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The Flight of the HANS PFALL by Stephen R. Wilk

The Flight of the Hans Pfall

by Stephen R. Wilk
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Page 2

“Well. Very interesting. Thank you, lieutenant. I see that I have to rush to catch a meeting now—I think I can find my own way back to the offices. But I’ll be back for the Launch.” And with that abrupt farewell, he was off, already halfway to the elevators. The lieutenant didn’t follow him. He was replaying their conversation in his head.

“Skip!&” said a voice to his side, “What’s the matter? You look as if you were taking one of Adamson’s finals again. You’ve got that lost expression on your face.” It was Blakeman, another of the lieutenants from his group.

“Just trying to figure out why my Tourist was asking so many obvious questions. You’d think he didn’t read his briefing materials. Maybe I ought to report him as a suspicious character to the Spooks. That’d teach him.”

“Ahhh, who knows why the Great and Powerful do what they do?”

“He’s probably just Chief of Sales or something, down for the big Launch Show.”

“What? You really don’t know who he was? That’s Albert Gold.&” Seeing the blank look on his companion’s face, he went on. “Gold. That’s A.Gold of Jorgen, Szalinski, and Gold. The JSG paper in JOSA B. The three of them practically built the Colorado Station themselves.”

The lieutenant’s mouth dropped open as it finally sank in.

“He was leading you on to see what kind of answers you gave, probably. Wanted to see what kind of lies we were passing on about the Site and how much you were fudging your answers. I hope you gave the right ones. Flunking this would be worse than flunking Adamson’s class.”

The Reception Room was sparsely decorated. There were a few tables and some oversized, but very hard chairs, covered in handwoven Andean fabrics. No one complained about them, because very few people ever sat in them. Meetings in the Reception Room tended to be done standing, on the fly.

This was no exception. When Bill Garret saw Gold he immediately quickened his step.

“Al—Have you heard from Jim?”

“No. I haven’t heard from anybody. I just got here a while ago myself. How was your flight?”

“Too damned long. Look—there was a special meeting of the investor’s group just before I left.”

“Special meeting? Why? It’s a bit late to change anything now. The package is going up in less than two hours.”

“It’s not the Package. Some of them are asking to cut the coverage.”

“What coverage? You mean the camera crew and the webcasts? Why?”

“Well, they say it’s too much money…”

“What?! The amount of money is nothing compared to the flight!”

I know that Al…”

“…And you have to broadcast it. That’s where the publicity comes from. With publicity you get public interest, you get contracts…”

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About the Author

Stephen R. Wilk

Stephen R. Wilk is a physicist and engineer, and has been a Contributing Editor for the Optical Society of America for the past decade. He has a number of articles—besides technical publications—on history, mythology, and pop culture, and have two books out, one on mythology and one on optics. He’s had a number of fiction pieces published recently, including one forthcoming in Analog.

Story Discussion

Stories by Stephen R. Wilk

The Flight of the HANS PFALL by Stephen R. Wilk

The Flight of the Hans Pfall

“The Launch Site is five miles downrange,” explained the officer. “You can follow the liftoff in more detail in the monitor booth to the right, but most people just prefer to look through the observation window. The glass absorbs both the launch laser and the alignment laser wavelengths, so you don’t have to worry about stray reflections. Is this your first visit to Kantrowitz, Mr. Gold?”

“Yes,” said the older man, abstractedly, as he craned his neck to look around. “I’ve been to the complexes in Colorado and Nepal several times, but I haven’t had a chance to come down here until now.”

“Are you familiar with the Launch Process, then?”

“Well, why don’t you go over it for me.”

“Okay. You have a Payload in today’s pipeline, I understand. Do you remember your code number? Or… What’s the company name?”

“Gold Technologies—a very original name. I think the code is KL-55.”

The lieutenant quickly manipulated the touchmonitor. “That’s going up in just over two hours. By now your payload has been encapsulated in a Cone and set on its own Frustrum. It will be moving through the Pipe, waiting for its turn on the Pad. We use ordinary water ice for the Frustra, with a special mix of alkali salts and filaments to act as initiator sites for the Laser Sustained Detonation Wave. Before we switched to water ice we used plastics and gels, and we fielded a lot of complains about upper-air pollution from the U.N. and the Ecuadoran Ministeria.”

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