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The luxury liner blew up, and with it went Jones.
He had been leaning on the railing, his eyes on the moon's image dancing on the waves and his thoughts on his wife. He had left her in Hawaii; he would, he hoped, never see her again. He had also been thinking of his mother in California and wondering how it would be to live again with her. He wasn't unhappy or happy about either prospect. He had just been meditating.
Then the enemy, in one of the first moves of the undeclared war, had torpedoed the ship from beneath. And Jones, utterly unwarned, was thrown high into the air as if he had bounced off a tremendous springy diving board.
He plunged deep. The blackness crushed him. He became panicky, and lost that delicate sense of poise that he was able to maintain when he was swimming in the sunlit open waters. He wanted to scream and then to ascend on the scream, like a circus acrobat on a rope, to the uncloseted air and the bright moon.
Before the cry for help came, before the waters poured their heavy blackness down his lungs, his head broke the surface, and he gulped in light and breath. Then he looked around and saw that the ship was gone and that he was alone. There was nothing for him to do but seize floating piece of debris and hang on with the hope that the day would bring airplanes or another ship.
An hour later, the sea suddenly heaved and split, and a long dark back emerged. It looked like a whale, for it had the rounded head and the sloping-away body. Yet it did not move the tail up and down to propel itself forward, nor roll to one side nor do anything but lie there. Jones knew that it must be a new type of, submarine, but he was not sure because itlooked so alive. There was about it that indefinable air that distinguishes the animate from the inanimate.
His doubts were settled a moment later when the smooth, curved back was suddenly broken by a long rod pushing up from the centre. The shaft grew until it was twenty feet high, halted, and then flowered at its end into grids of various sizes and shapes. Retractable radar antennae.
So this was the enemy. It had come up from the depths where it had been hiding after its deadly blow. It wished to survey the destruction and, perhaps, pick up any survivors for questioning. Or to make sure that none lived.
Even with that thought he did not try to swim away. What could he do? Better to take a chance that they would treat him decently. He did not want to sink into the abyss below, into the darkness and the pressure.
He trod water while the sub turned its blind snout towards him. No men appeared from the hatches suddenly popping open upon the sleek deck. There was no sign of life except that men must be presumed to be below and turning the faceless, eyeless grids of the radar towards him.
Not until it was almost upon him did he see how it planned to take him prisoner. A large, round port in the whale-shaped head swung in. The sea rushed into it and carried Jones with it. He struggled, for he could not endure the idea of being scooped up in this monstrous parody of a cow catcher, gulped like a sardine chased by a mobile can. Moreover, the very thought of a door swinging open and showing him nothing but blackness beyond was enough to make him want to scream.
In the next moment, the port slid shut behind him, and he found himself hemmed in by water and walls and darkness. He struggled frantically against an enemy that he could not hold in his hands. He cried out from the bottom of his being for a breath of air and a spark of light and a door that would lead him out of this chamber of panic and death. Where was the door, the door, the door? Where...?
There were moments when he almost awoke, when he was suspended in that twilight world between dark sleep and bright wakefulness. It was then that he heard a voice that was new to him. It sounded like a woman's, soft, caressing and sympathetic. Sometimes it was urgent with the hint that he'd better not try to hold anything back.
Hold back? Hold back what? What?
Once he felt rather than heard a series of tremendous impacts--thunder from somewhere, and a sense of being squeezed in a giant fist. That, too, passed.
The voice returned for a while. Then it faded off and sleep came.
He did not awaken swiftly. He had to struggle up through blanket after blanket of semiconsciousness, throwing each one off with desperation tempered with a frantic hope that the next would be the last. And just as he was about to give up, to sink again beneath the choking and heavy layers, to quit breathing and fighting, he awoke.
He was crying out loud and trying to wave his arms and he thought, just for a moment, that the closet door had opened and light and his mother had entered.
But it was not so. He was not back in the locked closet. He was not six years old, and it was not his mother who had rescued him. Certainly that was not her voice, nor was it the voice of his father, the man who had locked him in the closet.
It came from a speaker set into the wall. It did not talk in the tongue of the enemy, as he had expected, but in English. It droned on and on, oddly half-metallic, half-maternal, and it told him what had been taking place in the last twelve hours.
He was shocked to know he had been unconscious that long. While he assimilated that knowledge, he ran his eyes over his cell, taking stock. It was seven feet long, four wide, and six high. It was bare except for the cot on which he lay and certain indispensable plumbing. A bulb burned directly above him, hot and naked.
The discovery that he was hemmed within such a place, narrow as a tomb and with no exit that he could see, made him leap from the cot. Or try to, for he found that his arms and legs were bound inside broad plastic bands.
The voice filled the cell.
'Do not be alarmed, Jones. And do not try to make those hysterical and hopeless struggles that you made before I was forced to give you a sedative. If you suffer from severe claustrophobia, you must endure it.'
Jones did not struggle. He was too numbed by the disclosure that he was the only human being upon the submarine. It was a robot speaking to him--perhaps the sub itself, directed electronically from a mother ship.
He took some time, turning the matter over in his mind ... but he could bring himself to feel no lessening of the terror. It would have been bad enough to be imprisoned with the living enemy, but an enemy that was steel skin and plastic bones and electronic veins and radar eyes and germanium brains was an enemy that filled him with an overpowering dread. How could you fight against anybody--anything--like that?
He checked his fear with the thought that, after all, he was in no way worse off. How would this machine differ from the enemy itself, the creature from the creator? It was the enemy who had built this automatic fish, and he would model it exactly after his own thought processes, his own ideology. Whichever way the living enemy would have acted, just so would this monster.