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When the shipboard computer's mail bell rang, Payter woke quickly and completely. It was an advantage of age that one slept shallowly and woke at once. There were not many advantages. He got up, rinsed his mouth, urinated into the sanitary, washed his hands, and took two food packets with him to the terminal. "Display the mail now," he ordered, munching on something that tasted like sour rye bread but was meant to be a sweet roll.
When he saw what the mail was, his good mood passed. Most of it was interminable mission orders. Six letters for Janine, one each for Paul and Dorema, and for himself only a petition addressed to Schwarze Peter and signed by eight hundred and thirty school-children of Dortmund, begging him to return and become their Burgermeister. "Dumb head!" he scolded the computer. "Why do you wake me for this trash?" Vera did not answer, because he did not give her time to identify him and rummage through her slow magnetic bubbles to locate his name.
Long before then, he was complaining, "Also this food is not fit for pigs! Attend to it at once!"
Poor Vera erased the attempt to interpret his first question and patiently attended to the second. "The recycling system is below optimal mass levels," she said,"... Mr. Herter. In addition, my processing routines have been subject to overload for some time. Many programs have been deferred."
"Do not defer the food question any more," he snarled, "or you will kill me, and there's an end to it." He gloomily commanded display of the mission orders while he forced himself to chew the remainder of his breakfast. The orders rolled for ten solid minutes. What marvelous ideas they had for him, back on Earth! And if only there were a hundred of him, perhaps they could do one one-hundredth of the tasks proposed. He allowed the end of it to run unwatched, while he carefully shaved his pink old face and brushed his sparse hair. And why was the recycling system depleted, so that it could not function properly? Because his daughters and their consorts had removed themselves and thus their useful by-products, as well as all the water Wan had stolen from the system. Stolen! Yes, there was no other word for it. Also they had taken the mobile bio-assay unit, so that there was only the sampler in the sanitary to monitor his health, and what could that tell of fever or arrhythmic heart, if he should have either? Also they had taken all but one of the cameras, so that he must carry that one with him wherever he went. Also they had taken. They had taken themselves, and Schwarze Peter, for the first time in his life, was wholly alone.
He was not only alone, he was powerless to change it. Family came back, they would do so in their own good time and not before. Until then he was a reserve unit, a pillbox soldier, a standby program. He was given excessive tasks to do, but the real center of action was somewhere else.
In his long life Payter had taught himself to be patient, but he had never taught himself to enjoy it. It was maddening to be forced to wait! To wait fifty days for an answer from Earth to his perfectly reasonable proposals and questions. To wait almost as long for his family and that hooligan boy to get to where they were going (if they ever did) and report to him (if they should happen to choose to). Waiting was not so bad if one had enough of a life left to wait in. But how much, realistically, had he? Suppose he had a stroke. Suppose he developed a cancer. Suppose any part of the complicated interactions that kept, his heart beating and his blood flowing and his bowels moving and his brain thinking broke down in any place. What then?
And some day they surely would, because Payter was old. He had lied about his age so many times that he was no longer sure of what it was. Not even his children knew; the stories he told about his grandfather's youth were really about his own. Age in itself did not matter. Full Medical could deal with anything, repair or replace, as long as it was not the brain itself that was damaged-and Payter's brain was in the best of shape, because had it not schemed and contrived to get him here?
But "here" there was no Full Medical, and age began to matter a great deal.
He was no longer a boy! But once he had been, and even then he had known that somehow, some day, he would possess exactly what he owned now: the key to heart's desire. Burgermeister of Dortmund? That was nothing! Skinny young Peter, shortest and youngest in his unit of the Hitler Youth but their leader all the same, had promised himself he would have much more. He had even known that it would turn out to be something like this, some grand futuristic pattern would emerge, and he alone would be able to find the handle to wield it, like a weapon, like an axe, like a scythe, to punish or reap or remake the world. Well, here it was! And what was he doing with it? He was waiting. It had not been like that, in the boyhood stories by Juve and Gail and Dominik and the Frenchman, Verne. The people in them did not waste themselves so spinelessly.
But what, after all, was one to do?
So while he waited for that question to answer itself, he kept up his daily rounds. He ate four light meals a day, every other one of CHON-food, methodically dictating to Vera his impressions of taste and consistency. He ordered Vera to design a new mobile bio-assay out of what odds and ends of sensor instrumentation could be spared, and worked at building it as she found time to complete parts of the design. He worked out ten minutes each morning with the weights, half an hour every afternoon with bending and stretching. He methodically walked every pathway in the Food Factory, with his hand-held camera pointed into every cranny. He composed long letters of complaint to his masters on Earth, cagily arguing the merits of aborting the mission and returning to Earth as soon as he could summon the family back, and actually transmitted one or two of them. He wrote fierce and peremptory directives to his lawyer in Stuttgart, in code, arguing his position, demanding a revision to the contract. And most of all, he schemed. And about the Traumeplatz most of all.
It was seldom out of his thoughts, this dreaming place with its startling potential. When he was depressed and fretful, he thought how rightly it would serve Earth if he were to repair it and call Wan back to give them their fevers once again. When he was charged with force and determination he went to look at it, lid hanging from an ornamental projection on one wall, the joints and fasteners always with him in his coverall pouch. How easy it would be to bring in a cutting torch and lop it free, cram the ship full of that, and the communications system for the Dead Men, and whatever other goods and treasures he could find; and then cast loose in the rocket for Earth, start the long, slow downward spiral that would bring him-what would it bring him? God in heaven, what would it not! Fame! Power! Prosperity! All the things that were his due-yes, and his rightful property, too, if he only got back in time to enjoy them.
It made him ill to think about it. All the time the clock was ticking, ticking. Every minute he was one minute closer to the end of his life. Every second spent waiting was a second stolen from the happy time of greatness and luxury that he had earned. He forced himself to eat, sitting on the edge of his private and looking longingly at the ship's controls. "The food has not improved, Vera!" he called accusingly.
The confounded thing did not answer. "Vera! You must do something about the food!" It still did not answer, not for several seconds.
And then only, "One moment, please... Mr. Herter." It was enough to make one sick. In fact, he did feel somewhat sick, he realized. He gazed with hostility at the dish he had been doggedly forcing down, supposed to be a sort of schnitzel, or as close to it as Vera's limited recombinant capacities would allow, but tasting of whisky or sauerkraut, or both at once. He set it on the floor.
"I do not feel well," he announced.
Pause. Then, "One moment, please... Mr. Hester." Poor stupid Vera had just so much capacity. She was processing a burst of messages from Earth, endeavoring to carry on a conversation with the Dead Men by means of the faster-than-light radio, encoding and transmitting all of her own telemetry-all at once. She simply did not have time for his queasiness. But his accelerating unease would not be denied: a sudden rush of saliva under the tongue, a quick shuddering of the diaphragm. He barely made it to the sanitary, giving back, there, all he had taken. For the last time, he swore. He did not want to live so long as to see those God-bedamned organic compounds reworked for one more passage through his gut. When he was sure he had stopped vomiting he marched over to the console and pushed the override buttons. "All functions in standby except this," he ordered. "Monitor my bio-assay at once."
"Very well," she said at once,"... Mr. Hester." Silence for a moment, while the unit in the sanitary made what it could of what Peter had just deposited. "You are suffering from food poisoning," she reported,"... Mr. Hester."
"So! This I already know. What is to be done about it?"
Pause, while her tiny brain revolved the problem. "If you could add water to the system, the fermentation and recycling would be under better control," she said, "... Mr. Hester. At least one hundred liters. There has been considerable loss due to evaporation in the much larger volume of space now available, as well as the stocks withdrawn for the remainder of your party. My recommendation is that you replenish the system with available water as soon as possible."
"But that is not fit to drink for pigs even!"
"The solutes present problems," she acknowledged. "Therefore I recommend that at least half of any added water be distilled first. The system should be able to cope with the remainder of the solutes... Mr. Hester."
"God in Heaven! Am I to build a still out of nothing, and become a water-carrier too? And what of the bio-assay mobile unit, so that this will not happen again?"
Vera sorted through the questions for a moment. "Yes, I think that would be appropriate," she agreed. "If you wish, I will provide construction plans. Also... Mr. Hester, you may wish to consider relying more heavily on CHON-food for your diet, since you do not appear to have severe adverse reactions to it."
"Apart of course from the fact that it tastes like dog-biscuit," he sneered. "Very well. Complete the construction plans at once. Hard copy, making use of available materials, do you understand?"
"Yes... Mr. Hester." The computer was silent for a time, inventorying redundant parts and materials, devising linkages that would do the job. It was a formidable task for Vera's limited intelligence. Peter drew a cup of water and rinsed out his mouth, then grimly unwrapped one of the least unattractive CHON tablets and nibbled off a tentative corner. While he waited to see if he would throw up again he faced the possibility that he might in fact die here, and alone. He did not even have the option he had thought was his, of casting everything adrift and returning to Earth by himself-not, at least, unless he first added water as ordered, and did his best to insure that nothing else would go wrong.
And yet it was every day so increasingly tempting..
To be sure, that would mean casting his daughters and his son-in-law adrift.
But would they ever return? Suppose they did not. Suppose that rude boy turned the wrong switch, or ran out of fuel. Or anything. Suppose, in short, they died. Must he then wither on the vine until he also was dead? And what benefit would that be to humanity, if he perished here, and the whole thing to do over again with a new crew... and himself, Schwarze Peter, done out of reward, done out of fame and power, done out of life itself?
Or-an idea struck him-was there another option? This bedamned Food Factory itself, so set on continuing its course. What if he could find the controls that directed it so? What if he could learn to change those directions, so that it could bring him back to Earth not in three years and more, but at once, in days? To be sure, that would doom his family, would it not? But perhaps not! Perhaps they would return, if they returned at all, to the Food Factory itself, wherever it might be. Even in close orbit around Earth! And how marvelously that would solve everyone's problems at once. He threw the remainder of the packet into the sanitary, to add to the store of organics. "Du bist verruckt, Peter!" he snarled to himself. The flaw in that dream could not be ignored: he had sought with all his might, and the controls to the Food Factory were not to be found.
The frying-bacon sound of the hard-copy printer rescued him from his thoughts. He pulled the sheets out of the machine and frowned over them for a moment. So much work! Twenty hours, at least! And not merely time, but so much of it was hard physical labor! He would have to go out into space to reclaim piping from the struts that were meant to hold the auxiliary transmitters in place, cut them loose, bring them inside; and only then begin to weld them together and form them into a spiral. Simply for the condensation section of the still! He saw that he was beginning to shake. He barely made it to the sanitary in time. "Vera!" he croaked.
"I must have medication for this!"
"At once... Mr. Hester. Yes. In the medical kit you will find tablets marked..."
"Dumbhead! The medical kit is gone to Cuckooland!"
"Oh, yes... Mr. Hester. One moment. Yes. I have programmed appropriate pharmaceuticals for you. It will take about twenty minutes for them to be prepared."
"In twenty minutes I could be dead," be snarled. But there was no help for it, and so he sat and stewed for twenty minutes, the pressures mounting. Illness, hunger, loneliness, overwork, resentment, fear. Anger! That was what, in the end, they all fused into. Anger. Many vectors. One vector sum. By the time Vera's dispensary popped out his pills, it had submerged all the others. He swallowed them greedily and retired to his private to see what would happen.
Actually they did appear to work. He lay back while the fires in his belly damped themselves, and fell imperceptibly asleep.
When he woke he felt at least physically better. He washed himself, brushed his teeth, brushed his thinning yellow hair, and only then noticed the Christmas tree of attention-demanding lights around Vera's console. On the screen in bright red letters were the words:


He chuckled to himself. He had forgotten to cancel the override. When he ordered the computer to get back to business there was an instant explosion of bells and signal lights, a cascade of hard copy out of the printer and a voice. His elder daughter's voice, out of Vera's taped storage: "Hello, Pop. Sorry we couldn't reach you to tell you we arrived safely. We're going to explore now. Talk to you later."

Because Peter Hester loved his family, the joy of their safe arrival flooded his heart and sustained him-for hours. For almost two days. But joy does not flourish in an existence of irritations and worries. He spoke to Lurvy-twice; for no more than thirty seconds each time. Vera simply could not handle more. Vera was harder pressed than Peter himself, stripped and rearranged as she was, handling two-way traffic between Heechee Heaven and the Earth, deferring top priority action commands when even higher priorities demanded attention. The one voice link with the Heechee place could not handle the volume it was given to carry, and mere chitchat between father and daughter could not be allowed.
That was not unjust, Peter conceded. Such marvels they were finding! What was unjust was that he himself was out of it. What was unjust was that among the urgent and meaningful traffic, Vera found time to pass on to him a hodgepodge of commands meant for himself. None reasonable. Some impossible to carry out. Redeploy the thrusters. Inventory CHON-food. Submit by return message complete analysis a cm by 3 cm by 12. 5 cm packets in red and lavender wrappers. Do not submit unnecessary analyses! Submit metallurgical analysis "dreaming couch". Do not attempt physical study "dreaming couch". Query Dead Men re Heechee Drive. Query Dead Men re control panels. Query Dead Men. How easy that was to command! How hard to carry out, when they maundered and scolded and rambled and complained when he could hear them at all, and when most often he was forbidden to take time on the FTL voice circuit anyway. Some of the orders from Earth contradicted others, and most of them came out of order, with obsolete priority designations. And some did not come at all. Poor Vera's storage circuits were soon approaching overload, and she tried to rid herself of unnecessary data by hard-printing it for him to, somehow, attend to; but that made problems of its own,, because the recycling system that fed the printer rolls was the same one that fed him, and the organics were already depleted. So Peter had to open and dump CHON-food into the sanitary and then get busy on the still.
Even if Vera had had time for him, he had not much time for Vera. Struggle into EVA equipment. Cycle himself out on the hull of the Food Factory. Cut away tubing and bind it together. Sweat it back to the ship, always fighting the infuriating, dogged thrust of the Food Factory itself as it plunged toward somewhere or other. He could spare time only for an occasional glance at the pictures coming back from Heechee Heaven. Vera displayed them as they came in, one frame at a time; but then each one was whisked away to make storage space for the next one, and if Peter was not there to see they would go unseen. Even so, good heavens! The Dead Men, so featureless to look at. The corridors of Heechee Heaven. The Old Ones-Peter's heart almost stopped as he looked at the great broad face of an Old One on the screen. But he had time only for a look, and then the still was done and he must go on with the next task. Build himself a yoke for his shoulders. Seam together plastic sheeting (another drain on the recycler!) to make buckets. Squat impatiently by the one functioning-barely functioning-water source, holding the flexible disk around the spout and catching the foulsmelling dribble in the bags. Tote the water back, half into the still, the other half into the recycling tanks. Sleep when he could. Eat when he could force himself. Attend to his own personal priority messages when they trickled through, and when he was too exhausted for anything physical. Another message from Dortmund, three hundred municipal workers this time-stupid Vera, for letting such trash through! A coded communication from his lawyer, meaning half an hour to translate it. And then all it said was, "Am attempting secure more favorable terms. Can promise nothing. Meanwhile advise full compliance all directives." What a pig! Peter, swearing, sat before the console, slammed down the override key and dictated his reply:
"Full compliance with all stupid directives will kill me, and then what?" And he sent it in the clear; let Broadhead and the Gateway Corp make what they would of it!
And perhaps the message was no lie. In all his stress and bustle, Peter had no time for aches and pains. He ate the CHON-food and, when new regular rations began to come out of the recycler, them, too. Even when they tasted foul-sometimes turpentine, sometimes mold-he was not sick. This was not ideal. Peter knew that he was operating on stress and adrenaline, and sometime there would be a price to pay. But he could see no way to avoid paying it when due.
And when at last he had the food processor working reasonably well once more, and had managed to catch up with what appeared the most peremptory of his own orders, he sat before Vera's console half-dozing, and then saw the greatest marvel of all. He scowled uncomprehendingly. What was that idiot boy doing with a prayer fan? Why in the next frame was he poking it into those foolish things that looked like flowerholders? And then the next frame began to build on the screen, and Peter gave a great shout. Suddenly a picture had appeared, some sort of book-Japanese or Chinese, by the look of it.
He was out of the ship and halfway to the Traumeplatz before his conscious mind quite articulated what some part of him had understood at once. The prayer fans! They contained information! He did not stop to wonder why the information had been in a Terrestrial language, or at least what looked like one. He had grasped the essential fact. He was determined to see for himself. Panting, he thrust himself into the room and scrabbled feverishly among the "fans". How was it done? Why in the name of God had he not waited to see more, to be sure of what he was doing? But there were the candleholders, or flowerpots, or whatever he had thought they were; he jammed the first prayer fan to hand into the nearest one. Nothing happened.
He tried six of them, narrow end first, wide end first, every way he could think of, before it occurred to him that perhaps not all of the reading machines were still working. And the second one he tried pulled the fan out of his hand and immediately sprang into light. He was looking at six dancers in black masks and bodystockings, and he was hearing a song he had not heard for many years.
It was a taped PV show! No. Not even that. It was older than that. Years older, not much more recent than the first years of the discovery of the Gateway asteroid; his second wife was still alive, and Janine not born yet, when that song was new. It had been simple old television, before the Heechee piezoelectric circuits had been incorporated into communications systems for human beings. It had perhaps been part of the library of some Gateway prospector, no doubt One of the Dead Men, and somehow it had been transcribed to a prayer fan.
What a cheat!
But then he realized that there were thousands of prayer fans, on Earth, in the tunnels of Venus, still on Gateway itself; wherever the Heechee had been they had left them. Whatever the source of this one, most of the others must have been left by the Heechee themselves! And that alone-dear God, that alone was worth more even than the Food Factory, for it was the key to all of the Heechee's knowledge! What a bonus there would be!
Exulting, Peter tried another fan (old movie), and another (slim volume of poetry, this time in English, by someone named Eliot), and another. How disgusting! If this was what Wan had got his notions of love from, some lascivious Gateway prospector carrying pornography with him to pass the time, no wonder his behavior was so foul! But he could not remain angry long, for he had too much to be glad about. He snatched it out of the reader, and then, in the quiet, heard the distant tiny sound of Vera's urgent-attention bell.
It had a frightening sound, even before he got back to the ship, even before he demanded the message and heard his son-in-law's voice, rasped with fear:
"Urgent override priority! For Peter Hester and immediate relay to Earth! Lurvy, Janine and Wan have been captured by the Heechee, and I think they are coming after me!"

The advantage of his new situation, and the only one, was that now that there were no more messages coming from Heechee Heaven Vera was better able to cope with her overload. Patiently Peter teased out of her all the pictures that had been transmitted before Paul's message had been taped, and saw the knot of Heechee at the end of the corridor, the blurred struggle, half a dozen quick glimpses of the ceiling of the corridor, something that might have been the back of Wan's head-then nothing. Or nothing that meant anything. Peter could not know that the camera had been jammed into the blouse of one of the Old Ones, but he could see that there was nothing to be seen: obscure shadowy shapes, perhaps a hint of texture.
Peter's mind was clear. But it was also empty. He did not allow himself to feel how empty his life had at once become. He carefully programmed Vera to go back over the voice messages and select the significant ones, and listened to what all of them had said. There was no hope in any of it. Not even when at last a new picture suddenly began to build on the screen, then another, then another. For half a dozen frames there was nothing that made sense, perhaps a fist over the lens, maybe a shot of a bare floor. Then, in one corner of the last frame, something that looked like-what? Like a Sturmkampfwagen from his earliest boyhood? But then it was gone, and the camera had once again been put where it showed nothing at all, and stayed that way through fifty frames.
What it noticeably did not show was any sign of either of his daughters, or of Wan. And as to Paul, the old man did not have a clue; after his last frantic message he was gone.
In some unwanted corner of his mind he found the realization that now he might be, probably was, the sole survivor of the mission, and so whatever bonus might come to all was now his alone.
He held the thought where he could look at it. But it meant nothing. He was now hopelessly alone, more alone than ever, as alone as Trish Bover frozen into her eternal ragged orbit that would go nowhere. Perhaps he could get back to Earth to claim his reward. Perhaps he could keep from dying. But how was he to keep from going insane?

It took Peter a long time to fall asleep. He was not afraid of sleeping. What he dreaded was waking up afterward, and when it came it was as bad as he had feared. In the first moment it was a day like any other day, and it was only after a peaceable moment of stretching and yawning that he remembered what had happened. "Peter Hester," he said to himself out loud, "you are alone in this very damned place, and you will die here, still alone." He noted that he was talking to himself. Already.
Through the habits of all those years he washed himself, cleaned his mouth, brushed his hair and then took time to snip off the loose ends around his ears and at the nape of his neck. It did not matter what he did, in any case. Having left his private, he opened two packets of CHON-food and ate them methodically before asking Vera if there were any messages from Heechee Heaven. "No," she said, "... Mr. Hester, but there are a number of downlink action relays."
"Later," he said. They did not matter. They would tell him to do things he had already done, perhaps. Or they would tell him to do things he had no intention of doing, perhaps to force himself outside, to rerig the thrusters, to try again. But the Food Factory would of course counter every thrust with an equal and opposite thrust of its own and continue its slow acceleration toward God, He knew what, for God, He knew why. In any event, nothing that came from Earth for the next fifty days would be relevant to the new realities.
And in less than fifty days. In less than fifty days, what? "You talk as though you had a choice of options, Peter Hester!" he scolded himself.
Well, perhaps he had, he thought, if only he could perceive what they were. Meanwhile the best thing for him to do was to do what he had always done. To keep himself fastidiously neat. To do such tasks as were reasonable for him to do. To maintain his well established habits. He had learned through all those decades of life that the best time for him to move his bowels was some forty-five minutes after eating breakfast; it was now about that time; it was appropriate to do that. While he was squatting on the sanitary he felt a tiny, almost imperceptible lurch once more and scowled. It was an annoyance to have things happen when he did not know their cause, and it was an interruption in what he was doing, with his customary efficiency. Of course, one could not claim much personal credit for the functioning of sphincters that had been bought and transplanted from some hapless (or hungry) donor, or for a stomach inserted intact from another. Nevertheless, it pleased Peter that he functioned so well.
You are morbidly interested in your bowel movements, he told himself, but silently.
Also silently-it did not seem so bad to talk to oneself, as long as it was not aloud-he defended himself. It was not unjustified, he thought. It was only because the example of the bio-assay unit in the toilet was always before him. For three and a half years it had been monitoring every waste product of their bodies. Of course, so it must! How else to keep tabs on their health? And if it was proper for a machine to weigh and evaluate one's excrement, why not for the excrement's author?
He said aloud, grinning, "Du bist verruckt, Peter Hester!"
He nodded in agreement with himself as he cleaned himself and fastened his coverall, because he had summed it all up. Yes. He was crazy.
By the standards of ordinary men.
But what ordinary man had ever been in the present position of Peter Hester?
So when one had said that he was crazy, after all, one had said nothing that was relevant. What did the standards of ordinary men signify as to Schwarze Peter? It was only against extraordinary men that he could be judged-and what a motley crew they were! Drug addicts and drunkards. Adulterers and traitors. Tycho Brahe had a gutta-percha nose, and no one thought him the less. The Reichsfuhrer ate no meat. Great Frederick himself spent many hours that could have been devoted to the management of an empire in composing music for tinkle-tanide chamber groups. He strolled across to the computer and called, "Vera, what was that little thump a few minutes ago?"
The computer paused to match the description against her telemetry. "I cannot be sure... Mr. Hester. But the moment of inertia is consistent with either the launching or docking of one of the cargo ships that have been observed."
He stood for a moment gripping the edge of the console seat. "Fool!" he shouted. "Why was I not told that that was possible?"
"I'm sorry... Mr. Hester," she apologized. "The analysis suggesting this possibility has been read out for you as hard copy. Perhaps you overlooked it."
"Fool," he said again, but this time he was not sure who he was talking to. The ships, of course! It had been implicit all along that the production of the Food Factory had to go somewhere. And it had also been implicit that the ships had to return empty to be reloaded. For what? Where?
That did not matter. What mattered was the perception that perhaps they would not always come empty.
And, following on that, the perception that one ship at least, known to come to the Food Factory, was now in Heechee Heaven. If it should come back, who or what might be in it?
Peter rubbed his arm, which had begun to ache. Pains or none, he could perhaps do something about that! He had some weeks before that ship could possibly return. He could-what? Yes! He could barricade that corridor. He could somehow move machines, stores-anything that had mass-to block it, so that when it did return, if it did, whoever was in it would be stopped, or at least delayed. And the time to begin that was now.
He delayed no further, but set off to find materials for a barricade.
It was not hard to move even quite massive objects, in the low thrust of the Food Factory. But it was tiring. And his arms continued to ache. And in a little while, as he was shoving a blue metal object like a short, fat canoe down toward the dock, he became aware of a strange sensation that seemed to come from the roots of his teeth, almost like the beginning of a toothache; and saliva began to flow from under his tongue.
Peter stopped and breathed deeply, forcing himself to relax. It did no good. He had known it would do no good. In a few moments the pain in the chest began, first tentative, as though someone were pressing against him with a sled runner along his breastbone, then painful, a hard, bruising thrust, as though the runner were on top of him and a hundred-kilo man standing on it.
He was too far from Vera to get medicine. He would have to wait it out. If it was false angina, he would live. If it was cardiac arrest, he would not. He sat patient and still, waiting to see which it would be, while anger built up and built up inside him. How unfair it was!
How unfair it all was! Five thousand astronomical units away, serenely and untroubled, the people of the world went about their business, neither knowing nor caring that the person who could bring them so much-who already had! -might be dying, alone and in pain.
Could they be grateful? Could they show respect, appreciation, even common decency?
Perhaps he would give them a chance. If they responded with these things, yes, he would bring them such gifts as they had never known. But if they were wicked and disobedient. Then Schwarze Peter would bring them such terrible gifts that all the world would shudder and quake with fear! In either case, they would never forget him... if only he survived what was happening to him now.

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