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The tech-man's home was a small two-story affair on the Outskirts of the huge, cubiform, windowless affair that dominated the center of the city. Mallow passed from one to the other through an underground passage, and found himself in the silent, ozone-tinged atmosphere of the powerhouse.
For fifteen minutes, he followed his guide and said nothing. His eyes missed nothing. His fingers touched nothing. And then, the tech-man said in strangled tones, "Have you had enough? I couldn't trust my underlings in this case."
"Could you ever?" asked Mallow, ironically. "I've had enough."
They were back in the office and Mallow said, thoughtfully, "And all those generators are in your hands?"
"Every one," said the tech-man, with more than a touch of complacency.
"And you keep them running and in order?"
"And if they break down?"
The tech-man shook his head indignantly, "They don't break down. They never break down. They were built for eternity."
"Eternity is a long time. Just suppose–"
"It is unscientific to suppose meaningless cases."
"All right. Suppose I were to blast a vital part into nothingness? I suppose the machines aren't immune to nuclear forces? Suppose I fuse a vital connection, or smash a quartz D-tube?"
"Well, then," shouted the tech-man, furiously, "you would be killed."
"Yes, I know that," Mallow was shouting, too, "but what about the generator? Could you repair it?"
"Sir," the tech-man howled his words, "you have had a fair return. You've had what you asked for. Now get out! I owe you nothing more!"
Mallow bowed with a satiric respect and left.
Two days later he was back where the Far Star waited to return with him to the planet, Terminus.
And two days later, the tech-man's shield went dead, and for all his puzzling and cursing never glowed again.