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MAA: At 5:26 PM EST on December 13, 1972, six days after leaving Earth and during their third day on the surface of the Moon, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt made the final moonwalk of Apollo 17.

Gene Cernan had flown to the Moon before, on Apollo 10.

MAB: That flight was with his commander from the Gemini 9 mission, Tom Stafford. On Apollo 10 Gene flew a lunar module to within a tantalyzing nine miles of the Moon’s surface, then returned to altitude, leaving the glory of the first landing to Neil and Buzz on Apollo 11.

MAC: He wasn’t exactly tight buds with his partner, Harrison Schmitt, a geologist who had bumped Gene’s pal Joe Engle from the flight so NASA could say the program was shifting from hot dog military test pilots trained to do science to professional scientists trained to fly.

MAD: Like the two preceding moonwalks of the Apollo 17 mission, the third one was to last about seven hours. But it would differ from the first two EVAs in a very important respect, not counting the trivial fact that it was about an hour late getting started.

MAE: Robyn had been following live television broadcasts of the mission from only a few miles away at Taurus Base. Now she followed the mission with the television in her truck as she drove down the flanks of North Massif to reach the floor of the Taurus-Littrow valley.

MAF: So many stations on Earth were airing the moonwalk the only trick was to pick out one station with a selective receiver.

The landing site of Apollo 17 was on the southeastern edge of Mare Serenitatis where an asteroid hit the Moon nearly four billion years ago.

MAG: The unimaginable violence of the collision created a basin four hundred miles across. The rim of Serenitatis is a ring of mountains which have collapsed in some places. This results in a corona of long valleys like Taurus-Littrow aligned toward the center of the Mare.

MAH: The pyroclastic flows that filled the "Sea of Serenity" had been accompanied by lava fountains which covered the area with tiny glass beads bearing bright colors such as orange and yellow.

The outer, southeastern end of the valley butts up against a large mountain.

MAI: In the run-up to Apollo 17 NASA took to calling this mountain the East Massif, and the name stuck. In the south, there is a narrow canyon that leads to yet another valley. The west side of this canyon is the sheer wall of South Massif.

MAJ: Crossing north to the other side of East Massif is another canyon leading to still another valley. Beyond this canyon is the so-called Sculptured Hills, and to the west of those hills is North Massif. Between North and South Massif is a narrower exit valley.

MAK: This valley is about four miles wide, partially blocked by Family Mountain and a sharp fault ridge three hundred feet high. The eastern foot of that sharp ridge forms a gentle ramp leading up and around the western slope of North Massif to some rugged back country.

MAL: In that area, where it would be too difficult for landing craft to safely touch down, Judith Gervasi chose to build Taurus Base from a deep "cut-and-cover" tunnel, with macros doing the cutting. A layer of lunar soil was carefully groomed to cover and disguise the ceiling.

MAM: Robyn drove her truck to the current position of the astronauts. There was a large, dark, shattered boulder wedged in the foot of North Massif where geologist Harrison Schmitt was gathering samples. She was careful not to run over their fragile electric Rover parked nearby.

MAN: That Boeing-made Lunar Rover contained a built-in navigation system that kept track of every turn of the wheels and calculated the distance back to the Lunar Module. This was a safety feature. If the Rover became inoperative, the astronauts would have to walk to the LM.

MAO: This system used Intel's new four-bit microprocessor, the 4004, which was essentially a computer on a single silicon chip. As the 1970s progressed, this innovation would undergo further advances and become the heart of the Micro, sparking the Information Revolution.

MAP: The boulder being examined by Schmitt, which was in five separate pieces, lay beneath a long furrow of dents showing it’s recent plunge down the face of the mountain. Apollo 15 Command Module pilot Alfred Worden had photographed the area in 1971 from orbit.

MAR: Using a large panoramic camera, Worden captured photographic evidence of what looked suspiciously like tracks of wheeled vehicles and bright debris that did not resemble stones at all. But analysts, making inquiries of the Russians, concluded the anomalies were from natural processes.

MAS: They said the tracks and other debris were probably from boulders that had rolled down the face of North Massif in a "recent" (less than 20 million years) moonquake. The truth was, Worden had found evidence of Taurus Base construction, but the floor of the valley was pristine.

MAT: Not even Robyn, with her gift, could sense a significant divergence of the present Beta timeline, the one Michael and Yeshua found so unsatisfactory. She pulled her truck to a stop, pumped the atmosphere down to a near vacuum, then popped the door open to wait for the boys.

MAU: Cernan and Schmitt hadn’t heard Robyn roll in, of course. And they were so busy it was sixteen minutes before they looked up from their tasks and noticed Robyn's truck parked next to them. Both of the astronauts uttered sharp expletives and the live feed was hurriedly cut.

MAV: CBS cut to Walter Cronkite for commentary. The blackout would last for nearly an hour as NASA claimed technical difficulties. Robyn used her talent as a B'nei Eloah to probe her own future. Time was "lazy" as she well knew. You had to kick it in the pants to change it.

MAW: Without this inertia, this reluctance built into time, Robyn would be a boiling nexus of change. Everything she did, no matter how small, would make all of reality bifurcate, even as her own personal consciousness, her single point of view, persisted in just one track.

MAX: Robyn noted, to her dismay, that even her interference in the final Apollo mission didn't change things sufficiently to prevent it from being the final mission. She saw that NASA would simply swear the astronauts and flight control crew to silence, and cover it all up.

MAY: Robyn waved for them to come inside. There was plenty of room for at least one astronaut to be seated next to her, even fully garbed as they were. The sun illuminated her face and they could see they were dealing with a young woman. Cernan described the situation to Houston.

MAZ: A phone call was made to a contact in the Soviet Union asking if they were operating in the same area and didn’t bother to tell anybody. The Russian thought the American joke was in particularly bad taste. "Is not enough you win Luna race?" he said. "Now you rub it on?"

MBA: Cernan and Schmitt, who were watching their oxygen steadily spend down, gently prodded Houston they were still waiting for instructions. At length C. Gordon Fullerton, the CAPCOM for that phase of the mission, said Cernan could approach the truck, and perhaps even enter it.

MBB: But he ordered Schmitt to wait outside and be prepared to hustle back in the Rover to the Lunar Module, which was then about four miles away. So Cernan walked over to the truck and performed a complete circuit around it. There was only the one woman seated inside.

MBC: This woman was wearing a vacuum suit, and she was waving at him, motioning for him to come inside. So Gene, now free to oblige, did so. She gestured for him to close the door and when he did, she began to re-pressurize the cab of the truck with pure oxygen, to just 3 psi.

MBD: When the dial read the appropriate pressure Robyn removed her helmet and invited Cernan to do the same. The sharp spent-gunpowder smell of the lunar regolith assaulted her nose. She wrinkled it and said, "Do people ever imagine what the moon smells like? Oh, no."

MBE: But Robyn was used to it, and after two lunar EVAs so was Cernan. When he removed his own helmet his first words to her were, "You sound like an American." Robyn looked him over and saw Gene was rather gaunt, and thought it was a shame a man in his thirties was going gray.

MBF: She said, "I was born on the high plains, Commander Cernan. Smack dab in the middle of the country, or close enough as never mind. My name is Robyn, with a 'Y'. Just Robyn, no last name."

Cernan's ice seemed to melt a little. He said, "Then forget 'Commander'. I'm Gene."

MBD: "It's an honor to meet you, Gene," she said. "I represent a privately held corporation named Astrodynamics. Sometimes we just call it Astrodyne. It's nothing mega. We're based out of Seattle, but we have a few offices around the world, and, believe it or not, even up here.

MBE: "We've been watching you fellows drop by over last the few years, but this is the first time you've come within driving distance. I couldn't resist dashing over for a chit-chat, as brief as it must be."

"So tell me Robyn, what does your Astrodynamics Corporation do?"

MBF: "We're not focused on the bottom line, Gene, at least not to the mindless level you would expect. We're actually about the business of philanthropy. Thirty years ago we were a church. We see human history as a work of art, and we are making an endeavor to perfect it.

MBG: Now humanity leaving the Earth and spreading out into the universe is much closer to perfection than staying home with all our eggs in one basket, to use the cliche, especially when you consider the powerful weapons we now have, and the sheer insanity behind making them."

MBH: Robyn showed him a binder containing many documents and photographs. "The names and faces in this dossier will probably mean nothing to you, but they will mean a great deal to certain people in the government. Please accept this package and run it up your chain of command."

MBH: Cernan took the documents, and as he did, he searched Robyn’s face. He really wanted to like her. "Why are you giving this to me?" he asked.

She said, "Think of it as a list of serious grievances we have with the United States going back for more than a hundred years."

MBI: "I feel like I've stepped into the middle of an old argument," Cernan said as he flipped through the binder to briefly sample the information. Old argument indeed. Some of the documents, just as Robyn said, were on age-yellowed paper dating back to the Reconstruction period.

MBJ: Robyn said, "If you have the time during your flight home, Gene, please take a deeper look at that material. I think you'll see why we didn't find it a good idea to get permission from the government of the United States before coming up here and doing what we have done."

MBK: "And aside from whatever you've done up here, Robyn, what else have you done?"

"Stuff. You know that Watergate thicket the President has got himself in? That was us. Unlucky for him, lucky for everyone else. It prevents something much worse than the Cuban Missile Crisis."

MBL: Within the binder were also five sets of color photographs that drew Commander Cernan's interest, with the negatives clipped to them. He pulled them out and asked what they were.

"Images of each one of the previous Apollo landing sites, taken very soon after departure.

MBM: Note the missing ascent stage in each photo. We thought NASA might want a photographic record."

Cernan became quiet and put the photos back inside the binder. He seemed to grow a little melancholy. Competing with the Soviet Union now seemed like a farting in a hurricane.

MBN: Robyn sensed this and tried to brighten him up. "It’s twelve days before Christmas. I’ve got a hundred and fifty of your Earth pounds of presents for Mr. Harrison Schmitt. Rocks from right here at the North Massif, taken at depths up to six hundred feet below the surface.

MBO: There's also sulfur from a channel we call Yellow Rille. Documentation provided with the samples have original location and depth. We don't boast any trained geologists but Judith Gervasi has experience with archaeology in the Middle-East. Some of the same principles apply.

MBP: Hopefully all this will compensate for the precious minutes you’re losing talking to me."

"And why are you talking to me, Robyn? Is this just a fancy sales pitch? Am I to be your go-between?"

She smiled and shook her head. "Basically, it all boils down to this, Gene:

MBQ: You may be impressed that Astrodyne got to the moon before Apollo 11, but the way we get here takes a strange shortcut. We specialize in some things but not in others. Your lunar lander out there, even your mothership orbiting overhead, we don't anything like those.

MBR: So we were willing to forget all the dirty laundry when America was on the fast track to coming up here and possibly teaming up with us. We could have built something together. But in the end the whole Apollo program was just so you could stick it in the eye of the USSR.

MBS: The interest of the American people started to wane right after Apollo 11. The space race was just a big Cold War stunt and after you 'won' it started to look like spending a lot of money for nothing. Now to be fair, the Soviet Union lost interest as well, after you 'won'."

MBT: Robyn noticed a feeling of well-being that bordered on giddiness and looked at the cabin pressure. It had crept past 4 psi of pure oxygen. Cernan's spacesuit was still running, and pushing fresh air through his collar ring into the interior of the truck. She bled it down.

MBU: "Then Nixon canceled Apollo 20 and ordered the reconfiguration of the third stage as Skylab," Robyn said, resuming where she had paused. "After that Nixon even canceled Apollo 19 to shift funding to the Shuttle. It seemed to us that America wasn't looking outward anymore.

MBV: Then we visited the Soviets and told them there was a hard currency waiting for what they had to offer, or potentially had to offer. So the moon race is a variation of the story of the tortoise and the hare, with the hare putting one toe over the finish line and turning back.

MBW: But the tortoise is closing in now, and he's bringing a nuclear third stage. What did you do with your third stage, Gene?"

"We let it crash onto the moon."

"That's right, and one more reason we're glad things are winding up with NASA. We live and work here, you know."

MBX: "We didn't know that, Robyn. And it was for seismic research."

"Okay, Gene, but dig this: The Soviet third stage is fired three times, once for Earth orbit, once for translunar injection, and once more for the return. Their vehicle is just that third stage and a lander."

MBY: They're coming down with a crew of four and the whole crew gets to land. So they're doing it after you, but they're doing it better. Now if the only reason you're going to the moon these days is for rocks, I'm sure the Soviets can sell them directly to you for much cheaper."

MBZ: At that Robyn drew a sudden breath of air and paused briefly. What she had just said to Gene Cernan were the magic words. It took another Sputnik moment to get America to react, but react America did, or rather, she shortly would. The purpose of Robyn's visit was fulfilled.

MCA: Nothing, absolutely nothing drove technological innovation faster than war, even the faux war-by-proxy of the Cold One. Robyn had rekindled it. Reality had diverged and the Moon Race was back on. "Welcome to the Gamma track," she muttered to herself softly.

MCB: "I can imagine all of this must come as a terrible shock to you, Gene, because your entire remarkable career has been building up to this mission, but that’s the raw truth so there you go. The bottom line is that NASA does not need to follow up your flight with Apollo 18."

MCC: "Then, Robyn, I would say you are in luck. Apollo 18 has indeed been canceled. Dr. Schmitt out there was supposed to be on that flight, but he bumped one of my buddies to be the Lunar Module pilot on this one, to my great displeasure. This mission truly is the last one."

MCD: "I'm sorry about your friend, Gene. I didn't know that. We've been disconnected from things Earthside, just a bit." "How did you get up here anyway?" "It's a way nobody else has thought of doing yet, but even so, as I said, it's a shortcut. Easy ways always make you weak."

MCE: "I'm not sure I follow."

"Okay, suppose you're Captain Kirk at Starfleet Command, and you need to go to the moon. Do you ride the starship Enterprise to get out there?"

"No, you just beam up."

"Bingo, Gene. That's about as close as I can get to telling you what's going on."

MCF: "Okay, but what I don't understand is how you are willing to work with the Soviets. You told me you were born in America."

"Why would that be a problem, Gene?"

"Because they're...communists!"

"Actually,Gene, they're just socialists. Communism is the theoretical end state.

MCG: "People can espouse utopianism, and claim to be utopians, all while still living in a crapsack country. We're negotiating with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. And frankly, competing theories of economics bores the hell out of me. Yet wars are fought over them.

MCH: Besides, who owns your moon buggy?"

"The American people do."

"You see? Socialism. That dog-eat-dog every-man-for-himself and the devil-take-the-hindmost stuff doesn't really work all that well up here, any more than it works on the aircraft carriers you served on.

MCI: The American model even makes it worse, because the taxpayer's money gets shoveled out to the lowest bidder, or even to an incompetent contractor who happens to be in a district where somebody needs votes. That's how the Space Shuttle is going to bite NASA's ass someday.

MCJ: But, time marches on, Gene, and your backpack, which you have kept running by the way, won’t run forever. That was pretty much all I wanted to say. Thanks for taking this time out of your tait schedule to meet with me. I think we will meet again on Earth in the near future."

MCI: "I would like that very much, Robyn" he said. "In the meantime, I would ask a favor from you." "Anything, Gene. Just name it." "My beautiful ten year old little girl’s name is Tracy," Cernan told her. "I wrote her initials with my finger in the ground near the Challenger.

MCJ: "I did it far enough away that the blast of our ascent won’t erase it, but now that I know you're here I'm worried that new footprints might erase her initials."

"I can tell you love your daughter very much," she said. "I promise no one will ever come near the Challenger.

MCK: We'll make it off-limits to the Russians too. Your Tracy’s initials won’t last forever, of course, due to micrometeorites, but close enough. A million years? That’s much better than anything you could do for her Earthside. Take care, Gene, and have a safe journey home."

MCL: They put their helmets on once more and made sure of the seals before Robyn pumped the air out and motioned for Gene to leave. When the men returned to the LM Harrison Schmitt snapped a photo of Cernan. He looked haggard, exhausted, and perhaps just a little bit haunted.

MCM: To his mind the young lady he met out there with her sheaf of papers and bundle of rocks and all the things she said spelled slow but certain doom for NASA’s entire manned space program, not just the moon shots. But true to her words it was not the last time they would meet.

MDA: In the days leading up to Christmas in 1972 President Richard Nixon sent one hundred twenty-nine B-52s to lay waste to Hanoi, Haiphong, and points in between, including airfields, warehouses, rail yards, and, in an unfortunate misfire from a damaged bomber, even a hospital.

MDB: Eleven of the big bombers were shot down and ninety airmen were either killed in the crashes or captured alive. There was a thirty-six hour pause in the bombing for Christmas, and then it resumed. The North Vietnamese government said the American president had gone insane.

MBC: The remaining B-52s continued to assail Hanoi around the clock, losing four additional planes. By January 1 the North Vietnamese couldn’t take any more and returned to the negotiating table. A month later a cease-fire was announced, and the war shuddered to a halt.

MBD: Robyn, who could see how things would play out a few years up the timeline, told Judith the North Vietnamese had basically just put the reunification of their country on pause long enough for the Americans to claim victory and leave. And that sent the wrong signals to Nixon.

MDE: In the fall when the Israelis and Arabs became embroiled in another one of their wars, Nixon, if not otherwise distracted, would fall back on the bad instincts reinforced by Vietnam and escalate the conflict to the point of a limited nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union.

MDF: But Nixon would be otherwise distracted, thanks to the midnight handiwork of Judith and Robyn in a stairwell of the Watergate hotel in Washington, DC. Robyn said rotating a little piece of gray tape 90 degrees and smoothing it back down would save millions of human lives.

MDG: The Attorney General of the United States, the top law enforcement official in the land, had approved an operation to break into the headquarters of the opposing political party and wiretap their phones. Later when one of the bugs stopped working he ordered its replacement.

MDH: That's where the little piece of tape came in. After picking the lock on the stairwell door to Suite 600, the intruders placed tape over the latch so they wouldn't have to repeat the procedure. At Robyn's suggestion, Judith left the tape in place, but she made it visible.

MDI: A security guard found the tape, tore it off, and threw it away. He thought very little of it other than making a point to give the same door a tug when he made his pass down the stairwell a half hour later. The lock had been picked open again, and there was more tape.

MDJ: That led to a phone call to the police and the arrest of five burglars. The Counsel to the White House was enlisted to pay hush money and lawyer’s fees for the defendants after the arrest. The head of the FBI was ordered to bury evidence and squash the investigation.

MDK: All these measures seemed to work. Watergate stories were relegated to page A9. Nixon won reelection with the biggest plurality in American history. Judith didn't want to doubt Robyn's precognitive abilities, but this critical alteration had seemed to wobble into a dead end.

MDL: But a few days after the cease-fire in Vietnam, the judge in the case of the Watergate burglars, "Maximum John" Sirica, handed down ridiculously stiff sentences with the idea of making one of the defendants break and testify against their unknown handlers.

MDM: When that hit the papers Robyn told Judith, "The buns are in the oven now, and when they come out again in March Nixon will have more to munch on than he can possibly swallow." Judith decided to take a wait-and-see approach because so far Robyn seemed to be batting zero.

MDN: Then there was Robyn's suggestion they try to get in on the ground floor of a opportunity that promised to transform society like nothing has done since the harnessing of steam power. But bad hiring decisions required Judith to intervene personally, which was never good.

MDO: A man likely to be a much more suitable candidate for Robyn's project was identified and agreed to be interviewed. At roughly the same time Captain Eugene Cernan sent a message through FBI Associate Director Mark Felt requesting to contact the leadership of Astrodynamics.

MDP: Judith knew it would make for a busy day but she decided to attend to both of these visitors at the company's workshop. And she would allow Robyn to be present as well, hopefully so she could say, "See, I told you so!" when things played out the way she promised they would.

MDQ: The place in Washington State where the Enumclaw and Black Diamond Highway crossed the Kent-Kangley Road was called Four Corners but there wasn't much there aside from a lumber yard, a grocery store, a gas station, and one modest strip mall with a dentist and a cafe.

MDR: Astrodyne leased the vacant office between Dr. Tsugawa's practice and Nancy's Noodle Nook. Sometimes locals wandered in by accident, thinking it was one or the other. Vinyl lettering went up on the glass that formed the front wall denoting the place as 'Epoch Electronics'.

MDS: After that locals sometimes came in thinking the place sold hi-fi equipment, but there was only an unfurnished space where visitors were greeted by a receptionist, and if they weren't expected, they were quickly turned around. The door out back opened only from the inside.

MDT: One cold wet day in February 1973 Gary Kildall visited the place, but he was expected. The receptionist, one Dory going by her name placard, looked to be of Indian descent. Certainly she was wearing what appeared to be native garb to keep warm whenever the door opened.

MDU: Gary thought if she stood up she might easily prove to be the tallest woman he had ever seen. Dory verified who he was, somehow, before he even gave his name. There was a solid sound of steel moving within steel. "Thank you for coming here today, Mr. Kildall," she said.

MDV: The door to the left of her cubicle slowly began to pivot open without human intervention. It seemed deceptively massive in the way it gradually slowed to a nearly imperceptible stop before it could crash through the adjacent wall. "Please go ahead and enter the shop.

MDW: "Everyone is really looking forward to meeting you." So Gary went through the door down a short hallway and entered the unpartitioned space that Dory called the shop. A Teletype was clacking along in the middle of a print job. To Gary's delight he saw it was a model 33 ASR.

MDX: That model, as Gary well knew, was ubiquitous in the United States Navy. It was turning a stack of blank perforated-edge paper into another stack of finished printout. A large spool of paper tape with holes punched in six-bit binary code was providing the data to be printed.

MDY: A woman in a blue shop smock was manually reeling up the spent tape after it fed through the reader. Her smock wasn't buttoned up. Gary could see that she wore a black concert tee and blue jeans. He thought one of the guitarists silk screened on the shirt looked like Dory.

MDZ: The woman spooling up the data looked a bit little like a football player. In fact she really had been one back in high school. "I'm Sofie Krause, AKA Sabotage," she said with a broad smile. "They let me handle the tape because if I touch anything else I'll just break it."

MEA: Then Gary saw where the data had originated. There was a blue-green cabinet six feet high, six feet deep, and two feet wide. His prospective employers had a minicomputer, a PDP-1, one of only about fifty ever made. Another woman wearing a buttoned up smock stood over there.

MEB: He couldn't tell what she was wearing under the light-blue cotton lab coat but he guessed from her bare calves that it was a dress. Her hair was a much darker brown than that of the first woman, with hints of red. Like any ginger or borderline ginger her skin was quite pale.

MEC: For her part Robyn thought the well-dressed bearded visitor very much resembled her father when he was roughly the same age. She imagined if there was a Collier's encyclopedia entry for "Dad" then his photo would be featured as the very quintessence of all dads.

MED: Gary saw there was one other woman in the shop, one with hair that was very dark. She looked like a female biker and was wearing what had to be the most expensive leather boots he had ever seen. They were black, went up over her knees, and were articulated at every joint.

MEE: Her thighs weren't bare, but her thigh muscles were evident, and he could tell she was a runner. In fact, it was entirely possible she ran miles in those boots. They looked that functional. The skin on her face was darker than her two friends, but not darker than Dory.

MEF: Everything that wasn't tucked into the boots except her hands and face was covered in deep red leather with zippers everywhere for pockets and for basic access to the garment. It was was glossy and richly red, like fresh blood. Her forearms were covered with more black leather.

MEG: "It's her outfit, I know," said Robyn. "People always stare. But she's homesick and that getup makes her feel like she's home in, ah, Salem."

"Salem, Oregon?"

"No. Much, much farther away. I'm Robyn, incidentally. This is Judith Gervasi, who in fact owns our company."

MEH: "I have no choice, really," Judith said. "I'm the only person around here who can actually obtain a bank account without being arrested or thrown into bedlam, and before you ask, I include Michael in that assessment." Gary smiled at that, and he wondered about her accent.

MEI: The underlying mode sounded British, but there was a strangely otherworldly overlay, as though she had spent much time in a country nobody had ever heard of. He nodded at the computer next to Robyn. "So Green Acres does have a PDP-1. I thought my friends were kidding."

MEJ: Sofie and Robyn chuckled at that remark, but Judith, being indeed both British and otherworldly, was mystified to silence by the reference to an American sitcom. Into this awkward little moment of silence he dropped his own name. "I'm Gary Kildall, Miss Gervasi."

MEK: "Thank you for accepting our invitation, Mr. Kildall. Your reputation is such that we wouldn't dare make a useless waste of your time."

"Thank you. Some friends of mine told me you had a DEC minicomputer squirreled away in here but I wasn't sure I believed them.

MEL: You should know them. They all said they were on your payroll for a time. And I think I can take an educated guess why they aren't working for you anymore.

"I fired them," she said, "for very good cause. But I'm surprised your friends did not try to scare you off."

MEM: "Not at all, Miss Gervasi. I think they might have been a little embarrassed, like they screwed up a really good thing they had going on. But I have to admit, when I prepared to come here I couldn't find anything about Epoch Electronics. You're not even in the Yellow Pages."

MEN: "Oh, that's just something we put on the window so people didn't think this was a vacant space and try to break in, perhaps to have a, what do they call it Sofie? A 'kegger'? Some have still tried. Not that they got anywhere breaking that glass. That's not local stuff.

MEO: The name of my company is Astrodynamics. Sometimes we shorten that up to Astrodyne. You may be thinking you came here for a job interview, Mr. Kildall, but it's really the other way around. We've already decided you're the man for the job and we just need to convince you.

MEP: But I am curious, sir, why you're in the job market. Just curious, you understand."

He said, "I crapped out in the draft lottery but I've been working it off by teaching at a Navy college down in Monterey, California. They cut me loose to finish my doctorate at U-Dub.

MEO: To my great misfortune I find myself with a slight cash-flow problem lately. When I was down in California I was moonlighting as a consultant at Intel, you see. But I'm from up here in Seattle originally. I flew back up in my own plane and that's a pretty expensive hobby.

MEP: My buddy pals said you had deep pockets and the work was right up my alley."

He fell silent, but the Teletype 33 was still running. To avoid letting the pause grow too awkward Judith nodded at the machine and said, "Please, Mr. Kildall, go have a closer look." And he did.

MEQ: After he took a moment reading the printout he said, "I know what this is! I teach this in the Navy! These are the orbital parameters of Soviet satellites. This is how our Navy ships know when a spy satellite is overhead so they can shut down everything and avoid detection.

MER: Judith tilted her head with a dubious look and said, "That was a very good try, Mr. Kildall, but please look at it again. This has nothing to do with signals intelligence."

His face turned a little red and he looked at the printout again, for a bit longer this time.

MES: Then he said, "No, belay my last. These two-line elements aren't Earth-centric, they're sun-centric. And the names: 1866 Sisyphus. 1620 Geographos. You're interested in asteroids."

"Not just any asteroids, Mr. Kildall. Please take another look. The third time's the charm."

MET: He returned to the busy Teletype to look once more. This time he searched for patterns in the data. When he thought he found a common thread he said, "You're worried about Earth-crossers, asteroids which draw nearer to the sun than we do and might smack into us one day."

MEU: "We should all worry about those asteroids," said Robyn. "We've only found a fraction of what must be out there."

"Now, now, Robyn," said Sofie. "We're not worried about asteroids. Mr. Kildall might as well know we're looking for a good one to grab and bring back here."

MEV: "True enough," said Judith. "But Mr. Kildall, color me impressed. Now I shall I tell you what it is exactly we'd like you to do. You see, have the best logistics in the business and that is no idle boast. When you watch it in operation you are simply not going to believe it.

MEW: Anything you tell Dory to order, no matter how expensive or rare it is, absolutely will be here overnight, beg steal or borrow. It is only necessary that your item actually exists. You could tell Dory to get you the Hope Diamond, and the next morning you would have it.

MEX: We want you to use our supply chain to turn that big box there, our so-called 'minicomputer' as big as three coffins stacked on top of each other, into a box the size of a piece of luggage. Then we will have the world's first microcomputer. Will you do it, Mr. Kildall?

MEY: "So take something that costs as much as a lakefront home on the east Side and turn it into something that costs as much as a used car, so anybody can have one? Yes, I can do it, and I will do it, Miss Gervasi, but remember, when I do, there goes the whole neighborhood."

MEZ: "My friend Robyn here is something of a visionary. She says this will change everything. We asked some of your friends to help us, but they used our parts and some girls we hired as assemblers to build these stupid boxes that make free calls and cheat the phone company."

MFA: "Let me guess, that was Wozniak."

"And his mate Steve Jobs. I heard they sold a hundred of their boxes for one hundred fifty dollars apiece. I do hope they managed to save most of it. They might just be able to pay their lawyers enough to avoid conviction for embezzlement.

MFB: After I fired them there was another fellow working here who actually did earn his keep. He wrote a program to simulate an 8008 microprocessor on our mini. Show him that tape, Sofie."

Kildall watched her dig around in a wheeled Vidmar, find it, and hand it off to Judith.

MFC: "Unfortunately this isn't a one-size-fits-all simulation, it's actually set up to compile statistics on vehicular flow so cities can adjust the timing on their traffic lights. Then your friend used our supply system to order everything he needed to build a portable version.

MFD: We built that traffic analyzer for him and the whole time we thought it was our microcomputer. While he was working hardware, another bloke used our PDP-1 to host BASIC on an 8008, but we don't have that tape. I don't much fancy playing the victim. I fired both of them."

MFE: "You must be talking about the Gates and Allen show."

Judith nodded. "I heard they went into business for themselves, something called Traf-O-Data, but it's not going anywhere. I sent a copy of their own tape to Olympia, where they have big iron and some clever fellows.

MFF: It's going to be be tough selling their new box when every city from here to Spokane can just send their data in for Olympia to crunch. Robyn already told them what I'll tell you now: people think about money when they don't have it, but we have it, so we don't think about it.

MFG: Essentially, we have infinite money. But we don't have a deep knowledge of technology. That puts you in a very good negotiating position, Mr. Kildall. Your friends clearly did not believe we were sincere in our attitude about money and about what we are trying to do here.

MFH: "How do I know you won't cast me aside after I deliver the goods?"

"I'll retain the patents for the hardware, just to keep my skin in the game, you understand? But software patents are still a gray area legally. So you will be a full partner when it comes to the licenses.

MFI: You and I will be equal co-owners of anything you write on my time. If you decide to sublet to a third party I will not block the transaction or try to undermine you in price. You can have all this in writing, if you wish, but really, Mr. Kildall, that will not be necessary.

MFJ: "I do have a couple of unavoidable obstacles though," he said. "First, I have another year on my teaching gig down in California and there's no way out of it. It's an obligation I have to Uncle Sam. So the fall of this year and winter and spring of '74 are basically a wash."

MFK: "That's not a problem at all. We can lease office space down there and have a little shop just like this up and running in no time at all. Instead of going back to Intel you just stay with us."

"Okay, but then there's my whole excuse for going on hiatus to come up here.

MFL: Like I said before, Miss Gervasi, they cut me loose to finish my own academic work at the University of Washington."

"I fully understand where you're coming from, Mr. Kildall, I really do. I have a Master of Arts degree myself, in linguistics, from Hebrew University.

MFM: I submitted my dissertation prospectus to the PhD Supervisory Committee but soon after that I was horribly sidetracked." She turned to wink at Robyn, who knew she only did that on Alpha Track right before the Yom Kippur War, which still half a year away on this track.

MFN: "But I know you're a very clever fellow, Mr. Kildall," Judith said. "I'm sure you will find a way to mesh your work for us here and your work in academia so they are one and the same. And when you're all done, our chief engineer will be a doctor in computer science.

MFO: What do you think, Sofie?"

"I think playtime is over. No more Romper Room. The grownup is in the building."

"And you, Robyn? How is this day shaping up?"

"This was a big deal, Judith, the last major alteration before Chokhmah wins. We're already on Delta track now."

MFP: Gary seemed puzzled by Robyn's words, but then again the entire interview had been conducted with an air of unreality. "I'm sorry Robyn, I don't think I follow you."

She said, "Gordon Moore, one of the big shots at Intel, said something important about ICs a few years ago.

MFR: He predicted the number of transistors that can be crammed onto one piece of silicon would double yearly. I think that was a little too optimistic, and it should be every two years, but still, with a compound rate like that, a computer the size of luggage is only the start."

MFS: At that moment the paper data tape spooled out and the Teletype stopped chattering. Sofie went over to look at the printout. "We have a winner, Judith," she said, "and naturally it's a no-name." She looked at Gary. "Robyn is talking about a computer you can wear as a watch."

MFT: "No, I'm talking about a computer that floats on the cornea of your eye. Moore's observation will stay true year after year, smaller and smaller, until we butt up against the quantum granularity of matter itself and even then some smart kids will keep the show going somehow.

MFU: So the meat of what I'm saying, Mr. Kildall, is that this day is going to become legendary, one for the history books, and it's only half over."

"Oh That's right," Judith said. "Dory just told me your Captain Cernan arrived a little early. He's waiting next door at Nancy's."

MFV: That last bit puzzled Gary even more. He didn't remember hearing Dory say anything since he stepped into the shop.

"So are you in, Mr. Kildall?" But Judith already knew he was in from what Robyn just said about the new timeline.

"Just call me Gary, please. Yes, I'm in."

MFW: How did I get so lucky?"

"Good fortune all the way around, Gary. I'll leave it to Sofie and Dory to negotiate your salary and other such details, and to step you through the paperwork. Robyn, let's go eat and see your famous astronaut. Dory told Nancy to cook our usual."

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Strangers In Paradise