Sleeping Giants Page 14

—So what is it?

—What is what?

—You said: “This is where it gets interesting.” Irony is not one of my favorite modes of communication, but I can still recognize it. I assume you were about to serve me with some bad news.

—The leg braces are not suited for human anatomy. They were clearly designed for someone with leg articulations like that of the robot itself. I always assumed that the people who built this at least looked like us. If they weren’t human, that is.

—Will that be a problem for the pilot?

—Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. The knees are backward! So yes, it’s a problem, unless we can get a really smart ostrich to control the legs. We’ll have to find a way to adapt the controls to fit our anatomy.

—What about the console? Are you making any progress deciphering the symbols?

—Not really. Vincent took a quick look at the console but now he’s back to working on the panels. He feels there’s a better chance of interpreting the symbols in context, seeing how they combine together, than by looking at them individually.

—He feels…Are you having second thoughts about choosing him?

—What makes you think I…?

—You are distancing yourself from his opinion. That is unlike you. You tend to give credit to others when you succeed and you take responsibility for other people’s failures. It suggests to me that you are having second thoughts.

—Sometimes. He’s absolutely brilliant, don’t get me wrong. He understands things that are well beyond his area of expertise. We had an interesting conversation about extrasolar planets the other night. It turns out he reads about astrophysics in his spare time, just for the fun of it. If anyone can figure out the symbols…

I just hope his ego doesn’t get in the way. He respects me, and it’s easy for me to like him. He can be a little abrasive if you don’t live up to his standards. I have a feeling he’s even more demanding of himself. I’m worried the longer this drags on…He’s managed to get on Kara’s good side, though, and that’s not easy. It certainly makes all our lives a whole lot easier.

—I read his file. I believe he is more resilient than you give him credit for.

—You rea…He has a file?

—Your hairdresser has a file and you see him once a month. Vincent Couture is a foreign national on US soil, with direct access to top-secret-level information on a daily basis. He has several files, very large ones.

—You have a file on my hairdresser?

—Yes. He really needs to file his taxes. As for Mr. Couture, if you wish to replace him…

—You misunderstand. I’m sure if it can be done, Vincent can figure it out. I’m just not sure anyone can decipher these things. It might not be possible at all. That’s what I’m really worried about. I’m afraid of what it will do to him. I don’t think he’s ever been faced with a problem he couldn’t solve. He might just self-destruct if he feels like he’s failing.

—I do not wish to appear insensitive, but without a basic understanding of the symbols, we cannot make this machine work. How Mr. Couture reacts to failure seems rather inconsequential when weighed against the biggest scientific discovery in history. If you suspect he will not succeed, you must replace him immediately. If your only concern is that his ego might be irreparably bruised, I promise we will use the considerable resources at our disposal to get Mr. Couture the best help money can buy. Thirty hours of therapy should not break our budget.

—He just needs more time.

—He has a week.

FILE NO. 039

EXPERIMENT LOG—CW3 KARA RESNIK, UNITED STATES ARMY

Location: Underground Complex, Denver, CO

This is Kara Resnik recording. Today is September 20. It is…10:25 A.M. Dr. Rose Franklin is monitoring my vitals from the lab during the experiment. Hi, Dr. Franklin! We’re about to test the controls inside the device. We’ve attached the complete left arm to the torso, and now we’re gonna see if I can make it move. That’s if I ever get up there. I’m making my way up the stairs now, with a barstool.

We should really set up the elevator for this. Even without the legs, this is pretty high. It’s hard to move with all those sensors glued to my head and chest. I’m afraid I’ll rip out the wires. It’s bad enough I have to bring up furniture. When you speak to our mutual friend, ask him if they found anything resembling an alien stepladder in the Arctic. If anyone else ever listens to this, you should know that the hatch that leads inside the torso opens about four and a half feet from the floor. It’s not that big of a jump, but you’d need to be about eight feet tall to close it from the inside, or to open it again. The moral of this story is: Don’t go in there alone, or bring a barstool. Also, don’t forget to pee.

I’m about thirty steps from the top. Why am I the one going up the stairs anyway? I know, I’m the arm pilot, the singular arm pilot. But since this thing doesn’t have legs for now, maybe we could, you know, share a little. Ryan’s twice my size, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind carrying that stool up fifteen flights of stairs.

I’m not whining. I’m…climbing. I’m at the top. I’m just…gonna catch my breath for a minute…

I’m staring at the hatch. These aliens have really…ordinary hands. It’s a little bigger than mine, but it looks like it could be anyone’s handprint. Pressing my hand on it now. I can feel everything vibrate a little. It might be lining up the hatch inside the sphere with this one. It’s opening.

I’m almost to the other hatch. Why is this walkway so small? OK it’s open. It’ll just take a second to…drop my stupid barstool on the floor…and…I can make my way in.

I’m in. The room is still well lit. The light is very…cozy, like a room with a fireplace. I just closed the inner hatch. I’m off the barstool, now approaching the top station. Rose, I know you think this looks like a straitjacket, but it’s pretty badass if you ask me. Take it off that pole hanging from the ceiling and I think it would make Batman proud if you spray painted it black. I’m sliding my arms in…

I can’t seem to get my fingers to fit into the gloves. Wiggle, wiggle…OK, the hands are in. Gloves are just a little stiff. Closing the arm braces. I’m trying to…clip the front closed with my big metal fingers. I think that’s how it goes. I’m closing the large metal brace around my chest.

Let me see if I can move with that thing on. Mobility is good, as resistance is minimal on the arms and hands. It’s a bit harder to move my chest. I can bend forward to touch my toes, but I can’t crouch. I can barely flex my knees before I run out of leash. I can’t move away either. It’ll be hard to pick anything up from the ground. Strike that. I’m an idiot. My legs don’t count. Ryan can crouch from the other station, and I can grab stuff from wherever the ground will be…for me. That’ll be weird. I know everyone’s excited, but it might take a while before we get the gist of this two-pilot thing.

Of course, that’ll be the least of our problems, unless there’s a video screen or something in that helmet, because, well, we can’t see outside. I can’t see anything but metal. And the visor on the helmet looks completely opaque, so if there’s no screen, then I won’t see anything at all. Use the Force, Luke! Maybe that’s it. Maybe this is a really big Jedi training thing, to see if you can move a ten-thousand-ton dummy around with your eyes closed.

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