فصل 12

مجموعه: کتاب های متوسط / کتاب: 2001 - اودیسه فضایی / فصل 12

کتاب های متوسط

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فصل 12

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  • زمان مطالعه 7 دقیقه
  • سطح ساده

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CHAPTER TWELVE

Journey by Earthlight

The travelling laboratory was now moving across a flat area at 80 kilometers an hour. It was a large vehicle, carried on eight wheels. But it was much more than this; it was also a base in which twenty men could live and work for several weeks.

As he looked ahead out of the window, Floyd could see a marked way stretching ahead of them, where dozens of vehicles had flattened down the soft surface of the Moon. At regular distances apart there were tall thin poles, each carrying a flashing light. No one could possibly get lost on the three-hundred kilometer journey from Clavius Base to TMA-1, although it was still night and the Sun would not rise for several hours.

The stars overhead were only a little brighter than on a clear night on Earth, but there was one thing that destroyed the idea of being there. This was Earth itself, bright and round, hanging above the northern horizon. It shone down with a light much stronger than the light of the full Moon, making this a land of blue and green.

As he sat with Halvorsen and Michaels in the front observation lounge, immediately beneath the driver’s position, Floyd’s thoughts turned again and again to the black object and its age of three million years. As a scientist, he was used to thinking about much longer periods of time, but these had been in connection with the movements of stars and the slow changes of the universe. Mind, or intelligence, had not been involved.

Three million years! All of written history, with its countries and its kings, its successes and disasters, covered only about a thousandth of this great period of time. Man himself, and most of the animals now alive on Earth, did not even exist when the black puzzle was so carefully buried there.

Dr Michaels was sure it had been buried, and not by accident. When they dug down, they found that it was sitting on a wide platform of the same black material. Whoever put it there wanted it to stay in the same place for a long time.

And so the old question had been answered. Here was proof, beyond all doubt, that there was other intelligent life in the universe. But with that knowledge came sadness. The unknown visitors had missed humans by a long period of time.

And where did they come from, these creatures who could cross space while Man was still living in trees? The Moon itself? No, that was completely impossible. If there had ever been life here, it had been destroyed during the last period when the craters were formed, when the surface was white-hot.

Earth? Very unlikely, though perhaps not quite impossible. If intelligent non-human creatures had lived on Earth, they would have left many other signs of their existence. But nothing else had been found before TMA-1 was discovered on the Moon.

That left two possibilities - the planets, and the stars. But all scientific opinion was against intelligent life anywhere else in the Solar System - or life of any kind except on Earth and Mars.

So perhaps these visitors had come from the stars - but that was even more difficult to believe. The journey from Earth to the Moon seemed quite long, but the nearest star was a hundred million times more distant…

Floyd shook his head because he knew he was wasting his time. He must wait until there was more knowledge.

‘Please check your safety belts,’ said the loudspeaker suddenly.’ Forty degree slope approaching.’

Floyd had just put his belt on again when the vehicle slowly moved over the edge of a slope as steep as the roof of a house. The earthlight, coming from behind them, was now very faint, and the vehicle’s own front lights had been switched on. They were going down the side of Tycho, and three hundred meters below the slope leveled out into a great flat area.

‘There they are,’ Michaels said, but Floyd had already noticed the group of red and green lights several kilometers ahead. Soon he could see, shining in the earthlight, a group of temporary buildings for the workers living there. Near these were a radio tower, a group of parked vehicles and a large pile of broken rock.

‘You can just see the crater,’ said Michaels.’ Over there on the right - about a hundred meters from the tower.’

So this is it, thought Floyd, as the bus rolled past the buildings and came to the edge of the crater. He leaned forwards for a better view as the vehicle moved slowly down the slope. And there, exactly as he had seen it in the photographs, was TMA-1.

Floyd stared, shook his head and stared again. Even in the bright earthlight, it was hard to see the thing clearly. His first impression was a flat object that seemed to have no thickness at all. This was because, although he was looking at a solid body, it reflected so little light that he could only see its shape.

The bus stopped about six meters from it. Then the lights were switched on all around the crater. Where light touched the object, it seemed to be swallowed up by the black surface.

A box of tricks, thought Floyd, with a sudden feeling of fear - waiting to be opened by curious Man. And what will he find inside?

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