Sleeping Giants Page 56

—More or less. But you are missing the real beauty of this situation. As I said before, I did not give anything away. It was not free. The nations involved spent in the neighborhood of $200 billion to retrieve the device and construct the Puerto Rico base. Had the US attempted to do the same, it would have had to disburse that amount on its own. To do it clandestinely would have been impossible, as you could not appropriate $200 billion, for anything, without anyone’s noticing.

—OK, it’s clever and we saved a bunch of money. What do you want from me, a medal?

—A simple thank-you would suffice.

—I still don’t get it. If the president knew, and it sure looks that way, why not let me in on that clever plan of yours?

—I cannot tell you what the president knew or did not know, I do not handle these briefings. As I mentioned several times to your predecessor, there are a great many things that require an attention span greater than eight years. Consequently, there are also a great many things that never reach this office. As for the plan, you must realize that, if it existed at all, it would never have been that well-defined. The device was causing too much turmoil, in part owing to the manner in which the pieces were acquired. Hypothetically speaking, the former president might have agreed that other nations should share some of the burden, and some of the cost. I would then have assembled a group of interested parties and begun construction on the Puerto Rico facility.

—You mean you got them to build a base in Puerto Rico before we dropped the robot anywhere near it?

—I like to believe I have a reputation for keeping my word.

—Not sure I’d bet $200 billion on that.

—It would have been the only way for the project not to come to a halt for a year or two. We would have needed a head start on the construction while our team continued to work. If, hypothetically, I had promised to get the device to the bottom of the trench at the first occasion, the accident in Denver would have provided the perfect opportunity.

That being said, it baffles me that they would be so hasty to show it publicly, let alone that they would bring it back to Puerto Rico afterward.

—Hypothetically…

—No. That part is fact. I suppose I could take some of the credit for unwittingly recruiting morons. Without their sheer stupidity, it could have been years, decades, before you and I had this conversation.

—So how does that work? We come to an agreement with South Korea, Russia, the Emirates, and we get to parade it three months a year? You know we’ll never be able to use it against anyone with that list of partners.

—I suppose now is as good a time as any to break the bad news. You will not like what comes next.

—I’m not exactly ecstatic so far…

—You will not share it with 3 countries, you will share it with 192.

—You want to give it to the UN?

—No, you do.

—Why would I want that?

—It has to be this way, so I suggest you find a good reason. If you are at a loss, I can suggest a few, world peace being one of them. The point is that it has to come from you. The consortium must be absolutely convinced that you will never agree to release the device otherwise.

—Now we’ll really never be able to use it.

—You never could. This much should be clear by now. Neither you nor anyone else can ever use this device to attack another human being. That means you cannot blow up the Vatican, even if they are not part of the UN. But instead of sobbing about all the great wars that might have been, I suggest you pray to whatever god you worship and ask that we never have to use it at all, because if we do, it will likely mean the end of everything.

On the positive side, I am certain the UN will be willing to erase a good portion of your debt for this. You owe them quite a bit of money. And, yes, you will get to parade it every now and then, though perhaps not three months a year.

You once told me that this discovery would forever change the way we view ourselves, melt away some of our differences. I sincerely hope you meant what you said, because today, you and the president get to do something good for all mankind, not something some CIA analyst said might help stabilize the Middle East or lower oil prices. You get to do something undeniably good, for everyone. Tell me: How often does that happen?

—What if I said no?

—I have the utmost respect for freedom of choice. In fact, most of what I do is aimed at preserving it. This, however, is not one of those moments. Feel free to take a few days before you say yes. I would also like Ms. Resnik and Mr. Couture released immediately.

—The president said nothing about your pilots. They’ll have to stand trial.

—Trials seem to be an obsession of yours. You can have the guards tried if you wish. I strongly urge you to prosecute Ms. Papantoniou if you find her.

—You mean the psychopath you chose to run your program, the one who took everyone hostage to run some insane experiments.

—Yes. That one. I would be very grateful if you were able to apprehend her promptly. The pilots, however, have to go.

—I may not have the power to arrest you, but I don’t have to do everything you say.

—You certainly do not. You should speak to the president and make your decision without considering me at all. You know that she will want to spin what comes next to her advantage. The United States giving the alien device to the world, creating the first planetary armed force. A gift of hope, from the president of the United States to humanity. I would imagine a parade, fireworks, and a very long and inspiring speech. That speech will be much easier to write if the pilots are not on death row for treason. The parade will also look better if you do not have to tow the robot.

—…

—Will that be all? I have a plane to catch.

FILE NO. 263

INTERVIEW WITH CW4 KARA RESNIK, UNITED STATES ARMY

Location: United States Army Garrison Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico

—Can’t believe Ryan had to be the hero. How typical.

—He did help you and Mr. Couture escape.

—He helped me escape all right. He got me out of the very bed he helped strapped me on…twice. He’s a dick. But he loves a grand gesture.

—He does have a flair for the dramatic, but you should make room for the possibility that his actions were not entirely selfish.

—He just wanted to feel better about himself. Ryan doesn’t deal well with guilt.

—Redemption is not the worst motive I can think of. I doubt he fully realized what he was signing on for when Ms. Papantoniou contacted him.

—He sure took his sweet time to catch on. Why are you defending Ryan all of a sudden? You’re the one who threw him in jail.

—And I will send him back, after I express my gratitude for saving both of your lives. I am merely pointing out that Mr. Mitchell is not all evil. He did risk his life and disarm a dozen men to save you.

—Less-than-total-evilness…OK. I’ll give you that. What will happen to them? The guards?

—Nothing, I assume. They were all legally employed by a legitimate corporation, and most of them have done nothing illegal.

—What about Alyssa?

—Will she be punished for what she did to you?

—To me? Yeah. To me, to Vincent. Whoever else she hurt.

—Probably not. She would argue that her actions were sanctioned, if not ordered, by the governments involved. It would be…messy, for lack of a better word.

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