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What sort of something? What are you talking about?" But at last Migs were
sent up from Kirovsk, and the rest you already know. Indeed, you know more
than I do about that part of it! But at least I know why the Russian fighters
failed while the USAF planes succeeded. We've learned that much from the other
. . . encounters. It's the reason for the flame-throwers.
That's right: the American aircraft were equipped with experimental Firedevil
air-to-air missiles which not only explode on impact but hurl searing flames
all about. Less bulky than napalm but ten per cent more effective. That is
what stopped that thing over the Hudson Bay - fire! Fire and light - sunlight!
Until the American fighters contacted it, the thing had flown through or under
fairly dense cloud cover, and the sunlight wasn't strong yet. But as the sun
rose so the creature descended, seeking protection for itself. They are cold
things, Michael, and they are things of darkness.
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'You've described what you saw on that AWACS film: clouds of vile gasses
boiling off the creature's surface in the bright sunlight, and the way its
vast, flattened, airfoil body shrank from the sun. Ah, yes! It wasn't so much
that the Migs failed, but that other, natural forces assisted the Americans in
their success. The thing was half-beaten before it met the Americans, and
their Firedevils finished it off.
'Well, and that was the end of Encounter One . . .
'Now a sort of anticlimax: Encounter Two was a wolf!
'It came through in just the same way as the first thing, but by comparison it
was so small - and so normal - that it almost went unnoticed. But not quite. A
soldier spotted it first, put a bullet in it the moment it came limping
through the Gate. That stopped it, but not fatally. It was examined, but oh so
cautiously, and found to be ... a wolf! It was old, mangy, almost blind and
close to starving. They saved its life, caged it, fed and cared for it and
subjected it to every test in the book. Because they weren't quite sure they
could trust it, do you see? But ... it was a wolf. In every respect a brother
of the creatures which even today hunt in the great forests of these parts. By
the time it died nine months ago, of old age, the animal was quite tame.
'And so they thought: perhaps the world on the other side isn't so very
different from this one after all. Or: perhaps this gateway we've opened leads
to many other worlds.
Viktor Luchov thinks that as a physical phenomenon - or as a phenomenon of
physics - it lies somewhere between a black hole and a white hole. Black holes
sit out in the deeps of space and gobble up worlds, and not even light can
escape from their fantastic gravitational attraction; white holes are the
theoretical melting pots that give birth to galaxies; both are gateways to and
from other space-times. Likewise our sphere of white light - but not nearly so
violent! Which is why Luchov calls it a "grey hole", a gateway in both
At this point Khuv had held up a warning hand. 'Don't break the thread now,
Michael, for we're doing so well. You can ask your questions later.' And when
Jazz had relaxed again:
'Myself, I've no interest in the "holes" of advanced physics theory - I simply
call it a monstrous threat! But that aside . . .
'You've seen Encounter Three and I've told you about it. As for Four: that was
another anticlimax, but not quite so ordinary or acceptable as the wolf. It
was a bat, order
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Chiroptera, genus
Strangely, Vampyrum is the false vampire, while
Desmodus and
Diphylla are the true blood-suckers. This one had a wing-spread of point seven
of a metre: quite a large one of its species, I'm told, but by no means a
giant. It was seen coming well in advance, of course, and no chances were
taken with it. As it emerged, in that selfsame moment, they shot it dead. But
just as the wolf was a true wolf, so the bat was a true bat. Curiously, the
vampire bat is a creature of South or
Central America. Perhaps our grey hole was a gateway not only to other worlds
but also to other parts of this world.
'Anyway, I was here by this time; the rest of this account is first-hand. Oh,
and I can show you film of the bat's emergence, if you like. Not that you'll
learn anything more than I've already told you, for it is exactly as I've
described it. Ah, but the Fifth Encounter . . . that was something entirely
At this juncture Jazz had noted how Vyotsky, behind his dark beard, had gone
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very pale again. He, too, had been present for that Fifth Encounter. 'Get it
over with,' the big
KGB man had stood up, gulped down his drink, started to pace the floor. 'Tell
him about it, or show him the film, but get done with it.'
'Karl doesn't like it,' Khuv's comment was entirely superfluous, his smile
cold and grim. 'But then, neither do I. Still, likes and dislikes change
nothing. They can't alter the facts. Come, I'll show you the film.' [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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