turn, so you'd be out of luck all the way. You can't take the screamers apart without wrecking them—not without a machine shop. You're going to have to work on that female connection. She's got a sleeve on her that will turn. Now, if—" Jayjay's voice faded off into silence, and his manipulations of the cards became purely mechanical.
"Huh!" Smith said softly. "Just because he's related to Kelvin Associates, he thinks he's hot—" He said the French word again.
"Is he right?" Captain Al-Amin asked sharply.
"Well—" Smith rubbed his nose with a forefinger. "Well, yes. I was wrong. We can't do it with a file. It would have to be turned on a lathe, and we don't have a lathe. And we don't have any measuring instruments, either. This is a precision job, as I said. And we don't have a common ruler aboard, much less a micrometer. Any makeshift job will be a failure."
Captain Al-Amin brooded over that for a moment. Then he looked at Jayjay again. "Mr. Kelvin."
"Yes, captain?" Jayjay didn't look up from the cards in his hands.
"Are you related to Kelvin Associates?"
"In a way."
Al-Amin bit at his lower lip. "Mr. Kelvin, you registered aboard this ship as Joseph Kelvin. May I ask if your middle name is James?"
After a short pause, Jayjay said: "Yes. It is."
"Are you the J. J. Kelvin?"
"Yup. But I'd rather you didn't mention it when we get to Pluto."
Smith's jaw had slowly sagged during that conversation. Then he closed his mouth with a snap. "You're Jayjay Kelvin?" he asked, opening his mouth again.
"Then I apologize."
"Accepted," said Jayjay. He wished that Smith hadn't apologized.
"Why didn't you say so in the first place?" Captain Al-Amin asked.
"Because I didn't want it known that I was going to Pluto," Kelvin said. "And—after the accident happened—I kept quiet because I know human nature."
Jeffry Hull, who had awakened during the argument, looked at Jayjay and said: "What's human nature got to do with it, Mr. Kelvin?"
"Nothing, except that if I'd told everyone I was J. J. Kelvin, all of you would have been sitting around waiting for me to solve the problem instead of thinking about it yourselves."
Hull nodded thoughtfully. "It makes sense, Mr. Kelvin. If they'd known that you were ... well ... Mister Spaceship Himself, they'd have let you do all the thinking. And that would have left you high and dry, wouldn't it?"
Jayjay put the deck of cards in his pocket. "You're a pretty good sociologist, after all, Mr. Hull. You're right. Face any group with Authority—with a capital A—and they quit thinking for themselves. And if they do, then the poor slob of an Authority doesn't have anything to tickle his own brains, so everybody loses."
"Well, do you have an answer?" Captain Al-Amin asked.
Jayjay shook his head. "Not yet. I think I've got one coming up, but I wish you two would go on talking while I think."
"I'll try," Smith said wryly.
The problem was both simple and complex. The female socket lacked one single turn of thread to make a perfect connection. A few hundredths of an inch separated success from disaster.
Five men, including the unconscious Vandenbosch, were only a fraction of an inch away from death.
Jayjay Kelvin listened to Smith talk for another half hour, throwing in objections when necessary, but offering no opinions.
"All we have to do," Smith said at last, "is get rid of that little bit of metal beyond the thread in the female socket. But there's no way to get it out. We can't use a chisel because the force would warp the threads. Besides, we couldn't get a chisel in there."
"And we don't have a chisel," Captain Al-Amin added. "We don't have any tools at all."
"Except," said Jayjay, "an electric hand drill and a quarter-inch bit."
"Well, sure," said Smith. "But what good will that do us?"
"If we rigged a belt between the drill's motor and the sleeve of the female socket, the sleeve would rotate as if it were on a lathe, wouldn't it?"
Smith blinked. "Sure. Yeah! Hey!" His face brightened. Then it looked sad again. "But what good would that do us?"
"You said that all we have between us and success is a fraction of an inch of metal. If we can remove that fraction of an inch, we're successful."
"But how can you put a thread into that socket?" Smith asked.
Jayjay beamed as though it were his birthday. "We don't have to put a thread in there. All we have to do is give the thread on the male plug room to move in. All we have to do is clear away that metal. So we'll use the drill motor to turn the sleeve as if it were on a lathe."
Smith still didn't look enthusiastic. "All right. We have a lathe. But what are we going to use for tools? What are we going to cut the metal with?"
Jayjay's smile became broader. "Carbon steel. What else?"
"Oh?" said Smith. "And where do we get these tools, Mr. Kelvin? From the circumambient ether?"
"Not at all," said Jayjay. "Did you ever chip flint?"
"Never mind. All we have to do is use that quarter-inch bit."
Smith still looked confused. "I don't get it. A bit that big won't fit in."
"We simply crack a piece off that hard carbon steel," Jayjay said. "We can make a lathe tool that will fit into the small space between the inner and outer tubes. The fractured edge will be sharp enough to take out the excess metal. The male plug can move in, and we'll have contact."
"Well, I'll be—" Smith used another French word.
Captain Atef Al-Amin cast his eyes upwards. "Creatio ex nihilo," he said softly.
When the Interplanetary Police ship took the five men and the cargo from the wreck of the Persephone, the major in command of the ship, who knew that he had rescued the great J. J. Kelvin, asked him: "Mr. Kelvin, what do you plan to do when you return to Ceres City?"
And Jayjay, who knew that both he and the major were speaking for the newsfacs and for posterity, said:
"I'm going to make sure that Kelvin Associates learns to make emergency equipment properly. We will never again put faulty equipment aboard a ship."
The major looked perplexed. "What?"
"I'm going to have some designer's head!" said Jayjay Kelvin.