Sleeping Giants Page 49

—You were trying to start a war! Are you so egotistical to believe this was all about you?

—She won’t get away with this.

—You do realize that you need her a lot more than she needs you?

—Not for long. We’re close. We’re really close. Believe me, she’ll never s…set foot in that thing again. Ever.

—Are you saying you have found a way to unlock the helmets?

—Yes…Well, no. Not exactly. I still need her head to get it working, but I think I’ve found a way to make the helmet believe she’s still…still in it, even if she’s not. I’m also pursuing more permanent solutions.

—Could you keep it on indefinitely? I am only asking because she might be less enthusiastic about helping if you take her pilot station away from her.

—I hope so. I need more samples to find out.

—You may not have noticed, but Ms. Resnik does not like to be probed.

—She doesn’t have a say anymore. I’ll g…I’ll get what I need one way or another.

—I am more than willing to talk to her. I can probably persuade her to undergo more testing, but you will not subject her to anything that she has not volunteered for. I hope this much is clear.

There are very few certainties in this world. One of them is that you are replaceable, in this project or any other, and she is not. There is a line you cannot cross. It is very well defined. You are welcome to call me for clarification, should that line become ever so slightly blurred.

—I’ll run this project as I see fit. I d…didn’t wanna do this now, but it’ll have to do. I spoke to the board, and it is my…my duty to inform you that your services will no longer be needed, as of today. We appreciate everything you’ve done for this project. We realize we couldn’t have gone this far without you and we’ll always be g…grateful for all your help. Security will ask you to leave your ID on your way out.

—You spoke to the board?

—Yes.

—The “board,” you realize, is a low-level officer from Russian Intelligence, a retired South Korean general, the son of an Arab prince, and four lawyers who represent private companies but are not allowed to tell them anything they see. If you were to write down a list of all the people who are ill equipped to deal with the current situation, the “board” would undoubtedly have its name somewhere on the first page. Granted, yours would certainly appear farther down the list, but you are, nonetheless, incapable of facing what is bound to come very soon.

—W…What are you talking about?

—You really have no grasp of the situation, do you?

—Enlighten me.

—Approximately twelve days ago, you unveiled to the world, for the second time, an alien device powerful enough to tip the balance of power in any ground conflict. You marched it to the North Korean border against my specific instructions and effectively taunted the North Korean Army to attack you so you could demonstrate just how destructive that machine can be. In doing so, you have not only considerably raised tensions amongst Asian nations, but you have also antagonized the United States, and perhaps—pardon the pun—alienated forces infinitely more powerful.

—We didn’t do anything against the US. North K…Korea isn’t exactly a friendly state.

—The government of the United States spared no expense to locate and secure the pieces of that alien device. Staggering amounts of money and resources were allocated to this project. After the robot was revealed to the world, they also went to great lengths to avoid an international conflict and to ensure that, if they could not have it, no one else would. You essentially stole it from them, took it out for everyone to see, and left a hole the size of a small town along the Korean DMZ.

—I didn’t steal anything! It was your idea to get it from the bottom of the…trench. You brought me on board long after the construction work had begun.

—Since, as you emphasized, I am no longer a part of this project, it would appear that the responsibility now rests solely on your shoulders.

—I only did what the board…what the board sanctioned. We had to show the world what it can do if it’s going to be effective as a deterrent. Don’t wo…worry about me. I know what I’m doing.

—You unfortunately do not. That much is obvious. If you had even the most basic understanding of the situation, you would not have taken her out before you knew more of what she can do, and you certainly would not have been reckless enough to bring her back here.

—Where was I supposed to take it?

—Perhaps the base in Russia. Anywhere but here.

—The…the base in Russia isn’t finished yet.

—That is something you might have considered before you took her out for a stroll. That is definitely something you should have thought of before you took her back into United States territory, on a boat. It took over a week to get back here. There is not a government on the planet that does not know exactly where the robot is.

There are three countries that are part of this consortium, one of which you were already in. Yet, you chose to bring the robot back into the one country that has a legitimate claim on it. One thing is certain, you will never get it out of Puerto Rico again. I would also expect the board to react, shall we say, unfavorably to this decision, as you have effectively turned over their investment to the US.

I spoke to the Office of the President several times since the event. They were ready to declare a blockade when they realized where you were going. The only reason US Marines have not already stormed this place is because they have not yet figured out why you would do something so stupid.

They have, however, deployed half the Atlantic Fleet around the island. The seaward boundaries of Puerto Rico extend nine nautical miles from the shore. Believe me when I say that no one, especially Russia, will ever cross that line. Neither will you.

—What about the other nations in the consortium?

—The Emirates do not have boats that could come this far. If they did, they would not use them. You can also assume that South Korea will not enter US coastal waters uninvited.

—So what are we supposed to do?

—You can either trust Russian diplomats to work out a compromise, or you can let me handle it. Either way, I hope you brought a few good books. You will be inside this compound for a while.

—I can’t make that kind of decision without running it by…

—The board. Yes. You do that. By now, Russia and Korea will have realized what you have done, but your private partners will be glad someone is there to explain to them why they are out of business.

—You’re loving this. Aren’t you?

—I take no pleasure in your misfortune, Ms. Papantoniou.

—Sure you do. You cou…could have warned me.

—Would you have listened if I had? I have explained to you, several times, that you could only use this weapon when absolutely necessary, and only for defensive purposes. In fact, I specifically told you to ensure that your actions could never be misconstrued as offensive. That did not stop you from marching right into the Korean demilitarized zone before anyone threw so much as a rock at South Korea.

—There was an immediate threat.

—North Korean troops gathering…inside North Korea. That is unheard of.

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