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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Asimov Isaac

«Found!», Isaac Asimov

Computer-Two, like the other three that chased each other's tails in orbit round the Earth, was much larger than it had to be. 

It might have been one-tenth its diameter and still contained all the volume it needed to store the accumulated and accumulating data to control all space flight. 

They needed the extra space, however, so that Joe and I could get inside, if we had to. And we had to. 

Computer-Two was perfectly capable of taking care of itself. Ordinarily, that is. It was redundant. It worked everything out three times in parallel and all three programs had to mesh perfectly; all three answers had to match. -If they did not, the answer was delayed for nano-seconds while Computer-Two checked itself, found the mal-functioning part and replaced it.

There was no sure way in which ordinary people would know how many times it caught itself. Perhaps never. Perhaps twice a day. Only Computer-Central could measure the time-delay induced by error and only Computer Central knew how many of the component spares had been used as replacements. And ComputerCentral never talked about it. The only good public image is perfection.

And it's been perfection. Until now, there was never any call for Joe and me.

We're the troubleshooters. We go up there when something really goes wrong; when Computer-Two or one of the others can't correct itself. It's never happened in the five years we've been on the job. It did happen now and again in the early days, but that was before our time.

We keep in practice. Don't get me wrong. There isn't a computer made that Joe and I can't diagnose. Show us the error and we'll show you the malfunction. Or Joe will, anyway. I'm not the kind who sings one's own praises. The record speaks for itself.

Anyway, this time, neither of us could make the diagnosis.

The first thing that happened was that Computer-Two lost internal pressure. That's not unprecedented and it's certainly not fatal. Computer-Two can work in a vacuum after all. An internal atmosphere was established in the old days when it was expected there would be a steady flow of repairmen fiddling with it. And its been kept up out of tradition. Who told you scientists aren't chained by tradition? In their spare time from being scientists, they're human, too.

From the rate of pressure loss, it was deduced that a gravel-sized meteoroid had hit ComputerTwo. Its exact radius, mass, and energy were reported by Computer-Two itself, using the rate of pressure loss, and a few other irregularities, as data.

The second thing that happened was the break was not sealed and the atmosphere was not regenerated. After that came errors and they called us in.

It made no sense. Joe let a look of pain cross his homely face and said, "There must be a dozen things out of whack."

Someone at Computer-Central said, "The hunk of gravel ricocheted very likely."

Joe said, "With that energy of entry, it would have passed right through the other side. No ricochets. Besides even with ricochets, I figure it would have had to take some very unlikely strikes."

"Well, then, what do we do?"

Joe looked uncomfortable. I think it was at this point he realized what was coming. He had made it sound peculiar enough to require the trouble-shooters on the spot-and Joe had never been up in space. If he had told me once that his chief reason for taking the job was because it meant he would never have to go up in space, he had told it to me 2` times, with x a pretty high number.

So I said it for him. I said, "We'll have to go up there."

Joe's only way out would have been to say he didn't think he could handle the job, and I watched his pride slowly come out ahead of his cowardice. Not by much, you understand-by a nose, let's say.

To those of you who haven't been on a spaceship in the last 15 years-and I suppose Joe can't be the only one-let me emphasize that initial acceleration is the only troublesome thing. You can't get away from it, of course.

After that it's nothing, unless you want to count possible boredom. You're just a spectator. The whole thing is automated and computerized. The old romantic days of space pilots are gone totally. I imagine they'll return briefly when our space settlements make the shift to the asteroid belt as they constantly threaten to do-but then only until additional computers are placed in orbit to set up the necessary additional capacity.

Joe held his breath through acceleration, or at least he seemed to. (I must admit I wasn't very comfortable myself. It was only my third trip. I've taken a couple of vacations on Settlement-Rho with my husband, but I'm not exactly a seasoned hand.) After that, he was relieved for a while, but only for a while. He got despondent.

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