Сборники Художественной, Технической, Справочной, Английской, Нормативной, Исторической, и др. литературы.


    Tariazhiko tiptoed carefully to a wall and put his ear to it. And  he
heard out that soft rustle again. It was somewhere too close;  just  reach
out a hand. He stretched out. His fingers  touched  something  tender  and
stirring. The something didn't move for a moment, then soundlessly clasped
round his palm. Tariazhiko's heart sank. He twitched and escaped into  the
corridor. At once he stumbled over a damned girder and his  head  hit  the
floor. His heart sank, his breathe sank, his hand grasped at last to press
an emergency light button. Those would poorly help. But it would be not so
    Tariazhiko mustered up his courage and picked himself over the  floor
and took a look through into the bath  compartment.  There  was  a  double
towel lying on the floor where he stood before.
    He drew breathe easily and lay back.
    So went about five minutes until he heard again that  hateful  rustle
that made his heart sink. Terror pierced his body. He  jumped  up  scalded
and escaped along the corridor. He ran  passing  doors,  sectors,  blocks,
emergency lights. He found himself suddenly with a nut key  in  his  hand.
However he hardly would use it as a weapon. He ran passing  elevators  and
stairs and locks and controls until he found himself nearby  the  external
air lock.
    He fell down tired on a space-suit box. An  unbearably  painful  lump
stuck in his throat. His sight got distorted by a cover of tears.
    "Jesus", he cried soundlessly. "What the thing turned my  ship  into?
Nobody, nobody can help me. I'm alone. Alone, I am".
    The God kept silence looking at a piece of  dust,  what  Tariazhiko's
ship was, with the black bottomless eyes of the Universe.
    "Alone", thought Tariazhiko,"And there is the thing walking around my
    A sudden whistle made him shudder. He squeezed stronger the  nut  key
in his palm. But that was just automatics that asked would he go out  into
the open space or not.
    He realozed there were the products of civilization aruond him and it
made him come to his senses.
    "Can it really be true this filth can make me  lose  my  senses",  he
thought in terror.
    Automatics became silent.  Either  the  energy  ended  or  the  thing
reached already the emergency power supply? If so then it was bad at  all.
Then between a few hours his ship  as  well  as  himself  would  begin  to
freeze. The rest of ship systems would reject step-by-step. And then  both
he and she would turn into a dead block drifting slowly accross the  Milky
Way. Because of  this  thought  only  Tariazhiko  felt  freezing.  It  was
necessary to do something, he decided.
    He looked out in the corridor. After that he  thought  for  a  minute
about the nut key in his hand. He shoved it into the  space-suit  box  and
slipped out from the air lock compartment.
    It was silent. There were rustles from time to time. He stopped.  His
hands got covered with goose skin. Streaming sweat on his back  seemed  to
be too close to the point of freezing. He terribly imagined himself turned
into a solid substance with stalactites on his back. The  rustles  reached
his ears now from afar and now from anear. Tariazhiko grew  torpid.  After
the rustles got silent he moved himself further. Very slow, too slow.
    The ship depot was almost empty. There was only a small hill of boxes
full with spare parts. He took a one - it would be enough, if, of  course,
the thing would not begin to again destroy the thin structures of the ship
brain and communications. He carefully held a thin transparent plate. Even
a soft air movement could spoil it. Something would  breake,  microcurrent
would go erroneously and the end.
    Nobody had run a repair of a ship brain in the Space ever before.  It
was protected by a whole system of special equipments making it absolutely
invulnerable. Tariazhiko sighed heavily. Absolutely.  It  was  interesting
anyway how could the nasty thing succed to penetrate into there.
    Suddenly, he heard a sound of steps. They were power, massive,  heavy
steps of something huge and strong. Tariazhiko almost let the box out.  He
rushed to the exit and stood silently nearby. The steps were  approaching.
No rustle was already heard. Just the steps the  inevitable  fate.  Louder
and louder. Tariazhiko stuck to a wall. He wished with all  his  heart  to
merge the wall, to get soldered with the wall, to dissolve in the wall.
    The steps resonanced in his temples with  blows  of  his  heart.  The
steps scratched his ear membranes. The steps creaked in his  stomach.  And
that nut key was lying in the air lock compartment. And he  had  only  the
box with spare parts inside, invaluable parts to the ship brain.
    The steps unexpectedly subsided.  Something  stopped  near  the  exit
hiding the dusky emergency lights in the corridor which were so unbearably
sinister besides.  The  something  gave  a  creak.  The  creak  ran  along
Tariazhiko's backbone and kicked his heels. The  something  moved  through
into the depot.
    Tariazhiko strongly screwed up his eyes, clenched his  teeth  not  to
cry, delayed his breathing.
    That was a ship robot, the single on  the  ship  board.  It  came  in
waddling on its unbendable legs and stopped right in  the  middle  of  the
    "Jesus", Tariazhiko exclaimed unable to control himself.
    "You piece of damned iron", wailed Tariazhiko.
    "A rubbish heap weeps for you", raved Tariazhiko.
    "Stand here and don't move at all", ordered Tariazhiko.
    He slipped down on the floor deafened by his own shouts.
    When silence came back and his  ear  ability  did  too,  he  heard  a
scarcely discerned rustle. Somewhere too close.
    Tariazhiko jumped up and escaped  along  the  corridor.  The  hateful
rustle. The cursed rustle. He, Tariazhiko,  was  not  able  to  endure  it
anymore. It was necessary to change that block to revive  the  ship.  Only
then he, Tariazhiko, would find a way to kill the thing. Even if the thing
would spoil his ship ten times more. He would repair her again  and  again
till such blocks would be available in the depot.
    He smiled sadly. The cargo of the spare parts was to be delivered  to
the Fifth planet of the Rydegite system for its ship service  station,  as
it was indicated in the accompanied documents. So, he needed  now  to  use
the cargo to save himself. That was right. That happened sometimes in  the
space. The vile thing. The thought of  it  made  Tariazhiko  shudder.  The
fucked thing. Tariazhiko started to irritate himself to charge his fury.
    He reached the communication compartment and calmed down and began to
work not paying attention to any damned rustle.
    He very carefully took off a seal.  Then  he  punctually  opened  the
necessary block cover and took it away. After that  he  put  a  new  plate
therein and placed all together.
    He waited for a minute not daring to turn on. Finally, he set a code.
    And the ship responded to him.  Light  appeared  to  everywhere.  All
equipments, systems, controls, units resumed to work.
    "Aha!", Tariazhiko exclaimed gladly. He looked now  at  the  control,
now at the lights, now at the communication section. He merrily jumped  up
and made several dancing motions.
    "Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?", Tariazhiko asked the corridor.
    He hesitated. There was the thing strolling accross the ship, such  a
thought like a lightning. Euphoria ended. The sticky fear  leaned  heavily
stirring his hair. The thing was still alive. The thing crawled along  his
ship. Tariazhiko clenched his teeth. His palm  two  compressed  fists.  He
tried to calm arisen trembling.
    "All, that's all. All be good", Tariazhiko calmed himself.  "I'm  now
getting ready. I'll find the thing and kill it".
    He threw the growing numb down and advanced  resolutely  to  the  air
lock compartment.
    "Maybe it's better to leave my ship, sit down into a shuttle and call
S.O.S. until automatics don't reject again?", thought  Tariazhiko  pulling
the nut key out of the space-suit box.
    "Maybe it is better to call S.O.S. right now?", considered Tariazhiko
hanging a discharger and accumulator on his shoulders.
    "No! I  must  cope  with  the  thing.  Myself!",  thought  Tariazhiko
weighing an improvised lance in his hand.
    "Yes, I must! No one else! Just myself!" decided Tariazhiko.
    He mobilized all his will, malice and enthusiasm and set off for  the
    Throughout his ship greeted  him.  She  encourage  him  with  screens
shimmer and with indicators winking and with bright light filling  in  all
    He went around half the ship and found himself besides the depot.  He
recalled he had forgotten to return the box with spare parts back.
    "Well, I may do it later", Tariazhiko said to himself. "If nothing is
about to happen, of course. However the robot can be  useful  to  me".  He
went for -
    - and grew numb at the depot door.
    There was the silent huge mass of the robot  in  the  middle  of  the
depot. The thing sat on that mass.
    Tariazhiko's stomach jumped up to his heart  as  though  his  stomach
wanted to digest his heart. But his fury overpowered all the rest.
    Tariazhiko growled and threw the nut key to  strike  the  thing.  The
robot clinked softly. The thing jumped  down  on  the  floor  and  ran  to
Tariazhiko. He squeaked. The thing stopped for a moment and rushed forward
    His hand slowly, as  though  in  a  slow  motion  shot,  reached  the
discharger. Its barrel slowly aimed at the thing. His finger  very,  very,
very slowly pressed the discharger button. It sounded a crack.
    "Taaake it!", his wail spread throughout the ship.
    The thing  twitched  and  turned  black  being  charred  in  arc  and
    Tariazhiko went on to press the button furiously for several  seconds
more. Then he softly settled on the floor, melting into tears and sweat.
    "Just so", he whispered and banged his fist on the floor.
    "Just so", he cried and banged again, stronger.
    Suddenly, he burst out laughing.  Quietly,  at  the  beginning.  Then
louder and louder. He fell on the floor spread his hands. His  voice  came
off. He began to cough. He snatched his throat and lay down on his stomach
and stood up on his hands and knees.
    "Just so", he spoke hoarsely and looked at that place where there ran
that nasty thing - a cockroach.

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