Hurtz went through the automatic motions of preparing himself for their landing on the small unnamed planet, but each thing he did was a wasted motion because it was really the boy, Jones, who was going to put the rocket down. And what could Hurtz do now?
Hurtz touched his rough cheek with the back of his hand and swore silently. The hard, aging muscles of his body were taut, and although the lines about his eyes had deepened, his eyes, blue and sparkling, still retained their old ferocity. His eyebrows, although nearly completely gray now, intensified that ferocity with their thickness.
Jones, the boy, moved his hands and the rocket made its turn clumsily, pointing its blazing fins at the strange globe beyond.
Hurtz shook his head and asked himself why he had ever tried to help this cocky, all-knowing kid with the thin mouth and short-clipped hair.
“This is a slightly unusual request,” said Dr. Wagner, with what he hoped was commendable restraint. “As far as I know, it’s the first time anyone’s been asked to supply a Tibetan monastery with an Automatic Sequence Computer. I don’t wish to be inquisitive, but I should hardly have thought that your — ah — establishment had much use for such a machine. Could you explain just what you intend to do with it?”
“Gladly,” replied the lama, readjusting his silk robes and carefully putting away the slide rule he had been using for currency conversions. “Your Mark V Computer can carry out any routine mathematical operation involving up to ten digits. However, for our work we are interested in letters, not numbers. As we wish you to modify the output circuits, the machine will be printing words, not columns of figures.”
“I don’t quite understand….”
“This is a project on which we have been working for the last three centuries — since the lamasery was founded, in fact. It is somewhat alien to your way of thought, so I hope you will listen with an open mind while I explain it.”
“It’s an interesting theory,” said Arnold, “but I don’t see how you could ever prove it.” They had come to the steepest part of the hill and for a moment Webb was too breathless to reply.
“I’m not trying to,” he said when he had gained his second wind. “I’m only exploring its consequences.”
“Well, let’s be perfectly logical and see where it gets us. Our only assumption, remember, is that the universe is infinite.”
“Right. Personally I don’t see what else it can be.”
“Very well. That means there must be an infinite number of stars and planets. Therefore, by the laws of chance, every possible event must occur not merely once but an infinite number of times. Correct?”
“I suppose so.”
“Then there must be an infinite number of worlds exactly like Earth, each with an Arnold and Webb on it, walking up this hill exactly as we are doing now, saying these same words.”