Sleeping Giants Page 18

Their system works the same way, but with fewer symbols. They count through seven, then add a digit, and they end up with 1 plus the dot, which you can think of as zero, or as a placeholder if you prefer to see it that way. That means one set of 8, plus nothing. Then they go on with their seven digits: one-one, one-two, one-three, etc. Remember, one-two doesn’t mean twelve, it means eight plus two. It gets much more confusing for us when we add more digits. Something like 2222 means two, plus two times eight, plus two times 64, plus two times 512, so 1170 in total.

Now, just to make this more fun, remember how the formulas read from right to left? Well, so do the numbers.

Dr. Franklin tells me the console doesn’t work yet, so we can’t know what it’s used for. Whatever it is, since all the digits are on it, you can bet Ryan will have to punch in numbers, and he’ll have to do it in base-8. I wouldn’t say it can’t be done, but it’s extremely hard to learn, you have to do pretty complex math in your head just to read the numbers. At least, writing direction shouldn’t matter when you punch in numbers on a keyboard. Still, 12345 their way is 5349 our way. 12345 our way is 30071 their way.

Oh…no. I see the look on your face but I’m not that smart, I wrote it down before you came in. I can’t imagine having to do this on the fly.

—That is not what I heard. They say you are brilliant, once-in-a-generation brilliant.

—That’s not true, unfortunately.

—Modesty does not become you, Mr. Couture.

—I’ve been accused of many things, but modesty, not so much. I’m smart. I’m really smart. Drop me in a room with a hundred people, chances are I’m smarter than ninety-nine of them. But there’s always going to be that someone. I met a lot of people at the University of Chicago who could outthink me. I met some I couldn’t even understand, and not because of my English. It wasn’t because I lacked technical knowledge in their field or anything like that either, they were just…It’s like playing chess. Some people can only see what’s in front of them, others can see several moves ahead. I’m a couple moves short of the great ones.

—Do you believe you are the smartest person here?

—Maybe, maybe not. Rose can definitely think on her feet. Alyssa might have a few IQ points on both of us.

—Who is Alyssa?

—The geneticist. Rose brought her in to figure out why Kara’s the only one who can use the helmet. She’s not a people person, but she’s a math genius. She might have figured out the panels long before me if she’d been around. I’m not sure what you want me to tell you. Do I think I’m smarter than you? Is that what you’re asking?

—Are you?

—Without a doubt. It doesn’t mean I think you’re an idiot, but I’d be lying if I said no.

—Fair enough. In my experience, people with superior intellect have a tendency to react poorly to failure. Did you ever think you might not succeed?

—I suppose what you’re asking is whether or not I ever doubted myself. No, I did not. But, there was always a good chance we were never going to figure this out. I knew that. Rose knew that. Those who didn’t need to ready themselves for some serious disappointment.

—What do you mean?

—Well, long shot doesn’t even begin to describe this. I’m amazed we actually got this far. If we manage to get the leg controls working, and if the pilots can make her move without crashing, and if we can figure out how to use the console, we might be able to use her. That is, of course, if we find all the other pieces—it’s a big planet. There’s also a distinct possibility that she just won’t work even if we do get all the pieces. She might just be broken, you know. Then, well, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men…

—…

—Humpty Dumpty? I think that’s how it goes. I’m just saying, these things are buried in the dirt. The reason for that might be slightly less romantic than what we’re all hoping for…

FILE NO. 092

INTERVIEW WITH CW2 RYAN MITCHELL, UNITED STATES ARMY

Location: Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington State

—Nothing happened.

—That is not what I heard.

—What did you…? I don’t understand. How could you…?

—Each of us has a specific function in this project, Mr. Mitchell. Dr. Franklin is in charge of all scientific aspects of this mission. You are a pilot. I know things.

—I don’t know what you want me to say.

—I asked a very simple question. What happened?

—We had one kiss…

—Mr. Mitchell. It would make things easier for both of us, especially for you, if we could forgo the part of this conversation where you take me for a complete idiot…

—OK, it was more than a kiss but it’s not like we defected to Russia or anything. I don’t think the Army has anything to worry about.

—You keep forgetting. I am not the Army, nor am I concerned with their code of conduct. I have no interest in seeing either of you court-martialed. I will, however, grow tired of asking. Just tell me what happened.

—Well, we’ve been at this for five months now, full-time, and alone. After a while, we either end up killing each other or we grow closer, there’s really no in between. We spend what? Twelve hours a day together in the sphere? Six or seven days a week. It seems pointless to go into details, but let’s just say it didn’t take long before I started thinking about her for the other twelve hours.

But Kara’s Kara. So every time I tried to get closer to her, she’d back away and give me the cold shoulder for three days. I tried to give her some space, as much as I could while being in the same room. It’s really hard spending that kind of time with someone without the conversation eventually slipping into personal territory.

After a while, I got tired of being called by my rank and last name every time I mentioned anything not work-related. You’d be surprised how many things will strike a chord with her. I still don’t know what happened to her, but apparently anything having to do with family, children, or relationships will make her mad. I mean, I really tried, but anyone who gets edgy when cats come up as a conversation topic has some serious emotional issues.

A few weeks passed. I just kept my mouth shut and focused on getting the big girl walking. We tried a few things, but each time our computer model ended up flat on her face. It happened so often at first, we had to remind ourselves she would wreck a dozen houses if that happened for real. Turns out, even if I get the leg movements right, Kara still has to move the arms and torso in sync for her to keep her balance. Turning is even more complicated.

I started calling every movement out loud—left knee up, leg forward, left foot down—so she could shift the weight at the right time. After about a month of that, she started anticipating my movements, reading my body, the way I would move my shoulders before lifting a leg, things like that. I got pretty good at reading her too. I spend my entire day looking at her, since I’m facing away from the console. You do this from sunrise to sunset every day, it starts to feel natural, like you actually need the other person for something as simple as walking. She noticed I even stopped moving my arms when I walk on my own. She says it gives me a Terminator kind of look…The liquid guy, not Arnold.

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