Meeting of the Board

Alan Nourse
Meeting of the Board, by Alan
Edward Nourse

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Title: Meeting of the Board
Author: Alan Edward Nourse
Release Date: October 3, 2007 [EBook #22867]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Greg Weeks, Stephen Blundell and the Online Distributed
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Transcriber's Note:
This etext was produced from The Counterfeit Man More Science
Fiction Stories by Alan E. Nourse published in 1963. Extensive

research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this
publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors have
been corrected without note.

Meeting of the Board

It was going to be a bad day. As he pushed his way nervously through
the crowds toward the Exit Strip, Walter Towne turned the dismal
prospect over and over in his mind. The potential gloominess of this
particular day had descended upon him the instant the morning buzzer
had gone off, making it even more tempting than usual just to roll over
and forget about it all. Twenty minutes later, the water-douse came to
drag him, drenched and gurgling, back to the cruel cold world. He had
wolfed down his morning Koffee-Kup with one eye on the clock and
one eye on his growing sense of impending crisis. And now, to make
things just a trifle worse, he was going to be late again.
He struggled doggedly across the rumbling Exit strip toward the plant
entrance. After all, he told himself, why should he be so upset? He was
Vice President-in-Charge-of-Production of the Robling Titanium
Corporation. What could they do to him, really? He had rehearsed his
part many times, squaring his thin shoulders, looking the union boss
straight in the eye and saying, "Now, see here, Torkleson--" But he
knew, when the showdown came, that he wouldn't say any such thing.
And this was the morning that the showdown would come.
Oh, not because of the lateness. Of course Bailey, the shop steward,
would take his usual delight in bringing that up. But this seemed hardly
worthy of concern this morning. The reports waiting on his desk were
what worried him. The sales reports. The promotion-draw reports. The
royalty reports. The anticipated dividend reports. Walter shook his head
wearily. The shop steward was a goad, annoying, perhaps even
infuriating, but tolerable. Torkleson was a different matter.
He pulled his worn overcoat down over frayed shirt sleeves, and tried

vainly to straighten the celluloid collar that kept scooting his tie up
under his ear. Once off the moving strip, he started up the Robling
corridor toward the plant gate. Perhaps he would be fortunate. Maybe
the reports would be late. Maybe his secretary's two neurones would
fail to synapse this morning, and she'd lose them altogether. And, as
long as he was dreaming, maybe Bailey would break his neck on the
way to work. He walked quickly past the workers' lounge, glancing in
at the groups of men, arguing politics and checking the stock market
reports before they changed from their neat gray business suits to their
welding dungarees. Running up the stairs to the administrative wing, he
paused outside the door to punch the time clock. 8:04. Damn. If only
Bailey could be sick--
Bailey was not sick. The administrative offices were humming with
frantic activity as Walter glanced down the rows of cubbyholes. In the
middle of it all sat Bailey, in his black-and-yellow checkered tattersall,
smoking a large cigar. His feet were planted on his desk top, but he
hadn't started on his morning Western yet. He was busy glaring, first at
the clock, then at Walter.
"Late again, I see," the shop steward growled.
Walter gulped. "Yes, sir. Just four minutes, this time, sir. You know
those crowded strips--"
"So it's just four minutes now, eh?" Bailey's feet came down with a
crash. "After last month's fine production record, you think four
minutes doesn't matter, eh? Think just because you're a vice president
it's all right to mosey in here whenever you feel like it." He glowered.
"Well, this is three times this month you've been late, Towne. That's a
demerit for each time, and you know what that means."
"You wouldn't count four minutes as a whole demerit!"
Bailey grinned. "Wouldn't I, now! You just add up your pay envelope
on Friday. Ten cents an hour off for each demerit."
Walter sighed and shuffled back to his
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