dilluns, 8 de juny de 2015

Only an aquatic animal could exist on that world and so Man become just that — nor did reduction in size cause a loss of stature! the horizon across a flat bed of mud. The red light of the star Tau Ceti, glinting upon thou- sands of small lakes, pools, ponds, and puddles, made the watery plain look like a mosaic of onyx and ruby. "If I were a religious man," the pilot said suddenly, *Td call this a plain case of divine vengeance.** Chatvieux said: "Hmn? M "It's as if we've been struck down for — is it hubris, arrogant pride?" "Well, is it?" Chatvieux said, looking up at last. "I don't feel exactly swollen with pride at the moment. Do you?" Illustrated by WILIER SURFACE TENSION /Tm not exactly proud of my piloting/' la Ventura admitted. "But that isn't quite what I meant. I was thinking about why we carne here in the first plac It takes arrogant pride to think that you can scatter men, or at least things like men, all over the face of the Galaxy. It takes even more pride to do the job — to pack up all the equipment and move from planet to planet and actu- ally mala men suitable for every place you touch." "I suppose it does," Chatvieux said. "But we're only one of sev- eral hundred seed-ships in this limb of the Galaxy, so I doubt that the gods picked us out as special sinners/ 1 He smiled drily. "If they had, maybe they'd have left us our ultraphonc, so the Colonization Council could hear about our cropper. Besides, Paul, we try to produce men adapted to Earthlike planets, nothing more. We've sense enough — hu- mility enough, if you like — to know that we can't adapt men to Jupiter or to Tau Ceti." "Anyhow, we're here/" la Ven- tura said grimly. "And we aren't going to get off. Phil tells me that we don't even have our germ-cell bank any more, so we can't seed this place in the usual way. We've been thrown onto a dead world and dared to adapt to it. What are the panatropes going to do — - provide built-in water wings?" "No," Chatvieux said calmly. "You and I and the rest of us are going; to die, Paul. Panatropic techniques don't work on the body, only on the inheritance- carrying factors. We can't give you built-in water-wings, any more than we can give you a new set of brains. I think we'll be able to populate this world with men. but we won't live to see it/' The pilot thought about it, a lump of cold collecting gradually in his stomach. "How long do you give us?" he said at last. "Who knows? A month, perhaps." THE bulkhead leading to the -■- wrecked section of the ship was pushed back, admitting salty, muggy air, heavy with car- bon dioxide. Philip Strasvogel, the communications officer, came in, tracking mud. Like la Ventura, he was now a man without a function, but it did not appear to bother him. He unbuckled from around his waist a canvas belt into which plastic vials were stuffed like cartridges. "More samples, Doc/' he said. "All alike — water, very wet. I have some quicksand in one boot, too. Find anything?" "A good deal, Phil. Thanks. Are the others around?" Strasvogel poked his head out and hallooed. Other voices rang out over the mudflats. Minutes later, the rest of the survivors were crowding into the panatrope deck : Saltonstall , Chatvieux's senior assistant; Eunice Wagner, the only remaining ecologist; Eltherios Venezuelos, the delegate from the Colonization Council ; and Joan Heath, a midshipman whose duties, like la Ventura's and Strasvogel's, were now with- out meaning. Five men and two women — to colonize a planet on which standing room meant treading water.

They came in quietly and 
found seats or resting places on 
the deck, on the edges of tables, 
in corners. 

Vcnezuelos said : "What's the 
verdict, Dr. Chatvieux?" 

"This place isn't dead," Chat- 
vieux said. "There's life in the 
sea and in the fresh water, both. 
On the. animal side of the ledger, 
i volution seems to have stopped 
with the Crustacea; the most ad- 
vanced form I've found is a tiny 
crayfish, from one of the local 
rivulets. The ponds and puddles 
are well-stocked with protozoa 
and small metazoans, right up to 
a wonderfully variegated rotifer 
population — including a castle- 
building rotifer like Earth's Flos- 
cularidae. The plants run from 
simple algae to the thalluslike 
species." 

"The sea is about the same," 
Eunice said, "I've found some of 
the larger simple metazoans — 

SURFACE TENSION  
 
 OLD Shar set down the heavy 
metal plate at last, and gazed 
instead out the window of the 
castle, apparently resting his eyes 
on the glowing green-gold ob- 
scurity of the summer waters. In 
the soft fluoresence which played 
down upon him, from the Noc 
dozing impassively in the groined 
vault of the chamber, Lavon 
could see that he was in fact a 
young man. His face was so deli- 

itely formed as to. suggest that 
it had not been many seasons 
since he had First emerged from 
I lis spore. 

But of course there had been 
no real reason to expect an old 
man. All the Shars had been re- 
ferred to traditionally' as "old" 
Shar. The reason, like the reasons 
for everything else, had been for- 
gotten, but the custom had per- 
sisted; the adjective at least gave 
weight and dignity to the office. 

The present Shar belonged to 
the generation XVI, and hence 
would have to be at least two 
seasons younger than Lavon him- 
self. If he was old. it was only in 
knowledge. 



"Lavon. I'm going to have to 
be honest with you/' Shar said at 
last, still looking out of the tall, 
irregular window. "You've come 
to me for the secrets on the metal 
plates, just as your predecessors 
did to mine. I can give some of 
them to you — but for the most 
part, I don't know what they 



»» 



mean. 

"After so many generations/" 
Lavon asked, surprised. "Wasn't 
it Shar III who first found out 
how to read them? That was a 
long time ago." 

The young man turned and 
looked at Lavon with eyes made 
dark and wide by the depths into 
which they had been staring. "I 
can read what's on the plates, 
but most of it seems to make no 
sense. Worst of all, the plates are 
incomplete- You didn't know 
that? They are. One of them was 
lost in a battle during the fit.al 
war with the Eaters, while these 
castles were still in their hands." 

"What am I here for, then?" 
Lavon said. "Isn't there anything 
of value on the remaining plates? 
Do they really contain 'the wis- 
dom of the Creators' or is that 
another myth?" 

"No. No, that's true," Shar said 
slowly, "as far as it goes." 

HE paused, and both men 
turned and gazed at the 
ghostly creature which had ap- 
peared suddenly outside the window. 
Then Shar said gravely, 
"Come in, Para." 

The slipper-shaped organism, 
nearly transparent except for the 
thousands of black-and-silver 
granules and frothy bubbles 
which packed its interior, glided 
into the chamber and hovered, 
with a muted whirring of cilia. 
For a moment it remained silent, 
probably speaking telepathically 
to the Noc floating in the vault, 
after the ceremonious fashion of 
all the protos. No human had 
ever intercepted one of these col- 
loquies, but there was no doubt 
about their reality: humans had 
used them for long-range com- 
munication for generations. 

Then the Para's cilia buzzed 
once more. Each separate hair- 
like process vibrated at an inde- 
pendent, changing rate; the 
resulting sound waves spread 
through the water, intermodulat- 
ing, reinforcing or canceling each 
other. The aggregate wave-front, 
by the time it reached human 
ears, was recognizable human 

. 

"We are arrived, Shar and 
Lavon, according to the custom." 

"And welcome," said Shar. 
"Lavon, let's leave this matter of 
the plates for a while, until you 
hear what Para has to say; that's 
a part of the knowledge Lavons 
must have as they come of age, 
and it comes before the plates. I 
can give you some hints of what 



we an. First Para has to tell you 
something about what we aren't." 

Cap comentari:

Publica un comentari a l'entrada