Chapter 15

In about eleven years after the fifth expedition’s departure, in accordance with the schedule, its dispatchers were informed that its acceleration is finished. In the meantime, the last ship also headed into the Galaxy. The message of the fifth ship, of course, has gladdened the people, but no one knew that one man was especially touched with it.
Victor Utvac never forgot those drunken tests. After them, in spite of the radio unit was several times checked and worked as it must do, still, some little splinter got stuck in his hear. Besides, because of it, he was feeling special inconvenience on the meeting with his aunt Veana. Though later, when she did accomplish her proceedings with life and had been gone away in her sleep, almost nothing has changed for Victor: the splinter remained with him forever.
Meanwhile, Earth more than sixty times flew around the Sun and thus delivered Victor Utvac exactly to old age. In this section of his life he, in spite of being already retired engineer, still was awaiting something from the space. That was the second message of the fifth expedition. It would have informed that it’s bound for its route during half of the century and is OK. In addition to these fifty years another twelve ones the report needed to rich Earth.
Live till such long-awaited information was great winning for Victor who approached his nineties. Next report from this ship will come in seventy more years and naturally don’t exist for Victor Utvac. For him, the connection with the mastering of Galaxy ended at that. But, at least, this signal turned out punctual. It came in accordance with the schedule without even one-moment delay.
Since this outstanding event, the Moon has completed one flight around Earth, though Victor was still celebrating it. Especially in the evening, when he, sitting at the veranda of his house, enjoyed increasing of a number of the stars in the Corona Borealis constellation where the star Rho, invisible for his old eyes, was shimmering.
Now Victor was also sat at the veranda – his favorite time was nearing. He took the phone lying on the table stood by his chair and reread the information at the site of the project SQP. Next, he was returning apparatus on its former place when the screen of that device brightly flashed in the evening dusk and a call ringed. Victor returned his hand back to his eyes and found out that at the monitor there is his grandson’s volitional face portrayed. The old man smiled with please, pushed the call receiving button and photo had changed by video.
“Hi, grandpa!” the young man greeted him with a cheerful smile. ”How are you? Are you still celebrating?”
One month ago when the signal from Galaxy had come, Victor seriously excited his relatives. Of course, they shared his joy, though it seemed rather exaggerated for them.
“The old man hasn’t any occupation and what he could do?” the kin were gossiping. “In another way what necessity there is for such enormous excitement? Yes, it’s very important but still just a regularly scheduled message. Till the success of that expedition, there are centuries if it happens at all.”
His relatives didn’t understand why Victor is so long time agitated. Because they weren’t aware that during six decades he was carrying a big and unpleasant secret and now, at last, he felt relief. Since in the course of fifty years long flight in absolute cold and under cosmic radiation nothing happened with the apparatus, then he spoiled nothing and can feel really unspoiled joy. Though this delight can’t be shared with anybody because about that story nobody knew and will not know till the end of time, this secret belonged only to him and the ship.
“Hi, Tony,” the old man replied. “I think you have no less joy than me, you really destroyed them, and I liked the match indeed.”
“Thanks, grandpa,” grandson answered with a pleasant appearance.
“By the way,” Victor quickly became serious. “Let alone your outstanding win, what are you saying? The starship information is enjoyable only to me?”
“No, grandpa, I never forgot that with this rocket, it could be said, is traveling my ancestor and your uncle Iase Bilikadze. How can I ignore this? My mood always got better when I’m recalling that,” the sportsman said with increased diligence.
Victor stared at him suspiciously but seeing the honest look of his grandson, asked more calmly:
“As I know, yesterday you had the last game of this season, at least officially. That means you’re free now or there are friendly matches in your schedule?”
“No, there isn’t, and I’m ready for fishing, if not that stupid case with the gas, popped out from nowhere!” Tony said crossly.
“What a case? A-a, rise in price,” Victor understood. “Yes, I know, it’s very hard to not hear it when anybody is buzzing about.”
He pondered for a moment and then asked with mockery: “So what? You, a famous sportsman, don’t have money for fuel? Are you skimming over your stadium for free?”
“I don’t, and I have enough money, but the filling stations have got no gasoline,” the sportsmen uttered joylessly.
“How is that possible?” the old man wondered sincerely.
“I’m telling you,” the young man started to speak impatiently. “It became very expensive and owners of the stations didn’t want to buy it!”
“Then come by plane,” the old man was kept cool.
“I’ve tried,” Tony proceeded to talk impatiently. “But our flight has been canceled two months ago; they say flying for three hundred kilometers or distances like that isn’t remunerative now… if there would be a railroad…”
“So what we gonna do then?” the old man asked disappointedly.
“OK, grandpa,” the grandson said, “it can’t be helped anyway; they promised to settle everything by tomorrow, so the fish has to wait for one more day.”
Then he added with a reluctant smile: “all in all where they would hide in our river? Didn’t we know it like I know my team’s stadium?”
“Yes, there’s nothing we can do,” Victor agreed with him.
Three days have passed and the gasoline still wasn’t supplied to the service stations. The streets deserted as if the cars become extinct like dinosaurs. On the fourth day, the fuel had, at last, come for sale, but huge queues lined up near the stations, and Tony has put off buying the fuel until the next day. Then, at last, he refueled his car and went to his grandfather, though he knew already they’ll fail to fish this year. The meteorological service forecast rainy weather for the entire next week.
In spite of that trouble he and his grandfather still spent those days together. They recalled old times and arranged a more precise plan for the next year. Victor often sighed that the oil tycoons pilfered their fishing.
Since the time when Antony, eight-year boy was left by his parents for summer at his grandfather, they didn’t miss even a year without fishing together. By then Victor was the widow already and his son and daughter-in-law were occupied with their careers. Thus this “migration” suited for everybody. The old man, having reached his eighties, didn’t feel himself lonely anymore and the child has spent his summer vacations at fresh air. This rule didn’t alter later too when Tony became a professional football player. He liked and wanted to get rid of the bustle of the big sport even for a short time and live in peace and quiet.
“Come on, grandpa, stop worrying!” the grandson calmed him, “as our sports saying goes, we’ll win it all back the next season!”
Aged Victor just sighed in response but once he said that in his almost ninety he’s not the man he used to be.
“You’re as fit as a fiddle, stop that whimpering,” Tony told him sincerely; grandfather just thoughtfully smiled in response.
At the end of September Tony called his grandpa for the last time and cheered him up: Victor complained of the weakness; in the middle of the October Tony was told that his grandpa has died.
The news, as it usually happens with people who lost near relative, evoked in the young man senses of grief, compassion for the deceased and his own guilt. It seemed to Tony that he wasn’t enough attentive to his grandpa; that during the last vacations he argued with him for nothing. He particularly was pity that because of some absurd reason they failed to go fishing together for the last time.
Tony, the young sportsman, didn’t know then that it’s just a beginning of great changes, which harshly have fallen upon humanity in half a century when he became an old man himself.