Sleeping Giants Page 50

—They were massing very close to the border.

—North Korea is the size of Ohio. It would be geographically challenging for them to gather very far from the border.

—Say what you will. You could have warned me on the way back. As you were happy to point out, we weren’t exactly traveling at super…sonic speed. You had more than a week to tell me to turn around.

—Indeed. I chose not to.

—Like I said. I don’t know you very well. I know you don’t like me, but I have a hard time thinking you’d purposely s…s…sabotage this entire project just for the pleasure of watching me fail.

I assume this was all part of some great master plan. So how does it work? You swoop in, save the day, and you get to run this project yourself?

—Rest assured, Ms. Papantoniou, I have no desire to take your place. Nor do I wish to see this project fail. I do have a vested interest in the people I recruited, and their well-being is very important to me. I would like you to make peace with Ms. Resnik.

—I can’t help it if she won’t cooperate.

—She still lives in the compound, comes to work every day. She spent more than a week on a cargo ship to go to Korea on a mission that should never have happened. She has, as I understand it, set limits on the type of procedures she will allow you to perform on her body. That seems within her rights even under these special circumstances.

—You didn’t always have a problem messing with another person’s…body against their will.

—I could say the same about you.

—I don’t know what you’re talking about.

—…Perhaps. Were you referring to Mr. Couture’s legs?

—I was.

—The doctor performed the surgery against his will. Mr. Couture had no reservations about the operation.

—Did he even know what you were gonna do to him?

—He knew the alternative was to lose his legs. However painful the experience may have been for him, I believe he would choose to undergo the procedure again.

In any case, if Ms. Resnik will not consent to more invasive procedures, I suggest you find a way to work with what she will consent to. In the meantime, I will go back to Washington and see if I can find a solution to your current predicament.

—Thank you. I’ll talk to…

—To the board, yes.

—I’ll talk to the board about keeping you on as a consultant, but I can’t…can’t promise anything.

—That is very generous of you.

FILE NO. 253

TRANSCRIPT—GEOINT SURVEILLANCE—KH-9 SATELLITE (BIG BIRD)

National Reconnaissance Office, Chantilly, VA

[11:30] Movement alert. Big Bird is geostat over Puerto Rico. Now leaving Watch Mode. Manual tracking enabled.

[11:31] Male, female, designated Alpha, Bravo, spotted outside compound. Heading west on foot along access road.

[11:39] Several people exiting compound. Eight men total, all armed, wearing tactical gear. Designation: Charlie 1 through 8.

[11:42] Charlie 1–8 entering two vehicles, pickup trucks, parked outside compound. Vehicles heading west.

[11:46] Tracking. Vehicles approaching Alpha and Bravo. Male and female leaving access road, heading north through wooded area.

[11:47] Vehicles stopped. Charlie in pursuit on foot.

[11:52] Bravo down.

[11:53] Alpha heading North. Bravo still down.

[11:54] Charlie 1–4 stopping near Bravo. Charlie 5–8 still in pursuit heading north.

[11:56] Charlie 1–4 carrying Bravo, possibly dead, back to vehicle.

[12:01] Lost track of Alpha. Charlie 5–8 slowing down, splitting up into two groups.

[12:08] Charlie 5–8 abandoning pursuit. Heading back to vehicles.

[12:17] Vehicles heading back to compound.

[12:24] Vehicles back at compound. All occupants entering.

[12:32] No further activity. Big Bird resuming Watch Mode.

FILE NO. 254

INTERVIEW WITH VINCENT COUTURE, CONSULTANT, GAIA CONSORTIUM

Location: Bar El Batey, San Juan, Puerto Rico

—Where is Ms. Resnik? I was expecting both of you.

—She didn’t make it.

—You left her behind?

—There was nothing I could do. She got hit in the back with a Taser gun. I tried to help her up, but they got me in the shoulder and I fell backward down the hillside. When I came to, I was a few hundred feet from the water.

—They did not chase you?

—I don’t know. I didn’t see anyone, but I didn’t really stick around to find out. Maybe they were too busy restraining Kara, maybe they don’t care so much about me.

—Believe me, they care very much about you. Even if Ms. Papantoniou managed to get the helmets to accept other people, she would need someone to operate the legs and the console. You are the only one with a sufficient understanding of the math involved.

—It’s not that hard. It can be learned.

—I am certain it can, but you are also the only person whose anatomy is compatible with the controls. Anyone else would have to stand backward and face away from the console. They could use a third pilot on the other side of it, but coordinating the actions of three people when one of them is facing away does not seem like a viable solution. If they had been able to catch you, you would have been recaptured before her. She is easier to replace than you are.

How did you get to San Juan?

—There was a small fishing boat near the shore. I swam to it, told them I was snorkeling and the boat I came on left without me. At least, I think that’s what I said. You know how good my Spanish is. Anyway, they took me to Playa Sardinera. I took a bus to get here.

—Very astute of you. How did things get so bad? What happened at the compound?

—We escaped.

—I meant what happened before. When did you decide to escape?

—Yesterday. Well, today, but it all started yesterday.

—Please take me through it.

—I woke up late. I didn’t take a shower, I just ran downstairs for breakfast. They called her on the intercom about halfway through.

—Ms. Resnik?

—Yes. She said she’d be right back. She told me to make sure no one took her coffee.

—Then?

—Then nothing. I waited for a half hour. I went to her room, to med bay. The door was locked. I started knocking. After about five minutes, the door opened. Did you know that piece of shit Ryan was there?

—I did.

—And you didn’t think that was something I might wanna know?

—Can we do this at another time? Ms. Resnik was in the medical bay…

—Yeah. I tried to get to her. She was lying unconscious on a metal table. Her arms and legs were strapped. She must have put up one hell of a fight. Ryan’s brow was cut. He must have helped to restrain her because I don’t think the two guards that were there could have handled her on their own. Alyssa certainly couldn’t.

Ryan grabbed me. He said no one would hurt her. I didn’t believe him so I kept on fighting, but he’s a lot stronger than I am. Alyssa was there, and she picked up something in one of the drawers and she stabbed me in the neck with it. Next thing I know, I was in my room.

—What did they do to you?

—I don’t know. I woke up with one hell of a headache, but not much else.

—Did your back hurt?

—No, not really. Why?

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