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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Pratchett Terry
 

«Tama Princes of Mercury», Terry Pratchett

A NIGHT OF HORROR

THE NEWSCASTER'S VOICE came blaring from the sound-grid: "And we have upon good authority the information that the Bolton Flying Cube is almost ready for another trial flight. Dr. Norton Grenfell, when interviewed yesterday, was evasive regarding his plans. But from other sources we learn that at the next Inferior Conjunction of Mercury and Earthwhich occurs in about two weeks now, at which time the two planets will again be at their closest points to each otherwe are informed that this new concept in interplanetary travelthe Flying Cube, will endeavor to reach Mercury"

"Well!" exclaimed Rowena. "They think they know a lot, don't they?"

"Hear him out," I said.

The voice went on: "There is undoubtedly no further menace from Mercury. The marauders from last fall will not come again. Jack Dean and his wife, Rowena Palisse, will of course be upon the Flying Cube when it makes its adventurous flight. Dean and his wife and Guy Palisse and the strange girl named Tama, and her brother Toh, who came last fall from Mercury, are still in seclusion. We have as yet been unable-"

"To locate us," Guy said with a grin. "This fellow has a lordly manner, hasn't he?" I am the Jack Dean whom the newscaster mentioned. This was in March; in August of the previous year the world was startled by an attack of Mercurian invaders upon a girls' summer camp in Maine. Some of the girls were abducted vanished in the night. I met Rowena Palisse then.

She's a very tall girl, with the regal aspect of a Nordic queen. I myself am several inches over six feet. I think our abnormal statures first attracted us to each other.

Rowena's brother, Guy, had tried to get to the Moon ten years ago, an abortive attempt in a moon rocket. He left the Earth, and was not heard from again. It was to Mercury the rocket carried him. He lived there all those ten yearsand last August he came back, a captive with the Mercurian invaders.

How the ship of these invaders was destroyed in outer space some three hundred thousand miles from the Earth; how the giant Mercurian Croat was killed; and Guy, the Mercurian girl Tama, and her brother Toh were rescued by the Bolton Flying Cubeall this was public news.

And now Rowena and I were married and, with Guy and Tama and Toh, were trying to live in seclusion from the prying newscasters. The affair was over. Croat was dead.

The only spaceship existing on Mercury had been destroyed.

There was no further menace.

Ah, if we had but known! The newscaster's voice interrupted my thoughts: "We feel sure that within a short time now the whereabouts of Jack Dean and the others will be disclosed. The Broadcasters' Press Association has every hope of being able shortly to supply its millions of subscribers with television scenes of the strange Mercurian girl Tama"

"Not a chance," Guy gibed. "Get that right out of your mind, young fellow." Rowena, Guy and I were sitting before our audiophone grid in a secluded new cabin set in a lonely spot in one of the northern states not far from the Canadian border. Forests surrounded us. A little lake was nearby. It was a clear, frosty evening of mid-March. The lake was frozen now. Snow lay thick on the ground and edged the naked tree branches with white. The underbrush, ice-coated, gleamed with a white brilliance in the sunlight. The snow was piled high against our windows; but inside, with a roaring log fire, we were snug enough.

Toh came into the living room. He was a slim, straight and boyish fellow, this Mercurian youth of twenty-one. In height he was no more than a little over five feet. He was dressed in high laced leather boots, corduroy trousers, and a flannel shirt open at his slender throat. It seemed a costume utterly incongruous to him. His thick black hair was long to the base of his neck. A band like a ribbon of red was about his forehead to hold the hair from his eyes; and with his highbridged nose, it gave him something of the aspect of a North American Indian youth. Toh was gentle-featured, almost girlish; yet there was about him an unmistakable dignity and strength.

He joined us quietly, unobtrusively, at the radio grid.

Guy said, "Toh, listen to thishe's talking about us."

"The air always talks, these days, of the Bolton Cube," Toh said, in a soft, gentle voice with an indefinable accent.

He spoke perfect English. Guy, on Mercury, had had years to teach him and Tama.

"Right," said Guy. "And they're all excited because the news reporters can't find us." For a time we listened to the droning voice. Guy replenished our log fire.

"They don't mention Jimmy," he commented.

Jimmy Turk was my best friend. He had been with us on that memorable test flight of the Flying Cube, when we had gone, last fall, out of the Earth's atmosphere and met the Mercurian spaceship. He was an operative flyer in the newly established Interstate Patrol.


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