'It's my work!' Loge cried. 'It must be saved!'

The magma-flow pipes overhead were starting to make funny noises, and the temperature in the corridor was definitely rising. 'Garth, take the banana back and wait by the elevator!' I shouted as I sprinted ahead down the corridor. 'I'll see how much damage Leviticus has done!'

'You have to hurry!' Loge called after me. 'That man has done something he shouldn't have done!'

Mike Leviticus had indeed done something he shouldn't have done; he'd shot off most of the pressure gauges from the control pipes. One steam pipe had ruptured while he was about it, and when I found him I wished I hadn't. He'd taken a blast of live, superheated steam full in the face and was now lying on the floor of the Pressure Control Room, well done and very dead.


The walls of the room began to shake. I made a hasty departure from the Pressure Control Room and sprinted back along the corridor toward the elevator at the far end. The pipes overhead had begun to glow cherry red and were doing some serious banging. What I suspected had happened was that, with the pressure control valves on all the pipes suddenly blown away, the giant main conduits, stretching perhaps as much as half a mile underground directly into the magma pools of the surrounding ring of volcanoes, were acting as monstrous siphons, out of control, sucking hundreds of tons of magma-here. In a very short time, the entire underground complex was going to be just one more pool of molten rock.

That was for openers. With all the displacement that was going on, there was one hell of a lot of geography moving beneath my fast-running feet.



The seam of a pipe twenty feet ahead of me ruptured, and a great bubble of steaming, flaming magma began to ooze out. I dove and rolled, feeling the flames singe my hair and burn my back, heard the mass plop behind me. Sulphur gas burned my eyes and clogged my lungs. Coughing, gasping for breath, I grabbed Garth's outstretched hand and let him yank me into the elevator. The doors sighed shut and we began to ascend-much too slowly, as far as I was concerned. I had a distinctly unpleasant sense of having been here before.


'Loge!' I gasped as fumes began to fill the elevator. 'What's the fastest fucking way out of here?!'

'I already got that out of him,' Garth said, brushing ashes and shreds of burned fabric off my back. 'You've got a pretty good burn there, brother.'

'You ain't seen nothin' yet unless we get out of here! I mean, like ten minutes ago! This place is gone!'

'There's an access tunnel a hundred yards to our left,' Garth said, stopping the elevator on the second level. Garth slapped Loge-hard. 'Is that right, you son-of-a-bitch?'

Loge, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth, nodded, swallowed hard. 'It's twenty degrees below zero up on the surface. We'll freeze to death without coats.'

'Go, jerk-off!' I said, goosing Loge as the door opened and Garth sprinted off down the corridor. I wasn't about to let our resident mad scientist entertain any suicidal thoughts; he was too important to our future-assuming we had one.

We reached the huge mouth of a tunnel of corrugated steel sloping upwards. Garth slapped a button on the wall, and a door slid back far up at the opposite end to reveal a square of pale, ice-blue sky. A blast of frigid air blew into our faces, a rather unpleasant complement to the burning at our backs. I felt I knew what a minute steak feels like just before it's dropped on the grill.

'You know how to fly a plane?!' Garth shouted at me as we ran up the tunnel.

'Nope! You?!'

'Nope! Loge?!'

The old man, staggering along in Garth's firm grasp, merely shook his head.

'Garth, does this mean we're going to have to wing it?!'

'Mongo, that's the worst joke you've ever laid on me, and I'm never going to let you forget it!'

'What fucking joke?!'

It didn't make any difference that none of us could fly a plane, because nobody was going to be winging it anywhere in Mike Leviticus's plane.


The force of the tremor knocked us to the ground. We got up, stumbled out of the mouth of the tunnel into the freezing air just in time to see the jet lazily topple over and disappear into a quarter-mile-long fissure that had opened in the ground.

Flaming magma was bubbling up in the tunnel behind us, and the huge glass dome was beginning to glow.

'What now?' Garth asked. 'You want to stay here and cook, or move out and freeze?'

'I'm not sure it makes a difference. I've got a feeling that one or more of the volcanoes around us is going to blow. If that happens, we could be in serious trouble.'

'They will all erupt,' Loge said distantly. 'My estimate is that we have less than fifteen minutes. We are dead men.'

'Garth,' I said, 'I'm going to see if I can reach Leviticus's plane. There may be some survival gear in it.'

I was twenty yards out over the trembling, frozen tundra when Garth's shout stopped me. I turned, then looked toward the west, where his finger was pointing. Just above the horizon, something silver glinted in the sunlight. The plane was flying low and fast, heading directly toward us.

Ah. Rescue.


The problem was that the pilot couldn't land; if he did, the chances were very good that the same thing would happen to his plane that had happened to Leviticus's. The entire area inside the circle of volcanoes was shaking, cracking like glass. The glass dome had burst, and magma was flowing out in uneven, smoking rivers on all sides.

Rescue would have been very nice, I thought, but it made no sense at all to feed one more body into the outraged earth. I staggered across the shaking ground, frantically trying to wave the plane off.

The pilot not only ignored me, but almost decapitated me as he swooped in over my head. Just before I sprawled on the ice, I caught a glimpse in the cockpit of a grimly smiling face that looked familiar.

Getting up unsteadily, shivering, I turned in time to see the plane land, skid, spin around in a couple of circles, then straighten around and taxi toward us. I walked back to Garth and Loge, stood and watched in amazement as the plane stopped and Mr. Lippitt, carrying a huge BAR machine gun over his shoulder, stepped out, hopped over a rivulet of hissing lava that was flowing beneath the training jet, then casually strolled toward us.

'Why did you lie to us about Lippitt?' I asked Loge.

Loge stared at me, his eyes filled with sadness. 'I was certain he was going to be dead soon, anyway,' the scientist said. 'It was only a matter of time. I badly wanted the two of you to commit to me and join me in bearing witness. I knew you wouldn't do that if you maintained any hope of rescue, and so I wanted to destroy that hope.'

'What about the other man?'

Loge shrugged sadly. 'He escaped too.'


It was one of the volcanoes to the west erupting, throwing flame, smoke and lava a mile into the sky. The earth shook, throwing us all to the ground. Lippitt's plane turned, one of the wings fell off, and it crashed over on its side. Lippitt didn't even bother to look back.

'I think you just lost something,' I said as the Defense Intelligence Agency operative came up.

'I see the Fredericksons have everything under control,' Lippitt said, dropping the BAR to the ground and hooking his thumbs in the ammunition belts that crossed his chest. 'It figures.'

'What?!' Garth and I exclaimed in unison.

'Don't worry about the plane; there are others where that came from. There's a U.N. task force on the way,

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