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قراءة كتاب Hanging by a Thread

تنويه: تعرض هنا نبذة من اول ١٠ صفحات فقط من الكتاب الالكتروني، لقراءة الكتاب كاملا اضغط على الزر “اشتر الآن"

‏اللغة: English
Hanging by a Thread

Hanging by a Thread

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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and then by what had been the ceiling. The second time the floor came round, Jayjay began to wonder whether he was spinning around his longitudinal axis or whether the ship was actually rotating about him. He closed his eyes again.

He didn't feel more than a little dizzy, but he couldn't be sure whether the dizziness was caused by his spinning or the blow on his head. He opened his eyes again and grabbed at the book that was orbiting nearby, then hurled it as hard as he could toward the sometime ceiling. "The Pride of the Pecos" zoomed rapidly in one direction while Jayjay moved sedately in the other.

The ship was spinning slightly, all right. When he finally grabbed a chair, he found that there was enough spin to give him a weight of an ounce or two. He sat down as best he could and took a good look around.

Aside from "The Pride of the Pecos" and a couple of other books, the air was remarkably free from clutter. There hadn't been much loose stuff laying around. A pencil, a few sheets of paper—nothing more.

There was one object missing. Jayjay looked around more carefully, and this time he saw a hand protruding from the space "beneath" the low table. He bent down for a better look and saw that Jeffry Hull was unconscious. Blood from his nose was spreading slowly over his face, and one eye looked rather battered. Jayjay grasped the protruding wrist and felt for a pulse. It was pumping nicely. He decided that Hull was in no immediate danger; very few people die of a bloody nose.

The lighting in the lounge was none too good; the low-power emergency system had come on automatically when the power from the ship's engines had died. Jayjay wondered just what had happened. There had been a hell of an explosion; that was all he knew.

He wondered if anyone else aboard was alive and conscious, and decided he might as well find out. He took a long dive toward the central stairwell that ran the length of the ship's long axis and looked down. The emergency door to the cargo hold was closed. No air, most likely. The way up looked clear, so he scrambled up the spiral stairway.

A few feet farther up, he found that he had passed the center of the ship's rotation. The Persephone was evidently toppling end-over-end, and the center of rotation was in the lounge itself. The heavy cargo in the hold was balancing the lighter, but longer, part of the ship above the lounge. He began climbing down the stairwell toward the navigation and control sections.

Somewhere down there, somebody was cursing fluently in Arabic.

"Illegitimate offspring of a mangy she-camel! Eater of dogs! Wallower in carrion!" And then, with hardly a break: "Allah, All-Merciful, All-Compassionate! Have mercy on Thy servant! I swear by the beard of Thy holy Prophet that I will attend more closely to my duties to Thee if Thou wilt get me loose from this ill-begotten monstrosity! Help me or I perish!" The last words were a wail.

"I'm coming!" boomed Jayjay in the same tongue. "Save thy strength!"


There was silence from the control room as Jayjay clambered on down the stairwell. Fortunately, the steps had been built so that it was possible to use them from either side, no matter which way the gravity pull happened to be. By the time he reached the control room, he weighed a good fifteen pounds.

Captain Atef al-Amin was staring up at the stairs as Jayjay came down. He was jammed tightly into a space between two of the big control cabinets, hanging head downward and looking more disheveled than Jayjay had ever seen the usually immaculately-uniformed captain.

"Oh," said Captain Al-Amin, in English, "it's you. For a moment I thought—" Then he waved his free hand. "Never mind. Can you get me out of here?"

What had been the floor of the control room was now the ceiling. The two steel cabinets which housed parts of the computer unit now appeared to be bolted to the ceiling. They were only about five feet high, and the space between them was far too narrow for a man to have got in there by himself—especially a man of the captain's build. None the less, he was in there—jammed in up to his waist. Only his upper torso and one arm was free. The other arm was jammed in against the wall.

Jayjay took the leap from the stairs and grabbed on to the chair that hung from the ceiling nearby. When you only weigh fifteen pounds, you can make Tarzan look like an amateur.

"You hurt?" he asked.

"It isn't comfortable, sure as hell," said Al-Amin. "I think my arm's broken. Think you can get me loose?"

"I can try. Give me your hand." Jayjay took the captain's free hand and gave it a tug. Then he released the chair he was holding, braced both feet against the panels of the computer housings, and gave a good pull. The captain didn't budge, but he winced a little.

"That hurt?"

"Just my arm. The pressure has cut off my blood circulation; my legs are numb, and I can't tell if they hurt or not."

Jayjay grabbed the chair again and surveyed the situation. "Where's your First Officer?"

"Breckner? Down in the engine room."

Jayjay didn't comment on that. If the hold was airless, it was likely that the engine room was, too, and there was no need to worry Al-Amin any more than necessary just now.

"Can you use a cutting torch?" the captain asked.

"Yes, but I don't think it'll be necessary," Jayjay said. "Hold on a minute." He went back up the stairs to the officers' washroom and, after a little search, got a container of liquid soap from the supplies. Then he went back down to the control room. He made the jump to the chair, holding on with one hand while he held the container of soap with the other.

"Can you hold me up with one hand? I'll need both hands to work with."

"In this gravity? Easy. Give me your belt."

Captain Atef Al-Amin grabbed Jayjay's belt and hung on, while Jayjay used both hands to squirt the liquid soap all over the captain from the waist down.

It would have made a great newspaper photo. Captain Al-Amin, wedged between two steel cabinets, hanging upside-down under a pull of one-fifteenth standard gee, holding up his rescuer by the belt. The rescuer, right-side-up, was squeezing a plastic container of liquid soap and directing the stream against the captain.

When Al-Amin was thoroughly wetted with the solution, Jayjay again braced his feet against the steel panels and pulled.

With a slick, slurping sound, the captain slid loose, and the two of them toppled head-over-heels across the room. Jayjay was prepared for that; he stopped them both by grasping an overhead desk-top as they went by. Then he let go, and the two men dropped slowly to what had been the ceiling.

"Hoo!" said the captain. "That's a relief! Allah!"

Jayjay took a look at the man's arm. "Radius might be broken; ulna seems O.K. We'll splint it later. Your legs are going to tingle like crazy when the feeling comes back."

"I know. But we have other things to worry about, Mr. Kelvin. Evidently you and I are the only ones awake so far, and I'm in no condition to go moving all over this spinning bucket just yet. Would you do some reconnoitering for me?"

"Sure," said Jayjay. "Just tell me what you want."


Within half an hour, the news was in.

There were five men alive in the ship: Jayjay, Captain Al-Amin, Jeffry Hull, Second Officer Vandenbosch, and Maintenance Officer Smith. Vandenbosch had broken both legs and had to be strapped into a bunk and given a shot of narcolene.

Jayjay had put on a spacesuit and taken a look outside. The whole rear end of the ship was gone, and with it had gone the First Officer, the Radio Officer, and the Engineering Officer. And, of course, the main power plant of the ship.

Most of the cargo hold was intact, but the walls had been breached, and the air was gone.

"Well, that's that," said Captain Al-Amin. Jayjay, Smith, Hull, and the captain were in the control room, trying not to look glum. "I wish I knew

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