"Actually I didnt really give you the full picture when we spoke
yesterday," Schroder said from behind his desk. "Weve got more
than simply first reactions back from Geneva. Weve got a firm go-ahead.
The message is: It sounds good. Do it. Since a lot of U.S. know-how has gone
into the net, weCIM that ishave been given the job of driving it.
All the Council governments will be involved but well be running the show.
I can tell you that things are going to move fast, starting right now."
Dyer would never have believed that official channels at those levels could
operate as swiftly as Schroders words implied. His disbelief must have
registered on his face, but before he could frame any question Schroder raised
a hand slightly and continued:
"Naturally the Council knows about the things we discussed here last week.
Theyre even more anxious about it than we are since managing the global
system is first and foremost their responsibility. If theyve been putting
a potential lunatic in charge of the planet, they want to know about it and
quick. Thats why its top-priority."
"What about all this security and stuff?" Dyer asked.
"It has to be that way," Schroder informed him bluntly. "It
would cause too much trouble if we made public the fact that the experts are
getting worried about the system. At this stage theres no point in spreading
unnecessary alarm, especially since we dont even know for sure yet if
theres anything to get alarmed about. We feel it would be best to keep
the whole thing out of the public eye until weve got something factual
to talk about. Im sure youll agree that makes sense."
"It makes sense in theory," Dyer agreed. "But how are you going
to keep a thing like this quiet in practice? Unless youve changed the
original idea drastically, were talking about a miniature society of thousands,
maybe tens of thousands of people. And besides them, all kinds of other people
would have to get involved in different angles of it. How can you run an operation
on that scale without it getting out? It just doesnt sound possible."
"We put people in charge who are used to dealing with problems like that,"
Schroder replied. "The military. We run the whole thing as a military operation.
In years gone by they handled bigger jobs when there were wars going on. Theres
no reason why they shouldnt be able to do equally well with this kind
of job today."
Dyer sat back to absorb this new information while Schroder subsided into silence.
That explained the presence of the other two people in the room, to whom Dyer
had already been introduced. One was General Mark Linsay from the Armya
smaller but more professional organization than that of days gone by, retained
partly for reasons of tradition and partly because of its usefulness as a pacifier
and deterrent in the localized skirmishes that still tended to erupt from time
to time in various parts of the world. The other was Dr. Melvin Krantz from
the International Space Administrations offices in Washington, a project
director involved with the Icarus Program for constructing enormous space colonies
in synchronous orbit above Earth which would pay their way collecting solar
energy and beaming it down in the form of ten-centimeter microwaves. Construction
of the first small-scale experimental station, Icarus A, had commenced in 2004
and been done the hard wayby shipping all the needed materials up from
the surface of Earth. It was completed in 2013 and the successful demonstrations
that followed were sufficient for Congress to pass proposals for building the
lunar mass-driver at Maskelyne and for the construction of two more Icarus stations,
this time from lunar materials. The mass-driver went into operation five years
later and shortly afterward the first girders were being welded for Icarus B,
completed in 2027, and Icarus C, which still had some way to go.
General Linsay straightened up from the window ledge on which he had been resting
with his back to the Potomac, and unfolded his arms.
"Besides what Irwin has just said, theres an even bigger reason
for making it a military operation," he said. "Obviously there could
be no question of our using ordinary unsuspecting colonists as guinea pigs for
the kind of experiment youve proposed. Weve no way of knowing what
might happen. Too risky. Even if nothing bad did happen to them, the world would
have to know what we did sooner or later and the world would never condone it."
The general shook his head emphatically. "No. Whoever goes there will have
to know why theyre going and what the risks are. We have to use selected
volunteers for the population, and volunteers who are trained in security matters
and understand the necessary disciplines. That means military people."
"Weve selected Icarus C as the nearest we can get to an ideal within
a short timescale," Krantz said from an armchair opposite Dyer. "The
residential sector of Icarus C is nearing completion and is designed to accommodate
ten thousand people at maximum capacity. The power section hasnt really
got started yet but that doesnt really matter because we can do without
it for this kind of experiment. In fact its to our advantage that Icarus
C is still under construction because well be making a lot of modifications
to the original design. Our plan, you see, is to assemble a team of military
and scientific experts to study possible strategies that the system might employ
against us when the confrontation takes place. We want to build in as many safety
devices as we can think of in case things take an unexpected turn." He
shrugged matter-of-factly. "The object of the exercise is, after all, to
obtain information, not to get people killed."
Dyer stared at him aghast.
"Killed? Why should anybody get killed?"
Schroder shrugged and spread his hands.
"Who knows?" he said. "I thought that was precisely the purpose
of the whole experimentto keep it out of the way in case we get nasty
Dyer turned the statement over in his mind and slowly nodded his acceptance.
The logic was irrefutable and there was nothing to debate. He looked from one
to another of the three other men present in the room, making no attempt to
disguise the fact that he was impressed.
"Well, once you decide to move, you sure dont waste any time about
it," he told them. "What can I say?" He transferred his gaze
back to Schroder. "So . . . Im glad you all liked
the idea. If I thought youd asked me all the way down here just to tell
me everythings in hand Id say it was a nice thing to do; but I dont
think thats what you asked me down here for. You have to have some reason
for telling me all this."
"We have." Schroder sat forward to bring his elbows to the desk and
paused for a second to choose his words. "Melvin Krantz has already agreed
to suspend his work with ISA in order to assume overall coordinating responsibility
for the experiment. General Linsay will, from today on, take command of the
military personnel involved, and will be responsible for selection, training,
operational planning and setting up the basis for running the station. But the
key people in the center of the whole thing are going to be the computer scientists.
Were going to need a good team up there and we want you to take charge
of that end."