2010 Odyssey Two

Part 1: LEONOV Chapter 1 Meeting at the Focus
Even in this metric age, it was still the thousand-foot telescope, not the three-hundred-metre one. The great saucer set among the mountains was already half full of shadow, as the tropical sun dropped swiftly to rest, but the triangular raft of the antenna complex suspended high above its centre still blazed with light. From the ground far below, it would have taken keen eyes to notice the two human figures in the aerial maze of girders, support cables, and wave-guides.

'The time has come,' said Dr Dimitri Moisevitch to his old friend Heywood Floyd, 'to talk of many things. Of shoes and spaceships and sealing wax, but mostly of monoliths and malfunctioning computers.'

'So that's why you got me away from the conference. Not that I really mind - I've heard Carl give that SETI speech so many times that I can recite it myself. And the view certainly is fantastic - you know, all the times I've been to Arecibo, I've never made it up here to the antenna feed.'

'Shame on you. I've been here three times. Imagine - we're listening to the whole universe - but no one can overhear us. So let's talk about your problem.'

'What problem?'

'To start with, why you had to resign as Chairman of the National Council on Astronautics.'

'I didn't resign. The University of Hawaii pays a lot better.'

'Okay - you didn't resign - you were one jump ahead of them. After all these years, Woody, you can't fool me, and you should give up trying. If they offered the NCA back to you right now, would you hesitate?'

'All right, you old Cossak. What do you want to know?'

'First of all, there are lots of loose ends in the report you finally issued after so much prodding. We'll overlook the ridiculous and frankly illegal secrecy with which your people dug up the Tycho monolith -'

'That wasn't my idea.'

'Glad to hear it: I even believe you. And we appreciate the fact that you're now letting everyone examine the thing - which of course is what you should have done in the first place. Not that it's done much good...'

There was a gloomy silence while the two men contemplated the black enigma up there on the Moon, still contemptuously defying all the weapons that human ingenuity could bring to bear upon it. Then the Russian scientist continued.

'Anyway, whatever the Tycho monolith may be, there's something more important out at Jupiter. That's where it sent its signal, after all. And that's where your people ran into trouble. Sorry about that, by the way - though Frank Poole was the only one I knew personally. Met him at the '98 IAF Congress - he seemed a good man.'

'Thank you; they were all good men. I wish we knew what happened to them.'

'Whatever it was, surely you'll admit that it now concerns the whole human race - not merely the United States. You can no longer try to use your knowledge for purely national advantage.'

'Dimitri - you know perfectly well that your side would have done exactly the same thing. And you'd have helped.'

'You're absolutely right. But that's ancient history - like the just-departed administration of yours that was responsible for the whole mess. With a new President, perhaps wiser counsels will prevail.'

'Possibly. Do you have any suggestions, and are they official or just personal hopes?'

'Entirely unofficial at the moment. What the bloody politicians call exploratory talks.