The Complete Stories (Page 79)
Results were beginning to go up on Board Seventeen, in gleaming letters:
aluminum, 41.2649; magnesium, 22.1914; copper, 10.1001. Here and there, other boards began sprouting figures.
The audience was in bedlam.
George wondered how the contestants could work in such pandemo
nium, then wondered if that were not even a good thing. A first-class technician should work best under pressure.
Seventeen rose from his place as his board went red-rimmed to signify completion. Four was only two seconds behind him. Another, then another.
Trevelyan was still working, the niinor constituents of his alloy bar still unreported. With nearly all contestants standing, Trevelyan finally rose, also. Then, tailing off, Five rose, and received an ironic cheer.
It wasn’t over. Official announcements were naturally delayed. Time elapsed was something, but accuracy was just as important. And not all diagnoses were of equal difficulty. A dozen factors had to be weighed.
Finally, the announcer’s voice sounded, "Wmner in the time of four minutes and twelve seconds, diagnosis correct, analysis correct within an average of zero point seven parts per hundred thousand, Contestant Number-Seventeen, Henry Anton Schmidt of-"
What followed was drowned in the screaming. Number Eight was next and then Four, whose good time was spoiled by a five part in ten thousand error in the niobium figure. Twelve was never mentioned. He was an also-ran.
George made his way through the crowd to the Contestants’ Door and found a large clot of humanity ahead of him. There would be weeping relatives (joy or sorrow, depending) to greet them, newsmen to interview the top-scorers, or the home-town boys, autograph hounds, publicity seekers and the just plain curious. Girls, too, who might hope to catch the eye of a top-scorer, almost certainly headed for Novia (or perhaps a low-scorer who needed cnosolation and had the cash to afford it).
George hung back. He saw no one he knew. With San Francisco so far from home, it seemed pretty safe to assume that there would be no relatives to condole with Trev on the spot.
Contestants emerged, smiling wealdy, nodding at shouts of approval. Policemen kept the crowds far enough away to allow a lane for walking. Each high-scorer drew a portion of the crowd off with him, like a magnet pushing through a mound of iron filings.
When Trevelyan walked out, scarcely anyone was left. (George felt somehow that he had delayed coming out until just that had come to pass.) There was a cigarette in his dour mouth and he turned, eyes downcast, to walk off.
It was the first hint of home George had had in what was almost a year and a half and seemed almost a decade and a half. He was almost amazed that Trevelyan hadn’t aged, that he was the same Trev he had last seen.
George sprang forward. "Trev!"
Trevelyan spun about, astonished. He stared at George and then his hand shot out. "George Platen, what the devil-"
And almost as soon as the look of pleasure had crossed his face, it left. His hand dropped before George had quite the chance of seizing it.
"Were you in there?" A curt jerk of Trev’ s head indicated the hail.
"To see me?"
"Didn’t do so well, did I?" He dropped his cigarette and stepped on it, staring off to the street, where the emerging crowd was slowly eddying and finding its way into skimmers, while new lines were forming for the next scheduled Olympics.
Trevelyan said heavily, "So what? It’s only the second time I missed. Novia can go shove after the deal I got today. There are planets that would jump at me fast enough- But, listen, I haven’t seen you since Education Day. Where did you go? Your folks said you were on special assignment but gave no details and you never wrote. You might have written."
"I should have," said George uneasily. "Anyway, I came to say I was sorry the way things went just now."
"Don’t be," said Trevelyan. "I told you. Novia can go shove- At that I should have known. They’ve been saying for weeks that the Beeman machine would be used. All the wise money was on Beeman machines. The damned Education tapes they ran through me were for Henslers and who uses Henslers? The worlds in the Goman Cluster if you want to call them worlds. Wasn’t that a nice deal they gave me?"
"Can’t you complain to-"
"Don’t be a fool. They’ll tell me my brain was built for Henslers. Go argue. Everything went wrong. I was the only one who had to send out for a piece of equipment. Notice that?"
"They deducted the time for that, though."
"Sure, but I lost time wondering if I could be right in my diagnosis when I noticed there wasn’t any clamp depressor in the parts they had supplied. They don’t deduct for that. If it had been a Hensler, I would have known I was right. How could I match up then? The top winner was a San Franciscan. So were three of the next four. And the fifth guy was from Los Angeles. They get big-city Educational tapes. The best available. Beeman spectrographs and all. How do I compete with them? I came all the way out here just to get a chance at a Novian-sponsored Olympics in my classification and I might just as well have stayed home. I knew it, I tell you, and that settles it. Novia isn’t the only chunk of rock in space. Of all the damned-"
He wasn’t speaking to George. He wasn’t speaking to anyone. He was just uncorked and frothing. George realized that.
George said, "If you knew in advance that the Beemans were going to be used, couldn’t you have studied up on them?"
"They weren’t in my tapes, I tell you."
"You could have read-books."
The last word had trailed off under Trevelyan’s suddenly sharp look.
Trevelyan said, "Are you trying to make a big laugh out of this? You think this is funny? How do you expect me to read some book and try to memorize enough to match someone else who knows."