Chapter 19

“Very well,” Agnetha has quasi enlivened although the pain of the resent reminiscences nowhere had gone from her eyes. “The situation was settling down and we, the four engineers, more and more clearly were realizing that we can’t hide and protect our food during all our life. What the essence has such life; has it at all?” She looked at her listeners with a question.
In response Miriam was just turning her eyelashes, Antony shrugged and coolly articulated:
“You know, we’re doing exactly that thing and didn’t bore with our life yet.”
“Oh! How could you been bored owning so beautiful future?” Agnetha softly smiled at Miriam. “We had tried of course but succeeded nothing in… I didn’t like to talk about…” She glanced to the girl again. “Probably it’s my fail. How could I suspect the reactor? So many sensors are watching and checking background radiation…”
Agnetha became reticent again but somewhat differently, with the despair of a hopeless human. This time neither old man and all the more the teenager didn’t comprehend what to say. They didn’t know the words truly fit such a case. Agnetha’s heavy silence lasted quite a long period but ultimately it ended too and the woman said with colorless voice:
“In one word, we decided to undertake something, to make our, even smallest contribution in the revival of the civilization.”
“In the revival of the civilization?” Miriam echoed with agitation, “is that possible?”
“Maybe. No, not maybe but certainly,” Agnetha smiled to the child. “We started the efforts for renewing the communication system by which the expeditions, formerly belonged to the project Spatium Quia Praegressus were watched, if you know what is it?”
“You mean switching on the antenna?” Now it was Tony who couldn’t help his amazement, “why exactly this?”
“You call it antenna? OK, so be it. We simply had no other high technological object nearby, there’re only farms around.”
“You did it, then?” Miriam asked excessively aloud.
“It seems important for you too?” Agnetha wondered. “Though yes, in our times any news about the civilization would gladden every considerable person.”
“In addition to civilization we have our own reasons but we can talk about them later and now you go on, please.” Antony offered.
The woman glanced at him and obeyed:
“Having gained an understanding of its work, almost at once we learned an important piece of news from its computer.”
She significantly looked at the child, gazing at her with opened mouth.
“It appeared that very soon, in several months, the checking message of the sixth starship would have arrived.”
“Checking signal …?” Miriam asked with hope.
“Yes, one of those the expeditions are sending back to Earth every fifty years during their flight,” Agnetha explained.
“I know this, I know everything about these ships,” the girl started to talk hastily. “I mean that signal… did it come?”
“No,” Agnetha instantly swept aside her expectations and don’t give to the girl the time to be sad, she added: “Also, we learned that first expedition is going to reach its new sun in merely twenty-five years!”
“Reach the new sun!” Miriam echoed the third time.
Antony’s farm lived quite monotonously for many years, without any communication with the external world, same occupations day by day invariably, no news from aside. The adults, at least, remembered the life before the catastrophe, but the girl lived in the isolated dwelling from the day she was born, never talked to anyone besides family members. And now, within a few minutes, she heard tremendous news! Antony became thoughtful, too. He remembered the days, when his grandfather Victor, while fishing, often was telling about the ships in the Galaxy and how he equipped the “family” expedition.
Now the old man tried to remember the date of the first departure. He attempted to connect the death of his grandfather with that project but soon became entangled in the numbers. Finally, he asked:
“When had the flights to the Galaxy began?”
“The first starship had departed in the year of 2105”, Miriam enunciated, who knew the contents of the computer library almost by heart, “and since now is the year 2279,” he got shortwave-phone from jeans pocket but didn’t switch the calculator on. Instead, she counted mentally,” that is, one hundred and seventy-four years ago”.
“Yeah, a great lot of years… and you think it can be revived?” Tony was really stirred up by his recollections, yet, in spite of this, his store of mistrust towards the strangers remained almost untouched.
The orderly went on telling, trying to scatter these doubts.
“The antenna, as you’re calling it, is just five kilometers away from the station, twenty minutes on a bicycle. At first, we were visiting it three together, armed. The fourth left at the station and sat there locked from inside.”
Saying this, she seemingly recalled her comrade and looked toward him. The man, whose name was already known to Antony and Miriam, still sat on the grass. The woman proceeded:
“Though we’re experienced engineers, we aren’t specialists in the space equipment. We were forced to study for a long time the instructions and to understand the work of the devices unfamiliar for us.”
She stretched her hands as if apologizing because of her ignorance.
“In half of the year our labor was crowned with success: we fixed some devices, unlocked passwords and then managed to switch on the antenna in the reception mode. It can be said since that day humanity resumed listen to space again. Though, as I informed you, we heard nothing encouraging.”
The quietness fell on them one more time. Now the girl broke it:
“Grandpa, is it a concern to us more than to others?”
“What do you mean? It’s a pity I don’t know your name, what is a concern to you more than to someone else?” Agnetha interested.
“I’m Miriam but they call me Mira. This is my grandpa, Antony. It’s concerned us because…”
The old man didn’t let her finish:
“So, in the end, you’ve completely mastered the space antenna controlling?”
“I don’t know, as I said, a few months ago the second control signal of the sixth expedition shall have come according to the plan, but we registered nothing. We were so anxious about it that I’ve even cut your line off at any case, for insurance.”
“Remember, grandpa,” the girl outstripped her grandfather, “seemingly it was dad said then that the technological civilization has ultimately died?”
“Yes, I remember something like that,” Antony confirmed and glanced with peering look at the talking woman. “So, what happened, was the signal received?”
“I don’t know. I can’t express what a disappointment we felt. Till today we didn’t understand what was the matter? Have we missed something or it was the sixth expedition’s malfunction? Now we can check it only in ten years: according to the schedule, the next message from space will have come then.”
The old man felt that in spite of doubt toward these strangers he became agitated, having touched by the events of the long past. Until now he thought the galactic plans of the civilization had died ultimately. There was nobody to be engaged not only in the space project but even in the things much more essential. And suddenly, nearby he sees the people who risked their lives for the sake of the dream and in what an epoch? In which most of the humans, like a beast, crave for neighbor’s food or life.
Miriam, of course, possessed a smaller store of suspiciousness than her old grandfather. Therefore she started to talk more freely:
“What do we have to do to reclaim the station? Kill the robbers? Are they numerous?”
“We killed three of them, how many are they in the building, I don’t know, but they were shooting with two guns,” Agnetha answered.
The girl addressed to her grandfather and the new acquaintance in turn:
“We can do it, can’t we? My father is a military man, he’ll find the way!”
Antony didn’t know what to do, he still wasn’t able to get rid of the hesitations. As if the story of that woman looks like true and she didn’t resemble the evildoer, but…
“I see you still don’t trust me,” Agnetha told looking at him. “But would you please to consider, can the bandits to switch on and off the nuclear power station? Or separate electric line? It was we who ceased your electricity two months ago.”
Tony speechlessly nodded. The woman brought one more reason:
“If it would have been switched off by electronics, how could I and Hans learn it if we are the robbers, especially after passed months?”
Long doubts weren’t Antony’s feature. He, a former champion, got used to struggle. This quality didn’t abandon him in his old age, too. Therefore the old farmer, annoyed with so many thoughts, abruptly turned to the distant bush and waved his hand to the man still sat on the grass. Antony was showing that he can come.
The man stood up and disappeared behind a bush. From there he returned with two machine guns held under his armpits with the butts forward. After a short time, he approached the others and Antony saw that indeed he has machine-rifles mentioned by Agnetha.
The old man, didn’t take off the aim from the stranger, ordered:
“Throw the guns to the ground one by one, and get back … Mira, aim at them until I take the weapons.”
The girl didn’t need reminding: she was already aiming at the stranger. Antony picked up the guns and hung them on his shoulder. After that the former champion said:
“OK Mira, there is no sense to stay here, let’s go home, Agnetha needs an aid. But− Hans, you go first and drive the livestock. Mira will follow you in some steps; I and Agnetha will remain behind.”