Authors: Robert Onopa
Copyright © 1979, by Robert Onopa
All rights reserved
Published by arrangement with the author's agent
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Printed in the United States of America Berkley Edition, MARCH, 1979
Kindle Edition created from the Berkley original by John Michener of Mediaspring.com, February, 2011.
Pleasure is itself unlimited and belongs to that class of things which does not, and never will, contain within itself, or have derived from itself, either a beginning, a middle, or an end.
Still image: a woman frozen in space, fixed in inky blackness, the funnel of infinity pierced by diamond points of light, stars in the celestial sea. She floats as a swimmer, her palms flat and forward. Her hair streams behind—yet no breeze. Her expression intense and incomprehensible, lips slightly parted to show the glistening edges of teeth—a kiss or a cry—silent in the void.
EVENT HORIZON [=df the practical limits of a black hole, the sphere within which its gravity does not permit the escape of light; a point of no return.]
DAEDALUS SEQUENCE 33.2871//
12 August 06:42:19//
We hit the water and penetrate for what seems a minute and surge back up, as if pushed by an immense hand.
My stomach cringes and folds, snaps into a knot. I black out for the blink of an eye.
I think: four years ago.
Salt-rich air spills in as the hatch is blown. How I know we are upside down, not the entering divers: my spittle ascends; hints of my digestion swirl on the roof of my mouth.
The motion of the sea is weather of a heavy medium. In the reentry capsule's aquarium light, I am lowered like a child from the liftoff rig by four hands, guided through the hatch to a rubber boat.
Huge sea, small voices, wind in the face, the light enormous.
Helped into the launch. There is a large, sleek carrier on station kilometers off.
I try my voice: "Everyone all right?"
"Pretty much, sir, welcome back. We do have one anomaly in the first rig we are listing as a psychotic episode. One man is in very bad shape."
"Who? Is he hurt physically?"
"Negative, they're only listing psychotic episode; his name is Cooper. Which one are you?"
An image of Cooper runs through my mind, his large frame hunched in dim light. "My name is Voorst," I tell the J.G. "Rawley Voorst."
"You're the other one they want to talk to, sir. They're waiting for you on deck. Prepare to winch up."
We were almost four years out on the Daedalus; now four years have passed since then. Yet those days stay with me: a looping program whose features I also recall in daydreams, nightmares, sudden visions which paralyze me with their simultaneous confusion and clarity. During those days time itself seemed to coincide with computer-maddening formulas for conic distortions, whirlpools, spirals of decreasing radius and increasing range—a terrifyingly simple future compounded now by its existence in the past. SciCom's report identified in our point of entry an incipient parabola of return. That seems only information produced by the channel to contain it, the wormhole's shape the girth of the worm. There must be more to it: consider the formula for a single wormhole which leads simultaneously to the worm's both ends. Spooked then, spooked now.
light sensuous sauna
lubricious service personnel
foods of the world
garden tactile videon
"Let's put it this way," Taylor says loudly into the wind, pointing with the stem of his pipe at a hull section being towed in between hovering tugs. "Who punched the code for impact event after the blow? Just who made the decision?"
The carrier deck is landlike, a metal field on the sea with only the slightest roll. I am still wet from the transfer, my feet sog in my boots, my flight suit clings to my thighs. "Look," I say, "you'll have to ask Werhner, he does those things. I was busy with the ship. Or ask Cooper."
"The investigation was finished on range close to four years ago. You have those tapes." I squint into the sunlight in the direction of the hull section and the tugs, watch an intense gold-silver reflection that rolls to show a wide swath of charred metal along the hull section's side.
"We'll debrief on Guam at SciCom—Agana Base," Taylor says. "What you're going to need is patience, this is a slow process. Maybe think about the event, just what you were doing at the event, we'll start from there."
"That's all in the log," I tell him. "I put everything I know into the log. What I
is a vacation. I've got it coming."
"Your hand is bleeding."
"You must have cut your hand," Taylor says, pointing his pipestem to my side. "How did that happen?'
I look down and see a trickle of blood spreading onto my palm, the heel of my hand is nicked open, I lick it with my tongue. "Must have jammed it on a vane key when we splashed down," I tell him, tasting the salt of my blood, the salt of the sea. "That's happened before."
He is still looking at me. I notice the bushiness of his eyebrows, the thickness of his lips. "How do you feel about being back?" he asks flatly. "All that relative earth time, eight years your own—how do you feel?"
"Fine," I say. "Just fine." I am still thinking:
four years ago.
Flt Vane Eng Class 2//
Log Entry 1441-44//
Flt yr 3/Day 349+//
RETRIEVE IN FULL BEGIN BEGIN BEGIN
Proper Time: 16:23:08//
Awoke to another day of severe turbulence, the dome instruments in the console room reading macroweather storms in all spectra. The ship continues to pitch and yaw. Almost everyone is under with motion sickness, this is day eight of instability. Thrusters, vanes, microweather ports—all our control systems are again slow to respond to Maxine's programs, Cooper in and out of the dome. We have been compensating with manual systems for vane/lift/drop, using microweather entirely for propulsion, the work almost all mine to do, though Werhner is lending a hand when he's able. At the moment we curl in a far, snaky arm of the Crab nebula, along a front we have been chased by since the Pleiades. There are endless debates in SciCom, endlessly repetitious; the grav field of the huge ghostly star we first saw six months ago is only days—my own guess is perhaps thirty hours—ahead. Its diminishing light makes it the almost certain field of a black hole; still no conclusive approach from SciCom, nothing yet on tangent angle. I continue to work its macroweather front with retrievable microweather on the face of the larger system. If that front signals the well-formed cyclonic depression it appears to, today, I repeat, today, we should reach a lull. Theoretically, SciCom reports, well off any grav field or event horizon, well off our point of no return. In the last hour the Committee Pilot abdicated again at a painful briefing—sick men—in SciCom the endless debate goes on. I am the only one holding my rations—is it the work I do? Stiff watch ahead; at least manually the ship is responding well.
I fly by default another day. I wonder who really knows.
Shift one/neg grav intrudes//
CONT. 1442 CONT CONT CONT
Proper Time: 20:17:53//
We have crossed into the lull. Becoming apparent why Maxine's programs are working slow—Werhner detecting time slip between field of information and control—reading into proper time— how can that be? SciCom meeting again with Committee Pilot. I can't go.
Shift one/time distor//
CONT. 1443 CONT CONT CONT
Proper Time: SEE CODEX//
Dome more brilliant than I have ever seen before along starboard, spectrum yellow-white—yet that acts like the lull—port inky, muddy violet, but that is where the other front is, approaching by grav and mag sensors, otherwise blind. Werhner behaving as if he hadn't been dead sick for the past week, eating at the console. We have decided that he goes back to SciCom for choice range and decision. As if there were any other choices, I see only two. First: to tangent this front and use it to propel us back and free. Second: to lay on the thrusters and go through. SciCom circuits overloaded, Committee Pilot patching out for more room. I have never seen such a lull. At least our console terminal...
END R,//CODEX??//SEE CODEX SEE CODEX
ALARM ALARM ALARM ALARM ALARM
EVENT INTRUSION EVENT INTRUSION EVENT INTRUSION EVENT ALL AUXILIARY SYSTEMS A & B SEQ ALL AUXILIARY SYSTEMS DAMAGE CONTROL DAMAGE CONTROL DAMAGE CONTROL