Saturday, February 11, 2006

10. Data Search

Closing his eyes, Golan Trevize communed with the computer that controlled the Far Star. In his mind, he sent the command: data search!

A computer-generated vision came to him of the lobby of the Lewis Pirenne Memorial Library on the campus of the University of Terminus. Around him were rows of carrels holding the more conventional computer terminals found at Pirenne Library. One such terminal was directly in front of him, with the standard queries concerning subject, title, author and keywords. Trevize found it amusing that the Far Star's computer had chosen to create the illusion of a lesser computer. Still, it made a certain amount of sense. Pirenne Library held the most comprehensive database in the Galaxy, and Trevize had grown familiar with its data retrieval system during his days at the University. He thought: subject -- engineering schematics for FNS Far Star.

Trevize found his viewpoint within the library floating away from the computer carrel. He drifted up past three rows of balconies, each holding endless rows of book-tapes. Passing over the railing of the fourth balcony, he floated down past the stacked shelves before finally coming to a stop. He was looking at shelf upon shelf of book-tapes, each dealing with some aspect of the design specifications of the Far Star. A brief search brought him to a shelf full of book-tapes on the gravitic drive. He focused on a book-tape titled Applied Gravitics With Respect to Hyperdrive Engineering, and a faint blue glow surrounded it. He sent the command: copy to portable storage!

The book-tape, still surrounded by its blue nimbus, flew off the shelf. Trevize was able to follow it as it flew out of the Pirenne Library and across Terminus City to Hober Mallow Naval Base. There, it sought out one particular hanger and entered through an open door. The familiar shape of the Far Star sat within, and the book-tape flew in through the airlock to the pilot-room, finally coming to rest within the book-tape slot of the navigation console. The screen above the pilot's chair lit with the message: transfer complete.

Trevize opened his eyes and looked up at the screen. The words "transfer complete" were still there. He reached down to the book-tape slot and withdrew the slim white rectangle within. Handing it to Kuel Denrun, he said, "Applied Gravitics With Respect to Hyperdrive Engineering."

Denrun wrote down the title on the book-tape and passed it on to a member of his team, who slipped it into a carrying case. The man passed another blank book-tape to Denrun, who slid it into the ship's navigation console. Trevize closed his eyes again and found himself back in the library, looking at the shelf full of gravitic drive engineering specs. He shifted his focus to another book.

An hour later, the last of the copied book-tapes had been placed within the carrying case, and Trevize stood up from the ship's computer. The Far Star was still bustling with activity as the other members of Denrun's team scanned and recorded and analyzed the engineering marvels revealed within various access panels.

Denrun nodded with satisfaction at his men. He said, "By the time the boys are done today, we'll be able to project an exact holographic replica of the Far Star at the lab, accurate down to the last atom."

"And then comes the hard part," said Trevize.

Denrun grinned. "And then comes the hard part. Trying to replicate all the engineering that it took to build her. These book-tapes will help, but there's no substitute for trying to do the work yourself."

"Given everything you're learning here today," said Trevize, "how long do you think it will take to start building your own gravitic ships? That's the first thing Minister Lizalor's going to want to know."

"Don't I know it," said Denrun with a sigh. "Fortunately for the peace of mind of everyone involved, I'll be able to give you and her a pretty accurate forecast. If all goes well (and that's always the trick, isn't it?) we should have our own home-brewed version of the Far Star ready to fly within six months. After that, I figure we can crank them out at the rate of about one a month for the foreseeable future."

Golan Trevize let out a breath that he hadn't been aware he was holding in. Once more, his intuition was letting him know things he couldn't possibly know. Trevize still had no idea why it was so important for the Comporellians to have their own fleet of gravitic ships, but he knew that it was, and now he knew that there was hope that whatever they had available would be enough to meet whatever situation was coming up.

Provided, as Denrun had pointed out, that all went well.

No comments: