.
The map was a larger version of the one Rawingson had shown him two days before.
Over it, a sheet of acetate was taped, with grease-pencil markings indicating, first of all, the location of the bomb, then the currents in the strait and the surrounding area.
The Bradley's meteorological officer had drawn in red the wind currents in the vicinity.
A black area shaped like a many-pointed star was located in the Celebes marking the spawning grounds of the summer monsoon. Black arrows also extended northwestward across the Indonesian islands and into the Bay of Bengal to the west of Burma. A series of numbers that Keilty
could not read from where he sat probably indicated expected times of arrival along the monsoon path.
Directly north, over southern China and North Vietnam and extending west to Thailand, the limits of a high-pressure area were drawn in green. This presumably was forcing the monsoon to approach more slowly than usual.
'It is our feeling,' the American Secretary of Defense was saying, 'that they have been planning this attack which they call "Operation Malacca" for quite some time now. They have been extremely fortunate that the weather has furnished such a large high-pressure front.' He indicated the area from the China Sea to Thailand, 'It is producing fair and very dry weather in the North and very shortly will turn the South into a sea of mud and rain.
This will aid their movements down the Peninsula, while at the same time it will hamper Allied forces in Malaya if we are forced to evacuate from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
'The weather will certainly not hamper the insurgents in crossing the strait to Malaya, Singapore, and Borneo. For one thing, we will have lost almost our total straits fleet, so they will have no trouble from that quarter.
'By crossing,' he continued, 'in small craft under the cover of wind and low rain clouds, our bombing will be reduced to almost complete uselessness. Personally, I don't think they will make any trouble south into India. Since the Red Chinese lost their influence in Vietnam, the Soviets have been counting on India to contain China from that direction.'
`What happens,' Keilty asked suddenly, 'if the Indonesian Conununist Party joins with the Malaysian Communists in a drive across Sumatra as well as up the Malay Peninsula?
They just might figure it is time to act again, this time backed by the Vietnamese.'
The Secretary gave him a long, sad look. 'Your point is well taken, Dr. Keilty. It is just one more of the many possible alternatives to consider.' He was speaking now to the representative of the Indonesian army who shifted uncomfortably.
'You can depend on the fact that the Soviet Union is weighing all possibilities. Consider this. If Malaya falls to the Communists, then the line up in Indo-China will be complete.
Thailand remains squeezed but possibly neutral only as long as it takes the Burmese Communists to upset their government and . . . they are not far from that point now.
Then Thailand loses any remaining independence she would have. Cambodia and Laos fall into line without a whimper. With friendly Communist governments throughout the Peninsula, Singapore and its naval base falls right into the Soviet's lap as its main base in the South China Sea . . . controlling the approaches to the Straits from either direction and completing the encirclement of China. China is hemmed in and we are pushed back onto Australia and New Zealand. How long can Indonesia remain independent with insurgents and arms pouring across the Straits? How long can the Philippines remain independent if the South China Sea is a Russian lake?
`Strategic long-range interests make it imperative that the installation be destroyed or neutralized at the very least.' He shifted in his chair and relit his pipe. 'Recognize that the Soviets take no chances here. It all falls on the Vietnamese who recognize that their stake is very, very high . . . and they have always shown themselves willing to gamble against the odds.'
'Way too many alternatives, aren't there?' Keilty commented.
`Way too many,' the Secretary of Defense agreed dryly.
An Indonesian Admiral spoke up, his soft accent harshened by anger. 'What do we wait for? We have no choice but to act now.' He turned to the Bradley's captain. 'If your weather reports are correct, we can no longer delay. To do so will be to see Singapore blanketed by radioactive water.'
'Admiral Okhato is correct, gentlemen,' an Australian officer said quietly. 'Do you want to see another Fall of Singapore like in forty-two. I don't, I was there. If we have to evacuate the bases at the same time everyone in the city is trying to get across the river, our chaps will die of radioactive poisoning. There's three million people in that city, two bridges to the mainland, and the causeway. If the monsoon strikes the day or so following the detonation, the insurgents could occupy a clean city and chase us so far back into the hills it will be the Japanese war all over again.
There was a growl of agreement from the others. After several minutes of arguing, during which the American secretary remained aloof, he banged on the glass top of the chart table with a coffee cup. There was immediate silence.
'I propose,' he said simply, 'that the station be captured and the bombs be disarmed.'
A chorus of seconds greeted his proposal, and minutes later, they were again grouped around the maps, planning the best use of the Bradley, the two MTBs and the four companies of
marines, two Australian/New Zealand combined units and one each Malaysian and Indonesian.
Two hours later, Keilty went below to the crew's mess, where Charlie had been installed, and found him swapping " dirty jokes with the third-watch cook.
`Hey, you clown,' he roared. 'Cut that out, I got enough trouble with him as it is, without you putting more ideas into his head.'
The cook, who had not heard him come in, jumped in surprise, then swung around to see a blond giant with a bright red face bearing down on him. The door to the pantry was open and he made it in record time to the laughter of the other mess workers. Mumbling to himself, Keilty fussed around the tank, checking the water-temperature gauge and recirculating pump to Charlie's soft chuckles.
'For crying out loud,' Keilty said angrily. 'Where in hell did you pick up that kind of language?
`Damned bluenose,' Charlie shot back, then laughed again, the sound coming out in static, as the transphonemator could not transliterate it.
`Look here, those numbskulls have finally decided to raid the station after all.'
"Do tell,' Charlie muttered. 'Another triumph of common sense.'
`Huh? Well, yeah, I guess you could call it that,' Keilty said with a glance at the dolphin that could only be described as fishy. He was beginning to wonder about Charlie. It was turning out that the dolphin was even sharper intellectually than he had thought. This whole fiasco was becoming a real eyeopener.
Keilty dragged up a chair, and with his feet on the seat, settled himself on the back so that he could look down into the tank. The dolphin was lying relaxed in the water.
Charlie had pushed the mike extension around so that he could shift his position without banging into it. Keilty placed his mike in the clip on the edge of the tank and hunched forward comfortably to speak into it.
`So they decided to capture the station and get the bomb,' Charlie reiterated. 'How?'
`Well, as for the station, a straightforward attack is about the only way. Those pictures you brought back show only one narrow ladder, and the deck about sixty feet above the surface.
So the ladder will be the hardest part. You didn't see any other ladders, did you?' he asked sharply.
`Well that's that, then. The ladder is the only way up.' Keilty paused. 'The stairs will be too well guarded.
'The seas are getting up a bit, and it's beginning to rain pretty hard out there. They tell me it will last about three hours, then quit. After that, the seas should keep rising. So they can depend on that for some cover.'
`That doesn't sound so difficult. I don't know much about this kind of nonsense,' Charlie said, 'but there shouldn't be too much trouble, should there?'
`Yep.' Keilty decided the back of the chair wasn't very comfortable and shifted down to the seat. 'There's a report that a Vietnamese destroyer – a ship like this one – is heading for the station. That could cause all sorts of trouble. They want to keep the carnage and bloodshed down as much as possible because of quote, world opinion, unquote, and if that destroyer shows up and starts shooting, there's going to be a mess.'
`Why not do it all and get it over with before the destroyer shows up?' Charlie asked.
`Because what's to prevent the destroyer from standing off and lobbing a few shells in to destroy the station – and the evidence!' He stressed the last.
`So they need some way to knock off the destroyer, without sinking it if possible, and make it turn back.'
`So where's the problem? Get some help.'
Ì figured you'd say that, 'cause that's what I asked. Ànd ..
Ànd they told me. There's nothing that could do the job that could intercept the Vietnamese destroyer before it's too late. Everyone is either down the strait or back in Singapore, so they don't cause too much of a ruckus down here. Aircraft are out too,' he said to forestall Charlie's next question, 'because of the weather. There's only about two thousand feet visibility out there, even when it's not raining under these clouds. And radar isn't accurate enough for this job.'
Charlie digested all of this for a minute, then said: `So what do they want us to do?'
Keilty stood up and rubbed the back of his neck, wondering how to put this next to the dolphin. He paced a moment,
aware that the dolphin's great, clear eyes were on him, then abruptly sank back down into the chair.
'It's like this,' he began. 'They have what they call a limpet mine. You set a timer, clamp it to a ship with its built-in magnet, and when the timer runs out, the mine explodes and blows a hole in the ship. The timer lets the guy who planted it get away, or lets the ship get out to sea so that it sinks beyond the possibility of salvage.'
Ànd with this wonderful device . . .' Charlie spoke his unfinished sentence in an exceedingly dry voice.
'Now cut that out,' Keilty snapped, irritated.
`They want us – you – to plant this bomb, plant it just so, so that it will blow a God-damned big hole in the ship and force them to turn back.'
`They do, do they?' Charlie glared at him, then dropped his head below the water line.
`Hey, come on out of there,' Keilty yelled, and slapped the water. When nothing happened, he sat grimly back to wait.
Exactly two minutes later, Charlie stuck his head out of the water again. He glared at Keilty for a long moment.
'Do I have to wear that blasted pack again?'
`No. I can make up a sling for you to carry the mine beneath your chest. It only weighs ten pounds or so, and isn't very big.'
Charlie considered again. `So what do I have to do?'
Keilty took a deep breath. It looked as if the dolphin would help after all. Suddenly it occurred to him. Why was he getting so worked up about this phase of the operation?
They had done what they had been asked: verified the presence of the bomb. The rest of it was up to that pack of short-sighted idiots still arguing in the wardroom. He shrugged mentally. Somebody had to do it, and it looked as if they were elected. A germ of an idea occurred to him. His face took on a strangely piratical appearance, his heavy blond brows drawing inward and down. He ran a blunt hand through the straw-colored mop of hair and stood thinking a moment.
`Hey. I said, what do I have to do?' Charlie's demand snapped his train of thought. He grinned at the dolphin.
'My friend, we are going to make a killing. All you gotta do is take the mine. The first MTB – on which I will also be – will take you out and drop you in the path of the destroyer. You hang around until it comes up. It should only be doing fifteen knots or so, and you won't have any trouble in catching it as
it goes by. When you do, plant the mine close to the bottom of the keel, just back of the bow where it begins to flatten out. Figure it's about twenty feet back from the front. The mine has a magnet, so it will stick. As soon as it makes contact with the hull, the mine will go off in exactly fifteen minutes. So you get out of there as fast as possible. Swim back the way you came, and you should be able to spot the second MTB with your sonar.
They will take you back to the Bradley. Then join us as reinforcements.
'Our MTh will have to drop you, then beat it for the station. The second MTh will have to hang back a couple of miles so that the destroyer doesn't spot them on radar. You won't have any trouble finding them with your sonar, will you?' Keilty asked anxiously. 'Or the destroyer either?'
`N0000, I wouldn't think so,' Charlie answered dryly. He was about to add something about the quality of the human underwater gear, then thought better of it.
Àll right, if that's all there is to it, you can tell them they've got a minelayer.' Charlie hesitated. 'That's a joke, son.'
`Yeah, I know,' Keilty said with a straight face, and stood up. 'Look now, get some rest. I'
ll go back and tell those clowns you're willing and maybe dicker with them.' He patted Charlie's rough gray head and went out, after warning the mess crew to let the dolphin rest.
This time the marine guard saluted and opened the hatch quickly.
'Thanks,' Keilty said, and stepped in. The loud buzz of conversation died down as he made his way between the tables to the map. When he reached it, he turned his back to the bulkhead and grinned at the expectant faces.
`Gentlemen, he agrees.
Several heads nodded at this wise choice, except Rawingson's. Keilty noticed he was staring at him with a slightly quizzical look.
He held up a hand, grinning wolfishly. 'Our fee will be one hundred and fifty thousand U.
S. dollars. A letter of commitment, signed by you . . .' He turned to the American Secretary of State, who looked rather thunderstruck. . and witnessed by the rest, will do for now.'
Angry voices began shouting and arguing. 'And,' he finished with a roar to override the noise, 'it will be payable on demand and of course subject to G and A fees and overhead.'
It took forty-five minutes of bland indifference to the shouting, but eventually he pocketed the letter of commitment.
They spent a sickening ten minutes getting Charlie's tank transferred from the rolling and pitching Bradley to the MTB, bobbing and dancing beneath the black wall of steel that was the destroyer. Keilty could imagine the sweating face and strained muscles of the helmsman as he fought the wheel to keep the relatively tiny craft from being crushed by the larger destroyer. From the sound of the engines, both Rolls Royce gas turbines must have been turning over at maximum power.
Keilty had supervised the rigging of the transfer line himself and had inflated the oil-filled sacs that would cushion Charlie in place of water. The dolphin had said nothing the entire time, although Keilty had left the transphonemator in place and working so that he could soothe the highly nervous dolphin. He had noted with concern that the tension had drawn strong lines around Charlie's beak and eyes and lines along his body that shifted constantly with his muscle action.
Deep black clouds filled the sky from horizon to horizon and pressed down closely on the three frail craft in the center of a dark, empty universe. The barometer needle had been dropping slowly all day, and strangely enough, there had been no wind. Only a leaden silence broken by the muted roar of engines and the quiet slap of feet. Talk in the oppressive atmosphere was limited to desultory conversation and occasional commands.
The destroyer's floodlights had been turned on at the bow and along the starboard side to provide light for the MTh crews. Their own running lights added to the harsh glare that surrounded the three ships. Looking down from the railing to the deck of the frantically bobbing MTh, Keilty could see angry waves with foamy crests lashing upwards like solid metal hulks before sliding brokenly back into oily troughs. Once overboard in that, he thought, if you weren't crushed against one side or another, the giant twin screws of the destroyer, or the smaller, sharper ones of the MTBs would make mincemeat out of you.
Providing you escaped that fate, you would be lost forever in the eight-foot seas.
The lights from the ships, a bright pool in the ocean of darkness, created a scene strongly reminiscent of an Ingmar Bergman movie. The whites were crystalline and harsh and the blacks were pools of jet, with no shade of gray or color in between. Except for the fluidity of movement, the slow-motion rise and fall of the man-made ships, and the wild insanity of the sea, the scene could have been that of a lunar rock formation at sunset. He wished he had a camera to record the drama so he could later compare the scene with photos taken by various Apollo Lunar Expeditions. He was sure that he would find the same breathless prescience of danger that almost screamed from the two-dimensional recordings of man's attack on what was essentially alien territory.
Turning away from the rail, he tried to shake off his sinister and superstitious dread. He said a few words to Charlie, who did not reply, and he noted the clear whites that showed completely around his pupils. Like a frightened horse, he thought ... or a man.
He stroked the dolphin's head and was about to say something else, when the iron voice of the PA system boomed at him.
Àre you set down there, Dr. Keilty?'
He waved back at the bridge and caught snatches of muffled conversation with the MTB
carrying over the loudspeakers.
`Prepare to transfer tank. Cargo officer, at your discretion.' The flat, metallic voice died quickly with no trace of answering echo. Keilty shivered again. Charlie must have caught his mood, because he looked up at Keilty and dropped one eyelid in a close approximation of a wink.
Feeling slightly relieved, Keilty swung himself up onto the tank so that he was astride one of the oil cushions beneath the middle tackle guy.
The cargo officer came over at a run. `Dr. Keilty, you can't go over on that.' The fear in his voice was obvious to all.
Trying to keep his voice calm, Keilty replied, 'Why not? You guys said it was safe.' It didn't come off, and his voice was harsh with suppressed fear.
Òf course it's safe. But if something should go ...'
`God damn it. If it's safe, nothing will go wrong. You think I'm going to let him ride across if the whole lousy system's going to fall apart?'
The officer, his face screwed up with doubt, hesitated, then turned on his heel and ran back to the bosun's chair lying on the deck next to the winch. He was back quickly with a wide safety strap.
`Put this around your waist and secure it to the tackle lock. If something goes wrong, it's got a quick-release buckle. Lift
up on the right side.' He hesitated again and looked up at Keilty as he took the belt. '
Good luck, sir,' he said quietly, and went back to the winch.
Keilty finished buckling up the belt and glanced up at the bridge. A line of faces pressed against the window, but the angle and light made it impossible to make out features. He rapped Charlie on the back and waved a hand at the cargo officer.
The tank jerked, then swung crazily for a moment until the winches took up the slack in the guide ropes.
'Here we go, ugly,' he muttered through clenched teeth.
'Looked in a mirror lately?' was Charlie's strained reply.
The tank lifted smoothly for a moment, then dropped sickeningly over the rail and began the long slide down to the jouncing deck below. Behind, Keilty could see the destroyer out of the corner of his eye as the deck dropped below them. He jerked his head around in time to see the MTh ride up a crest.
'Christ,' he roared. 'Hang on ...'
The cable above his head whipsawed sharply and the tank sprang upwards, then violently down as the destroyer rode up again. The winch screamed behind him at the overload, smoke pouring from the motor housing as the cable sawed into the reel.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the tank was level again and seconds later thumped onto the deck, where it was securely bolted down. Keilty painfully pried his fingers loose from the guy wire and turned on his stomach and slid down stiffly.
'How the hell did I ever get mixed up with you?' Charlie asked wearily.
Five minutes later, the two MTBs were beating their way southeast through steadily worsening seas.
Keilty crouched on the lee side of the MTB's cabin, watching through the aft hatch the radio operator with his head cocked to one side and earphones held with both hands to his ears. The man's face tightened for a moment, then he reached for his pencil and began scribbling out the message. Keilty looked at the huge Maori beside him in the camouflage greens of the Royal New Zealand Marines with the pips of a lieutenant.
When the radio operator nodded vigorously at them, the Maori smiled broadly and went below to chivvy up his troops. Keilty remained where he was, crouching into the open hatchway to escape the cold, blowing spray that was spurning back from the bow. He, like Charlie, was wondering how he had ever gotten himself involved in this mess.
Ten miles to the southeast, the Vietnamese destroyer was coming fast. The sea conditions, which were worsening steadily, had hidden them from the destroyer's surface radar when they had dropped Charlie minutes earlier, and they were now roaring northwest in the direction of the research station. Charlie, with the limpet bomb, was waiting for the destroyer. If everything went off according to plan, the mine would explode in about twenty minutes and the destroyer would be damaged severely enough to have to turn back in these heavy seas. Keilty had spent twenty minutes on the run south explaining to Charlie just how and where to plant the bomb.
The message that had just come in was from the Bradley. Two Indonesian destroyers were rushing up from Sumatra and an Australian mine layer from Singapore was on its way to supplement the Bradley, but wouldn't arrive for at least eight hours or better. The two MTBs were detailed to go in immediately Charlie was recovered and word was received that the Vietnamese destroyer was out of action. They would land their component of marines under covering fire if necessary. The station must be secured as fast as possible to prevent the crew on board destroying the bomb and the evidence that it had been prepared for this special operation.
Keilty looked at his watch in the dim glow from the interior of the small bridge. Just about five minutes to go. He hoped that the second MTB had not missed Charlie in the stormy
seas. Peter Owterry, the Maori lieutenant, slid in next to him, grinning from ear to ear.
Àll set on this end. It promises to be a bloody good show ...
Keilty raised his hand. 'Quiet a second' And indicated the radio operator scribbling on his pad again.
He tore off the sheet and handed it to the boat's commander, who swung round, and grinning from ear to ear, said, `Looks as if your dolphin made it, Dr. Keilty. He's been picked up, and without the mine'
Suddenly, the storm-shrouded horizon was lit by a brilliant flash, revealing heavy clouds banked tier on tier. As if waiting for the signal of the explosion, sheets of lightning ripped the sky, and were followed by heavy rolls of thunder; rain poured down on the small boat, causing a steady drumming. Before Keilty could pull his slicker tight around him, he was soaked clear to the skin by the heavy drops. The rain cut effective visibility to next to nothing.
Owterry, staring up into the driving rain, laughed. 'This rain is certainly going to be a help. It seems that the elements are conspiring with us instead of against us for a change.
The rain will hide us from lookouts and the waves from surface radar'
The radioman interrupted again to announce that the flash had been the explosion of the Vietnamese destroyer. The Bradley's radar showed she was steaming at about four knots for the nearest point of land, which was the extreme southern tip of Sumatra.
Keilty hung on to the bridge stanchion as the deck whipped beneath his feet. The MTB, taking the full brunt of the pounding waves, leapt from wave to wave in the heavy seas.
The rain fell harder and was thrashed by the wind into the flying spray until it seemed to be a solid sheet of water.
The two boats hammered on northward skirting the larger of the islands until shortly before dawn, when the commander throttled down. Keilty went down into the cramped cabin where he could watch the radar building a picture of the research station. The short-range sweep showed the Bradley some ten miles west, steaming on at close to thirty-five knots. The British commander swore softly to himself when he heard the Bradley's speed.
'She was built during the latter part of the war,' he said to Keilty in his soft west-country accent. 'She must be taking a
terrible pounding in these seas.' Then he brightened, 'I'll bet all those high muckety-mucks aboard are wishing they could die.'
Keilty agreed whole-heartedly with the picture.
The MTB came round the tower at almost full power in a heeling, skidding turn that would have done credit to an outboard. Her sister ship broke off to rendezvous with the Bradley.
Keilty wondered how Charlie was taking all this. His conscience had been bothering him since Charlie had gone overboard. Events had moved too fast for the dolphin to keep up with them. He had been confused and nervous, and if Keilty had not known better, he would have thought the dolphin was scared silly. But the animal's nervous condition was close to actual human fear. He had almost huddled in his tank aboard the tossing craft, his flippers and tail making fluttering motions against the side of the tank, his eyes rolling back until the whites showed against his almost black skin. Keilty had done his best to calm him, stroking his flanks, moistening him with a large sponge and promising a long, quiet airplane ride when this was all over.
Keilty knew that the dolphin was aware that this mission was much more dangerous than the other. He would be completely detached from Keilty and would not even see him when it was over. He would be depending on others to look after him and pick him up. In addition, the storm had frightened him. He had never been involved in a surface storm before, and the lashing waves and the tossing motion of the boat were rapidly giving him a classic case of seasickness. But then, when it came time to put him over the side, these symptoms disappeared and the dolphin shot over the side and sounded deeply. Keilty only hoped he had not been frightened so badly that he would revert to his native state.
Owterry plopped down beside him and shrugged out of his slicker. 'Have to clear the decks for action,' he said cheerfully. 'Can't move at all in that blasted thing. Besides, I couldn't get any wetter.
He peered over the side at the thrashing waves and then to where the bulk of the station could be seen dimly outlined against the black sky. 'Looks like we may have to go in under fire. The Bradley's not in position yet and she couldn't fire from where she is without hitting us.
`Hell of a fine fix to be in on a night like this,' Keilty muttered. He shrugged his shoulders against the pelting rain
that was seeping beneath his collar and down his neck. The deck boards had a nasty habit of dropping away suddenly and then smacking hard against him as the boat slammed sharply upwards. The MTh tightened the circled approach until she was less than a hundred yards away from the tower. Owterry climbed unsteadily to his feet for a better look.
`Damned station's awfully quiet. . .' As if waiting for just this cue, the Vietnamese opened up with a withering blast of light-arms fire. Keilty pressed himself into the deck to escape the hail of lead that stitched into the hull with amazing accuracy. Owterry dropped half on top of him, squirmed into the open hatchway, and then reached a huge hand up and around Keilty and dragged him in. He caught a glimpse of the second MTh returning off their stem.
`Captain,' he shouted against the screaming of the wind and engines, 'can you run us in under the deck of the tower?'
Keilty looked at him slowly. It would be suicide to get in under the deck in these seas.
One heavy wave could crush them against a supporting column, or even the underside of the deck. The commander obviously thought so too, but Owterry rushed on before he could interrupt.
'Get in under the overhang of the deck and around to the far side of that ladder. MTB
two-oh-three can stand off and sweep the decks with machine-gun fire until the Bradley gets here. By that time, we should be aboard.' He paused to take a quick look at the tower, illuminated now by heavy flashes of lightning and by the quick, small flashes of the fire fight. The accuracy of the station gunners' aim had fallen off drastically in the heavy seas. As Keilty watched, the station was hidden from view by a large wave until only the upper works of the tower showed. As they crested the station was in full view, and then lost again.
Ònce we get in and onto the ladder, you put out quickly and keep them busy around the top of the ladder so they can't get to us,' Owterry finished.
It took Owterry only a few minutes to convince the boat's commander that, under the circumstances, it was the only way to secure the research station and the bomb.
Signals were made to MTh 203 advising her of the plan and then to the Bradley. With the commander at the wheel and the twin Rolls turbines screaming to full rpm, the boat went in on a straight course from a point two hundred yards from the ladder. The MTB sliced through the heaving seas at forty-five knots, bouncing like a surfboard, then straightened out and beat her way through the twenty-foot waves. Water boiled around her stern from the creaming bow wave, sweeping half as high as the slanted mast. Keilty, crouching in the bow with the initial ten-man landing party, hung on for dear life. He hung back slightly, trying to stay out of Owterry's view. The New Zealander was busy trying to gauge the distance and the effect of the shells and bullets that were beginning to converge
Keilty watched the big Maori at work, marveling at the calmness of his Oxfordian voice deeply resounding above the racket of the storm. Earlier, one of the marines had proudly told him that Owterry was educated in England at St. James, had been New Zealand boxing champion, and had almost taken the Commonwealth boxing crown until the war interrupted. Owterry himself had told him that he had fought from Burma down the Malay Peninsula in 1944-45, and then back up against the Communists in 1947-50.
`You're lucky we're in the strait and not on the mainland,' Owterry had grinned. 'This is relatively clean. Malaya has jungles like nowhere else on earth: Keilty had noticed the leech scars on his hands, wrists, and ankles, and mentioned them.
À doctor once told me that the scars on my ankles form a ring of scar tissue nearly an inch deep,' he had replied. After that, Keilty was prepared to believe anything about Southeast Asian jungles.
The distance was now less than a hundred yards. A flurry of light 1.5-inch shells splashed and exploded dead ahead of them. The concussion and the water they kicked up almost washed Keilty over the side. The commander kept the boat steady on its course.
Keilty watched the tower loom ahead of them, seeming to grow larger with infinite slowness. A second salvo hit closer, bracketing the boat and lifting the bow high in the air. For a moment it hung suspended.
Keilty had time to notice that the rain, which had become almost horizontal in the wind, was no longer pelting him for a brief second as the hull came between him and the watery horizon. Then the MTB slapped down hard, jarring every bone in his body. He tasted blood in his mouth where a tooth was broken. His back was on fire where the FN
carbine on its loose sling had crashed down. Dazedly he noticed that the boat was skidding into a hard starboard turn as the engines cut out and then screamed up as the propellers reversed and the boat slid under the overhang, port quarter first.
The commander idled the engines down enough to maintain steerageway and turned her towards the single narrow ladder, outlined dimly by the hooded beam of the boat's searchlight. They drew alongside the ladder and were held fast by two ratings as they piled over the side into two rubber life rafts. Keilty was the last over. He ignored Owterry's shout, and watching the bobbing raft, jumped and landed half across the stern and was hauled into the bottom of the raft.
`Where the hell do you think you're going?' Owterry stormed at him from the other raft.
`Where the hell do you think?' Keilty shouted back. 'Stop yelling and let's get going. I've got a vested interest in this operation.'.
Owterry waved the MTB away. It idled away from them and then slipped into full power and shot from beneath the deck, its two quad .50s blazing away at the station decking.
Keilty watched it roar away, swinging in a wide circle to allow the gunners to track their target, and then he lost it in the rain and fog.
The noise of the fighting came to them in a mishmash of hollow sound, reflected from beneath the steel tower by the chopping seas. The rafts were made fast to the tower ladder and the combined units of New Zealand and Australian marines swarmed up first, followed by the Indonesian unit. They had shed their packs on the MTh and wore only shirts and shorts, with their weapons slung over their shoulders within easy reach to leave their hands free for the ladder. They went up professionally. Keilty was pushed back until he was last man on the ladder. Gunfire sounded above and a brief spray of bullets swept past him. A body came hurtling down; which side, he was unable to tell.
Then he was being yanked over the top and pushed down behind a hastily constructed barrier of empty oil drums. Owterry was waving four men around the far edge of the barrier in a flanking movement to the drilling rig. Snipers in the rig took two of the men before they had taken five steps. Cursing horribly, his eyes white-rimmed in the flashing lightning, Owterry landed beside him, directing a barrage of fire to the rigging. Keilty unslung his carbine, worked the slide to make sure it wasn't jammed, and aimed at a figure crouching
behind a web of bracing halfway up the tower. He fired three shots and missed. Rain water sluiced down the barrel and spattered into his eyes. He shook his head and rubbed his eyes clear, ignoring the stinging, then turned his attention back to the sniper. He slid the catch to full automatic and opened up. The figure straightened, took a quick 'step backwards, arched its back, and sailed off into space. He landed with a sodden thump on the steel deck plates. Grinning savagely, Keilty jammed another magazine home.
Across the deck near the main shaft of the tower, were a series of low corrugated-iron sheds. As Keilty glanced towards them seeking another target, the door in the nearest one was flung open and four men poured out. They dove for positions around the shaft, setting up a machine gun. The entire movement was performed so quickly that it took the marines off guard. The machine gun opened up fast. Keilty ducked back around the oil drums just in time. A sharp clang, and a steel sliver was nicked from the drum where his head had been. The machine gun traversed the row of drums and was followed by rifle fire, while the gunners turned their attention to the two men who had reached the rig. They were all now effectively pinned down. Keilty ducked back deeper into the safety of the oil drums. Owterry yelled something that was lost in the rattle of the machine gun and the series of clangs from the drums.
The man next to Keilty struggled into a sitting position while he fumbled in his shirt.
Then, going to his knees, he straightened up and started to hurl a hand grenade. Two fifty-caliber slugs stitched across his chest and he fell back, dropping the live grenade into Keilty's lap. Keilty was so surprised that he stared stupidly for a moment, then straightened convulsively and kicked out with his foot, pitching the grenade over the side of the deck where it exploded. Owterry rolled his eyes to heaven – whether in thankfulness or supplication, Keilty could not tell. Then the machine gun was back.
Keilty could now see the two flankers clearly. And they were clearly pinned down. They had depended on the main party to furnish them with covering fire while they flanked and came up on the main body of the defenders holding the deck. Now that the main party was pinned down, they were exposed to a flanking movement themselves and this was precisely what was happening to them. From their left, three Vietnamese soldiers were crawling towards the party, using the cover furnished by equipment and machinery. The flankers were kept
pinned by the machine gun and could not effectively cover themselves.
Keilty pulled the remaining two grenades from the shirt of the dead marine. The pictures that Charlie had gotten from the sea had shown a small ledge running the circumference of the top of the main deck. It was only about five feet below the level of the deck, but it had looked wide enough to walk on.
Ignoring Owterry, he crawled back to the ladder, careful to keep the drums between himself and the machine gun. One of the snipers in the rig saw him and began firing. The bullets slammed and ricocheted viciously around him. With one sliding leap, Keilty grabbed the edge of the ladder and all but vaulted over. His foot caught the rung and he yanked his head down below the deck.
The ledge was there, but it was not really a ledge, more of a catwalk with ladderlike rungs. He crouched down and slung his rifle with one hand, being careful to keep one hand on the ladder. The wind had picked up now and was blowing close to thirty knots.
The rain pelted down in huge, swollen drops that all but blinded him. He worked the hand grenades into his pockets and began inching his way along, carefully placing one foot on the rung ahead, hanging on to the slippery edge of the decking. The wind tore at him, pulling at his sodden shirt and Levis. In spite of the waterproofing he had applied earlier in the day, his leather boots were soaked through with the heavy monsoon rains.
After what seemed an eternity, he stopped and raised his head carefully above the decking. He could see the dim outline of the barrels and to his right, still some fifty feet away and hidden by the machinery, the flashes of the machine gun.
The wind was now so loud in his ears that nothing else seemed real. The flashes of the guns were soundless in the immensity of roaring wind and water. He lowered his head and started forward again. Once he slipped and caught himself only by his fingers from falling into the water seventy feet below. He managed to hook a leg around a rung and rested for a moment. Then he was moving ahead again. He never knew how long it actually took him, but it seemed forever.
At the end of another hundred feet, he stopped and raised his head for a careful look.
Almost in front of him and some fifty feet away, crouched the gunner and the man feeding the belt. On the other side, two riflemen with automatic weapons were firing carefully and accurately over the top of the rigging machinery.
Keilty levered himself up into a half crouch, one leg hooked around a support rod. He fumbled with a grenade which resisted his efforts to pull it from his wet pocket. He cursed the tight Levis he was wearing. Keilty had made a turn coming around the edge of the decking, so that he was now taking the full force of the wind against his right side.
The wind was becoming fitful now, rising from its steady thirty knots until it was almost a full gale, then dropping suddenly with no warning. Every time it rose, Keilty had to stop and hang on to keep from being blown off the tower.
Finally, in desperation he straightened his legs, and half bending from the waist to keep his head below the level of the deck as much as possible, Keilty yanked the hand grenade free. He shoved the narrow end with the lever into his mouth. The weight of the steel ground down on his broken tooth, making him gasp in pain. He almost lost the grenade, but managed to hang on, fighting the waves of nausea that threatened to make him vomit.
He transferred it to the other hand and worked the other grenade loose in his pocket. For a second, he caught a brief glimpse of a raft in the flickering lightning, full of men, pulling to the ladder as the wind screamed around them.
The machine gun was now concentrating its fire on the barrels and the top of the gangway. The flashes from the muzzle were almost a steady stream of fire. Keilty straightened as much as he could, aware that he was silhouetted against the lightning-filled sky. With his teeth, he twisted loose the pin on the grenade in his left hand, then transferred it carefully to his right hand, careful to keep the lever down tightly. He tried to judge the wind, waiting for a lull, then threw with an overhand swing and missed. The grenade landed short and well to the left of the machine gun, bounced once, and exploded harmlessly.
Keilty straightened again, peering over the edge of the decking. Rifle slugs whined past his ears as he pulled the pin on the second grenade. The men ahead were frantically swinging the machine gun around as he threw the grenade with all his strength and ducked. The grenade hit and skidded across the deck, bouncing directly towards the spitting rifles, and exploded under the tripod of the machine gun. Pieces of steel whined away into the night.
Keilty edged his head up. Lightning showed the rip pipe
racks directly above the gunners to be a shambles. The twisted barrel of the machine gun lay against the dented side of the cabin. The grenade had exploded between the rig and the cabin, funneling the exploding shrapnel both ways, mowing down the four men like paper cutouts. They lay strewn at odd angles on the deck.
Owterry and his men rushed the cabin from the cover of the barrels, clearing the last of the defenders from the deck and rigging on the way.
Keilty climbed stiffly over the edge of the deck and stood up slowly. He could see the raft-load of marines begin to appear around the top of the ladder, slowly at first, then more quickly as they met with no resistance. They paid no attention to him standing in the shadows, his carbine still slung, but disappeared below after Owterry.
There were only a few white lights still burning in the rigging, and the red warning light over the cabin's wrecked door. Somehow it had escaped the bullets and exploding shrapnel.
Keilty followed below after the last squad. He caught up with them at the beginning of a corridor that led into the center of the station. The interior was laid out in a triangular fashion some two hundred feet across at the base and three levels deep. The corridor down which they were now moving cautiously, led to the sleeping quarters and mess hall. Bare, unfrosted bulbs were glowing dimly from the ceiling and the steel walls, painted a deep gray, reflected little of the meager light. The marines moved slowly down the corridor, five to each side. They stopped once to check what appeared to be an empty office, its door half opened. The corridor was the main passageway to the center of the station. At its end, it branched to the right and left. When the Royal Marines reached the junction, they cautiously poked a helmet around the corner. A flurry of shots rang out and the helmet spun down the left branch. A corporal armed with a tear-gas gun put the muzzle around the corner and fired two successive cylinders. Keilty, without a mask, beat a hasty retreat back to the deck.
The rain had steadied to an insistent needle drive that immediately drove him back into the shelter of the stairwell in the entrance to the cabin. The rain stabbed at his skin, ignoring the covering of his wet shirt and Levis. Through the rain, he caught sight of the dim silhouette of the Bradley, several cable lengths away. The destroyer was steaming slowly around the station to maintain steerageway in the heavy seas. As he watched, the destroyer focused two powerful searchlights on the tower, throwing details into sharp reliefs of black and white shadow that shifted constantly as the destroyer fought through the pounding waves.
More marines, slickered against the driving rain, were clambering over the side of the deck from a motor launch below. Another hatch was opened and they quickly disappeared below, leaving the deck suddenly deserted, except for three woebegone prisoners standing half drowned in the rain while their guard leaned negligently under the protecting overhang of a shed, his rifle circling slowly in their general direction.
Keilty stood listening to the wind screaming its high-pitched wail through the spiderwork of the tower, wishing mightily for a cigarette. He had just decided to go back down below decks to see what was happening, when five gas-masked marines came through the hatchway behind him, pushing a batch of prisoners, their hands clasped over their heads and their eyes streaming, and hurried them across the deck.
Owterry followed the prisoners. He caught sight of Keilty standing in the shelter of the cabin and came over.
`War's over,' he announced cheerfully. `Thanks very much for your help, by the way,'
`Hooray,' Keilty muttered. Ì need a cigarette.
Owterry hauled out a soaking packet of Players, glared at them in disgust, and threw them away. `They're bringing up portable fans to blow out the tear gas,' he said. `The place is full of it and somebody wrecked the air-conditioning system.'
He produced a spare gas mask and handed it to Keilty. `Put this on and let's go take a look at the bomb. We got to it in plenty of time. Those idiots hadn't even attempted to get rid of it.'
They ducked into the thinning fog of tear gas that was rolling up the stairwell. Keilty noticed that someone had gotten the generators going again and the bulbs cast a considerably stronger light. They passed an office where several Vietnamese prisoners milled about sullenly, guarded by two marines with leveled weapons.
The tear gas had thinned out quite a bit and Keilty and Owterry removed their masks. He took a good look at the prisoners as they passed the office. Their clothes and hair were streaming with water which formed puddles on the incongruous green carpeting in the steel-bulkheaded room. They had the hard-bitten look of professional soldiers and theywere alert and
tense, in contrast to the three Keilty had seen on the deck. These were professionals, and the others had probably been scientists and technicians. The two guards appeared ready for trouble, with their carbines on full automatic and safetys off.
Owterry led him along a narrow catwalk, then down a vertical steel ladder into a featureless oval room. Keilty glanced back up the tube through which they had just climbed down, -noting that it was a hydraulically operated telescoping tube.
In the center of the room, a steel case about the size of a pickup truck was placed. There were the usual meaningless dials that Keilty had expected, and when he walked up for a closer look, he noticed that they were labeled in Vietnamese. He looked around the room. Besides the case, which was on the raised platform where he stood, the room was completely bare. The room itself was lit by soft fluorescent lights. Keilty noted the incongruity of the General Electric trademark on the light fixtures and the Vietnamese letters on the bomb casing.
Suddenly, it occurred to him that he was standing in the same room with a five-megaton thermonuclear bomb. The bomb itself might be harmless without its trigger, but its radiations certainly were not. He moved quickly and grasped the arm of a marine leaning against the casing and yanked him away.
`For the sake of your future offspring, friend. Have you checked this room for radiation?'
he asked, turning to Owterry.
The New Zealander paled under his coppery skin. 'No ...'
`Then I suggest we all get the devil out of here until those sorcerer's apprentices you people brought along get through in here.
Ìt's not going anywhere,' he added.
There was a hasty retreat up the ladder.
Keilty watched a Japanese freighter make its way slowly through the tangled knots of junks, freighters, pleasure craft, and warships anchored or moving in the roadstead below. Mariposa cluttered the slope for a short way below the hotel balcony on which he was standing and ended in a jumble of boulders and rocks leading to a sheer drop down to the narrow slice of land fronting the harbor below. He breathed deeply, inhaling the fragrance of the tropical sea breeze that mingled with the odors of fuel oil, rotting fish, and just plain Singapore.
To the east, barely visible around the jutting headland, was the electrified fence of the big naval base that climbed halfway up the slope before turning inland. Where the outcropping rock dipped inward, he had a clear view of the almost empty piers. While he watched, a flight of F-14's blasted across the harbor, hauled up, and disappeared around the headland. Moments later, a lone Canberra with British markings trundled across the harbor and slowly disappeared out to sea. Further out, past the harbor entrance, a giant Australian aircraft carrier was working around to the north to patrol along the New Guinea coast. Its escort of three destroyers and a guided-missile frigate flanked her on either side like ladies-in-waiting. A destroyer frisked ahead and he could just make out the foaming bow wave, curling back along the flanks of the leading frigate.
With a great deal of satisfaction he watched the busy scene in the harbor. Almost a week had passed since they had returned to Singapore and every day, signs of military activity had been decreasing. Rawingson had told him the day before that the U.S. Seventh Fleet was in the process of withdrawing from the straits area and standing down from the Red Alert imposed as soon as the scientists had confirmed the presence of a nuclear bomb in the research station.
Curiously enough, nothing had come of the entire affair, it seemed. The various governments involved had clamped a lid of tight secrecy on and so far it seemed to be holding except for some slight speculation in the world press. Nothing had been heard from the Vietnamese government, officially or unofficially, in response to the strong notes of protest passed secretly to them through the Kremlin. The Soviets had seemed to ignore
the rebuke and had remained silent as well. Rawingson had reported with some glee that the Soviet probes into Sinkiang and along the Manchurian border which had been increasing in past weeks had stopped abruptly the day after the station was secured. He had taken this to mean that the Russians considered themselves checked.
Keilty straightened his broad, lanky frame and walked slowly back into the suite. He pulled off his shorts and went into the bathroom, plugged in his shaver and ran it over his long, muscular face, grinning at himself the entire time.
He was well pleased. A cablegram had come earlier from his Miami bank, notifying him that the one hundred and fifty thousand dollar fee had been promptly paid by the Department of Defense. He had picked up the phone happily and called the cable office and sent off a cable instructing the bank to pay off the long, long overdue bills. His last talk with the Secretary of Defense before he had left for Honolulu, a quiet, top-secret meeting, had resulted in a promise of new research contracts and the directorship of a newly established Dolphin Research Institute in the Florida Keys with a salary of $30, 000 a year. He and Admiral Rawingson both had insisted it be put in writing immediately and he had his 'stated' copy in his bags. Rawingson was learning quickly too, he grinned.
Keilty took a quick shower and padded into the bedroom, toweling his sunburned body.
He winced as the rough towel scraped across the plastic valve set into the skin between his spine and the right shoulder blade. As he dressed in a dark blue pair of slacks and a short-sleeved cotton shirt, he worried his damaged tooth with his tongue. It seemed to have reset itself properly, as the Bradley's medical officer had told him it would. He knotted a thin blue tie, pulled on a madras jacket, and then stepped into a pair of loafers.
Keilty returned to the terrace and stood watching the magnificent scene superimposed on the placid waters of the harbor below, then left the room and hotel quickly.
Twenty minutes later, he was aboard the Australian cruiser Vigilant, sitting at a highly polished dark walnut table. An orderly placed a tall glass of scotch and water on the table and handed him an ornate menu.
Seated at the table with Keilty were Rawingson in neatly pressed whites, the gold braid gleaming inconspicuously; the captain of the Vigilant, Commander Whittlson; and a Michael J. Hallan, to whom Keilty had just been introduced. Hallan was a member of the CIA stationed in Indonesia. Next to Hallan was his opposite number in Australian Naval Intelligence in Djakarta, Ralston Hutchins. They were an oddly contrasting pair, Keilty thought; Hallan, short but spare, looking more like a small-town druggist than either a CIA operative or the sales representative for a farm equipment manufacturer, which was his cover. Hutchins, on the other hand, was very James Bondish — of medium height and rather a dark complexion, but with green eyes instead of blue, and Scandinavian features —with the exception of dark hair. His hair was brushed informally straight across and was dry looking. On meeting him, Keilty had immediately suspected that he was a good swimmer. As it turned out, Hutchins had taken two bronze medals and a gold one in the 196o Olympics — the 100-meter freestyle, 100-meter dash and backstroke.
Also sitting at the table was a representative of the newly reformed SEATO alliance —representing the U.S.,, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines — Lieutenant General James Phillips, USAF.
Among so many uniforms, Keilty, Hutchins, and Hallan looked out of place, and as they took their seats at the table, they drew up chairs next to each other, as if for mutual'sup-port.
Vice-Admiral William Collins bustled into the cabin, nodding and muttering apologies for his lateness as he took his seat at the head of the table.
'Very sorry, gentlemen, unexpected delay. Hope you've been keeping our guests entertained, Commander,' he said jovially, turning to face the others, who nodded.
'Well in that case, shall we order lunch before we get down to cases.' He picked up his menu, then promptly put it down again, waving to the orderly hovering about the table with an order pad. 'My usual, Leslie.'
He swung round to Keilty, 'We meet again, Dr. Keilty. How do you find your stay in Singapore, sir? Rather delightful place, I have always thought, especially for a bachelor.'
He laughed at the expression on Keilty's face.
Keilty let the smile come through. Peter Owterry, an old Singapore hand, had shown him the town before he shipped out two days before, and unknown to Keilty, had arranged with several establishments to keep Keilty well supplied with company. He had managed to get the latest one sent off less than two hours ago.
'Ha, I do see you find Singapore very congenial.' The admiral roared with laughter at his own cleverness.
The conversation degenerated into desultory small talk from there. The luncheon was served and Keilty found the Royal Australian Navy cooking – at least for admirals – to be excellent. The sole was baked to perfection and the seafood sauce had just the right amount of tang, suggesting a chef who knew the value of certain spices with seafood.
Later, brandy and cigars were produced and the seven men lit up, the admiral explaining that this was an eccentricity of his, preferring a hearty midday dinner and a light supper at night.
'Well, gentlemen,' the admiral said, 'we all – with the exception of Dr. Keilty – know why we are here.' He beamed around the table.
`Leslie,' he shouted to the orderly. 'Take yourself ashore for the afternoon, never mind cleaning up. We'll get to that later.
'Oh, and see that a guard is detailed for the hatch, if you please,' he called to the retreating figure.
`Well, now – let's get down to business. How much do you
\know about this meeting, Dr. Keilty?' The admiral's jovial back-country manner was suddenly gone and in its place was that of the sailor who had come through the North Atlantic Convoys.
`Not much,' Keilty answered carefully, studying the admiral's face. 'Only what Admiral Rawingson told me yesterday afternoon. As I understand it, this business is not entirely over yet.'
`Very perceptive, Doctor, and I'm afraid you are right. You have met both Mr. Hutchins and Mr. Hallan? Good.' He leaned forward in his chair to rest his arms on the table, broad blunt-fingered hands, palms down. 'In a word, Doctor, although the Vietnamese no longer have that particular bomb, they are thought to have as many as four more.'
'I see,' Keilty said. 'That's nice. But that would seem to be your problem, wouldn't it?'
Keilty leaned forward, placing his hands also on the table, staring straight at the admiral.
The cabin was silent for a moment. Keilty could hear the noon cannon being fired, even through the sealed porthole. Someone shifted his chair and the noise broke the spell.
Without changing his position, the admiral abruptly switched the subject. 'Have you seen your porpoise today, Doctor?'
`Dolphin, Admiral. No, I haven't,' he answered wearily.
`You see, Doctor,' the admiral again changed the subject, 'it is possible that at least one more of these bombs is in the area of the straits, perhaps in a submarine.'
Keilty regarded the admiral steadily.
'It seems that at least two submarines were sold to the South Vienamese government during the war, one by the United States and the other by Australia. One was completely destroyed by loyal ARVN officers just before Saigon capitulated but they were not as successful with the second. It was sunk at its mooring but we know it was successfully raised and repaired. So, it seems there is a bit more to what is going on than we thought.
'We now know that they actually had formulated a many-stepped plan. Step one was initiated six days ago with the attack on Thailand. Following their usual pattern – an attack and then a quiet withdrawal, almost a probing action – they again have pulled back their troops within their borders. However, intelligence tells us they are continuing their massive build-up along the Thai-Laotian border. Step two was to be the bombing of the straits fleet – a second Pearl Harbor, in other words. But, thanks to you and your finny friend, that failed. But make no mistake, they have us out-maneuvered and they know it.'
'The same old story, then. They raise a flap and we run around like chickens,' Keilty interjected sarcastically.
'Oh, but not this time,' General Phillips put in. 'We have been keeping track of certain shipments of guided missiles out of eastern Europe. Six shipments have gone in the past seven months, four to India and two to Hanoi. The two shipments to Hanoi contained tactical short range missiles capable of eleven hundred miles with a payload of 60o pounds. Just sufficient for a nuclear device. They were originally intended to carry non-nuclear warheads in which case the range is normally around five hundred miles.'
`That's a tactical weapon,' Keilty snorted.
Phillips ignored the comment. 'As it now stands, we are pretty certain that at least four of these missiles are now aboard that rebuilt submarine. A group of Soviet technicians left Odessa four months ago and haven't been seen since. They were specialists in underwater-launched missiles. We believe that submarine has been modified to fire from depth. Somewhere in the South China Sea that sub is hiding and it probably is not too far away from the straits. And if it is, and if it is armed with those missiles ...' he let the sentence trail off.
`Why near the straits? If they have a thousand mile range they could be anywhere between the Chinese coast and Australia.
Phillips shook his head. 'No, we think they must be near the station. The Vietnamese do not have the sophisticated communications equipment to keep the sub informed of what is going on. She probably has to surface periodically and to keep the radio traffic from being picked up and giving her away, she would have to be close by and using low power, high frequency radio.'
'It seems,' Keilty said slowly, and with great resignation, `that the last time I was informed what these crazy people were up to, I almost got my head shot off ...
`Wait, don't tell me,' he held up his hand to forestall the admiral. 'I know, now, what this meeting is all about. You want me to persuade Charlie to help you find this submarine, right?'
When both Phillips and Collins nodded, he smiled sweetly and went on, 'This is an extremely important mission. The Reds must not be allowed to gain control of Southeast Asia, because do I-know how valuable this part of the world is to the Free World? Why, when the Japanese took Singapore in the last war, do I realize, et cetera? Yes, I do. Of course I do, so let's skip the propaganda and build-up, right? That sub is somewhere off the coast of Sumatra and you want me to find .. . Charlie to find it, right?'
'I told you, gentlemen,' Rawingson laughed. 'Didn't I?' Keilty glared at the rear admiral.
'SEATO has asked that you co-operate with us in this matter, Doctor. There is something going on out there that is obviously bigger than we had thought,' said General Phillips.
Òbviously,' Keilty muttered. He slumped back into the chair and regarded the gray overhead, festooned with pipes and cables worked with cryptic messages. The far bulkhead, fronting on the interior of the bridge, contained nothing but a hatchway and several prints – in very good taste – of rather well-known paintings. Keilty stared at Gauguin's painting of a Tahitian mountain rising from yellowed fields in reddish eminence, dwarfing the single figure trudging along a dusty road.
`Well, General, I am a civilian. And there would be a fee involved -- payable in advance.'
'What?' Phillips exclaimed. He pushed back his chair and dropped his hands to his knees.
'You know the background of
this .. . this plot, yet you make it contingent upon a fee? How the hell ... ?'
`Pay the fee, General,' Rawingson said dryly.
Ìn advance – from the Department of Defense, and I want to see a cable from my bank before I move.
Ì'll be damned ...'
`Pay the fee, General. I don't blame him a bit,' Rawingson said again. 'DOD can settle with SEATO later.'
Out of the corner of his eye, Keilty could see that the others were regarding him quizzically, and he grinned carefully at Phillips.
Ì'll be damned . . .' Phillips ejaculated again. He then stood up. At the hatch, he turned to stare at Keilty, who did not even turn around. When the hatch slammed shut, both Keilty and Rawingson laughed uproariously.
The meeting dragged on into the late afternoon. Keilty was briefed on the situation by both Hallan and Hutchins. The two had been working together steadily for the past few years since Saigon and with it all of South Vietnam and later Cambodia had fallen to the Communists. Between them, they had amassed an immense amount of data.
Hutchins had specialized in the Vietnamese armed forces. The Vietnamese navy consisted in the main of a conglomeration of outdated craft; former South Vietnamese riverine and coastal patrol craft, six destroyers – two of them lately purchased from the Soviet Union – and three mine sweepers. The rest were miscellaneous vintage French and American motor torpedo boats. Their air force again was built mainly on French equipment – mostly propeller driven left over from the colonial days and more up-to-date captured American F-5's and helicopters and some new Migs, again from the Soviet Union and lately brought south from bases around Hanoi. The biggest addition had been the new SAM series of anti-aircraft missiles and ground facilities.
Hallan finished up, 'they really have us as far as defending their turf goes. Outside their boundaries, nothing. I think we could probably talk the Malaysians and Indonesians into dealing with them alone but for the fact that they seem to be playing with a heavy hand.
You just can't persuade anyone to argue with nuclear missiles.'
Keilty sat silently, chewing on his knuckle and staring at the Gauguin. He was beginning to feel a little homesick for his peaceful Key, and Margaritta – especially Margaritta.
Silently he cursed Rawingson for dragging him into this mess to begin with.
'So,' he growled, 'where does the submarine come in?'
`That's what we would like to know,' Hutchins answered sardonically. 'I doubt if there are thirty people in the entire Vietnamese Government and military establishment who know that it is there.' He paused a moment to stare at the backs of his hands. 'Perhaps they feel backed into a corner or maybe they still figure they can pull it out. The Vietnamese have never given a damn for quote, world opinion, unquote. They know they can always twist their underdog position around to justify just about any action they decide to undertake.'
'Hell, it doesn't stand to reason,' Keilty interrupted, 'that they will use the bombs on Singapore. The island will be absolutely no use to them if it's a mass of radioactive rubble. They need the naval yard, the airfields, the launching and harbor facilities, and most of the trade.'
'Precisely,' Collins put in. 'My own feeling in the matter is that they will use one or two of the bombs to create the tidal wave, still, in the strait. It would certainly he a lot easier for them than if they had to fight it out with our fleet to clear the channel. And there is only an even chance they would win. Either that . . .' And he paused for effect. . or they will use them to threaten our allies in this area — nuclear blackmail, in other words.'
A knock sounded on the hatch, and Phillips stepped into the cabin and resumed his seat.
'Damned nonsense. I had to speak to the Joint Chiefs to get your advance fee paid, but you will have it tomorrow. Now, how much?'
`Two hundred thousand,' Keilty stated flatly. Phillips reddened, but Rawingson said mildly, 'Pay it.'
'You'll get the cable tomorrow,' Phillips choked.
'Fine,' Keilty said. 'Then we can continue tomorrow.'
Keilty said good-bye to Rawingson at the end of the gangway and walked slowly along the pier to the gate. The gray and blue camouflage of the Vigilant towered over him, bristling with uncovered, action-ready antiaircraft guns. Keilty stopped to stare at the cruiser, noting the covered cylindrical shapes of guided missiles and launchers where the four main turrets had once been located. She looked sleek and deadly.
He was passed through the gate, and pushed his way through the crowds of Australian sailors waiting for rides into the city. The cab drew up in front of the U.S. Military Mission and Keilty, well known by now, was ushered right in by the marine guards. He wandered down the hall to the swimming pool, nodded to the guard, and walked in.
His footsteps echoed from the high brick walls as he walked to the edge of the pool's deep end. The pool was twelve feet deep and nearly fifty meters long, lined with white tile. Like the building, it had been constructed before the war in the mid-thirties, and bore the unmistakable stamp of that period's British military architecture.
Keilty sat down on the lowest row of the bleacher seats that lined the two long walls.
Charlie, lying comfortably near the bottom, was completely engrossed in a TV program.
Through the shimmering water, Keilty could see that it was one of the soap operas, piped in by satellite from Honolulu for the edification of military wives in the Southeast Asian area.
He watched the dolphin for a few moments, rising and sinking slowly in front of the plastic-boxed receiver. Finally he tossed a quarter into the water, directly above Charlie.
The dolphin snapped around and shot to the surface, catching the falling quarter in his beak as he did so. He broke the surface, saw Keilty, and swam over to the edge of the pool and tossed the quarter to him.
Keilty pocketed the coin, and grinning, hooked up the transphonemator resting on the diving board.
'Hi, boss,' Charlie grinned, showing double rows of wolfish teeth.
'Hi, yourself. What've you been doing?'
Charlie backed off and jumped half onto the sloping edge that had been rigged for him.
'Not too much of anything. What the devil can you do in a lousy swimming pool? Say, did you know they have Jack LaLane out here?'
'Figures,' Keilty said. 'So they ...'
'I found out that I'm getting fat. According to Jack LaLane, if you sit around doing nothing all day with no exercise, you're not going to burn up carbohydrates, and carbohydrates turn into fat.'
'Dolphins don't sit,' Keilty reminded him. He hunched down next to the pool. 'If it's getting fat you're worried about, I have just the thing in mind that will trim you down to a slim torpedo shape again. How about that?'
`How about what?' The dolphin's voice coming through the transphonemator had a distinctly suspicious tone to it. 'What's this one going to be, another wild adventure?
When the hell do we go home, anyway?'
`What do you mean, go home? All you're worried about is that plane ride.'
`So this. The big boys are in trouble again and it seems they need our help.'
`More bombs, I bet.' Charlie looked up at Keilty, staring directly into his eyes. Keilty was slowly learning to read the dolphin's expressions, but this one puzzled him.
`What's the matter?' he asked.
'I thought that we already helped them twice. They said that if we found the bomb for them, we could go back and they would leave us alone.'
`So they did, and we still can, but it looks as if the job was only half done. If we finish it, it means a heck of a lot of money, and with it, we can really get things rolling.'
The dolphin looked slightly puzzled. 'How do you mean half finished? I found the bomb for them all right, didn't I?'
`Yep. But they have more than one. There is a submarine somewhere out there.' He lowered his voice carefully. 'It's loaded with four guided missiles with nuclear bombs in them, and they want us to help them find it.'
Charlie slid halfway back into the water and slapped his tail. 'Is that all?' he almost chuckled. 'Why didn't you say so. There's no problem there.'
`No problem, what the devil are you talking about? Do you realize how much water there is . . . ?'
`Wait,' Charlie interrupted. 'I said it would he no problem because I know where the submarine is.'
Keilty almost fell off his heels in surprise. 'What?' he shouted. 'Where, for God's sake?
How come you didn't tell me about it before?'
Charlie looked somewhat sheepish — no mean trick for a dolphin. 'I forgot. It was on the way back from the station. I was taking a last look round and I spotted something at the base of one of the islands. It took me a while to figure out what it was, but I'm sure it's a submarine.'
Keilty stood up and paced back and forth along the edge of the pool for several minutes, hands in his pockets and shoulders hunched in concentration. Finally he settled back down by the
microphone. Charlie, who had been keeping pace with him, flopped back on the board.
'It could be a sub or even a surface ship sunk in the last war.' He paused for a while. 'Can you describe it?' he asked finally.
`Not too well. I had only a three-quarter view. It looked like a submarine that I had once seen, and it was resting on the bottom, perfectly upright.
Keilty listened to the whirring of the transphonemator, staring absent-mindedly at the dolphin all the while. 'It could be,' he said finally. 'It's more than worth checking out anyway – do you think you can find it again?'
Charlie answered slowly, 'Of course, only ..
Ònly what?' Keilty prompted. The dolphin said nothing, staring down at the board beneath his head. Finally he raised his head and looked at Keilty. 'Will this be the last time?'
Keilty saw what was troubling him and suddenly felt ashamed. He patted the dolphin's rough, bony head.
'This whole fiasco has been pretty rough on you, hasn't it?' He paused, searching for the right words.
`Look, Charlie, don't feel that you have to do this. Say no, and I'll tell them to go find their own God-damned submarine.' He stopped, at a loss to say more. He knew exactly what Charlie was feeling, or at least thought he did. Charlie had not wanted to become involved in human affairs, political or otherwise. The close bond was between the dolphin and himself, not between the dolphin and the West, or the human race, or any other part of it, but with him only. He refused to put it on the basis of a personal favor again. While he crouched on the edge of the pool, stroking the dolphin's sand-papery flank, he determined to say no flatly if Charlie refused. Charlie and he were not on terms of master and servant. Keilty considered Charlie as much a personal friend as he considered Weston a personal friend, and he was damned if he would change that relationship for anything.
The dolphin quivered slightly under his hand and slowly let his nine-and-a-half-foot length slide back into the pool.
Àw, what the hell?' he said suddenly. 'If it will get me out of this tank, let's do it.'
`Thanks, Charlie,' Keilty said sincerely. 'Now, where is that sub?'
It was after 6 p.m. before Keilty got back to the hotel. He threaded his way through the crowds of people – a good many of them in the uniform of one country or another –filling the lobby. He waited impatiently for the elevator. The hotel's air conditioning was hard put to keep up with the humid heat of the pre-monsoon season, and even in his light clothes, he was wringing wet. All he wanted was a cool shower, a cold drink, dinner, and bed.
The elevator doors glided open softly and he stepped inside. 'Nine,' he said to the boy at the controls, and the doors closed softly. He leaned back against the plastic-walnut paneling and closed his eyes gratefully for a moment. When he opened them, he found he was staring into the dark muzzle of a 9 mm Walther. The muzzle was close enough for him to see the rifling grooves inside the barrel. He stood stock still, not changing his position an inch, except for the movement of his eyes.
The elevator boy had turned his back and was carefully examining the Otis Elevator sign.
Behind the gun was a man with Chinese features – less than thirty, he judged – wearing a green uniform with a tag reading Wan Fin Delivery Service. Directly behind him, with a pistol pointing at Keilty's midriff, was an older man – a Caucasian, he thought, and then realized the man was probably Eurasian.
For a long moment they said nothing. The elevator passed the third floor.
'Don't you think this is overdoing it,' Keilty asked, the attempt at humor not quite coining off, as his mouth was suddenly dry.
'How is that?' the Eurasian asked politely.
'Pointing a gun at my face in a Singapore elevator.' Keilty tried to grin, but that didn't work either.
'I see,' the other answered. 'Well, perhaps Alan Ladd will appear on the scene. I am sure that if we were Japanese, he would.' The man smiled again, then his face tightened almost imperceptibly. 'Please do not make a move. We would be very sorry to have to kill you.
The elevator stopped at the ninth floor and both men put their guns out of sight, the man in the delivery uniform shoving his in a jacket pocket. The doors slid aside and a neatly dressed couple stepped in.
British tourists, from the way they were dressed in formal evening clothes. The Eurasian nodded to the blonde woman and her escort, saying 'Good evening.' He stepped out of the elevator and Keilty followed, the uniform right behind him. They walked down the blue-carpeted hall to Keilty's suite.
`What a shame,' Keilty said. 'Forgot to pick up my key at the desk.'
`Don't worry.' The Eurasian produced a passkey. He unlocked the door and Keilty was pushed inside.
He spun around, but both guns were on him instantly and he straightened slowly from his crouch.
'I wouldn't advise you
A muffled Òhh . . sounded from the door leading into the bedroom. The three men looked around to see a lovely Chinese girl clutch a short kimono to herself and stare at them with wide eyes. She saw the guns and tried to step back out of the doorway. A sharp word in Chinese stopped her, and she came slowly out of the bedroom.
Keilty rolled his eyes up in supplication and sat down on the edge of a bookcase. The girl was his date from the night before. He watched her cross the room hesitatingly, long legs shown to good advantage beneath the kimono which did nothing to hide a beautiful figure. Her hair, hanging shoulder length and cut evenly across the back, matched almost perfectly the muted brown of her almond-shaped eyes.
She stared at him in fright and he spread his hands in helplessness.
'A complication, a very bad complication,' the Eurasian rasped. The Chinese gunman fired a question at her in Chinese and she answered slowly, then bit off a single word. He was across the room in two steps and slapped her hard on the face. The blow cracked like a pistol shot. Keilty lunged off the bookcase and caught the Eurasian's gun butt behind the ear before he had taken a step. He went down hard, his head a mass of exploding lights.
Through the haze that swirled in his head, he could hear questions being put to the girl in Chinese. He tried to get to his knees, but the blow on the head seemed to have drained his strength completely. There were more slaps and muffled screams. Then he felt hands go under his arms, lifting him into a chair.
His head was beginning to clear somewhat. He opened his eyes and the room swam sickeningly for a moment. Keilty finally managed to focus his eyes on the figure of the Eurasian, perched on the arm of the couch. Keilty noticed that the Eurasian had attached a silencer to his .38 S&W Police Special.
He heard a slap and turned to see the Chinese girl lying on the floor, face cradled in her arms.
`Tell your bully boy,' Keilty said dangerously, 'that if he touches her once more, I'll break his back.'
`Your heroics are a bit late,' the other laughed. 'We are already quite finished with her.'
Keilty did not like the emphasis on the 'quite finished'.
`Who is she?' the Eurasian asked.
Keilty put a hand to the side of his head, gingerly massaging the spot where the gun had struck him. 'She's a friend.' `Her name, please?'
`Curiosity, more than anything else. She is a complication as I said before. I would like to know her name.
Keilty glanced at her, still lying on the rug. She raised her head 'to look at him, and he could see the red marks of the slaps and a darkening bruise at the outer edge of her left eye. There were no traces of tears. She was frightened but trying desperately not to show it. He smiled at her, then shifted his glance to the Chinese with the Walther. The man said nothing, but his eyes said it for him. The Chinese smiled and rubbed his hand along the stubby barrel.
`Her name is Tina,' he said, turning back to the Eurasian. `Her last name, please.'
Ì don't know,' Keilty answered. 'We only met last night.'
Ì see,' thoughtfully. He brought the gun to bear directly on Keilty's face.
`Her last name,' he said harshly.
Keilty stared at the muzzle and burst into laughter. 'You stupid jerk. You kidnap me in an elevator, haul me in here, find her, then threaten to shoot me if I don't tell you the last name of a girl I only met last night. You don't expect me to believe that, do you?'
The Eurasian grinned sheepishly. I don't. You are more intelligent than you appear, Dr.
Keilty, in spite of the Ph.D. following your name.'
`So, you know my name.
`Yes we do. We know quite a bit about you, in fact . . .' The telephone buzzed softly and he picked it up, listened for a moment, then said, 'Five minutes,' and hung up.
'Get her clothes,' he said to the Chinese. Then to Keilty, 'We are going to take a short taxi ride. I am sure that you will find yourself treated as an honored guest when we arrive ...
if you co-operate.'
The Chinese came back into the room and dumped an armload of feminine clothing on the floor next to the girl. He spoke harshly in Chinese and stepped back as she got gracefully to her feet and began to slip into the clothes. He turned away, grimacing, to cover Keilty while the Eurasian quietly watched the girl dress. Keilty laughed shortly at the Chinese and laughed louder when he stepped forward, face an angry red.
The Eurasian handed Tina a comb, an unexpected gesture, until Keilty realized it might attract attention if they went through the lobby with her hair awry. It would be bad enough with the swelling eye. The Eurasian stepped into the bedroom and came back with her purse. He opened it and dumped its contents on the table, and tossed her compact to her.
'My, my, how dangerous.' He held up a black-handled tube and touched a stud. A stiletto-thin blade sprang forward with a quiet swish. He placed the tip of the blade against the coffee table glass, shoved it back into the handle, and pocketed the knife. The purse held nothing else but the usual make-up, scarf, money, etc., and he shoved the contents back into the bag and tossed it across the room to her.
'Now listen to me, both of you,' he said, his voice harsh. 'We are going down to the lobby and into the first cab at the head of the line. My associate here will go ahead of us and wait at the front doors until we have gone through. He will follow in the second cab.
'You, Dr. Keilty, will take, ah . . . Tina's left arm, and I, her right. You are both to smile and make small talk.
'And, Dr. Keilty, please do not think that you are so valuable to us that we would hesitate to shoot you – and of course, first we shall kill the young lady. Do you understand?'
Keilty nodded and the Eurasian motioned the Chinese out. He went with a backward glance of pure hatred at Keilty, and the door closed softly.
The Eurasian noticed. 'I would not advise riding Mr. Lee, Dr. Keilty. He is a pathological killer. He obeys me only because I control his heroin supply.' He motioned Keilty to his feet and slipped the gun into his jacket pocket. With his hand in the pocket, it looked completely normal, no more bulge than his hand would normally have caused. A real professional, Keilty thought.
He took Tina's hand and put it under his arm, giving it a brief squeeze. She smiled weakly, but the fear was still large in her eyes.
They waited for the elevator, and when it came, the same boy was still at the controls. He paid them no more attention than he would to a normal passenger. Keilty was thoughtful all the way down.
They walked into the spacious modem lobby, full of elegantly styled Danish furniture, and cheerily carpeted with a deep gold rug.
Keilty caught sight of the Chinese, standing at the Pan American reservations counter, talking with a clerk and apparently paying the three no attention. Keilty paused, but the Eurasian dropped Tina's right arm and stepped away. 'Don't try anything, Dr. Keilty.
Look over there by the cigarette counter.'
Keilty glanced over. Two men, Chinese, were standing together, apparently deep in conversation. They were well dressed and appeared to be businessmen, but the one facing them was staring past the other's shoulder – at them.
'In the lobby of the Hilton?'
'Yes, Dr. Keilty. You and the young lady will both be dead, and I will be gone before you drop to the floor.'
`Not very valuable, am I?' he said, glancing around. He felt Tina's hand tighten on his arm.
'On the contrary, you are more valuable to us alive. But, if we have to kill you, well ...'
'Okay, I see your point.'
They walked forward to the doors, and the Chinese gunman, just turning away from the Pan Am counter, held open the door for them and stopped just outside and lit a cigarette as they went down the broad steps and climbed into the cab that came up to meet them.
The cab drove off, and as they rounded the curb towards the boulevard, Keilty could see the Chinese getting into another cab. He settled back, wondering what the devil was next.
The Eurasian had his gun out and was sitting with his back to the door, the gun steady against the girl's side. The cab driver, peering into the rear-view mirror from time to time, held the cab to the speed limit. He headed down the
boulevard to the main part of the city, expertly dodging other cabs, cars, and pedestrians.
At a stoplight, Keilty had a chance to look around at the brilliantly lit main section of Singapore. The city had surprised him with its cleanliness. The streets were scrubbed down by water trucks early every morning and an army of sweepers kept the streets spotless during the day. Lining either side of the boulevard as far as he could see were Western-style shops lit with neon, making it look more like London or New York than one of the largest cities in the Orient.
The cab started forward again and the girl huddled closer. Instinctively he put his arm around her shoulder, and the gun muzzle jammed into his ribs. He stiffened.
`Do not do that again,' the Eurasian hissed. 'Remove your arm.'
The cab driver leaned back to say something at the same time, and the Eurasian bent slightly forward to hear, just as the girl moved her shoulder.
Keilty, almost without thinking, shoved the girl with his right arm, pushing the pistol forward. The gun went off and the bullet whipped through a fold of his shirt. He grabbed the gun with his left hand and twisted. The girl leaning forward on the Eurasian's arm hampered his movements long enough for Keilty to uncork a vicious short right against his ear.
The pistol came loose. He reversed it and fired point-blank into the white face, then he jammed the gun against the driver's neck.
`Keep driving,' he said steadily, 'or you'll lose the back of your head.' He glanced quickly at the Eurasian lying slumped almost to the floor. A thin trickle of blood gleamed from the bullet hole under his left eye. Keilty pulled Tina back into the seat with his free hand and gave her a brief grin.
Leaning forward, `Do you speak English?'
The driver shrugged and glanced into the mirror. Keilty took a quick look out the back window. The second cab had dropped back a bit and was now pulling around to fall in behind. The driver slowed for the stoplight ahead and Keilty rolled down the side window.
`Tina, tell him to pull over to the outside lane and stop for the light.
The girl leaned forward and repeated in Chinese. Keilty jammed the muzzle against his head again.
'He will do it. I told him you would kill him quickly if he didn't.'
'Good girl' He bent over her and found the knife in the dead man's pocket.
The cab drew up to the left, and as Keilty had hoped, the other cab stopped beside them.
He pressed the girl down into the seat and huddled back against the door frame. The Chinese peered over, startled at the apparently empty back seat, and pulled the door of his cab open, gun in hand.
Keilty leaned forward and shot him twice. He was halfway out of the cab, gun partly raised. The expression of disbelief washing over his face stopped instantly. His hand opened and the gun dropped from it. He folded after it.
'Move! ' Keilty yelled, and the driver jammed the accelerator, screaming around tl e corner, narrowly missing a large military truck. The cab shot down the street and around a second corner. Ahead, the street emptied into Raffles Square, the center of metropolitan Singapore. Keilty had the driver skirt the northern edge of the square, then drive off onto a side street and from there back onto a narrow avenue one block from the boulevard. The cab pulled up to the curb, facing the main rear entrance to a large department store.