Prev Next

The great roc's hard-drumming wings set up a constant sound of rushing air and the distance flowed behind them. There was the rush of wind all around them, but on the bird's back they were in an area where everything seemed calm. Only when Hanson looked over toward the ground was he fully conscious of the speed they were making. From the height, he could see where the sun had landed. It was sinking slowly into the earth, lying in a great fused hole. For miles around, smaller drops of the three-mile-diameter sun had spattered and were etching deeper holes in the pitted landscape.

Then they began passing over desolate country, scoured by winds, gloomy from the angry, glaring clouds above. Once, two bodies went hurtling upwards toward the great gaps in the sky.

"Those risings were from men who were no worshippers of the egg's hatching," Bork commented. "It's spreading. Something is drawing them up from all over the planet."

Later, half a square mile of the shell cracked off. The roc squawked harshly, but it had learned and had been watching above. By a frantic effort of the great wings, it missed the hurtling chunk. They dropped a few thousand feet in the winds that followed the piece of sky, but their altitude was still safe.

Then they passed over a town, flying low. The sights below were out of a ghoul's bacchanalia. As the roc swept over, the people stopped their frenzied pursuit of sensation and ran for weapons. A cloud of arrows hissed upwards, all fortunately too late.

"They blame all their troubles on the magicians," Bork explained. "They've been shooting at everything that flies. Not a happy time to associate with the Satheri, is it?"

Nema drew further back from him. "We're not all cowards like you! Only rats desert a sinking ship."

"Nobody thought it was sinking when I deserted," Bork reminded her. "Anyhow, if you'd been using your eyes and seen the way we are traveling, you'd know I've rejoined the crew. I've made up with the Sather Karf--and at a time like this, our great grandfather was glad to have me back!"

Nema rushed toward him in delight, but Hanson wasn't convinced. "Why?" he asked.

Bork sobered. "One of the corpses that fell back from the risings added a word to what the others had said. No, I'll bear the weight of it myself, and not burden you with it. But I'm convinced now that his egg should not hatch. I had doubts before, unlike our friend Malok, who also heard the words but is doubly the fanatic now. Perhaps the hatching cannot be stopped--but I've decided that I am a man and must fight like one against the fates. So, though I still oppose much that the Satheri have done, I've gone back to them. We'll be at the camp of the Sather Karf shortly."

That sewed everything up neatly, Hanson thought. Before, he had been torn between two alternatives. Now there was only one and he had no choice; he could never trust the Sons of the Egg with Bork turned against them. He stared up at the sky, realizing that more than half of it had already fallen. The rest seemed too weak to last much longer. It probably didn't make much difference what he did now or who had him; time was running out for this world.

The light was dimmer by the time they reached the great capital city--or what was left of it. They had left the sun pyre far to the south. The air was growing cold already.

The roc flew low over the city. The few people on the streets looked up and made threatening gestures, but there was no flight of arrows from the ground. Probably the men below had lost even the strength to hate. It was hard to see, since there was no electric lighting system now. But it seemed to Hanson that only the oldest and ugliest buildings were still standing. Honest stone and metal could survive, but the work of magic was no longer safe.

One of the remaining buildings seemed to be a hospital, and the empty space in front of it was crammed with people. Most of them seemed to be dead or unconscious. Squat mandrakes were carrying off bodies toward a great fire that was burning in another square. Plague and pestilence had apparently gotten out of hand.

They flew on, beyond the city toward the construction camp that had been Hanson's headquarters. The roc was beginning to drop into a long landing glide, and details below were easier to see. Along the beach beyond the city, a crowd had collected. They had a fire going and were preparing to cook one of the mermaids. A fight was already going on over the prey. Food must have been exhausted days before.

The camp was a mess when they reached it. One section had been ripped down by the lash of wind from a huge piece of the sky, which now lay among the ruins with a few stars glowing inside it. There was a brighter glow beyond. Apparently one blob of material from the sun had been tossed all the way here and had landed against a huge rock to spatter into fragments. The heat from those fragments cut through the chill in the air, and the glow furnished light for most of the camp.

The tents had been burned, but there was a new building where the main tent had been. This was obviously a hasty construction job, thrown together of rocks and tree trunks, without the use of magic. It was more of an enormous lean-to than a true building, but it was the best protection now available. Hanson could see Sather Karf and Sersa Garm waiting outside, together with less than a hundred other warlocks.

The mandrakes prodded Hanson down from the roc and toward the new building, then left at a wave of the Sather Karf's hand. The old man stared at Hanson intently, but his expression was unreadable. He seemed to have aged a thousand years. Finally he lifted his hand in faint greeting, sighed and dropped slowly to a seat. His face seemed to collapse, with the iron running out of it. He looked like a beaten, sick old man. His voice was toneless. "Fix the sky, Dave Hanson!"

There were angry murmurs from other warlocks in the background, but Sather Karf shook his head slowly, still facing Hanson. "No--what good to threaten dire punishments or to torture you when another day or week will see the end of everything? What good to demand your reasons for desertion when time is so short? Fix the sky and claim what reward you will afterwards. We have few powers now that the basis of astrology is ruined. But repair our sky and we can reward you beyond your dreams. We can find ways to return you to your own world intact. You have near immortality now. We can fill that entire lifetime with pleasures. We'll give you jewels to buy an empire. Or if it is vengeance against whatever you feel we are, you shall know my secret name and the name of everyone here. Do with us then what you like. But fix the sky!"

It shook Hanson. He had been prepared to face fury, or to try lying his way out if there was a chance with some story of having needed to study Menes's methods. Or of being lost. But he had no defense prepared against such an appeal.

It was utterly mad. He could do nothing, and their demands were impossible. But before the picture of the world dying and the decay of the old Sather's pride, even Hanson's own probable death with the dying world seemed unimportant. He might at least give them something to hope for while the end came.

"Maybe," he said slowly. "Maybe, if all of the men you brought here to work on the problem were to pool their knowledge, we might still find the answer. How long will it take to get them here for a council?"

Ser Perth appeared from the group. Hanson had thought the man dead in the ruins of the pyramid, but somehow he had survived. The fat was going from his face, and his mustache was untrimmed, but he was uninjured. He shook his head sadly. "Most have disappeared with their projects. Two escaped us. Menes is dead. Cagliostro tricked us successfully. You are all we have left. And we can't even supply labor beyond those you see here. The people no longer obey us, since we have no food to give them."

"You're the only hope," Bork agreed. "They've saved what they could of the tools from the camp and what magical instruments are still useful. They've held on only for your return."

Hanson stared at them and around at the collection of bric-a-brac and machinery they had assembled for him. He opened his mouth, and his laughter was a mockery of their hopes and of himself.

"Dave Hanson, world saver! You got the right name but the wrong man, Sather Karf," he said bitterly. He'd been a pretender long enough, and what punitive action they took now didn't seem to matter. "You wanted my uncle, David Arnold Hanson. But because his friends called him Dave and cut that name on his monument, and because I was christened by the name you called, you got me instead. He'd have been helpless here, probably, but with me you have no chance. I couldn't even build a doghouse. I wasn't even a construction engineer. Just a computer operator and repairman."

He regretted ruining their hopes, almost as he said it. But he could see no change on the old Sather's face. It seemed to stiffen slightly and become more thoughtful, but there was no disappointment.

"My grandson Bork told me all that," he said. "Yet your name was on the monument, and we drew you back by its use. Our ancient prophecy declared that we should find omnipotence carved on stone in a pool of water, as we found your name. Therefore, by the laws of rational magic, it is you to whom nothing is impossible. We may have mistaken the direction of your talent, but nonetheless it is you who must fix the sky. What form of wonder is a computer?"

Dave shook his head at the old man's monomania. "Just a tool. It's a little hard to explain, and it couldn't help."

"Humor my curiosity, then. What is a computer, Dave Hanson?"

Nema's hand rested on Hanson's arm pleadingly, and he shrugged. He groped about for some answer that could be phrased in their language, letting his mind flicker from the modern electronic gadgets back to the old-time tide predicter.

"An analogue computer is a machine that ... that sets up conditions mathematically similar to the conditions in some problem and then lets all the operations proceed while it draws a graph--a prediction--of how the real conditions would turn out. If the tides change with the position of some heavenly body, then we can build cams that have shapes like the effect of the moon's orbit, and gear them together in the right order. If there are many factors, we have a cam for each factor, shaped like the periodic rise and fall of that factor. They're all geared to let the various factors operate at the proper relative rate. With such a machine, we can run off a graph of the tides for years ahead. Oh, hell--it's a lot more complicated than that, but it takes the basic facts and draws a picture of the results. We use electronic ones now, but the results are the same."

"I understand," Sather Karf said. Dave doubted it, but he was happy to be saved from struggling with a more detailed explanation. And maybe the old man did understand some of it. He was no fool in his own subject, certainly. Sather Karf pondered for a moment, and then nodded with apparent satisfaction. "Your world was more advanced in understanding than I had thought. This computer is a fine scientific instrument, obeying natural law well. We have applied the same methods, though less elaborately. But the basic magical principle of similarity is the foundation of true science."

Dave started to protest, and then stopped, frowning. In a way, what the other had said was true. Maybe there was some relation between science and magic, after all; there might even be a meeting ground between the laws of the two worlds he knew. Computers set up similar conditions, with the idea that the results would apply to the original. Magic used some symbolic part of a thing in manipulations that were to be effective for the real thing. The essential difference was that science was predictive and magic was effective--though the end results were often the same. On Dave's world, the cardinal rule of logic was that the symbol was not the thing--and work done on symbols had to be translated by hard work into reality. Maybe things were really more logical here where the symbol was the thing, and all the steps in between thought and result were saved.

"So we are all at fault," Sather Karf said finally. "We should have studied you more deeply and you should have been more honest with us. Then we could have obtained a computer for you and you could have simulated our sky as it should be within your computer and forced it to be repaired long ago. But there's no time for regrets now. We cannot help you, so you must help yourself. Build a computer, Dave Hanson!"

"It's impossible."

Sudden rage burned on the old man's face, and he came to his feet. His arm jerked back and snapped forward. Nothing happened. He grimaced at the ruined sky. "Dave Hanson," he cried sharply, "by the unfailing power of your name which is all of you, I hold you in my mind and your throat is in my hand--"

The old hands squeezed suddenly, and Hanson felt a vise clamp down around his throat. He tried to break free, but there was no escape. The old man mumbled, and the vise was gone, but something clawed at Hanson's liver. Something else rasped across his sciatic nerve. His kidneys seemed to be wrenched out of him.

"You will build a computer," Sather Karf ordered. "And you will save our world!"

Hanson staggered from the shock of the pain, but he was no longer unused to agony. He had spent too many hours under the baking of the sun, the agony of the snetha-knife and the lash of an overseer's whip. The agony could not be stopped, but he'd learned it could be endured. His fantastic body could heal itself against whatever they did to him, and his mind refused to accept the torture supinely. He took a step toward Sather Karf, and another. His hands came up as he moved forward.

Bork laughed suddenly. "Let up, Sather Karf, or you'll regret it. By the laws, you're dealing with a man this time. Let up, or I'll free him to meet you fairly."

The old man's eyes blazed hotly. Then he sighed and relaxed. The clutching hands and the pain were gone from Hanson as the Sather Karf slumped back wearily to his seat.

"Fix our sky," the old man said woodenly.

Hanson staggered back, panting from his efforts. But he nodded. "All right," he agreed. "Like Bork, I think a man has to fight against his fate, no matter how little chance he has. I'll do what I can. I'll build the damned computer. But when I'm finished, I'll wait for your true name!"

Suddenly Sather Karf laughed. "Well said, Dave Hanson. You'll have my name when the time comes. And whatever else you desire. Also what poor help we can give you now. Ser Perth, bring food for Dave Hanson!"

Ser Perth shook his head sadly. "There is none. None at all. We hoped that the remaining planets would find a favorable conjunction, but--"

Dave Hanson studied his helpers with more bitterness. "Oh, hell!" he said at last. He snapped his fingers. "Abracadabra!"

His skill must be improving, since he got exactly what he had wished for. A full side of beef materialized against his palm, almost breaking his arm before he could snap it out of the way. The others swarmed hungrily toward it. At their expressions of wonder, Hanson felt more confidence returning to him. He concentrated and went through the little ritual again. This time loaves of bread rained down--fresh bread, and even of the brand he had wished for. Maybe he was becoming a magician himself, with a new magic that might still accomplish something.

Sather Karf smiled approvingly. "The theory of resonance, I see. Unreliable generally. More of an art than a science. But you show promise of remarkable natural ability to apply it."

"You know about it?" Dave had assumed that it was completely outside their experience and procedures.

"We knew it. But when more advanced techniques took over, most of us forgot it. The syllables resonate in a sound pattern with your world, to which you also still resonate. It won't work for you with anything from this world, nor will anything work thus for us from yours. We had different syllables, of course, for use here." Sather Karf considered it. "But if you can control it and bring in one of your computers or the parts for one--"

Sixteen tries later, Dave was cursing as he stared at a pile of useless items. He'd gotten transistors at first. Then he lost control with too much tension or fatigue and began getting a bunch of assorted junk, such as old 201-A tubes, a transit, a crystal vase and resistors. But the chief trouble was that he couldn't secure working batteries. He had managed a few, but all were dead.

"Like the soul, electrical charges will not transfer," Sather Karf agreed sadly. "I should have told you that."

There was no electricity here with which to power anything, and their spells could not be made to work now. Even if he could build a computer out of what was obtainable, there would be no way to power it.

Overhead, the sky shattered with a roar, and another piece fell, tearing downwards toward the city. Sersa Garm stared upwards in horror.

"Mars!" he croaked. "Mars has fallen. Now can there be no conjunction ever!"

He tautened and his body rose slowly from the ground. A scream ripped from his lips and faded away as he began rushing upwards with increasing speed. He passed but of their sight, straight toward the new hole in the sky.


In the hours that followed, Dave's vague plans changed a dozen times as he found each idea unworkable. His emotional balance was also erratic--though that was natural, since the stars were completely berserk in what was left of the sky. He seemed to fluctuate between bitter sureness of doom and a stupidly optimistic belief that something could be done to avert that doom. But whatever his mood, he went on working and scheming furiously. Maybe it was the desperate need to keep himself occupied that drove him, or perhaps it was the pleading he saw in the eyes around him. In the end, determination conquered his pessimism.

Somewhere in the combination of the science he had learned in his own world and the technique of magic that applied here there had to be an answer--or a means to hold back the end of the world until an answer could be found.

The biggest problem was the number of factors with which he had to deal. There were seven planets and the sun, and three thousand fixed stars. All had to be ordered in their courses, and the sky had to be complete in his calculations.

He had learned his trade where the answer was always to add one more circuit in increasing complexity. Now he had to think of the simplest possible similarity computer. Electronics was out, obviously. He tried to design a set of cams, like the tide machine, to make multiple tracings on paper similar to a continuous horoscope, but finally gave it up. They couldn't build the parts, even if there had been time.

He had to depend on what was available, since magic couldn't produce any needed device and since the people here had depended on magic too long to develop the other necessary skills. When only the broadest powers of magic remained, they were hopeless. Names were still potent, resonance worked within its limits, and the general principles of similarity still applied; but those were not enough for them. They depended too heavily on the second great principle of contagion, and that seemed to be wrapped up with some kind of association through the signs and houses and the courses of the planets.

He found himself thinking in circles of worry and pulled himself back to his problem. Normally, a computer was designed for flexibility and to handle varying conditions. This one could be designed to handle only one set of factors. It had to duplicate the courses of the objects in their sky and simulate the general behavior of the dome. It was not necessary to allow for all theoretical courses, but only for the normal orbits.

And finally he realized that he was thinking of a model--the one thing which is functionally the perfect analogue.

It brought him back to magic again. Make a doll like a man and stick pins in it--and the man dies. Make a model of the universe within the sky, and any changes in that should change reality. The symbol was the thing, and a model was obviously a symbol.

He began trying to plan a model with three thousand stars in their orbits, trying to find some simple way of moving them. The others watched in fascination. They apparently felt that the diagrams he was drawing were some kind of scientific spell. Ser Perth was closer than the others, studying the marks he made. The man suddenly pointed to his computations.

"Over and over I find the figure seven and the figure three thousand. I assume that the seven represents the planets. But what is the other figure?"

"The stars," Hanson told him impatiently.

Ser Perth shook his head. "That is wrong. There were only two thousand seven hundred and eighty-one before the beginnings of our trouble."

"And I suppose you've got the exact orbits of every one?" Hanson asked. He couldn't see that the difference was going to help much.

"Naturally. They are fixed stars, which means they move with the sky. Otherwise, why call them fixed stars? Only the sun and the planets move through the sky. The stars move with the sky over the world as a unity."

Dave grunted at his own stupidity. That really simplified things, since it meant only one control for all of them and the sky itself. But designing a machine to handle the planets and the sun, while a lot simpler, was still a complex problem. With time, it would have been easy enough, but there was no time for trial and error.

He ripped up his plans and began a new set. He'd need a glass sphere with dots on it for the stars, and some kind of levers to move the planets and sun. It would be something like the orreries he'd seen used for demonstrations of planetary movement.

Ser Perth came over again, staring down at the sketch. He drowned in doubt. "Why waste time drawing such engines? If you want a model to determine how the orbits should be, we have the finest orrery ever built here in the camp. We brought it with us when we moved, since it would be needed to determine how the sky should be repaired and to bring the time and the positions into congruence. Wait!"

He dashed off, calling two of the mandrakes after him. In a few minutes, they staggered back under a bulky affair in a protective plastic case. Ser Perth stripped off the case to reveal the orrery to Hanson.

It was a beautiful piece of workmanship. There was an enormous sphere of thin crystal to represent the sky. Precious gems showed the stars, affixed to the dome. The whole was nearly eight feet in diameter. Inside the crystal, Hanson could see a model of the world on jeweled-bearing supports. The planets and the sun were set on tracks around the outside, with a clockwork drive mechanism that moved them by means of stranded spiderweb cords. Power came from weights, like those used on an old-fashioned clock. It was obviously all hand work, which must make it a thing of tremendous value here.

"Sather Fareth spent his life designing this," Ser Perth said proudly. "It is so well designed that it can show the position of all things for a thousand centuries in the past or future by turning these cranks on the control, or it will hold the proper present positions for years from its own engine."

"It's beautiful workmanship," Hanson told him. "As good as the best done on my world."

Ser Perth went away, temporarily pleased with himself, and Hanson stood staring at the model. It was as good as he'd said it was--and completely damning to all of his theories and hopes. No model he could make would equal it. But in spite of it and all its precise analogy to the universe around him, the sky was still falling in shattered bits!

Sather Karf and Bork had come over to join Hanson. They waited expectantly, but Hanson could think of nothing to do. It had already been done--and had failed. The old man dropped a hand on his shoulder. There was the weight of all his centuries on the Sather, yet a curious toughness showed through his weariness. "What is wrong with the orrery?" he asked.

"Nothing--nothing at all, damn it!" Hanson told him. "You wanted a computer--and you've got it. You can feed in data as to the hour, day, month and year, turn the cranks, and the planets there will turn to their proper position exactly as the real planets should run. You don't need to read the results off graph paper. What more could any analogue computer do? But it doesn't influence the sky."

"It was never meant to," the old man said, surprise in his voice. "Such power--"

Then he stopped, staring at Hanson while something almost like awe spread over his face. "Yet ... the prophecy and the monument were right! You have unlocked the impossible! Yet you seem to know nothing of the laws of similarity or of magic, Dave Hanson. Is that crystal similar to the sky, by association, by contagion, or by true symbolism? A part may be a symbol for the whole--or so may any designated symbol, which may influence the thing it is. If I have a hair from your head, I can model you with power over you. But not with the hair of a pig! That is no true symbol!"

"Suppose we substituted bits of the real thing for these representations?" Hanson asked.

Bork nodded. "It might work. I've heard you found the sky material could be melted, and we've got enough of that where it struck the camp. Any one of us who has studied elementary alchemy could blow a globe of it to the right size for the sky dome. And there are a few stars from which we can chip pieces enough. We can polish them and put them into the sphere where they belong. And it will be risky, but we may even be able to shape a bit of the sun stuff to represent the great orb in the sky."

"What about the planets?" Hanson was beginning to feel the depression lift. "You might get a little of Mars, since it fell near here, but that still leaves the other six."

"That long associated with a thing achieves the nature of the thing," Sather Karf intoned, as if giving a lesson to a kindergarten student. "With the right colors, metals and bits of jewels--as well as more secret symbols--we can simulate the planets. Yet they cannot be suspended above the dome, as in this orrery--they must be within the sky, as in nature."

"How about putting some iron in each and using a magnet on the control tracks to move the planets?" Hanson suggested. "Or does cold iron ruin your conjuring here?"

Sather Karf snorted in obvious disgust, but Bork only grinned. "Why should it? You must have heard peasant superstitions. Still, you'd have a problem if two tracks met, as they do. The magnets would then affect both planets alike. Better make two identical planets for each--and two suns--and put one on your track controls. Then one must follow the other, though the one remain within the sky."

Hanson nodded. He'd have to shield the cord from the sun stuff, but that could be done. He wondered idly whether the real universe was going to wind up with tracks beyond the sky on which little duplicate planets ran--just how much similarity would there be between model and reality when this was done, if it worked at all? It probably didn't matter, and it could hardly be worse than whatever the risers had run into beyond the hole in the present sky. Metaphysics was a subject with which he wasn't yet fully prepared to cope.

The model of the world inside the orrery must have been made from earthly materials already, and it was colored to depict land and sea areas. It could probably be used. At their agreement, he nodded with some satisfaction. That should save some time, at least. He stared doubtfully at the rods and bearings that supported the model world in the center of the orrery.

"What about those things? How do we hold the globe in the center of everything?"

Bork shrugged. "It seems simple enough. We'll fashion supports of more of the sky material."

"And have real rods sticking up from the poles in the real universe?" Hanson asked sarcastically.

"Why not?" Bork seemed surprised at Hanson's tone. "There have always been such columns connecting the world and the sky. What else would keep us from falling?"

Hanson swore. He might have guessed it! The only wonder was that simple rods were used instead of elephants and turtles. And the doubly-damned fools had let Menes drive millions of slaves to death to build a pyramid to the sky when there were already natural columns that could have been used!

"There remains only one step," Sather Karf decided after a moment more. "To make symbol and thing congruent, all must be invoked with the true and secret name of the universe."

Hanson suddenly remembered legends of the tetragrammaton and the tales of magic he'd read in which there was always one element lacking. "And I suppose nobody knows that or dares to use it?"

There was hurt pride of the aged face and the ring of vast authority in his voice. "Then you suppose wrong, Dave Hanson! Since this world first came out of Duality, a Sather Karf has known that mystery! Make your device and I shall not fail in the invocation!"

Report error

If you found broken links, wrong episode or any other problems in a anime/cartoon, please tell us. We will try to solve them the first time.