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If Worlds of Science Fiction June 1958.

A Mixture of Genius

by Arnold Castle

The sleek transcontinental airliner settled onto one of the maze of runways that was Stevenson Airport. With its turbojets fading into a dense roar, it taxied across the field toward the central building. Inside the plane a red light went off.

Senator Vance Duran unhooked the seat belt, reached for his briefcase, and stepped into the crowded aisle. The other passengers were all strangers, which had meant that for nearly an hour he had been able to give his full attention to the several hundred pages of proposed legislation and reports presented to the Committee on Extraterrestrial Development, of which he was chairman. But now there would be reporters, local political pleaders, the dinner at the Governor's, and the inevitable unexpected interruptions which were a part of every trip home.

As he strode through the door and onto the mobile escalator, he donned his smile of tempered confidence in the economic future of the nation. A television camera went into action at once and news-men formed a small circle at the bottom of the ramp.

"That was a great little debate you put on with Ben Wickolm last week," one of the reporters said. "You really tied him up."

"You can thank Senator Wickolm for arousing me," Duran answered, observing to himself that perhaps all of his efforts on the Hill did not go unnoticed in his home state, if most of them seemed to.

"What do you think, Senator, of the FCC's modified ruling on the integrated lunar relay station plan?" another asked.

"I haven't had time to get fully acquainted with it," the senator evaded, stepping onto the ground and out of the way of the ramp.

"Say, Senator, what about the Mars colony project?" a third put in. "How come it's bogged down?"

"No comment at present," the senator said. But he gave them an ambiguous little grimace which was meant to suggest a minor but sticky snarl behind the scenes. He hoped it would satisfy them for the moment.

Making his escape as quickly as possible, he climbed onto the shuttle car already loaded down with the other passengers. Finding an empty seat, he folded himself into it, and was immediately joined by someone else.

"Well, Senator, how does it feel to be home?" his companion asked with sympathetic irony.

Duran turned, grinned, and reached for the man's hand.

"Great, Wayne," he answered, recognizing an old friend who had been of no small aid during his earlier years in politics. "Say, I'd ask you over for dinner if we weren't going to the Governor's tonight. Molly would love to see you. Unfortunately I'm leaving for Washington again in the morning."

"Why doesn't Molly move to D.C. with you, Vance?" the journalist asked.

Duran hesitated. "Maybe in a year or so. After the boys are out of highschool. If I get the job again."

The smile on the younger man's face was heartening.

"Don't play coy with me, Vance. You know you've got this state sewed up." Then came the slight frown of doubt. "Just one thing, though. A lot of people are wondering why the hold up on the colony project. You're bound to get a little of the criticism. What the hell's wrong, anyway?"

"Can't you guess?"

"Yeah. I can guess. There's only one possibility, since the government scientists assure us they've ironed out all the technical wrinkles. But it's pretty hard to believe that out of the thousands of people who volunteer every week, not even a couple of hundred are acceptable."

Duran considered his answer carefully before voicing it.

"Ever ask yourself who volunteers, Wayne?"

The journalist looked at him oddly, then nodded.

 

The senator took an elevator directly to the helicopter landing on the roof of the building. It was several minutes before he had located the little runabout he had bought for his wife the previous Christmas. Jack Woodvale, their caretaker, gardener, and chauffeur, was just retrieving his suitcase from the baggage lift as the senator arrived.

Waiting until Woodvale had secured the suitcase in the luggage compartment and climbed into the pilot's seat, Duran squeezed himself into the cabin. A minute or two later the little craft was rising from the port, directed automatically into the appropriate channel and guided off toward the city.

"How've things been going, Jack?" the senator asked. He felt good. Wayne's friendship and assurances had provided a needed boost. "Everything okay?"

"I'd say so, sir," Woodvale told him. "Had a little trouble with the solar screen. The store sent a man out to fix it. It's all right now."

The new power unit had been another of Molly's ideas, Duran recalled. The old crystal sulfide screen had been perfectly reliable. But Molly had thought it looked ugly up there on the roof. Molly's main faults, he decided, derived from her concern with the neighbors' opinions.

"Oh, there was something else came up while I was on my way out to get you," Woodvale continued abruptly. "The state's Attorney General called—said it was important you contact him immediately."

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