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Does that matter?
Yes, it does, I can t abandon her.
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Why not? She d do the same for me.
Um-m-m Idon t know exactly why let s say that in spite of everything, she s a woman. Waste not, want
not.
When she did begin reeling as she walked, he agreed to pitch camp and did most of the chores alone.
First he selected a spot beneath an overhanging cliff.  So our winged chums won t see us, he explained
chattily,  or drop on us their equivalent of what winged chums usually drop. You will note, however, that
an easy route will take us onto the top of the cliff, if we should have groundborne callers. From there we
can shoot, throw rocks, and otherwise hint to them that they re not especially welcome. Slumped in
exhaustion against a boulder, she paid him no heed.
He inflated the insulating floor of the sealtent and erected its framework. The wind gave him trouble,
flapping the fabric he stretched across until he got it secured. Because the temperature had risen to about
minus fifty, he didn t bother with extra layers, but merely filled the cells of the one skin with air.
To save accumulator charge, he worked the pump by hand, and likewise when it evacuated the tent s
interior. Extreme decompression wasn t needed, since the Waylander atmosphere was mostly noble
gases and nitrogen. The portable air renewer he had placed inside, together with a glower for heat, took
care of remaining poisonous vapors and excess carbon dioxide, once he had refilled the tent with oxygen
at 200 millibars. (The equipment for all this was heavy. But it was indispensable, at least until Djana got
into such condition that she didn t frequently need the relief of shirtsleeve environment. And she d better!
Given the limitations of what they could carry, they could make possibly fifteen stops that utilized it.)
While renewer and glower did their work, Flandry chipped water ice to melt for drinking and cooking.
They entered through the plastic airlock. He showed Djana how to bleed her spacesuit down to ambient
pressure. When they had taken off their armor, she lay on the floor and watched him with eyes glazed by
fatigue. He fitted together his still, put it on the glower, and filled it with ice.  Why are you doing that?
she whispered.
 Might have unpleasant ingredients, he answered.  Gases like ammonia come off first and are taken up
by the activated colloids in this bottle. We can t let them contaminate our air; our one renewer s busy
handling the stuff we breathe out; and besides, when we strike camp I must pump as big a fraction as I
can manage back into its tank. When the water starts boiling, I shut the valve to the gas-impurity flask
and open the one to the water can. We can t risk heavy metal salts, especially on a world where they
must be plentiful.Doesn t take but a micro quantity of plutonium, say, this far from medical help, to kill
you in quite a nasty fashion. A propos, I suppose you know we daren t smoke in a pure oxy
atmosphere.
She shuddered and turned her glance from the desolation in the ports.
Dinner revived her somewhat. Afterward she sat hugging her legs,chin on knees, and watched him clean
the utensils. In the cramped space, his movements were economical.  You were right, she said gravely.
 I wouldn t have a prayer without you.
 A hot meal, albeit freeze-dried, does beat pushing a concentrate bar through your chowlock and calling
it lunch, eh?
 You know what I mean, Nicky. What can I do?
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 You can take your turn watching for monsters, he said immediately.
She winced.  Do you really think 
 No. I don t think.Too few data thus far to make it worth the trouble. Unhappily, though, one datum is
the presence of two or more kinds of critter whose manners are as deplorable as they are inexplicable.
 But they re machines!
 Are they?
She stared at him from under tangled tawny bangs. He said while he labored:  Where does  robot leave
off and  organism begin ? For hundreds of years there ve been sensor-computer-effector systems more
intricate and versatile than some kinds of organic life. They function, perceive, ingest, have means to
repair damage and to be reproduced; they homeostatize, if that horrible word is the one I want; certain of
them think. None of it works identically with the systems evolved by organic animals and sophonts but
it works, and toward very similar ends.
 Those bugs that attacked me have metal exoskeletons underneath that purple enamel, and electronic
insides. That s why they succumbed so easily to my blaster: high heat conductivity, raising the
temperature of components designed for Wayland s natural conditions. But they re machinery as
elaborate as any I ve ever ruined. As I told you, I hadn t the time ormeans to do a proper job of
dissection. As near as I could tell, though, they run off accumulators. Their feelers are magnificently
precise sensors magnetic, electric, radionic, thermal, et cetera. They have optical and audio systems as
well. In fact, with one exception, they re such gorgeous engineering that it s a semantic quibble whether
to call them robots or artificial animals.
 Same thing, essentially, for the flyers which, by the way, I m tempted to call snapdragonflies.They get
their lift from the wings and a VTOL turbojet; they use beak and claws to rip rather than grind metal; but
they have sensors and computers akin to the bugs . And they seem able to act more independently, as
you d expect with a larger  brain. 
He put away the last dish, settled back, and longed for a cigarette.
 What do you mean by  one exception ? Djana asked.
 I can imagine a robotic ecology, based on self-reproducing solar-cell units that d perform the equivalent
of photosynthesis, Flandry said.  I seem to recall it was actually experimented with once. But these
things we ve met don t have anything I can identify as being for nourishment, repair, or reproduction. No
doubt they have someplace to go for replacement parts and energy recharges someplace where new
ones are also manufactured most likely the centrum area.But what about the wrecked ones? There
doesn t seem to be any interest in reclaiming those marvelous parts, or even the metal. It s notan ecology
, then; it s open-ended. Those machines have no purpose except destruction. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]