‘She doesn't like the altitude. When we left Wright Patterson, she took the kids back to Florida. Don't raise your eyebrows at me; we get along just fine. She lets me know when it's time for her to get pregnant again. About every three years, that is. So I go home, stay a month or two, get reacquainted with the kids. Then I go back to work. No huhu, no sweat, no family quarrels. '
‘Sounds like a fine arrangement if it suits you two. '
‘It does. ' He paused to order my drink. I had never learned to drink but I had learned how to order a tall drink and make it last all evening, while ice cubes diluted it. I looked Woodrow over. His skin seemed tight on his face and his hands quite bony.
The waitress left; he turned back. ‘Now, Mom, tell me what you're doing here. '
‘I've always been a space travel buff - remember how we read Roy Rockwood's Great Marvel series together? Lost on the Moon, Through Space to Mars -‘
‘Sure do! I learned to read because I thought you were holding out on me. '
‘Not in those. A little in the Barsoom books, perhaps. '
‘I've always wanted a beautiful Martian princess. .. but not the way you had to get one on Barsoom. Remember how they were always spilling each other's blood? Not for me! I'm the peaceful type, Mom. You know me. '
(I wonder if any mother ever knows her children. But I do feel close to you, dear. I hope you and Heather really are all right. ) ‘So when I heard about the Moonship, I made plans to come here. I want to see it lift off. .. since I can't go in it. What do you think of it, Woodrow? Will it do the job? ' storegames.ru
‘Let's find out. ' Woodrow looked around, then called out to someone sitting at the bar. ‘Hey, Les! Bring your redeye over here and come set a while. '
The man addressed came over. He was a small man, with the big hands of a jockey. My son said, ‘May I present Captain Leslie LeCroix, skipper of the Pioneer? Les, this is my daughter Maureen. '
‘I'm honoured, Miss. But you can't be Bill's daughter; you're too young. Besides, you're pretty. And he is - Well, look at him. '
‘Stop it, boys. I'm his mother, Captain. You really are the captain of the Moonship? I'm impressed. '
Captain LeCroix sat down with us. I saw that his ‘redeye' was another tall, dear drink. He said to me, ‘No need to be impressed; the computer pilot does it all. But I'm going to: ride her. .. if I can avoid Bill long enough. Have a chocolate écláir, Bill. ' ‘
‘Smile when you say that, stranger! '
‘A cheeseburger? A jelly doughnut? A stack of wheats with honey? '
‘Mom, do you sec what that scoundrel is doing? Trying to keep me from dieting just because he's scared I might break his arcos. Or his neck. '
‘Why would you do that, Woodrow? '
‘I wouldn't. But Les thinks I would. He weighs just one hundred and twenty-six pounds. My best weight, in training, is one forty-five, you may remember. But by lift-off day and H-hour I have to weigh exactly what he does. .. because, if he catches a sniffle or slips in the shower and breaks something, God forbid, I have to sit there in his place and pretend to pilot. I can't avoid it; I accepted their money. And they have a large, ugly man following me around, making sure I don't run:
‘Don't believe him, Ma'am. I'm very careful going through doors and I won't cat anything I don't see opened. He intends to disable me at the last minute. Is he really your son? He can't, be. '
‘I bought him from a Gypsy. Woodrow, what happens if you don't make the weight? '
‘They slice off one leg, a bit at a time, until I'm down to exactly one twenty-six. Spacemen don't need feet. '
‘Woodrow, you always were a naughty boy. You would need feet on the Moon. '
‘One is enough there. One-sixth gravity. Hey, there's that big, ugly man they got watching me! He's coming this way. '
George Strong came over and bowed. ‘Dear lady! I see you have met our Moonship captain. And our relief pilot, Bill Smith. May I join you? '
‘Mom, do you know this character? Did they hire you to watch me, too? Say it ain't so! '
‘It ain't so. George, your relief pilot is my son, Woodrow Wilson Smith. '
Later that night George and I had a chance to talk privately and quietly.
‘George, my son tells me that he must get his weight down to one hundred and twenty-six pounds in order to qualify as relief pilot. Can that be true? '
‘Yes. Quite true. '
‘He hasn't weighed that little since his junior year in high school. If he did get his weight down to that and if Captain LeCroix fell ill, I suspect that Woodrow would be too weak to do the job. Wouldn't it make more sense to adjust weights the way they do with race horses? Add a few lead weights if Captain LeCroix flies; take them out if the relief pilot must go? '
‘Maureen, you don't understand. '
I admitted that I did not.
George explained to me just how tight the weight schedule for the ship was. The Pioneer was stripped down to barest essentials. She carried no radio - only indispensable navigational instruments. Not even a standard pressure suit- just a rubber acceleration suit and a helmet. No back pack - just a belt bottle. Open the door, drop a weighted flag, grab some rocks, get back in.
‘George, this doesn't sound to me like the way to do it. I won't tell Woodrow that - after all, he's a big boy now' - assumed age, thirty-five; true age, fifty-three - ‘but I hope Captain LeCroix stays healthy. '
Another of those long waits in which George pondered something unpleasant - ‘Maureen, this is utter, Blue Star secret. I'm not sure anyone is going to fly that ship. '
‘Sheriff trouble. I don't know how much longer I can hold off our creditors. And we haven't anywhere else to rum. We've pawned our overcoat so to speak. '
‘George, lei me see what I can do. '
He agreed to live in my apartment and look after Princess Polly while I was away - okay with Princess Polly, as she was used to him. I left for Scottsdale in the morning, to see Justin.
‘Look at it this way, Justin. How bad will the Foundation be hurt if you let Harriman Industries collapse? '
‘The Foundation would be hurt. But not fatally. We would be able to resume full subsidy in five years, ten at the outside. Maureen, one thing is certain: a conservator of other people's money must never throw good money after bad. '
Eight million was the most I could squeeze out of him, and I had to guarantee it. Half of it was in CDs some of which had due dates as long as six months away. (Bui a certificate of deposit can always be used in place of cash, although it may cost you points. )
To accomplish that much I had, first, to tell Justin that he would never get another ‘Theodore' tip out of me if he didn't produce the money, and, second, that if he laid the money on the table, I would place beside it a full and complete transcript of those notes I had taken in the middle of the night on 29 June 1918.
In the Broadmoor the next morning George would not accept the money from me but took me to Mr Harriman, who seemed detached, barely able to recognise me, until I said, ‘Mr Harriman, I want to buy some more participation in the Lunar launching. '