Chapter 25

Eleven years passed since the hopeless message of the first expedition and Georg, together with the rest of mankind, according to the schedule, received the next letter from the Galaxy. It informed that the second ship reached the planet belonging to the system of the 55th star in the Cancer constellation. By that time already a veteran astronomer, he acquainted himself with that message in loneliness. Miriam had parted with the life eight years ago.
This time the signal from distant planet also was out of the blue for Georg. Obviously, it couldn’t be realized differently. At first psychologically: it is almost impossible to not perceive as a miracle the end of the waiting stretched across the centuries. Also, there is another aspect, purely technical: for sending of the first signal from the new place thirty years were given to each expedition. Establishing of this period was a requirement of practice: what is the point to track the disappeared vessel? Astronomical equipment is too expensive, it is busy every second; it is unacceptable to hold such tools in downtime.
The number thirty imposed because under average power consumption by apparatus landed on the planet, the energy will last exactly for that interval. Also was considered the natural decay of nuclear fuel during long travel. And without the electricity, it is impossible to send an interstellar message.
Very that idea was pretty bitterly bitten Georg in those days: what if this vessel really sends its first message not immediately after landing but a third of a century later? That is, earlier he was sure that he had cashed the learning the results of three expeditions, but along the aging, his belief reduced with quite unpleasant speed. It turned out that he didn’t dispose of that much time as he counted previously.
However, astronomical machines weren’t bothered by his emotional experiences and impatience: they were even slightly not changing the appearance of a signal received from the outer space. The eternal background of the Universe was constantly imprinted on the computer screens.
Nature acted also usually, as it was proper to that season in the North with not completely repaired climate. It was a really warm, sunny day. From the opened window was visible the field covered with grass yet green. The waft of the breeze could be observable only with help of the excerpts of spider network sometimes brought in the controlling room.
Upon the background of this quiet, calmness and continuity, long-awaited high-frequency audio signal really sounded like thunder. At that moment Georg stood by the open window and involuntary enjoyed with the beauty of the vicinity. The sharp squeak forced him to wince. He turned back to the equipment. Minutes earlier on the screen there was usual and eternal uneven line reflecting natural radiation. Now the peak in shape of the isosceles triangle appeared there and it was slowly moving toward the right edge of the display.
Seeing that, Georg’s naturally felt increasing of his palpitation. In response, he immediately said to himself that such a thing he saw earlier too and there is no need for so much excitement now. Who knows what contains this message? However, very soon his self- placidity has been annulled when it revealed that unlike the preceding case, this time he should to strain his nerves even more.
Eleven years ago, when he and Miriam were waiting for the report of the previous vessel, the first impulse was followed with three similar ones and next to the inscription appeared on the screen. But now, after one peep, the computer became a TV with switched off the sound and the triangle has disappeared from its monitor too.
Georg stiffened. He was trying to grasp what does that mean and what he may do? For instance, is that all that the second expedition sent to mankind? Did the second expedition has failed too? No, Georg wasn’t ready such easily to believe in that. Without trouble, he convinced himself that the machines at the distant planet just tested the channel of cosmic communication and the real transmission will start later. To recall that such checking isn’t engaged in the schedule at all, Georg strictly forbade to himself. All the more, the science committee, to which belonged to this facility, was silent. It seems, they were also confused and didn’t know how to perceive this strangeness.
After such auto-suggestion what else he was remained instead of waiting? According to the timetable established almost three hundred years ago, the session will be repeated in eight hours. Fortunately, this telescope can see the Cancer constellation then too. Besides of Europe it could be visible also in North America and maybe he should warn them just in case, however, neither their computer would miss anything.
Georg always had what to do at the Antenna, especially because he was maintaining it solely. The lack of specialists still was felt acutely, it wasn’t easy to find a radio-astronomer, which agrees to work at the extreme, deserted north.
Georg was working methodically: he was conducting routine checks of aggregates, lubricating of the antenna engines, correcting receiver ranges and anything else what the complex astrophysical equipment maintenance needs. In addition, he was farming in the vicinity of that institution.
During waiting of this report Georg conducted pre-testing of electronics and just in time oiled the engine of the parabolic antenna. As a result, when the date came after which the signal can be delivered in any day, the entire radio-astronomical equipment was completely prepared and properly working, as always though.
Astronomer looked at his watch: twelve o’clock was approaching. Since another eight hours he had nothing to do here, Georg moved to the garden. He planned to dig over it, to make ready for spring while the weather is allowing that. If there would arise any news he could receive it by phone. A similar hobby he has in his house yard too, where he was growing as many vegetables that even was selling them. What could he do if he especially liked the rural activity and was making it skillfully? Who knows, if not that old disaster, he never had been in touch with astronomy? Maybe he would have become a successful farm owner like his great grandfather Antony?
Maybe Georg’s relationship with the plants was such harmonic because he knew the measure. Already tired or worn out he never touched the shovel or the rake, or took a young plant. Now too, when he accomplished the amount of work suitable to sixty-three-year-old man, he returned again to the lab. Here, he knew it, of course, nothing has changed.
Georg opened refrigerator’s door, took out from there two sandwiches with ham, one with cheese, and put them into the microwave oven. While he slowly got plastic bottle standing on the table, poured some water into the glass and slaked his thirst, then prepared the plate, the food machine had tinkled.
Fed and the rested man again approached at the window and cast a glance at his watch. The needles of his archaic, mechanical clock, the time pushed to half past four. So, still there remained a big interval to kill. After a short hesitation, Georg moved to the refrigerators anew.
Out from the cupboard with cold, he took the glass jug home-brew plum vodka and on the height of two fingers poured it into a faceted cup. After momentary contemplation, he added two more fingers. Then he took it into his head to attach the same amount once again but remembered in time that such amount maybe makes him involuntary asleep and he let slip the main moment. Obviously, his sleep couldn’t harm anything but Georg wanted to keep awake during the time when the new planet meets Earth at radio-date. After the alcohol-containing liquid moved from the cup to his stomach, Georg intended to go out in the yard. He put on the wool jacket over the flannel shirt.
At present, he wasn’t surprised that he remembers so clearly the events happened at the day bypassed more than twenty years ago. What surprise is here? How you could forget the day, in which you were waiting for the results of the unique giant project? Does any person have a lot of such days in life? Did have one it at all?
Now Georg realized that his memory still missed some things: he didn’t recall with what ended that stroll. The next memoir was that he, after dormancy sitting in a chair, rubbed his eyelids and right away anxiously looked at his watch. It was five minutes to eight or to arrival of the second signal.
He got into the room just at the right moment. The translation began one minute ahead of time: the high-frequency signal was sounded from the computer again. The same impulse depicted at the screen now too and Georg’s heart started to palpitation anew.
This time his nerves no longer had to stretch with fear that impulse would be non-permanent. The first one immediately was followed by three ones and soon, the white message had been written on the light background. It read that the craft was a whole year orbiting the planet searching for a suitable place for landing and founding the colony. During the flight it smoothly changed its orbital plane, beginning from the equatorial one and finishing by a polar.
The report contained full list of scientific data, but the main thing consisted in the fact that it’s impossible to establish the mankind on this globe too. There was too much water on the planet, but actually its amount is several times less than on Earth. Exactly it became the reason of failure of the second expedition. That liquid shrouded the surface of 55th star’s satellite in Cancer constellation with a kilometer-deep uniform layer.
Thus, it turned out that there isn’t a square meter of soil or a glass of fresh water on the totally inundated planet. What astronomers previously conceived as dry land because of its low albedo compared to rest of the surface, was found boundless, continent size seaweed fields. The land itself was protruded here and there over the ocean in a shape of lifeless rocks. The biggest of them weren’t exceeded the area of several square kilometers. The surface of those rarest islands was covered by moss-like plants of a dark blue color. On one of them, with rather a smooth surface, the ship has landed.
Except to this, ivy-like plants swaying on the waves and the moss covering bare rocks, the machines didn’t find other forms of life, at least above the water. What is going on in the depth of the ocean, they couldn’t able to determine. These machines were intended to work on land: in the natural habitat of humans.
In the long run, even preliminary information didn’t remain the doubt that this planet is unsuitable. This is another fruitless celestial body, which is abundant in the Galaxy. Based upon the situation, this mission preserved itself for one century too, before getting further command.
That time Georg returned to the refrigerator and took vodka again. After slightest fluctuation he filled up his favorite faceted glass, took it in front of his face by hand with a risen elbow and loudly said:
“For my mother Miriam, for my ancestor and descendant Iase Bilikadze and for everybody.”
The man drained the vessel, then went to ancient sofa stood by the next wall, lay down on his back and with unwinking gaze peered to the ceiling.