The Voyage of the Beagle

He carefully took out a book from the pile, and then another one. The pile didn’t collapse, being held in position by a larger book that now was the ceiling of a new gap. He looked at the title of the book. “The Voyage of elder people in the postmodern state,” it read. No, that wasn’t right, but close.

Dr. Panshin fastened the lamp, which had moved out of focus, on his head and looked at the shelf again. If this was E-L, he would have to go down and a further twenty metres into the mountain of books. He sighed, turned around and grabbed the saw. Removing the shelf panel in front of him was actually hard work, and he had to be careful to not damage the book behind it. Dr. Panshin put the saw on the metal and started to draw it back and forth in the narrow space that he had been able to clear between “The Voyage of a -” and “The Voyage of that -”.

“A transmitter,” he muttered. “If I only could have a transmitter. A small one, really.” Of course he could have brought one, but that would have done him no good. If hyper-technology worked on Library, he wouldn’t need to mine his way through billions of books.

“Jane, what were you thinking?” Well, what had the Intelligence been thinking? There had been a lot of academic speculation, but Dr. Panshin thought the novel “The duty of a machine” actually captured it best. Because the point was, Jane knew what was coming. The Central Intelligence of Library could probably have saved itself before the lights went out. But instead it chose to save the books, printed them off and stacked them back to back, front to front, thousands of Billions of them.

“The Voyage of the Beagle,” Dr. Panshin murmured, “here we come.” He removed the shelf and started to take out the next row of books.

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