Sleeping Giants Page 47

—Thank you for finding Fata.

—You’re welcome. I won’t forget her either. That poor woman. What she had to endure, it’s…I can’t find the words. It’s inhuman. What kind of monster would do such a thing to another person?

—War brings out the worst, and sometimes the best, in people.

—Speaking of war, I’m worried about what we’re doing here. We started this as a research project. I don’t have a degree in physics or anything, but it felt somewhat like science. This is not. It’s not a research project anymore, and I’m starting to feel like a soldier again.

There’s just too much money riding on this thing not to use it. At some point, we’re gonna take her out, and we’re gonna kill people, a hundred, a thousand…ten thousand. It’s hard to see it for what it is, because it looks like a person, a woman, but what we have is a weapon, at least that’s the way we’re treating it. If we had found a bomb, a giant missile…

—Would you be a part of this project if we had?

—Maybe. Probably. Somehow it would be easier if I weren’t the one driving this thing. I mean there’s no one else. Well, there’s one other person. But they’ll send us out there, and we won’t have a choice but to kill whoever comes at us.

You know they’ll have absolutely no idea what they’re up against, no clue that they don’t stand a chance. I guess what I’m saying is: It’s easier to be just one more soldier in a giant army than being the whole army by yourself.

—It does not matter whether you are all alone or one in an army of thousands. You have a choice. You have always had a choice. You should be grateful to be in a position to make it when the stakes are so clear. They rarely are.

—I’m not sure I understand.

—You are in control of a formidable weapon, but one that is designed for close combat. This means that you will always see whomever you choose to kill. That is a clear choice. Destroying a bridge in a night incursion is a much harder decision to make. You just never took the time to think about it. Removing it could prevent enemy reinforcements from reaching the front line. That bridge could also be the only escape route for civilians. How many people will you save? How many will you send to their deaths? That is a complicated decision to make, especially without all—

—Is that your phone or mine?

—Yours, I believe…

—Then that must be yours.

—Indeed it is. We seem to be popular at the moment.

—What does yours say?

—North Korea just sank a South Korean ship in the Yellow Sea. They are moving troops toward the DMZ. I believe you…

—Yep. We’re being deployed.

FILE NO. 251


Location: Paju, near the demilitarized zone, South Korea

—Can you hear me, Ms. Resnik? Please cough if you can hear me.

—Cough? How about I just tell you? I hear you loud and clear. I muted my comms with Alyssa. She can’t hear us.

—Good. Where are you now?

—We’re in Paju. We’re walking along the highway toward the border. We took a nice stroll in the river before that.

—Is the South Korean Army following you?

—No. There are some troops behind us across the river, but they’re not moving. This is our show now. Oh, except for that tiny jeep riding next to us on the highway. I think it’s escorting us, silly as it sounds.

—How are you feeling?

—Stiff. I’m sore all over the place.

—Has there been an incident I have not been made aware of?

—No, nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. Do you know how long it took for us to get here? Eleven days! Eleven days in a container ship, sleeping in that sorry excuse for a bunk they gave us.

We really have to do something about transport, or we need to find really patient enemies. It did give Vincent and me a chance to talk, though.

—Have you made any progress toward reconciliation?

—Eh…Can we do this another time? I’m sort of in the middle of something. Where are you calling me from anyway?

—Beijing. I still have a few friends here. I tried to win you a few extra days.

—I doubt you have any friends, anywhere.

—People who owe me favors are called friends. I asked them to stall Pyongyang for as long as they could.

—Seems to have worked. You know, I never knew it was this pretty.

—What is?

—Here. I’d never been to Korea, let alone to the border. I always imagined the demilitarized zone as something—I don’t know—rugged. Some half-plowed mine-filled dirt field with crooked barbed wire all over the place. This looks like a national park. There’s grass everywhere. It’s insanely green. Everything is really pretty, very well kept. I’m sure it would all explode if we walked over it, but still, pretty.

Can you hold on for a minute? I have to report in…

Yes, Alyssa. We’re entering the DMZ. We’re a little over a mile from the—what do they call it?—the MDL. I can see a checkpoint from here. I’ll go out on a limb and say they’ve seen us by now…No, nothing’s happening…Yep. I’ll let you know in a minute when we reach the border…

Are you there? I can’t keep turning my mic off. I can still hear you, but I won’t be able to respond.

—Very well. Just keep this channel open so I can hear you.

—All right. Here goes nothing…

Alyssa, I’m back. Yes, I was talking to Vincent…Things that don’t concern you. I thought you’d like to know we’re almost at the border. I can see troops about a mile away…I don’t know, I see a lot of tanks, maybe two hundred. I’m guessing that’s a brigade. Lots of infantry…

How am I supposed to know? They’re in tents. I can tell you there are no more than fifty thousand men here. They sure didn’t bring everyone. If they’re getting ready to march in, I don’t think this is where it’s happening. My guess is they’re just showing off…

You did ask for my opinion. You wanted to know how many troops there were. And since we’re supposed to be here to stop an invasion, I thought the fact that there just aren’t enough soldiers here to invade anything would be, you know, relevant.

Sure. We can walk to the border, but they can see us just fine from where we are if that’s what you’re worried about…We’re going. We’re going…

Vincent, that’s far enough. OK. We’re there. We’re right at the fence. There are about a hundred men, a couple trucks about two hundred feet from us…No, Alyssa. No one’s doing anything. They’re just staring at us…I’m telling you! No one’s shooting at us!…Where?

Oh, yeah. I see him. There’s one guy about a thousand feet to the side taking potshots at us with an AK…What do you want me to do? Yell at him? HEY YOU DOWN THERE! STOP SHOOTING AT OUR FEET! How’s that?

You’re kidding, right? I’m not walking into North Korea because of some kid with a peashooter. He’s probably just scared shitless…We can’t shoot back, Alyssa. We could squish him if he gets closer, but we can’t reach him from over here. No, Alyssa, we’re not under attack. I don’t care how much you wanna show off your new toy, there’s no imminent threat here…

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