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´╗┐Title: The Drivers
Author: Ludwig, Edward W.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Drivers" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE DRIVERS

BY EDWARD W. LUDWIG

_Jetways were excellent substitutes for war,
perfect outlets for all forms of neuroses.
And the unfit were weeded out by death...._

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Worlds of If Science Fiction, February 1956.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Up the concrete steps. Slowly, one, two, three, four. Down the naked,
ice-white corridor. The echo of his footfalls like drumbeats, ominous,
threatening.

Around him, bodies, faces, moving dimly behind the veil of his fear.

At last, above an oaken door, the black-lettered sign:

    DEPARTMENT OF LAND-JET VEHICLES
          DIVISION OF LICENSES

He took a deep breath. He withdrew his handkerchief and wiped
perspiration from his forehead, his upper lip, the palms of his hands.

His mind caressed the hope: _Maybe I've failed the tests. Maybe they
won't give me a license._

He opened the door and stepped inside.

The metallic voice of a robot-receptionist hummed at him:

"Name?"

"T--Tom Rogers."

Click. "Have you an appointment?"

His gaze ran over the multitude of silver-boxed analyzers, computers,
tabulators, over the white-clad technicians and attendants, over the
endless streams of taped data fed from mouths in the dome-shaped
ceiling.

"Have you an appointment?" repeated the robot.

"Oh. At 4:45 p. m."

Click. "Follow the red arrow in Aisle Three, please."

Tom Rogers moved down the aisle, eyes wide on the flashing,
arrow-shaped lights just beneath the surface of the quartzite floor.

Abruptly, he found himself before a desk. Someone pushed him into a
foam-rubber contour chair.

"Surprised, eh, boy?" boomed a deep voice. "No robots at this stage of
the game. No sir. This requires the human touch. Get me?"

"Uh-huh."

"Well, let's see now." The man settled back in his chair behind the
desk and began thumbing through a file of papers. He was paunchy and
bald save for a forepeak of red-brown fuzz. His gray eyes, with the
dreamy look imposed by thick contact lenses, were kindly. Sweeping
across his flat chest were two rows of rainbow-bright Driver's Ribbons.
Two of the bronze accident stars were flanked by smaller stars which
indicated limb replacements.

Belatedly, Tom noticed the desk's aluminum placard which read _Harry
Hayden, Final Examiner--Human_.

Tom thought, _Please, Harry Hayden, tell me I failed. Don't lead up to
it. Please come out and say I failed the tests._

"Haven't had much time to look over your file," mused Harry Hayden.
"Thomas Darwell Rogers. Occupation: journalism student. Unmarried. No
siblings. Height, five-eleven. Weight, one-sixty-three. Age, twenty."

Harry Hayden frowned. "Twenty?" he repeated, looking up.

_Oh, God, here it comes again._

"Yes, sir," said Tom Rogers.

Harry Hayden's face hardened. "You've tried to enlist before? You were
turned down?"

"This is my first application."

Sudden hostility swept aside Harry Hayden's expression of kindliness.
He scowled at Tom's file. "Born July 18, 2020. This is July 16, 2041.
In two days you'll be twenty-one. We don't issue new licenses to people
over twenty-one."

"I--I know, sir. The psychiatrists believe you adjust better to Driving
when you're young."

"In fact," glowered Harry Hayden, "in two days you'd have been
classified as an enlistment evader. Our robo-statistics department
would have issued an automatic warrant of arrest."

"I know, sir."

"Then why'd you wait so long?" The voice was razor-sharp.

Tom wiped a fresh burst of sweat from his forehead. "Well, you know how
one keeps putting things off. I just--"

"You don't put off things like this, boy. Why, my three sons were lined
up here at five in the morning on their sixteenth birthdays. Every
mother's son of 'em. They'd talked of nothing else since they were
twelve. Used to play Drivers maybe six, seven hours every day...." His
voice trailed.

"Most kids are like that," said Tom.

"Weren't _you_?" The hostility in Harry Hayden seemed to be churning
like boiling water.

"Oh, sure," lied Tom.

"I don't get it. You say you wanted to Drive, but you didn't try to
enlist."

Tom squirmed.

_You can't tell him you've been scared of jetmobiles ever since you saw
that crash when you were three. You can't say that, at seven, you saw
your grandfather die in a jetmobile and that after that you wouldn't
even play with a jetmobile toy. You can't tell him those things because
five years of psychiatric treatment didn't get the fear out of you. If
the medics didn't understand, how could Harry Hayden?_

Tom licked his lips. _And you can't tell him how you used to lie in bed
praying you'd die before you were sixteen--or how you've pleaded with
Mom and Dad not to make you enlist till you were twenty. You can't--_

Inspiration struck him. He clenched his fists. "It--it was my mother,
sir. You know how mothers are sometimes. Hate to see their kids grow
up. Hate to see them put on a uniform and risk being killed."

Harry Hayden digested the explanation for a few seconds. It seemed to
pacify him. "By golly, that's right. Esther took it hard when Mark died
in a five-car bang-up out of San Francisco. And when Larry got his
three summers ago in Europe. Esther's my wife--Mark was my youngest,
Larry the oldest."

He shook his head. "But it isn't as bad as it used to be. Organ and
limb grafts are pretty well perfected, and with electro-hypnosis
operations are painless. The only fatalities now are when death is
immediate, when it happens before the medics get to you. Why, no more
than one out of ten Drivers died in the last four-year period."

A portion of his good nature returned. "Anyway, your personal life's
none of my business. You understand the enlistment contract?"

Tom nodded. _Damn you, Harry Hayden, let me out of here. Tell me I
failed, tell me I passed. But damn you, let me out._

"Well?" said Harry Hayden, waiting.

"Oh. The enlistment contract. First enlistment is for four years.
Renewal any time during the fourth year at the option of the enlistee.
Minimum number of hours required per week: seven. Use of unauthorized
armour or offensive weapons punishable by $5,000.00 fine or five
years in prison. All accidents and deaths not witnessed by a Jetway
'copter-jet must be reported at once by visi-phone to nearest Referee
and Medical Depot. Oh yes, maximum speed: 900 miles per."

"Right! You got it, boy!" Harry Hayden paused, licking his lips. "Now,
let's see. Guess I'd better ask another question or two. This is your
final examination, you know. What do you remember about the history of
Driving?"

Tom was tempted to say, "Go to Hell, you fat idiot," but he knew that
whatever he did or said now was of no importance. The robot-training
tests he'd undergone during the past three weeks, only, were of
importance.

Dimly, he heard himself repeating the phrases beaten into his mind by
school history-tapes:

"In the 20th Century a majority of the Earth's peoples were filled with
hatreds and frustrations. Humanity was cursed with a world war every
generation or so. Between wars, young people had no outlets for their
energy, and many of them formed bands of delinquents. Even older people
developed an alarming number of psychoses and neuroses.

"The institution of Driving was established in 1998 after automobiles
were declared obsolete because of their great number. The Jetways were
retained for use of young people in search of thrills."

"Right!" Harry Hayden broke in. "Now, the kids get all the excitement
they need, and there are no more delinquent bands and wars. When you've
spent a hitch or two killing or almost being killed, you're mature.
You're ready to settle down and live a quiet life--just like most of
the old-time war veterans used to do. And you're trained to think and
act fast, you've got good judgment. And the weak and unfit are weeded
out. Right, boy?"

Tom nodded. A thought forced its way up from the layer of fear that
covered his mind. "Right--as far as it goes."

"How's that?"

Tom's voice quavered, but he said, "I mean that's part of it. The rest
is that most people are bored with themselves. They think that by
traveling fast they can escape from themselves. After four or eight
years of racing at 800 per, they find out they can't escape after all,
so they become resigned. Or, sometimes if they're lucky enough to
escape death, they begin to feel important after all. They aren't so
bored then because a part of their mind tells them they're mightier
than death."

Harry Hayden whistled. "Hey, I never heard that before. Is that in the
tapes now? Can't say I understand it too well, but it's a fine idea.
Anyway, Driving's good. Cuts down on excess population, too--and with
Peru putting in Jetways, it's world-wide. Yep, by golly. Yes, sir!"

He thrust a pen at Tom. "All right, boy. Just sign here."

Tom Rogers took the pen automatically. "You mean, I--"

"Yep, you came through your robot-training tests A-1. Oh, some of the
psycho reports aren't too flattering. Lack of confidence, sense of
inferiority, inability to adjust. But nothing serious. A few weeks of
Driving'll fix you up. Yep, boy, you've passed. You're getting your
license. Tomorrow morning you'll be on the Jetway. You'll be Driving,
boy, Driving!"

_Oh Mother of God, Mother of God...._

       *       *       *       *       *

"And now," said Harry Hayden, "you'll want to see your Hornet."

"Of course," murmured Tom Rogers, swaying.

The paunchy man rose and led Tom down an aluminite ramp and onto a
small observation platform some ninety feet above the ground.

A dry summer wind licked at Tom's hair and stung his eyes. Nausea
twisted at his innards. He felt as if he were perched on the edge of a
slippery precipice.

"There," intoned Harry Hayden, "is the Jetway. Beautiful, eh?"

"Uh-huh."

Trembling, Tom forced his vision to the bright, smooth canyon beneath
him. Its bottom was a shining white asphalt ribbon, a thousand feet
wide, that cut arrow-straight through the city. Its walls were naked
concrete banks a hundred feet high whose reinforced lips curved inward
over the antiseptic whiteness.

Harry Hayden pointed a chubby finger downward. "And there _they_
are--the Hornets. See 'em, boy? Right there in front of the assembly
shop. Twelve of 'em. Brand new DeLuxe Super-Jet '41 Hornets. Yes, sir.
Going to be twelve of you initiated tomorrow."

Tom scowled at the twelve jetmobiles shaped like flattened tear-drops.
No sunlight glittered on their dead-black bodies. They squatted silent
and foreboding, oblivious to sunlight, black bullets poised to hurl
their prospective occupants into fury and horror.

_Grandpa looked so very white in his coffin, so very dead--_

"What's the matter, boy? You sick?"

"N--no, of course not."

Harry Hayden laughed. "I get it. You thought you'd get to _really_ see
one. Get in it, I mean, try it out. It's too late in the day, boy.
Shop's closing. You couldn't drive one anyway. Regulation is that new
drivers start in the morning when they're fresh. But tomorrow morning
one of those Hornets'll be assigned to you. Delivered to the terminal
nearest your home. Live far from your terminal?"

"About four blocks."

"Half a minute on the mobile-walk. What college you go to?"

"Western U."

"Lord, that's 400 miles away. You been living there?"

"No. Commuting every day on the monorail."

"Hell, that's for old women. Must have taken you over an hour to get
there. Now you'll make it in almost thirty minutes. Still, it's best
to take it easy the first day. Don't get 'er over 600 per. But don't
let 'er fall beneath that either. If you do, some old veteran'll know
you're a greenhorn and try to knock you off."

Suddenly Harry Hayden stiffened.

"Here come a couple! Look at 'em, boy!"

The low rumbling came out of the west, as of angry bees.

Twin pinpoints of black appeared on the distant white ribbon. Louder
and louder the rumbling. Larger and larger the dots. To Tom, the
sterile Jetway was transformed into a home of horror, an amphitheatre
of death.

Louder and larger--

_Brooommmmmm._

Gone.

"Hey, how'ja like that, boy? They're gonna crack the sonic barrier or
my name's not Harry Hayden!"

Tom's white-knuckled hands grasped a railing for support. _Christ, I'm
going to be sick. I'm going to vomit._

"But wait'll five o'clock or nine in the morning. That's when you see
the traffic. That's when you _really_ do some Driving!"

Tom gulped. "Is--is there a rest room here?"

"What's that, boy?"

"A--a rest room."

"What's the matter, boy? You _do_ look sick. Too much excitement,
maybe?"

Tom motioned frantically.

Harry Hayden pointed, slow comprehension crawling over his puffy
features. "Up the ramp, to your right."

Tom Rogers made it just in time....

       *       *       *       *       *

Many voices:

    "Happy Driving to You,
    Happy Driving to You,
    Happy Driving, Dear Taaa-ahmmm--" (pause)
    "Happy Driving to--" (flourish) "--You!"

An explosion of laughter. A descent of beaming faces, a thrusting
forward of hands.

Mom reached him first. Her small face was pale under its thin coat
of make-up. Her firm, rounded body was like a girl's in its dress of
swishing Martian silk, yet her blue eyes were sad and her voice held a
trembling fear:

"You passed, Tom?" Softly.

Tom's upper lip twitched. Was she afraid that he'd passed the tests--or
that he hadn't! He wasn't sure.

Before he could answer, Dad broke in, hilariously. "Everybody passes
these days excepts idiots and cripples!"

Tom tried to join the chorus of laughter.

Dad said, more softly, "You _did_ pass, didn't you?"

"I passed," said Tom, forcing a smile. "But, Dad, I didn't want a
surprise party. Really, I--"

"Nonsense." Dad straightened. "This is the happiest moment of our
lives--or at least it _should_ be."

Dad grinned. An understanding, intimate and gentle, flickered across
his handsome, gray-thatched features. For an instant Tom felt that he
was not alone.

Then the grin faded. Dad resumed his role of proud and blustering
father. Light glittered on his three rows of Driver's Ribbons. The huge
Blue Ribbon of Honor was in their center, like a blue flower in an evil
garden of bronze accident stars, crimson fatality ribbons and silver
death's-heads.

In a moment of desperation Tom turned to Mom. The sadness was still in
her face, but it seemed over-shadowed by pride. What was it she'd once
said? "It's terrible, Tom, to think of your becoming a Driver, but it'd
be a hundred times more terrible _not_ to see you become one."

He knew now that he was alone, an exile, and Mom and Dad were
strangers. After all, how could one person, entrenched in his own
little world of calm security, truly know another's fear and loneliness?

"Just a little celebration," Dad was saying. "You wouldn't be a Driver
unless we gave you a real send-off. All our friends are here, Tom.
Uncle Mack and Aunt Edith and Bill Ackerman and Lou Dorrance--"

No, Dad, Tom thought. Not our friends. _Your_ friends. Don't you
remember that a man of twenty who isn't a Driver has no friends?

A lank, loose-jowled man jostled between them. Tom realized that Uncle
Mack was babbling at him.

"Knew you'd make it, Tom. Never believed what some people said 'bout
you being afraid. My boy, of course, enlisted when he was only
seventeen. Over thirty now, but he still Drives now and then. Got a
special license, you know. Only last week--"

Dad exclaimed, "A toast to our new Driver!"

Murmurs of delight. Clinkings of glasses. Gurglings of liquid.

Someone bounded a piano chord. Voices rose:

    "A-Driving he will go,
    A-Driving he will go,
    To Hell and back in a coffin-sack
    A-Driving he will go."

Tom downed his glass of champagne. A pleasant warmth filled his belly.
A satisfying numbness dulled the raw ache of fear.

He smiled bitterly.

There was kindness and gentleness within the human heart, he thought,
but like tiny inextinguishable fires, there were ferocity and
savageness, too. What else could one expect from a race only a few
thousand years beyond the spear and stone axe?

Through his imagination passed a parade of sombre scenes:

The primitive man dancing about a Paleolithic fire, chanting an
invocation to strange gods who might help in tomorrow's battle with
the hairy warriors from the South.

The barrel-chested Roman gladiator, with trident and net, striding into
the great stone arena.

The silver-armored knight, gauntlet in gloved hand, riding into the
pennant-bordered tournament ground.

The rock-shouldered fullback trotting beneath an avalanche of cheers
into the 20th Century stadium.

Men needed a challenge to their wits, a test for their strength. The
urge to combat and the lust for danger was as innate as the desire for
life. Who was he to say that the law of Driving was unjust?

Nevertheless he shuddered.

And the singers continued:

    "A thousand miles an hour,
    A thousand miles an hour,
    Angels cry and devils sigh
    At a thousand miles an hour...."

       *       *       *       *       *

The jetmobile terminal was like a den of chained, growling black
tigers. White-cloaked attendants scurried from stall to stall, deft
hands flying over atomic-engine controls and flooding each vehicle with
surging life.

Ashen-faced, shivering in the early-morning coolness, Tom Rogers handed
an identification slip to an attendant.

"Okay, kid," the rat-faced man wheezed, "there she is--Stall 17. Brand
new, first time out. Good luck."

Tom stared in horror at the grumbling metal beast.

"But remember," the attendant said, "don't try to make a killing your
first day. Most Drivers aren't out to get a Ribbon every day either.
They just want to get to work or school, mostly, and have fun doing it."

_Have fun doing it_, thought Tom. _Good God._

About him passed other black-uniformed Drivers. They paused at
the heads of their stalls, donned crash-helmets and safety belts,
adjusted goggles. They were like primitive warriors, like cocky Roman
gladiators, like armored knights, like star fullbacks. They were
formidable and professional.

Tom's imagination wandered.

_By Jupiter's beard, we'll vanquish Attila and his savages. We'll prove
ourselves worthy of being men and Romans.... The Red Knight? I vow,
Mother, that his blood alone shall know the sting of the lance....
Don't worry, Dad. Those damned Japs and Germans won't lay a hand on
me.... Watch me on TV, folks. Three touchdowns today--I promise!_

The attendant's voice snapped him back to reality. "What you waiting
for, kid? Get in!"

Tom's heart pounded. He felt the hot pulse of blood in his temples.

The Hornet lay beneath him like an open, waiting coffin.

He swayed.

"Hi, Tom!" a boyish voice called. "Bet I beat ya!"

Tom blinked and beheld a small-boned, tousled-haired lad of seventeen
striding past the stall. What was his name? Miles. That was it. Larry
Miles. A frosh at Western U.

A skinny, pimply-faced boy suddenly transformed into a black-garbed
warrior. How could this be?

"Okay," Tom called, biting his lip.

He looked again at the Hornet. A giddiness returned to him.

You can say you're sick, he told himself. It's happened before: a
hangover from the party. Sure. Tomorrow you'll feel better. If you
could just have one more day, just one--

Other Hornets were easing out into the slip, sleek black cats embarking
on an insane flight. One after another, grumbling, growling, spatting
scarlet flame from their tail jets.

Perhaps if he waited a few minutes, the traffic would be thinner. He
could have coffee, let the other nine-o'clock people go on ahead of him.

_No, dammit, get it over with. If you crash, you crash. If you die, you
die. You and Grandpa and a million others._

He gritted his teeth, fighting the omnipresent giddiness. He eased his
body down into the Hornet's cockpit. He felt the surge of incredible
energies beneath the steelite controls. Compared to this vehicle, the
ancient training jets were as children's toys.

An attendant snapped down the plexite canopy. Ahead, a guide-master
twirled a blue flag in a starting signal.

Tom flicked on a switch. His trembling hands tightened about the
steering lever. The Hornet lunged forward, quivering as it was seized
by the Jetway's electromagnetic guide-field.

He drove....

       *       *       *       *       *

One hundred miles an hour, two hundred, three hundred.

Down the great asphalt valley he drove. Perspiration formed inside his
goggles, steaming the glass. He tore them off. The glaring whiteness
hurt his eyes.

Swish, swish swish.

Jetmobiles roared past him. The rushing wind of their passage buffeted
his own car. His hands were knuckled white around the steering lever.

He recalled the advice of Harry Hayden: Don't let 'er under 600 per. If
you do, some old veteran'll know you're a greenhorn and try to knock
you off.

Lord. Six hundred.

But strangely, a measure of desperate courage crept into his
fear-clouded mind. If Larry Miles, a pimply-faced kid of seventeen,
could do it, so could he. Certainly, he told himself.

His foot squeezed down on the accelerator. Atomic engines hummed
smoothly.

To his right, he caught a kaleidoscopic glimpse of a white
gyro-ambulance. A group of metal beasts lay huddled on the emergency
strip like black ants feeding on a carcass.

_Like Grandfather_, he thought. _Like those two moments out of the dark
past, moments of screaming flame and black death and a child's horror._

Swish.

The scene was gone, transformed into a cluster of black dots on his
rear-vision radarscope.

His stomach heaved. For a moment he thought he was going to be sick
again.

But stronger now than his horror was a growing hatred of that horror.
His body tensed as if he were fighting a physical enemy. He fought his
memories, tried to thrust them back into the oblivion of lost time,
tried to leave them behind him just as his Hornet had left the cluster
of metal beasts.

He took a deep breath. He was not going to be sick after all.

Five hundred now. Six hundred. He'd reached the speed without realizing
it. Keep 'er steady. Stay on the right. If Larry Miles can do it, so
can you.

_Swooommmm._

God, where did _that_ one come from?

Only ten minutes more. You'll be there. You'll make a right hand turn
at the college. The automatic pilot'll take care of that. You won't
have to get in the fast traffic lanes.

He wiped perspiration from his forehead. Not so bad, these Drivers.
Like Harry Hayden said, the killers come out on Saturdays and Sundays.
Now, most of us are just anxious to get to work and school.

Six hundred, seven hundred, seven-twenty--

Did he dare tackle the sonic barrier?

The white asphalt was like opaque mist. The universe seemed to consist
only of the broad expanse of Jetway.

_Swooommmm._

Someone passing even at this speed! The crazy fool! And cutting in,
the flame of his exhaust clouding Tom's windshield!

Tom's foot jerked off the accelerator. His Hornet slowed. The car ahead
disappeared into the white distance like a black arrow.

Whew!

His legs were suddenly like ice water. He pulled over to the emergency
strip. Down went the speedometer--five hundred, four, three, two, one,
zero....

He saw the image of the approaching Hornet in his rear-vision
radarscope. It was traveling fast and heading straight toward him.
Heading onto the emergency strip.

A side-swiper!

Tom's heart churned. There would be no physical contact between the two
Hornets--but the torrent of air from the inch-close passage would be
enough to hurl his car into the Jetway bank like a storm-blown leaf.

There was no time to build enough acceleration for escape. His only
chance was to frighten the attacker away. He swung his Hornet right,
slammed both his acceleration and braking jet controls to full force.
The car shook under the sudden release of energy. White-hot flame
roared from its two dozen jets. Tom's Hornet was enclosed by a sphere
of flame.

But dwarfing the roar was the thunder of the attacking Hornet. A black
meteor in Tom's radarscope, it zoomed upon him. Tom closed his eyes,
braced himself for the impact.

There was no impact. There was only an explosion of sound and a
moderate buffeting of his car. It was as if many feet, not inches, had
separated the two Hornets.

Tom opened his eyes and flicked off his jet controls.

Ahead, through the plexite canopy, he beheld the attacker.

It was far away now, like an insane, fiery black bird. Both its
acceleration and braking jets flamed. It careened to the far side of
the Jetway and zig-zagged up the curved embankment. Its body trembled
as its momentum fought the Jetway's electromagnetic guide-field.

As if in an incredible carnival loop-the-loop, the Hornet topped the
lip of the wall. It left the concrete, did a backward somersault, and
gyrated through space like a flaming pinwheel.

It descended with an earth-shaking crash in the center of the gleaming
Jetway.

_What happened?_ Tom's dazed mind screamed. _In God's name, what
happened?_

He saw the sleek white shape of a Referee's 'copter-jet floating to
the pavement beside him. Soon he was being pulled out of his Hornet.
Someone was pumping his hand and thumping his back.

"Magnificent," a voice was saying. "Simply magnificent!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Night. Gay laughter and tinkling glasses. Above all, Dad's voice,
strong and proud:

"... and on his very first day, too. He saw the car in his rear
radarscope, guessed what the devil was up to. Did he try to escape? No,
he stayed right there. When the car closed in for the kill, he spun
around and turned on all his jets full-blast. The killer never had a
chance to get close enough to do his side-swiping. The blast roasted
him like a peanut."

Dad put his arm around Tom's shoulder. All eyes seemed upon Tom's
bright new crimson fatality ribbon embossed not only with a silver
death's-head, but also with a sea-blue Circle of Honor.

Tom thought:

_Behold the conquering hero. Attila is vanquished and Rome is saved.
The Red Knight has been defeated, and the fair princess is mine. That
Jap Zero didn't have a chance. A touchdown in the final five seconds of
the fourth quarter--not bad, eh?_

Dad went on:

"That devil really _was_ a killer. Fellow name of Wilson. Been Driving
for six years. Had thirty-three accident ribbons with twenty-one
fatalities--not one of them honorable. That Wilson drove for just one
purpose: to kill. He met his match in our Tom Rogers."

Applause from Uncle Mack and Aunt Edith and Bill Ackerman and Lou
Dorrance--and more important, from young Larry Miles and big Norm
Powers and blonde Geraldine Oliver and cute little Sally Peters.

Tom smiled. Not only _your_ friends tonight, Dad. Tonight it's _my_
friends, too. _My_ friends from Western U.

Fame was as unpredictable as the trembling of a leaf, Tom thought, as
delicate as a pillar of glass. Yet the yoke of fame rested pleasantly
on his shoulders. He had no inclination to dislodge it. And while a
fear was still in him, it was now a fragile thing, an egg shell to be
easily crushed.

Later Mom came to him. There was a proudness in her features, and yet a
sadness and a fear, too. Her eyes held the thoughtful hesitancy of one
for whom time and event have moved too swiftly for comprehension.

"Tomorrow's Saturday," she murmured. "There's no school, and no one'll
expect you to Drive after what happened today. You'll be staying home
for your birthday, won't you, Tom?"

Tom Rogers shook his head. "No," he said wistfully. "Sally Peters is
giving a little party over in New Boston. It's the first time anyone
like Sally ever asked me anywhere."

"I see," said Mom, as if she really didn't see at all. "You'll take the
monorail?"

"No, Mom," Tom answered very softly. "I'm Driving."





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