Waking Gods Page 4

—What we’ve got here is not a London problem. It is not a British or a European problem. It’s certainly not a NATO problem. What we’ve got here is an Earth problem. It’s a problem for all of us, for every nation represented in this room, and we must find a solution to it, together. This institution was founded in the wake of the most devastating war in human history, to promote peace by allowing nations to resolve their disputes here, in this room, and not on the battlefield. It was also created so that we could pool our knowledge and resources and achieve great things none of us could dream of achieving on our own. Today we have a chance to do both: prevent war on a level we’ve never imagined and bring humanity to a whole new frontier. If there has ever been a time for the United Nations, it is now. If there has ever been a reason for the EDC, this is it.

—Put that at the end for when they have stopped paying attention. For now, you should talk about your military career so they can relate.

—I say a few words somewhere…Here…I also know many of you have doubts. The decision to create the EDC was not a unanimous one. Why should you trust the EDC and not your own military? That is probably the only question I can answer today. I’m a military man, have been for over forty years. I can tell you this: Military people need intelligence…

—You need to say more than that. Tell them about how many wars you have been in, how many people you killed. Make them see the blood. Make them think of you as a warmonger who would drop a bomb on London at the first excuse. Only then will they believe you when you tell them they should not.

—What can I say? I am a Brigadier General in the South African Army and Commander of a UN military force. In South Africa, I was in charge of the Army Armour Formation, that’s a hard-to-pronounce way of saying lots of tanks. I fought in a segregated unit during the Border Wars, I have been part of peacekeeping operations in Sudan, I have led forces for the UN Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have been in one army or the other for all of my adult life—

—Perfect.

—…and I can tell you this: Military people—people like me—need intelligence to be useful. We need to know what’s going on. Without intelligence, take my word for it, you do not want your fate in the hands of the military. We do not improvise. We’re like an elephant in a china shop, we can make a big mess of things if you have us chasing our tail.

I am also the Commander of the Earth Defense Corps, technically another military force with a single, gigantic weapon. As Commander, I have two soldiers under my command. Make that one soldier. The other is technically a Canadian consultant. I also have sixty-eight scientists working for me. They didn’t exactly phrase it like that when they offered me the job because they know I don’t like scientists. Scientists are like children: They always want to know everything, they all ask too many questions, and they never follow orders to the letter.

That, people, is the EDC. A big robot, one soldier, a linguist, and a whole lot of disobedient children. What we need, what the world needs right now, is them, my insubordinate kids. They know more about alien technology than anyone on Earth and they’re learning more every day. That is what they do, they learn things, constantly. They claim land for our little island of knowledge so that we can have room to breathe.

—Touching.

—I remembered the speech you gave me when you tried to sell me this job the first time around.

—You said no.

—I did, but it was a good speech. Then I have a few paragraphs about what we know, mostly about what we don’t know.

—What do we know?

—Not much. Here’s what I have.

We’ve only had a few hours to look at the data that’s available, and our people haven’t been onsite yet, so this is what we know. The figure in London is roughly ten feet taller than Themis, and about 10 percent more massive. We’re calling it Kronos. That’s it. The rest is conjecture.

There might be no one in that big metal man. It might be remote-controlled, it might not even be a robot; it hasn’t moved since it arrived. We feel this is rather unlikely, but it’s not something we can blindly discard as an option. There might also be humans in there. That would mean another robot was buried somewhere and was discovered by one of the nations represented here today. That also seems unlikely but not impossible.

Given what we know about Themis, the most probable scenario is that there are two or more alien pilots on board, and since the figure in London looks a hell of a lot like Themis, our working assumption at this point is that it was built by the same race. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we are dealing with the people who built Themis. They left one giant robot on this planet, it stands to reason they could have done the same thing on another inhabited planet, and it might be these people visiting us. Like I said, we don’t know much.

Assuming we are in fact dealing with aliens, they might be friendly. They didn’t come out guns blazing—that’s usually a good sign—and our current theory about Themis is that she was left here for us to defend ourselves. Their intent might very well be hostile. It would be odd for a foe to give us this much time to prepare, but its presence might be a prelude to a full-scale invasion or attack. Another very reasonable explanation, the one we’re leaning towards, is that they’re still trying to figure us out. They would have no way to know whether we mean them any harm or how we’ll react to their presence.

But enough speculation. All I can offer you right now is a lot of ifs and maybes. I was asked to come here and make a recommendation. For now, it’s a very simple one: Send Themis to England, that will take seven or eight days. Let my kids do their job for another week and we’ll reconvene. In the meantime, I will ask, implore all of you to exercise restraint and let this process take its course. This is not the time for impulsive action, no matter how tempting it might be.

That’s it. That’s my speech. Is that long enough?

—It will do just fine.

—Of course, it didn’t help that I had to write a whole new one for the press corps after Rose lost her goddamn mind.

—What did she do?

—You missed that? She went on television and told the whole world we shouldn’t be involved.

—Who is we?

—The EDC. She said sending Themis would be our biggest mistake. I know you like her, but you know she hasn’t been thinking straight. That girl is hanging on by a really thin thread.

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