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.Lucifer vanished, to be replaced by a field of stars.At the same time, the Mayor faded out and another voice took over:“ –two-meter telescope, but almost any instrument will do.It's a disc of perfectly black material, just over ten thousand kilometers across, so thin it shows no visible thickness.And it's placed exactly – obviously deliberately – to block Ganymede from receiving any light.“We'll zoom in to see if it shows any details, though I rather doubt it.”From the viewpoint of Callisto, the occulting disc was foreshortened into an oval, twice as long as it was wide.It expanded until it completely filled the screen; thereafter, it was impossible to tell whether the image was being zoomed, as it showed no structure whatsoever.“As I thought – there's nothing to see.Let's pan over to the edge of the thing.”Again there was no sense of motion, until a field of stars suddenly appeared, sharply defined by the curving edge of the world-sized disc.It was exactly as if they were looking past the horizon of an airless, perfectly smooth planet.No, it was not perfectly smooth.“That's interesting,” commented the astronomer, who until now had sounded remarkably matter-of-fact, as if this sort of thing was an everyday occurrence.“The edge looks jagged – but in a very regular fashion – like a saw-blade.”A circular saw, Poole muttered under his breath.Is it going to carve us up? Don't be ridiculous.“This is as close as we can get before diffraction spoils the image – we'll process it later and get much better detail:”The magnification was now so great that all trace of the disc's circularity had vanished.Across the vidscreen was a black band, serrated along its edge with triangles so identical that Poole found it hard to avoid the ominous analogy of a saw-blade.Yet something else was nagging at the back of his mind.Like everyone else on Ganymede, he watched the infinitely more distant stars drifting in and out of those geometrically perfect valleys.Very probably, many others jumped to the same conclusion even before he did.If you attempt to make a disc out of rectangular blocks – whether their proportions are 1:4:9 or any other – it cannot possibly have a smooth edge.Of course, you can make it as near a perfect circle as you like, by using smaller and smaller blocks.Yet why go to that trouble, if you merely wanted to build a screen large enough to eclipse a sun?The Mayor was right; the eclipse was indeed temporary.But its ending was the precise opposite of a solar one.First light broke through at the exact center, not in the usual necklace of Bailey's Beads along the very edge.Jagged lines radiated from a dazzling pinhole – and now, under the highest magnification, the structure of the disc was being revealed.It was composed of millions of identical rectangles, perhaps the same size as the Great Wall of Europa.And now they were splitting apart: it was as if a gigantic jigsaw puzzle was being dismantled.Its perpetual, but now briefly interrupted, daylight was slowly returning to Ganymede, as the disc fragmented and the rays of Lucifer poured through the widening gaps.Now the components themselves were evaporating, almost as if they needed the reinforcement of each other's contact to maintain reality.Although it seemed like hours to the anxious watchers in Anubis City, the whole event lasted for less than fifteen minutes.Not until it was all over did anyone pay attention to Europa itself.The Great Wall was gone: and it was almost an hour before the news came from Earth, Mars and Moon that the Sun itself had appeared to flicker for a few seconds, before resuming business as usual.It had been a highly selective set of eclipses, obviously targeted at humankind.Nowhere else in the Solar System would anything have been noticed.In the general excitement, it was a little longer before the world realized that TMA ZERO and TMA ONE had both vanished, leaving only their four-million-year-old imprints on Tycho and Africa.It was the first time the Europs could ever have met humans, but they seemed neither alarmed nor surprised by the huge creatures moving among them at such lightning speed.Of course, it was not too easy to interpret the emotional state of something that looked like a small, leafless bush, with no obvious sense organs or means of communication.But if they were frightened by the arrival of Alcyone, and the emergence of its passengers, they would surely have remained hiding in their igloos.As Frank Poole, slightly encumbered by his protective suit and the gift of shining copper wire he was carrying, walked into the untidy suburbs of Tsienville, he wondered what the Europs thought of recent events.For them, there had been no eclipse of Lucifer, but the disappearance of the Great Wall must surely have been a shock.It had stood there for a thousand years, as a shield and doubtless much more; then, abruptly, it was gone, as if it had never been.The petabyte tablet was waiting for him, with a group of Europs standing around it, demonstrating the first sign of curiosity that Poole had ever observed in them.He wondered if Halman had somehow told them to watch over this gift from space, until he came to collect it.And to take it back, since it now contained not only a sleeping friend but terrors which some future age might exorcise, to the only place where it could be safely stored.40.Midnight: PicoIt would be hard, Poole thought, to imagine a more peaceful scene – especially after the trauma of the last weeks.The slanting rays of a nearly full Earth revealed all the subtle details of the waterless Sea of Rains – not obliterating them, as the incandescent fury of the Sun would do.The small convoy of mooncars was arranged in a semicircle a hundred meters from the inconspicuous opening at the base of Pico that was the entrance to the Vault.From this viewpoint, Poole could see that the mountain did not live up to the name that the early astronomers, misled by its pointed shadow, had given to it [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]