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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK BY PROXY *** Produced by Greg Weeks, Bruce Albrecht, Stephen Blundell and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
BY
PROXY By DAVID GORDON
It's been said that the act of creation is a solitary thing—that teams never create; only individuals. But sometimes a team may be needed to make creation effective....

Illustrated by Van Dongen

r. Terrence Elshawe did not conform to the mental picture that pops into the average person's mind when he hears the words "news reporter." Automatically, one thinks of the general run of earnest, handsome, firm-jawed, level-eyed, smooth-voiced gentlemen one sees on one's TV screen. No matter which news service one subscribes to, the reporters are all pretty much of a type. And Terrence Elshawe simply wasn't the type.

The confusion arises because thirty-odd years of television has resulted in specialization. If you run up much Magnum Telenews time on your meter, you're familiar with the cultured voice and rugged good looks of Brett Maxon, "your Magnum reporter," but Maxon is a reporter only in the very literal sense of the word. He's an actor, whose sole job is to make Magnum news sound more interesting than some other telenews service, even though he's giving you exactly the same facts. But he doesn't go out and dig up those stories.

The actual leg work of getting the news into Maxon's hands so that he can report it to you is done by research reporters—men like Terrence Elshawe.

Elshawe was a small, lean man with a large, round head on which grew close-cropped, light brown hair. His mouth was wide and full-lipped, and had a distinct tendency to grin impishly, even when he was trying to look serious. His eyes were large, blue, and innocent; only when the light hit them at just the right angle was it possible to detect the contact lenses which corrected an acute myopia.

When he was deep in thought, he had a habit of relaxing in his desk chair with his head back and his eyes closed. His left arm would be across his chest, his left hand cupping his right elbow, while the right hand held the bowl of a large-bowled briar which Elshawe puffed methodically during his ruminations. He was in exactly that position when Oler Winstein put his head in the door of Elshawe's office.

"Busy?" Winstein asked conversationally.

In some offices, if the boss comes in and finds an employee in a pose like that, there would be a flurry of sudden action on the part of the employee as he tried frantically to look as though he had only paused for a moment from his busy work. Elshawe's only reaction was to open his eyes. He wasn't the kind of man who would put on a phony act like that, even if his boss fired him on the spot.

"Not particularly," he said, in his slow, easy drawl. "What's up?"

Winstein came on into the office. "I've got something that might make a good spot. See what you think."

If Elshawe didn't conform to the stereotype of a reporter, so much less did Oler Winstein conform to the stereotype of a top-flight TV magnate. He was no taller than Elshawe's five-seven, and was only slightly heavier. He wore his hair in a crew cut, and his boyish face made him look more like a graduate student at a university than the man who had put Magnum Telenews together with his own hands. He had an office, but he couldn't be found in it more than half the time; the rest of the time, he was prowling around the Magnum Building, wandering into studios and offices and workshops. He wasn't checking up on his employees, and never gave the impression that he was. He didn't throw his weight around and he didn't snoop. If he hired a man for a job, he expected the job to be done, that was all. If it was, the man could sleep at his desk or play solitaire or drink beer for all Winstein cared; if the work wasn't done, it didn't matter if the culprit looked as busy as an anteater at a picnic—he got one warning and then the sack. The only reason for Winstein's prowling around was the way his mind worked; it was forever bubbling with ideas, and he wanted to bounce those ideas off other people to see if anything new and worthwhile would come of them.

He didn't look particularly excited, but, then, he rarely did. Even the most objective of employees is likely to become biased one way or another if he thinks his boss is particularly enthusiastic about an idea. Winstein didn't want yes-men around him; he wanted men who could and would think. And he had a theory that, while the tenseness of an emergency could and did produce some very high-powered thinking indeed, an atmosphere of that kind wasn't a good thing for day-in-and-day-out work. He saved that kind of pressure for the times that he needed it, so that it was effective because of its contrast with normal procedure.

Elshawe took his heavy briar out of his mouth as Winstein sat down on the corner of the desk. "You have a gleam in your eye, Ole," he said accusingly.

"Maybe," Winstein said noncommittally. "We might be able to work something out of it. Remember a guy by the name of Malcom Porter?"

Elshawe lowered his brows in a thoughtful frown. "Name's familiar. Wait a second. Wasn't he the guy that was sent to prison back in 1979 for sending up an unauthorized rocket?"

Winstein nodded. "That's him. Served two years of a five-year sentence, got out on parole about a year ago. I just got word from a confidential source that he's going to try to send up another one."

"I didn't know things were so pleasant at Alcatraz," Elshawe said. "He seems to be trying awfully hard to get back in."

"Not according to what my informant says. This time, he's going to ask for permission. And this time, he's going to have a piloted craft, not a self-guided missile, like he did in '79."

"Hoho. Well, there might be a story in it, but I can't see that it would be much of one. It isn't as if a rocket shoot were something unusual. The only thing unusual about it is that it's a private enterprise shoot instead of a Government one."

Winstein said: "Might be more to it than that. Do you remember the trial in '79?"

"Vaguely. As I remember it, he claimed he didn't send up a rocket, but the evidence showed overwhelmingly that he had. The jury wasn't out more than a few minutes, as I remember."

"There was a little more to it than that," Winstein said.

"I was in South Africa at the time," Elshawe said. "Covering the civil war down there, remember?"

"That's right. You're excused," Winstein said, grinning. "The thing was that Malcom Porter didn't claim he hadn't sent the thing up. What he did claim was that it wasn't a rocket. He claimed that he had a new kind of drive in it—something that didn't use rockets.

"The Army picked the thing up on their radar screens, going straight up at high acceleration. They bracketed it with Cobra pursuit rockets and blew it out of the sky when it didn't respond to identification signals. They could trace the thing back to its launching pad, of course, and they nabbed Malcom Porter.

"Porter was furious. Wanted to slap a suit against the Government for wanton destruction of private property. His claim was that the law forbids unauthorized rocket tests all right, but his missile wasn't illegal because it wasn't a rocket."

"What did he claim it was?" Elshawe asked.

"He said it was a secret device of his own invention. Antigravity, or something like that."

"Did he try to prove it?"

"No. The Court agreed that, according to the way the law is worded, only 'rocket-propelled missiles' come under the ban. The judge said that if Malcom Porter could prove that the missile wasn't rocket-propelled, he'd dismiss the case. But Porter wanted to prove it by building another missile. He wouldn't give the court his plans or specifications for the drive he claimed he'd invented, or say anything about it except that it operated—and I quote—'on a new principle of physics'—unquote. Said he wouldn't tell them anything because the Government was simply using this as an excuse to take his invention away from him."

Elshawe chuckled. "That's as flimsy a defense as I've heard."

"Don't laugh," said Winstein. "It almost worked."

"What? How?"

"It threw the burden of proof on the Government. They thought they had him when he admitted that he'd shot the thing off, but when he denied that it was a rocket, then, in order to prove that he'd committed a crime, they had to prove that it was a rocket. It wasn't up to Porter to prove that it wasn't."

"Hey," Elshawe said in admiration, "that's pretty neat. I'm almost sorry it didn't work."

"Yeah. Trouble was that the Army had blown up the evidence. They knew it was a rocket, but they had to prove it. They had recordings of the radar picture, of course, and they used that to show the shape and acceleration of the missile. They proved that he'd bought an old obsolete Odin rocket from one of the small colleges in the Midwest—one that the Army had sold them as a demonstration model for their rocket engineering classes. They proved that he had a small liquid air plant out there at his place in New Mexico. In other words, they proved that he had the equipment to rebuild the rocket and the fuel to run it.

"Then they got a battery of high-powered physicists up on the stands to prove that nothing else but a rocket could have driven the thing that way.

"Porter's attorney hammered at them in cross-examination, trying to get one of them to admit that it was possible that Porter had discovered a new principle of physics that could fly a missile without rockets, but the Attorney General's prosecutor had coached them pretty well. They all said that unless there was evidence to the contrary, they could not admit that there was such a principle.

"When the prosecutor presented his case to the jury, he really had himself a ball. I'll give you a transcript of the trial later; you'll have to read it for yourself to get the real flavor of it. The gist of it was that things had come to a pretty pass if a man could claim a scientific principle known only to himself as a defense against a crime.

"He gave one analogy I liked. He said, suppose that a man is found speeding in a car. The cops find him all alone, behind the wheel, when they chase him down. Then, in court, he admits that he was alone, and that the car was speeding, but he insists that the car was steering itself, and that he wasn't in control of the vehicle at all. And what was steering the car? Why, a new scientific principle, of course."

Elshawe burst out laughing. "Wow! No wonder the jury didn't stay out long! I'm going to have to dig the recordings of the newscasts out of the files; I missed a real comedy while I was in Africa."

Winstein nodded. "We got pretty good coverage on it, but our worthy competitor, whose name I will not have mentioned within these sacred halls, got Beebee Vayne to run a commentary on it, and we got beat out on the meters."

"Vayne?" Elshawe was still grinning. "That's a new twist—getting a comedian to do a news report."

"I'll have to admit that my worthy competitor, whose name et cetera, does get an idea once in a while. But I don't want him beating us out again. We're in on the ground floor this time, and I want to hog the whole thing if I can."

"Sounds like a great idea, if we can swing it," Elshawe agreed. "Do you have a new gimmick? You're not going to get a comedian to do it, are you?"

"Heaven forbid! Even if it had been my own idea three years ago, I wouldn't repeat it, and I certainly won't have it said that I copy my competitors. No, what I want you to do is go out there and find out what's going on. Get a full background on it. We'll figure out the presentation angle when we get some idea of what he's going to do this time." Winstein eased himself off the corner of Elshawe's desk and stood up. "By the way—"

"Yeah?"

"Play it straight when you go out there. You're a reporter, looking for news; you haven't made any previous judgments."

Elshawe's pipe had gone out. He fired it up again with his desk lighter. "I don't want to be," he said between puffs, "too cagey. If he's got ... any brains ... he'll know it's ... a phony act ... if I overdo it." He snapped off the lighter and looked at his employer through a cloud of blue-gray smoke. "I mean, after all, he's on the records as being a crackpot. I'd be a pretty stupid reporter if I believed everything he said. If I don't act a little skeptical, he'll think I'm either a blockhead or a phony or both."

"Maybe," Winstein said doubtfully. "Still, some of these crackpots fly off the handle if you doubt their word in the least bit."

"I'll tell you what I'll do," Elshawe said. "He used to live here in New York, didn't he?"

"Still does," Winstein said. "He has a two-floor apartment on Central Park West. He just uses that New Mexico ranch of his for relaxation."

"He's not hurting for money, is he?" Elshawe asked at random. "Anyway, what I'll do is look up some of the people he knows and get an idea of what kind of a bird he is. Then, when I get out there, I'll know more what kind of line to feed him."

"That sounds good. But whatever you

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