Friday, July 4, 2014

For Independence Day: Arms Race.

[Pax Americana. Roll the phrase around in your mind for a bit. Savor the flavor. Ponder all the good we did in the world during our years of unchallenged dominance. Then ask yourself a few questions:
  • How much "good" did we really do?
  • What price did we pay for doing all that "good?"
  • Did we make any "friends," or mostly inspire enmity?
  • If the Pax were to be made permanent, would we be happy with the consequences?

Herewith, a bit of fiction for you. Think it over. -- FWP]


    Stephen Graham Sumner’s expression was a portrait of astonishment stippled with horror.
    “How?” was all he could bring himself to whisper.
    Tyszczenko smiled. “By breaking a rule.”
    “What rule?”
    “The first rule of genetics, sir. The rule that says that your genes’ effects on you are determined entirely at conception, independent of any subsequent experience.” He flicked a hand at the apparatus behind him. “It was a foolish notion from the very beginning. What we’ve learned about cancer should have disillusioned us long before this.”
    He turned and beamed at his device with evident pride. “The secret to inducing mutagenesis lies in electromagnetic resonance. It wasn’t an easy hypothesis to test. Much of the garbage lying around the human genome either lacks a resonant frequency or does nothing of interest when it’s stimulated. But a pair of genes on chromosome six, and another pair on chromosome seventeen, do possess resonant frequencies–as it happens, the very same one–and when bombarded with that frequency induce runaway teratomorphism.” The biophysicist’s smile turned bloodthirsty. “Imagine a satellite equipped with my device, a precision aiming mechanism, and sufficient power. At your command it could reduce anyone in the world to a quivering mass of unrecognizable flesh. No longer sentient. No longer human.
    Sumner closed his eyes and breathed deeply, struggling to calm himself. When he opened them, Yuri Tyszczenko was still there, arms crossed and smiling gently.
    “Mr. President, I think you can see why I asked that this meeting be entirely unwitnessed.”
    “Have you...” The president’s voice failed briefly. “Have you made your discovery public yet?”
    “Good heavens, no!” Tyszczenko shook his head vigorously. “We don’t want anyone else replicating this discovery. It completely transforms warfare. It gives you the power to visit unthinkably horrible degradation and suffering on whoever might oppose you. Whoever might displease you. It allows you to take innocent men off the battlefield—men guilty of no more than having volunteered to serve their country—and put their leaders on it, naked and alone. This,” the biophysicist said as he caressed the device’s gleaming flank, “is the key to a true Pax Americana...one that need never end.”
    “And you would trust the president of the United States with this?” Sumner said.
    “Of course I would! You, sir, are the first man since Washington who has genuinely earned the right to sit in this office.” Tyszczenko glanced up at the Gilbert Stuart portrait that hung above the mantel. “I have no doubt that he’s been watching and waiting for a man of your character and caliber for more than two hundred years.”
    “Yet I won’t be, God forbid, the last man to sit here,” Sumner murmured. “By gifting this to the president, you would be trusting my successors quite as completely as myself.”
    Tyszczenko’s expression turned mischievous. “If you choose to have a successor, sir.”
    “Ah.” Sumner looked down as if in thought. “I assume you have...suggestions for the first targets.”
    All pleasure drained from the biophysicist’s expression. He faced Sumner squarely, spread his feet slightly, and clasped his hands behind his back. “One, Mr. President, if you should choose to hear it.”
    Sumner cocked an eyebrow.
    “Anatoly Danilovich Borisenko.”
    Sumner’s mouth quirked. “He has been something of a thorn in our flesh lately, hasn’t he?”
    Tyszczenko said nothing.
    “Allow me a moment, would you please, Yuri?” Sumner circled his desk and pressed the intercom button.
    “Yes, Mr. President?”
    Sumner chuckled. “Sally, please! Haven’t I asked you to call me Steve?”
    “Well, yes, sir. But—”
    “Let it pass for the moment. First, please cancel all the meetings on today’s docket and hold all calls. Second, would you scare up Chris D’Alessandro and Geoff Nolan and have them join me in the Oval Office, please?”
    “At once, Mr....Steve.”
    “Thank you, dear.” Sumner turned back to Tyszczenko. “We’ll have some company in just a moment.” The biophysicist’s face clouded. He started to object, but Sumner held up a hand, and he subsided. “Two persons I trust beyond anyone else in the world. I assure you, you’ll be pleased to meet them.”
    “Yes, sir.” Tyszczenko returned to passivity.
    Less than a minute later the door opened. Secret Service Agent Geoffrey Nolan and presidential advisor without portfolio Christine D’Alessandro strode into the Oval Office. They spied Tyszczenko’s device simultaneously, took positions flanking it, and halted.
    “Mr. President?” Nolan said.
    Sumner smiled. “Thank you for being so prompt, friends. I imagine you find this apparatus a trifle mysterious.”
    “What’s it for, sir?” D’Alessandro murmured.
    Sumner’s smile broadened into a mask of triumph. He circled his desk and wrapped an arm around the shoulders of a surprised but immensely pleased Yuri Tyszczenko.
    “For taking over the world.”
    With that, Sumner’s grip on the biophysicist shifted. He took Tyszczenko’s head in an inescapable grip and wrenched it sideways with his full strength. Tyszczenko had only an instant to register his surprise before he slumped to the Oval Office floor, the life gone from his body.
    Nolan and D’Alessandro gaped.
    Sumner looked down at his handiwork and made the Sign of the Cross.
    “May God forgive him all his sins and welcome his soul into his nearness,” Sumner murmured. “He only did what he thought was right and necessary...as I just did.”
    He turned to his other guests.
    “I meant what I just said about taking over the world. Yuri made it possible. It must not be possible, at least not for the present. Would you like to hear the details? Or to summon the police?”
    D’Alessandro shook her head. Nolan muttered “No, sir.”
    Sumner nodded. “Thank you for that.”
    “Steve,” D’Alessandro said, “I’d have...taken care of him for you.”
    Sumner grinned ruefully. “I know you would have, Chris. Geoff would have, too, if I’d asked him. But this blood has to be on my hands. With no one between him and me. This was my sole decision. It had to be my action as well. I don’t want anyone else to bear the least part of the culpability. Geoff, does the Detail have a sledgehammer handy?”
    “I can find out, Mr. President.”
    “Please do. And then do...what’s appropriate with this contraption, and scatter the bits widely. Chris, I’d appreciate it if you’d see to the disposal of Yuri’s remains.”
    D’Alessandro nodded. “I will.”
    “Thank you both. Now I think I should be alone for a while.”
    The two departed in silence. Sumner glanced down at the corpse once more, seated himself at his desk, and dropped his face into his hands.

==<O>==

UPDATE: You can download the above story from Smashwords.

1 comment:

  1. And now for a horror story beyond imagination: Image Obama with such a device.

    ReplyDelete

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