THE FOUNTAINS OF PARADISE
Even now, it was impossible to realise the full meaning of the coming revolution. For the first time Space itself would become as accessible as any point on the surface of the familiar Earth. In a few more decades, if the average man wanted to spend a weekend on the moon, he could afford to do so. Even Mars would not be out of the question; there were no limitations to what might now be possible.
Morgan came back to earth with a bump, as he almost tripped over a piece of badly-laid carpet.
“Sorry,” said his guide, “another of Design's ideas – that green is supposed to remind people of Earth. The ceilings are going to be blue, getting deeper and deeper on the upper floors. And they want to use indirect lighting everywhere, so that the stars will be visible.”
Morgan shook his head. “That's a nice idea, but it won't work. If the lighting's good enough for comfortable reading, the glare will wipe out the stars. You'll need a section of the lounge that can be completely blacked-out.”
“That's already planned for part of the bar – you can order your drink, and retire behind the curtains.”
They were now standing in the lowest floor of the capsule, a circular room eight metres in diameter, three metres high. All around were miscellaneous boxes, cylinders and control panels bearing such labels as OXYGEN RESERVE, BATTERY, CO, CRACKER, MEDICAL, TEMPERATURE CONTROL. Everything was clearly of a provisional, temporary nature, liable to be rearranged at a moment's notice.
“Anyone would think we were building a spaceship,” Morgan commented. “Incidentally, what's the latest estimate of survival time?”
“As long as power's available, at least a week, even for a full load of fifty passengers. Which is really absurd, since a rescue team could always reach them in three hours, either from Earth or Midway.”
“Barring a major catastrophe, like damage to the tower or tracks.”
“If that ever happens, I don't think there will be anyone to rescue. But if a capsule gets stuck for some reason, and the passengers don't go mad and gobble up all our delicious emergency compressed food tablets at once, their biggest problem will be boredom.”
The second floor was completely empty, devoid even of temporary fittings. Someone had chalked a large rectangle on the curved plastic panel of the wall and printed inside it: AIRLOCK HERE?
“This will be the baggage room – though we're not sure if we'll need so much space. If not, it can be used for extra passengers. Now, this floor's much more interesting -”
The third level contained a dozen aircraft-type chairs, all of different designs; two of them were occupied by realistic dummies, male and female, who looked very bored with the whole proceedings.
“We've practically decided on this model,” said Kingsley, pointing to a luxurious tilting swivel-chair with attached small table, “but we'll run the usual survey first.”
Morgan punched his fist into the seat cushion.
“Has anyone actually sat in it for five hours?” he asked.
“Yes – a hundred-kilo volunteer. No bed-sores. If people complain, we'll remind them of the pioneering days of aviation, when it took five hours merely to cross the Pacific. And, of course, we're offering low-gee comfort almost all the way.”
The floor above was identical in concept, though empty of chairs. They passed through it quickly and reached the next level, to which the designers had obviously devoted most attention.
The bar looked almost functional, and indeed the coffee dispenser was actually working. Above it, in an elaborately gilded frame, was an old engraving of such uncanny relevance that it took Morgan's breath away. A huge full moon dominated the upper left quadrant, and racing towards it was – a bullet-shaped train towing four carriages. From the windows of the compartment labelled “First Class” top-hatted Victorian personages could be seen admiring the view.
“Where did you get hold of that?” Morgan asked in astonished admiration.
“Looks as if the caption's fallen off again,” Kingsley apologised, hunting round behind the bar. “Ah, here it is.”
He handed Morgan a piece of card upon which was printed, in old-fashioned typeface,