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by AlanSears

"Do you want to see the television news?" Theodore’s wife called up to him. Theodore glanced at his watch from habit. He already knew what the time was.

"Not tonight," he called back and turned again to his desk and the contemplation of theories which he could not take into the classroom with him for the benefit of his pupils.

"I'll bring your coffee up in a few minutes then,"

"Yes, lovely."

Theodore was blessed with a happy domestic life. He loved his wife, she loved him, they both loved their son and none of them had any reason to be depressed or angry. Theodore returned with interest to The Scientific American and an article on the possibilities of communication between Earth and other planets. When he had finished reading he sat back and thought for some time then he reached out and turned on his radio. Mozart came abruptly into the room, vivacious harmonies cascading over the shelves of books and rippling lightly over the papers spread about on Theodore's desk. He listened with quiet satisfaction and gradually the pattern of his thoughts blended with the patterns of the music, a mental counterpoint of words and ideas. Having done his work Mozart departed and a few minutes later 'T'heodore's wife came in with the coffee.

"How is the world tonight?" he asked her.

"Troubled, as always. Or at least the parts of it they tell you about on the news." Theodore nodded. "Three guerilla wars, two terrorist attacks, a trawler sunk in the North Sea and the Americans have launched a deep space probe to see if there is anyone else out there who wants to talk to us."

"Ah yes, I remember seeing that was due to go up about now. Is Sam in bed?"

"Sleeping like an angel. Worn out after football practice I should think." 

”Makes a change, usually he has enough energy for a whole football team."

“Well don't complain, at least it’s peaceful."

And it was. Coffee finished, Theodore' s wife, Janet, read for a while, did her usual half hour's practice on the flute and went to bed, saying goodnight to Theodore on the way. Theodore meanwhile had been searching through old files. He kept a comprehensive filing system of notes and ideas, pieces he had written both published and unpublished for technical magazines .Some on astronomy, some on teaching sciences, some on other subjects which just happened to interest him. Eventually he found the thing he was looking for. A manilla folder containing a bundle of drawings and diagrams together with a number of Theodore' s own hand written pages and some sheets cut carefully from a magazine article. Stapled to the inside of the folder was a reference sheet listing all the other books and articles he had consulted whilst working on the idea. He turned back to the Scientific American and began, on a fresh sheet of paper, to jot down some new ideas. It was late when he followed Janet to bed, but in the morning it was Theodore who was awake first, padding down to the kitchen in his dressing gown and slippers to make the tea.

"I've had an idea," he told Janet and Sam over breakfast, "I think I shall write to the government and ask for funds to develop it."

"They won 't pay you anything," said Sam, aged fourteen, an avid reader of newspapers, "Too many cuts in public spending . Not likely to start making exceptions for good ideas are they? Unless of course you ‘re going to start a business in a development area and employ lots of people."

Theodore nodded in appreciation .

"I'm sure you're right," he agreed, "but there' s no harm in trying, is there?"

Theodore went to his study and composed a letter to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, which he then addressed, stamped and posted. The reply, when it came, was negative. Theodore explained his idea to the government of the United States who also politely declined to help, or to put him in touch with their experts at NASA. Theodore scoured the newspapers and eventually found a recently formed African republic that had announced its intentions to join the space age. Theodore wrote to the new president. The president wrote back. He expressed his thanks for Theodore's interest in his country, he said he was sorry that the US government did not take Theodore seriously, they did not take him or his country seriously either, it was most trying, and lastly he said that he would have to draw to a close now because there was a revolution on and he needed to dash off and fight the guerrillas. Theodore rated this reply much more highly than the others even if it did not get him any further forward.

Giving up the idea of state aid Theodore deci ded to go it alone and armed with a current telephone directory he began making enquiries of a slightly unusual nature.

"Buy one, what for?" asked the oil company spokesman who finally agreed to speak to Theodore, "No, I don 't know what happens to them when we've finished with them. We probably sell them for scrap." A good idea, thought Theodore, and began telephoning scrap metal merchants instead of oil companies.

"Got everything from Aluminium to zinc," the scrap metal merchant told him, "in fact Ill go one better, today's special, I can do you some zirconium at a very fair price." Theodore explained what he wanted.

"We-ell," said the scrap merchant cautiously, "sort of. I've got one or two, in pieces of course. I'm not saying they're all there, mind, but if you want to come and have a look at them …" Theodore said yes he would, asked for directions, told Janet he was going out for a while to look at some scrap metal, and then set off. Later, having inspected what the scrap merchant had to offer, Theodore agreed with him a price to include delivery and then enquired whether he could hire one or two of the men from the yard for some days.

"They're better at taking things apart then putting them back together again," the scrap metal man warned him, "but we're not very busy at the moment so I'll ask them."

The men agreed and the following morning a large and dirty lorry with a crane mounted on the back appeared outside Theodore's house and the men began to unload the metal girders, struts and stays that Theodore had bought together with box s and boxes of nuts and bolts.

At the end of a week the men had constructed a small oil rig in Theodore' s back garden and he had constructed a powerful radio transmitter in his bedroom, using the plans he had drawn up previously and recently retrieved from his files. The transmitter was special because it would send out a signal on one frequency for a few seconds and then minutely adjust the frequency and repeat the process .This meant that anyone listening on a fixed frequency would eventually hear a few seconds of Theodore's broadcast and would hear a few more seconds of it when his transmitter had completed its whole cycle of frequencies and started again. Anybody with some reasonably sophisticated apparatus would be able to tune a receiver to follow the transmitter and listen uninterruptedly. When the men had finished Theodore set up his transmitter and began to broadcast to the heavens. The following day brought the neighbours out.

"It’s monstrous!" shouted the first neighbour over his garden fence. "Its blocking my light, its's a public nuisance, you should have had planning permission to put a thing like that up and besides it looks as though it’s going to fall down anyway. I'm going to the council about it. It's an outrage!"

The second neighbour listened to this, leant on his fence and called sarcastically: "You'll never strike anything round here you know, except perhaps the gas main." Theodore ignored them both and went indoors. From the window of his study Theodore kept watch every night with his astronomical telescope, methodically surveying the sky. Sam sat up with him on most evenings and Janet made them coffee and sandwiches so that they would not have to break off to eat at table.

"Look," cried Sam on the fifth night, "a shooting star!"

"No its not," Theodore told him, "it’s a satellite".

The next night they saw two satellites and the day after that there was a newspaper report that NASA were taking seriously a claim made by pupils of a school in Birmingham that they had observed two new and unidentified satellites orbiting over Britain. Two weeks later the tally had grown to six. The Americans sent over a team of observers. The Russians denied any knowledge of the new Satellites and promised that they too would keep the newcomers under observation. The pundits pointed out that someone must know who had launched them and that since not many countries had the knowledge and experience to do it themselves either the Americans or the Russians must have been involved and wasn't it about time they came clean?

Theodore smiled quietly to himself and went on recording his observations. At the end of a fortnight the number of new satellites had grown to twelve and internal consternation began to grow. It was reported that all of the new satellites had differing orbits but that all of them were orbiting so that they passed over Great Britain. In fact careful examination of the paths of the satellites revealed eventually that all the paths crossed at the same place out in space and directly over British soil. It was not long before Theodore, Janet and Sam were visited by a very large and powerful delegation consisting of men from Whitehall in sober coloured suits, two army officers, three Americans, four Chinese and a Russian observer to see fair play.

It took them some time to come to the point. Theodore rightly surmised that their problem lay in the difficulty of tryingto ask him questions and find out how much he knew without actually telling him anything or admitting to him how much they knew. As a teacher Theodore knew it was wise to let people find their own balance and go at their own pace so he did not upset his visitors by cutting them short or jumping in with an explanation before it was called for. Eventually they told him about the new satellites which had been appearing and which had been talked about, discussed, examined and conjectured about in every newspaper and on every television and radio station throughout the world. Theodore said yes, he had heard something about them on the news. Next the visitors told him about the curious orbits of the new satellites, how they all appeared to be orbiting so that they passed over the same spot on the surface of the earth and how the number of satellites was growing every day but every new satellite which joined in orbited in such a way that it did not collide with any of the others but still managed to pass over the same spot once in every orbit. Theodore agreed that it was all very interesting. It required, his visitors informed him gravely, some very sophisticated technology. Theodore agreed. The Russian observer nodded sagely and looked sharply at the Americans to see whether they would give anything away. Finally one of the men from Whitehall asked Theodore whether he knew why it was that all these satellites were orbiting in such a way as to pass over his house once in each orbit and why more and more new satellites were joining in every day.

Theodore got up from his chair and led the delegation out into his back garden where he explained the principle of constructing an oil rig from spare parts. Then he led them back inside where he explained the more complicated principles of his transmitter, which the American who knew most about radio transmitters found very interesting.

"There's just one thing I'm really interested in," he told Theodore at the end of the explanation, "What kind of signal are you broadcasting out there?"

"Oh yes," said Theodore, "I forgot I haven't told you. That's the real stroke of genius: it's Mozart."