فصل 42

مجموعه: کتاب های متوسط / کتاب: 2001 - اودیسه فضایی / فصل 42

کتاب های متوسط

43 کتاب | 631 فصل

فصل 42

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 5 دقیقه
  • سطح ساده

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CHAPTER FORTY TWO

A Different Sky

Far ahead, the walls of the hole were becoming faintly light again. And then the darkness suddenly ended, as the tiny vehicle shot upwards into a sky lit up with stars.

He was back in space as he knew it, but a single look told him he was light-centuries from Earth. He did not even try to find some of the familiar patterns of stars. Perhaps none of them had ever been seen without the help of a telescope.

Most were concentrated in a shining belt which completely circled the sky. Bowman wondered if this was his own galaxy, seen from a point much closer to its shining, crowded center.

He hoped that it was; then he would not be so far from home. But this, he realized at once, was a childish thought. He was so far from the Solar System that it made little difference whether he was in his own galaxy or the most distant one that any telescope had ever found.

He looked back to see the thing from which he was rising, and had another shock. There was no surface covered with great patterns, nor any copy of Japetus. There was nothing - except a black shadow, like an open door into a dark room. As he watched, that black shadow slowly filled with stars, as if a hole in space had been repaired.

The vehicle was turning slowly, bringing more new stars into view, and then a great red sun appeared in the window. It was many times larger than the Moon as seen from Earth. Bowman could look at it without discomfort; judging by its color, it was not hotter than a dying coal. This was a star that had left behind the fire of its youth, and was settling into a peaceful middle age.

The vehicle stopped turning; the great sun lay straight in front. Though there was no feeling of movement, Bowman could tell that he was getting closer to it. Ahead of him, one of the stars was becoming rapidly brighter, and was beginning to move against its background. It came up to him with unexpected speed; and he saw that it was not a world at all.

It was an enormous structure of metal, hundreds of kilometers across. In different places across its surface were great buildings which were as large as cities, and arranged around these, in neat rows and lines, were hundreds of smaller objects. After some time Bowman realized that these were spaceships. He was flying over an enormous orbital car park.

Because he could see no familiar object, it was almost impossible to calculate the size of the ships. But some were certainly enormous; perhaps kilometers long. They were of many different designs - round balls, thin pencils, flat circles. This must be one of the meeting places for the commercial traffic of the stars.

Or it had been - perhaps a million years ago. Bowman could not see any signs of activity anywhere. This great space-port was as dead as the Moon.

It was not only the absence of movement. There were great holes in the structure, caused by asteroids crashing through it over many years. This was not a working car-park now; it was a resting place for dead vehicles.

He had missed its builders by ages, and when he understood this, Bowman’s heart sank. He had not known what to expect, but at least he had hoped to meet with some intelligence. Now, it seemed, he was too late. He had been caught in an ancient, automatic trap, which was still working when its makers had died long ago. It had carried him across the Galaxy, and left him in this dead sea of stars to die when his air-supply ended.

Well, he had already seen wonderful things for which many men would give their lives. Four of his companions already had; he had no reason to complain.

The ruined space-port was still sliding past him at high speed. In a few more minutes, it had fallen behind.

His destination was not there - but far ahead in the great red sun which his vehicle was unmistakably falling towards.

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