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CHAPTER FIFTY-SIX

Things weren't going exactly the way I had expected. I had always understood that when you won a war it was a big event, so big that you stopped everything else to celebrate it. Extensively, with dancing in the streets, bands playing, maybe a ticker-tape parade down Broadway for the returning heroes with everybody laughing and drinking and hugging the handiest stranger.

There was no trace of any of that. When I looked at the screen what I saw was a free-for-all scramble for loot. The President had had nearly two hundred ambassadors all trying to make urgent diplomatic representations at once-plus every major executive in his own administration, plus Congress, plus every news medium and just about every single individual in the world who happened to know the telephone number of the White House. That was bad news for the deputy director's probable desire to have me shot. He would need the President's permission for that, and the President looked to be a lot too busy to give my personal future much of a thought.

See, that was the other thing that was different about winning this war.

As I understand it, the way it was usually done was that the victors took what they wanted that had formerly belonged to the losers-it was what they called the "spoils of war"-and everybody was happy (well, everybody except the losers).

This time it couldn't work out that way. The victors were everybody in the human race. But there were spoils of war, all right, mostly comprising those twenty-five free-ranging Scarecrow submarines. Each one of those subs was packed with so much priceless Scarecrow technology that every last nation on Earth was demanding to have one for its very own, and there just weren't anywhere near enough of the things to go around.


It was Pirraghiz who shook me loose from the news screen. "Are you all right, Dannerman?" she asked worriedly, touching my forehead with one lesser arm, like any human mother. "You appear to be near clinical exhaustion."

"I'm fine," I said, although it wasn't true. She peered incuriously at the screen, but didn't ask me what was going on and I didn't volunteer. "What's happening with the subs?"

She was looking worried. "The submarines are quite intact, but there is a problem," she said. "The crews no longer have functioning transit machines."

I was too tired to take her meaning right away. "Damn straight they don't! They're going to keep them that way, too."

She gave me one of those six-armed shrugs. "That is the problem," she said. "The crews will be getting hungry."


Well, I couldn't have thought of everything. It simply had not occurred to me that the transit machines were what kept the sub crews supplied with food and water. I swore a little bit, and then said reluctantly, "I guess we could make more food for them with the machine here, but maybe we're going to have to let them surrender themselves so we can get it to them.";

"Perhaps not, Dannerman," she offered. "Wrranthoghrow says it is possible for the crews to rework the machines so that there can be no incoming, but they can be used to make copies from stored data. Is that all right?"

"If he's sure," I said reluctantly.

She looked at me with reproof. "Of course he is sure. I will tell him to give the order." And all the time she was talking she had begun touching me all over in the way I had become used to while I was recovering in the compound. "You require much more rest," she informed me, motherly and stern. "You cannot continue with this work without sleep indefinitely. Is it now an appropriate time to copy your translation module so that one may be inserted in some of your conspecifics?"

I blinked at her. I hadn't been thinking about that possibility. When she brought it back to my mind it seemed like the best idea I'd ever heard. Sharing the translation work with two or three of the linguists would delight them, and let me get a little time off-not to mention a little time to think about such personal matters as what I wanted to do about Patrice. On the other hand-

On the other hand, I had got pretty used to being the most important man in the world. I temporized. "We'll see about that when we get all this straightened out. How long will it take the crews to rejigger their machines?"

When she told me it seemed a reasonable time, so we began checking the subs, one by one, to make sure they could handle the job. And while we were doing that I felt Colonel Makalanos tap me on the shoulder. "It's Brigadier Morrisey," he said. "She's outside the sub and she wants to talk to you right away."

I thought about telling Hilda what I had told the deputy director. Still, getting out of the sub for a few minutes sounded pretty good to me, and besides, Hilda wasn't the deputy director. She was always thorny and sometimes she was just damned brutal, but she was my friend.

So I climbed the ladder up to the hatch and clambered down the one on the other side, breathing deeply of the cleaner air. Hilda was waiting for me at the foot of the ladder. "Well, Hilda," I said, "what's it going to be? Are you going to discipline me?"

Her box stirred slightly on its wheels. She said, "Not me, no. The President might, though. He wants to see you."

That wasn't good news. I stared at her vision plate that didn't look back. "Have a heart, Hilda! I can't leave here to go traipsing of to the White House."

"Who said White House? The President's got the idea that you're a VIP, Danno. Important enough for him to come to you. Right now his plane should be about touching down on the landing strip. Pop another wake-up pill and get over there. He'll be waiting for you."


CHAPTER FIFTY-FIVE | The Far Shore of Time | CHAPTER FIFTY-SEVEN



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