Once, at the height of Earth’s fabled history, there was a city called Ferrin. Compared to Ferrin, all the cities of Earth that ever were or would be – from imperial Rome to towering New York before to the city called R afterwards – paled into insignificance. But in the long twilight centuries that followed the fall of Ferrin memories faded and men’s ambitions waned, and by the time that the young man Thel heard of Ferrin, no one was sure it was anything but a myth.
But part of an abandoned highway still passed near Thel’s home – and when a starry fragment from Ferrin came into Thel’s possession, he knew there could be no rest for him until he had followed the ruined roadway that still spanned time and space to find the truth about the Rise and Fall of Ferrin – and also of all humanity’s hopes.
Tipton Bond was a man who lived for challenges – and Earth had no more challenges for him. But on Xota:
One of the giants’ faces bent over him, sardonically benign. “You are an Earthman, little human electron. You are a denizen of a planet which the Warriors of Day will reach and engulf, in a bare thousand years. Did you think to escape us by coming to Xota? You have brought yourself closer to the thing which you thought to escape. You will share in the general holocaust when the Wild Star arrives!”
Giants they might be, Bond decided, but they had limitations. “What is this Wild Star?” he called.
The slow thunder answered: “It is the most condensed of white dwarfs, almost pure neutronium throughout. And what makes a sun a runaway sun? The answer, little one, is very simple: The Warriors of Day!”
“Heard of you?” The princess spoke with a great weariness. “We hear about all the adventurers of the galaxy. So far all have failed. You will fail too. I know it – but I must go on trying to find the prince. When you are dead and scattered into the atoms we shall find another strong man and try again.
One day, perhaps, we shall succeed. Maybe you will, but I doubt it. You too will be destroyed like all the others.”
With these words of confidence ringing in his ears, Big Bill Jarrett was sent out on an impossible journey – one he knew could kill him if he went, and would kill him if he didn’t.
Who would lay time to rest, or raise it up from its tomb?
The Ancients of Days – humans returned from a long exile in the depths of time and space and history – brought heresy and doubt to the artificial world of Confluence, and ignited a terrible civil war, of all the varied creatures of Confluence’s ten thousand genetically manipulated bloodlines, only young Yama holds the power to end the conflict, for who ever controls him controls the myriad machines of the world. Though now a helpless captive being forged intoa weapon of horrific consequence, Yama must win the struggle to reclaim his soul, and complete his search for the true story of his origin – a story mapped eons before his birth.
To see the stars.
This was the great and paradoxical dream. To stand and look upward into space, at the myriad pin-points of light, forever out of reach, just as their forebears on Earth had in the long gone days before the building of the planetary shells.
Mars, Jupiter, Saturn… Shell had succeeded shell, each studded with its captive caged worlds, each progressively populated by men who could look up only into a sky of artificial luminaries and space debris.
Always Zeus, man-created prime mover, was at work beyond them, the giant space machines forming and working the next shell.
Uranus, Neptune, Pluto…The last shell.
Again they journeyed: Maq Ancor, Master Assassin, Magician Cherry and Sine Anura, Mistress of the Erotic, to reach the outer shell, to return to the past when Man could see the stars.
The planet did not rotate. On one side eternal day, the sun shining down hotly from the centre of the heavens. On the opposite side eternal night, the stars glowing coldly in the black and airless sky.
Yet the planet had been colonised. In ages past civilisation had dug into the rock of the darkside and had thrived. Aristocrats vied with aristocrats, and the poor, as ever, struggled to keep home and body together against the ever-encroaching cold surface.
To keep the lower classes happy, Vitra, the storyteller, spun romantic sagas on the popular network. She imagined a strange world on the sunside, inhabited by men and women enmeshed in crime and love, schemes and intrigues.
Vitra believed she was making this up. But was she? Was there really another civilisation on the bright side and could it be that what she related was not fiction – but events which would inevitably send both worlds out of synch to mutual disaster?
Earth was a crowded world of vast cities, manned by robots who carried out all of the menial tasks, who saw to it that everything contained functioning normally. Interplanetary travel was now an established fact. The planets favourable to Man’s existence had been colonised but where, as yet, under-developed according to Earth standards.
In the whole of the Solar System, mankind was supreme. There was life on Mars, Venus and the outer moons of Jupiter and Saturn, but nothing which could match the military might of Earth.
Yet now, Earth itself faced destruction. Quite suddenly the thread had materialised. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Someone – or Something – wanted Earth. But vast creatures such as these had never originated on any of the Solar Planets and Brad Norton, investigating events for the Military Commission, refused to believe that they could have been transported through space from an of the stars.
But the undeniable fact was that they were here and Earth science was powerless against them…
It meant little to Robert Fairlie, a serious and dedicated young philologist, that the United States and Soviet Russia were at odds about the Moon. He had little interest in the first rocket landings or the bases that the two nations had established there. And he neither knew nor cared why the Americans would not agree to mutual inspections of these bases.
Yet the Americans had reason enough: and quite unexpectedly, because of his specialised knowledge of languages, he found himself sharing the burden of an incredible secret. For what the American base had yielded was astounding evidence that space had already been conquered many centuries before by a people who had once spanned the stars. There had been machines and destructive weapons beyond the comprehension of present-day scientists which, if knowledge of them fell into the wrong hands, could plunge the world into unutterable chaos.
Fairlie’s trip to the closely-guarded rocket base in New Mexico turned out to be only the first step on a fantastic journey amid the unexplored stars to the home-world of the space-conquerors of long ago.
It was a journey into the appalling reality of stellar space still haunted by the past cosmic struggle whose scale in space and time dwarfed the rivalries of tiny Earth’s quarreling nations.
The Earth teemed with life of all kinds, and many besides man had intelligence and the gift of speech. But chaos ruled. And violence. And despair. Then, in the Valley of the Dead, Sheen first entered the world, and all of the life would bend to the might of the Supreme One before the final push to the stars.
The Collected Stories Volume 2: To The Dark Star (1962 – 1969)
Winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, Robert Silverberg is one of the all time greats of science fiction. A professional writer for more than half a century, his short story output has been prolific and exceptional in quality.
This series of nine volumes will collect all of the short stories and novella-length that SF Grand Master Silverberg wants to take their place on the permanent shelf.
Each volume will be roughly 150,000-200,000 words, with classics and lesser known gems alike. The author has also graced us with a lengthy introduction and extensive story notes for each tale.
To See The Invisible Man
The Pain Peddlers
The Sixth Palace
To The Dark Star
Going Down Smooth
The Fangs of the Trees
Ishmael in Love
Ringing the Changes
How It Was When the Past Went Away
A Happy Day in 2381
(Now + n, Now – n)
After the Myths Went Home
The Pleasure of Their Company
We Know Who We Are