[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.It was my role to lead that purging.Humanity must be cleansed of sin, even if it meant scraping to the bone.It was my role to be the Eye of God, to prophesy and define what must be done.Then it would be my task to lead the carrying out of that cleansing.I could not rely on new technology, but old technology would provide me with my tools."I did not like the burden laid upon me.I fought against it, prayed that the cup might pass.I tried to reject it and to deny it.I hated many of the things that I knew I would be required to do.But, finally, I accepted my destiny." Pearl Lazenby turned to Wilmer and offered the cup that she was holding."Would you like tea?"He shook his head, and leaned toward her."You saw disaster in this year, 2026.And you saw a possible later disaster.When? What did you see around 2076?""Fifty years from now?" A frown wrinkled the skin of her high forehead."I saw nothing.Should I have?""Yes.In that year, or within five years of it, a second great disaster will arrive.""What kind of disaster? Can you describe it?""Yes." Wilmer's face took on the blank look of Pearl Lazenby's, five minutes earlier."Let me put it in terms easy to understand.There will be fire in the sky, as a deluge of high-energy particles hits our upper atmosphere.We will see auroras bright as no one has ever seen them.Worse trouble follows.For a short time the atmosphere will become opaque to visible wavelength radiation—darkness at noon.When sunlight returns, Earth will be unprotected.The ozone layer will have been lost.Ultraviolet radiation will hit Earth more fiercely than we have ever known.And while this goes on, the global temperature will rise.The thermal shock to the planet will be ten times that of the past two months.Civilization, even if it has been rebuilt from today, will crumble and collapse.""You see it." Pearl Lazenby was sitting bolt upright, absorbed in Wilmer's words."That's it, isn't it? You see these events.""You could say that I see them, yes.""But where does your vision come from?""From the equations governing stellar energy release, clear to those who can read them.It is in the formulas for element nucleosynthesis, in the equations for radiative transfer, and in the quantum laws that govern the interaction of the electromagnetic field with atoms and electrons.It was foreordained by the occurrence of the supernova itself.And beyond 2076, far beyond it, I see a faint shadow of something even more ominous.""Can others see these things?""Some.But if I am honest, I have to say, not many.It requires a lot of training."Pearl Lazenby subsided slowly in her chair."It is like my own gift.It must be grown from its first seed.Native ability is nothing without long, hard work.Could you teach me to see as you do?""I think not."She nodded."Any more than I have been able to teach others.I accept that.It was clearly foreordained that you come here.You will tell me more of your visions.But not today.You are, I know, exhausted, and so am I.My people will show you to your accommodations." She did not seem to move, but three armed women appeared at the door of the room.Celine took the hint and stood up.The others of the Mars group, more slowly, followed her example.Pearl Lazenby rose, too, a little unsteadily.She patted Wilmer's arm."We have much to learn from each other.Good night."She waved to the uniformed guards, who escorted Celine and the others away.Following Celine's lead, Wilmer, Reza, and Jenny said nothing until they had been taken along another underground corridor and shown two small rooms, each containing two cot beds.The armed women motioned Reza and Wilmer to place their small backpacks in one room, Jenny and Celine to use the other."What about food?" Celine asked."It is many hours since we ate."One of the women shook her head."There will be no food tonight." She had the same wooden manner as Eli, and she spoke as though she grudged every word."Mealtimes are fixed.At seven in the morning, at midday, and at six at night.Anyone who does not eat at those times does not eat.""I don't believe it.Food must be available for people who have been working late or working at night.""There will be no food tonight.""Then tomorrow I will report your action to Pearl Lazenby herself.She said that we would be treated well here.She does not expect us to be starved."Mention of the leader's name had an immediate effect.The other two women turned to the one who had spoken and Celine could see fear and worry on all three faces.After a few seconds the first woman nodded."You will have food.But you must eat here, nowhere else." She nodded to one of her companions, who hurried out."Tonight you may not leave these rooms.""Believe me, we don't propose to go anywhere.We are hungry and exhausted.Something to eat, then we'll collapse into bed.""We will be on guard outside, to make sure that no one tries to leave.Your food will be brought in." The woman looked all around the room as though searching for some invisible escape route, nodded, and motioned to the other woman.They left in silence.Celine looked at Jenny."Are we going to let them dictate who sleeps where?"Jenny shook her head."I don't see why.It's our business, not theirs."She moved her pack to the bedroom with Reza.Celine brought Wilmer's things in with her.Then she sat down on the bed and stared at him thoughtfully."You know, sometimes I wonder about you.All that stuff about visions and foreordained disaster.""I told the exact truth," Wilmer said placidly."When a supernova occurs, the initial burst of radiation must be accompanied by particle emission.Those ions travel more slowly, at a small fraction of light speed.Foreordained describes very well the nature of physical laws, and the inevitable future arrival of a particle storm from Supernova Alpha.Thousands of scientists on Earth could have told Pearl Lazenby that.And if she'd asked me, I could have suggested a possible way of avoiding the disaster.But she didn't.I guess scientists don't have much clout in this place.""But what about her visions? That's all mystical gobbledygook.""We think so.But she believes what she sees, and so do her followers.That gives her visions a reality that we have to accept, even when they sound vague enough to apply to a lot of natural disasters." Wilmer motioned toward the door."Those guns are real.The willingness of her followers to do anything that Pearl Lazenby commands is real.Based on the evidence, I can make a case that she has a better handle on reality than the rest of the world.After all, she was the one who predicted and prepared for disaster.We had no idea it was coming.""I agree with Wilmer." Reza had been standing in the doorway, a rapt expression on his face.He came forward."She knew, many years ago.No one else did.There are more ways to truth than science admits.I think that Pearl Lazenby is an amazing woman.""Or at least a lucky one," Jenny said.She came across and sat on the bed next to Celine.Her eyes were red from fatigue and loss of sleep."Don't glare at me like that, Reza, pure luck would do it.Pearl Lazenby decided, for whatever reason, that she disliked smart machines that made use of microchips.So she predicted that they would fail, and after that she and her followers avoided them.Did you notice the railcar we rode here on, and those guns and bullets? They were old.No chips in them.""Maybe.But they are more useful than anything that does use chips." Reza seemed ready for more argument."So who was the smart one, tell me that.Pearl Lazenby, or the rest of us? Hate the Legion of Argos as much as you like, you can't deny that her prophecies came true.""By dumb luck." Jenny stared up at Reza, who shook his head.Celine sensed a new tension between them."Pearl Lazenby and her followers are one-eyed prophets," Jenny went on, "in the country of the blind.She knows she has a temporary advantage, and she intends to do something with it [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]