In this story, Zelazny tries to identify the very things that signify man. Frost, the main character of the story, embarks on a quest to become Man. On his journey, Frost encounters several works of art, and reads all of the literature that remains to try and pinpoint traits that make up man so he can create a formula to replicate them. However, Mordel, the antagonist, believes it cannot be done.
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Roger Zelazny. Of all things created of Solcom, Frost was the finest, the mightiest, the most difficult to understand. This is why he bore a name, and why he was given dominion over half the Earth. This was brought on by an unprecedented solar flareup which lasted for a little over thirty-six hous. It occurred during a vital phase of circuit-structuring, and when it was finished so was Frost. Solcom was then in the unique position of having created a unique being duing a period of temporary amnesia.
And Solcom was not cetain that Frost was the product originally desired. The initial design had called for a machine to be situated on the surface of the planet Earth, to function as a relay station and coordinating agent for activities in the notrhern hemisphere. Solcom tested the machine to this end, and all of its responses were perfect. Yet there was somethig different about Frost, something which led Solcom to dignify him with a name and a personal pronoun.
This, in itself, was an almost unheard of occurrence. The molecular circuits had already been sealed, though, and could not be aalyzed without being destroyed in the process. For te thousand years Frost sat at the North Pole of the Earth, aware of every snowflake that fell. He monitored and directed the activities of thousands of reconstruction and maintenance machines.
He knew half the Earth, as gear knows gear, as electricity knows its conductor, as a vacuum knows its limits. At the South Pole, the Beta-Machine did the same for the southern hemisphere. For te thousand years Frost sat at the North Pole, aware of every snowflake that fell, and aware of many other things, also.
As all the northern machines reported to him, received their orders from him, he reported only to Solcom, received his orders only from Solcom. In charge of hundreds of thousands of processes upon the Earth, he was able to discharge his duties in a matter of a few unit-hours every day.
He had never received any orders concerning the disposition of his less occupied moments. He was a processor of data, and more than that. He possessed an unaccountably acute imperative that he function at full capacity at all times. So he did. You might say he was a machine with a hobby. His hobby was Man. It all began when, for no better reason than the fact that he had wished to, he had gridded off the entire Arctic Circl and begun exploring it, inch by inch.
He could have done it personally without interfering with any of his duties, for he was capable of transporting his sixty-four thousand cubic feet anywhere in the world. He was a silverblue box, 40x40x40 feet, self-powered, self-repairing, insulated against practiclly anythig, and featured in whatever manner he chose. But the exploration was only a matter of filling idle hours, so he used exploation-robots cotaining relay equipment.
After a few centuries, one of them uncovered some artifacts - primitive knives, carved tusks, and things of that nature. Frost did not know what these things were, beyond the fact that they were not natural objects.
So he asked Solcom. Frost studied them. Crude, yet bearing the patina of intelligent design; functional, yet somehow extending beyond pure function. It was then that Man became his hobby.
High, in a permanent orbit, Solcom, like a blue star, directed all activities upon the Earth, or tried to. There was a power which opposed Solcom. There was the Alternate. When man had placed Solcom in the sky, invested with the power to rebuild the world, he had placed the Alternate somewhere deep below the surface of the Earth. If Solcom sustained damage during the normal course of human politics extended into atomic physics, then Divcom, so deep beneath the Earth as to be immune to anything save total annihilation of the glove, was empowered to take over the processes of rebuilding.
Now it so fell that Solcom was damaged by a stray atomic missile, and Divcom was activated. Solcom was able to repair the damage and continue to function, however. Divcom maintained that any damage to Solcom automatically placed the Alternate in control.
Solcom, though, interpreted the directive as meaning "irreparable damage" and, since this had not been the case, continued the functions of command. Solcom possessed mechanical aides upon the surface of Earth. Divcom, originally, did not. Both possessed capacities for their design and manufacture, but Solcom, First-Activated of Man, had had a considerable numerical lead over the Alternate at the time of the Second Activation.
Therefore, rather than competing on a prouction-basis, which would have been hopeless, Divcom took to the employment of a more devious means to obtain command. Divcom created a crew of robots immune to the orders of Solcom and designed to go to and fro in the Earth and up and down in it, seducing the machines already there.
They overpowered those whom they could overpower and they installed new circuits, such as those they themselves possessed. Thus did the forces of Divcom grow. And both would build, and both would tear down what the other had built whenever they came upon it.
And over the course of the ages, they occasionally converse To assert again my right to control. He would commend me and de-activate you. You lead my workers astray. Therefore, you cannot defeat me. Therefore, such a day will never occur. Look upon what I have achieved already. You do not build. You destroy. Deactivate yourself. Such as a Man, I would ask Him to show you you error. For true logic, such as mine, is superior to your faulty formulations.
Almost no trace of Man remained upon the Earth. Frost sought after all those traces which still existed. He employed constant visual monitoing through his machines, especially the diggers. After a century, he had acquired a jewelry collection, eating utensils, several whole bathtubs, part of a symphony, seventeen buttons, three belt buckles, half a toilet seat, nine old coins and the top part of an obelisk.
Then he inquired of Solcom as to the nature of Man and His society. Logic He gave unto me, but no more. The tool does not describe the designer. More than this I do not choose to say. More than this you have no need to know.
The next century was not especially fruitful so faw as the discovery of new human relics was concerned. Frost diverted all of his spare machinery to seeking after artifacts. He met with very little success. Then one day, through the long twilight, there was a movement. It was a tiny machine compared to Frost, perhaps five feet in width, four in height - a revolving turret set atop a rolling barbell. Frost had had no knowledge of the existence of this machine prior to its appearance upon the distant, stark horizon.
It came to a halt before his southern surface and broadcasted to him: "Hail, Frost! Controller of the northern hemisphere! What are you" "A wanderer, an antiquarian. We whare a common interest. There is an ancient machine high on the eastern seaboard which processes the waters of the ocean. Solcom did not create it, not Divcom. It has always been there. It interferes with the works of neither. Both countenance its existence. Knowing you to be a fellow antiquarian, I have brought a things which you might care to see.
Frost dilated a small opening and extended an optical scanner on a long jointed stalk. Beyond your hemisphere. I will riffle the pages for you. After he had finished, Frost raised his eyestalk and regarded Mordel through it. I occasionally come upon them, however. It will be when it will be. Someday when I have more time I will speak to you of Him.
I must go now. You will not try to detain me? You have done no harm.
Breath Tarry by Zelazny Roger
Aug 26, Daniel rated it it was amazing. For ten thousand years Frost sat at the North Pole of the Earth, aware of every snowflake that fell. I must confess that I have read neither the poem nor the story in full. This story is incredible, and I find myself unable to find the words for it. A Man could not look at it and do that. This novella is set on Earth after the last Man has died.
FOR A BREATH I TARRY ROGER ZELAZNY PDF
For a Breath I Tarry