Sleeping Giants Page 29

—Do you believe it could withstand a nuclear explosion?

—I don’t know. Maybe? I think a more important question is how much the sphere is shielded from what happens outside. It might be almost impossible to destroy the robot itself, but it doesn’t mean all that much if everyone inside is dead.

In any case, if it did survive a nuclear blast, the energy the robot would release would probably be nearly as destructive as the blast itself, unless it can be focused somehow. The fragment I used only weighs a few grams, it’s smaller than the nail of your little finger, and it made a hole about one foot in diameter. I’m just now realizing how powerful this thing might be. I must admit, she’s beginning to scare me.

—What do you think she was built for?

—Up until now, I tried to ignore the fact that this might very well be a weapon, an enormously powerful weapon. But when I think about it, there’s simply no reason to build something this massive for anything else. There’s nothing practical about it. She’ll weigh about seven thousand metric tons if we manage to put her together. She’ll destroy anything she steps on. What worries me is that you could have walked through an army of ten thousand men with something a tenth of this size. There was nothing remotely powerful enough six thousand years ago to justify a weapon of this magnitude, nothing of this Earth anyway.

—You believe she is that powerful?

—We’ll just have to locate the head to find out.

—We will have all the answers very soon. Unfortunately, we will need to go under the sea to get them.

—I thought about that possibility. I’m hoping it’s not, because I can’t get the ARCANA compound to disperse well under water. It’ll take months to develop a new delivery system, and a whole lot longer to go through all the oceans. Whatever I come up with, I can already tell you that dispersal will be a lot slower under water. With a slower vehicle, like a submarine, it could take decades before we find anything. It might be wishful thinking, but I’m really hoping that whoever buried these things was afraid of water.

—You misunderstood. What I meant is that I know exactly where the head is. It is beneath the sea. The Bering Sea.

FILE NO. 143


Location: Naval Submarine Base Bangor, Kitsap Peninsula, WA

—Please state your name and rank.

—Captain Demetrius Rooke, United States Navy.

—What is your current assignment?

—I’m in command of the USS Jimmy Carter, designated SSN-23.

—If I understand the designation correctly, that is a nuclear attack submarine.

—Yes, sir. Seawolf class.

—How long have you been in command?

—Five years in October, sir.

—I am not part of the military. You do not have to call me “sir.”

—What would you prefer I call you?

—On second thought, sir will be just fine. Please describe, in your own words, the events that occurred on the morning of August 17.

—Very well. We left Bangor Base alongside the USS Maine. She’s an Ohio class ballistic missile sub. We were on our way to SEAFAC in Ketchikan, Alaska, for a week of detection exercises when we got a call from SECNAV.

—You received a call from the Office of the Secretary of the Navy.

—No. I mean from the Secretary of the Navy himself.

—Does the Secretary of the Navy often call submarine captains directly?

—No, he does not. That was unusual in and of itself. His orders were definitely out of the ordinary. We were to intercept two Russian subs in the Bering Sea and secure whatever we found on the site. We were to avoid hostilities, if at all possible, but use of force was authorized if necessary.

I don’t know if you’ve ever spoken to SECNAV, but he’s a very loud man. He speaks slowly with a very deep voice. It’s really impossible to misunderstand anything he says, but I asked him to repeat anyway. I don’t think a sub captain has heard those words since World War II.

First, we had to head back to Bangor, to take an Army Chief Warrant on board as an advisor. Good-looking girl. We headed west from there. The trip is about sixty hours at maximum speed.

She said we were on our way to recover a new kind of power reactor, some new fission technology we couldn’t let the Russians get their hands on. Apparently, it was on its way to a secret facility in Alaska when there was an incident and they had to drop it into the sea. Her helo was escorting the ship, and she was familiar with the device. That’s why we had to bring her aboard.

She asked to be brought to the control room right away. One of my lieutenants told her we’d send for her when we reached our destination, but she insisted. Some words were exchanged. My XO had to intervene. I didn’t think too much of it at first. I thought claustrophobia was getting to her. It’s not unusual when people get on a sub for the first time. Tight spaces, small doors, low ceilings—some people have a hard time adjusting. It can make them irritable. I let her blow a little steam and left it at that.

—Did you bring her to the control room?

—Not right away, no. I sent for her about twelve hours from our target. She seemed calm and in control. We went around the Alaskan Peninsula and headed north from Dutch Harbor. After about ten miles, we made sonar contact with three objects. There was an Akula class sub lying on her side at the bottom of a small cliff. She appeared to be disabled. The Saint Petersburg was just sitting there, staring at us, about two thousand feet west of the Akula.

—The Saint Petersburg?

—Lada class. She’s the lead ship. Really quiet. She was designed for this sort of thing. Blowing up subs, defending a base, things like that. They must have sent her when the Akula stopped responding. Whatever she was guarding, the “reactor,” she seemed adamant about not letting us anywhere near it.

—You do not think it was a power reactor?

—It’s not my place to say. It was a large object, about thirty-five feet in diameter, sitting in between her and the disabled Akula. Sonar said it was metallic. When we tried to get closer, the Saint Pete maneuvered herself between us and the target.

We stopped. The USS Maine tried to go around the Russian sub. We were hoping that having two ships to deal with might make her run. She didn’t. She kept her nose straight at us and flooded her torpedo tubes.

—What did you do then?

—Nothing. Our other boat stopped. We waited. Submarines are slow, clumsy things. A lot of what we do is just sit and wait. We’re good at that.

—You had orders to fire if necessary.

—I didn’t think it was necessary. And I wasn’t ready to get blown to bits quite yet. We could have taken her down, but not before she fired everything she had at us.

—How long did you wait?

—About a day. Like I said, we’re good at waiting. The next morning we received an ELF warning that a Russian corvette was under way. It would get there in less than ninety minutes. We had to act quickly. A corvette is well equipped for antisubmarine warfare and she would no doubt bring the target aboard or tow it away.

I gave the order to flood and open our torpedo tubes, and we used the Gertrude to tell the USS Maine to do the same. The Russians responded in kind. That’s when things started to get crazy. Our Army guest “suggested” we surface and warn the Russians that we’d destroy the object before we let anyone have it.

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