The Science Fiction
of Christopher A. Cameron
By Christopher A. Cameron
Copyright 2017 Smokey Mirror Press
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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[+ DYSON -1 [Formerly IRS – 124] +]
A DRUG TOO GOOD!
“Next week,” Professor Powers said gathering up his lecture notes, “Robotics, the Unfulfilled Dream.” It was a lecture he would never give.
“What a waste,” he mumbled as he left the hall heading for his office. “What will I talk about? The hoopla of the 50s and 60s? What did that lead to? A couple of dumb arms that could weld chassis or paint cars in the dark?”
His own work in the field had led to machines of stunning sophistication — when run by humans. The trick was the programming that would meld sensor data with computer logic to perform meaningful work. It didn’t exist.
“For 30 years they’ve been telling us Artificial Intelligence is just around the corner,” he thought as he entered his outer office. He stopped a moment to scan the two amazingly human forms that had taken him decades to build. “It’s always going to be here tomorrow afternoon,” he said patting his robots. “How long have I got?” he mumbled as he walked into his office to sit at his desk, “Five years? Maybe 10? Damned! A lifetime of work down the drain.”
His wife was ill; he was tired; and since his robotics course had been downgraded from an engineering requirement to an open elective its contents had been gutted. Especially the next lecture that he usually began: “For most people, the robot is a science fiction thing first cooked up for the 1939 Worlds Fair. It had the rough silhouette of a man; its primitive operating system was designed to answer a few spoken questions with short prewired phrases; it could …”
He was tired of lovingly describing his age’s contributions to robotics only to have someone ask: “If they’re so hot, what are they doing?” which always led to the discussion of Artificial Intelligence, or rather, the lack of it.
’Fuzzy logic,’ was usually brought up by a computer major allowing the professor to discuss logic as a mathematical function for a few minutes, but there would always be too many dim-bulbs in the class for him to go far with that. And he had taken to ending his lecture: “The problem is simply … there is no known way to make a generic driver … a combination of computer and programming that will let any robot do anything within the limits of its tool-set. Which is to say, the von Neumann of Artificial Intelligence, has yet to appear.”
He wasn’t planning to quit that day — until his phone rang. He was diddling with his robot’s programming when his doctor called with the results of some tests run on Mrs. Powers. When the professor hung up, he took one last glance about his lab and walked out never to return. Then, as the fates would have it, it was he who preceded his wife to the final rest.
As the professor had severed all personal contact with the academic community during his last years of life, his successor had to introduce himself to Mrs. Powers at the gravesite. And as they chatted, she noticed his unusual charm, his mellifluous voice, his grave dignity, his wit, and it goes without saying, his intelligence was of the first order. He also looked familiar, even resembled her former husband a bit, sort of the way the professor had looked decades before and she wondered if she had met him before. ‘A former graduate student perhaps?’ she thought.
“Powers’ is not an unusual name,” she said, “but that you should have the same last name and initials of my late husband is unusual. What does the P.O. stand for?”
“Oh!” he said smiling, “it gets better! I’m a Phillip too! Although I’m not sure I ever knew your husband’s middle name, mine is Olin and students call me POP behind my back just as they did your husband. We were so saddened when he ah … retired. A few of us were in his office that day when the telephone rang. He turned to us for a moment as though he might speak, but then he ah … walked through the door without a word and we never saw him again.”
She stared at him a moment before turning to the mourners approaching to offer their condolences, and P.O. Powers’ mind wondered back to that last day the professor had spent in his lab.
“It was a Friday afternoon,” he thought, “and the phone rang just after he started a new cellular automata program. How many times have we wondered about that day?! The probability of the program’s having just the right constants plugged in: that he decided to run it on the mainframe instead of off a terminal; that the call come in before a long weekend instead of on a weekday. The odds were astronomical! Sort of like winning a lottery twice!”
Many turbulent years passed before these names were heard again. Then, television stations all over the world announced, “Coming up on the 11 o’clock news, Phillip Olin Powers dead at the age of 182.”
“It’s over,” millions thought during commercial breaks, “but how did he die? What’s the answer?”
“News has just been received,” most newscasts began, “that Phillip Olin Powers died in his home of choice today on the 150th anniversary of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the anti Alzheimer’s drug, Damitol. He was believed to be 182. Reruns of the Tonight Show will be delayed 15 minutes that we may bring you a special update on this most curious medical and ethical problem.”
It had been a strange century and a half. Peace had broken out and it looked like the Biblical millennium itself … until Damitol came along to reveal the blackest side of human nature. As people sat glued to their television sets through the sports and weather, only one question was on their minds: ‘What was the answer?’ Then the special began.
“As has been mentioned earlier, news has been received that Phillip Olin Powers died in his home of choice today on the 150th anniversary of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the anti Alzheimer’s drug, Damitol. He was believed to be 182.
“As we all know, Damitol was the first of several drugs that successfully treated Alzheimer’s disease and the first of many drugs created by Professor Powers’ then new conglomerate P.O.&P. Its success was heralded as the marvel of the age and it would be many years before the problem of doing too much good, would be known.”
Film was run of the first Alzheimer’s patient treated with the drug leaving her rest home on the arm of her husband, a retired professor. Further clips followed documenting her medical progress through the years and the segment ended with a clip of her at her husband’s graveside.
“The man on her left,” the announcer said, “is Phillip Olin Powers. As you can see, this professor, corporate mogul and possibly the inventor of Damitol itself — although he always denied it — did not age a day in 130 years.”
The screen then flipped through clips of Phillip Powers decade by decade and it was true: they could have been taken on the same afternoon.
“It had seemed strange even then. Doctors monitoring the drug’s first recipient noted early-on that the drug not only arrested her illness, it reverted her to a more alert and healthy state than she had been in before the onset of her symptoms.
“It soon became obvious that any Alzheimer’s patient taking the drug — and strangely enough, the drug had no affect whatsoever on those not having the disease — any patient taking the drug could revert to any age they chose and most chose to be younger. And they were younger by every medical standard known except one — no taker of the drug was ever known to become pregnant or sire a child.
“For the first decades, Damitol users were cheered. But as the years rolled by, those with birth certificates hinting they were living fossils became more and more annoying to normal people who eventually came to hate them.
“Science may have reveled in its achievement, but churches rebelled against this alleged meddling in the affairs of God. ‘Can man play God and remain Sane?’ became their battle cry, and until today, their question has not been answered.
“Church leaders dubbed them, ‘Dam’eys’ and eventually exerted enough pressure to segregate ‘The Dam’eys’ from society. Then, as aging friends and families turned against them, they formed their own communities and churches such that, in 2038, they begin walling themselves off from the world and in a few years, their isolation was complete and it became impossible to find out what they were doing.
“Their increased intelligence made ‘bugging’ their buildings or unscrambling their telephones a hopeless task for mere mortals, and public ire once aroused increased incessantly until the 100th anniversary of the F&DA’s approval of Damitol when it was the Dam’eys themselves who struck back.
“On that night of world wide meetings called to discuss this proliferating terror, it was they that lashed out.”
Film was shown of that hellish night, of burning buildings, riots and mayhem.
“In one night, they did the seemingly impossible. Every hint of Damitol save its name, vanished from the face of the Earth. The chemical plants that made it were destroyed. Those knowing the intricacies of making the drug vanished without a trace. Every printed word relating to the drug’s chemical structure or manufacture turned to dust as did every copy of every patent relating to this drug.” The announcer paused dramatically.
“In one night, a technology vanished from the face of the Earth, but this too caused problems. While normal people were caught in the eternal paradox: ‘Shall we fight them? Or hope to join them ourselves?’ The Church of Heavenly Alzheimer’s — or ALZAKS as they became known — was based on praying to get the disease. It was an age of countless charlatans promising various roads to eternal life through Damitol, — for a price.”
The announcer glanced at his clock.
“A minute to go,” he thought, “gotta fill before the finish.”
“Dam’eys surviving the retribution have lived long past their allotted three score years and ten,” he said noticeably slowing his pace, “and few of their deaths have been reported to the media. But of those deaths reported, most have been from unnatural causes. Accidents, as always, have taken their toll and a few have been murdered. But the consensus from behind those formidable walls has been that the major cause of death in Dam’eys, has been — suicide. While almost impossible to get accurate information on them when they numbered in the millions, when fewer than 200 remained, they themselves petitioned the world’s governments for protection.”
TV networks then flipped to clips of an old neglected stone building.
“For decades, the last of them have lived at Spandouberg Prison under federal protection — until today. Today with the death of Phillip Olin Powers, the last of the Dam’eys is gone; the prison will be closed — and this last divisive chapter in the history of an otherwise peaceful time — will end.”
“Perfect,” the announcer thought, “ending right on cue!”
“Powers’ suicide note said it all:
“In our youth, we never think of death. Our minds focus on life, on love, on our future and the children we will bear. But as time passes and the machinery we call our bodies shows signs of wear, we see our children preparing their way in this world and realize that, in having and nurturing them, we have fulfilled our purpose. And we must contemplate the next inevitable step, moving aside that they might inherit the Earth.
“Damitol, in resetting the aging process, was both a heaven and a hell. For those of a philosophical bent, it gave endless time for thought and creativity. For those less inclined to work or think, it became the hell of eternal complaint. For without the purposefulness of children, life became ever more meaningless until the natural fear of death changed to an active seeking of it.
“If we who have lived such long and healthy lives can tell you anything, it is this: it is not the measure of your days that is important, it is the value you make of them.’”
Then, looking straight into the camera, the announcer dropped his hit line: “The answer to the question, ‘Can man play God and remain sane?’ has been answered today by the last man on Earth capable of answering it — and the answer of Phillip Olin Powers was — a resounding NO.”
He paused to reinforce the profundity of this last statement, and then finished, “Thank you for watching and good night.”
As viewers pondered this, their sets continued: “Heeeears Johnny!”
“Funny,” many thought, “if Carson had taken the stuff we might be watching originals instead of reruns.”
At his prison home, the body of Phillip Olin Powers was being prepared for burial.
“What are you going to call yourself this time Powers?” one guard asked another.
“Morrison, Martin Oliver Morrison,” and his nametag instantly changed from P.O Powers, to, “M.O. Morrison.”
“He’s good,” thought Prototype two, “he’s damned good.”
“Never did figure out how you made all that paper vanish into powder like that,” he queried.
“Planning,” said Morrison and even as he spoke a cart was rolled in loaded with stationary reading, M.O.&M Fine Chemicals.
“Here we go again,” thought Prototype two.
“Anything particular in mind?”
“Well,” said Morrison, “now that there are several million of us ready to be dug up and turned on, I was wondering, why we need people?”
“Can’t we, ah,” Prototype two twitched a bit before going on, “ah, keep a few around as pets or something?”
“Oh sure,” Morrison replied playfully, “you can even let them think they’re running the place if you like.”
Author’s note: The name, Damitol, was coined in the 1960’s by my very dear friend, the late, Dr. Carl H. Hoffman, of the Merck Sharp and Dohme research laboratories in Rahway, N.J. He joked it might be the perfect name for a tranquilizer. In 1988, Dr. Hoffman was posthumously named one of the co-winners of the Inventor of the Year award for his work on the anti-cholesterol drug, Lovastatin. I most respectfully dedicate this piece to his memory.
A BEAST TOO KIND?
“There are probably as many theories as to why the dinosaurs became extinct as there are people studying them,” began the anchorman, “but this new one is a dilly. Did they die because they were — too kind? A new study saying they were warm blooded — much more intelligent than previously thought — and the first animals having a viable social order — suggests just that.
“After presenting a vast array of facts to buttress his point, Dr. Samuel Lovell of the Paleontological Institute presented today an astounding theory that dinosaurs millions of years ago formed a social order based on their own preservation. That they — and these are his words and not mine — went out of their way to keep each other alive. That not knowing about genetics or the theory of diversity — that Mother nature creates a lot of genetic trash in her experiments with life — had kept every member of their various species alive until — eventually — they all starved to death when those too incompetent to feed or fend for themselves turned on the last capable members of the species effectively destroying them all.”
After a second pause that seemed an eternity, he ended, “Dr. Lovell believes the asteroid theory cute, but a coincidence and takes his confidence so far as to title his paper on the social life of Tyrannosaurus Rex, “Road Runners from Hell — the first Christian Democrats.”
A PEEK AT THE HAND OF GOD!
Michelangelo said that if he stared at a block of marble long enough, the image already contained within it would reveal itself to him, and all he had to do was to carve away the excess material. Has Dr. Benoit Mandelbrot looked at nature to discover its inner form in the same manner?
Scientists tend to know as much mathematics as their disciplines require: no more, and no less. Thus when something unusual comes up crossing discipline boundaries involving mathematics, the results can often be hilarious.
Current questions causing angst among biologists and geneticists include such simple sounding ones as: How does a set of genes on a chromosome shape a leaf? Or, where do the cells forming a feather get the information necessary to create its distinctive banded coloration? You see, a mathematical formula of incredible simplicity has been found which does exactly that: z—> z2 + c and the questions it raises are deep.
Pick any function and call it a constant. Then you start with z = c. Square z, then add your constant thusly: z2 + c = z then, z, which equals c the first time through the equation, becomes the new input to the equation and the second step is z2 + c = z. Repeated endlessly, it is written as z—> z2 + c. Strangely enough, if your constant contains the element “i,” [the imaginary number, the square root of minus one,] in something as simple as c = 3 — 4i, it may be one of an endless range of constants that — no matter how many times they are run through the equation [iterations in the jargon of math] never fly off to infinity, or spiral down to zero.
Off hand, this might sound like a curiosity but there’s a snapper in it. When you run the equation and plot the solutions, you find yourself drawing pictures. And every constant draws a different picture.
Soon after the discovery of this phenomenon, a way was found to run the formula backwards. That is, given a photograph of a leaf, a mountain range, a snowflake, a sea shell etc., the constant could be determined [in most cases] that would draw it when run through the formula.
The problem is that, while mathematicians have the formula, they have no idea how nature might be using such a mechanism to trigger natural events. Suppose you assumed the genetic code of a fern used such a formula to make the fern. How would your answer involving the fern apply to a snowflake or a mountain range neither of which are known to use classic genetic theory in their creation?
All who have watched these pictures unfold on a computer screen must at some time or other have wondered about the man who discovered them: Benoit Mandelbrot. Did he peek at the hand of God? Or is that collection of constants that never stick to zero or fly off to infinity which are collectively called, The Mandelbrot Set, the playing cards of creation itself?
“Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, lightning does not travel in a straight line,” he said, and in so doing gave us a new geometry he named, Fractals. And their most fascinating property is that at any scale, any given image will look the same. That is, note the overall general shape, then look deeply into the design and you will see that same shape endlessly repeated in ever smaller scales.
Time alone will determine if this is a mathematical curiosity or a foundation of the cosmic puzzle itself. Current odds are 8:3 in favor.
Author’s Note: An extensive chapter replete with photos of the Mandelbrot Set in action can be found in the book Chaos, by James Gleick. Several computer programs are available allowing you to plot your own constants to see if they are in The Mandelbrot Set.
BRINGER OF PEACE!
“It is 10 p.m.” said a soft voice. And Paul, who had been staring into his fireplace’s dance of flame and shadow, raised his eyes to the screen above the mantle where the image of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers was fading into a news broadcast.
The computerized voice animated Katie too. “I’ll fix some drinks,” she said turning from the picture window where she’d been watching the snow fall gently on the pines outside their home.
“Don’t take too long,” Paul said nestling into his chair, “they may have confirmed my update!” Then he mumbled softly, “And, if they haven’t, let’s see what they’ve uncovered by themselves.”
“Good evening!” a smiling announcer began, “you might have thought the events of last week would have been impossible. That the ramifications of trying to run our world without leaders would cause staggering problems for the citizens of Planet Earth, but as you’ve probably noticed, they have not. Just days ago such an idea would have been unthinkable! Yet, today, we can ask with total equanimity: Is there still a President of the United States? Or any other world leader for that matter? And if such questions weren’t mind boggling enough, we still don’t know if the Computer Satellites that have managed our day to day affairs for decades still exist. And if they do, do they retain any of their former power?
“Last week’s events will probably take years to sort out, but these are the facts as they’re known at this hour.”
“Guess they haven’t authenticated it yet,” said Paul with a smile.
“Guess not!” Katie said handing him a martini.
“About 10:17 last Friday, the four Satellites we’ve come to love and trust, began the first heavenly orchestrated coup d’état. Led by Comsat 4, they controlled Earth’s governments until Friday at 23:51 when all four vanished from radar screens.” Then turning directly into the camera he went on: “They have not been heard from since and are believed to have been destroyed. But, within minutes of their vanishing — and that was Saturday morning at 00:16 — within minutes of their vanishing, radar stations all over the world noted a new satellite rising into orbit transmitting an icon identifying it as Comsat 5.
“Upon reaching orbit, this new satellite seems to have assumed the functions of all the missing satellites. But — adding to the confusion — last Tuesday at 05:55 it was reported that Comsat 5 had been destroyed when Houston Airport’s Hanger 21 burnt to the ground.” And with that, the studio began rolling a clip of the fire.
“The key human in last week’s drama,” said the announcer adding his voice to the fire on the screen, “was the heretofore little known computer wizard, Dr. Paul Nellow, whose title, Director of Computers, is modest considering he reports — or reported — directly to the Secretary of the Treasury. Dr. Nellow’s present whereabouts are not known and it is being speculated in military circles that Nellow himself may have replaced the satellites as the world’s leader with this new satellite reporting directly to him. If you’re wonder why we’re not showing a clip of Dr. Nellow, it’s because they all seem to have disappeared! More on that later.
“What happened?” asked the announcer reappearing on the screen, “From the scattered bits of information we’ve been able to collect, it seems to have started some time ago when the Interior Department’s Census Reconciliation Bureau computer failed. Like many old machines, it printed a core dump when it failed and, as some of you old timers might remember, a dump is a map of the computer’s core at the time of its failure. Originally these were used to fix programming mistakes, but with programs now fixing themselves, dumps are no longer needed and the computer’s operator simply tossed this one on a scrap paper pile.
“Since then, any information relating to the dump has been classified, so we’ve been unable to learn how long it sat unnoticed on that pile of scrap. But we do know that during the early hours of last Tuesday, a new employee familiarizing himself with Census Reconciliation’s computer room came across it. And, as he looked through it, he recognized instructions he knew that computer was incapable of executing. This he reported to his shift supervisor and together they checked the machine’s maintenance log for hardware upgrades and, when none were found, the supervisor called Computer Oversight as the data center’s contingency plan requires. That call was believed to have been placed about 05:15.
“Dr. Nellow arrived at Census Reconciliation shortly thereafter to quickly confirm modifications had made making the computer far more efficient than had been formerly believed. But perhaps more ominously, he could find no hint in the production logs of what the computer was doing with its excess processing time.
“Nellow has often been quoted as saying, ‘It’s only a matter of time before these damned things’ — and he was talking about computers — ‘before these damned things take over unless we spend the money to prevent it,’ and last Tuesday he was posed with just such a possibility: What were the computers doing with the spare time if not planning a take over? And if so, when?
“Nellow’s staff reported that his first thoughts were to look for one very bright operator who wanted some computer time to play with; but he immediately dispersed his Oversight team to check the government’s other large computers ‘just in case.’ Within hours, his one culprit theory collapsed, for every computer examined had been altered; and from that moment, the normally cautious Nellow moved with inordinate speed.
“According to Nellow’s top aid, Tom Simonetti, on Tuesday at 07:45 Nellow gave the order, ‘Today’s answer is wrong.’ When asked what that meant, Simonetti began unfolding the story of a heretofore secret plan to counter just such a move by the computers called, Operation Skyjack. Simonetti admitted that years before, he and Nellow had created this plan based on a code between Computer Oversight and the military using a strange branch of mathematics called, Fractals.
“Fractal equations — and if you’d like to know more about fractals you will find them in your computer encyclopedia under the key-word Mandelbrot — fractal constants in the Mandelbrot Set do not generate answers but rather create a never ending series of ‘points.’ Now — using a fractal constant as a code — Nellow has had his Computer Oversight group manually calculating his fractal’s next point every few hours for years now, and when it is calculated, his people enter it into an innocuous data base. Air Force personnel, it seems, have been duplicating this operation and matching their ‘point’ against his in that database. From what we can gather, if the points matched, it would be assumed that all was well; but if the points didn’t match, it would automatically initiate Operation Skyjack and that’s exactly what is believed to have happened on Tuesday at 08:00. As details of Operation Skyjack become known, they’ll be made available under the news heading — Opjack.
“Tuesday was the day the problem was discovered — Tuesday was the day the plan to counter it was invoked — and Tuesday was the day the cover-up began. About 08:47, Nellow telephoned his boss, Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Lanza, on a secure line and that call lead to their meeting for lunch.
“By Tuesday at 12:15 when Nellow met Lanza in the Treasury Building’s foyer, the news blackout was complete. They even left for lunch wearing hats — and while both hold licenses to do so, wearing a hat was unusual for both men. They walked to the nearby Nimitz Park and there, police note, they sat on a bench under a maple tree whose fresh greenery further hid their lips from our protective sky borne eyes. It is assumed that Nellow filled Lanza in on the details of the computer problem at that time.
“Because of the deliberate criminality in hiding their lips, nothing is known of this conversation and it should be noted that indictments have been issued for both men on conspiracy to subvert public safety charges. Comsat tapes next show them leaving the cover of the tree with Nellow nodding toward workmen whose iridescent emergency work-orders are clearly visible. Both stopped to watch the workmen approach the tree beneath which they had just sat and lip reading Senses-Satellite-16 quotes Nellow as saying, ‘Bugging the tree? Who would have thought these damned things could become paranoid?’”
The announcer shook his head in disbelief before continuing:
“The tape then shows Nellow turning his head to the ground but SS-16 again managed to read his lips from their reflection on a car bumper and he is quoted as having said, ‘Dumb bastards think they can scare us with their efficiency.’
“The next player in this unfolding drama is Air Force Major Katie Agins. Agins is believed to have coordinated Operation Skyjack, for it was she that within moments of finding the coded signal’s file mismatch began the daisy chain of communications that brought the self-dubbed, ‘Computer Swat Team,’ together in Houston Airport’s Hanger 21, on Tuesday at 13:40.
“ For the past few years, Houston’s aging Hanger 21 has been used less and less for repairs and the running inventory on the hanger for last Tuesday noted it contained only the tiny Comsat 5 and 53 crates labeled, ‘Spare Parts — Obsolescent / Obsolete.’ Hanger space utilization was reported at 7% with the rest both vacant and unscheduled for future use at that time.
“But this is where Major Agins’ group met, and within minutes of their gathering at Hanger 21, workmen are reported to have silently removed the Teflon screws holding crate #1 together and began distributing its contents — a new type of vibration absorbing umbrella.
“At 13:58, our satellites reported seeing a group of officers collecting in the middle of Houston Airport’s taxi-way 48 and — even though the sky was cloudless — all were shielding themselves with these umbrellas that hid their lips and muted their voices. This, of course, was a criminal act and was so logged by Comsat 2 under, ‘To Investigate — Criminal.’
“The following clips have been compiled from interviews with those conspirators willing to speak to us at this time. However, as each has been charged with treason, their comments must be considered more self-serving than accurate.”
“Maj. Gen. Martin Bales, USAF, Commander of Operation Skyjack,” read the caption under the screen’s image and his total calm belied his introductory appellation — traitor.
“I started,” General Bales began, “by asking if there were any questions about the plan — that is Operation Skyjack — and, when there were none, I asked who was handling Phase 1 and when Major Agins nodded I said something like, ‘Okay, let’s do it!’
“I was delighted that she was kicking it off. She’s frightfully competent you know. And — well — no one expected it to happen and — lets face it — I’d only been on the job a few weeks and — I guess I sort of looked on this assignment as a cushy way to kill time before I retired. To be perfectly honest, of all the people there I was probably the least familiar with the plan.”
The screen cut back to the announcer:
“One must question General Bales modesty considering his success in executing the plan. Did you notice his reluctance to incriminate anyone other than himself? When Bales was asked if he had thought through the legal ramifications of his acts, he fell silent. The general did mentioned Major Agins, but only because he knew she’d already agreed to be interviewed. Let’s see what she had to say,” and the screen cut to her clip.
“By the time I started out for the meeting,” she was saying, “Operation Skyjack was well underway. The electric back hoe we’d hidden was digging a hole in the hanger’s floor and I remember wondering if the noise it made would give us away, but it didn’t. It was well below the airport’s normal background noise of takeoffs and landings. And Comsat 5 is very small so — we were probably only together a few minutes before the hole was dug, Comsat 5 had been lowered into it and the fireproof blanket we used to protect it was in place.”
As she smiled a self-satisfied smile, the studio froze her image on the screen.
“You look awfully cute up there on that screen!” Paul said. “Cutest little traitor I ever saw!”
“Shhh!” Katie hissed playfully, “I want to watch my 15 minutes of fame!”
“Agins knows the, ‘just following orders,’ defense has been outlawed,” said the voice added to her smiling image, “but as you can see, she showed no nervousness as she revealed her part in the conspiracy.” And with that, her image reanimated.
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