Primed for promotion to the World-Journal city editor, grizzled senior reporter Pop is stunned when it's announced that young Leonard Caulborn, the publisher's son-in-law, will get the post. Worse, the lad wants him out. In protest, Pop demands to be given a beat again and gets his wish. . . only now he's got just two days to find the "real" story about a dead-end assignment-- a month-old physics lecture-- or be fired.
When Pop starts searching for the story's source, a professor named Pertwee, he lands in the middle of the story of a century after the Empire State Building, Grant's Tomb and Grand Central Station all disappear. Apparently, Pertwee's the mastermind behind it all. But Pop soon discovers that, instead of inventing a new way to blow things up, the professor may be doing quite the opposite.
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Galaxy Press, LLC
July 12, 2009
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Excerpt from The Professor Was a Thief by L. Ron Hubbard
No one knew why he was called Pop unless it was that he had sired the newspaper business. For the first few hundred years, it appeared, he had been a senior reporter, going calmly about his business of reporting wholesale disaster, but during the past month something truly devastating had occurred. Muttering noises sounded in the ranks.
Long overdue for the job of city editor, lately vacated via the undertaker, Pop had been demoted instead of promoted. Ordinarily Pop was not a bitter man. He had seen too many cataclysms fade into the staleness of yesterday's paper. He had obit-ed too large a legion of generals, saints and coal heavers to expect anything from life but its eventual absence. But there were limits.
When Leonard Caulborn, whose diapers Pop had changed, had been elevated to city editor over Pop's decaying head, Pop chose to attempt the dissolution of Gaul in the manufactures of Kentucky. But even the latter has a habit of wearing away and leaving the former friend a mortal enemy. Thus it was, when the copy boy came for him, that Pop swore at the distilleries as he arose and looked about on the floor where he supposed his head must have rolled.
"Mr. Caulborn said he hada seeyuh rightaway," said the copy boy.
Pop limped toward the office, filled with resentment.
Leonard Caulborn was a wise young man. Even though he had no real knowledge of the newspaper business, people still insisted he was wise. Hadn't he married the publisher's daughter? And if the paper didn't make as much as it should, didn't the publisher have plenty of stockholders who could take the losses and never feel them--much, anyway.
Young and self-made and officious if not efficient, Caulborn greeted Pop not at all, but let him stand before the desk a few minutes.
Pop finally picked up a basket and dropped it a couple inches, making Caulborn look up.
"You sent for me?" said Pop.
"I sent for you-- Oh, yes, I remember now. Pending your retirement you've been put on the copy desk."
"My what?" cried Pop.
"Your retirement. We are retiring all employees over fifty. We need new people and new ideas here."
"Retirement?" Pop was still gaping. "When? How?"
"Effective day after tomorrow, Pop, you are no longer with this paper. Our present Social Security policy--"
"Will pay me off about twenty bucks complete," said Pop. "But to hell with that. I brought this paper into the world and it's going to take me out. You can't do this to me!"
"I have orders--"
"You are issuing the orders these days," said Pop. "What are you going to do for copy when you lose all your men that know the ropes?"
"We'll get along," said Caulborn. "That will be all."
"No, it won't either," said Pop. "I'm staying as reporter."
"All right. You're staying as reporter then. It's only two days."
"And you're going to give me assignments," said Pop.
Caulborn smiled wearily, evidently thinking it best to cajole the old coot. "All right, here's an article I clipped a couple months ago. Get a story on it."
When Caulborn had fished up the magazine out of his rubble-covered desk he tossed it to Pop like a citizen paying a panhandler.
Pop wanted to throw it back, for he saw at a glance that it was merely a stick, a rehash of some speech made a long while ago to some physics society. But he had gained ground so far. He wouldn't lose it. He backed out.
Muttering to himself he crossed to his own desk, wading through the rush and clamor of the city room. It was plain to him that he had to make the most of what he had. It was unlikely that he'd get another chance.
"I'll show 'em," he growled. "Call me a has-been. Well! Think I can't make a story out of nothing, does he? Why, I'll get such a story that he'll have to keep me on. And promote me. And raise my pay. Throw me into the gutter, will they?"
He sat down in his chair and scanned the article. It began quite lucidly with the statement that Hannibal Pertwee had made this address before the assembled physicists of the country. Pop, growing cold the while, tried to wade through said address. When he came out at the end with a spinning head he saw that Hannibal Pertwee's theories were not supported by anybody but Hannibal Pertwee. All other information, even to Pop, was so much polysyllabic nonsense. Something about transportation of freight. He gathered that much. Some new way to help civilization. But just how, the article did not tell--Pop, at least.
Suddenly Pop felt very old and very tired. At fifty-three he had ten thousand bylines behind him. He had built the World-Journal to its present importance. He loved the paper and now it was going to hell in the hands of an incompetent, and they were letting him off at a station halfway between nowhere and anywhere. And the only way he had of stopping them was an impossible article by some crackbrain on the transportation of freight.
He sighed and, between two shaking hands, nursed an aching head.