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The senator looked from the bureau with its chipped paint and cracked mirror to the expensive woman seated on the sagging bed. My God, he thought. What if one of my constituents could see me now? Or the press people got wind of this?

He opened the leather attaché case and turned knobs on the console inside. Green lights winked reassuringly. He took a deep breath and turned to the girl.

"Laurie Jo, would it surprise you to know I don't give a damn whether the President is a crook or not?" the senator asked.

"Then why are you here?" Her voice was soft, with a note of confidence, almost triumphant.

Senator Hayden shook his head. This is a hell of a thing. The Senate Majority Leader meets with the richest woman in the whole goddamn world, and the only way we can trust each other is to come to a place like this. She picks the highway and I pick the motel. Both of us have scramblers goin', and we're still not sure nobody's makin' a tape. Hell of a thing.

"Because you might be able to prove President Tolland's a crook. Maybe make a lot of people believe it," Hayden said. "I can."

"Yeah." She sounds so damned confident, and if what she sent me's a good sample of what she's got, she can do it, all right. "That's what scares me, Laurie Jo. The country can't take it again."

He drew in a lungful of air. It smelled faintly of gin. Hayden exhaled heavily and sank into the room's only chair. One of the springs was loose, and it jabbed him. "Christ Almighty!" he exploded.

"First Watergate. No sooner'n we get over that, and we're in a depression. Inflation. Oil crisis. The Equity Trust business. One damn thing after another. And when the Party gets together a real reform wing and wins the election, Tolland's own Solicitor General finds the Equity people right next to the President!

"So half the White House staff goes, and we get past that somehow and people still got something to believe in, and you're tellin' me you can prove the President was in on all of it. Laurie Jo, you just can't do that to the country!"

She spread her skirts across her knees and wished she'd taken the chair. She never liked sitting without a backrest. The interview was distasteful, and she wished there were another way, but she didn't know one. We're so nearly out of all this, she thought. So very near.


It was a sound in her mind, but not one the senator could hear. He was saying something about public confidence. She half listened to him, while she thought, "I WAS NOT TO BE DISTURBED."


"WILL IT BE ON TIME?" she thought.

"ONLY HALF. HIS BIOLOGICALS WILL BE TWO DAYS LATE," the computer link told her. The system was a luxury she sometimes regretted: not the cost, because a million dollars was very little to her; but although the implanted transceiver link gave her access to all of her holdings and allowed her to control the empire she owned, it gave her no peace.







And that takes care of that, she thought. The computer was programmed to take her insulting commands and translate them into something more polite; it wouldn't do to annoy one of her most important executives. If he needed to be disciplined, she'd do it face to face.

The senator had stopped talking and was looking at her. "I can prove it, Barry. All of it. But I don't want to."

Senator Hayden felt very old. "We're almost out of the slump," he said. He wasn't speaking directly to Laurie Jo any longer, and he didn't look at her. "Got the biggest R&D budget in twenty years. Unemployment's down a point. People are beginning to have some confidence again." There was peeling wallpaper in one corner of the room. Senator Hayden balled his hands into fists and the nails dug into his palms.

When he had control of himself, he met her eyes and was startled again at how blue they were. Dark red hair, oval face, blue eyes, expensive clothes; she's damn near every man's dream of a woman, and she's got me. I never made a dishonest deal in my life, but God help me, she's got me.

I have to deal, but—"Has MacKenzie seen your stuff? Does he know?"

Laurie Jo nodded. "Aeneas didn't want to believe it. Your media friends aren't the only ones who want to think Greg Tolland's an honest man. But he's got no choice now. He has to believe it."

"Then we can't deal," Hayden said. "What the hell are you wasting my time for? MacKenzie won't deal. He'll kamikaze." And do I admire him or hate him for that?

There's something inhuman about a man who thinks he's justice personified. The last guy who got tagged as "The Incorruptible" was that Robespierre character, and his own cronies cut his head off when they couldn't take him any longer.

"I'll take care of Aeneas," Laurie Jo said.


"You'll have to trust me."

"I've already trusted you. I'm here, aren't I?" But he shook his head sadly. "Maybe I know more'n you think. I know MacKenzie connected up with you after he left the White House. God knows you're enough woman to turn any man around, but you don't know him, Laurie Jo, you don't know him at all if you think—"

"I have known Aeneas MacKenzie for almost twenty years," she said. "And I've been in love with him since the first day I met him. The two years we lived together were the happiest either of us ever had."

"Sure," Barry Hayden said. "Sure. You knew him back in the old days before Greg Tolland was anything much. So did I. I told you, maybe I know more'n you think. But goddam it, you didn't see him for ten, twelve years—"

"Sixteen years," she said. "And we had only a few weeks after that." Glorious weeks, but Greg Tolland couldn't leave us alone. He had to spoil even that. Damn him! I have more than one reason to hate Greg Tolland—"Why don't you listen instead of talking all the time? I can handle Aeneas. You want political peace and quiet for a few years, and I can give them to you."

I don't listen because I'm afraid of what I'll hear, the senator thought. Because I never wanted this day to come, and I knew it would when I went into politics, but I managed for this long, and it got to lookin' like it never would come and now I'm in a cheap motel room about to be told the price of whatever honor I've got left.

God help us, she's got all the cards. If anybody can shut MacKenzie up—

The room still smelled of cheap gin, and the senator tasted bile at the back of his throat. "OK, Laurie Jo, what do I have to do?"


Aeneas MacKenzie switched off the newscast and stared vacantly at the blank screen. There had been nothing about President Greg Tolland, and it disturbed him.

His office was a small cubicle of the main corridor. It was large enough for a desk as well as the viewscreen and console that not only gave him instant access to every file and data bank on Heimdall Station, but also a link with the master Hansen data banks on Earth below. He disliked microfilm and readout screens and would greatly have preferred to work with printed reports and documents, but that wasn't possible. Every kilogram of mass was important when it had to go into orbit.

There was never enough mass at Heimdall. Energy was no problem; through the viewport he could see solar cells plastered over every surface, and further away was the power station, a large mirror reflecting onto a boiler and turbine. Everything could be recycled except reaction mass: but whenever the scooters went out to collect supply pods boosted up from Earth that mass was lost forever. The recent survey team sent to the Moon had cost hideously, leaving the station short of fuel for its own operations.

He worked steadily on the production schedules, balancing the station's inadequate manpower reserves to fill the most critical orders without taking anyone off the Valkyrie project. It was an impossible task, and he felt a sense of pride in his partial success. It was a strange job for the former Solicitor General of the United States, but he believed his legal training helped; and he was able to get the crew to work harder than they had thought they could.

Get Valkyrie finished, Laurie Jo had said. It must be done as quickly as possible, no matter what it does to the production schedules. She'd said that, but she couldn't have meant it; Aeneas knew what would happen if Heimdall didn't continue sending down space-manufactured products. Heimdall was a valuable installation, now that there were no risks left in building it, and Laurie Jo's partners were ruthless; if she defaulted on deliveries, they'd take it away from her.

Eventually the assignments were done. By taking a construction shift himself (he estimated his value at 65% as productive as a trained rigger, double what it had been when he first tried the work) he could put another man on completing the new biological production compartment. The schedule would work, but there was no slack in it.

When he was done, he left the small compartment and strode through the corridor outside. He was careful to close and dog the airtight entryway into his office, as he was careful about everything he did. As he walked, his eyes automatically scanned the shining metallic cloth of Heimdall's inner walls, but he was no more aware of that than he was of the low spin gravity and Coriolis effect.

The corridor curved upwards in front of and behind him. When he reached the doorway to the Chief Engineer's office, it stood open in defiance of regulations. Aeneas nodded wryly and ignored it. Kittridge Penrose made the regulations in the first place, and Aeneas only enforced them. Presumably Penrose knew what he was doing. If he doesn't, Aeneas thought, we're all in trouble.

Penrose was in the office, as Aeneas knew he would be; one of his prerogatives was to know where everyone was. The engineer was at his desk. A complex diagram filled the screen to his left, and Penrose was carefully drawing lines with a light pen. He looked up as Aeneas came into the office. "What's up, boss?"

"I don't know." Aeneas peered at the screen. Penrose noticed the puzzled look and touched buttons on the console below the picture. The diagram changed, not blinking out to be replaced, but rearranging itself until it showed an isometric view which Aeneas recognized instantly.

"Right on schedule," Penrose said. "Just playing about with some possible improvements. There she is, Valkyrie, all ready to go."

"Except for the engines."

Penrose shrugged. "You can't have everything. Nothing new from Miss Hansen about getting that little item taken care of?"

"Not yet."

"Heh. She'll manage it." Penrose went back to his game with the light pen. "I used to think my part of this was the real work," the engineer said. He sketched in another line. "But it isn't. I just design the stuff. It's you people who get it built."

"Thanks." And it's true enough: Laurie Jo put together the syndicate to finance this whole station.

"Sure. Meant that, you know," Penrose said. "You've done about as well as Captain Shorey. Didn't think you'd be much as commander here, but I was wrong." Now that, Aeneas thought, is high praise indeed. And I suppose it's even true. I do fill a needed function here. Something I didn't do when I was down there with Laurie Jo. Down there I was a Prince Consort, and nothing else.

True enough I came here because I was the only one she could trust to take control, but I've been more than just her agent.

"Sit down, boss," Penrose said. "Have a drink. You look like you're in need of one."

"Thanks, I'll pass the drink." He took the other chair and watched as Penrose worked. I could never do that, he thought, but there aren't a lot of jobs up here that I can't do now . . . .

The newscast haunted him. Laurie Jo had the whole story, all the evidence needed to bring Greg Tolland down. We can prove the President of the United States is a criminal. Why hasn't she done it? Why?

I don't even dare call and ask her. We can't know someone isn't listening in. We can't trust codes, we can't even trust our own computer banks, and how have things come to this for the United States?

"Got a couple of new reports from the Lunatics," Penrose said. "Had a chance to go over them?"

"No. That's what I came to talk to you about." The console would have given him instant communications with Penrose or anyone else aboard Heimdall, but Aeneas always preferred to go to his people rather than speak to them as an impersonal voice.

"Pretty good strike," Penrose said. "Another deposit of hydrides and quite a lot of mica. No question about it, we've got everything we need."

Aeneas nodded. It was curious: hydrogen is by orders of magnitude the most common element in the universe, but it had been hard to find on the Moon. There were oxides, and given the plentiful energy available in space that meant plenty of oxygen to breathe, but hydrogen was rare.

Now the Lunar Survey Team sent up from Heimdall had found hydrogen locked into various minerals. It was available, and the colony was possible—if they could get there. The survey team's fuel requirements had eaten up a lot of the mass boosted up to Heimdall, and without more efficient Earth orbit to lunar orbit transport it would take a long time to make a colony self-sustaining.

"We've either got to bring the survey party home or send another supply capsule," Penrose was saying. "Which is it?"

"Like to hold off that decision as long as we can." And please don't ask why. I don't know why. Just that Laurie Jo says do it this way.

Penrose frowned. "If you'll authorize some monkey motion, we can do the preliminaries for going either way. That'll hold off the decision another couple of weeks. No more than that, though."

"All right. Do it that way."

"What's eating you, Aeneas?"

"Nothing. I've been up here too long."

"Sure." Kit Penrose didn't say that he'd been aboard Heimdall nearly two years longer than MacKenzie's eighteen months, but he didn't have to.

Of course, Penrose thought, I've had my girl here with me; and MacKenzie's seen his precisely twice since he's been here, a couple of weekends and back she went to look after the money. Wonder what it's like to sleep with the big boss? What a silly thing to wonder about.

The diagram faded and another view came on the screen. "There she is," Penrose said. "Lovely, isn't she?"

Valkyrie may have been lovely to an engineer, but she was hardly a work of art. There was no symmetry to the ship. Since she would never land, she had neither top nor bottom, only fore and aft. "All we need is the NERVA, and we're all set," Penrose said. "No reason why the whole Moon colony staff can't go out a week after we have the engines."


"Christ, how can you be so cold about it? Moon base. Plenty of mass. Metals to work with. Who knows, maybe even radioactives. We can cut loose from those bastards down there!" He waved at the viewport where Earth filled the sky before the station slowly turned again to show the sequined black velvet of space. "And we've very nearly done it."

"Very nearly." But we haven't done it, and I don't see how we can.

"What we need are those military aerospace-planes," Penrose said. His voice became more serious. "I expect they'll be coming round for visits whether we invite them or not, you know."

"Yes. Well, we got on with their chaps all right—"

"Sure," Penrose said. "Sure. Visiting astronauts and all that lot. Proud to show them around. Even so, I can't say I'm happy they can get up here whenever they like . . . ."

"Nor I." Aeneas opened a hinged panel beside the desk and took out a coffee cup. He filled it from a spigot near Penrose's hand. "Cannonshot," he said.

"I beg your pardon?"

"In the old days, national law reached out to sea as far as cannonballs could be fired from shore. Three miles, more or less. It became the legal boundary of a nation's sovereignty. There used to be a lot of talk about international law in space, and the rest of it, but it will probably be settled by something like cannonshot again. When the national governments can get up here easily, they'll assert control."

"Like to be gone when that happens," Penrose said. "Can't say I want more regulations and red tape and committees. Had enough of that lot."

"So have we all." Aeneas drank the coffee. "So have we all."

Penrose laughed. "That's a strange thing to say, considering that you were one of the prime movers of the People's Alliance."

"Maybe I've learned something from the experience." Aeneas stared moodily into his coffee cup. I wasn't wrong, he thought. But I wasn't right either. There's got to be more than comfort and security, and we didn't think of that, because the Cause was all the adventure we needed.

I wonder how long it will take them to make space tame? Forms to fill out, regulations always enforced, not because of safety but because they're regulations . . .

Penrose looked at the digital readouts above his drafting console: Greenwich time, and Mountain Daylight time. "Big shipment coming up next pass over Baja. I'd best be getting ready for it."

"Yes." Aeneas listened without paying much attention as Penrose told him what the big lasers in southern Baja would send up this time. It didn't really concern him yet, and when he needed to know more, the information would be available through his desk console.

As the engineer talked, Aeneas remembered what it had been like to watch the launches: the field covered with lasers, their mirrors all focusing onto the one large mirror beneath the tramway. The squat shapes of the capsules on the tramway, each waiting to be brought over the launching mirror and thrust upward by the stabbing light, looking as if they were lifted by a fantastically swift-growing tree rising out of the desert; the thrumming note of the pulsed beam singing in hot desert air.

It had been the most magnificent sight he had ever seen, and Laurie Jo had built it all. Now she was ready to move onward, but her partners were not. They were content to own Heimdall and sell its products, raking in billions from the miracles that could be wrought in space.

Biologicals of every conceivable kind. Crystals of an ultimate purity grown in mass production and infected with precisely the right contaminants, all grown in mass production.

Heimdall had revolutionized more than one industry. Already there were hand calculators with thousands of words of memory space, all made from the chips grown in orbit. Deserts bloomed as the production crews sent down membranes that would pass fresh water and keep salt back; they too could be made cheaply only in zero gravity conditions.

Why take high risks on a Moon base when there was so much more potential to exploit in orbital production? The investors could prove that more money was to be made through expanding Heimdall than through sending Valkyrie exploring. They remembered that they would never have invested in space production at all if Laurie Jo hadn't bullied them into it, and that had been enough to give her some freedom of action; but they could not see profits in the Moon for many years to come.

And they're right, Aeneas thought. Laurie Jo doesn't plan for the next phase to make profits, not for a long time.

She wants the stars for herself. And what do I want? Lord God, I miss her. But I'm needed here. I have work to do, and I'd better get at it.


The airline reception lounge was no longer crowded. A few minutes before, it had been filled with Secret Service men and Hansen Security agents. Now there was only one of each in the room with Laurie Jo. They stayed at opposite ends of the big room, and they eyed each other like hostile dogs.

"Relax, Miguel," Laurie Jo said. "Between us there are enough security people to protect an army. The President will be safe enough—"

"Si, Doña Laura." The elderly man's eyes never left the long-haired younger man at the other end of the room. "I am willing to believe he is safe enough."

"For heaven's sake, I'm meeting the President of the United States!"

"Si, Doña Laura. Don Aeneas has told me of this man who has become President here. I do not care for this."

"Jesus." The Secret Service man curled his lip in contempt. "How did you do it?" he demanded.

"How did I do what, Mr. Coleman?" she asked.

"Turn MacKenzie against the President! Fifteen years he was with the Chief. Fifteen years with the People's Alliance. Now you've got him telling tales about the Chief to your peasant friend there—"

"Miguel is not a peasant."

"Ah, Doña Laura, but I am. Go on, Señor. Tell us of this strange thing you do not understand." There was amusement in the old vaquero's eyes.

"Skip it. It just doesn't make sense, that's all."

"Perhaps my patrona bribed Don Aeneas," Miguel said.

"That will do," Laurie Jo said. Miguel nodded and was silent.

"Bullshit," Coleman said. "Nobody ever got to MacKenzie. Nobody has his price. Not in money, anyway." He looked at Laurie Jo in disbelief. He didn't think her unattractive, but he couldn't believe she was enough woman to drive a man insane.

"You're rather young to know Aeneas that well," Laurie Jo said.

"I joined the People's Alliance before the campaign." There was pride in the agent's voice. "Stood guard watches over the Chief. Helped in the office. MacKenzie was with us every day. He's not hard to know, not like some party types."



"SUFFICIENT." Laurie Jo nodded to herself. Coleman hadn't been like the career Secret Service men. There were a lot of young people like Coleman in the undercover services lately, party loyalists who had known Greg before the election.

Personally loyal bodyguards have been the mark of tyrants for three thousand years, she thought. But some of the really great leaders have had them as well. Can any President do without them? Can I?

Not here. But I won't need guards on the Moon. I won't—






Another damned problem, she thought. Harlow was a good man, but he thought in pretty drastic terms. What will that do to our other holdings in Bolivia? One thing, it will hurt my partner worse than it will hurt me. I'll have to think about this. Later, now I've got something more important.

The door opened to admit another Secret Service man. "Chiefs on the way," he said.



It was almost comical. The Secret Service men wouldn't leave until Miguel had gone, and Miguel wouldn't leave his patrona alone with the Secret Service men. Finally they all backed out together, and Laurie Jo was alone for a moment. Then President Greg Tolland came in.

He's still President, she thought. No matter that I've known him twenty years and fought him for half that time. There's an aura that goes with the office, and Greg wears it well. "Good afternoon, Mr. President."

"Senator Hayden says I should talk to you," Tolland said.

"Aren't you even going to say hello?" She thought he looked very old; yet she knew he was only a few years older than herself, one of the youngest men ever to be elected to the office.

"What should I say, Laurie Jo? That I wish you well? I do, but you wouldn't believe that. That I'd like to be friends? Would you believe me if I said that? I do wish we could be friends, but I hate everything you stand for."

"Well said, sir!" She applauded. "But there's no audience here." And you only hate that the fortune I inherited wasn't used to help your political ambitions, not that I have it. You always were more comfortable with wealthy people than Aeneas was.

He grinned wryly. It was a famous grin, and Laurie Jo could remember when Congressman Tolland had practiced it with Aeneas and herself as his only audience. It seemed so very long ago, back in the days when her life was simple and she hadn't known who her father was, or that one day she would inherit his wealth.

"Mind if I sit down?"

She shrugged. "Why ask? But please do."

He took one of the expensively covered lounge chairs and waited until she'd done the same. "I ask because this is your place."

True enough. I own the airline. But it's hardly my home and this is hardly a social visit. "Can I get you anything? Your agents have sampled everything at the bar—"

"I'll have a bourbon, then. They shouldn't have done that. Here, I'll get—"

"It's all right. I know where everything is." She poured drinks for both of them. "Your young men don't trust me. One of them even accused me of seducing Aeneas away from you."

"Didn't you."

She handed him the drink. "Oh good God, Greg. You don't have to be careful what you say to me. Nothing I could tape could make things worse than I can make them right now. And I give you my word, nobody's listening."

His eyes narrowed. For a moment he resembled a trapped animal.

"Believe that, Greg. There's no way out," she said. "With what I already had and what Aeneas knows—"

"I'll never know how I put up with that fanatic S.O.B. for so long."

"That's beneath you, Greg. You wouldn't be President if Aeneas hadn't helped you."

"Not true."

It is true, but why go on? And yet—"Why have you turned so hard against him? Because he wouldn't sell out and you did?"

"Maybe I had no choice, Laurie Jo. Maybe I'd got so far out on so many limbs that I couldn't retreat, and when I came crashing down the Alliance would come down with me. Maybe I thought it was better that we win however we had to than go on leading a noble lost cause. This isn't what we came here to talk about. Senator Hayden says you've got a proposition for me."

"Yes." And how Barry Hayden hates all of this. Another victim of patriotism. Another? Am I including Greg Tolland in that category? And what difference does it make? "It's simple enough, Greg. I can see that you'll be allowed to finish your term without any problems from me. Or from Aeneas. I can have the Hansen papers and network stop their campaigns against you. I won't switch to your support."

"Wouldn't want it. That would look too fishy. What's your price for all this?"

"You weren't always this direct."

"What the hell do you want, Laurie Jo? You've got the President of the United States asking your favor. You want me to crawl too?"

"No. All right, the first price is your total retirement from politics when your term is over. You don't make that promise to me. You'll give it to Barry Hayden."

"Maybe. I'll think about it. What do you want for yourself?"

"I want a big payload delivered to Heimdall."

"What the hell?"

"You've got those big military aerospace planes. I want something carried to orbit."

"I'll think about it."

"You'll do it."

"I don't know." He stared into his glass. "If it means this much to you, it's important. I'd guess it's tied in with that lunar survey party, right? Your Moon colony plans?"

She didn't answer.

"That's got to be it." He drained the cocktail and began laughing. "You can't throw me out because you'd never get anyone else to agree to this! It's pretty funny, Laurie Jo. You and Mr. Clean. You need me! More than just this once, too, I expect—What is it you want delivered?"

"Just a big payload."

Tolland laughed again. "I can find out, you know. I've still got a few people inside your operation."

"I suppose you do. All right, I've got a working NERVA engine for Valkyrie. It's too big for the laser launching system. We could send it up in pieces, but it would take a long time to get it assembled and checked out." And I don't have a long time. I'm running out of time . . . .

"So you want me to hand over the Moon to a private company. That's what it amounts to, isn't it? The People's Alliance was formed to break up irresponsible power like yours, and you want me to hand you the Moon."

"That's my price, Greg. You won't like the alternative."

"Yeah. It's still pretty funny. A couple more years and you won't have a goddam monopoly on manned space stations. So you want me to help you get away."

"Something like that. We see things differently."

"You know you're doomed, don't you? Laurie Jo, it's over. You sit there in your big office and decide things for the whole world. Who asked you to? It's time the people had a say over their lives. You think I'm ambitious. Maybe. But for all of it, everything I've done has been in the right direction. At least I'm not building up a personal empire that's as anachronistic as a dinosaur!"

"Spare me the political speeches, Greg." God, he means it. Or he thinks he does. He can justify anything he does because he's the agent for the people, but what does it mean in the real world? Just how much comfort is it to know it's all for the good of the people when you're caught in the machinery? "I won't argue with you. I've got something you need, and I'm willing to sell."

"And you get the Moon as a private fief."

"If you want to think of it that way, go ahead. But if you want to be President three months from now, you'll do as I ask."

"And why should I think you'll keep your bargain?"

"When have I ever broken my promises?" Laurie Jo asked.

"Don't know. Tell you what, get MacKenzie to promise. That way I'll be sure you mean it."

"I'll do better than that. Aeneas and I are both going to the Moon. We can hardly interfere with you from there."

"You are crazy, aren't you?" Tolland's face showed wonder but not doubt. "You know you're going to lose a lot. You can't manage your empire from the Moon."

"I know." And how long could I hold out to begin with? And for what? "Greg, you just don't understand that power's no use, money's no use, unless it's for something that counts."

"And getting to the Moon is that big?" He shook his head in disbelief. "You're crazy."

"So are a lot of us, then. I've got ten volunteers for every opening. Pretty good people, too—as you should know."

"Yeah. I know." Tolland got up and wandered around the big room until he came to the bar. He filled his glass with ice cubes and water, then added a tiny splash of whiskey. "You've got some of my best people away from me. You can pay them more—"

"I can, but I don't have to. You still don't understand, do you? It's not my money, and it's not my control over the Moon colony that counts. What's important is this will be one place that you don't control."

"Hah. I hadn't thought I was that unpopular with the engineers."

"I don't mean you personally," Laurie Jo said. "Your image control people have done well. But, Greg, can't you understand that some of us want out of your system?"

"Aeneas too?"

"Yes." More than any of us, because he knows better than any of us what it's going to be like—

"I should have known he'd go to you after I threw him out."

"There wasn't anywhere else he could go. Mr. President, this isn't getting us anywhere. You'll never understand us, so why try? Just send up that payload and you'll be rid of us. You may even be lucky. We'll lose people in the lunar colony. Maybe we'll all be killed."

"And you're willing to chance that—"

"I told you, you won't understand us. Don't try. Just send up my payload."

"I'll think about it," Tolland said. "But your other conditions are off. No promises. No political deals." The President stood and went to the door. He turned defiantly. "You get the Moon. That ought to be enough."


He felt dizzy and it was hard to breathe in the high gravity of Earth. When he poured a drink, he almost spilled it, because he was unconsciously allowing for the displacement usual in Heimdall's centrifugal gravity. Now he sat weakly in the large chair.

The Atlantic Ocean lay outside his window, and he watched the moving lights of ships. The room lights came on suddenly, startling him.

"What—Miguel!" Laurie Jo shouted. Then she laughed foolishly. "No esta nada. Deseo solamente estar, por favor." She came into the room as Miguel closed the door behind her. "Hello, Aeneas. I might have known. No one else could get in here without someone telling me—"

He stood with an effort. "Didn't mean to startle you." He stood uncomfortably, wishing for her, cursing himself for not telling her he was coming. But I wanted to shock you, he thought.

"You didn't really. I think Greg has called off his dogs. I'm safe enough. But—you're not!"

"I'll take my chances."

"Why are we standing here like this?" she asked. She moved toward him. He stood rigidly for a moment, but then stepped across the tiny space that separated them, and they were together again.

For how long? he thought. How long do we have this time? But then it didn't matter any more.


"Laurie Jo—"

"Not yet." She poured coffee for both of them and yawned. Her outstretched arms waved toward the blue waters far below their terrace. "Let's have a few minutes more."

They sat in silence. She tried to watch the Atlantic, but the silence stretched on. "All right, darling. What is it?"

"There's been nothing on the newscasts about Greg. And then I got a signal. Prepare Valkyrie at once. The engines will be up, intact."

"And you wondered if there was a connection?" she asked.

"I knew there was a connection." There was no emotion in his voice, and that frightened her.

"I've bought us the stars, Aeneas. The engines will go up in a week. Tested, ready for installation. And you've done the rest, you and Kit. We can go to the Moon, with all the equipment for the colony—"

"Yes. And Greg Tolland stays on."

She wanted to shout. What is that to you? she wanted to say. But she couldn't. "It was his price. The only one he'd take."

"It's too high."

She drew the thin silk robe around herself. Despite the bright sun she felt suddenly cold. "I've already agreed. I've given Greg my word."

"But I haven't. And you didn't tell me you were doing this."

"How could I? You wouldn't have agreed!"


"I can't lie to you, Aeneas." And now what do I lose? You? Everything I've worked for? Both? "The deal hasn't been made. Greg wants your word too."

"And if I don't give it?"

"Then he won't send up the engines. You're close enough to know what happens then. I'm at the edge of losing control of Heimdall to my partners. This is my only chance."

But it didn't have to be, he thought. You're in trouble because you insisted on speeding up the schedule, no matter what that cost, and it cost a lot. Technicians pulled off production work for Valkyrie. The Lunatic expedition. "You've put me in a hell of a fix, Laurie Jo."

"Damn you! Aeneas MacKenzie, damn you anyway!" He tried to speak, but the rush of words stopped him as she shouted in anger. "Who appointed you guardian of the people? You and your damned honor! You're ready to throw away everything, and for what? For revenge on Greg Tolland!"

"But that's not true! I don't want revenge."

"Then what do you want, Aeneas?"

"I wanted out, Laurie Jo. It was you who insisted that I direct your agents in the investigation. I was finished with all that. I was willing to leave well enough alone, until we found—" Until it was clear that Greg Tolland had known everything. Until it was clear that he wasn't an honest man betrayed, that he was corrupt to the core, and had been for years. Until I couldn't help knowing that I'd spent most of my life electing—"You intended this all along, didn't you?" His voice was gentle and very sad.

Her anger was gone. It was impossible to keep it when he failed to respond. "Yes," she said. "It was the only way."

"The only way—"

"For us." She wouldn't meet his eyes. "What was I supposed to do, Aeneas? What kind of life do we have here? It takes every minute I have to keep Hansen Enterprises. Greg Tolland has already tried to have you killed. You were safe enough in Heimdall, but what good was that? With you there and me here? And I couldn't keep the station if I lived there." And we've got so little time. We lost so many years, and there are so few left.

They were silent for a moment. Gulls cried in the wind, and overhead a jet thundered.

"And now I've done it," she said. "We can go to the Moon. I can arrange more supplies. Valkyrie doesn't cost so much to operate, and we'll have nearly everything we need to build the colony anyway. We can do it, Aeneas. We can found the first lunar colony, and be free of all this."

"But only if I agree—"


"Laurie Jo, would you give up the Moon venture for me?"

"Don't ask me to. Would you give up your vendetta against Greg for the Moon?"

He stood and came around the table. She seemed helpless and vulnerable, and he put his hands on her shoulders. She looked up in surprise: his face was quite calm now.

"No," he said. "But I'll do as you ask. Not for the Moon, Laurie Jo. For you."

She stood and embraced him, but as they clung to each other she couldn't help thinking, thank God, he's not incorruptible after all. He's not more than human.

She felt almost sad.


Two delta shapes, one above the other; below both was the enormous bulk of the expendable fuel tank which powered the ramjet of the atmospheric booster. The big ships sat atop a thick, solid rocket that would boost them to ram speed.

All that, Laurie Jo thought. All that, merely to get into orbit. And before the spaceplanes and shuttles, there were the disintegrating totem poles. No wonder space was an unattractive gamble until I built my lasers.

The lasers had not been a gamble for her. A great part of the investment was in the power plants, and they made huge profits. The price she paid for Heimdall and Valkyrie hadn't been in money.

There were other costs, though, she thought. Officials bribed to expedite construction permits. Endless meetings to hold together a syndicate of international bankers. Deals with people who needed their money laundered. It would have been so easy to be part of the idle rich. Instead of parties I went to meetings, and I've yet to live with a man I love except for those few weeks we had.

And now I'm almost forty years old, and I have no children. But we will have! The doctors tell me I have a few years left, and we'll make the most of them.

They were taken up the elevator into the upper ship. It was huge, a squat triangle that could carry forty thousand kilos in one payload, and do it without the 30-g stresses of the laser system. They entered by the crew access door, but she could see her technicians making a final examination of the nuclear engine in the cargo compartment.

She was placed in the acceleration couch by an Air Force officer. Aeneas was across a narrow passageway, and there were no other passengers. The young A.F. captain had a worried frown, as if he couldn't understand why this mission had suddenly been ordered, and why two strange civilians were going with a cargo for Heimdall.

You wouldn't want to know, my young friend, Laurie Jo thought. You wouldn't want to know at all.

Motors whined as the big clamshell doors of the cargo compartment were closed down. The A.F. officer went forward into the crew compartment. Lights flashed on the instrument board mounted in the forward part of the passenger bay, but Laurie Jo didn't understand what they meant.




I'll just bet he is, Laurie Jo thought. She glanced across the aisle at Aeneas. He was watching the display.




There was a long pause. Something rumbled in the ship, then there were clanking noises as the gantries were drawn away.




"Hear this. Liftoff in thirty seconds. Twenty-nine. Twenty-eight. Twenty seven . . ."

The count reached zero, and there was nothing for an eternity. Then the ship lifted, pushing her into the couch. After a few moments there was nothing, another agonizing moment before the ramjets caught. Even inside the compartment they could hear the roaring thunder before that, too, began to fade. The ship lifted, leveled, and banked to go on course for the trajectory that would take it into an orbit matching Heimdall s.


There was silence.

Out of range, she thought. She smiled and turned to Aeneas. "We did it," she said.


"You don't sound very excited."

He turned and smiled, and his hand reached out for hers, but they were too far apart. The ship angled steeply upward, and the roar of the ramjets grew louder again, then there was more weight as the rockets cut in. Seconds later the orbital vehicle separated from the carrier.

Laurie Jo looked through the thick viewport. The islands below were laid out like a map, their outlines obscured by cotton clouds far below them. The carrier ship banked off steeply and began its descent as the orbiter continued to climb.

Done, she thought. But she looked again at Aeneas, and he was staring back toward the United States and the world they had left behind.

"They don't need us, Aeneas," she said carefully.

"No. They don't need me at all."

She smiled softly. "But I need you. I always will."



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