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I DO NOT WISH TO STOP.
Well, Norman thought, at least we got right down to it. No wasting time. "Jerry, I know that you have been isolated for a long time, for many centuries, and that you have felt alone during all that time. You have felt that nobody cared about you. You have felt that nobody wanted to play with you, or shared your interests."
YES THIS IS TRUE.
"And now at last you can manifest, and you are enjoying this. You like to show us what you can do, to impress us."
THIS IS TRUE.
"So that we will pay attention to you."
YES. I LIKE IT.
"And it works. We do pay attention to you."
YES I KNOW IT.
"But these manifestations injure us, Jerry."
I DO NOT CARE.
"And they surprise us, too."
I AM GLAD.
"We're surprised, Jerry, because you are merely playing a game with us."
I DO NOT LIKE GAMES. I DO NOT PLAY GAMES.
"Yes. This is a game for you, Jerry. It is a sport."
NO, IT IS NOT.
"Yes, it is," Norman said. "It is a stupid sport."
Harry, standing beside Norman, said, "Do you want to contradict him that way? You might make him mad. I don't think Jerry likes to be contradicted."
I'm sure you don't, Norman thought. But he said, "Well, I have to tell Jerry the truth about his own behavior. He isn't doing anything very interesting."
OH? NOT INTERESTING?
"No. You are being spoiled and petulant, Jerry."
DO YOU DARE TO SPEAK TO ME IN THIS FASHION?
"Yes. Because you are acting stupidly."
"Jeez," Harry said. "Take it easy with him."
I CAN EASILY MAKE YOU REGRET YOUR WORDS, NORMAN.
Norman was noticing, in passing, that Jerry's vocabulary and syntax were now flawless. All pretense of na?vete, of an alien quality, had been dropped. But Norman felt stronger, more confident, as the conversation progressed. He knew whom he was talking to now. He wasn't talking to any alien. There weren't any unknown assumptions. He was talking to a childish part of another human being.
I HAVE MORE POWER THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE.
"I know you have power, Jerry," Norman said. "Big deal."
Harry became suddenly agitated. "Norman. For Christ's sake. You're going to get us all killed."
LISTEN TO HARRY. HE IS WISE.
"No, Jerry," Norman said. "Harry is not wise. He is only afraid."
HARRY IS NOT AFRAID. ABSOLUTELY NOT.
Norman decided to let that pass. "I'm talking to you, Jerry. Only to you. You are the one who is playing games."
GAMES ARE STUPID.
"Yes, they are, Jerry. They are not worthy of you."
GAMES ARE NOT OF INTEREST TO ANY INTELLIGENT PERSON.
"Then stop, Jerry. Stop the manifestations."
I CAN STOP WHENEVER I WANT.
"I am not sure you can, Jerry."
YES. I CAN.
"Then prove it. Stop this sport of manifestations." There was a long pause. They waited for the response.
NORMAN YOUR TRICKS OF MANIPULATION ARE CHILDISH AND OBVIOUS TO THE POINT OF TEDIUM. I AM NOT INTERESTED IN TALKING WITH YOU FURTHER. I WILL DO EXACTLY AS I PLEASE AND I WILL MANIFEST AS I WISH.
"Our habitat cannot withstand more manifestations, Jerry - "
I DO NOT CARE.
"If you injure our habitat again, Harry will die."
Harry said, "Me and everybody else, for Christ's sake."
I DO NOT CARE NORMAN.
"Why would you kill us, Jerry?"
YOU SHOULD NOT BE DOWN HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. YOU PEOPLE DO NOT BELONG HERE. YOU ARE ARROGANT CREATURES WHO INTRUDE EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD AND YOU HAVE TAKEN A GREAT FOOLISH RISK AND NOW YOU MUST PAY THE PRICE. YOU ARE AN UNCARING UNFEELING SPECIES WITH NO LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER.
"That's not true, Jerry."
DO NOT CONTRADICT ME AGAIN, NORMAN.
"I'm sorry, but the unfeeling, uncaring person is you, Jerry. You do not care if you injure us. You do not care for our predicament. It is you who are uncaring, Jerry. Not us. You."
"He's not going to talk to you any more," Harry said. "He's really mad, Norman."
And then the screen printed:
I WILL KILL YOU ALL.
Norman was sweating; he wiped his forehead, turned away from the words on the screen.
"I don't think you can talk to this guy," Beth said. "I don't think you can reason with him."
"You shouldn't have made him angry," Harry said. He was almost pleading. "Why did you make him angry like that, Norman?"
"I had to tell him the truth."
"But you were so mean to him, and now he's angry."
"It doesn't matter, angry or not," Beth said. "Harry attacked us before, when he wasn't angry."
"You mean Jerry," Norman said to her. "Jerry attacked us."
"Yes, right, Jerry."
"That's a hell of a mistake to make, Beth," Harry said.
"You're right, Harry. I'm sorry."
Harry was looking at her in an odd way. Norman thought, Harry doesn't miss a trick, and he isn't going to let that one go by.
"I don't know how you could make that confusion," Harry said.
"I know. It was a slip of the tongue. It was stupid of me."
"I'm sorry," Beth said. "Really I am."
"Never mind," Harry said. "It doesn't matter."
There was a sudden flatness in his manner, a complete indifference in his tone. Norman thought: Uh-oh.
Harry yawned and stretched. "You know," he said, "I'm suddenly very tired. I think I'll take a nap now."
And he went off to the bunks.
"We have to do something," Beth said. "We can't talk him out of it."
"You're right," Norman said. "We can't."
Beth tapped the screen. The words still glowed: I WILL KILL YOU ALL.
"Do you think he means it?"
Beth stood, clenched her fists. "So it's him or us."
"Yes. I think so."
The implications hung in the air, unspoken.
"This manifesting process of his," Beth said. "Do you think he has to be completely unconscious to prevent it from happening?"
"Or dead," Beth said.
"Yes," Norman said. That had occurred to him. It seemed so improbable, such an unlikely turn of events in his life, that he would now be a thousand feet under the water, contemplating the murder of another human being. Yet that was what he was doing.
"I'd hate to kill him," Beth said.
"I mean, I wouldn't even know how to begin to do it."
"Maybe we don't have to kill him," Norman said. "Maybe we don't have to kill him unless he starts some thing," Beth said. Then she shook her head. "Oh hell, Norman, who're we kidding? This habitat can't survive another attack. We've got to kill him. I just don't want to face up to it."
"Neither do I," Norman said.
"We could get one of those explosive spear guns and have an unfortunate accident. And then just wait for our time to be up, for the Navy to come and get us out of here."
"I don't want to do that."
"I don't, either," Beth said. "But what else can we do?" "We don't have to kill him," Norman said. "Just make him unconscious." He went to the first-aid cabinet, started going through the medicines.
"You think there might be something there?" Beth said.
"Maybe. An anesthetic, I don't know."
"Would that work?"
"I think anything that produces unconsciousness will work. I think."
"I hope you're right," Beth said, "because if he starts dreaming and then manifests the monsters from his dreams, that wouldn't be very good."
"No. But anesthesia produces a dreamless, total state of unconsciousness." Norman was looking at the labels on the bottles. "Do you know what these things are?"
"No," Beth said, "but it's all in the computer." She sat down at the console. "Read me the names and I'll look them up for you."
Beth pushed buttons, scanned a screen of dense text. "It's, uh ... looks like ... something for burns."
Another screen. "It's ... I guess it's for motion sickness."
"It's for ulcers."
"Synthetic opium analogue. It's very short-acting."
"Produces unconsciousness?" Norman asked.
"No. Not according to this. Anyway, it only lasts a few minutes."
"Tranquilizer. Causes drowsiness."
"Good." He set the bottle to one side.
" 'And may also cause bizarre ideation.' "
"No," he said, and put the bottle back. They didn't need to have any bizarre ideation. "Riordan?"
"Antihistamine. For bites."
"Damn." They were running out of bottles. "Parasolutrine?"
"It's a soporific. ..."
"You mean it's a sleeping pill?"
"No, it's - it says you can give it in combination with paracin trichloride and use it as an anesthetic."
"Paracin trichloride ... Yes. I have it here," Norman said. Beth was reading from the screen. "Parasolutrine twenty cc's in combination with paracin six cc's given IM produces deep sleep suitable for emergency surgical procedures ... no cardiac side effects ... sleep from which the subject can be awakened only with difficulty ... REM activity is suppressed. ..."
"How long does it last?"
"Three to six hours."
"And how fast does it take effect?"
She frowned. "It doesn't say. 'After appropriate depth of anesthesia is induced, even extensive surgical procedures may be begun ...' But it doesn't say how long it takes."
"Hell," Norman said.
"It's probably fast," Beth said.
"But what if it isn't?" Norman said. "What if it takes twenty minutes? And can you fight it? Fight it off?"
She shook her head. "Nothing about that here."
In the end they decided on a mixture of parasolutrine, paracin, dulcinea, and sintag, the opiate. Norman filled a large syringe with the clear liquids. The syringe was so big it looked like something for horses.
"You think it might kill him?" Beth said.
"I don't know. Do we have a choice?"
"No," Beth said. "We've got to do it. Have you ever given an injection before?"
Norman shook his head. "You?"
"Only lab animals."
"Where do I stick it?"
"Do it in the shoulder," Beth said. "While he's asleep." Norman turned the syringe up to the light, and squirted a few drops from the needle into the air. "Okay," he said.
"I better come with you," Beth said, "and hold him down."
"No," Norman said. "If he's awake and sees both of us coming, he'll be suspicious. Remember, you don't sleep in the bunks any more."
"But what if he gets violent?"
"I think I can handle this."
"Okay, Norman. Whatever you say."
* * *
The lights in the corridor of C Cyl seemed unnaturally bright. Norman heard his feet padding on the carpet, heard the constant hum of the air handlers and the space heaters. He felt the weight of the syringe concealed in his palm. He came to the door to the sleeping quarters.
Two female Navy crewmen were standing outside the bulkhead door. They snapped to attention as he approached. "Dr. Johnson, sir!"
Norman paused. The women were handsome, black, and muscular-looking. "At ease, men," Norman said with a smile.
They did not relax. "Sorry, sir! We have our orders, sir!" "I see," Norman said. "Well, carry on, then." He started to move past them into the sleeping area.
"Beg your pardon, Dr. Johnson, sir!" They barred his way.
"What is it?" Norman asked, as innocently as he could manage.
"This area is off-limits to all personnel, sir!"
"But I want to go to sleep."
"Very sorry, Dr. Johnson, sir! No one may disturb Dr. Adams while he sleeps, sir!"
"I won't disturb Dr. Adams."
"Sorry, Dr. Johnson, sir! May we see what is in your hand, sir!"
"In my hand?"
"Yes, there is something in your hand, sir!"
Their snapping, machine-gun delivery, always punctuated by the "sir!" at the end, was getting on his nerves. He looked at them again. The starched uniforms covered powerful muscles. He didn't think he could force his way past them. Beyond the door he saw Harry, lying on his back, snoring. It was a perfect moment to inject him.
"Dr. Johnson, may we see what is in your hand, sir!"
"No, damn it, you may not."
"Very good, Sir!"
Norman turned, and walked back to D Cyl.
* * *
"I saw," Beth said, nodding to the monitor.
Norman looked at the monitor, at the two women in the corridor. Then he looked at the adjacent monitor, which showed the sphere.
"The sphere has changed!" Norman said.
The convoluted grooves of the doorway were definitely altered, the pattern more complex, and shifted farther up. Norman felt sure it was changed.
"I think you're right," Beth said. "When did that happen?"
"We can run the tapes back later," she said. "Right now we'd better take care of those two."
"How?" Norman said.
"Simple," Beth said, bunching her fists again. "We have five explosive spearheads in B Cyl. I'll go into B, get two of them, blow the guardian angels away. You run in and jab Harry."
Her cold-blooded determination would have been chilling if she didn't look so beautiful. There was a refined quality to her features now. She seemed to grow more elegant by the minute.
"The spear guns are in B?" Norman said.
"Sure. Look on video." She pressed a button. "Hell." In B Cyl the spearguns were missing.
"I think the son of a bitch has covered his bases," Norman said. "Good old Harry."
Beth looked at him thoughtfully. "Norman, are you feeling okay?"
"There's a mirror in the first-aid kit. Go look."
He opened the white box of the kit and looked at himself in the mirror. He was shocked by what he saw. Not that he expected to look good; he was accustomed to the pudgy contours of his own face, and the gray stubble of his beard when he didn't shave on weekends.
But the face staring back at him was lean, with a coarse, jet-black beard. There were dark circles beneath smoldering, bloodshot eyes. His hair was lank and greasy, hanging over his forehead. He looked like a dangerous man.
"I look like Dr. Jekyll," he said. "Or, rather, Mr. Hyde."
"Yeah. You do."
"You're getting more beautiful," he said to Beth. "But I'm the man who was mean to Jerry. So I'm getting meaner."
"You think Harry's doing this?"
"I think so," Norman said. Adding to himself: I hope so. "You feel different, Norman?"
"No, I feel exactly the same. I just look like hell."
"Yes. You look a little frightening."
"I'm sure I do."
"You really feel fine?"
"Okay," Beth said. She turned, looked back at the monitors. "I have one last idea. We both get to A Cyl, put on our suits, get into B Cyl, and shut down the oxygen in the rest of the habitat. Make Harry unconscious. His guards will disappear, we can go in and jab him. What do you think?"
"Worth a try."
Norman put down the syringe. They headed off toward A Cyl.
In C Cyl, they passed the two guards, who again snapped to attention.
"Dr. Halpern, sir!"
"Dr. Johnson, sir!"
"Carry on, men," Beth said.
"Yes, sir! May we ask where you are going, sir!"
"Routine inspection tour," Beth said.
There was a pause. "Very good, sir!"
They were allowed to pass. They moved into B Cyl, with its array of pipes and machinery. Norman glanced at it nervously; he didn't like screwing around with the life-support systems, but he didn't see what else they could do.
In A Cyl, there were three suits left. Norman reached for his. "You know what you're doing?" he asked.
"Yes," Beth said. "Trust me."
She slipped her foot into her suit, and started zipping it up.
And then the alarms began to sound throughout the habitat, and the red lights flashed again. Norman knew, without being told, that it was the peripheral alarms.
Another attack was beginning.
They ran back through the lateral connecting corridor directly from B Cyl into D. Norman noticed in passing that the crewmen had gone. In D, the alarms were clanging and the peripheral sensor screens glowed bright red. Norman glanced at the video monitors.
I AM COMING.
Beth quickly scanned the screens.
"Inner thermals are activated. He's coming, all right."
They felt a thump, and Norman turned to look out the porthole. The green squid was already outside, the huge suckered arms coiling around the base of the habitat. One great arm slapped flat against the porthole, the suckers distorted against the glass.
I AM HERE.
"Harryyy!" Beth shouted.
There was a tentative jolt, as squid arms gripped the habitat. The slow, agonizing creak of metal.
Harry came running into the room. "What is it?"
"You know what it is, Harry!" Beth shouted.
"No, no, what is it?"
"It's the squid, Harry!"
"Oh my God, no," Harry moaned.
The habitat shook powerfully. The room lights flickered and went out. There was only flashing red now, from the emergency lights.
Norman turned to him. "Stop it, Harry."
"What are you talking about?" he cried plaintively. "You know what I'm talking about, Harry."
"Yes, you do, Harry. It's you, Harry," Norman said. "You're doing it."
"No, you're wrong. It's not me! I swear it's not me!"
"Yes, Harry," Norman said. "And if you don't stop it, we'll all die."
The habitat shook again. One of the ceiling heaters exploded, showering fragments of hot glass and wire. "Come on, Harry. ..."
"There's not much time. You know you're doing it."
"The habitat can't take much more, Norman," Beth said.
"It can't be me!"
"Yes, Harry. Face it, Harry. Face it now."
Even as he spoke, Norman was looking for the syringe. He had left it somewhere in this room, but papers were sliding off the desktops, monitors crashing to the floor, chaos all around him. ...
The whole habitat rocked again, and there was a tremendous explosion from another cylinder. New, rising alarms sounded, and a roaring vibration that Norman instantly recognized - water, under great pressure, rushing into the habitat.
"Flooding in C!" Beth shouted, reading the consoles. She ran down the corridor. He heard the metal clang of bulkhead doors as she shut them. The room was filled with salty mist.
Norman pushed Harry against the wall. "Harry! Face it and stop it!"
"It can't be me, it can't be me," Harry moaned. Another jolting impact, staggering them.
"It can't be me!" Harry cried. "It has nothing to do with me!"