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The Two Faces of Tomorrow
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"Actually I didn’t really give you the full picture when we spoke yesterday," Schroder said from behind his desk. "We’ve got more than simply first reactions back from Geneva. We’ve 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, we—CIM that is—have been given the job of driving it. All the Council governments will be involved but we’ll 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 Schroder’s 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. They’re even more anxious about it than we are since managing the global system is first and foremost their responsibility. If they’ve been putting a potential lunatic in charge of the planet, they want to know about it and quick. That’s why it’s 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 there’s no point in spreading unnecessary alarm, especially since we don’t even know for sure yet if there’s anything to get alarmed about. We feel it would be best to keep the whole thing out of the public eye until we’ve got something factual to talk about. I’m sure you’ll 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 you’ve changed the original idea drastically, we’re 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 doesn’t 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. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t 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 Army—a 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 Administration’s 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 way—by 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, there’s 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 you’ve proposed. We’ve 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 they’re 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."

"We’ve 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 hasn’t really got started yet but that doesn’t really matter because we can do without it for this kind of experiment. In fact it’s to our advantage that Icarus C is still under construction because we’ll 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 experiment—to keep it out of the way in case we get nasty surprises."

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 don’t waste any time about it," he told them. "What can I say?" He transferred his gaze back to Schroder. "So . . . I’m glad you all liked the idea. If I thought you’d asked me all the way down here just to tell me everything’s in hand I’d say it was a nice thing to do; but I don’t think that’s 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. We’re going to need a good team up there and we want you to take charge of that end."

 
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