The wind howled out of the northwest, blind with snow and barbed with ice crystals. All the way up the half-mile precipice it fingered and wrenched away at groaning ice-slabs. It screamed over the top, whirled snow in a dervish dance ...
The wind howled out of the northwest, blind with snow and barbed with
ice crystals. All the way up the half-mile precipice it fingered and
wrenched away at groaning ice-slabs. It screamed over the top, whirled
snow in a dervish dance around the hollow there, piled snow into the
long furrow plowed ruler-straight through streamlined hummocks of snow.
The sun glinted on black rock glazed by ice, chasms and ridges and
bridges of ice. It lit the snow slope to a frozen glare, penciled black
shadow down the long furrow, and flashed at the furrow's end on a thing
of metal and plastics, an artifact thrown down in the dead wilderness.
Nothing grew, nothing flew, nothing walked, nothing talked. But the
thing in the hollow was stirring in stiff jerks like a snake with its
back broken or a clockwork toy running down. When the movements stopped,
there was a click and a strange sound began. Thin, scratchy, inaudible
more than a yard away, weary but still cocky, there leaked from the
shape in the hollow the sound of a human voice.
"I've tried my hands and arms and they seem to work," it began. "I've
wiggled my toes with entire success. It's well on the cards that I'm all
in one piece and not broken up at all, though I don't see how it could
happen. Right now I don't feel like struggling up and finding out. I'm
fine where I am. I'll just lie here for a while and relax, and get some
of the story on tape. This suit's got a built-in recorder, I might as
well use it. That way even if I'm not as well as I feel, I'll leave a
message. You probably know we're back and wonder what went wrong.
"I suppose I'm in a state of shock. That's why I can't seem to get up.
Who wouldn't be shocked after luck like that?
"I've always been lucky, I guess. Luck got me a place in the _Whale_.
Sure I'm a good astronomer but so are lots of other guys. If I were ten
years older, it would have been an honor, being picked for the first
long jump in the first starship ever. At my age it was luck.