Sleeping Giants Page 43

—They dragged me out of my home…like a cri…criminal!

—They thought you were. But, as I said, water under the bridge. You do realize we have to find a way to work together? I am honestly willing to try if you are.

—I’ve always been professional. You’re the one who made things pers…p…

—Personal. I would describe my actions as…decisive. I thought that was a quality you admired in others. Believe me, when I make things personal, it will leave no room for interpretation. So. Shall we begin? How is the construction progressing?

—…

—I will not leave before you talk to me. If you care for this project as much as you claim to, you will not let a…temporary relocation get in the way of its success.

—We’re ahead of schedule by almost a month. Cons…Construction of the lab is almost complete, and we’re laying track much faster than we thought possible. You should get the pilots here now.

—It was my understanding that you would not be ready for training until Christmas. Even with the good news you just presented me with, I fail to see what the pilots could possibly do here now.

—Nothing. They’d have nothing to do. They could go to the b…beach, have a few drinks, have some fun. Let the resentment dissipate slowly for a few weeks.

—Do you believe they resent me for ending the program?

—No, I don’t think so. But they’ll certainly resent me. They’ll be useless to me for at least a…at least a month. They didn’t like me before, but they’ll ha…hate me now.

—This line of thinking seems somewhat irrational to me. You have spent only a short time with them. They do not know you well enough to hate you.

—Irrational’s the ri…right word. They won’t know why, but they’ll resent me for not being her. They’ll resent me just for…for being alive.

—Dr. Franklin?

—Yes. They probably won’t realize it, but the thought of anyone but Dr….anyone but her being in charge will make their stomachs turn. They’ll hate me for not being exactly like her, and they’ll hate me when I remind them of her. They’ll hate me for making them relive her d…death over and over. Trust me, they’ll hate me. So I’m asking you to get them here now, give them a chance to get over it. I can’t do my job if they want me dead, even if it is sub…consciously.

—I will see what can be done. They might need some time to work out their own differences. Let us leave these psychological concerns aside for a moment and go back to the work you have accomplished. You said that construction of the lab was almost complete. Will it be as large as the room we used in Denver?

—Almost. It’s about forty feet smaller lengthwise. The ground was more unstable toward the ocean than what the…geological surveys had shown. Don’t worry—there’ll still be enough room for it to move around, but you wouldn’t want the roof to collapse. It’s a lot…deeper than Denver. There’ll be millions of tons of rock and water above our heads.

—How many men do you have laying tracks?

—Zero. I didn’t like the security risk to begin with, people can’t keep a secret. Divers could only have done the first few hundred feet anyway. Our German friends managed to build the train so it can lay its own track. It’s more of a shaft, really. A good portion of the path is on a near-vertical slope, so the weight doesn’t push on the track like a regular train. What we built looks like a steel I-beam with a series of holes in the middle. The train drive has geared wheels on both sides of the beam to move along the shaft.

It’s a nice piece of engineering. It goes to the end of the path, lays a new section of the track, and comes back to get the n…next one. When we started, it would come back every couple hours or so, now it’s gone for almost a day at a time. It’s really slow, but it’s…steady.

—How will you collect the pieces once you reach the target area?

—We have an unmanned submarine with a robotic arm. When we get to the bottom of the trench, we’ll attach…buoys to the pieces to reduce the weight, and we’ll hoist them on the train platform with cables. Then we bring the pieces in…one by one.

—Is the train powerful enough to pull the pieces out of the trench?

—No, it’s not. With enough buoys, it could probably handle the smaller pieces on its own, the hands or the feet, but not the thighs or torso. When it’s done laying track, we’ll put a cable on the train and help it up. We have a winch the size of a four-story building.

I…I know you’re keeping things from me, and there’s probably a good reason for that, but I’m assuming you wouldn’t k…keep this to yourself. Why is it taking so long to find the propulsion system? You found the rest of the pieces in a relatively short period, and you must have covered most of the Earth’s surface by now.

—We have not found the propulsion system, as you call it, because we have not been searching for one. In fact, all search efforts were abandoned once we recovered the head. What makes you think there is such a thing?

—Well, I’m sure there’s a lot I don’t know, but…

—This is the second time you allude to the notion that crucial information is being withheld from you. I assure you it is not.

—It doesn’t matter. I knew that when…when I signed on.

—I…

—Just let me finish. As I understand, this device, this robot, it was built by advanced beings from…outer space, in the hopes of defending our planet against some other aliens, is that correct?

—Yes.

—I mean, are you certain it was designed for p…planetary defense?

—That is my understanding.

—Then how could there not be? This thing, the way you describe it, is extremely powerful, and I’m certain it could defend a neighborhood really well, perhaps a city, against just about anything. But what’s it gonna do if the enemy attacks in another country, let alone another…continent? Is it just gonna walk there? It’s not like it can hail a cab.

Without a propulsion system, its mobility would be so limited, it would be com…completely useless. All the enemy would have to do is land more than a few miles away. By the time this thing gets there walking, it would already be over. This would be the s…stupidest planetary defense system ever—not that I know of another one—if it can’t cross an ocean.

—That is a sound argument. One I am surprised no one, including myself, has made in the past. I will endeavor to resume our search efforts as soon as possible. However, as you pointed out, we have covered a significant percentage of all the continents except Antarctica. If such a propulsion system does exist, and we do not find it there, it would most likely be submerged.

The surface we will need to cover is much larger than what we have searched to date, and we currently do not have a reliable underwater-delivery mechanism for the compound Dr. Franklin developed.

—We’ll need to hire someone. I’m a geneticist, not a chemist or an engineer.

—Neither was Dr. Franklin.

—Well, maybe she was a bit of a Renaissance woman…but she’s dead. Your pilots killed her. So we’re gonna have to d…deal with that as best we can. Like I said, I’m a geneticist. I’m already managing…steelworkers and engineers, and I don’t understand half of what they’re saying. With the money we’re s…spending building this place, I don’t think one more salary will make much of a difference. If we need a chemist, we’ll hire a chemist. If the engineers who thought this place up can’t come up with a delivery system for that compound, we’ll hire one more.

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