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.John and Brendan were in the common room of the CM, looking through a deopaqued wall at thefog-shrouded, half-molten world below them.The sun had taken over when the photon beam's nimbusno longer remained to heat the little moon.They were alone in the ship.During the long flight, contactshad been made and negotiations had proceeded.Expensive lawyers and diplomats were hired, judgesbribed, and governments bought.A threat had been made by certain members of the Comnet DesignBoard; Maggie Lewis and Cass Mitchell had broadcast a joint statement, harsh and unforgiving in itstone.Do it, or else.Finally they had made rendezvous with a cruiser of the Contract Police, a ship that bore the guaranteesfor a Writ of Pardonment.The others had gone aboard, a unified group, never looking back.Cornwellunderstood that they lived in a giant palace somewhere, wealthy beyond imagination; he didn't knowwhere and found that he didn't care."Well," he said, "there's our money.What shall we do with it all?" Sealock leaned forward toward him and grinned."I know, and I think you do too."Cornwell nodded."Maybe you and I can do business after all."Brendan stirred suddenly and said, "There's a lot of money bubbling away down there.Money enoughto build something really great.""And so?""I never did tell anybody what was in that big data squeal, Demogorgon's last gift.""I noticed that.I figured you had your reasons, as always."Brendan nodded."Well, it was the Starseeder technology."John's eyebrows rose a trifle, a study in controlledinexpressiveness."So.All of it?""Propulsion.Long-term life support.Genetic engineering.Suspended-animation techniques.The wholeworks.""How much do you suppose it'd cost to build a good-sized starship?" They were sublime now, talkingthrough the shadows of a too long past.Brendan nodded toward Ocypete."Not more than that."John grinned appreciatively, wondering where all the old, horrid emotions had gone.He felt bland butwonderful.It had all been worth while, then."Maybe it could be a lot less.This starship doesn't have tobe too big.""True.""Who should we take along?""Does it matter?""No, I guess not." John was thinking, It certainly doesn't.We all loved each other and, in the end, itwas as useless as anything could ever be.Brendan's face turned serious again."Why take anyone? Why not just us?"John smiled and shook his head."That doesn't sound like a very good idea.""No, I guess not," Brendan said."We'll think of something.""Right." John started to turn away, then stopped.Well, he thought, if I put this off again, it's not goingto get done.I have to." Bren?"The other man looked up from a developing reverie.Cornwell hesitated again, then said, "I know you've always mistrusted my, well, what I like to think of as my sincerity, but.Hell.Will you engage in Downlink Rapport with me?"Sealock looked vaguely uncertain for a moment, not quite taken aback."After all we've been through?You don't let go of things easily, do you?" He smiled then."All right."Feeling a small jolt of surprise, Cornwell thought, All right? But.Shit.Am I ready for this? I'dbetter be.He thought about Beth and said, "At least you seem to know who you are."Brendan turned away to look out at the bright clouds of Ocypete again."We never quite learn, do we?You know, I feel that I've changed some maybe I haven't.I could say a great deal about the changesthat I think should have taken place in you, but I won't.Maybe that's the only evidence I have that thosechanges have taken place at all."John nodded slowly."Perhaps.And you can give me the only evidence that I know is true enough toaccept." They were silent for a moment, then he added: "In any case  the world goes on."Brendan turned and fixed him with an emotionless stare."If you never lie again, you'll never speaktruer words than those."Five years later Temujin Krzakwa lay on his back on a padded seat in a shuttlecraft, awaiting lift-offfrom Baikonur Cosmodrome.A sickly sweat bathed his face and desperation twisted with cold fingersinside him.He watched the countdown clock on the bulkhead move inexorably toward zero, and hethought about what had happened.It was an unpleasant thing to run away like this, but it seemed the only way.They had him imprisonedSometimes he thought back to his youth on the Moon and remembered how he'd longed to get awayfrom that congenital entrapment, escape to the lovely freedom that was Earth.Freedom! It hada bittertaste to him now, and he could remember the excitement with which he'd fled Lewislab eight years ago,on his way to a rendezvous with the Triton colonists.Why has it come to this again? he wondered.No answer? Then why had he slowly oozed out of thesolidarity that the others had found in the great chateau by the Dzungarian Gates? They lived lives ofcontentment and only wanted him to be happy.His lips twisted with an almost uncontrollable rage.He damped the feelings down and exhaled heavily.Contentment? Jesus, what's keeping this thing on the ground? He looked up at the clock again and felt asudden, scalding nausea.The progression of numbers had been replaced by a flashing red bar.Emergency hold [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

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