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Текст книги "Iceberg"

Автор книги: Clive Cussler

Соавторы: Clive Cussler
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Текущая страница: 15 (всего у книги 20 страниц)

Chapter 16

Somewhere in the black pit of unconsciousness Pitt began to see light. It was vague, dim like the bulb of a flashlight whose batteries were gasping out their last breath of energy. He struggled toward it. Desperately he reached out, once, twice, making several agonizing attempts to touch the yellow glow he knew was his window to the conscious world outside his mind. But each time he thought it was within his grasp, it moved further away and he knew he was slipping backward into the void of nothingness once more. Dead, he thought vaguely, I'm dead.

Then he became aware of another force, a sensation that shouldn't have been there. It was coming through the void, becoming stronger, more intensified with each passing moment. Then he had it, and he knew he was still among the living. Pain, glorious, tormenting pain. It burst upon him in one crushing, agonizing wave, and he moaned.

"Oh, thank you, God! Thank you for bringing him back!" The voice, it sounded miles away. He pushed his mind into second gear and then it came again.

"Dirk! It's Tidi!" There was a second's silence, a second in which Pitt became increasingly aware of the brightening light and the stinging smell of pure, fresh air and a soft arm tenderly cradled around his head. His vision was blurred and distorted; he could vaguely distinguish a dim form leaning over him. He tried to speak but could do no more than groan, mumble a few incoherent words and stare at the shadowy figure above.

"It seems our Major Pitt is about to be reborn."

Pitt could barely make out the words. The voice wasn't from Tidi's lips, that much he was certain; the tone was too deep, too masculine.

"They worked him over pretty thoroughly," said the unidentified voice. "Better he'd died without rezonaining consciousness. Judging from the looks of things, none of us will live to see-"

"He'll make it." It was Tidi again. "He's got to he's just got to. Dirk is our only hope."

"Hope… Hope?" Pitt whispered. "Dated a girl named Hope once."

The agony in his side stabbed and twisted like white-hot iron, but strangely his face felt nothing; the tortured flesh was numb. Then he knew why, knew why he saw only shadows. His sight, or at least thirty percent of it, returned as Tidi lifted a piece of thin damp fabric, the nylon of her pantyhose, from his face. Pitts torn and swollen features felt nothing because Tidi had been constantly soaking the cuts and bruises in ice water from a nearby mud puddle to relieve the intense swelling.

The mere fact that Pitt could see anything at all through the tiny slits around his bloated eyes attested to her successful efforts.

Pitt focused his eyes with difficulty. Tidi was gazing down at him, her long fawn-colored hair framing a pale and anxious face. Then the other voice spoke and the tone was no longer strange.

"Did you get the license number of the truck, Major: Or was it a bulldozer that mashed your already ugly profile?"

Pitt turned his head and looked into the smiling, but tight-muscled face of Jerome P. Lillie. "Would you believe a giant with muscles like tree trunks?"

"I suppose," Lillie said expectantly, "your next words will be-if you think I look bad, you should see the other guy."

"You'd be disappointed. I didn't lay so much as a fingertip on him."

"You didn't fight back?"

"I didn't fight back."

Lillie showed pure astonishment. "You stood there and took… took this terrible beating and did nothing?"

"Oh, will you two shut up!" Tidi's voice held a mixture of irritation and distress. "If any of us are to survive, we must get Dirk on his feet. We can't just sit here and gossip."

Pitt pulled himself to a sitting position and gazed in agony through a red haze of pain as his broken rib cried in protest. The unthinking sudden movement made his side feel as if someone had squeezed his chest between a giant pair of pliers and twisted. Carefully, gently, he eased himself forward until he could see around him.

The sight that met his eyes looked like something out of a nightmare. For a long moment he stared at the unreal scene and then at Tidi and Lillie, his face a study of bewildered incomprehension. Then a shred of understanding crept into his head and with it some certainty of where he was. He reached out a hand to steady himself and muttered to no one in particular.

"My God, it's not possible."

For maybe ten seconds, maybe twenty, in one of those silences they refer to as pregnant, Pitt sat there, as still and unmoving as a dead man, staring at the broken helicopter a scant ten yards away. The jagged remains of the hulk lay half sunk in mud at the bottom of a deep ravine whose walls rose in sharp sloping angles to seemingly come together and meet a hundred feet toward the Iceland sky. He noted that the shattered craft was large, probably one of the Titan class, capable of carrying thirty passengers. Whatever colors or markings the copter may have been painted originally, it was impossible to recognize them now. Most of the fuselage back of the cockpit was crumpled like a bellows, the remaining framework a myriad of twisted metal.

Pitts first frightful impression, the one that ruled his confused mind, was that no one from the crash could have survived. But there they were: Pitt, Tidi, Lillie, and scattered about the steep slopes of the ravine in unnatural pain-contorted positions, the same group of men who had stood beside Pitt in Rondheim's trophy room, the same group who had opposed F. James Kelly and Hermit Limited.

They all appeared to be alive, but most were badly injured; the grotesque angles of their arms and legs revealed a terrible array of smashed and broken bones.

"Sorry to ask the inescapable question," Pitt mumbled, his voice hoarse, though now under control, "but what in hell happened?"

"Not what you think," Lillie replied.

"What then? It's obvious… Rondheim was abducting all of us somewhere when the aircraft crashed."

"We didn't crash," Lillie said. "the wreck has been here for days, maybe even weeks."

Pitt stared incredulously at Lillie, who seemed to be lying comfortably on the damp ground, oblivious of the wetness soaking through his clothing. "You'd better fill me in. What happened to these people? How did you come to be here? Everything."

"Not too much to my story," Lillie said quietly.

"Rondheim's men caught me snooping around the Albatross docks. Before I had a chance to uncover anything, they hustled me off to Rondheim's house and threw me in with these other gentlemen."

Pitt made a move toward Lillie. "You're in pretty rough shape. Let's have a look."

Impatiently Lillie waved him back.

"Hear me out. Then get the hell away from here and get help. No one is in immediate danger of dying from their injuries-Rondheim saw to that. Our primary peril is exposure. The temperature is under forty degrees now. in another few hours it Will be freezing.

After that, the cold and the shock will take the first of us. By morning there will be nothing in this goddamn ravine but frozen bodies."

"Rondheim saw to that? I'm afraid-"

"You don't get it" You're slow on the trigger, Major Pitt. It's obvious, the carnage you see here was never caused by accident. Immediately after our sadistic friend Rondheim beat you to a pulp, we were each given a heavy dose of Nembutal and then, very coldly and methodically, he and his men took us one at a time and fractured whatever bones they thought were necessary to make it appear as though we were all injured in the crash of the helicopter."

Pitt stared at Lillie but said nothing. Totally off balance, his mind was in a whirlpool of disbelief, his thought desperately seeking to sort out a set of circumstances that defied comprehension. The way he felt, he would have been prepared to believe anything, but Lillie's words were too macabre, too monstrous to consider.

"My God, it's not possible." Pitt screwed his eyes shut and shook his head in slow frustration. "It has to be some kind of insane nightmare."

"Nothing insane about the reason," Lillie assured him. "There is a method to Kelly's and Rondheim's madness."

"How can you be sure?"

"I'm sure-I was the last one they put under the drug-I overheard Kelly explaining to Sir Eric Marks how this whole unreal tragedy was conceived by Hermit Limited's computers."

"But for what purpose? Why the savagery? Kelly could have simply put us on another aircraft and dropped it over the ocean without a trace, with no chance for survivors."

"Computers are a hard lot they only deal in cold facts," Lillie murmured wearily. "To their respective governments, the men suffering around us are important figures. You were at Rondheim's little party. You heard Kelly explain why they had to die-their deaths are meant to be a diversion, to buy time and to grab headlines and the attention of world leaders while Hermit Limited pulls off its coup without international interference."

Pitts eyes narrowed. "That doesn't explain away the sadistic cruelty."

"No, it doesn't," Lillie admitted. "However, in Kelly's eyes the end justifies the means. A disappearance at sea was probably fed into the computer's banks but undoubtedly rejected in favor of a sounder plan."

"Like producing the bodies at an opportune time."

"In a sense, yes," Lillie said slowly. "World focus on a disappearance at sea would have faded in a week or ten days-the search would have obviously been called off since no one could live long floating in the frigid North Atlantic."

"Of course," Pitt nodded. "The vanishing act of the Lax was an ideal example."

"Exactly. Kelly and his rich friends need all the time they can buy to become entrenched in whatever country it is they intend to take over. The longer our State Department is diverted by the loss of high-ranking diplomats, the harder it will be when they get around to PUtting the screws on Hermit Limited's operations."

"This way, Kelly can have the advantage of an extended search." Pitts voice was quiet but positive. "And when hope begins to grow dim, he can arrange for an Icelander to stumble accidentally on the crash site and the bodies. And Kelly can reap the advantage of an extra two weeks while the world mourns and government leaders are concentrating on speeches at the funeral processions."

"Every alternative was neatly considered. We were all supposedly on a flight to Rondheim's northern estate for a day of salmon fishing. His group, the Hermit Limited bunch, were going to come on the next flight. At least, that's the story that will be handed out."

"What's to stop someone from accidentally discovering us at any moment?" Tidi asked, gently dabbing a trickle of blood from Pitts swollen mouth.

"It's fairly obvious," Pitt said, thoughtfully surveying the immediate surroundings. "We can't be Seen unless that someone is standing practically on top of us.

Add to that the fact we're probably in the most uninhabited area of Iceland, and the odds of being found begin to stretch to infinity."

"Now you can clearly see the picture," Lillie said.

"The helicopter had to be placed in the narrow confines of the ravine and then destroyed because it could not have been purposely crashed with any degree of accuracy-a perfect undetectable location. A search plane directly overhead could have no more than a second to spot the debris, a million-to-one chance at best. The next step was to scatter our bodies around the area.

Then, after two or three weeks of decomposition, the most a competent coroner could determine is that some of us died from injuries sustained from the phony crash and the rest from exposure and shock."

"Am I the only one who can walk?" Pitt asked harshly. His broken ribs ached like a thousand sores, but the hopeful stares, the miserable bit of optimism in the eyes of the men who knew death was only a few hours away, forced him to ignore the pain.

"A few can walk," Lillie answered. "But with broken arms, they'll never make it to the top of the ravine.

"Then I guess I'm elected."

"You're elected." Lillie smiled faintly. "If it's any consolation, you have the satisfaction of knowing Rondheim is up against a tougher man than his computers projected."

The encouragement in Lillie's eyes became the extra impetus Pitt needed. He rose unsteadily to his feet and looked down at the figure lying stiffly on the ground.

"Where did Rondheim bust you?"

"Both shoulders and-I'm guessing-my pelvis."

Lillie's tone was as calm as if he were describing the fractured surface of the moon.

"Kind of makes you wish you were back in St. Louis running the brewery, doesn't it?"

"Not really. Dear old Dad never had much confidence in his only son. If I… if I'm not alive and kicking when you come back, tell him-"

"Read him the riot act yourself. Besides, my heart wouldn't be in it." Pitt had to fight to keep his voice from faltering. 'I never liked Lillie beer anyway."

He turned away and knelt over Tidi.

"Where did they hurt you, dearheart?"

"My ankles are a little off center." She smiled gamely. "Nothing serious. I'm just lucky, I guess."

"I'm sorry," Pitt said. "You wouldn't be lying here if it wasn't for my bungling."

She took his hand and squeezed it. "It's more exciting than taking dictation and typing the admiral's letters."

Pitt bent over and lifted her in his arms and carried her tenderly a few feet and laid her beside Lillie.

"Here's your big chance, you little gold digger. A real live millionaire. And for the next few hours he's a captive audience. Mr. Jerome P. Lillie, may I present Miss Tidi Royal, the darling of the National Underwater Marine Agency. May you both live happily ever after."

Pitt kissed her lightly on the forehead, stumbled awkwardly once more to his feet and walked unsteadily over the water-soaked ground to the old man he knew simply as Sam. He thought of the distinguished manner, the warm, piercing eyes he had seen in the trophy room as he stared down and saw the legs, twisted outwards like the crooked branches of an oak tree, the blue eyes dulled by pain, and he forced himself to smile a confident, hopeful smile.

"Hang in there, Sam." Pitt leaned over and gently grasped the old man's shoulder. "I'll be back with the prettiest nurse in Iceland before, lunchtime."

Sam's lips gave the barest hint of a grin. "To a man my age, a cigar would prove much more practical."

"A cigar it is."

Pitt leaned over and shook Sam's hand. The blue eyes suddenly came to life and the old man raised up, griPPing Pitts outstretched hand with an intensity that Pitt didn't think was possible, and the lines of the tired, drawn face lightened into determined hardness.

"He must be stopped, Major Pitt." The voice was low, almost an insistent whisper. "James must not be allowed to go through with this terrible thing. His purpose glories in goodness, but the people he has surrounded himself with, glory only in greed and power."

Pitt only nodded without speaking.

"I forgive James for what he has done." Sam was talking, almost rambling to himself. "Tell him his brother forgives-"

"My God!" Pitts shock showed in his face.

"You're brothers?"

"Yes, James is my younger brother. I remained in the background these many years, handling the financial details and problems that plague a giant multinational corporation. James, a master at wheeling and dealing, enjoyed the center of attraction. Until now, we were a pretty successful combination." Sam Kelly bowed his head in a barely perceptible sign of farewell.

"God bring you luck." And then a smile slowly stretched across his face. "Don't forget my cigar."

"You can count on it," Pitt murmured. He turned away, his mind swirling with conflicting images and emotions, then slowly clearing and settling on one permanent irresistible purpose that held his mental processes in a viselike grip. The driving force, the hatred that had been smoldering within him since Rondheim lashed out with the first crippling blow, now exploded into an intense burning flame that consumed his mind to the expulsion of all else, but then his thoughts were pulled back to reality by the low voice of the Russian diplomat, Tamareztov.

"The heart of a good Communist goes with you, Major Pitt."

Pitt barely paused to reply. "I'm honored. It's not often a Communist has to rely on a capitalist to save his life."

"It is not an easy pill to swallow."

Pitt stopped and looked down at Tamareztov in slow speculation, noting the arms lying limply on the ground, the unnatural angle of the left leg. Then his face softened.

"If you promise not to hold any party indoctrination lectures while I'm gone, I'll bring you back a bottle of vodka.", Tamareztov stared back at Pitt curiously. "A display of Yankee humor, Major? But I think you really mean what you say about the vodka."

A grin touched the corners of Pitts lips. "Don't misread my intentions. Since I'm already taking a short walk to the corner liquor store, I merely thought I'd save you the trip." Then, before the uncomprehending Russian could reply, Pitt turned and began climbing the embankment toward the top of the ravine.

Cautiously at first, a few inches at a time, trying to move at a pace that favored his cracked ribs, Pitt clawed at the soft, slippery earth and pulled himself upward without looking in any direction except straight ahead. The first twenty feet were easy. Then the slope steepened and the soil became more firm, making it difficult to dig the shallow hand and toeholds which afforded his only source of support.

The climb itself became a purgatory, unctuated by the agony of his injuries. All emotion had drained away, his movements became mechanical, dig and pull, dig and pull. He tried to keep count of each foot gained but lost track after thirty, his mind totally void of all mental function.

He was like a blind man moving through the daylight in a blind world, and the only sense he still possessed was the sense of touch. Then for the first time fear came to him-not fear of falling or fear of injury, but the honest, cold fear of failing over twenty people whose lives depended on his reaching that line between earth and sky that seemed so far above him. Minutes passed that seemed like hours. How many? He didn't know, would never know. Time as a means of measurement no longer existed. His body was simply a robot going through repeated motions without the benefit of constant commands from the mind.

He began counting again, only this time he stopped at ten. Then one minute of rest, he told himself, no more, and he began again. His breath was coming in heaving gulps now, his fingers were raw, the ends of the nails jagged and spotted with blood, his arm muscles aching from the continuous effort-a sure sign his body was about spent. Sweat trickled down his face, but the irritating tickle could not be felt through 'his agonized flesh. He paused and looked up, seeing little through the swollen slits that were his eyes. The edge of the ravine blended into a nebulous line of angles and shadowy profiles that defied any judgment of distance.

And then suddenly, almost with a sense of surprise, Pitts hands found the soft, crumbling edge of the slope. With strength he didn't think was possible, he pulled himself up onto flat ground and rolled over on his back, laying inert and to all appearances, dead.

For nearly five minutes, Pitt lay rigid, only his chest moving with the pulsating rise and fall of his breath. Slowly, as the waves of total exhaustion receded to a level of sufferable tolerance, he pulled himself to his feet and peered into the bottom of the narrow chasm at the tiny figures below. He cupped his hands to yell, then decided against it. There were no words he could think of to shout that had any meaning, any encouragement. All the people below could see was his head and shoulders over the level of the steep cliff. Then with a wave of the hand, he was gone.

Chapter 17

Pitt stood like a solitary tree on a great empty plain. A dark green mosslike vegetation spread in every direction as far as he could see, edged on one horizon by a range of high hills and cloaked by a sun-whitened mist on two others. Except for a few small rises dotting the desolate landscape, most of the ground was nearly flat. At first he thought he was completely alone. But then he saw a tiny snipe that soared across the sky like a dart in search of an unseen target. It came closer, and from a height of two hundred feet it circled and looked down at Pitt, as if curiously inspecting the strange animal that stood out so vividly in red and yellow plumage against the center of the unending green carpet. After three cursory sweeps, the little bird's inquisitiveness waned and it fluttered its wings against the air and continued on its seeming flight to nowhere.

As if perceiving the bird's thoughts, Pitt stared down at his offbeat clothing and murmured vaguely to himself, "I've heard of being all dressed up with no place to go, but this is ridiculous."

The sound of his voice suddenly woke him up to the fact that his mind was working again. He felt the relief that was due from overcoming the exhausting climb from the ravine, the high elation of being alive and the hope of finding help before the people below died from the near-freezing temperatures. Jubilantly he struck out across the tundra toward the distant hills.

Fifty feet, no further, that was as far as Pitt got when it abruptly hit him. He was lost. The sun was high above the skyline. There were no stars to guide him.

North, south, east and west were words that meant nothing, had no definition in terms of measurement or accuracy. Once he entered the mist that was crawling across the land toward him, he would have no guideline, no landmarks to take a sight on. He was lost, adrift without any sense of direction.

For once that cold, damp morning, he didn't feel the grip of fear.

It wasn't that he knew fear would cloud his thoughts, confuse his reasoning. He was consumed with sharp anger that he should have been so beautifully tricked into complacency, so ignorantly unaware that he was stumbling to his death. Every contingency, the computers of Hermit Limited, his arch-enemy, had mechanically figured on every contingency. The stakes were too high in the murderous game that Kelly, Rondheim and their group of incredibly ruthless business associates were playing. But he swore to himself that he wasn't going to be forced to land on Boardwalk and pay a rent he couldn't afford without passing Go. He stopped, sat down and took stock.

It didn't take any great ingenious deduction to determine that he was sitting somewhere in the middle of the uninhabited part of Iceland.

He tried to remember what little he had learned about the Eden of the North Atlantic, what few facts he bad absorbed when studying the flight maps on board the Catawaba. The island stretched one hundred ninety miles from north to south, he recalled, and nearly three hundred miles from east to west. Since the shortest distance between two points was north and south, the other two directions were eliminated. If he traveled south, there was every possibility that he would run onto the Vatnajbkull ice mass, not only Iceland's but Europe's largest glacier, a great frozen wall that would have signaled the end of every thing.

North it was, he decided. The logic behind his decision bordered on the primitive, but there was another reason, a compelling urge to outsmart the computers by traveling in the direction least expected, a direction that offered the least obvious chance of success. The average man in similar circumstances would have probably headed toward Reykjavik, the largest sprawl of civilization, far to the west and south. That is undoubtedly, he hoped, what the computers had been programmed for-the average man.

Now he had an answer, but it was only half an answer. Which way was north? Even if he knew for certain, he had no means to follow it along a straight line.

The accepted fact that a man who was right-handed would eventually make a great arc to his right without any landmarks to guide him, came back to haunt Pitts thoughts.

The whine of the jet engines interrupted his reverie and he looked up, holding his hand to shield his eyes from the glare of the cobalt blue sky, sighting a commercial airliner cruising serenely ahead of its long white contrails. Pitt could only wonder at the aircraft's course.

It could have been heading anywhere: west to Reykjavik, east to Norway, southeast to London. There was no way to tell for certain unless he had a compass.

A compass, the word lingered in his mind, savored like the thought of an ice-cold beer by a man dying of thirst in the middle of the Mojave Desert. A compass, a simple piece of magnetic iron mounted on a pivot and floating in a mixture of glycerin and water. Then a light suddenly clicked on deep in the recesses of his brain. A long-forgotten bit of outdoor lore he'd learned many years before during a four-day hike in the Sierras with his old Boy Scout troop began to break through the fog-shrouded barrier of time.

It took him nearly ten minutes of searching before he found a small pool of water trapped in a shallow depression beneath a dome-shaped hill. Quickly, as dexterously as his raw and bleeding fingers would allow, Pitt unclasped the brown sash and tore off the pin that held it in place. Wrapping one end of the long silk material around his knee, he knelt and pulled it taut with his left hand and with his right began stroking the pin from head to tip in a single direction against the silk, building friction and magnetizing the tiny piece of metal.

The cold was increasing now, creeping into his.sweat-soaked clothes and forcing a spasm of shivers to grip his body. The pin slipped through his fingers, and he spent useless minutes probing the mossy ground cover until he discovered the little silver sliver by accidentally running it a quarter of an inch under a fingernail.

He was almost thankful for the pain, as it meant there was still feeling in his hands. He kept pushing the pin back and forth across the silk, careful not to let it slip through his fingers again.

When he felt satisfied that further friction would add nothing more, he rubbed the pin over his forehead and nose, covering it with as much skin oil as it could hold. Then he took two slender bits of thread from the lining of his red jacket and doubled them loosely around the pin. The tricky part of the operation was yet to come, so Pitt relaxed for a moment flexing his fingers and massaging them much like a piano player preparing to tackle Chopin's Minute Waltz.

Feeling he was ready, he gingerly picked up the two loops and with painstaking slowness lowered the pin into the calm little pond. Holding a deep breath, Pitt watched the water bend under the weight of the metal. Then ever so gently his fingers cautiously slid the threads apart until the pin swam by itself, kept afloat by the oil and the surface tension of the water.

Only a child at Christmastime, staring wide-eyed at an array of gifts under the tree, could have experienced the same feeling of wonder that Pitt did that moment as he sat entranced and watched that crazy little pin swing leisurely in a half circle until its head pointed toward magnetic north. He sat there unmoving for a full three minutes, staring at his makeshift compass, almost afraid that if he blinked his eyes, it would sink and disappear.

"Let's see your goddamned computer come up with that one," Pitt murmured to the empty air.

A tenderfoot might have impatiently started running in the direction the pin pointed, mistaken in the assumption that a compass always faithfully aims its point toward true north. Pitt knew that the only place where a compass would unerringly indicate the North Pole was a small area in the Great Lakes between the United States and Canada where by chance the North and Magnetic Poles come into line. As an experienced navigator, he was also aware that the Magnetic Pole lay somewhere beneath Prince of Wales Island above Hudson Bay, approximately one thousand miles below the Arctic Pole and only a few hundred miles above Iceland. That meant that the pin was pointing a few degrees north of west. Pitt figured his compass declination at about eighty degrees, a rough guess at best, but at least he was certain that north now stood at a near right angle to the head of the pin.

Pitt took his bearing and picked the rudimentary compass needle Out of the water and started walking into the mist. He hadn't covered a hundred yards when he could taste the blood springing from the open cuts on his inner lips, the teeth loosened in his gums, and with all he had already suffered, the pain inaugurated by Rondheim's kick to the groin, which made it impossible for him to walk without – a heavy limping gait. He forced himself to keep going, to cling tenaciously to the thread Of consciousness. The ground was rough and uneven and he soon lost count of the number of times he stumbled and fell, wrapping his arms around his chest in a vain attempt to deaden the torture from the cracked ribs.

Luck stayed with him and the mist disappeared after an hour and a half, offering him a chance to take advantage of the many hot springs he passed and orient his bearings with the compass pin. Now he could line up a landmark to the north and keep shifting from one landmark to the next until he was sure he was straying.

Then he would stop and take another compass reading and begin the process over again.

Two hours became three. Three hours became four. Each minute was an infinite unit of misery and suffering of aching cold, of intense burning pain, of fighting for control of his mind. Time. melted into an eternity which Pitt knew might not end until he fell against the soft, damp grass for the last time. In spite of his determination, he began to have doubts that he would live through the next few hours.

One step in front of the other, an endless cycle that slowly pushed Pitt further and further into total exhaustion. His thoughts had no room now for anything but the next landmark, and when he reached it, he concentrated every ounce of his sinking energy on the next one. Logic was nearly nonexistent. Only when he heard a muted alarm going off somewhere in the dim corners of his brain, warning him that he was straying off course, did he stop at a steaming sulfur pool to regain a heading with his compass.

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