From Castaways to Colonists

A half hour later they walked back to the camp. The engineer contented himself with saying to his comrades that the country was an island, and that to-morrow they would consider what to do. Then each disposed himself to sleep, and in this basalt cave, 2,500 feet above sea-level, they passed a quiet night in profound repose. The next day, March 30, [1865], after a hurried breakfast on roast trajopan, they started out for the summit of the volcano. All desired to see the isle on which perhaps they were to spend their lives, and to ascertain how far it lay from other land, and how near the course of vessels bound for the archipelagos of the Pacific.

It was about 7 O’clock in the morning when they left the camp. No one seemed dismayed by the situation. They had faith in themselves, no doubt; but the source of that faith was not the same with Smith as with his companions. They trusted in him, he in his ability to extort from the wilderness around them all the necessaries of life. As for Pencroff, he would not have despaired, since the rekindling of the fire by the engineer’s lens, if he had found himself upon a barren rock, if only Smith was with him.

“Bah!” said he, “we got out of Richmond without the permission of the authorities, and it will be strange if we can’t get away some time from a place where no one wants to keep us!”

They followed the route of the day before, flanking the cone till they reached the enormous crevasse. It was a superb day, and the southern side of the mountain was bathed in sunlight. The crater, as the engineer had supposed, was a huge shaft gradually opening to a height of 1,000 feet above the plateau. From the bottom of the crevasse large currents of lava meandered down the flanks of the mountain, indicating the path of the eruptive matter down to the lower valleys which furrowed the north of the island.

The interior of the crater, which had an inclination of thirty-five or forty degrees, was easily scaled. They saw on the way traces of ancient lava, which had probably gushed from the summit of the cone before the lateral opening had given it a new way of escape. As to the volcano chimney which communicated with the subterranean abyss, its depth could not be estimated by the eye, for it was lost in obscurity; but there seemed no doubt that the volcano was completely extinct. Before 8 O’clock, the party were standing at the summit of the crater, on a conical elevation of the northern side.

“The sea! the sea everywhere!” was the universal exclamation. There it lay, an immense sheet of water around them on every side. Perhaps Smith had hoped that daylight would reveal some neighboring coast or island. But nothing appeared to the horizon-line, a radius of more than fifty miles. Not a sail was in sight. Around the island stretched a desert infinity of ocean.

Silent and motionless, they surveyed every point of the horizon. They strained their eyes to the uttermost limit of the ocean. But even Pencroff, to whom Nature had given a pair of telescopes instead of eyes, and who could have detected land even in the faintest haze upon the sea-line, could see nothing. Then they looked down upon their island, and the silence was broken by Spilett:—

“How large do you think this island is?”

It seemed small enough in the midst of the infinite ocean.

Smith thought awhile, noticed the circumference of the island, and allowed for the elevation.

“My friends,” he said, “if I am not mistaken, the coast of the island is more than 100 miles around.”

“Then its surface will be—”

“That is hard to estimate; the outline is so irregular.”

If Smith was right, the island would be about the size of Malta or Zante in the Mediterranean; but it was more irregular than they, and at the same time had fewer capes, promontories, points, bays, and creeks. Its form was very striking. When Spilett drew it they declared it was like some fantastic sea beast, some monstrous pteropode, asleep on the surface of the Pacific.

The exact configuration of the island may thus be described:—The eastern coast, upon which the castaways had landed, was a decided curve, embracing a large bay, terminating at the southeast in a sharp promontory, which the shape of the land had hidden from Pencroff on his first exploration. On the northeast, two other capes shut in the bay, and between them lay a narrow gulf like the half-open jaws of some formidable dog-fish. From northeast to northwest the coast was round and flat, like the skull of a wild beast; then came a sort of indeterminate hump, whose centre was occupied by the volcanic mountain. From this point the coast ran directly north and south. For two-thirds of its length it was bordered by a narrow creek; then it finished in along cue, like the tail of a gigantic alligator. This cue formed a veritable peninsula, which extended more than thirty miles into the sea, reckoning from the southeastern cape before mentioned. These thirty miles, the southern coast of the island, described an open bay. The narrowest part of the island, between the Chimneys and the creek, on the west, was ten miles wide, but its greatest length, from the jaw in the northeast to the extremity of the southwestern peninsula, was not less than thirty miles.

The general aspect of the interior was as follows:—The southern part, from the shore to the mountain, was covered with woods; the northern part was arid and sandy. Between the volcano and the eastern coast the party were surprised to see a lake, surrounded by evergreens, whose existence they had not suspected. Viewed from such a height it seemed to be on the same level with the sea, but, on reflection, the engineer explained to his companions that it must be at least 300 feet higher, for the plateau on which it lay was as high as that of the coast.

“So, then, it is a fresh water lake?” asked Pencroff.

“Yes,” said the engineer, “for it must be fed by the mountain streams.”

“I can see a little river flowing into it,” said Herbert, pointing to a narrow brook whose source was evidently in the spurs of the western cliff.

“True,” said Smith, “and since this brook flows into the lake, there is probably some outlet towards the sea for the overflow. We will see about that when we go back.”

This little winding stream and the river so familiar to them were all the watercourses they could see. Nevertheless, it was possible that under those masses of trees which covered two-thirds of the island, other streams flowed towards the sea. This seemed the more probable from the fertility of the country and its magnificent display of the flora of the temperate zone. In the northern section there was no indication of running water; perhaps there might be stagnant pools in the swampy part of the northeast, but that was all; in the main this region was composed of arid sand-hills and downs, contrasting strongly with the fertility of the larger portion.

The volcano did not occupy the centre of the island. It rose in the northwest, and seemed to indicate the dividing line of the two zones. On the southwest, south, and southeast, the beginnings of the spurs were lost in masses of verdure. To the north, on the contrary, these ramifications were plainly visible, subsiding gradually to the level of the sandy plain. On this side, too, when the volcano was active, the eruptions had taken place, and a great bed of lava extended as far as the narrow jaw which formed the northeastern gulf.

They remained for an hour at the summit of the mountain. The island lay stretched before them like a plan in relief, with its different tints, green for the forests, yellow for the sands, blue for the water. They understood the configuration of the entire island; only the bottoms of the shady valleys and the depths of the narrow gorges between the spurs of the volcano, concealed by the spreading foliage, escaped their searching eye.

There remained a question of great moment, whose answer would have a controlling influence upon the fortunes of the castaways. Was the island inhabited? It was the reporter who put this question, which seemed already to have been answered in the negative by the minute examination which they had just made of the different portions of the island. Nowhere could they perceive the handiwork of man; no late settlement on the beach, not even a lonely cabin or a fisherman’s hut. No smoke, rising on the air, betrayed a human presence. It is true, the observers were thirty miles from the long peninsula which extended to the southwest, and upon which even Pencroff’s eye could hardly have discovered a dwelling. Nor could they raise the curtain of foliage which covered three-fourths of the island to see whether some village lay sheltered there. But the natives of these little islands in the Pacific usually live on the coast, and the coast seemed absolutely desert. Until they should make a more complete exploration, they might assume that the island was uninhabited. But was it ever frequented by the inhabitants of neighboring islands? This question was difficult to answer. No land appeared within a radius of fifty miles. But fifty miles could easily be traversed by Malay canoes or by the larger pirogues of the Polynesians. Everything depended upon the situation of the island—on its isolation in the Pacific, or its proximity to the archipelagos. Could Smith succeed, without his instruments, in determining its latitude and longitude? It would be difficult, and in the uncertainty, they must take precautions against an attack from savage neighbors.

The exploration of the island was finished, its configuration determined, a map of it drawn, its size calculated, and the distribution of its land and water ascertained. The forests and the plains had been roughly sketched upon the reporter’s map. They had only now to descend the declivities of the mountain, and to examine into the animal, vegetable, and mineral resources of the country. But before giving the signal of departure, Cyrus Smith, in a calm, grave voice, addressed his companions.

“Look, my friends, upon this little corner of the earth, on which the hand of the Almighty has cast us. Here, perhaps, we may long dwell. Perhaps, too, unexpected help will arrive, should some ship chance to pass. I say chance, because this island is of slight importance, without even a harbor for ships. I fear it is situated out of the usual course of vessels, too far south for those which frequent the archipelagos of the Pacific, too far north for those bound to Australia round Cape Horn. I will not disguise from you our situation.”

“And you are right, my dear Cyrus,” said the reporter, eagerly. “You are dealing with men. They trust you, and you can count on them. Can he not, my friends?”

“I will obey you in everyting [sic], Mr. Smith,” said Herbert, taking the engineer’s hand.

“May I lose my name,” said the sailor, “if I shirk my part! If you choose, Mr. Smith, we will make a little America here. We will build cities, lay railroads, establish telegraphs, and some day, when the island is transformed and civilized, offer her to the United States. But one thing I should like to ask.”

“What Is that?” said the reporter.

“That we should not consider ourselves any longer as castaways, but as colonists.”

Cyrus Smith could not help smiling, and the motion was adopted. Then Smith thanked his companions, and added that he counted upon their energy and upon the help of Heaven.

“Well, let’s start for the Chimneys,” said Pencroff.

“One minute, my friends,” answered the engineer; “would it not be well to name the island, as well as the capes, promontories, and water-courses, which we see before us?”

“Good,” said the reporter. “That will simplify for the future the instructions which we may have to give or to take.”

“Yes,” added the sailor, “it will be something gained to be able to say whence we are coming and where we are going. We shall seem to be somewhere.”

“At the Chimneys, for instance,” said Herbert.

“Exactly,” said the sailor. “That name has been quite convenient already, and I was the author of it. Shall we keep that name for our first encampment, Mr. Smith?”

“Yes, Pencroff, since you baptized it so.”

“Good! the others will be easy enough,” resumed the sailor, who was now in the vein. “Let us give them names like those of the Swiss family Robinson, whose story Herbert has read me more than once:—’Providence Bay,’ ‘Cochalot Point,’ ‘Cape Disappointment.’“

“Or rather Mr. Smith’s name, Mr. Spilett’s, or Neb’s,” said Herbert.

“My name!” cried Neb, showing his white teeth.

“Why not?” replied Pencroff, “‘Port Neb’ would sound first-rate! And ‘Cape Gideon’—”

“I would rather have names, taken from our country,” said the reporter, “which will recall America to us.”

“Yes,” said Smith, “the principal features, the bays and seas should be so named. For instance, let us call the great bay to the east Union Bay, the southern indentation Washington Bay, the mountain on which we are standing Mount Franklin, the lake beneath our feet Lake Grant. These names will recall our country and the great citizens who have honored it; but for the smaller features, let us choose names which will suggest their especial configuration. These will remain in our memory and be more convenient at the same time. The shape of the island is so peculiar that we shall have no trouble in finding appropriate names. The streams, the creeks, and the forest regions yet to be discovered we will baptize as they come. What say you, my friends?”

The engineer’s proposal was unanimously applauded. The inland bay unrolled like a map before their eyes, and they had only to name the features of its contour and relief. Spilett would put down the names over the proper places, and the geographical nomenclature of the island would be complete. First, they named the two bays and the mountain as the engineer had suggested.

“Now,” said the reporter, “to that peninsula projecting from the southwest I propose to give the name of Serpentine Peninsula, and to call the twisted curve at the termination of it Reptile End, for it is just like a snake’s tail.”

“Motion carried,” said the engineer.

“And the other extremity of the island,” said Herbert, “the gulf so like an open pair of jaws, let us call it Shark Gulf.”

“Good enough,” said Pencroff, “and we may complete the figure by calling the two sides of the gulf Mandible Cape.”

“But there are two capes,” observed the reporter.

“Well, we will have them North Mandible and South Mandible.”

“I’ve put them down,” said Spilett.

“Now we must name the southwestern extremity of the island,” said Pencroff.

“You mean the end of Union Bay?” asked. Herbert.

“Claw Cape,” suggested Neb, who wished to have his turn as godfather. And he had chosen an excellent name; for this Cape was very like the powerful claw of the fantastic animal to which they had compared the island. Pencroff was enchanted with the turn things were taking, and their active imaginations soon supplied other names. The river which furnished them with fresh water, and near which the balloon had cast them on shore, they called the Mercy, in gratitude to Providence. The islet on which they first set foot, was Safety Island; the plateau at the top of the high granite wall above the Chimneys, from which the whole sweep of the bay was visible, Prospect Plateau; and, finally, that mass of impenetrable woods which covered Serpentine Peninsula, the Forests of the Far West.

The engineer bad approximately determined, by the height and position of the sun, the situation of the island with reference to the cardinal points, and had put Union Bay and Prospect Plateau to the east; but on the morrow, by taking the exact time of the sun’s rising and setting, and noting its situation at the time exactly intermediate, he expected to ascertain precisely the northern point of the island; for, on account of its situation on the Southern Hemisphere, the sun at the moment of its culmination would pass to the north, and not to the south, as it does in the Northern Hemisphere.

All was settled, and the colonists were about to descend the mountain, when Pencroff cried:—

“Why, what idiots we are!”

“Why so?” said Spilett, who had gotten up and closed his note-book.

“We have forgotten to baptize our island!”

Herbert was about to propose to give it the name of the engineer, and his companions would have applauded the choice, when Cyrus Smith said quietly:—

“Let us give it the name of a great citizen, my friends, of the defender of American unity! Let us call it Lincoln Island!”

They greeted the proposal with three hurrahs.

- The Mysterious Island, Jules Verne, Chapter 11

Deeper Underground

Our real journey had now commenced. Hitherto our courage and determination had overcome all difficulties. We were fatigued at times; and that was all. Now we were about to encounter unknown and fearful dangers.

I had not as yet ventured to take a glimpse down the horrible abyss into which in a few minutes more I was about to plunge. The fatal moment had, however, at last arrived. I had still the option of refusing or accepting a share in this foolish and audacious enterprise. But I was ashamed to show more fear than the eider-duck hunter. Hans seemed to accept the difficulties of the journey so tranquilly, with such calm indifference, with such perfect recklessness of all danger, that I actually blushed to appear less of a man than he!

Had I been alone with my uncle, I should certainly have sat down and argued the point fully; but in the presence of the guide I held my tongue. I gave one moment to the thought of my charming cousin, and then I advanced to the mouth of the central shaft.

It measured about a hundred feet in diameter, which made about three hundred in circumference. I leaned over a rock which stood on its edge, and looked down. My hair stood on end, my teeth chattered, my limbs trembled. I seemed utterly to lose my centre of gravity, while my head was in a sort of whirl, like that of a drunken man. There is nothing more powerful than this attraction towards an abyss. I was about to fall headlong into the gaping well, when I was drawn back by a firm and powerful hand. It was that of Hans. I had not taken lessons enough at the Frelser's-Kirk of Copenhagen in the art of looking down from lofty eminences without blinking!

However, few as the minutes were during which I gazed down this tremendous and even wondrous shaft, I had a sufficient glimpse of it to give me some idea of its physical conformation. Its sides, which were almost as perpendicular as those of a well, presented numerous projections which doubtless would assist our descent.

It was a sort of wild and savage staircase, without banister or fence. A rope fastened above, near the surface, would certainly support our weight and enable us to reach the bottom, but how, when we had arrived at its utmost depth, were we to loosen it above? This was, I thought, a question of some importance.

My uncle, however, was one of those men who are nearly always prepared with expedients. He hit upon a very simple method of obviating this difficulty. He unrolled a cord about as thick as my thumb, and at least four hundred feet in length. He allowed about half of it to go down the pit and catch in a hitch over a great block of lava which stood on the edge of the precipice. This done, he threw the second half after the first.

Each of us could now descend by catching the two cords in one hand. When about two hundred feet below, all the explorer had to do was to let go one end and pull away at the other, when the cord would come falling at his feet. In order to go down farther, all that was necessary was to continue the same operation.

This was a very excellent proposition, and no doubt, a correct one. Going down appeared to me easy enough; it was the coming up again that now occupied my thoughts.

"Now," said my uncle, as soon as he had completed this important preparation, "let us see about the baggage. It must be divided into three separate parcels, and each of us must carry one on his back. I allude to the more important and fragile articles."

My worthy and ingenious uncle did not appear to consider that we came under the denomination.

"Hans," he continued, "you will take charge of the tools and some of the provisions; you, Harry, must take possession of another third of the provisions and of the arms. I will load myself with the rest of the eatables, and with the more delicate instruments."

"But," I exclaimed, "our clothes, this mass of cord and ladders—who will undertake to carry them down?"

"They will go down of themselves."

"And how so?" I asked.

"You shall see."

My uncle was not fond of half measures, nor did he like anything in the way of hesitation. Giving his orders to Hans he had the whole of the nonfragile articles made up into one bundle; and the packet, firmly and solidly fastened, was simply pitched over the edge of the gulf.

I heard the moaning of the suddenly displaced air, and the noise of falling stones. My uncle leaning over the abyss followed the descent of his luggage with a perfectly self-satisfied air, and did not rise until it had completely disappeared from sight.

"Now then," he cried, "it is our turn."

I put it in good faith to any man of common sense—was it possible to hear this energetic cry without a shudder?

The Professor fastened his case of instruments on his back. Hans took charge of the tools, I of the arms. The descent then commenced in the following order: Hans went first, my uncle followed, and I went last. Our progress was made in profound silence—a silence only troubled by the fall of pieces of rock, which breaking from the jagged sides, fell with a roar into the depths below.

I allowed myself to slide, so to speak, holding frantically on the double cord with one hand and with the other keeping myself off the rocks by the assistance of my iron-shod pole. One idea was all the time impressed upon my brain. I feared that the upper support would fail me. The cord appeared to me far too fragile to bear the weight of three such persons as we were, with our luggage. I made as little use of it as possible, trusting to my own agility and doing miracles in the way of feats of dexterity and strength upon the projecting shelves and spurs of lava which my feet seemed to clutch as strongly as my hands.

The guide went first, I have said, and when one of the slippery and frail supports broke from under his feet he had recourse to his usual monosyllabic way of speaking.

"Gif akt—"

"Attention—look out," repeated my uncle.

In about half an hour we reached a kind of small terrace formed by a fragment of rock projecting some distance from the sides of the shaft.

Hans now began to haul upon the cord on one side only, the other going as quietly upward as the other came down. It fell at last, bringing with it a shower of small stones, lava and dust, a disagreeable kind of rain or hail.

While we were seated on this extraordinary bench I ventured once more to look downwards. With a sigh I discovered that the bottom was still wholly invisible. Were we, then, going direct to the interior of the earth?

The performance with the cord recommenced, and a quarter of an hour later we had reached to the depth of another two hundred feet.

I have very strong doubts if the most determined geologist would, during that descent, have studied the nature of the different layers of earth around him. I did not trouble my head much about the matter; whether we were among the combustible carbon, Silurians, or primitive soil, I neither knew nor cared to know.

Not so the inveterate Professor. He must have taken notes all the way down, for, at one of our halts, he began a brief lecture.

"The farther we advance," said he, "the greater is my confidence in the result. The disposition of these volcanic strata absolutely confirms the theories of Sir Humphry Davy. We are still within the region of the primordial soil, the soil in which took place the chemical operation of metals becoming inflamed by coming in contact with the air and water. I at once regret the old and now forever exploded theory of a central fire. At all events, we shall soon know the truth."

Such was the everlasting conclusion to which he came. I, however, was very far from being in humor to discuss the matter. I had something else to think of. My silence was taken for consent; and still we continued to go down.

At the expiration of three hours, we were, to all appearance, as far off as ever from the bottom of the well. When I looked upwards, however, I could see that the upper orifice was every minute decreasing in size. The sides of the shaft were getting closer and closer together, we were approaching the regions of eternal night!

And still we continued to descend!

At length, I noticed that when pieces of stone were detached from the sides of this stupendous precipice, they were swallowed up with less noise than before. The final sound was sooner heard. We were approaching the bottom of the abyss!

As I had been very careful to keep account of an the changes of cord which took place, I was able to tell exactly what was the depth we had reached, as well as the time it had taken.

We had shifted the rope twenty-eight times, each operation taking a quarter of an hour, which in all made seven hours. To this had to be added twenty-eight pauses; in all ten hours and a half. We started at one, it was now, therefore, about eleven o'clock at night.

It does not require great knowledge of arithmetic to know that twenty-eight times two hundred feet makes five thousand six hundred feet in all (more than an English mile).

While I was making this mental calculation a voice broke the silence. It was the voice of Hans.

"Halt!" he cried.

I checked myself very suddenly, just at the moment when I was about to kick my uncle on the head.

"We have reached the end of our journey," said the worthy Professor in a satisfied tone.

"What, the interior of the earth?" said I, slipping down to his side.

"No, you stupid fellow! but we have reached the bottom of the well."

"And I suppose there is no farther progress to be made?" I hopefully exclaimed.

"Oh, yes, I can dimly see a sort of tunnel, which turns off obliquely to the right. At all events, we must see about that tomorrow. Let us sup now, and seek slumber as best we may."

I thought it time, but made no observations on that point. I was fairly launched on a desperate course, and all I had to do was to go forward hopefully and trustingly.

It was not even now quite dark, the light filtering down in a most extraordinary manner.

We opened the provision bag, ate a frugal supper, and each did his best to find a bed amid the pile of stones, dirt, and lava which had accumulated for ages at the bottom of the shaft.

I happened to grope out the pile of ropes, ladders, and clothes which we had thrown down; and upon them I stretched myself. After such a day's labor, my rough bed seemed as soft as down!

For a while I lay in a sort of pleasant trance.

Presently, after lying quietly for some minutes, I opened my eyes and looked upwards. As I did so I made out a brilliant little dot, at the extremity of this long, gigantic telescope.

It was a star without scintillating rays. According to my calculation, it must be Beta in the constellation of the Little Bear.

After this little bit of astronomical recreation, I dropped into a sound sleep.

A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne, chapter 14

Kansas is Going Bye-bye


The car stops in a deserted alley behind a forgotten hotel.


It is a place of putrefying elegance, a rotting host of urban maggotry.

Trinity leads Neo from the stairwell down the hall of the thirteenth floor. They stop outside room 1313.

This is it.

Neo can hear his own heart pounding.

Let me give one piece of advice.
Be honest. He knows more than you
can possibly imagine.

INT. ROOM 1313

Across the room, a dark figure stares out the tall windows veiled with decaying lace. He turns and his smile lights up the room. A dull roar of thunder shakes the old building.

At last.

He wears a long black coat and his eyes are invisible behind circular mirrored glasses. He strides to Neo and they shake hands.

Welcome, Neo. As you no doubt
have guessed, I am Morpheus.
It's an honor.

No, the honor is mine. Please.
Come. Sit.

He nods to Trinity and she exits through a door to an adjacent room. They sit across from one another in cracked, burgundy-leather chairs.

I imagine, right now, you must be
feeling a bit like Alice, tumbling
down the rabbit hole?

You could say that.

I can see it in your eyes. You
have the look of a man who accepts
what he sees because he is
expecting to wake up.

A smile, razor-thin, curls the corner of his lips.

Ironically, this is not far from
the truth. But I'm getting ahead
of myself. Can you tell me, Neo,
why are you here?

You're Morpheus. You're a legend.
Most hackers would die to meet

Yes. Thank you. But I think we
both know there's more to it than
that. Do you believe in fate,Neo?


Why not?

Because I don't like the idea that
I'm not in control of my life.

I know exactly what you mean.

Again, that smile that could cut glass.

Let me tell you why you are here.
You have come because you know
something. What you know you
can't explain but you feel it.
You've felt it your whole life,
felt that something is wrong with
the world. You don't know what,
but it's there like a splinter in
your mind, driving you mad. It is
this feeling that brought you to
me. Do you know what I'm talking

The Matrix?

Do you want to know what it is?

Neo swallows hard and nods.

The Matrix is everywhere, it's all
around us, here even in this room.
You can see it out your window or
on your television. You feel it
when you go to work, or go to
church or pay your taxes. It is
the world that has been pulled
over your eyes to blind you from
the truth.

What truth?

That you are a slave, Neo. Like
everyone else, you were born into
bondage, kept inside a prison that
you cannot smell, taste, or touch.
A prison for your mind.

The leather creaks as he leans back.

Unfortunately, no one can be told
what the Matrix is. You have to
see it for yourself.

Morpheus opens his hands. In the right is a red pill. In the left, a blue pill.

This is your last chance. After
this, there is no going back. You
take the blue pill and the story
ends. You wake in your bed and
you believe whatever you want to
The pills in his open hands are reflected in the glasses.

You take the red pill and you stay
in Wonderland and I show you how
deep the rabbit-hole goes.
Neo feels the smooth skin of the capsules, the moisture growing in his palms.

Remember that all I am offering is
the truth. Nothing more.

Neo opens his mouth and swallows the red pill. The Cheshire smile returns.

Follow me.


He leads Neo into the other room, which is cramped with high-tech equipment, glowing ash-blue and electric green from the racks of monitors. Trinity, Apoc, Switch and Cypher look up as they enter.

Apoc, are we on-line?


He and Trinity are working quickly, hardwiring a complex system of monitors, modules and drives.

Neo, time is always against us.
Will you take a seat there?

Neo sits in a chair in the center of the room and Trinity begins gently fixing white electrode disks to him. Near the chair is an old oval dressing mirror that is cracked. He whispers to Trinity:

You did all this?
She nods, placing a set of headphones over his ears. They are wired to an old hotel phone.

The pill you took is part of a
trace program. It's designed to
disrupt your input/output carrier
signal so we can pinpoint your

What does that mean?

It means buckle up, Dorothy,
'cause Kansas is going bye-bye.

- From the script of the movie Matrix, written by Larry and Andy Wachowski

Prometheus Rising

John Harman was sitting at his desk, brooding, when I entered the office that day. It had become a common sight, by then, to see him staring out at the Hudson, head in hand, a scowl contorting his face-all too common. It seemed unfair for the little bantam to be eating his heart out like that day after day, when by rights he should have been receiving the praise and adulation of the world.

I flopped down into a chair. “Did you see the editorial in today’s Clarion, boss?”

He turned weary, bloodshot eyes to me. “No, I haven’t. What do they say? Are they calling the vengeance of God down upon me again?” His voice dripped with bitter sarcasm.

“They’re going a little farther now, boss,” I answered. “Listen to this:

“‘Tomorrow is the day of John Harman’s attempt at profaning the heavens. Tomorrow, in defiance of world opinion and world conscience, this man will defy God.

“‘It is not given to man to go wheresoever ambition and desire lead him. There are things forever denied him, and aspiring to the stars is one of these. Like Eve, John Harman wishes to eat of the forbidden fruit, and like Eve he will suffer due punishment therefor.

“‘But it is not enough, this mere talk. If we allow him thus to brook the vengeance of God, the trespass is mankind’s and not Harman’s alone. In allowing him to carry out his evil designs, we make ourselves accessory to the crime, and Divine vengeance will fall on all alike.

“‘It is, therefore, essential that immediate steps be taken to prevent Harman from taking off in his so-called rocketship tomorrow. The government in refusing to take such steps may force violent action. If it will make no move to confiscate the rocketship, or to imprison Harman, our enraged citizenry may have to take matters into their own hands-’“

Harman sprang from his seat in a rage and, snatching the paper from my hands, threw it into the corner furiously. “It’s an open call to a lynching,” he raved. “Look at this!”

He cast five or six envelopes in my direction. One glance sufficed to tell what they were.

“More death threats?” I ‘asked.

“Yes, exactly that. I’ve had to arrange for another increase in the police patrol outside the building and for motorcycle police escort when I cross the river to the testing ground tomorrow.”

He marched up and down the room with agitated stride. “I don’t know what to do, Clifford. I’ve worked on the Prometheus almost ten years. I’ve slaved, spent a fortune of money, given up all that makes life worth while-and for what? So that a bunch of fool revivalists can whip up public sentiment against me until my very life isn’t safe.”

“You’re in advance of the times, boss,” I shrugged my shoulders in a resigned gesture which made him whirl upon me in a fury.

“What do you mean ‘in advance of the times’? This is 1973. The world has been ready for space travel for half a century now. Fifty years ago, people were talking, dreaming of the day when man could free himself of Earth and plumb the depths of space. For fifty years, science has inched toward this goal, and now . . . now I finally have it, and behold! you say the world is not ready for me.”

“The ‘20s and ‘30s were years of anarchy, decadence, and misrule, if you remember your history,” I reminded him gently. “You cannot accept them as criteria.”

“I know, I know. You’re going to tell me of the First War of 1914, and the Second of 1940. It’s an old story to me; my father fought in the Second and my grandfather in the First. Nevertheless, those were the days when science flourished. Men were not afraid then; somehow they dreamed and dared. There was no such thing as conservatism when it came to matters mechanical and scientific. No theory was too radical to advance, no discovery too revolutionary to publish. Today, dry rot has seized the world when a great vision, such as space travel, is hailed as ‘defiance of God.’”

His head sank slowly down, and he turned away to hide his trembling lips and the tears in his eyes.

Then he suddenly straightened again, eyes blazing: “But I’ll show them. I’m going through with it, in spite of Hell, Heaven and Earth. I’ve put too much into it to quit now.”

“Take it easy, boss,” I advised. “This isn’t going to do you any good tomorrow, when you get into that ship. Your chances of coming out alive aren’t too good now, so what will they be if you start out worn to pieces with excitement and worry?”

“You’re right. Let’s not think of it any more…

-- from 'Trends' - a short story by Isaac Asimov, 1940 (The Early Asimov)