Palkas’ autograph line had finally dwindled to nothing. They’d capped the line two hours ago and now, at last, the final gawkers and fans were being escorted out of the building. With a sigh and a stretch, Palkas stood and worked the kinks out of his neck. Signing autographs, while less taxing than his day job, didn’t seem to make him stiffen up the same way.
The bouncers were outside, as were his escorts, and Palkas took a moment to look around the room, taking in the posters and 8×10 glossies, all depicting his grinning face. There was the Morkark asteroid field, the one they’d claimed was too dangerous for any one-man ship to successfully navigate. There was the Ressi sun flare, said to be unskimmable. There was his latest triumph, the planet Argus VII, whose heavy gravity and atmosphere had prevented even well-suited humanoids from reconnoitering its surface for seventy years. To other men this would have seemed like a list of impossibilities, but to Palkas it read like a resume. They were all behind him now. He had conquered the unconquerable.
“Mr. Palkas? Sir?”
A face peeked from behind one of the entry doors and Palkas looked up, surprised. The security personnel were supposed to be keeping people out, not letting them in–but this was a young man, couldn’t be more than twenty, and Palkas certainly didn’t feel concerned for his personal safety. “Yes? What is it, son?”
The kid moved into the room, smiling nervously. He seemed a little star-struck. “Ah, I know I’m late–sorry about that–but I was wondering, um, if I could have your autograph? It’s for my sister,” he added quickly. “She’s your biggest fan.”
Palkas sighed. The bouncers definitely should have picked this one up before he got this far, but what the hell. The room was quiet, and he couldn’t head back to the hotel until the security men got back, anyway. “Sure,” he said, taking out a pen and pulling over the poster that the kid proffered. When given the name in a trembling voice, he signed in flowing script. “Here you are. Hope she enjoys it.”
“Thank you, sir. I know she will, sir.” The kid was beside himself. He gazed at all the posters with starry-eyed awe. “It’s amazing that one man could do what you’ve done, Mr. Palkas. All of the amazing feats that you’ve accomplished… there’s nothing left in this galaxy that man hasn’t been able to do. It’s a real treat to meet you. A real treat.”
Palkas smiled indulgently. He liked this kid. “No problem, son. The pleasure’s mine.”
The kid nodded and bobbed his head, moving towards the door. When he got there, he stopped and turned. “Just one more question, please? Mr. Palkas?”
Well, he had time, Palkas reasoned. One question was no big deal. “Sure, kid. What’s on your mind?”
“What are you going to do now?”