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I went through the gateway, towing my equipment in a contragravity hamper over my head. As usual, I was wondering what it would take, short of a revolution, to get the city of Port Sandor as clean and tidy and well lighted as the spaceport area. I knew Dad's editorials and my sarcastic news stories wouldn't do it. We'd been trying long enough.
The two girls in bikinis in front of me pushed on, still gabbling about the fight one of them had had with her boyfriend, and I closed up behind the half dozen monster-hunters in long trousers, ankle boots and short boat-jackets, with big knives on their belts. They must have all been from the same crew, because they weren't arguing about whose ship was fastest, had the toughest skipper, and made the most money. They were talking about the price of tallow-wax, and they seemed to have picked up a rumor that it was going to be cut another ten centisols a pound. I eavesdropped shamelessly, but it was the same rumor I'd picked up, myself, a little earlier.
"Hi, Walt," somebody behind me called out. "Looking for some news that's fit to print?"
I turned my head. It was a man of about thirty-five with curly brown hair and a wide grin. Adolf Lautier, the entertainment promoter. He and Dad each owned a share in the Port Sandor telecast station and split their time between his music and drama-films and Dad's newscasts.
"All the news is fit to print, and if it's news the Times prints it," I told him. "Think you're going to get some good thrillers this time?"
He shrugged. I'd just asked that to make conversation; he never had any way of knowing what sort of filmswould come in. The ones the Peenemünde was bringing should be fairly new, because she was outbound from Terra. He'd go over what was aboard and trade one for one for the old films he'd shown already.
"They tell me there's a real Old-Terran-style Western been showing on Völund that ought to be coming our way this time," he said. "It was filmed in South America, with real horses."
That would go over big here. Almost everybody thought horses were as extinct as dinosaurs. I've seen so-called Westerns with the cowboys riding Freyan oukry. I mentioned that, and then added:
"They'll think the old cattle towns like Dodge and Abilene were awful sissy places, though."
"I suppose they were, compared to Port Sandor," Lautier said. "Are you going aboard to interview the distinguished visitor?"
"Which one?" I asked. "Glenn Murell or Leo Belsher?"
Lautier called Leo Belsher something you won't find in the dictionary but which nobody needs to look up. The hunters ahead of us heard him and laughed. They couldn't possibly have agreed more. He was going to continue with the fascinating subject of Mr. Leo Belsher's ancestry and personal characteristics and then bit it off short. I followed his eyes and saw old Professor Hartzenbosch, the principal of the school, approaching.
"Ah, here you are, Mr. Lautier," he greeted. "I trust that I did not keep you waiting." Then he saw me. "Why, it's Walter Boyd. How is your father, Walter?"
I assured him as to Dad's health and inquired about his own, and then asked him how things were going at school. As well as could be expected, he told me, and I gathered that he kept his point of expectation safely low. Then he wanted to know if I were going aboard to interview Mr. Murell.
"Really, Walter, it is a wonderful thing that a famous author like Mr. Murell should come here to write a book about our planet," he told me very seriously and added, as an afterthought: "Have you any idea where he intends staying while he is among us?"
"Why, yes," I admitted. "After the Peenemünde radioed us their passenger list, Dad talked to him by screen and invited him to stay with us. Mr. Murell accepted, at least until he can find quarters of his own."
There are a lot of good poker players in Port Sandor, but Professor Jan Hartzenbosch is not one of them. The look of disappointment would have been comical if it hadn't been so utterly pathetic. He'd been hoping to lasso Murell himself.
"I wonder if Mr. Murell could spare time to come to the school and speak to the students," he said, after a moment.
"I'm sure he could. I'll mention it to him, Professor," I promised.
Professor Hartzenbosch bridled at that. The great author ought to be coming to his school out of respect for him, not because a seventeen-year-old cub reporter sent him. But then, Professor Hartzenbosch always took the attitude that he was conferring a favor on the Times when he had anything he wanted publicity on.
The elevator door opened, and Lautier and the professor joined in the push to get into it. I hung back, deciding to wait for the next one so that I could get in first and get back to the rear, where my hamper wouldn't be in people's way. After a while, it came back empty and I got on, and when the crowd pushed off on the top level, I put my hamper back on contragravity and towed it out into the outdoor air, which by this time had gotten almost as cool as a bake-oven.
I looked up at the sky, where everybody else was looking. The Peenemünde wasn't visible; it was still a few thousand miles off-planet. Big ragged clouds were still blowing in from the west, very high, and the sunset was even brighter and redder than when I had seen it last, ten hours before. It was now about 1630.
Now, before anybody starts asking just who's crazy, let me point out that this is not on Terra, nor on Baldur nor Thor nor Odin nor Freya, nor any other rational planet. This is Fenris, and on Fenris the sunsets, like many other things, are somewhat peculiar.