Chapter II

Public Domain

Senators were already filing through the Presidium as Edmonds of South Africa came out of his office with Daugherty of the Foreign Office. The youngest senator stopped beside the great bronze doors, studying the situation. Then he sighed in relief. “It’s all right,” he told Daugherty. “Premier Lesseur’s presiding.”

He hadn’t been sure the premier’s words were a full promise before. And while he hadn’t been too worried, it was good to see that the doubtful vice-premier wouldn’t be presiding.

“It better be all right,” the diplomat said. “Otherwise, it’s my neck. Cathay’s counting on Earth to help against the Kloomirians, and if Director Flannery ever finds I committed us--”

Edmonds studied the seats that were filling, and nodded with more confidence as he saw that most of the senators on whom he counted were there. “I’ve got enough votes, as I told you. And with Lesseur presiding, the opposition won’t get far with parliamentary tricks against me. This time, Earth’s going to act.”

Daugherty grunted, obviously still worried, and headed up the steps to the reserved Visitors’ Gallery, while Edmonds moved to his seat in the assembly room. Today he didn’t even mind the fact that it was back in the section reserved for the newest members--the unknowns and unimportants, from the way the press treated them. He would be neither unknown nor unimportant, once his bill was passed, and his brief experience would only add to the miracle he was working.

Looking back on his efforts, he found the results something of a miracle to himself. It had taken two years of vote-swapping, of careful propaganda, and of compromise with his principles. That business of voting for the combined Throm-Meloa Aid Bill had been a bitter thing; but old Harding was scared sick of antagonizing the aliens by seeming partiality, and Edmonds’ switch was the step needed to start the softening up.

At that, he’d been lucky. In spite of what he’d learned of the manipulation of sociological relationships, in spite of the long preparation in advertising dynamics and affective psychology, he couldn’t have made it if Cathay hadn’t been a human colony!

Now, though, Lesseur was calling the chamber to order. The senators quieted quickly, and there was almost complete silence as the old man picked up the paper before him.

“The Senate will consider Resolution 1843 today,” Lesseur said quietly. “_A Resolution that Earth shall grant assistance to the Colony of Cathay in the event of any aggressive alien act__, proposed by Sir Alfred Edmonds. Since the required time for deliberation has elapsed, the chair will admit discussion on this resolution. Senator Edmonds!”

Edmonds was on his feet, and every face turned to him. The spotlight came down on him, blinding him to the others. He picked up the microphone, polishing the words in his mind. The vote might already be decided, but the papers would still print what he said now! And those words could mean his chance to work his way up through the Committee of Foreign Affairs and perhaps on to becoming Earth’s youngest premier.

It might even mean more. Once Earth shook off her lethargy and moved to her rightful position of power and strength among the humanoid worlds, anything could happen. There was the Outer Federation being formed among the frontier worlds and the nucleus of close relations with hundreds of planets. Some day there might be the position of premier of a true Interstellar Congress!

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