Copyright
Thomas Hoover.

Project Daedalus online

. (page 30 of 30)
Online LibraryThomas HooverProject Daedalus → online text (page 30 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


trying to right himself, but before he could he'd slammed into the bank
of video monitors on the opposite wall.

"Jesus!"

"Sweetie, you look like a flying fish." Eva drifted back in her seat,
loving him all over again.

"I feel like a newborn deer trying to stand up." He rotated and
carefully pushed himself off the ceiling, repressing the instinct to
kick like a scuba diver. "But remember the old Chinese proverb. Don't
criticize a man till you've floated in his shoes for a day."

"Darling, it's a dream come true. I'm finally weightless," she laughed.
"At last, no more dreading to get on a scale."

"The pain in my arm is gone," Androv spoke up again, renewed
satisfaction in his voice. "We've just performed our first medical
experiment in space. It's good for gunshot wounds."

"I'd like to perform another experiment," Eva said. She was slowly
extracting herself from the G-seat. "What kind of electrical system do
we have on board?"

"We have a massive battery section, kept charged by the turbines,"
Androv replied. "All these electronics require a lot of power."

"So we could transmit?"

"Of course. We're designed for that."

"What are you planning?" Vance looked over as he drifted back across
the cockpit.

"A small surprise for Tanzan Mino." She was twisting around as she
floated next to her straps. "Let me start preparing the laptop. I knew
there was a reason why I brought it." She reached down under the seat
and pushed it out, where it floated.

"I want to hook this into Petra." She reached up and awkwardly
retrieved it. "Is there any way I can?"

"There's provision for laptop interface. They worked so well on the
American shuttles, our people installed an identical setup here."
Androv swam slowly to the console, then flipped down a panel, revealing
a serial port. "You can connect it there. The wiring's in place."

Vance twisted and checked their coordinates. They were now at latitude
56 degrees, longitude 109 degrees, headed over central Canada.
"Incidentally, so much for North American air defenses. No radar
interrogations whatsoever."

"That's because of our Stealth design," Androv said. "We have almost no
radar signature. Not only are we a menace to the world, we're
invisible."

Vance floated down and settled into the central G-seat. The more he
learned about the _Daedalus_, the more unsettling he found it. What
should they do with this monster? Maybe turn it over to the UN as a
monument to technology gone amuck, to high-tech excess. At last, he
thought, man has achieved the ability to move anywhere on the planet,
at speeds as fast as the laws of physics will allow, and do it
invisibly. Maybe it should be called the Shadow.

"Okay." Eva interrupted his thoughts. "I've finished tying in the
Zenith. We're about to go live from the top, gentlemen, the very top.
I'm going to send the protocol to every wire service in the world. What
better credibility than to be downlinked live from space?"

Vance looked at the picture from the nose camera. They were over the
Atlantic now, which meant they'd soon be passing over the Soviet Union,
with line-of-sight horizons that stretched from Europe to Asia.

"Why settle for print?" He had a sudden thought. "How about television?
With all this video gear, we should be able to put together something
that would transmit. The Baikonur Cosmodrome has receiving facilities.
We see Soviet cosmonauts in space all the time. And they'll be directly
under us. We also could make the evening news all over Japan if we
broadcast to the Katsura tracking facility."

"Good thinking, but I've got an even better idea." She seemed to
pirouette in weightlessness. "Japan already has DBS, direct broadcast
satellites, and there are home satellite dishes all over the country.
It's the Global Village. So why don't we just cut in for a special
bulletin?"

"Why not." He pointed to the ill-fated cockpit camera Tanzan Mino's
technicians had installed above the entry hatch. "Matter of fact, we
probably could just use that, if we could hook it into some of the
electronics here on the console."

He floated up, half drifting and half swimming, and inspected the
camera, convincing himself that it was still in working condition. And
it had to be wired into something. Maybe now all they needed to do was
flip the right toggles. The console switches numbered, by his
conservative estimate, approximately three hundred.

"Let me see what I can do." Androv floated down and immediately started
to work, toggling, testing, watching the display screens as various
messages were scrolled.

"Petra," he finally commanded in Russian, "give me a positive connect
between UHF display-read and video output terminal 3-K."

_"Interface confirmed."

_Suddenly a video screen fluttered, ran through a test series of
colored bars, then threw up a picture of the cockpit as seen from the
camera above the hatch. Vance studied the image of three figures
floating in a confined space outfitted with electronic hardware and a
giant wing-shaped hood over the central seat. On TV their cockpit
looked like the flight deck of some alien vessel in Star Trek IX.

"We're on." Eva waved at the camera. Her image on the screen waved
back.

"Okay," Vance said. "Now for the tricky part. Transmission."

Androv smiled as he drifted up again. "That's actually the easiest of
all. Remember this vehicle was originally intended - supposedly - as a
near-earth research platform. There're plenty of downlinks, in keeping
with the need to transmit data, as well as general propaganda
functions. We can use any frequency you want, even commercial broadcast
channels."

"So why don't we go live worldwide? Just give everybody an inside look
at the planet's first radar-evasive space platform."

"Petra has a listing of all commercial satellite channels, just to make
sure she doesn't inadvertently violate one of them with a transmission.
Let's pull them up and see what they are." He flipped several toggles
on the wide console, then told Petra what he wanted. He'd no sooner
finished speaking than the large screen that supplemented her voice was
scrolling the off-limits frequencies.

"Okay," Eva said. "Let's start with the data channels belonging to
world-wide newsprint organizations - Reuters, the Associated Press, all
the rest - and send a copy of the protocol. It'll just appear on every
green screen in the world. Then we can pick off frequencies used by
television news organizations and broadcast a picture postcard from
here in the cockpit."

"Sounds good." Androv turned to look at the screen. Quickly he began
selecting numbers from the banned list, moving them to a new file that
would be used to specify parameters for the broadcasts.

Vance watched, shifting his glance occasionally to the view from the
nose camera. Below them clusters of light from central Europe's largest
cities beamed up, twinkling lightly through the haze of atmosphere. He
reached over and flipped the camera to infrared and sat watching the
back-radiation of the North African deserts, now blots of deep red on
the southern horizon; then back to visible again, noticing two parallel
ribbons of light that signified habitations along the length of the
Nile. The world, he was thinking, really is a Global Village. She was
right. There's no longer any place you can hide from the truth.

"Eva, when you feed the protocol to the wire services, note that
there'll be a transmission of some live video at - " he glanced up at the
digital readouts on the screens, "how about at 0800 hours, GMT?"

"That's in twenty minutes."

"Should be enough time, don't you think?"

"Sounds good to me. And to show you I'm brave, I won't even fix my
hair."

"You never looked more beautiful, even that night out at

the palace. Don't change a thing." He turned to Androv. "How about
doing the talking? First in Russian and then in English? We'll write
the English part for you."

"It will be my pleasure, Comrade. My fucking pleasure."

_"Daedalus," _Vance said, mostly to himself. "He found a way to escape
the maze of Mino. We did too. It's easy. You just use your wings and
fly."



Friday 8:47 A.M.



Kenji Nogami settled the telephone back into its cradle and reached for
the television's remote selector. The set was currently scrolling a
special text being distributed over the Reuters financial-service
channel. Very interesting.

He shoved aside the pile of new Mino Industries Eurobond debentures, to
make room for his feet on the teakwood surface of his desk. BBC had
just informed him they'd taped an accompanying video segment and were
planning to broadcast it in thirteen minutes, at nine o'clock. At least
that's what Sir Cecil Ashton, director general, had just warned. As the
London banker for Mino Industries, he had told Sir Cecil he officially
had no comment.

No comment was required.

He reached into a drawer and drew out a box of Montecristo Habana No.
2s, noting sadly there were only three left. With a frown he picked up
his pocket Dictaphone and made a note to his secretary to stop off at
the tobacconists on Threadneedle, just down from the Bank of England,
and get another box.

A hypersonic aircraft. So that was what it had been about all along.
And now some Russian test pilot had stolen it, taken it to orbit, and
was planning to land it at Heathrow in three hours, there to turn it
over to Westminster Union Bank, the London financial representative of
Mino Industries Group.

Perfect timing. The thought immediately occurred to him that this would
be ideal collateral for the billions in phony Eurodollar debentures he
was being forced to issue for Tanzan Mino. Finally, finally he had the
man by the bollocks. Who, he wondered, did he have to thank for this
godsend?

Yes, it was shaping up to be quite a morning. Perhaps a trifle early
for a cigar, but . . .

He flicked the TV off the Reuters text and onto BBC-1.

". . . would appear to be further evidence of the growing technological
supremacy of Japanese industry. As this commentator has had occasion to
note in times past, the lines between civilian and military technology
are rapidly vanishing. That Japan's so-called civilian research sector
could create the high-temperature ceramics required for such a vehicle,
even as European and American military research has failed to do so,
speaks eloquently of the emerging shift in world . . ."

He rolled down the sound a bit. The commentator went on to mention that
all Mino Industries representatives - both here in London and in Tokyo -
named in the announcement from orbit had refused either to confirm or
deny the story.

He noted the time on his Omega, then smiled, leaned back, and snipped
the end off his cigar.



Friday 11:00 A.M.



"Mino-sama." The man bowed low. "NHK just telephoned your office in
Tokyo, asking for comment."

"Comment about what?"

"They have received some text off a satellite."

"What? What did they receive?"

"It was purportedly the English translation of a secret protocol, an
agreement between Mino Industries and the Soviets. Naturally we denied
it in the strongest possible terms."

"It has to be some preposterous fabrication. I can't imagine how
anything so absurd could have - "

"That's actually the problem, Mino-sama. NHK says they received it from
a manned space station, but they've checked with NASDA and have been
assured there are currently no astronauts in orbit by any nation."

"In orbit?" My God, he thought. _Daedalus_ didn't go down; she went up.
With the protocol aboard.

How did they manage to get her hypersonic? Androv was wounded. He
couldn't possibly have handled the G-forces. Which meant -

Vance.

"Tell NHK if they broadcast one word of this libelous, unsubstantiated
hoax, they should be prepared to face legal action." His face had
become a stone mask as a sepulchral hush settled over Flight Control.

"I will inform them," the man bowed again. He hadn't had the courage to
tell the _oyabun_ the rest of what NHK was now receiving . . . along
with half of the citizens of Japan via their new direct-broadcast
satellite dishes.



Friday 9:00 A.M.



Kenji Nogami thought the picture was a little indistinct at first, the
hues slightly off. But then somebody in BBC's technical section
corrected the color balance, making the tape's blues and greens and
reds all blue and green and red.

Yes, now he could make it out. A cosmonaut was drifting across the
camera's view, suspended. It made him ponder briefly the phenomenon of
weightlessness. Curious, really, that it was all a matter of where you
were.

One wall of the cockpit was lined with video terminals, and at the end
was a massive screen currently displaying the Daedalus Corporation
logo, a double ax. Nice advertising, he thought. Coca-Cola probably
feels envious. Overall it was a classy job, no two ways about it. The
_oyabun _didn't do things by halves.

Well, this was one marvel Her Majesty's government would be happy to
get their hands on. For his own part, not a bad piece of collateral.
Must have cost billions in start-up investment.

Then he got a better look at the figure and realized

something was wrong. One side of his white environment suit was stained
red. And he seemed to be nursing a bandaged arm as he drifted up toward
the camera.

"_Stradstyve_," he began, "_Ya Yuri Andreevich Androv_. . . ."

The cosmonaut then proceeded to deliver a long-winded speech in Russian
that Nogami could not follow and the BBC had not yet translated. He
seemed to be growing angrier and angrier, and at one point he gave a
long disquisition about someone named Andrei Petrovich Androv. He was
obviously a Soviet test pilot. Who else could fly that creation? Given
the looks of the cockpit, it was a quantum advance in high technology.

Nogami leaned back, his match poised. The good part, the part in
English, was coming up. That's what Sir Cecil had said. The Russian
segment had been for broadcast in the Soviet Union, had the local spin.
The English part was for the world. And for Tanzan Mino.

Who was now in deep, deep trouble. Murder, fraud, a global conspiracy -
they all were there, and even more damning for the way the story had
come to light. The medium was the message.

About that time the cosmonaut who'd identified himself as Soviet Air
Force Major Yuri Andreevich Androv drifted to the side, permitting a
better view of the cockpit. That's when Nogami noticed two other
individuals. One appeared to be a woman - leave it to the Soviets, he
smiled, to know about good public relations - also wearing an environment
suit, her helmet momentarily turned away. The third appeared to be
male, also in an environment suit and flight helmet. Sir Cecil hadn't
bothered mentioning them, since Air Force Major Androv had done all the
talking.

Then the male cosmonaut in the center drifted up and began opening his
visor, some kind of curved glass that reflected the yellow sodium
lights in the ceiling. He grappled with it a moment, then in annoyance
just yanked it off and tossed it to drift across -

Nogami stared at the face. Mother of God!

He was laughing so hard he almost missed his Montecristo when he
finally whipped up his match. . . .



* * *

























BOOKS BY THOMAS HOOVER



Nonfiction

Zen Culture

The Zen Experience



Fiction

The Moghul

Caribbee

Wall Street _Samurai_

(The _Samurai_ Strategy)

Project Daedalus

Project Cyclops

Life Blood

Syndrome



All free as e-books at

www.thomashoover.info












Online LibraryThomas HooverProject Daedalus → online text (page 30 of 30)