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Дино Буццати «Рождественская сказка»

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All eyes were watching the eclipse of the Moon when the Wanderer — a huge, garishly colored artificial world — emerged. Only a few scientists even suspected its presence, and then, suddenly and silently, it arrived, dwarfing and threatening the Moon and wreaking havoc on Earth’s tides and weather. Though the Wanderer is stopping in the solar system only to refuel, its mere presence is catastrophic. A tense, thrilling, and towering achievement.

Won Hugo Award for the Best Novel in 1964.

The Wanderer

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-seven

Chapter Thirty-eight

Chapter Thirty-nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-one

Chapter Forty-two

The Wanderer

by Fritz Leiber

“How about a hyperspatial tube?”

“Um…m. Distinctly a possibility…”

One instant space was empty; the next it was full of warships…

Planets. Seven of them. Armed and powered as only a planet can be armed and powered.

—Edward E. Smith, Ph. D., in Second Stage Lensmen

Tyger, tyger; burning bright

In the forests of the night.

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?…

In what furnace was thy brain?…

—William Blake

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

And the heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places…

And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters.

—The Revelation of Saint John the Divine

Actual interstellar voyaging was first effected by detaching a planet from its natural orbit by a series of well-timed and well-placed rocket impulsions, and thus projecting it into outer space at a speed far greater than the normal planetary and stellar speeds…

Then followed wars such as had never before occurred in our galaxy. Fleets of worlds, natural and artificial, maneuvered among the stars to outwit one another, and destroyed one another with long-range jets of sub-atomic energy. As the tides of battle swept hither and thither through space, whole planetary systems were annihilated.

—Olaf Stapledon in The Star Maker

Chapter One

Some stories of terror and the supernormal start with a moonlit face at a diamond-paned window, or an old document in spidery handwriting, or the baying of a hound across lonely moors. But this one began with an eclipse of the moon and with four glisteningly new astronomical photographs, each showing starfields and a planetary object. Only…something had happened to the stars.

The oldest of the photographs was only seven days out of the developer at the time of the eclipse. They came from three widely separated observatories and one came from a telescope on a satellite. They were the star-graven runes of purest science, at the opposite extreme from matters of superstition, yet each photograph struck a twinge of uneasiness in the young scientist first to see it.

As he looked at the black dots that should have been there…and at the faint black curlicues that shouldn’t…he felt the barest touch of a strangeness that for a moment made him kin to the caveman and the devil-worshipper and the witch-haunted Middle Ages.

Passing along priority channels, the four photographs came together at the Los Angeles Area Headquarters of the Moon Project of the U.S. Space Force — the American Moon Project that was barely abreast of the Russian one, and far behind the Soviet Mars Project And so at Moon Project U.S. the sense of strangeness and unease was sharpest, though expressed in sardonic laughter and a bouncy imaginativeness, as is the way with scientists faced with the weird.

In the end the four photographs — or rather, what they heralded — starkly affected every human being on Earth, every atom of our planet. They opened deep fissures in the human soul.

They cost thousands their sanity and millions their lives. They did something to the moon, too.

So we might begin this story anywhere — with Wolf Loner in the mid-Atlantic, or Fritz Scher in Germany, or Richard Hillary in Somerset, or Arab Jones smoking weed in Harlem, or Barbara Katz sneaking around Palm Beach in a black playsuit, or Sally Harris hunting her excitement in the environs of New York, or Doc Brecht selling pianos in L.A., or Charlie Fulby lecturing about flying saucers, or General Spike Stevens understudying the top role in the U.S. Space Force, or Rama Joan Huntington interpreting Buddhism, or with Bagong hung in the South China Sea, or with Don Merriam at Moonbase U.S., or even with Tigran Biryuzov orbiting Mars. Or we could begin it with Tigerishka or Miaow or Ragnarok or the President of the United States. But because they were close to that first center of unease near Los Angeles, and because of the crucial part they were to play in the story, we will begin with Paul Hagbolt, a publicist employed by Project Moon; and with Margo Gelhorn, fiancйe of one of the four young Americans who had soared to Moonbase U.S., and with Margo’s cat Miaow, who had a very strange journey ahead of her; and with the four photographs, though they were then only an eerie, top-secret mystery rather than a trumpeting menace; and with the moon, which was about to slide into the ambiguous gleam-haunted darkness of eclipse.

Margo Gelhorn, coming out on the lawn, saw the full moon halfway up the sky. Earth’s satellite was as vividly three-dimensional as a mottled marble basketball. Its pale gold hue fitted the weather rarity of a balmy Pacific Coast evening.

“There’s the bitch up there now,” Margo said.

Paul Hagbolt, emerging through the door behind her, laughed uneasily. “You really do think of the moon as a rival.”

“Rival, hell. She’s got Don,” the blonde girl said flatly. “She’s even got Miaow here hypnotized.” She was holding in her arms a tranquil gray cat, in whose green eyes the moon was two smudged pearls.

Paul too turned his gaze on the moon, or rather toward a point near its top, above the Mare Imbrium shadow. He couldn’t distinguish the crater Plato holding Moonbase U.S., but he knew it was in view.

Margo said bitterly: “It’s bad enough to have to look up at that graveyard monstrosity, knowing Don’s there, exposed to all the dangers of a graveyard planet But now that we have to think about this other thing that’s shown up in the astronomical photographs—”

“Margo!” Paul said sharply, automatically flashing a look around. “That’s still classified information. We shouldn’t be talking about it — not here.”

“The Project’s turning you into an old auntie! Besides, you’ve given me no more than a hint—”

“I shouldn’t have given you even that.”

“Well, what are we going to talk about, then?”

Paul let off a sigh. “Look,” he said, “I thought we came outside to watch the eclipse, maybe take a drive, too—”

“Oh, I forgot the eclipse! The moon’s turned a little smoky, don’t you think? Has it started?”

“Looks like it,” Paul said. “It’s time for first contact”

“What’ll the eclipse do to Don?”

“Nothing much. It’ll get dark up there for a while. That’s all. Oh yes, and the temperature outside Moonbase will drop 250 degrees or so.”

“A blast from the seventh circle of Hell and he says, ‘That’s all’!”

“Not as bad as it sounds. You see, the temperature will be about 150 degrees above zero to start with,” Paul explained.

“A Siberian cold wave cubed on top of scalding heat and he says, ‘That’s ducky’! And when I think of this other, unknown horror creeping toward the moon from outer space—”

“Drop it, Margo!” The smile left Paul’s face. “You’re talking strictly off the top of your imagination.”

“Imagination? Did you or did you not tell me about four star photos that showed—”

“I told you nothing — nothing that you didn’t completely misinterpret. No, Margo, I refuse to say another word about that. Or listen to you over-rev your mind. Let’s go inside.”

“Go inside? With Don up there? I’m going to watch this eclipse through — from the coast road, if it lasts that long.”

“In that case,” Paul said quietly, “you’d better get something more than that jacket. I know it seems warm now, but California nights are treacherous.”

“And nights on the moon aren’t? Here, hold Miaow.”

“Why? If you think I’m going to travel a loose cat—”

“Because this jacket is too hot! ...