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Destination: Void / Сон или явь? (by Frank Herbert, 2014) - аудиокнига на английском

Destination: Void / Сон или явь? (by Frank Herbert, 2014) - аудиокнига на английском

Destination: Void / Сон или явь? (by Frank Herbert, 2014) - аудиокнига на английском

Команда ученых в очередной раз пытается воплотить в жизнь идею развития искусственного интеллекта. В секретной лаборатории созданы тысячи клонов, которые в спящем режиме погружаются на борт космического корабля. Судно движется по направлению к солнечной системе Тау-Цети. В составе команды насчитывается шесть человек, они выполняют роль смотрителей. Ввиду длительности пути в несколько сотен лет неминуема кончина каждого члена экипажа по естественной причине – хронологической и биологической смерти. Клоны должны будут сменить их после смерти и продолжить путь. Они призваны создать колонию при достижении места назначения, корабль же управляется мозгом, называемым "органическим ментальным ядром", обеспечивающим движение корабля в космосе и функционирование всех систем, в том числе жизнеобеспечения экипажа. Шесть попыток были неудачными, хотя есть подозрение, что и запланированными, то есть тестовыми. Каждый раз в компьютерной системе происходил сбой, корабль убивал всех странствующих. Седьмой раз оказался успешным. Каков результат? Достигнет ли судно пункта назначения?

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Destination: Void / Сон или явь? (by Frank Herbert, 2014) - аудиокнига на английском
Год выпуска аудиокниги:
2014
Автор:
Frank Herbert
Исполнитель:
Scott Brick
Язык:
английский
Жанр:
научная фантастика
Уровень сложности:
upper-intermediate
Длительность аудио:
09:42:29
Битрейт аудио:
64 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

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Frank Herbert Destination: Void PROLOGUE IT WAS THE fifth clone ship to go out from Moonbase on Project Consciousness and he leaned forward to watch it carefully as his duty demanded. The view showed it passing the Pluto orbit and he knew that by this time the crew had encountered the usual programmed frustrations, even some deaths and serious injuries, but that was the pattern. Earthling, it was called. Earthling Number Five. The ship was a giant egg, one-half of it a dark shadow lambent on a starry background, the other half reflecting silver from the distant sun. A nervous cough sounded from the darkness behind him and he suppressed a sympathetic repetition of that sound. Others were not as self-controlled. By the time the coughing spasms had subsided, the Earthling had begun to make its turn. The movement was impossible, but there was no denying what they all saw. The ship turned through one hundred and eighty degrees and reversed, heading directly back down its outward track. "Any clue at all on how they did that?" he asked. "No, Sir. Nothing." "I want you to go through the message capsule again," he said. "We're missing something." "Yes, Sir." It was a sigh of resignation. Someone else spoke from the darkness: "Get ready for the capsule launching . . ." Yes, they'd all seen this enough to anticipate the sequence. The capsule was a silver needle that looped from the Earthling's stern. It held to the ship's blind spot (who knew what weapons such a ship might produce?) until it was lost among the stars. From beneath their view a flame darted -- the laser relay with its destruct message. A purple glow touched the ship's bulbous nose. It held for no more than three heartbeats before the ship exploded in a blinding orange blossom. "That Flattery model is sure as hell reliable," someone said. Nervous laughter went around the room, but he ignored it, concentrating on the viewer. Why the hell did they always think it was the Flattery model? It could be anyone on the crew. Their view closed on the swollen blossom with the collapsing speed of time-lapse which made the explosion's orange light wink out too rapidly. Presently, the movement slowed and their view moved into the spreading wreckage, probing with crystalline flares of light until it found what it sought -- the recording box. That and the message capsule were the most important elements remaining from this failure. Claw retractors could be seen grabbing the recording box and pulling it back beneath their view. The crystalline light continued to probe. Anything they saw here could be valuable. But the light picked out nothing but twisted metal, torn shreds of plastic and, here and there, limbs and other parts of the crew. There was one particularly brutal glimpse of a head with part of a shoulder and an arm that ended just below the elbow. Bloody frost globules had formed around the head but they still recognized it. "Tim!" someone said. A woman's voice far to the rear of the room could be heard repeating: "Shit . . . shit . . . shit . . ." until someone silenced her. The view blanked out and he leaned back, feeling the ache between his shoulders. He knew he would have to identify that woman and have her transferred. No mistaking the near hysteria in her voice. Some harsh catharsis was indicated. He shut down the holopack's controls, flicked the switch for the room lights, then stood and turned in the blinking brilliance. "They're clones," he said, keeping his voice cold. "They are not human; they are clones, as is indicated by their uniform middle name of 'Lon.' They are property! Anybody who forgets that is going off Moonbase in the next shuttle. That sign on my door says 'Morgan Hempstead, Director.' There will be no more emotional outbursts in this room as long as I am Director." CHAPTER 1 We call it Project Consciousness and our basic tools are the carefully selected clones, our Doppelgangers. The motivator is frustration; thus we design into our system false goals and things which will go wrong. That's why we chose Tau Ceti as the target: there is no livable planet at Tau Ceti. -Morgan Hempstead, Lectures at Moonbase "IT'S DEAD," Bickel said. He held up the severed end of a feeder tube, stared at the panel from which he had cut it. His heart was beating too fast and he could feel his hands trembling. Fluorescent red letters eight centimeters high spelled out a warning on the panel in front of him. The warning seemed a mockery after what he had just done. "ORGANIC MENTAL CORE -- TO BE REMOVED ONLY BY LIFE-SYSTEMS ENGINEER." Bickel felt an extra sense of quiet in the ship. Something (not someone, he thought) was gone. It was as though the molecular stillness of outer space had invaded the Earthling's concentric hulls and spread through to the heart of this egg-shaped chunk of metal hurtling toward Tau Ceti. His two companions were wrapped in this silence, Bickel saw. They were afraid to break the quiet moment of shame and guilt and anger . . . and relief. "What else could we do?" Bickel demanded. He held up the severed tube, glared at it. Raja Lon Flattery, their psychiatrist-chaplain, cleared his throat, said: "Easy, John. We share the blame equally." Bickel turned his glare on Flattery, noted the man's quizzical expression, calculated and penetrating, the narrow, haughty face that somehow focused a sense of terrible superiority within remote brown eyes and upraked black eyebrows. "You know what you can do with your blame!" Bickel growled, but Flattery's words destroyed his anger, made him feel defeated. Bickel swung his attention to Timberlake -- Gerrill Lon Timberlake, life-systems engineer, the man who should have taken responsibility for this dirty business. Timberlake, a quick and nervous scarecrow of a man with skin almost the color of his brown hair, stared at the metal deck near his feet, avoiding Bickel's eyes. Shame and fear -- that's all Tim feels, Bickel thought. Timberlake's weakness -- his inability to kill the OMC even when it meant saving the ship with its thousands of helpless lives -- had almost killed them. And all the man could feel now was shame . . . and fear. There had been no doubt about what had to be done. The OMC had gone mad, a wild, runaway consciousness. It had been a sick ball of gray matter whose muscles turned every servo on the ship into a murder weapon, who stared out at them with madness from every sensor, who raged gibberish at them from every vocoder. No, there had been no doubt -- not with three of their number murdered -- and the only wonder was that they had been allowed to destroy it. Perhaps it wanted to die, Bickel thought. And he wondered if that had been the fate of the six other Project ships which had vanished into nothingness without a trace. Did their OMCs run wild? Did their umbilicus crews fail, when it was kill or be killed? A tear began sliding down Timberlake's left cheek. To Bickel, that was the final blow. Some of his anger returned. He faced Timberlake: "What do we do now, Captain?" The title's irony was not lost on either of Bickel's companions. Flattery started to reply, thought better of it. If the starship Earthling could be said to have a captain (discounting an in-service Organic Mental Core), then unspoken agreement gave that title to an umbilicus crew's life-systems engineer. None of them, though, had ever used the word officially. At last Timberlake met Bickel's stare, but all he said was: "You know why I couldn't bring myself to do it." Bickel continued to study Timberlake. What shabby conceit had given them this excuse for a life-systems engineer? Once the umbilicus crew had numbered six -- the three here plus Ship Nurse Maida Lon Blaine, Tool Specialist Oscar Lon Anderson, and Biochemist Sam Lon Scheler. Now, Blaine, Anderson, and Scheler were dead -- Scheler's exploded corpse jamming an access tube on the aft perimeter, Anderson strangled by a rogue sphincter lock, and lovely Maida mangled by runaway cargo. Bickel blamed most of the tragedy on Timberlake. If the damn fool had only taken the ruthless but obvious step at the first sign of trouble! There had been plenty of warning -- with the first two of the ship's three OMCs going catatonic. The seat of trouble had been obvious. And the symptoms -- exactly the same symptoms that had preceded the breakdown of the old Artificial Consciousness project back on earth -- insane destruction of people and materiel. But Tim had refused to see it. Tim had blathered about the sanctity of all life. Life, hah! Bickel thought. They were all of them -- even the colonists down in the hyb tanks -- expendable biopsy material, Doppelgangers grown in gnotobiotic sterility in the Moonbase. "Untouched by human hands." That had been their private joke. They had known their Earth-born teachers only as voices and doll-size images on cathode screens of the base intercom system -- and only occasionally through the triple glass at the locks that sealed off the sterile creche. They had emerged from the axolotl tanks to the padded metal claws of nursemaids that were servo extensors of Moonbase personnel, forever barred from intimate contact with those they served. Out of contact -- that's the story of our lives, Bickel thought, and the thought softened his anger at Timberlake. Timberlake had begun to fidget under Bickel's stare. Flattery intervened. "Well . . . we'd better do something," he said. He had to get them moving, Flattery knew. That was part of his job -- keep them active, working, moving, even if they moved into open conflict. That could be solved when and if it happened. Raj is right, Timberlake thought. We have to do something. He took a deep breath, trying to shake off his sense of shame and failure . . . and the resentment of Bickel -- damned Bickel, superior Bickel, special Bickel, the man of countless talents, Bickel upon whom their lives depended. Timberlake glanced around at the familiar Command Central room in the ship's core -- a space twenty-seven meters long and twelve meters on the short axis. Like the ship, Com-central was vaguely egg-shaped. Four cocoonlike action couches with almost identical control boards lay roughly parallel in the curve of the room's wider end. Color-coded pipes and wires, dials and instrument controls, switch banks and warning telltales spread patterned confusion against the gray metal walls. Here were the necessities for monitoring the ship and its autonomous consciousness -- an Organic Mental Core. Organic Mental Core, Timberlake thought, and he felt the full return of his feelings of guilt and grief. Not human brain, oh no. An Organic Mental Core. Better yet, an OMC. The euphemism makes it easier to forget that the core once was a human brain in an infant monster -- doomed to die. We take only terminal cases since that makes the morality of the act less questionable. And now we've killed it. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do," Bickel said. He looked at the Accept-And-Translate board auxiliary to the transmitter on his personal control console. "I'm going to report back to Moonbase what's happened." He turned from the raped panel, dropped the severed feeder tube to the deck without looking at it. The tube drifted downward slowly in the ship's quarter gravity. "We've no code for this . . . this kind of emergency." Timberlake confronted Bickel, stared angrily at the man's square face, disliking every feature of it from the close-cropped blond hair to the wide mouth and pugnacious jaw. "I know," Bickel said, and he stepped around Timberlake. "I'm sending it clear speech." "You can't do that!" Timberlake protested, turning to glare at Bickel's back. "Every second's delay adds to the time lag," Bickel said. "As it is, it has to go more than a fourth of the way across the solar system." He dropped into his couch, set the cocoon to half enclose him, swung the transmitter into position. "You'll be blatting it to everyone on Earth, including you-know-who!" Timberlake said. Because he half agreed with Timberlake and wanted to gain time, Flattery moved to a position looking down on Bickel in the couch: "What specifically are you going to tell them?" "I'm not about to mince words," Bickel retorted. He threw the transmitter warmup switches, began checking the sequence tape. "I'm going to tell 'em we had to unhook the last brain from the ship's controls . . . and kill it in the process." "They'll tell us to abort," Timberlake said. The merest hesitation of his hands on the tape-punch keyboard told that Bickel had heard. "And what'll you say happened to the brains?" Flattery asked. "They went nuts," Bickel said. "I'm just going to report our casualties." "That's not precisely what happened," Flattery said. "We'd better talk this over," Timberlake said, and he felt the beginnings of desperation. "Look, you," Bickel said, shifting his attention to Timberlake, "you're supposed to be crew captain on this chunk of tin and here we are drifting without any hands on the controls at all." He returned his attention to the keyboard. "You think you're qualified to tell me what to do?" Timberlake went pale with anger. Bickel defeats me so easily, he thought. He muttered: "The whole world'll be listening." But he turned away to his own couch, jacked in the temporary controls they had rigged shortly after the first ship brain had begun acting up. Presently, he sank onto the couch, tested the computer circuits, and asked for course dаta: "The Organic Mental Cores did not go nuts," Flattery said. "You can't . . ." "As far as we're concerned they did." Bickel threw the master switch. A skin-creeping hum filled Com-central as the laser amplifiers built up to full potential. I could stop him, Flattery thought as Bickel fed the vocotape into the transmitter. But we have to get the message out and clear speech is the only way. There came the click-click-click as the message was compressed and multiplied for its laser jump across the solar system. With a chopping motion that carried its own subtle betrayal of self-doubt, Bickel slapped the orange transmitter key. He sank back as the transmit-command sequence took over. The sound of relays snapping closed dominated the ovoid room. Do something even if it's wrong, Flattery reminded himself. The rule books don't work out here. And now it's too late to stop Bickel. It came to Flattery then that it had been too late to stop Bickel from the moment their ship left its moon orbit. This direct-authoritarian-violent man (or one of his backups in the hyb tanks) held the key to the Earthling's real purpose. The rest of them were just along for the ride. At the sound of the relays snapping, Timberlake reached up to a handgrip, squeezed it fiercely in frustration. He knew he could not blame Bickel for feeling angry. The dirty job of killing their last Organic Mental Core should have fallen to the life-systems engineer. But surely Bickel must know the inhibitions that had been droned into the life-systems specialist. For just a moment, Timberlake allowed his mind to dwell on the sterile creche and labs back on the moon -- the only home any of the Earthling's occupants had ever known. "Man's greatest adventure: the jump to the stars!" They had lived with that awesome concept from their first moments of awareness. Aboard the Earthling, they were a hand-picked lot, 3,006 survivors of the toughest weeding-out process the Project directors could devise for their Doppelganger charges. The final six had been the choicest of the choice -- the umbilicus crew to monitor the ship until it left the solar system, then tie off the few manual controls and turn the 200-year crossing to Tau Ceti over to that one lonely consciousness, an Organic Mental Core. And while the 3,006 lay dormant behind the hyb tanks' water shields in the heart of the ship, their lives were to remain subject to the servos and sensors surgically linked to the OMC. But now we're 3,003, Timberlake thought with that sense of grief, of shame and defeat. And our last OMC is dead. Timberlake felt alone and vulnerable now, faced by their emergency controls. He had been reasonably confident while the brains existed and with one of them responsible for ultimate ship security. The existence of emergency controls had only added to his confidence . . . then. Now, staring at the banks of switches, the gauges and telltales and manuals, the auxiliary computer board with its paired vocoder and tape-code inputs and readouts -- now, Timberlake realized how inadequate were his poor human reactions in the face of the millisecond demands for even ordinary emergencies out here. The ship's moving too fast, he thought. Their speed was slow, he knew, compared to what they should have been doing at this point . . . but still it was too fast. He activated a small sensor screen on his left, permitted himself a brief look at the exterior cosmos, staring out at the hard spots of brilliance that were stars against the energy void of space. As usual, the sight reduced him to the feeling that he was a tiny spark at the mercy of unthinking chance. He blanked the screen. Movement at his elbow drew Timberlake's attention. He turned to see Bickel come up to lean against a guidepole beside the control console. There was such a look of relief on his face that Timberlake had a sudden insight, realizing that Bickel had sent his guilt winging back to Moonbase with that message. Timberlake wondered then what it had felt like to kill -- even if the killing had involved a creature whose humanity had become hidden behind an aura of mechanistics long years back when it was removed from a dying body. Bickel studied the drive board. They had disabled the drive-increment system when the second OMC had started going sour. But the Earthling still would be out of the solar system in ten months. Ten months, Bickel thought. Too fast and too slow. During those ten months, the computed possibility of a total ship emergency remained at its highest. The umbilicus crew had not been prepared for that kind of pressure. Bickel shot a covert glance at Flattery, noting how silent and withdrawn the psychiatrist-chaplain appeared. There were times when it rasped Bickel's nerves to think how little could be hidden from Flattery, but this was not one of those times. Out here, Bickel realized, each of them had to become a specialist on his companions. Otherwise, ship pressures coupled to psychological pressures might destroy them. "How long do you suppose it'll take Moonbase to answer?" Bickel asked, directing the question at Timberlake. Flattery stiffened, studied the back of Bickel's head. The question . . . such a nice balance of camaraderie and apology in the voice . . . Bickel had done that deliberately, Flattery realized. Bickel went deeper than they had suspected, but perhaps they should have suspected. He was, after all, the Earthling's pivotal figure. "It'll take 'em a while to digest it," Timberlake said. "I still think we should've waited." Wrong tack, Flattery thought. An overture should be accepted. He brushed a finger along one of his heavy eyebrows, moved forward with a calculated clumsiness, forcing them to be aware of him. "Their first problem's public relations," Flattery said. "That'll cause some delay." "Their first question'll be, why'd the OMCs fail?" Timberlake said. "There was no medical reason for it," Flattery put in. He realized he had spoken too quickly, sensed his own defensiveness. "It'll turn out to be something new, something nobody anticipated, wait and see," Timberlake said. Something nobody anticipated? Bickel wondered. And he doubted that, but held his silence. For the first time since coming aboard, he felt the bulk of the Earthling around him and thought of all the hopes and energies that had launched this venture. It occurred to him then what a mountain of hard-headed planning had gone into the project. He sensed the sleepless nights, the skull sessions of engineers and scientists, the pragmatic dreamers tossing their ideas back and forth across coffee cups and buttmounded ashtrays. Something nobody anticipated? Hardly. Still, six other ships had vanished into silence out here -- six other ships much like their Earthling. He spoke then more to keep up his own courage than to argue: "This isn't the kind of thing they'd let go by the board. Moonbase'll have a plan. Somebody, somewhere along the line, thought of this possibility." "Then why didn't they prepare us for it?" Timberlake asked. Flattery watched Bickel carefully, aware of how that question had touched him. He will begin to have doubts now, Flattery thought. Now, he will start asking himself the really loaded questions. CHAPTER 2 The holoscan you are watching at this moment is of our Bickel model, our most successful "Organ of Analysis." He is charged to explore beyond the imprinted patterns of consciousness which humankind inherits with its genes. -Morgan Hempstead, Lectures at Moonbase TIMBERLAKE ADJUSTED a dial on his console to correct a failure of automatic temperature adjustment in quad three ring nine of the ship's second shell. "We should've been buttoned down in our hyb tanks and on our way over the solar hump to Tau Ceti long ago," he muttered. "Tim, display the time log," Flattery said. Timberlake hit the green key in the upper right corner of his board, glanced at the overhead master screen's display from the laser-pulse time log. Ten months -- plus. The indefinite answer made it seem the Earthling's computer core shared their doubts. "How long to Tau Ceti?" Flattery asked. "At this rate?" Timberlake asked. He risked a long glance away from his board. The stare he aimed at Flattery betrayed the fact he had not thought of that possibility, making the trip the hard way -- long and slow with a crew active all the way. "Say four hundred years, give or take a few," Bickel said. "It's the first question I fed into the computer after we disabled the drive increment." He is too crystal sharp, Flattery thought. He bears watching lest he shatter. And Flattery chided himself then: But the job Bickel has to do requires a man who can shatter. "First thing we'd better do is bring up one replacement from the hyb tanks," Bickel said. Flattery glanced to his left where Com-central's other three action couches lay with their cocoon arms open, empty and waiting. "Bring up only one replacement, eh?" Flattery asked. "Live in here?" "We may need occasional sleep-rest periods in the cubby lockers," Bickel said and he nodded toward the side hatch into their spartan living quarters. "But Com-central is the safest spot on the ship." "What if Project orders us to abort?" Timberlake asked. "That won't be their first order," Bickel said. "Seven nations invested one hell of a pile of money and effort and dreams in this business. They have a purpose which they won't give up easily." Too crystal sharp, Flattery thought. And he asked: "Who're you nominating for dehyb?" "Prudence Weygand, M.D.," Bickel said. "You think we need another doctor, eh?" Flattery asked. "I think we need Prudence Weygand. She's a doctor, sure, but she can also function as a nurse to replace . . . Maida. She's a woman and we may need female thinking. You have any objections to Weygand, Tim?" "What's my opinion worth?" Timberlake muttered. "You two've decided it, haven't you?" Bickel already had turned toward his own action couch. He hesitated at the petulance in Timberlake's voice, then went on to the couch, pulled the full-vacuum suit from the rack beneath the couch, and began suiting up: He spoke without turning: "I'll take over here while you and Raj bring her out of hyb. You'd both better suit up, too, and stay suited. Without an OMC at the controls --" He shrugged, finished sealing the suit, and stretched out in his action couch. "I'll take the red switch on the count." Timberlake was caught up then in the changeover. The master board swung across on its travelers, stopped as it made junction with Bickel's console. "What if Moonbase answers while we're in the tanks?" Flattery asked. "We won't be able to stop the dehyb and come up for a --" "What's to do except record the message?" Bickel asked. He began adjusting hull-integrity sensors, finished that, checked the Accept-And-Translate system, swung the AAT board close beside him where he could see its telltale when Moonbase replied. Flattery shrugged, got out his own full-vacuum suit. He noted that Timberlake already was suiting up -- but with a fumbling reluctance. Tim senses Bickel taking absolute command, Flattery thought, but he doesn't know the necessity for it . . . and he cannot bring himself to like it. He will, though. Bickel satisfied himself the ship was functioning as well as it could without the homeostatic control of an OMC. He sank back to watch the board as the others left Comcentral. The hatch seals hissed and there came the metallic slap of the magnetic locks as the hatch closed and resealed itself. Now, Bickel felt the ship around him as though he had neural connections to every sensor revealed on his board. The Earthling lay spread out for him -- a monstrous juggernaut . . . yet fragile as an egg -- a tin egg. Against his will, Bickel's attention drifted toward that dead light on the lower left corner of his board -- the light that should have been glowing a live yellow to denote that all was well with the OMC. But all was not well with the OMC; the unsleeping brains had failed. They were stress-tested for every conceivable situation, Bickel told himself. Something inconceivable happened. Or did it? Timberlake's question nagged at him. "Why didn't they prepare us for it?" The master board above him grew a line of yellow lights that told him the ship's gravity center had shifted. A wild shift in the gravity field had torn colony cargo from its holdowns and killed Maida. Gently, to avoid oscillations, Bickel began adjusting controls to bring the field back into line. How much simpler it would have been to get along without gravity, he thought. But medical science had never really solved the problem of the human physical deterioration that resulted from existence in prolonged null-gravity. The balance mechanism of the inner ear still was the most susceptible. Four to five weeks without gravity brought permanent damage for some subjects. So they lived with the minimal field system -- the gravity-field mechanism that had developed an unexpected deadly bug out here. The telltale lights began to wink out. Bickel followed the balance readjustment carefully. They had only the most tenuous theory on what caused that field to shift this way. They suspected local anomalies as they moved through the solar system's own gravitational field. The last telltale went dark. Bickel sank back onto the couch, drew a deep, ragged breath. Perspiration covered his body and he felt his suit system laboring to compensate. This watch on Com-central could become a particular kind of hell, Bickel realized. The suspenseful responsibility, duel with an unknown death, wore you down. You controlled only the most essential ship functions from here. Monitor instruments had never been intended for this work. Fine adjustments and delicate repairs had to be ignored until they reached that point of gross demand where a crewman had to be sent out to direct the servos in their work. An increment of damage could be computed -- the kind of damage, one thing added to another, where the ship itself would cease operating. There was a death point for the ship out ahead of them and it could be computed as a function of damage. Bickel avoided feeding the problem into the computer. He knew his own limits. Precise knowledge of that unknown moment would hamper him unless it became a matter of immediacy. They had months yet -- perhaps the full ten. And ten months was forever, the way things now stood. The ship was far more likely to meet disaster in some other form; he could feel it. Something about the Tin Egg was sour -- Big Sour. It did not make sense to Bickel that a man had to sit here in Com-central, the strain of responsibility increasing with each heartbeat, waiting and knowing some mechanism or balancing function of the ship was headed for trouble -- yet unable to meet the problem with more than a gross, clumsy makeshift. With the OMCs, this ship balance had been a finely tuned neuro-servo reflex, almost automatic -- as homeostatic in response as that of a healthy human body. Bickel added his own corollary question now to the one Timberlake had posed: Why were all the eggs put in one basket? CHAPTER 3 What matters most is the search itself. This is more important than the searchers. Consciousness must dream, it must have a dreaming ground -- and, dreaming, must invoke ever-new dreams. -Morgan Hempstead, Lectures at Moonbase AS SHE AWOKE, Prudence thought: We made it! Excitement filled her at the thought of stepping out onto a virgin world with all its strange newness and never-before problems. Six failures were worth it. The seventh try was a charm. We have succeeded. Otherwise . . . otherwise . . . Her mind bogged down in sluggishness. Otherwise was a concept with several pathways out of it. The tingle-ache of dehyb ran along the muscles of her arms and legs, produced transient knots of pain. She knew as a doctor the reasons for the pain, could rationalize the fact of it: human hybernation was a far different process from animal hibernation. Not a drop of water could remain in the body -- and you went so close to the borders of death that some contended you were suspended within death. She tried to sit up. It was then she saw Timberlake and Flattery looking down at her where she lay on the lab shuttle. Their expressions brought otherwise to full focus. For a moment, she looked beyond them to the tubes and stimulant plugs that had been removed from functional contact with her body. Flattery restrained her. "Easy now, Dr. Weygand," he said. Dr. Weygand, she thought. Not Prudence. Not Prue. Dr. Weygand. Cold formality. She began losing that first elation. Then Flattery began explaining in his soft, soothing voice and she knew her elation had to be put away. The contingency problem had arisen. She had been awakened for that. "Just tell me who we lost," she said, and her throat hurt from its months of disuse. Timberlake told her. "Three dead?" she said. She didn't ask how they had died. The other problem, the contingency for which she had been prepared, took precedence over mere curiosity. "Bickel requested you be brought out of hyb," Flattery said. "Does he know why?" she asked, ignoring the strange look Timberlake shifted from her to Flattery. "He rationalized it," Flattery said, and he wished she'd withheld these questions until they were alone. "Of course he did," she said. "But has --" "He hasn't posed the problem yet," Flattery said. "Don't push him," she said, and glanced at Timberlake. "Forget what you just heard here, Tim." Timberlake scowled, suddenly withdrawn and wary. Flattery bent over her right arm with a slapshot hypo in his hand. "Must you?" she asked. Then: "Yes, of course." "There's nothing for you to do right now except recuperate," he said, and pressed the slapshot against her arm. She felt the mechanism's kick and, presently, the soft spread of narcosis. Flattery and Timberlake became wavering figures haloed in light. At least Bickel is still alive, she thought. We do not have to replace him with a backup -- take second best. And just before sinking into the downy cloud of sleep, she wondered: How did Maida die? Lovely Maida who . . . Timberlake watched the film of withdrawal wash over her light blue eyes. Her breathing took on soft regularity. As life-systems specialist, Timberlake had checked the computer-filed tape flag for every person on the Tin Egg. He recalled now that Prudence Lon Weygand was classed superb as a surgeon -- "Superior 9 in tool facility." And the scale went only to 10. He reflected now on her strange conversation with Flattery and realized the tape had not told the full story. She obviously had ship functions beyond surgeon-ecologist . . . and at least one of these functions concerned Bickel. "Forget what you just heard here, Tim." Timberlake could still hear that cold-voiced command and he knew it did not square with the emotional index on Prudence Lon Weygand's tapes. There, she was listed as "Place nine-d green" on the compassionate vector. In the close-quarters living of this umbilicus crew, that emotional index posed problems because of its tightly linked sex drive. With a sense of shock, Timberlake took a closer look at her feed-tube spectrum on the hyb chart, saw that she had been fed the sex-suppressant anti-S drugs even under hyb. She had been kept ready. Ready for what? he asked himself. Flattery closed and locked her litter cocoon, said: "She'll sleep until she's almost back to normal. We'd better get her a full-vac suit out of stores. She'll need it when she comes out." Timberlake nodded, made a last check on the few remaining life-systems linkages into her litter. Flattery was acting very odd -- mysterious. "You can ignore all that conversation as she woke up," Flattery said. "Common dehyb confusion. You know how it is." But she was fed anti-S drugs in hybernation, Timberlake thought. Flattery nodded toward the hatch into Com-central, said: "John's been almost four hours alone on the board. Time he got some relief." Timberlake finished his inspection of the litter gauges, turned, led the way through the hatch. Seeing the wary, thoughtful look on Timberlake's face, Flattery thought: Damn that woman's big mouth. If Tim says the wrong thing to Bickel now it could muddy the whole project. CHAPTER 4 The legal status of the clone as property cannot be questioned. This is a decision we have taken as a species for the survival of the species. The clone is a spare-parts bank and much more. The clone falls outside the legal prohibition against experiments upon humans without their informed consent. Clones are property and that's that. -Morgan Hempstead, Lectures at Moonbase BICKEL HEARD Flattery and Timberlake enter Com-central, but was forced to keep his attention on the big board. An odd timed pulse had appeared in the primary loops of the navigational analogue banks of the computer. It appeared and vanished with no apparent cause. Each oddity of computer function forced a review of that basic question: Why had the OMCs failed? Was this strange pulse a thing for which the brains were unprepared? How could it be when every last OMC circuit tested open-and-operating? The answer to the OMC failure lay in the psychological area, Bickel felt. The seat of the problem was in that one place where they could not stick their probes -- in the gray matter that once had been part of a human. Well, I know how we have to tackle this mess, Bickel thought. But will the others go along? Bickel heard Flattery slide onto his own action couch, risked a glance at the man. Flattery might be difficult to handle. Flattery was an M.D. and ship-trained, yes. He could stand a watch, repair the simpler servos and sensors, and obey the ordinary precautions that spelled out life-systems security. There was another Flattery, though: the psychiatrist-chaplain. To Bickel, the psychiatrist half of the man suggested special usefulness, but the enigma of the chaplain offered only mysticism and open-end arguments. I never know which mask Flattery's wearing, Bickel thought. He wished then there could have been a way to avoid having a chaplain on the Tin Egg. But there had been no way; the world's religious millions paid an enormous amount of taxes. The psychiatrists, in training Flattery and his backups, had approached the job sincerely. They had had little choice. It had been a long time since psychiatrists denied they served a witch-doctor function . . . and the step from witch doctor to divine was a short one. Timberlake came up beside Bickel, studied the gauge which showed the timed pulse in the navigational analogue banks. "That acts like a Doppler reference pulse from the time log," he said. "You been checking our position?" "No," Bickel said, and as he spoke, the answer to this variant pulse clicked home in his mind. He had set up a telltale warning net in the computer to alert him when ship damage reached a critical point. Damage to the navigational system could be most critical -- especially internal damage. But unlike destruction of hardware, that internal damage would only betray itself by position errors. His telltale circuitry had alerted one of the ship computer's master programs. A running Doppler reference check was being made on their position. Bickel shifted to the computer board, ran a series trial on the navigational loops, read the induced resonance off the pulsing gauges. It checked. He explained what was happening. "The computer acts . . . almost . . . human," Flattery said. Bickel and Timberlake exchanged a knowing smile. Almost human, indeed! The damn thing merely was doing what it was designed to do. "We'd better take the computer schematics and the design specs and have a real skull session on what the lack of an OMC may be doing to it," Timberlake said. Bickel nodded. He was thankful then that Timberlake was, in many respects, as good an electronics man as anyone on the ship -- the necessary foundation for his specialty. There was always that almost qualification on his abilities, though. Life-systems work trapped men into a "generalist" corner. They knew plenty of biophysics, but they were not doctors. They were adept in electronics, but fell short of that smooth juggling of variables which marked the creative engineer. "You ready for a break, John?" Flattery asked. "Anytime. How's Prue?" "Doctor Weygand is asleep now," Flattery said. "She needs a few more hours recuperation." Why is he so formal? Bickel wondered. Raj must know I shared classes with her. She was always Prue then. Why should she suddenly be Doctor Weygand? "I'll take the board on the count," Flattery said, and they began the change of watch. Timberlake, sensing Bickel's questions, realized that Flattery's emphasis on Doctor Weygand had not been aimed at the electronics engineer. Raj was saying something to me, Timberlake thought. He was telling me that Doctor Weygand may have had medical reasons for her strange behavior. Raj is telling me to keep my mouth shut. And Timberlake found himself resenting the fact that Flattery had found the warning necessary. Bickel closed off his link to the controls, slipped off his couch, and began exercising the stiffness out of his muscles. Remembering the classes he had shared with Prue Weygand -- computer math, servo-sensor repair, ship function -- he recalled the woman. She was a disturbing female-plus creature, sensitive and with her feelings all too apparent. Bickel realized then that a photograph of Prue Weygand in repose would show a rather unassuming woman with regular features and a good, but not sensational figure. She was the kind who attracted male stares, though. She radiated some vital, sparking thing -- especially when she walked. Is that why I chose her? Bickel wondered. He broke off his exercises to consider the question. The Prue kind of woman presented a source of trouble in an otherwise all-male crew -- unless they all went on anti-S. But they couldn't afford to dull their faculties that way. I chose her because, in a ship of quintuple backup, she appears unique, Bickel reassured himself. She is trained in ecology, medicine, and computer math. She is going to be damned useful to us. But doubts remained. Bickel forced them out of his mind by looking around Com-central, focusing his attention on the ship. The ship-cum-computer-cum-hybernating-colonists -- here was one set of resources that Bickel felt they could fit into a logical pigeonhole, assess and weigh and use as they needed. He sensed the ship stretching out from him in its sixteen concentric shells, a great ovoid bulk almost a mile across its long axis. Beyond the water barrier and baffles that shielded the core lay miles of corridors and tubeways, self-sealing compartments. Through it all stretched the organized clutter of material needed to make life possible for humans in an alien environment. In the hyb tanks they had two thousand adult humans, a thousand human embryos, and more than six thousand animal embryos -- a "full ecological spectrum." Bickel turned, looked at his own computer board. His plan involved dangerous risk to the computer, but the risk was necessary. The others might fight him, but they would have to come around. He looked at Flattery busy on the big board, Timberlake taking a relaxing massage on his action couch. He looked back at the computer board. The Tin Egg's computer was basically a multisystem system with internal ruby laser "real time" clocks to log its own "experiences." It incorporated more than 800,000 specialized routines (installed by a prodigious spending of manpower). Bickel weighed the computers untried potential: its trinanosecond thoughtput and multischeduling facilities allowed it to interleave thousands of programs simultaneously. It could monitor sequencing, cuing, and input through a core memory with enormous reserves of trapping functions, branching operations, and alarm systems networks. With an OMC tied in as supervisory program -- as supreme decision-maker -- the computer and the ship it controlled had been a living creature of metal. But three brains had failed in that delicately powerful linkage. And Bickel-the-pragmatist trusted only that which worked. Without an OMC, the ship computer remained an inert mass of machinery whose output-on-demand followed a fixed design and could be accepted or rejected only after a human decision. "How long until Prue will be with us?" Bickel asked. "About three hours," Timberlake said. "I want her opinion on the postmortem," Bickel said. "I'm not satisfied with what we found in the first two brains." Timberlake shut down his couch massage, directed a probing stare at Flattery. The psychiatrist-chaplain only smiled, reminding himself that Bickel was logic-prone with a disregard of everything except the main line of reasoning that made him sound boorish at times. "Moonbase'll ask some questions for which we have no answers," Bickel said. "We can't afford to sound fumbling." He looked at Timberlake. "They're going to take us apart, one by one -- life systems to . . ." "Life systems were perfect!" Timberlake snapped. "We'd better be able to prove it," Bickel said. "I went through the entire console when Brain One failed," Timberlake said. "Check it yourself." "I did. A couple of things bothered me. Brain One preferred to be called Myrtle. Why? I find nothing in the memory core to explain that -- except that Brain One was removed from a genetic monster that probably was female." "Myrtle's personal life system tested within .0002 of homeostatic center on the Anders Base," Timberlake said. "Don't let that identity preference seduce you," Flattery said. "It was for our benefit -- so we could anthropomorphize the ship-OMC." "Yeah," Bickel said. "That's the reason they each gave, but is it the right one?" "Those brains were as perfect as any ever born," Flattery said, and he wondered why he allowed Bickel's attitude to irritate him. "Okay, they were raised from infancy as part of the total ship-sensor-servo system. So what? They didn't know any other life or want --" "You said a couple of things were bothering you," Timberlake interrupted. "What's the other one?" "Your life-systems report," Bickel said, "entry 9107 on Myrtle. It says: 'None of the systems appear then to have been at fault.' Why'd you use that word appear, Tim? You have some doubts you couldn't enter in the report?" "Not a damn one!" Timberlake said. "Those systems were perfect!" "Then why didn't you just say so?" "He was only being cautious," Flattery said. "If you have checked the records, you'll find my medical report confirms his findings in every respect." "Except one," Bickel said. "And what is that?" Timberlake asked. He glared at Bickel, his face flushed. A muscle worked along his jaw. Bickel ignored the signs of anger, said: "Nothing explains the internal burn damage that Raj found in those brains. 'Internal burn damage,' you say, 'especially along the overlarge axon collaterals of the afferent side.' What the devil do you mean overlarge? Overlarge compared to what?" "A main channel leading into the brain's higher centers was about four times the size of anything I had ever seen," Flattery said. "I don't know why, but I can guess it was compensatory growth. These OMCs had to handle many more incoming data bits from more sensors than the normal human ever encounters. You'll note that the frontal lobes were larger, too, but the . . ." "The design specs on the OMC process explain all that," Bickel said. "Compensatory growth, yeah, but I don't find one word about large axon collaterals. Not one word." "These brains had been in the system longer than any others ever examined," Timberlake said. "The literature reports only on four previously that died of natural causes, and we --" "Natural causes?" Bickel asked. "What's a natural cause fatal to an OMC?" "You know what happened as well as I do," Flattery said. "Accidents -- irritant matter in the food bath, a radiation shield left down for --" "Human error, not OMC error!" Bickel snapped. "Not natural. And here is another thing: Myrtle lapsed into catatonia or whatever you want to call it just ten days, fourteen hours, eight minutes, and eleven seconds from Moonbase. We threw Little Joe into service and he lasted six days, nine hours, one second. So we turned the ship over to Harvey -- our last chance -- and Harvey took fifteen hours even. Kaput!" "Greater and greater stress and they broke down faster and faster," Flattery said. "But you'll notice that the last words from each betrayed a type of deterioration akin to schizo --" "Akin!" Bickel sneered. "That's what you see all through these damn reports: 'Something similar to . . .'' A condition that reminds one of . . .' 'Akin to . . .'" He glared from Flattery to Timberlake. "The truth is we don't know what the hell goes on in an OMC's gray matter." A clicking-buzzing erupted from the master board above Flattery. Bickel waited while Flattery fought out a manual temperature adjustment in an inner hold. Presently, Flattery wiped perspiration from his forehead, studied his gauges to be certain the balance was holding. "Man, that board is murder," Timberlake muttered. "I don't wonder those OMCs caved in." Flattery risked a glance away from the board. "You know better than that, Tim. This part of the job was child's play for a functioning OMC. They could handle most ship homeostasis problems by something akin to reflex action." "Akin," Bickel said. "All right!" Flattery barked, and pretended to be busy with the board to hide his confusion at allowing Bickel to get to him that way. A long silence settled over Com-central, broken when Flattery regained his composure and said, "I was about to say that the end tapes on each brain show statements similar to schizophrenic writing. It makes a pretense of meaning . . . and sometimes stumbles onto a colorful phrase, but the essential . . ." He broke off as the master board grew three diagonal stripes of flashing yellow. Flattery's hands darted to the controls as Bickel shouted, "Grav shift!" and dove for his couch. Cocoons snapped closed around them and they felt the creeping, jerking weight shifts, the runaway fluctuation of the field-centering system -- the unexplained gravity variance that had killed Maida. CHAPTER 5 The thing about computers -- it's like training a dog. You have to be smarter than the dog. If you make a computer smarter than you are, that has to be accident, synergy, or divine intervention. -Interview with John Bickel (original) at La /Paz BICKEL WATCHED FLATTERY'S hands fight the gravity system back into balance. It had taken several bruising minutes, but the tugging and jerking had begun to ease. The system centered slowly. Flattery waited it out. Presently, he made a fine adjustment in the controls. "Where were we?" Timberlake asked. "We were raking through our data, seeking anything useful," Bickel said. "It's a clumsy way to operate, but necessary." "Guilt-sharing," Flattery said. "What?" Bickel was outraged. "Never mind," Flattery said. "Back to square one: You will recall that OMC/Myrtle said: 'I have no incarnation: That may have been the only accurate thing in her jabbering. After all, except for gray matter, she had no flesh. But then, remember, after a long silence she said: 'I'm counting my fingers.' She had no fingers, no conscious memory of fingers. And that final question: 'Why are you all so dead?' The best guess is that any meaning in these statements and questions was purely accidental." "I think she was referring to us, to the crew," Bickel said. "It's nuts, yes, but it was a direct question over the vocoders and we were the only possible audience." "Unless she was referring to the colonists in the hyb tanks," Flattery said. "They might appear dead under some --" "Myrtle had direct contact with the hyb-tank sensors," Timberlake pointed out. "She'd have known if they were alive." Bickel nodded. "What do you make of Little Joe roaring out over every vocoder in the ship: 'I'm awake! God help me, I'm awake!'" "A cry for help, perhaps," Flattery said. "Most insane raving is a cry for help in one form or another." "That leaves Harvey," Bickel said. "Harvey screamed: 'You're forcing me to be unhealthy.' And when we --" "What could we do?" Timberlake asked, and Bickel heard the note of hysteria in his voice. "There was nothing wrong with any of their life systems. I know there wasn't!" "Easy does it, Tim," Flattery said. "That was just another nonsense statement." "We all knew what it meant, though," Bickel said. "I did not see anybody showing surprise when Harvey said: 'I've lost it!' and signed off . . . permanently. And there we were with three dead brains and no spares." The callous way Bickel put it sent a shudder through Timberlake, and he could not explain it. He had never been deeply attached to the OMCs. There had always been something faintly accusing about the "ship creatures." Raja Lon Flattery had assured him this was strictly subjective, something from his own attitudes. Raj had always been so positive that the OMC-ship-computer entities were perfectly reconciled to their way of life, happy with their own compensations. What compensations? Timberlake wondered. Expectancy of long life? But what is three or four thousand years of living if each year is hell? Timberlake realized then that none of the pat answers from his training classes really touched the basic issue of OMC happiness. What if it really is a hellish way to live? he wondered. It must be. They are harnessed like engines to all this metal and glass and plastic and time stretches out ahead of them . . . forever. Maybe death was preferable. CHAPTER 6 Every symbol has hidden premises behind it. Every word carries unspoken assumptions buried in the history of the language and the conditioning experiences of the speakers. If you snatch those buried meanings out of your words, you spill a whole stream of new understanding into your awareness. -Raja Lon Flattery, The Book of Ship ALMOST HALF OF Prudence Weygand's recuperation time had passed and it had been marked by recurrent uncomfortable silences in Com-central. Flattery did not like those silences. He felt that every one of them carried his companions farther away -- perhaps beyond control. And he had to maintain that delicate contact, that means of control. One of those silences gripped them now. It seemed to reach into them from the space beyond the ship's hull. Flattery knew he had to say something but he felt oppressed by the silence. He cleared his throat before speaking. "I wish to say something about anger. I've seen several shows of anger since our emergency -- my own anger included." The formal tone, the set of his face -- all signaled that Flattery was speaking officially as their chaplain. "Anger could destroy us," he said. "The Proverbs warn us: 'He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated. He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.' Let us practice the soft answer and not stir up wrath." Bickel took a deep breath. Flattery was right, he knew, but Bickel resented the way the man retreated into religion to make his point. How much simpler just to say they were clouding their reason with excess emotion. That was the thing he resented about religion, Bickel thought -- the way it appealed to emotion rather than intelligence. "We've been floundering around, trying to do too much," Bickel said. "That master board is a jury-rigged monstrosity. We need a consistent, organized plan to meet our problems. When Moonbase answers, I want to be able to say we have --" Sharp, heavy G force pressed him against the side of his couch cocoon. It struck without klaxon warning or alarm light. Cocoon safety locks sealed home. Now, red alarm lights flashed with the yellow in long webs across the master board. Flattery slammed the gravity disconnect with the heel of his left hand. G force ebbed. Yellow alarm lights winked off as their pressure switches released. A line of red alarm lights remained. "Damage to hull three, section six/fourteen," Flattery said. He began activating remote sensors to inspect the area. Without conscious thought or discussion, Bickel took over ship command: "Tim, take the G repeaters. Leave gravity disconnected while you trace the relays and get the system back in balance." Timberlake pulled his board close to obey. Bickel swung the AAT board to his side, keyed for ship systems/computer control, began feeding coded demands into the core recorders. What had the ship encountered that might explain that brutal deflection? What had the automatic sensors recorded? The responders began kicking out tape almost immediately -- much too fast. "Data error," Flattery said, reading the output over Bickel's shoulder. In abrupt fury, Bickel pulled the master override stop from his core switch, jammed a set of jumper jacks across the AAT controls, opened the core system for standard reference comparison. "You are into the core!" Flattery said, his voice sharp with fear. "You have no guide fuse or master reference. You could louse up the command routines." "Unhook that!" Timberlake shouted, lifting his head from the cocoon clamps to glare across at Bickel. "Shut up, both of you. Sure, the core is delicate, but something in there is already loused up -- bad enough to kill us." "You think you have time to check some eight hundred thousand routines?" Timberlake demanded. "Don't talk nuts!" "There are specific injunctions against what you are doing," Flattery said, fighting to keep his voice reasonable. "And you know why." "Don't try to tell me my job," Bickel said. While he spoke, Bickel rolled over core memory responders, direct contact, doing it gently to avoid current backlash. "You make one mistake," Timberlake said, "and it would take six or seven thousand technicians with a second master system and several thousand imprint relays to repair the damage. Are you ready to --" "Stop distracting me!" "What are you looking for?" Flattery asked, interested in spite of his fear. He had realized that Bickel, conditioned to deep inhibitions against turning back, was incapable of doing anything to deprive them of one of their basic tools. "I'm checking availability of peripherals from the core memory," Bickel said. "There's got to be a bypass or pileup somewhere. It'll show in the acquisition and phase-control loops of the input." He nodded toward a diagnostic meter on his board. "And here we are!" The meter's needle slammed against its pin, fell back to zero, stayed there. Slowly, Bickel ordered a master diagnostic routine into direct contact, put the core standard back on fused auxiliary, began rolling the troublesome core-memory section. Working with only occasional references to the core standard, he forced the routine through the data-reference channels as modified by new sensor input. Error branchings began clicking from his responders. Bickel translated aloud as the code figures appeared on the screen above his board. "Core memory/prediction region rendered inactive. Proton mass and scatter relative to ship course/mass/speed did not agree with prediction." Aside, Bickel said, "We're hitting something other than hydrogen and hitting it in unexpected concentrations -- partly because of our speed/mass figure." "Solar winds," Timberlake whispered. "They said we --" "Solar winds, hell!" Bickel said. "Look at that." He nodded at a code grouping as it worked its way across the screen. "Twenty-six protons in the mass," Timberlake said. "Iron," Bickel said. "Free atoms of iron out here. We're getting a plain old-fashioned magnetic deflection of the grav field." "We'll have to slow the ship," Timberlake said. "Nuts!" Bickel was emphatic. "We'll put a fused overload breaker in the G system. I don't see why the devil the designers didn't do that in the first place." "Perhaps they couldn't conceive of any force large enough to deflect the system," Flattery said. "No doubt," Bickel's voice was heavy with disgust. "But when I think a simple cage switch with a weight in it could have prevented Maida's death . . ." "They depended on the OMC's reflexes, too," Flattery said. "You know that." "What I know is they thought in straight lines when they should've been thinking in the round," Bickel said. He unlocked his safety cocoon, shifted his suit to portable, launched himself diagonally across Com-central to the Tool

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