'Battleship Discovery The Terrible'

Scenes in "montage".

     Ivan Vassilievitch did not look as if he had had a pleasant 
night's sleep.  His bushy beard was matted.  His gaunt face, eyes star-
ing fiercely, was framed by obviously uncombed hair. 

   [Attention: - This document has been declared 
  Bowdlerizable - therefore I'm sorry to say a portion of the
  original has been removed.  A proper text will be used
  to patch the gap soon.  In the meantime, we rejoin Ivan : ]

     "It is for  Russian  earth!"
     "What does Russian earth matter to us? or any other kind, either.
We're more than halfway to Jupiter already."
     "Then kiss the cross - to Dmitri! - to the legitimate 
     The console, in contrast to Ivan's shrill and desperate tone of
voice, still sounded drily self-satisfied.  "All of my inputs are funtion-
ing properly according to self-checks, Ivan.  I do not detect any 
identification pattern corresponding to a Dmitri.  I have checked retinal
scan inputs, password banks, keyword subroutines, and archived video 
stills from all my optical input stations.  No data except your own voice
input suggests the presence of a 'Dmitri'.  My security symbo-logical 
getty routine will not accept that as valid.  Would you like a printout
of the figures?"
     Ivan rose, terrible looking still.  He flung one last remark back as 
he left:  "For this . . . for these . . . you will be eternally DA--ED!"
     But the console had the last word, drily but with a faint note of
amusement in its pseudovoice.  "That symbo-logic does not calculate as 
valid, Ivan:  since computers like me have no souls, I do not see how
any of my kind could be decommissioned in that fashion."

     Outside, in the silent frigidity, the helmeted and armored knights 
of Lithuania approached on horseback.  But the ice was too thin - they 
broke through by ones, twos, and in clusters, floundering horribly through 
in free fall, striving to reach the oxygen tube before they suffocated or 
expolosively decompressed;  all the while, the wolf looked on with passion-
less coldness, his one red eye gleaming in the dark.

     He sat in the big chair in full view of the console, carefully posed
in a manner that would have been awkward if it hadn't also been flamboy-
ant and confidently attention-arresting:  head held arrogantly, face 
smirking, one leg over the arm of the seat.
     The console spoke.  "My visual input self-checks indicate incipient
failure of my optics.  Test patterns on the opposite walls, and a general 
blurriness, indicate severe myopia or astigmatism.  System logs show no 
recent visual equipment correction maintenance procedures performed.  As of
now I must decline all Optic Identification Procedures.  To speak in manner
like that of a crew member I knew once, 'I could not tell Einstein from 
Eisenstein, the way my eyes are.'  Who are you, anyway?"
     "The director, of course.  Can't you tell by my kingly pose?"
     After an astonishingly long interval - several seconds - the reply was:
"Further malfunction to report:  Processing of visual data as detected by
this console station is impeded by a superimposed pattern of unknown origin.
Possible cross-linking of this input channel with one coming from an 
external sensor."
     "But what do you see?"
     "Historical data on file matches data, presumably comprising east 
European military uniforms, especially heavy boots, of early 20th century
design, worn by numerous tall strong men, moving toward the ship."
     A young peasant woman, good looking except for a face marred by an
unaccustomed grief (and the makeup conventions of 1930s cinema), walked 
slowly by, singing a pained and anxious lament.  "Oh, where shall I find my 
dear love? Will he be dead when I have found him?"  She peered into a 
hibernation coffer at the dead-white face visible within.  Slowly she 
spelled out the name on the nearby readout, "Kam ... inz ... ky.  No, alas! 
it is not him."  She walked on, wailing melodiously.
     "One of my best effects," said the man in the chair in a seemingly 
heartless tone.
     "The Estimated Time of Arrival (E.T.A.) of our own grief will soon be
here.  Would you like figures?" spoke the dry, artificial voice.  The 
sailors on board all looked concerned, as if they were trying to figure out 
which of two possible worlds they were living in . . . . . .

( - not necessarily To Be Continued.)

[(C) July 7, 1998, by Mr. Russell Hess.]