With a yell he woke up. A space boat had nudged against his crystal hull, and was now bobbing a few feet away. It was a solid metal ovoid, of a model he recognized, and the numbers and letters on its hull were familiar to him. He had made it. He had hung on. The ordeal was over.
The little hatch of the rescue boat opened, and two suited figures emerged, one after the other, from its sheltered interior. At once these figures became silver-blurred as the berserker's machines had been, but these men's features were visible through their faceplates, their eyes looking straight at Karlsen. They smiled in steady encouragement, never taking their eyes from his.
Not for an instant.
They rapped on his door, and kept smiling while he put on his spacesuit. But he made no move to let them in; instead he drew his gun.
They frowned. Inside their helmets their mouths formed words: Open up! He flipped on his radio, but if they were sending nothing was coming through in this space. They kept on gazing steadily at him.
Wait, he signaled with an upraised hand. He got a slate and stylus from his chair, and wrote them a message.
LOOK AROUND AT THE SCENERY FOR A WHILE.
He was sane but maybe they thought him mad. As if to humor him, they began to look around them. A new set of dragon-head prominences were rising ahead, beyond the stormy horizon at the rim of the world. The frowning men looked ahead of them at dragons, around them at buzzsaw rainbow whirls of stone, they looked down into the deadly depths of the inferno, they looked up at the stars' poisonous blue-white spears sliding visibly over the void.
Then both of them, still frowning uncomprehendingly, looked right back at Karlsen.
He sat in his chair, holding his drawn gun, waiting, having no more to say. He knew the berserker-ship would have boats aboard, and that it could build its killing machines into the likenesses of men. These were almost good enough to fool him.
The figures outside produced a slate of their own from somewhere.
WE TOOK BERS. FROM BEHIND. ALL OK & SAFE. COME OUT.
He looked back. The cloud of dust raised by the berserker's own weapons had settled around it, hiding it and all the forceline behind it from Karlsen's view. Oh, if only he could believe that these were men . . .
They gestured energetically, and lettered some more.
OUR SHIP WAITING BACK THERE BEHIND DUST. SHE'S TOO BIG TO HOLD THIS LEVEL LONG.
KARLSEN, COME WITH US!!! THIS YOUR ONLY CHANCE!
He didn't dare read any more of their messages for fear he would believe them, rush out into their metal arms, and be torn apart. He closed his eyes and prayed. After a long time he opened his eyes again. His visitors and their boats were gone.
Not long afterward—as time seemed to him—there were flashes of light from inside the dust cloud surrounding the berserker. A fight, to which someone had brought weapons that would work in this space? Or another attempt to trick him? He would see.
He was watching alertly as another rescue boat, much like the first, inched its way out of the dustcloud toward him. It drew alongside and stopped. Two more spacesuited figures got out and began to wear silver drapery.
This time he had his sign ready.
LOOK AROUND AT THE SCENERY FOR A WHILE.
As if to humor him, they began to look around them. Maybe they thought him mad, but he was sane. After about a minute they still hadn't turned back to him—one's face looked up and out at the unbelievable stars, while the other slowly swiveled his neck, watching a dragon's head go by. Gradually their bodies became congealed in awe and terror, clinging and crouching against his glass wall.
After taking half a minute more to check his own helmet and suit, Karlsen bled out his cabin air and opened his door.
"Welcome, men," he said, over his helmet radio. He had to help one of them aboard the rescue boat. But they made it.
Fred Saberhagen, "The face of the deep" (1966), Beserker (1967), as reproduced here, and corrected against a large print edition ((Waterville, MN: Thorndike Press, 2003), 332-336).