Mnemos Nine had seen it coming from the sky, extrapolating that it might come from the upper reaches of a building rather than from an aircraft. All Nick knew was that it hurt. It hurt because Rhoanna had been there and the bomb had robbed them of their lives and love. The door to Nicholas's private compartment eased open just then, and a short, stocky man entered, chewing on a carrot. Nelson Reitinger was another of the Mnemos system functionaries. He was an Environmental, not a Strategic. Nicholas was surprised to discover that the short man had been back at Vandenberg.
Melissa Salazar hadn't said anything about his being here—but they had been hurrying to board the Tubes. Have you seen Dr. Have you heard anything? He had short curly hair and hands the size of a normal man's head. Though he looked rather comic, Nick knew that he was also physically dangerous.
Nicholas could not understand how or what he contributed to Mnemos's Environmental scenarios. He considered Reitinger a borderline mental case—even though his Ph. Reitinger continued, "We found out that they inflicted some minor damage to the Coast Highway. The latest word also has it that we took out part of Olenegorsk. Nicholas couldn't quite believe what he was hearing. He had visions—because he was trained to have visions—of the entire southern California coastline bubbling in a nuclear inferno, perhaps presaging the end of mankind and of all life on earth.
He reached over and swept up Nick's copy of Time , with its picture of Meher Baba on the cover. As he spoke he leafed through it. It's protected by some low-range ABMs—most of which were caught sleeping. If something big had developed, everyone on the Tube would be shaking in their little booties. But all that's happening is that Sal's conferring with the Major General about our next plan of action. He could hear the man's teeth clacking disgustingly. Nelson looked up at the ceiling, and counted off on his fingers. There's me and you. There's Melissa, of course.
She's up front with Mnemos. Staci's been plugged in ever since we left. We lost the Vandenberg link when the bomb went off up the coast. Electromagnetic pulse, and all that. But she's been in touch with Colorado and Omaha through the other in-system links. Nothing seemed to affect him. But he had never suffered the utter pain of being blown away in a Mnemos Nine scenario. Even so, Reitinger must have known—he was a superb Environmental—what a full nuclear exchange would do to the earth. I wish Melissa had told me that. We all know what a terrible time you had," Reitinger said in an unusual burst of cuteness.
He pulled another carrot from his pocket and offered it to Nicholas. Helps you see at night. Completely unconnected with anything normal…. If they had put him into Strategics, the entire Mnemos system would cave in. Nick demurred, and the second carrot vanished back into Nelson's pocket. Why didn't the rest of the world blow up? He crunched thoughtfully on his carrot, looking properly profound. Anyway, whatever it was they jammed did more than its fair share of the work, because half the Soviet ship was on automatic, run mostly by a skeleton crew and computers.
The ships fired at each other and one missile went wild. It headed for Vandenberg and exploded about ten miles offshore. We don't know if it was the Chinese or the Russian ship that did it. So, the Pentagon accidentally-on-purpose took out the Olenegorsk facility just to keep the Russians honest.
The blast got the decoy and fizzled up part of Point Sal Beach. It was as if the man were waiting in a dentist's office. An article in the sports section caught his pea-brained attention. He tapped it with a knobby finger. Too bad he had to go and deck the fine coach.
That's not the end of the story, is it? And after he read him the riot act, they decided between the two of them that it would be something of a trade-off. The Major General here says the score's about even. Maybe a couple Russian technicians at Olenegorsk, on their side, and some pleasure craft off Point Sal Beach on our side.
And some low-level radiation flying around. Actually, we don't know the casualty count yet, because the Olenegorsk facility was mostly automated. He listened to the reassuring hum of the Tube as it wended its way underground. How many Tubes were shunting other "discretionary personnel" across the country? Were sirens going off in the world up above? Were fingers cocked and waiting over launch buttons?
Were radio and television stations finally broadcasting those horrible words: This is not a test. This is not a test … What were the real-life scenarios of panic and fear? Although Staci says every plane we've got's being scrambled. Staci Bolyard was an Intelligence in-system extrapolator for Mnemos. Under regular circumstances, a Strategic like Nicholas would be listening in on Mnemos—for this was a genuine wartime scenario. But these were not normal conditions. He couldn't imagine what kind of dream scenario Staci was drifting in.
It depended upon her mental state at the time she went in and the material Mnemos felt she could handle. If she worried too much about her children or her family, it would affect her every level of understanding and assimilation of the information the computer was laying out for her. The system had other links, of course, and almost certainly Derek Mallory would be participating in Colorado. The last Nick had heard, Steven Childs, another Strategic, was at the University of Minnesota, doing some undercover recruiting for the Project.
He wouldn't be too far from a Foresee link. Discretionary personnel were always where the government could reach them. The Russians weren't too far away from developing a Project Foresee equivalent. They had made some peculiar computer advances of their own. What little information the CIA had been able to input into the Mnemos system indicated the Russian scientists had been able to link a small computer brain to a human body that had lost its mental functions—the patient's mind had clinically died but the body itself kept kicking.
The brain had been overridden and plugged into the computer. The body couldn't get up and wander about, but the computer was learning slowly what it was like to be a human being, with much of the sensory input that a human being would experience. But when it's nuclear war you're talking about, is anything official? Nick shook his head. But Nicholas knew so little about how Nelson Reitinger's mind worked—if it worked at all. Reitinger rose from the couch and gripped the overhang of the baggage compartment.
Though there was little swaying of the Tube train, Nelson's reflexive actions made it appear as if they rode the Orient Express. All he needed was a trenchcoat and a porkpie hat. You want to plug in and take a look at what's coming into the system? I don't think Staci would mind. Staci's just looking around anyway, assessing data as it comes in from the Pentagon and Omaha. Scenarios were always unpredictable and initially baffling. One never knew where one would find oneself when exposed to the system, but Staci Bolyard was a very flexible woman and quite competent.
Approximately Nicholas's own age, she had three children back at Santa Barbara and a husband in the Air Force. Staci had been working in the Intelligence branch for Foresee since a couple of years before Nick had joined. She knew her way around the system very well. Nicholas wondered if her present thoughts were entirely focused on Mnemos Nine's scenarios, or if there was some fragment of her mind lingering on the safety of her family.
He could sympathize with her dilemma. If a nuclear war broke out, it would be very difficult to concentrate on anything but the welfare of your loved ones—even if you did happen to work for one of the agencies designed to help combat such an exigency as a full-scale attack. Nelson stood at the open compartment door. She told us all what a roller-coaster ride you had with Mnemos. I don't think you and that computer get along, Nickie.
He meant it as a barb, considering what meager work Environmentals actually did, but Reitinger missed the point entirely. Nicholas stopped him as he was about to vanish into the corridor of the Tube. Sal said that Derek was working in system. Did he do it? Reitinger in a scenario sounding out the consequences of a possible oil-spill made sense to him. That's what Environmentals were for. It was only natural to run the sequence with Derek and those trawlers with me in to provide the right balance of data.
All the information suggested that something might happen with that flotilla of Russians and that one trigger-happy Chinese tub. I knew the area well, and Mnemos just added things up. I guess he gets some credit. Nicholas marveled at the man's flippancy. He related to computer-induced scenarios like a kid might play a game in a supermarket arcade.
A missile here, a missile there. Perhaps it was because Reitinger, like Nick, was a loner. He had no family to speak of back in Santa Barbara—and even fewer friends. All he really had were the trees and the little furry animals of his profession. And Reitinger knew that he would be part of any government plan of survival. No matter what happened in any of the scenarios—real or imagined—he and Nick would always have Tubes to whisk them away to safety. But what about the rest of the world?
Even in the time it would take to get to Foresee in the Rockies, war could break out. The missiles might be launched, the bombers airborne. He thought about Rhoanna Martin, who was now living somewhere south of Tucson. What was life like for her down there? Were the new Diomedes missiles being readied in their desert silos? Were the radar installations perched high in the Catalina Mountains going wild with incoming blips?
Thankfully, he was tranquilized enough not to ponder those thoughts much further. Abruptly Reitinger rushed back down the corridor and burst into Nick's nook. Nicholas's heart skipped a beat as he anticipated the absolute worst. The Colts just demolished the Bears! Can you believe it?
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You owe me twenty bucks. Hey, wait…" Reitinger scurried down the corridor—off to spread the news—before Nicholas could stop him. The goddamn football pool. He'd forgotten all about it. Along with everything else that was trivial. He picked up the copy ofTime and stared at the cover. The world was on the verge of a real nuclear conflict, and somewhere in Baltimore ordinary people were going home from an ordinary football game.
How he longed for an ordinary life. Maybe in the long run the whole thing was just a game anyway. Staci Bolyard, a well-kept blonde hardly ever out of sorts, had maintained her composure, and Nicholas was able to absorb her confidence. She was slightly preoccupied as the elevator gently breezed them up to the fortress of the Project Foresee headquarters. She was making a disinterested attempt at filing down her fingernails, as Nicholas stood beside her and Melissa Salazar. She blew away the fine dust at the tips of her nails.
Melissa, only a few feet away, looked evenly at her, her arms folded around a purse and leather briefing pouch. Nick glanced down at Staci, listening to the emery board sigh away at her fingers. She smiled at him, but it was a smile more of relief than triumph. One did not consider successful extrapolations an indication of personal worth. They were just extrapolations, after all.
Nicholas watched the luminous numbers overhead diminish as they approached the lower levels of Foresee. He had never been here before, and he was somewhat apprehensive. He said, "I just can't help but think what that little radioactive cloud is doing over Santa Barbara. If we get the rain we've been expecting, it might be washed away. The watersheds will take it back into the Pacific. That tells us one thing right there.
A low-yield warhead would not contribute that much fallout in the first place, regardless of the actual damage done. Itwas saber-rattling—or chest-pounding, as Nicholas saw it: This was all new to Nicholas. His only experience with the system as a whole had been through the scattered lead-ins at the Foresee offices surface-side. All of his apprentice training had been conducted in San Diego, and for the last four years he'd been stationed in Santa Barbara. He'd always intended a trip to Foresee Headquarters, but there had never been any real need. Now there was the need.
The mountain above them was impenetrable granite. Nicholas knew that on the far northern slope was a busy ski resort that was just now in the process of gearing up for the snows of Thanksgiving. With more than thirty-two Olympic-rated runs—and two enormous lodges that attracted skiers from around the world—it was very much the perfect cover for a clandestine government operation. The elevator doors parted and presented them with a large open corridor where they could see dozens of people moving about, most dressed in military uniforms.
A number of others, in mufti, were driving small electric-powered carts. Two efficient women were checking in various individuals at a desk studded with computer terminals and security monitors.
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Melissa walked up to the desk and nodded. Staci Bolyard you know, and this," she indicated Nick, "is Nicholas Tejada.
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We've heard a lot about you. The badge she gave him bore his picture and his original security number. Both women at the check-in desk seemed happy with their jobs. He wondered if they had any idea what was going on in the world above. The activity in the room beyond them betrayed a certain quality of alarm or concern. But it probably would be their job not to be too interested.
He put on his security badge. Staci turned to Melissa. I want to get to the communications room. I've got to see what they're doing about Cole and the kids. Nicholas didn't have to be a mind reader to know what would be foremost in Staci's thoughts. She shot an almost embarrassed smile at Nicholas. He smiled back at her. They were all a team now, and every one of them had his and her priorities.
Nicholas couldn't begrudge Staci her concern about her family. Melissa walked him down the corridor, past the check-in desk. Her nod of recognition to the two security guards standing before the wide glass doors of the Play Room brought similar, if understandably grim, nods in return. The Plexiglas doors parted, and before them were row upon row of computer consoles.
Melissa said, "It doesn't look bad yet on the outside, but we're doing the best we can to locate and shelter the families of everyone involved with Foresee. Military personnel—and at least two dozen important-looking civilians—were hovering over computer consoles and television screens, their faces glowing in the preternaturally green light off of the boards before them.
It was more or less as he'd imagined it would be. Melissa directed Nick to the top of the arena, where they could overlook the whole operation. We might as well get ourselves assigned to sleeping quarters, since we're going to be here until the President blows the halftime whistle. Before your time, all this was nothing more than a mineshaft, some cots, and a few computers. It was Mnemos Five when I started. We've all come a long way since. It was hard to believe that they were under eight hundred feet of solid mountain. The floors were richly carpeted, and someone had wisely set out a few decorative plants.
The place felt comfortable and homey. And he knew why it felt that way: Nick said, "I'm doing fine. I can check out quarters later. Right now I think I'd like to see the layout of the place and get to work. She was concerned with both his mental health and his physical disposition. You've had some rough ones before, but nothing like that. I'm a bit shaky, but I can still function," he told her. Massingale wants to examine you later when he gets a chance. You're one of the very best Strategics we have. I don't want your nightmares to devour you.
Melissa led him down to a row of computer screens. She set aside her purse and briefing pouch. Several technicians were bent over a console that stood out from the others. On the wall before them were several monitoring screens. Nicholas realized that beyond that wall lay Mnemos Nine, languishing in its bath of supercool liquid helium, waiting for the next in-system link to be arranged. A small fusion reactor, fueled by the hydrogen contained within artesian waters, would keep the computer and the Project headquarters functioning—independent of the topside world—for nearly a thousand years.
Nicholas felt a trifle dwarfed knowing that beyond the walls was a machine so quick, so terribly efficient, that it could outthink any human being. A door from another room off to their right opened, and a man dressed in slacks and a canary-colored cardigan came swaggering in as if he were stepping out onto a golf course. Glad to see you here for once. He shook his friend's hand eagerly. Derek Mallory grinned broadly.
I hear you got to play frogman with Nelson. But he found that missile. Have to hand it to him. Nick had always looked upon Derek as one of the few normal people at Foresee. Fortunately, Mallory was also a Strategic, where normalcy counted the most. Though Derek now made Longmont his home, he had lived for a few years in Santa Barbara, where he and Nick had become friends.
However, Mallory had never been able to abandon his native cliffrock of Colorado, and decided to move back—helped, unfortunately, by a divorce and a runaway sixteen-year-old daughter. Colorado was just the medicine he needed. He and Nick would often rendezvous in southern Colorado to ski, taking in Aspen and Telluride when they could. And on occasion they'd even make it up into Utah, to ski Brighton or Solitude. Melissa said, "Nick's just getting acquainted with the Play Room. Staci's gone over to communications to track down the rest of her family. They faced the consoles which babysat Mnemos Nine.
Nick turned to Derek. She unplugged when the situation softened. Is there anything new going on? However, much of southern California saw the Vandenberg fireball; the explanation the media's been given is that an experimental rocket went haywire, just like the time two years ago when that missile fell onto Sisquoc. So far, it looks like the press has bought it. Intelligence reports that the State Department's already in the process of filing official complaints at the UN and in Geneva. But it doesn't look like war.
Mallory pointed to one readout on a screen before them. Around Madagascar, or anywhere along the east coast of Africa, there would be only one place of strategic interest for the Soviets: But Mallory's answer surprised him entirely. There went the Persian Gulf theory. But the Russians might be off to counter the fleet we've got in the South Atlantic. That would be rather foolish, though, since there's a huge storm brewing there and the Soviets know it.
I can't imagine the Russians risking a major naval excursion, with thirty-foot waves lashing their decks. Nor can the Pentagon. Nicholas knew that the mineral wealth of that part of Africa was tremendous, but he still couldn't fathom the rationale for Soviet agitation down there. Russia itself was a vast country, rich in both petroleum and a wide range of mineral resources. It could be that they were making sure the forces of the United States or western Europe wouldn't be able to get at the supplies of vanadium, manganese, gold, and bauxite so abundant there.
Or perhaps the Russian convoy was moving toward the Falkland Islands and the oilfields beneath their shores that the U. It could be the first step toward a blockade. Mallory pointed at one of the computer screens. Apparently, they've alerted all of our armed forces. They've even notified Heimdall Station in earth orbit. If anything happens up there, it'll mean our one platform against the three Salyut stations. It could be messy all the way around. He knew human nature too well.
He knew that tensions built up slowly, but sooner or later those tensions found release. He knew that if one or two nuclear devices were allowed to be detonated—even for saber-rattling purposes—it would then be easier for anyone, anywhere, to set off a bomb in his neighbor's territory. The escalation might be incremental—or it might be instant.
The experts often disagreed. But the Mnemos Nine Environmental scenarios suggested that if even one or two warheads were used in bush wars in Africa or in desert skirmishes in Iran or Afghanistan, the radioactivity in the atmosphere would accumulate to dangerous levels. Strontium 90 and Cesium would linger for many many years. Nitrogen in the upper atmosphere would be reconverted byany kind of nuclear detonation—and the ozone layer would be affected.
Ultraviolet radiation would then pelt the planet, causing untold damage to all organisms living on the surface, particularly the small ones so important to the biological chains. It was all part of the Mnemos Nine scenarios, and the banks in front of them were absorbing as much data as they could for future extrapolations. Nicholas turned to Mallory. Steve Childs is only an hour away. They got him into the Tube in Minnesota as soon as things started looking nasty.
She picked up a special telephone and spoke into it for a few seconds. After a brief spell of listening and shaking her head, she hung up. Given the look in her eyes, and the somberness in her voice, Nicholas knew that, although she was being genuinely solicitous of his condition, she also had other things on her mind. She said, "We've got to put you into an important scenario, if you think you're up to it.
We'd give it to someone else, but it's just been discovered that there's something going on down in southern Arizona. That's your old stomping grounds. Massingale won't be here yet for—" Nicholas held his hand up to stop her. That's what I'm here for. Massingale would arrive while he was under, so there should be nothing risky about a small trip into the system.
But this thing down around Tucson just came in. He only wished that there could've been alittle more time… "All right, Sal," he said. But he couldn't press the gas pedal to the floor any harder than he was doing at the moment. His heart raced, and his hands, sweating feverishly in the harsh, desert heat, gripped the steering wheel as if it were the only tangible object in the known universe. Outside the car, the wide dry desert rushed by.
Here, inside the automobile, it seemed so peaceful and calm. But the voice on the radio speaker was virtually screaming with a desperation he'd never felt before in his life. Now the radio stations—all of them—had gone off the air without any prior warning. The last voice Nick had heard had urged them all to get out of town, to get as far away from Tucson as they could.
The announcer's voice had choked with sobs, and then the station's place on the dial was taken over by sudden silence. And he couldn't drive fast enough. In the back seat of the car were two children. But he didn't have any children. He quickly looked back: There was his daughter, only a month old, napping soundly, lost to the world. But the other child, an eighteen-month-old boy, was bouncing around in the backseat, having just awoken nervous and fidgety.
The boy kept craning his head up for a look out of the side window of the car. He felt dazed, bludgeoned by the entire sensory world. Then he discovered that there was a woman beside him. She slowly turned to him in the agonized light of the sunset, a long, harried look on her face—a face suddenly become familiar, shifting and changing in the coruscating aura of the sunset.
What are we going to do? The name, the face, came to him. Confused, frightened, and desperate, he said, "I don't know. Just let me think! In his rearview mirror, Nicholas could discern the teeth of faraway Picacho Peak to the south. Barreling up the road from behind came a wildman in a huge car, possibly an armored Cadillac. The Highway Patrol was nowhere to be seen. He jerked his car off to the far right-hand side of the highway in order to avoid a fiery collision. His wife had turned around to see the frantic car approaching.
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In blue jeans and workshirt, her hair tied up in a turquoise scarf, Rhoanna leaned across the seat of the car as the Cadillac rocketed up beside them. Nicholas pulled a sharp maneuver that tossed his wife bodily back into the front seat, still holding the little girl in her arms.
The baby screamed, having been rudely awoken from her dreams. The little boy had disappeared behind the seat, probably as safe there as anywhere else in the vehicle. The Cadillac sideswiped Nick's car with a dinosaur scream—but otherwise there was no harm done. The Cadillac wobbled back into the center of the two-lane highway, carried on down the road by its frantic momentum, in search of better prey, now that the world was coming to an end and law didn't matter.
The man was doing better than one hundred ten miles an hour, by Nicholas's reckoning. Nick lifted his foot from the gas pedal and for a brief second closed his eyes.
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He'd never been so frightened in his life. Everything seemed to rush about his ears. The baby began screaming loudly in her mother's arms. The radio—which up until now had been a squall of static—suddenly resumed broadcasting. The announcer's voice was unsteady; as he spoke, the words themselves seemed to shake. He cleared his throat, then said, "The President has called for a state of national emergency. Several American cities have been struck with nuclear weapons. Governor Lowen has called out the National Guard to assist with emergency procedures, and martial law is now in force.
Citizens are urged not to panic. Nicholas switched the radio off after searching the airwaves for other channels. Even the stations in Phoenix had gone off the air. Nicholas, the voice came. In the glow of the sunset to the west, her face was illuminated by a divine light. Her green eyes floated in a vision that was both beautiful and sad. Daniel O'Connor rated it it was ok Apr 30, Jules Jones rated it liked it Aug 25, Brett rated it liked it Apr 14, Douglas rated it liked it Feb 23, David Ferrington rated it liked it Sep 10, Tabby V rated it really liked it Apr 23, Matt rated it liked it Nov 11, Ron Johnson rated it liked it Apr 15, Adrian rated it liked it May 18, Matt rated it it was ok Mar 26, Chris Stutts rated it liked it Apr 19, Jeremy Slack rated it liked it Sep 20, Curt rated it liked it Jun 15, Matt Adams rated it liked it Feb 10, Romi rated it liked it Jul 15, Benton rated it liked it Mar 27, Scott rated it liked it Jan 24, Jim rated it liked it Mar 27, Skolia rated it liked it Jul 16, Luigi rated it liked it May 13, Simon added it Dec 03, Sharon added it Dec 23, Madrat1 added it Jan 07, Brandon marked it as to-read Aug 08, Nethead added it Oct 19, Rodleech marked it as to-read Feb 01, David added it Jul 12, Retrieved from " https: Articles with topics of unclear notability from June All articles with topics of unclear notability Book articles with topics of unclear notability All stub articles.
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