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The Observers   By:

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THE OBSERVERS

By G. L. VANDENBURG

You can't be too suspicious when security is at stake. When everybody who is after a key military job wears a toupee, it is obviously a bald case of espionage.

A job as laboratory technician with the Army Weapons Development Center carried about as much prestige as a bat boy in a World Series.

George Fisher was a laboratory technician.

He was a shy but likeable fellow, a diligent worker and trustworthy. He didn't talk. He was rarely talked to. He had no burning ambition to push himself ahead in the world. Being an assistant to the brains was good enough for him. He had a commendable talent for minding his own business.

In a security job these qualities counted ahead of scientific knowledge.

One day George Fisher turned up dead. The initial shock and concern experienced by his superiors was soon overcome by the coroner's finding. Suicide.

Harry Payne was the Civilian Personnel Director of Fort Dickson. It was his job to find a replacement for George Fisher.

"Miss Conway!" Harry's voice lashed into the intercom.

There was an interminable pause. He cursed under his breath.

Then, "Yes, Mr. Payne?"

"Where the hell were you? Never mind. Bring me the file on George Fisher."

"George Fisher?" Miss Conway was in her favorite state of mind ... confusion. "But he's dead, isn't he?"

Harry let out a deep anguished groan. "Yes, Miss Conway, he's dead. That's why I want his file. That answer your question?"

"Yes, sir. Be there in a jiffy!"

Harry could tell she was bubbling over with smiles as she spoke. A few more centuries would pass, he thought, before they manufactured another broad as dumb as Miss Conway.

He stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked out the window. Across the parade ground he could see the Army Weapons Development Center. He had no idea what new bomb they might be working on behind those heavily guarded fences. He didn't care.

He was only concerned with the people who worked there. The rest of Fort Dickson used mostly Civil Service Personnel. But the barricaded security jungle across the parade grounds was more particular about its hired help. A person's record had to be spotless almost from the day of his conception ... or a person could not even gain entrance.

Harry had never been inside Weapons Development. He had once been to traffic court as a roaring juvenile eighteen years before. That was enough to bar him from even visiting. He realized, though, that the army couldn't afford to take chances.

Hiring new technicians required an arduous screening process. Harry loathed it. He was thankful that the personnel at Weapons Development were highly paid and usually permanent. He never had to hire more than one person a year.

Miss Conway swept into the office and handed Harry the folder.

"Thanks," he muttered.

"Don't mention it, boss."

Harry called after her as she went back toward the reception room.

"Stay by your desk, will you? The government may need you."

A muffled giggle was her only response.

Miss Conway was a civil service employee. She had been Harry's secretary for six months. Like most other civil service personnel, according to Harry's way of thinking she was a tower of inefficiency. His chief annoyance stemmed from the fact that the army had arbitrarily placed her in his office. He had been given no choice in the matter. It was one hell of a way to treat a personnel director, he thought.

He sat at his desk gloomily aware of the headaches he'd have to face in his quest for George Fisher's replacement. He opened the folder and glanced at the vital statistics.

Fisher, George Age: 40 Weight: 160 Height: 5'9" Eyes: Green Hair: None Complexion: Light Date of Employment: 10/7/58 Date of Departure: 4/12/59 Reason: Suicide etc., etc. Harry yawned. Statistics bored him.

He turned to a page marked "Qualifications" and started reading. The phrase "Education and experience in nuclear physics required," caught his eye... Continue reading book >>




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