Tasso swept the curtain aside. "Klaus! What did you do?"
Klaus turned from the charred form, gradually sinking down the wall onto the floor. "The Second Variety, Tasso. Now we know. We have all three types identified. The danger is less. I--"
Tasso stared past him at the remains of Rudi, at the blackened, smouldering fragments and bits of cloth. "You killed him."
"Him? It, you mean. I was watching. I had a feeling, but I wasn't sure. At least, I wasn't sure before. But this evening I was certain." Klaus rubbed his pistol butt nervously. "We're lucky. Don't you understand? Another hour and it might--"
"You were certain?" Tasso pushed past him and bent down, over the steaming remains on the floor. Her face became hard. "Major, see for yourself. Bones. Flesh."
Hendricks bent down beside her. The remains were human remains. Seared flesh, charred bone fragments, part of a skull. Ligaments, viscera, blood. Blood forming a pool against the wall.
"No wheels," Tasso said calmly. She straightened up. "No wheels, no parts, no relays. Not a claw. Not the Second Variety." She folded her arms. "You're going to have to be able to explain this."
Klaus sat down at the table, all the color drained suddenly from his face. He put his head in his hands and rocked back and forth.
"Snap out of it." Tasso's fingers closed over his shoulder. "Why did you do it? Why did you kill him?"
"He was frightened," Hendricks said. "All this, the whole thing, building up around us."
"What, then? What do you think?"
"I think he may have had a reason for killing Rudi. A good reason."
"Maybe Rudi learned something."
Hendricks studied her bleak face. "About what?" he asked.
"About him. About Klaus."
Klaus looked up quickly. "You can see what she's trying to say. She thinks I'm the Second Variety. Don't you see, Major? Now she wants you to believe I killed him on purpose. That I'm--"
"Why did you kill him, then?" Tasso said.
"I told you." Klaus shook his head wearily. "I thought he was a claw. I thought I knew."
"I had been watching him. I was suspicious."
"I thought I had seen something. Heard something. I thought I--" He stopped.
"We were sitting at the table. Playing cards. You two were in the other room. It was silent. I thought I heard him--whirr."
There was silence.
"Do you believe that?" Tasso said to Hendricks.
"Yes. I believe what he says."
"I don't. I think he killed Rudi for a good purpose." Tasso touched the rifle, resting in the corner of the room. "Major--"
"No." Hendricks shook his head. "Let's stop it right now. One is enough. We're afraid, the way he was. If we kill him we'll be doing what he did to Rudi."
Klaus looked gratefully up at him. "Thanks. I was afraid. You understand, don't you? Now she's afraid, the way I was. She wants to kill me."
"No more killing." Hendricks moved toward the end of the ladder. "I'm going above and try the transmitter once more. If I can't get them we're moving back toward my lines tomorrow morning."
Klaus rose quickly. "I'll come up with you and give you a hand."
The night air was cold. The earth was cooling off. Klaus took a deep breath, filling his lungs. He and Hendricks stepped onto the ground, out of the tunnel. Klaus planted his feet wide apart, the rifle up, watching and listening. Hendricks crouched by the tunnel mouth, tuning the small transmitter.
"Any luck?" Klaus asked presently.
"Keep trying. Tell them what happened."
Hendricks kept trying. Without success. Finally he lowered the antenna. "It's useless. They can't hear me. Or they hear me and won't answer. Or--"
"Or they don't exist."
"I'll try once more." Hendricks raised the antenna. "Scott, can you hear me? Come in!"
He listened. There was only static. Then, still very faintly-- "This is Scott."
His fingers tightened. "Scott! Is it you?"
"This is Scott."
Klaus squatted down. "Is it your command?"
"Scott, listen. Do you understand? About them, the claws. Did you get my message? Did you hear me?"
"Yes." Faintly. Almost inaudible. He could hardly make out the word.
"You got my message? Is everything all right at the bunker? None of them have got in?"
"Everything is all right."
"Have they tried to get in?"
The voice was weaker.
Hendricks turned to Klaus. "They're all right."
"Have they been attacked?"
"No." Hendricks pressed the phone tighter to his ear. "Scott, I can hardly hear you. Have you notified the Moon Base? Do they know? Are they alerted?"
"Scott! Can you hear me?"
Hendricks relaxed, sagging. "Faded out. Must be radiation pools."
Hendricks and Klaus looked at each other. Neither of them said anything. After a time Klaus said, "Did it sound like any of your men? Could you identify the voice?"
"It was too faint."
"You couldn't be certain?"
"Then it could have been--"
"I don't know. Now I'm not sure. Let's go back down and get the lid closed."
They climbed back down the ladder slowly, into the warm cellar. Klaus bolted the lid behind them. Tasso waited for them, her face expressionless.
"Any luck?" she asked.
Neither of them answered. "Well?" Klaus said at last. "What do you think, Major? Was it your officer, or was it one of them?"
"I don't know."
"Then we're just where we were before."
Hendricks stared down at the floor, his jaw set. "We'll have to go. To be sure."
"Anyhow, we have food here for only a few weeks. We'd have to go up after that, in any case."
"What's wrong?" Tasso demanded. "Did you get across to your bunker? What's the matter?"
"It may have been one of my men," Hendricks said slowly. "Or it may have been one of them. But we'll never know standing here." He examined his watch. "Let's turn in and get some sleep. We want to be up early tomorrow."
"Our best chance to get through the claws should be early in the morning," Hendricks said.
The morning was crisp and clear. Major Hendricks studied the countryside through his fieldglasses.
"See anything?" Klaus said.
"Can you make out our bunkers?"
"Here." Klaus took the glasses and adjusted them. "I know where to look." He looked a long time, silently.
Tasso came to the top of the tunnel and stepped up onto the ground. "Anything?"
"No." Klaus passed the glasses back to Hendricks. "They're out of sight. Come on. Let's not stay here."
The three of them made their way down the side of the ridge, sliding in the soft ash. Across a flat rock a lizard scuttled. They stopped instantly, rigid.
"What was it?" Klaus muttered.
The lizard ran on, hurrying through the ash. It was exactly the same color as the ash.
"Perfect adaptation," Klaus said. "Proves we were right. Lysenko, I mean."
They reached the bottom of the ridge and stopped, standing close together, looking around them.
"Let's go." Hendricks started off. "It's a good long trip, on foot."
Klaus fell in beside him. Tasso walked behind, her pistol held alertly. "Major, I've been meaning to ask you something," Klaus said. "How did you run across the David? The one that was tagging you."
"I met it along the way. In some ruins."
"What did it say?"
"Not much. It said it was alone. By itself."