Sleeping Giants Page 41

—I told her you’d say that…Are you sure there’s nothing we can do?

—Yes.

—Yes?

—Yes. I am sure there is nothing we can do.

—How about this: Are you sure there’s nothing anyone else can do to get it back? Having lost the robot is one thing, but I’d hate to see her show up on television with a Chinese flag painted on her chest.

—Like I said, I am unaware of any such scientific or technological development. I would be surprised if the Chinese, or anyone else, had made any significant progress in that area without anyone else knowing about it. That being said, it is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities.

—How would you go about making sure someone else doesn’t get it out first?

—You cannot stop anyone from grabbing it if you cannot reach that depth yourself. I would strongly suggest multiplying federal funding for research in deep-sea exploration by, shall we say, a thousandfold, if you have not already. I am absolutely certain other governments have done so before the first piece ever hit the bottom of the ocean.

—You make it sound like this is a race.

—I do. It is.

—So, you’re saying this is the space race all over again. We’re racing with the Russians, and God knows who else, to the far depths of the Earth, and whoever gets there first wins it all. Is that the gist of it?

—Unless you find a way to turn enemy into ally, that sums it up quite well.

—Are you suggesting we work with Russia on this thing?

—I cannot tell you if you should, only that you could. Most people forgot, but in 1963 Kennedy did offer to cooperate with Moscow to reach the moon. Had he not met with such an untimely death, the first lunar landing might have been a joint venture between the United States and the USSR.

—Somehow, I don’t see that happening.

—I suppose that is what you meant by “slow and imperceptible change.” Is there anything else I can help you with? I am on a fairly tight schedule.

—No. I guess not. Not unless you can get North Korea to shut down their nuclear program.

—What have they done this time?

—Third underground test this year. Only, this one looks like the real thing. In the past, they would just blow up a whole lot of explosives underground to make us think they had nukes. This time’s different. Japan has detected radiation at the site.

With anyone else, we’d play the strength card and threaten to level the entire country…but they don’t really seem to care. I’m not sure where that leaves us.

—A preemptive strike?

—As far as the president is concerned, that’s what you call an “act of war” if you’re the one making it.

—Then I am afraid I have nothing to offer. It pains me to say it, but I have always been thoroughly bewildered by North Korea. They cannot be threatened, as they feel themselves superior to the one making the threat. They cannot be reasoned with, and most importantly, they are 100 percent convinced of their righteousness, so they cannot be bought. Megalomaniacs with delusions of grandeur are notoriously difficult to handle, but how generations of them can follow one another is beyond me.

—…I’m sorry, my mind was drifting. I was thinking about racing the Russians to the trench. It’s gonna be hard to make a good speech out of that. We choose to go to the…ocean. We choose to go to the bottom of the ocean in this decade and do the other things…

—Maybe you should leave the speechwriting to others.

FILE NO. 237

INTERVIEW WITH VINCENT COUTURE, UNEMPLOYED

Location: La Fontaine Park, Montreal, Canada

—Please sit down, Mr. Couture.

—We could have gone to my place. It’s cold for a picnic.

—I have tried my best to hide the identity of everyone involved in our project, but after the incident I prefer to discuss this in a public location.

—You’re worried someone bugged my apartment?

—I cannot discard the possibility. Besides, this park is lovely in the fall. Did you receive my message?

—I’m not sure I’d call that a message, but yeah, I received the two words you sent me. It’s pretty cool.

—Define cool.

—Cool is that at some point there might have been more of these giant robots on Earth, eleven more to be precise.

—How…

—How would I know? Well, the first word you sent, tittah, means “big” in Hattic. Hattic was spoken about five thousand years ago in Anatolia, that’s more or less Turkey today. That word was borrowed by the folks living west of there, and in Greek you end up with the word Titan.

In Greek mythology, the Titans are children of Gaia and Uranus. That’s also cool. Do you get it? They’re children of the Earth and the Sky. They must have known where they came from, somehow.

There are twelve of them, six males and six females. I don’t know all their names by heart, but I know which one we found. The other word you sent, dhehméys, looks a whole lot like what we call Proto-Indo-European, which we believe was spoken right around there at the time. If it is PIE, then that “d” will eventually turn into a “t,” and by the time you get to Ancient Greek, you end up with Themis, one of the Titans.

—I am not familiar with the name.

—You’ve seen her a thousand times. She’s blindfolded holding a scale in one hand and a sword in the other.

—Is that who we call Lady Justice?

—More or less. The statues in front of courthouses are fairly modern. They’re usually a mixture of Themis and Iustitia, the Roman equivalent. What’s the saying? Justice is blind. Well, now we know why; she doesn’t have eyes.

I don’t think justice is the right word, though. She represents something bigger, something like divine law. That’s probably what dhehméys meant five thousand years ago already. I’m pretty sure that dharma in Sanskrit is from the same word, and it means cosmic order, what keeps the universe together. Her daughter, Dikē, is the Greek goddess of Justice.

—She had a daughter?

—Well, obviously, she doesn’t have a “real” daughter. I don’t think there’s a minirobot buried somewhere either. Some mythology has got to be just that, mythology.

Can you imagine though? A dozen of these things walking around, all lit up in turquoise. Then again, maybe they glow in different colors. They didn’t even have iron tools back then, let alone electricity. I wish I could go back in time just to see that for myself. One of these things is jaw-dropping today. Twelve of them, at a time when technology was more or less nonexistent? That would have been like coming face-to-face with gods.

I’d like to know why this one was left on Earth while all the other ones went back to wherever they came from.

—What makes you think they went anywhere?

—We pretty much searched the entire planet and we only found parts of this one. If there were eleven more spread around, surely we’d have a couple spare parts, extra hands, another foot, lying in a warehouse somewhere.

Are you gonna tell me what you know or do I have to guess everything?

—I may not know anything.

—Of course not. You just stumbled upon the words tittah and dhehméys while doing crosswords, and you called me for clues so you could finish the grid. What’s a seven-letter word for “full of it”?

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