A virus was released today. I wouldn't say it was the virus. It must have been an early attempt. But four MADs in New Delhi reported severe fever. Analysis revealed that the infectious agent was a virus. It was clearly not natural. And to me, it was sickeningly familiar.
I didn't know what to do. There were no Medizi facilities in New Delhi. It seemed Dalton had other means of propagating his microscopic killer.
Meanwhile, I was charged with helping run the drill. I was given a Sargent to report to. I was the Corp of Engineers' go-to MAD. I know, diary, you are probably surprised. Why wouldn't they go to Tom? Well, Tom is in jail. That's right. A crazed scientific genius is threatening to blow up the West Coast while another crazed scientific genius works to build a supervirus, and the one man who can stop them is in handcuffs.
So, at 11:48, when an engine in the drill jammed, I was at a bit of a loss. "What do you mean you don't know what it does."
"I don't know what that part of the drill does," I said.
"Do you know how to fix it?"
"I can try."
"What do you mean, try? Thomas Markovitz built this drill in a day."
"I am not Thomas Markovitz. You hauled Thomas Markovitz to prison when the world needs him."
I started taking the engine apart. I tried to avoid thinking about how I had 43 hours and 24 minutes before a spaceship vaporized everything from Hollywood to Yosemite. "How soon can you fix it?"
"I have no idea," I snapped.
I knew I wasn't being fair. The President had a lot of pressure on him, and a lot of decisions to make. He was making most of them correctly. I'm sure he was doing the best he could do. It was just so... frustrating!
It took me 43 minutes, but I got the engine working. It was a minor issue. Tom would have fixed it in a moment.
After that, I sat in front of a computer, reading Tom's notes. Hopefully the information would come in useful the next time the drill broke down.
But Tom's notes weren't a textbook. They were the result of an engineer far more capable than I will ever be jotting down diagrams without the expectation of anyone ever reading them again. I was interrupted by a angry looking army officer. He wasn't my commanding Sargent. He looked to be five or six notches higher in the military pecking order. "Do you know what happened to the U.S. nuclear codes."
"I do not. What happened to the U.S. nuclear codes?"
"I'm not authorized to say."
"Okay. Well, my guess is that Dalton was entrusted with them some time ago, and he used his authority to surreptitiously change them. You found out about this because the President wanted to nuke his way into Dalton's bunker, but learned the hard way that he wasn't able."
"I can neither confirm nor-"
"No need, general. No need."
As a matter of fact, that wasn't the end of Dalton's infiltration of the U.S. Army. "Do you know what happened to the drones?"
"If I had to guess, I would say that Dalton deactivated them. No- scratch that. He launched them all. I would check if they are converging on this location."
My hunch was correct.
I wasn't there to see it. But I heard people talking, and why not write down a little hearsay. I heard that the sky darkened with unmanned drones. I also heard that there were only six of them. I'm told quite a few men in uniform died. They did their best to fight the onslaught from the sky. But despite the fact that the Xcom building had become the fifth largest military installation in the continental U.S, nobody had brought any anti-aircraft weapons. I'm told that most of the building was destroyed. I felt the power go off, as Oberon's fusion reactor made the acquaintance of a small missile.
Then, dramatically swooping in, came a hero. I heard comparisons to Superman. He flew in, a knight in his armor. He blasted through the sky, shooting down the drones with a rain of guns and lasers. Their bullets bounced off his. Their missiles barely set him off course. And, single-handedly, this man defeated our assailants. At this point, six helicopter gunships arrived. The cavalry must have been rather late.
Well, I guess the cavalry didn't like being shown up. "Unknown individual in unidentified flying apparatus, you must land."
The man had been able to shoot down drones. But now he was looking down the barrels of some much higher caliber artillery. I'm guessing that he weighed his options. His suit was fast. Could he escape before any one the men could hit him? He doubted any tracking missile could keep up with his armor. But as he surveyed the damage in front of him. He judged that they still needed his help.
He landed. "Remove your armor," he heard. "If I remove my armor, will I be shot?"
"Remove your armor."
"That sounds suspiciously like a 'yes.' I want some assurance that I will not be hurt."
It must have taken a moment for the man's question to make it up the food chain, and for the answer to make it back down. "If you remove your armor, you will not be harmed."
Spectrum removed Oberon's armor. "Your power station has been destroyed," he said, at the top of his lungs. "My armor outputs enough energy to run your drill. I can hook it up."
"Your armor is an unidentified power source. Unless you can prove that your armor has been inspected through the proper channels."
"In less than two days, Oberon will kill everyone here. You don't want that to happen. Which means you want Tom's operation to go as smoothly as possible. That means you can either use my suit, or, better still, let Tom dig up whatever power plants you made him turn off. Which do you prefer?"
"We do not have the expertise to reactivate Mr. Markovitz's reactors."
"Why the hell not." Spectrum came to a realization. "Was Tom killed by the drones."
"No, he is in prison."
I'm just guessing here, but I suspect Spectrum wanted to punch someone. That's certainly how I felt when I heard the news. "Well, I suppose I ought to have been reading the news, instead of saving your lives. My recommendation is that you bring Tom back, but if you are too stupid to do that, at least let me take over."
"That will absolutely never happen."
Nobody trusted Spectrum. Why would they. He was a known associate of Oberon, who was just about the least popular man in the world at the particular moment.
So I was brought in, to verify that there was nothing wrong with his armor. As if I could possibly understand that technology. "We call it the Explorer 1.2," Spectrum said. "Oberon sent me specs to upgrade the model. It can interface directly with my nervous system. Much better control than I had before. Easier to learn, too. Oberon wants to recruit more people to use these." Spectrum looked wistful. "You should feel it. You can see through the armor's sensors. Flesh those muscles like they're your own. I finally learned what Oberon must feel like every day."
"I think we should concentrate on the power aspects," I said. Frankly, I found all the aspects fascinating. The armor had a direct neural interface. How I ached for a look inside...
"Right. Miniaturized fusion reactors. Two in the chest, and one near the spine. A few inches apart. A few hundred megawatts each, maximum. We'll need a steady supply of deuterium, the armor will run out in about an hour."
"We can get that, easy."
Spectrum gave me a brief walkthrough of how the fusion reactors worked. They were different from the ones Tom and Dalton had built. I didn't know if that was because they were designed to be smaller and lower power, or if it was because different engineers had solved the same problems in different ways.
"Sounds good," I said. It was short work for Spectrum to hook his armor into the power system. It wasn't long before things were up and running again.
"Is it just me," he asked, "or are they being inconsistent. They lock up Thomas Markovitz, the most benevolent MAD in the history of MADs, but I am allowed to walk free."
"I'm sure they'll lock you up soon enough."
"I suppose when a foolish man makes decisions under pressure, one can't exactly expect great consistency."
I had the strangest impulse. I wanted to defend the President. I had spent the entire day thinking that he was a buffoon, but hearing Spectrum criticize him reminded me that I was actually in favor of most of his policies. Funny how that works.
My prediction was right. It wasn't long before Spectrum was hauled away. Word was they were going to give him the trial of the century. I suppose if they couldn't arrest Oberon, his disciple was the next best thing.
I don't know how I feel about Oberon. I can never condone his callous destruction of tens of millions, of lives. But... at least he's consistent. He protects MADs. He thinks we are the future, and that we are necessary, and he acts on his belief. Some part of me wondered if he was bluffing. If he and Dalton were playing a game of chicken. But I doubted it. I had seen Oberon. I had seen the conviction, the certainty in his one organic eye as he gunned down a half dozen neurotypicals to free three dangerous MADs. That eye would never blink. He would kill a billion people before he let Dalton have his way. I just hope it never comes to that.