Dominoes by C. M. Kornbluth

Dominoes C M Kornbluth

Dominoes C M Kornbluth

“Money!” his wife screamed at him. “You’re killing yourself, Will. Pull out of the market and let’s go some place where we can live like human—”

He slammed the apartment door on her reproaches and winced, standing in the carpeted corridor, as an ulcer twinge went through him. The elevator door rolled open and the elevator man said, beaming: “Good morning, Mr. Born. It’s a lovely day today.”

“I’m glad, Sam,” W. J. Born said sourly. “I just had a lovely, lovely breakfast.” Sam didn’t know how to take it, and compromised by giving him a meager smile.

“How’s the market look, Mr. Born?” he hinted as the car stopped on the first floor. “My cousin told me to switch from Lunar Entertainment, he’s studying to be a pilot, but the Journal has it listed for growth.”

W. J. Born grunted: “If I knew I wouldn’t tell you. You’ve got no business in the market. Not if you think you can play it like a craps-table.”

He fumed all through his taxi ride to the office. Sam, a million Sams, had no business in the market. But they were in, and they had built up the Great Boom of 1975 on which W. J. Born Associates was coasting merrily along. For how long? His ulcer twinged again at the thought.

He arrived at 9:15. Already the office was a maelstrom. The clattering tickers, blinking boards and racing mes-

sengers spelled out the latest, hottest word from markets in London, Paris, Milan, Vienna. Soon New York would chime in, then Chicago, then San Francisco.

Maybe this would be the day. Maybe New York-would open on a significant decline hi Moon Mining and Smelting. Maybe Chicago would nervously respond with a slump in commodities and San Francisco’s Utah Uranium would plummet hi sympathy. Maybe panic hi the Tokyo Exchange on the heels of the alarming news from the States —panic relayed across Asia with the rising sun to Vienna, Milan, Paris, London, and crashing like a shock-wave into the opening New York market again.

Dominoes, W. J. Born thought. A row of dominoes. Flick one and they all topple in a heap. Maybe this would be the day.

Miss Ulig had a dozen calls from his personal crash-priority clients penciled hi on his desk pad already. He ignored them and said into her good-morning smile: “Get me Mr. Loring on the phone.”

Loring’s phone rang and rang while W. J. Born boiled inwardly. But the lab was a barn of a place, and when he was hard at work Loring was deaf and blind to distractions. You had to hand him that. He was screwy, he was insolent, he had an inferiority complex that stuck out a yard, but he was a worker.

Loring’s insolent voice said hi his ear: “Who’s this?” “Born,” he snapped. “How’s it going?” There was a long pause, and Loring said casually: “I worked all night. I think I got it licked.” “What do you mean?”

Very irritated: “I said I think I got it licked. I sent a clock and a cat and a cage of white mice out for two hours. They came back okay.”

“You mean—” W. J, Born began hoarsely, and moistened his lips. “How many years?” he asked evenly. “The mice didn’t say, but I think they spent two hours

in 1977.”

“I’m coming right over,” W. J. Born snapped, and hung up. His office staff stared as he strode out.

If the man was lying—! No; he didn’t lie. He’d been sopping up money for six months, ever since he bulled his way into Bern’s office with his time-machine project, but he hadn’t lied once. With brutal frankness he had admitted his own failures and his doubts that the thing ever would be made to work. But now, W. J. Born rejoiced, it had turned into the smartest gamble of his career. Six months and a quarter of a million dollars—a two-year forecast on the market was worth a billion! Four thousand to one, he gloated; four thousand to one! Two hours to learn when the Great Bull Market of 1975 would collapse and then back to his office armed with the information, ready to buy up to the very crest of the boom and then get out at the peak, wealthy forever, forever beyond the reach of fortune, good or bad!

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Categories: C M Kornbluth