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3

Fidanzato walked away with Barkers leg. A technician came up to Hawks. Your secretarys on the phone, Ed, he said. Asked me to tell you its urgent.

Hawks shook his head to himself. Thanks, he said distractedly, and went across the laboratory to an isolated wall box. He picked up the extension handset. This is Hawks, Vivian. What is it a call from Tom Phillips? No, its all right Ive been expecting it. Ill take it here. He held on, his eyes blank, waiting while the admirals call was switched to the laboratory. Then the diaphragm in the earpiece rattled again, and he said, Yes, Tom. Oh, Im all right. Yes. Hot in Washington, is it? No, not here. Just smog. Well. He stood listening, and looking at the featureless wall before him.

Yes, he said slowly. Well, I rather thought the report on Rogan would have that effect. No, listen we have a new approach. Weve found a new man. I think hell work out all right. No, look I mean a new kind of man; I think weve got a good chance with him. No, no listen, why dont you look up his record? Al Barker. Yes. Barker. There should be an Army 201 file from the Office of Strategic Services records. And an FBI security clearance. Yes. You see, the thing is, hes a completely different kind of organism from a nice, decent kid like Rogan. Yes, the records would show it. How about a personal interview, if you need it for a convincer with the Committee? No, I know theyre upset about Rogan and the others, but maybe if you

His unoccupied left hand plucked blindly and persistently at one of the buttons of his smock.

No, Tom think. Think, now Look, if this was just one more volunteer, what purpose would I think I was serving? No, he is different. Look, if you All right, if there isnt time, there isnt time. When are they going to meet again? Well, it seems to me theres plenty of flying time between now and day after tomorrow. You could come out here and

He shook his head at the wall and put the flat of his palm up against it. All right. I know youre a busy man. All right, then, if youre on my side and you dont need to fly out here because you trust me, why dont you trust me? I mean, if I think the next shotll make it, why cant you take my word for it?

He listened, and said peevishly: Well, damn it, if the Committee wont make an official decision until day after tomorrow, why cant I go ahead until then? Ill have a successful shot on my record by then, well be rolling with this thing, well Look do you think Id waste my own time if I didnt think this man could do it?

He sighed, and said huskily, Look, if I could guarantee what the results were going to be, I wouldnt need a research program! Lets try and do this thing step by step, if were going to do it at all!

He rubbed his hand over his face, pressing heavily against it. O.K., were back to the same thing whats the good of arguing? Youll give me money, rank, equipment, and everything, because its me, but the first time it comes down to taking my word for something, nobody out there can get out of his half-assed panic long enough to think who theyre dealing with. You think Im doing all this by guesswork?

He licked his lips and listened intently. Then he relaxed. All right, then, he said with a wintery smile. Ill call you early day after tomorrow and let you know the results. Yes, Ill remember the time difference! All right. And no, no dont worry, he finished, Ill give it the very best try I can. Yes. Well, you too, Tom. Be seeing you.

He racked the handset and turned away from it, his face drawn. He looked at his hands and put them in his pockets.

Sam Latourette had been waiting for him to finish. He came forward worriedly. Trouble, Ed?

Hawks grimaced. Some. Tomorrows shot has to make it.

Or else? Latourette asked incredulously. Just like that? Years of work and millions of dollars, down the drain? Are they crazy?

No. No, theyre human, Sam. Its beginning to look like good money after bad, to them. And men being lost. What do you want them to do? Go on feeling like accessories to senseless murder? And, after all its not as if the end of the Moon shots would be the end of the transmitter program, you know.

Latourettes face flushed. Come off it, Ed! All that needs to happen is for the transmitter program to get one black eye like this, and even the companyll let it go. Theyll pick it up again sometime, but not right away and not with you. You know that. Theyll ease you out and close this down until its cooled off a little. They

I know. Hawks said. Ive got too much of the smell of death around me. He looked around. But they wont do it if Barker pays off for us, tomorrow. Success blinds all. Chaucer. Out of context. His face writhed into a twisted smile. The level of culture in this place is rising. He swung his shoulders around, his face still contorted, like a childs in the grip of unbearable frustration searching for the nursery door. He said in a very low voice, Sam, what a complicated and terrible thing the human mind is! He moved to begin walking across the laboratory floor, his head down.

Latourette pawed clumsily at the air. You cant use Barker! You cant afford to get involved with someone as wild and unpredictable as that! Ed, it wont work itll be too much.

Hawks stopped still, his hands in his pockets, his eyes shut. Dont you think hell work out?

Listen, if he has to be put up with day after day, itll get worse all the time!

So you do think hell work out. Hawks turned and looked at Latourette. Youre afraid hell work out.

Latourette looked frightened. Ed, he doesnt have sense enough not to poke at every sore spot he finds in you. And youre not the kind to ignore him. Itll get worse, and worse, and you

You said that, Sam, Hawks said gently. After a moment, he sent Latourette back to the transmitter, and once again set out to walk across the laboratory toward Barker.

Hawks stood watching Barkers leg being refitted. Bulges of freshly ground aluminum were bolted to the flesh-colored material.

Barker, he said at last, lifting his eyes to the mans face.

Yes, Doctor?

Were pressed for time. Id appreciate it if you went up and had our physician examine you now. As many of us as can be spared will take our lunch in the meantime.

Doctor, you know damned well I passed an insurance physical last week.

Last week Hawks said, looking down at the floor, is not today. Tell Dr. Holiday I asked him to be as quick as he can and still be thorough. Try to return here as soon as hes finished. He turned away. Ill be back in half an hour.

Hawks waited alone in Benton Cobeys reception room for twenty minutes, looking patiently down at his shoes. Finally the receptionist told him he could go in.

He crossed the bristly carpet, knocked once on the featureless mahogany sheet of Cobeys door, opened it and went through.

Continentals president sat behind a teak table that glowed with the oil of its dark, hand-rubbed finish, almost as black as bituminous coal. Cobey himself was a small, aggressive man with an undershot jaw and a narrow skull as bald as an egg. His deep tan had the faint tinge of a quartz lamps work, and his lips were lightly blued by the first hint of cyanosis. His face had the pinched look of ulceration.

All right, Ed, he said immediately. What is it?

Hawks pulled one of the over-comfortable armchairs away from the side of the desk a little, and sat down, adjusting the crease in his trousers.

Something wrong down in the lab, again? Cobey asked.

Its a personnel problem, Hawks said, looking over Cobeys left shoulder. And I have to be back in the laboratory by one oclock.

See Connington about it.

I dont know if hes in today. Its not in his province, in any case. What I want to do is make Ted Gersten my top assistant. Hes qualified; hes been Sam Latourettes second for a year and a half. He can do Sams job. But I need your authorization to do it by tomorrow. Were set up for a new shot then the astronomical conditions are already past optimum; I want to get in as many shots as I can this month and I want Sam off it by then. His right hand had unconsciously moved to the end of his tie. He clamped the end between his fore and middle fingers, and began working the point of the cloth in under his thumbnail.

Cobey leaned back and folded his hands. His knuckles became mottled with red. Six months ago, he said in a low voice, when I wanted to have Latourette sent home, you pulled that phony business of needing him to help set up your amplifier, or something.

Hawks took a breath. Hughes Aircraft needs a project engineer on a short-term research program for the Army. Frank Wasted wants Sam on it, if he can get him. He can get a contingent approval from Hughes personnel department.

Cobey sat forward. Wasted wouldnt call you about Sam if he didnt have an idea he could get him. Look, Hawks, Cobey said, Ill take a lot from you even more than the Navy makes me take. Dont kid yourself, if I didnt respect your brains, Id have your hide any time I wanted it, and blow the contract; Ill still be here and the companyll still be here after this Moon business is over and done.

Dont go pussyfooting around behind my back! Dont tell me about calls from Waxted when Id lay dollars to dimes he doesnt know the first thing about it yet! Im telling you, Hawks.

Hawks said, Im here. Im telling you what I want. Ive arranged the situation so all you have to do is make a yes or no decision.

I always say you do neat work. What is this, Hawks? Why do you want Latourette off your hands? Cobeys eyes narrowed. Latourettes been your shadow ever since he came here. If I want ten minutes of lecture on the march of modern electronics, I ask Latourette how youve been feeling lately. Whats the matter, Hawks you and Sam have a falling out?

Hawks had still not met Cobeys eyes from the moment he had entered the office.

Relationships between people are a complicated thing. Hawks was speaking slowly and distinctly, as if he anticipated a stoppage in his throat. People lose control of their emotions. The more intelligent they are, the more subtly they do it. Intelligent men pride themselves on their control. They go to elaborate lengths to disguise their impulses not from the world; theyre not hypocrites from themselves. They find rational bases for emotional actions, and they present logical excuses for disaster. A man may begin a whole series of errors and pursue it to the brink of the pit, and over the brink, all unaware.

What you mean is, you had some kind of set-to with Latourette. He wants to do one thing and you want to do another.

Hawks said doggedly, People under emotional stress always resort to violence. Violence doesnt have to be a fired gun; it can be a slip of a pencil on a chart, or a minor decision that brings an entire program down. No supervisor can watch his assistants continually. If he could, he wouldnt need help on the job. As long as Latourettes on the project, I cant feel Im in total control of things.

And you have to have that? Total control?

I have to have that.

So Latourettes got to go. Just like that. Six months ago, he had to stay. Just like that.

Hes the best man for the job. I know him better than I know Gersten. Thats why I want Gersten now he hasnt been my friend for ten years, the way Sam has.

Cobey caught his lower lip between his teeth and slowly pulled it free without relaxing the pressure. He leaned forward and tapped a memorandum pad with the end of his pen. You know, Hawks, he said, this cant go on. This began as a simple Navy research contract. All we were was the hardware supplier, even if you did initiate the deal. Then the government found that thing on the Moon, and then there was all that trouble, and suddenly were not just working with a way to transmit people, were operating as an actual installation, were fooling around with telepathy, weve got men dead and men psychotic, and you are in it up to your ears.

I came in here one morning, and found a letter on my desk informing me youre all at once a Navy commander and in charge of operating and maintaining the installation. Meaning youre in a position to demand from us, as a Naval officer, any equipment you, as one of our engineers, decide the installation needs. The Board of Directors wont tell me the basis for the funds theyve allocated. The Navy tells me nothing. Youre supposed to be a ConEl employee, and I dont even know where your authority stops all I know is ConEl money is being spent against the day when the Navy might pay us back, if Congress doesnt cut the armed services budget so that they cant, under the terms of the research contract which, for all I know, has been superseded under the terms of some obscure paragraph in the National Defense Acts. All I do know is that if I run Continental into the red so deep it cant get out, Ill be out on my ear for the stockholders to be happy over.

Hawks said nothing.

You didnt make the system Ive got to work with, Cobey said. But youve sure as hell exploited it. I dont dare give you a direct order. Im dead sure I couldnt fire you outright if I wanted to. But my job is running this company. If I decide I cant run it with you in it, and I cant fire you, Im going to have to pull some dirty deal to force you out. Maybe Ill even make that nice little speech about emotional violence. He turned sharply and said, Look at me, God damn you! Youre making this mess not me!

Hawks stood up and turned away. He walked slowly toward Cobeys door. Can I, or can I not release Sam to Waxted and promote Gersten?

Cobey scrawled a note on his memo pad with jabbing strokes of his pen. Yes!

Hawks shoulders slumped. All right, then, he said, and closed the door behind him.


| Rogue Moon | c