“Director Macomber,” Senator Benson said with his trademark Southern drawl. He was from Newfoundland, but fancied himself a Texan. “You are asking for a substantial appropriation from this committee, money—frankly, and I’m sure my colleagues would agree—that could be spent on more concrete matters. How can you ask this august body to throw money on research that will never benefit the human race?”
Jim was about to open his mouth to answer when another Senator spoke.
“Point of order, Mr. Chairman,” Came a crisp, yet melodious voice.
“The Chair recognizes Senator Meyer.”
Senator Meyer was a slight woman, but she had fierce eyes the sparked lightning bolts as she spoke. “I would remind Senator Benson that the purpose of these hearings is to hear evidence to determine if Director Macomber’s project is worthy of funding. It is in poor taste for the Senator to denigrate Mr. Macomber’s proposal before we even give him a chance to voice it.”
“Now listen, Virginia—” Benson began.
Chairman Sandhurst struck the gavel, cutting off Benson. “Senator Benson, you will observe proprieties when referring to the members of this august committee. Furthermore, I would remind you to address the chair before speaking. You do not have the floor. Senator Meyer’s point of order is sustained. You will give Director Macomber a chance to explain his position.”
“Mr. Chairman?” Macomber spoke up, “I’d like to answer the question.”
Sandhurst cocked his head in thought. Meyer’s looked daggers at Macomber, and Benson grinned as if he had caught the mouse. “Very well, Director. You may answer the question.”
“Senator Benson, this not simply research. This is the future of the human race. Now I know this has been said before with various discoveries such as nuclear fusion, bosons, and gravity waves, just to name a few, but this legitimately is our future. More than that, it’s here and accessible. We don’t have to spend billions trying to apply this science. We already can access it. With our current level of technology, we can send a probe to Alpha Centauri. After it leaves our solar system, it can be there in under three hours, maybe even in under an hour.
“Prior to this discovery, it would take well over a century for our fastest probe to reach our closest neighbor. We now have the technology to send people to other stars, and to bring them back. Our earliest ancestors first looked into the skies and wondered at the stars; we can now visit them. We must learn more. We will be able to tap vast resources, colonize other planets, and ensure the survival of the human race is no longer tied to our solar system. Thank you.”
Where before, Senator Meyer’s eyes sparked dangerous lightning, now they sparkled. Senator Benson looked like he had bitten something bitter, and was having trouble swallowing it, while Chairman Sandhurst openly grinned and nodded at Macomber.