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48. Night at the Villa

Ambassador Rajasinghe needed little sleep these nights; it was as if a benevolent Nature was granting him the maximum use of his remaining years. And at a time like this, when the Taprobanean skies were blazing with their greatest wonder for centuries, who could have stayed abed?

How he wished that Paul Sarath was here to share the spectacle! He missed his old friend more than he would have thought possible; there was no-one who could annoy and stimulate him in the way that Paul had done – no-one with the same bond of shared experience stretching back to boyhood. Rajasinghe had never thought that he would outlive Paul, or would see the fantastic billion-ton stalactite of the Tower almost span the gulf between its orbital foundation and Taprobane, thirty-six thousand kilometres below. To the end Paul had been utterly opposed to the project; he had called it a Sword of Damocles, and had never ceased to predict its eventual plunge to earth. Yet even Paul had admitted that the Tower had already produced some benefits.

For perhaps the first time in history, the rest of the world actually knew that Taprobane existed, and was discovering its ancient culture. Yakkagala, with its brooding presence and its sinister legends, had attracted special attention; as a result, Paul had been able to get support for some of his cherished projects. The enigmatic personality of Yakkagala's creator had already given rise to numerous books and videodramas, and the son-et-lumiиre display at the foot of the Rock was invariably sold out. Shortly before his death Paul had remarked wryly that a minor Kalidasa industry was in the making, and it was becoming more and more difficult to distinguish fiction from reality.

Soon after midnight, when it was obvious that the auroral display had passed its climax, Rajasinghe had been carried back into his bedroom. As he always did when he had said goodnight to his household staff, he relaxed with a glass of hot toddy and switched on the late news summary. The only item that really interested him was the progress that Morgan was making; by this time he should be approaching the base of the Tower.

The news editor had already starred the latest development; a line of continuously flashing type announced

47. Beyond the Aurora | The Fountains of Paradise | MORGAN STUCK 200 KM SHORT OF GOAL