"There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience." ~ French proverb
Minerva, Chapter 40
'So that's where we stand,' Peckard said to the other Trust board members. 'With their stepped up patrols, we run out of fuel reserves in fifteen days if we do nothing.'
Ribald stared at the table in front of him. He couldn't bring himself to look at Peckard.
'And the thing with China . . . ?' Kennedy hoped.
'The thing with China ,' Peckard said, 'fell through when the U.S. fleet gained twenty-five kilometers. My contacts thought the deal would work when we were locked in a stalemate, but they don't want to back a loser.'
'So what are our options?' someone asked.
'Well,' Peckard said, 'we could knock out another wave of satellites. Of course, this time it's mostly commercial ones that the U.S. has requisitioned, so it won't fly as well in the courts.'
'That won't buy us much,' Brady said. 'With so many aircraft and as close as they are, they can pretty well seal us off without satellites.'
'I was thinking,' Peckard said, 'we could just ground our jets, and tell the White House what we're doing. Feynman tells me that the Trust is technically only liable for the taxes that would have to be paid should an outside government conquer the island. We wouldn't have to indemnify policyholders for the loss in market value.'
Peckard could tell from the men's faces that this would not pass a vote.
'Gentlemen, relax,' Peckard said, 'I'm just brainstorming here. We've also got the EMP wildcard . . . .'
The men were suddenly alert. Months ago, Peckard had sought and gained their approval for research into a low-yield nuclear device. Its electromagnetic pulse (EMP) could disrupt unprotected electronics, and would be capable of temporarily crippling an entire carrier group.
'Is it ready?' Ribald asked.
'Yes, it passed the final tests while I was away,' Peckard lied. The tests had actually been completed two weeks earlier.
'I've also arranged for several small tankers to position themselves right here,' Peckard said, pointing to a wall map. 'If we take out a carrier, we can bring in another two months' of oil while the U.S. reestablishes its perimeter.'
'I never heard about the tankers,' Brady objected. 'Were you going to go ahead with your plan without telling us?'
'I'm telling you right now,' Peckard said. 'Whatever we do, we'll need to get tankers in here. I just saved us the time of waiting for them to move into position.'
'And I suppose you've got the subs ready, too?' Brady asked.
'Of course,' Peckard said. 'It doesn't take much; they just need to move in and fire their torpedoes after the EMP blast. The crews haven't gotten their orders yet; I don't want to spill the beans.'
'And you don't know if we'll even vote with you,' Brady reminded him.
'Of course,' Peckard said with a smile. 'I just want to give you gentlemen as many options as possible.'
'And you're sure this is legal?' someone asked.
'It's perfectly legal,' Feynman answered. 'We have to allow surprise inspections of our labs, and our reinsurance premiums are astronomical because of the enriched uranium, but yes, it's legal. If the EMP knocks out a fishing boat's radio, we're liable for that, of course. But our subs have every right to sink a blockading U.S. carrier off our coast.'
'And we're sure about the ABM satellites?' Ribald asked.
'Absolutely,' Maynard answered. 'Our lasers will knock out any ICBMs the U.S. might launch.'
'What about submarine launches?' Brady asked.
'Our intelligence indicates that there are at most three subs with nuclear warheads in our waters,' Peckard answered. 'Our Defenders can take care of whatever they might fire.'
'And if they deploy their entire fleet?' Brady pressed. 'I don't like the idea of nuclear missiles being launched at us from point blank range.'
'I've already placed the orders for more minelayers and sub nets,' Peckard said. 'We'll have plenty of time to prepare if the U.S. sends more submarines.'
'I appreciate your concerns,' Peckard said after a few moments of silence. 'But gentlemen, we're not even 'nuking' them. All we're doing is knocking out their electronics so we can sneak a few conventional torpedoes past their defenses. After it's done, we immediately go on the air and tell the U.S. to pull back its remaining ships to 250 kilometers, or else we take out an additional carrier every twenty-four hours. Black will obviously do so, and in the meantime we'll replenish our supplies. The world will see that we can't be beaten, and we can negotiate a gradual withdrawal.'
That's not going to happen at all, Brady thought.