"Don't you think it's about time he called us?" Ted asked.
"Don't be so impatient. He's a big man. He owns a big company. It takes time."
"He's had over a month."
"Relax. We'll hear from him."
Another week passed, and another, until one evening Ted came galloping into the workshop with news. "That big new addition to the City Hall! They're working on it! H. Joshua Blair Construction Company. A big sign says so!"
"Relax. You'll blow a tube."
"Relax hell! He's using our invention to put up the steel girders. Just like we suggested to him. Guys with boxes like ours making holes and putting in rivets!"
Bill stopped what he was doing. "He said he'd call us. Maybe he forgot. Maybe we better go see him."
They both knocked off work the next day and got to Blair's office at nine o'clock. The red-headed secretary said, "You'll have to make an appointment."
"Appointment hell!" Ted headed for the inner door. Bill followed him. They went into H. Joshua Blair's office to find him in conference with two vice-presidents. Ted said, "Mr. Blair, we came--"
"Who in the devil are you?"
"You remember us. Ted Baker and Bill Stephens. We came about our invention."
"Our hole maker. You're using it on the City Hall addition."
Blair glowered. "Where'd you get the idea it was yours? Have you got any patents to show?"
"Well, no. We didn't--"
"I did! Fourteen good solid patents. You two better go peddle your groceries."
"Now look, Mr. Blair."
Blair raised his voice. "Throw these two bums out!"
Three huskies appeared as by magic to do Blair's bidding. As Ted and Bill landed on the sidewalk, one of the vice-presidents said, "Do you think that was smart, H. J.? They might cause trouble."
Blair snorted. "They haven't got a prayer. A meter reader and a grocery clerk!"
"We could have at least given them a few hundred."
"Not on your life. Never give a sucker an even break, Jim. Give them anything at all, we acknowledge their claim. That'd be stupid."
"Maybe you're right."
"Of course I'm right. It's business. Now about those other bids. By gad! We can run every contractor in town out of competition! They can't touch our prices!"
Out on the sidewalk, Bill and Ted sat mournfully looking up at the vast steel skeleton, held together literally by their own genius. Ted said, "We got a raw deal."
"Maybe we had it coming. We were pretty stupid."
"Anything we can do?"
"Doesn't look like it."
"Maybe the leather solution will turn out."
"Maybe." Bill looked wistfully up at the steel skeleton. "At even a cent a hole, we'd have done all right."
"Let's go home and get to work."
In the Mighty and Benevolent Kingdom of Szkazia, a minor reign of terror existed. The King, tired of complaints from his subjects, had just finished dressing down his Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was passing the abuse on to his Chief Scientist. "If something isn't done soon, I won't be responsible for your head, my friend. The King is in a rage."
The eyes of the Chief Scientist watered--partly from fear, and partly from nights and days spent in his laboratory beating out his brains on one idea after another.
"I'm doing my best, sire--"
"It's not good enough! These steel girders coming out of nowhere! Banging people in the head--whacking them in the stomach! Why it isn't safe to walk through the halls of the Administration Building. Even the bedrooms of the Executive Apartments are not safe! The other night the Director of Propaganda had just gone to bed--"
"I know of the incident," the Chief Scientist said hurriedly.
"Oh, you do? But you've done nothing about--"
"I've been working hard," the scientist said patiently, "and I think I have the solution. Give me another day."
"One day, then. After that--" The Prime Minister made a significant slicing motion with his finger.
The Prime Minister chewed his fingernails and watched the clock. Sleep was out of the question with the King calling up every little while yelling for action. The Minister counted the hours and presented himself at the Royal Laboratories precisely twenty-four hours later. "Time's up," he snapped.
The Chief Scientist was wiping his face. There were new lines around his mouth. He indicated a small steel box. "I think I've got it," he said. "Come with me."
They went swiftly to the Administration Building. "This should be close enough. We depress this lever and--and hope."
"Well, do it--do it!"
The Chief Scientist pushed the lever on the steel box. A whirring sound came from within. All the steel girder ends in sight--all the nasty little rivets--disappeared. The Chief Scientist smiled and wiped his face again. "It worked," he said.
"Excellent. I'll see that you get a medal."
"Thank you," the Chief Scientist said sadly. That was the trouble with people nowadays. They either handed you a medal or your head.
Ted and Bill stared sadly at the mess around the City Hall. Bill said, "It's a good thing it collapsed at night so nobody was killed, isn't it?"
"You said it. I'd have felt guilty if there'd been any casualties."
"What do you suppose went wrong?"
"You got me. What do you think they'll do to old Blair?"
"I don't know, but it looks pretty bad. They refused to let him out on bail."
"Serves him right. The way he treated us."
"You've got it wrong. He treated us swell. He did us a big favor. We could have been blamed for this."
Bill thought it over before saying, "I guess you're right. I hadn't looked at it that way."
"Let's go home and get to work on the leather solution."
So they did.
WHERE I WASN'T GOING.
By Walt and Leigh Richmond
I studied and worked and learned my trade I had the life of an earthman made; But I met a spaceman and got way-laid-- I went where I wasn't going!
Making his way from square to square of the big rope hairnet that served as guidelines on the outer surface of the big wheel, Mike Blackhawk completed his inspection of the gold-plated plastic hull, with its alternate dark and shiny squares.
He had scanned every foot of the curved surface in this first inspection, familiarizing himself completely with that which other men had constructed from his drawings, and which he would now take over in the capacity of chief engineer.
Mike attached his safety line to a guideline leading to the south polar lock and kicked off, satisfied that the lab was ready for the job of turning on the spin with which he would begin his three months tour of duty aboard.
The laws of radiation exposure set the three-month deadline to service aboard the lab, and he had timed his own tour aboard to start as the ship reached completion, and the delicate job of turning her was ready to begin.
U.N. Space Lab One was man's largest project to date in space. It might not be tremendous in size by earth standards of construction, but the two hundred thirty-two foot wheel represented sixty-four million pounds of very careful engineering and assembly that had been raised from Earth's surface to this thirty-six-hour orbit.
Many crews had come and gone in the eighteen months since the first payload had arrived at this orbit--but now the first of the scientists for whom the lab was built were aboard; and the pick of the crews selected for the construction job had been shuttled up for the final testing and spin-out.
Far off to Mike's left and slightly below him a flicker of flame caught his eye, and he realized without even looking down that the retro-rockets of the shuttle on which he had arrived were slowly putting it out of orbit and tipping it over the edge of the long gravitic well back to Earth. It would be two weeks before it returned.
Nearing the lock he grasped the cable with one hand, slowing himself, turned with the skill of an acrobat, and landed catlike, feet first, on the stat-magnetic walk around the lock.
He had gone over, minutely, the inside of the satellite before coming to its surface. Now there was only one more inspection job before he turned on the spin.
Around this south polar hub-lock, which would rotate with the wheel, was the stationary anchor ring on which rode free both the stat-walk and the anchor tubes for the smaller satellites that served as distant components of the mother ship.
Kept rigid by air pressure, any deviation corrected by pressure tanks in the stationary ring, the tubes served both to keep the smaller bodies from drifting too close to Space Lab One, and prevented their drifting off.
The anchor tubes were just over one foot in diameter, weighing less than five ounces to the yard--gray plastic and fiber, air-rigid fingers pointing away into space--but they could take over two thousand pounds of compression or tension, far more than needed for their job, which was to cancel out the light drift motion caused by crews kicking in or out, or activities aboard. Uncanceled, these motions might otherwise have caused the baby satellites to come nudging against the space lab; or to scatter to the stars.
There had been talk of making them larger, so that they might also provide passageway for personnel without the necessity for suiting up; but as yet this had not been done. Perhaps later they would become the forerunners of space corridors in the growing complex that would inevitably develop around such a center of man's activities as this laboratory in its thirty-six hour orbit.
At the far end of the longest anchor tube, ten miles away and barely visible from here, was located the unshielded, remote-controlled power pile that supplied the necessary energy for the operation of the wheel. Later, it was hoped, experimental research now in progress would make this massive device unnecessary. Solar energy would make an ideal replacement; but as yet the research was not complete, and solar energy had not yet been successfully harnessed for the high power requirements of the Lab.
Inside this anchor tube ran the thick coaxial cable that fed three-phase electric power from the atomic pile to the ship.
At the far end of the second anchor tube, five miles off in space, was Project Hot Rod, the latest in the long series of experiments by which man was attempting to convert the sun's radiant energy to useful power.
At the end of the third anchor tube, and comparatively near the ship, was the dump--a conglomeration of equipment, used and unused booster rocket cases, oddments of all sorts, some to be installed aboard the wheel, others to be used as building components of other projects; and some oddments of materials that no one could have given a logical reason for keeping at all except that they "might be useful"--all held loosely together by short guidelines to an anchor ring at the tube's end.
Carefully, Mike checked the servo-motor that would maintain the stationary position of the ring with clocklike precision against the drag of bearing friction and the spin of the hub on which it was mounted; then briefly looked over the network of tubes before entering the air lock.
Inside, he stripped off the heavy, complicated armor of an articulated spacesuit, with its springs designed to compensate for the Bourdon tube effect of internal air pressure against the vacuum of space, appearing in the comfortable shorts, T-shirt, and light, knit moccasins with their thin, plastic soles, that were standard wear for all personnel.
He was ready to roll the wheel.
Feeling as elated as a schoolboy, Mike dove down the central axial tube of the hub, past the passenger entrances from the rim, the entrances to the bridge and the gymnasium-shield area, to the engineering quarters just below the other passenger entrances from the rim, and the observatory that occupied the north polar section of the hub.
The engineering quarters, like all the quarters of the hub, were thirty-two feet in diameter. Ignoring the ladder up the flat wall, Mike pushed out of the port in the central axis tunnel and dropped to the circular floor beside the power console.
Strapping himself down in the console seat, he flipped the switch that would connect him with Systems Control Officer Bessandra Khamar at the console of the ship's big computer, acronymically known as Sad Cow.
"Aiee-yiee, Bessie! It's me, Chief Blackhawk!" he said irreverently into the mike. "Ready to swing this buffalo!"
Bessie's mike gave its preliminary hum of power, and he could almost feel her seeking out the words with which to reprimand him. Then, instead, she laughed.
"Varyjat! Mike, haven't you learned yet how to talk over an intercom? Blasting a girl's eardrums at this early hour. It's no way to maintain beautiful relationships and harmony. I'm still waiting for my second cup of coffee," she added.
"Wait an hour, and this cup of coffee you shall have in a cup instead of a baby bottle," Mike told her cheerfully. "Space One's checked out ready to roll. Want to tell our preoccupied slipstick and test-tube boys in the rim before we roll her, or just wait and see what happens? They shouldn't get too badly scrambled at one-half RPM--that's about .009 gee on the rim-deck--and I sort of like surprises!"