Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Eternal Flame 1-2 - Greg Egan

In Lightspeed Magazine 28 : "Straining against the harness that held her to the observation bench, Tamara cranked the azimuth wheel of the telescope mount. Each laborious turn of the handle beside her nudged the huge contraption by just one arc-chime, and though she still had strength to spare there was nothing to be gained from it: a governor limited the speed of rotation to prevent excessive torques that might damage the gears. The soft, steady clicking of the wheel, usually a reassuring, meditative sound, drove home the machine’s serene indifference to her impatience. When the telescope was finally pointed in the direction of her last sighting of the Object, she lay flat on the bench and wriggled into place beneath the eyepiece. As she brought the image into focus she was granted as glorious a vision as she could have hoped for: there was nothing to be seen here but the usual mundane star trails. The trails were exactly as Tamara remembered them, so she knew that she hadn’t mis-set the coordinates. Twice now, the Object had escaped the field of view that had framed it just one day earlier. Such elusiveness proved that it was crossing the sky faster than anything she’d seen before. Tamara turned the secondary azimuth wheel until she was rewarded with a small gray smudge of light at the top of the field, then she adjusted the altitude to center it. To the limits of the telescope’s resolving power, the Object was simply a point. Nothing in the cosmos was close enough to the Peerless to reveal its width, but even those orthogonal stars that had remained fixed in the sky for three generations showed color trails at this magnification. To possess a point-like image the Object had to be moving slowly—but the only way a slow-moving body could cross the sky as rapidly as this was by virtue of its proximity." 4 out of 5

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