Книга The Polar Treasure. Страница 22
Long Tom hastily seated himself before the radio compass. He twirled the dials, and cranked the gear which turned the loop ae"rial of the compass. Then he growled disgustedly.
"They're not operating the radio on the submarine," he declared. "Finding them would be a pipe if they were."
It was much colder in the air. They shivered in spite of their fur garments. Such warmth as there was in this frigid waste seemed to come from the water.
Doc's great voice suddenly reached every ear in the plane. He spoke but one word.
Several intent looks were required before the others saw what Doc's sharp gaze had discerned.
Land it was, right enough. But it looked more like a vast iceberg. Only occasional rocky peaks projecting from the glacial mass identified it as land.
"No map shows this land!" declared Johnny. "It can't be very great in area."
"What we're interested in is the fact that the liner Oceanic is aground on it somewhere," Doc informed him.
Victor Vail peered eagerly through the cabin windows. He had spent terrible weeks somewhere on that bleak terrain below. It held the secret of the fate of his wife and daughter, Roxey. Yet this was the first time he had ever actually seen it. The sight seemed to depress him. He shuddered.
"No one could live down there — more than fifteen years," he choked.
In Victor Vail's heart had reposed a desperate hope that he might find his loved ones alive. This now faded.
"There's the Helldiver!" Doc said abruptly.
The others discovered it a moment later.
"Holy cow!" exploded Renny. "The ice is about to crush the submarine!"
BEN O'GARD and his villains were trapped! They had nosed the Helldiver into an open lead in the ice pack, close inshore. Excitement over the nearness of their objective must have made them reckless.
The ice floe had closed behind them. Slowly, inexorably, it now squeezed toward the sub. The bergs, a pale and revolting blue in the haze, crept in like the frozen fangs of a vast monster. No more than a score of feet of water lay open on either side of the sharp-backed steel cigar of an underseas boat.
Ben O'Gard and his thugs crowded the deck. They saw the seaplane. They waved frantically.
"I do believe they're glad to see us!" Monk snorted grimly. "We oughta sail around up here and watch 'em get squashed."
"There might be some pleasure in that," Doc admitted. "But we need that submarine to take the treasure home. There's too much of it to fly back by plane."
Monk shrugged. "How can we help 'em? There's not enough open water to land the plane."
"Take the controls," Doc Savage told Renny.
Renny remonstrated: "Hey — what on — "
Then he made a leap for the controls. Doc had deserted them. Renny banked the plane in a circle. Like all of Doc's five friends, he was an excellent pilot. Doc's teaching had made accomplished airmen out of them. Doc seemed able to impact a share of his own genius to those whom he taught.
Doc now snugged a parachute harness about his powerful frame. He grasped the valve which was all-important to the safety of the submarine.
Before the others could voice an objection, Doc shoved open the cabin door. He dived through.
The white silk of the parachute came out of the back pack like a puff of pale smoke. Doc was lowered to the ice near the distressed Helldiver.
Ben O'Gard and his crew held guns. They made threatening gestures. Doc displayed the valve. This was the magic wand that quieted the villains.
"Throw your weapons overboard!" Doc commanded.
For this order, he was roundly cursed. Ben O'Gard waxed especially eloquent. He must have gathered swear words from most of the dives of the world. He swore in six distinct languages, not counting pidgin English.
But the guns went overboard.
DOC SAVAGE now sprinted forward. The ice had closed in perceptibly. But more than a score of feet still separated the Helldiver from the remorseless blue jaws.
The surface of the floe was slippery. The leap to the submarine was prodigious. But from the ease with which Doc made it, he might have been gifted with invisible wings.
More than one gasp of awe escaped from the gullets of the Helldiver villains as they witnessed the great leap. They recoiled from the mighty bronze man. They still remembered what a child their huge walrus of a leader had been in those bronze hands.
One thug even backed away so hastily he fell overboard. He squealed like a rat in the icy water until he was hauled back on deck.
Not a minute could be wasted. Doc hardly touched the steel deck before he was gliding through the intricate insides of the submarine.
Doc worked swiftly at replacing the valve.
Ben O'Gard's men flocked around him like children. They already had the deck hatches closed in readiness.
Even Ben O'Gard himself came fawning up with a wrench to assist in the work. But Doc waved him aside. His bronze fingers were more speedy than any wrench — and they could tighten a tap just about as snugly.
"All clear!" Doc called at last. "Fill the main tanks!"
The crew flocked to station. The electric motors started. With a windy gurgle that was nothing if not joyful, the Helldiver eased down out of the fearsome blue jaws of ice.
Doc watched the valve for a moment. Satisfied it was not going to leak, he turned away.
At that instant, the steel door of the compartment in which he crouched clanged shut. The dogs which secured it rattled fast.
He was imprisoned!
DOC SHRUGGED. He sat down on a convenient pipe. He was not worried. He was armed.
True, Ben O'Gard and his crew probably had guns themselves, by now. The weapons they had thrown overboard so profanely at Doc's request had hardly comprised their entire armament. They were too wily for that.
But Doc had the explosive he always carried in his pair of extra molars. With it, he could speedily blast open the bulkhead.
And once the sub came to the surface, he had simply to unscrew the valve — and he would have the gang at his mercy again.
The electric motors set up a musical vibration. The Helldiver had slanted down steeply in its hurried dive. Now it trimmed level. After a time, it sloped upward perceptibly. There came a jar as it touched the underside of the ice pack.
Other crunching shocks ensued. They were of lesser violence. The submarine was feeling blindly for another spot free of ice. This continued interminably. Open leads seemed to be very scarce.
Doc got up and rapped tentatively on the thick steel bulkhead.
He was cursed. He was told he would be killed if he didn't behave. He was promised all kinds of dire fates.
This didn't worry him much. Danger seldom worried Doc. A telegraph operator in a great relay office becomes accustomed to the uproar of instruments about him. A structural steel worker comes to think nothing of the fact that a single misstep means sudden death.
By the same token, Doc Savage had haunted the trails of those who sought his violent end for so long that he took danger as a matter of course.
More than an hour passed. Doc became impatient.
Finally, the submarine arose to the surface. The stopping of the electric motors and the starting of the oil-burning Diesel engines showed that.
Doc promptly removed the all-important valve.
Through the steel bulkhead, he informed Ben O'Gard what he had done.
He got a surprise. Ben O'Gard gave him the horse laugh.
Doc was puzzled. He had thought he held an ace. But the missing valve seemed to worry his enemies not at all. There was but one explanation.
They had found a snug harbor on the uncharted coast! Doc settled down to await developments. They came twenty minutes later.