Sirens Of Titan Part 21

- Winston Niles Rumfoord Saturn has nine moons, the greastest of which is t.i.tan.

t.i.tan is only slightly smaller than Mars.

t.i.tan is the only moon in the Solar System that has an atmosphere. There is plenty of oxygen to breathe.

The atmosphere of t.i.tan is like the atmosphere outside the back door of an Earthling bakery on a spring morning.

t.i.tan has a natural chemical furnace at its core that maintains a uniform air temperature of sixty-seven degrees Fahrenheit.

There are three seas on t.i.tan, each the size of Earthling Lake Michigan. The waters of all three are fresh and emerald clear. The names of the three are the Winston Sea, the Niles Sea, and the Rumfoord Sea.

There is a cl.u.s.ter of ninety-three ponds and lakes, incipiently a fourth sea. The cl.u.s.ter is known as the Kazak Pools.

Connecting the Winston Sea, the Niles Sea, the Rumfoord Sea and the Kazak Pools are three great rivers. These rivers, with their tributaries, are moody- variously roaring, listless, and torn. Their moods are determined by the wildly fluctuating tugs of eight fellow moons, and by the prodigious influence of Saturn, which has ninety-five times the ma.s.s of Earth. The three rivers are known as the Winston River, the Niles River, and the Rumfoord River.

There are woods and meadows and mountains.

The tallest mountain is Mount Rumfoord, which is nine thousand, five hundred and seventy-one feet high.

t.i.tan affords an incomparable view of the most appallingly beautiful things in the Solar System, the rings of Saturn. These dazzling bands are forty thousand miles across and scarcely thicker than a razor blade.

On t.i.tan the rings are called Rumfoord's Rainbow.

Saturn describes a circle around the Sun.

It does it once every twenty-nine and a half Earthling years.

t.i.tan describes a circle around Saturn.

t.i.tan describes, as a consequence, a spiral around the Sun.

Winston Niles Rumfoord and his dog Kazak were wave phenomena- pulsing in distorted spirals, with their origins in the Sun and their terminals in Betelgeuse. Whenever a heavenly body intercepted their spirals, Rumfoord and his dog materialized on that body.

For reasons as yet mysterious, the spirals of Rumfoord, Kazak, and t.i.tan coincided exactly.

So Rumfoord and his dog were permanently materialized on t.i.tan.

Rumfoord and Kazak lived there on an island one mile from sh.o.r.e in the Winston Sea. Their home was a flawless reproduction of the Taj Mahal in Earthling India.

It was built by Martian labor.

It was Rumfood's wry fancy to call his t.i.tan home Dun Roamin Dun Roamin.

Before the arrival of Malachi Constant, Beatrice, Rumfoord, and Chrono, there was only one other person on t.i.tan. That other person was named Salo Salo. He was old. Salo was eleven million Earthling years old.

Salo was from another galaxy, from the Small Magellanic Cloud. He was four and a half feet tall.

Salo had a skin with the texture and color of the skin of an Earthling tangerine.

Salo had three light deer-like legs. His feet were of an extraordinarily interesting design, each being an inflatable sphere. By inflating these spheres to the size of German batb.a.l.l.s, Salo could walk on water. By reducing them to the size of golf b.a.l.l.s, Salo could bound over hard surfaces at high speeds. When he deflated the spheres entirely, his feet became suction cups. Salo could walk up walls.

Salo had no arms. Salo had three eyes, and his eyes could perceive not only the so-called visible spectrum, but infrared and ultraviolet and X-rays as well. Salo was punctual- that is, he lived one moment at a time- and he liked to tell Rumfoord that he would rather see the wonderful colors at the far ends of the spectrum than either the past or the future.

This was something of a weasel, since Salo had seen, living a moment at a time, far more of the past and far more of the Universe than Rumfoord had. He remembered more of what he had seen, too.

Salo's head was round and hung on gimbals.

His voice was an electric noise-maker that sounded like a bicycle horn. He spoke five thousand languages, fifty of them Earthling languages, thirty-one of them dead dead Earthling languages. Earthling languages.

Salo didn't live in a palace, though Rumfoord had offered to have one built for him. Salo lived in the open, near the s.p.a.ce ship that had brought him to t.i.tan two hundred thousand years before. His s.p.a.ce ship was a flying saucer, the prototype for the Martian invasion fleet.

Salo had an interesting history.

In the Earthling year 483,441 B.C., he was chosen by popular telepathic enthusiasm as the most handsome, healthy, clean-minded specimen of his people. The occasion was the hundred-millionth anniversary of the government of his home planet in the Small Magellanic Cloud. The name of his home planet was Tralfamadore, which old Salo once translated for Rumfoord, as meaning both all of us all of us and the and the number 541 number 541.

The length of a year on his home planet, according to his own calculations, was 3.6162 times the length of an Earthling year- so the celebration in which he partic.i.p.ated was actually in honor of a government 361,620,000 Earthling years old. Salo once described this durable form of government to Rumfoord as hypnotic anarchy, but declined to explain its workings. "Either you understand at once what it is," he told Rumfoord, "or there is no sense in trying to explain it to you, Skip."

His duty, when he was elected to represent Tralfamadore, was to carry a sealed message from "One Rim of the Universe to the Other." The planners of the ceremonies were not so deluded as to believe that Salo's projected route spanned the Universe. The image was poetic, as was Salo's expedition. Salo would simply take the message and go as fast and as far as the technology of Tralfamadore could send him.

The message itself was unknown to Salo. It had been prepared by what Salo described to Rumfoord as, "A kind of university- only n.o.body goes to it. There aren't any buildings, isn't any faculty. Everybody's in it and n.o.body's in it. It's like a cloud- that everybody has given a little puff of mist to, and then the cloud does all the heavy thinking for everybody. I don't mean there's really really a cloud. I just mean it's something a cloud. I just mean it's something like like that. If you don't understand what I'm talking about, Skip, there's no sense in trying to explain it to you. All I can say is, there aren't any meetings." that. If you don't understand what I'm talking about, Skip, there's no sense in trying to explain it to you. All I can say is, there aren't any meetings."

The message was contained in a sealed lead wafer that was two inches square and three-eighths of an inch thick. The wafer itself was contained in a gold mesh reticule which was hung on a stainless steel band clamped to the shaft that might be called Salo's neck.

Salo had orders not to open the reticule and wafer until he arrived at his destination. His destination was not t.i.tan. His destination was in a galaxy that began eighteen million light-years beyond t.i.tan. The plannersof the ceremonies in which Salo had partic.i.p.ated did not know what Salo was going to find in the galaxy. His instructions were to find creatures in it somewhere, to master their language, to open the message, and to translate it for them.

Salo did not question the good sense of his errand, since he was, like all Tralfamadorians, a machine. As a machine, he had to do what he was supposed to do.

Of all the orders Salo received before taking off from Tralfamadore, the one that was given the most importance was that he was not, under any circ.u.mstances, to open the message along the way he was not, under any circ.u.mstances, to open the message along the way.

This order was so emphasized that it became the very core of the little Tralfamadorian messenger's being.

In the Earthling year 203,117 B.C., Salo was forced down in the Solar System by mechanical difficulties. He was forced down by a complete disintegration of a small part in his ship's power plant, a part about the size of an Earthling beer-can opener. Salo was not mechanically inclined, and so had only a hazy idea as to what the missing part looked like or was supposed to do. Since Salo's ship was powered by UWTB, the Universal Will to Become, its power plant was nothing for a mechanical dilettante to tinker with.

Salo's ship wasn't entirely out of commission. It would still run- but limpingly, at only about sixty-eight thousand miles an hour. It was adequate for short hops around the Solar System, even in its crippled condition, and copies of the crippled ship did yeoman service for the Martian war effort. But the crippled ship was impossibly slow for the purposes of Salo's intergalactic errand.

So old Salo holed up on t.i.tan and he sent home to Tralfamadore word of his plight. He sent the message home with the speed of light, which meant that it would take one hundred and fifty thousand Earthling years to get to Tralfamadore.

He developed several hobbies that helped him to pa.s.s the time. Chief among these were sculpture, the breeding of t.i.tanic daisies, and watching the various activities on Earth. He could watch the activities on Earth by means of a viewer on the dash panel of his ship. The viewer was sufficiently powerful to let Salo follow the activities of Earthling ants, if he so wished.

It was through this viewer that he got his first reply from Tralfamadore. The reply was written on Earth in huge stones on a plain in what is now England. The ruins of the reply still stand, and are known as Stonehenge. The meaning of Stonehenge in Tralfamadorian, when viewed from above, is: "Replacement part being rushed with all possible speed."

Stonehenge wasn't the only message old Salo had received.

There had been four others, all of them written on Earth.

The Great Wall of China means in Tralfamadorian, when viewed from above: "Be patient. We haven't forgotten about you."

The Golden House of the Roman Emperor Nero meant: "We are doing the best we can."

The meaning of the Moscow Kremlin when it was first walled was: "You will be on your way before you know it."

The meaning of the Palace of the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, is: "Pack up your things and be ready to leave on short notice."

Simple arithmetic will reveal that these messages all arrived with speeds considerably in excess of the speed of light. Salo had sent his message of distress home with the speed of light, and it had taken one hundred and fifty thousand years to reach Tralfamadore. He had received a reply from Tralfamadore in less than fifty thousand years.

It is grotesque for anyone as primitive as an Earthling to explain how these swift communications were effected. Suffice it to say, in such primitive company, that the Tralfamadorians were able to make certain impulses from the Universal Will to Become echo through the vaulted architecture of the Universe with about three times the speed of light. And they were able to focus and modulate these impulses so as to influence creatures far, far away, and inspire them to serve Tralfamadorian ends.

It was a marvelous way to get things done in places far, far away from Tralfamadore. It was easily the fastest way.

But it wasn't cheap.

Old Salo was not equipped himself to communicate and get things done in this way, even over short distances. The apparatus and the quant.i.ties of Universal Will to Become used in the process were colossal, and they demanded the services of thousands of technicians.

And even the heavily-powered, heavily- manned, heavily-built apparatus of Tralfamadore was not particlarly accurate. Old Salo had watched many communications failures on Earth. Civilizations would start to bloom on Earth, and the partic.i.p.ants would start to build tremendous structures that were obviously to be messages in Tralfamadorian- and then the civilizations would p.o.o.p out without having finished the messages.

Old Salo had seen this happen hundreds of times.

Old Salo had told his friend Rumfoord a lot of interesting things about the civilization of Tralfamadore, but he had never told Rumfoord about the messages and the techniques of their delivery.

All that he had told Rumfoord was that he had sent home a distress message, and that he expected a replacement part to come any day now. Old Salo's mind was so different from Rumfoord's that Rumfoord couldn't read Salo's mind.

Salo was grateful for that barrier between their thoughts, because he was mortally afraid of what Rumfoord might say if he found out that Salo's people had so much to do with gumming up the history of Earth. Even though Rumfoord was chrono-synclastic infundibulated, and might be expected to take a larger view of things, Salo had found Rumfoord to be, still, a surprisingly parochial Earthling at heart.

Old Salo didn't want Rumfoord to find out what the Tralfamadorians were doing to Earth, because he was sure that Rumfoord would be offended- that Rumfoord would turn against Salo and all Tralfamadorians. Salo didn't think he could stand that, because he loved Winston Niles Rumfoord.

There was nothing offensive in this love. That is to say, it wasn't h.o.m.os.e.xual. It couldn't be, since Salo had no s.e.x.

He was a machine, like all Tralfamadorians.

He was held together by cotter pins, hose clamps, nuts, bolts, and magnets. Salo's tangerine-colored skin, which was so expressive when he was emotionally disturbed, could be put on or taken off like an Earthling wind-breaker. A magnetic zipper held it shut.

The Tralfamadorians, according to Salo, manufactured each other. No one knew for certain how the first machine had come into being.

The legend was this: Once upon a time on Tralfamadore there were creatures who weren't anything like machines. They weren't dependable. They weren't efficient. They weren't predictable. They weren't durable. And these poor creatures were obsessed by the idea that everything that existed had to have a purpose, and that some purposes were higher than others.

These creatures spent most of their time trying to find out what their purpose was. And every time they found out what seemed to be a purpose of themselves, the purpose seemed so low that the creatures were filled with disgust and shame.

And, rather than serve such a low purpose, the creatures would make a machine to serve it. This left the creatures free to serve higher purposes. But whenever they found a higher purpose, the purpose still wasn't high enough.

So machines were made to serve higher purposes, too.

And the machines did everything so expertly that they were finally given the job of finding out what the highest purpose of the creatures could be.

The machines reported in all honesty that the creatures couldn't really be said to have any purpose at all.

The creatures thereupon began slaying each other, because they hated purposeless things above all else.

And they discovered that they weren't even very good at slaying. So they turned that job over to the machines, too. And the machines finished up the job in less time than it takes to say, "Tralfamadore."

Using the viewer on the dash panel of his s.p.a.ce ship, Old Salo now watched the approach to t.i.tan of the s.p.a.ce ship carrying Malachi Constant, Beatrice Rumfoord, and their son Chrono. Their ship was set to land automatically on the sh.o.r.e of the Winston Sea.

It was set to land amid two million life-sized statues of human beings. Salo had made the statues at the rate of about ten an Earthling year.

The statues were concentrated in the region of the Winston Sea because the statues were made of t.i.tanic peat. t.i.tanic peat abounds by the Winston Sea, only two feet under the surface soil.

t.i.tanic peat is a curious substance- and, for the facile and sincere sculptor, an attractive one.

When first dug, t.i.tanic peat has the consistency of Earthling putty.

After one hour's exposure to t.i.tan's light and air, the peat has the strength and hardness of plaster of Paris.

After two hours' exposure, it is as durable as granite, and must be worked with a cold chisel.

After three hours' exposure, nothing but a diamond will scratch t.i.tanic peat.

Salo was inspired to make so many statues by the showy ways in which Earthlings behaved. It wasn't so much what the Earthlings did as the way they did it that inspired Salo.

The Earthlings behaved at all times as though there were a big eye in the sky- as though that big eye were ravenous for entertainment.

The big eye was a glutton for great theater. The big eye was indifferent as to whether the Earthling shows were comedy, tragedy, farce, satire, athletics, or vaudeville. Its demand, which Earthings apparently found as irresistible as gravity, was that the shows be great.

The demand was so powerful that Earthlings did almost nothing but perform for it, night and day- and even in their dreams.

The big eye was the only audience that Earthlings really cared about. The fanciest performances that Salo had seen had been put on by Earthlings who were terribly alone. The imagined big eye was their only audience.

Salo, with his diamond-hard statues, had tried to preserve some of the mental states of those Earthlings who had put on the most interesting shows for the imagined big eye.

Hardly less surprising than the statues were the t.i.tanic daisies that abounded by the Winston Sea. When Salo arrived on t.i.tan in 203,117 B.C., the blooms of t.i.tanic daisies were tiny, star-like, yellow flowers barely a quarter of an inch across.

Then Salo began to breed them selectively.

When Malachi Constant, Beatrice Rumfoord, and their son Chrono arrived on t.i.tan, the typical t.i.tanic daisy had a stalk four feet in diameter, and a lavender bloom shot with pink and having a ma.s.s in excess of a ton.

Salo, having watched the approaching s.p.a.ce ship of Malachi Constant, Beatrice Rumfoord, and their son Chrono, inflated his feet to the size of German batb.a.l.l.s. He stepped onto the emerald clear waters of the Winston Sea, crossed the waters to Winston Niles Rumfoord's Taj Mahal.

He entered the walled yard of the palace, let the air out of his feet. The air hissed. The hiss echoed from the walls.

Winston Niles Rumfoord's lavender contour chair by the pool was empty.

"Skip?" called Salo. He used this most intimate of all possible names for Rumfoord, Rumfoord's childhood name, in spite of Rumfoord's resentment of his use of it. He didn't use the name in order to tease Rumfoord. He used it in order to a.s.sert the friendship he felt for Rumfoord- to test the friendship a little, and to watch it endure the test handsomely.

There was a reason for Salo's putting friendship to such a soph.o.m.oric test. He had never seen, never even heard of friendship before he hit the Solar System. It was a fascinating novelty to him. He had to play with it.

"Skip?" Salo called again.

There was an unusual tang in the air. Salo identified it tentatively as ozone. He was unable to account for it.

A cigarette still burned in the ash tray by Rumfoord's contour chair, so Rumfoord hadn't been out of his chair long.

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