Nothing but ice
From the translator
I'll be brief and will not delay you for long. A very nice
story, written by Dmitriy, is one of my favorite stories. And it was a
great pleasure to translate this text. The richness of the author's text
makes it extremely beautiful. I tried to save the author's style and I
hope that I preserved it unchanged. As I know, nobody made this
translation before, that's why I initiated this work. Now, I wish you an
Our mission was to blow up the star.
Romantics and adventurers should stop the further reading. Our
destiny is not from a kind of those, which could inflame the
imagination. Here it is. A journey there and back again lasts for a
fourty years. Plus another year or two we needed to complete the
Project. Hybernation allowed us to sleep all nine of ten parts of the
journey, so that we will return to Earth rather young. Just one thing
bothered us - science, culture and even the life should be so far
beyond, that we ought to be out of the new events and deeds.
What's about it? Nothing. We have no choice but to live the
rest of our days quietly and peacefully beneath our own glory. A very
long days… How do you think why Amundsen in his old ages blindly rushed
to rescue Nobile, to whom he didn't feel any likings? Because he was a
very active man with a life full of victories and risks, after all that,
he couldn't bear such long and honourable but colorless old age.
Then maybe we could show ourselves in an exciting events,
unusual studies or thrilling adventures that were waiting us in the deep
space? By no means. We obliged to be technicians, not heroes. To be very
careful and executive adjusters without any permission for risk or
self-dependency. Without this it would be impossible to complete the
I hope you understand why I write this word with capital
letter. It may sound a bit silly but it's true that the starships don't
fit for interstellar flights. With small velocity about 200 thousand
kilometeres per second flight sprawls into decennaries even to nearest
stars. Velocity close to light speed allows you to reach although the
other edge of the Galaxy. But then Einstein's paradox takes effect: one
year of ship's time becomes equal terrestrial centuries. So this
frustrates a perfect plan into nonsense. In any of those two cases
people turn out to be doomed on their miserable trampling near Sun,
while myriads of tempting, but, alas, unattainable worlds were shining
so attractive from everywhere.
The realization of the Project gives us a key to our galaxy and
probably to all the Universe. The calculations of the new theory
demonstrates that an immediate extraction of commensurable to stellar
quantities of energy forms a spatio-temporal tunnel where a spaceship
can flit away. Without any harm for the crew and without those negative
However, all this theories needed checking. Not on the Earth,
of course, and not near the Solar System, because it could fall into the
Tartarus after such an expirement. The other way of taking the
annihilators with us to the safe distance was inaccessible for us
because of the technical problems. The last chance still remains: to
blow up the star by the lasers and then study the results.
Not every star matched our conditions. More of that, there was
just one star matched all those conditions and was accessible within our
limits. That's the star we were flying to.
I believe that the fantastic descriptions of the interstellar
flights in the last century books compels not only the boy's hearts to
beat astir. So, I really don't want my words to be interpreted as fully
dethronement of romance, but the truth is that it's hard to think up
something more dully, than an interstellar flight.
Look here. If you are attentive, you should notice that any
sliding in the accustomed grooves merge the days from dots into the grey
dash. After all, the best things to remember are those, that stands out
against the background, and it's absolutely unimportant were they happen
- at home or in a starship. Except that the work in a starship is too
too monotonous, because of the lack of unexpected sights beyond the
illuminators and the absence of the new faces or accidental meetings.
That's why months outside the anabiosis were extremely tedious.
Surely, there were a lot of interesting stuff for the literary
man or psychologist. For example, general enthusiasm for games involved
even the Timerin, who was the creator of the Project theory, whereas on
the Earth this ascetic man of science have none. Almost everyone showed
up their own, however, harmless eccentricities. To my great surprise I
became keen on numismatics and found out that even the mental collecting
of the ancient rounds of cuprum, argentum and aurum reveals itself an
inexplicable fascination. And do you know what I have to do because of
an absence of books on numismatics? You probably wouldn't believe me,
'cause I can hardly believe myself, but I was fishing every allusion
about money out of the novels and encyclopedias - their features, size,
heads and tails images! I've never thought that the words "quadruple
drachma with Athens Owl" or "Tsar Constantin's ruble" can be read as
such a music…
Aside from stated above, it's time to expound our only
adventure, which haven't got any formal resemblance with other common
adventures, no usual attributes of them, but one - it's unexpectedness.
The star we were flying to was absolutely unimportant until
now, therefore it was registered just under it's ID number in the Star
Catalogue (SC 13612-132-540 Postfix 340532-27-760-98). Before our
departure somebody suggested to give a name to it, but his idea was
rejected, nobody knows why. I suspect that it's a response to the
ancient superstitions. There's no sense to give that star a neutral
name, but giving it a promising name (like "Hope") could make the things
much worse, you know... No, it's better to leave it as it is.
However, all is advancing using common laws, and star naturally
acquired a name "Nameless" (or "Anonymous" as somebody prefer), because
none of the sane man will repeat incomprehensible set of digits for ten
times a day
In that Star System we have to do a huge volume of work. We
need to move the laser generators to a starcentric orbit; to stabilize
and tune up the measuring equipment; to collect a vast amount of
preliminary data; and finally - at the last moment, I mean - to send a
probe into the spatio-temporal tunnel. In brief that is correct, but a
hundreds of minor works were ahead.
Among them, there was an investigation of the planets of
Nameless. There were four. Two planets were the gas giants of Jupiter
type and gave no emotions to us, because them were unsuitable for
landing. Small and void planet, nearest to the star, pleased us no more
than a heap of slag. The last was even worse - just an iceberg of gases,
freezed together - useless and sticked to the edge of the star system
piece of ice.
Nevertheless, that promises some sort of variety in our boring
environment of unwinking stars and ship's quarters, that we know as our
own palm. All craved to take part in that secondary task of observating
planets, doomed to be destroyed. The lot comes to me - luckily, I found
myself in an explorers group list.
We parted, landed and... we stand like after a hit of thunder!
It was an austere-styled world in white and blue colors around
us. The rocks with mirrored, silver-matte and crystal-clear towers,
ledges, portals, ogives, tracery rotundas, galleries and columns piled
up everywhere. There was gothic and rococo, Tadj-Mahal and Kiji, all
what a genius of architecture already created and all what he have to
Forms of ice are very expressive without anything - just by
themselves, but a low gravity and various mixture of materials
strengthens the sights. It seems, that archs were flying - one can't
imagine them still, because even a moment of rest will bring all down.
Some Cyclopean arch was sustained by a blade columns of glass, and in
the shadow of overhanging cornices a Notre Dam can be situated. The
cornices most of all looks like wings of a butterflies that are ready to
fly away - their frosty pattern doubling in a misty superfine plate of
That doesn't force landscape to be exclusive, though. The sky
above the planet remains hazy. But sometimes it became clear and the
star disk was strangely distorted in the air, nobody still knows about
the reason of that.
It's light began to splinter as the spurt pressed to the
finger. Light beams fell to the planet, carving crumbles of the raibows.
There were sparkles flying from cracks, verges and chips - the centuple
refracted reflections fills air with flit shine. Our eyes accustomed to
dull colours hardly bears this!
Ice became fluctuating and luminiferous. There were a chains of
astonishing edifices in it, they formed and changed. Spectral cities
shines and grows, they arises monuments, fades, alters and revives again
- just everywhere and with a rainbows illumination! That was an art of
something like a fourth, fifth, magical and wild dimension!
All the hours we were there we couldn't make any metering or
recording, we just were unable to do them! We were possessed by a sense
more thin and deep than delight or joy. Crew left on the ship saw all,
of course, but even they didn't reminded us about our primary objective
- I think that this happen for the first time in the star exploration
Then we returned. And everything flows into normal way as
nothing happened. As nothing was!
Sometimes I envy those who lived earlier, - they can behave
themselves with such a spontaneity! "The blood rushed to his head and he
drew the sword..." Surely, the things weren't too easy even in that
time, but, nevertheless, the decisions usually concerns a slice of
bread, satisfaction of passions or defending of your own prosperity, and
there was a perfect set of man's reactions to one or another life's
condition, transmitted across the generations. That could be possible
because of a still way of life, a small number of changes. Then the life
became more complicated and it caused the reactions to be more
complicated. Man find oneself forced to suppress spontaneous impulses,
because in the new mazy environment they just could made things worse.
On the planet we all got a shock we've never felt. We faced a
very crucial and tragical choice. What could it give us, the sudden and
stormy splash of emotions? Most likely it'd cause a conflict, which is
more dangerous then a fire, especially on a starship. We ought to think
things over - calmly, coolly, alone, taking all consequences into
consideration, with no matter of time, because we've got plenty of it.
In that way we were instructed, and only in that way you can survive in
the star expeditions, when the group depended on each man's behaviour.
In a certain way we represented a solid thinking brain. That's why I'll
not describe a personal feelings of the expedition members -
how somebody kept silent, was gloomy or tried to smile. All this was
secondary in the face of unpleasant alternative we had.
Blasting the star will destroy the planet. We have to
ruin a unique masterpiece of Nature by our own hands.
This is just the same as to rob oneself of the colours of
evening-glow. We have to rob the mankind and the mankind didn't even
suspect what it's going to lose.
Does the Project really cost that price?
That's what everyone of us thought, battling and disputing on
its own. Our mind was nearly exhausted by this self-duel.
Project gives us a key to the Universe. Destroying one
beautiful planet we got millions of new. Get rid of the doubts!
That's it, but the Nature is unique - we will never find such
beauty that we spoiled.
On the other side, what is in this planet? It's beautiful to
see – better to say - it's a lucky chance to see it. But it is just an
ice, nothing but ice, while the profit of the Project is real and
tangible. And let your feelings mutiny!
However, neither if we'll have a key to the Galaxy nor if we'll
haven't, our material interests will not a bit suffer. So the Project is
to satisfy our passion of cognition? Just that and no more? And we have
to forgo one need because of another? Only because one is more valuable
But how valuable! If the near space wasn't opened up before the
XXI century then the industry should be still stamping on Earth. And
this could cause the overheating of the Earth (and with a worse global
warming trend). Nobody thought about such a perspective in the years of
the first starts, but now that doesn't matter - the quest for the open
space was a question of vital importance. And now we are driven by such
a necessity, though we can't realize it.
A good logic... But if we'd have a choice to lose Lunar Base
Stations or moonlit nights then what we'll be more preferable?
Thus, I sat sleepless and full of thoughts all night long.
But, frankly, who needs magical and beautiful, as the
frustrative dream, planet, within a lifetime distance to reach it?
This decisive argument I found was like a fresh wind in my
Decisive? Why, with the completion of the Project such a
distance would be mere trifle. And then, yes, then the other thing will
be essential: what price had we paid to reach the new worlds?
It's easy to see what people will think of us... Why I,
Timerin, all the others hadn't returned and reported about the new
circumstances? Returned with a hope to find a new way to complete the
Project, realizing that an escape to the Galaxy could only be found for
a hundred years after. But it could be found! And not with such a price.
"Why they decided all that by themselves?"
This thought was the most terrible and I banished it from my
mind. Certainly, it came back. Who was the most interested in completion
of the Project? We was! Because we sacrificed our lives to it. Wasn't
that the cause that outweighed other considerations?
They will not say it, but think it. And not without reasons.
But let's face it without bias. Well, the world beauty is
invaluable and, theoretically, it can't be sacrificed. Practically, the
mankind did that quite often through the centuries. And then came the
revenge. Revenge for the poisoned rivers, devastated forests, disfigured
landscapes. Nature teached us a rigorous lesson and we sweared: "Never
and nevermore, in any circumstances!"
"Never and nevermore?" Running into an extreme is always an
error. Galaxy with it's billions of stars and planets is a Galaxy. It's
a way to splash out the mankind energy, a redemption from stagnation, an
unrestrained evolution. Somewhere in the vast expanse of the Galaxy that
we may open we could find such things that we never dreamt of. Strange
worlds, unimaginable forms of life, wisdom of the other civilizations.
Do you really want to turn around and fly away, in order to fulfil all
this a century later?
Ha, just a century...
Exactly! If somebody delayed the creation of the steam-engine
for a century, then what could we be now?
There wasn't a solution suitable for everyone.
We understanded each other so deeply that without any questions
we realised in one and the same moment that all was already rethinked
and nobody knows the way out. And that we have to make a decision or
we'll overstrain ourselves.
In the "good old days" people usually had a saving loophole:
the leader said "Yes" or "No" and the other joined him, assuring
themselves that the leader is always right. But we couldn't put
responsibility on somebody else, because that was the standards of the
The psychologist began the conversation. Suddenly, he suggested
to view the stereo recordings we seen on the planet once more.
No one objected and many of the crew members acquired a faint
hope. Perhaps, psychologist suggested this review not without purpose.
Maybe he found a way out of this vicious circle at last?
During the breakfast, we don’t want to give a slight touch to
the dishes. There were illusive cities arising and fading on the screen,
a wonder of colours works - infinite, fabulous, heart-breaking grief of
rapture and joyful amazement. Recording couldn't transmit everything,
but anyway... but anyway... Somebody clinked a spoon, it's strike was
unbearable for the nerves.
Last frame faded and for a minute or two we couldn't understand
what is more real - this room, this table and this food or that great
magic show we just saw.
The voice of psychologist took us out from the estrangement
– I want to disappoint you. My suggestion, of course, is not a
final option, but... One gently touch of a button - and there will be no
recordings, which cause such memories, as if they never were real. With
the same clearance I take over the erasing of the memories about this
planet. And where there are no memories, there are no torments, ain't
they? We'll finish the project, and people will never knew, what a loss
they have got. And no one will blame himself! Do you want me to wipe it
Silence. And then…
– Don't do that! We all will remember this!! Don't even try!!!
For the first time in my life I saw such a wry faces of my
friends. Indeed, while I'm here talking about emotions, the nature is
But when the shouts quieten down, the embarrassed psychologist
made a typical gesture in the air, and then we became ourselves again...
Then, in coldly and calmly atmosphere, we made a decision. You
know, what it was.
You can find original russian version of this text named
Nichego, krome l'da at http://lib.ru/. All questions about it send to
Original Author Dmitriy Bilenkin
This text (translation into english) named Nothing but ice
(or Nothing except ice):
Copyright © Yuriy Lapitskiy, 2004, 2005
You can find some information about the translator at
http://yuriybrisk.narod.ru/english.htm All questions about this
translation send to firstname.lastname@example.org or via ICQ (UIN 254-88-98-99).
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is
permitted in any medium, provided strict copyright notice above is
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