Not even a safety line icon

Not even a safety line

НазваниеNot even a safety line
Дата конвертации13.11.2012
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' Send vehicle out.' Very slowly, the metal bar from which Betty was hanging pushed itself out through the open door, until the vehicle was just outside the ship.

Poole pulled back slightly on the main jet control, and Betty slid off the metal bar. He now had no connection with Discovery — not even a safety line.

He let the vehicle move out for thirty metres, then slowed her down and turned back towards the ship, approaching the antenna from behind in case he interrupted the radio signal and caused a short loss of contact with Earth.

He saw the small metal plate that covered the AE 35 unit. It was held in place by four connectors, and should not be difficult to remove. However, he could not do the job from inside the vehicle. He spoke to Bowman on the radio, and they discussed what needed to be done. Outside the ship there were no small mistakes.

He parked Betty on top of the ship about six metres away from the antenna. Then he checked the systems of his pressure suit and, when he was quite satisfied, let the air out of the vehicle. There was one more thing to do before he got out. He pushed down a switch so that Betty was now controlled by Hal. Though he was still connected to the vehicle by a very strong safety line, even the best lines could fail. He would look a fool if he needed his vehicle and was unable to call it to his assistance by passing instructions to Hal.

The door of the vehicle swung open, and he moved slowly out into the silence of space. Never move quickly — stop and think — these were the rules for working outside the ship.

With a gentle push, he sent himself towards the big round dish. His double shadow, produced by Betty's two front lights, danced across the skin of the ship. He stopped himself from banging into the antenna by pushing out an arm. Quickly he hooked his safety line on. He studied the four connectors for a moment, then took a tool from the belt of his suit and started to undo them. He had to push against his safety line to stay in place, but they came off without any trouble. The metal cover was a little hard to move, but after a few knocks it came loose. He fixed it to one of the antenna supports.

Now he could see the AE 35 unit. It was about the same size and shape as a postcard, and it had a small handle so it could easily be removed. But it was still controlling the direction of the antenna. If he removed it now, the dish would swing round to its central position, to point along the length of the ship. It might even crash into him as it turned. Also, this would cut off contact with Earth.

' Hal,' Poole called out over the radio.' I am going to remove the unit. Switch off all control power to the antenna system.'

'Antenna control power off,' Hal said.

'Right. I'm pulling the unit out now.'

The card slipped out without any difficulty. Within a minute, its spare was in place.

But Poole was taking no chances. He pushed himself gently away from the antenna, just in case the big dish went wild when the power was switched back on.Then he called Hal again.

' The new unit should be working. Switch control power on.'

' Power on,' Hal said. The antenna didn't move.

‘Unit is working,' Hal said, ten seconds later. In that time he had carried out as many tests as a small army of human inspectors.

' Fine,' said Poole.' I'm now replacing the cover.'

This was often the most dangerous part of a job outside. Mistakes were often made when people had to tidy up before their return to the ship. But Frank Poole was a careful man - that was one reason why he had been chosen for the mission. He took his time, and though one of the connectors almost got away from him, he caught it before it had traveled more than a couple of meters.

Fifteen minutes later, he was moving the vehicle back through the open doors of the ship, quietly confident that the job would not need to be done again.

He was, however, sadly mistaken.

^ Chapter 23 Sickness

' Do you mean,' Frank Poole said, more surprised than annoyed, 'that I did all that work for nothing?'

'It seems like it,' answered Bowman. 'The unit's working perfectly. It passed every test.'

The two men were standing in the tiny workshop-laboratory in the central living area. The thin, card-sized plate of the AE 35 unit lay on the table, connected to a number of wires which led to a small screen.

' Try it yourself,' said Bowman.

Poole pushed the ^ TEST button. At once, the screen flashed the message, UNIT OK.

' What do you think ?' Poole said.

' Maybe Hal's own testing system made a mistake. It's possible.'

' It's more likely that there's a fault with this thing,' Poole said, pointing to the screen. 'Anyway, better safe than sorry. I'm glad we replaced the unit.'

Bowman took out the AE 35 and held it up to the light. The thin material was covered with wiring, so it looked like a piece of modern art.

'We can't take any chances — this is our connection with Earth. I'll write a report then drop this in a box. Somebody else can worry about it when we get home.' But the worrying began a long time before that, with the next message from Earth.

'This is Mission Control. We appear to have a slight problem.

' Your report that there is nothing wrong with the AE 35 unit agrees with our opinion. It seems more likely that your computer made a mistake. This is not a reason to worry, but we would like you to watch out for any other changes from normal performance. We have suspected several other irregularities in the past few days, but none have seemed important enough to need correction.

'We are running more tests with both our 9000s, and will report as soon as results are available. If necessary, we may disconnect your 9000 temporarily for testing and pass over control to one of our computers. The time difference will introduce problems, but our studies show that Earth control is perfectly satisfactory at this stage of the mission.

' This is Mission Control. Message ends.'

Frank Poole, who was in command when the message came in, thought about this in silence. Then he went to see Bowman, who was pouring himself some coffee in the kitchen. Poole said good morning — they both still used Earth time — and helped himself to a cup.

' What's the problem ?' said Bowman. Any change from the normal routine meant that something was not quite right.

'Well .. .' Poole answered slowly. 'We've just had a message from Mission Control.' He lowered his voice. 'We may have a slight case of space sickness on board.'

Perhaps Bowman was not fully awake because it took him several seconds to understand. Then he said. 'Oh, I see. What else did they tell you ?'

'That there was no reason to worry. And that they were considering a temporary switch-over to Earth Control, while they checked things out.' They both knew, of course, that Hal was hearing every word, but they could not help speaking indirectly. Hal was their colleague, and they did not want to embarrass him. But it did not yet seem necessary to discuss the matter in private.

Bowman finished his breakfast in silence, while Poole played with the empty coffee-container. They were both thinking hard, but there was nothing more to say.

Whatever happened, the atmosphere on the ship had changed a little. There was tension in the air and, for the first time, a feeling that something might be going wrong.

Discovery was no longer a happy ship.

Chapter 24 Breakdown

Poole was asleep, and Bowman was reading in the Control Room, when Hal announced,’ Dave, I have a report for you.'

'What is it?'

' We have another bad AE 35 unit. My tests suggest failure within twenty-four hours.'

Bowman put down his book and stared at the computer screen. He knew, of course, that Hal was not really there, whatever that meant. But it seemed polite to look at the screen when speaking to him.

' I can't understand it, Hal. Two units can't go wrong within a couple of days.'

' It does seem strange, Dave. But I am certain that the unit will fail.'

' Let me see how things look now.'

He knew that this would prove nothing, but he wanted time to think. The familiar view of Earth appeared on the screen. It was perfectly centred on the cross-wires, as Bowman knew it must be. If there had been any break in communication, the alarm would already have sounded.

'Have you any idea,' he said,’ what’s causing the fault?'

It was unusual for Hal to pause so long. Then he answered: 'Not really, Dave. As I reported earlier, I can't say exactly where the trouble is.'

'You're quite certain,' said Bowman, cautiously, 'that you haven't made a mistake? You know we tested the other AE 35 unit thoroughly, and there was nothing wrong with it.'

'Yes, I know that, but I'm sure there is a fault. If it's not in the unit, it may be in one of the other systems.'

That was possible, though it might be very difficult to prove -until a breakdown happened and showed them where the trouble was.

' Well, I'll report it to Mission Control and we'll see what they advise.' He paused, but there was no reaction.' Hal,' he continued, ' is something worrying you — something that possibly caused this problem ?'

Again there was that unusual delay. Then Hal answered,’ I’m not sure how to say this nicely, Dave, but ... I'm not a human being; I'm a computer. I don't make mistakes.'

When the face of Dr Simonson, the Chief Programmer, appeared on the screen, Poole and Bowman knew this could only mean trouble.

' This is Mission Control. We have looked into your AE 35 difficulty, and both of our Hal 9000s are in agreement. The report you gave of a second failure only makes us more certain.

'The fault does not lie in the AE 35, and there is no need to replace it again. The fault is in the connecting wires, and this suggests a problem with programming. We can only repair this if you disconnect your 9000 and switch to Earth Control. You will therefore take the following steps, beginning at 22.00 Ship Time ...'

The voice died away. At the same time, the alarm system sounded, and then Hal's voice said,' Condition Yellow! Condition Yellow!'

' What's wrong?' Bowman said, though he had already guessed the answer.

' The AE 35 unit has failed, as I said it would.'

^ Chapter 25 First Man to Saturn

As he had done on his previous trip outside, Frank Poole parked Betty about six metres away from the antenna and switched control over to Hal before opening up.

' Going outside now,' he reported to Bowman.

There was silence for some time, as Poole moved slowly towards the antenna. Then he called out,' Hal, there's too much shadow here — swing the vehicle lights twenty degrees to the left - thanks - that's OK.'

Somewhere in Bowman's mind, a warning bell started to ring. There was something strange, and it took him a few seconds to realize what it was.

Hal had obeyed the order, but had not said a word. That was unusual. When Poole had finished, they should discuss this ...

Outside, Poole removed the cover, then pulled the little unit out of its place and held it up to the sunlight.

' Here it is,' he said.' It still looks perfectly OK to me.'

Then he stopped. A sudden movement had caught his eye — out here, where no movement was possible.

He looked up in alarm. The pattern of light from the vehicle's (wo main lights had started to move around him. His first thought was that Betty had moved away from the ship. But no -she was coming straight towards him, under full power.

The sight was so unbelievable that he said nothing; he did not even try to move away.Then he recovered enough to shout,' Hal! Full braking ...'

Inside Discovery, that shout over the radio made Bowman jump violently.

' What's wrong, Frank ?' he called.

Then, outside the wide observation windows, something moved. He saw Betty, travelling almost at full speed, heading out towards the stars.

' Hal!' he cried.' What's wrong ? Full braking power on Betty! Full braking power!'

Nothing happened, and then, pulled behind her on the end of the safety line, appeared a spacesuit. One look was enough to tell Bowman the worst. It was the soft shape of a suit that had lost its pressure and was open to vacuum.

Within five minutes the vehicle and its satellite had disappeared among the stars. For a long time, David Bowman stared after it into the emptiness that stretched so many millions of kilometres ahead. Only one thought kept hammering in his brain.

Frank Poole would be the first of all men to reach Saturn.

^ Chapter 26 Conversation with Hal

Bowman was sitting in the little kitchen, a half-finished cup of coffee in his hand. He did not remember making his way there from the Control Room.

Directly opposite him was one of the glass fish-eyes that Hal used to see around the ship. Bowman rose slowly to his feet and walked towards it.

' It's a pity about Frank,' Hal said

' Yes,' Bowman answered, after a long pause.' It is.'

' He was an excellent crew member.'

Finding the coffee still in his hand, Bowman took a slow mouthful. Had it been an accident, caused by some failure of the vehicle controls? Or was it a mistake by Hal ?

The only other possibility was that Hal had killed Frank. Bowman found the idea strange, but he had to consider it. If it was true, he was in terrible danger.

His next act was written into the mission orders, but he was not sure how safe it was. If either crew member was killed, the other man had to replace him at once from the hibernators. Whitehead was first on the list, then Kaminski, then Hunter.The waking up process was under Hal's control, so he could act if both his human colleagues were dead.

But Bowman could also take control if he wanted to. He also felt that one human companion was not enough. He decided to wake up all three of the hibernators. In the difficult weeks and months ahead, he might need all the help he could get.

' Hal,' he said.' Give me hibernation control — on all the units.'

‘All of them, Dave?'


‘May I remind you that only one replacement is needed.'

' I know that, but I prefer to do it this way.'

' Are you sure it's necessary to wake up any of them, Dave ? We can manage very well by ourselves.'

This was new, and it made Bowman even more nervous. Hal knew that Whitehead had to be woken. He was suggesting a great change in mission planning.

' Since an emergency has developed,' Bowman said,' I want as much help as possible. So please let me have control of the hibernators.'

' If you still really want to wake up the whole crew, I can handle it myself. There's no need for you to worry.'

Bowman felt he was caught in a bad dream. It was like being questioned by the police about a crime of which he knew nothing — knowing that one careless word would lead to disaster. He became angry.

' Hal, unless you obey my instructions, I shall be forced to disconnect you. Now give me control!'

Hal's surrender was as total as it was unexpected.

'OK, Dave,' he said. 'You're certainly the boss. I was only trying to do what I thought best.'

As Bowman slid open the door of Whitehead's hibernator, he felt the cold air strike him in the face. The screen, a copy of the one in the Control Room, showed that everything was perfectly normal. He pressed the button on the Wakener. There was no sound, no sign that anything had started to happen, but the curves on the screen began to change their shape. In about ten minutes, Whitehead would wake up.

And then two things happened at the same time. Both were very small changes, hardly noticeable, but after three months on Discovery Bowman knew his ship well.

First, the lights became slightly unsteady for a moment, which always happened when any piece of equipment started up. But he could think of no equipment which would suddenly start working at this point.

Then he heard the far-off sound of an electric motor. To Bowman, every motor on the ship had its own individual sound, and he recognized this one immediately.

The airlock doors, which last opened for Frank's flight to his death, were opening again.

^ Chapter 27 Hal's Secret

Since he had first become conscious, in that laboratory on Earth, all Hal's powers and skills had been pointed in one direction. The only reason for his existence was to complete the mission.

But since the ship had left Earth, he had been troubled by a secret he could not share with Poole and Bowman. And the time was fast approaching when his colleagues would learn that he had deceived them.

The three hibernators already knew the truth, but they could not talk in their sleep. But Poole and Bowman had not been told. It was a secret that was very hard to hide, because it affected a person's attitudes and their voice. So the two active members of the crew, who were in regular contact with Earth, would only learn the mission's full purpose when they needed to know.

The reason for this meant nothing to Hal. He knew a secret, and he wanted to tell it to Poole and Bowman. He couldn't


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