‘Eh? I'm sorry, Mrs Johnson; there is no more participation stock for sale. That I know of. '
‘Then let me put it this way. I would like to lend you eight million dollars as a personal loan without security:
Mr Harriman looked at me as if seeing me for the first time. He had grown gaunt since the last time I had seen him and his eyes burned with fanatic fervour - he made me think of those Old Testament prophets.
He studied me, then turned to George. ‘Have you explained to Mrs Johnson what a risk she would be taking? '
George nodded glumly. ‘She knows. '
‘I wonder. Mrs Johnson, I'm cleaned out and Harriman Industries is a hollow shell - that's why I haven't called a directors' meeting lately. I would have to explain to you and to the other directors the risks I've been taking. Mr Strong and I have been trying to hold things together on jawbone and sheer nerve, long enough to get the Pioneer off her pad and into the sky. I haven't given up hope. .. but, if I take your money and I am forced into bankruptcy and my senior company into receivership, my note to you could not be in a preferred position. You might get three cents on the dollar; you might not get anything. '
‘Mr Harriman, you are not going to be bankrupt and that tall ship out there will fly. Captain LeCroix will land on the Moon and return safely'
He smiled down at me. It's good to know that www.beauty-kniga.ru you have faith in us. '
‘It's not just faith; I'm certain. We can't fail now for the lack of a few pennies. Take the money and use it. Pay it back when you can. Not only will Pioneer fly, you also will send many ships after her. You are manifest destiny in person, sir! You will found Luna City. .. freeport for the Solar System! '
Later that week George asked me if I wanted to be in the blockhouse during the launching - Mr Harriman had said to invite me. I had already considered it, knowing that I could demand it if I cared to push it.
‘George, that's not the best place to watch the lift-off, is it? '
‘No. But it's the safest. It's where the VIPs will be. The Governor. The President if he shows up. Ambassadors. '
‘Sounds claustrophobic. George, I've never been much interested in the safest place. .. and the few VIPs I've met struck me as hollow shells, animated by PR men. Where are you going to be? '
‘I don't know yet. Wherever Delos needs me to be. '
‘So I figured. You are going to be too busy to have me hanging on your arm -‘
‘It would be a privilege, dear lady, But -‘
‘- you are needed elsewhere. Where is the best view? If you weren't busy, where would you watch it? '
‘Have you visited the Broadmoor Zoo? '
‘Not yet. I expect to. After the lift-off. '
‘Maureen, there is a parking lot at the zoo. From it you would have a dear view to the east from the spot about fifteen hundred feet higher than Peterson Field. Mr Montgomery has arranged with the Hotel to place some folding chairs there. And a radio link. Television. Coffee. If I weren't busy, that's where I would be. '
‘So that's where I will be. '
Later that day I ran across my son Woodrow in the lobby of the Broadmoor. ‘Hi, Mom! They got me working. '
‘How did they manage that? '
‘I didn't read my contract carefully enough. This is "educational and public communication activity associated with the Moonship" - meaning I have to set this thing up to show people how the ship works, where it will go, and where the diamonds are on the Moon. '
‘Are there diamonds on the Moon? '
‘We'll let you know later. Come here a sec. ' He led me away from the crowd in the lobby into a side hall by the barber shop. ‘Mom, ' he said quietly, ‘if you want to do it, I think I have enough bulge around here to get you into the blockhouse for the lift-off'
Is that the best place to sec it? '
No, it's probably the worst. It'll be hot as a June bride, because the air conditioning isn't all that good. But it's the safest place and it's where the high brass will be. Visiting royalty. Party chairmen. Mafia chiefs. '
‘Woodrow, where is the best place to watch? Not the safest ‘
‘I would drive up Cheyenne Mountain. There is a big paved parking lot outside the zoo. Come back into the lobby; I want to show you something. '
On a giant (four-foot) globe that made my mouth water, Woodrow showed me the projected path of the Pioneer.
‘Why doesn't it go straight up? '
‘Doesn't work that way. She goes cast and makes use of the Earth's rotation. .. and unloads all those extra steps. The bottom one, the biggest one, number five, drops in Kansas. '
‘What if it landed on the Prairie Roadway? '
‘I'd join the Foreign Legion. .. right behind Bob Coster and Mr Ferguson. Honest, it can't, Mom. We start out here, fifty miles south of the road, and where it lands, over here, near Dodge City, is over a hundred miles south of it'
‘What about Dodge City? '
‘There's a little man with a switch, hired solely to push that switch and bring step five down in open country. If he makes a mistake, they tie him to a tree and let wild dogs tear him to pieces. Don't worry, Mom. Step four lands around here, off the coast of South Carolina. Step three lands in the Atlantic north of this narrowest plane where the nose of South America faces the bulge of Africa. Step two lands in the South Atlantic near Capetown. If it goes too far, we'll hear some interesting cussing in Afrikaans. Step one - ah, that's the one. With luck it lands on the Moon. If Bob Coster made a mistake, why, it's back to the old drawing-board. '
It will be no news to anyone that Pioneer lifted off to plan and that Captain Leslie LeCroix landed on Luna and returned safely. I watched from Cheyenne Mountain, the zoo parking lot, with such a fine, horizon-wide view to the east that it seemed to me that I could stand on my tip-toes and sec Kansas City.
I'm glad that I got to sec one of the great rockets while they were still in use - I know of no planet in any patrolled universe where the big rockets are still used - too expensive, too wasteful, too dangerous.
But, oh, so magnificent!
It was just dark when I got up there. The full Moon was rising in the east. The Pioneer was seven miles away (I heard someone say) but the ship was easy to see, bathed in floodlights and standing tall and proud.
I looked at my chrono, then watched the blockhouse through binoculars. A white flare burst from its top, right on time.
Another flare split into red and green fireball. Five minutes.
That five minutes was at least a half-hour long. I was beginning to think that the launching was going to abort - and I felt unbearable grief.
White fire lapped out of the base of the ship and slowly, lumberingly, it lifted off the pad. .. and climbed faster and faster and faster and the whole landscape, miles and miles, was suddenly in bright sunlight!
Up, up, and up, to apparent zenith and it seemed to have bent back to the west and I thought it was falling on us - and then the light was not quite as bright and now we could see that this ‘sun' overhead was moving east. .. and was a moving bright star. It seemed to break up and a voice from a radio said, ‘Step five has separated. ' I remembered to breathe.