The day began, like all days in Port Lowell. Jimmy and Gibson had a quiet breakfast. Jimmy did not yet recover from happiness, although at times he fell into despondency at the thought of separation. And Gibson was thinking about whether the Earth had responded to his request.
He noticed that something was wrong, only in control. Mrs. Smith, Hadfield's secretary, met him. Usually she would let him go right away, sometimes explaining that Hadfield was terribly busy (for example, talking to Earth), and asked if he would come back later. This time she said:
- Excuse me, Mr. Hadfield is not and will not be until tomorrow.
- Till tomorrow? Gibson asked. - Left for Schiaparelli?
- No. I can not tell you. He will be in a day.
- So! Gibson exclaimed angrily and went out.
To divert his soul, he decided to take on Whittaker, if he was in the city, of course. He ended up in the city and was not very happy with Gibson, who resolutely sat down in front of him with the most businesslike look.
“That's what, Whittaker,” Martin began. - I am a patient person and, it seems, do not bother with questions.
The mayor did not answer, and Gibson hastened to continue:
“Something strange is going on here.” I want to find out what the matter is.
Whittaker sighed. He expected that sooner or later this would happen. What a pity that Gibson did not wait until tomorrow! ..
“If you can't say,” Gibson went on, “admit at least why.” Is this the Dawn project?
Whittaker straightened up sharply.
- What did you say? - he asked.
- Never mind. I also know how to be stubborn.
“I wouldn't want to be stubborn at all,” Whittaker said plaintively. “Do not think that we love secrecy,” she said, with so much trouble. Better tell what you know.
“I'll tell you if this will soften you.” The Zarya project is somehow connected with the laboratories where these ... Oxyfera. There is no reason to keep them secret. We have to assume that this is part of a larger project. I suspect that Phobos is involved, but I can’t understand how. You managed to keep everything a big secret. Those who know do not say anything. But you are not hiding so much from Mars as from Earth. Well, what do you say?
Whittaker, apparently, was not at all embarrassed:
“I must congratulate you on such ... er ... insight.” Maybe you will be interested to know that two weeks ago I advised the Chief to tell you everything. I did not convince him, and then events unfolded much faster than we thought. I can’t tell you what is happening right now. Want to listen to an entertaining story? Similarity to - hmm! - by famous people and places purely random.
“I see,” Gibson chuckled. - Go ahead!
- Suppose that in the first burst of interplanetary enthusiasm, planet A established a colony on planet B. After a few years, she finds out that it costs much more than they thought, and does not give tangible results in return. The conservatives of the first planet want to curtail business - write off losses and exit the game. Others, progressives, want to continue the experiment - they believe that ultimately a person must explore and subjugate the Universe, otherwise he will simply become numb in his world. But such arguments do not touch taxpayers, and conservatives begin to gain the upper hand.
Of course, all this is not very pleasant for the colonists, who are more and more independent and do not want to play the role of poor relatives awaiting mercy. However, they do not see a way out - until the day when an amazing scientific discovery is made. (I forgot to say that Planet B lured the best scientists of Planet A to itself, which did not help soften relations.) This discovery provides unlimited possibilities for Planet B, but its use is associated with some risk and will absorb most of the very limited resources. Nevertheless, the plan was sent to the authorities - and rejected. The squabble lasts a long time, but the mother planet is inflexible.
The colonists have two options. They can turn directly to the inhabitants of planet A. This is not very promising - they can shut their mouths. On the other hand, you can implement your plan without informing the Earth - I want to say Planet A. So they decide to do it.
Of course, there were many other factors, both political and personal.
It so happened that at the head of the colonists stood an unusually solid man who was not afraid of anyone and nothing on both planets. First-class scientists were at his disposal, and they supported him.
Thus, the plan began to develop; but no one yet knows if anything worthwhile will come of it. Forgive me for not being able to tell you the end - you yourself know, these tales break off at the most interesting place.
“You told me everything,” Gibson said. - Yes, everything, with a negligible exception. I don’t know what the Dawn project is. - He got up. “Tomorrow I will return to listen to the end of your sensational news.”
“There will be no need for that,” Whittaker answered and mechanically glanced at his watch. “You will find out long before that.”
On the street, Jimmy intercepted Martin.
“They think I'm working now,” he said barely, “but I had to catch you.” Something important is happening.
“I know,” Gibson almost waved off. “The Dawn project is about to take off, and Hadfield has left.
Jimmy was a little taken aback.
- I did not think you heard. Irene is very worried.
One of the small ceremonies, so kind to the heart of the telechronicles, began. Headfield, with all his retinue, stood in the corner of a clearing, and behind it rose the domes of the capital. The operator liked the mise-en-scene, although the ever-changing double lighting spoiled things a bit.
Whittaker handed the Main Shovel, on which he had been picturesquely leaning for about five minutes, and he began to wield it until the sand covered the roots of a tall brown plant. "Airborne" was not striking in beauty: even with such gravity, she could not stand directly without props and did not at all resemble the ruler of the fate of the whole planet.
Headfield completed his symbolic acts. Workers toiled aside, waiting for the bosses to leave and work could be completed.
Handshakes began, everyone fussed; Hadfield was hidden by the crowd. Only one of those present paid no attention to all this - Squick, Gibson's favorite, swayed on his hind legs like a tumbler doll.
The operator went to him - on Earth they had not yet seen a living Martian on television.
Wait a minute! What was he up to? Judging by the movement of large webbed ears, he became interested in something. So he moved forward in short, cautious leaps. The operator followed him, expanding the field of view of the camera. Nobody noticed anything - Gibson spoke with Whittaker and, it seems, completely forgot about his pet.
Oh, that's what! Very good! Viewers will like it. Succeed? Yes, I did!
With the last jump, Squick landed right in the hole and quickly began to eat around the triangular face of the Martian plant planted with such ceremonies. Apparently, he was very grateful to his friends who started so much trouble for him. Or maybe he knows that he is behaving badly? In any case, the operator was not going to frighten him - a very successful scene turned out to be - and turned for a moment to Headfield and the brethren, congratulating each other on the achievement that Squick hastily destroyed.
Such good things cannot last long. Gibson noticed the mess and yelled so that everyone jumped up. Then he rushed to Squick; he quickly looked around, realized that there was nowhere to hide, and sat down with a look of insulted innocence. He left without a fight, without aggravating his guilt with resistance. Gibson dragged him by the ear. Experts surrounded the plant and, to everyone's joy, found that the losses were not fatal.
This simple incident triggered one of Martin Gibson’s most brilliant and fruitful ideas.
Now his life has become very complex and amazingly interesting. He was one of the first to see Headfield after the advent of a new star. The chief sent for him, although he could only take a few minutes. However, Martin’s future has changed in these minutes.
“I'm sorry to keep you waiting,” said Hadfield. - I got an answer just before the flight. They allow you to stay if, as they say in business jargon, we manage to include you in our system.
Since this system was largely dependent on the Zarya project, I considered it best to postpone our conversation until we returned home.
“What kind of job did you find for me?” Gibson asked, not without excitement.
“I decided to legalize your informal position,” said Hadfield and smiled.
- What do you have in mind?
“It was very interesting for me to find out,” he continued, “what your articles and programs gave.” You probably did not think that we have a very accurate criterion.
- Which one? - surprised Gibson.
- You have no idea? Every week, about ten thousand people decide to go here, and about three percent pass the tests. Since your articles appear regularly, the number has reached fifteen thousand and is constantly growing.
“That's how it is ...” Gibson said very slowly; then grinned:
“I remember that you did not seem to want me to come here.”
“We are all mistaken, but at least I have benefited from my mistake,” Hadfield smiled. “In other words, I want you to have a small department here, to be honest, an advertising bureau.” Of course, we will come up with a more decent name. Your business is to trade Mars.
If a lot of people will ask us, the Earth will have to give a place in spaceships. And the sooner it is, the sooner we can promise her that we will stand on our own feet. Well, how? ..
* * *
Earth struck four days later. Gibson found out about him when he saw a hat on the front page of a local newspaper. These two words amazed him so much that he stared at them and did not immediately read on.
We have just been informed that the Interplanetary Research Department has ordered the Chief Executive Officer to return to Earth with Ares, who will soon leave Deimos. There is no explanation. ”
But no explanation was required. Everyone knew why Earth wanted to see Warren Hadfield.
* * *
Gibson was thinking about this news as he headed toward the bio lab. He did not visit his young friend for two days, and his conscience gnawed at him. Walking slowly along Regent Street, he tried to guess which method of defense Hadfield would choose. Now he understood the phrase overheard by Jimmy.
Are the winners really not judged? Victory is far ahead. Hadfield himself said that the Dawn project would be completed entirely in five years
“It’s a pity you don’t fly with us, Martin,” said Norden. “But you did the right thing, and we all respect you for that.”
“Thanks,” Gibson said sincerely. - I would be happy to fly with you ... Well, still have time! Perhaps you did not think that you would have to throw passengers one way.
- Did not think. This is not always nice. Now I feel like the captain who drove Napoleon to the Elbe. How does the Chief look at all this?
“I have not met him since.” Whittaker says - nothing, seemingly not gloomy.
- What will happen now, in your opinion?
- He will be accused of illegal use of funds, equipment, people - he will have enough to plant for life. But here half the colony and all the scientists are involved ... What can the Earth do?
A funny situation. Our Main is a national hero of two planets, and the department willfully have to reckon with it. I think the sentence will be like this: “It would be better for you not to do this, but since you have done it, we are happy.”
“And then they will send it back to Mars?”
- Have to. No one can replace him.
- Anyway, someone will replace. Someday…
“That's right ... But sheer madness to rush into Hadfield when he can work for many more years.” And I do not envy anyone who replaces him!
- Yes, indeed the situation! I think we don’t know much yet.
Why, for example. Earth rejected the project first?
“I thought about it myself.” Hope to get to the truth someday.
Now it seems to me like this: on Earth they do not want Mars to strengthen, become independent. No, not for any sinister reasons - it just degrades their dignity. They want the Earth to remain the navel of the universe.
“You know,” said Norden, “interestingly you are talking about the Earth right now.” It’s as if there were greedy people and bastards. This is not very fair! Do not forget - everything that is here, you owe to the mind and enterprise of the Earth. I'm afraid you colonists, ”he grinned,“ judge one-sidedly. ” I see both sides of the question. When I am here, I sympathize with you. And after three months I will be there, and maybe all of you will seem to me ungrateful whiners.
They went to the camera and began to wait for the flea to take Norden to the landing site. The remaining members of the team already said goodbye to everyone and were now on their way to Deimos. Only Jimmy, by special permission, flew there tomorrow with Hadfield and Irene.
Gibson was not very sure that in the return flight he would bring Norden much benefit.
* * *
He had to say goodbye to two more people, and it was the hardest thing to say goodbye to them. He knew that when meeting with Hadfield, one had to be especially delicate. It is no coincidence that Norden compared him to a defeated monarch sent to exile.
But it turned out that everything was completely wrong. When Gibson came in, Hadfield had just finished tearing apart the papers. The room was noticeably empty, and three paper baskets were full with the top. Whittaker, Acting Chief, reigned in his office tomorrow.
“I looked at your note on the Martians,” said Hadfield, rummaging through the drawers of the table. - The idea is very interesting, although no one can say whether it will be of use. In any case, we will organize a research group. I asked Dr. Petersen to take the scientific side, and I would like to entrust the organizational part to you.
Petersen is a very intelligent person, but he does not have enough imagination. You together are just what you need.
As they discussed organizational details, it became increasingly clear to Gibson that Hadfield was not thinking of leaving Mars for more than a year.
It seems that the flight to Earth seemed to him almost a long-awaited vacation; and Gibson really wished that such optimism would not fail. Towards the end of the conversation, they, of course, talked about Jimmy and Irene. And Hadfield noted that if they were able to not quarrel in three months of such close communication, their trouble was not in danger. If they fail, the sooner they find out, the better.
* * *
“We thank you so much for everything!” - said Jimmy. - Really, Irene?
“Yes,” she said. - Very! I do not know how we will manage without you.
Gibson smiled sadly.
“Somehow,” he said. - Already somehow yes manage. I am glad that everything turned out so well for you, and I am sure that you will be happy. And yet - I hope you do not fly away from Mars for too long.
He took farewell to Jimmy's hand, and again he was unbearably anxious to say. But he knew that it was impossible now. He let go of his hand and saw something in Jimmy's eyes that he had never seen before. Maybe the first glimpse of suspicion, a semi-conscious thought? If so, it will be easier for him to fulfill his duty when the time comes.
He watched the young people, holding hands, walking along a narrow street, not seeing anything. Now they have forgotten about him. Later - they will remember ...
* * *
Just before sunrise, Gibson passed the main cell and left the sleeping city behind. Phobos stopped by; only stars and Deimos shone in the sky. Gibson glanced at his watch.
“Come on, Squick,” he said.
How has this green grown in recent times! Now she was taller than human height. The Zarya project has already changed the face of the planet. Even the northern polar cap stopped its advance