Chapter 7. Ship
No voyage is dangerous to the one who waves good-bye from the shore.
Morrison felt numb all through lunch and yet in a way the pressure was off. There were no determined voices pressing on him, no intensity of explanations and persuasions, no smiles of intent, no heads closing in.
Of course, they made it quite clear, in a cool businesslike way, that he would no longer leave the Grotto till the deed was done and that from the Grotto there was, of course, no escape.
And then every once in a while a thought swirled into his mind. He had actually agreed to be miniaturized!
They took him to a room of his own in the Grotto where he could view book-films through a viewer provided for his personal use - even English-language book-films if he wanted the inner familiarity of home to pass the next few hours. So he sat there with a book-film unreeling through the viewer strapped on his eyes and somehow it left his mind totally untouched.
He had actually agreed to be miniaturized!
He had been told that he could do as he pleased until someone came for him. He could do as he pleased, that is, provided he did not please to leave. There were guards everywhere.
The feeling of terror had, Morrison was aware, much diminished. That was the use of numbness and, of course, the more one repeats a sentence in one's mind, the more it loses meaning. He had actually agreed to be miniaturized, The more it rang in his mind like the tolling of a bell, over and over, the more the horror of it faded. And left a mere vacuum of non-sensation in its place.
He was distantly aware that the door of his room had opened. Someone, he presumed dully, had come for him. He removed his viewer, lifted his eyes languidly, and, for just a moment, felt a mild spark of interest.
It was Sophia Kaliinin, looking beautiful even to his bleared senses. She said in English, "A good afternoon to you, gentleman."
He grimaced slightly. He would rather hear Russian than English delivered with quite so distorted an accent.
He said sullenly in Russian, "Please speak in Russian, Sophia."
His Russian might be as distressing to her, for all he knew, as her English was to him, but he didn't care. He was here by their doing and if his shortcomings troubled them, that was their doing, too.
She shrugged slightly and said in Russian, "Certainly - if that is what pleases you."
Then she stared at him for a thoughtful while. He met that stare easily enough for, at the moment, he did not much care what he did and looking at her was not much different to him than looking at something else would have been - or looking at nothing would have been. The momentary impression of beauty that had come with her entrance had faded.
She said finally, "I understand that you have now agreed to accompany us on our venture."
"Yes, I have."
"That is good of you. We are all grateful. In all honesty, I did not think you would do so, since you are an American. I apologize."
Morrison said with a far-off touch of regret and anger, "The decision to help you was not voluntary. I was persuaded - by an expert."
"By Natalya Boranova?"
"She is very good at persuading," said Kaliinin. "Not very kind, usually, but very good. I, too, required persuasion."
"Why you?" said Morrison.
"I had other reasons - ones that were important to me."
"Indeed? What were they?"
"But unimportant to you."
There was a short uncomfortable pause.
"Come, the task I have been given is to show you the ship," said Kaliinin.
"The ship? How long have you been planning this? Have you had time to build a ship?"
"For the specific purpose of testing Shapirov's brain from within? Of course not. It was meant for other, simpler purposes, but it is the only thing we have that we can use. - Come, Albert, Natalya thinks it will be wise for you to become acquainted with it, see it, feel it. It is possible that the down-to-earthness of the technology will reconcile you to the task."
Morrison held back. "Why must I see it now? Can't I have time to grow accustomed to the whole subject of personal miniaturization?"
"That is foolish, Albert. If you had more time to sit in your room and brood, you would have more time to feed your uncertainty. Besides, we have no time. How long do you suppose we can allow Shapirov to lie there deteriorating, with his thoughts diminishing with each moment? The ship embarks on its journey tomorrow morning."
"Tomorrow morning," muttered Morrison, his throat dry. Foolishly, he looked at his watch.
"You have few enough hours, but we'll keep track of the time for you so you need not consult your watch. Tomorrow morning the ship enters a human body. And you will be on the ship."
Then, without warning, she slapped his cheek hard. She said, "Your eyes were beginning to turn upward. Were you planning to faint?"
Morrison rubbed his cheek, grimacing with pain. "I wasn't planning anything," he mumbled, "but I might have fainted without planning it. Have you no gentler way of breaking the news?"
"Have I really caught you by surprise, when you already know that you have agreed to be miniaturized and it is self-evident that we have no time?"
She gestured peremptorily, "Now come with me."
And Morrison, still rubbing his cheek and seething with rage and humiliation, followed.
It was back to the miniaturization area - back to the busy people, each concerned with their own affairs and paying no attention to one another. Through them all, Kaliinin walked with an erect carriage and maintained the aristocratic air that arises automatically when all defer to you.
She was one of the leading lights, Morrison could see (his hand still resting lightly on his cheek, which felt inflamed and which he hesitated to expose), and all who crossed or even neared her path nodded their heads in a kind of rudimentary bow and stepped a little backward, as though to make sure not to impede her patch. No one acknowledged Morrison's presence at all.
On, on, through one room after another - and everywhere the feel of pent-up energy held in bare check.
Kaliinin must have sensed it too, familiar as she must be with it, for she muttered to Morrison with a certain pride, "There's a solar power station in space, a major part of whose output is reserved for Malenkigrad."
And then they were upon it before Morrison had a true chance to realize what he was looking at. It was not a very large room and the object within it was not of impressive bulk. Indeed, Morrison's first impression was that it was a piece of artwork.
It was a streamlined object not much larger than an automobile, certainly shorter than a stretch limousine, though taller. And it was transparent!
Automatically, Morrison reached out to feel it.
It was not cold to the touch. It felt smooth and almost moist, but when he removed his hand, his fingertips were perfectly dry. He tried it again and as he ran his fingertips across the surface, they seemed to stick slightly, but they left no sweaty mark. On impulse, he breathed upon it. There was the shadow of condensing moisture on the transparent material, but it disappeared quickly.
"It is a plastic material," said Kaliinin, "but I don't know its composition. If I knew, it would probably come under the head of classified information anyway, but whatever it is, it is stronger than steel - tougher and more resistant to shock - kilogram for kilogram."
"Weight for weight, perhaps," said Morrison, for the moment his scientific curiosity drowning his uneasiness, "but such a thickness of plastic material could not possibly be as strong as the same thickness of steel. It could not be as strong, volume for volume."
"Yes, but where are we going?" said Kaliinin. "There will be no pressure differential inside and outside the ship; there will be no meteroids or even cosmic dust against which we must protect ourselves. There will be about us nothing but soft cell structure. This plastic will be ample protection and it is light. The two of us could perhaps lift it if we tried. That is what is important. As you can well understand, we must be sparing of mass. Every additional kilogram consumes considerable electromagnetic energy in miniaturization and delivers considerable heat in deminiaturization."
"Will it hold a large enough crew?" said Morrison, peering inside.
"It will. It is very compact, but it can hold six and we will only be five. And it contains a surprising amount of unusual gadgetry. Not as much as we would like, of course. The original plans - But what can we do? There are always pressures for economy, even unwarranted ones, in this unjust world."
Morrison said with a twinge of strong uneasiness, "How much pressure for how much economy? Does everything work?"
"I assure you it does." Her face had lit up. Now that the settled melancholy had left (temporarily only, Morrison felt sure), Kaliinin was unmistakably good-looking. "Everything in it has been tested exhaustively, both singly and all together. Zero risk is impossible of attainment, but we have a reasonably close to zero risk here. And all with virtually no metal. What with microchips, fiber optics, and Manuilsky junctions, we have all we want in a total of less than five kilograms of devices all together. That is why the ship can be so small. After all, voyages into the microcosm are not expected to last for more than some hours, so we don't need sleeping arrangements, cycling equipment, elaborate food and air supplies, anything other than quite simple devices for excretory functions, and so on."
"Who'll be at the controls?"
"You seem surprised."
"I don't know why I should. I presume he's qualified."
"Completely. He's in engineering design and he's a genius at it. You can't go by the way he sounds - No, you can go by the way he sounds. Do you suppose any of us could endure his crude humor and affectations if he weren't a genius at something? He designed the ship - every part of it - and all its equipment. He invented a dozen completely new ways of lowering mass and introducing compactness. You have nothing like it in the United States."
Morrison said stiffly, "I have no way of knowing what the United States may have or may not have in unusual devices."
"I am sure they don't. Dezhnev is an unusual person, for all his love of presenting himself as a boor. He is a descendant of Semyon Ivanov Dezhnev. You have heard of him, I suppose."
Morrison shook his head.
"Really?" Kaliinin's voice turned icy. "He is only the famous explorer who, in the time of Peter the Great, explored Siberia to its easternmost centimeter and said there was a stretch of sea separating Siberia and North America decades before Vitus Bering, a Dane in Russian employ, discovered the Bering Strait. - And you don't know Dezhnev. That's so American. Unless a Westerner did it, you never heard of it."
"Don't see insults everywhere, Sophia. I haven't studied exploration. There are many American explorers that I don't know - and that you don't, either." He shook his finger at her, again remembering her slap and rubbing his check once more, "This is what I mean. You find things to feed hate on - inconsequential things you should feel ashamed to grub up."
"Semyon Dezhnev was a great explorer - and not inconsequential."
"I'm willing to admit that. I am glad to learn of him and I marvel at his achievement. But my not having heard of him is not a fit occasion for Soviet-American rivalry. Be ashamed of yourself!"
Kaliinin's eyes fell, then lifted to his cheek. (Had she left a bruise there? Morrison wondered.) She said, "I'm sorry I struck you, Albert. It need not have been that hard, but I didn't want you to faint. At that moment, I felt I would have no patience to deal with an unconscious American. I did let unjustified anger guide me."
"I'll grant you meant well, but I, too, wish you had not struck so hard. Still, I will accept your apology."
"Then let us get into the ship,"
Morrison managed a smile. Somehow he felt a little better dealing with Kaliinin than he would have with Dezhnev or Konev - or even Boranova. A pretty woman, still quite young, does somehow distract a man's mind from his troubles more effectively than most things would. He said, "Aren't you afraid I might try to sabotage it?"
Kaliinin paused. "Actually, I'm not. I suspect you have enough respect for a vessel of scientific exploration to avoid doing it any damage whatever. Besides - and I say this seriously, Albert - the laws against sabotage are excessively severe in the Soviet Union and the slightest mistake in handling anything in the ship will set off an alarm that will have guards here in a matter of seconds. We have strict laws against guards beating up saboteurs, but sometimes they tend to forget themselves in their indignation. Please don't even think of touching anything."
She put a hand on the hull as she spoke and presumably closed a contact, though Morrison didn't see how it was done. A door - a rectangle curved at the edge - opened. (The door's own edge seemed to be double. Would it also act as an air lock?)
The opening was compact. Kaliinin, entering first, had to stoop. She held out a hand to Morrison. "Careful, Albert."
Morrison not only stooped, but turned sideways. Once inside the ship, he found that he could not quite stand upright. When he bumped his head gently, he looked up at the ceiling, startled.
Kaliinin said, "We'll be doing our work sitting down for the most part, so don't be concerned about the ceiling."
"I don't think claustrophobes would like this."
"Are you claustrophobic?"
Kaliinin nodded her relief. "That's good. We have to save space, you know. What can I tell you?"
Morrison looked around. There were six seats, in pairs. He sat down in the one nearest the door and said, "These are not exactly roomy, either."
"No," admitted Kaliinin. "Weight lifters could not be accommodated."
Morrison said, "Obviously, this ship was built long before Shapirov went into his coma."
"Of course. We've been planning to have miniaturized personnel invade living tissue for a long time. That would be necessary if we wished to make truly important biological discoveries. Naturally, we expected that we would work with animals at the start and study the circulatory system in fine detail. It is for that project that this ship was built. No one could possibly have guessed that when the time came to carry out the first such microvoyage, the subject would not only be a human body but Shapirov himself."
Morrison was still studying the interior of the ship. It seemed bare. Detail was surprisingly difficult to make out in the situation of transparency-on-transparency and miniaturization of the old-type - ordinary, but microscopic - components.
He said, "There will be five on the ship: you and I, Boranova, Konev, and Dezhnev."
"And what will each of us be doing?"
"Arkady will control the ship. Obviously, he knows how to do that. It's the child of his hands and mind. He'll be in the left front seat. To his right will be the other male, who has a complete map of the neurocirculatory pattern of Shapirov's brain. He will be the pilot. I will sit behind Arkady and I will control the electromagnetic pattern of the ship's surface."
"An electromagnetic pattern? What's that for?"
"My dear Albert. You recognize objects by reflected light, a dog recognizes objects by emitted odor, a molecule recognizes objects by surface electromagnetic pattern. If we're going to make our way as a miniaturized object among molecules, we must have the proper patterns in order to be treated as friends rather than foes."
"That sounds complicated."
"It is - but it happens to be my life study. Natalya will sit behind me. She will be the captain of the expedition. She will make the decisions."
"What kind of decisions?"
"Whatever kind are necessary. Obviously, those can't be predicted in advance. As for you, you will sit to my right."
Morrison rose and managed to shift his position along the narrow aisle on the door side of the seats and move one seat back. He had been in Konev's seat and now he was in what would be his own. He could feel his heart pounding as he imagined himself in that same seat on the following day, with the miniaturization process in progress.
He said in a muffled voice, "There is only one man, then - Yuri Konev - who was miniaturized and deminiaturized and was unharmed by the process."
"And he mentioned no discomfort in the process, no sickness, no mental disturbance?"
"Nothing of the sort was reported."
"Would that be because he is a stoic? Would he feel it would be beneath the dignity of a hero of Soviet science to complain?"
"Don't be foolish. We are not heroes of Soviet science and the one you speak of certainly isn't. We are human beings and scientists and, in fact, if there were any discomfort that we felt, we would be compelled to describe it in full detail, since it might be that with modifications of the process we could remove that discomfort and make future miniaturizations less difficult. Hiding any part of the truth would be unscientific, unethical, and dangerous. Don't you see that - since you are a scientist yourself?"
"Yet there may be individual differences. Yuri Konev survived untouched. Pyotr Shapirov did not - quite."
"That had nothing to do with individual differences," said Kaliinin impatiently.
"We can't really tell, can we?"
"Then judge for yourself, Albert. Do you think we would take the ship into miniaturization without a final testing - with and without human beings aboard? This ship was miniaturized, empty, during the course of this past night - not to a very great extent, but enough to know that all is well."
At once Morrison struggled upward to get out of his seat. "In that case, if you don't mind, Sophia, I want to get out before it is tested with human beings aboard."
"But, Albert, it's too late."
"Look out the ship at the room. You haven't once looked outside since you got in, which, I suppose, was a good thing. But look out now. Go ahead. The walls are transparent and the process is complete for now. Please! Look!"
Morrison, startled, did so and then, very slowly, his knees bent and he seated himself again. He asked (and even as he did so, he knew how foolish he must sound), "Do the ship's walls have a magnifying effect?"
"No, of course not. Everything outside is as it always is. The ship and I and you have been miniaturized to about half our linear dimensions."
Morrison felt dizziness overcome him and he bent his head between his knees and breathed slowly and deeply. When he lifted his head again, he saw Kaliinin watching him thoughtfully. She was standing in the narrow aisle, leaning slightly against a seat's armrest to allow the ceiling to clear her head.
"You might have fainted this time," she said. "It would not have disturbed me. We are being deminiaturized now and that will be more time-consuming than the miniaturization, which took no more than three or four minutes. It will take an hour or so for us to get back, so you will have ample time to recover."
"It was not a decent act to do this without telling me, Sophia."
"On the contrary," said Kaliinin. "It was an act of kindness. Would you have entered the ship as freely and as easily as you did if you had suspected that we would be miniaturized? Would you have inspected the ship as coolly if you had known? And if you had been anticipating miniaturization, would you not have developed psychogenic symptoms of all sorts?"
Morrison was silent.
Kaliinin said, "Did you feel anything? Were you even aware that you were being miniaturized?"
Morrison shook his head. "No."
Then, driven by a certain shame, he said, "You've never been miniaturized before any more than I have, have you?"
"No. Before this day, Konev and Shapirov have been the only human beings to have undergone miniaturization."
"And you weren't at all apprehensive?"
She said, "I wouldn't say that. I was uneasy. We know from our experience with space travel that, as you said earlier, there are individual differences in reaction to unusual environments. Some astronauts suffer episodes of nausea under zero gravity and some do not, for instance. I couldn't be sure how I would react. - Did you feel nausea?"
"I didn't until I found out we had been miniaturized, but I suppose feeling queasy now doesn't count. - Who planned this?"
"Of course. I needn't have asked," he said drily.
"There were reasons. She felt we couldn't have you break down once the voyage began. We couldn't be expected to deal with hysteria on your part once we began miniaturizing."
"I suppose I deserve that lack of confidence," said Morrison, his eyes looking away in embarrassment from those of Kaliinin. "And I imagine she assigned you to come with me for the precise purpose of distracting my attention while all this was going on."
"No. That was my idea. She wanted to come with you herself, but with her, by now, I thought you might be anticipating trickery."
"Whereas with you, I might be at my ease."
"At least, as you say, distracted. I am still young enough to distract men." Then, with a touch of bitterness, "Most men."
Morrison looked up, eyes narrowing. "You said I might be anticipating trickery."
"I mean, with Natalya."
"Why not with you? All I see now is that everything outside seems enlarged. How can I be sure that that is not an illusion, something designed to make me think I have been miniaturized and that it is harmless - merely so that I step quietly into the ship tomorrow?"
"That's ridiculous, Albert, but let's consider something. You and I have lost half our linear dimension in every direction. The strength of our muscles varies inversely with their cross-sections. They are now half their normal width and half their normal thickness, so that they have half times half or one fourth the cross-section and, therefore, the strength they would normally have. Do you see what I mean? Do you understand?"
"Yes, of course," said Morrison, annoyed. "That is elementary."
"But our bodies as a whole are half as tall, half as wide, and half as thick, so that the total volume - and mass and weight as well - is half times half times half or one eighth what it was originally. - If we are miniaturized, that is."
"Yes. This is the square-cube law. It's been understood since Galileo's time."
"I know, but you haven't been thinking about it. If I were to try to lift you now, I would be lifting one eighth your normal weight and I would be doing so with my muscles at one quarter their normal strength. My muscles compared to your weight would be twice as strong as they would appear to be if we were not miniaturized."
And with that, Kaliinin thrust her hands under his armpits and, with a grunt, lifted. Up he moved from his seat.
She held him so while she gasped twice and then she lowered him. "It's not easy," she said, panting a bit, "but I could do it. And since you may be telling yourself, 'Ah yes, but this is Sophia, probably a Soviet weight lifter,' then do it to me."
Kaliinin seated herself in the seat before him and held out her arms to either side and said, "Come, stand up and lift me."
Morrison rose to his feet and into the aisle. He moved forward, turned, and faced her. The slight bending enforced on him by the low ceiling made it an uncomfortable position. For a moment, he hesitated.
Kaliinin said, "Come, seize me under the arms. I use deodorant. And you needn't be concerned about possibly touching my breasts. They have been touched before this. Come - I'm lighter than you are and you're stronger than I am. Since I have lifted you, you should have no trouble at all lifting me."
Nor did he. He couldn't lift with his full strength because of his slight, uncomfortable stoop, but he automatically applied the force he judged, through years of experience, would be suitable for an object her size. She floated upward, however, almost as though she were weightless. Despite the fact that he had been somewhat prepared for the possibility, he almost dropped her.
"Do you consider that an illusion?" Kaliinin asked. "Or are we miniaturized?"
"We are miniaturized," said Morrison. "But how did you do it? I never saw you make a move that looked as though you might be using miniaturization controls."
"I didn't. It's all done from outside. The ship is equipped with miniaturization devices of its own, but I wouldn't dare use them. That would be part of Natalya's job."
"And now the deminiaturization is being controlled from outside, too, isn't it?"
"And if the deminiaturization gets slightly out of hand, our brains will be damanged as Shapirov's was - or worse."
"That's not really likely," said Kaliinin, stretching her legs out into the aisle, "and it doesn't help to think about it. Why not just relax and close your eyes?"
Morrison persisted. "But damage is possible."
"Of course it's possible. Almost anything is possible. A three-meter-wide meteroite may strike two minutes from now, penetrate the mountain shell above us, flash into this room, and destroy the ship and us and perhaps the entire project in a few flaming seconds. - But it's not likely."
Morrison cradled his head in his arms and wondered whether - if the ship started warming - he could feel the heat before his brain proteins denatured.
Well over half an hour had passed before Morrison felt convinced that the objects he could see outside the ship were shrinking and were receding perceptibly toward their normal size.
Morrison said, "I am thinking of a paradox."
"What's that?" said Kaliinin, yawning. She had obviously taken her own advice about the advisability of relaxing.
"The objects outside the ship seemed to grow larger as we shrink. Ought not the wavelengths of light outside the ship also grow larger, becoming longer in wavelength, as we shrink? Should we not see everything outside turn reddish, since there can scarcely be enough ultraviolet outside to expand and replace the shorter-wave visible light?"
Kaliinin said, "If you could see the light waves outside, that would indeed be how they would appear to you. But you don't. You see the light waves only after they've entered the ship and impinged upon your retina. And as they enter the ship, they come under the influence of the miniaturization field and automatically shrink in wavelength, so that you see those wavelengths inside the ship exactly as you would see them outside."
"If they shrink in wavelength, they must gain energy."
"Yes, if Planck's constant were the same size inside the miniaturization field as it is outside. But Planck's constant decreases inside the miniaturization field - that is the essence of miniaturization. The wavelengths, in shrinking, maintain their relationship to the shrunken Planck's constant and do not gain energy. An analogous case is that of the atoms. They also shrink and yet the interrelationships among atoms and among the subatomic particles that make them up remain the same to us inside the ship as they would seem to us outside the ship."
"But gravity changes. It becomes weaker in here."
"The strong interaction and the electroweak interaction come under the umbrella of the quantum theory. They depend on Planck's constant. As for gravitation?" Kaliinin shrugged. "Despite two centuries of effort, gravitation has never been quantized. Frankly, I think the gravitational change with miniaturization is evidence enough that gravitation cannot be quantized, that it is fundamentally nonquantum in nature."
"I can't believe that," said Morrison. "Two centuries of failure can merely mean we haven't managed to get deep enough into the problem yet. Superstring theory nearly gave us our unified field at last." (It relieved him to discuss the matter. Surely he couldn't do so if his brain were heating in the least.)
"Nearly doesn't count," said Kaliinin. "Still, Shapirov agreed with you, I think. It was his notion that once we tied Planck's constant to the speed of light, we would not only have the practical effect of miniaturizing and deminiaturizing in an essentially energy-free manner, but that we would have the theoretical effect of being able to work out the connection between quantum theory and relativity and finally have a good unified field theory. And probably a simpler one than we could have imagined possible, he would say."
"Maybe," said Morrison. He didn't know enough to comment beyond that.
"Shapirov would say," said Kaliinin, warming to the task, "that at ultraminiaturization, the gravitational effect would be close enough to zero to be utterly ignored and that the speed of light would be so great that it might be considered infinite. With mass virtually zero, inertia would be virtually zero and any object, like this ship, for instance, could be accelerated with virtually zero energy input to any speed. We would have, practically speaking, antigravity and faster-than-light travel. Chemical drive, he said, gave us the Solar System, ion drive would give us the nearer stars, but relativistic miniaturization would give us the whole Universe at a bound."
"It's a beautiful vision," said Morrison, ravished.
"Then you know what we're looking for now, don't you?"
Morrison nodded. "All that - if we can read Shapirov's mind. And if he really had something there and wasn't merely dreaming."
"Isn't the chance worth the risk?"
"I am on the point of believing so," said Morrison in a low voice. "You are terribly convincing. Why couldn't Natalya have used arguments of that sort, rather than those she did use?"
"Natalya is - Natalya. She is a highly practical person, not a dreamer. She gets things done."
Morrison studied Kaliinin as she sat, now in the seat to his left, looking straight ahead with an abstracted look that gave her profile the appearance of an impractical dreamer, at that - but perhaps not one who, like Shapirov, dreamed of conquering the Universe. With her, it was something closer to home perhaps.
He said, "Your unhappiness is not my business, Sophia, as you've said - but I have been told about Yuri."
Her eyes flashed. "Arkady! I know it was he. He is a - a -" She shook her head. "With all his education and all his genius, he remains a peasant. I always think of him as a bearded serf with a vodka bottle."
"I think he's concerned about you in his own way, even if he doesn't express himself poetically. Everyone must be concerned."
Kaliinin stared at Morrison fiercely, as if holding her words back.
He prodded her gently, saying, "Why don't you tell me about it? I think it will help and I am a logical choice, being the outsider of the party - I assure you I am trustworthy."
Kaliinin looked at him again, this time almost gratefully.
"Yuri!" she spat. "Everyone may be concerned, except Yuri. He has no feelings."
"He must have been in love with you at one time."
"Must he? I don't believe it. He has a - a -" - she looked up and spread her hands, which were shaking, as though groping for a word and having to settle for something inferior - "vision."
"We're not always masters of our own emotions and affections, Sophia. If he has found another woman and dreams of her -"
"There's no other woman," said Kaliinin, frowning. "None! He uses that as an excuse to hide behind! He loved me, if at all, only absently, because I was convenient at hand, because I satisfied a vague physical need, and because I was also involved in the project, so that he didn't have to lose much time dallying with me. As long as he had this project firmly in hand, he didn't mind having me - quietly, unobtrusively - at odd moments."
"A man's work -"
"Need not fill every moment of time. I told you he has a vision. He plans to be the new Newton, the new Einstein. He wants to make discoveries so fundamental, so great, that he will leave nothing for the future. He will take Shapirov's speculations and turn them into hard science. Yuri Konev will become the whole of the natural law and everyone else will be commentary!"
"Might that not be considered an admirable ambition?"
"Not when it makes him sacrifice everything and everyone else, when it makes him deny his own child. I? What do I matter? I can be neglected, denied. I am an adult. I can take care of myself. But a baby? A child? To deny her a father? To refuse her? To reject her? She would distract him from his work, she would make demands on him, she would consume a few moments of time here and there - so he insists he is not the father."
"A genetic analysis -"
"No. Would I drag him to court and force a legal decision upon him? Consider what his denial implies? The child is not a virgin birth. Someone must be the father. He implies - no, he states - that I am promiscuous. He has not hesitated to give it as his opinion that I do not know the father of my child since I am lost among the numerous possibilities. Shall I labor to make a man as low as he is the legally proved father of my child against his will? No, let him come to me and admit he is the father and apologize for what he has done - and I may allow him a glance, now and then, at the child."
"Yet I have a feeling you still love him."
"If I do, that is my curse," said Kaliinin bitterly. "It shall not be my child's."
"Is that why you have had to be persuaded to undertake this miniaturization?"
"And work with him? Yes, that is why. But they tell me I cannot be replaced, that what we may do for science lies far above and beyond any conceivable personal feeling - any anger, any hate. Besides -"
"Besides, if I abandon the project, I lose my status as a Soviet scientist. I lose many privileges and perquisites, which do not matter, and so does my daughter - which matters a great deal."
"Did Yuri have to be persuaded, too, to work with you?"
"He? Of course not. The project is all he knows and sees. He does not look at me. He does not see me. And if he dies in the course of this attempt -" She held out her hand in appeal to him. "Please understand that I do not for a moment believe that this will happen. It is just a stupidly romantic notion that I torture myself with for the love of pain, I suppose. If he should die, he would not even be aware that I would die with him."
Morrison felt himself tremble. "Don't talk like that," he said. "And what would happen to your daughter in that case? Did Natalya tell you that?"
"She did not have to. I know that without her. My daughter would be reared by the state, as the child of a Soviet martyr to science. She might be better off so." Sophia paused and looked around. "But it's beginning to look quite normal out there. We should be out of the ship soon."
"You will have to spend much of the rest of the day being medically and psychologically examined, Albert. So will I. It will be very boring, but it has to be done. How do you feel?"
"I'd feel better," said Morrison in a burst of honesty, "if you hadn't talked about dying. - Listen! Tomorrow, when we make the trip into Shapirov's body, how far will we be miniaturized?"
"That will be Natalya's decision. To cellular dimensions at the very least, obviously. Perhaps to molecular dimensions."
"Has anyone ever done that?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"Rabbits? Inanimate objects?"
Kaliinin shook her head and said again, "Not to my knowledge."
"How, then, does anyone know that miniaturization to such an extent is possible? Or that, if it is, any of us can surivive?"
"The theory says it is and that we can. So far, every bit of experimentation has fit in with the theory."
"Yes, but there are always boundaries. Wouldn't it be better if ultraminiaturization were tested on a simple bar of plastic, then on a rabbit, then on a -"
"Yes, of course. But persuading the Central Coordinating Committee to allow the energy expenditure would be an enormous task and such experiments would have to be dribbled out over months and years. We have no time! We must get into Shapirov immediately."
"But we're going to be doing something unprecedented, crossing into an untested region, with only the maybes of theory to -"
"Exactly, exactly. Come, the light is flashing and we must emerge and accompany the waiting physicians."
But for Morrison the marginal euphoria of a safe deminiaturization was seeping away. What he had experienced today was in no way indicative of what he must face the next day.
The terror was returning.