THE TELEPHONE lines had been repaired, the roads plowed clean, and carefully selected representatives of the world’s press were given a brief look at the facility. A few reporters and photographers were taken through the three matching apertures in the benzels, through the air-lock, and into the dodec. There were television commentaries recorded, the reporters seated, in the chairs that the Five had occupied, telling the world of the failure of this first courageous attempt to activate the Machine. Ellie and her colleagues were photographed from a distance, to show that they were alive and well, but no interviews were to be given just yet. The Machine Project was taking stock and considering its future options. The tunnel from Honshu to Hokkaido was open again, but the passageway from Earth to Vega was closed. They hadn’t actually tested this propo-sition – Ellie wondered whether, when the Five finally left the site, the project would try to spin up the benzels again – but she believed what she had been told: The Machine would not work again; there would be no further access to the tunnels for the beings of Earth. We could make little indentations in spacetime as much as we liked; it would do us no good if no one hooked up from the other side. We had been given a glimpse, she thought, and then were left to save ourselves. If we could.
In the end, the Five were permitted to talk among themselves. She systematically bade farewell to each.
No one blamed her for the blank cassettes.
`These pictures on the cassettes are recorded in magnetic domains, on tape,” Vaygay reminded her. “A strong electrical field accumulated on the benzels, and they were, of course, moving. A time-varying electrical field makes a magnetic field. Maxwell’s equations. It seems to me that’s how your tapes were erased. It was not your fault.”
Vaygay’s interrogation had baffled
him. They had not exactly accused him but merely suggested that he was partof an anti-Soviet conspiracy involving scientists from the West”I tell you, Ellie, the only remaining open question is the existence of intelligent life in the Politburo.”
“And the White House. I can’t believe the President would allow Kitz to get away with this. She committed herself to the project.”
`This planet is run by crazy people. Remember what they have to do to get where they are. Their perspective is so narrow, so… brief. A few years. In the best of them a few decades. They care only about the time they are in power.” She thought about Cygnus A.
“But they’re not sure our story is a lie. They cannot prove it. Therefore, we must convince them. In their hearts, they wonder, “Could it be true?” A few even want it to be true. But it is a risky truth. They need something close to certainty…. And perhaps we can provide it. We can refine gravitational theory. We can make new astronomical observations to confirm what we were told – especially for the Galactic Center and Cygnus A. They’re not going to stop astronomical research. Also, we can study the dodec, if they give us access. Ellie, we will change their minds.” Difficult to do if they’re all crazy, she thought to herself. “I don’t see how the governments could convince people this is a hoax,” she said.
“Really? Think of what else they’ve made people believe. They’ve persuaded us that we’ll be safe if only we spend all our wealth so everybody on Earth can be killed in a moment – when the governments decide the time has come.