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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Van Vogt A. E.
 

«Rogue Ship», A. Van Vogt

DEDICATION

For Ford McCormack, friend, logician, technical expert, man of many parts, who seems to be as much at home in the exotic universe of translight speeds as on the stage of important little theaters – to whom I am indebted for some of the concepts and for nearly all of what is scientifically exact in this fantastic story.

1

Out of the corner of one eye, young Lesbee saw Ganarette climbing the steps that led to the spaceship's bridge. He felt vaguely annoyed. Ganarette, at nineteen, was a big, husky youth with a square jaw and belligerent manner. Like Lesbee himself, he had been born on the ship. As a non-officer, he was not allowed on the bridge and it was that, entirely aside from his own personal dislike of Ganarette, that annoyed Lesbee about the intrusion.

Besides, he was scheduled to go off duty in five minutes.

Ganarette mounted the final step, and climbed gingerly down to the cushiony floor. He must have been intent on his descent, for when he looked up and saw the black, starry heavens, he gasped and then stood teetering a dozen feet from Lesbee, staring into the darkness. His reaction startled Lesbee. It hadn't struck him before, but there were actually people on this ship whose only view of space had been by way of the visiscreen.

The sheer, stark reality of the plastiglass bridge, with its effect of standing there in the dark, empty space itself, must be mind-staggering. Lesbee had a vague feeling of superiority. He had been allowed on the bridge since early childhood.

To him, what was out there seemed as natural and ordinary as the ship itself.

He saw that Ganarette was recovering from his initial shock. 'So,' Ganarette said, 'this is what it's really like. Which is Centaurus?'

Stiffly, Lesbee pointed out the very bright star which was visible beyond the sight lines of the astrogation devices. Since nonmilitary personnel were never permitted on the bridge, he wondered if he were obligated to report the youth's intrusion.

He felt reluctant to do so, first of all because it might antagonize the other young people aboard. As the captain's son, be was already being treated as a person set apart. If he definitely aligned himself with the ship authority, he might find himself even more cut off.

He had a sudden mental picture of himself repeating his father's lonely existence.

He shook his head ever so slightly, silently rejecting that way of life.

In a few minutes his period of duty for the day would be over. At that point he would lead Ganarette gently but firmly down the steps and give him as friendly a warning as possible. He saw that the youth was looking at him with a faint, cynical smile.

'Doesn't look very close. Boy, they sure pulled a trick on the colonists, pretending the ship was going to make the trip at the speed of light or faster and get there in four years.' Ganarette's tone was sarcastic.

'Nine more years,' Lesbee said, 'and we'll be there.'

'Yeah!' Cynically. "That I have to see.' He broke off. 'And which is Earth?'

Lesbee led him to the other side of the bridge to a sighting device that was always aimed at Earth's sun.

The pale star held Ganarette's interest for nearly a minute. His face changed; gloom was written there. He slumped a little, then whispered, 'It's so far away, so very far away. If we started back now, you and I would be forty years old when we got there.'

He whirled and firmly grasped Lesbee's shoulders. Think of it!' he said. 'Forty years old. Half of our lifetime gone, but still a chance to have a little fun – if we turned back this instant.'

Lesbee freed himself from the clamping fingers. He was disturbed. It was more than a year since he had heard that kind of talk from any of the younger folk. Ever since his father initiated the lectures on the importance of this, the second voyage to Alpha Centauri, the wilder spirits among the young people had quieted down.

Ganarette seemed to realize that his action had been foolish.

He stepped back with a sheepish grin. Once more he became satiric. He said, 'But of course it would be silly to turn back now when we're only nine years from Centaurus, a mere eighteen years farther from Earth, there and return.'


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