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Beyond the Blue Event Horizon A Del Rey Book

Published by Ballantine Books

Copyright c 1980 by Frederik Pohl All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada, Limited, Toronto, Canada.

Manufactured in the United States of America

CONTENTS

1 Wan

2 On the Way to the Oort Cloud

3 Wan in Love

4 Robin Broadhead, Inc

5 Janine

6 After the Fever

7 Heechee Heaven

8 Schwarze Peter

9 Brasilia

10 The Oldest One

11 S. Ya. Lavorovna

12 Sixty Billion Gigabits

13 At the Halfway Point

14 The Long Night of the Dreams

15 Older Than the Oldest One

16 The Richest Person There Is

17 The Place Where the Heechee Went

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1 Wan

It was not easy to live, being young, being so completely alone. “Go to the gold, Wan, steal what you want, learn. Don’t be afraid,” the Dead Men told him. But how could he not be afraid? The silly but worrisome Old Ones used the gold passages. They might be found anywhere in them, most likely at the ends of them, where the gold skeins of symbols ran endlessly into the center of things. That is, exactly where the Dead Men kept coaxing him to go. Perhaps he had to go there, but he could not help being afraid.

Wan did not know what would happen if the Old Ones ever caught him. The Dead Men probably knew, but he could not make any sense out of their ramblings on the subject. Once long ago, when Wan was tiny-when his parents were still alive, it was that long ago-his father had been caught. He had been gone for a long time and then had come back to their green-lit home. He was shaking, and two-year-old Wan had seen that his father was afraid and had screamed and roared because that was so frightening to him.

Nevertheless he had to go to the gold, whether the grave old frog-jawed ones were there or not, because that was where the books were. The Dead Men were well enough. But they were tedious, and touchy, and often obsessed. The best sources of knowledge were books, and to get them Wan had to go where they were.

The books were in the passages that gleamed gold. There were other passages, green and red and blue, but there were no books there. Wan disliked the blue corridors, because they were cold and dead, but that was where the Dead Men were. The green was used up. He spent most of his time where the winking red cobwebs of light were spread against the walls and the hoppers still held food; he was sure to be untroubled there, but he was also alone. The gold was still in use, and therefore rewarding, and therefore also perilous. And now he was there, cursing fretfully to himself-but under his breath-because he was stuck. Bloody damn Dead Men! Why did he listen to their blathering?

He huddled, trembling, in the insufficient shelter of a berry bush, while two of the foolish Old Ones stood thoughtfully plucking berries from its opposite side and placing them precisely into their froggy mouths. It was unusual, really, that they should be so idle. Among the reasons Wan despised the Old Ones was that they were always busy, always fixing and carrying and chattering, as though driven. Yet here these two were, idle as Wan himself.

Both of them had scraggly beards, but one also had breasts. Wan recognized her as a female he had seen a dozen times before; she was the one who was most diligent in pasting colored bits of something-paper? plastic?- onto her sari, or sometimes onto her sallow, mottled skin. He did not think they would see him, but he was greatly relieved when, after a time, they turned together and moved away. They did not speak. Wan had almost never heard any of the grave old frog-jaws speak. He did not understand them when they did. Wan spoke six languages well-his father’s Spanish, mother’s English, the German, the Russian, the Cantonese and the Finnish of one or another of the Dead Men. But what the frog-jaws spoke he did not comprehend at all.

As soon as they had retreated down the golden corridor-quick, run, grab! Wan had three books and was gone, safely back in a red corridor. It might be that the Old Ones had seen him, or perhaps not. They did not react quickly. That was why he had been able to avoid them so long. A few days in the passages, and then he was gone. By the time they had become aware he was around, he wasn’t; he was back in the ship, away.

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