Copyright
Richard Sabia.

The Lamps of the Angels online

. (page 1 of 1)
Online LibraryRichard SabiaThe Lamps of the Angels → online text (page 1 of 1)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE LAMPS OF THE ANGELS ***




Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net









THE LAMPS OF THE ANGELS

By RICHARD SABIA

Illustrated by DICK FRANCIS

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Galaxy Magazine June 1962.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]




The golden guardians denied mankind
the stars. They were irresistible in their
might ... and they were something more!


"Why did you come creeping into the house last night like a thief?"
Mrs. Sanchez asked her son.

Lithe, dark Roberto set down his breakfast coffee and smiled up at her.
"Ah, Mama, you are the owl. I was certain I moved quiet as moonlight."

"I always hear the sounds of my children. Even the little one when
he stirs in his grave. It is the way of a mother." She drew a cup of
coffee and sat with them at the table in the small kitchen patio.

"The hour was late," Roberto said, "and I did not wish to disturb you
with greetings that would keep until morning. You sleep little enough
as it is. Though the hard days are gone, the sun still rises after you."

Roberto's father looked up from his newspaper. "She will always be
full of the old ways," he said with fond gruffness. "For her there
is no change. Our children have grown proud and fine and freed us
from bondage to the soil. Yet she still behaves as a peon. To her we
still toil in the fields of the patron, bent with exhaustion over the
planting or harvesting consoles, struggling to control the many field
machines. She bakes her own bread. The market vegetables do not please
her so she chafes her hands with the buttons and switches of a garden.
And a robot to scrub the floors she will not hear of. Perhaps she
thinks it would be prettier than she and I might run off with it to
Mexico City."

"Foolish old man," Mrs. Sanchez said with mock severity, "you have lost
even the memory of what it is to run."

"Mama," Roberto said, "I have a present for you."

Something of an eager little girl looked out of the wise eyes.

"I have no need of a present," she said but her eyes searched the leafy
little patio. "All I ask as a gift is for you to come out of the sky
for a little while and marry."

Roberto smiled. "Have not my brothers and sisters given you
grandchildren enough? And what woman will marry the captain of a space
vessel? With my journeys to Jupiter and Saturn and outermost Nyx, I
would forever be a stranger to my children and an occasional guest to
my wife." From under his napkin he drew forth a small silvery box.
"Mama, your present."

She gasped with delight when she opened it. In a black velvet
womb nested a strange glittering jewel suspended on a delicate,
spider-strand, silver chain. "Roberto!" she exclaimed with a feeble
remonstrance.

"Like the others I have brought it is not expensive," Roberto said.
"The stone is a common one on Nyx. But it is very beautiful and when I
found it I thought of you."

* * * * *

A bell-light flashed on the kitchen console. Mrs. Sanchez went to it as
a shallow dish slid from the oven. She set it, sizzling softly, on the
table. "And a present for you," she said. "Your favorite, quinquaños.
Fresh from Venus yesterday, or so the vendor tells me." She shrugged
dubiously. "In this sinful age even the machines lie."

"But, Mama, the money I send is not to be wasted on me! These are so
expensive."

"And small," Mrs. Sanchez said. "Why is there not a garden manufactured
that can be programmed for quinquaños so that I might grow my own?"

"Because five fortunes could not pay for it," Mr. Sanchez said. "Try
as they might, such delicacies come only through the grace of God and
not General Electric." He set aside his newspaper and accepted another
coffee. "Does this not complete your collection?" he asked his wife.
"Roberto has brought for you a stone from every planet he has touched.
Even the moon and the grand asteroids."

"I know not how many worlds there are in the sun's family. But if it
is done, then it is done." She tried to make her words unconcerned but
there was a shadow of regret across them. "The stones are beautiful.
But they are frivolous and the end to them is not to be mourned."

"Ha!" Mr. Sanchez snorted. "She pretends, the sly one, she does not
care. But I know how she delights in them, these gifts from her son. I
have seen her in a stolen moment open the box and gaze with pleasure
upon them. And when we go to the opera in Mexico City it is one of your
single-stoned necklaces which adorns her simple black dress. She will
have no other ornament."

"I no longer have a husband in this house," Mrs. Sanchez said, "only an
old woman whose mouth talks away the day."

"Old woman, eh?" Mr. Sanchez leered and playfully slapped his wife on
her backside.

She pretended to be shocked. "In front of the child! But what can one
expect from an evil old lecher?"

The three of them laughed and basked in the warmth of their blood
bonds. Mr. Sanchez resumed his coffee. "Is it really done, Roberto?
Have you taken cargoes from all twelve planets?"

"Yes."

"Even the one just beyond Pluto? Is it Oceanus or Atlas? I can never
remember which it is ... but for a long while you were missing one of
them."

"I have them all. I am still a young man and yet I have taken my
ship to all the planets in many voyages. But of course that is not
unusual," he lectured, for he knew that was what they wanted, "for in
the thousand years since man first stepped forth on the moon the solar
commerce has so increased that there are hardly enough suitable men for
the ships that bridge the now familiar worlds. So familiar, I could fly
to the rings of Saturn or to dark Nyx in my slumber."

"Then you also must also feel a sadness because there will be no more
stones to pluck from a new planet," Mr. Sanchez said. "Perhaps there is
a thirteenth yet to be found."

"No, Papa. It is certain. There are no more children of our sun. But I
am not sad. The stones are _not_ finished. Mama shall have other pretty
baubles to be caged in fine silver or gold and hung about her neck."

* * * * *

Mrs. Sanchez was programming a day of cooking and baking on the
autochef. At her son's words her hands poised in mid-flight over the
console. She did not quite comprehend but an intuitive wisp of alarm
darkened her face.

She turned to her husband, as if for some reassurance that her dread
was of no substance.

Mr. Sanchez said in perplexity, "I do not understand, Roberto. If
there are no more planets - "

"In this system!" Roberto said.

Neither of his parents said a word. They stared at him and waited.

"In a few days it will be officially announced," Roberto said. "With
the perfection of the new Korenyik propulsion, a starship will be
built. A starship! And I have been selected to take it through the
other space to Alpha Centauri."

Mr. Sanchez embraced his son. "Roberto, I am so proud." He turned to
his wife. "Is it not a great - " He stopped at the look of her.

"This Alpha Centauri," she said, pronouncing it badly, "it is a planet?"

"It is a star, Mama. Like our sun. It may have a family of planets. It
will be exciting to discover them."

"Why?" she asked with a mother's quiet challenge.

The word echoed in Roberto's mind - _why?_ The very core of his being
strained to shout out why. _Space_ was why! Each blazing star was a
compelling, beckoning finger. Every constellation a covenant with his
heart. And somewhere out in the majestic, wheeling Galaxy his soul
wandered, waiting for him to come.

"Mama, I will show you why," he replied as quietly. "As I promised
Papa the last time, I have borrowed from the company a star projector.
This time you must put aside the household and watch and listen and
learn something about the universe out of which my life and my dreams
are made. Of all your children I am the only stranger to you. And
before I go out to the stars I want you to know something of that which
fills my heart."

He went to his room and returned with a foot-square case which he
set on a table in the living area. He pressed a stud. A transparent
globe inflated over it to a four foot diameter. He dimmed the lights,
manipulated the controls and a tiny sun burned in the center of the
globe. Another adjustment brought into view the solar planets orbiting
around it. The device was an educational tool; it projected as desired,
within the envelope of gas, three-dimensional mockups of the solar
system, star clusters and galaxies that moved almost as incandescently
beautiful as the originals.

Mrs. Sanchez was delighted with the views of the solar system and
the surface scenes of the various planets. She had as much general
knowledge of the planets as she had of India or France - which had all
come to her through the distorting medium of television dramas. The
moon had observatories and mad scientists; India had elephants and
sinister maharajas; Mars had deserts and fragile ghost people; Venus
had quinquaños and swamp dragons; and France was overflowing with sin.

Roberto did not utilize the projector narrative. He explained with
his own intense words as he took his parents across the gulf to the
constellations. He skipped about the Galaxy, astounding them with the
sheer billions of stars. He insinuated the possibility of millions of
inhabited planets and then he flung them across the abyss of space to
view the Local Group of the Milky Way, its sister Andromeda and the
satellite galaxies. Then he plunged them into infinity for a time-lost
glimpse of the billion other galaxies thus far discovered.

* * * * *

The globe deflated, the lights went on and Roberto leaned toward his
mother. "Does not the thought of all this catch at your heart a little?"

There was an uncertainty in her voice that Roberto missed because he
was so intent upon her answer. "All those stars," she said. "Something
like that I saw once on the television - about strange people who lived
on those stars. I did not like it very much. Perhaps because it is not
true."

"Not true?" Roberto echoed. "Yesterday, yes. Today, not quite.
Tomorrow ... your own son is going to the stars!"

"It is beyond my understanding why men cannot be content to remain
where they were meant to be."

"But the stars _were_ meant for us. They are our destiny!" Roberto
realized he was speaking too loudly.

Mrs. Sanchez looked squarely at her son. Her words were measured and
solemn like some solitary, tolling bell. "If God meant us to be on
those stars he would have put us there. Roberto, take care. Listen to
the word of your mother. I have not the cleverness of my children but
I know things here." She touched her hand over her heart. "It may be
as you say, all the millions of great stars. But they are God's high
places and I tell you, my son, whoever dares violate them will be
struck down."

"But, Mama! In ancient times, when man first took to the air, there
were those who proclaimed man presumed too much and would be punished.
And a thousand years ago there were people who spoke as you do when man
first went into space. They too said God gave us the earth and to covet
the moon and the planets was a grievous sin."

Mrs. Sanchez shrugged. "There are always the fanatics. Your mama is not
one of them. God gave men the sun and the moon and the planets and
set them apart from the stars for him to work out his salvation. It is
natural and right."

"And he did not give us the stars also?"

"In the sky He put them as a testament to His glory. You have shaken
my poor head with the measure of their distance. But it serves to show
that they would not have been placed out of reach if they were intended
for us to have."

"But Mama, soon they will no longer be out of reach. Your own son will
go to the first one in a great new ship."

Mrs. Sanchez turned troubled eyes on her son. "I will pray for you."
She averted her face and would no longer look directly at him.

Roberto angrily snatched up the star projector and went to his room.

His father followed. "You must understand," he said, "your mother is a
simple woman. She would rather think of the stars as the lamps of the
angels than the huge blazing spheres that they are."

"I do understand," Roberto said bitterly. "I have heard her words a
thousand times from as many mouths. They have sounded through history
and are chains meant to bind man to his few worlds. It is the eternal
voice of the heavy, peasant mind which tries to shout down every
soaring dream of mankind."

"Your words are too hard," his father said.

Roberto's lips curled to say something cruel but he refrained, not
wanting to hurt this fine, little man whose blood was his own.

"Yes," Roberto said, softening, "for after all there are always
the minds which struggle free and lift us up. They have carried us
to the threshold of the stars. And the time will come, a thousand
years perhaps, when we will be ready to try for our sister Galaxy,
Andromeda." Roberto smiled. "Of course it is certain we will still
have our simple folk who will warn us and tell us to beware; that it
is not the will of the Almighty that we leave the Milky Way; that we
presume too much and we will be struck down. And - " Roberto stopped in
mild surprise. He saw in his father's expression the reflection of his
mother's apprehension.

Roberto turned away sadly and began to pack away the star projector.

Someday, he thought, in spite of the little minds, we will have one of
these that will show the other space as commonly as our own. And all
their phantom angels and devils shall not bar man from the universe.

* * * * *

Time passed.

The ship was launched.

Six long years, Roberto thought. Long years of preparation, testing and
training. Hard, bone-wearying hours of familiarization and shakedown
with nerve-straining, experimental jumps into the other space. Now
at last they were in that other space - that strange, blazing white
elsewhere that Korenyik had given to mankind as the trail to the
stars - the Horsehead Nebula clear before them.

Six years of frantic activity ... and now he was launched and there
was nothing to do in transit but wait. Six years since he had been
to the little sun-faded stone house near Mexico City and felt the
warm blood-tug of his parents. Papa now dead and Mama with her dark
forebodings of angels and God.

He gazed at the dark screens in the starship and wondered what he might
see if they were on.

* * * * *

In the intense, brilliant region under the vault of heaven the two
great creatures, their golden coruscating substance flung across the
white space, sensed their coming. My-Ky-El limned the ship with a
golden halo and knew the creatures within. He linked with Ra-Fa-El and
they communed in soaring crystal carillions of thought.

- they are come from the Black Space Hell. The brood of Satan has
broken its bonds and penetrated the barrier!

- how is it so? the Fallen were shrivelled of substance and energy;
shorn of motion and thrust down into the Black Space with no memory of
their origin....

- nevertheless they are here in a devious shape and White Space is once
again threatened....

- they must be annulled NOW!

* * * * *

!!!A-ROORRR-UH!!!A-ROORRR-UH!!!

The Klaxon howled out the alarm. The control board erupted into a
swiftly spreading plague of red warning lights, indicating the Korenyik
Matrix Units were being subjected to incredible strain.

Roberto punched a row of screen tabs. The normal-space view screens
showed nothing. He punched in the E-screens. He gasped at the sight,
struck with an awful dread. Great golden mists were clustering,
bursting, swirling and spiralling in the blinding whiteness. They
wreathed the ship, and the KM units sobbed as they strained against the
rending golden energies. Roberto fought against odd, thick fear that
tried to prostrate him on the deck and make him grovel in utter, abject
terror. _This icy dread that freezes my blood is not of my making_,
Roberto thought. With a desperate effort of will he hurled his leaden
fingers at the keys and punched in the Omega beams. Eyes burning, he
saw ashen whorls spin through the golden mists and crystal screams
seemed to splinter in his mind.

For a fragment of time the KM units ceased their belabored sobbing and
the fear drained from Roberto. In the instant he slammed the jump bar
and they were in their own Black Space.

"We'll never get home this way," the navigator said. He was trembling
with shock.

Roberto struggled to keep his own body from quivering. "I will take
us home. We will dodge in and out of the two spaces. The danger seems
unable to follow. Can you navigate such a course?"

* * * * *

The navigator was trembling violently and he began to sob. "What were
they? So ma - magnificent ... and ... terrifying ... like great golden
angels...."

"SHUT UP! SHUT UP!" Roberto screamed, his control shattering. He
leaned to the limit of his pad straps and struck once and again at the
navigator. Roberto pulled his hands back and crowded his anger and fear
to the back of his mind. "Can you skip us home?" he again demanded of
the navigator.

The man's voice was steadier. "I'll need three minutes in black each
time to compute position and plot the next jump. But, yes, I can do
it."

"I make you a gift of three hours right now." _And perhaps more we will
need_, Roberto thought, _to recover the courage for venturing again
into the White Space. And my navigator spoke of angels but where were
the faces and wings? And why did I also think of angels almost as if I
felt a nebulous ancient memory of them? And do the others feel as my
navigator and I?_

They did! Roberto had gone around the ship carefully questioning
his men. No matter how delicately he inquired, whenever he touched
upon what they might have seen on the E-screen the fear would come
into their eyes. Some spoke directly of heavenly creatures, others
embarrassedly admitted such impressions and a few averted their eyes
and denied such thoughts. But the words of them all were edged with
terror and awe.

Roberto and his shaken crew were slowly regaining confidence. They had
made a jump into the White Space and remained there for some hours
before being frightened back into the Black by a vague alarm. Nothing
more than a quivering needle and a lighter patch on an E-screen; but
they had remained hidden in Black for many hours and now they were
ready to make another jump.

Roberto pressed the jump bar, throwing them into White Space ... and
the golden fury struck!!!! A-ROORRR-UH!!! A ROORRR-UH!!! The board
blazed red. There were screams on the intercom. There was heat and
savage bucking with a crashing and screeching tear of ultra-steel. The
E-screens flared with a terrible molten dancing of golden fire. Roberto
punched in the Omega beams in a shell pattern, cut them and snapped on
the force shield in full crackling Power. It flared greenly against the
golden furies. The reactive thrust slammed hard against the hull and
the ship went hurtling end over end. Roberto slapped the jump bar but
the ship remained trapped in the White Space. Blue energy licked along
the heaving bulkheads and decks. There were more cries and an odor
of scorched flesh, and the corpse of his first officer went spinning
limply through the control cabin. Something wrenched loose and crunched
heavily on Roberto's leg before bouncing away. _Too much red!_ Roberto
cried within, looking from his crimsoning leg to the carmine lights of
the board. He pounded his fists on the unresponsive jump bar. "_Mama_,"
he whispered in agony, and suddenly something connected, and the
tortured ship tumbled shudderingly into Black Space.

* * * * *

Mrs. Sanchez sat in the twilight with the darkened house at her back
and unmovingly faced the mountains. She heard the jet whine of the
taxi helicopter but could not see it because it landed in front of the
house. She listened as the whine faded. And in the silence she heard an
odd step that she could not recognize.

"Mama."

The voice was different. There was no longer a smile under it. But it
was Roberto's.

She did not answer, but as she stood the noise of her chair brought him
limping toward her. She started to move to him but he stopped abruptly
and she suddenly felt a new bitter distance between them that mere
steps could never cross. In the dusk she stared at his twisted leg.

"Roberto," she whispered sadly.

"Call me Jacob," he said harshly. "I have wrestled with angels." He
thrust out his crippled leg. "... and behold a _man_ wrestled with him
till morning. And when he saw that he could not overcome him he touched
the sinew of his thigh and forthwith it shrank!"

With no triumph, but only a mother's distressed remonstrance, Mrs.
Sanchez softly wailed, "O Roberto, Roberto, I warned you. I told you."

"Yes, Mama, you told me," he said. "But you did not tell me the thing
most important. You did not tell me that we are devils!"

She stared at him, uncomprehending.

"Yes, my fine, good Mama! With all your thoughts of heaven, we are a
world of devils. How or why or from whence I do not yet know. But I
am going back to the White Space to seek and I only come now to see
you once more and say good-by ... and...." Roberto faltered and leaned
toward her as if straining to see her face in the evening gloom that
had almost deepened into night. "... and ... ask your blessing." The
words were hardly more than a whisper.

"Going back?" she said incredulously.

"I must."

Anger was in her voice as she pointed to his leg. "Even with the mark
of wrath you carry? You dare make more sacrilege?"

She turned to go into the house. Roberto limped a few steps after her.
"Mama, as you love me, your blessing! For your son."

She turned in the doorway, her face hard. "I can only pray for you."

Roberto watched her go inside. No light appeared and he knew she would
be kneeling before the shelf of holy things in the small flickering
light of the votive candle. He made his way to the front of the house
to the waiting heli-taxi. He looked back at the house. _This is no
longer my home_, he thought. And then, a moment later: _Was it ever?_

He looked up at the stars and thought of the pure brilliance of White
Space and the magnificent golden creatures. _Why the sweet anguish in
the depths of my being when I think of them and the white place? Why in
spite of my fear am I drawn to it more than I am to this house which is
my home? Home?_

Roberto climbed into the machine and it moved upward a little closer to
the stars before turning south.







1

Online LibraryRichard SabiaThe Lamps of the Angels → online text (page 1 of 1)