فصل 26

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فصل 26

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CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

Conversation with Hal

Bowman was sitting in the little kitchen, a half-finished cup of coffee in his hand. He did not remember making his way there from the Control Room.

Directly opposite him was one of the glass fish-eyes that Hal used to see around the ship. Bowman rose slowly to his feet and walked towards it.

‘It’s a pity about Frank,’ Hal said.

‘Yes,’ Bowman answered, after a long pause. ‘It is.’

‘He was an excellent crew member.’

Finding the coffee still in his hand, Bowman took a slow mouthful. Had it been an accident, caused by some failure of the vehicle controls? Or was it a mistake by Hal?

The only other possibility was that Hal had killed Frank. Bowman found the idea strange, but he had to consider it. If it was true, he was in terrible danger.

His next act was written into the mission orders, but he was not sure how safe it was. If either crew member was killed, the other man had to replace him at once from the hibernators. Whitehead was first on the list, then Kaminski, then Hunter. The waking up process was under Hal’s control, so he could act if both his human colleagues were dead.

But Bowman could also take control if he wanted to. He also felt that one human companion was not enough. He decided to wake up all three of the hibernators. In the difficult weeks and months ahead, he might need all the help he could get.

‘Hal,’ he said.’ Give me hibernation control - on all the units.’

‘All of them, Dave?’

‘Yes.’

‘May I remind you that only one replacement is needed.’

‘I know that, but I prefer to do it this way.’

‘Are you sure it’s necessary to wake up any of them, Dave? We can manage very well by ourselves.”

This was new, and it made Bowman even more nervous. Hal knew that Whitehead had to be woken. He was suggesting a great change in mission planning.

‘Since an emergency has developed.’ Bowman said. ‘I want as much help as possible. So please let me have control of the hibernators.’

‘If you still really want to wake up the whole crew. I can handle it myself. There’s no need for you to worry.’

Bowman felt he was caught in a bad dream. It was like being questioned by the police about a crime of which he knew nothing - knowing that one careless word would lead to disaster. He became angry.

‘Hal, unless you obey my instructions, I shall be forced to disconnect you. Now give me control!’

Hals surrender was as total as it was unexpected.

‘OK, Dave,’ he said. ‘You’re certainly the boss. I was only trying to do what I thought the best’


As Bowman slid open the door of Whitehead’s hibernator, he felt the cold air strike him in the face. The screen, a copy of the one in the Control Room, showed that everything was perfectly normal. He pressed the button on the Wakener. There was no sound, no sign that anything had started to happen, but the curves on the screen began to change their shape. In about ten minutes, Whitehead would wake up.

And then two things happened at the same time. Both were very small changes, hardly noticeable, but after three months on Discovery Bowman knew his ship well.

First, the lights became slightly unsteady for a moment, which always happened when any piece of equipment started up. But he could think of no equipment which would suddenly start working at this point.

Then he heard the far-off sound of an electric motor. To Bowman, every motor on the ship had its own individual sound, and he recognized this one immediately.

The airlock doors, which last opened for Frank’s flight to his death, were opening again.

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