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The laboratory was almost as the President had imagined it: banks of blinking lights, large and small machines humming happily to themselves, each in a slightly different tone, as if they were some great chorus singing for him. He frowned slightly---not enough to cause his face to wrinkle, of course---for now he noticed that something was missing. "Where's the, uh, thingie that makes the sparks?"

The scientist seemed not to understand English. Probably foreign from the looks of him. The President tried again, more loudly this time. "The sparker," he said. His hands described the arc. "Ziiiip!" he said. "Zaaaaap!"

"Do you mean a Jacob's ladder?" The scientist gave his assistant the ghost of a smile. "We don't need one of those, Mr. President. We're not bringing anyone back to life."

"Oh. Right. Let's see it then." He was anxious to get on with this. The eggheads at the CIA had promised him...well, never mind what they'd promised him. If he didn't get his money's worth, he'd see to their budget for the next four years!

"If you'll step this way, sir." He made a gracious gesture, and the lab assistant opened the glass door of the booth.

The President hesitated. The booth reminded him of something---that scene from _The Fly._ As if he were a mind-reader, the scientist said, "Don't worry. We had the exterminator in this morning." The lab assistant laughed. Mistake, thought the President. Bad move to laugh at the boss's jokes when they aren't jokes. See if you get re-appointed after _that._

The scientist patted the side of the booth. "Here she is---our TATSbe. That's what we've taken to calling her: sort of an acronym for 'Things As They Should Be.' It offers us the chance to change our world for the better. Now the principle behind the machine you see here---"

The lab assistant shook his head. This time the President agreed; with a wave of his hand he cut the scientist short. "Just tell me what to do," he said. "I'm a busy man, and the sooner we get this done the better."

"Just step into the booth, close the door completely, and press the button on this."

The little box he was handed looked much like the remote control for his tv set. He grinned boyishly. "You mean this switches from one channel to another, until I get one I like."

"That's about the size of it. Though we have discovered that the worlds tend toward optimum---that's why we named it 'Things As They _Should_ Be.'"

"Tend toward optimum?"

"They get better and better," said the lab assistant. "Each time you press the button. So if you don't like the one you get first, try, try again. It will only get _better."_

"Too bad I can't use this on my tv." That would sure fix all those snotty reporters who were always on his case. Well, if he understood this TATSbe thing, it _would_ fix all those snotty reporters.

He gripped the remote control firmly in his hand and stepped into the booth. Things as they _should_ be---he could hardly wait.

He pressed the button....


Harry looked totally exasperated. "Dan, pay attention now. All you have to do is stick the keys _in_ the lock, open the door, come _through_ the door facing the camera and look surprised. So---could we get it right this time?"

"Sure," he said. A movie star, he thought gleefully. I'm a movie star and that's Barbra Streisand I'm being in a movie with. I can do this! This is great!

"Places, people! And roll...." "Speed." _Snap!_ "Scene 24a; take sixteen...." "Dan, do it!"

Walk to the door. Insert the keys in the lock. His hands were sweaty with excitement; the keys were slippery little buggers. Ooops. Jangling, the keys dropped to the ground. "Oh, shit," he said.

"Cut!" yelled the director. He put his head in his hands and said, to no-one, "Why me?"

Streisand said, "Danny, Danny.... Your poor mother, rest her soul, how did she raise such a klutz? Oy!"

"All right," said the director, getting a grip on himself. "Let's do it one more time."

Streisand said something he didn't catch and the director laughed. It wasn't a nice laugh.

The hell with you, thought the President. This is too much like work, and all this make-up makes me feel like a pansy. Besides, I'm not getting any more respect than I was before. Things as they should be---let's just see about that. He reached into his pocket and pushed the button....


He felt a sense of motion, a rolling motion that made him feel a little nauseous until he realized he was on a boat. Not a yacht, he found, as he looked around. Why wasn't it a yacht? He turned for a better look and almost fell over his flippers. Ah! He was scuba diving....

The Frenchie said, "Are you ready, Dan?"

The President nodded, smiling for the video camera, and gave a thumbs up. Scuba diving with Jacques Cousteau---now _that_ was something, all right. Famous diver, on tv all the time---and none of that make-up shit.

I get to swim with dolphins. Oh, boy! I always wanted to do that...never could get near them, except in the Oceanarium, and how much fun was that?

"Okay, Dan, into the cage."

Cage? He followed their lead. He climbed into the cage. The next thing he knew he was being lowered into the icy water, cage and all. When at last he got his bearings, he swung the light around. Wonderful! He was surrounded by dolphins.

The dolphins circled closer. Odd, he thought. I thought dolphins were--- Then he noticed the dorsal fins. And the teeth. And the _jaws._

Something slammed into the cage behind him. Because he was unprepared, the slight motion rocked him against the bars. Enormous teeth aimed right for his faceplate. He paddled frantically back to the center of the cage as the shark began to gnash its teeth against the bars.

Sharks! Holy shit, sharks!

Blind with panic, he finally found the remote control. Things as they _should_ be, he said, stabbing once, twice, three times at the button.


He was before tv cameras again, sweating under the lights. Ah, a televised debate---_that_ he could do in his sleep....

It was a presidential debate, too. He leaned back, feeling very much in his element, and turned to his opponent.

His jaw fell. "Marilyn?" he said. "Marilyn? Don't you know me?"

His wife said, "Yes, I do. I knew Jack Kennedy, too. I served with Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. And, J. Danforth Quayle---_you're no Jack Kennedy."_


"Lieutenant, we've got a sniper out there!"

He was sweating still---this time from the heat and the humidity of the jungle. The whole place stank like fireworks and chemicals. What didn't stink of fireworks and chemicals stank of _green._

Thank god for that phone call that had gotten him his commission. That meant he could kill gooks the right way, not the namby-pamby way Nixon was going about it.

"All right, men! Get that sniper! Charge!"

For once, they actually obeyed him. He followed after, keeping low, his back aching with the amount of equipment he carried. The weight of his gun was appalling. The heat was worse....

The men seemed to veer off as they reached the rotting tree that lay across the path. Fuck it. He'd take the short cut over it. He'd take that sniper out himself....

There was an ear-splitting sound and the world went tumbling. He knew he was screaming in pain but he couldn't hear himself over the ringing in his ears.

Two of the men came and stood over him. One of them knelt. "Looks like the lieutenant's a goner," he said, as if it didn't much matter.

"Looks like," said the other.

"Think next time we'll get a looey that cares whether we live or die?"

The second shrugged. "Don't matter. I got another VC trip mine stashed away, just in case." He gave a toothy grin that reminded the President of the sharks.


A clear crisp fall day.... He was part of a long line stretched out across the field. He breathed a sigh of relief. Hunting, that was something familiar to him, something pleasant.

"Okay, fellows. The President's ready---"

The President straightened. That was more like it. But he _wasn't_ ready. All he had was a damn stick....what kind of hunt was this?

"---Let's see he gets his money's worth." The rest of the line started to thrash its way through the field.

The President felt a stiff jab to the shoulder.

"Danny, fer chrysake, quit daydreaming. Beat the godfersaken bushes, will ya? That's what you're getting paid for!"

A shove sent the President stumbling forward. A covey of birds shot from the bushes and into the air. Shots rang out....

The President felt a searing pain in his right arm. Blood! More blood! He screamed again.

"Fer chrysake, Danny, it's only a flesh wound." The guy in the Coors cap clamped a hand on his arm to stop the bleeding. The President sat abruptly.

George and a bunch of secret service men rushed to the President's side. The man in the cap said, "Don't worry, Mr. President. It's only a flesh wound. Coulda happened to anybody." He was talking to George---_George was president!_ Unbelievable.

"Sorry, son," George said to him. "Hope you don't take it personally. It's not my, uh, thing to go around shooting people---only meant to bag a few quail."

The man in the Coors cap laughed himself red in the face.

"Something funny, mister?" one of the secret service men said in a surly tone of voice.

"Sure is. You got yourself a quail, Mr. President. This here's Danny Quayle in person---and you sure brought him down!"

Even George got the joke, this time. He gave that irritating half-hearted laugh of his and the secret service men all laughed with him dutifully.

The President reached left-handed for the remote control. "Take that, George," he said, as he pushed the button.


The lander came to rest amid the rocks and red dust with a gentle thump. The President glanced at the monitor and remembered to notify NASA. For some reason, it would be a long time before they acknowledged---but the sooner he talked the sooner they would.

Still---Mars! He was on Mars!

The cameras showed him not far from one of the canals. Even better.

Exultant---he'd gotten the hang of the TATSbe at last---he eyed the monitor. He'd been in charge of the Space Program for a long time: this was the pay-off.

Presidents might be forgotten---he knew he couldn't remember but a handful---but the first man to set foot on Mars.... Now, _that_ was making history!

For once, he'd get the respect he deserved.

And he was damned if he'd wait for those jerks at NASA to tell him which foot to move when. Laying aside the remote control, he opened the hatch and stuck his head out to take a good deep breath of the Martian air....


Back on Earth, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Barbara Jordan had just finished swearing in the new President of the United States, Pat Schroeder. The TATSbe had done its job and had winked out of existence.... Things were as they should be.

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