The Complete Stories (Page 67)

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Omani put down his book. He let the other run down and then said, "To what, George?"

"To correct a miscarriage of justice. A frame-up. I’ll get that Antoneffi and force him to admit he-he—-"

Omani shook his head. "Everyone who comes here insists it’s a mistake. I thought you’d passed that stage."

"Don’t call it a stage," said George violently. "In my case, it’s a fact. I’ve told you-"

"You’ve told me, but in your heart you know no one made any mistake as far as you were concerned."

"Because no one will admit it? You think any of them would admit a mistake unless they were forced to?-Well, I’ll force them."

It was May that was doing this to George; it was Olympics month. He felt it bring the old wildness back and he couldn’t stop it. He didn’t want to stop it. He had been in danger of forgetting.

He said, "I was going tobe aComputerProgrammerandlcanbeone. I could be one today, regardless of what they say analysis shows." He pounded his mattress. "They’re wrong. They must be."

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"The analysts are never wrong."

"They must be. Do you doubt my intelligence?"

"Inteffigence hasn’t one thing to do with it. Haven’t you been told that often enough? Can’t you understand that?"

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George rolled away, lay on his back and stared somberly at the ceiling.

"What did you want to be, Hali?"

"I had no fixed plans. Hydropomcist would have suited me, I suppose."

"Did you think you could make it?"

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"I wasn’t sure."

George had never asked personal questions of Omani before. It struck him as queer, almost unnatural, that other people had had ambitions and ended here. Hydroponicist!

He said, "Did you think you’d make this?"

"No, but here I am just the same."

"And you’re satisfied. Really, really satisfied. You’re happy. You love it. You wouldn’t be anywhere else."

Slowly, Omani got to his feet. Carefully, he began to unmake his bed. He said, "George, you’re a hard case. You’re knocking yourself out because you won’t accept the facts about yourself. George, you’re here in what you call the House, but I’ve never heard you give it its full title. Say it, George, say it. Then go to bed and sleep this off."

George gritted his teeth and showed them. He choked out, "No!"

"Then I will," said Omani, and he did. He shaped each syllable carefully.

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George was bitterly ashamed at the sound of it. He turned his head away.

For most of the first eighteen years of his life, George Platen had headed firmly in one direction, that of Registered Computer Programmer. There were those in his crowd who spoke wisely of Spationautics, Refrigeration Technology, Transportation Control, and even Administration. But George held firm.

He argued relative merits as vigorously as any of them, and why not? Education Day loomed ahead of them and was the great fact of their existence. It approached steadily, as fixed and certain as the calendar- the first day of November of the year following one’s eighteenth birthday.

After that day, there were other topics of conversation. One could discuss with others some detail of the profession, or the virtues of one’s wife and children, or the fate of one’s space-polo team, or one’s experience in the Olympics. Before Education Day, however, there was only one topic that

unfailingly and unwearyingly held everyone’s interest, and that was Education Day.

"What are you going for? Think you’ll make it? Heck, that’s no good. Look at the records; quota’s been cut. Logistics now-"

Or Hypermechanics now- Or Communications now- Or Gravitics now- Especially Gravitics at the moment. Everyone had been talking about Gravitics in the few years just before George’s Education Day because of the development of the Gravitic power engine.

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Any world within ten light-years of a dwarf star, everyone said, would give its eyeteeth for any kind of Registered Gravitics Engineer.

The thought of that never bothered George. Sure it would; all the eyeteeth it could scare up. But George had also heard what had happened before in a newly developed technique. Rationalization and simplification followed in a flood. New models each year; new types of gravitic engines; new principles. Then all those eyeteeth gentlemen would find themselves Out of date and superseded by later models with later educations. The first group would then have to settle down to unskilled labor or ship out to some backwoods world that wasn’t quite caught up yet.

Now Computer Programmers were in steady demand year after year, century after century. The demand never reached wild peaks; there was never a howling bull market for Programmers; but the demand climbed steadily as new worlds opened up and as older worlds grew more complex.

He had argued with Stubby Trevelyan about that constantly. As best friends, their arguments had to be constant and vitriolic and, of course, neither ever persuaded or was persuaded.

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But then Trevelyan had had a father who was a Registered Metallurgist and had actually served on one of the Outworlds, and a grandfather who had also been a Registered Metallurgist. He himself was intent on becoming a Registered Metallurgist almost as a matter of family right and was firmly convinced that any other profession was a shadeless than respectable.

"There’ll always be metal," he said, "and there’s an accomplishment in molding alloys to specification and watching structures grow. Now what’s a Programmer going to be doing. Sitting at a coder all day long, feeding some fool mile-long machine."

Even at sixteen, George had learned to be practical. He said simply, "There’ll be a million Metallurgists put out along with you."

"Because it’s good. A good profession. The best."

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