- Have gone crazy! - Norden raged (at that moment he looked like an indignant Viking). “Lord, you can't sit there properly.”
Now I’ll connect with the Chief and raise a scandal.
“I wouldn’t connect in your place,” said Bradley. - Have you not noticed? The order is not from the Earth, but directly from the Main. Maybe he loves to command, but without reason he does nothing.
- Name at least one!
“We'll find out soon,” he said.
* * *
Dr. Scott told the news to Gibson when he was finishing the article.
- Have you heard? He shouted, catching his breath. “Ordered to go to Deimos!”
Norden tears and mosques - we can stay for a whole day.
- No one knows. We asked, they do not speak.
Gibson scratched behind his ear and quickly went over a dozen hypotheses. He knew that Phobos, an internal satellite, had been a landing site since the first Martian voyage. Only six thousand kilometers from the planet, the attraction is less than one thousandth of the earth, what better!
Less than a week was left until the end of the flight. Mars was no longer a point, but a disk, and many details could be seen with the naked eye.
Gibson asked for a large map (according to the Mercator system) and began to memorize the main names invented by astronomers about a hundred years ago, which could hardly have imagined that the fruits of their imagination would become everyday life. However, how gifted were the old cartographers, how successfully they drew from the storehouse of mythology! It was worth reading on the map: Deucalion, Elysium, Arcadius, Atlantis, Utopia, Eos - and the heart beat with excitement. Martin could sit over the map for hours, savoring these words.
For each meal, they discussed what they would do by landing on Mars. Gibson's plans fit into two words: see more. He hoped to find out a whole planet in two months; True, Bradley assured him more than once that two days would be enough for Mars.
Gibson distracted from personal problems. He met Jimmy about ten times a day - both by chance and at the table - but he did not resume the conversation. At first he decided that Jimmy was shunning him, but he soon realized that he was wrong. Jimmy was just very busy, like the whole team, - Norden wanted to bring the spaceship in perfect condition.
It was strange again to feel your weight and hear the rumble of engines.
Ares slowed down. Recent clever course changes have taken more than a day. When the course was straightened, Mars became ten times larger for them than the Moon for the Earth, and the movement of Phobos and Deimos could be seen by observing for several minutes.
Gibson never thought that the great Martian deserts are so red. In fact, the word "red" could not convey all the richness of the shades of a slowly growing disk. Some of its parts were almost crimson, others were yellow-brown, and most often the color of brick dusted with dust was found.
It was late spring in the southern hemisphere, and the polar cap was reduced to a few dazzling white spots: the snow persistently did not melt where the soil was higher. Between the pole and the desert stretched a wide strip of plants, mostly bluish-green. In general, any shade could be found on the motley disk of Mars.
"Ares" entered the orbit of Deimos at a relative speed of less than a thousand kilometers per hour. The small satellite grew and grew until it became as large for them as Mars. But unlike Mars there were neither red nor green tones - only a dark mishmash of mountains or rocks sticking out at very different angles (there was almost no gravity on Deimos).
It was impossible to notice the moment of landing - only sudden silence informed Gibson that the engines were not working and the flight was over. Of course, twenty thousand kilometers remained to Mars. But for Ares, the flight is over - a small rocket will transport them to Mars. And with a tiny cabin that served him as housing for so many weeks, you will have to leave very soon.
He hastened from the gallery to the wheelhouse, where he deliberately did not enter all these troublesome hours. It was more difficult to walk - even the slight gravity of Deimos prevented him. It was hard to believe that three months ago he was so tormented by weightlessness. Now she seemed to him the norm. How quickly, however, the human body adapts!
The team sat at the table; everyone looked important and proud.
“You are on time,” Norden said cheerfully. “We're going to have a party here.” Drag the camera here. Click us when we raise a toast to our dish.
- Do not drink everything without me! - said Gibson and went for the "watering can."
When he returned, Dr. Scott set a very interesting experience.
“Tired of shaking,” he said. - Pour humanly into a glass. Let's see how long it takes.
“As you pour, the beer will run out of steam,” Mackay warned. - Now, now ... "g" is about 0.5 cm / sec ^ 2, you pour from a height ... - And he plunged into the calculations.
In the meantime, the experiment was in full swing. Scott lifted the can over the glass (for the first time in three months, the word “over” meant anything) - and amber liquid flowed indescribably slowly, like thick syrup. It seemed years passed before a thin stream touched the bottom.
“I'm sorry to keep you waiting,” said Mayor Whittaker. “You understand, the Chief had a meeting for an hour.” I just now managed to convey that you are here. Here, please.
It was just like in an ordinary earth institution. A sign hung on the door: "Chief Executive Officer." There was no name. The entire solar system also knew who ruled Mars; in fact, it was hard to think about this planet and not remember Warren Hadfield.
When the General Manager got up from the table, Gibson was surprised at his small stature - he probably judged Hadfield by his deeds and forgot that nothing would add an inch. But the face was what he thought was thin, a little birdlike, and the body was sinewy, flexible.
At the beginning of the conversation, Gibson was careful - he had to make a good impression at all costs. Everything will become much easier for him if Hadfield is on his side. And if they don’t get along, he’d better go home now.
“I hope Whittaker took care of you,” the Chief said when the usual greetings ended. “You see for yourself, I could not have accepted you before.” I'm just having an inspection. How did you get settled?
“Good,” smiled Gibson. “I'm afraid I broke a glass or two.”
Nothing, getting used to weight.
- Do you like our town?
- Very. I don’t understand how you managed to do so much.
Headfield stared at him.
- Speak directly. It is smaller than you expected, huh?
“Well, less, of course ... But I’m used to London and New York.” After all, on Earth, two thousand people are a big village.
The chief was not surprised or angry.
“Everyone is disappointed,” he said. - That week it will be bigger, the new dome will end. Tell me, what are your plans? I hope you know that I did not very welcome your visit?
“Yes, I found that out on Earth,” Gibson answered. He was a little dumbfounded - by something, but the Chief did not suffer from lack of directness.
“Well, since you are here, we will do everything we can for you.” I hope you answer the same.
“What can I do?” - warned Gibson.
Hadfield leaned over the table and passionately clasped his fingers.
“We fight, Mr. Gibson!” We are fighting with Mars and all the forces that he threw at us - with cold, with a lack of water, a lack of air. And we are at war with the Earth. On paper, of course, but there are victories and defeats. I fight at one end of a five million kilometer long supply line. The most necessary comes to us in five months, and even then if the Earth decides that we can’t do otherwise.
You probably understand what I'm fighting? I want us to be able to provide for ourselves. Remember that for the first expeditions had to bring everything. Well, now we are doing the most important thing ourselves. Here everyone is a specialist, but on Earth there are more professions than we have people. You can’t argue with arithmetic. See these charts? I started them five years ago. This red line is the level of “self-sufficiency”. See, about half we mastered. Hopefully, in about five years, very little will have to be imported from Earth. Now we most need people. This is where you can help.
Gibson did not show much joy.
“I can’t promise anything,” he said. “Please remember that here I am only a reporter.” I am with you in my soul, but I am obliged to describe everything as I see.
- I appreciate it. But the facts are not all. I hope you explain to the Earth what we hope to do. We will succeed only if the Earth supports us. Not all of your predecessors understood this.
He was right about that, Gibson thought. He recalled a series of articles in the Daily Telegraph about a year ago. The facts were conveyed accurately, but if they had written about the everyday life of the first settlers of North America, there would have been nothing to hope for.
“I think I see both sides of the issue,” Gibson said.
- You must understand that, from an earthly point of view, Mars is very far, costs a lot of money and does not give anything in return. The first cosmic enthusiasm ended. Now people are asking; “What will it give us?” So far, the answer has read: "Negligible." I am convinced that your business is very important, but here it is not faith that is needed, but logic. The average person on Earth probably thinks that the millions you spend here would be useful there, at home.
- I hope smart people understand the importance of the scientific base on Mars.
- Of course.
“But they don’t understand why create a self-sustaining society that can become an independent civilization?”
- In fact of the matter. They do not believe that this is possible. And if they believe, they don’t think it’s worth the work. Newspapers often write that Mars is a burden on Earth.
“Does it not seem to you that the exploration of Mars is similar to the colonization of America?”
- Not too much. In the end, the settlers found air and food there.
- Right. Mars is harder to colonize. But we have much more strength. Give us time and people - and we will become no worse than the Earth. Even now, few people want to leave here. Maybe the Earth does not need Mars now, but sooner or later it will need it.
“I wish I could believe it,” Gibson said without much fun.
He looked at the bright green vegetation approaching the almost invisible dome, and n
“Ah, how nice to see you all again!” Gibson said, carefully pulling the bottles out of the bar. “What do you think of Mars, Jimmy?” We are new here alone.
“I saw a little more,” Jimmy replied carefully. - Everything is kind of small here.
- I remember, at Deimos you said that everything is great. True, you drank then.
- I never get drunk! - Jimmy was indignant.
“Well, then you are a wonderful actor.” But I had such a feeling in the early days. One means - go out to stretch out. I’ve already left the dome once, and now I’ve got a flea. Going to the hills tomorrow. Do you want with me?
Jimmy's eyes sparkled.
- Thanks. Really want to!
“Hey, how are we?” - protested Norden.
“You were already there,” Gibson said. - By the way, we have one more place, you can play it. They give their driver, do not trust the precious car. Well, they are right.
Mackay won, and everyone else said that they were not going to go anywhere.
“So much the better,” Gibson said. “So we meet in the transport section, Fourth Dome, at ten in the morning.” Goodbye. I still need to write three articles or at least one under three names.
Researchers met exactly at the appointed time. They brought with them all the protective equipment that they have not yet been able to use: helmets, cylinders, an air purifier and a suit with power batteries, in which it was warm and comfortable even at a hundred degrees below zero. On this walk, he could hardly have been needed, except for a disaster that would have happened with a “flea” and they would have been stuck far from home.
The driver - a gloomy young geologist - said that he spent as much time outside the city as in the city. He looked very solid, and Gibson without any excitement entrusted him with his precious person.
“Do these cars break down?” He asked, crawling into the flea.
- Not very often. Over the past month, the guys only returned home twice on foot. In general, we will not go far, so in the worst case we will get back.
A narrow road ran along low bright greenery, skirting the domes of the city. Other roads diverged from it — to nearby mines, to a radio station, to an observatory, and to a landing site where rackets still transferred cargo from Ares.
“Well,” said the driver, slowing down at the first fork, “decide for yourself what road we will take.”
Gibson could not handle the card, which was three times the size of the cab. The driver looked contemptuously at her:
“I wonder where you got it?” In control? She is completely out of date. Tell me where you need it and I'll take you.
“Okay,” Gibson said. “I think we’ll climb the hills and look around.”
- So, to the observatory.
"Flea" rushed forward, and sparkling greens merged into a monotonous spot.
- What speed can she develop? Gibson asked, getting off Mackay’s knees.
- On a good road - at least a hundred per hour. But there are no good roads, so I do not drive. Now we are going on sixty.
“Can you go far on it?” Gibson asked, not quite calmed down.
- For a thousand kilometers from one gas station. For real, distant travels there is a long-distance vehicle with spare batteries. We have a record of up to five thousand kilometers. I made three thousand. On long trips, fuel containers are dropped from the air.
Although they rode no more than two minutes, Port Lowell had already disappeared over the horizon. Due to the curvature of Mars, it was difficult to estimate the distance to the eye; the domes were almost hidden, and it seemed that they were much larger and much further.
When the flea began to climb the hills, the domes reappeared.
The hills were not high - less than a kilometer, but they were suitable for a radio station and observatory and did not allow the cold wind from the south to enter the city.
They arrived at the radio station in half an hour and decided that it was time to take a walk. Everyone put on masks and took turns out of the “flea” through a small collapsible chamber.
There was essentially nothing to look at. To the north, the domes of the city bubbled, and in the west Gibson saw a crimson reflection of the desert, covering the entire planet. They did not stand at the very top, and the south was closed by hills, but Gibson knew that green fields stretched several hundred kilometers - to the Red Sea. Here, above, there was almost no vegetation. (“Due to lack of moisture,” he decided.) They went to the radio station. She worked almost automatically, so there was no one to give an explanation. But something Gibson himself knew. A huge parabolic reflector looked up, a little east of the zenith, to Earth. Maybe just at that moment one of his articles flew to Earth.
The observatory is located five kilometers to the south, on the very crest of the hills so that city lights do not interfere with work. Gibson thought he would see sparkling towers, a sure sign of Earth observatories. But there was only a small cupola made of plastic, clearly intended for housing. Devices stood in the open air, although they could be hidden if the weather turned out to be worse than expectations.
Apparently, there was not a soul in the observatory. They stopped at the largest device - a reflector with a mirror, less than a meter across. There were two more small reflectors and a sophisticated horizontal instrument, which Mackay called "her"