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I floated, holding my breath as the nursery pod circled me. The dolphins always surprise me with their tenderness. I tried to synchronize my breathing with the dolphins. Several spinners leaped up, somersaulting, and then dove back into the sea, their wake splashing over me. I attempted my human version of a dolphin signature whistle, complete with rapid-fire gurgles and bleeps. It seemed to amuse and interest the nursery pod because they all suddenly cruised by my face closer in a dazzling display of acrobatic dolphin dance. Imagine dozens of dolphins speeding by in a blur of silver and gray skin, ultrasound, and curve of fin, streaking past, in one breath, as if one body.

Inside my body their speed and sound registers like a trillion ricochets, tiny vibrations echoing off my ribs, within each lobe of my lungs, and spinning inside my labyrinthine brain like new synapses. Then I was alone for a moment as I drifted through the depths. It is always these meditative underwater moments that the dolphins seem most to cherish in their human companions. Suddenly I saw out of the corner of each eye, three dolphins flanking both sides of me and then several tiny dorsal fins—newborns being guarded by the nursery pod.

I was accepted inside their pod, surrounded by fast spinners who slowed to accompany my pace. They kept me in their exact center for what seemed an hour.

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It was only then I understood what it feels like to be fully adopted into the deep, welcoming sisterhood of dolphins. In the wild, dolphin pods are highly socialized groups in which complex female bonding assures the well-being and nurturance not only of the young, but also the entire pod. Quick with that rope! An instant later a rope with a loop in the end of it dangled beside me, and a number of hands reached out to pull me to safety. An- The Moon Terror 91 other moment, and I was drawn over the brink —not one second too soon, for as I made the last dozen feet the closing walls of the pit brushed my body.

Exhausted and trembling, I sank upon the ground, while a number of figures crowded about me. These proved to be twenty-five men from the Albatross , under command of Ensign Wiles Hallock. They were all dressed in the dark blue garments of the sorcerers. How they came to be there was briefly related by Dr.

When the ground had opened beneath us earlier in the evening, the astronomer had clutched the roots of a tree, and within a few seconds after I had dropped from sight he was back on firm ground. The Chinamen who had been pursuing us had either fallen into the gash or had fled in terror. Considerable vapor was rising from the pit, but the scientist noticed that this was clearing rapidly, so he decided to linger at the spot awhile, with the forlorn hope that I might be found.

Soon the vapor vanished and, as the moonlight was shining directly into the crack, the doctor began a search. After a time he discerned a figure lying upon a ledge below. Confident that none of the sorcerers would be wearing two suits at once in this fashion, the scientist concluded the figure was mine. For a time he doubted whether I lived, but 92 The Moon Terror eventually he thought he saw me stir feebly, whereupon he began frantic efforts to reach me. Repeated attempts to descend the precipice failed. Then he tried dropping pebbles to arouse me.

Again unsuccessful, he risked attracting the sorcerers back to the spot by shouting into the chasm. All his efforts proved futile, so he finally returned to the destroyer and obtained this rescue party. In grateful silence I gripped his hand. Conditions throughout the world are so alarming that we must put this power plant out of business without delay!

During the march none of the sorcerers was sighted, with which we began to conclude that the cracking of the earth had affected the village on the other side of the mountain so that all their lookouts had been called in. But suddenly, when we were less than half a mile from the vessel, the stillness of the night was shattered by the shrill blast of a whistle.

A series of other wild shrieks from the steam chant came in quick succession. All at once the sound ceased, and as the echoes died out among the hills we heard the rattle of firearms.

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A few moments later we emerged from the ravine onto the bank of the fiord and into full view of the destroyer. The passing of the moon into the west had brought the vessel within its rays—and the sight that greeted us almost froze our blood!

The Barrens and Others by F Paul Wilson

Swarming about the deck were dozens of Chinamen—some with rifles, some with knives. They appeared to be completely in control of the ship. Evidently they had taken our companions by surprise and wiped them out! At this sight Ensign Hallock and his men became frenzied with rage.

But Dr.

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Gresham stopped them. You would only be throwing away your lives and defeating the whole purpose of this expedition.

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We must find a better way. The situation was desperate. So despair gradually took possession of us. Not even the customary resourcefulness of Dr. Gresham rose to the emergency. She probably has a guard on board, but maybe we can take it by surprise! I can do the navigating.

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And the rest of you can take turns stoking the boilers! The mechanism for using the oil is quite complicated, and the sorcerers are likely to have trouble operating her until they figure out the system. If we reach them before they have time to master the thing, they will be helpless to stop us! Gresham began to give heed. In twenty minutes, without sighting any of the enemy, we arrived at the edge of the timber behind the wharf. A gangplank was down.


It was decided that our number should divide into three equal parts. One was to go to the bow and board the craft there by climbing up the line fastening the ship to the pier; this line was in the shadow except at its far end, where the men would emerge upon the deck. The second group was to get aboard at the stern by the same means. And the third detachment was to advance by the gangplank.

No guard was in sight. Hurriedly we explored the upper decks and all the chambers off them.

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They were empty. Then, descending simultaneously by com- panionways forward, aft, and amidship, we began to search the body of the vessel. Still no one could be found. Here, however, we were certain of finding people. Only two Chinamen were in the place, leisurely engaged in stoking the furnaces. We had them covered with our revolvers before they had any warning of our approach. In spite of the odds against them, one of the Mongolians leaped forward and had almost struck one of our men with his shovel before a shot killed him in his tracks.

The other Chinaman submitted, and he at once was securely bound and dumped into a corner. At this juncture, one of the deck watch came to announce that the moon was sinking near the mountaintops, and that if we hoped to get far down the channel before the light failed we would have to start promptly. Detailing eighteen men to the firing—with orders to get more steam as rapidly as possible —Ensign Hallock and the rest of us rushed to the engine room, where the three apprentice engineers already were at work.

But here we encountered a setback: the wireless plant had been removed! Kwo-Sung-tao, we could only surmise, had moved the set to a spot more convenient to the village. So, for the present, communication with the outside world was impossible. During this brief period of putting the ship in sailing order, none of the sorcerers made an appearance; probably all the men they could spare were exploring the captured destroyer.

Soon steam was up; whereupon Ensign Hallock sent Dr. Gresham to the bow and me to the stern to keep a close lookout, and himself ascended to the bridge and gave the order to start the engines and cast off. Before many moments the leviathan was moving away from the wharf. There, from all indications, room might be had to turn the ship around and head her down the channel.

For this opening he now set his course. Although we maintained a very slow speed, it was not long before we nosed our way into the bay. Here the walls of the fiord retreated far enough to form a considerable body of water; nevertheless, it was plain we would have close work turning the Nippon in such a space. It would be necessary to steam well over against the north bank, where there no The Moon Terror 99 longer was any moonlight and the shore line was swallowed up in inky blackness.

Redoubling the vigilance of our lookout, we began the maneuver. Slowly Ensign Hallock swung the huge ship around. Twice it was necessary to stop and reverse the engines, accomplishing part of the turn by backing.

In doing so, we had a narrow escape from running into a rocky promontory in the dark.