Аркадий Стругацкий: Wanderers and Travellers

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  • Название:
    Wanderers and Travellers
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    MIR Publishers
  • Жанр:
    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
  • Год:
    1968
  • Город:
    Moscow
  • Язык:
    Английский
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    4 / 5
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Wanderers and Travellers: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Главный герой рассказа братьев Стругацких «О странствующих и путешествующих» занимался тем, что под водой помечал септоподов — тварей из подкласса двужаберных класса головоногих моллюсков. Поставив метку на одном (и единственном за этот день), он вылез на берег отогреваться. На берегу сидела его Машка и неизвестный тип (как выяснилось, Леонид Андреевич). Леонид Андреевич развалился на траве и, увидев стрекозу, выдал вслух серию размышлений о том, что есть разум на самом деле и не можем ли мы, люди, быть как септоподы объектом исследования для неведомых нам существ. Более того, он даже привел живой пример в лице себя: как оказалось Леонид Андреевич, вернувшись из космического рейса, где он стал свидетелями невероятного и загадочного эффекта — «голоса пустоты», — сам стал источником радиоволн...

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Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky


WANDERERS AND TRAVELLERS



The water in the pool was not very cold, but all the same I was frozen. I had been sitting on the bottom, right under the steep bank, and for a whole hour had been cautiously turning my head from side to side and peering into the dim greenish twilight. I had to sit without moving, for septopods are sensitive and suspicious animals, they are frightened off by the slightest sound or any abrupt movement and will disappear, to return only at night, when it is better not to have anything to do with them.

An eel was busying himself under my feet, and a dozen times a pompous-looking striped perch swam past me and back again, stopping each time and staring at me with his vacuous round eyes. As soon as he was gone, a shoal of silvery small fry would appear and begin to graze just above my head. My knees and shoulders were quite numb. I was afraid that Masha might not wait any longer and would get into the water to rescue me. I succeeded in conjuring up so vivid a picture of how she was sitting all alone at the water's edge and waiting for me, how terrified she was, and how she longed to dive in and find me, that I had already made up my mind to come up, when at last a septopod swam out of the weed twenty paces or so to the right of me.

It was a fairly large specimen, and appeared noiselessly and suddenly, like a ghost, his round body foremost. His whitish mantle was pulsating gently, in a limp and inert kind of way, as it sucked in and ejected the water, and he rocked slightly from side to side as he moved. His tentacles were tucked under him and their thin ends trailed after him resembling tattered of old rag; and the slit of his eye, nearly covered by the eyelid, shone dimly in the faint light. He was swimming slowly, as they do in the daytime, in a strange and uncanny trance, not knowing, where he was going or why. He was probably impelled by the most obscure and primitive drives, like those, perhaps, that control the movements of amoebae.

Very gently I raised the marker and aimed it at the inflated back. The silvery mass of small fry suddenly darted away and vanished and it seemed to me that the eyelid above the great glassy eye flickered. I pulled the trigger and immediately sprang up and away from the caustic sepia. When I looked again, the septopod was no longer to be seen: only a dense blue-black cloud was spreading through the water and clouding the bottom. I came to the surface and swam to shore.

It was a fine hot day. A blue haze hung above the water, the sky was white and empty, except beyond the forest where a great motionless mass of bluish cloud towered.

On the grass in front of our tent sat a stranger in bright swimming trunks with a bandage round his forehead. He was tanned and not so much muscular, as extraordinarily sinewy, as though covered with a whole network of ropes under the skin. You could see at once that he was incredibly strong. Before him stood my Masha in her blue swimsuit-long-legged, sunburnt, and with a shock of sun-bleached hair down her back. So, she wasn't sitting by the water, anxiously waiting for her daddy. She was excitedly telling this sinewy fellow something, waving her arms the whole time. I was even hurt that she hadn't even noticed my appearance. But the man did, and quickly turned his head, looked at me intently, and smiled, waving his open hand. Masha spun round and shrieked happily "There you are!"

I climbed out on to the grass, took off my mask and wiped my face. The man was smiling as he examined me.

"How many did you mark?" asked Masha in a business-like manner.

"One". My jaws were cramped with the cold.

"Oh you!" said Masha.

She helped me to take off my aqualung, and I stretched out on the grass.

"Yesterday he marked two," explained Masha. "The day before yesterday four. If it goes on like that, we'd better move on to another lake." She took a towel and began to rub my back. "You look like a quick-frozen gander," she proclaimed. "This is Leonid Andreyevich Gorbovsky. He's an astro-archaeologist. And this, Leonid Andreyevich, is my daddy, Stanislav Ivanovich."

The sinewy Leonid Andreyevich nodded and smiled.

"Are you frozen?" he asked. "It's so lovely here-the sun, green grass…"

"He'll be all right soon," said Masha, rubbing me with might and main. "He's usually quite jolly, but he's chilled to the bone".

It was clear she had been saying all sorts of things about me and now was doing her best to vindicate my reputation. Let her. I hadn't time- my teeth were chattering.

"Masha here and I were very worried about you," said Gorbovsky. "We even wanted to dive in and find you, but I don't know how. I expect you can't even imagine a man who's never had to dive in the course of his work." He turned over on his back, then on his side, and leaned on his arm. "Tomorrow I'm flying off," he confided to me. "And I simply don't know when I'll ever have the chance again to lie on the grass by a lake and have the possibility of diving with an aqualung." "Feel it, then," I said.

He looked carefully over the aqualung and touched it.

"I certainly will," he said, and turned over on his back. He folded his arms under his head and looked at me, slowly blinking his sparse lashes. There was something irresistibly attractive about him, but what exactly I don't know. Perhaps it was his eyes, trusting and a little sad. Or perhaps it was because his ears stuck out from under the bandage in such a comical fashion. Having gazed his fill at me, he turned his eyes on a blue dragonfly that was swaying on a blade of grass.

"Dragon-fly," he said. "Dear little dragon-fly! Blue-lakeside-beauty! There she sits, neatly and prettily, looking around to see what she can gobble up." He stretched out his hand, but the dragon-fly left the blade of grass and winged its way in an arc toward the reeds. He followed it with his eyes and lay down again. "How complicated it is, my friends," he said, and Masha immediately sat down and stared at him with round eyes. "There she is, perfect, graceful, and content with everything. Ate up a fly, reproduced herself, and is now ready to die. Simple, elegant, rational. No spiritual perplexities, no love-pangs, no self-consciousness, no ideas about life."

"A machine," said Masha suddenly. "A boring cyber!"

This from my Masha! I nearly burst out laughing, but restrained myself, though believe I snorted, and she looked at me with disapproval.

"Boring," agreed Gorbovsky. "That's it. But now imagine, comrades, a dragon-fly of a poisonous greenish-yellow colour, with horizontal red stripes, and a wing-span of seven metres, and its jaws all covered with a nasty black slime. Well, have you pictured it to yourselves?" He raised his eyebrows and looked at us. "I see you haven't. But I have run away from them like a madman, even though I've been armed. Now, the question is, what is there in common between these two boring cybers?"

"That green one," I said, "is from another planet, I suppose?"

"No doubt about that."

"From Pandora?"

"Exactly, from Pandora," he answered.

"What have they got in common?"

"Yes, what?"

"But that's obvious." I said. "An identical level of assimilation of information. Reaction at the level of instinct."

"Words," he sighed. "Don't be angry, but these are only words, and no use to me. I've got to find traces of reason in the Universe, but I don't know what it is. It's no good talking to me about different levels of assimilation of information. I know quite well that the dragon-fly and I have different levels, but all that is intuition. Now tell me: here I've found an ant nest-does it represent traces of reason or not? On Leonida they discovered buildings without windows and without doors-does that represent traces of reason? What have I to look for? Ruins? Inscriptions? Rusty nails? A septihedral screw? How am I to know what traces they leave? What if their aim in life is to destroy the atmosphere wherever they find one? Or to build rings round the planets? Or to hybridize life? Or to create life? Perhaps that dragon-fly was self-reproducing cybernetic apparatus set going in times beyond memory? To say nothing of the possessors of reason themselves. After all, one can pass a slimy creature croaking in a puddle twenty times and only turn away from it in loathing. But the creature looks at you with beautiful goggling yellow eyes and thinks to himself: 'Interesting, obviously a new species. An expedition should return here and catch a specimen.

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