فصل 23

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فصل 23

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  • زمان مطالعه 4 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

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CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

Sickness

‘Do you mean,’ Frank Poole said, more surprised than annoyed, ‘that I did all that work for nothing?’

‘It seems like it,’ answered Bowman. ‘The unit’s working perfectly. It passed every test.’

The two men were standing in the tiny workshop-laboratory in the central living area. The thin, card-sized plate of the AE 35 unit lay on the table, connected to a number of wires which led to a small screen.

‘Try it yourself,’ said Bowman.

Poole pushed the TEST button. At once, the screen flashed the message, UNIT OK.

‘What do you think?’ Poole said.

‘Maybe Hal’s own testing system made a mistake. It’s possible.’

‘It’s more likely that there’s a fault with this thing,’ Poole said, pointing to the screen. ‘Anyway, better safe than sorry. I’m glad we replaced the unit.’

Bowman took out the AE 35 and held it up to the light. The thin material was covered with wiring, so it looked like a piece of modern art.

‘We can’t take any chances - this is our connection with Earth. I’ll write a report then drop this in a box. Somebody else can worry about it when we get home.’

But the worrying began a long time before that, with the next message from Earth.

‘This is Mission Control. We appear to have a slight problem.

‘Your report that there is nothing wrong with the AE 35 unit agrees with our opinion. It seems more likely that your computer made a mistake. This is not a reason to worry, but we would like you to watch out for any other changes from normal performance. We have suspected several other irregularities in the past few days, but none have seemed important enough to need correction.

‘We are running more tests with both our 9000s, and will report as soon as results are available. If necessary, we may disconnect your 9000 temporarily for testing and pass over control to one of our computers. The time difference will introduce problems, but our studies show that Earth control is perfectly satisfactory at this stage of the mission.

‘This is Mission Control. Message ends.’

Frank Poole, who was in command when the message came in, thought about this in silence. Then he went to see Bowman, who was pouring himself some coffee in the kitchen. Poole said good morning - they both still used Earth time - and helped himself to a cup.

‘What’s the problem?’ said Bowman. Any change from the normal routine meant that something was not quite right.

‘Well…’ Poole answered slowly. ‘We’ve just had a message from Mission Control.’ He lowered his voice. ‘We may have a slight case of space sickness on board.’

Perhaps Bowman was not fully awake because it took him several seconds to understand. Then he said, ‘Oh, I see. What else did they tell you?’

‘That there was no reason to worry. And that they were considering a temporary switch-over to Earth Control, while they checked things out.’

They both knew, of course, that Hal was hearing every word, but they could not help speaking indirectly. Hal was their colleague, and they did not want to embarrass him. But it did not yet seem necessary to discuss the matter in private.

Bowman finished his breakfast in silence, while Poole played with the empty coffee-container. They were both thinking hard, but there was nothing more to say.

Whatever happened, the atmosphere on the ship had changed a little. There was tension in the air and for the first time, a feeling that something might be going wrong.

Discovery was no longer a happy ship.

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