Saturday, September 06, 2014

Step Back, Part 8

Tuesday September 23, 1969

In his office in the Palace of Westminster Prime Minister Harold Wilson sat silently as the First Sea Lord spoke.

“At present we have two aircraft carriers that are operational, the Eagle and the Hermes.”

Wilson then asked a question.

“Shouldn’t we have more carriers available?”

“No sir, the Ark Royal is in for a major refit that will allow her to operate the American Phantom fighter-bomber, and the Victorious was recently paid off and is now being scrapped. In any case we do not believe that an intervention is possible.”

“And why is that?”

“We don’t know if a warship can be sunk by laser fire from orbit but aircraft spotted on the flight deck of a carrier can be destroyed.  The Centaurans demonstrated this on Sunday night with their first kill, a Mig-15 fighter that was on a runway and ready to take off.”

“And there is nothing you can do about it?”

“It is theoretically possible that cloud cover may have a protective effect.  But we cannot guarantee that there will be sufficient cloud cover for the task force to hide under.”

“So there is nothing that can be done for Nigeria?”  The Prime Minister asked.

“No sir,” the First Sea Lord replied, “nothing at all.”

On Tuesday morning in Washington it would be a special day for the counterintelligence section of the FBI.  Today they would make a special arrest. 

Part of the data package brought back in time was the story of Jonathan Walker, a Navy cipher clerk who was passing information on U.S. Navy codes to the Soviets.  As there was a question on if uptime information could be used as evidence in a court of law the Bureau would have to work the case the old fashioned way. 

Walker was placed under surveillance.  Still photographs and movie film was taken of him making a blind drop.  And finally a Soviet intelligence officer was arrested after he picked up the package.  The officer was dropped off at the Soviet embassy with a Persona Non Grata notice and the package was taken into evidence.

And finally Walker himself was placed under arrest.

Afternoon would come to the faculty club at the University of Minnesota.  For some members it was another day of attempting to awaken somnambulant minds.  For others it was the deepening nightmare of facing the mentally active.   

Frank Macleod, a Professor of Engineering, looked around the room.  His colleagues were generally in a foul mood, particularly those who taught what he thought of as the fuzzy subjects.  He spotted one and walked over to stand at the bar next to him.

Frank spoke.

“So Tommy,” he said, “why the foul mood?”

Tommy remained silent.

“Tommy, can you hear me?”

“Yes, I can hear you.”  He replied sullenly.

“So what is the problem?”

Thomas Archer, Professor of English Literature, looked up at the man he thought of as a nemesis and replied.

“Those Fascists!”

Frank gently shook his head before responding.

“Tommy, I know the English Department isn’t on the cutting edge of things, but...the Fascists in Italy, the National Socialists in Germany, and the Militarists in Japan were all removed from power in 1945.  It was something having to do with losing a war if I recall correctly.”

Tommy now stared directly at Frank before responding.

“You know what I mean.”

“Yes, I know what you mean.”  Frank replied.  “You are using the term ‘Fascist’ as a general label for everyone who rejects your particular brand of Socialism.  And if anyone who engaged in that  kind of sloppy thinking were to design a bridge it would collapse before it was completed.”

Tommy continued to stare as Frank continued to speak.

“The fact is that the people from Alpha Centauri possess real knowledge and thus must reject the doctrine of Socialism in all its variants.  And because they have real knowledge they have real authority and will not be frightened into mindless compliance by fear of your red pencil.”

Tommy spoke up.

“It doesn’t matter, I have tenure!”

“So what?”  Frank replied.  “It’s no secret around here that you are grading on an ideological basis.  And it’s no secret that you are also trading sexual favors for grades.  It’s simply a matter of time before you are removed from the faculty here.  You may as well find a nice high bridge, one designed by a real engineer, and jump off.”

Thomas Archer stood up and stormed out of the faculty club.

Aboard the Eagle the ship’s intercom spoke.

“Mission Commander Arriving!”

The airlock door opened and the mission command floated aboard. 

After Boatman oriented himself to the deck one of the two men waiting for him spoke. 

“Sir,” said Captain Sterling, “we are ready for tonight’s fire mission.”

“Very good.”  Boatman replied, he then spoke to the other man floating above the deck.

“Mister Heinlein, how are you and Mrs. Heinlein doing aboard the Eagle?”

“Very well, sir.”  He replied.  “Virginia and I now have our space legs.”

It meant that the Heinlein’s were now moving about normally in free fall.”

“Very good, sir.”   Boatman replied.  “Well, let’s get on with the show.”

The three men made their to the command deck and strapped in.  Boatman then spoke to Heinlein.

“Sir, have you been briefed on tonight’s action.”

“Yes, sir.”  He replied.  Virginia also nodded.

“Well,” said Mission Commander Boatman, “let’s do Vietnam.”

No comments: