摩拉之门第一部 蛤蜊(2)

楼主 (文学城)

Chapter 2   The Clam

Half an hour later, their ship arrived at the back of the planet where the moon—or whatever they should call it—was located. Up to this point, Devin had still hoped that they were facing at a natural phenomenon bearing illusive features of an Earth creature, like the “face on Mars”.

Now seeing with his own eyes as the ship circled the moon, he could no longer deny that it was a creation by some kind of intelligence, who had done an incredible job simulating real bivalve molluscs. The “shell” was seemingly constructed with dark-gray rock. Delicate “growth rings” lay in parallel, covering all the way from umbo to margin. Since the opening was only thirty degrees or so and was not facing the sun, all they could make out in between the valves was darkness.

“What are those cavities?” Mina asked. “They don’t look like regular craters.”

None of the men replied. There were holes in the valves, dozens of them. To Devin, these holes were too deep and clean to be created by natural collisions.

After they sat down at a table, Roland said, “I suggest we stick to our original plan—start with the planet, although so far we haven’t picked up any meaningful signal from it.”

“But the moon is right in front of us.” Kenton’s tone left no room for objections. “We can’t leave without checking it out first.”

Indeed, Devin thought. This was the first time he worked with Kenton, and when he initially learned about the arrangement, his longing for the mission almost came to an end. Kenton was known as a tough supervisor, with his hefty body, critical attitudes, and stubbornness that ran eternally. Having graduated from Yale, Kenton was said to call all the none-ivy-league colleges in the US party schools.

Nevertheless, in a dubious situation like this, it was good to have someone who didn’t hesitate to make decisions, regardless of the outcomes.

“Call me a coward.” Roland supported his chin with his left hand. “What if the thing is alive?”

Kenton chuckled. “That’s ridiculous!”

“I don’t know.” Roland shrugged. “To me, it’s much easier to grow a monster clam than to carve an entire moon.”

For a while nobody made another sound. Then Mina brushed her hair with a hand and said tentatively, “Maybe we can get closer to the opening and take a peek from the outside?”

Having no better options, they headed the ship to the opening. As the margin of the lower valve was drawing near, the darkness inside retreated and they began making out a “landscape”. The ground wasn’t made of the same material as the valves were. Its surface was smooth and light-colored, rising up and down until it reached the horizon where the upper valve was supposed to meet the bottom. The inner surface of the upper valve was remarkably glossy and shiny, as if it had been coated with some kind of crystal. Beams of faint light occasionally flashed inside the coat layer like lightning on a stormy night. There also seemed to be other light sources ahead, beyond the range of their vision.

“At best it looks like a cooked clam to me,” said Kenton. “When a live clam opens, you can’t see the inner surface of a valve being detached from its body. Am I right, Professor McGuinn?”

“Normally you are correct, but someone might have modified the clam with a reason.” It seems Roland still held the belief that the moon was alive.

“Let’s land inside, right next to the edge.” Kenton opened one of the drawers in his desk and took out a camera. Although appearing old-fashioned, it must be a special one because Devin had heard that none of the cameras had recorded anything during his last trip.

“Hopefully this one works.” Kenton hung it over his neck. “If something weird happens, we’ll have enough time to bow out.”

* * *

They went back to their individual cabins to get ready for landing as the ship descended onto the “mantle”. After Devin put on his spacesuit, he opened his personal backpack and took out a canvas pen case. He then unzipped an upper pocket in his spacesuit and carefully secured the pen case inside.

“What is it?” Kenton’s voice sounded at the door.

Devin jerked and turned around. “Nothing. Ur … just some accessories I’d like to bring with me every time I leave a ship.”

Kenton was fully dressed in a yellow spacesuit with his camera hanging in front of his chest. At the moment he had his face shield lifted up, and so did Devin. There was no question that Kenton wasn’t satisfied with the answer based on the way he studied Devin, but eventually he must have decided not to press on.

The two of them went through a few passages and stairways before they arrived at the front hatch where Mina and Roland were waiting for them. After a quick test of their intercoms and oxygen supplies, the four stepped out of the ship onto the vast barren land. Too clear, Devin thought as usual. In the past few years he had been to several airless moons. Those places might have resembled certain desert territories on the Earth, but the clearness of the view due to the lack of air and dust had always marked the scenes by eeriness. He walked for a few steps and paused. There was a fleeting moment when he felt he had been here before, but the details of the memory eluded him.

Since the tiny gravity could barely keep them on the ground, Devin didn’t have a good feeling about the sturdiness of the surface. He bent down to have a closer view. The yellow surface was certainly not made of rock or soil. The closest counterpart he could think of was whales’ skin—smooth, tight, and a little bit oily. Given his observation that the area supporting their ship had sunk slightly, whatever material underneath the surface must be springy.

He wandered in the desert for a short while and gave up. Everywhere looked the same. He doubted they’d see a change if they kept walking on the surface for days. He headed back to the ship and saw Mina standing there alone.

“We should’ve listened to Roland,” she said, seemingly as bored as he was.

Devin stared at her for a few seconds and burst out laughing. He couldn’t believe she was wearing her black-framed glasses under the face shield.

“What’s so funny?”

It took him a while to collect himself. “Have you heard of this thing called contacts?”

She rolled her eyes. “Of course.”

“Then why do you have to wear glasses?”

“To remind myself what we see with eyes may not be real.”

Still smiling, Devin shook his head. Never argue with women, young or old. He should’ve learned it living in a household with three of them. “Where is Roland?” he asked and looked around.

In fact, the biologist wasn’t far from them, but Devin had failed to notice him because he was kneeling on the ground next to the ship.

“Did you find anything unusual?” Devin asked through the intercom as he walked over.

“Some kind of lump underneath,” said Roland. He had been pushing on the surface with a hand. After a while he withdrew his hand and gestured Devin to feel it.

Devin pressed on the spot Roland was pointing at and compared it with the surrounding areas. It felt like a solid and movable ball being buried loosely beneath that particular spot. “What do you think it is?”

“I don’t know. It wasn’t there when I first touched it,” Roland said absentmindedly. Devin had an impression he was thinking of something that wasn’t ready to be discussed.

After a while Roland straightened up. The two of them climbed over a small hill and strolled a little farther. After a while, the question about Devin’s lost memory arose again.

“I can’t believe I don’t remember anything. Unless this baby is less than seven-year old, I must have seen it the last time I came here. How could I have no memory?”

Before Roland had time to reply, they arrived at a place that differed drastically from the other areas. It looked like a frozen pond that had been maliciously messed up. Dents and ridges ran across one another on the dark-brown surface comprised of ill-formed layers.

“Interesting,” Devin said, only because he didn’t know what else to say. In fact, the scene was rather repulsive to him.

“It’s a wound,” Roland said after a while. “Somebody or something once hurt her badly.”

A wound … okay! Devin couldn’t deny its resemblance to terribly damaged human flesh. But her? “Professor McGuinn, how do you know it’s female?”

And how do you know it’s alive? He asked in his head.

“I’m just guessing.” Roland turned around and began heading back to the ship at a slow pace. “Have you ever heard about Joe Adams?”

“Yes.” Devin couldn’t have been more familiar with that name. About fifteen or seventeen years ago, Joe Adams was a famous scientist who had claimed the invention of a technique to grow invertebrates in space “at astronomical speeds”.

“In fact,” Roland said, “he was at Caltech before he left for Cambridge.”

It took Devin a moment to catch on what Roland was trying to say. “So you and he were once colleagues?”

Roland nodded. “We started the project together. Later he moved to Cambridge, and I quit and went on to do something else. He always said that females should grow much faster and larger than males.”

“Hmm …” Devin wanted to ask more, but he could tell Roland didn’t want to continue on that topic. Joe had become famous also because of the tragedy that followed his invention. The loss of Fine Galaxy with its crew and seventy-two guests near Triad 326 was the worst accident since the beginning of the space-tourism era. And Joe was on board when it happened.

 “I don’t think we know exactly how memory works yet,” Roland resumed their discussion about memory losses. “My understanding is that we frequently lose short-term memories that are deemed unimportant by the brain. When we experience extraordinary events, the memories are usually stored permanently, and not just at one place. If we can’t remember something, it’s because the links to the relevant places for that particular memory are broken. It’s like when you delete something from your computer, the information is still there unless you take extra steps to erase it from the hard disk.”

Extraordinary events … Devin reflected. What happened during the last trip could not have been trivial. So somebody or something disrupted his “links”.

“I’m an old man.” Roland’s voice sounded a little hoarse. “I don’t remember a lot of things. But there were times when I woke up in the morning, in the flash of regaining consciousness I saw places and people, as if they were right there with me.”

Devin turned to look at the old biologist, but the shield on Roland’s face wasn’t clear enough for Devin to see his eyes.

* * *

“Thank god you are back!” Mina called out as soon as they appeared in her sight. “We’d better go. The thing’s alive.” She raised a hand and pointed at the sky.

Roland and Devin looked up at the upper valve. A large part of the valve to their right had moved out of the shadow of the planet, its glossy coat layer sparkling under the sun. But what stroke Devin hard was the fact that the valve had noticeably opened more. Now the opening was more like forty-five or fifty rather than thirty degrees.

“Where is Kenton?” Roland asked after the three of them gathered together.

“He was around a while ago and then went in that direction.” Mina gazed at a high place on the other side of the ship.

They hurried over and found Kenton in a shadow. He was kneeling on the ground and drawing a circle on the surface with his right arm. When he lifted up his arm, Devin saw a long blade held in his hand.

“Found a soft spot,” Kenton said to the others, breathing heavily. “We got to go soon, but we have to take something—”

“No!” Devin shouted as he ran to Kenton and knocked the blade out of his hand. “Stop it!”

“Are you nuts?” Kenton said furiously.

Before Devin had time to reply, a sudden shock came from under their feet and threw them to the air. After they fell back, the ground began rising up as if a volcano was being created underneath. The four of them lay flat on their stomachs and tried to remain on the same spots since the rising was uneven. Soon they found themselves on a steep hillside, and their ship was already sliding downhill. If the gravity weren’t so small, they would’ve fallen too.

“We should let go,” Devin heard Mina saying through the intercom. “Better do that now than later.”

With the rising continuing, Devin carefully lifted his head up and browsed the surroundings. They were probably a few hundred feet high relative to the normal ground surface. Mina was right. It didn’t seem the rising would stop soon, and once the friction failed to hold them, they would fall hard. So he reduced his contact with the surface and started gliding downhill, just like what Mina was doing.

Finally they came to a stop at the foot of the hill and managed to stand up. Luckily nobody was missing, but the ship was no longer in their view. All they could see was an enormous mountain that kept rising in the distance. The peak of the mountain was a pair of pipes that protruded to the sky.

“What’s that?” Mina asked.

“Where’s my camera?” Kenton was looking around.

“Siphons,” Roland said as a matter of fact. “Clams have two siphons, an incurrent and an excurrent one.”



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Looks like the thing is alive. A huge one
牛!建议高妹再多用些大词,可以帮我们复习一下GRE的词汇 :)