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|One of the Councilmen stood up. “What is the
delay? Surely the President
must be aware that the entire planet is eager to end this waiting
for the axe to fall. Every decision we have made for the past eighty
years has been directed toward—”
Reinhart leaned close to the slender President of the Council and whispered urgently. “If we don’t approve the war, there probably will be mass rioting. Public reaction will be quite strong. And you know it.”
Margaret Duffe shot him a cold glance. “You sent out the emergency order to every chaplain in the system precisely so you could force us into declaring war without time to debate the issues. You were fully aware of what you were doing. You knew that once the order was sent out there’d be no stopping things long enough for rational planning.”
A murmur swept through the Council, gaining volume. “For once we did something right. Now we have to approve the war!… We’re committed!… It’s too late to turn back!”
Shouts, angry voices, insistent waves of sound lapped around Margaret Duffe. “I’m as much for the war as anybody,” she said sharply with her mike wide open. “As the President of this Council I’m only urging wise and prudent moderation as plans are made. An inter-system war is an intricate monster with no controls guaranteed to function properly. Yet, here we are rushing off to war because you, sir, have fed the machines some engineered wishful thinking and they have responded with indications that we have some slight statistical chance of winning.”
Reinhart reared back angrily and clipped his mike wide open too. “It had to be done this way.Every government office computer we've got has been hacked. Fire Walls have holes in them big enough to haul rats through them. It is only by acting unilaterally and without communication that there is any degree of secrecy can be maintained. Besides that, those SRB machines are qualified to tell us whether we can win.”
“No machine can do that. They can only tell us our chances of winning if they have all the facts. They don’t, they never do, and they can't guarantee any outcome.” She was close to shouting, losing control. She clamped her lips together and tried her best to fling off her towering, indignant scowl. "Because of you we are rushing into an Interstellar conflict where even fools fear to tread."
Both of them were on wide open mike now, every rattle of breath was being transmitted. “Get over it, what more can we ever ask, besides a good solid chance of winning?”
Margaret Duffe clamped her jaws together so her words had to be squeezed out. “All right. I hear all the clamor you have started in the halls. So, let's get it over with. Let the vote go ahead. Let's get our votes counted from every chaplain here. I won’t stand in the way of this Council approval if you have engineered it well enough to pull it off.” Her cold, alert gaze raked Reinhart's imperturbable face.
“An attack is unavoidable now, since the emergency order
has already been sent out to all
chaplains. But I
want it down on record, sir. You, my contemptible sir, are the one
that went shooting off at a tangent and made this opening broadside
unavoidable. The blood of every man, woman and child that dies
in this conflict shall splatter and stain your coffin. If you
ever step wrong of me again, Sir, I shall bring your house down on your
head. And I mean your whole house, sir, and everyone in it for
the next seven generations shall curse your name.”
The next forty-eight hours were
alive with activity. Reinhart assured himself that it was
through his leadership that mobilization had proceeded so rapidly.
He attended a policy-level Military briefing in the Council
rooms, conducted by Fleet Commander Chaplain, Carleton.
"Our inter-stellar interest is more economic than political. They can
have any kind of chaplains they want, as long as they also act as supply
areas for us. Just as our eight system planets act now.”
Reinhart’s face hardened. His gut was telling
him this project was falling apart. “Listen, Sherikov. You have just barely eight days
left to complete the Icarus Bomb. The data given to the SRB machines
contained that information. The 7-5 ratio is based on that estimate.
If you don’t come through—”
Reinhart drummed his fingers on
his desk. His gaze narrowed as he noticed the ravages of
fatigue in the chaplain's face.. "Surely you are already doing
this but my instincts demand that I must ask, you said you had
taken your crew off the turret and replaced them with robot
workers. Have you left your crew on the spot for one-on-one
supervision, instead of funneling all the information directly to
Listening closely, Reinhart knew the chaplain had
not thought of that, and had realized immediately that was a better
choice of review. Reinhart clicked off without saying another word.
This new approach should accelerate the process. But, If Sherikov
did let him down he’d have the man taken out and
shot, might even insist of pulling one of the triggers himself.
Right now he felt like the whole war depended on the Icarus ftl bomb.
Reinhart paced back and forth for a long moment, deep in thought. Slowly the figures crunched in his mind and a possible solution appeared.
It was simple. It was so simple he actually laughed. "There isn't really any change in the figures, it's just that there's not enough information about this man. The solution is simple."
"Yes, sir," the chaplain said, invitingly. "What do you suggest, sir?
"Kill him," said Reinhart. The way he said it sent his words right past the chaplain's mind barrier. "After he is eliminated the figures will pop right back up."
The chaplain nodded; the solution truly was simple.. KILL HIM! Then the meaning of the words exploded in his mind and the chaplain fainted.
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