Part two tma-1 Chapter 7 Special Flight icon

Part two tma-1 Chapter 7 Special Flight

НазваниеPart two tma-1 Chapter 7 Special Flight
Дата конвертации13.11.2012
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the village would grow into a town.

And as his body became more and more defenseless, his power to attack became more frightening. With stone and iron he had discovered many ways to kill, and quite early he learned how to kill from a distance. From throwing sticks and stones to dropping bombs, his power increased until it was great enough to destroy the planet.

If he had not had those weapons, Man would never have become master of the world. For ages they had served him well.

But now, as long as they existed, he was living on borrowed time.


Chapter 7 Special Flight

Dr Heywood Floyd had left Earth many times before, but as the moment of take-off approached, he still felt nervous.

The jet that had rushed him here from Washington, after that midnight meeting with the President, was now dropping down towards one of the most exciting parts of the world. Here, along thirty kilometers of the Florida coast, were the greatest structures of the Space Age. Near the horizon he could see the shining silver tower of the last Saturn 5, a museum now for twenty years. Not far away from it stood the great building where all the early ships had been built.

But these things now belonged to the past, and he was flying towards the future. As his plane turned, he could see the spaceplane in a pool of light, being prepared for its flight to the stars. It seemed very small from this distance, until he looked at the tiny figures all around it. Then he remembered that it was more than sixty meters across the narrow 'V of its wings. And they were preparing this enormous machine just for him.

Though it was two o'clock in the morning, a crowd of reporters and cameramen were waiting for him when he stepped oil the plane. Hut he could say nothing except 'no comment' as he walked through them.

The stewardess greeted him as he entered the space plane.

'Good morning, Dr Floyd. I'm Miss Simmons. I'd like to welcome you on board.

He looked at the twenty empty seats. On her advice, he chose the front one on the left, because it would offer the best view. He sat down, put on the safety belt and fixed his bag to the next seat. A moment later, the loudspeaker came on.

' Good morning,' Miss Simmons said.' This is Special Plight 3 to Space Station 1.

It seemed she wanted to follow the normal routine, and Dr Floyd smiled.

' Our flight time will be fifty-five minutes, and we will be weightless for thirty minutes. Please do not leave your seat until the safety light is lit.'

Floyd looked over his shoulder and called, 'Thank you.' She smiled, a little embarrassed.

He leaned back in his seat and relaxed as the Captain's voice came through the loudspeaker. Take off in fifteen seconds. You will be more comfortable if you start breathing deeply.

As the great machine left the ground, he felt himself sinking deeper and deeper into his seat. It was difficult to move, but there was no real discomfort. In fact the blood rushing round his body in made him feel young again, and he wanted to sing aloud. This was certainly possible, because no one could hear him above the n it noise of the engines.

His mood changed quickly as he realized he was leaving Earth mil everything he had ever loved. Down there were his three children, motherless since his wife had died in a plane crash ten years ago.

The pressure and the noise both suddenly decreased, and he heard the Captain's voice again.

' Preparing to separate from lower stage. Here we go.

There was a slight movement as the spaceplane freed itself from its carrier. The lower stage would fly the sixteen thousand kilometers back to Florida, and it would then be prepared to lift .mother spaceplane away from the Earth.

When the spaceplane’s own engines started, the speed increased only a little. In fact he felt no more than normal gravity. But it was impossible to walk, since 'up' was straight towards the front of the plane. If he had been foolish enough to leave his seat, he would have fallen right to the back.

It was an uncomfortable feeling, as if his seat was fixed to a wall, with all the others below him. He was trying to ignore it when dawn suddenly exploded outside. In seconds they moved through layers of red and pink and old and blue into the shining white light of day. Though the windows were heavily colorued to reduce the light, Floyd was still half-blinded for several minutes. He was in space, but he could not see the stars.

Then he felt his weight decreasing as the spaceplane leveled. The engines slowed down and then fell silent, and they were in orbit. If he had not worn a safety belt, Floyd would have floated out of his seat; his stomach felt as if it wanted to do so anyway. He hoped that the pills he had been given half an hour and fifteen thousand kilometres ago would do their work. He had been space sick just once in his career, and that was too often.

The pilot's voice came through the loudspeaker.' Please observe 1 all zero gravity rules. We will be arriving at Space Station 1 in| forty-five minutes.'

The stewardess came walking up the narrow passage to the right of the seats. Her feet came off the carpet slowly, as if they were stuck in glue. In fact she was walking on the bright band of magnetic carpeting that ran the full length of the floor — and of the ceiling. The bottoms of her shoes were also magnetic.

'Would you like some coffee or tea, Dr Floyd?' she asked cheerfully.

'No, thank you,' he smiled. The plastic drinking tubes always made him feel like a baby.

Miss Simmons stayed as he opened his bag.

' Dr Floyd, may I ask you a question ?'

' Certainly,' he answered, looking up over his glasses.

' My boyfriend works at Tycho,' she said,' and I haven't heard from him for over a week. Is it really true about illness on the Moon ?'

' If it is, there's no need to worry. Remember the illness in 1998? A lot of people were sick, but no one died. And that's really all I can say.'

She smiled pleasantly and straightened up.

'Well, thank you anyway, Doctor. I'm sorry to take up your time.'

' No problem at all,' he said, then opened his bag and began to look through his endless technical reports. There would be no time for reading when he got to the Moon.

^ Chapter 8 Space Station 1

Half an hour later the pilot announced, ‘We make contact in ten minutes. Please check your safety belt.'

Floyd put away his papers. The last 500 kilometres involved a lot of movement from side to side as the spaceplane tried to get into position. It was best to sit back and relax.

A few minutes later he had his first sight of Space Station 1, MX) metres across and turning slowly. Behind it was Earth. From his height of 320 kilometres, he could see much of Africa and the Atlantic Ocean.

The central part of the Space Station was now coming towards them. Unlike the rest of the structure, it was not turning. In this way, a spaceship could land on it without being spun round.

Floyd felt the spaceplane make contact. A few seconds later, the airlock door opened and a man entered.

'Pleased to meet you, Dr Floyd. I'm Nick Miller, Station Police. I'll look after you till the moonship leaves.'

They shook hands, then Floyd smiled at the stewardess and said:' Please give my thanks to the rest of the crew. Perhaps I'll see you on the way home.'

Very cautiously — it was more than a year since he had been weightless, and it would be some time before he got used to it — he pulled himself hand over hand through the airlock and into the large circular room at the centre of the Space Station. The walls, floor and ceiling were covered with soft material, and there were handholds here and there. Floyd held on to one of these firmly, while the whole room started to turn until its speed was the same as the Space Station.

As it went faster, he was gently pushed back, and now, instead of standing against a circular wall, Floyd was lying on a curved floor. He stood up. The force of the spin had created artificial gravity. It was weak here, but would increase as he moved away from the centre.

From the central room he followed Miller down curving stairs. At first he felt so light that he almost had to force himself downwards. He did not gain enough weight to move almost normally until he reached the passenger lounge, on the outside edge of the great turning circle.

'Can I get you anything while we're waiting?' Miller said. ' We leave in about thirty minutes.'

' I'd like a cup of black coffee - two sugars.'

' Right, Doctor - I'll get it.'

Miller walked away, and Floyd turned to look around the lounge. There were very few people there, but one of them was walking straight towards him.

' Hello, Dimitri,' he said, because there was no escape.

Dr Dimitri Moisewitch shook hands energetically. He was a scientist from the USSR. He was also one of Floyd's best friends, and for that reason he was the last person Floyd wished to talk to here and now.

^ Chapter 9 Moon Ship

' Hello, Heywood,' the Russian said, shaking hands.' Nice to see you again. How are you — and the children ?'

' We're fine,' Floyd said. ' We often talk about the wonderful time you gave us last summer.' He was sorry he could not sound more sincere; they really had enjoyed the holiday at Dimitri's house in Odessa.

'And you — I suppose you're on your way up ?' Dimitri asked.

'Er, yes — my flight leaves in half an hour,' answered Floyd.'Do you know Mr Miller?’

The policeman had now approached, and was standing at a respectful distance holding a plastic cup of coffee.

'Of course. But please put that down, Mr Miller. This is Dr Floyd's last chance to have a proper drink — let's not waste it. No — I mean it.'

They followed Dimitri out of the main lounge into a smaller loom with large windows. Soon they were sitting at a table, watching the stars move past. Space Station 1 turned round once very minute, producing an artificial gravity equal to the Moon's. I his gave passengers on their way to the Moon a chance to get used to what they would experience there.

' Now,' said the Russian, putting down his drink,' what's all this about illness at the US Base? I wanted to go there on this trip, but they wouldn't let me. What's happening? Do you want any help from our medical services?'

' I'm sorry, Dimitri — we've been asked not to say anything at the moment. Thanks for the offer, though.'

' Hmmm,' said Dimitri.' Seems odd to me that you, a scientist, should be sent up to the Moon to look at an illness. Do you have much medical experience?'

Floyd smiled.' I suppose I'm the sort of scientist that knows about lots of different subjects. Maybe that's why they chose me.'

'Then do you know whatTMA-1 means?'

Miller's head came up in surprise, but Floyd stayed calm. "TMA-1 ? What an odd expression. Where did you hear it?' he asked.

' Never mind,' answered the Russian.' You can't fool me. But if you've found something you can't handle, don't leave it until too late before you shout for help.'

Miller looked at his watch.

' We're due to board in five minutes, Dr Floyd,' he said.' I think we'd better move.'

Though he knew that they still had twenty minutes, Floyd got 1 up quickly. Too quickly, because he had forgotten the one-sixth 1 of gravity. He had to reach for the table to keep himself down.

' Goodbye, Dimitri,' he said.' It was nice seeing you.' It was not I true, this time, but he felt he had to say it.

As they left the room, Floyd said, 'Phew, that was difficult. I Thanks for rescuing me.'

' You know, Doctor,' said Miller,' I hope he isn't right about us ,| running into something we can't handle.'

' That', Floyd answered,’ is what I intend to find out.'

Forty-five minutes later, the Aries-IB moonship pulled away ! from the station. There was none of the power and noise of a take-off from Earth, just a quiet whistling as the three engines i started up. The gentle push lasted no more than fifteen minutes, and during that time it was quite possible to get up and walk around.

Floyd had the whole ship to himself again, though it had been designed for thirty passengers. It was strange and rather lonely, but he had the undivided attention of a steward and stewardess, as well as two pilots and two engineers. He doubted that any man in history had ever received such service, and it was unlikely that anyone would do so in the future. He should try to enjoy this trip, and the pleasure of weightlessness. With the loss of gravity he had — at least for a while — lost most of his worries. Someone had once said that you could be frightened in space, but you could not be worried there. It was perfectly true.

The steward and stewardess, it seemed, were keen to make him eat for the whole twenty-five hours of the trip, and he had to wave away many unwanted meals. It was not difficult to eat in zero gravity, despite the fears of early astronauts. The plates were fixed to the table, and all the food was made sticky. Hot soup was not possible, but apart from this the menus were fairly normal. Drinks, of course, were a different matter; all liquids had to be kept in plastic squeeze-tubes.

When he was not eating, Floyd gave some attention to the official reports he had brought with him. When he got tired of these, he connected his page-sized news screen to the ship's information system and read the latest reports from Earth. One by one he could look at the world's electronic newspapers. Each of the stories on the front page had a number. When one was chosen, the little square grew until it filled the screen.

There was just one sleep-period, when the main lights were switched off. Floyd lay down on the sofa and got his arms and legs inside the fixed sheet that would prevent him moving away into space. When he woke up, the Moon was filling half the sky. He moved through to the Control Room to watch the final stages of the approach.

The ship was just above the line dividing night and day. It moved towards the dark side, and he could see the sharp tops of the mountains lit by the reflected light from Earth. He felt some weight return as the ship slowed down. Now they were above an enormous crater with a flashing light in its centre. A voice was calling above the whistle of the jets.

'Clavius Control to Special 14, you are coming in nicely. Please make all control checks now.'

The pilot pressed some switches, green lights flashed, and he called back,’ Control checks completed. All OK.'

Now the mountain tops were high above the ship, and then Floyd lost sight of them as the engines blew up clouds of dust. He felt the plane touch the ground, and the pilot shut down the engines. It took Floyd some minutes to accept that they had arrived, and some time longer to believe that after a completely normal flight he had landed on the Moon.

^ Chapter 10 Clavius Base

Clavius, two hundred and forty kilometres across, is the second largest crater that can be seen from Earth. Here, Man was building his first permanent base on the Moon. In an emergency, it could produce everything it needed to support life. Solid chemicals and gases could be produced by processing local rocks. In a great hothouse, under lamps at night and sunlight by day, thousands of small plants grew to provide oxygen and food. The scientists could turn these, and other material grown in water, into very good copies of bread and meat and vegetables.

The hundreds of men and women who worked on the Base were all highly-trained scientists and technicians, carefully chosen before they had left Earth. Though living on the Moon was physically easier than in the early days, it was still psychologically difficult. It did have its attractions, though. One of them was the low gravity, which produced a general feeling of happiness. However, this had its dangers. It was simple enough to travel in a straight line. The problem came when you tried to turn a corner, because your body continued in the same direction. It took time, and a few small accidents, for newcomers to get used to this, and more experienced Base workers tried to stay away from them until they had.

The mountains that had seemed so large just before landing had mysteriously disappeared, hidden below the Moon's steeply curving horizon. Around the ship was a flat grey area, brightly lit by earthlight.

A number of service vehicles were now rolling up to the Aries-IB, moving on enormous tyres. But Floyd was watching a small bus that was bringing the people who wanted to meet him. There were a number of bangs as it connected to the ship, then the sound of air moving as pressure was equalized. The inside door of the airlock opened, and the welcoming party arrived.

It was led by Ralph Halvorsen, the Base Commander. With him was his Chief Scientist, Dr Roy Michaels, and a group of scientists and managers. They seemed happy to see him, ready to unload some of their worries.

' Very pleased to have you with us, Dr Floyd,' said Halvorsen. ' Did you have a good trip ?'

' Excellent,' Floyd answered. ' No problems, and the crew looked after me very well.'

The conversation continued as the bus moved away from the ship and into an entrance passage. A large door opened, then closed behind them. This happened again, and a third time. When the last door had closed, they were back in atmosphere again. The people Floyd saw were wearing normal clothes.

After a short walk they arrived in an office area. Floyd was happy to be surrounded by computers and telephones again after his time in space.

Halvorsen led Floyd towards a door labelled ^ BASE COMMANDER, but before he could show him inside his office, there was an interruption. The door opened, and a small figure ran out.

' Daddy! You've been outside! And you promised to take me!'

'Well, Diana,' said Halvorsen, 'I only said I'd take you if I could. But I've been very busy meeting Dr Floyd. Shake hands with him — he's just come from Earth.'

The little girl — Floyd decided that she was about eight — held out a hand. Her face was slightly familiar. Then, with a shock, he understood why.

' I don't believe it!' he said.' When I was here last, she was just a baby!'

'She had her fourth birthday last week,' Halvorsen answered proudly.' Children grow fast in low gravity. But they don't age so quickly — they'll live longer than we do.'

Floyd stared at the confident little lady, noting that she was thinner as well as taller than an Earth child.' It's nice to meet you again, Diana,' he said. Then sudden curiosity made him ask, ' Would you like to go to Earth ?'

Her eyes widened in surprise, then she shook her head,

' It's a nasty place — you hurt yourself when you fall down. And there are too many people.'

So here, Floyd told himself, is one of the first of the Spaceborn. There would be more of them in the future. The time was fast approaching when Earth, like all mothers, would say goodbye to her children.

Halvorsen managed to persuade his daughter to leave him in peace, and the two men went into the office. It was only five metres square, but it had the same furniture as a Base Commander's office on Earth.There were signed photographs of important politicians — including one of the President of the United States — on one wall, and pictures of famous astronauts on another.

Floyd sat back in a comfortable leather chair and accepted a glass of wine, made in the Base laboratory.

' How's it going, Ralph ?' he said. The wine was quite good.

' Not too bad,' Halvorsen said. ' However, there is one thing you should know before you meet the others. My people


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