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EPILOGUE

                "For men may come and men may go
                     But I go on for ever."
                               --Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 
The Brook

Chapter Forty Six

        "The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the
         human race to keep all its eggs in."
                                             --Robert A. Heinlein


 After Wye's death,  his will was the subject of much  discussion
and  surprise  throughout the Network.  Taking advantage  of  the
Twenty Third Agreement - and blatantly stating that this was  one
of  the  main purposes in having that agreement in place  in  the
first  place  - the ex-Dictator's will left his  entire  personal
fortune to the Network.
 Not  to  the  people who controlled  the  Network,  but  to  the
computers  themselves.   Computers  which,   the  23rd  agreement
insisted,  had to be treated as though they were humans with full
adult status. Therefore they could own property.
 The  money  was  to be administered  by  the  computers,  mainly
according  to  the  voting  by Networkers  on  proposals  and  in
emergencies.  The  will  itself  did not  spell  out  what  those
emergencies were, but instead referred cryptically to the Network
computer identifying them itself.
 The first action of Hagbard - the,  now rich,  computer - was to
ensure that certain of its files were copied to every outpost  of
the  system,  including those on Ceres,  the lunar base  and  the
orbiting space stations.
 Nobody  was  quite  sure why it did this,  and  the  files  were
encrypted  with  a key unknown - or so it claimed - even  to  the
computer itself.

                              *****

 A  year  after  Wye's death,  a technician on  board  the  Ceres
research post out in the asteroid belt noticed a peculiar anomaly
in  his  records.  A  little  checking  satisfied  him  that  his
deductions were correct, so he sent an emergency radio message to
the Network back on Earth.
 What he had seen was a fragmented comet, torn apart by Jupiter's
fierce gravitational field.  And several of the larger  fragments
had been flung out from that giant planet.
 Their orbits,  unless altered,  would lead them to collide  with
the cradle of mankind.
 As  he  typed,  key  words from his message  were  analysed  and
compared  with a glossary in his  computer's  memory.  Successive
synonyms  were  tried as keys to decrypt a number stored  in  the
databanks. When the phrase "Dinosaur killer" was tried, a success
was recorded.
 Thus,  the instant that the technician's radio message was sent,
an  announcement,  unprompted and unrequested,  appeared  on  his
Terminal screen.
 As soon as his message reached the Network computers back on the
Earth,  an  identical  announcement appeared  on  every  Terminal
throughout the Network. 

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