When the last coffin had gone out the open door, Jonnie had silently slid out of his coffin. He had three kill-clubs thrust in his belt and he was holding a fourth, the heaviest one. He laid a picto-recorder player in the middle of the floor with one flashing motion and backed up behind the door. The shadow of Terl outside lay across the floor.
The recorder started to play. It was a recording of Terl’s own voice. It said, "Jayed, you silly crunch, what a crap lousy I.B.I. agent you were.”
It was playing loudly enough to be heard outside.
The shadow of Terl contracted, turning.
The recorder said, “It ain't smart, Jayed, to come in here worrying your betters....”
Terl lunged through the door, slamming it shut with a frantic hand. He raised his boot to stamp the recorder into oblivion.
Jonnie dove forward. With a motion he had drilled and drilled with a dummy, the kill-club crashed into Terl's skull.
With his other hand, even as Terl fell forward, Jonnie ripped up the pocket flap and got the remote control box to the cage.
A horn was going outside. “Coordinates holding on first stage. Motors off!"
Jonnie hit Terl again. The body collapsed. Jonnie ripped the breathe-mask off Terl's face and threw it clear to the far end of the morgue where it landed with a clatter. He bent over Terl. Green blood was running down the side of the monster's head. The feet were drumming. Then Terl was still. There was no breathing. The eyes seemed glazed. He would have liked to put a shot in Terl. He took the belt gun. But he didn't dare shoot. Until those wires out there started to hum, they could stop the firing. The instant the wires began to hum he knew the process was irreversible.
The bullhorn bawled, “Stand clear!” The wires had begun to hum.
Jonnie's two minutes had begun, and they might well be his last two minutes alive. He had clicked on the stopwatch on his wrist.
He flashed out the door and twisted the lock closed behind him. In these two minutes, nobody would fire a gun since it might hit wires or mess up coordinate settings.
He took in the scene. Windsplitter was only three paces away from where he was supposed to be. Jonnie was on him and with one heel jab they were running.
In a flying blur they raced to the platform!
The humming was intensifying. Anything that stayed on that platform was going to go to Psychlo where you couldn't even breathe the atmosphere. And a very messy arrival this would be if all went well.
Windsplitter's hoofs hit the metal of the platform and he reared to a stop as Jonnie dove for the first coffin.
His fingers sought a little round ring that imperceptibly stood out, just under the lid at the top end. He pulled it and a strip came away in his hand. One!
Second coffin. Ring found. Pull. Strip in hand. Two!
The third coffin. Ring. Strip. Three!
A hysterical Psycho voice came on the bullhorn. “Clear the platform! Clear the platform!”
The small group of Psychlos beyond the coffins woke up to something strange going on. They stared. One of the executives, hungover from the party, raised his arm to point.
Fourth, fifth, and sixth rings!
In these coffins were ten “planet buster” nuclear missile bombs, forbidden by treaties because they could crack the planet's crust and spray the world with fallout. Packed around them were the “dirtiest” early, radioactive atomic bombs, outlawed because of their extreme pollution potential.
The seventh ring was bent. Jonnie fumbled with it.
“Grab him!” screamed the executive on the platform.
The five Psychlos moved to attack.
Jonnie threw his kill-club at the executive. He went down.
Jonnie yanked two more kill-clubs from his belt and hurled them in a blur of speed. Two more Psychlos went down.
He got back to number seven. He untwisted it and got it out.
He grabbed number eight and pulled it.
There was a suicide squad of Scots in the bushes, standing by in case at the last moment Jonnie failed. He had forbidden it but they insisted. He had timed the run. He wanted no dead Scots.
Jonnie had refused to simply let the fuses be set. If the firing had been canceled they would have blown Earth out of existence. They had to be sure the irreversible action of actual firing was in progress before these fuse strips were pulled.
Nine strips in hand!
The two remaining Psychlos had been further away but they were coming now.
“Strike!” shouted Jonnie at Windsplitter.
The horse reared and struck the nearest Psychlo.
The last monster on the platform reached to grab Jonnie.
Jonnie struck with the kill-club and smashed the Psychlo's helmet.
The reaching talons tore his sleeve. He struck again.
He leaped to the back of Windsplitter.
Someone on the control porch had come out with a blast rifle but did not dare shoot.
The humming wires were building up to crescendo.
Jonnie was off the platform and racing up the hill to the cage. His watch said forty-two seconds left to go. He had never known time to flow so slowly! Or so fast!
He had not gone to Psychlo.
But blast rifles were waiting to cut him down.
He had already switched the remote control box he had recovered so as to shut off the current to the bars. He had gotten out the metal severing tool so he could slash off the girls' collars.
Windsplitter plunged to a halt before the cage door. Jonnie threw himself off the horse.
He paused for an instant.
The cage door was open! The wood barrier was torn aside!
Where were the girls? Their effects were all here.
Not up? There was a mound under the robes. Ah, they must still be asleep.
He rushed in, metal tool ready to cut the collars, shouting their names.
No motions in the robes. He threw the furs aside.
He was staring at the corpse of Char. It lay on its back and the stainless steel knife he had given Chrissie was sticking out of Char's middle.
He had no time for speculation. He was out of the cage, staring about. Old Pork and Dancer were not there. Could it be possible the girls had actually killed Char and escaped? Not likely! Not with this remote box in Terl's possession.
Seconds were ticking away. Blast rifles were waiting.
He leaped on Windsplitter and dashed for the edge of the bluff. They started a small avalanche as they halted halfway down the slope.
Jonnie sprang off and made sure they were covered from sight.
The humming came to top crescendo. The strange quiver was in the air. He recognized the feeling.
The shipment had shimmered and vanished from the platform!