injection or a food package or both. If there is a hibernine injection, the man can use it to put himself into suspended animation for exactly twenty-four hours, during which time he will need neither air, nor food, nor water. If there is air, or water, or food on the asteroid, or any two of them or all three, the man will use each at the normal rate until it is exhausted, or the man dies, or he is rescued.
"Assuming that, without hibernine, the man can live for exactly two days without water, exactly one week without food, and exactly five minutes without air, can he be rescued? If so, how long will it be before he is rescued? If not, what is his maximum survival time?
"Does this problem have more than one valid answer? If so, give and explain both.
"Or is the problem unsolvable as given? If so, explain why it is unsolvable."
Sit around listening to that sort of stuff for very long, and you begin to wish you were out on an uninhabited asteroid somewhere. Problems like that are the sort of thing that any simple-minded computer can solve in a fraction of a second if they're reduced to binary notation first, but poor McGuire had to do his own mathematical interpretations from English, and the things got more complicated as they went along.
And McGuire went right on answering them in his calm, matter-of-fact baritone.
I remember that particular problem because, while Videnski was reciting it, Brentwood pointed at an oscilloscope plate that had nothing on it but a wide, bright, flickering band of light that wavered a little around the upper and lower edges.
"See that?" he asked in his tenor voice. "That's a tracing of McGuire's thinking processes. Actually, it's a very thin, very bright tracing, but it's moving over that area so fast that you can't see it. A high-speed camera could pick it up, and if the film were projected at normal speed, you could see every little bit of data being processed." Then he patted a small instrument that was sitting near the oscilloscope plate. "Of course, we don't go to all that trouble; we record it directly and analyze it later."
"And that analysis can be pretty maddening at times," said a very lovely voice behind me. I turned around and gave Vivian Deveraux my best smile. Her close-cropped blond hair looked a little disheveled, but it didn't make her any the less beautiful.
"What does Videnski say?" I asked. "Is McGuire still passing his exams?"
She smiled. "Ted says that if this keeps up, we can get McGuire a scholarship at Cal Tech." Then she frowned slightly. "It all depends on the analysis, of course. We'll have to see how his timing is, and how many actual computations he's using for each problem. It'll take a lot of work."
I could hear Videnski's voice still droning away in the control room, alternating with an occasional answer from McGuire. Normally, McGuire only used the speaker in whatever compartment I happened to be in, but I'd given him orders to stick with Videnski during the testing. I'd also had him shut off his pick-ups every-where in the control room, so that our chatter wouldn't be going into his brain along with Videnski's.
In the lounge, where we were, Brentwood had removed a panel that gave him access to the testing circuits. To actually get into McGuire's inner workings and tamper with him would be a lot tougher. McGuire wouldn't allow it unless I told him to, but even if he did, getting to the brain required three separate keys and the knowledge of the combination on the dial of the durasteel door to the tank that held his brain. Explosives would wreck the brain if they were powerful enough to open the door, and so would a torch. Viking Spacecraft had taken every precaution to make sure that nobody stole their pet.
"How long before we can give McGuire his test flight?" I asked. McGuire had been into space once, but it hadn't been a shakedown cruise.
Vivian looked at Brentwood. "Tomorrow, unless something unforeseen shows up, huh, Irwin?"
"That's what the schedule says," murmured Brentwood.
"Great," I said. "Just great. There's schedule, and no one's told me anything about it. Anything else I should know about, perhaps? Some little thing like where we're going, or whether I should pack a bag, or whether I'm even invited along?"
Vivian Devereaux blinked. It was a very pretty blink. "Oh, my goodness. I'm sorry. I guess we haven't kept you very much in touch, really, have we? We're so used to working together that...." She let the words trail off with a sheepish smile.
Brentwood chuckled a soft, good-humored chuckle. "I thought the Chief had told you." By "the Chief," he meant Ellsworth Felder, the head robotocist. As far as these people were concerned, Sven Midguard was just a spacecraft engineer.
"Not a word," I said, mentally making a note to find out why Santa Claus Felder had failed to notify me.
"Well, bring a suitcase," Vivian said. "We—or, rather, you—are taking McGuire on a test hop to Phobos. Mars is pretty close right now, so it'll be an easy drive sunwards.
"If all goes well, you're to set him down at Syrtisport, for his first planet landing. Then to Luna for a day or two. Then directly to Earth and Long Island Spaceport. We should know by then how he behaves."
"Why Earth?" I asked. There didn't seem much point to it.
"Keep it under your hat," she said. "Manager Ravenhurst is planning a big publicity campaign. First ship to make the voyage without a human hand at the controls, and all that. I don't know why, but he wants to make a big splash on Earth if McGuire has checked out perfectly as far as Luna."
"Oh. Well, Ravenhurst's the boss." I knew why. The general public didn't know how shaky Viking Spacecraft was, and neither, presumably, did the robotics staff. That knowledge was strictly managerial level. But a big splash on Earth would boost Viking's prestige tremendously, with a possible rise in stock values which would take some of the shakiness out of Viking.
By the time the day's work was over, I'd heard all of Videnski's rumbling baritone that I wanted to hear. I was grateful to get back to the relative silence of my apartment.
I opened a beer, lit a cigarette, and relaxed on my bed for a few minutes before I made a phone call. I punched BANning 6226, and got an answer almost immediately. The screen didn't come to life, but a voice said: "Marty here. Hullo, Oak." He could see me, even if I couldn't see him. If anyone punched that number by accident, Marty would simply turn on a recording that said: "The number you have punched is not a working number; please disconnect and punch again; this is a recorded message." There is no point in letting just anyone get in touch with the Ceres branch of the Political Survey Division through their secret channels.
"Marty," I said, "the test hop is tomorrow." I gave him all the details as I knew them.
"Hm-m-m." He sounded thoughtful. "If either Thurston or Baedecker agents are going to try anything, it seems as though this would be the time to do it."
"I think so, too. Do you have any new information at all?"
"Not much. Thurston's men don't know what Baedecker is up to, as far as we can gather. But the Baedecker agents have an idea that Thurston is trying to take over Viking, and they don't mind at all; they're evidently hoping that the Ravenhurst-Thurston battle will create enough confusion so that it won't take much push on their part to topple the whole mess and take control. We know most of the regular agents on both sides, and we've managed to get a lot of that information to Colonel Brock so that he can handle quite a bit of