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"Something Galyan said to me," he answered. "Something to the effect that I could never go back home
again."
"But you aren't going to want to go back home!" said Ro, a little wonderingly. "You've never seen the
Throne World, so of course you don't know. But no one ever wants to leave it. And the only ones who
can stay are the High-born who can keep their point levels down in the Game, and their servants and
their possessions. Not even the Governors of the Colony Worlds can do more than visit the Throne
World for short periods of time. When their time is up, they have to leave. But the High-born and people
like you and me we can stay."
"I see," he said.
She frowned down at his arms, which she still held. Her fingers were feeling them through the sleeves of
his jacket.
"You're as hard-muscled as a Starkien," she said puzzledly. "And you're so tall for someone who's not
High-born. Was it natural for you to be this tall back on that wild world you came from?"
Jim laughed a little shortly.
"I was this tall when I was ten years old," he said. The look of slight incomprehension on her face made
him add, "That's halfway through my normal growing period."
"And you stopped growing then?" Ro asked.
"I was stopped," he said a little grimly. "Some of our medical practitioners ran a lot of tests on me
because I was so big for my age. They couldn't find anything wrong, but they put me on an extract of the
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pituitary gland to curb my growing. And it worked. I stopped growing physically. But I went on
growing otherwise."
Jim interrupted himself abruptly. "Never mind that," he said. "You were going to show me how to move
around the ship, from room to room."
"That and other things!" Suddenly she seemed to grow several inches in front of him, and something
came into her that was like the cold imperiousness of Princess Afuan. "They can take my animals and
give them away or kill them. But they're not going to hurt you. When I get through with you, you'll know
more than enough to survive. I may be a throwback, but I'm as High-born as any of them. The Emperor
himself can't dismiss me, without cause, from the Throne World; and everything that is High-born's, by
right is mine! Come along, and I'll begin to show you what it's like to live among the High-born and be a
citizen of the society of the Throne World!"
She took him first to a section of the ship he had not yet visited. It consisted of a large, high-ceilinged,
metal-walled room, with one wall covered with the rays of blinking lights of various colors. Tending this
wall was one of the short brown men with long hair down his back. He was, Jim discovered, all that the
ship possessed in the way of a crew in fact, he was not even that. In actuality, he was nothing more
than a standby engineer, on hand in case of the unlikely chance that some small repair or adjustment
needed to be made to the ship's mechanism.
The ship, in fact, ran itself. It not only ran itself, it supplied the motive power for all the transfers of
people between rooms, and everything else in the way of visible and invisible equipment aboard. Like
some huge robot dog, it responded immediately to the mental whims of the Princess Afuan; and, to a
lesser extent, it stood ready to accommodate the whims of everyone else aboard.
"Now," Ro instructed Jim, "simply stand here and relax. Let it make contact with you."
"Make contact with me?" Jim echoed. He assumed that she was talking about something like telepathy,
and tried to say so but found he had no word for it in the Empire language. Ro, however, understood
him, and to his considerable surprise, launched into a complete and highly technical explanation of how
the ship worked. In brief, it was simply that the ship studied the electrical activity of an individual brain
and from this drew up what amounted to an individual electrical code for whatever the person was
thinking or doing. Thoughts which were visualized clearly enough, Ro explained, triggered off motor
subactivity in the body in short, the body physically responded at a very low level to the scene it was
imagining, as if that scene were real. The ship then matched these responses with the proper scene, and
shifted the person to the scene by literally disassembling him at his present position and reassembling him
at the location of the imagined scene.
The process by which the ship crossed light-years of empty space was the same method of dissassembly
and reassembly, only on a larger scale. That is, the whole ship and its contents were disassembled and
reassembled farther along its line of passage. There was a certain limitation to the distance over which [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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