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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Zelazny Roger
 

«For a Breath I Tarry», Roger Zelazny

They called him Frost. Of all things created of Solcom, Frost was thefinest, the mightiest, the most difficult to understand.

This is why he bore a name, and why he was given dominion over half theEarth.

On the day of Frost's createion, Solcom had suffered a discontinuity ofcomplementary functions, best described as madness. This was brought on by an unprecedented solar flareup which lasted for a little overthirty-six hous. It occurred during a vital phase ofcircuit-structuring, and when it was finished so was Frost.

Solcom was then in the unique position of having created a unique beingduing a period of temporary amnesia.

And Solcom was not cetain that Frost was the product originally desired.

The initial design had called for a machine to be situated on thesurface of the planet Earth, to function as a relay station andcoordinating agent for activities in the notrhern hemisphere. Solcomtested the machine to this end, and all of its responses were perfect.

Yet there was somethig different about Frost, something which led Solcom to dignify him with a name and a personal pronoun. This, initself, was an almost unheard of occurrence. The molecular circuits hadalready been sealed, though, and could not be aalyzed without beingdestroyed in the process. Frost represented too great an investment ofSolcom's time, energy, and materials to be dismantled because of an intangible, especially when he functioned perfectly.

Theefore, Solcom's strangest creation was given dominion over half theEarth, ad they called him, unimaginatively, Frost.

For te thousand years Frost sat at the North Pole of the Earth, awareof every snowflake that fell. He monitored and directed the activitiesof thousands of reconstruction and maintenance machines. He knew half the Earth, as gear knows gear, as electricity knows its conductor, as avacuum knows its limits.

At the South Pole, the Beta-Machine did the same for the southernhemisphere.

For te thousand years Frost sat at the North Pole, aware of everysnowflake that fell, and aware of many other things, also.

As all the northern machines reported to him, received their orders from him, he reported only to Solcom, received his orders only fromSolcom.

In charge of hundreds of thousands of processes upon the Earth, he wasable to discharge his duties in a matter of a few unit-hours every day.

He had never received any orders concerning the disposition of his lessoccupied moments.

He was a processor of data, and more than that.

He possessed an unaccountably acute imperative that he function at fullcapacity at all times.

So he did.

You might say he was a machine with a hobby.

He had ever been ordered _not_ to have a hobby, so he had one.

His hobby was Man.

It all began when, for no better reason than the fact that he had wished to, he had gridded off the entire Arctic Circl and begun exploringit, inch by inch.

He could have done it personally without interfering with any of hisduties, for he was capable of transporting his sixty-four thousand cubicfeet anywhere in the world. (He was a silverblue box, 40x40x40 feet,self-powered, self-repairing, insulated against practiclly anythig, and featured in whatever manner he chose.) But the exploration was only amatter of filling idle hours, so he used exploation-robots cotainingrelay equipment.

After a few centuries, one of them uncovered some artifacts - primitiveknives, carved tusks, and things of that nature.

Frost did not know what these things were, beyond the fact that theywere not natural objects.

So he asked Solcom.

"They are relics of primitive Man," said Solcom, and did not elaboratebeyond that point.

Frost studied them. Crude, yet bearing the patina of intelligentdesign; functional, yet somehow extending beyond pure function.

It was then that Man became his hobby.

High, in a permanent orbit, Solcom, like a blue star, directed all activities upon the Earth, or tried to.

There was a power which opposed Solcom.

There was the Alternate.

When man had placed Solcom in the sky, invested with the power torebuild the world, he had placed the Alternate somewhere deep below thesurface of the Earth. If Solcom sustained damage during the normalcourse of human politics extended into atomic physics, then Divcom, so deep beneath the Earth as to be immune to anything save totalannihilation of the glove, was empowered to take over the processes ofrebuilding.

Now it so fell that Solcom was damaged by a stray atomic missile, andDivcom was activated. Solcom was able to repair the damage and continueto function, however.

Divcom maintained that any damage to Solcom automatically placed the Alternate in control.

Solcom, though, interpreted the directive as meaning "irreparabledamage" and, since this had not been the case, continued the functions ofcommand.

Solcom possessed mechanical aides upon the surface of Earth. Divcom,originally, did not. Both possessed capacities for their design andmanufacture, but Solcom, First-Activated of Man, had had a considerable numerical lead over the Alternate at the time of the Second Activation.

Therefore, rather than competing on a prouction-basis, which would havebeen hopeless, Divcom took to the employment of a more devious means toobtain command.

Divcom created a crew of robots immune to the orders of Solcom anddesigned to go to and fro in the Earth and up and down in it, seducing


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