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.Boy Meets DyevitzaA thrilling news bulletin, dated September 11, 1996, was recently handed to me by an assistant who is too young to remember the star over Moscow, and it is toward him and others like him that the following history is directed.If it resembles fiction more than it does fact, the similarity is wholly intentional, for it is only through fiction that the past can be brought back to life.* * *When Gordon Andrews first saw the girl, he took it for granted that she was a Venusian—a natural enough assumption in view of the fact that he was on Venus.She was kneeling beside a small brook, humming a little tune and washing out a pair of stockings, and so intent was she on her tune and her task that she did not hear him when he stepped out of the forest behind her.Her bobbed hair was the color of horse chestnuts, and her clothing consisted of gray culottes, a gray blouse, black leather boots and a small gray kepi.The tune she was humming was a passage from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.Thus far, Gordon had taken Venus pretty much in his stride.The data supplied by the Venus probes during the early 60's, while obscure with regard to her cloud-cover, had conclusively disproved former theories to the effect that she lacked a breathable atmosphere and possessed a surface temperature of more than 100 degrees Centigrade, and had prepared him for what he had found—an atmosphere richer in oxygen content than Earth's, a comfortable climate, and a planet-wide sea, unbroken as yet save for an equatorial land mass no larger than a modest island.The data, by its very nature, had also prepared him for the possibility of human life.It had not prepared him, however, for a Venusian maiden on humming terms with Swan Lake.Small wonder, then, that he gasped.The girl dropped her stockings and shot to her feet so fast that she would have toppled into the brook if he hadn't leaped forward and caught her arm.She had a heart-shaped face, and her eyes were the hue of harebells.At the moment they were filled with alarm.Presently, however, the alarm went away and recognition took its place."Oh, it's you," she said, freeing her arm.He took an involuntary step backward."Me?" he said."Yes.Captain Gordon Andrews, of the United States Space Force, is it not? You look quite a lot like your photograph."He could only stare at her."I do?""Yes.I saw it in one of your materialistic capitalistic magazines." She stood up a little straighter—an act that brought her harebell-blue eyes on a level with the topmost button of his fatigue-alls."I am Major Sonya Mikhailovna, of the Soviet Space Force, and my ship is in the next valley.I arrived here yesterday."He got the picture then, and he felt sick.He should have known from her too-correct, slightly stilted English, from the military cut of her clothing.He should have known in the first place, for that matter.It was the same old humiliating story.The manned Venus shot had been publicized for months before the actual launching, and he had been written up in every newspaper and magazine in the country.Articles had paid homage to his suburban upbringing, saluted his record at the Shepard Space Academy, praised his career as an orbital pilot, romanticized his bachelorhood, described how he liked his eggs, and inferred what a good catch he would be.Meanwhile, the Russians had gone quietly and systematically about their business, and at the precise psychological moment had pulled their usual unexpected coup.First it had been Laika, then Zrezdochka, then Gagarin, then Dymov, the first "Man in the Moon." Now it was Major Sonya Mikhailovna.But why a woman? And why one so seemingly delicate that you marvelled at her ability to withstand the acceleration of take-off? Suddenly he got the whole picture, and he really felt sick.He could see the humiliating headlines—or rather, their English counterparts—in Pravda: SOVIET SPACE GIRLBEATS CAPITALIST COSMONAUT TO VENUS! USSR TRIUMPHS AGAIN!"I suppose you picked up my ship on your radar while I was coming in, and fixed the time and location of my landing," he said bitterly.Sonya Mikhailovna nodded."My own arrival-time has already been officially recorded, but the announcement of my success had to be withheld until I could establish your arrival time and the exact time-difference could be computed.Soon now, the news of our glorious new victory will be released to the world."She bent down, retrieved her stockings from the brook and wrung them out.Straightening, she hung them on a low-hanging branch of a nearby tree.They were cotton, he noticed, and there was a hole in one of the toes.Suddenly she gave a start.Following the direction of her gaze, he gave one too.So did the man and the woman who had just emerged from the forest.Since his arrival four hours ago, Gordon had been wondering—among a host of other things—whether the ultra-violet rays of the sun could penetrate the planet's thick cloud-cover.He saw now that they not only could, but did.The man and the woman were unquestionably members of a white-skinned race, and both possessed suntans so deep and golden that in contrast their dark blue eyes seemed even darker and their bright blond hair even brighter [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]