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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Zelazny Roger

«The Three Descents Of Jeremy Baker I», Roger Zelazny


Jeremy Baker was the only survivor when the Raven's Warton-Purg drive deliveredthe vessel to the vicinity of a black hole. Its tidal forces immediately didtheir stuff. The hull groaned and cracked as indicators screamed the ship'ssituation and listed its problems. Jeremy, who had been somewhat bored, had been in the possibly enviable position of testing his powerful extravehicularsurvival suit at the time of the disaster. He had on everything but the helmet,which he promptly donned. Then he hurried to the control station with theintention of activating the Warton-Purg drive again in hopes of fleeing throughextracurricular space -- though under the circumstances it was more likely to cause the Raven to explode. But then the Raven was exploding anyway and it wasworth a shot.

He never made it.

The vessel came apart about him. He thought he glimpsed the jumpsuited figure ofone of his crewmates spinning amid the debris, but he could not be certain.

Suddenly, he was alone. Pieces of the Raven drifted away from him. He took a sip of the suit's water, wondering when he would feel a great heaviness in his feetas they were drawn down the gravity well faster than the rest of him -- orperhaps it would be his head. He was uncertain as to his orientation. Still halfin shock, he scanned the sky, peering into a star-occluding blackness. There. Itwould be his right arm where the stretching would begin. At least it would be an interesting way to die, he reflected. Not too many people had gotten to try it,though there had been a lot of colorful speculation.

He seemed to drift for a long while, musing on final splendors, withoutdetecting any unusual sensations other than occasionally glimpsing what seemed asmall, local patch of flickering light. He could not be certain as to its source. After a time, he felt an uncontrollable drowsiness and he slept.

"That's better," a voice seemed to be saying to him a bit later. "Seems to beworking fine."

"Who -- What are you?" Jeremy asked.

"I'm a Fleep," came the answer. "I'm that flickering patch of light you werewondering about a while back."

"You live around here?"

"I have for a long while, Jeremy. It's easy if you're an energy being with a lotof psi powers."

"That's how we're conversing?"

"Yes. I installed a telepathic function in your mind while I had youunconscious."

"Why aren't I being stretched into miles of spaghetti right now?"

"I created an antigravity field between you and the black hole. They cancel."

"Why'd you help me?"

"It's good to have someone new to talk to. Sometimes I get bored with my fellowFleep."

"Oh, there's a whole colony of you?"

"Sure. This is a great place to study physics, and we're all into suchpursuits."

"It doesn't seem an environment where life would develop."

"True. We were once a race of material beings but we were sufficiently evolved that when we saw our sun was going to go supernova we elected to transformourselves into this state and study it rather than flee. In fact, that blackhole used to be our sun. Makes a great lab. Come on, I'll show you. You can seemore than you used to because I fiddled with your senses, too. I increased theirrange. For one thing, you should be able to detect a halo of Hawking radiation above the event horizon."

"Yes. Lavender, violet, purple... . It's rather lovely. If I kept going andpassed through the event horizon would my image really be captured thereforever? Could I come back and see myself frozen at that moment?"

"Yes, and no. Yes, you would clutter up the view with your arrested light. No, you couldn't come back and see yourself doing it. There's no way out once you goin."

"I phrased it poorly. Say, if there are other Fleep, there must be somethingspecial to call you to distinguish you."

"Call me Nik," the other said.

"Okay, Nik. What are those pinpoints of fire ahead? And the huge dark massesabout them?"

"Those are my people, performing an experiment. I've been moving us at a veryhigh velocity."

"I've noticed that the hole covers a lot more of the sky now. What sort ofexperiment?"

"Those great dark masses are the remnants of tens of thousands of suns andplanets we've transported here. You only see the ones in space proper. We pull them out as we need them. We're shooting them into the hole."


"To increase its rate of rotation."

"Uh -- To what end?"

"The creation of closed timelike curves."

"You've got me on that one."

"Time loops, To permit us to run backward through the past."

"Any successes so far?"

"Yes. A few."

"Have you got anything that might permit me to get back to the Raven before theexplosion?"

"That's pushing it. But it's one of the things I wanted to check."

They matched velocities with the flickering congregation, and Nik took him intothe vicinity of the largest of these beings. The conversation that followedresembled heat lightning.

"Vik says there's one that might do it," Nik told him after a time.

"Let me use it. Please."

"You should also have strength of mind sufficient to alter your velocity bythought alone," Nik said. "Come this way."

Jeremy followed him by willing it until, abruptly, he faced a mass of lineswhich resembled a computer design suddenly generated in free space.

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