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Radio Jones came dancing down the slidewalks. She jumped from the express to a local, then spun about and raced backwards, dumping speed so she could cut across the slower lanes two and three at a time. She hopped off at the mouth of an alley, glanced up in time to see a Zeppelin disappear behind a glass-domed skyscraper, and stepped through a metal door left open to vent the heat from the furnaces within.
The glass-blowers looked up from their work as she entered the hot shop. They greeted her cheerily:
“You invented a robot girlfriend for me yet?”
The shop foreman lumbered forward, smiling. “Got a box of off-spec tubes for you, under the bench there.”
“Thanks, Mackie.” Radio dug through the pockets of her patched leather greatcoat and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. “Hey, listen, I want you to do me up an estimate for these here vacuum tubes.”
Mack studied the list. “Looks to be pretty straightforward. None of your usual experimental trash. How many do you need—one of each?”
“I was thinking more like a hundred.”
“What?” Mack’s shaggy black eyebrows met in a scowl. “You planning to win big betting on the Reds?”
“Not me, I’m a Whites fan all the way. Naw, I was kinda hoping you’d gimme credit. I came up with something real hot.”
“You finally built that girlfriend for Rico?”
The workmen all laughed.
“No, c’mon, I’m serious here.” She lowered her voice. “I invented a universal radio receiver. Not fixed-frequency—tunable! It’ll receive any broadcast on the radio spectrum. Twist the dial, there you are. With this baby, you can listen in on every conversation in the big game, if you want.”
Mack whistled. “There might be a lot of interest in a device like that.”
“Funny thing, I was thinking exactly that myself.” Radio grinned. “So waddaya say?”
“I say—” Mack spun around to face the glass-blowers, who were all listening intently, and bellowed, “Get back to work!” Then, in a normal voice, “Tell you what. Set me up a demo, and if your gizmo works the way you say it does, maybe I’ll invest in it. I’ve got the materials to build it, and access to the retailers. Something like this could move twenty, maybe thirty units a day, during the games.”
“Hey! Great! The game starts when? Noon, right? I’ll bring my prototype over, and we can listen to the players talking to each other.” She darted toward the door.
“Wait.” Mack ponderously made his way into his office. He extracted a five-dollar bill from the lockbox and returned, holding it extended before him. “For the option. You agree not to sell any shares in this without me seeing this doohickey first.”
“Oh, Mackie, you’re the greatest!” She bounced up on her toes to kiss his cheek. Then, stuffing the bill into the hip pocket of her jeans, she bounded away.
Fat Edna’s was only three blocks distant. She was inside and on a stool before the door jangled shut behind her. “Morning, Edna!” The neon light she’d rigged up over the bar was, she noted with satisfaction, still working. Nice and quiet, hardly any buzz to it at all. “Gimme a big plate of scrambled eggs and pastrami, with a beer on the side.”
The bartender eyed her skeptically. “Let’s see your money first.”
With elaborate nonchalance, Radio laid the bill flat on the counter before her. Edna picked it up, held it to the light, then slowly counted out four ones and eighty-five cents change. She put a glass under the tap and called over her shoulder, “Wreck a crowd, with sliced dick!” She pulled the beer, slid the glass across the counter, and said, “Out in a minute.”
“Edna, there is nobody in the world less satisfying to show off in front of than you. You still got that package I left here?”
Wordlessly, Edna took a canvas-wrapped object from under the bar and set it before her.
“Thanks.” Radio unwrapped her prototype. It was bench-work stuff—just tubes, resistors and capacitors in a metal frame. No housing, no circuit tracer lights, and a tuner she had to turn with a pair of needle-nose pliers. But it was going to make her rich. She set about double-checking all the connectors. “Hey, plug this in for me, willya?”
Edna folded her arms and looked at her.
Radio sighed, dug in her pockets again, and slapped a nickel on the bar. Edna took the cord and plugged it into the outlet under the neon light.
With a faint hum, the tubes came to life.
“That thing’s not gonna blow up, is it?” Edna asked dubiously.
“Naw.” Radio took a pair of needle-nose pliers out of her greatcoat pocket and began casting about for a strong signal. “Most it’s gonna do is electrocute you, maybe set fire to the building. But it’s not gonna explode. You been watching too many kinescopes.”