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Cyclops One DeFelice Jim




31

“Why don’t we go outside?” he said, holding up his cigarettes.

The legislative assistant nearly bolted through the door. They were barely on the steps before he reached back and took a cigarette from the agent’s pack, jabbing it into his lighter.

“Been trying to quit,” said the gnome.

“Gee, and you struck me as a reasonable guy,” said Fisher. He followed the gnome down the steps, watching as the man’s entire body underwent a transformation. Five minutes ago he had been an exploited career bureaucrat; now he was a maker of men.

“No way I’m quitting,” said the assistant.

Whatever else happened that day, Andy Fisher had saved another soul.

“This about Megan?”

“In a way,” said Fisher.

“They found her body?”

“Nah,” said Fisher. “You think she’s dead, huh?”

“After all this time? You don’t really think she’s still alive, do you?”

Fisher shrugged.

“Look, Matt’s in an awkward position,” said the gnome. “Obviously he wants her, uh, recovered. But he can’t put pressure on a top-secret project. Technically he probably isn’t supposed to know about it, since he’s not part of the intelligence committee.”

“Do they know about it?” asked Fisher.

“I don’t know.”

“What about his calls to NADT?” said Fisher.

“Which calls to NADT?”

“He didn’t try to get General Bonham?”

“He knows Bonham, of course; maybe he called and I didn’t know.”

“How does he know Bonham?” asked Fisher.

The gnome’s eyes opened a bit wider, then slunk back in their sockets as if retreating into a cave. “They’ve known each other for a while. But from where, I don’t know.”

“Does the congressman vote on appropriations for NADT?”

The gnome did a very interesting eye-rolling thing where his eyes seemed to disappear in the back of his head, then reappear at the bottom of his feet. The effect made it seem as if his eyeballs had traveled all around his body, a not unimpressive skill and certainly one that would be appreciated in Washington, where eyes had to be rolled several times a day, at least.

“His business interests are in blind trusts, if that’s what you’re getting at,” said the gnome. “The Tafts and Yorks and Rythes — the family owns a lot of high-tech stuff. Yeah, they’re connected. But they’re big in consumer goods and oil, energy: You’d expect it.”

“That’s what I figured,” said Fisher. “What board was he on, Ferris or something?”

“Ferrone? Nah, he resigned that.”

“You have a list of his family holdings?”

“Have to talk to the trustee.”

Fisher nodded. “He doesn’t like Megan, does he?”

The gnome shrugged, then drew his cigarette down to the nub. “Sure he does. She was close to his father, General Taft.”

Fisher shoveled out another cigarette. “Who was Taft? Like, the same guy who was president?”

The eye roll again. Fisher thought it was a real winner. “Fill me in,” he prompted, giving the aide another cigarette.

General Taft — part of the same family as William Howard Taft, president and jurist, but well removed — had been a bomber pilot in World War II and had actually written a book about his experiences — self-published, of course. He and his brother-in-law, Megan’s father, made a fortune adapting early computers so they could be used in targeting devices. That alone would have made them rich, if they hadn’t been rich already.

“So they struggled through the Depression all right?” said Fisher.

“Struggled? Ever hear of the Rubber Trust?”

“Prophylactics?”

The eyes again. “Rubber rubber. Before synthetics, it was as big as oil. Bigger. The family was hooked in. Great-great-grandfather of the congressman made a killing supplying Germany and France in World War I. When Wilson declared war, they stopped selling to everybody except the U.S.”

“How can Megan York be the daughter of somebody who fought in World War II?”

The gnome’s smile wasn’t nearly as interesting as his eye roll, and it had the unfortunate effect of ejecting an even greater than normal whiff of his bad breath.

“She’s a third-tier baby — you know, third wife. And it was the brother who fought in World War II. Megan’s father was younger, and that was a different marriage, which is why the names are different.”

“This is a close family?”

“Depends on your definition of close.”

“What’s the book called?”

Flying through Fire.I’ll lend you a copy: We got tons of ’em. Came out ten years ago and we can’t give ’em away, even on the campaign trail. Too big to stuff in people’s mailboxes.”

* * *

Fisher nearly passed on the book, expecting it to be a rambling self-congratulatory rumination on a life spent making a killing by selling weapons of destruction. Part of it may in fact have been that, but the opening chapter was anything but. In fact, it was a rather moving account of what it was like to fly the low-level incendiary bombing raids over Japan, knowing that the acrid smoke choking you was coming from things that ought never be burnt.

Taft spent considerable time talking about the effect on the victims, eloquently talking about how badly their lives must have been ruined. At the end of the chapter he wrote that he understood the raids had been ordered as part of an overall war effort. He did not regret his role in them, but at the same time he admitted they had killed hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. This was the face of battle, he said, a condition of modern warfare where the lines between civilian and combatant were no longer clearly drawn. It was the reason, he said, that America must be strong to deter future wars and that, eventually, war must be made obsolete.

Four chapters from the end of the book, he explained how this would be done with a variety of weapons, including an ABM system.

Fisher, who’d started reading the book while standing on line for a burger and was now sitting alone at a table eating, flipped to the notes at the back. There was a section thanking everyone who had helped, including a long list of scientists and military consultants.

Bonham was on the list — as a colonel.

So was Megan, who got her own sentence: “One of the few who truly understands and is dedicated to the future.”

Unable to figure out exactly what that might mean, the agent tucked the book under his arm and went to work on the burger.

Chapter 15

In the space of ninety seconds, everything had gone from perfect to seriously fucked up. Not only had the Indian MiGs resumed their course northward, but another group of planes — a mixture of MiG-29s and Su-27s, obviously an attack package with escorts — had just come into the large outer circle of Timmy’s tactical display. And the Pakistanis weren’t sitting on their hands either: The AWACS was reporting F-16s taking off from the base near Lahore, and four S-7s mustering over Islamabad, the capital.

Radars were coming up all across the subcontinent. The Velociraptor’s audible warning system sounded like a frenetic synthesizer, bleating out tones: A missile battery had just come to life about two miles south of Timmy. The computer ID’d it as an SA-8, a Russian-made mobile SAM with a range to about 42,500 feet and approximately ten miles. It hadn’t been briefed: There had been no mention of SA-8s in the Indian inventory. Nothing had locked on the slippery F/A-22V, but he wasn’t feeling particularly warm and fuzzy.

Timmy slid the Velociraptor eastward, pushing to get into an attack position to hit the MiGs at the end of the formation. They’d bunched as they came back north, but were now stringing out into the loose trail they’d flown before. The targets were easy to pick, but the sheer number of planes complicated the attack.

Not for Cyclops. The laser plane’s pilot gave a warning and the oversexed flashlight in its nose went to work. Timmy flexed his fingers on the side stick as Cyclops picked off the members of the flight one by one, taking them at precise fifteen-second intervals. The laser’s operator used his ultrasophisticated targeting gear to create a hot spot in the planes’ wings where their fuel tanks were; it was like putting a balloon against a thousand-watt lightbulb.

A kerosene-filled balloon. Even at fifteen miles away, Timmy could see the fireballs as the first planes in the formation popped. The third plane began to turn; that bought it perhaps ten seconds. Timmy looked at his tactical screen as the aircraft began to separate, aware now that they were in deep, unprecedented shit.

He had five octagonal targets in the middle circle. The MiG closest to him — twelve miles ahead on a direct line from his right wing root — blinked in the screen, then disappeared as the laser firing indicator lit. The other planes ducked east and west; one disappeared, apparently running into a mountain as it tried to escape.

Timmy pulled the Velociraptor south with a sharp bank and roll, acrobatically sliding around to follow the farthest plane if it got out of Cyclops’s range. It was unnecessary; he’d barely gotten his wings back level when the last Indian exploded. Poor fucking bastard.

It had taken just under three minutes to eliminate eight aircraft. Captain Robinson, who would objectively rank no lower than the top five percent of fighter pilots in the world and who was flying unarguably the world’s most advanced jet, would have taken at least twice as long to shoot down half that number from close range — and even then would have had to consider himself incredibly lucky, and his opponents incredibly stupid.

31

Жанры

Деловая литература

Детективы и Триллеры

Документальная литература

Дом и семья

Драматургия

Искусство, Дизайн

Литература для детей

Любовные романы

Наука, Образование

Поэзия

Приключения

Проза

Прочее

Религия, духовность, эзотерика

Справочная литература

Старинное

Фантастика

Фольклор

Юмор

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