Castle Roland

Book II - Global Explorer

by David McLeod


Chapter 20

Published: 30 Jul 15

Global Explorer II

by David McLeod

Black Bread, Borscht, and Vodka

_Global Explorer_
Tommy Samson's Quarters
March 11, 0300 hours

Artie was reluctant to accept Tommy's invitation for a sleepover after their watch.

"Tommy, the other boys . . . they'll figure out that we're . . . you know, doing sex things."

"Artie? I don't like that expression—sex things I mean. I want what we're doing to be boyfriend things. That's a lot more than sex, you know."

Artie froze. Then, he blushed and looked at Tommy. "Do you, really? Are we really boyfriends?"

"That is what I want. Is that what you want?"

"Yes, Tommy. And as long as it's boyfriend things, I don't . . . I mean, then whatever anybody thinks is okay with me."

The White House, East Wing
Washington, DC
Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

The daily briefing, given by the president's press secretary, contained little news. The reporters were primed, however.

"What can you tell us about the nuclear fusion power plants Anconia Industries has built in Canada and Arizona?" A reporter for a notoriously right-wing cable network pre-empted Helen's privilege to open the questioning.

Before the press secretary could answer, a deeper voice spoke.

"Maybe I should answer that," President Hawkins said. He stepped to the lectern. "Please, keep your seats."

"Good morning, Helen," he said, deliberately ignoring the first reporter. "What can you tell us other than what was in yesterday's sermon?"

His question didn't slow the veteran reporter's answer. "We have some recent images from a South Korean photoreconnaissance satellite that show construction near Canadian Forces Station Alert. It includes a large transformer yard and some decidedly strange buildings. We found the same thing in Arizona. We've already released that on the wire and our internet site."

"Your usual good work, Helen, and I'm not surprised that you would be on top of this. I suppose the rest of you have seen that?" There were nods and mumbles from the press corps who had been scooped by Helen and her colleagues.

The president continued. "I spoke yesterday with Mr. Francisco Anconia. You all know we are friends, so that shouldn't surprise anyone.

"Mr. Anconia confirms that they have helped build hydrogen power plants in Canada and Arizona with the cooperation of the government of Nunavut and the government of the Navajo Nation.

"You should know that while Nunavut is fairly autonomous, it is part of the Canadian Confederation, and that the Canadian Prime Minister, the Governor General, and the Lieutenant Governor in Nunavut were aware of this project. The government of the Navajo Nation was also aware of their project.

"The Nunavut plant will supply power to a rather large fish hatchery as well as Canadian Forces Station Alert, and—as lines are run—to parts of Nunavut. There are already plans to built a second plant at a more southern site that hasn't yet been selected."

"The plant on the territory of the Navajo Nation will power a carbon sequestration plant and, later, carbon nanotube manufacturing, as well as powering portions of the Navajo Nation. Plans for a second plant are in the works."

The president paused just long enough for a score of reporters to shout, "Mr. President!"

Now the president recognized the first reporter.

"Mr. President, you said hydrogen power plant but you didn't say anything about nuclear fusion. Is this a fusion plant?"

"Shawn, the science behind the plant is proprietary, and is restricted to the operators of the plants, who all are citizens of Nunavut or the Navajo Nation, and to the engineers of Anconia Industries. I suspect Mr. Anconia is at least aware of it, but he did not describe it except to say that it was clean and safe. As far as I'm concerned, that is all that is important. I hope that you are getting your science from somewhere other than a sermon?"

Helen kept from laughing long enough to say, "Thank you, Mr. President." Her words were the traditional, formal conclusion of the press conference—no matter what Shawn or anyone else wanted—and allowed the reporters to rush from the room.

Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC, USA
March 12, 2018 10:40 AM

The senators from Arizona and the junior senator from Wyoming had been invited to join the camarilla that met in Senator Randolph's office. Senator Randolph had also invited five others, men from both the House and the Senate, who owed him favors.

Nancy Peligrini had not been invited, but had arrived anyway. No one had the gumption to turn her away.

It took a few rounds of talk before everyone had vented his or her spleen. One of the lobbyists then brought people back to reality. "There are no federal laws prohibiting hydrogen fusion. Our first step will be to make sure there are. The effect on coal, oil, and gas production isn't going to get people behind us. You all know that our best weapon is fear and our second best weapon is doubt. Don't forget how many years we were able to block federal regulation of the tobacco industry with those tactics.

"Fear of a nuclear explosion in Arizona with fallout spreading across the country will get this bill passed."

"My man at the Department of Energy says even if the plant were to blow up, there wouldn't be any radiation. It's not that kind of reaction," Senator Zinio said.

"He knows to keep his mouth shut, I hope," the lobbyist said.

The Arizona senator nodded. "He does."

"Any news from your man on the Explorer?" one of the lobbyists asked.

"Nothing other than what we already know," Senator Randolph said.

The right-wing talk radio hosts were especially busy that morning.

"What kind of name is Anconia, anyway? Did juh see who got them things first? In-juns and Es-kee-moos."

"The question is, who knew about this, and when did they know it?"

"You gotta wonder what they're hiding."

"Ben Gazi. They're trying to cover up Ben . . . "

"I seen the images and as an engineer I can assure you that them huge air handlin' units are for cooling their reactors. They'll be pumping heat and radiation into the atmosphere . . . "

"The only people who can measure the radioactivity are government scientists and the university people. But the university people are in the government's pockets . . . "

"Remember back in 2013 when they had that leak at Yucca Flats, and they said it wasn't any worse than a home smoke detector? Well, as big as these things are, the radiation's going to be a million times worse."

"Take a good look at the weather map. The fallout will cover Dallas, Little Rock, Memphis, Atlanta, Charlotte and probably a lot more. And it's going to take more than plastic wrap and duck tape to protect you, this time."

She-Crab Restaurant
Washington, DC Waterfront
March 12, 2018, 12:00 Noon

"I didn't think you liked these waterfront tourist traps," Elder #2 said.

"Don't." Elder #1 said. "But the she-crab soup at this one is divine."

"What is our man in the Senate going to do about this?" The Bishop's question brought the men down to Earth.

"Randolph has assembled a team from the congress as well as from K Street. The lobbyists include some of the legal minds that defended tobacco years ago, the CFC industry when they were blamed for the ozone hole, and more recently, the energy companies against claims by environmentalists that they're responsible for global warming."

"Are they believers?"

"For the most part, they are. Senator Zinio is not a member of the Church, and Representative Peligrini is from California—and known for her un-Christian views on homosexuality.

"Randolph says he has someone on the Explorer?"

"Yes. His son."

_Global Explorer_
Off of Amery Ice Shelf
and Schools on the West Coast
March 13, 2018

Despite the eleven-hour time difference I was so looking forward to the videoconference with the USA west coast schools. We had burned up, and recreated, a bunch of strange matter in the neutrino circuit as we planned for this. Dad chuckled when Francesca and I briefed him, and we knew we'd won his approval.

The mass of notes Nicky had handed me plus the stack of message forms from Bobby were overwhelming. It was okay; I knew that we were going to have a surprise.

I polled the schools, and listened to them cheer their sports teams. I put up video taken from an HDTV camera on the mast. It showed the Amery Ice Shelf. Then, I showed some drawings explaining ice shelves and why there was concern about their melting faster than land-bound glaciers—and some video taken by our kids under the ice shelf. Then, I changed the format of the presentation.

"We usually talk about the Explorer and its mission, and then open up for questions. Your teachers tell me you've all seen a video of that talk, and asked that we go directly to questions. But first, I want to introduce Ensign Nicholas O'Brien, one of the scientists on this mission; Ensign Tommy Samson, who is a nuclear engineer; and another scientist, Mr. Artie Michaels. They have something very special to show you."

The boys displayed one of the spare sensor packs and explained that it not only held sensors, but also a hydrogen power generator. Then, they hooked the sensor to some meters, dunked it in a beaker of water, and started the fusion reaction. Just as I had shown Nicky last year.

"This little gadget is now generating 250 watts of electricity to power the sensors and transmitter inside.

"It's hydrogen power, just like the bigger ones in Nunavut and Arizona. You don't have to be a nuclear scientist to know that if it were radioactive, the sensor pack isn't big enough to shield us from that radiation."

Nicky brought out one of those "paddlewheels in a globe" things that rotated when struck by sunlight. He showed how light from a penlight flashlight would make it whirl.

"I could fake a Geiger counter or scintillation counter," he said. "But the only thing this globe will block is alpha particles. If the sensor power supply were giving off any beta particles, gamma rays, or other radiation it would penetrate the globe and the paddles would spin."

He put the globe beside the module. No movement. Artie shone a penlight on the paddles, and they spun madly.

The kids were pretty quiet after that demonstration, and I didn't have any trouble starting the Q&A session.

"Let's see," I said. "Looks as if Loma Linda is first. Who's got a question?"

"Are all the air ducts and fans for cooling? Are you putting more heat into the air?" The kid had apparently seen the images on the AP web site.

"No and yes. The ducts and fans are part of our carbon sequestration process. We're pulling in air, separating out the CO2, splitting that into carbon and oxygen, and releasing the oxygen back into the air. The process is endothermic—cooling. The power for the fans comes from the hydrogen plant, next door. The hydrogen plant is heat-neutral. However, we are producing electricity for home and commercial use. That will create heat. But, we're balancing that by replacing carbon-based electricity with hydrogen-based electricity and by removing a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere."

"San Francisco? You're next."

&sciencetruthnolies: idiots in ufc don't know endothermic from exothermic or fission from fusion

That message came only minutes after we signed off from the conference.

"He's figured it out," Artie said.

"Probably," Tommy said, and then hugged him.

"So, what's next on the program?" Artie said.

"It's ten PM," Alexander deadpanned a television announcer. "Do you know where your boyfriend is?"

Artie blushed, and blushed even more brightly when Tommy took his hand to lead him to their quarters.

Ergon Energy Board Room
Bala Cynwyd, PA
March 13, 2018 @ 1:00 PM

An unbiased observer would have immediately seen differences between the men who sat around this table, and the three men from the UFC. Where the UFC Bishop and Elders had smooth, pale faces and soft hands, the faces of the men of the Ergon Energy Corporation were lined, rough, and tanned; their hands were likewise rough, and gnarled with arthritis. These were men who had worked, and worked hard, throughout their lives.

The two groups of men were, however, alike in their ruthless pursuit of wealth and power.

"Anconia dropped out of the energy business just before the so-called gas crisis of 1972. They got out before they got hurt. They knew something. Now, they know something else, and are getting back into the game."

"It's an entirely different game. Large, fixed power plants."

"Petroleum and natural gas have been providing a consistent 30% of all fuel for electricity for the past several years. That's not likely to change, especially since power companies are mortgaged to the hilt for the natural gas plants they were forced to build."

"We'll still hold a lock on the transportation sector, and fertilizer."

"What do our Canadian friends have to say?"

"They're pretty quiet. Don't forget, the first Anconia plant was in Canada."

"Do you suppose they know something we don't."

The chairman's snort was his answer.

Moscow, Russia
Jonathan's Journal
March 14, 2018

Spetsnaz or "special purpose forces" had earned a bad reputation under both the communists and the post-communist thugs who had ruled Russia. I had quickly re-named our special forces units, "защитники детей и людей," or "Protectors of the Children and the People." Actually, it sounded better in Russian than it did in English, although "Protectors" translated nicely and sufficiently.

Eighty-some members of the American, British, Australian, and Canadian forces that had worked for months to take out the KGB had agreed to remain here, serving as a cadre to create my army of Protectors. Russians—Cossacks and Hussars, as well as members of the regular armed forces—were being incorporated and integrated into Protector Regiments as fast as they could be screened and trained.

Each unit had attached to it at least one cadet from a now-defunct military school in the Crimea. Only Davey and I knew that the cadets were dryads.

Now, I had found a mission for them.

Twelve hundred forty-seven former KGB low-to-mid-level operatives and agents, as well as diplomatic personnel, had been identified by dryads and arrested by soldiers from the USA, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia. These men and women had been brought to Lubyanka Prison, in Moscow. How to deal with them had finally bubbled to the top of my "to do" list; I asked that they be brought to St. Pete, but Davey convinced me it would be easier for me to travel to Moscow.

This was to be my first trip within Russia, and I was a bit uncertain. There were several options: I could fly. I could travel in a private rail car, I could travel in coach class with others, or I could travel in the caboose.

"The caboose?" I asked Davey.

"The caboose," he said. There was a sparkle in his eyes, and I knew what answer he wanted from me.

Mother and Jaf's father, as well as the Pretender had vetoed the idea of riding in the caboose. For me, anyway. I sensed Davey's genuine disappointment and surprised him when Leonid showed up to lead him and Jaf to the rear of the train. Leonid and two youngsters from the Protectors would serve as Jaf and Davey's security.

On the other hand, I vetoed the idea of a private parlor car, and rode, with a security detail, in a regular coach. With hard wooden seats. And a babushka who served tea and ignored the men's weapons.

Davey had a grand time, drinking tea and sharing black bread, borscht, and—I think—a shot or two of vodka with the brakemen in the caboose.

Dryads had scanned all of the ex-KGB people, and identified perhaps a third of them who might be trusted to work for, and not against, the government.

On this morning, those select people were brought to an auditorium at Lomonosov Moscow State University. As they filed in, the plastic ties around their wrists were removed. There were twice as many guards as prisoners, and there were dryads among the guards.

"All rise for His Imperial Highness, Jonathan the First Romanov."

The few who elected to remain seated were prodded, not gently but not electrically, either.

"Citizens of Russia," I said. "You have been tried under the procedures your masters in the old KGB created. You have been found guilty of crimes against the people of this country and, in some cases, against the country itself. Your trials were unlike those conducted by your former KGB masters in that you had legal counsel and were present during all aspects of your trials. You know the evidence against you.

"It is now my duty to confirm sentences ranging from five years in prison to lifetime incarceration.

I paused. This was going to be the real test.

"I do not want to do that," he said. "Rather, I would offer you an option. It is something called community service. Given your backgrounds and experience, it would be an unusual kind of community service.

"You are accustomed to working in the shadows and there are still many shadows in this country. There is still darkness.

"There are still those who think our children are a commodity, to be bought and sold, to be killed when they have fulfilled their purposes.

"There are still those who believe that the waste from their manufacturing and chemical processes can be dumped onto the land and into the water.

"There are those who hold title to land and businesses through fraud, nepotism, and forgery. Some of these people are your former masters and colleagues. You do not owe them anything. Most especially you do not owe them your loyalty.

"I offer you an opportunity to work for Mother Russia rather than against her. If you fulfill those obligations, I will give you a full pardon.

"There are some stipulations.

"First, you have one chance, only. One betrayal, and your original sentence will be imposed. Depending on the nature of the betrayal, additional charges may be brought.

"Second, you will be supervised by the men who brought you here, and will accept their orders and assignments as if they came directly from me.

"There are two doors near the front of the auditorium. If you accept this offer and these terms, exit through the door on your right. If you prefer to serve your sentence, exit through the door on your left."

"All rise!" the Marine Colonel commanded.

This time, no one had to be prodded. Jonathan left the stage, and the Marine Corps Colonel, a Raider, in a camo uniform unadorned save for a patch on his left shoulder, a patch bearing the Romanov crest, stepped to the lectern. "You heard him. Choose your door, and exit."

Surprisingly, 174 elected the left-hand door. Maybe they thought they'd be offered parole, or time-off for good behavior. Wasn't going to happen.

Two hundred twenty five selected the right-hand door. Now, we had to find jobs for them.

Davey and Jaf, as well as their security detail, rode the caboose back to Moscow. This time, I insisted on joining them.

As soon as the train left the station, Davey called Alexander to let him know what we had done. It was likely that our "shadow men" would encounter some of the forces that Alexander's Uncle Pershing (and maybe Nicky's mommy and her CIA connections) had operating in the old satellite countries, and we didn't want people who were all "on our side" shooting at one another.

After a few minutes, Davey ended the N-phone call.

"Davey? Leonid's not feeling well," Jaf said.

"Has he had . . .?" I mimed tossing back a jigger of vodka.

Jaf nodded.

"Well, no more, then," I said. "For any of you." I knew that Leonid was a child, and had gotten over my concern that he and Jaf were boyfriends. On the other hand, he was a dryad, and something beyond my understanding.

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