Sleeping Giants Page 30

—Did you?

—No. I had no intention of doing that. There was a corvette coming. She then asked me—ordered me, would be a better choice of words—to actually do it. “Just fire on it!” she said. “Everything you’ve got!”

My orders were to recover that object, fire at the Russians if need be, not to destroy the very thing we came for. Naturally, I said no. She assured me it wouldn’t be destroyed, but the blast would force the Russian boat to back off, and we’d gain enough time for the cavalry to arrive. I couldn’t even be sure we had boats under way. She called me a fool for arguing with her.

—How did you respond?

—“You’re out of order,” I believe was my reply. I told her I would have her removed if she did not desist immediately. Then, and I remember this perfectly because it was the last thing I expected, she raised her voice to make sure everyone in command heard her and said: “I’m assuming command of this ship under the authority given to me by the president of the United States.”


—You could call it that. I called for security on the double and I asked the Chief of the Boat to place her under arrest. The XO grabbed her by the arm, and then things are a little fuzzy. It was happening so fast. She got the XO in an armlock and slammed his head on a console. Two armed security officers arrived on deck. She round kicked one of them and broke the other one’s nose with her palm before kneeing him and throwing him down. She must have grabbed a sidearm from one of the men because the next thing I knew, she had her arm around my throat and a gun to my temple. She backed us up against the wall to get a full view of the room.

Four more armed men came through the door. There was a lot of back-and-forth yelling. I could sense my men were losing their calm so I asked everyone to lower their weapons. I had to repeat it a few times, but they eventually complied. I asked her what the next move was. She gave me two choices: I could either fire on the object as she wanted or surface to confirm her orders. I certainly questioned her motives, but there was no doubt in my mind about her resolve. She would blow my head off, I was sure of it. Yet she remained fairly calm under the circumstances and I chose to believe she hadn’t completely lost her mind.

I told her there was no way I would surface with a corvette only minutes away, but I would fire our torpedoes at the object if the USS Maine kept hers aimed at the Saint Petersburg. Only, I would not do it with a gun to my head. She had to let me go.

—She believed you?

—I gave her my word as a Navy officer. I took the gun away from her. The XO punched her unconscious, broke her nose in the process, I think. The men dragged her to the brig.

—Did you fire?

—I gave her my word. We shot two torpedoes at the object. Both were direct hits.

—What happened?

—Nothing happened. Well, not nothing, but not what you’d expect. When the torpedoes exploded, we braced ourselves for the shock wave that would shortly follow. We were fairly close to the target. The engine went silent, all the lights went out. All we could hear was the metal of the hull shrieking under the pressure. We started to slowly tilt upward and sideways, we all had to grab ahold of something. We hovered like that for about six hours, then we heard something attaching to the hull. They took us out in a rescue sub, a dozen men at a time.

Turns out they had sent a whole lot of boats after us: several frigates, two destroyers, and a cruiser. They must have been minutes away when it all happened. We could see the Saint Petersburg through the window in the rescue sub—her shadow, actually. There was a lot of bluish light behind her. She was missing part of her tail. A really clean cut, not like an explosion. You’d need a laser or a blowtorch to make a cut that clean. The rescue sub went out to help the Russians. They were lucky. The rear chamber was sealed when their tail was cut off; only two people had died.

I asked the cruiser crew: “What of the Akula?” They just stared at me blankly. It took several of us to convince them that there was an Akula class submarine at the bottom when we arrived. One thing’s for sure, it wasn’t there anymore. Poof! Like magic. There was no wreckage, no floating debris, no sign it was ever there.

—What happened to the Army Chief Warrant?

—Never saw her again. They told me she would be court-martialed. She must have been right. About her orders, I mean.

—I thought you said she would be…

—They also made it very clear to me that none of this ever happened. I don’t think they’ll put anyone on trial for something that didn’t happen.

—Are you always this cynical? You seem to doubt a lot of what you are told.

—It’s all cockamamie, if you ask me. Military intelligence. They come up with these really far-fetched stories, and just because we don’t ask questions, they think we’re actually buying it. They forget that they’re talking to people who are trained not to ask questions. If it were up to me, I’d rather they just didn’t tell me anything. It’s less insulting than to be lied to.

—Do you believe I am lying to you?

—That would be hard. You haven’t told me a single thing. But let’s give it a shot. Can you tell me what it was I fired at? It wasn’t destroyed, just like she said. I saw it hooked to a crane when they brought it aboard, but they had it covered in some black sheeting. I fired two torpedoes at that thing…

—Let us say for a minute I could provide you with—how shall I put it—an alternate story. I can assure you that you would find it so preposterous that you would leave this room absolutely convinced that you fired your torpedoes at a prototype reactor that was lost at sea. So I will save both of us the time and leave it at that. I can tell you this: what you did mattered.

—Thank you. I guess that’s all I really wanted to hear. By the way, that Chief Warrant, I’d like to shake hands with her some time. She’s got grit.

—I will let her know you said hi.

FILE NO. 161


Location: Underground Complex, Denver, CO

—I can’t stand it anymore. I feel like I’m watching him die, every day, all the time. If he’s not unconscious, he’s in agony. No one can stand that much pain all the time. I’m surprised he lasted this long.

—He can walk, can he not?

—No! He can’t! You can’t call that walking. You and I are walking. He can barely take a couple steps before his whole body starts shaking. Then he collapses and—to spare us—pretends it doesn’t hurt as much as it does. I’ve had to pick him up from the ground three times today. No one wants to hurt him any more than he already is, so no one says anything.

—And what would they say if they dared?

—He just doesn’t have enough muscle mass left.

—Is he taking his drugs?

—Religiously. But his body’s adapting to the muscle-building agent. The doctor says his tolerance will continue to increase.

—We will find him new medication.

—You can’t keep pumping him full of experimental drugs. His body’s been through enough already.

—Would you rather we let him suffer?

—He doesn’t have to suffer. Take these things out of him and let him rest. He can learn to walk with prosthetics when he’s ready.

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