Chapter 24

One may think: if I want I can spend entire my life in one place, and thus my location in the space always would have remained unchanged. But this technique will not work in regard to time, whether I want or not, I can’t stay always at the same moment.
Actually, that person will make a big mistake because to be forever at the same point is the same that to be in the same second. Returning to the old place is equal to returning into the past; because space itself is inflating exactly in the way the time is doing that. Just space does it more insensibly.
Georg also considered the time as the only reason for parting with a carefree childhood. He had nothing contrary to this – it’s a natural phenomenon. But very unnaturally for Georg looked the fact that the main pursuit of his life every time was distressing him.
Today the time dealt with him again mercilessly and it seems, finally seized his last hope. Georg felt now as if he fainted but somehow managed to keep thinking. His brain is still able to come up and show him the pictures of the past, reminding him how he got in that poor condition.
Thirty-three years ago there was no doubt that he is the incredibly lucky man to live in an era, where he will learn the outcome of three expeditions of remaining five ones.
After the sixth starship informed that it finished its acceleration, then the centuries passed without any message from it. What it could be done and at the backgrounds of other expeditions, sending their signals precisely as the clocks, it was declared lost and its tracking was ceased. As a consequence, only five ships remained active.
Exactly the comprehending that he will learn the results of three of them was warming Georg’s heart. That he would see the views of distant planets and maybe, he hoped ardently, will see another planet inhabited by the humans.
Well, by that time how he might to predict that not only three, but the results even of four expeditions he will learn and instead of joy this knowledge brings him the feeling of the happened disaster?
Now, when he got to know about failure exactly this fourth starship, Georg sorrowfully recalled the shipwreck of his hopes in the last three decades. Especially clearly in his memory was imprinted the day, when the report of apparatus two and a half centuries ago dispatched to Eridanus constellation has come. Then Georg, already a gray-haired, oblong headed, hale man with a carefully shaved narrow face and deep-seated eyes, was in company with his already aged mother Miriam.
Two of them entered the project SQP after engineers, first Hans and latter on Agnetha had passed away. Thus, mother and son became the servants of radio-telescope.
This time they weren’t in the native home but in the control room of the radio-astronomical lab, always being called Antenna. This building and its main tool – enormous parabolic antenna were separated from each other by fifty meters.
In the room situated on the second floor of the building, in addition to the mother and her son, there were three computers and two broadband radio amplifiers. Besides, a sofa was stood against one of the walls and some cooking equipment near another one. The first floor of that edifice was occupied with electric transformers and spare devices.
Two months had passed since the deadline expired for the landing report of the first expedition. Sixty days and forty-three years ended after he was present on the surface of the celestial body. These forty-three years is all right, this interval was needed for the signal to reach from the planet to Earth. But in the last two months, mother and son did throw countless desperate gazes at the central display. In response, the gadget was indifferently and constantly showing them a picture, which earlier, with the exception of two decades, a number of radio astronomers saw: the useless image of cosmic background.
Georg recalled that in that special day the weather was featured in a way, which corresponded to former Nordic fall. In common, already there were first signs that global climate is restoring. By the midday as torrential downpour increasingly mingled with large flakes and silence admixed to the noise of rain dripping against window glasses.
Usually, Miriam and Georg never appeared in the lab simultaneously. There was no point in it. Only during turning over their duties they were conjointly here. Because of this job Miriam even moved to the younger son’s family, in the vicinity of the Antenna. By walking it was taking half an hour to cross the distance from that house to the Antenna n and almost nothing with the bike. The old house, as a rule, inherited Georg’s eldest brother Gunnar.
“I wish snow didn’t cover up the plate,” Peering at the sky, Miriam sighed.
The weather made worsen her son’s mood too but for a different reason. He grumbled, thinking that instead of going home, he will have to go out of the station and under such a storm with special electrical wiper clean up a huge parabola, that is, to do totally pointless work. Will the signal, which has a huge lag of thirty years to arrive, come just today?
He was going to say about this to Miriam when one of the computers issued a high-frequency sound and then three more of the same kind. Mother and son simultaneously looked at the screen and a moment later, realizing what was represented there, they exchanged glances in amazement! Each of them didn’t dare to trust to their own eyes and tried to find in the eyes of the companion the confirmation of the correctness of his or her guess: the event happened to which they dedicated their lives!
The radio received notification of landing!
They mistook nothing. There was no place for error. The first sound impulses were followed by bleaching of the screen previously been color and then, on this background, with large black letters was written an extremely simple and unequivocal message:
“The landing report on the fourth planet in the system of the 58th star of Eridanus constellation. This message was from the surface of the planet. The original message is recorded in the computer memory. Should it be open now? Y/N»
A long time ago they were prepared for this event. They knew: the starship moves to its goal according to schedule. The control signals coming on Earth were constantly, during centuries confirming that. Nevertheless, the report, announcing the reaching of destiny has temporarily deprived Miriam and Georg of their ability to operate and think!
Instead of immediately to get familiarize with the coveted information, on the contrary, they benumbed. Further their behavior also didn’t resemble the conducting of scientific experiment and the study of its results. It turned out that it’s not so easy to believe the fulfilling of what is waited during centuries. The woman settled one her hand on her heart and with another one pulled out the glasses from the pocket of her green knitted sweater. Hitherto standing by the window, she went toward the computer. To the same direction set off Georg still stood by the coffee machine. They walked so carefully as if were sneaking up to hen intended to slaughter.
“Georg, it’s impossible, are we really going to see a new planet?” Miriam uttered finally with a voice hoarse because of emotion. She sat on the chair and was extending her finger to keyboard button already, but in the last moment, she hesitated.
Georg, also fell in sudden indecision, shook his head first, but soon overcame his wavering together with his excitement and called for help the common sense:
“Mom, in due time that legendary SQP was designed exactly for people will see that moment! Of course, this is information about the planet, what else it can be?”
Miriam made one noisy exhale and harshly hit the button. In a result on the screen immediately was written:
On December 28, 2304The lander took the circular orbit around the planet…»
The text after this introduction was informing the results of preliminary studies made from the space. They were informing earthlings about of surface properties, atmosphere composition, magnetic field, mineral depository and so on at this celestial body.
Unfortunately, the joy of astronomers didn’t last long. Georg still vividly recalled the poisoning disappointment of that time.
«In the lower layers of the atmosphere the radiation level exceeds the deathly threshold by 2.1 times; at the planet surface this figure exceeds 2.4.» That information appeared on the screen very soon. That message was followed by more accurate data expressed in sieverts and grays, but what importance it had? Having leaned against the chair back, Miriam asked with strained voice:
“So, this is the unsuitable planet?”
Meanwhile, the report stated that after scheduled year and a half the apparatus had finished cosmic studies and computer had activated the protocol of landing on the planet surface.
The machines went on with their plan. The planet-ship landed and the computer activated auto guided mobile machines. Each expedition had two such ones. They went out and explored the vicinities. Then, accordingly, to schedule, machines mounted the parabolic aerial for interstellar communication. At the next phase, the artificial pioneers have gathered the samples of air, water, soil, and tissues of living creatures.
These studies confirmed the original data of the radioactivity level, which enabled the machine to make the following conclusion:
«The planet is not suitable for settlement. Therefore, the biological laboratory will not start to create earthly organisms because they are not able to survive here.»
It seemed Miriam didn’t understand what is going on in front of her eyes. Now Georg clearly remembered the unpleasant surprise of that time, when he saw haw dramatically changed the face of his mother. Her eyes a blink ago radiating hope, joy, and excitement, gradually waned and no longer resembled a human one: as if they were seized by a cold-blooded creature.
Georg realized: in that small interval, while they were studying the report, his mother realized: relatively to the exploration of the galaxy, she has been informed completely. There is nothing else. She hardly could live till the next expedition’s report.
Georg intended to encourage his mother then, but didn’t suggest, how to do this? Instead, Miriam solved this task herself and said calmly, already been totally subdued to her fate:
“Georg, I, as my ancestors too, have finished my shift. Now came the turn of yours and your offspring.”
What has to say the man in response? He wasn’t able to comfort the person who witnessed the time when the people couldn’t even imagine that ever again they would link their future with the sky.
Later on, the mother and the son quietly studied the information sent from a distant planet nearly half a century ago. For example, the expedition laboratory didn’t arrange to identify to which biological kingdom — animals or plants belongs to the planet’s living matter. By composing the report certainly was established only the fact that it is supplying the local atmosphere with free oxygen.
The report ended with information concerning the nearest plans of the expedition. Right after sending this message the computer will switch off the power supply and will preserve the expedition for one hundred years. Ninety-seven of these years needed for correspondence between the planets, another three years were given to scientists for overcoming difficulties. If after that century-long waiting any instructions didn’t arrive from Earth, the machines will do the next switch on after another one hundred years and so on till instructions will come or the energy will exhaust.
“Everything is clear,” Georg summarized joylessly. “Let’s talk with the committee, to elucidate in what mood are they? Maybe they’re glad?”
“Why?” Miriam rose her eyebrows. “Because the enormously expensive expedition flew two centuries to discover another Mars?”
“No,” Georg tried to recover her mood. “The proceedings aren’t so bad. That envoy, though, didn’t reach the goal, but its report anyway contains encouraging statements.”
He began crooking his fingers and to enumerate:
“In the first place, we got convinced that the equipment created centuries ago, is working properly. Secondly, it has always been undoubted that life exists elsewhere beyond Earth, proofing the contrary is the same as old faith that Earth is located in the center of the Universe. Since today the existence of the exolife become a fact.” During these words, he cheerlessly scoffed. “But the matter is that this discovery will be important only for the academic circles.”
His prophecy got fulfilled precisely. The confirmation of the existence of life on an alien planet excited only scientific circles. The wide community, better to say, the mankind, behaved just as it did when the planets near other stars were discovered: its interest had arisen quickly but ran low as soon as it was found out that there was nothing to do for the people and thus, nothing changed for them.