Powersat (The Grand Tour)

Powersat (The Grand Tour) by Ben Bova Read Free Book Online

Book: Powersat (The Grand Tour) by Ben Bova Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ben Bova
divorce proceeding and accepted a job “in the boondocks,” as he put it, because he needed more money than a journalist made to pay for his divorce lawyer and his ex-wife’s constant demands.
    But although he had taken himself out of New York, he could not take the New York out of himself. He prided himself on being a native of the Big Apple. At least once a day he declared to anyone who would listen that the entire state of Texas wasn’t worth a single block of Manhattan’s worst slum. He had absolutely no faith in rockets, no interest in space exploration or power satellites or anything more complex than a beanbag chair. Which made him a damned good public relations man for Astro Corporation, as far as Dan was concerned. The worst trap a P.R. guy can fall into is believing his own propaganda. Kinsky wasn’t even sure he believed in airplanes.
    His face was long and horsy, with startling ice-blue eyes
that peered out suspiciously from under heavy reddish brows. His ginger-red hair was a thick tangle, like a jungle underbrush, almost. Kinsky was known to call attention to himself at parties by whipping out an ancient Ronson cigarette lighter and setting his hair on fire. Randolph had seen him do it. As everyone gasped and staggered, Kinsky would put out the little blaze with a couple of pats of his hand, grinning and saying, “Wasn’t that sensational?”
    He wasn’t smiling now as he approached Randolph, and his Ronson was in his pocket.
    “How’s it going, Len?”
    Kinsky reversed his course like a soldier doing an aboutface and fell into step with Randolph. The two men strode swiftly down the corridor toward Dan’s office.
    “Not good, boss. The New York fucking Times ran their usual editorial about keeping people out of space. Practically blamed you for murder.”
    Randolph snorted disdainfully. “So what else is new?”
    “The Wall Street Journal says pretty much the same, but in a more businesslike way.”
    “How so ?”
    “They say the powersat could be operated entirely by remotely operated machinery; no need for humans in space.”
    “Yeah,” Dan groused. “And rain makes applesauce.”
    “They quoted three different university professors.”
    Dan banged through the door to his outer office, startling April at her desk. “The day any one of those double-dome geniuses starts to operate his own laboratory on campus entirely with remotely operated machinery, without using grad students or any other humans, then I’ll believe we won’t need human crews at the powersat.”
    He pushed through the door to his private office and threw himself into the sculpted chair behind the big ornate desk.
    “You know that, boss,” said Kinsky, dropping into the upholstered chair in front of the desk, “and maybe even I know it. But the media doesn’t and neither do the public.”
    “Fatheads and fools,” Randolph muttered.
    “But if you want the government to be on your side—”
    “The double-damned government!” Randolph snapped. “I’ve got a guy from the FAA sitting in Tenny’s office. He’s all set to shut us down. For good.”
    “You need friends in high places, boss.”
    “Maybe I should build a church?”
    Kinsky’s long face took on a crafty look. “Or see the governor of the state.”
    “The governor?”
    “Governor Scanwell. There’s talk that he’s considering running for president next year.”
    “What good’s that going to do me?” Randolph demanded.
    “Well,” Kinsky said, “Scanwell’s a dark horse, an outsider to Washington politics. He’s going to need some issues that the Beltway bandits haven’t taken for themselves yet.”
    Randolph made a sour face. “No major politician has made an issue of space since Kennedy.”
    Shaking his head vigorously, Kinsky said, “No, no, no, boss. It’s not space. It’s energy.”
    Hunching forward in his chair eagerly, the P.R. director said, “Look. The U.S. is more dependent on oil from the Middle East every

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