MacNamara ambled across the loading ramp, savoring the dry, dusty air that smelled unmistakable of spaceship. He half-consciously separated the odors; the sweet, volatile scent of fuel, the sharp aroma of lingering exhaust gases from early morning test-firing, the delicate odor of silicon plastic which was being stowed as payload. He shielded his eyes against the sun, watching as men struggled with the last plastic girders to be strapped down, high above the dazzling ground of White Sands. The slender cargo doors stood open around Valier's girth, awaiting his own personal O.K.
This flight would be the fourth for Major Edward MacNamara; as he neared the great, squatting shock absorbersnical engineers in the Air Force never occurred to him at the time. He was a pilot, and a good one, but he had languished as C.O. of a maintenance squadron for nearly two years before he was given another he could feel the tension begin to knot his stomach. He had, of course, been overwhelmed by the opportunity to participate in Operation Doughnut. The fact that he had been one of the best mecha