Sleeping Giants Page 44

Speaking of genetics, that’s another reason I’d like to get the pilots here as soon as possible. If I’m gonna figure out what it is about these two that makes this machine tick, I’ll need access to their…to their bodies. I’ll need samples.

—I can have them send blood samples here by courier.

—I might need a lot of samples, and not just blood. Please just get them here as soon as possible.

—They might object to a lot of physical probing.

—It’ll be real difficult for me to do my job if they don’t co…coo…perate. They’re an uncontrollable variable in this equation. It makes the board real uneasy that a project this big is at the mercy of two people. You and I have already had this conversation. Let’s not have it again. I’d like to get these tests started as fast as we can.

—All I am asking is for you to make these tests as nonintrusive and painless as you can without sacrificing the results. As for the board of directors, you let me worry about them. Your job is to get us back on track, as soon as possible. When we are fully operational, we can work on a contingency plan, should anything happen to either of our pilots. But for now, we have pilots. You should focus on what we do not have, and as of this moment, we do not have a robot, nor do we have a viable work environment to continue training.

—I understand. But I can’t just ignore the b…board of directors. They’re the ones who named me CEO. I understand your implication in this project, but there is an administrative structure in place here, and as far as I know, you’re not p…you’re not a part of it. I have all the respect in the world for what you did for this project, but my obligation is to the board.

—I admire your loyalty and your desire to fulfill your duties as CEO as best you can.

—Thank you.

—If I may offer a suggestion. It would be wise, for a woman in your position, to take some time to get a better understanding of your surroundings, perhaps to revisit some assumptions you may have made early on. Understanding the true nature of the power structure in such a complex enterprise is not something one can achieve instantly.

—Thank you for your concern. It’s very nice of you.

FILE NO. 249

INTERVIEW WITH VINCENT COUTURE, CONSULTANT, BVI COMPANY NUMBER 462753 INC.

Location: Undisclosed location, near San Juan, Puerto Rico

—I hope you are enjoying yourself in this new setting.

—How could I not? I live on the beach! I don’t know where you’re from, but for someone who’s lived in Quebec all his life, this is pretty awesome.

—I am happy that the beach house is to your liking. I was actually referring to this facility.

—I’ve only been here twice. I met with Alyssa—did you know they brought her back?—the day I arrived, and I met her again when I came in for a physical a few days later.

—You have been here for nearly two weeks if I am not mistaken. What have you been doing with your time if you do not spend it here?

—I’m learning to surf! Well, I’m trying to learn to surf. I’m horrible at it, but it’s so…much…fun! I know I can’t, but I keep thinking it might be a lot easier with my knees flipped. You should come! I’m easy to spot, I’m the glowing white guy with really bad sunburns.

—I…Is it really necessary for me to state that I do not surf? Can we talk about work?

—Sure!

—What do you think of the new base?

—I’m sure you know a lot more about this place than I do. Like I said, I’ve only been here twice. I thought our room in Denver was impressive, but this thing is completely insane. Do you know we’re almost a mile deep underground?

The door behind us leads to a large room roughly the size of the one we trained in, back in Denver. There are also half a dozen laboratories on this floor, and a huge bay—I mean gigantic—that leads into the Atlantic. I’ve only been on this floor, though, I don’t know what else there is.

—There is only one floor. There is also a twenty-thousand-square-foot machine shop, medical facilities, crew quarters, and a power plant.

—Can I ask a stupid question?

—No. You cannot.

—Then, can I ask a really smart question?

—As you wish.

—How do we get the robot out of here? The only door I’ve seen that might be large enough leads straight into the ocean.

—Once assembled, the device cannot leave this facility on the ground. She must be disassembled and hoisted to the surface near the shore. There, we can load the pieces onto cargo ships. She does, however, fit into the sea-lock chamber, so, in theory, she could simply walk her way out of the ocean along the more moderate slopes of the coastline.

—You think she can work underwater? That’d be cool.

—We do not know. I certainly intend to find out. And, yes, it would.

—Who runs this place? Is this an American base?

—Not quite. These facilities belong to a consortium of four nations: Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as four corporations: two from Germany, one from the United States, and one from Japan.

—That seems like a completely random list of countries. Did you pick the names out of a hat?

—Russia had to be involved in some manner. The situation was simply too volatile after two of their officers were shot during one of our missions.

—We shot two Russian officers?

—We did not shoot anyone. Tuvan peasants did…It is a long story. Suffice it to say that any attempt by the United States to keep the robot would have had catastrophic consequences. I had to offer Moscow some assurances. Unfortunately, they do not have the financial resources necessary to fund a project of this magnitude. The Emirates did. Japan was an acceptable partner for both of them, and South Korea is the most obvious client for our product. Our private partners bring specific technologies to the table.

—Did you just say “our product”?

—Our goal is to provide close-range defensive capabilities for member nations.

—How about offensive capabilities?

—No. It is part of our charter. It can only be used to defend against an enemy strike or invasion, never as an offensive weapon, and never against another consortium member.

—I’m sorry, I’m still trying to wrap my head around this. You can do that? Just grab the robot and say you own it?

—It is open to interpretation. Ownership could perhaps be contested. We do, however, own over seven thousand patents on the technology. It would be legally perilous for anyone else to use it.

—What do the private companies get out of it?

—The cost of membership is…significant. As more nations join our group, those who provided seed funding could enjoy a considerable return on their investment.

—So we went from the greatest discovery in history, for the betterment of all mankind, blah blah blah, to a weapon for profit? Is that it?

—I will concede that this situation is far from what I had envisioned, but it is one that allows us to continue our research and avoid a global conflict.

—What’s it called?

—What is what called?

—The consortium. Oh, that’d be a good name, just that: “The Consortium…”

—It does not have a name at this point. It is a numbered International Business Company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

Prev Next