Original copyright year: 1997
     Genre: science fiction

     For Cherene, Tamara and Melinda -- may you be happy in a far  better century
than mine

     The Firstborn

     Call them the Firstborn. Though they were not remotely human, they were
flesh and  blood, and  when they looked out across the  deeps of space, they
felt awe, and wonder -- and loneliness. As soon as they possessed the power,
they began to seek for fellowship among the stars.
     In their explorations, they encountered life in many forms, and watched
the workings of evolution on a thousand worlds. They saw how often the first
faint sparks of intelligence flickered and died in the cosmic night.
     And because, in all the Galaxy,  they  had found nothing more  precious
than  Mind, they encouraged  its dawning everywhere.  They became farmers in
the fields of stars; they sowed, and sometimes they reaped.
     And sometimes, dispassionately, they had to weed.
     The great dinosaurs had long since passed away, their  morning  promise
annihilated by a  random hammerblow from space, when the survey ship entered
the Solar System after a voyage that had already lasted a thousand years. It
swept  past the  frozen outer planets, paused briefly  above  the deserts of
dying Mars, and presently looked down on Earth.
     Spread out beneath them, the explorers saw a  world swarming with life.
For  years they  studied,  collected, catalogued. When they  had learned all
that they  could, they  began to modify. They  tinkered with the  destiny of
many species, on land and in  the seas. But which of their experiments would
bear fruit, they could not know for at least a million years.
     They were patient, but they were not yet immortal. There was so much to
do  in this  universe  of  a  hundred  billion suns, and  other  worlds were
calling.  So they set out once more into the abyss,  knowing that they would
never  come  this way again. Nor was there  any need: the servants they  had
left behind would do the rest.
     On Earth,  the glaciers came and went, while above them  the changeless
Moon still carried  its secret from the stars. With a yet slower rhythm than
the polar ice, the tides of civilization ebbed and flowed across the Galaxy.
Strange  and  beautiful and  terrible empires  rose and  fell, and passed on
their knowledge to their successors.
     And now,  out among the stars, evolution was driving towards new goals.
The first explorers of Earth had long since come to  the limits of flesh and
blood; as soon as their machines were better than their bodies,  it was time
to move. First their brains, and then their thoughts alone, they transferred
into shining new  homes of  metal and  gemstone. In  these, they  roamed the
Galaxy. They no longer built spaceships. They were spaceships.
     But the age  of the Machine-entities swiftly passed. In their ceaseless
experimenting, they had learned to store knowledge in the structure of space
itself, and to preserve their  thoughts  for  eternity in frozen lattices of
     Into pure energy, therefore, they presently transformed themselves; and
on a  thousand worlds, the empty  shells they  had discarded twitched for  a
while in a mindless dance of death, then crumbled into dust.
     Now they  were  Lords of  the Galaxy,  and could rove at will among the
stars, or sink  like a  subtle mist through  the very interstices of  space.
Though they  were  freed  at last  from the  tyranny of matter, they had not
wholly  forgotten their origin,  in the  warm slime of  a  vanished sea. And
their marvellous instruments still continued to function,  watching over the
experiments started so many ages ago.
     But no longer  were they  always  obedient to  the  mandates  of  their
creators;  like all material things, they were  not immune to the corruption
of Time and its patient, unsleeping servant, Entropy.
     And sometimes, they discovered and sought goals of their own.

     1 Comet Cowboy

     Captain Dimitri Chandler [M2973.04.21/93.106//Mars//I SpaceAcad3005] --
or 'Dim' to his very best friends -- was understandably annoyed. The message
from Earth  had taken six hours to reach the space-tug Goliath,  here beyond
the  orbit of  Neptune; if it had arrived  ten minutes later he  could  have
answered 'Sorry  -- can't  leave  now  --  we've just started to  deploy the
     The  excuse would have been perfectly valid: wrapping a comet's core in
a sheet  of reflective  film only a few molecules thick, but kilometres on a
side, was not the sort of job you could abandon while it was half-completed.
     Still, it would be a good idea to obey this ridiculous request: he  was
already in disfavour sunwards,  through no fault  of his own. Collecting ice
from the rings of Saturn, and nudging it towards Venus and Mercury, where it
was really  needed, had started back  in the  2700s -- three  centuries ago.
Captain Chandler had never  been able to  see  any  real difference  in  the
'before and after'  images the  Solar  Conservers were always producing,  to
support  their accusations  of celestial vandalism. But the  general public,
still  sensitive  to the  ecological  disasters of  previous  centuries, had
thought  otherwise,  and  the 'Hands  off  Saturn!'  vote  had  passed  by a
substantial  majority. As a result, Chandler was  no longer a Ring  Rustler,
but a Comet Cowboy.
     So  here  he was  at  an appreciable fraction  of the distance to Alpha
Centauri, rounding up stragglers from the  Kuiper Belt. There was  certainly
enough ice out here to  cover Mercury and Venus with oceans kilometres deep,
but  it  might take  centuries to extinguish their hell-fires and  make them
suitable for  life. The  Solar Conservers, of course, were still  protesting
against this,  though no longer with so  much enthusiasm.  The millions dead
from the tsunami caused by the Pacific asteroid in 2304 -- how ironic that a
land impact would have  done  much less damage! --  had reminded  all future
generations that the human race had too many eggs in one fragile basket.
     Well,  Chandler  told  himself, it  would  be fifty  years before  this
particular  package  reached  its destination, so a  delay  of a week  would
hardly make much difference. But all the calculations about rotation, centre
of  mass, and thrust vectors  would have to  be redone, and  radioed back to
Mars for  checking.  It  was  a good idea to  do your sums carefully, before
nudging billions  of  tons of  ice along  an orbit that might take it within
hailing distance of Earth.
     As  they had done so many times before, Captain Chandler's eyes strayed
towards  the ancient photograph above  his  desk. It showed  a  three-masted
steamship, dwarfed by the iceberg that was looming above  it -- as,  indeed,
Goliath was dwarfed at this very moment.
     How incredible,  he  had  often  thought, that only  one long  lifetime
spanned  the gulf  between this  primitive Discovery and  the ship  that had
carried  the  same name to Jupiter! And what would those Antarctic explorers
of a thousand years  ago have  made of the view from  his bridge? They would
certainly have been disoriented, for  the wall of  ice  beside which Goliath
was floating stretched both upwards and  downwards as  far  as the eye could
see. And  it was strange-looking ice, wholly  lacking the immaculate  whites
and blues of the frozen Polar seas. In fact, it looked dirty -- as indeed it
was. For only  some  ninety per cent was  water-ice: the rest was a  witch's
brew  of  carbon  and  sulphur  compounds,  most  of  them  stable  only  at
temperatures  not  far above absolute zero. Thawing  them out could  produce
unpleasant surprises:  as one astrochemist  had famously  remarked,  'Comets
have bad breath'.
     'Skipper to all personnel,' Chandler announced. 'There's  been a slight
change of programme.  We've been asked to delay operations, to investigate a
target that Spaceguard radar has picked up.'
     'Any  details?' somebody asked,  when  the chorus  of groans  over  the
ship's intercom had died away.
     'Not  many,  but  I  gather  it's another  Millennium Committee project
they've forgotten to cancel.'
     More  groans:  everyone  had  become heartily sick  of  all  the events
planned to celebrate the end of the 2000s.  There had been a general sigh of
relief when 1 January 3001 had passed uneventfully, and the human race could
resume its normal activities.
     'Anyway, it  will  probably  be another false alarm, like the last one.
We'll get back to work just as quickly as we can. Skipper out.'
     This  was the third  wild-goose-chase, Chandler thought morosely,  he'd
been involved with during his  career. Despite centuries of exploration, the
Solar System could still  produce surprises, and presumably Spaceguard had a
good reason  for  its request.  He only hoped  that some  imaginative  idiot
hadn't  once again  sighted  the fabled Golden Asteroid. If it did  exist --
which Chandler did not for a  moment believe -- it would  be no more  than a
mineralogical curiosity:  it would be of far less real value than the ice he
was nudging sunwards, to bring life to barren worlds.
     There was one possibility, however,  which he did take quite seriously.
Already, the  human race had scattered its robot probes  through a volume of
space a hundred light-years across -- and the Tycho  Monolith was sufficient
reminder  that much older  civilizations had  engaged in similar activities.
There might well be other alien artefacts in the Solar System, or in transit
through  it.  Captain Chandler suspected that  Spaceguard had something like
this in mind: otherwise it would hardly have diverted a Class I space-tug to
go chasing after an unidentified radar blip.
     Five hours later, the  questing Goliath detected  the  echo at  extreme
range; even allowing  for  the distance,  it  seemed disappointingly  small.
However, as it grew clearer and stronger, it began to give the  signature of
a metallic object, perhaps a couple of metres long. It was travelling on  an
orbit heading out  of the Solar System,  so was almost  certainly,  Chandler
decided, one  of the myriad pieces  of  space-junk that  Mankind  had tossed
towards the stars during the last millennium and which might one day provide
the only evidence that the human race had ever existed.
     Then it came close enough  for visual inspection, and  Captain Chandler
realized,  with  awed  astonishment, that  some patient historian  was still
checking the  earliest records  of the  Space  Age.  What  a  pity that  the
computers  had given  him  the answer,  just a  few years  too late  for the
Mifiermium celebrations!
     'Goliath  here,'  Chandler  radioed Earthwards, his voice  tinged  with
pride  as  well  as solemnity. 'We're  bringing aboard  a  thousand-year-old
astronaut. And I can guess who it is.'

     2 Awakening

     Frank Poole awoke, but he did not remember. He was not even sure of his
     Obviously,  he was in a hospital room: even  though his eyes were still
closed, the most primitive, and evocative, of his senses told him that. Each
breath brought the faint  and not unpleasant tang of antiseptics in the air,
and it  triggered a memory of the time  when -- of  course! -- as a reckless
teenager he had broken a rib in the Arizona Hang-gliding Championship.
     Now it  was all  beginning  to  come back. I'm  Deputy Commander  Frank
Poole, Executive Officer, USSS Discovery, on a Top Secret mission to Jupiter
--  It  seemed as if an icy  hand had  gripped his heart.  He remembered, in
slow-motion  playback, that  runaway  space-pod  jetting towards  him, metal
claws outstretched. Then the silent impact  -- and the not-so-silent hiss of
air rushing out of his suit. After that  -- one  last  memory,  of  spinning
helplessly in space, trying in vain to reconnect his broken air-hose.
     Well,  whatever  mysterious  accident  had happened  to  the  space-pod
controls, he was safe now. Presumably Dave had made  a quick EVA and rescued
him before lack of oxygen could do permanent brain damage.
     Good old  Dave! He told himself. I must thank -- just a moment!  -- I'm
obviously not aboard Discovery now -- surely I haven't been unconscious long
enough to be taken back to Earth!
     His confused train of thought was abruptly broken  by  the arrival of a
Matron and  two nurses, wearing the  immemorial uniform of their profession.
They seemed a little surprised: Poole  wondered if he had  awakened ahead of
schedule, and the idea gave him a childish feeling of satisfaction.
     'Hello!' he said,  after several attempts; his vocal  cords appeared to
be very rusty. 'How am I doing?'
     Matron  smiled  back at  him  and  gave an obvious 'Don't  try to talk'
command by putting a finger to her lips.  Then the two nurses fussed swiftly
over  him with practised skill, checking pulse,  temperature, reflexes. When
one  of  them lifted his right  arm  and  let it drop  again, Poole  noticed
something peculiar It  fell slowly,  and  did not seem  to weigh as  much as
normal. Nor, for that matter, did his body, when he attempted to move.
     So  I  must  be  on  a  planet, he  thought.  Or a  space-station  with
artificial gravity. Certainly not Earth -- I don't weigh enough.
     He was about to ask the obvious question when Matron  pressed something
against  the side of his neck; he felt a slight tingling sensation, and sank
back into a dreamless sleep. Just  before he became unconscious, he had time
for one more puzzled thought.
     How odd  --  they never  spoke a single word --  all the time they were
with me.

     3 Rehabilitation

     When he woke again, and found Matron and nurses standing round his bed,
Poole felt strong enough to assert himself.
     'Where am I?  Surely you can tell me that!'  The three  women exchanged
glances,  obviously  uncertain  what  to  do  next.  Then  Matron  answered,
enunciating  her words very slowly  and carefully: 'Everything is  fine,  Mr
Poole. Professor Anderson will be here in a minute He will explain.'
     Explain what?  thought Poole with some exasperation.  But at  least she
speaks English, even though I can't place her accent.
     Anderson must have been already on his way, for the door opened moments
later --  to  give Poole  a brief glimpse  of  a small crowd  of inquisitive
onlookers peering in at him. He began to feel like a new exhibit at a zoo.
     Professor Anderson  was a  small, dapper man  whose features seemed  to
have combined key aspects of several races -- Chinese, Polynesian, Nordic --
in  a thoroughly confusing fashion. He greeted Poole by holding up his right
palm, then did an obvious double-take and  shook hands,  with such a curious
hesitation that he might have been rehearsing some quite unfamiliar gesture.
     'Glad to see you're looking so  well, Mr Poole...  We'll have you up in
no time.'
     Again that  odd accent and slow  delivery -- but  the confident bedside
manner was that of all doctors, in all places and all ages.
     'I'm glad to hear it. Now perhaps you can answer a few questions...'
     'Of course, of course. But just a minute.'
     Anderson spoke  so rapidly and quietly  to the  Matron that Poole could
catch only a few words, several of which were wholly unfamiliar to him. Then
the Matron nodded at  one  of the  nurses, who opened  a  wall-cupboard  and
produced a slim metal band, which she proceeded to wrap around Poole's head.
     'What's that for?'  he  asked -- being one of those difficult patients,
so annoying to doctors, who  always want to know just  what's  happening  to
them. 'EEC readout?'
     Professor, Matron and nurses looked equally baffled. Then  a slow smile
spread across Anderson's face.
     'Oh  -- electro...  enceph ..  alo...  gram,' he  said  slowly,  as  if
dredging the word up from the depth of memory, 'You're  quite right. We just
want to monitor your brain functions.'
     My  brain would function perfectly well if you'd let  me use it,  Poole
grumbled silently. But at least we seem to be getting somewhere -- finally.
     'Mr  Poole,'  said  Anderson, still speaking  in that  curious  stilted
voice, as if venturing in a foreign language, 'you know, of course, that you
were  -- disabled -- in a serious  accident, while you were  working outside
     Poole nodded agreement.
     'I'm beginning to suspect,' he said dryly, 'that "disabled" is a slight
     Anderson relaxed visibly, and a slow smile spread across his face.
     'You're quite correct. Tell me what you think happened.'
     'Well, the best case scenario is that, after I became unconscious, Dave
Bowman  rescued me and brought me back to the ship. How is Dave? No one will
tell me anything!'
     'All in due course... and the worst case?'
     It  seemed to Frank Poole  that a chill wind was blowing  gently on the
back of his  neck. The suspicion that had  been  slowly  forming in his mind
began to solidify.
     'That I  died,  but was brought back here --  wherever "here" is -- and
you've been able to revive me. Thank you...'
     'Quite correct. And you're back on Earth. Well, very near it.'
     What did he mean by 'very near it'? There was certainly a gravity field
here --  so he  was probably inside  the slowly turning wheel of an orbiting
space-station. No  matter: there was  something much more important to think
     Poole  did some  quick  mental calculations. If Dave had put him in the
hibernaculum, revived the rest of the  crew, and  completed  the mission  to
Jupiter -- why, he could have been 'dead' for as much as five years!
     'Just what date is it?' he asked, as calmly as possible.
     Professor and Matron exchanged glances. Again Poole felt that cold wind
on his neck.
     'I must tell you, Mr Poole, that Bowman did not rescue you. He believed
-- and we cannot blame him -- that you were  irrevocably  dead. Also, he was
facing a desperately serious crisis that threatened his own survival...'
     'So you drifted on  into space, passed through the  Jupiter system, and
headed  out  towards the stars. Fortunately, you  were so far below freezing
point that there  was no metabolism -- but it's a near-miracle that you were
ever found at all. You are one of the luckiest men alive. No -- ever to have
     Am I? Poole asked himself bleakly. Five years,  indeed! It  could  be a
century -- or even more.
     'Let me have it,' he demanded.
     Professor and Matron seemed to be consulting an invisible monitor: when
they looked at each other and nodded agreement, Poole guessed that they were
all plugged into the hospital information circuit, linked to the headband he
was wearing.
     'Frank,' said Professor Anderson, making a smooth switch to the role of
long-time family physician, 'this will be a  great shock to you,  but you're
capable of accepting it -- and the sooner you know, the better.'
     'We're  near the beginning of the Fourth Millennium.  Believe me -- you
left Earth almost a thousand years ago.'
     'I believe  you,' Poole answered calmly. Then, to his great  annoyance,
the room started to spin around him, and he knew nothing more.

     When he regained  consciousness, he  found that he  was no longer in  a
bleak hospital room but in a luxurious suite with attractive -- and steadily
changing --  images on  the walls.  Some of these were  famous and  familiar
paintings,  others showed land and sea-scapes that  might have been from his
own time. There was nothing alien or upsetting: that, he guessed, would come
     His  present surroundings had  obviously been  carefully programmed: he
wondered if there was  the equivalent  of a television screen somewhere (how
many  channels would the Fourth  Millennium  have?) but could see no sign of
any controls near his bed. There was so  much he would have to learn in this
new world: he was a savage who had suddenly encountered civilization.
     But first, he  must regain his strength  -- and learn the language; not
even the  advent  of  sound recording, already more than a  century old when
Poole  was born,  had prevented major changes in  grammar and pronunciation.
And there were thousands of new  words, mostly from science and  technology,
though often he was able to make a shrewd guess at their meaning.
     More  frustrating, however,  were  the  myriad of famous  and  infamous
personal  names that had  accumulated over the millennium, and  which  meant
nothing  to him. For  weeks, until he had built up a data  bank, most of his
conversations  had  to  be  interrupted with  potted biographies. As Poole's
strength  increased, so did the number of his visitors, though  always under
Professor  Anderson's  watchful  eye.  They  included  medical  specialists,
scholars of several disciplines, and  --  of the greatest interest to him --
spacecraft commanders.
     There was little that he could tell the doctors and historians that was
not recorded somewhere  in  Mankind's gigantic data banks,  but he was often
able  to  give them  research shortcuts and new insights about the events of
his own time.  Though  they  all  treated him  with the  utmost respect  and
listened  patiently as  he  tried  to  answer their  questions,  they seemed
reluctant   to   answer  his.  Poole  began  to  feel  that  he   was  being
over-protected from  culture shock, and half-seriously wondered how he could
escape from  his  suite. On  the few  occasions  he was  alone,  he was  not
surprised to discover that the door was locked.
     Then the arrival of Doctor Indra  Wallace  changed everything.  Despite
her name, her chief racial component appeared to be Japanese, and there were
times when with  just a  little  imagination Poole  could picture her  as  a
rather  mature  Geisha  Girl.  It was  hardly an  appropriate  image  for  a
distinguished  historian, holding  a Virtual  Chair  at a  university  still
boasting real ivy.
     She was the first visitor with a fluent command of Poole's own English,
so he was delighted to meet her.
     'Mr Poole,'  she  began,  in  a very  business-like voice,  'I've  been
appointed your official guide and -- let's say --  mentor. My qualifications
-- I've  specialized in  your  period -- my thesis was "The Collapse of  the
Nation-State, 2000-50". 1 believe we can help each other in many ways.'
     'I'm  sure we  can. First I'd like you to get  me out of here, so I can
see a little of your world.'
     'Exactly  what  we intend  to do. But first we must give you an  Ident.
Until  then you'll be --  what was  the  term? --a  non-person. It  would be
almost  impossible for  you  to  go anywhere, or get anything done. No input
device would recognize your existence.'
     'Just  what  I  expected,'  Poole answered,  with  a wry smile. 'It was
starting to get that way in my own time -- and many people hated the idea.'
     'Some still do. They go off and live in the wilderness -- there's a lot
more on  Earth than there was  in  your century!  But they always take their
compaks  with  them, so they can call for  help as  soon  as  they get  into
trouble. The median time is about five days.'
     'Sorry to hear that. The human race has obviously deteriorated.'
     He was  cautiously  testing  her, trying to  find  the  limits  of  her
tolerance  and to  map  out  her personality. It  was obvious that they were
going to spend much time together, and that he would have to depend upon her
in hundreds  of ways. Yet he  was  still not sure if he would even like her:
perhaps she regarded him merely as a fascinating museum exhibit.
     Rather to Poole's surprise, she agreed with his criticism.
     'That may be true -- in some respects. Perhaps we're physically weaker,
but we're  healthier  and  better adjusted than most humans  who  have  ever
lived. The Noble Savage was always a myth'.
     She walked over to a  small rectangular  plate, set at eye-level in the
door. It  was  about  the size of one  of  the countless magazines that  had
proliferated in the far-off  Age of Print, and Poole  had noticed that every
room  seemed to have at least  one.  Usually they were  blank, but sometimes
they  contained  lines of slowly  scrolling  text, completely meaningless to
Poole even when  most of the words were familiar. Once  a plate in his suite
had emitted urgent beepings, which he  had ignored on  the  assumption  that
someone else would deal with the  problem, whatever it was. Fortunately  the
noise stopped as abruptly as it had started.
     Dr Wallace  laid the palm of her hand upon  the plate,  then removed it
after a  few  seconds. She glanced at  Poole, and said smilingly: 'Come  and
look at this.'
     The  inscription that had suddenly appeared made a good deal of  sense,
when he read it slowly:WALLACE, INDRA  [F2970.03.11 :31.885 /  /HIST.OXFORD]
'I suppose it  means Female, date of birth 11  March 2970 -- and that you're
associated with the Department of History at Oxford. And I guess that 31.885
is a personal identification number. Correct?'
     'Excellent,  Mr Poole. I've  seen  some  of  your  e-mail addresses and
credit  card numbers  --  hideous strings of alpha-numeric gibberish that no
one could possibly remember! But we all know our date of birth, and not more
than  99,999  other  people  will share  it.  So a five-figure number is all
you'll ever need... and even if  you  forget that, it doesn't really matter.
As you see, it's a part of you.'
     'Yes -- nanochip at birth, one in  each palm for redundancy.  You won't
even feel yours when it goes in. But you've given us a small problem...'
     'What's that?'
     'The  readers  you'll  meet most of the time  are too  simple-minded to
believe  your date of birth. So,  with your  permission, we've moved it up a
thousand years.'
     'Permission granted. And the rest of the Ident?'
     'Optional.  You can  leave  it  empty, give your current  interests and
location -- or use it for personal messages, global or targeted.'
     Some things,  Poole  was quite sure, would  not have  changed  over the
centuries.  A high proportion of  those  'targeted'  messages  would be very
personal indeed.
     He wondered if there were still self or state-appointed censors in this
day and age -- and if their efforts at  improving other people's morals  had
been more successful than in his own time.
     He would have to ask Dr Wallace  about  that,  when he got  to know her

     4 A Room with a View

     'Frank -- Professor Anderson  thinks  you're  strong enough to go for a
little walk.'
     'I'm very pleased to hear it. Do you know the expression "stir crazy"?'
     'No -- but I can guess what it means.'
     Poole had so adapted to  the low  gravity  that the long strides he was
taking seemed perfectly normal. Half  a gee, he had estimated -- just  right
to give a sense of well-being. They met only a few people on their walk, all
of them strangers, but every one  gave a smile of recognition. By now, Poole
told  himself  with a  trace of  smugness, I must  be one  of the best-known
celebrities in this world. That should be a great help -- when I decide what
to do with the rest of my life. At  least  another century, if I can believe
     The  corridor along which they were walking was completely  featureless
apart  from  occasional  numbered doors, each bearing one of  the  universal
recog panels. Poole had followed Indra for  perhaps two hundred metres  when
he came to a sudden halt, shocked because he had  not  realized something so
blindingly obvious.
     'This space-station must be enormous!' he exclaimed. Indra  smiled back
at him.
     'Didn't you have a saying -- "You ain't seen anything yet"?'
     '"Nothing",' he  corrected,  absent-mindedly. He  was still  trying  to
estimate the scale of this structure when he had another surprise. Who would
have imagined a space-station large enough to boast a subway -- admittedly a
miniature one,  with a single small coach  capable  of seating  only a dozen
     'Observation Lounge Three,'  ordered Indra,  and they drew silently and
swiftly away from the terminal.
     Poole checked the time on  the elaborate wrist-band  whose functions he
was still exploring. One  minor surprise had  been  that the whole world was
now on Universal Time: the confusing patchwork of Time  Zones had been swept
away by the  advent  of global  communications  There  had been much talk of
this, back in the twenty-first century, and it had even  been suggested that
Solar should  be replaced  by Sidereal Time.  Then, during the course of the
year, the  Sun would move right round the clock: setting at  the time it had
risen six months earlier.
     However, nothing had come of this 'Equal  time in  the Sun' proposal --
or of even more vociferous attempts to reform  the calendar. That particular
job, it had been cynically suggested, would have  to wait for somewhat major
advances in technology.  Some day, surely, one of God's minor mistakes would
be  corrected, and the  Earth's orbit would be  adjusted, to give every year
twelve months of thirty exactly equal days.
     As far as Poole could  judge by speed  and elapsed time, they must have
travelled  at least three  kilometres before  the vehicle came  to  a silent
stop, the doors opened, and a  bland  autovoice intoned, 'Have a  good view.
Thirty-five per cent cloud-cover today.'
     At last, thought Poole, we're getting near the outer wall. But here was
another  mystery --  despite the distance he  had gone, neither the strength
nor  the  direction of gravity had altered! He could  not imagine a spinning
space-station so  huge  that the gee-vector  would not be changed by  such a
displacement...  could he really  be on  some planet after all? But he would
feel lighter -- usually  much lighter -- on any other habitable world in the
Solar System.
     When the  outer  door of  the terminal opened,  and Poole found himself
entering a small airlock, he realized that he must indeed  be in  space. But
where  were the spacesuits? He looked around anxiously: it  was against  all
his  instincts  to  be  so  close  to vacuum,  naked  and  unprotected.  One
experience of that was enough...
     'We're nearly there,' said Indra reassuringly.
     The last  door opened, and he was looking out into the  utter blackness
of space,  through  a  huge  window  that  was  curved  both vertically  and
horizontally.  He  felt  like  a goldfish in its bowl,  and  hoped  that the
designers of this audacious piece of engineering knew exactly what they were
doing. They certainly possessed better structural materials than had existed
in his time.
     Though  the  stars  must  be  shining out there, his light-adapted eyes
could see  nothing but black emptiness beyond the curve of the great window.
As he started to walk towards it to  get a wider view,  Indra restrained him
and pointed straight ahead.
     'Look carefully,' she said 'Don't you see it-'
     Poole blinked, and stared into the night. Surely it must be an illusion
-- even, heaven forbid, a crack in the window...
     He moved his head from side to side. No, it was real. But what could it
be? He remembered Euclid's definition 'A lie has length, but no thickness'.
     For spanning the whole height  of the  window, and obviously continuing
out of sight above and below, was  a thread of light quite  easy to see when
he looked for it, yet so one-dimensional that the word 'thin' could not even
be applied. However, it was  not completely  featureless; there  were barely
visible spots of greater brilliance at irregular intervals along its length,
like drops of water on a spider's web.
     Poole continued walking towards the window, and the view expanded until
at last he could  see what lay below him. It  was familiar enough: the whole
continent of Europe, and much of northern  Africa, just as  he had seen them
many  times  from  space.  So  he was  in  orbit  after all --  probably  an
equatorial one, at a height of at least a thousand kilometres.
     Indra was looking at him with a quizzical smile.
     'Go closer to the window,' she said, very softly. 'So that you can look
straight down. I hope you have a good head for heights.'
     What a silly  thing to say to an  astronaut! Poole told himself  as  he
moved forward.  If  I ever suffered from  vertigo,  I  wouldn't  be  in this
     The thought had  barely passed through his mind when he cried 'My God!'
and involuntarily  stepped back from the window,  Then, bracing himself,  he
dared to look again.
     He was looking down  on the  distant Mediterranean  from the face  of a
cylindrical tower, whose gently curving wall indicated a diameter of several
kilometres. But that  was nothing  compared with its length, for  it tapered
away down, down, down -- until it disappeared  into  the mist somewhere over
Africa. He assumed that it continued all the way to the surface.
     'How high are we?' he whispered.
     'Two thousand kay. But now look upwards.'
     This time, it was not such a shock:  he had expected what he would see.
The  tower  dwindled away  until it  became a glittering  thread against the
blackness of  space, and he  did not doubt  that it continued all the way to
the  geostationary orbit,  thirty-six thousand kilometres above the Equator.
Such fantasies had  been well  known in Poole's day: he had never dreamed he
would see the reality -- and be living in it.
     He pointed towards  the distant  thread  reaching  up from the  eastern
     'That must be another one.'
     'Yes -- the Asian Tower. We must look exactly the same to them.'
     'How many are there?'
     'Just  four, equally spaced around the  Equator. Africa, Asia, America,
Pacifica.  The  last  one's  almost  empty  --  only  a  few  hundred levels
completed. Nothing to see except water...'
     Poole  was  still absorbing  this  stupendous concept when a disturbing
thought occurred to him.
     'There were already thousands of satellites, at all sorts of altitudes,
in my time. How do you avoid collisions?'
     Indra looked slightly embarrassed.
     'You  know  --  I never  thought about that --  it's not my field.' She
paused for a moment, clearly searching her memory. Then her face brightened.
     'I believe there was a  big  clean-up  operation,  centuries ago. There
just aren't any satellites, below the stationary orbit.'
     That  made  sense,  Poole told himself. They wouldn't be needed --  the
four gigantic towers  could provide  all  the  facilities  once  provided by
thousands of satellites and space-stations.
     'And  there  have  never been any  accidents  --  any  collisions  with
spaceships leaving earth, or re-entering the atmosphere?'
     Indra looked at him with surprise.
     'But they  don't,  any  more,'  She pointed to  the  ceiling.  'All the
spaceports  are where  they  should  be --  up  there,  on the outer ring. I
believe it's  four hundred  years since the last rocket lifted  off from the
surface of the Earth.'
     Poole was still digesting  this  when  a  trivial  anomaly  caught  his
attention. His training  as an astronaut had made him alert to  anything out
of the ordinary: in space, that might be a matter of life or death.
     The Sun  was out of  view, high  overhead, but its  rays streaming down
through  the great  window  painted a brilliant band of  light  on the floor
underfoot. Cutting across  that band  at an angle  was another, much fainter
one, so that the frame of the window threw a double shadow.
     Poole had to go almost down  on his  knees so that  he could peer up at
the  sky. He  had thought himself beyond surprise, but the  spectacle of two
suns left him momentarily speechless.
     'What's that?' he gasped, when he had recovered his breath.
     'Oh -- haven't you been told? That's Lucifer.'
     'Earth has another sun?'
     'Well, it doesn't  give us  much heat, but  it's  put  the Moon out  of
business...  Before the  Second Mission went there to look for you, that was
the planet Jupiter.'
     I  knew  I  would have much  to  learn in this new  world,  Poole  told
himself. But just how much, I never dreamed.

     5 Education

     Poole was both astonished  and delighted when  the  television  set was
wheeled  into the room  and  positioned  at the end of  his  bed.  Delighted
because  he was suffering from mild information starvation -- and astonished
because it was a model which had been obsolete even in his own time.
     'We've had to promise  the Museum we'll  give it back,' Matron informed
him. 'And I expect you know how to use this,'
     As he fondled the remote-control, Poole  felt a wave of acute nostalgia
sweep over  him. As few  other artefacts could, it  brought back memories of
his childhood,  and the days  when most  television sets were too  stupid to
understand spoken commands.
     'Thank you, Matron. What's the best news channel?'
     She seemed puzzled by his question, then brightened.
     'Oh -- I see  what you mean. But Professor  Anderson thinks  you're not
quite  ready yet. So  Archives has  put together a collection that will make
you feel at home.'
     Poole wondered briefly what the storage medium was in this day and age.
He could still  remember  compact disks, and his  eccentric old Uncle George
had  been the proud possessor of a collection  of  vintage  videotapes.  But
surely that technological contest must have finished centuries ago -- in the
usual Darwinian way, with the survival of the fittest.
     He had to  admit that the selection was well  done, by someone (Indra?)
familiar with  the early  twenty-first century. There was nothing disturbing
-- no wars or violence,  and very little  contemporary business or politics,
all  of  which  would  now  be  utterly irrelevant.  There  were  some light
comedies, sporting events (how did they know that he had  been a keen tennis
fan?), classical and pop music, and wildlife documentaries.
     And  whoever had put this collection together had a sense of humour, or
they  would not have included episodes from each Star Trek series. As a very
small boy, Poole had met both Patrick Stewart and Leonard Nimoy: he wondered
what they would  have thought  if they could  have known the destiny  of the
child who had shyly asked for their autographs.
     A  depressing thought  occurred to  him,  soon  after  he  had  started
exploring -- much of the time in fast-forward  --  these relics of the past.
He had  read somewhere  that by the turn of the century -- his  century!  --
there  were  approximately fifty  thousand television  stations broadcasting
simultaneously. If that figure  had been maintained  and  it might well have
increased  --  by now millions of millions of hours  of  TV programming must
have gone on the air. So even the most hardened cynic would admit that there
were probably at least a billion hours of worthwhile viewing... and millions
that would pass the highest standards of  excellence.  How to find these few
-- well, few million -- needles in so gigantic a haystack?
     The  thought  was so  overwhelming  -- indeed, so demoralizing --  that
after a week of increasingly aimless channel-surfing Poole asked for the set
to be removed.
     Perhaps fortunately, he had  less  and less  time to himself during his
waking hours, which were steadily growing longer as his strength came back.
     There was no risk of boredom, thanks to the  continual parade  not only
of serious researchers but also inquisitive -- and presumably influential --
citizens  who had managed to  filter  past the palace  guard established  by
Matron and Professor Anderson. Nevertheless, he was  glad when, one day, the
television  set  reappeared,  he was  beginning  to  suffer  from withdrawal
symptoms -- and this time, he resolved to be more selective in his viewing.
     The  venerable  antique  was  accompanied  by  Indra  Wallace,  smiling
     'We've found something you must  see, Frank.  We think it will help you
to adjust -- anyway, we're sure you'll enjoy it.'
     Poole had always found that remark a recipe for guaranteed boredom, and
prepared for the worst. But the opening had him instantly hooked, taking him
back to  his old  life  as  few  other things could  have done. At  once  he
recognized one of the most famous voices of his age, and  remembered that he
had  seen  this  very  programme before.  Could it  have  been at  its first
transmission? No, he was only five then: must have been a repeat...
     'Atlanta, 2000 December 31.'
     'This  is  CNN  International,  five minutes  from the  dawn of the New
Millennium, with all its unknown perils and promise...'
     'But before we try to  explore the future, let's look  back  a thousand
years, and ask ourselves: could any persons living in Ad. 1000 even remotely
imagine our world,  or  understand  it, if  they were  magically transported
across the centuries?'
     'Almost the  whole  of the technology we take  for granted was invented
near  the  very  end of  our  Millennium  -- the  steam engine, electricity,
telephones, radio, television, cinema, aviation, electronics. And,  during a
single lifetime, nuclear energy and  space travel -- what would the greatest
minds of  the past  have made of  these? How  long could an Archimedes  or a
Leonardo have retained his sanity, if suddenly dumped into our world?'
     'It's tempting to think that we would do better, if we were transported
a thousand years  hence. Surely the  fundamental scientific discoveries have
already  been made, though there  will  be major improvements in technology,
will there be any devices, anything as magical and incomprehensible to us as
a pocket calculator or a video camera would have been to Isaac Newton?'
     'Perhaps  our age  is  indeed sundered from all those  that  have  gone
before.  Telecommunications, the  ability to  record images and sounds  once
irrevocably  lost, the  conquest  of the  air and space  --  all these  have
created a civilization beyond the wildest fantasies of the past. And equally
important, Copernicus, Newton, Darwin and  Einstein have so changed our mode
of  thinking and our outlook on the universe that we might seem almost a new
species to the most brilliant of our predecessors.'
     'And will  our successors,  a thousand years from now, look back on  us
with  the  same  pity  with  which  we regard  our ignorant,  superstitious,
disease-ridden,  short-lived ancestors? We  believe that we know the answers
to questions that they could not even ask: but what surprises does the Third
Millennium hold for us?'
     'Well, here it comes --'
     A great bell began to toll the strokes of midnight. The last  vibration
throbbed into silence...
     'And  that's  the  way  it  was  --  good-bye,  wonderful and  terrible
twentieth century...'
     Then  the picture broke into  a myriad fragments, and a new commentator
took over, speaking with the accent which Poole could now easily understand,
and which immediately brought him up to the present.
     'Now,  in the first minutes of the  year three thousand and one, we can
answer that question from the past...'
     'Certainly, the  people of 2001  who you were just watching  would  not
feel as utterly overwhelmed in our age as someone from 1001 would have  felt
in  theirs.  Many   of  our  technological  achievements   they  would  have
anticipated; indeed, they would have expected satellite cities, and colonies
on the Moon  and planets. They might even have been disappointed, because we
are not yet immortal, and have sent probes only to the nearest stars...'
     Abruptly, Indra switched off the recording.
     'See the rest later, Frank: you're getting tired.  But  I hope  it will
help you to adjust.'
     'Thank you, Indra. I'll have to sleep  on it. But it's certainly proved
one point.'
     'What's that?'
     'I should be grateful I'm not  a  thousand-and-oner, dropped into 2001.
That would  be  too much of  a quantum  jump: I don't believe  anyone  could
adjust to  it. At least I know about electricity, and won't die of fright if
a picture starts talking at me.'
     I hope,  Poole told himself, that confidence is justified. Someone once
said  that any  sufficiently  advanced technology  is indistinguishable from
magic. Will I meet magic in this new world -- and be able to handle it?

     6 Braincap

     'I'm afraid you'll have to make an agonizing decision,' said  Professor
Anderson, with  a smile  that  neutralized the  exaggerated  gravity  of his
     'I can take it, Doctor. Just give it to me straight.'
     'Before you can be fitted with your Braincap, you have to be completely
bald. So here's your choice. At  the  rate your hair grows, you'd have to be
shaved at least once a month. Or you could have a permanent.'
     'How's that done?'
     'Laser scalp treatment. Kills the follicles at the root.'
     'Hmm... is it reversible?'
     'Yes, but that's messy and painful, and takes weeks.'
     'Then  I'll see how I like being hairless, before committing myself.  I
can't forget what happened to Samson.'
     'Character in a famous old book. His girl-friend cut off his hair while
he was sleeping. When he woke up, all his strength had gone.'
     'Now I remember -- pretty obvious medical symbolism!'
     'Still, I wouldn't mind losing  my beard. I'd be happy to stop shaving,
once and for all.'
     'I'll make the arrangements. And what kind of wig would you like?'
     Poole laughed.
     'I'm  not  particularly  vain --  think  it  would be  a nuisance,  and
probably won't bother. Something else I can decide later.'
     That everyone  in this era was artificially bald was a surprising  fact
that  Poole had been quite slow to  discover; his first revelation had  come
when both his nurses  removed their luxuriant tresses, without the slightest
sign of embarrassment, just before several equally bald specialists  arrived
to  give  him  a  series of  micro-biological  checks.  He  had  never  been
surrounded by so many hairless people, and his initial guess  was  that this
was the latest step in the medical profession's endless war against germs.
     Like  many  of  his guesses,  it  was  completely  wrong, and  when  he
discovered  the true reason he amused  himself by seeing how often he  would
have been sure, had he not known in advance, that his visitors' hair was not
their  own.  The  answer was: seldom with men,  never  with women;  this was
obviously the great age of the wig-maker.
     Professor Anderson wasted  no  time:  that afternoon the nurses smeared
some evil-smelling  cream over  Poole's head, and when  he looked  into  the
mirror an hour later he did not recognize himself. Well, he thought, perhaps
a wig would be a good idea, after all...
     The  Braincap fitting took somewhat  longer.  First a  mould had to  be
made,  which required  him to sit motionless  for a  few  minutes  until the
plaster set. He fully expected to be told that  his head was the wrong shape
when  his  nurses --  giggling  most  unprofessionally  --  had a hard  time
extricating him. 'Ouch that hurt!' he complained.
     Next came  the  skull-cap  itself,  a metal helmet  that  fitted snugly
almost down to the ears, and triggered a nostalgic thought -- wish my Jewish
friends could see me now! After a few minutes, it was so comfortable that he
was unaware of its presence.
     Now  he was ready for the installation -- a  process which, he realized
with something akin to awe, had been the Rite of  Passage for almost all the
human race for more than half a millennium.
     'There's no need to close your eyes,' said the technician, who had been
introduced  by  the  pretentious title  of 'Brain Engineer' -- almost always
shortened  to  'Brainman' in  popular  usage. 'When  Setup  begins, all your
inputs  will be  taken  over.  Even if  your eyes  are open, you  won't  see
     I wonder if everyone feels  as nervous as this, Poole asked himself. Is
this  the last moment I'll be in control of my own mind? Still, I've learned
to trust the  technology of this age; up  to now, it hasn't let me down.  Of
course, as the old saying goes, there's always a first time...
     As he  had been promised, he had  felt nothing except a gentle tickling
as  the myriad of nanowires  wormed their way  through  his scalp.  All  his
senses were  still  perfectly  normal;  when  he scanned  his familiar room,
everything was exactly where it should be.
     The Brainman  -- wearing his own  skull-cap, wired,  like Poole's, to a
piece  of   equipment   that  could  easily  have   been  mistaken   for   a
twentieth-century laptop computer -- gave him a reassuring smile.
     'Ready?' he asked.
     There were times when the old cliche?s were the best ones.
     'Ready as I'll ever be,' Poole answered.
     Slowly, the light faded -- or seemed to. A great silence descended, and
even the gentle gravity of the  Tower relinquished its hold upon him. He was
an embryo, floating  in a featureless void, though not in complete darkness.
He  had  known such a barely visible, near ultra-violet tenebrosity,  on the
very edge of night, only once in his life when he had descended further than
was altogether wise down the face of a  sheer cliff at the outer edge of the
Great Barrier  Reef.  Looking  down into hundreds  of metres of  crystalline
emptiness, he had felt such a sense of disorientation that  he experienced a
brief  moment of  panic, and had almost  triggered  his buoyancy unit before
regaining control. Needless to say,  he had never mentioned the  incident to
the Space Agency physicians...
     From a great distance  a  voice spoke out of the immense void that  now
seemed to  surround him.  But it  did  not  reach him through his  ears:  it
sounded softly in the echoing labyrinths of his brain.
     'Calibration starting. From time to time you will be asked questions --
you can answer mentally, but it may help to vocalize. Do you understand?'
     'Yes,' Poole  replied, wondering  if his lips were indeed moving. There
was no way that he could tell.
     Something was appearing  in  the void  -- a grid of thin  lines, like a
huge sheet of graph paper. It  extended up and down, right  and left, to the
limits of his vision.  He tried to move his  head, but  the image refused to
     Numbers started to flicker across the grid, too fast for him to read --
but presumably some circuit was recording them. Poole could not help smiling
(did his cheeks move?) at the familiarity of it all. This  was just like the
computer-driven eye  examination that  any oculist of  his age would  give a
     The grid vanished, to be  replaced  by smooth sheets of  colour filling
his entire field of view. In a few seconds, they flashed from one end of the
spectrum to the other. 'Could have told  you that,' Poole muttered silently.
'My colour vision's perfect. Next for hearing, I suppose.'
     He  was quite correct.  A faint,  drumming sound  accelerated  until it
became  the lowest of audible Cs, then raced  up the musical scale  until it
disappeared  beyond  the  range  of  human  hearing,  into  bat and  dolphin
     That was the  last of the simple, straightforward tests. He was briefly
assailed by scents  and  flavours, most  of them pleasant but some quite the
reverse. Then he became, or so it seemed, a puppet on an invisible strig.
     He presumed that his neuromuscular control was  being tested, and hoped
that there were no external manifestations, if there were, he would probably
look  like  someone  in the terminal stages of St Vitus's Dance. And for one
moment he even had a violent erection,  but was unable to give  it a reality
check before he fell into a dreamless sleep.
     Or did he only dream that he slept? He had no  idea  how much  time had
elapsed before  he awoke. The  helmet  had already gone, together  with  the
Brainman and his equipment.
     'Everything went  fine,' beamed Matron. 'It will take  a  few  hours to
check  that  there are no  anomalies. If your  reading's KO -- I mean OK  --
you'll have your Braincap tomorrow.'
     Poole  appreciated  the  efforts of  his  entourage  to  learn  archaic
English,  but he  could  not help wishing  that  Matron  had  not made  that
unfortunate slip-of-the-tongue.
     When the time came for the final filling, Poole felt almost  like a boy
again, about to unwrap some wonderful new toy under the Christmas free.
     'You  won't have to go through all that setting-up again,' the Brainman
assured  him. 'Download will start  immediately. I'll give you a five-minute
demo. Just relax and enjoy.'
     Gentle, soothing  music washed over  him;  though it was something very
familiar,  from  his own time, he could  not  identify it. There was a  mist
before his eyes, which parted as he walked towards it...
     Yes, he was walking! The illusion was utterly convincing; he could feel
the impact of his feet on the ground, and now that the music had  stopped he
could hear a gentle  wind blowing  through the great  trees that appeared to
surround  him.  He recognized  them as Californian  redwoods, and hoped that
they still existed in reality, somewhere on Earth.
     He was  moving  at a brisk pace -- too fast for comfort, as if time was
slightly accelerated so he  could cover as much  ground as possible.  Yet he
was not conscious  of any effort; he felt he was a guest  in someone  else's
body. The sensation was enhanced by the fact that he had no control over his
movements. When  he  attempted to  stop,  or  to change  direction,  nothing
happened. He was going along for the ride.
     It did not  matter; he  was  enjoying the novel experience -- and could
appreciate how  addictive  it  could become.  The 'dream machines' that many
scientists of his own century had anticipated --  often with  alarm --  were
now  part  of everyday life. Poole  wondered  how  Mankind  had  managed  to
survive:  he had been  told  that  much  of  it  had not. Millions had  been
brain-burned, and had dropped out of life.
     Of  course,  he would be immune to  such temptations! He would use this
marvellous tool to learn more about the  world of the Fourth Millennium, and
to acquire in minutes  new skills that would otherwise take years to master.
Well -- he might, just occasionally, use the Braincap purely for fun...
     He had come to  the edge of  the forest, and was looking  out across  a
wide river. Without hesitation, he walked into  it, and felt no alarm as the
water  rose  over his  head.  It  did  seem  a little strange  that he could
continue breathing naturally, but he thought it much more remarkable that he
could see perfectly in a medium where the unaided human eye could not focus.
He could count every scale on the magnificent trout that went swimming past,
apparently oblivious to this strange intruder...
     Then,  a mermaid- Well he  had  always wanted  to meet one,  but he had
assumed  that  they were  marine creatures. Perhaps  they occasionally  came
upstream  -- like salmon, to have their babies? She was gone before he could
question her, to confirm or deny this revolutionary theory.
     The river ended in a translucent  wall; he stepped through it on to the
face of  a desert, beneath  a blazing sun. Its heat burned him uncomfortably
-- yet he was able  to look directly  into  its noonday fury. He  could even
see, with unnatural clarity,  an archipelago of sunspots near  one limb. And
-- this was surely impossible -- there was the tenuous glory  of the corona,
quite  invisible  except during  total eclipse,  reaching out like a  swan's
wings on either side of the Sun.
     Everything faded to black: the haunting music returned, and with it the
blissful coolness of his familiar room. He  opened his  eyes (had they  ever
been closed?) and found an expectant audience waiting for his reaction.
     'Wonderful!'  he  breathed, almost reverently.  'Some of  it seemed  --
well, realer than real!'
     Then his  engineer's  curiosity, never far from  the  surface,  started
nagging him.
     'Even  that short  demo  must  have  contained  an enormous  amount  of
information. How's it stored?'
     'In  these tablets -- the same your  audio-visual system uses, but with
much greater capacity.'
     The Brainman handed  Poole a  small square, apparently made  of  glass,
silvered  on  one  surface;  it was  almost the same  size  as  the computer
diskettes of his youth, but twice the thickness. As Poole tilted it back and
forth,  trying  to see  into its transparent interior, there were occasional
rainbow-hued flashes, but that was all.
     He was holding, he realized, the end product  of more than  a  thousand
years of electro-optical technology  -- as well as other technologies unborn
in  his era.  And it was not surprising  that, superficially,  it  resembled
closely the devices he had known.  There was a convenient shape and size for
most of  the  common objects  of everyday life  --knives  and  forks, books,
hand-tools, furniture... and removable memories for computers.
     'What's its capacity?'  he asked. 'In my time, we were up to a terabyte
in something this size. I'm sure you've done a lot better.'
     'Not as much as you might imagine -- there's a limit, of course, set by
the  structure  of  matter.  By  the  way, what was a terabyte?  Afraid I've
     'Shame on  you! Kilo,  mega, giga,  tera... that's  ten  to the twelfth
bytes. Then the petabyte  -- ten to the fifteenth -- that's as far as I ever
     'That's  about where we  start.  It's enough to  record  everything any
person can experience during one lifetime.'
     It  was  an  astonishing  thought,  yet  it  should  not  have been  so
surprising. The kilogram of jelly inside the human skull was not much larger
than the tablet Poole was holding in his hand, and it could not possibly  be
as efficient a storage device -- it had so many other duties to deal with.
     'And  that's  not   all,'  the  Brainman  continued.  'With  some  data
compression, it could store not only the memories -- but the actual person.'
     'And reproduce them again?'
     'Of course; straightforward job of nanoassembly.'
     So I'd heard, Poole told himself -- but I never really believed it.
     Back  in  his  century,  it seemed wonderful  enough  that  the  entire
lifework of a great artist could be stored on a single small  disk. And now,
something no larger could hold -- the artist as well.

     7 Debriefing

     'I'm  delighted,'  said  Poole, 'to know  that  the  Smithsonian  still
exists, after all these centuries.'
     'You  probably  wouldn't  recognize  it,'  said  the  visitor  who  had
introduced himself as Dr Alistair Kim, Director of Astronautics. 'Especially
as  it's  now  scattered  over  the  Solar  System  --  the  main  off-Earth
collections are on Mars and the Moon, and many of  the exhibits that legally
belong to us are  still heading for the stars. Some day we'll  catch up with
them and bring  them  home. We're  particularly anxious  to get our hands on
Pioneer 10 -- the first manmade object to escape from the Solar System.'
     'I believe I was on the verge of doing that, when they located me.'
     'Lucky for  you -- and for us. You may  be able to  throw light on many
things we don't know.'
     'Frankly, I doubt it -- but I'll do my  best. I  don't remember a thing
after  that  runaway space-pod charged me. Though  I still find it  hard  to
believe, I've been told that Hal was responsible.'
     'That's true, but it's a complicated story. Everything we've  been able
to learn is in  this recording -- about twenty hours, but you  can  probably
Fast most of it.'
     'You know, of course, that Dave Bowman went out in the  Number 2 Pod to
rescue you --  but was then locked outside the ship  because Hal refused  to
open the pod-bay doors.'
     'Why, for God's sake?'
     Dr Kim winced slightly.  It was not the first  time  Poole had  noticed
such a reaction.
     (Must watch my language, he thought. 'God' seems  to be a dirty word in
this culture -- must ask Indra about it.)
     'There was a major programming error in Hal's instructions -- he'd been
given control of  aspects of  the  mission you and Bowman didn't know about,
it's all in the recording...
     'Anyway,  he  also  cut  off  the  life-support  systems  to the  three
hybernauts --  the  Alpha Crew -- and Bowman had to jettison their bodies as
     (So Dave and I were the Beta Crew -- something else I didn't know...)
     'What happened to them?' Poole asked. 'Couldn't they have been rescued,
just as I was?'
     'I'm  afraid not: we've looked into it,  of course. Bowman ejected them
several hours after he'd taken  back control from Hal,  so their orbits were
slightly different from yours. Just enough for them to burn up in Jupiter --
while you skimmed by,  and got a gravity boost that would have taken  you to
the Orion Nebula in a few thousand more years...'
     'Doing everything on manual override -- really a fantastic performance!
-- Bowman  managed to  get  Discovery into orbit round Jupiter. And there he
encountered what  the  Second Expedition called  Big  Brother -- an apparent
twin of the Tycho Monolith, but hundreds of times larger.'
     'And  that's where  we lost him.  He  left  Discovery  in the remaining
space-pod,  and made a rendezvous  with  Big Brother. For almost  a thousand
years,  we've been  haunted by his last message:  "By  Deus -- it's full  of
     (Here  we  go again! Poole told  himself. No way  Dave could have  said
that... Must have been 'My God -- it's full of stars!')
     'Apparently  the  pod  was  drawn  into  the Monolith  by some kind  of
inertial  field,  because  it  --  and  presumably  Bowman  --  survived  an
acceleration which should have crushed them instantly. And that was the last
information  anyone  had, for  almost ten years, until the joint  US-Russian
Leonov mission...'
     'Which  made  a rendezvous  with  the  abandoned  Discovery so that  Dr
Chandra could go aboard and reactivate Hal. Yes, I know that.'
     Dr Kim looked slightly embarrassed.
     'Sorry -- I wasn't sure how much you'd been told already Anyway, that's
when even stranger things started to happen.'
     'Apparently  the  arrival  of  Leonov  triggered something  inside  Big
Brother. If we  did not have  these recordings,  no one would  have believed
what happened.  Let me  show  you...  here's  Dr Heywood  Floyd  keeping the
midnight  watch aboard Discovery,  after power had been restored. Of  course
you'll recognize everything.'
     (Indeed  I do:  and  how  strange  to see  the long-dead Heywood Floyd,
sitting in my old seat with Hal's unblinking red eye surveying everything in
sight. And even stranger to think that Hal and I have both shared  the  same
experience of resurrection from the dead...)
     A message was  coining up on one of  the  monitors, and  Floyd answered
lazily, 'OK, Hal. Who is calling?'

     Floyd looked slightly annoyed.
     'Very well. Please give me the message.'

     'That is absolutely impossible. Our launch  window does  not open until
twenty-six  days from  now.  We do  not  have sufficient  propellant for  an
earlier departure.'

     'I cannot take this warning seriously unless I know its  origin...  who
is speaking to me?'

     Heywood  Floyd slowly turned in his  swivel chair, away from the banked
panels and switches  of the  computer  display, towards  the  Velcro-covered
catwalk behind.
     ('Watch this carefully,' said Dr Kim.
     As if I needed telling, thought Poole...)
     The  zero-gravity environment  of Discovery's observation deck was much
dustier than he remembered it: he guessed that the  air-filtration plant had
not  yet been brought on line. The parallel  rays  of  the distant yet still
brilliant Sun,  streaming  through the  great windows, lit  up  a myriad  of
dancing motes in a classic display of Brownian movement.
     And  now something strange was  happening to  these particles of  dust;
some force seemed to be marshalling  them, herding them away from  a central
point yet bringing others towards it, until they all met on the surface of a
hollow  sphere. That sphere, about a metre across, hovered in  the air for a
moment like  a giant soap bubble. Then it elongated into an ellipsoid, whose
surface began to pucker, to  form  folds  and indentations.  Poole  was  not
really surprised when it started to assume the shape of a man.
     He had seen  such  figures,  blown out of glass, in museums and science
exibitions.  But this  dusty  phantom  did not even  approximate  anatomical
accuracy; it was like a crude clay  figurine, or one  of the primitive works
of art found in the recesses of Stone Age caves. Only the head was fashioned
with care; and the face, beyond all  shadow of doubt, was that  of Commander
David Bowman.

     The  lips  of the  figure never moved: Poole realized that the voice --
yes,  certainly  Bowman's  voice  --  was  actually coming from  the speaker

     'Why -- and what are you?'
     But  the  ghostly  figure  was  already  fading,  its  grainy  envelope
beginning to dissolve back into the constituent particles of dust.

     As the image dissolved, Poole could  not help smiling at that old Space
Age cliche?. 'If all goes  well' --  how many times he had heard that phrase
intoned before a mission!
     The phantom  vanished:  only  the  motes  of  dancing  dust  were left,
resuming their  random patterns in  the air. With an  effort of  will, Poole
came back to the present.
     'Well, Commander -- what do you think of that?' asked Kim.
     Poole  was still shaken,  and  it was  several  seconds before he could
     'The face and the voice were Bowman's --  I'd swear to  that.  But what
was it?'
     'That's  what  we're  still  arguing  about.  Call  it  a  hologram,  a
projection -- of course,  there are  plenty  of  ways it  could  be faked if
anyone wanted to --  but  not in those circumstances! And  then,  of course,
there's what happened next.'
     'Yes. Thanks to that  warning, the  Leonov  had just sufficient time to
get away before Jupiter detonated.'
     'So whatever it was, the Bowman-thing was friendly and trying to help.'
     'Presumably. And it  may  have  been  responsible  for that  "one  more
message" we  did receive -- it was sent only minutes before  the detonation.
Another waning.'
     Dr Kim brought the screen to life once more.  It showed plain text: ALL
message was repeated about a hundred times, then the letters became garbled.
     'And we never have tried to land there?' asked Poole.
     'Only once, by accident, thirty-six years later -- when the USSS Galaxy
was hijacked and forced down there, and her  sister ship Universe had to  go
to the rescue. It's all here --with what little our robot monitors have told
us about the Europans.'
     'I'm anxious to see them.'
     'They're  amphibious, and  come in  all shapes and  sizes.  As  soon as
Lucifer  started melting the ice that covered theirt whole world, they began
to emerge from the sea. Since then, they've developed at  a speed that seems
biologically impossible.'
     'From what I remember about Europa, weren't there lots of cracks in the
ice?  Perhaps  they'd already started  crawling  through and  having  a look
     'That's  a  widely  accepted  theory.  But  there's  another, much more
speculative, one. The Monolith may have  been involved, in ways we don't yet
understand. What  triggered  that  line of  thought was the discovery of TMA
ZERO, right here on Earth, almost  five  hundred years after  your  time.  I
suppose you've been told about that?'
     'Only vaguely -- there's been so much to catch up with! I did think the
name was ridiculous  -- since  it wasn't a magnetic anomaly -- and it was in
Africa, not Tycho!'
     'You're quite right, of course, but  we're stuck with the name. And the
more  we learn about  the Monoliths, the more the puzzle deepens. Especially
as they're still the  only real evidence for advanced  technology beyond the
     'That's surprised me. I should have thought that by this lime we'd have
picked up radio  signals from  somewhere. The astronomers started  searching
when I was a boy!'
     'Well, there is one hint -- and it's so  terrifying that we don't  like
to talk about it. Have you heard of Nova Scorpio?'
     'I don't believe so.'
     'Stars  go  nova  all  the  time,  of  course  --  and  this  wasn't  a
particularly impressive one.  But before it blew up,  N Scorp  was known  to
have several planets.'
     'Absolutely no way of  telling;  radio searches had  picked up nothing.
And here's the nightmare...'
     'Luckily,  the automatic  Nova  Patrol  caught the  event at  the  very
beginning. And  it  didn't start at the star. One of the  planets  detonated
first, and then triggered its sun.'
     'My Gah... sorry, go on.'
     'You see  the point. It's  impossible for a planet to go nova -- except
in one way.'
     'I once read a sick joke in a  science-fiction novel -- "supernovae are
industrial accidents".'
     'It wasn't  a supernova -- but that  may  be  no joke. The  most widely
accepted  theory is that someone  else had been tapping vacuum energy -- and
had lost control.'
     'Or it could have been a war.'
     'Just  as bad; we'll probably  never know. But as  our own civilization
depends on the same energy source, you can understand  why N Scorp sometimes
gives us nightmares.'
     'And we only had melting nuclear reactors to worry about!'
     'Not any longer, thank Deus. But I really wanted to tell you more about
TMA ZERO's discovery, because it marked a turning point in human history.'
     'Finding  TMA ONE on the Moon was a big enough shock,  but five hundred
years later there was  a  worse one. And it was much nearer home -- in every
sense of the word. Down there in Africa.'

     8 Return to Olduvai

     The Leakeys, Dr Stephen Del  Marco often told himself, would never have
recognized this place, even though it's barely a dozen kilometres from where
Louis and Mary, five centuries ago, dug up the bones of our first ancestors.
Global warming,  and the  Little Ice Age  (truncated  by  miracles of heroic
technology) had transformed the landscape, and completely altered its biota.
Oaks and pine trees  were  still fighting it out, to see which would survive
the changes in climatic fortune.
     And it was hard to  believe that, by this year 2513, there was anything
left  in  Olduvai  undug  by enthusiastic  anthropologists.  However, recent
flash-floods -- which were not supposed to happen any more -- had resculpted
this  area,  and cut  away several  metres  of  topsoil. Del Marco had taken
advantage of  the opportunity: and there, at the limit of the deep-scan, was
something he could not quite believe.
     It had  taken more than a year of  slow and careful excavation to reach
that ghostly image, and to learn that the reality was stranger than anything
he  had  dared  to imagine. Robot  digging machines had  swiftly removed the
first few metres, then  the traditional slave-crews of graduate students had
taken over. They had been helped -- or hindered  -- by a team of four kongs,
who Del  Marco considered  more trouble than they were  worth. However,  the
students adored the genetically-enhanced gorillas,  whom  they  treated like
retarded  but  much-loved  children.  It was rumoured that the relationships
were not always completely Platonic.
     For  the  last few  metres, however, everything was  the work of  human
hands, usually  wielding toothbrushes  --  soft-bristled at that. And now it
was finished: Howard Carter, seeing the first glint of gold in Tutankhamen's
tomb, had never uncovered such a treasure as this. From this moment onwards,
Del Marco knew, human beliefs and philosophies would be irrevocably changed.
     The  Monolith appeared to be the exact twin of that  discovered  on the
Moon five centuries  earlier: even the excavation  surrounding it was almost
identical  in  size. And  like  TMA  ONE,  it  was  totally  non-reflective,
absorbing with equal indifference the fierce  glare  of the  African Sun and
the pale gleam of Lucifer.
     As he  led  his colleagues -- the directors of the  world's  half-dozen
most  famous museums, three eminent anthropologists, the  heads of two media
empires -- down  into  the pit, Del  Marco wondered if such  a distinguished
group of men and  women had ever been so silent, for  so long. But that  was
the effect that this  ebon rectangle had on all  visitors,  as they realized
the implications of the thousands of artefacts that surrounded it.
     For  here was  an archaeologist's  treasure-trove  -- crudely-fashioned
flint tools, countless  bones -- some  animal, some human  -- and almost all
arranged  in  careful patterns. For  centuries  --  no,  millennia --  these
pitiful gifts  had been  brought  here,  by  creatures with only  the  first
glimmer of intelligence, as tribute to a marvel beyond their understanding.
     And beyond ours, Del Marco had often thought. Yet of two things  he was
certain, though he doubted if proof would ever be possible.
     This was  where -- in  time and space --  the  human species had really
     And this Monolith was the very first of all its multitudinous gods.

     9 Skyland

     'There were mice in my bedroom last night,' Poole complained, only half
seriously. 'Is there any chance you could find me a cat?'
     Dr Wallace looked puzzled, then started to laugh.
     'You must  have  heard  one of the  cleaning microts  -- I'll  get  the
programming checked so they don't disturb you. Try not to step on one if you
catch it at work; if you do, it will call for help, and all its friends will
come to pick up the pieces.'
     So  much  to  learn --  so  little time! No, that  wasn't  true,  Poole
reminded himself. He  might well have a century ahead of him,  thanks to the
medical science of this age. The thought was already beginning  to fill  him
with apprehension rather than pleasure.
     At least he was  now able to  follow most conversations easily, and had
learned to pronounce words  so  that Indra was not the only person who could
understand him.  He  was  very glad that Anglish was now the world language,
though French, Russian and Mandarin still flourished.
     'I've another problem, Indra -- and I guess  you're the only person who
can help. When I say "God", why do people look embarrassed?'
     Indra did not look at all embarrassed; in fact, she laughed.
     'That's a very complicated story. I wish my old friend Dr Khan was here
to explain it  to you -- but he's on  Ganymede,  curing  any  remaining True
Believers he can find there. When all the  old religions were discredited --
let me  tell you about Pope Pius XX sometime --  one of the greatest  men in
history! --  we  still needed a word for the Prime Cause, or the  Creator of
the Universe -- if there is one...'
     'There  were lots of suggestions  -- Deo  -- Theo -- Jove --  Brahma --
they were  all  tried,  and  some  of  them  are still  around -- especially
Einstein's  favourite,  "The  Old One".  But Deus seems  to  be  the fashion
     'I'll try to remember; but it still seems silly to me.'
     'You'll get used  to it: I'll teach you  some  other  reasonably polite
expletives, to use when you want to express your feelings...'
     'You said that all the old religions have been discredited. So what  do
people believe nowadays?'
     'As little as possible. We're all either Deists or Theists.'
     'You've lost me. Definitions, please.'
     'They  were  slightly different  in  your time, but here are the latest
versions.  Theists believe there's not more than one God; Deists that  there
is not less than one God.'
     'I'm afraid the distinction's too subtle for me.'
     'Not for everyone; you'd  be  amazed  at  the bitter controversies it's
aroused.  Five  centuries  ago,  someone   used  what's   known  as  surreal
mathematics to prove there's an  infinite number  of grades  between Theists
and Deists. Of course, like  most dabblers with infinity, he went insane. By
the way, the best-known  Deists  were  Americans  --  Washington,  Franklin,
     'A little before  my time -- though  you'd be surprised how many people
don't realize it.'
     'Now I've some good news. Joe --  Prof. Anderson -- has  finally  given
his -- what was the phrase? -- OK. You're fit enough to go for a little trip
upstairs... to the Lunar Level.'
     'Wonderful. How far is that?'
     'Oh, about twelve thousand kilometres.'
     'Twelve thousand! That will take hours!'
     Indra looked surprised at his remark: then she smiled.
     'Not as long as you think. No -- we don't have a Star Trek  Transporter
yet  --  though I  believe they're  still working on it! But you'll need new
clothes, and someone  to show you how to wear them. And to help you with the
hundreds of little everyday jobs that can waste so much time. So we've taken
the liberty of arranging a human personal assistant for you Come in, Danil.'
     Danil was a small, light-brown man in  his  mid-thirties, who surprised
Poole  by not  giving  him  the  usual palm-top salute, with  its  automatic
exchange of information.
     Indeed, it soon appeared that  Danil did not possess an Ident: whenever
it  was  needed, he produced a small  rectangle  of  plastic that apparently
served the same purpose as the twenty-first century's 'smart cards'.
     'Danil will also be your guide  and what  was that word? -- I can never
remember --  rhymes  with "ballet". He's been specially trained for the job.
I'm sure you'll find him completely satisfactory.'
     Though  Poole  appreciated  this  gesture,  it made  him  feel a little
uncomfortable. A valet, indeed! He could not recall ever meeting one; in his
time, they were already a rare and endangered species. He began to feel like
a character from an early-twentieth-century English novel.
     'You have a  choice,' said Indra, 'though I know which one you'll take.
We can go up on an external elevator,  and admire the view -- or an interior
one, and enjoy a meal and some light entertainment.'
     'I can't imagine anyone wanting to stay inside.'
     'You'd be surprised. It's too vertiginous for some people -- especially
visitors from down below. Even mountain climbers who  say they've got a head
for  heights may  start  to turn green -- when the heights  are  measured in
thousands of kilometres, instead of metres.'
     'I'll risk it,' Poole answered with a smile. 'I've been higher.'
     When they had passed  through a double  set of airlocks in the exterior
wall  of  the Tower (was  it imagination, or  did he feel a curious sense of
disorientation then?) they entered what might have been the auditorium  of a
very small theatre. Rows of ten seats were banked up in five tiers: they all
faced  towards one  of the huge  picture windows  which  Poole  still  found
disconcerting, as he could never  quite  forget the hundreds of  tons of air
pressure, striving to blast it out into space.
     The  dozen or  so other passengers, who had probably  never  given  the
matter  any thought, seemed  perfectly  at  ease.  They all smiled  as  they
recognized him, nodded politely, then turned away to admire the view.
     'Welcome  to Skylounge,' said the inevitable autovoice. 'Ascent  begins
in five minutes. You will find refreshments and toilets on the lower floor.'
     Just  how  long  will this trip  last? Poole wondered. We're  going  to
travel  over twenty  thousand klicks, there and back: this will be  like  no
elevator ride I've ever known on Earth...
     While he  was waiting for the ascent to begin, he enjoyed  the stunning
panorama  laid  out  two  thousand kilometres below. It  was winter  in  the
northern  hemisphere, but the climate  had indeed changed  drastically,  for
there was little snow south of the Arctic Circle.
     Europe was almost cloud-free, and there was so much detail that the eye
was overwhelmed. One by  one he identified the  great cities whose names had
echoed down the centuries; they had been  shrinking even in his time, as the
communications  revolution  changed  the  face  of  the  world,  and had now
dwindled still further. There were also some  bodies of  water in improbable
places -- the northern Sahara's Lake Saladin was almost a small sea.
     Poole was so engrossed by the view that he had forgotten the passage of
time. Suddenly  he realized  that  much more than five minutes had passed --
yet the elevator was still  stationary. Had  something gone wrong -- or were
they waiting for late arrivals?
     And then he noticed something so extraordinary that at first he refused
to believe the evidence of his eyes. The panorama had expanded, as if he had
already risen hundreds of  kilometres!  Even  as he watched, he noticed  new
features of the planet below creeping into the frame of the window.
     Then Poole laughed, as the obvious explanation occurred to him.
     'You could  have fooled me, Indra! I  thought this  was real --  not  a
video projection!'
     Indra looked back at him with a quizzical smile.
     'Think again,  Frank. We  started to move about ten minutes ago. By now
we must be climbing at, oh -- at least a thousand kilometres an hour. Though
I'm told these elevators can reach a hundred gee at maximum acceleration, we
won't touch more than ten, on this short run.'
     'That's  impossible!  Six  is  the maximum  they ever  gave me  in  the
centrifuge, and I didn't  enjoy weighing half a ton. I know we haven't moved
since we stepped inside.'
     Poole had raised his voice slightly, and suddenly became aware that the
other passengers were pretending not to notice.
     'I don't understand  how  it's done, Frank, but it's called an inertial
field.  Or  sometimes a  Sharp  one -- the "S"  stands for  a famous Russian
scientist, Sakharov -- I don't know who the others were.'
     Slowly, understanding  dawned in Poole's  mind -- and also a  sense  of
awe-struck  wonder.  Here  indeed was a 'technology  indistinguishable  from
     'Some of  my friends  used to  dream of "space drives" -- energy fields
that  could  replace  rockets, and allow  movement  without any  feeling  of
acceleration, Most of us thought  they were  crazy -- but it seems they were
right!  I can  still hardly believe  it... and  unless  I'm  mistaken, we're
starting to lose weight.'
     'Yes  --  it's  adjusting to the lunar value. When  we step out, you'll
feel we're on the Moon. But  for  goodness' sake, Frank -- forget  you're an
engineer, and simply enjoy the view.'
     It was  good advice, but even as he watched the whole of Africa, Europe
and much of Asia  flow into his field of vision,  Poole could not  tear  his
mind away from this astonishing  revelation.  Yet  he should not  have  been
wholly surprised: he knew that  there  had been major breakthroughs in space
propulsion systems since his time, but had not realized that they would have
such dramatic applications to everyday life -- if that term could be applied
to existence in a thirty-six-thousand-kilometre-high skyscraper.
     And the  age of  the rocket must have been over, centuries ago. All his
knowledge  of  propellant systems and combustion chambers, ion thrusters and
fusion reactors, was totally obsolete. Of course, that no longer mattered --
but  he understood the  sadness that  the skipper of a  windjammer must have
felt, when sail gave way to steam.
     His mood  changed  abruptly,  and he could not help  smiling,  when the
robovoice announced, 'Arriving in two minutes. Please make sure that you  do
not leave any of your personal belongings behind.'
     How often he had heard that announcement, on some commercial flight? He
looked at his watch,  and was surprised  to see that they had been ascending
for less than half an hour So that meant an average speed of at least twenty
thousand kilometres an hour, yet they might  never have moved. What was even
stranger --  for  the last ten  minutes or more they must actually have been
decelerating so rapidly that by rights they should all have been standing on
the roof, heads pointing towards Earth!
     The doors opened silently, and as Poole stepped  out he  again felt the
slight disorientation he had noticed on  entering  the elevator lounge. This
time, however, he  knew what it meant: he was moving through  the transition
zone  where  the inertial field  overlapped with  gravity  -- at this level,
equal to the Moon's.
     Indra and Danil followed him, walking carefully now at a third of their
customary weight,  as  they  went  forward  to  meet the  next  of the day's
     Though  the view  of the receding  Earth had been  awesome, even for an
astronaut,  there  was nothing unexpected or surprising  about  it.  But who
would have imagined  a  gigantic chamber,  apparently occupying  the  entire
width of the Tower, so that the far wall was more than five kilometres away?
Perhaps  by  this time there  were larger enclosed volumes on  the  Moon and
Mars, but this must surely be one of the largest in space itself.
     They were standing on a viewing platform, fifty metres up on the  outer
wall, looking across an astonishingly varied panorama. Obviously, an attempt
had been made  to reproduce a whole range of terrestrial biomes. Immediately
beneath them  was  a group of  slender trees  which Poole could not at first
identify: then  he  realized that they were  oaks, adapted to  one-sixth  of
their normal  gravity. What, he wondered, would palm frees  look like  here?
Giant reeds, probably...
     In  the middle-distance  there was  a  small lake, fed by a  river that
meandered across a grassy plain, then disappeared into something that looked
like a single gigantic banyan tree. What was the source of the water?  Poole
had  become  aware of a faint drumming sound, and as he swept his gaze along
the gently curving wall,  he  discovered a miniature Niagara, with a perfect
rainbow hovering in the spray above it.
     He could have  stood  here for hours, admiring the  view and  still not
exhausting  all  the  wonders  of  this  complex  and brilliantly  contrived
simulation  of  the  planet  below. As it spread out  into  new and  hostile
environments,  perhaps  the  human  race  felt an  ever-increasing  need  to
remember its  origins. Of course,  even in his own time every city  had  its
parks as  -- usually feeble -- reminders of Nature. The same impulse must be
acting here, on a much grander scale. Central Park, Africa Tower!
     'Let's go down,' said Indra. 'There's so much to  see, and I don't come
here as often as I'd like.'
     Followed by the silent  but ever-present Danil,  who  always seemed  to
know when  he was  needed but otherwise  kept out of the  way,  they began a
leisurely exploration of  this oasis in space.  Though  walking  was  almost
effortless in this low  gravity, from time to time they  took advantage of a
small  monorail,  and  stopped  once for refreshments at  a cafe?, cunningly
concealed in the trunk of a redwood that must have  been at least a  quarter
of a kilometre tall.
     There were very few other people about --  their fellow  passengers had
long since disappeared into the  landscape -- so it was  as  if they had all
this wonderland to themselves.
     Everything  was  so  beautifully maintained,  presumably by  armies  of
robots, that from time to time Poole was reminded of a  visit he had made to
Disney World as a small boy. But this was even better: there were no crowds,
and indeed very little reminder of the human race and its artefacts.
     They were admiring a  superb  collection  of orchids, some of  enormous
size, when Poole had one of the  biggest shocks  of his life. As they walked
past a  typical small gardener's  shed, the door opened --  and the gardener
     Frank  Poole had always prided himself  on  his self-control, and never
imagined  that as a full-grown adult he would give a cry of pure fright. But
like every boy of his generation, he had  seen all the 'Jurassic'  movies --
and he knew a raptor when he met one eye to eye.
     'I'm  terribly  sorry,'  said Indra,  with  obvious  concern. 'I  never
thought of warning you.'
     Poole's  jangling nerves returned to  normal. Of course, there could be
no danger, in this perhaps too-well-ordered world: but still...!
     The dinosaur returned  his stare with  apparent total disinterest, then
doubled back  into  the shed and emerged again with  a rake and  a  pair  of
garden shears, which it  dropped into a bag hanging over  one  shoulder.  It
walked away  from  them  with  a bird-like gait, never  looking back  as  it
disappeared behind some ten-metre-high sunflowers.
     'I  should   explain,'   said  Indra   contritely.   'We  like  to  use
bio-organisms when we can,  rather than  robots  --  I  suppose  it's carbon
chauvinism!  Now,  there  are  only  a  few animals  that  have  any  manual
dexterity, and we've used them all at one time or another.'
     'And  here's a  mystery that no one's been able  to solve.  You'd think
that enhanced herbivores like orangutans and gorillas  would be good at this
sort of work. Well, they're not; they don't have the patience for it.'
     'Yet carnivores like our friend here are excellent, and easily trained.
What's more -- here's another paradox! --after they've been modified they're
docile  and good-natured. Of  course,  there's  almost a thousand  years  of
genetic engineering  behind  them,  and look  what primitive  man did to the
wolf, merely by trial and error!'
     Indra laughed and continued: 'You may not believe this, Frank, but they
also   make   good   baby-sitters  --   children   love  them!   There's   a
five-hundred-year-old joke: "Would you trust your kids to a dinosaur?" "What
-- and risk injuring it?"'
     Poole joined in the laughter, partly in shame-faced reaction to his own
fright.  To change the subject, he asked Indra  the question that was  still
worrying him.
     'All this,' he said, 'it's wonderful -- but why go to so  much trouble,
when anyone in the Tower can reach the real thing, just as quickly?'
     Indra looked at him thoughtfully, weighing her words. 'That's not quite
true. It's uncomfortable -- even dangerous -- for anyone who lives above the
half-gee level  to go  down to Earth, even in a hoverchair. So it has  to be
this --or, as you used to say, Virtual Reality.'
     (Now I begin to understand, Poole told himself  bleakly. That  explains
Anderson's evasiveness, and  all the tests he's been doing  to see  if  I've
regained my strength. I've come all the way back from Jupiter, to within two
thousand kilometres of Earth -- but I may never again walk on the surface of
my home planet. I'm not sure how I will be able to handle this...)

     10 Homage to Icarus

     His  depression  quickly passed:  there was so much  to do and  see.  A
thousand lifetimes would not have been enough, and the problem was to choose
which of  the myriad distractions this age could offer. He tried, not always
successfully, to  avoid  the trivia, and to concentrate  on the  things that
mattered -- notably his education.
     The Braincap -- and the book-sized player that went with it, inevitably
called  the  Brainbox -- was of enormous value  here.  He soon  had  a small
library  of 'instant  knowledge'  tablets, each  containing all the material
needed for a college degree. When he slipped one of these into the Brainbox,
and gave it the speed and intensity adjustments  that most suited him, there
would  be  a flash of light,  followed by a  period  of unconsciousness that
might last as long as an hour. When  he awoke,  it  seemed that new areas of
his mind  had been opened up,  though he only  knew they were  there when he
searched for them. It was almost as if he was the owner of a library who had
suddenly discovered shelves of books he did not know he possessed.
     To a large extent, he was the master of his own time. Out of a sense of
duty -- and gratitude --  he acceded to  as many requests as he  could  from
scientists, historians, writers and artists working in media that were often
incomprehensible  to  him.  He  also  had countless invitations  from  other
citizens of the four Towers, virtually all of which he was compelled to turn
     Most  tempting --  and most hard to resist -- were those that came from
the beautiful  planet spread out  below. 'Of course,' Professor Anderson had
told  him, 'you'd survive  if  you  went down for short time with the  right
life-support  system,  but you wouldn't enjoy it. And it  might weaken  your
neuromuscular system  even further. It's never really  recovered  from  that
thousand-year sleep.'
     His other  guardian, Indra  Wallace,  protected  him  from  unnecessary
intrusions, and advised him which requests he should accept  -- and which he
should  politely  refuse.  By  himself,   he  would  never   understand  the
socio-political structure of this  incredibly complex  culture, but  he soon
gathered that, although in theory all class distinctions had vanished, there
were a few thousand super-citizens. George Orwell had been right; some would
always be more equal than others.
     There  had  been  times  when,  conditioned  by his twentyfirst-century
experience,  Poole had  wondered who was paying  for all this hospitality --
would he one day be presented with the equivalent of an enormous hotel bill?
But Indra  had quickly reassured  him: he  was a unique and priceless museum
exhibit, so  would never  have to worry about  such  mundane considerations.
Anything he wanted -- within reason -- would be made available to him: Poole
wondered what the limits were, never imagining that one day he would attempt
to discover them.

     All the most  important  things in life happen by accident,  and he had
set his wall display browser on random  scan, silent, when a striking  image
caught his attention.
     'Stop scan! Sound up!' he shouted, with quite unnecessary loudness.
     He  recognized the music, but it was a few minutes before he identified
it; the fact that his wall was filled with winged humans circling gracefully
round each other undoubtedly helped. But Tchaikovsky would have been utterly
astonished to see this performance of Swan Lake -- with the dancers actually
     Poole  watched, entranced, for  several  minutes,  until he  was fairly
confident that this  was reality, and not a simulation: even in his own day,
one could never be quite certain. Presumably the  ballet was being performed
in one of the many low-gravity environments -- a very large one,  judging by
some of the images. It might even be here in Africa Tower.
     I  want  to try  that, Poole decided. He  had  never quite forgiven the
Space Agency for banning one of his greatest pleasures  -- delayed parachute
formation  jumping  -- even  though he could see  the Agency's  point in not
wanting to risk a valuable investment.  The doctors  had been quite  unhappy
about his earlier hang-gliding accident; fortunately his  teenage bones  had
healed completely.
     'Well,'  he thought, 'there's no  one to stop me  now unless it's Prof.
     To Poole's relief,  the physician thought it  an excellent idea, and he
was also pleased to find that every one of the Towers had its own Aviary, up
at the one-tenth-gee level.
     Within a few days he was being measured for his wings, not in the least
like the elegant versions  worn by the  performers of Swan  Lake. Instead of
feathers there was a flexible membrane, and when he grasped  the  hand-holds
attached to the supporting ribs,  Poole realized that he must look much more
like  a  bat than a bird.  However his 'Move over, Dracula!'  was completely
wasted on his instructor, who was apparently unacquainted with vampires.
     For his first lessons he was restrained by a light  harness, so that he
did not  move  anywhere while he was taught the basic strokes  -- and,  most
important of all, learned control and stability. Like  many acquired skills,
it was not quite as easy as it looked.
     He felt  ridiculous in this safety-harness --  how could  anyone injure
themselves at a  tenth of a gravity! -- and was  glad  that he needed only a
few lessons; doubtless his astronaut training helped. He was, the Wingmaster
told him, the best pupil he had ever taught: but perhaps he said that to all
of them.
     After  a  dozen  free-flights  in  a  chamber  forty metres on a  side,
criss-crossed  with  various obstacles  which  he easily avoided, Poole  was
given the all-clear for his first solo -- and felt nineteen years old again,
about to take off in the Flagstaff Aero Club's antique Cessna.
     The unexciting name 'The Aviary' had not prepared him for the  venue of
this  maiden flight. Though it  seemed even  more  enormous than  the  space
holding the forests and  gardens down at the lunar-gee level, it was  almost
the same size, since it  too occupied an entire floor of the gently tapering
Tower. A circular void, half a kilometre high and over four kilometres wide,
it appeared truly enormous, as there were no features on which the eye could
rest. Because the walls were a uniform  pale  blue, they  contributed to the
impression of infinite space.
     Poole had not really believed the Wingmaster's boast, 'You can have any
scenery  you like',  and  intended to  throw  him  what  he was  sure was an
impossible  challenge. But  on this first flight, at  the dizzy  altitude of
fifty metres, there were no  visual distractions, Of course, a fall from the
equivalent altitude of five  metres  in the ten-fold  greater  Earth gravity
could  break one's neck; however, even minor bruises were unlikely here,  as
the entire floor was covered with  a network of  flexible cables  The  whole
chamber was a giant trampoline;  one could, thought Poole, have a lot of fun
here -- even without wings.
     With firm,  downward  strokes, Poole lifted himself into  the  air.  In
almost no time, it seemed that he was a hundred metres in the air, and still
     'Slow down' said the Wingmaster, 'I can't keep up with you,'
     Poole   straightened  out,  then  attempted   a  slow  roll.  He   felt
light-headed as well as light-bodied (less than ten kilograms!) and wondered
if the concentration of oxygen had been increased.
     This  was wonderful  -- quite different from zero  gravity, as it posed
more of a physical challenge. The nearest  thing to it  was scuba diving: he
wished there were birds here, to emulate the  equally  colourful  coral fish
who had so often accompanied him over tropical reefs.
     One by one,  the  Wingmaster put him through a series of  manoeuvres --
rolls, loops, upside-down flying, hovering.
     Finally  he said: 'Nothing more I  can teach you.  Now let's  enjoy the
     Just for a  moment,  Poole  almost lost  control  -- as he was probably
expected to  do. For,  without the slightest warning, he  was surrounded  by
snow-capped mountains,  and was  flying down a narrow pass, only metres from
some unpleasantly jagged rocks.
     Of  course,  this  could   not   be  real:  those   mountains  were  as
insubstantial as clouds, and he could  fly  right through them if he wished.
Nevertheless, he veered away from the cliff-face  (there was an eagle's nest
on one of its ledges, holding two  eggs which  he felt  he could touch if he
came closer) and headed for more open space.
     The mountains vanished; suddenly, it was night. And then the stars came
out -- not the miserable few thousand in  the impoverished  skies of  Earth,
but  legions beyond counting. And not only stars, but the spiral  whirlpools
of  distant  galaxies,  the  teeming,  close-packed  sun-swarms of  globular
     There was  no possible way  this  could  be  real, even  if he had been
magically  transported to some  world  where such  skies existed.  For those
galaxies  were receding  even as he watched;  stars were  fading, exploding,
being  born in  stellar  nurseries  of glowing  fire-mist.  Every second,  a
million years must be passing...
     The overwhelming  spectacle disappeared as quickly  as  it had come: he
was  back  in  the empty  sky,  alone  except  for  his  instructor, in  the
featureless blue cylinder of the Aviary.
     'I think that's enough for  one day,' said the  Wingmaster, hovering  a
few metres above Poole. 'What scenery would you like, the next time you come
     Poole did not hesitate. With a smile, he answered the question.

     11 Here be Dragons

     He would  never have believed  it possible, even with the technology of
this  day and age. How  many  terabytes  -- petabytes -- was there  a  large
enough  word?  --  of  information  must  have  been  accumulated  over  the
centuries,  and in  what sort of storage  medium? Better not think about it,
and  follow  Indra's  advice:  'Forget  you're  an  engineer  --  and  enjoy
     He  was certainly enjoying himself  now, though his pleasure  was mixed
with an almost overwhelming sense of  nostalgia. For he was flying, or so it
seemed,  at an altitude of about  two  kilometres, above the spectacular and
unforgotten landscape of his youth.  Of  course, the perspective was  false,
since  the  Aviary  was  only half  a kilometre  high, but the  illusion was
     He circled Meteor Crater, remembering how he had scrambled up its sides
during his earlier astronaut training. How incredible that anyone could ever
have doubted its origin, and the accuracy  of  its  name!  Yet well into the
twentieth century, distinguished geologists had argued that it was volcanic:
not until the coming of the Space Age was it -- reluctantly -- accepted that
all planets were still under continual bombardment.
     Poole was  quite sure that  his comfortable  cruising speed  was nearer
twenty than two hundred kilometres an hour, yet he had been allowed to reach
Flagstaff in less than fifteen minutes. And there  were the whitely-gleaming
domes of the Lowell Observatory, which he had visited so often as a boy, and
whose  friendly staff had undoubtedly been  responsible  for  his  choice of
career. He had sometimes  wondered  what his profession might have been, had
he not been born in Arizona, near the very spot where the most long-enduring
and  influential  of  Martian  fantasies  had been  created.  Perhaps it was
imagination, but Poole thought he could just see Lowell's unique tomb, close
to the great telescope, which had fuelled his dreams.
     From  what year,  and  what season, had this  image  been  captured? He
guessed it had come from the spy satellites which had watched over the world
of the early twenty-first century.  It could not be much  later than his own
time,  for  the layout of the  city was just as he remembered. Perhaps if he
went low enough he would even see himself...
     But he knew that  was absurd;  he  had already discovered that this was
the nearest he  could get. If he flew  any closer,  the image would start to
breakup, revealing its basic pixels. It was better to keep his distance, and
not destroy the beautiful illusion.
     And there  --  it was incredible! --  was the little park  where he had
played with his junior and high-school friends. The City Fathers were always
arguing  about its  maintenance,  as the water supply became  more and  more
critical. Well, at least it had survived to this time -- whenever that might
     And then  another memory brought  tears to his eyes. Along those narrow
paths, whenever he could get home from Houston  or the Moon, he  had  walked
with his beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback, throwing  sticks for him to  retrieve,
as man and dog had done from time immemorial.
     Poole had hoped, with all his heart, that Rikki would still be there to
greet him when he returned from Jupiter, and had left him in the care of his
younger  brother Martin.  He  almost  lost control, and sank several  metres
before regaining stability, as he once more faced the bitter truth that both
Rikki and Martin had been dust for centuries.
     When he could see properly again, he noticed that the dark  band of the
Grand Canyon was just visible on the far horizon. He was debating whether to
head for it -- he was growing a little tired -- when he became aware that he
was  not  alone in  the sky.  Something  else was  approaching,  and it  was
certainly not a human flyer.  Although  it was  difficult to judge distances
here, it seemed much too large for that.
     Well, he thought, I'm  not particularly surprised to meet a pterodactyl
here -- indeed, it's just the sort of thing I'd expect. I hope it's friendly
-- or that I can outfly it if it isn't. Oh, no!
     A pterodactyl was  not a bad guess: maybe eight points out of ten. What
was approaching him now, with slow flaps of  its great leathery wings, was a
dragon straight out of Fairyland. And, to complete the picture, there was  a
beautiful  lady  riding  on  its  back.  At  least,  Poole  assumed  she was
beautiful. The traditional image was rather spoiled by one  trifling detail:
much of  her  face  was concealed by a large pair of  aviator's goggles that
might have come straight from the open cockpit of a World War I biplane.
     Poole hovered  in mid-air,  like  a swimmer treading  water, until  the
oncoming monster came close enough for him to hear the flapping of its great
wings. Even when it was  less  than twenty metres away, he could not  decide
whether it was a machine or a bio-construct: probably both.
     And then he forgot about the dragon, for the rider removed her goggles.
     The trouble with cliche?s, some philosopher  remarked, probably  with a
yawn, is that they are so boringly true.
     But 'love at first sight' is never boring.

     Danil could provide no information, but then Poole had not expected any
from him. His ubiquitous  escort -- he  certainly would not pass muster as a
classic valet -- seemed  so limited  in his  functions  that Poole sometimes
wondered if  he was  mentally handicapped, unlikely  though that  seemed. He
understood  the functioning  of all the  household  appliances, carried  out
simple orders  with speed and efficiency, and knew his way  about the Tower.
But that was all; it was impossible to have an intelligent conversation with
him, and any  polite queries about his family were met with a look of  blank
incomprehension. Poole had even wondered if he too was a bio-robot.
     Indra, however, gave him the answer he needed right away.
     'Oh, you've met the Dragon Lady!'
     'Is that what you call her? What's her real name -- and can you  get me
her Ident? We were hardly in a position to touch palms.'
     'Of course -- no problemo.'
     'Where did you pick up that?'
     Indra looked uncharacteristically confused.
     'I've no idea -- some  old  book or  movie.  Is it  a  good  figure  of
     'Not if you're over fifteen.'
     'I'll try  to remember. Now tell me what happened -- unless you want to
make me jealous.'
     They  were now  such  good friends that they  could discuss any subject
with  perfect  frankness. Indeed, they had laughingly  lamented their  total
lack of romantic interest in each other  -- though Indra had once commented,
'I guess that if we were both marooned on a desert asteroid, with no hope of
rescue, we could come to some arrangement.'
     'First, you tell me who she is.'
     'Her name's Aurora McAuley; among many other things, she's President of
the  Society  for Creative  Anachronisms.  And  if  you  thought  Draco  was
impressive, wait until you see some of their  other -- ah -- creations. Like
Moby Dick --  and a whole zooful  of  dinosaurs  Mother Nature never thought
     This is too good to be true, thought Poole.
     I am the biggest anachronism on Planet Earth.

     12 Frustration

     Until now,  he  had almost  forgotten that conversation with the  Space
Agency psychologist.
     'You may be gone from  Earth for at  least three years. If  you like, I
can  give you  a  harmless anaphrodisiac implant  that  will  last  out  the
mission. I promise we'll more than make it up, when you get home.'
     'No thanks,' Poole had answered, trying to keep his face straight  when
he continued, 'I think I can handle it.'
     Nevertheless, he had become suspicious after the third  or  fourth week
-- and so had Dave Bowman.
     'I've  noticed  it too,'  Dave said  'I  bet  those  damn  doctors  put
something in our diet...'
     Whatever that something was  -- if indeed it had ever existed -- it was
certainly long past its  shelf-life. Until now, Poole had  been too busy  to
get involved in any emotional entanglements,  and had politely  turned  down
generous offers  from several young  (and not so young) ladies.  He  was not
sure whether it was his physique or his fame  that appealed to them: perhaps
it was nothing more than simple  curiosity  about  a man who,  for  all they
knew, might be an ancestor from twenty or thirty generations in the past.
     To Poole's delight, Mistress McAuley's  Ident conveyed  the information
that she was  currently  between lovers,  and he  wasted no  further time in
contacting  her. Within  twenty-four hours he  was pillion-riding, with  his
arms enjoyably around  her  waist. He had also learned why aviator's goggles
were a good idea, for Draco was entirely robotic, and could easily cruise at
a  hundred klicks. Poole doubted if any real  dragons had ever attained such
     He was not surprised that the  ever-changing landscapes below them were
straight out of legend. Ali Baba had waved angrily at them, as they overtook
his flying carpet, shouting 'Can't you see where you're going!'  Yet he must
be a long way from Baghdad, because the dreaming spires over which  they now
circled could only be Oxford.
     Aurora confirmed his guess as she pointed  down: 'That's the pub -- the
inn -- where Lewis and Tolkien used to meet their friends, the Inklings. And
look at the river -- that boat just coming out from the bridge -- do you see
the two little girls and the clergyman in it?'
     'Yes,'  he shouted  back  against the  gentle  sussuration  of  Draco's
slipstream. 'And I suppose one of them is Alice.'
     Aurora turned and smiled at him over her shoulder: she seemed genuinely
     'Quite  correct:  she's an accurate replica, based  on  the  Reverend's
photos. I was afraid  you wouldn't know. So many people stopped reading soon
after your time.'
     Poole felt a glow of satisfaction.
     I believe  I've passed  another test, he told himself smugly. Riding on
Draco  must have been the  first.  How many  more, I  wonder? Fighting  with
     But there were no more, and the answer to the immemorial 'Your place or
mine?' was -- Poole's.

     The  next   morning,  shaken  and  mortified,  he  contacted  Professor
     'Everything  was  going splendidly,' he lamented,  'when  she  suddenly
became hysterical and pushed  me  away.  I was afraid  I'd  hurt her somehow
--'Then  she called the roomlight -- we'd been in darkness -- and jumped out
of bed. I guess I was just staring like a fool...' He laughed ruefully. 'She
was certainly worth staring at.'
     'I'm sure of it. Go on.'
     'After a few minutes she relaxed and said something I'll never be  able
to forget.'
     Anderson waited patiently for Poole to compose himself. 'She said: "I'm
really  sorry, Frank.  We could have had a good time. But I didn't know that
you'd been -- mutilated."
     The  professor  looked  baffled,  but  only  for  a  moment. 'Oh  --  I
understand. I'm sorry too, Frank -- perhaps I should have warned you. In  my
thirty years of practice, I've only seen half a dozen cases -- all for valid
medical reasons, which certainly didn't apply to you...'
     'Circumcision  made a lot  of  sense in primitive times -- and even  in
your century  --  as a defence  against  some  unpleasant  -- even  fatal --
diseases in backward countries with poor hygiene.  But  otherwise  there was
absolutely no excuse for it -- and several arguments against, as you've just
     'I checked the records after I'd examined you the first time, and found
that  by mid-twenty-first century there had  been so many malpractice  suits
that  the  American  Medical Association  had  been forced  to  ban  it. The
arguments among the contemporary doctors are very entertaining.'
     'I'm sure they are,' said Poole morosely.
     'In some countries  it continued for another century: then some unknown
genius coined a slogan  -- please excuse the  vulgarity -- "God designed us:
circumcision is blasphemy". That more or less ended the practice. But if you
want,  it would be  easy to arrange a transplant  --  you wouldn't be making
medical history, by any means.'
     'I don't think it would work. Afraid I'd start laughing every time.'
     'That's the spirit -- you're already getting over it.'
     Somewhat to his surprise,  Poole realized that Anderson's prognosis was
correct. He even found himself already laughing.
     'Now what, Frank?'
     'Aurora's  "Society for  Creative  Anachronisms". I'd  hoped  it  would
improve  my chances.  Just my luck to have found one anachronism she doesn't

     13 Stranger in a Strange Time

     Indra was not quite as sympathetic as he had hoped: perhaps, after all,
there  was  some  sexual jealousy  in  their relationship.  And -- much more
serious -- what they wryly labelled  the Dragon Debacle  led to their  first
real argument.
     It began innocently enough, when Indra complained:
     'People  are  always  asking  me why I've  devoted my  life  to  such a
horrible period of history, and it's not much of an answer to say that there
were even worse ones.'
     'Then why are you interested in my century?'
     'Because it marks the transition between barbarism and civilization.'
     'Thank you. Just call me Conan.'
     'Conan? The only one I know is the man who invented Sherlock Holmes.'
     'Never  mind  --  sorry I interrupted. Of course,  we in the  so-called
developed  countries  thought  we  were  civilized.  At   least  war  wasn't
respectable  any more, and the United Nations  was always  doing its best to
stop the wars that did break out.'
     'Not very successfully: I'd give it about three out of ten. But what we
find incredible  is the way that people -- right up to  the early 2000s!  --
calmly  accepted behaviour we  would consider atrocious. And believed in the
most mind-boggled --'
     '- nonsense, which surely any  rational  person  would dismiss  out  of
     'Examples, please.'
     'Well, your really  trivial loss started me doing some research,  and I
was appalled by what I found. Did you know that every year in some countries
thousands  of little  girls  were  hideously  mutilated  to  preserve  their
virginity? Many of them died -- but the authorities turned a blind eye.'
     'I  agree that was  terrible --  but what  could my government do about
     'A great deal -- if  it wished. But that would have offended the people
who supplied  it  with oil  and bought its  weapons, like the landmines that
killed and maimed civilians by the thousand.'
     'You don't  understand, Indra.  Often we  had  no  choice:  we couldn't
reform the whole world. And didn't somebody once say "Politics is the art of
the possible"?'
     'Quite true -- which is why only second-rate minds go  into  it. Genius
likes to challenge the impossible.'
     'Well, I'm glad you have a good supply of genius, so you can put things
     'Do  I detect a hint of  sarcasm? Thanks to  our  computers, we can run
political experiments in  cyberspace  before trying  them  out in  practice.
Lenin  was unlucky; he was born a hundred years too soon.  Russian communism
might have worked -- at least for a while --  if it had had  microchips. And
had managed to avoid Stalin.'
     Poole was constantly amazed  by Indra's knowledge of his age -- as well
as by her  ignorance of so much that he took for  granted. In a way,  he had
the reverse problem.  Even  if  he  lived the  hundred years  that  had been
confidently promised  him, he could never  learn enough to feel  at home. In
any conversation,  there would  always be references  he did not understand,
and jokes that would go over his head. Worse still, he would always  feel on
the  verge of  some "faux pas"  -- about to create some social disaster that
would embarrass even the best of his new friends...
     Such  as  the  occasion  when  he was lunching, fortunately in  his own
quarters, with Indra and Professor Anderson. The meals that emerged from the
autochef were always perfectly acceptable, having been designed to match his
physiological  requirements. But they were  certainly nothing to get excited
about, and would have been the despair of a twenty-first-century gourmet.
     Then, one day, an unusually  tasty  dish appeared,  which brought  back
vivid memories of the deer-hunts and barbecues of his youth. However,  there
was something unfamiliar about both flavour and texture, so Poole  asked the
obvious question.
     Anderson merely smiled, but for  a few seconds  Indra  looked as if she
was  about to be sick. Then she  recovered  and said: 'You tell him -- after
we've finished eating.'
     Now what  have I done wrong? Poole asked himself. Half an  hour  later,
with Indra rather pointedly absorbed in  a video display at the other end of
the room, his knowledge of the Third Millennium made another major advance.
     'Corpse-food was on the way out even in your time,' Anderson explained.
'Raising animals to -- ugh -- eat  them became  economically  impossible.  I
don't know how many acres of land it took to feed  one cow, but at least ten
humans could survive on the plants it produced. And probably a hundred, with
hydroponic techniques.
     'But what finished the whole horrible business was not economics -- but
disease. It started first with cattle, then spread to  other food animals --
a kind  of  virus,  I  believe,  that  affected  the  brain,  and  caused  a
particularly nasty death. Although a cure was eventually found,  it  was too
late to  turn  back  the clock --  and anyway, synthetic foods were  now far
cheaper, and you could get them in any flavour you liked.'
     Remembering weeks of satisfying but  unexciting meals, Poole had strong
reservations  about this.  For why, he  wondered, did he  still have wistful
dreams of spare-ribs and cordon bleu steaks?
     Other dreams were  far more disturbing, and  he  was afraid that before
long  he  would  have  to  ask  Anderson  for  medical  assistance.  Despite
everything that was being done to make him feel at home, the strangeness and
sheer complexity of this new world were  beginning to overwhelm  him. During
sleep, as if in an  unconscious effort to escape, he often reverted  to  his
earlier life: but when he awoke, that only made matters worse.
     He  had travelled across to America Tower and  looked  down, in reality
and not in simulation, on the landscape  of his youth -- and it had not been
a good idea. With  optical  aid, when the atmosphere was  clear, he'd got so
close  that he could see  individual  human beings  as they went about their
affairs, sometimes along streets that he remembered...
     And always, at the back of  his mind, was the knowledge that down there
had once  lived everyone he  had ever loved, Mother, Father  (before he  had
gone off with  that Other Woman),  dear Uncle  George and Aunt  Lil, brother
Martin -- and,  not  least,  a succession of dogs,  beginning with  the warm
puppies of his earliest childhood and culminating in Rikki.
     Above all, there was the memory -- and mystery -- of Helena...
     It  had  begun  as  a  casual  affair,  in  the  early   days  of   his
astrotraining, but had become  more and  more serious as  the years went by.
Just before he had left for Jupiter, they had  planned to make it  permanent
when he returned.
     And if he  did  not, Helena wished to have his child. He still recalled
the blend of solemnity and hilarity  with which they  had made the necessary
     Now,  a thousand years  later, despite  all his  efforts,  he  had been
unable to find if Helena had kept her promise. Just  as there were  now gaps
in his  own memory, so there were also in the collective records of Mankind.
The worst was that created by the devastating electromagnetic pulse from the
2304 asteroid impact, which  had  wiped out several per cent  of the world's
information banks, despite all  backups and safety systems. Poole could  not
help wondering if, among all the exabytes that were irretrievably lost, were
the records of his own children: even now,  his descendants of the thirtieth
generation might be walking the Earth; but he would never know.
     It  helped a little  to have  discovered  that --  unlike Aurora --some
ladies  of  this  era  did not  consider  him  to be damaged  goods. On  the
contrary: they  often found his alteration quite exciting, but this slightly
bizarre  reaction  made  it  impossible  for  Poole to establish  any  close
relationship. Nor was he anxious to do so; all that he really needed was the
occasional healthy, mindless exercise.
     Mindless  -- that  was the trouble. He no  longer had  arty  purpose in
life. And the weight of too many memories was upon him; echoing the title of
a famous book he had read in his  youth,  he often said  to himself, 'I am a
Stranger in a Strange Time.'
     There were even occasions when he looked  down at  the beautiful planet
on which -- if  he obeyed  doctor's orders -- he could never walk again, and
wondered what it would be like to make a second acquaintance with the vacuum
of  space.  Though  it was not  easy to  get  through  the  airlocks without
triggering  some alarm, it  had been done:  every few years, some determined
suicide made a brief meteoric display in the Earth's atmosphere.
     Perhaps  it was  just as  well  that deliverance was on its way, from a
completely unexpected direction.

     'Nice to meet you, Commander Poole -- for the second time.'
     'I'm sorry -- don't recall -- but then I see so many people.'
     'No need to apologize. First time was out round Neptune.'
     'Captain Chandler -- delighted to see you! Can I get something from the
     'Anything with over twenty per cent alcohol will be fine.'
     'And  what are you  doing  back on Earth? They told me you  never  come
inside Mars orbit.'
     'Almost true --  though I was born here,  I think it's a  dirty, smelly
place -- too many people -- creeping up to a billion again!'
     'More than  ten billion in my time. By the  way,  did you get my "Thank
you" message?'
     'Yes --  and I know I  should have contacted you. But I  waited until I
headed sunwards again. So here I am. Your good health!'
     As the Captain disposed of his drink with impressive speed, Poole tried
to analyse his visitor. Beards -- even small goatees like Chandler's -- were
very rare in this society, and he had never known an astronaut who wore one:
they  did not co-exist comfortably  with space-helmets. Of course, a Captain
might go for years between EVs, and in any case most  outside jobs were done
by robots; but there was  always the risk of the unexpected, when  one might
have to get suited in a hurry. It was obvious that Chandler was something of
an eccentric, and Poole's heart warmed to him.
     'You've not answered my question. If you don't like Earth, what are you
doing here?'
     'Oh,  mostly  contacting  old  friends  --  it's  wonderful  to  forget
hour-long delays,  and to have real-time conversations! But of course that's
not the  reason.  My  old rust-bucket  is  having a  refit,  up  at  the Rim
shipyard. And the armour  has  to be replaced; when it  gets  down to a  few
centimetres thick, I don't sleep too well.'
     'Dust shield. Not such a problem in your time, was it? But it's a dirty
environment  out  round  Jupiter,  and  our normal cruise speed  is  several
thousand klicks  -- a second! So there's a continuous gentle pattering, like
raindrops on the roof.'
     'You're joking!'
     'Course I am. If we really could  hear anything, we'd be dead. Luckily,
this sort of unpleasantness is very rare -- last serious accident was twenty
years  ago.  We know all the main comet streams,  where most of the junk is,
and are careful  to  avoid them  -- except when we're  matching velocity  to
round up ice.
     'But why don't you come aboard and have a  look around, before  we take
off for Jupiter?'
     'I'd be delighted... did you say Jupiter?'
     'Well, Ganymede,  of  course --  Anubis City. We've  a lot  of business
there, and several of us have families we haven't seen for months.'
     Poole scarcely heard him.
     Suddenly -- unexpectedly --  and perhaps none too  soon, he had found a
reason for living.
     Commander  Frank  Poole  was the sort  of man who hated to  leave a job
undone -- and  a few specks of  cosmic  dust,  even  moving  at  a  thousand
kilometres a second, were not likely to discourage him.
     He had unfinished business at the world once known as Jupiter.

     14 A Farewell to Earth

     'Anything you want  within reason,' he  had been told.  Frank Poole was
not  sure  if  his  hosts would consider  that returning to  Jupiter  was  a
reasonable request; indeed, he was not quite sure himself, and was beginning
to have second thoughts.
     He had already  committed  himself to scores  of engagements,  weeks in
advance. Most of them  he  would be happy to  miss,  but there were some  he
would be  sorry to forgo. In particular, he hated  to disappoint the  senior
class from his old high school -- how  astonishing that it still existed! --
when they planned to visit him next month.
     However, he was relieved --  and a  little surprised -- when both Indra
and  Professor Anderson agreed that  it was an excellent idea. For the first
time, he  realized  that they  had been  concerned  with his  mental health;
perhaps a holiday from Earth would be the best possible cure.
     And,  most important of all, Captain Chandler  was delighted. 'You  can
have  my cabin,' he promised. 'I'll kick the First Mate out of hers.'  There
were times when  Poole wondered if Chandler, with his beard and swagger, was
not  another anachronism.  He could  easily  picture  him on the bridge of a
battered three-master, with Skull and Crossbones flying overhead.
     Once his decision had been made, events moved with surprising speed. He
had accumulated very few possessions, and fewer still that he needed to take
with him. The most important was Miss Pringle, his  electronic alter ego and
secretary, now the  storehouse of  both his  lives, and  the  small stack of
terabyte memories that went with her.
     Miss Pringle was not much larger than the hand-held personal assistants
of  his  own  age, and usually lived,  like  the  Old West's Colt  45, in  a
quick-draw holster at  his waist. She could communicate with him by audio or
Braincap, and  her  prime  duty  was to act as an information filter  and  a
buffer to the  outside world.  Like  any good  secretary,  she knew  when to
reply, in the appropriate format: 'I'll put you through now' or -- much more
frequently: 'I'm  sorry -- Mr  Poole is engaged. Please record your  message
and he will get back to you as soon as possible.' Usually, this was never.
     There were very few farewells to be made: though realtime conversations
would be impossible owing  to the sluggish velocity of radio waves, he would
be  in  constant touch with Indra and Joseph -- the  only genuine friends he
had made.
     Somewhat  to  his  surprise,  Poole  realized  that  he would miss  his
enigmatic but useful 'valet', because he would now  have  to handle  all the
small  chores of  everyday life by himself.  Danil  bowed slightly when they
parted, but otherwise showed no sign of emotion, as they took the  long ride
up  to  the outer  curve of the  world-circling  wheel, thirty-six  thousand
kilometres above central Africa.

     'I'm  not sure, Dim, that you'll appreciate the comparison. But do  you
know what Goliath reminds me of?'
     They  were now such good  friends that  Poole  could use  the Captain's
nickname -- but only when no one else was around.
     'Something unflattering, I assume.'
     'Not really. But when I was a  boy, I  came across a whole pile  of old
science-fiction  magazines that  my Uncle  George had abandoned --  "pulps",
they were called, after the cheap paper they were printed on... most of them
were  already  falling  to  bits. They had wonderful garish  covers, showing
strange planets and monsters -- and, of course, spaceships!
     'As I grew older, I realized how ridiculous those spaceships were. They
were  usually rocket-driven  --  but  there was never any sign of propellant
tanks! Some of  them had rows of windows from stem to stem,  just like ocean
liners.  There  was  one  favourite  of  mine  with a  huge  glass dome -- a
space-going conservatory...
     'Well,  those old artists had the last laugh:  too bad they could never
know. Goliath looks  more like their dreams than  the  flying fuel-tanks  we
used to launch from the Cape.
     Your Inertial Drive still seems too good to be true -- no visible means
of support, unlimited range and speed -- sometimes I think I'm the one who's
     Chandler laughed and pointed to the view outside.
     'Does that look like a dream?'
     It was the first  time that Poole had seen a genuine horizon  since  he
had come to Star City, and it was not quite as far away as he  had expected.
After  all, he was on the outer rim of  a wheel  seven times the diameter of
Earth,  so surely the view across the  roof of  this artificial world should
extend for several hundred kilometres...
     He used to be good at  mental arithmetic --  a rare achievement even in
his  time, and  probably  much rarer  now. The  formula to give  the horizon
distance was a simple one:  the square root of  twice your height  times the
radius -- the sort of thing you never forgot, even if you wanted to...
     Let's see -- we're about 8 metres up -- so root 16 -- this is easy!  --
say big R  is 40,000 -- knock off those three zeros to make it all klicks --
4 times root 40 -- hmm -- just over 25...
     Well,  twenty-five kilometres was a fair  distance,  and  certainly  no
spaceport  on  Earth had ever seemed this huge.  Even knowing perfectly well
what to  expect, it was uncanny to watch vessels many  times the size of his
long-lost  Discovery  lifting  off,  not only  with no  sound, but  with  no
apparent means of propulsion. Though Poole missed the flame and  fury of the
old-time countdowns, he  had to admit that this was cleaner,  more efficient
-- and far safer.
     Strangest  of  all, though, was  to  sit  up here  on the Rim,  in  the
Geostationary Orbit itself -- and to  feel weight! Just metres away, outside
the window  of  the tiny  observation lounge,  servicing robots  and  a  few
spacesuited humans were gliding gently about their business; yet here inside
Goliath the inertial field was maintaining standard Mars-gee.
     'Sure you don't want to  change your mind, Frank?' Captain Chandler had
asked jokingly,  as  he left  for  the  bridge. 'Still  ten  minutes  before
     'Wouldn't be  very popular if I did, would I? No -- as they used to say
back in the old days -- we have commit. Ready or not, here I come.'
     Poole felt the  need to be alone when  the  drive went on, and the tiny
crew --  only four men and  three women -- respected his wish.  Perhaps they
guessed  how he must be feeling,  to leave Earth  for the  second time  in a
thousand years -- and, once again, to face an unknown destiny.
     Jupiter-Lucifer was on the  other  side  of  the  Sun,  and the  almost
straight line  of  Goliath's orbit  would  take  them  close to Venus. Poole
looked  forward to seeing, with his  own  unaided  eyes, if  Earth's  sister
planet  was now beginning to live up to that description, after centuries of
     From  a thousand kilometres up, Star City  looked like a gigantic metal
band   around  Earth's  Equator,  dotted  with  gantries,  pressure   domes,
scaffolding holding half-completed ships, antennas, and other more enigmatic
structures.  It was diminishing  swiftly  as  Goliath headed  sunwards,  and
presently Poole could  see  how  incomplete it was:  there  were  huge  gaps
spanned only by a spider's web of scaffolding, which would probably never be
completely enclosed.
     And now they were falling below the plane of the ring; it was midwinter
in the  northern  hemisphere, so the slim halo of Star  City was inclined at
over twenty degrees  to the Sun. Already  Poole  could see  the American and
Asian  towers, as shining  threads stretching  outwards and away, beyond the
blue haze of the atmosphere.
     He was barely  conscious of time as  Goliath gained speed,  moving more
swiftly  than  any comet  that  had ever  fallen  sunwards from interstellar
space. The Earth, almost full, still spanned his field of view, and he could
now  see the full length of the  Africa Tower which had been his home in the
life he was now leaving --  perhaps, he could not help thinking, leaving for
     When they were fifty thousand kilometres out, he  was  able to view the
whole of  Star City, as a narrow ellipse enclosing the Earth. Though the far
side was barely  visible, as a  hair-line of light against the stars, it was
awe-inspiring  to think  that the human race had now set  this sign upon the
     Then Poole remembered  the rings  of  Saturn, infinitely more glorious.
The astronautical engineers still had a long, long way  to  go, before  they
could match the achievements of Nature.
     Or, if that was the right word, Deus.

     15 Transit of Venus

     When he woke the  next  morning, they were  already at  Venus. But  the
huge, dazzling crescent of the still cloud-wrapped planet was  not the  most
striking object in the sky:
     Goliath was floating  above an endless expanse of crinkled silver foil,
flashing in the sunlight with  ever-changing  patterns as the  ship  drifted
across it.
     Poole remembered that  in his own age there had been an artist  who had
wrapped  whole buildings in plastic  sheets: how  he  would have loved  this
opportunity to  package billions of  tons of ice in a glittering envelope...
Only in this way could the core of a comet be protected from evaporation  on
its decades-long journey sunwards.
     'You're in luck, Frank,' Chandler had told him. 'This is something I've
never  seen  myself. It should  be  spectacular. Impact due  in just over an
hour. We've given it a little nudge, to make sure it comes down in the right
place. Don't want anyone to get hurt.'
     Poole looked at him in astonishment.
     'You mean -- there are already people on Venus?'
     'About fifty mad  scientists, near the South Pole.  Of course,  they're
well dug in, but we should shake them up a bit -- even though Ground Zero is
on  the other  side of the planet. Or I should say "Atmosphere Zero"  --  it
will be days before anything except the shockwave gets down to the surface.'
     As  the  cosmic  iceberg,  sparkling  and flashing  in  its  protective
envelope,  dwindled  away  towards Venus,  Poole  was struck with  a sudden,
poignant memory. The Christmas trees of his childhood  had been adorned with
just such ornaments, delicate bubbles of coloured glass. And the  comparison
was not completely ludicrous: for many families on Earth, this was still the
right  season for gifts, and Goliath was bringing a present beyond price  to
another world.
     The  radar  image of  the tortured  Venusian  landscape  --  its  weird
volcanoes, pancake domes, and  narrow, sinuous canyons -- dominated the main
screen of Goliath's control centre, but Poole preferred  the evidence of his
own eyes.  Although the unbroken  sea  of  clouds that  covered  the  planet
revealed nothing of the inferno beneath, he wanted to see  what would happen
when the stolen comet struck. In a matter of seconds, the myriad of  tons of
frozen  hydrates that had been gathering  speed for decades on the  downhill
run from Neptune would deliver all their energy...
     The  initial flash was  even brighter than he had expected. How strange
that a missile made of ice could generate temperatures that must  be in  the
tens of thousands of degrees! Though the filters of the view-port would have
absorbed all  the  dangerous shorter wave-lengths, the  fierce blue  of  the
fireball proclaimed that it was hotter than the Sun.
     It was cooling rapidly as it expanded -- through yellow, orange, red...
The shockwave would now  be spreading outwards  at the velocity  of sound --
and what a sound  that must be! -- so in a few minutes  there should be some
visible indication of its passage across the face of Venus.
     And there it  was! Only a tiny black ring -- like an insignificant puff
of smoke, giving no hint of the cyclonic fury that must  be blasting its way
outwards from the  point of impact.  As Poole watched,  it  slowly expanded,
though owing to its scale  there was no sense of visible movement: he had to
wait for  a full  minute before he could be  quite sure  that  it  had grown
     After a quarter of  an hour, however, it was the most prominent marking
on the planet. Though much fainter -- a dirty grey, rather than black -- the
shockwave was now a ragged  circle more  than a thousand  kilometres across.
Poole guessed that it had lost its original symmetry while sweeping over the
great mountain ranges that lay beneath it.
     Captain  Chandler's  voice  sounded  briskly  over  the ship's  address
     'Putting  you through  to  Aphrodite  Base.  Glad  to say  they're  not
shouting for help --'
     '- shook us up a bit, but just what we expected. Monitors indicate some
rain  already  over the  Nokomis Mountains --  it will  soon  evaporate, but
that's  a beginning. And there seems to  have been a  flash-flood  in Hecate
Chasm -- too good to be true, but we're checking. There was a temporary lake
of boiling water there after the last delivery --'
     I don't envy  them, Poole told himself  -- but I certainly admire them.
They  prove  that  the  spirit  of  adventure  still exists  in this perhaps
too-comfortable and too-well-adjusted society.
     '- and thanks again for  bringing  this little  load down in  the right
place. With any luck -- and if we can get that sun-screen up into sync orbit
-- we'll have some permanent seas before long. And  then we can plant  coral
reefs, to make lime and pull the excess CO2 out of  the atmosphere -- hope I
live to see it!'
     I  hope you  do, thought Poole in silent admiration. He had often dived
in  the tropical seas of Earth, admiring weird  and colourful  creatures  so
bizarre that it was hard  to believe anything stranger would be found,  even
on the planets of other suns.
     'Package  delivered  on time, and receipt acknowledged,'  said  Captain
Chandler  with  obvious satisfaction.  'Goodbye Venus -- Ganymede,  here  we

     Hello,  Indra.  Yes,  you  were  quite  right.  I  do  miss  our little
arguments. Chandler and I  get along fine,  and at first the crew treated me
-- this will amuse you -- rather like a holy relic. But they're beginning to
accept me, and have even started to pull my leg (do you know that idiom?).
     It's  annoying  not to  be able to have  a  real conversation  -- we've
crossed the orbit of Mars, so radio round-trip is already over an  hour. But
there's one advantage -- you won't be able to interrupt me...
     Even though it will take us only a week to reach Jupiter, I thought I'd
have  time  to relax. Not  a  bit  of it: my fingers started to itch,  and I
couldn't resist going back to school. So I've begun basic training, all over
again,  in one of Goliath's  minishuttles. Maybe  Dim  will actually  let me
     It's  not much bigger than  Discovery's pods  -- but what a difference!
First of all, of course, it  doesn't  use rockets: I can't  get used to  the
luxury of  the inertial drive, and unlimited range. Could fly back to  Earth
if I had to  -- though I'd probably get -- remember the phrase I  used once,
and you guessed its meaning? -- 'stir crazy'.
     The biggest difference, though, is the control system. It's  been a big
challenge for me to get used  to hands-off operation -- and the computer has
had to  learn to  recognize my voice commands.  At first it was asking every
five minutes 'Do you really mean that?' I know it would be better to use the
Braincap -- but  I'm  still not  completely confident  with that gadget. Not
sure if I'll ever get used to something reading my mind.
     By the way, the shuttle's called  Falcon. It's a nice name -- and I was
disappointed to find that no one aboard  knew that it  goes all the way back
to the Apollo missions, when we first landed on the Moon...
     Uh-huh --  there  was a  lot more  I wanted to say, but the  skipper is
calling. Back to the classroom -- love and out.

     Hello Frank  -- Indra  calling -- if that's  right  word!  -- on my new
Thoughtwriter  --  old one had  nervous  breakdown  ha ha  --  so be lots of
mistakes -- no time to edit before I send. Hope you can make sense.
     COMSET! Channel one oh three -- record from twelve thirty -- correction
-- thirteen thirty. Sorry...
     Hope I can get old  unit fixed -- knew  all my short-cuts and abbrieves
-- maybe should get psychoanalysed like in your time -- never understood how
that Fraudian -- mean Freudian ha ha -- nonsense lasted as long as it did --
Reminds me -- came across late Twentieth defin other day -- may amuse you --
something  like  this   --  quote  --Psychoanalysis  --  contagious  disease
originating  Vienna  circa 1900  -- now  extinct  in  Europe but  occasional
outbreaks among rich Americans. Unquote. Funny?
     Sorry again -- trouble  with Thoughtwriters  -- hard to stick  to point
--xz 12? w 888 5***** js98l2yebdc DAMN... STOP BACKUP
     Did I do something wrong then? Will try again.  You mentioned  Danil...
sorry we always evaded  your questions about him --  knew you were  curious,
but we had very good reason -- remember you once called him a non-person?...
not bad guess...!
     Once you  asked  me about  crime nowadays -- I said  any  such interest
pathological  --  maybe   prompted  by  the  endless  sickening   television
programmes of your  time --  never  able  to  watch  more  than  few minutes
myself... disgusting!

     Yes -- crime. Always some... Society's irreducible noise level. What to
     Your  solution  --  prisons.  State-sponsored perversion  factories  --
costing ten times average family income to hold one inmate! Utterly crazy...
Obviously  something very  wrong with people who  shouted  loudest  for more
prisons --  They should  be  psychoanalysed! But let's  be fair -- really no
alternative before electronic monitoring and control perfected -- you should
see  the joyful crowds smashing the prison  walls  then  -- nothing like  it
since Berlin fifty years earlier!
     Yes -- Danil. I don't know what his crime was -- wouldn't tell you if I
did -- but presume his psych profile suggested he'd make a good  -- what was
the  word?  -- ballet -- no, valet. Very hard to get people for some jobs --
don't  know  how  we'd manage if  crime  level zero!  Anyway hope he's  soon
decontrolled and back in normal society

     That's  it, Frank  -- regards  to Dimitrj  -- you must  be  halfway  to
Ganymede now -- wonder if they'll ever repeal Einstein so we can talk across
space in real-time!
     Hope this machine soon gets used to me. Otherwise be looking round  for
genuine antique  twentieth century word  processor... Would  you believe  --
once  even mastered that  QWERTYIYUIOP nonsense, which you took a couple  of
hundred years to get rid of?
     Love and good-bye.

     Hello Frank --  here  I am again. Still  waiting  acknowledgement of my
     Strange you should be heading towards  Ganymede, and my  old friend Ted
Khan. But  perhaps it's  not such a coincidence: he  was  drawn by the  same
enigma that you were...
     First I must  tell you  something about him. His parents played a dirty
trick, giving him the name Theodore. That  shortens --  don't ever  call him
that! -- to Theo. See what I mean?
     Can't help wondering if that's what drives  him. Don't know anyone else
who's developed such an  interest in religion  -- no, obsession. Better warn
you; he can be quite a bore.
     By the way, how am I doing? I miss  my old  Thinkwriter, but seem to be
getting  this  machine  under control. Haven't made any bad --  what did you
call  them? -- bloopers -- glitches -- fluffs -- so far at least -- Not sure
I should  tell you  this,  in case  you accidentally blurt  it  out, but  my
private nickname for Ted is 'The Last Jesuit'. You must know something about
them -- the Order was still very active in your time.
     Amazing  people  -- often great scientists -- superb scholars  -- did a
tremendous amount  of  good as  well  as much harm. One of history's supreme
ironies --  sincere and  brilliant seekers of knowledge and truth, yet their
whole philosophy hopelessly distorted by superstition...
     Xuedn2k3jn deer 2leidj dwpp
     Damn. Got emotional and lost control.  One, two, three, four...  now is
the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party... that's better.
     Anyway, Ted has that same brand of high-minded determination; don't get
into any arguments with him -- he'll go over you like a steam-roller.
     By the  way what were steam-rollers? Used for pressing clothes? Can see
how that could be very uncomfortable...
     Trouble with Thinkwriters... too easy  to  go off in all directions, no
matter  how hard  you try to discipline yourself... something to be said for
keyboards after all... sure I've said that before...
     Ted Khan... Ted Khan... Ted Khan
     He's  still famous  back on  Earth  for  at  least two of his  sayings:
'Civilization and Religion  are incompatible' and  'Faith is  believing what
you know isn't true'. Actually, I don't  think the last one is  original; if
it is, that's the nearest  he ever got  to  a joke. He never cracked a smile
when I  tried  one  of  my favourites  on  him -- hope you haven't  heard it
before. It obviously dates from your time.
     The Dean's complaining to his Faculty. 'Why do you scientists need such
expensive equipment? Why can't  you be like the Maths Department, which only
needs  a  blackboard and  a  waste-paper  basket?  Better  still,  like  the
Department  of Philosophy.  That doesn't even need  a wastepaper  basket...'
Well, perhaps Ted had heard it before... I expect most philosophers have...
     Anyway, give  him my regards --  and  don't, repeat don't, get into any
arguments with him!

     Love and best wishes from Africa Tower.

     16 The Captain's Table

     The arrival  of  such a  distinguished  passenger had caused  a certain
disruption in the tight little world of Goliath, but the crew had adapted to
it with good humour. Every day, at 18.00 hours, all  personnel gathered  for
dinner in the wardroom, which in zero-gee could hold at  least thirty people
in comfort, if spread uniformly around the walls. However, most of the  time
the  ship's working areas  were  held at  lunar gravity,  so  there  was  an
undeniable floor -- and more than eight bodies made a crowd.
     The semi-circular table that unfolded around the auto-chef at mealtimes
could just seat the entire seven-person crew, with the Captain at  the place
of honour. One extra created such insuperable problems that somebody now had
to eat alone for every meal. After  much good-natured debate, it was decided
to make  the choice in alphabetical order -- not of proper names, which were
hardly ever used, but of nicknames. It had taken Poole some time to get used
to   them:  'Bolts'   (structural  engineering);  'Chips'   (computers   and
communications);  'First'  (First  Mate);  'Life'  (medical and life-support
systems);   'Props'  (propulsion  and   power);  and  'Stars'   (orbits  and
     During the ten-day  voyage,  as  he listened to  the stories, jokes and
complaints of  his  temporary shipmates, Poole learned  more about the solar
system than  during his months on Earth. All aboard were obviously delighted
to have a  new and perhaps nave listener as an attentive  one-man audience,
but Poole was seldom taken in by their more imaginative stories.
     Yet sometimes it was hard to know where to draw the line. No one really
believed   in  the  Golden  Asteroid,  which   was  usually  regarded  as  a
twenty-fourth-century hoax. But  what about  the Mercurian plasmoids,  which
had  been reported by  at least a dozen reliable  witnesses during  the last
five hundred years?
     The simplest explanation was  that they were related to ball-lightning,
responsible for so many 'Unidentified Flying  Object'  reports  on Earth and
Mars. But  some observers swore that they had shown purposefulness  --  even
inquisitiveness  -- when they were encountered at close  quarters. Nonsense,
answered the sceptics -- merely electrostatic attraction!
     Inevitably, this led to  discussions about life  in the  Universe,  and
Poole  found  himself  -- not  for the  first time  --defending his  own era
against its extremes of credulity and scepticism. Although  the  'Aliens are
among  us' mania had already subsided when he was a boy, even as late as the
2020s the  Space Agency  was still plagued  by lunatics who  claimed to have
been contacted  --  or  abducted  --  by  visitors from other worlds.  Their
delusions  had been reinforced by  sensational media  exploitation,  and the
whole syndrome was  later enshrined in the medical literature  as 'Adamski's
     The discovery of TMA ONE  had, paradoxically, put an  end to this sorry
nonsense,  by  demonstrating  that  though  there  was  indeed  intelligence
elsewhere,  it had apparently not  concerned itself with Mankind for several
million  years.  TMA  ONE  had  also  convincingly  refuted  the  handful of
scientists who  argued  that life  above  the  bacterial level  was  such an
improbable phenomenon that the human race was alone in this Galaxy -- if not
the Cosmos.
     Goliath's crew was more  interested in the technology than the politics
and  economics  of  Poole's  era,  and  were particularly fascinated by  the
revolution  that  had  taken place in  his  own  lifetime -- the  end of the
fossil-fuel age, triggered by the harnessing of vacuum energy. They found it
hard to imagine  the smog-choked cities of the twentieth  century,  and  the
waste, greed and appalling environmental disasters of the Oil Age.
     'Don't blame  me,' said Poole, fighting back gamely after one  round of
criticism. 'Anyway, see what a mess the twenty-first century made.'
     There was a chorus of 'What do you mean?'s around the table.
     'Well, as soon as the so-called Age  of Infinite  Power  got under way,
and  everyone had thousands of kilowatts of cheap, clean energy to play with
-- you know what happened!'
     'Oh, you mean the Thermal Crisis. But that was fixed.'
     'Eventually -- after you'd covered  half the Earth with  reflectors  to
bounce the  Sun's  heat  back into space.  Otherwise  it would have  been as
parboiled as Venus by now.'
     The crew's knowledge of Third Millennium  history  was  so surprisingly
limited that Poole --  thanks to the intensive education he had received  in
Star City -- could often amaze  them with details  of events centuries after
his own time. However, he was flattered to discover how well-acquainted they
were with Discovery's  log, it had become  one of the classic records of the
Space Age. They looked on it as he might have regarded  a Viking saga; often
he had to remind himself that he  was midway in time between Goliath and the
first ships to cross the western ocean...
     'On your Day 86,' Stars reminded him, at dinner  on the fifth  evening,
'you  passed within two  thousand kay  of asteroid 7794 --  and shot a probe
into it. Do you remember?"
     'Of course  I do,' Poole  answered rather brusquely 'To me, it happened
less than a year ago'
     'Um, sorry. Well, tomorrow we'll be even closer to 13,445. Like to have
a look?' With autoguidance and freeze-frame,  we should have a window all of
ten milliseconds wide.'
     A hundredth  of  a  second! That  few minutes  in Discovery  had seemed
hectic enough, but now everything would happen fifty times faster.
     'How large is it?' Poole asked.
     'Thirty  by  twenty  by  fifteen metres,'  Stars replied. 'Looks like a
battered brick.'
     'Sorry  we don't  have a slug to fire at it,' said Props. 'Did you ever
wonder if 7794 would hit back?'
     'Never occurred to us. But it did give the astronomers a lot  of useful
information,  so  it  was worth the risk... Anyway, a  hundredth of a second
hardly seems worth the bother. Thanks all the same.'
     'I understand. When you've seen one asteroid, you've seen them --'
     'Not true, Chips. When I was on Eros --'
     'As you've told  us at least a dozen times --, Poole's  mind  tuned out
the discussion, so that it was a  background of meaningless  noise. He was a
thousand years  in the past,  recalling  the only  excitement of Discovery's
mission before the final disaster. Though he and Bowman were perfectly aware
that  7794 was  merely  a lifeless,  airless chunk  of  rock, that knowledge
scarcely affected  their  feelings. It was the  only solid matter they would
meet this side of Jupiter, and they  had stared at  it  with the emotions of
sailors on a long sea voyage, skirting a coast on which they could not land.
     It was turning slowly end over  end, and  there were mottled patches of
light  and  shade distributed  at random  over  its  surface.  Sometimes  it
sparkled like a distant  window,  as planes or  outcroppings  of crystalline
material flashed in the Sun...
     He  remembered, also, the  mounting tension as  they  waited  to see if
their aim had been accurate. It was not easy to hit such a small target, two
thousand kilometres away, moving at a relative velocity of twenty kilometres
a second.
     Then, against  the  darkened portion of the asteroid, there had  been a
sudden, dazzling explosion of light.  The  tiny  slug -- pure Uranium 238 --
had impacted at meteoric speed:  in a fraction of a second,  all its kinetic
energy  had  been transformed  into  heat. A puff  of  incandescent  gas had
erupted  briefly  into  space, and  Discovery's cameras were  recording  the
rapidly  fading  spectral lines,  looking  for  the  tell-tale signatures of
glowing atoms. A few hours later, back on Earth, the astronomers learned for
the  first time the  composition of an asteroid's crust. There were no major
surprises, but several bottles of champagne changed hands.
     Captain  Chandler  himself  took  little  part  in the very  democratic
discussions  around his semi-circular table:  he seemed  content to  let his
crew relax and express their feelings in this informal atmosphere. There was
only one unspoken rule: no  serious business at mealtimes. If there were any
technical or operational problems, they had to be dealt with elsewhere.
     Poole had been  surprised --  and a  little shocked -- to discover that
the crew's knowledge of Goliath's systems was very superficial. Often he had
asked questions which should have been easily  answered, only to be referred
to the ship's own memory banks. After a while, however, he realized that the
sort  of  in-depth  training  he had  received  in  his  days was no  longer
possible: far too many complex systems were involved for any man or  woman's
mind  to  master. The  various specialists merely had  to  know  what  their
equipment  did, not how.  Reliability depended on  redundancy  and automatic
checking, and human intervention was much more likely to do harm than good.
     Fortunately none was required on this voyage: it had been as uneventful
as any skipper  could have hoped, when the new  sun of Lucifer dominated the
sky ahead.

     (Extract, text only, Tourist's Guide to Outer Solar System, v 219.3)

     Even today, the giant  satellites  of what was  once Jupiter present us
with  major mysteries. Why are four  worlds, orbiting  the same primary  and
very similar in size, so different in most other respects?
     Only in the  case of Io, the innermost satellite, is there a convincing
explanation.  It  is  so  close  to  Jupiter  that  the  gravitational tides
constantly kneading its interior generate  colossal quantities of heat -- so
much, indeed, that Io's surface is semi-molten. It is the  most volcanically
active  world in the Solar System; maps of Io have a half-life of only a few
     Though  no  permanent human bases have ever been established in such an
unstable  environment,  there  have  been  numerous  landings  and there  is
continuous  robot monitoring. (For  the  tragic fate of the 2571 Expedition,
see Beagle 5.)
     Europa,  second  in  distance  from Jupiter,  was  originally  entirely
covered in ice, and showed few surface features except a complicated network
of cracks. The tidal forces which  dominate Io were much less powerful here,
but produced enough heat to give Europa a global ocean  of liquid  water, in
which many strange life-forms have evolved.
     In 2010 the Chinese ship Tsien touched down on Europa on one of the few
outcrops of solid rock protruding through the  crust of ice. In doing  so it
disturbed a creature of the Europan  abyss and was destroyed (see Spacecraft
Tsien, Galaxy, Universe).
     Since  the  conversion  of Jupiter into  the mini-sun Lucifer  in 2061,
virtually all of Europa's ice-cover has melted, and extensive  vulcanism has
created several small islands.
     As is well-known, there have  been  no landings on Europa for almost  a
thousand years, but the satellite is under continuous surveillance.
     Ganymede, largest moon in  the Solar System (diameter 5260 kilometres),
has also  been affected  by  the creation of a new sun, and  its  equatorial
regions are warm  enough to sustain  terrestrial life-forms, though  it does
not yet  have a  breathable atmosphere. Most  of its population is  actively
engaged  in  terraforming and  scientific research; the main  settlement  is
Anubis (pop 41,000), near the South Pole.
     Callisto is again  wholly different.  Its entire surface  is covered by
impact craters of all sizes, so numerous that they  overlap. The bombardment
must have  continued  for millions  of years,  for  the  newer craters  have
completely obliterated  the  earlier  ones.  There  is no permanent  base on
Callisto, but several automatic stations have been established there.

     17 Ganymede

     It was unusual for Frank Poole to oversleep, but he had been kept awake
by strange dreams.  Past and present were inextricably  mixed;  sometimes he
was on Discovery, sometimes in the  Africa  Tower -- and sometimes he  was a
boy again, among friends he had thought long-forgotten.
     Where am I? he asked  himself as he struggled up to consciousness, like
a swimmer trying to get back to  the surface. There was a small window  just
above his bed, covered by a curtain not thick enough to completely block the
light from outside. There had been a time, around the mid-twentieth century,
when  aircraft  had  been  slow  enough  to  feature  First  Class  sleeping
accommodation:  Poole had  never sampled this  nostalgic luxury,  which some
tourist organizations  had  still  advertised in  his own day, but he  could
easily imagine that he was doing so now.
     He drew  the  curtain and looked out. No, he  had not  awakened  in the
skies of  Earth,  though the landscape unrolling  below was  not unlike  the
Antarctic. But the  South  Pole  had never boasted two  suns, both rising at
once as Goliath swept towards them.
     The  ship  was  orbiting  less  than a  hundred  kilometres above  what
appeared to be an immense ploughed field, lightly dusted  with snow. But the
ploughman must have  been drunk  -- or  the  guidance system  must have gone
crazy -- for  the furrows meandered  in every direction,  sometimes  cutting
across  each other or turning back on themselves. Here and there the terrain
was dotted with faint circles --ghost craters from meteor impacts aeons ago.
     So  this  is  Ganymede,  Poole  wondered  drowsily. Mankind's  furthest
outpost from home! Why should any sensible person want to  live  here? Well,
I've  often  thought  that  when I've  flown  over Greenland  or Iceland  in
     There was  a knock  on the door, a 'Mind  if I come  in?', and  Captain
Chandler did so without waiting for a reply.
     'Thought  we'd let you sleep until we landed  -- that end-of-trip party
did last longer than I'd intended, but  I couldn't risk  a mutiny by cutting
it short.'
     Poole laughed.
     'Has there ever been a mutiny in space?'
     'Oh, quite a  few but  not in my time. Now we've mentioned the subject,
you might say that Hal started the tradition... sorry -- perhaps I shouldn't
-- look -- there's Ganymede City!'
     Coming  up over  the  horizon was  what  appeared to  be  a criss-cross
pattern of streets and avenues, intersecting almost at right-angles but with
the  slight  irregularity  typical  of  any  settlement  that  had  grown by
accretion,  without central planning.  It was bisected  by a broad river  --
Poole recalled that the equatorial  regions of Ganymede were now warm enough
for liquid water  to exist -- and it reminded  him of an old wood-cut he had
seen of medieval London.
     Then he noticed that Chandler was looking at him with an  expression of
amusement...  and the illusion  vanished  as  he  realized the scale of  the
     'The Ganymedeans,' he said dryly, 'must have been rather large, to have
made roads five or ten kilometres wide.'
     'Twenty in some places. Impressive, isn't it? And all the result of ice
stretching  and contracting. Mother Nature is ingenious... I  could show you
some patterns that look even more artificial, though they're not as large as
this one.'
     'When  I  was a  boy, there was  a  big  fuss about a face  on Mars. Of
course, it  turned out to  be a hill that had been carved by  sand-storms...
lots of similar ones in Earth's deserts.'
     'Didn't  someone say that  history always repeats itself? Same  sort of
nonsense  happened with Ganymede City -- some nuts claimed it had been built
by aliens. But I'm afraid it won't be around much longer.'
     'Why?' asked Poole in surprise.
     'It's already started to collapse, as Lucifer melts the permafrost. You
won't  recognize Ganymede  in  another hundred years... there's the edge  of
Lake Gilgamesh -- if you look carefully -- over on the right-'
     'I see  what you mean. What's  happening  --  surely  the  water's  not
boiling, even at this low pressure?'
     'Electrolysis plant. Don't  know  how many  skillions  of  kilograms of
oxygen a day. Of course, the hydrogen goes up and gets lost -- we hope.'
     Chandler's voice  trailed  off  into  silence. Then  he  resumed, in an
unusually diffident tone: 'All that beautiful water  down  there -- Ganymede
doesn't  need half of it! Don't tell anyone, but I've been working out  ways
of getting some to Venus.'
     'Easier than nudging comets?'
     'As  far as energy  is concerned, yes -- Ganymede's escape velocity  is
only  three klicks  per second. And much,  much quicker  -- years instead of
decades. But there are a few practical difficulties..
     'I can appreciate that. Would you shoot it off by a mass-launcher?'
     'Oh no -- I'd use  towers reaching up through  the atmosphere, like the
ones on  Earth, but much smaller. We'd pump the water up to  the top, freeze
it down  to near absolute  zero, and let  Ganymede sling it off in the right
direction as it rotated. There would be  some evaporation  loss in  transit,
but most of it would arrive -- what's so funny?'
     'Sorry  --  I'm not laughing at the idea  -- it  makes good sense.  But
you've brought back such a  vivid memory. We used to have a garden sprinkler
-- driven round and round  by its  water jets. What you're planning  is  the
same thing -- on a slightly bigger scale... using a whole world...'
     Suddenly,  another  image from  his  past obliterated  all  else. Poole
remembered how,  in those hot Arizona  days, he and Rikki had loved to chase
each  other  through the clouds  of moving  mist,  from the slowly revolving
spray of the garden sprinkler.
     Captain Chandler was a much more sensitive man than he pretended to be:
he knew when it was time to leave.
     'Gotta get back to the bridge,' he said gruffly. 'See you when  we land
at Anubis.'

     18 Grand Hotel

     The  Grand  Ganymede Hotel --  inevitably  known  throughout  the Solar
System as 'Hotel Grannymede' was certainly not grand, and would be  lucky to
get a  rating of one-and-a-half stars  on Earth. As the nearest  competition
was several hundred million kilometres away, the management felt little need
to exert itself unduly.
     Yet  Poole had  no  complaints,  though he often wished  that Danil was
still around, to help him with the mechanics of life and to communicate more
efficiently  with the semi-intelligent devices with which he was surrounded.
He  had known  a brief moment of panic when the  door had closed behind  the
(human) bellboy,  who had apparently  been too awed by his  guest to explain
how any of the  room's services functioned. After five minutes of  fruitless
talking to  the  unresponsive walls,  Poole had  finally made contact with a
system  that understood  his accent and his commands. What an  'All  Worlds'
news  item  it would  have  made --  'Historic  astronaut  starves to death,
trapped in Ganymede hotel room'!
     And there would  have been a double  irony.  Perhaps  the naming of the
Grannymede's only luxury suite was  inevitable, but it had been a real shock
to  meet  an  ancient  life-size holo  of his old  shipmate,  in  full-dress
uniform, as he  was led into -- the Bowman Suite. Poole  even recognized the
image: his own official portrait had been  made at the same time, a few days
before the mission began.
     He  soon  discovered  that most of his Goliath  crewmates had  domestic
arrangements  in Anubis, and  were anxious for him to meet their Significant
Others during  the ship's planned twenty-day stop. Almost immediately he was
caught up in  the social and professional life of this frontier  settlement,
and it was Africa Tower that now seemed a distant dream.
     Like many  Americans,  in their secret hearts, Poole  had  a  nostalgic
affection for small communities where  everyone knew everyone else -- in the
real world, and not the virtual  one of cyberspace. Anubis, with  a resident
population  less  than  that  of his  remembered  Flagstaff, was  not a  bad
approximation to this ideal.
     The  three main pressure domes, each two kilometres in  diameter, stood
on a plateau  overlooking  an ice-field  which  stretched  unbroken  to  the
horizon. Ganymede's second sun
     -- once known  as Jupiter -- would never  give sufficient  heat to melt
the polar  caps. This  was the principal  reason  for establishing Anubis in
such  an  inhospitable  spot:  the  city's foundations  were  not  likely to
collapse for at least several centuries.
     And inside  the domes, it  was easy to be completely indifferent to the
outside  world. Poole,  when he  had mastered  the mechanisms  of the Bowman
Suite,  discovered  that  he   had  a  limited   but  impressive  choice  of
environments. He  could sit beneath palm trees on a Pacific beach, listening
to  the gentle murmur of  the  waves --  or, if he  preferred, the roar of a
tropical hurricane. He could fly slowly along the peaks of the Himalayas, or
down  the immense  canyons of  Mariner  Valley. He  could  walk  through the
gardens of  Versailles  or down the streets of half a dozen great cities, at
several widely spaced times  in their history.  Even if the Hotel Grannymede
was not one of the Solar System's most highly acclaimed  resorts, it boasted
facilities  which would  have  astounded all its more famous predecessors on
     But it was  ridiculous to indulge in terrestrial nostalgia, when he had
come half-way across the Solar System to  visit  a strange  new world. After
some experimenting,  Poole  arranged  a  compromise,  for enjoyment  --  and
inspiration --during his steadily fewer moments of leisure.
     To his  great regret, he had never been to  Egypt, so it was delightful
to  relax  beneath  the  gaze  of  the  Sphinx  --  as  it  was  before  its
controversial  'restoration'  --  and  to watch tourists  scrambling  up the
massive blocks of  the Great  Pyramid.  The illusion was perfect, apart from
the no-man's-land where the desert  clashed with the  (slightly worn) carpet
of the Bowman Suite.
     The sky, however,  was one  that  no  human eyes  had  seen  until five
thousand  years after the last stone was  laid  at  Giza. But  it was not an
illusion; it was the complex and ever-changing reality of Ganymede.
     Because  this  world --  like its  companions -- had been robbed of its
spin aeons ago by the tidal drag of Jupiter, the new sun born from the giant
planet hung  motionless in its sky.  One side  of Ganymede was  in perpetual
Lucifer-light -- and although the other hemisphere was often  referred to as
the 'Night Land', that designation  was as misleading  as the  much  earlier
phrase 'The  dark side of the  Moon'. Like  the  lunar  Farside,  Ganymede's
'Night Land' had the brilliant light of old Sol for half of its long day.
     By  a coincidence  more  confusing  than useful,  Ganymede  took almost
exactly one week -- seven days, three hours --to orbit its primary. Attempts
to create a 'One Mede day  = one Earth week' calendar had generated so  much
chaos that  they  had  been  abandoned  centuries ago.  Like  all  the other
residents  of  the  Solar  System,   the  locals  employed  Universal  Time,
identifying  their  twenty-four-hour standard  days by  numbers rather  than
     Since Ganymede's newborn atmosphere was still extremely thin and almost
cloudless,  the parade of heavenly bodies provided a never-ending spectacle.
At their closest, Io and  Callisto  each appeared about half the size of the
Moon  as seen from Earth -- but that was the only thing they  had in common.
Io was so close  to Lucifer that it took less than two days to  race  around
its orbit,  and  showed  visible  movement  even  in a  matter  of  minutes.
Callisto, at  over four times Io's  distance, required  two  Mede days -- or
sixteen Earth ones -- to complete its leisurely circuit.
     The physical contrast between the two worlds was even  more remarkable.
Deep-frozen Callisto had been almost  unchanged by Jupiter's conversion into
a  mini-sun: it  was still  a  wasteland  of shallow ice craters, so closely
packed that there was  not  a single spot on the entire  satellite that  had
escaped  from multiple impacts, in the days when  Jupiter's enormous gravity
field was competing with Saturn's to gather up the debris of the outer Solar
System. Since then, apart  from a few stray  shots, nothing had happened for
several billion years.
     On Io, something was happening every week. As a local wit had remarked,
before the creation  of  Lucifer it had been Hell -- now it was  Hell warmed
     Often, Poole would zoom  into that burning landscape and  look into the
sulphurous throats of  volcanoes that  were  continually reshaping  an  area
larger  than  Africa.  Sometimes incandescent  fountains would soar  briefly
hundreds of kilometres into space,  like gigantic trees of fire growing on a
lifeless world.
     As the  floods  of molten sulphur spread out from volcanoes  and vents,
the versatile element changed through a narrow spectrum of reds and  oranges
and yellows when, chameleon-like, it  was transformed into its vari-coloured
allotropes. Before the dawn of the  Space Age, no one had ever imagined that
such a world  existed. Fascinating  though  it was  to  observe it  from his
comfortable vantage point, Poole found it hard to believe that men had  ever
risked landing  there,  where  even  robots  feared  to  tread...  His  main
interest, however, was Europa, which  at its closest appeared almost exactly
the same size as Earth's solitary Moon, but raced through its phases in only
four days. Though Poole had been quite unconscious of the symbolism when  he
chose his private landscape,  it now seemed  wholly  appropriate that Europa
should hang in the sky above another great enigma -- the Sphinx.
     Even with no magnification, when he requested the naked-eye view, Poole
could  see  how  greatly  Europa had  changed  in  the  thousand years since
Discovery had set out for  Jupiter.  The  spider's  web of narrow bands  and
lines that had  once completely  enveloped the smallest of the four Galilean
satellites  had  vanished, except around the poles. Here the global crust of
kilometre-thick ice remained unmelted  by  the warmth of  Europa's new  sun:
elsewhere, virgin oceans seethed and boiled in the thin atmosphere,  at what
would have been comfortable room temperature on Earth.
     It was also a comfortable temperature to the creatures who had emerged,
after  the melting  of the unbroken  ice shield  that had  both trapped  and
protected  them. Orbiting spysats, showing details only  centimetres across,
had watched one Europan species starting to evolve into an amphibious stage:
though they still spent much of their time underwater, the 'Europs' had even
begun the construction of simple buildings.
     That this could happen in a mere thousand years was astonishing, but no
one  doubted  that the  explanation  lay  in the  last and  greatest  of the
Monoliths -- the many-kilometre-long 'Great  Wall'  standing on the shore of
the Sea of Galilee.
     And no  one  doubted that, in its  own mysterious way, it  was watching
over the experiment  it had started on this world -- as it had done on Earth
four million years before.

     19 The Madness of Mankind

     My dear Indra --  sorry I've not even  voice-mailed you before -- usual
excuse, of course, so I won't bother to give it.
     To answer your question  -- yes, I'm now  feeling quite at  home at the
Grannymede,  but am spending  less and  less  time there, though  I've  been
enjoying the  sky display  I've  had piped into my suite. Last night the  Io
flux-tube put on a fine performance  -- that's a kind of lightning discharge
between  Io and  Jupiter -- I mean Lucifer. Rather  like Earth's aurora, but
much more spectacular. Discovered by the radio astronomers even before I was
     And talking  about  ancient times -- did you  know  that  Anubis has  a
Sheriff?  I think  that's overdoing the frontier  spirit. Reminds me  of the
stories my grandfather  used to tell me about Arizona...  Must try  some  of
them on the Medes...
     This may  sound silly --  I'm still  not used  to  being in the  Bowman
Suite. I keep looking over my shoulder...
     How do I spend my time? Much the same as in  Africa Tower. I'm  meeting
the local intelligentsia, though as you might expect they're rather  thin on
the ground (hope no one  is bugging  this). And I've  interacted -- real and
virtual -- with the  educational system -- very good, it  seems, though more
technically  oriented than  you'd approve.  That's inevitable, of course, in
this hostile environment...
     But  it's  helped  me to  understand  why people  live here.  There's a
challenge  -- a sense of  purpose, if you  like -- that I  seldom  found  on
     It's true  that  most  of the Medes were born here, so  don't  know any
other  home. Though they're  -- usually  -- too polite to say so, they think
that the Home Planet is becoming decadent. Are you? And if so,  what are you
Terries -- as the  locals call you  -- going  to  do  about it?  One of  the
teenage classes  I've met hopes to wake you up. They're drawing up elaborate
Top Secret plans for the Invasion of Earth. Don't say I didn't warn you...
     I've made one trip outside Anubis, into the so-called Night Land, where
they never see Lucifer. Ten of us  --Chandler,  two  of  Goliath's crew, six
Medes  -- went into Farside, and  chased  the Sun  down to the horizon so it
really was night. Awesome -- much like polar winters  on Earth, but with the
sky completely black... almost felt I was in space.
     We  could see all the Galileans beautifully, and watched Europa eclipse
-- sorry, occult --  Io.  Of course, the  trip had  been timed so  we  could
observe this...
     Several  of the  smaller satellites  were  just also  visible,  but the
double star  Earth-Moon was much  more  conspicuous.  Did  I feel  homesick?
Frankly, no -- though I miss my new friends back there...
     And I'm  sorry -- I still haven't met Dr Khan, though he's left several
messages for me.  I promise to do it in the next few days -- Earth days, not
Mede ones!
     Best wishes to Joe -- regards to Danil, if you  know what's happened to
him -- is he a real person again? -- and my love to yourself.

     Back in Poole's century,  a person's name often gave a clue to  his/her
appearance,  but that  was  no  longer  true  thirty  generations  later. Dr
Theodore Khan turned  out to be a Nordic blond who might have looked more at
home in  a  Viking longboat  than  ravaging the  steppes  of  Central  Asia:
however,  he would not have been too impressive in either role,  being  less
than a hundred and fifty centimetres tall. Poole  could not  resist a little
amateur psychoanalysis: small people were often aggressive over-achievers --
which, from Indra Wallace's  hints, appeared  to  be a good  description  of
Ganymede's   sole   resident   philosopher.  Khan  probably   needed   these
qualifications, to survive in such a practically-minded society.
     Anubis City was far too small to boast a  university campus -- a luxury
which  still existed on the  other  worlds,  though  many believed  that the
telecommunications  revolution  had  made  it   obsolete.  Instead,  it  had
something much more appropriate, as well as  centuries  older -- an Academy,
complete  with a grove  of olive trees that would have fooled Plato himself,
until he had attempted to walk through it. Indra's joke about departments of
philosophy  requiring  no more equipment than  blackboards  clearly  did not
apply in this sophisticated environment.
     'It's built to hold seven  people,' said Dr Khan proudly, when they had
settled  down  on  chairs  obviously  designed  to  be  not-too-comfortable,
'because that's the maximum one can  efficiently interact  with. And, if you
count the ghost of Socrates, it was the number present when Phaedo delivered
his famous address...'
     'The one on the immortality of the soul?'
     Khan was so obviously surprised that Poole could not help laughing.
     'I took a  crash course in philosophy just  before  I graduated -- when
the syllabus was planned, someone decided  that we hairy-knuckled  engineers
should be exposed to a little culture.'
     'I'm delighted to hear it. That makes  things so much easier. You  know
--  I still  can't credit my  luck.  Your arrival here almost  tempts me  to
believe in miracles!  I'd even thought of  going to Earth to meet you -- has
dear Indra told you about my -- ah -- obsession?'
     'No,' Poole answered, not altogether truthfully.
     Dr Khan  looked very pleased; he was clearly  delighted to  find  a new
     'You may have heard me called  an  atheist, but  that's not quite true.
Atheism is unprovable, so uninteresting. Equally, however unlikely it is, we
can never  be  certain that  God once  existed  -- and has now  shot off  to
infinity, where no one can ever find him... Like Gautama Buddha, I  take  no
position  on this subject. My field of interest is the psychopathology known
as Religion.'
     'Psychopathology? That's a harsh judgement.'
     'Amply  justified  by  history.  Imagine  that  you're  an  intelligent
extraterrestrial,  concerned only  with  verifiable truths. You  discover  a
species which has divided itself into thousands -- no by now  millions -- of
tribal  groups holding an incredible  variety of beliefs about the origin of
the universe and the way to behave in it. Although many of  them  have ideas
in common, even when there's a ninety-nine per  cent overlap, the  remaining
one per cent is enough  to set them  killing  and torturing each other, over
trivial points of doctrine, utterly meaningless to outsiders.'
     'How to account for such  irrational behaviour? Lucretius hit it on the
nail when he said that religion was the by-product of fear --  a reaction to
a mysterious and  often hostile universe. For  much of  human prehistory, it
may have been a necessary evil  --  but why was it  so much more  evil  than
necessary -- and why did it survive when it was no longer necessary?
     'I said  evil --  and I mean it,  because  fear  leads  to cruelty. The
slightest  knowledge of the  Inquisition makes  one ashamed to belong to the
human species... One of the  most revolting  books ever  published  was  the
Hammer of  Witches, written by a  couple of sadistic perverts and describing
the   tortures  the  Church  authorized  --   encouraged!   --  to   extract
"confessions" from  thousands of  harmless  old women, before it burned them
alive... The Pope himself wrote an approving foreword!'
     'But most  of the  other religions, with  a  few honourable exceptions,
were just  as bad as Christianity...  Even in your century, little boys were
kept  chained  and whipped until they'd  memorized  whole  volumes of  pious
gibberish, and robbed of their childhood and manhood to become monks...'
     'Perhaps  the most baffling  aspect of the whole affair  is how obvious
madmen, century after  century, would proclaim  that they -- and they alone!
-- had received messages  from  God. If  all the  messages  had agreed, that
would have settled the matter. But of course they were wildly discordant  --
which  never  prevented  self-styled  messiahs  from  gathering hundreds  --
sometimes millions  -- of adherents, who would fight  to the  death  against
equally deluded believers of a microscopically differing faith.'
     Poole thought it was about time he got a word in edgeways.
     'You've reminded  me of something  that happened in my home-town when I
was  a kid.  A holy  man -- quote, unquote -- set up shop, claimed he  could
work miracles -- and collected a crowd  of devotees in next  to no time. And
they weren't ignorant or illiterate; often they came from the best families.
Every Sunday I used to see expensive cars parked round his -- ah -- temple.'
     'The "Rasputin  Syndrome", it's been called: there are millions of such
cases,  all  through history,  in every  country. And about  one  time  in a
thousand the cult  survives  for  a couple of generations. What  happened in
this case?'
     'Well, the competition  was very unhappy, and did its best to discredit
him. Wish I could  remember his  name -- he used a long Indian one  -- Swami
something-or-other -- but  it turned out  he  came from Alabama. One  of his
tricks  was  to produce holy objects out of thin  air, and hand  them to his
worshippers. As  it happened,  our local rabbi was an  amateur conjuror, and
gave public demonstrations showing exactly how it  was done. Didn't make the
slightest difference -- the faithful said  that  their man's magic was real,
and the rabbi was just jealous.'
     'At one time, I'm sorry to say, Mother took the rascal seriously  -- it
was soon after Dad had run off, which may have had something to  do  with it
--  and  dragged me  to one  of his sessions. I was only  about ten,  but  I
thought I'd never seen anyone  so unpleasant-looking. He  had  a beard  that
could have held several birds' nests, and probably did.'
     'He sounds like the standard model. How long did he flourish?'
     'Three or four years. And then  he had to leave town in a hurry: he was
caught running teenage orgies. Of course, he claimed he  was using  mystical
soul-saving techniques. And you won't believe this --,
     'Try me.'
     'Even then,  lots of his dupes  still had faith in him. Their god could
do no wrong, so he must have been framed.'
     'Sorry --  convicted by faked evidence --  sometimes used by the police
to catch criminals, when all else fails.'
     'Hmm. Well, your swami was perfectly  typical: I'm rather disappointed.
But  he  does help to prove my case --that most of humanity has  always been
insane, at least some of the time.'
     'Rather an unrepresentative sample -- one small Flagstaff suburb.'
     'True,  but I could  multiply  it  by  thousands --  not  only  in your
century, but all down the ages. There's never been anything, however absurd,
that countless people weren't  prepared  to  believe, often so  passionately
that they'd fight to the  death rather than abandon  their illusions. To me,
that's a good operational definition of insanity.'
     'Would you argue that anyone with strong religious beliefs was insane?'
     'In a strictly technical sense, yes -- if they really were sincere, and
not hypocrites. As I suspect ninety per cent were.'
     'I'm certain that Rabbi Berenstein was sincere -- and he was one of the
sanest men I ever knew, as well as one of the finest. And how do you account
for this? The only real genius  I ever  met  was Dr Chandra, who led the HAL
project. I  once had to go  into his  office -- there was  no  reply when  I
knocked, and I thought it was unoccupied.'
     'He was  praying to a group of fantastic  little bronze statues, draped
with flowers. One of them looked  like an elephant... another had more  than
the regular number of arms... I was quite embarrassed, but luckily he didn't
hear me and I tiptoed out. Would you say he was insane?'
     'You've  chosen  a  bad example: genius  often  is!  So let's say:  not
insane, but mentally impaired, owing to childhood conditioning.  The Jesuits
claimed: "Give me a boy for six years,  and he is mine for life." If  they'd
got hold of  little Chandra in time, he'd have been a devout Catholic -- not
a Hindu.'
     'Possibly. But I'm  puzzled -- why  were you so anxious to meet me? I'm
afraid  I've never been a devout anything. What have I got  to  do with  all
     Slowly, and with  the obvious enjoyment of a man unburdening himself of
a heavy, long-hoarded secret, Dr Khan told him.

     20 Apostate

     Hello, Frank...  So  you've finally met Ted. Yes, you could  call him a
crank --  if you define that as an  enthusiast  with no sense of humour. But
cranks often get  that way because they know a Big Truth -- can, you hear my
     -- and no one will listen... I'm glad you did -- and I suggest you take
him quite seriously.
     You said  you  were surprised  to see  a  Pope's  portrait  prominently
displayed in Ted's  apartment. That would have been his hero, Pius XX -- I'm
sure I mentioned him to you. Look him up -- he's  usually called the Impius!
It's a fascinating story, and exactly parallels something that happened just
before you  were born. You must know how Mikhail Gorbachev, the President of
the Soviet Empire, brought about its dissolution at the end of the twentieth
century, by exposing its crimes and excesses.
     He didn't intend  to go that far --  he'd hoped to  reform it, but that
was no  longer possible. We'll never  know if Pius  XX  had the  same  idea,
because he was assassinated by a demented cardinal soon after he'd horrified
the world by releasing the secret files of the Inquisition...
     The religious were still shaken by the discovery of TMA ZERO only a few
decades  earlier -- that  had  a great  impact on  Pius  XX,  and  certainly
influenced his actions...
     But you still haven't told me how Ted, that old cryptoDeist, thinks you
can  help  him in  his search for God. I  believe he's still  mad at him for
hiding so successfully. Better not say I told you that.
     On second thoughts, why not?
     Love -- Indra.

     Hello --  Indra  -- I've had  another session  with Dr Ted, though I've
still not told him just why you think he's angry with God!
     But  I've had some  very interesting arguments -- no, dialogues -- with
him,  though  he  does  most of  the  talking. Never  thought  I'd get  into
philosophy again after  all these years of  engineering. Perhaps I had to go
through them first, to appreciate it. Wonder how he'd grade me as a student?
     Yesterday I tried this line  of approach, to  see his reaction. Perhaps
it's original, though  I doubt it.  Thought you'd like to hear it -- will be
interested in your comments. Here's our discussion --MISS PRINGLE COPY AUDIO
     'Surely, Ted, you can't deny  that most of the  greatest works of human
art have been inspired by religious devotion. Doesn't that prove something?'
     'Yes -- but not in a way that will give  much comfort to any believers!
From time to time, people amuse themselves  making lists of the Biggests and
Greatests and Bests --  I'm  sure that was a popular entertainment  in  your
     'It certainly was.'
     'Well,  there have been some famous attempts to do this  with the arts.
Of  course  such  lists can't establish absolute  --  eternal -- values, but
they're interesting and show how tastes change from age to age.'
     'The last list I saw -- it was on the Earth Artnet only a few years ago
-- was divided into Architecture, Music, Visual  Arts... I remember a few of
the examples... the Parthenon, the Taj Mahal... Bach's Toccata and Fugue was
first  in music, followed by Verdi's Requiem  Mass. In art -- the Mona Lisa,
of  course.  Then  --  not sure of the order --  a group of  Buddha  statues
somewhere in Ceylon, and the golden death-mask of young King Tut.
     'Even if I could remember all the others -- which  of course I can't --
it  doesn't matter:  the important  thing  is their  cultural  and religious
backgrounds. Overall, no single  religion dominated -- except in  music. And
that  could be due to  a purely technological  accident: the  organ and  the
other pre-electronic musical instruments were perfected in the Christianized
West.  It could have worked out quite  differently...  if,  for example, the
Greeks or the Chinese had regarded machines as something more than toys.
     'But what  really settles the argument, as far as I'm concerned, is the
general consensus about the single greatest work of human art. Over and over
again,  in almost  every listing --  it's Angkor Wat. Yet the religion  that
inspired that  has been extinct for centuries -- no one even knows precisely
what it was, except that it involved hundreds of gods, not merely one!'
     'Wish I could have thrown that at dear old Rabbi Berenstein -- I'm sure
he'd have had a good answer.'
     'I don't  doubt it. I wish I could have met him myself. And I'm glad he
never lived to see what happened to Israel.'

     There you have it,  Indra. Wish the Grannymede  had Angkor Wat  on  its
menu -- I've never seen it -- but you can't have everything...
     Now, the  question you  really  wanted  answered...  why is  Dr Ted  so
delighted that I'm here?
     As you  know,  he's convinced that  the key to  many mysteries  lies on
Europa -- where no one has been allowed to land for a thousand years.
     He thinks I may be an exception. He believes I have a friend there. Yes
-- Dave Bowman, or whatever he's now become...
     We know that he survived being  drawn  into the Big Brother Monolith --
and  somehow revisited  Earth  afterwards. But there's  more, that I  didn't
know.  Very few people  do, because the Medes  are embarrassed to talk about
     Ted Khan has  spent  years  collecting  the evidence, and  is now quite
certain of the facts -- even though  he can't  explain them. On at least six
occasions, about  a century apart, reliable  observers here  in  Anubis have
reported seeing an -- apparition -- just like the one that Heywood Floyd met
aboard Discovery. Though not one of them knew about that incident, they were
all able to identify  Dave when they were shown  his hologram. And there was
another sighting aboard a survey ship that made  a close approach to Europa,
six hundred years ago...
     Individually, no one would take these cases seriously -- but altogether
they  make a  pattern. Ted's  quite sure  that  Dave Bowman survives in some
form, presumably associated with the Monolith we call the Great Wall. And he
still has some interest in our affairs.
     Though he's made no attempt  at  communication,  Ted hopes we  can make
contact. He believes that I'm the only human who can do it...
     I'm  still trying to make up my mind. Tomorrow, I'll talk it  over with
Captain Chandler. Will let you know what we decide. Love, Frank.

     21 Quarantine

     'Do you believe in ghosts, Dim?'
     'Certainly not: but like every sensible man, I'm afraid of them. Why do
you ask?'
     'If it wasn't a ghost, it was the most vivid dream  I've ever had. Last
night I had a conversation with Dave Bowman.'
     Poole  knew that Captain Chandler would take  him  seriously, when  the
occasion required; nor was he disappointed.
     'Interesting -- but there's an obvious  explanation. You've been living
here in the  Bowman Suite, for Deus's sake! You  told me  yourself  it feels
     'I'm sure -- well, ninety-nine per cent sure -- that you're  right, and
the whole thing was prompted by  the discussions I've been having with Prof.
Ted. Have you  heard  the reports  that  Dave Bowman occasionally appears in
Anubis? About once every hundred years? Just as he  did to  Dr  Floyd aboard
Discovery, after she'd been reactivated.'
     'What happened there? I've heard  vague  stories, but never taken  them
     'Dr  Khan  does --  and so  do I -- I've  seen the original recordings.
Floyd's sitting in my old chair when a  kind of dust-cloud forms behind him,
and shapes  itself  into Dave --  though only  the head has  detail. Then it
gives that famous message, warning him to leave.'
     'Who wouldn't have? But  that was a thousand years  ago. Plenty of time
to fake it.'
     'What would be the point? Khan and I  were looking at it yesterday. I'd
bet my life it's authentic.'
     'As  a  matter of  fact,  I agree  with  you.  And I  have  heard those
     Chandler's voice trailed away, and he looked slightly embarrassed.
     'Long time  ago, I had  a  girl-friend here in Anubis. She told me that
her grandfather had seen Bowman. I laughed.'
     'I wonder if Ted has that sighting on his  list.  Could you  put him in
touch with your friend?'
     'Er -- rather not. We haven't spoken for years. For all I know, she may
be on the Moon, or Mars... Anyway, why is Professor Ted interested?'
     'That's what I really wanted to discuss with you.'
     'Sounds ominous. Go ahead,'
     'Ted  thinks that Dave  Bowman -- or whatever he's become  -- may still
exist -- up there on Europa.'
     'After a thousand years?'
     'Well -- look at me.'
     'One sample is poor statistics, my maths prof. used to say. But go on.'
     'It's a complicated story -- or maybe a jigsaw, with most of the pieces
missing. But  it's generally agreed that something crucial happened  to  our
ancestors when that Monolith appeared in Africa, four million years ago.  It
marks a turning point in  prehistory -- the first appearance of tools -- and
weapons -- and religion... That can't be pure coincidence. The Monolith must
have  done  something to  us  -- surely it couldn't  have just stood  there,
passively accepting worship...'
     'Ted's fond of quoting a famous palaeontologist who said "TMA ZERO gave
us an evolutionary kick  in the pants". He argues that the  kick wasn't in a
wholly desirable  direction.  Did we  have  to become so  mean and  nasty to
survive?  Maybe  we  did... As  I understand him,  Ted believes that there's
something fundamentally wrong with the wiring of our brains, which makes  us
incapable of  consistent logical thinking. To make matters worse, though all
creatures need a certain amount of  aggressiveness to survive,  we  seem  to
have far more than is absolutely necessary. And no other animal tortures its
fellows as we do. Is this an evolutionary accident -- a piece of genetic bad
     'It's  also widely agreed that TMA  ONE was planted on the Moon to keep
track of the project --  experiment -- whatever it was  -- and to  report to
Jupiter --  the obvious  place for Solar  System Mission Control. That's why
another Monolith -- Big Brother -- was waiting there.  Had been waiting four
million years, when Discovery arrived. Agreed so far?'
     'Yes; I've always thought that was the most plausible theory.'
     'Now for the more speculative stuff. Bowman was apparently swallowed up
by Big  Brother, yet  something of  his personality  seems to have survived.
Twenty years  after that  encounter with Heywood Floyd in the second Jupiter
expedition, they had another  contact aboard Universe, when Floyd  joined it
for the 2061 rendezvous with Halley's Comet. At least, so he tells us in his
memoirs -- though he was well over a hundred when he dictated them.'
     'Could have been senile.'
     'Not according to  all  the contemporary accounts! Also -- perhaps even
more significant -- his grandson Chris  had  some equally weird  experiences
when Galaxy made its forced landing on  Europa. And, of course, that's where
the Monolith -- or a Monolith -- is, right now! Surrounded by Europans...'
     'I'm beginning to  see what Dr Ted's  driving at. This is where we came
in -- the whole  cycle's starting over again.  The Europs  are being groomed
for stardom.'
     'Exactly --  everything fits. Jupiter  ignited to  give them a sun,  to
thaw  out  their frozen  world. The  warning  to us to  keep our distance --
presumably so that we wouldn't interfere with their development...'
     'Where have I heard that idea before? Of course, Frank  -- it goes back
a thousand  years -- to your own time! "The  Prime Directive"!  We still get
lots of laughs from those old Star Trek programmes.'
     'Did I ever  tell  you  I once met some of the  actors? They would have
been surprised to  see me now... And I've always had two thoughts about that
non-interference  policy.  The Monolith certainly violated  it with us, back
there in Africa. One might argue that did have disastrous results...'
     'So  better luck next  time --  on Europa!' Poole laughed, without much
humour. 'Khan used those exact words.'
     'And  what does he think we should do about  it? Above all  -- where do
you come into the picture?'
     'First of all,  we must find what's  really happening on Europa  -- and
why. Merely observing it from space is not enough.'
     'What  else  can we do? All the probes the Medes have  sent  there were
blown up, just before landing.'
     'And ever since the  mission to rescue Galaxy, crew-carrying ships have
been diverted by  some field  of  force, which no  one can  figure out. Very
interesting: it proves that whatever is down there  is protective,  but  not
malevolent. And -- this is the important  point -- it must  have some way of
scanning what's on the way. It can distinguish between robots and humans.'
     'More than I can do, sometimes. Go on.'
     'Well, Ted thinks there's one human being who might make it down to the
surface  of  Europa  --  because his old friend  is there, and may have some
influence with the 'powers-that-be.'
     Captain Dimitri Chandler gave a long, low whistle.
     'And you're willing to risk it?'
     'Yes: what have I got to lose?'
     'One valuable  shuttle  craft, if I know what you have in mind. Is that
why you've been learning to fly Falcon?'
     'Well, now that you mention it... the idea had occurred to me.'
     'I'll have to think it  over -- I'll admit I'm intrigued, but there are
lots of problems.'
     'Knowing  you, I'm  sure  they won't stand  in  the way -- once  you've
decided to help me.'

     22 Venture

     Dear Indra --  I'm not trying to be  dramatic, but this may be  my last
message from  Ganymede. By the time  you receive  it, I will be on my way to
     Though it's a sudden decision -- and no one is more surprised than I am
-- I've thought it over very carefully. As you'll have  guessed, Ted Khan is
largely  responsible...  let him do  the explaining, if I don't  come  back.
Please don't misunderstand  me -- in  no way do I regard this  as a  suicide
mission!  But I'm  ninety per cent convinced  by Ted's  arguments, and  he's
aroused my curiosity so much that I'd never forgive  myself if I turned down
this  once-in-a-lifetime  opportunity.  Maybe  I  should  say  once  in  two
     I'm flying Goliath's  little one-person shuttle Falcon  -- how I'd have
loved  to   demonstrate  her  to  my  old  colleagues  back  at   the  Space
Administration!  Judging by  past  records, the  most likely outcome is that
I'll be diverted away from Europa before I can land. Even this will teach me
     And if it -- presumably the local  Monolith, the Great Wall --  decides
to treat me like the robot probes it's zapped in the past, I'll never  know.
That's a risk I'm prepared to take.
     Thank you for everything, and  my very  best to Joe. Love from Ganymede
-- and soon, I hope, from Europa.

     23 Falcon

     'Europa's about four hundred thousand kay from Ganymede at the moment,'
Captain Chandler informed Poole.
     'If you stepped on the gas -- thanks  for teaching me that  phrase!  --
Falcon  could  get  you there  in an hour.  But I wouldn't recommend it: our
mysterious friend might be alarmed by anyone coming in that fast.'
     'Agreed and I want time to  think. I'm going  to take several hours, at
least. And I'm still hoping...' Poole's voice trailed off into silence.
     'Hoping what?'
     'That I can make some sort  of contact with Dave, or  whatever  it  is,
before I attempt to land.'
     'Yes, it's  always rude to drop in uninvited --  even  with  people you
know, let alone perfect  strangers like the Europs. Perhaps you should  take
some gifts -- what did the  old-time explorers  use? I  believe  mirrors and
beads were once popular.'
     Chandler's facetious tone did not disguise his real concern,  both  for
Poole and for the valuable piece of equipment he proposed to  borrow  -- and
for which the skipper of Goliath was ultimately responsible.
     'I'm still trying to decide how  we work this. If you come back a hero,
I want to  bask in your  reflected glory. But  if you lose Falcon as well as
yourself, what  shall I say?  That  you stole  the shuttle while  we weren't
looking? I'm afraid no one  would buy that story. Ganymede Traffic Control's
very efficient -- has  to be! If you left without advance notice, they'd  be
on  to you  in  a microsec  -- well,  a  millisecond. No way you could leave
unless I file your flight-plan ahead of time.'
     'So this is what I propose to do, unless I think of something better.'
     'You're  taking Falcon out for a final  qualification test  -- everyone
knows  you've already soloed. You'll  go into  a two-thousand-kilometre-high
orbit above Europa  -- nothing unusual  about that --  people do it  all the
time, and the local authorities don't seem to object.'
     'Estimated  total  flight time five hours plus or minus ten minutes. If
you  suddenly change your mind  about  coming home, no one  can do  anything
about  it  --  at  least, no one  on  Ganymede. Of  course, I'll  make  some
indignant noises, and say how  astonished  I  am by such  gross navigational
errors, etc., etc.  Whatever  will  look  best  in the  subsequent  Court of
     'Would it  come to that? I  don't want to do anything that will get you
into trouble.'
     'Don't worry -- it's time there was a little excitement round here. But
only you and I know about this  plot; try not to mention it to the crew -- I
want them to have -- what was that other useful expression you taught me? --
"plausible deniability".'
     'Thanks, Dim  --  I really appreciate  what  you're  doing. And  I hope
you'll never have to regret hauling me aboard Goliath, out round Neptune.'

     Poole found it hard to avoid arousing suspicion,  by the way he behaved
towards his  new crewmates  as they prepared Falcon for what was supposed to
be  a short, routine  flight.  Only he and Chandler knew  that  it might  be
nothing of the kind.
     Yet he was not heading into the  totally unknown, as he and Dave Bowman
had done  a  thousand  years  ago.  Stored  in  the  shuttle's  memory  were
high-resolution maps of Europa showing details down to  a few metres across.
He knew exactly where he wished  to go; it only remained to  see if he would
be allowed to break the centuries-long quarantine.

     24 Escape

     'Manual control, please.'
     'Are you sure, Frank?'
     'Quite sure, Falcon... Thank you.'
     Illogical though  it  seemed,  most  of  the human race  had  found  it
impossible   not  to  be   polite   to  its  artificial   children,  however
simple-minded they might be. Whole volumes of psychology, as well as popular
guides (How Not to Hurt Your Computer's Feelings; Artificial Intelligence --
Real irritation were two  of  the best-known titles) had been written on the
subject of Man-Machine etiquette. Long ago it had been decided that, however
inconsequential  rudeness  to  robots  might  appear  to be,  it  should  be
discouraged. All too easily, it could spread to human relationships as well.
     Falcon was now in orbit,  just as  her  flight-plan had  promised, at a
safe  two  thousand  kilometres  above  Europa.  The giant  moon's  crescent
dominated the sky ahead, and even the area not illuminated by Lucifer was so
brilliantly lit by  the much more distant Sun  that every detail was clearly
visible. Poole needed no  optical aid to see his planned destination, on the
still-icy shore  of  the Sea of Galilee,  not far from  the skeleton  of the
first  spacecraft to land  on  this world. Though the Europans had  long ago
removed all its metal components, the ill-fated Chinese ship still served as
a memorial to its  crew; and it was appropriate that the only 'town' -- even
if an alien one -- on this whole world should have been named 'Tsienville'.
     Poole had decided to come down over the Sea,  and then  fly very slowly
towards Tsienville -- hoping that this approach would appear friendly, or at
least  non-aggressive. Though he  admitted  to  himself that  this was  very
nave, he could think of no better alternative.
     Then, suddenly, just as  he was dropping  below the  thousand-kilometre
level, there was an interruption -- not  of the kind he  had hoped for,  but
one which he had been expecting.
     'This is Ganymede Control  calling Falcon. You have departed from  your
flight-plan. Please advise immediately what is happening.'
     It was hard to ignore such an urgent request, but  in the circumstances
it seemed the best thing to do.
     Exactly  thirty  seconds  later, and  a  hundred  kilometres closer  to
Europa,  Ganymede repeated its  message. Once again Poole ignored it --  but
Falcon did not.
     'Are you quite sure  you  want to  do  this, Frank?' asked the shuttle.
Though Poole  knew  perfectly well that  he was imagining it,  he would have
sworn there was a note of anxiety in its voice.
     'Quite sure, Falcon. I know exactly what I'm doing.'
     That  was  certainly untrue, and any moment  now further lying might be
necessary, to a more sophisticated audience.
     Seldom-activated indicator lights started to flash near the edge of the
control  board.  Poole  smiled  with  satisfaction:  everything  was   going
according to plan.
     'This is Ganymede Control! Do you receive me, Falcon? You are operating
on manual override, so I am unable to assist you. What is happening? You are
still descending towards Europa. Please acknowledge immediately.'
     Poole  began  to experience mild twinges of  conscience. He  thought he
recognized the  Controller's  voice,  and  was almost  certain that it was a
charming lady he had met at a reception given  by the  Mayor, soon after his
arrival at Anubis. She sounded genuinely alarmed.
     Suddenly, he knew how to  relieve her anxiety  -- as well as to attempt
something which  he  had  previously  dismissed  as altogether  too  absurd.
Perhaps, after all, it was worth a try: it certainly wouldn't do any harm --
and it might even work.
     'This is  Frank Poole, calling  from  Falcon. I am perfectly OK --  but
something seems to have taken over the controls, and is bringing the shuttle
down towards  Europa. I  hope you are  receiving  this -- I will continue to
report as long as possible.'
     Well, he hadn't actually lied to the worried Controller, and one day he
hoped he would be able to face her with a clear conscience.
     He continued to talk, trying to sound  as if he was completely sincere,
instead of skirting the edge of truth.
     'This is Frank  Poole  aboard the shuttle  Falcon,  descending  towards
Europa. I assume  that some outside force has taken charge of my spacecraft,
and will be landing it safely.'
     'Dave -- this is  your old shipmate Frank.  Are you  the entity that is
controlling me? I have reason to think that you are on Europa.
     'If so --  I look forward to  meeting  you  -- wherever or whatever you
     Not for a moment did he imagine there would be any reply: even Ganymede
Control appeared to be shocked into silence.
     And  yet, in a way, he  had an answer. Falcon was still being permitted
to descend towards the Sea of Galilee.
     Europa was only fifty kilometres below; with his naked eyes Poole could
now see the narrow black bar where the greatest of the Monoliths stood guard
-- if indeed it was doing that -- on the outskirts of Tsienville.
     No human being had been allowed to come so close for a thousand years.

     25 Fire in the Deep

     For millions of years  it had been an  ocean world,  its  hidden waters
protected from the vacuum of space by a crust of ice. In most places the ice
was kilometres thick, but there were  lines of weakness where it had cracked
open  and  torn  apart.  Then  there  had been  a brief  battle  between two
implacably hostile elements that came into direct contact on no other  world
in  the Solar System, The war between Sea and Space always ended in the same
stalemate; the exposed  water simultaneously boiled and froze, repairing the
armour of ice.
     The seas  of Europa would have frozen completely solid long ago without
the influence of nearby Jupiter. Its gravity continually kneaded the core of
the little world;  the  forces  that convulsed Io  were also working  there,
though with much less ferocity.  Everywhere in the deep was evidence of that
tug-of-war  between planet  and satellite, in the continual roar and thunder
of  submarine earthquakes, the shriek of  gases escaping from the  interior,
the  infrasonic  pressure  waves  of avalanches  sweeping  over the  abyssal
plains. By comparison with the  tumultuous ocean  that covered  Europa, even
the noisy seas of Earth were muted.
     Here and there, scattered over the deserts of the deep, were oases that
would have amazed and delighted any terrestrial biologist. They extended for
several kilometres  around tangled masses of pipes and chimneys deposited by
mineral  brines gushing  from  the  interior.  Often  they  created  natural
parodies  of Gothic castles, from which black, scalding liquids  pulsed in a
slow rhythm, as if driven by  the beating of  some  mighty heart.  And  like
blood, they were the authentic sign of life itself.
     The boiling fluids drove back  the deadly cold leaking down from above,
and formed islands of warmth on the sea-bed. Equally important, they brought
from  Europa's  interior  all the  chemicals of  life.  Such  fertile oases,
offering  food  and  energy  in  abundance,  had  been  discovered   by  the
twentieth-century explorers of Earth's oceans. Here they were present on  an
immensely larger scale, and in far greater variety.
     Delicate, spidery structures that seemed  to be  the analogue of plants
flourished in the 'tropical' zones  closest to the sources of heat. Crawling
among these were bizarre slugs and worms, some feeding on the plants, others
obtaining their food directly from the mineral-laden  waters around them. At
greater distances from the  submarine fires around which all these creatures
warmed themselves lived sturdier, more robust organisms, not unlike crabs or
     Armies  of  biologists  could  have spent  lifetimes studying one small
oasis.  Unlike the Palaeozoic terrestrial seas, the Europan abyss  was not a
stable environment,  so  evolution had  progressed  with astonishing  speed,
producing  multitudes  of  fantastic forms.  And  all  were under  the  same
indefinite stay of execution; sooner or later, each  fountain of  life would
weaken  and  die, as the forces that powered it moved their focus elsewhere.
All across  the Europan sea-bed  was evidence of such  tragedies;  countless
circular  areas were  littered  with  the  skeletons  and  mineral-encrusted
remains of  dead creatures,  where entire  chapters  of  evolution had  been
deleted from the  book  of life. Some  had left as their only memorial huge,
empty  shells  like convoluted trumpets, larger than a man.  And  there were
clams  of many shapes -- bivalves,  and even trivalves,  as  well  as spiral
stone patterns,  many metres  across -- exactly like the beautiful ammonites
that  disappeared  so mysteriously  from Earth's oceans at  the  end  of the
Cretaceous Period.
     Among  the  greatest  wonders of  the  Europan  abyss  were  rivers  of
incandescent  lava,  pouring from the calderas  of submarine volcanoes.  The
pressure at these depths  was so  great that the  water in  contact with the
red-hot magma could not flash into  steam, so the  two liquids co-existed in
an uneasy truce.
     There, on another world and with alien actors, something like the story
of Egypt had been played out long before the coming of  Man. As the Nile had
brought life  to a  narrow  ribbon  of  desert, so this river of  warmth had
vivified the Europan deep. Along its banks, in a band never more than a  few
kilometres wide, species after species had evolved and flourished and passed
away. And some had left permanent monuments.
     Often,  they were not  easy to distinguish from  the natural formations
around the thermal  vents, and even when they were clearly  not  due to pure
chemistry,  one would be hard put to decide whether they were the product of
instinct or intelligence. On Earth, the termites reared condominiums  almost
as  impressive  as  any found in the single vast  ocean that  enveloped this
frozen world.
     Along  the  narrow band of fertility in the deserts of the deep,  whole
cultures  and even  civilizations might have risen and  fallen, armies might
have  marched  --  or swum --  under the  command  of Europan Tamberlanes or
Napoleons. And the rest of their world would never have known, for all their
oases  were  as  isolated from  one  another as the  planets themselves, The
creatures who basked in the glow of the lava rivers, and fed  around the hot
vents, could not  cross the hostile wilderness between their lonely islands.
If they had ever  produced historians and  philosophers,  each culture would
have been convinced that it was alone in the Universe.
     Yet even the space between the oases was not altogether  empty of life;
there  were  hardier creatures who  had  dared  its  rigours. Some  were the
Europan analogues  of  fish -- streamlined torpedoes, propelled  by vertical
tails,  steered by fins along  their  bodies. The  resemblance to  the  most
successful  dwellers  in Earth's  oceans  was  inevitable;  given  the  same
engineering problems, evolution must  produce very similar  answers. Witness
the dolphin and  the shark  --  superficially almost identical, yet from far
distant branches of the tree of life.
     There was, however, one very obvious difference between the fish of the
Europan  seas and those in terrestrial oceans; they had  no gills, for there
was hardly a  trace of oxygen to be  extracted from the waters in which they
swam.  Like  the  creatures  around  Earth's  own  geothermal  vents,  their
metabolism  was  based on sulphur compounds,  present in  abundance  in this
volcanic environment.
     And  very  few  had  eyes.  Apart  from  the  flickering  glow of  lava
outpourings, and occasional bursts of bioluminescence from creatures seeking
mates, or hunters questing prey, it was a lightless world.
     It was also a doomed one. Not only were its energy sources sporadic and
constantly shifting, but the tidal  forces that  drove  them  were  steadily
weakening.  Even  if they  developed true  intelligence,  the Europans  were
trapped between fire and ice.
     Barring  a  miracle, they would perish with the final freezing of their
little world.
     Lucifer had wrought that miracle.

     26 Tsienville

     In the final moments, as he came in over the coast at a  sedate hundred
kilometres  an  hour,  Poole  wondered  if there  might be some  last-minute
intervention. But nothing untoward happened, even when he moved slowly along
the black, forbidding face of the Great Wall.
     It  was the  inevitable  name for  the  Europa Monolith as,  unlike its
little brothers on Earth and Moon, it was lying horizontally,  and was  more
than twenty  kilometres long. Although  it  was  literally billions of times
greater  in  volume than TMA ZERO and TMA ONE, its proportions were  exactly
the same -- that  intriguing ratio 1:4:9, inspirer of  so much numerological
nonsense over the centuries.
     As  the  vertical face was  almost ten kilometres  high,  one plausible
theory maintained that among  its other functions the Great Wall served as a
wind-break, protecting Tsienville from the ferocious gales that occasionally
roared in from the Sea of Galilee. They were much less frequent now that the
climate had stabilized,  but a thousand years earlier they would have been a
severe discouragement to any life-forms emerging from the ocean.
     Though  he had fully intended to do  so, Poole had never found  time to
visit the Tycho Monolith -- still Top Secret when he had left for Jupiter --
and Earth's gravity made its twin at Olduvai inaccessible to him. But he had
seen  their images so often  that  they  were  much  more familiar than  the
proverbial back  of the hand  (and  how many people, he had  often wondered,
would  recognize  the  backs  of  their  hands?).  Apart  from the  enormous
difference in scale, there was absolutely no way of distinguishing the Great
Wall from TMA ONE and TMA  ZERO -- or,  for  that matter,  the 'Big Brother'
Monolith that Discovery and the Leonov had encountered orbiting Jupiter.
     According  to some theories, perhaps crazy enough to be true, there was
only  one archetypal Monolith, and all the others -- whatever  their size --
were merely projections or images  of it. Poole recalled these ideas when he
noticed the spotless, unsullied smoothness of the Great Wall's towering ebon
face.  Surely,  after  so many centuries  in such  a hostile environment, it
should have collected a few patches of grime! Yet it looked as immaculate as
if an army of window-cleaners had just polished every square centimetre.
     Then  he recalled that although everyone who had ever come to  view TMA
ONE  and TMA  ZERO felt  an  irresistible  urge  to  touch their  apparently
pristine surfaces, no one had ever  succeeded. Fingers --  diamond drills --
laser knives -- all skittered across the Monoliths as if they were coated by
an  impenetrable  film.  Or as  if -- and this was another popular theory --
they were not quite in  this universe, but  somehow separated from it  by an
utterly impassable fraction of a millimetre.
     He  made one  complete, leisurely  circuit  of  the Great  Wall,  which
remained totally indifferent to his progress. Then he brought the shuttle --
still  on  manual, in  case  Ganymede Control made  any further  attempts to
'rescue' him -- to the outer limits of Tsienville, and hovered there looking
for the best place to land.
     The scene  through Falcon's small panoramic  window was wholly familiar
to him; he had examined  it so often in Ganymede recordings, never imagining
that one day he would be observing it in reality. The Europs, it seemed, had
no  idea  of  town  planning;  hundreds  of  hemispherical  structures  were
scattered  apparently at random over an area about a kilometre  across. Some
were so  small  that  even human children would feel cramped in them; though
others were big enough  to  hold  a  large  family, none  was more than five
metres high.
     And they  were all made from the same material, which gleamed a ghostly
white  in  the double  daylight.  On Earth,  the  Esquimaux  had  found  the
identical  answer  to the  challenge  of  their  own  frigid, materials-poor
environment; Tsienville's igloos were also made of ice.
     In lieu of streets, there were canals  -- as best suited  creatures who
were still amphibious,  and apparently returned to the water to sleep. Also,
it  was believed, to feed and  to  mate, though neither hypothesis had  been
     Tsienville  had been called  'Venice, made of  ice', and  Poole  had to
agree that it  was an apt description.  However, there were no Venetians  in
sight; the place looked as if it had been deserted for years.
     And here was another mystery; despite the fact that  Lucifer  was fifty
times brighter than the distant Sun, and was a permanent fixture in the sky,
the Europs still seemed locked  to an  ancient rhythm of night and day. They
returned to the ocean at sunset, and emerged with the rising  of the  Sun --
despite the  fact that the level of illumination  had changed by only  a few
per cent. Perhaps  there was a parallel on  Earth, where the life cycles  of
many  creatures were controlled as much by the feeble Moon as  the far  more
brilliant Sun.
     It  would  be sunrise  in  another hour,  and then the  inhabitants  of
Tsienville would return to land and go about their leisurely  affairs --  as
by human standards, they certainly were. The sulphur-based biochemistry that
powered  the  Europs  was  not  as  efficient as the oxygen-driven  one that
energized  the vast  majority of  terrestrial animals.  Even a  sloth  could
outrun a Europ, so it was difficult to regard them as potentially dangerous.
That  was the Good News; the Bad News was that even with the best intentions
on both sides,  attempts at communication would be extremely slow -- perhaps
intolerably tedious.
     It was about  time,  Poole decided, that he  reported back  to Ganymede
Control.  They  must be  getting  very  anxious,  and  he  wondered  how his
co-conspirator, Captain Chandler, was dealing with the situation.
     'Falcon  calling Ganymede.  As you  can doubtless see, I  have -- er --
been brought to rest just above  Tsienville. There is  no sign of hostility,
and as it's still solar night here all the Europs are underwater. Will  call
you again as soon as I'm on the ground.'
     Dim  would have been proud of  him, Poole thought, as he brought Falcon
down  gently  as a  snowflake on a smooth  patch  of ice.  He was taking  no
chances with its stability, and set  the inertial drive to cancel all but  a
fraction  of  the shuttle's weight -- just enough, he hoped, to  prevent  it
being blown away by any wind.
     He was on Europa -- the  first human in a thousand years. Had Armstrong
and Aldrin felt this sense of elation, when Eagle touched down on  the Moon?
Probably they were too  busy  checking their  Lunar  Module's  primitive and
totally unintelligent  systems.  Falcon,  of  course,  was  doing  all  this
automatically.  The  little  cabin  was  now  very  quiet,  apart  from  the
inevitable -- and reassuring -- murmur of well-tempered electronics. It gave
Poole  a considerable shock when Chandler's  voice,  obviously pre-recorded,
interrupted his thoughts.
     'So  you  made  it! Congratulations!  As you  know, we're  scheduled to
return  to  the Belt  week after next, but  that should  give you  plenty of
     'After five  days, Falcon knows what to do. She'll  find her way  home,
with or without you. So good luck!'

     Hello,  Dim --  thanks for that  cheerful message!  I feel rather silly
using this program -- as if I'm a secret agent in one of the  spy melodramas
that  used to  be so popular before I  was  born. Still,  it will allow some
privacy,   which  may  be  useful.  Hope  Miss  Pringle  has  downloaded  it
properly... of course, Miss P, I'm only joking!
     By the way, I'm getting a barrage  of requests from  all the news media
in the Solar System.  Please try to hold  them off --  or divert  them to Dr
Ted. He'll enjoy handling them...
     Since Ganymede  has  me on camera all  the time, I won't  waste  breath
telling you what I'm seeing. If all goes well, we should have some action in
a  few  minutes -- and we'll know if it really  was  a good idea to  let the
Europs  find me  already sitting here peacefully, waiting to greet them when
they come to the surface...
     Whatever happens, it won't  be as big a surprise to me as it was to  Dr
Chang and  his  colleagues, when they landed here  a  thousand years ago!  I
played his famous last message again,  just  before leaving Ganymede. I must
confess it gave  me an eerie feeling -- couldn't help wondering if something
like that could possibly happen again... wouldn't like to immortalize myself
the way poor Chang did...
     Of course, I can always lift off if something starts going wrong... and
here's an interesting  thought that's just occurred to me... I wonder if the
Europs  have  any  history  --  any kind of records...  any memory  of  what
happened just a few kilometres from here, a thousand years ago?

     27 Ice and Vacuum

     ...This  is  Dr Chang,  calling from Europa. I hope  you  cart hear me,
especially  Dr Floyd -- I know you're aboard Leonov... I may not  have  much
time... aiming  my suit antenna where I think  you are... please relay  this
information to Earth.
     Tsien was destroyed  three hours ago.  I'm  the only survivor. Using my
suit radio -- no idea if  it  has enough  range, but  it's the  only chance.
Please listen carefully...
     We landed safely, checked all the systems, and ran out  the hoses so we
could start  pumping water into  our propellant tanks immediately... just in
case we had to leave in a hurry.
     Everything was going according to plan...  it seemed almost too good to
be true. The  tanks  were half full when Dr Lee and I went out to  check the
pipe insulation. Tsien stands -- stood -- about  thirty metres from the edge
of the Grand Canal. Pipes went  directly  from it and  down through the ice.
Very thin -- not safe to walk on.
     Jupiter was quarter full, and  we had five kilowatts of lighting strung
up on the ship. She looked like a Christmas tree -- beautiful, reflected  on
the ice...
     Lee saw it first  -- a huge  dark  mass  rising up from the depths.  At
first we thought it was a school of fish -- too large for a  single organism
-- then it started to break through the ice, and began moving towards us.
     It looked rather like  huge strands  of wet seaweed, crawling along the
ground.  Lee ran back  to  the ship  to get a camera  -- I stayed  to watch,
reporting over the radio. The  thing moved  so slowly I could  easily outrun
it. I was  much  more  excited than  alarmed. Thought I knew  what  kind  of
creature it was -- I've  seen pictures of the kelp forests off California --
but I was quite wrong.
     I  could tell it was in  trouble.  It couldn't possibly  survive  at  a
temperature  a  hundred  and  fifty  below its  normal  environment. It  was
freezing solid as it  moved forward  --bits were breaking  off like glass --
but  it was still advancing towards the  ship,  a black  tidal wave, slowing
down all the time.
     I was still so surprised that I couldn't think straight and  I couldn't
imagine what it was trying to do.  Even though it was  heading towards Tsien
it  still seemed completely harmless, like --  well, a small forest  on  the
move. I remember smiling -- it reminded me of Macbeth's Birnam Wood...
     Then I  suddenly  realized  the  danger.  Even  if  it  was  completely
inoffensive --  it was heavy -- with all the  ice  it was carrying, it  must
have weighed several tons, even in this low gravity.
     And it was slowly,  painfully climbing  up our landing gear... the legs
were  beginning to buckle, all in slow motion, like something  in a dream --
or a nightmare...
     Not until the  ship started to topple did I  realize what the thing was
trying to do -- and then it was far too late. We could have saved  ourselves
-- if we'd only switched off our lights!
     Perhaps  it's  a  phototrope, its  biological  cycle  triggered by  the
sunlight that filters down through the ice. Or it could have  been attracted
like a moth to a candle. Our floodlights  must have been more brilliant than
anything that Europa has ever known, even the Sun itself...
     Then the ship crashed. I saw the hull split, a cloud of snowflakes form
as moisture condensed.  All  the lights  went out,  except for one, swinging
back and forth on a cable a couple of metres above the ground.
     I don't  know what  happened immediately after  that. The  next thing I
remember, I was standing under the light, beside the wreck of the ship, with
a fine powdering of fresh snow all around me. I could see my footsteps in it
very  clearly. I  must have  run  there; perhaps only  a  minute  or two had
     The plant  -- I still  thought  of it  as a plant  -- was motionless. I
wondered if it had been damaged by the impact; large sections -- as thick as
a man's arms -- had splintered off, like broken twigs.
     Then the  main trunk  started  to  move again. It pulled away from  the
hull, and began to crawl towards me.  That was when I  knew for certain that
the  thing  was  light-sensitive:  I  was  standing  immediately  under  the
thousand-watt lamp, which had stopped swinging now.
     Imagine an oak tree --  better still, a banyan with its multiple trunks
and roots -- flattened out by gravity  and trying to creep along the ground.
It got to within five metres of  the light, then started to spread out until
it had made a perfect circle around me. Presumably that was the limit of its
tolerance -- the point at which photo-attraction turned to repulsion.
     After that, nothing happened for several minutes, I wondered if  it was
dead -- frozen solid at last.
     Then I saw that large buds were forming on many of the branches. It was
like watching a  time-lapse  film of flowers opening. In fact I thought they
were flowers -- each about as big as a man's head.
     Delicate, beautifully coloured membranes started  to unfold. Even then,
it  occurred  to me  that no  one -- no thing -- could  ever have seen these
colours properly, until we brought our lights -- our fatal lights -- to this
     Tendrils,  stamens, waving feebly... I walked  over  to the living wall
that surrounded me, so that I could see exactly what  was happening. Neither
then, or at any other time, had I felt the slightest fear of the creature. I
was certain that it was not malevolent -- if indeed it was conscious at all.
     There were  scores  of the big flowers, in various stages of unfolding.
Now  they reminded  me  of butterflies, just  emerging from the chrysalis --
wings crumpled, still feeble  -- I  was  getting closer  and  closer to  the
     But they were freezing  -- dying as quickly  as  they formed. Then, one
after another, they dropped off from the parent buds. For a few moments they
flopped around like fish  stranded on dry land  --  and  at  last I realized
exactly what they were. Those membranes weren't petals -- they were fins, or
their  equivalent. This was the free-swimming larval  stage of the creature.
Probably it spends much of its life rooted  on the sea-bed, then sends these
mobile offspring in search of new territory. Just like the corals of Earth's
     I knelt down to get a closer look at  one of the little  creatures. The
beautiful colours were fading now,  to a drab  brown. Some of the petal-fins
had snapped off,  becoming  brittle shards  as they froze. But  it was still
moving feebly, and as I approached it tried to  avoid me.  I wondered how it
sensed my presence.
     Then I  noticed that the  stamens -- as  I'd called them  --all carried
bright blue  dots at their  tips. They looked like tiny star sapphires -- or
the blue eyes along the mantle of a scallop -- aware of light, but unable to
form true images. As I watched, the vivid blue faded, the  gems became dull,
ordinary stones...
     Dr  Floyd  -- or anyone  else who is listening -- I haven't  much  more
time;  my  life-support  system  alarm has  just  sounded.  But  I've almost
     I knew then what I had to do. The cable to that  thousand-watt lamp was
hanging almost to the ground. I  gave it a few tugs, and the light went  out
in a shower of sparks.
     I wondered whether it was too late. For a few minutes nothing happened.
So I walked over to the wall of tangled branches around me -- and kicked it.
     Slowly, the creature started to  unweave itself, and to retreat back to
the Canal. I followed it  all the way back to the water, encouraging it with
more kicks when it slowed down, feeling the  fragments of ice  crunching all
the  time beneath my  boots... As  it neared the  Canal, it seemed  to  gain
strength and energy, as if it knew  it was approaching  its natural home.  I
wondered if it would survive, to bud again.
     It disappeared through the surface, leaving a few  last  dead larvae on
the alien land.  The exposed free water bubbled  for  a few  minutes until a
scab of protective ice sealed it from  the vacuum above. Then I walked  back
to the  ship to see if there was anything to salvage -- I don't want to talk
about that.
     I've only two requests to  make, Doctor.  When the taxonomists classify
this creature , I hope they'll name it after me.
     And -- when the next ship comes home -- ask them to take our bones back
to China.
     I'll  lose  power in  a few minutes -- wish  I knew whether anyone  was
receiving me. Anyway, I'll repeat this message as long as I can...
     This  is Professor Chang on Europa,  reporting the  destruction  of the
spaceship  Tsien. We landed  beside  the Grand Canal and set up our pumps at
the edge of the ice --

     28 The Little Dawn

     Here comes  the Sun! Strange --  how quickly it  seems to rise, on this
slowly turning  world! Of course, of course -- the disc's so small  that the
whole of it pops  above  the horizon  in  no time...  Not that it makes much
difference to the light -- if  you weren't looking in that  direction, you'd
never notice that there was another sun in the sky.
     But  I  hope the Europs have  noticed. Usually  it takes them less than
five minutes to start coming ashore  after the Little Dawn.  Wonder if  they
already know I'm here, and are scared...
     No -- could be the other way round. Perhaps they're inquisitive -- even
anxious to see what strange visitor has come to Tsienville... I  rather hope
     Here  they come! Hope your spysats  are  watching  --  Falcon's cameras
     How slowly they move! I'm afraid it's going to be very boring trying to
communicate with them... even if they want to talk to me...
     Rather  like the thing that overturned  Tsien, but much smaller... They
remind me of  little trees, walking on half a dozen slender trunks. And with
hundreds of branches, dividing into twigs, which  divide again... and again.
Just like many of our general-purpose robots... what  a long time it took us
to realize that imitation humanoids were ridiculously clumsy, and the proper
way to  go  was  with  myriad  of  small  manipulators!  Whenever  we invent
something clever, we find that Mother Nature's already thought of it...
     Aren't the little ones cute -- like tiny bushes on the move. Wonder how
they reproduce -- budding? I hadn't realized how  beautiful they are. Almost
as colourful as coral reef fish -- maybe  for the same reasons... to attract
mates, or fool predators by pretending to be something else...
     Did  I  say they  looked like bushes? Make that rose-bushes  -- they've
actually got thorns! Must have a good reason for them...
     I'm  disappointed.  They  don't  seem  to have noticed me. They'll  all
heading into town, as if a visiting spacecraft was an everyday occurrence...
only a few left... maybe this will work...
     I suppose they can detect sound vibrations -- most marine creatures can
-- though this atmosphere may be too thin to carry my voice very far...


     Makes me feel  rather stupid, but can  you suggest anything better? And
it will be good for the record...
     Nobody's taking the slightest notice. Big ones and little ones, they re
all creeping towards their igloos Wonder what they actually do when they get
there  -- perhaps I should follow. I'm  sure it would be perfectly safe -- I
can move so  much faster  -- I've just  had  an amusing flashback. All these
creatures  going in the same direction -- they look like  the  commuters who
used  to  surge  back and forth twice a day between home and office,  before
electronics made it unnecessary. Let's try again, before they all disappear.


     29 The Ghosts in the Machine

     Frank  Poole's  immediate  reaction  was  one  of  utter  astonishment,
followed  by overwhelming  joy.  He had never  really believed that he would
make any kind of contact, either with the Europs or the Monolith. Indeed, he
had even had fantasies  of kicking in frustration against that towering ebon
wall and shouting angrily, 'Is there anybody home?'
     Yet  he  should not have been so  amazed:  some intelligence must  have
monitored  his approach from  Ganymede, and permitted him to land. He should
have taken Ted Khan more seriously.
     'Dave,' he said slowly, 'is that really you?'
     Who  else could it  be? a  part  of  his  mind  asked. Yet it was not a
foolish  question.  There  was something curiously mechanical --  impersonal
about the voice that came from the small speaker on Falcon's control board.

     There was a  very brief pause:  then the same voice continued,  without
any change of intonation:

     Well --  Indra,  Dim -- I'm glad I recorded  all  that, otherwise you'd
never believe me...
     I guess I'm still in a state of  shock. First of all, how should I feel
about  someone  who  tried to  --  who did -- kill me  -- even  if it  was a
thousand years  ago! But I  understand  now that Hal wasn't to blame; nobody
was. There's  a very  good piece of advice  I've  often found useful  'Never
attribute  to malevolence  what is merely due  to incompetence' I can't feel
any  anger towards a bunch of programmers I never knew, who've been dead for
     I'm glad this is encrypted,  as  I don't know how it should be handled,
and a lot that I tell you may turn out to be  complete nonsense. I'm already
suffering from  information overload, and had to ask Dave  to leave me for a
while -- after all the  trouble I've gone through to  meet  him! But I don't
think I hurt his feelings: I m not sure yet if he has any feelings...
     What  is he -- good question! Well, he  really is Dave Bowman, but with
most of the humanity stripped away -- like -- ah --  like  the synopsis of a
book or a technical paper. You  know how an abstract can give all  the basic
information but  no hint of the author's personality? Yet there were moments
when I felt that something of the old Dave was still there. I wouldn't go so
far as to say he's pleased to meet me again -- moderately satisfied might be
more like  it... For myself, I'm  still very confused. Like  meeting  an old
friend after  a long  separation, and finding  that they're now  a different
person.  Well, it  has  been a thousand years --  and I  can't  imagine what
experiences  he's known, though as I'll  show you presently,  he's tried  to
share some of them with me.
     And Hal -- he's here too, without question. Most  of  the time, there's
no way I can tell which of them is speaking to me.  Aren't there examples of
multiple  personalities  in  the  medical records? Maybe it's something like
     I  asked him  how this  had happened  to  them  both, and he -- they --
dammit, Halman!  --  tried to explain. Let  me  repeat -- I may have  got it
partly wrong, but it's the only working hypothesis I have.
     Of course, the Monolith -- in its  various manifestations -- is the key
-- no, that's the  wrong word -- didn't  someone once  say it was a kind  of
cosmic Swiss Army  knife?  You still have  them,  I've  noticed, though both
Switzerland and  its army disappeared centuries ago. It's a  general-purpose
device that can do anything it wants to. Or was programmed to do...
     Back  in Africa,  four million years ago, it  gave us that evolutionary
kick in the pants, for better or  for  worse. Then  its sibling  on the Moon
waited  for us to climb out of the cradle.  That we've already  guessed, and
Dave's confirmed it.
     I  said that he doesn't have  many  human  feelings, but he  still  has
curiosity -- he wants to learn. And what an opportunity he's had!
     When  the Jupiter Monolith absorbed him -- can't think of a better word
-- it got more than it bargained  for. Though it used him -- apparently as a
captured specimen, and a probe to investigate Earth -- he's also  been using
it.  With  Hal's assistance --  and  who should understand  a super-computer
better  than another  one? -- he's been exploring its memory,  and trying to
find its purpose.
     Now, this is something that's  very hard  to believe. The Monolith is a
fantastically  powerful machine -- look what it did to  Jupiter! -- but it's
no more  than that.  It's running on automatic -- it has no consciousness. I
remember  once thinking that I might have to kick the Great  Wall  and shout
'Is there anyone there?'  And the correct answer would have to be -- no one,
except Dave and Hal...
     Worse still,  some of its systems may  have started to  fail; Dave even
suggests that, in a  fundamental way, it's become stupid!  Perhaps it's been
left on its own for too long -- it's time for a service check.
     And  he believes  the Monolith has  made  at  least  one  misjudgement.
Perhaps that's not the right word -- it may have  been deliberate, carefully
     In  any  event,  it's -- well,  truly  awesome,  and terrifying  in its
implications. Luckily,  I  can show  it  to  you,  so  you  can  decide  for
yourselves. Yes, even  though it  happened a thousand years ago, when Leonov
flew  the second mission to Jupiter!  And all this  time, no  one  has  ever
     I'm certainly glad you got  me fitted with the Braincap. Of course it's
been invaluable --  I can't imagine life without it -- but  now it's doing a
job it was never designed for. And doing it remarkably well.
     It took Halman about  ten minutes to find  how it worked, and to set up
an interface. Now we have mind-to-mind contact -- which is quite a strain on
me,  I  can  tell  you.  I  have to keep asking them  to slow down, and  use
baby-talk. Or should I say baby-think...
     I'm  not sure how well this will come through. It's a thousand-year-old
recording  of  Dave's  own  experience,  somehow  stored  in the  Monolith's
enormous  memory,  then  retrieved  by Dave and injected into my Braincap --
don't  ask me exactly  how -- and finally transferred and beamed  to  you by
Ganymede Central. Phew. Hope you don't get a headache downloading it.
     Over to Dave Bowman at Jupiter, early twenty-first century...

     30 Foamscape

     The  million-kilometre-long  tendrils  of magnetic  force,  the  sudden
explosion of radio waves, the geysers of  electrified plasma  wider than the
planet Earth --  they were as  real and clearly visible to him as the clouds
banding  the  planet in  multi-hued glory.  He could  understand the complex
pattern  of their  interactions, and  realized  that Jupiter  was much  more
wonderful than anyone had ever guessed.
     Even as  he fell through the roaring heart of the Great Red  Spot, with
the lightning of its continent-wide thunderstorms detonating  under him,  he
knew why it had persisted for centuries though it was made of gases far less
substantial  than those that formed the hurricanes of Earth. The thin scream
of  hydrogen wind faded as he sank into the  calmer  depths,  and a sheet of
waxen snowflakes -- some already coalescing  into barely  palpable mountains
of hydrocarbon foam -- descended from the heights above. It was already warm
enough  for liquid  water  to exist, but there were  no oceans  there;  this
purely gaseous environment was too tenuous to support them.
     He descended through  layer  after layer of cloud, until  he entered  a
region of such  clarity that  even human vision could  have scanned an  area
more than a  thousand kilometres across. It  was only  a  minor eddy  in the
vaster  gyre of the Great  Red Spot;  and it held a secret that men had long
guessed,  but  never proved. Skirting  the  foothills  of the drifting  foam
mountains  were myriad of small,  sharply defined clouds, all about the same
size and patterned with similar red and brown mottling. They were small only
as  compared with the  inhuman  scale of their surroundings; the very  least
would have covered a fair-sized city.
     They were  clearly alive, for they  were moving with slow  deliberation
along the flanks of  the aerial  mountains,  browsing off their slopes  like
colossal sheep. And they were calling to each other in the metre band, their
radio  voices  faint  but clear  against the  cracklings  and concussions of
Jupiter itself.
     Nothing  less  than  living  gasbags,  they floated in the narrow  zone
between  freezing heights and  scorching depths. Narrow, yes -- but a domain
far larger than all the biosphere of Earth.
     They were not  alone. Moving swiftly among them were other creatures so
small  that they  could  easily have been overlooked. Some of  them bore  an
almost uncanny resemblance to terrestrial aircraft, and  were of  about  the
same  size. But they too were alive -- perhaps predators, perhaps parasites,
perhaps even herdsmen.
     A  whole  new  chapter  of evolution, as  alien as  that  which he  had
glimpsed  on  Europa,  was  opening before  him.  There  were  jet-propelled
torpedoes like the squids of the terrestrial  oceans,  hunting and devouring
the  huge gas-bags.  But  the balloons  were not defenceless;  some of  them
fought  back  with  electric  thunderbolts  and with  clawed  tentacles like
kilometre-long chainsaws.
     There were even stranger shapes, exploiting almost every possibility of
geometry  -- bizarre,  translucent kites,  tetrahedra,  spheres,  polyhedra,
tangles  of   twisted  ribbons...   The  gigantic  plankton  of  the  Jovian
atmosphere,  they  were  designed  to float  like gossamer  in  the uprising
currents, until they had lived long  enough to reproduce; then they would be
swept  down  into  the  depths  to  be carbonized  and  recycled  in  a  new
     He  was searching a world more than a hundred times the area  of Earth,
and  though he saw many wonders, nothing  there hinted of intelligence.  The
radio voices of the great balloons  carried only simple messages  of warning
or of fear. Even the hunters, who might have been expected to develop higher
degrees of organization,  were like the sharks in Earth's oceans -- mindless
     And for all its breathtaking size and novelty, the biosphere of Jupiter
was a fragile  world, a place  of mists and foam, of delicate silken threads
and paper-thin  tissues  spun from the continual  snowfall of petrochemicals
formed by lightning in the upper atmosphere. Few of its constructs were more
substantial than soap bubbles;  its most  awesome predators could be torn to
shreds by even the feeblest of terrestrial carnivores.
     Like Europa, but on a vastly grander scale, Jupiter was an evolutionary
cul-de-sac. Intelligence would never emerge  here; even if it did,  it would
be doomed to a stunted existence. A purely aerial culture might develop, but
in an environment where fire was impossible, and solids scarcely existed, it
could never even reach the Stone Age.

     31 Nursery

     Well, Indra -- Dim -- I hope that came through in good shape -- I still
find  it hard to believe. All those fantastic creatures  -- surely we should
have  detected their radio  voices, even if we  couldn't understand them! --
wiped out in a moment, so that Jupiter could be made into a sun.
     And now we can understand why. It was to give the Europs  their chance.
What pitiless logic: is intelligence the  only thing that matters? I can see
some long arguments with  Ted  Khan over  this -- The next question is: will
the Europs  make the grade --  or will  they  remain  forever  stuck in  the
kindergarten -- not even that -- the nursery?  Though a thousand years is  a
very short  time, one  would  have expected  some progress, but according to
Dave they're exactly the same now as when they left the sea.  Perhaps that's
the trouble; they still have one foot -- or one twig! -- in the water.
     And here's another thing we  got completely wrong. We thought they went
back into the water to  sleep. It's just the other way round -- they go back
to eat, and  sleep when they come  on land!  As we might  have  guessed from
their structure -- that network of branches -- they're plankton feeders...
     I   asked  Dave  about  the  igloos  they've  built.   Aren't   they  a
technological advance? And  he said:  not really -- they're only adaptations
of structures  they make on the sea-bed, to protect  themselves from various
predators -- especially something like a flying carpet, as big as a football
     There's  one area, though,  where they have  shown initiative  --  even
creativity.  They're  fascinated by metals,  presumably because  they  don't
exist in pure form in the ocean. That's why  Tsien was stripped -- the  same
thing's happened to the  occasional  probes  that have come  down  in  their
territory. What do they  do with the copper and beryllium and titanium  they
collect? Nothing useful, I'm afraid. They pile it all together in one place,
in a fantastic heap that they keep reassembling. They could be developing an
aesthetic  sense -- I've seen worse  in  the Museum of Modem Art... But I've
got another theory -- did you ever hear of cargo cults? During the twentieth
century, some of the  few primitive tribes that still existed made imitation
aeroplanes out of bamboo, in the hope of attracting the big birds in the sky
that occasionally brought them wonderful  gifts. Perhaps the Europs have the
same idea.
     Now that question you keep asking me... What is Dave? And how did he --
and Hal -- become whatever it is they are now?
     The  quick  answer,  of  course,  is  that  they're both emulations  --
simulations -- in the Monolith's gigantic memory.  Most of the  time they're
inactivated; when I asked  Dave about this, he said he'd been 'awake' -- his
actual word --for only fifty years altogether, in the thousand since  his --
er -- metamorphosis.
     When  I  asked if  he resented this takeover of his life, he said, 'Why
should  I  resent  it? I  am performing  my functions perfectly.' Yes,  that
sounds  exactly  like  Hal!  But  I believe  it was Dave  -- if there's  any
distinction now.
     Remember that Swiss Army  knife  analogy?  Halman is one of this cosmic
knife's myriad of components.
     But he's not a completely passive tool -- when he's  awake, he has some
autonomy,  some  independence  --  presumably  within   limits  set  by  the
Monolith's overriding control. During the  centuries,  he's  been used as  a
kind  of intelligent probe to examine, Jupiter -- as  you've just seen -- as
well  as  Ganymede  and the Earth. That confirms those mysterious  events in
Florida, reported  by Dave's  old girl-friend, and the nurse who was looking
after his mother, just moments before her death... as well as the encounters
in Anubis City.
     And it also explains another mystery. I asked  Dave directly: why was I
allowed  to  land  on Europa, when everyone else  has been  turned away  for
centuries? I fully expected to be!
     The answer's ridiculously  simple. The Monolith uses Dave -- Halman  --
from time to time, to keep an eye on us.
     Dave knew  all about my rescue -- even saw some of the media interviews
I made, on Earth and on Ganymede. I must say I'm still a little hurt he made
no attempt to contact me! But at least he put out the Welcome mat when I did
     Dim -- I  still have forty-eight hours before Falcon leaves  -- with or
without me! I don't think I'll need them, now I've made contact with Halman;
we can keep in touch just as easily from Anubis... if he wants to do so.
     And I'm anxious to  get back to the Grannymede as  quickly as possible.
Falcon's  a  fine little spacecraft,  but her plumbing could be  improved --
it's beginning to smell in here, and I'm itching for a shower.
     Look forward to seeing you -- and especially Ted Khan.
     We have much to talk about, before I return to Earth.

     The toil of all that be
     Heals not the primal fault;
     It rains into the sea,
     And still the sea is salt.
     -- A. E. Housman, More Poems

     32 A Gentleman of Leisure

     On  the whole,  it  had  been an  interesting  but uneventful  decades,
punctuated by the joys and sorrows which Time and Fate bring to all mankind.
The greatest  of those had  been  wholly unexpected; in fact, before he left
for Ganymede, Poole would have dismissed the very idea as preposterous.
     There is much  truth in the saying  that  absence  makes the heart grow
fonder.  When  he and Indra Wallace met again, they discovered that, despite
their bantering and occasional disagreements, they were closer than they had
imagined. One  thing  led to  another including,  to their mutual joy,  Dawn
Wallace and Martin Poole.
     It was rather late in life to start a family  -- quite apart  from that
little matter of a thousand years -- and Professor Anderson  had warned them
that it might be impossible. Or even worse...
     'You  were  lucky  in  more ways  than you  realize,'  he  told  Poole.
'Radiation damage  was  surprisingly  low,  and we  were able  to  make  all
essential repairs  from your intact DNA. But until we do some more  tests, I
can't promise genetic integrity. So  enjoy  yourselves -- but don't  start a
family until I give the OK.'
     The tests had been time-consuming, and as Anderson had feared,  further
repairs were necessary. There was one major set-back -- something that could
never have lived, even  if it  had been  allowed to go beyond the  first few
weeks after conception  -- but Martin and  Dawn were perfect, with  just the
right  number  of  heads,  arms  and  legs.  They  were  also  handsome  and
intelligent, and barely managed to  escape  being  spoiled  by  their doting
parents  -- who  continued to be  the  best of friends when,  after  fifteen
years,  each   opted  for  independence  again.   Because  of  their  Social
Achievement Rating,  they would have been permitted -- indeed, encouraged --
to have another child,  but  they decided not to put any more of a burden on
their astonishingly good luck.
     One tragedy  had  shadowed Poole's personal life during  this period --
and indeed  had shocked the whole Solar  community. Captain Chandler and his
entire  crew  had  been   lost  when  the  nucleus  of  a  comet  they  were
reconnoitring exploded suddenly,  destroying Goliath so completely that only
a  few  fragments were ever located. Such explosions -- caused  by reactions
among  unstable  molecules which existed at very  low temperatures -- were a
well-known danger to comet-collectors, and Chandler had  encountered several
during  his  career.  No  one would ever know the exact  circumstances which
caused so experienced a spaceman to be taken by surprise.
     Poole missed  Chandler very  badly: he had played a unique role in  his
life,  and there was no  one  to  replace him -- no one, except Dave Bowman,
with whom he had shared so momentous an adventure. He and Chandler had often
made plans to go into space together  again, perhaps all  the way out to the
Oort  Cloud with  its unknown  mysteries  and  its remote  but inexhaustible
wealth of ice. Yet some conflict of schedules had always upset  their plans,
so this was a wished-for future that would never exist.
     Another  long-desired  goal  Poole had  managed  to  achieve -- despite
doctor's orders. He had been down to Earth: and once was quite enough.
     The  vehicle  in which he had travelled looked almost identical to  the
wheelchairs used  by  the  luckier  paraplegics of  his  own  time.  It  was
motorized,  and  had balloon tyres which allowed  it to roll over reasonably
smooth surfaces.  However, it  could  also  fly  --  at an altitude of about
twenty centimetres -- on an aircushion  produced by a set of  small but very
powerful fans. Poole was surprised that so primitive a technology was  still
in use,  but inertia-control devices  were  too  bulky for  such small-scale
     Seated comfortably in his hoverchair, he was scarcely conscious  of his
increasing weight as  he descended  into the heart of Africa; though  he did
notice some difficulty in breathing, he had experienced far worse during his
astronaut  training.  What  he  was  not  prepared  for  was  the  blast  of
furnace-heat that smote him as he rolled out  of  the gigantic, sky-piercing
cylinder that formed the base of the  Tower.  Yet it was still morning: what
would it be like at noon?
     He  had barely accustomed himself to  the  heat when his sense of smell
was assailed. A  myriad odours  --  none  unpleasant, but all unfamiliar  --
clamoured for  his  attention. He closed  his eyes for a few minutes,  in an
attempt to avoid overloading his input circuits.
     Before he had decided to  open  them  again, he felt  some large, moist
object palpating the back of his neck.
     'Say hello to Elizabeth,' said his guide, a burly young  man dressed in
traditional Great White Hunter garb,  much  too smart to have seen  any real
use: 'she's our official greeter.'
     Poole twisted round in  his chair,  and  found himself looking into the
soulful eyes of a baby elephant.
     'Hello, Elizabeth,'  he answered, rather  feebly. Elizabeth  lifted her
trunk in salute, and emitted a sound not  usually heard in  polite  society,
though Poole felt sure it was well-intentioned.
     Altogether, he spent less  than an  hour on Planet Earth,  skirting the
edge of  a jungle whose stunted  trees compared unfavourably with Skyland's,
and encountering much of the local fauna.  His  guides  apologized  for  the
friendliness  of  the  lions, who had been  spoilt  by  tourists -- but  the
malevolent  expressions  of the crocodiles more than  compensated; here  was
Nature raw and unchanged.
     Before he returned  to the Tower, Poole risked taking a few  steps away
from  his hoverchair. He  realized  that  this  would  be the  equivalent of
carrying  his  own weight on his back, but that did not seem  an  impossible
feat, and he would never forgive himself unless he attempted it.
     It was not a good  idea; perhaps he should  have tried it in  a  cooler
climate. After no more than a dozen steps, he was glad to sink back into the
luxurious clutches of the chair.
     'That's enough,' he said wearily. 'Let's go back to the Tower.'
     As he rolled into the  elevator  lobby,  he noticed a sign which he had
somehow overlooked during the excitement of his arrival. It read:

     'In wildness is the preservation of the world.'


     Observing Poole's interest, the guide asked 'Did you know him?'
     It was  the sort of question  Poole heard  all  too  often, and  at the
moment he did not feel equipped to deal with it.
     'I  don't  think so,'  he answered  wearily,  as the great doors closed
behind  them,  shutting  out  the  sights, scents and  sounds  of  Mankind's
earliest home.
     His vertical safari had  satisfied his need to visit Earth,  and he did
his  best  to ignore  the various aches  and pains  acquired  there when  he
returned to his apartment at Level 10,000 -- a prestigious location, even in
this  democratic  society.   Indra,  however,  was  mildly  shocked  by  his
appearance, and ordered him straight to bed.
     'Just like  Antaeus -- but in  reverse!'  she  muttered darkly.  'Who?'
asked  Poole:  there  were  times when his  wife's  erudition  was  a little
overwhelming, but he had determined never to  let it give him an inferiority
     'Son  of the  Earth Goddess, Gaea.  Hercules  wrestled with  him -- but
every time he was thrown to the ground, Antaeus renewed his strength.'
     'Who won?'
     'Hercules, of  course -- by holding Antaeus in  the air, so Ma couldn't
recharge his batteries.'
     'Well,  I'm  sure it won't  take  me long  to  recharge mine. And  I've
learned one lesson. If  I don't get more exercise, I may have to  move up to
Lunar Gravity level.'
     Poole's good resolution lasted a full month: every morning he went  for
a brisk five-kilometre walk,  choosing a different level of the Africa Tower
each day. Some floors were still vast, echoing deserts of  metal which would
probably  never be occupied, but  others had  been  landscaped and developed
over  the centuries  in a bewildering  variety of architectural styles. Many
were borrowings from past ages and cultures; others hinted at  futures which
Poole would not care to visit. At least  there was no danger of boredom, and
on many of his walks  he was accompanied, at a respectful distance, by small
groups of friendly children. They were  seldom  able to keep up with him for
     One day, as Poole was  striding down  a  convincing -- though  sparsely
populated  --  imitation of  the Champs  Elyse?es,  he  suddenly  spotted  a
familiar face.
     'Danil!' he called.
     The other  man took  not  the slightest notice,  even when Poole called
again, more loudly.
     'Don't you remember me?'
     Danil -- and now that he had caught up with him, Poole did not have the
slightest doubt of his identity -- looked genuinely baffled.
     'I'm sorry,' he said. 'You're Commander Poole, of course. But  I'm sure
we've never met before.'
     Now it was Poole's turn to be embarrassed.
     'Stupid of  me,' he  apologized.  'Must have mistaken  you  for someone
else. Have a good day.'
     He was glad of the encounter, and was  pleased  to know that Danil  was
back  in normal  society. Whether his original crime had been axe-murders or
overdue library  books  should  no  longer be  the concern of  his  one-time
employer; the  account had  been settled, the  books  closed. Although Poole
sometimes missed the  cops-and-robbers  dramas  he had often enjoyed in  his
youth,  he had grown  to accept  the  current wisdom:  excessive interest in
pathological behaviour was itself pathological.
     With the  help of Miss Pringle, Mk III, Poole had been able to schedule
his life  so that there  were  even  occasional blank moments when he  could
relax and set his Braincap on Random Search, scanning his areas of interest.
Outside his immediate family, his chief concerns were  still among the moons
of  Jupiter/Lucifer,  not  least because  he  was recognized as  the leading
expert on the subject, and a permanent member of the Europa Committee.
     This had been set up almost  a thousand years ago, to consider what, if
anything,  could and should be done about the mysterious satellite. Over the
centuries, it  had accumulated a vast amount of information,  going  all the
way back to the Voyager flybys of 1979  and the  first detailed surveys from
the orbiting Galileo spacecraft of 1996.
     Like most  long-lived  organizations,  the Europa Committee had  become
slowly fossilized, and now met only  when there was some new development. It
had  woken up  with a  start after  Halman's reappearance, and appointed  an
energetic new chairperson whose first act had been to co-opt Poole.
     Though there  was  little that he could contribute that was not already
recorded, Poole was very happy to be on the Committee. It was  obviously his
duty to make himself available, and it also gave him an official position he
would otherwise have  lacked. Previously his  status was what  had once been
called  a 'national treasure', which he found faintly embarrassing. Although
he was  glad to be  supported  in luxury  by  a world wealthier than all the
dreams  of war-ravaged earlier ages could have imagined, he felt the need to
justify his existence.
     He also felt another need, which he seldom articulated even to himself.
Halman  had  spoken to him, if  only briefly, at their strange encounter two
decades ago. Poole was certain that, if he wished, Halman could easily do so
again. Were all human contacts  no longer of interest to  him? He hoped that
was not the case; yet that might be one explanation of his silence.
     He was frequently in touch with  Theodore Khan -- as active and acerbic
as ever,  and now the Europa  Committee's representative  on Ganymede.  Ever
since  Poole  had returned  to Earth, Ted had been trying in  vain to open a
channel of communication with Bowman. He could not understand why long lists
of  important  questions  on subjects  of  vital philosophical and  historic
interest received not even brief acknowledgements.
     'Does the Monolith keep your friend Halman so busy that  he  can't talk
to me?' he complained to Poole. 'What does he do with his time, anyway?'
     It  was  a  very  reasonable question;  and  the  answer  came,  like a
thunderbolt out of a  cloudless sky, from  Bowman himself --  as a perfectly
commonplace vidphone call.

     33 Contact

     'Hello, Frank. This is Dave. I have a very important message for you. I
assume that you are now in your suite  in  Africa Tower.  If  you are there,
please  identify yourself by  giving the name of  our instructor in  orbital
mechanics. I will wait for sixty seconds,  and if there is no reply will try
again in exactly one hour.'
     That minute was hardly long enough for Poole to recover from the shock.
He  felt  a brief surge of delight, as  well as astonishment, before another
emotion took over. Glad though he was to hear from Bowman again, that phrase
'a very important message' sounded distinctly ominous.
     At least it was fortunate, Poole told himself, that  he's asked for one
of the few names I can remember. Yet  who could forget a Scot with a Glasgow
accent so  thick it had taken them  a week to  master it? But  he had been a
brilliant lecturer -- once you understood what he was saying.
     'Dr Gregory McVitty.'
     'Accepted.  Now please switch  on your Braincap  receiver. It will take
three minutes to  download this  message.  Do not attempt to  monitor:  I am
using ten-to-one compression. I will wait two minutes before starting.'
     How is he managing  to do this? Poole wondered. Jupiter/Lucifer was now
over fifty light-minutes away, so this message must have left almost an hour
ago.  It  must  have been  sent  with  an  intelligent  agent  in a properly
addressed package on the Ganymede-Earth beam -- but that would  have been  a
trivial feat to Halman, with the resources he had  apparently  been able  to
tap inside the Monolith.
     The indicator  light on the  Brainbox was flickering.  The  message was
coming through.
     At the compression  Halman was using,  it would take  half an  hour for
Poole to  absorb the message in real-time. But he needed only ten minutes to
know that his peaceful life-style had come to an abrupt end

     34 Judgement

     In a world of  universal and instantaneous communication, it  was  very
difficult to keep secrets. This was a matter, Poole decided immediately, for
face-to-face discussion.
     The Europa Committee had grumbled, but all its members had assembled in
his  apartment.  There  were seven of  them  --  the lucky number, doubtless
suggested by the phases of the Moon, that had always fascinated Mankind.  It
was the first time Poole had met three of the Committee's members, though by
now he knew them  all more thoroughly than he could possibly have done  in a
pre-Braincapped lifetime.
     'Chairperson Oconnor, members of the Committee -- I'd like to say a few
words -- only a  few,  I  promise! -- before you  download the message  I've
received from Europa. And this is something I prefer to do  verbally; that's
more natural  for me -- I'm afraid I'll never be quite at  ease  with direct
mental transfer.'
     'As you all know, Dave Bowman and Hal have been stored as emulations in
the Monolith on  Europa.  Apparently it never  discards a tool it once found
useful, and from time to time it activates Halman, to monitor our affairs --
when  they begin to concern it.  As I suspect  my  arrival may have done  --
though perhaps I flatter myself.'
     'But Halman isn't just a passive tool. The Dave component still retains
something of its human origins -- even emotions. And because we were trained
together  -- shared almost everything  for years --  he  apparently finds it
much  easier to communicate with me than with anyone else. I  would like  to
think he enjoys doing it, but perhaps that's too strong a word.'
     'He's also curious -- inquisitive -- and perhaps a little resentful  of
the  way  he's been collected,  like  a specimen  of wildlife. Though that's
probably  what we are, from the  viewpoint  of the intelligence that created
the Monolith.'
     'And  where  is that  intelligence  now?  Halman  apparently  knows the
answer, and it's a chilling one.'
     'As we always  suspected, the Monolith is part of a galactic network of
some  kind. And the nearest node  -- the Monolith's controller, or immediate
superior -- is 450 light-years away.'
     'Much too close for comfort! This  means that the report  on us and our
affairs that was transmitted early in the twenty-first  century was received
half a millennium ago. If the Monolith's -- let's say Supervisor --  replied
at once, any further instructions should be arriving just about now.'
     'And that's exactly what  seems to  be happening. During  the  last few
days, the Monolith  has been receiving a continuous  string of messages, and
has been setting up new programs, presumably in accordance with these.'
     'Unfortunately, Halman can only make  guesses about the nature of those
instructions.  As you'll  gather when you've downloaded  this tablet, he has
some limited access to many of the Monolith's circuits and memory banks, and
can even carry on a kind  of dialogue with it. If  that's  the right word --
since you need two people for that! I still can't really grasp the idea that
the  Monolith, for all its powers, doesn't possess consciousness --  doesn't
even know that it exists!'
     'Halman's been brooding over the problem for a thousand years -- on and
off -- and  has  come to the same answer that most of us have done. But  his
conclusion  must  surely  carry  far  more  weight, because  of  his  inside
     'Sorry!  I wasn't intending to make a joke --  but what else  could you
call it?'
     'Whatever went to the trouble of creating us -- or at  least  tinkering
with  our ancestors' minds  and genes  --  is deciding what  to do next. And
Halman is  pessimistic. No --  that's an exaggeration. Let's say  he doesn't
think  much of our chances, but is now too detached an observer to be unduly
worried. The future -- the survival! -- of the  human  race  isn't much more
than an interesting problem to him, but he's willing to help.'
     Poole suddenly stopped talking, to the surprise of his intent audience.
     'That's  strange.  I've  just had an amazing flashback...  I'm  sure it
explains what's happening. Please bear with me.'
     'Dave and I were walking together one day, along the beach at the Cape,
a few weeks before launch, when we noticed a large beetle lying on the sand.
As often  happens, it had fallen  on its back and was waving its legs in the
air, struggling to get right-way-up.'
     'I  ignored  it  --  we  were  engaged  in  some complicated  technical
discussion -- but not Dave. He stepped aside, and carefully flipped  it over
with  his shoe. As it  flew away I commented, "Are you sure that was  a good
idea? Now it will go off and chomp somebody's prize  chrysanthemums." And he
answered, "Maybe you're right. But  I'd  like to give it  the benefit of the
     'My apologies -- I'd  promised to say only  a few  words! But I'm  very
glad I  remembered that incident:  I really believe it puts Halman's message
in the  right perspective.  He's  giving the human  race  the benefit of the
     'Now please  check  your Braincaps. This is a high-density recording --
top of the u.v. band, Channel 110. Make yourselves  comfortable, but be sure
you're free line of sight. Here we go...'

     35 Council of War

     No one asked for a replay. Once was sufficient.
     There  was a brief silence when the playback finished; then Chairperson
Dr  Oconnor removed  her  Braincap,  massaged her  shining  scalp, and  said
     'You taught me a  phrase from your period  that  seems very appropriate
now. This is a can of worms.'
     'But only Bowman -- Halman -- has opened it,' said one of the Committee
members. 'Does he really understand the operation of something as complex as
the Monolith? Or is this whole scenario a figment of his imagination?'
     'I don't think  he  has  much imagination,' Dr Oconnor  answered.  'And
everything checks  perfectly. Especially the  reference to  Nova Scorpio. We
assumed that was an accident; apparently it was a -- judgement.'
     'First  Jupiter --  now Scorpio,' said Dr Kraussman, the  distinguished
physicist who  was popularly regarded  as a reincarnation  of  the legendary
Einstein. A  little plastic surgery, it was rumoured, had  also helped. 'Who
will be next in line?'
     'We always  guessed,'  said the  Chair, 'that the TMAs were  monitoring
us.'  She  paused  for  a moment,  then added ruefully: 'What  bad  --  what
incredibly bad! -- luck that the fmal report went off, just  after  the very
worst period in human history!'
     There was another silence. Everyone knew that the twentieth century had
often been branded 'The Century of Torture'
     Poole listened without interrupting, while he waited for some consensus
to emerge. Not for  the first time, he was impressed by  the quality  of the
Committee No one was trying to prove a pet theory, score debating points, or
inflate an  ego:  he could  not  help  drawing  a  contrast with  the  often
bad-tempered arguments  he  had heard  in  own  time,  between  Space Agency
engineers   and   administrators,  Congressional  staffs,   and   industrial
     Yes, the human race had undoubtedly improved. The Braincap had not only
helped to weed out  misfits, but  had enormously increased the efficiency of
education.  Yet there  had also  been a loss; there  were very few memorable
characters  in  this society. Offhand he could think of  only four -- Indra,
Captain Chandler, Dr Khan and the Dragon Lady of wistful memory.
     The Chairperson let the discussion flow  smoothly back and  forth until
everyone had had a say, then began her summing up.
     'The obvious first question -- how seriously should we take this threat
--  isn't  worth  wasting  time  on.  Even  if  it's  a  false alarm,  or  a
misunderstanding, it's potentially  so grave that we must assume  it's real,
until we have absolute proof to the contrary. Agreed?'
     'Good. And we don't know how much time we have. So  we must assume that
the danger  is immediate. Perhaps Halman may be able to give us some further
warning, but by then it may be too late.'
     'So the only thing we have to decide is: how  can we protect ourselves,
against  something  as  powerful  as  the Monolith?  Look what  happened  to
Jupiter! And, apparently, Nova Scorpio...'
     'I'm sure  that brute  force would be useless, though perhaps we should
explore  that option.  Dr Kraussman  --  how long would it  take to  build a
     'Assuming  that  the  designs  still  exist,  so  that  no  research is
necessary -- oh, perhaps two weeks. Thermonuclear weapons are rather simple,
and use common  materials --  after  all, they made them back in  the Second
Millennium! But if  you wanted something sophisticated --  say an antimatter
bomb, or a mini-black-hole -- well, that might take a few months.'
     'Thank you: could you start looking into it? But as  I've said, I don't
believe  it would work; surely  something that can  handle such powers  must
also be able to protect itself against them. So -- any other suggestions?'
     'Can we negotiate?' one councillor asked, not very hopefully.
     'With what... or  whom?' Kraussman answered. 'As we've discovered,  the
Monolith  is  essentially  a  pure mechanism,  doing  just  what  it's  been
programmed  to  do.  Perhaps that  program  is  flexible enough to  allow of
changes, but  there's no  way we can tell. And we certainly can't  appeal to
Head Office -- that's half a thousand light-years away!'
     Poole  listened  without  interrupting;  there  was  nothing  he  could
contribute to the discussion,  and indeed much of it was completely over his
head. He began  to feel an insidious sense of depression, would it have been
better,  he wondered, not  to pass on this  information? Then, if  it was  a
false alarm,  no  one  would be any the worse.  And if  it was not --  well,
humanity would still have peace  of mind, before whatever  inescapable  doom
awaited it.
     He was still mulling  over  these gloomy thoughts when he was  suddenly
alerted by a familiar phrase.
     A  quiet  little  member  of  the Committee, with a name  so  long  and
difficult that Poole had never been able  to remember,  still less pronounce
it, had abruptly dropped just two words into the discussion.
     'Trojan Horse!'
     There was one of those silences generally described as 'pregnant', then
a  chorus  of 'Why didn't I think  of that!' 'Of  course!' 'Very good idea!'
until the Chairperson, for the first time in  the session,  had  to call for
     'Thank  you,  Professor Thirugnanasampanthamoorthy,'  said Dr  Oconnor,
without missing a beat. 'Would you like to be more specific?'
     'Certainly.  If  the  Monolith  is indeed, as everyone seems  to think,
essentially  a machine  without consciousness -- and hence with only limited
self-monitoring ability  -- we may  already have the weapons that can defeat
it. Locked up in the Vault.'
     'And a delivery system -- Halman!'
     'Just a minute, Dr  T.  We know nothing -- absolutely nothing --  about
the Monolith's architecture. How can we be sure that anything our  primitive
species ever designed would be effective against it?'
     'We  can't  -- but  remember  this. However  sophisticated it  is,  the
Monolith has to obey exactly the same universal laws of logic that Aristotle
and Boole formulated, centuries ago. That's why it may -- no, should!  -- be
vulnerable to the things locked up in the Vault. We have to assemble them in
such a way that at least one of them will work. It's our only hope -- unless
anybody can suggest a better alternative.'
     'Excuse me,' said Poole, finally losing patience.  'Will someone kindly
tell me -- what and where is this famous Vault you're talking about?'

     36 Chamber of Horrors

     History is full of nightmares, some natural, some manmade.
     By the end of  the  twenty-first century, most of  the natural ones  --
smallpox, the Black Death, AIDS, the hideous viruses lurking  in the African
jungle  --  had been eliminated, or at least  brought under control,  by the
advance  of medicine.  However, it  was  never  wise  to  underestimate  the
ingenuity of Mother Nature,  and no one doubted that  the future would still
have unpleasant biological surprises in store for Mankind.
     It seemed a  sensible precaution, therefore, to keep a few specimens of
all these horrors for scientific  study  -- carefully guarded, of course, so
that there was no possibility of them  escaping and again wreaking  havoc on
the human  race.  But  how  could  one be absolutely sure that  there was no
danger of this happening?
     There had  been --  understandably  --  quite  an  outcry  in the  late
twentieth  century  when it  was  proposed to keep  the last known  smallpox
viruses at Disease Control  Centres in the United States and Russia. However
unlikely it  might be, there  was a finite possibility  that  they might  be
released  by such accidents  as earthquakes,  equipment failures -- or  even
deliberate sabotage by terrorist groups.
     A solution  that satisfied everyone  (except a few 'Preserve  the lunar
wilderness!' extremists) was to ship them to the Moon, and to keep them in a
laboratory at  the end of  a  kilometre-long shaft drilled into the isolated
mountain Pico, one of the most prominent features of the  Mare  Imbrium. And
here,  over  the years, they  were joined  by some  of the most  outstanding
examples of misplaced human ingenuity -- indeed, insanity.
     There were gases and mists that, even in microscopic doses, caused slow
or  instant death. Some had been created  by religious  cultists who, though
mentally deranged, had managed to acquire considerable scientific knowledge.
Many  of  them believed  that the end  of  the world  was at  hand (when, of
course, only their followers would be saved). In case  God was absent-minded
enough not to perform as scheduled, they wanted to make sure that they could
rectify His unfortunate oversight.
     The  first  assaults  of  these  lethal  cultists  were  made  on  such
vulnerable targets as  crowded subways, World  Fairs, sports  stadiums,  pop
concerts... tens of thousands were killed, and many  more injured before the
madness  was brought under  control in  the  early twenty-first  century. As
often happens, some good  came out  of evil, because it forced  the  world's
law-enforcement  agencies to co-operate as never before;  even  rogue states
which had promoted  political terrorism were unable to tolerate  this random
and wholly unpredictable variety.
     The chemical and biological  agents used in these attacks -- as well as
in earlier forms of warfare --  joined the deadly collection in Pico.  Their
antidotes, when they existed, were  also stored with them. It was hoped that
none  of this material would ever concern humanity again -- but it was still
available, under heavy guard, if it was needed in some desperate emergency.
     The  third category  of items stored in the Pico  vault,  although they
could  be  classified as  plagues, had never  killed  or  injured  anyone --
directly. They had  not even existed  before the late twentieth century, but
in  a few decades they  had done  billions of dollars' worth of damage,  and
often wrecked lives as effectively  as any  bodily illness could  have done.
They were the diseases which attacked  Mankind's newest  and  most versatile
servant, the computer.
     Taking  names  from  the  medical  dictionaries  --   viruses,  prions,
tapeworms -- they were  programs that often mimicked, with uncanny accuracy,
the behaviour of their organic relatives. Some  were harmless -- little more
than playful jokes,  contrived  to surprise or amuse  Computer  operators by
unexpected messages and images  on  their visual displays.  Others were  far
more malicious -- deliberately designed agents of catastrophe.
     In most  cases their purpose  was  entirely mercenary;  they  were  the
weapons  that  sophisticated  criminals  used  to  blackmail the  banks  and
commercial  organizations  that now  depended  utterly  upon  the  efficient
operation of  their computer systems. On being warned that their data  banks
would  be erased automatically at a certain time,  unless they transferred a
few megadollars to some anonymous offshore number, most victims  decided not
to  risk  possibly irreparable disaster. They paid  up  quietly, often -- to
avoid public or even private embarrassment -- without notifying the police.
     This  understandable desire  for privacy made it easy  for  the network
highwaymen to conduct their electronic  holdups: even when they were caught,
they were treated gently by legal systems which did  not know how to  handle
such  novel crimes -- and, after all, they had  not really hurt anyone,  had
they? Indeed, after  they had served  their  brief sentences,  many  of  the
perpetrators were quietly hired by their  victims, on the old principle that
poachers make the best game-keepers.
     These computer criminals were driven purely by greed, and certainly did
not wish to destroy the organizations they preyed upon: no sensible parasite
kills its host. But  there were other, and  much  more dangerous, enemies of
society at work...
     Usually,  they  were  maladjusted individuals  -- typically  adolescent
males -- working entirely  alone, and of course in  complete  secrecy. Their
aim  was to create programs  which would  simply create havoc and confusion,
when they had been spread over  the planet by the world-wide cable and radio
networks, or on physical  carriers such as diskettes and  CD ROMS. Then they
would enjoy the resulting chaos, basking in the sense of power it gave their
pitiful psyches.
     Sometimes, these perverted  geniuses  were  discovered and  adopted  by
national intelligence agencies for their own  secretive purposes -- usually,
to  break into the data banks of their rivals. This was  a  fairly  harmless
line of employment, as the  organizations concerned did at least  have  some
sense of civic responsibility.
     Not  so the apocalyptic sects, who were delighted to discover this  new
armoury, holding weapons far  more effective, and more  easily disseminated,
than  gas or germs. And much  more difficult to counter, since they could be
broadcast instantaneously to millions of offices and homes.
     The collapse of  the New York-Havana  Bank in  2005,  the  launching of
Indian nuclear  missiles in 2007  (luckily with their warheads unactivated),
the shutdown of Pan-European Air Traffic Control  in 2008, the  paralysis of
the  North American  telephone  network in that same year -- all  these were
cult-inspired  rehearsals   for  Doomsday.  Thanks  to  brilliant  feats  of
counterintelligence  by  normally uncooperative, and  even warring, national
agencies, this menace was slowly brought under control.
     At  least,  so it was generally  believed:  there had  been  no serious
attacks at the very foundations of society for several hundred years. One of
the chief weapons of victory had been the Braincap -- though there were some
who believed that this achievement had been bought at too great a cost.
     Though arguments over the freedom  of  the Individual versus the duties
of the State were old when Plato and Aristotle attempted to codify them, and
would  probably continue until the end of  time,  some  consensus  had  been
reached in the Third Millennium. It was  generally agreed that Communism was
the most perfect form of government;  unfortunately it had been demonstrated
--  at the cost of some  hundreds  of millions of  lives -- that it was only
applicable  to  social  insects,  Robots Class II,  and  similar  restricted
categories.  For   imperfect  human   beings,  the  least-worst  answer  was
Demosocracy,  frequently  defined as  'individual  greed,  moderated  by  an
efficient but not too zealous government'.
     Soon after the Braincap came into  general use, some highly intelligent
--  and  maximally  zealous  --  bureaucrats realized that  it had  a unique
potential  as  an early-warning system.  During the setting-up process, when
the new  wearer  was being mentally  'calibrated' it was possible to  detect
many forms  of  psychosis before  they  had a  chance of becoming dangerous.
Often  this suggested  the best  therapy, but when no cure appeared possible
the  subject  could  be  electronically tagged  --  or,  in  extreme  cases,
segregated  from society. Of course, this mental monitoring could  test only
those  who  were fitted with  a  Braincap  -- but by  the end of  the  Third
Millennium this was as essential for everyday life as the personal telephone
had  been  at its  beginning. In fact,  anyone  who  did not  join  the vast
majority was automatically suspect, and checked as a potential deviant.
     Needless to say, when 'mind-probing', as its critics called it, started
coming  into  general use,  there  were cries  of outrage from  civil-rights
organizations;  one  of  their  most  effective  slogans  was  'Braincap  or
Braincop?' Slowly -- even reluctantly -- it  was accepted that  this form of
monitoring was a necessary precaution against far worse evils; and it was no
coincidence  that with the general improvement  in mental  health, religious
fanaticism also started its rapid decline-
     When the long-drawn-out war against the  cybernet criminals  ended, the
victors found themselves owning an embarrassing collection of spoils, all of
them utterly incomprehensible to any past conqueror. There were, of  course,
hundreds  of  computer viruses, most of them very  difficult to  detect  and
kill. And there were some entities -- for want of a better name -- that were
much  more  terrifying. They were  brilliantly  invented  diseases for which
there was no cure -- in some cases not even the possibility of a cure
     Many  of them had  been linked to great mathematicians  who would  have
been  horrified  by this corruption of  their discoveries. As it  is a human
characteristic to  belittle a  real danger by  giving it an absurd name, the
designations were often facetious:  the Godel Gremlin, the  Mandelbrot Maze,
the Combinatorial  Catastrophe, the Transfinite Trap,  the Conway Conundrum,
the Turing  Torpedo,  the  Lorentz Labyrinth,  the Boolean Bomb, the Shannon
Snare, the Cantor Cataclysm...
     If  any  generalization was  possible,  all these  mathematical horrors
operated on the same principle. They did not depend for  their effectiveness
on  anything as  nave  as  memory-erasure  or  code  corruption  -- on  the
contrary. Their approach was more subtle; they persuaded  their host machine
to initiate  a program  which  could not be completed  before the end of the
universe, or  which --  the Mandelbrot  Maze  was the  deadliest  example --
involved a literally infinite series of steps.
     A  trivial  example  would  be  the calculation  of  Pi,  or any  other
irrational number. However,  even  the  most  stupid electro-optic  computer
would not fall into such a  simple trap:  the day had long since passed when
mechanical  morons would wear out their  gears, grinding them to  powder  as
they tried to divide by zero...
     The  challenge  to  the demon programmers was to convince their targets
that the task set them had a definite conclusion that  could be reached in a
finite  time.  In the battle of wits between man (seldom woman, despite such
role-models  as Lady Ada Lovelace, Admiral Grace Hopper and Dr Susan Calvin)
and machine, the machine almost invariably lost.
     It would have been possible --  though in some cases difficult and even
risky -- to  destroy the captured  obscenities by ERASE/OVERWRITE  commands,
but they represented an enormous  investment  in time and  ingenuity  which,
however misguided, seemed a pity to waste. And, more important, perhaps they
should be kept  for study, in some secure  location, as  a safeguard against
the time when some evil genius might reinvent and deploy them.
     The solution was obvious. The  digital demons  should  be  sealed  with
their chemical and biological counterparts,  it  was hoped  for ever, in the
Pico Vault.

     37 Operation Damocles

     Poole  never had  much  contact with the team  who assembled the weapon
everyone hoped would never have to be used. The operation --  ominously, but
aptly, named Damocles --  was so highly specialized that he could contribute
nothing directly,  and he saw enough  of the task force to realize that some
of them might almost belong to an alien species. Indeed, one  key member was
apparently in a lunatic asylum -- Poole had been surprised to find that such
places  still existed -- and Chairperson Oconnor sometimes suggested that at
least two others should join him.
     'Have you  ever  heard of  the Enigma  Project?' she remarked to Poole,
after a  particularly  frustrating session.  When he  shook  his  head,  she
continued: 'I'm surprised -- it was only a few decades before you were born:
I  came across it while when  I was researching material for Damocles.  Very
similar  problem -- in one of your wars, a group of brilliant mathematicians
was  gathered  together,  in  great  secrecy,  to  break  an  enemy  code...
incidentally, they built  one of the very first real computers, to make  the
job possible.'
     'And there's  a lovely story -- I hope it's true  -- that reminds me of
our  own  little  team. One  day  the  Prime  Minister came  on  a visit  of
inspection, and afterwards he said to Enigma's Director: "When I told you to
leave no stone unturned  to  get the men you needed, I didn't expect  you to
take me so literally".'
     Presumably all the right stones had  been  turned for Project Damocles.
However, as  no one  knew whether  they  were working  against a deadline of
days, weeks or years, at first it was hard to generate any sense of urgency.
The  need for secrecy  also  created  problems; since there was no  point in
spreading alarm throughout the Solar System, not more than fifty people knew
of the project. But they were the people who  mattered -- who could  marshal
all the forces  necessary, and who alone  could authorize the opening of the
Pico Vault, for the first time in five hundred years.
     When Halman reported  that  the  Monolith  was  receiving messages with
increasing frequency,  there seemed little doubt that something was going to
happen. Poole was not the only one who found it hard to sleep in those days,
even  with  the  help of  the  Braincap's anti-insomnia  programs. Before he
finally did get to  sleep, he often wondered if  he would wake up again. But
at  last  all the  components  of the  weapon  were assembled  --  a  weapon
invisible,  untouchable and unimaginable to almost all the warriors who  had
ever lived.
     Nothing could have looked more harmless and innocent than the perfectly
standard terabyte memory tablet, used with millions of Braincaps every  day.
But the fact that it was encased in a massive block of crystalline material,
criss-crossed with metal bands, indicated that it was something quite out of
the ordinary. Poole received it with reluctance;  he wondered if the courier
who had been given  the awesome task  of carrying  the Hiroshima atom bomb's
core to the Pacific airbase from which it was  launched  had  felt  the same
way. And yet, if all their fears were justified, his responsibility might be
even greater.
     And he could  not be certain that  even the first part  of  his mission
would be successful. Because no circuit could be  absolutely  secure, Halman
had not yet  been  informed about Project Damocles; Poole would do that when
he returned to Ganymede.
     Then he could only hope that  Halman  would be willing to play the role
of Trojan Horse -- and, perhaps, be destroyed in the process.

     38 Pre-emptive Strike

     It was strange to be back in the Hotel Grannymede after all these years
-- strangest  of  all,  because  it  seemed  completely  unchanged,  despite
everything that had happened. Poole was still greeted  by the familiar image
of  Bowman as he walked into the suite named after him: and, as he expected,
Bowman/Halman  was  waiting,  looking slightly  less  substantial  than  the
ancient hologram.
     Before they  could  even exchange greetings, there  was an interruption
that  Poole  would  have welcomed --  at any other  time than this. The room
vidphone gave its urgent trio of  rising notes -- also  unchanged  since his
last visit --and an old friend appeared on the screen.
     'Frank!' cried Theodore  Khan, 'why didn't you tell me you were coming!
When can we  meet?  Why no video -- someone with you? And who were all those
official-looking types who landed at the same time --'
     'Please Ted!  Yes, I'm  sorry -- but  believe me,  I've  got very  good
reasons -- I'll explain  later. And I  do have  someone with me  -- call you
back just as soon as I can. Good-bye!'
     As  he  belatedly  gave  the  'Do   Not   Disturb'  order,  Poole  said
apologetically: 'Sorry about that -- you know who it was, of course.'
     'Yes -- Dr Khan. He often tried to get in touch with me.'
     'But you never  answered. May  I ask  why?' Though  there were far more
important  matters to  worry  about,  Poole  could  not  resist  putting the
     'Ours was the only  channel  I wished  to keep open. Also,  I was often
away. Sometimes for years.'
     That  was surprising  -- yet it should  not have been.  Poole knew well
enough that  Halman had been reported in many places, in many times.  Yet --
'away for  years'? He might have visited quite a few star systems -- perhaps
that was how he knew about Nova Scorpio, only forty light-years distant. But
he could never have gone all the way to the Node; there and back  would have
been a nine-hundred-year journey.
     'How lucky that you were here when we  needed you!' It was very unusual
for  Halman  to  hesitate  before replying. There was much longer  than  the
unavoidable three-second time-lag before  he said slowly 'Are you sure  that
it was luck?'
     'What do you mean?'
     'I do not wish to talk about it, but twice I have -- glimpsed -- powers
-- entities -- far superior to the Monoliths, and perhaps even their makers.
We may both have less freedom than we imagine.'
     That was indeed a chilling thought; Poole needed a deliberate effort of
will to put it aside and concentrate on the immediate problem.
     'Let us hope we have enough free-will to do what  is necessary. Perhaps
this  is a foolish question. Does the Monolith  know that  we  are  meeting?
Could it be -- suspicious?'
     'It is not capable of such an emotion. It has numerous fault-protection
devices, some of which I understand. But that is all.'
     'Could it be overhearing us now?'
     'I do not believe so.'
     I  wish  that  I could be sure it was  such  a  nave and simple-minded
super-genius, thought Poole  as he  unlocked his briefcase and took out  the
sealed box containing  the tablet. In this low gravity its weight was almost
negligible; it was impossible to believe that it  might hold the  destiny of
     'There  was no way  we  could be certain of getting a secure circuit to
you, so  we couldn't go into details. This tablet contains programs which we
hope will prevent the Monolith from  carrying out any  orders which threaten
Mankind. There are twenty of the most  devastating  viruses ever designed on
this,  most of which have no known antidote; in  some cases, it  is believed
that  none is possible.  There are five copies of each. We would like you to
release them when -- and if -- you think it is necessary. Dave  -- Hal -- no
one has ever been given such a responsibility. But we have no other choice.'
     Once again, the reply seemed to take longer than the three-second round
trip from Europa.
     'If  we  do  this, all  the Monolith's  functions  may  cease.  We  are
uncertain what will happen to us then.'
     'We have  considered that, of course. But by this lime, you must surely
have  many facilities  at your command  --some  of them  probably beyond our
understanding. I am also sending  you  a petabyte  memory tablet. Ten to the
fifteenth  bytes  is more  than sufficient  to  hold  all  the memories  and
experiences  of  many lifetimes.  This  will  give you one  escape route:  I
suspect you have others.'
     'Correct. We will decide which to use at the appropriate time.'
     Poole  relaxed  --  as  far  as  was  possible  in  this  extraordinary
situation. Halman  was willing to co-operate:  he still had sufficient links
with his origins.
     'Now, we have to get this tablet to you -- physically. Its contents are
too  dangerous to risk sending over any radio or optical channel. I know you
possess long-range control of matter: did you not once detonate an  orbiting
bomb?  Could you  transport it to Europa? Alternatively, we could send it in
an auto-courier, to any point you specify.'
     'That would  be  best: I will  collect it in  Tsienville. Here  are the

     Poole was still slumped in his  chair  when the  Bowman  Suite  monitor
admitted the head of the delegation  that  had accompanied  him from  Earth.
Whether Colonel Jones was a genuine Colonel -- or even if his name was Jones
-- were minor mysteries which Poole was not really interested in solving; it
was sufficient  that he was a superb organizer and had handled the mechanics
of Operation Damocles with quiet efficiency.
     'Well, Frank  -- it's on  its  way.  Will  be  landing in one hour, ten
minutes. I assume that Halman can take it from there, but I don't understand
how he can actually handle -- is that the right word? -- these tablets.'
     'I wondered about that, until someone on the Europa Committee explained
it.  There's a well-known -- though not  to me! -- theorem stating  that any
computer can emulate  any  other  computer.  So  I'm sure  that Halman knows
exactly what he's doing. He would never have agreed otherwise.'
     'I hope you're  right,' replied  the Colonel. 'If not -- well,  I don't
know what alternative we have.'
     There  was  a  gloomy pause, until Poole did  his best  to relieve  the
     'By the way, have you heard the local rumour about our visit?'
     'Which particular one?'
     'That we're  a special  commission  sent here to investigate crime  and
corruption  in this raw frontier township.  The  Mayor and  the Sheriff  are
supposed to be running scared.'
     'How I envy them,' said 'Colonel Jones'. 'Sometimes it's quite a relief
to have something trivial to worry about.'

     39 Deicide

     Like all  the  inhabitants of Anubis City (population  now  56,521), Dr
Theodore Khan  woke soon  after local  midnight to  the sound of the General
Alarm. His first reaction was 'Not another Icequake, for Deus's sake!'
     He rushed  to the window, shouting 'Open' so  loudly that  the room did
not understand, and he had to repeat the order  in a normal voice. The light
of Lucifer should have come streaming in, painting the patterns on the floor
that  so fascinated visitors  from Earth,  because they  never moved even  a
fraction of a millimetre, no matter how long they waited...
     That unvarying beam of  light  was  no longer  there. As Khan stared in
utter disbelief through  the huge, transparent bubble of the Anubis Dome, he
saw a sky that Ganymede had not known for a thousand years. It was once more
ablaze with stars; Lucifer had gone.
     And  then,  as he  explored the  forgotten constellations, Kahn noticed
something even more  terrifying. Where Lucifer should have  been was  a tiny
disc of absolute blackness, eclipsing the unfamiliar stars.
     There was only  one possible  explanation, Khan  told  himself  numbly.
Lucifer has been swallowed by a Black Hole. And it may be our turn next.
     On the balcony  of the Grannymede Hotel, Poole  was  watching the  same
spectacle, but with  more complex  emotions. Even  before the general alarm,
his comsec had woken him with a message from Halman.
     'It  is beginning. We have infected the  Monolith.  But one  -- perhaps
several --  of the viruses have entered our own circuits. We do not  know if
we will  be  able to use the memory tablet you have given us. If we succeed,
we will meet you in Tsienville.'
     Then came  the  surprising  and  strangely  moving  words  whose  exact
emotional content would be debated for generations:
     'If  we are unable to download, remember us.' From the room behind him,
Poole  heard  the voice of the Mayor,  doing  his best  to  reassure the now
sleepless citizens  of Anubis. Though he opened with that most terrifying of
official statements --  'No cause  for alarm' -- the  Mayor did indeed  have
words of comfort.
     'We don't know what's happening but Lucifer's still shining normally! I
repeat  --  Lucifer is still  shining!  We've  just received  news from  the
interorbit shuttle Alcyone, which left for Callisto half an hour ago. Here's
their view --, Poole left the balcony and rushed into his room just in  time
to see Lucifer blaze reassuringly on the vidscreen.
     'What's happened,' the Mayor continued breathlessly, 'is that something
has caused a temporary eclipse  -- we'll zoom in  to look at it...  Callisto
Observatory, come in please...'
     How does he know it's 'temporary'? thought Poole, as he waited for  the
next image to come up on the screen.
     Lucifer vanished, to be replaced by a field of stars. At the same time,
the Mayor faded out and another voice took over:
     '- two-metre telescope, but almost any instrument will  do. It's a disc
of perfectly  black material, just over ten thousand kilometres  across,  so
thin  it  shows no visible  thickness. And it's placed exactly  -- obviously
deliberately --to block Ganymede from receiving any light.
     'We'll zoom in to  see if  it shows any details, though  I rather doubt
     From the viewpoint  of Callisto,  the occulting  disc was foreshortened
into an oval,  twice as long as it was wide. It expanded until it completely
filled the screen; thereafter, it was impossible  to tell  whether the image
was being zoomed, as it showed no structure whatsoever.
     'As I thought -- there's nothing  to see. Let's pan over to the edge of
the thing...'
     Again there  was no sense of motion, until a  field  of stars  suddenly
appeared,  sharply  defined by the curving edge of the  world-sized disc. It
was  exactly  as  if  they  were  looking past  the  horizon  of an airless,
perfectly smooth planet.
     No, it was not perfectly smooth...
     'That's  interesting,'  commented  the astronomer,  who until  now  had
sounded remarkably  matter-of-fact, as if this sort of thing was an everyday
occurrence. 'The edge looks  jagged -- but in a very regular fashion -- like
a saw-blade...'
     A circular saw Poole muttered under his breath. Is it going to carve us
up? Don't be ridiculous...
     'This is as close as we can get before diffraction spoils the image  --
we'll process it later and get much better detail:'
     The  magnification  was  now  so  great that all  trace  of the  disc's
circularity  had vanished. Across the vidscreen was a  black  band, serrated
along its edge with triangles so identical that Poole found it hard to avoid
the ominous analogy  of a  saw-blade. Yet something else was nagging at  the
back of his mind...
     Like everyone else  on Ganymede, he watched the infinitely more distant
stars  drifting in  and out of  those  geometrically  perfect valleys.  Very
probably, many others jumped to the same conclusion even before he did.
     If you attempt to make a disc out of rectangular blocks --whether their
proportions are 1:4:9 or any other -- it cannot possibly have a smooth edge.
Of  course, you  can make it as near a perfect circle  as you like, by using
smaller and smaller blocks. Yet why go to that trouble, if you merely wanted
to build a screen large enough to eclipse a sun?
     The  Mayor was right; the eclipse was indeed temporary. But its  ending
was the precise opposite of a solar one.
     First light  broke  through at  the  exact centre,  not  in  the  usual
necklace of Bailey's Beads along the very edge. Jagged lines radiated from a
dazzling pinhole --  and now, under the highest magnification, the structure
of the  disc  was being revealed. It  was composed of millions  of identical
rectangles, perhaps the same size as the  Great Wall of Europa. And now they
were splitting  apart:  it was as if a  gigantic  jigsaw  puzzle  was  being
     Its  perpetual,  but  now  briefly  interrupted,  daylight  was  slowly
returning to Ganymede, as the disc fragmented and the rays of Lucifer poured
through  the  widening gaps. Now the components themselves were evaporating,
almost as  if they needed  the  reinforcement  of each  other's  contact  to
maintain reality.
     Although it  seemed like  hours to the anxious watchers in Anubis City,
the whole event lasted  for less than fifteen  minutes. Not until it was all
over did anyone pay attention to Europa itself.
     The Great Wall was gone: and it was almost an hour before the news came
from Earth, Mars and Moon that the Sun itself had appeared to flicker  for a
few seconds, before resuming business as usual.
     It had been a highly selective set  of  eclipses, obviously targeted at
humankind.  Nowhere  else in  the  Solar  System  would  anything  have been
     In  the general excitement,  it  was a  little longer before  the world
realized that TMA  ZERO and  TMA ONE had  both vanished,  leaving only their
four-million-year-old imprints on Tycho and Africa.

     It  was the first time the Europs could  ever have met humans, but they
seemed neither alarmed nor surprised by the huge creatures moving among them
at such  lightning  speed.  Of course, it was not too  easy to interpret the
emotional state of something that looked like a small,  leafless  bush, with
no  obvious  sense  organs  or  means of  communication. But  if  they  were
frightened by the arrival of Alcyone, and  the emergence of  its passengers,
they would surely have remained hiding in their igloos.
     As Frank Poole, slightly encumbered by his protective suit and the gift
of  shining copper wire  he was carrying,  walked into the untidy suburbs of
Tsienville, he wondered what the Europs thought  of recent events. For them,
there had been  no eclipse of Lucifer, but the  disappearance  of the  Great
Wall must surely have been a shock. It had stood there for a thousand years,
as a  shield  and doubtless much more; then, abruptly, it was gone, as if it
had never been...
     The  petabyte  tablet  was  waiting for him,  with a  group  of  Europs
standing around it, demonstrating the first sign of curiosity that Poole had
ever observed in them. He wondered if Halman had  somehow told them to watch
over this gift from space, until he came to collect it.
     And to take it back, since it now contained not only  a sleeping friend
but terrors which some future age might exorcise, to the only place where it
could be safely stored.

     40 Midnight: Pico

     It would  be hard,  Poole thought, to imagine a more  peaceful scene --
especially after the trauma of the last weeks. The slanting rays of a nearly
full Earth revealed  all the subtle details of the waterless Sea of Rains --
not obliterating them, as the incandescent fury of the Sun would do.
     The small  convoy of mooncars  was arranged in  a semicircle a  hundred
metres from  the  inconspicuous opening  at the base  of Pico  that  was the
entrance  to the Vault.  From  this  viewpoint,  Poole could  see  that  the
mountain did not  live up to the  name that the early astronomers, misled by
its pointed shadow, had  given to it. It was more like a rounded hill than a
sharp  peak,  and he could well believe that  one of the  local pastimes was
bicycle-riding to the summit. Until now, none of those  sportsmen and  women
could have  guessed at the secret hidden beneath their wheels: he hoped that
the sinister knowledge would not discourage their healthy exercise.
     An hour ago, with a sense of mingled sadness and triumph, he had handed
over the tablet he had brought --never letting it  out of  his sight -- from
Ganymede directly to the Moon.
     'Good-bye, old  friends,'  he had murmured. 'You've  done well. Perhaps
some future generation will  reawaken you. But on the whole -- I rather hope
     He could imagine,  all  too clearly,  one desperate reason why Halman's
knowledge might be needed again. By now, surely, some message was on its way
to that  unknown control centre, bearing the news that its servant on Europa
no  longer existed. With  reasonable luck, it would  take 950 years, give or
take a few, before any response could be expected.
     Poole had  often  cursed Einstein in the past; now he blessed him. Even
the powers behind the Monoliths, it now  appeared certain, could not  spread
their influence faster than  the speed of  light. So  the  human race should
have almost a  millennium to  prepare for the next encounter -- if there was
to be one. Perhaps by that time, it would be better prepared.
     Something   was  emerging   from  the   tunnel  --  the  track-mounted,
semi-humanoid  robot that  had  carried the  tablet into the Vault.  It  was
almost comic to see a machine enclosed in the kind of isolation suit used as
protection against deadly germs and here on the airless Moon! But no one was
taking any  chances, however unlikely they might seem.  After all, the robot
had  moved  among  those  carefully  sequestered  nightmares,  and  although
according  to its  video  cameras everything  appeared  in order, there  was
always a  chance  that  some  vial had leaked, or  some canister's seal  had
broken. The Moon was a very stable environment, but during the  centuries it
had known many quakes and meteor impacts.
     The robot came to a halt fifty  metres outside the tunnel.  Slowly, the
massive plug  that sealed  the Vault  swung back  into  place, and began  to
rotate in its threads, like a giant bolt being screwed into the mountain.
     'All not wearing dark glasses, please close your eyes or look away from
the robot!' said an urgent voice over the mooncar radio. Poole twisted round
in his seat, just in  time to see an explosion of light  on the roof of  the
vehicle. When he turned back to look at Pico, all that was left of the robot
was a heap of glowing slag; even to someone who had  spent  much of his life
surrounded by vacuum, it seemed altogether wrong that tendrils of smoke were
not slowly spiralling up from it.
     'Sterilization  completed,'  said the voice of  the Mission Controller.
'Thank you, everybody. Now returning to Plato City.'
     How  ironic  --  that the human race  had  been  saved by  the  skilful
deployment  of its own insanities!  What moral,  Poole wondered,  could  one
possibly draw from that?
     He looked  back  at the  beautiful  blue  Earth, huddling  beneath  its
tattered  blanket  of  clouds for protection  against  the cold of space. Up
there, a few weeks from  now, he  hoped to  cradle his first grandson in his
     Whatever godlike powers  and  principalities  lurked  beyond the stars,
Poole reminded himself, for ordinary humans only two  things  were important
-- Love and Death.
     His body had not yet  aged a hundred years: he still had plenty of time
for both.

     'Their little universe is very young, and its god is still a child. But
it is  too  soon to  judge them;  when We return in the Last  Days, We  will
consider what should be saved.'

     Chapter 1: The Kuiper Belt
     For a description of  Captain  Chandler's hunting ground, discovered as
recently as 1992, see 'The Kuiper Belt' by Jane  X. Luu and  David C. Jewitt
(Scientific American, May 1996)

     Chapter 3: Rehabilitation
     I   believed  that  I  had  invented   the  palm-to-palm  transfer   of
information,  so  it  was  mortifying  to  discover  that  Nicholas  ("Being
Digital") Negroponte (Hodder and Stoughton, 1995) and his MIT Media Lab have
been working on the idea for years...

     Chapter 4: Star City
     The  concept of  a 'ring around the world' in  the  geostationary orbit
(CEO),  linked to  the Earth  by towers  at  the Equator, may  seem  utterly
fantastic  but  in  fact  has  a  firm scientific  basis. It  is an  obvious
extension  of  the 'space elevator' invented  by  the St Petersburg engineer
Yuri Artsutanov, whom I had the pleasure  of meeting in 1982, when his  city
had a different name.
     Yuri  pointed  out  that it  was theoretically possible  to lay a cable
between the Earth and a satellite hovering over the same spot on the Equator
which it does when placed in the CEO, home of most of today's communications
satellites. From this beginning, a space  elevator (or in Yuri's picturesque
phrase,  'cosmic  funicular')  could  be established,  and payloads could be
carried up to  the CEO purely by electrical  energy. Rocket propulsion would
be needed only for the remainder of the journey.
     In  addition to avoiding the danger, noise and environmental hazards of
rocketry,  the   space   elevator  would  make  possible  quite  astonishing
reductions  in the cost of all space missions.  Electricity is cheap, and it
would  require  only about a hundred dollars'  worth  to take one  person to
orbit. And the  round  trip  would  cost about  ten dollars,  as most of the
energy would be recovered on the downward journey! (Of course,  catering and
inflight movies would put up the price of  the  ticket. Would  you believe a
thousand dollars to CEO and back?)
     The theory  is impeccable: but does any material exist  with sufficient
tensile strength to hang all the way down to the Equator from an altitude of
36,000  kilometres, with enough margin  left over to raise useful  payloads?
When  Yuri wrote his  paper,  only one  substance met these rather stringent
specifications   --   crystalline   carbon,   better   known   as   diamond.
Unfortunately, the necessary megaton quantities are not readily available on
the open market, though in "2061: Odyssey Three" I gave reasons for thinking
that they might exist at the core of Jupiter. In "The Fountains of Paradise"
I suggested  a  more accessible  source -- orbiting factories where diamonds
might be grown under zero-gravity conditions.
     The first  'small step' towards  the space  elevator  was  attempted in
August  1992  on the  Shuttle  Atlantis, when one  experiment  involved  the
release -- and retrieval  --  of  a  payload on a  21-kilometre-long tether.
Unfortunately the  playing-out  mechanism jammed after only  a  few  hundred
     I was  very flattered when the Atlantis crew produced The  Fountains of
Paradise  during  their  orbital press conference,  and  Mission  Specialist
Jeffrey Hoffman sent me the autographed copy on their return to Earth.
     The  second  tether  experiment, in  February  1996, was slightly  more
successful: the payload was indeed deployed to its full distance, but during
retrieval the cable  was severed, owing to an electrical discharge caused by
faulty  insulation. This  may  have  been  a lucky accident  -- perhaps  the
equivalent of a blown fuse:
     I cannot help recalling that some of Ben Franklin's contemporaries were
killed when they attempted to repeat his famous -- and  risky  -- experiment
of flying a kite during a thunderstorm.
     Apart  from possible dangers,  playing-out  tethered payloads  from the
Shuttle  appears  rather like  fly-fishing: is not as easy as it looks.  But
eventually the final 'giant  leap'  will be  made -- all the way down to the
     Meanwhile,   the    discovery   of   the   third    form   of   carbon,
buckminsterfullerene (C60) has  made  the concept of the space elevator much
more  plausible.  In 1990 a group of chemists at  Rice  University, Houston,
produced  a tubular  form of C60 -- which has far  greater tensile  strength
than diamond.  The group's leader, Dr Smalley, even went so far  as to claim
it was the strongest material  that  could ever exist  --  and added that it
would make possible the construction of the space elevator.
     (Stop Press News: I am delighted to know that Dr Smalley has shared the
1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work.)
     And now for a truly amazing coincidence  -- one so eerie that  it makes
me wonder Who Is In Charge.
     Buckminster Fuller died in 1983, so never lived to see the discovery of
the  'buckyballs'  and  'buckytubes'  which  have  given  him  much  greater
posthumous fame.  During one of the last of his many world trips, I  had the
pleasure of  flying him and his  wife Anne around Sri Lanka, and showed them
some  of the  locations  featured  in  The  Fountains of  Paradise.  Shortly
afterwards, I made a recording  from the novel on  a 12" (remember them?) LP
record  (Caedmon  TC  1606) and Bucky  was kind enough  to  write the sleeve
notes.  They  ended  with  a  surprising revelation,  which  may  well  have
triggered my own thinking about 'Star City':
     'In  1951  I designed  a  free-floating  tensegrity  ring-bridge  to be
installed way  out  from  and around the Earth's equator. Within this "halo"
bridge,  the Earth  would continue  its spinning while  the  circular bridge
would  revolve at  its  own  rate.  I  foresaw Earthian  traffic  vertically
ascending to the bridge, revolving and descending at preferred Earth loci'
     I  have no  doubt  that,  if  the human race decides to  make  such  an
investment (a trivial one, according to some estimates of  economic growth),
'Star City' could  be  constructed. In  addition to providing new  styles of
living, and giving visitors from low-gravity worlds  like  Mars and the Moon
better access to  the Home Planet, it would eliminate  all rocketry from the
Earth's  surface and  relegate it to deep  space, where it belongs (Though I
hope there would be occasional anniversary re-enactments at Cape Kennedy, to
bring back the excitement of the pioneering days.)
     Almost certainly most of the  City would be empty scaffolding, and only
a  very  small  fraction  would  be  occupied  or  used  for  scientific  or
technological  purposes.  After  all,  each  of  the  Towers  would  be  the
equivalent of a ten-million-floor skyscraper -- and the circumference of the
ring around the geostationary orbit would be more than half the distance  to
the Moon! Many times the entire population of the human race could be housed
in such  a volume of space, if it  was all enclosed. (This would  pose  some
interesting logistics  problems, which I am content to leave as 'an exercise
for the student'.)

     Chapter 5: Education
     I was  astonished to read in a newspaper on 19 July 1996 that  Dr Chris
Winter, head of  British Telecom's Artificial Life Team,  believes that  the
information  and  storage  device  I  described in  this  chapter  could  be
developed within 30 years! (In my 1956 novel The City and the Stars I put it
more than a billion  years in  the future...  obviously a serious failure of
imagination.) Dr Winter  states that it would allow us to 'recreate a person
physically,  emotionally and spiritually',  and estimates  that  the  memory
requirements  would  be  about  10 terabytes  (10e13 bytes), two  orders  of
magnitude less than the petabyte (10e15 bytes) I suggest.
     And I wish I'd thought of Dr Winter's name for this device, which  will
certainly start  some fierce debates in  ecclesiastical  circles:  the 'Soul
Catcher'... For its  application  to interstellar travel, see following note
on Chapter 9.
     For  an excellent history of  the 'Beanstalk' concept (as well as  many
other  even  farther-out ideas  such as anti-gravity  and  space-warps)  see
Robert L. Forward's "Indistinguishable From Magic" (Baen 1995).

     Chapter 7: Infinite Energy
     If the inconceivable energy of the Zero Point Field (sometimes referred
to  as 'quantum  fluctuations' or  'vacuum energy') can  ever be tapped, the
impact upon our  civilization will  be incalculable. All  present sources of
power -- oil,  coal, nuclear, hydro, solar  -- would become obsolete, and so
would  many  of our  fears about environmental pollution.  They would all be
wrapped  up  in one big  worry  --  heat  pollution.  All energy  eventually
degrades  to heat, and if everyone had a few million kilowatts to play with,
this  planet would  soon be  heading the  way  of  Venus  -- several hundred
degrees in the shade.
     However, there is a  bright side to the picture:  there may be no other
way   of   averting   the  next  Ice  Age,  which  otherwise  is  inevitable
('Civilization  is an interval between Ice Ages' -- Will  Durant: "The Story
of Civilization", Fine Communications, US, 1993)
     Even  as I write  this, many competent  engineers,  in laboratories all
over the world, claim to be tapping this new energy source. Some idea of its
magnitude is  contained in a famous remark by the physicist Richard Feynman,
to the  effect that the energy in a coffee-mug's  volume (any  such  volume,
anywhere!) is enough to boil all the oceans of the world. This, surely, is a
thought to give one  pause. By comparison, nuclear energy looks as feeble as
a damp match.
     And how many supernovae, I wonder, really are industrial accidents?

     Chapter 9: Skyland
     One of the main problems of getting around in Star City would be caused
by the sheer distances involved: if you wanted to visit a friend in the next
Tower (and communications will never completely replace contact, despite all
advances in Virtual  Reality) it could be the  equivalent of a trip  to  the
Moon. Even with the fastest elevators  this  would involve days  rather than
hours, or else accelerations quite unacceptable to people who had adapted to
low-gravity life.
     The concept of an 'inertialess  drive' -- i.e. a propulsion system that
acts on every  atom  of  a body  so that no  strains are  produced  when  it
accelerates  -- was  probably  invented by the master of the  'Space Opera',
E.E. Smith, in  the 1930s. It is not as improbable as it sounds -- because a
gravitational field acts in precisely this manner.
     If  you  fall  freely  near the  Earth (neglecting the  effects of  air
resistance) you will increase  speed  by just under  ten metres per  second,
every  second.  Yet you will feel  weightless -- there  will be no  sense of
acceleration,  even though your  velocity is increasing  by one  kilometre a
second, every minute and a half!
     And  this would still be true if  you were falling in Jupiter's gravity
(just  over  two-and-a-half  times  Earth's)  or  even  the  enormously more
powerful field of a  white  dwarf or neutron star (millions  or  billions of
times  greater). You would feel  nothing,  even if you  had  approached  the
velocity of light from a standing start in a matter of minutes. However,  if
you were foolish enough to  get within a few radii of the attracting object,
its field would no longer be uniform over the whole length of your body, and
tidal  forces  would soon tear  you to pieces.  For further  details, see my
deplorable but accurately-titled short  story  'Neutron Tide' (in "The  Wind
from the Sun").
     An  'inertialess drive',  which  would act exactly like  a controllable
gravity  field, had  never been discussed  seriously  outside  the pages  of
science fiction until  very  recently. But in 1994 three American physicists
did exactly this,  developing  some  ideas of  the  great Russian  physicist
Andrei Sakharov.
     'Inertia as a Zero-Point  Field Lorentz Force' by B. Haisch, A. Rueda &
H. F. Puthoff (Physics Review A, February 1994) may one day be regarded as a
landmark paper,  and  for  the  purposes of  fiction  I have made it so.  It
addresses a  problem so fundamental that it is normally  taken for  granted,
with a that's-just-the-way-the-universe-is-made shrug of the shoulders.
     The question HR&P asked is: 'What gives an object mass  (or inertia) so
that it requires an effort  to start it moving,  and exactly the same effort
to restore it to its original state?'
     Their provisional answer  depends on the astonishing -- and outside the
physicists' ivory towers  -- little-known fact that so-called  'empty' space
is actually a  cauldron of  seething energies --  the Zero-Point  Field (see
note  above).   HR&P   suggest  that  both  inertia   and   gravitation  are
electromagnetic phenomena, resulting from interaction with this field.
     There have been countless attempts, going all the way back  to Faraday,
to  link gravity and magnetism, and although many experimenters have claimed
success,  none of their results has  ever been verified.  However, if HR&P's
theory  can  be  proved, it opens up the  prospect -- however  remote  -- of
anti-gravity,  'space drives' and  the even  more fantastic  possibility  of
controlling inertia. This could lead to some interesting situations: if  you
gave someone the  gentlest touch, they would promptly disappear at thousands
of kilometres an hour, until they bounced  off the other side of  the room a
fraction of  a millisecond later. The  good news  is  that traffic accidents
would  be  virtually  impossible;  automobiles  --  and passengers  -- could
collide harmlessly at any speed.
     (And you think that today's life-styles are already too hectic?)
     The 'weightlessness' which we now take for granted in space missions --
and which millions of tourists will be enjoying in the next century -- would
have  seemed like magic to our grandparents. But the abolition -- or  merely
the reduction -- of inertia is quite another matter, and  may be  completely
impossible.* But it's a nice thought, for it could provide the equivalent of
'teleportation':  you  could  travel anywhere  (at least  on  Earth)  almost
instantaneously. Frankly, I don't know how  'Star City' could manage without

     -- -- -- -- -- --
     *  As  every  Trekker  knows,  the Starship  Enterprise uses  'inertial
dampers'  to solve this particular  problem.  When asked how these work, the
series' technical  advisor gave the only  possible answer: 'very well, thank
you.' (See  "The  Physics  of Star  Trek" by Lawrence Krauss: HarperCollins,
     -- -- -- -- -- --

     One of the  assumptions I  have made in this  novel is that Einstein is
correct, and that no signal -- or object -- can exceed the speed of light. A
number of highly mathematical papers have recently appeared suggesting that,
as  countless  science-fiction  writers have  taken  for  granted,  galactic
hitch-hikers may not have to suffer this annoying disability.
     On the whole, I hope they are right --  but there seems one fundamental
objection.  If  FTL  is possible, where are all  those hitchhikers -- or  at
least the well-heeled tourists?
     One answer  is  that  no  sensible  ETs  will ever  build  interstellar
vehicles,  for  precisely the  same  reason  that  we  have never  developed
coal-fuelled airships: there are much better ways of doing the job.
     The surprisingly  small number of  'bits'  required to  define  a human
being,  or  to store all the information  one  could  possibly  acquire in a
lifetime,  is discussed in 'Machine Intelligence,  the Cost of  Interstellar
Travel and Fermi's Paradox' by Louis  K. Scheffer (Quarterly Journal  of the
Royal  Astronomical Society,  Vol.  35, No. 2, June 1994: pp. 157-75).  This
paper (surely the most mind-stretching that the staid QJRAS has published in
its entire career!) estimates that the total  mental state of a 100-year-old
human with a perfect memory could be represented by 10 to the 15th bits (one
petabit).  Even  today's  optical  fibres  could  transmit  this  amount  of
information in a matter of minutes.
     My suggestion that a Star Trek  transporter would still  be unavailable
in 3001 may  therefore appear ludicrously  shortsighted a mere  century from
now* and the present lack of interstellar tourists is simply due to the fact
that no receiving equipment  has yet  been  set up on  Earth.  Perhaps  it's
already on its way by slow-boat...

     -- -- -- -- -- --
     * However, for a  diametrically opposing view, see  the above-mentioned
"Physics of Star Trek".
     -- -- -- -- -- --

     Chapter 15: Falcon
     It gives  me particular  pleasure to pay this  tribute to  the  crew of
Apollo 15. On their return  from the Moon they sent me the  beautiful relief
map of Falcon's landing site, which  now has pride of place in my office. It
shows the routes taken  by the Lunar Rover during its three excursions,  one
of which skirted  Earthlight Crater.  The  map  bears the  inscription:  'To
Arthur Clarke from the crew of  Apollo 15 with many  thanks for your visions
of space. Dave Scott, Al Worden, Jim Irwin.' In return, I have now dedicated
"Earthlight" (which, written in 1953, was set in the territory the Rover was
to drive over in 1971): 'To Dave Scott and Jim Irwin, the first men to enter
this land, and to Al Worden, who watched over them from orbit.'
     After  covering  the Apollo  15 landing in the CBS studio  with  Walter
Cronkite and Wally Schirra, I flew  to Mission Control to watch the re-entry
and splashdown. I was sitting  beside  Al Worden's little daughter  when she
was  the  first  to notice that  one  of  the capsule's three parachutes had
failed  to deploy. It was a tense moment, but luckily the remaining two were
quite adequate for the job.

     Chapter 16: Asteroid 7794
     See Chapter 18  of "2001: A Space Odyssey" for  the  description of the
probe's impact. Precisely such  an  experiment is now  being planned for the
forthcoming Clementine 2 mission.
     I am  a  little embarrassed to see  that in my first  Space Odyssey the
discovery  of Asteroid  7794 was attributed  to  the Lunar Observatory -- in
1997! Well, I'll move it to 2017 -- in time for my 100th birthday.
     Just a few hours after writing the above, I was delighted to learn that
Asteroid 4923  (1981  EO27),  discovered  by  S.  J.  Bus  at Siding Spring,
Australia, on 2 March 1981, has been named Clarke, partly in recognition  of
Project Spaceguard (see "Rendezvous with  Rama" and "The Hammer  of God"). I
was  informed,  with  profound  apologies,  that  owing  to  an  unfortunate
oversight Number  2001 was no longer available,  having  been  allocated  to
somebody named A. Einstein. Excuses, excuses.
     But I was very pleased to learn that  Asteroid 5020, discovered on  the
same day as 4923, has been  named Asimov -- though saddened by the fact that
my old friend could never know.

     Chapter 17: Ganymede
     As  explained in the  Valediction, and  in the Author's Notes  to "2010
Odyssey  Two"  and "2061  Odyssey Three", I  had hoped  that  the  ambitious
Galileo Mission  to Jupiter and its moons  would by  now have given  us much
more detailed knowledge -- as well as stunning close-ups -- of these strange
     Well, after many delays, Galileo reached its first objective -- Jupiter
itself  -- and is performing admirably. But, alas, there is a problem -- for
some reason, the main antenna never unfolded. This means that images have to
be  sent back via a low-gain antenna, at an  agonizingly slow rate. Although
miracles  of onboard computer reprogramming have been done to compensate for
this,  it will  still require hours  to receive information that should have
been sent in minutes.
     So  we  must be  patient -- and I  was in the  tantalizing  position of
exploring  Ganymede  in fiction  just  before  Galileo started  to do  so in
reality, on 27 June 1996.
     On 11 July 1996, just two days before finishing this book, I downloaded
the  first images from JPL; luckily  nothing  --  so far!  --contradicts  my
descriptions. But if the current vistas of cratered ice-fields suddenly give
way to  palm trees and tropical beaches -- or, worse  still, YANKEE  GO HOME
signs, I'll be in real trouble .
     I  am  particularly looking  forward  to close-ups  of 'Ganymede  City'
(Chapter 17). This striking formation is exactly as I described it -- though
I hesitated to do so  for fear  that my  'discovery' might be front-paged by
the  National  Prevaricator.  To   my  eyes  it  appears  considerably  more
artificial than the notorious 'Mars  Face'  and its surroundings. And if its
streets and avenues are ten kilometres wide  --  so  what? Perhaps the Medes
were BIG...
     The city  will  be  found  on  the  NASA  Voyager images  20637.02  and
20637.29, or more conveniently in Figure 23.8 of John H. Rogers's monumental
"The Giant Planet Jupiter" (Cambridge University Press, 1995).

     Chapter 19: The Madness of Mankind
     For  visual evidence supporting Khan's startling assertion that most of
mankind has been at  least partially insane, see Episode 22, 'Meeting Mary',
in  my television series Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe. And bear in
mind that Christians represent only a very small subset of our species:  far
greater  numbers of devotees than have ever  worshipped the Virgin Mary have
given equal reverence to such totally incompatible divinities as Rama, Kali,
Siva, Thor, Wotan, Jupiter, Osiris, etc. etc....
     The  most striking  -- and pitiful  -- example of a brilliant man whose
beliefs  turned him into a raving lunatic  is  that of Conan Doyle.  Despite
endless exposures of his favourite  psychics as frauds,  his faith  in  them
remained unshaken. And the creator of Sherlock Holmes even tried to convince
the great magician Harry Houdini that he 'dematerialized' himself to perform
his feats  of escapology -- often  based on tricks  which, as Dr  Watson was
fond of  saying, were 'absurdly simple'.  (See the essay 'The Irrelevance of
Conan Doyle' in  Martin Gardner's "The Night  is Large", St Martin's  Press,
US, 1996.)
     For details of the  Inquisition,  whose  pious  atrocities make Pol Pot
look  positively  benign, see Carl  Sagan's devastating  attack  on  New Age
Nitwittery,  "The Demon-Haunted  World:  Science as a  Candle  in  the Dark"
(Headline, 1995). I wish  it -- and Martin's book -- could be  made required
reading in every high school and college.
     At least  the US Department of Immigration has taken action against one
religion-inspired  barbarity.  Time  Magazine ('Milestones',  24 June  1996)
reports that asylum  must now  be granted to girls  threatened  with genital
mutilation in their countries of origin.
     I had already written this  chapter when I came across  Anthony Storr's
"Feet of Clay: A Study of  Gurus" (HarperCollins, 1996), which is  a virtual
textbook  on this depressing subject.  It is  hard to believe that one  holy
fraud, by the  time the US Marshals  belatedly arrested him, had accumulated
ninety-three  Rolls-Royces! Even worse  --  eighty-three  per  cent  of  his
thousands of American dupes  had been  to college, and  thus  qualify for my
favourite  definition of  an intellectual:  'Someone who  has  been educated
beyond his/her intelligence.'

     Chapter 26: Tsienville
     In the 1982 preface to "2010: Odyssey Two", I explained why I named the
Chinese spaceship which  landed  on Europa  after Dr Tsien Hsue-shen, one of
the  founders  of the United States and Chinese rocket programmers. As  Iris
Chang states in her biography "Thread of the Silkworm"  (Basic Books,  1995)
'his life is one of the supreme ironies of the Cold War'.
     Born in 1911, Tsien won a scholarship  which brought him  from China to
the United  States in 1935, where he became student and  later  colleague of
the brilliant  Hungarian aerodynamicist Theodore von Karman. Later, as first
Goddard  Professor  at  the California Institute  of  Technology,  he helped
establish the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory -- the direct  ancestor  of
Pasadena's famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
     With top secret  clearance, he contributed  greatly to  American rocket
research  in  the  1950s, but during the  hysteria  of the McCarthy era  was
arrested on trumped-up security charges when he attempted to pay  a visit to
his native China. After many hearings  and a  prolonged period of arrest, he
was finally  deported  to his homeland -- with all his  unrivalled knowledge
and expertise. As many of his distinguished colleagues affirmed, it was  one
of the most stupid  (as well  as most disgraceful) things the  United States
ever did.
     After  his expulsion,  according  to Thuang Fenggan,  Deputy  Director,
China National Space Administration, Tsien 'started the rocket business from
nothing...  Without  him, China would have suffered  a  twenty-year  lag  in
technology.'  And a corresponding delay, perhaps, in the deployment  of  the
deadly 'Silkworm' anti-ship missile and the 'Long March' satellite launcher.
     Shortly after I had completed  this novel, the International Academy of
Astronautics honoured me with its highest distinction, the von  Karman Award
-- to be given  in Beijing!  This was an offer I couldn't refuse, especially
when I learned that Dr Tsien is now a resident  of that city. Unfortunately,
when I arrived there I discovered that he was  in  hospital for observation,
and his doctors would not permit visitors.
     I   am  therefore   extremely  grateful  to   his  personal  assistant,
Major-General Wang Shouyun,  for carrying  suitably inscribed copies of 2010
and  2061 to  Dr Tsien. In return the General presented me  with the massive
volume he  has  edited, "Collected Works of  H.  S. Tsien: 1938-1956" (1991,
Science Press, 16, Donghuangcheggen  North Street,  Beijing 100707). It is a
fascinating  collection, beginning  with  numerous  collaborations with  von
Karman on problems  in aerodynamics, and ending  with solo papers on rockets
and  satellites.  The  very  last  entry, 'Thermonuclear Power  Plants' (Jet
Propulsion, July  1956) was  written  while  Dr  Tsien  was still  a virtual
prisoner of  the FBI, and deals  with a subject  that is even  more  topical
today --  though very little progress has been made towards 'a power station
utilizing the deuterium fusion reaction'.
     Just before I left  Beijing  on  13 October 1996 I  was happy  to learn
that, despite  his  current  age (85)  and  disability, Dr  Tsien  is  still
pursuing his scientific studies. I sincerely hope that he enjoyed "2010" and
"2061",  and  look forward  to  sending  him  this  "Final  Odyssey"  as  an
additional tribute.

     Chapter 36: Chamber of Horrors
     As  the  result of a series of Senate Hearings on  Computer Security in
June 1996, on 15 July 1996 President Clinton signed Executive Order 13010 to
deal  with  'computer-based  attacks  on the information  or  communications
components  that control critical  infrastructures ("cyber  threats").' This
will  set  up  a  task  force  to  counter  cyberterrorism,  and  will  have
representatives from the CIA, NSA, defense agencies, etc.
     Pico, here we come...

     Since writing the  above paragraph, I have been intrigued to learn that
the  finale  of the movie Independence Day, which  I have not yet seen, also
involves the  use  of computer viruses as Trojan horses! I am also  informed
that its opening is identical to that of Childhood's End (1953), and that it
contains  every known  science-fiction  cliche? since Me?lie`s's Trip to the
Moon (1903).
     I cannot decide whether to congratulate the script-writers on their one
stroke  of originality -- or to accuse  them  of the transtemporal crime  of
pre-cognitive plagiarism.  In any event, I fear there's nothing I can do  to
stop John Q. Popcorn thinking that I have ripped off the ending of ID4.

     The following material has been  taken -- usually with major editing --
from the earlier books in the series:
     From  "2001 A Space Odyssey": Chapter  18  Through  the  Asteroids  and
Chapter 37 Experiment.
     From "2010: Odyssey Two": Chapter 11 Ice and Vacuum; Chapter 36 Fire in
the Deep: Chapter 38 Foamscape.

     My thanks to IBM for presenting me with the  beautiful  little Thinkpad
755CD  on  which  this  book  was  composed. For  many  years  I  have  been
embarrassed by  the --  totally  unfounded --rumour that  the name  HAL  was
derived by one-letter displacement  from IBM. In an attempt to exorcise this
computer-age myth, I even went to the trouble of  getting Dr Chandra,  HAL's
inventor,  to deny it in 2010 Odyssey  Two.  However, I was recently assured
that, far from being annoyed by the association, Big Blue is now quite proud
of it. So I will abandon any future attempts  to put the  record straight --
and send my congratulations to all those  participating in  HAL's  'birthday
party' at (of course) the University of Illinois, Urbana, on 12 March 1997.
     Rueful  gratitude  to my Del Rey Books editor,  Shelly Shapiro, for ten
pages of niggles  which, when  dealt with, made  a vast  improvement  to the
final product. (Yes, I've been an editor myself, and do  not suffer from the
usual  author's  conviction that  the  members of this trade are  frustrated
     Finally, and most important of all:  my deepest thanks to my old friend
Cyril Gardiner, Chairman of the Galle Face Hotel, for the hospitality of his
magnificent (and enormous) personal suite while I was writing  this book: he
gave me a Tranquillity Base  in a  time of troubles. I  hasten to add  that,
even though it may  not  provide  such  extensive  imaginary landscapes, the
facilities  of  the Galle  Face  are far superior  to those  offered by  the
'Grannymede',  and  never  in my  life  have  I  worked in  more comfortable
     Or, for that matter, in  more inspirational ones, for a large plaque at
the entrance  lists  more  than  a hundred  of the  Heads of State and other
distinguished visitors  who  have been entertained  here.  They include Yuri
Gagarin, the  crew of Apollo 12 -- the  second mission to the Moon's surface
-- and a  fine  collection  of stage  and movie  stars: Gregory  Peck,  Alec
Guinness,  Noel Coward, Carrie  Fisher  of "Star  Wars"  fame...  As well as
Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier -- both  of whom make brief appearances in
"2061 Odyssey Three" (Chapter 37). I am honoured to see my name listed among
     It seems  appropriate that a project begun in one  famous hotel  -- New
York's  Chelsea, that hotbed of genuine  and imitation  genius  -- should be
concluded  in  another,  half a  world away.  But it's  strange to hear  the
monsoon-lashed  Indian  Ocean  roaring  just a few yards  outside my window,
instead of the traffic along far-off and fondly remembered 23rd Street.

     It was with  the deepest regret that I heard -- literally while editing
this  acknowledgements  -- that Cyril Gardiner died a few hours  ago.  It is
some consolation to know that he had already seen the  above tribute and was
delighted with it.

     'Never  explain,  never   apologize'   may  be  excellent   advice  for
politicians,  Hollywood moguls  and  business tycoons, but  an author should
treat his readers with more consideration. So, though I have no intention of
apologizing  for anything, perhaps the  complicated genesis  of the  Odyssey
Quartet requires a little explaining.
     It all began at Christmas 1948 -- yes, 1948! -- with a 4,000-word short
story  which I  wrote  for a contest sponsored by  the British  Broadcasting
Corporation.  'The Sentinel' described  the discovery of a  small pyramid on
the  Moon,  set there  by some alien civilization to await the emergence  of
mankind  as a planet-faring species. Until then, it was implied, we would be
too primitive to be of any interest.* The BBC rejected my modest effort, and
it was not published  until  almost  three years  later in the  one-and-only
(Spring  1951)  issue of  10  Story  Fantasy  -- a  magazine which,  as  the
invaluable "Encyclopaedia  of Science Fiction" wryly comments, is 'primarily
remembered for its poor arithmetic (there were 13 stories)'.
     'The Sentinel'  remained in limbo for more than a decade, until Stanley
Kubrick  contacted me in the spring of 1964 and asked if I had any ideas for
the  'proverbial'  (i.e. still  non-existent) 'good  science-fiction movie'.
During the course of  our many brainstorming sessions, as recounted in  "The
Lost  Worlds of 2001"  (Sidgwick  and  Jackson, 1972)  we  decided  that the
patient watcher on  the Moon might  provide  a good  starting point  for our
story. Eventually it did much more than that, as somewhere during production
the pyramid evolved into the now famous black monolith.

     -- -- -- -- -- --
     *  The  search  for alien artefacts  in the  Solar System should  be  a
perfectly legitimate branch of  science ('exo-archaeology'?). Unfortunately,
it  has been largely discredited  by  claims that  such evidence has already
been found -- and has been deliberately suppressed by NASA! It is incredible
that  anyone would believe such  nonsense:  far more likely  that  the space
agency would deliberately fake ET artefacts -- to solve its budget problems!
(Over to you, NASA Administrators...)
     -- -- -- -- -- --

     To put  the Odyssey series in  perspective,  it must be remembered that
when Stanley and I started planning what we  privately called 'How the Solar
System  was Won' the Space Age was barely  seven years old, and no human had
travelled more than  a  hundred kilometres  from the  home planet.  Although
President Kennedy had announced that the United States intended to go to the
Moon 'in  this  decade', to most  people that  must still have seemed like a
far-off  dream. When filming started  just west of London* on a freezing  29
December 1965, we did not even know what the  lunar  surface  looked like at
close quarters. There  were  still fears  that the first word  uttered by an
emerging  astronaut   would   be   'Help!'   as   he   disappeared   into  a
talcum-power-like layer of moondust. On  the  whole, we guessed fairly well:
only the fact that our lunar landscapes are more jagged than  the real  ones
-- smoothed  by aeons of sand-blasting by meteoric dust -- reveals that 2001
was made in the pre-Apollo era.

     -- -- -- -- -- --
     * At Shepperton, destroyed by the  Martians in one of the most dramatic
scenes in wells's masterpiece, The War of the Worlds.
     -- -- -- -- -- --

     Today, of course, it  seems ludicrous that we could have imagined giant
space-stations, orbiting Hilton Hotels, and expeditions to  Jupiter as early
as  2001. It is now difficult to  realize that back in  the 1960s there were
serious plans for permanent Moon bases and Mars landings -- by 1990! Indeed,
in the CBS  studio, immediately  after the Apollo  11  launch,  I  heard the
Vice-President of the United States proclaim exuberantly: 'Now we must go to
     As  it turned out, he was lucky not to go to prison. That scandal, plus
Vietnam and Watergate, is one of the reasons why these  optimistic scenarios
never materialized.
     When the movie and book of "2001 A Space Odyssey" made their appearance
in 1968, the possibility of a sequel had never  crossed my mind. But in 1979
a mission to  Jupiter  really did  take  place,  and  we obtained our  first
close-ups of the giant planet and its astonishing family of moons.
     The  Voyager  space-probes* were,  of course, unmanned, but  the images
they sent back  made real -- and totally unexpected --  worlds from what had
hitherto been merely points of light in the  most powerful  telescopes.  The
continually erupting sulphur volcanoes of Io, the multiply-impacted  face of
Callisto, the weirdly contoured landscape of Ganymede -- it was almost as if
we had discovered a whole new Solar System. The temptation to explore it was
irresistible; hence 2010  Odyssey Two, which also gave me the opportunity to
find out  what happened  to  David Bowman, after  he  had  awakened  in that
enigmatic hotel room.

     -- -- -- -- -- --
     *  Which employed a 'slingshot' or 'gravity-assist' manoeuvre by flying
close to Jupiter
     -- -- -- -- -- --

     In 1981, when I started writing the new book, the Cold War was still in
progress, and  I  felt I  was going out  on  a limb --  as  well as  risking
criticism -- by showing a  joint US-Russian mission.  I  also underlined  my
hope of  future  co-operation by  dedicating  the  novel  to Nobelist Andrei
Sakharov (then  still in  exile) and Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov -- who, when  I
told  him  in  'Star  Village' that  the  ship  would be  named  after  him,
exclaimed, with typical ebullience, 'Then it will be a good ship!'
     It still  seems  incredible  to  me that, when  Peter  Hyams  made  his
excellent film  version  in 1983, he was able to use the actual close-ups of
the  Jovian moons  obtained  in  the  Voyager missions  (some of  them after
helpful computer processing by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, source of  the
originals).  However, far better  images  were  expected from the  ambitious
Galileo mission, due to carry out a detailed survey of  the major satellites
over  a  period  of  many  months.  Our  knowledge  of  this new  territory,
previously obtained only from a brief flyby, would be enormously expanded --
and I would have no excuse for not writing "Odyssey Three".
     Alas --  something tragic on the way to Jupiter. It had been planned to
launch Galileo from the Space Shuttle in 1986 -- but the Challenger disaster
ruled out that option, and  it soon became clear -- precisely as was done by
Discovery  in  the  book version  of  2001  --  that  we would  get  no  new
information from Io and Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, for at least  another
     I decided  not to  wait, and the (1985) return of Halley's Comet to the
inner  Solar  System gave  me  an irresistible theme. Its next appearance in
2061  would  be good timing for a third Odyssey, though as I was not certain
when I could deliver it I asked my publisher for a rather modest advance. It
is with much sadness that I quote the dedication of "2061 Odyssey Three":

     who bought this book for one dollar
     -- but never knew if she got her money's worth.

     Obviously there  is no way in  which a  series of four  science-fiction
novels, written  over  a  period of  more  than thirty  years  of  the  most
breathtaking  developments in technology  (especially in space  exploration)
and politics, could be mutually consistent. As  I wrote in  the introduction
to  2061: 'Just as 2010 was not a direct  sequel to 2001, so  this book is a
not a linear  sequel to 2010. They must  all be  considered as variations on
the same theme, involving  many of  the  same characters and situations, but
not necessarily happening in the same universe.' If you  want a good analogy
from another medium, listen to what Rachmaninoff and Andrew Lloyd Webber did
to the same handful of notes by Paganini.
     So this "Final  Odyssey"  has  discarded many  of  the  elements of its
precursors,  but developed others  -- and I hope more  important ones  -- in
much  greater  detail.  And  if  any  readers  of  the  earlier  books  feel
disorientated  by such  transmutations,  I  hope  I can  dissuade  them from
sending me angry  letters  of  denunciation  by  adapting  one  of the  more
endearing remarks of a certain US President: 'It's fiction, stupid!'
     And it's all my  own fiction, in case you hadn't noticed. Though I have
much  enjoyed  my collaborations with Gentry Lee,* Michael Kube-McDowell and
the late Mike McQuay --  and won't hesitate again  to call on the best hired
guns in  the business if I have  future projects that are too big  to handle
myself -- this particular Odyssey had to be a solo job.

     -- -- -- -- -- --
     * By an unlikely coincidence, Gentry was Chief Engineer on  the Galileo
and Viking projects. (See Introduction to Rama II). It wasn't his fault that
the Galileo antenna didn't unfurl...
     -- -- -- -- -- --

     So every word is mine: well,  almost every word, I must  confess that I
found  Professor  Thirugnanasampanthamoorthy  (Chapter 35)  in  the  Colombo
Telephone Directory; I hope the present owner  of that name  will not object
to the loan. There are also  a few borrowings from the great Oxford  English
Dictionary. And what do you know -- to my delighted surprise, I find it uses
no fewer than 66 quotations from my  own books to illustrate the meaning and
use of words!
     Dear OED, if you find  any useful examples in these pages, please be my
guest -- again.
     I  apologize for the number of modest coughs (about ten, at last count)
in  this Afterword; but  the matters to which they drew attention seemed too
relevant to be omitted.
     Finally, I  would like to assure  my  many  Buddhist, Christian, Hindu,
Jewish and Muslim friends that I am  sincerely happy that the religion which
Chance has given you has contributed to  your peace  of mind  (and often, as
Western  medical   science  now  reluctantly   admits,  to   your   physical
     Perhaps it is better to be  un-sane  and happy, than sane and un-happy.
But it is best of all to be sane and happy.
     Whether  our descendants can  achieve  that goal  will be the  greatest
challenge  of the  future. Indeed,  it may  well decide whether we  have any

     Arthur C. Clarke
     Colombo, Sri Lanka
     19 September 1996

: 47, Last-modified: Sun, 17 Dec 2006 08:59:37 GMT