Sunlight, ch. 3: Mary Rucker [null]

Monitoring: Mary Rucker [null]
Madison, Wisconsin, USA

2:50 p.m. Central Standard Time
Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
19:50 Coordinated Universal Time
Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Fast forward—

“Do you think that he’s awake in there?” says Mary?

To her left is the director of the CIA, calmly eating a fist-sized ice cream sandwich. In front of her, through the viewing window that separates them from the room in which he lies, is Michael William, who was born on the first of January, is fourteen years old, and fell into a coma less than two weeks after Simon and the other children received their powers.

“I doubt it,” answers the director. “Better safe than sorry, though.” He takes another bite of his ice cream sandwich. Mary isn’t entirely sure that food like that is allowed on this floor, but nobody’s given him any trouble over it. “Maybe he’ll wake up one day. Maybe he was never involved in any of this, and he’s just a weird kid.”

There’s no discernible cause behind his condition. That’s highly suspicious, given the circumstances, but there’s little that PALATINATE can do about it but make sure that he’s in he best of health in all other ways, and check up on him personally from time to time. Mary thought that she would be handling that, and indeed she is, but the director, too, seems to have more than a passing interest in the boy’s condition, and is as well-acquainted with the visiting hours and protocols as she.

“But if he’s not… I wonder what he could do. Cure cancer, or inflict it? Turn nuclear waste into gold? Read our minds?” she says, and the director stiffens. Evidently, he doesn’t like the idea of that any more than she does.

The director shrugs and pops the last bite of ice cream sandwich into his mouth. “Probably best to not worry too much about it. We have other things on our plate.” He says it with a tone that suggests that Mary is about to see them on her plate very soon, and nods his head in the direction of the elevator.

They descend five floors to the parking garage before the director speaks again. “The Indians found one of their children,” he says, and he drops the ice cream sandwich wrapper in a trashcan as he passes by. “We don’t know how, but apparently it happened very quickly, and they’re busy searching for more, just as we are. We don’t know how many they’ve found, or how many there are to be found.”

“Have they told anyone else?”

“We aren’t sure. Israel, probably. Possibly Russia, depending on how worried they are about the Chinese. The risk of a large Chinese outfit of empowered children would be unsettling to the both of them. They’ve almost certainly told the United Kingdom, with means that Canada will know.”

“It would have been helpful to know that when we started,” Mary says, a little more sharply than she intended, but not as sharp as she’s feeling. “What are we supposed to tell the Canadian government? ‘Sorry for neglecting to mention that we’ve been using one of your citizens for our intelligence operations. Oh, and double sorry for letting him think that we told you.’ That’s going to be a pretty awkward situation when they find out, isn’t it?”

“If they find out, you mean.”

“No, I mean ‘when,’” she hisses back. “We can’t keep the lid on this forever.”

“Keep Simon away from them. Let them think that they just haven’t found any of their children yet, or even that they don’t have any. We don’t know the rules that govern who gets how many children and neither do they, and enough absence of evidence, for a long enough period of time, may not be evidence of absence but does make very loud comments about how maybe they just drew the short straw on this one.”

“That would only work for as long as nobody knows about Simon. Do you expect us to keep him locked up forever?”

“Well, according to your reports, we’re all going to die in the next few years, so no, not forever.” Mary glares at him, and he amends his statement. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. Akvo, however untrustworthy he may be, is still our best source of information on what’s happening, and what he says does align with Simon’s visions. Our best plan is to accept what they’re telling us and assume that our goal is harm reduction, not avoidance. There’s a nuclear exchange on the horizon, less than two years from now, and so far, the only thing that we know is that it has to do with these kids.”

“Do we know what the Indians are doing with theirs?” asks Mary.

“Weapon—no, not weaponizing. Utilizing them, at least. Like I said, we aren’t even totally sure what powers they have at their disposal. It’s a military operation, though, rather than an operation by the Intelligence Bureau or the Research and Analysis Wing.”

“If they handed control over to the armed forces, then that would make a few suggestions about what they plan to do, Most of them involving China.” Mary shakes her head. “We have to talk with the Indians.”

“Excuse me?”

“There doesn’t have to be an apocalypse,” Mary explains. “Even if it’s very likely, even if that’s what Simon’s visions are showing to him and what Akvo thinks is going to happen, it isn’t certain. Right now, we know that there’s going to be a nuclear exchange, at least if we don’t do anything to stop it, and from what you’re telling me, our best candidate for the party that starts it is somewhere in Asia.

“India and Russia have reasons to align themselves against China, who has an ally in Pakistan. All four have nuclear weapons, and it’s more than likely that there are children with superpowers in each of those countries, even if India is the only one to know what’s going on—which is a big ‘if,”’ one that’s too big for me to feel comfortable. I don’t know exactly how many times the world only narrowly avoided a full-blown nuclear war, but it was a lot, and most of them were over accidents and glitches. Now we’re adding superpowers into the mix, superpowers that we don’t even know about, and what’s worse is that nobody else knows what or how many powers the other players have. At least during the Cold War we had a rough idea of what the Soviets could do, and we were still terrified and uncertain. The likelihood that somebody is going to panic is much too great.”

The problem is that there are too many tension points already. China doesn’t like that India could decide to reannex Pakistan, whose location gives the China access to the Arabian Sea. India doesn’t like that much of its water is sourced from Tibet, and could easily be dammed up if China decides to send it east to their drier provinces. Russia is nervous about the long and difficult to fortify border that it shares with China.

Any one of them could blow. Now there are superpowers, and nobody knows who has what, or how many, and the situation may be more liable to blow than it ever has been.

The director is silent. Hopefully he’s giving due consideration to Mary’s words, and thinking over the same things that she knows. They walk together in silence for a minute, and then he finally replies. “I can’t give you an answer right now.”

“Sir, I—”

He shakes his head. “We have more than a year before there’s a war. We can afford to take a day before we commit to a course of action. We should always be wary of doing things that we cannot undo, and if we share our intelligence then that is something that we can’t take back.” The director fishes out his keys, and the car’s locks disengage. “Remember, if the situation is this dicey, we could make any war worse just as easily as we could prevent it. Maybe more easily, even.”

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