Жанр книги: Научная Фантастика
Robert A Heinlein To Sail Beyond The Sunset

It took the opening of the Cleveland-Cincinnati rolling road to nail down in George Strong's mind that my prophecies really were accurate. I was always most careful not even to hint the source of my foreknowledge because I had a strong hunch that the truth would be harder for George to take than leaving it all a mystery. So I joked about it: my cracked crystal ball - a small time machine I keep in the basement next to my Ouija Board - my seance guiding spirit, Chief Forked Tongue - tea-leaves, but it has to be Black Dragon tea, Lipton's Orange Pekoe doesn't have the right vibrations.

George smiled at each bit of nonsense - George was a gentle soul - and eventually quit asking me how I did it and simply treated the message in each envelope as a reliable forecast - as indeed it was.

But he was still chewing the bit at the time the Cleveland-Cincinnati road opened. We attended the opening together, sat in the grandstand, watched the Governor of Ohio cut the ribbon. We were seated where we could talk privately if we kept our voices down; the speeches over the loudspeakers covered our words.

‘George, how much real estate does Harriman and Strong own on each side of the roadway? '

‘Eh? Quite a bit. Although some speculator got in ahead of us and took options on the best commercial sites. However, Harriman Industries has a substantial investment in D-M power screens - but you know that; you were there when we voted it, and you voted for it' ‘So I did. Although my motion to invest three times that amount was first voted down. '

George shook his head. ‘Too risky. Maureen, money is made by risking money but not by wildly plunging. I have trouble enough keeping Delos from plunging; you mustn't set him a bad example. '

‘But I was right, George. Want to see the figures on a We-Woulda-Made if my motion had carried? '

‘Maureen, one can always do a We-Woulda-Made on a wild guess that happens to hit That doesn't justify guessing. It ignores the other wild guesses that did not hit'

‘But that's my point, George - I don't guess; I know. You hold the envelopes; you open them. Have I ever been wrong? Even once? '

He shook his head and sighed. ‘It goes against the grain. '

‘So it does and your lack of faith in me is costing both Harriman and Strong and Harriman Industries money, lots of money. Never mind. You say some speculator optioned the best land? '

‘Yes. Probably somebody in a position to see the maps before the decisions were pubhc. '

‘No, George, not a speculator - a soothsayer. Me. I could see that you weren't moving fast enough so I optioned as much as I could, using all the liquid capital I could lay hands on, plus all the cash I could raise by borrowing against non liquid assets. '

George looked hurt. I added hastily, ‘I'm turning my options over to you, George. At cost, and you can decide how much to cut me in for after the special position we have begins to pay back. '

‘No, Maureen, that's not fair. You believed in yourself; you got there first; the profits are yours. '

‘George, you didn't listen. I don't have the capital to exploit these options; I put eve cent I could raise into the options themselves - if I had been able to lay hands on another million, I would have optioned still more land further out and for longer terms. I just hope you will listen to me next time. It distresses me to tell you that it is going to rain soup, then have you show up with a teaspoon rather than a bucket. Do you want me to warn you about the next special position? Or shall I go straight to Mr Harriman and try to persuade him that I am an authentic soothsayer? '

He sighed. ‘I'd rather you told me. If you will. '

I said most quietly, ‘Do you have a place where we can shack up tonight? '

He answered just as quietly, ‘Of course. Always, dear lady. '

That night I gave him more details. ‘The next road to be converted will be the Jersey Turnpike, an eighty-mile-per-hour road as compared with this fiddling thirty-mile-per-hour job we saw opened today. But the Harriman Highway -‘

‘Harriman? '

‘The D. D. Harriman Prairie Highway from Kansas City to Denver will be a hundred-mile-per-hour road that will grow a strip city thirty miles wide from Old Muddy to the Rocky Mountains. It will boost Kansas from a population of two million to a population of twenty million in ten years. .. with endless special positions for anyone who knows it is going to happen. '

‘Maureen, you frighten me. '

‘I frighten myself, George. It's rarely comfortable to know what is going to happen. ' I decided to take the plunge. ‘The rolling roads will continue to be built at a frantic pace, as fast as sunpower screens can be manufactured to drive them - down the east coast, along Route Sixty-Six, on El Camino Real from San Diego to Sacramento and beyond - and a good thing, too, as the sunpower screens on the roofs of the road cities will take up the slack and fend off a depression when the Paradise power plant is shut down and placed in orbit. '

George kept quiet so long I thought he had fallen asleep. At last he said, ‘Did I hear you correctly? The big atomic power pile in Paradise, Arizona, will be placed in orbit? How? And why? '

‘By means of spaceships based on today's glide rockets. But operating with an escape fuel developed at Paradise. But, George, George, it must not happen! The Paradise plant must be shut down, yes; it is terribly dangerous, it is built wrong -like a steam engine without a relief valve. ' (In my head I could hear Sergeant Theodore's dear voice saying it: They were too eager to build. .. and it was built wrong - like a steam engine without a relief valve. ') ‘It must be shut down but it must not be placed in orbit. Safe ways will be found to build atomic power plants; we don't need the Paradise plant. In the meantime the sunpower screens can fill the gap. '

‘If it's dangerous - and I know some people have worried about it - if it is placed in orbit, it won't be dangerous. '

‘Yes, George, that's why they will put it in orbit. Once in orbit, it would not be dangerous to the town of Paradise, or the state of Arizona. .. but what about the people in orbit with it? They will be killed. '

Another long wait - It seems to me that it might be possible to design a plant to operate by remote control, like a freighter rocket. I must ask Ferguson. '

‘I hope you are right. Because you will see, when you return to Kansas City and open my envelope number six and also number seven, that I prophesy that the Paradise power plant will be placed in orbit, and that it will blow up and kill everybody on board, and destroy the rocketship that services it. George, it must not be allowed to happen. You and Mr Harriman must stop it. I promise you, dear, that if this can be stopped - if my prophecy can be proved wrong - I will break my crystal ball and never prophesy again. '

‘I can't make any promises, Maureen. Sure, both Delos and I are directors of the Power Syndicate. .. but we hold a minor position both in stock and on the board. The Power Syndicate represents practically all the venture capital in the United States; the Sherman Anti-Trust Law was suspended to permit it to be formed in order to build the Paradise plant. Hmm. .. a man named Daniel Dixon controls a working majority, usually. A strong man. I don't like him much: