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The Trouble with Telstar   By: (1919-1988)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction June 1963. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

THE TROUBLE WITH TELSTAR

The real trouble with communications satellites is the enormous difficulty of repairing even the simplest little trouble. You need such a loooong screwdriver.

by JOHN BERRYMAN

ILLUSTRATED BY JOHN SCHOENHERR

Doc Stone made sure I wouldn't give him the "too busy" routine. He sent Millie to get me.

"Okay, Millie," I said to Stone's secretary. "I'll be right with you." I cleared the restricted notes and plans from my desk and locked them in the file cabinet, per regulations, and walked beside Millie to Stone's office.

"It's a reflex mechanism, Mike," Dr. Stone said as Millie showed me in. "Every type knows how to fight for survival." He took one thoughtful puff on his pipe. "The old fud," he added.

"The solenoid again, Doc?" I asked.

"What else, Mike?" he said, raising his pale eyebrows. "It's Paul Cleary's baby, and after all these years with the company, he doesn't figure to go down without a fight."

So I was in the middle of it. I had no business to be there, either. The design of that solenoid certainly hadn't been mine. All I had ever done was find out how to destroy it. And after all, that's part of what my lab does, and what I do, for a living.

"Quit staring out the window, Mike," Doc said behind me. "Here, sit down."

I took the chair beside the desk and watched him go through the business of unloading his pipe, taking the carefully air tight top off the humidor we had machined for him down in the lab, and loading up with the cheapest Burley you can buy. So much for air tight containers. Doc got it going, which took two wooden matches, because the stuff was wringing wet thanks again to an air tight container.

"I just left Cleary's office, Mike," he explained. "He won't admit that there's any significance to the failures you have introduced in his solenoid. He insists that your test procedures affected performance more than design did, and he wants to talk with you."

"Great," I said glumly. "Can I count on you to give me a good recommendation for my next employer?"

"Cut it out, Mike," he said, coming as near to a snap as his careful voice could manage. He blew smoke out around the stem of his pipe. I think sometimes it's a part of his act, like the slightly out of press sports jacket and flannel trousers. It says he is a sure enough Ph.D. If you ask me, he's a comer. You can't rate him for lack of brains. He knows an awful lot about solid state physics, and for a physicist, he sure learned enough about micro assemblies of electronic components. I guess that's why he was in charge of final assembly of the Telstar satellites for COMCORP.

"Don't worry about what Paul Cleary can do to you, Mike," he suggested. "Think a little bit more about what Fred Stone can do for you. Cleary is only a year or so from retirement, and you know it."

"He could make that an awful tough year, Doc." I said. "You told me he won't hear of design bugs in that solenoid. He'll insist something went wrong in assembly."

Doc Stone smiled thinly at me and brushed at his blond crew cut. "It is a tough spot, Mike," he agreed. "Because I won't hear any talk of faulty assembly. You'll have to choose, I guess. If you think you can make your bed by playing footsie with an old fud who has only a year to go, try it. Just remember that I've got another thirty years to go, and I'll breathe down your neck every minute of them if you let me down!"

"Sure," I said. "When do I see him?"

"Now."

Doc Stone got someone named Sylvia on the phone and then told me to go right up... Continue reading book >>




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