Chapter 6

They returned to their transports. Bilikadze – “overhead”, that is, in higher orbit, and Gryde “underneath”- in the lower one. They were disposed of with bottoms of their chairs relatively to each other, although because of weightlessness it seemed to both of them that exactly he is sitting “rightly” and his partner is upside-down.
The mounters attached their machines to the transporting sockets of the same sphere inside of the cylinder and started their job. This time Anzo and Iase were going to set out to twice hard task: they have to transport and absolutely precisely to mount in its place the quantity of fuel with a mass equal to train consisted from one hundred and thirty cisterns. They never carried so many fuel simultaneously, but the ruling board of the Project believed in Iase’s experience and proficiency, they had hoped on him because more than once saw his work.
“What now? Are we going for last time to do our job for this expedition?” Iase asked with a slightly hoarse voice.
Situated on opposite sides of the sphere with twenty-meters radius, they weren’t able to see each other but for a talk by radio, there was no obstacle.
“Let’s make it,” Anzo said and then at once, with unexpected excitement added. “What a pity, we even didn’t see the planetary ship plainly and soon it disappears in Galaxy forever, isn’t it?!”
“Are you touched so strongly with parting with the rocket?” Iase asked being amazed at the showing of such emotions from his composed fellow.
“Of course, does it happened ever before – the dispatching of the ship into Galaxy?” Anzo answered after a short pause.
“Hey, Anzo!” Francoise Proset, communication officer, interrupted their conversation. One of her duty was listening to builders’ channel. “It’s nice that you need five hours to pass some fifteen tens of meters, during this interval you could calm your nerves, because I’m already considering to substitute you.”
She meant that the cylinder was at higher orbit than the fuel deposit.
“Stop it, Francoise, what are you talking about?” Anzo responded instantly. “I’m kidding. For proving that, I can start speaking wisely right now.”
“Hum, it’s interesting, what wisdom have you reserved for that day?” Doubt was heard in the voice of Francoise.
“I didn’t store it up. I devised it just at this moment when I saw from a close distance the strange ratio of sizes and goals,” Answered cosmonaut – rigger.
“What do you mean?” Iase interested.
“Now listen to me,” Anzo began. “We can imagine the whole expedition as a bird. The lander would portray head with, m-m, four beaks… this is galactic, unusual bird all in all. The cylinder itself would be the body and the stellar-ship docked to its second butt end would be its tail.”
Right now Iase and Anzo weren’t very busy. They only were watching thru monitoring devices on their slow transference with the speed of few millimeters per second, that is, the velocity with which the big hand of the clock is moving. Therefore, there was no barrier to empty talks. The real difficulties and job with extreme concentration were waiting for them ahead when the deceleration of that enormous train will begin. Weightlessness is not canceling the mass, on the contrary, the absence of atmosphere makes inertia more efficient.
“I see what you are saying”, Francoise chuckled. “And two vast fuel storages on each side of the cylinder would be the wings kilometer and a half long.”
“No,” Iase interrupted in their conversation with objection. “It’s not completely correct. Since empty tanks turn by turn will detach by pair until the “bird” soon will remain without wings at all… of course, if we admit that comparing with two centuries the eight years are really soon.”
“Yes, truly special bird,” Francoise gave her consent to him and then she remembered previous talking. “As I see you really relaxed already, don’t you, ha, Anzo?”
“Sure,” Anzo responded solidly. “Plus I noticed that the wish of the engineers to retain the engine always in the center of the mass of the ship, we transformed into a romantic canvas.”
“Who will think about flying to the stars without romanticism?” Iase asked. “Though, honestly to say, now, when I’m seeing from what an expanse is a shining Galaxy to me, it seems I’m into a fairy-tale.”
“Nevertheless, you’re the only one who worked here from the beginning,” Anzo reminded him with the respect in his voice.
“Yes, I’m also wondered about that: why this happened in that way? Maybe, people gradually become tired with danger, responsibility, weightlessness… I don’t know.”
“The matter is that everything you mentioned didn’t affect you; why so? Of course, if I can ask this,” Anzo’s voice apparently contained a hesitation.
Iase was silent some time and then, after chuckling, began to talk:
“Maybe it will sound grandiloquent but anyway let’s go. Today is a special day – the civilization makes its step to the stars. When it will be a better time to talk about the dream?”
“Exactly!” the woman on duty vividly greeted his decision. “Tell us something like that; it will be really just in time.”
“Ok,” Iase said and his interlocutors heard that these words had been accompanied with chuckle again. Without seeing his face they couldn’t determine, is this conversation embarrassing Iase or he plans to turn it in joke.
“It started from my boyhood,” Iase began meanwhile. “That time I was charmed by the films where the rockets, surrounded by flaming clouds, had been launched into space and then they were landing on some distant, mysterious, but very beautiful planets at the end of their way.”
Iase fell silent, probably he was gathering his thoughts and when he continued, his listeners understood that he truly reveals his innermost: “I wanted to get at that beautiful planets too.”
“Do you still want this?” Now Anzo wasn’t hiding his curiosity.
“Of course I do, although I understood long ago that my wish is unrealizable. So I’ll resume−” Iase said softly and in the next instant sharply interrupted himself:
“Wait for a second, what velocity is on your side?” he asked with changed, tensed voice.
“I have two units. What, you haven’t the same? Oh, I see, you’ve one unit, what’s going on?” Now Anzo became concerned too.
That conventional unit was denoting a speed one centimeter per second. Of course, with that velocity, Iase and Anzo were transferring the cylinder to the fuel depository but relative to Earth surface they and everything around them was flying seven hundred fifty thousand times faster.
This insignificant, almost imperceptible speed made space-builders agitated because it belonged to a weight equal to a couple of railroad trains. There is no way to stop such a mass easily and rapidly even if it looks completely motionless. If it does not stop in the assigned place and will prolong its unnoticeable movement, then its only detent would be crushed tanks with liquid deuterium.
Iase’s heart begun strenuously to knock.
“Anzo, we lost the course?!” he asked harshly. “It seems we had swung in the horizontal plane.”
They called the horizontal the planes parallel to the surface of the planet.
“But when it happened?” Anzo started to talk obviously be fallen in confusion. “All the time the tangents were under control…” He started bustlingly play with his gloved fingers on the display and recalled the history of the travel. He already doubted maybe during their empty conversation he pressed something because of inattention.
“How is it going, are you coping?” As though imperturbably, but in fact also with altered voice asked from the earth the head of flight, former astronaut and now doctor John Fermini:
The riggers didn’t answer him, with sluggishness and inevitability of oceanic liner they were nearing to one of the “bunches”. As well as the ship did not been braked in time is implacably thrusting its own weight upon a pier and destroys it, crumples boats and yachts and smashes up nearby buildings, now the same fate waited one half of the deuterium depot. The sparkle of catastrophe flashed in the cosmos and soon it would be followed by a blaze. Who is able to abolish the inertia gathered by such colossal mass along the distance of a hundred meters?
The disaster seemed unavoidable and no one saw the way to prevent it; in any case, the ether was silent as a tomb. The turning on of shunting jets and attempting to stop it abruptly might have brought even worse consequence. It needed to count anew the power of a reactive stream and the interval during which it must work. Where was the time for that? Without these calculations, the cylinder might have thrust its huge weight upon the other “bunch” and what is a difference where it brings the devastation?
“Jandaba!” Anzo suddenly heard a shout in a strange language and winced together with his suit.
“What, what do you say, Iase, I don’t know your language!” he asked anxiously.
“What type of velocity you have on your screen?” This time Iase shifted on the English understandable for everybody.
In a pair of seconds, he heard the surprised shouting of Anzo. “Oh, what a gaffe I commit?! Instead of tangential, I fixed my eyes on the linear component, damn it! My heart almost broke! It seems, during that chatter, accidentally I really changed working mode on my display.”
Soon, again he added this time with unconcealed great easing:
“Everything is all right, at my side linear speed is one unit too, looks like I indeed touched the screen and made it show tangential component without comments. Yes, special day indeed…”
“O-OK…” Francoise spoke into the microphone and didn’t add anything else, it wasn’t time for reprimands and investigations, the riggers approached the most crucial phase.
As the alarm was the result of a misunderstanding, so their load without deviation and precisely had docked the place of joining. Exactly, in the same way, all three parts of the expedition seized each other’s tails and their hooks automatically got locked for two centuries. Though no one heard their sound, here in airless space, nothing was able to bring it to ear.
Into these tails, that is tubes, Iase and Anzo slipped through the special holes, after they left their chairs.
First of all, they mutually connected the interstellar rocket and its fuel store thru the high-pressure hoses. Then the communication cables, pressure, and flow meters, counters of remnants of hydrogen isotope were jointed.