Susan
The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey


Chapter Twenty-five: White Sands

    Alex had grown up as an Army brat on bases all over the world. One of his boyhood homes had been at White Sands Missile Range back in the early sixties. Therefore, he knew first hand what it was like to live as a colonist on another planet.
    With only a bicycle for basic transportation, he had been stuck in the desert on the little military base with one movie house (a quarter bought a ticket to a double-feature with a serial episode and a newsreel, a bag of popcorn and a soda), one PX (K-Mart stripped to its bare essentials), one commisary (a very un-super supermarket filled with olive drab cans labeled, 'Beans, white, small, in tomato sauce, with pork'), one school (K through 9 with a boot camp mentality), one church (your choice of generic Protestant, Catholic or Jewish services conducted by the same military chaplain), and one TV station (black-and-white when you could manage to tune it in from El Paso, too far to the south). The actual 'white sand' was at the National Monument between the base and Alamogordo across the flat, treeless valley.
    Housing was strictly segregated according to rank, though not by any other measure. An Army base, even back then, was one of the few truly racially integrated communities on Earth. Most of Alex's friend's mothers were war brides from Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Phillipines, England, China, France, Australia and damned near everywhere else. Gossip was conducted in a colorful amalgam of words and phrases from dozens of languages. It is likely that the Tower of Babel was a gathering place for prehistoric army wives.
    Base social life revolved around the service clubs, with an enlisted men's club (no pool), an NCO club (with a pool) and an officer's club (pool with water in it). Bingo was a staple pastime, inducing in its avidly addicted devotees a zombie-like state that made the passage of time nearly bearable.
    The carefully planned daily routine was delivered each morning via the mimeographed POD (Plan Of the Day), announcing various events that some people might have cared about, and the schedule of static tests. It was good to know the times when all activity had to cease as rocket engines were fired on one or another of the test stands adjacent to the base, the ground-trembling roar drowning out conversations and vibrating dishes out of the open cupboards of new residents.
    Activities for kids were on the sparse side, other than adult-managed stuff like Little League, Boy Scouts and the (shudder) Teen Club, consisting of a pool table in a Quonset hut. You could always go hiking in the desert or up into the Organ Mountains, if you didn't mind heat, cold, flash floods, high winds, snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, Gila monsters, ants, coyotes, mountain lions and an incredible variety of shadeless plants with needles, stickers, spines, razor-sharp leaves, brambles and spikes all over them. Or you could just fight a lot. Sadistic bullies were considered to be athletes by Army lifers and were accorded all the appropriate honors.
    Alex spent most of his spare time in the base library. It was heavy on Army technical manuals and light on classics, but there was a lot of science fiction. He usually checked out twenty or more books a week, and when he eventually ran out of sci-fi, started in on the tech manuals. An alarmed librarian notified his parents of the strange behavior and recommended that they take him to the base dispensary for a medical evaluation.
    Somehow, Alex survived his childhood (which he considered to be normal at the time), having not only read everything ever written by Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke and Twain, but also learning everything there was to know about field-stripping, maintaining, operating and firing every piece of armored artillery the Army had. You never knew when all that could come in handy some day.
    White Sands was the most sensible place in the country to conduct a little demonstration of Sara's capabilities for the elite delegation from DC. The base already had nearly everything that Alex needed, they were used to providing shows for visiting brass, all kinds of high-speed cameras and recording devices were already in place, NASA had a presence there, nearby Holliman AFB provided discreet and convenient airport facilities for special VIP transportation, and a lot of noise and confusion was business as usual out on the firing range. After all, only a little way up the broad, desert valley known as the Jornada del Muerte (Journey of Death) was the Trinity site, where the first atomic bomb was tested. Who knows? Maybe the awful false morning of its unnatural light had been a signal to Sara's makers that her time on our planet was fast approaching.
    Alex wondered if Sara would leave as visible a scar on the desert as the bomb. And if someday it would also become a tourist attraction.

    NASA director Silvers had seen to it that Alex was accorded the kind of treatment usually reserved for the CEOs of major contractors. His wish-list was serviced immediately, bypassing the usual red tape. Bureaucrats who normally would never have given him the time of day called him 'sir'. Important people returned his phone calls. Nobody argued with him. Everywhere he turned, he was treated like a rock star. It was very, very cool, something he could have easily grown to like -- if he had felt like he deserved it. He had to work hard to keep his perspective properly cynical.
    A famous former astronaut accompanied Alex from Ellington Field to Holliman AFB to take a high-profile role in the demonstration. Steve Astin had had his space jock career cut short by a spectacular accident he was lucky to have survived. As it was, he'd had to be fitted with about six-million dollars worth of rather advanced prosthetics and was nearly half machine -- which had made of him something of a 'superman' in his own right. He and Sara had a lot in common in that regard and had hit it off right away, 'freak to freak,' as she called their friendship.
    Astin was Silvers' most trusted and able political liason with Washington. Senators, industrialists, generals and scientists alike succumbed to his charm and celebrity status. He was obviously cultivating a future career in politics and would undoubtedly do well. As an official spokesman for NASA, he had natural presence on TV and was skilled at managing news conferences so as to put the agency's occasional boo-boos in a way that seemed to be actually positive.
    Astin, who was on a first-name basis with most of the guests, would be the one to actually do all the talking while Alex handled things behind the scenes, including Sara. Silvers' transparent ulterior motive was to ensure that these influential people would come away from the demonstration motivated to support increased funding levels for a comprehensive (and never-ending) study of the technology behind Sara's manufacture and possible practical applications in support of scientific missions.
    It was, of course, instinctive empire-building, pragmatically opportunistic and without shame. Silvers knew that Sara's presence could have unforseen -- even disastrous -- effects on the space program, but at the same time he understood that she might open doors that would allow the agency to expand with renewed vigor. The growth imperative is strong in bureaucratic entities (which, as one example, some historians believe accounts for the building of the great pyramids of Egypt).
    The visiting dignitaries had their own agenda. So did Alex.

    Preparations went smoothly, but as the big day dawned -- with the threat of early thunderstorms -- Sara was moody and unresponsive. She made sure that Alex noticed.
    "Did it occur to you," she told him, "That this whole thing is really silly and stupid?"
    "Of course it is," he replied. "That's my specialty."
    "Well, it's not mine. I don't mind putting on a show for people, 'cause I understand that I'm a little outside of normal, but this is too much. It's all like some kinda special effects movie for a bunch of teenagers. These guys aren't really gonna be impressed with all this, are they? I mean, they're grownups, aren't they?"
    "Maybe they are," said Alex, "But I'm not, and neither are you."
    "Come on, Alex. I'm trying to be serious. Which isn't easy dressed up for Halloween."
    "Hey, it's either your uniform or going naked. What d'ya wanna do?"
    "Either way it's embarrasing. I feel like an idiot, showing off while wearing this thing. I'm not a kid anymore, you know. And it's not just that. It's this whole performance. It's just..." She trailed off, seemingly frustrated by Alex's insensitivity to the obvious.
    "It's like some adolescent guy's wet dream," he answered. "Is that what's bothering you? Posing muscularly and impossibly for a bunch of gawkers to get all excited over? Performing gaudy and shallow feats for their amusement?"
    She just looked down and distractedly kicked at a pebble in the sand.
    "OK," he said, taking a deep breath. "Sure, they've seen the reports from NASA, but facts and figures don't have any impact. It's all too esoteric, too unbelievable. These guys aren't dummies, but they're not necessarily the brightest bulbs in the marquee, either. They're gifted with the hard-to-define talent of leadership, the ability to motivate other people to get things done through inspiration and compromise. Scientific evaluations don't mean all that much to them. They need to experience something tangible, something they understand and can make other people understand."
    "Like a tank," she mumbled.
    "Precisely," he replied. "They know tanks. A tank is a powerful machine and a powerful symbol. A tank means a lot more to them -- and the people they'll have to deal with in turn -- than a boxcar full of data."
    "I still think this is stupid," she muttered.
    "No argument," he agreed. "But you have to remember this, too. It may sound corny, but these people are genuinely concerned about their country, the good old US of A. It's their end-all and be-all. They're not a secret cabal that runs things from the shadows or anything, but they are important opinion leaders who happen to be very influential. In their way, they represent the fundamental institutions that actually determine the future and well-being of this nation and all its people. They'll do whatever they believe is necessary to protect those institutions.
    "They're here because they're afraid that you might constitute an unexpected potential threat to the security of the state. You also represent the Cryptoalien civilization that sent you, something that nobody understands, including you -- which nevertheless is as much your responsibility as the fate of the US is their responsibility. It may happen that you'll eventually have to deal with them as something equivalent to a representative of a competing set of sovereign interests. If it comes to that and they understand that they cannot physically threaten you, but that you constitute a potential for unlimited damage to US assets, then such an understanding will eliminate their taking the risk of resorting to force as an option, including laws, regulations or decrees that have an underlying basis in physical coercion for their credibility. They'll have to go to Plan B. Essentially, you'll be treated -- at least 'unofficially' -- as someone having the equivalent of ambassadorial status, the de facto representative of an extraterrestrial superpower."
    "Therefore," he finished with emphasis, "the purpose of this demonstration is to unambiguously inform their councils. Got it?"
    "I guess," she said reluctantly. "You don't think that seeing all this will maybe make them a little paranoid or something? That I might be too dangerous and immature to trust?"
    "Nah. They really believe that God is on their side, so you -- or your Cryptoalien buddies -- oughtta be, too. These people didn't crack during the Cold War, when an ideology and nation they believed was bent on world domination was pointing nuclear missiles at us. The bombs and stuff are still there, but they're capable of acting as if there was no more threat and the former Evil Empire is just a new market. They'll deal with you in whatever way they think will do the most good for the national interest, preferably by being your friend and ally. We just have to make sure that they understand that they have to respect your potential."
    Sara was thoughtful for a while. Alex peeked around the corner of the tunnel-like blockhouse entrance and saw Astin warming up his audience in the shady VIP section of the observation bleachers. There wasn't a whole lot of time left before the thunderclouds piling up across the broad, flat valley closed their weather window.
    Finally, she said, "I can't help thinking about the Dwarves. In my dream, or whatever it was, I thought that showing them I was more than they could possibly handle would make them deal with me rationally. It didn't work. They refused to change their minds about what they were doing and died protecting their 'institutions'."
    Alex took his time answering her. "I think that that's what you have to keep in mind when you're dealing with human nations. If the people who run them ever come to the conclusion that your mission is to subjugate our planet and impose alien values, there is the strong possibility that at least some of us would put up a fight regardless of the consequences, like the Japanese were prepared to do in World War Two -- until," he emphasized, "the atomic bombs informed their councils. Heroic resistance to invasion is a common theme in our sci-fi mythology. I guess that might account for your incarnation as the most non-threatening 'alien' possible. And that's what I'm counting on to counterbalance the violent nature of today's extravaganza. That and your sunny disposition, which seems to have stayed in bed today."
    Sara was lost in thought. Alex tried to imagine the immense resources available to 'Susan' performing unimaginable calculations at incredible speed on every aspect of their little conversation. However, it seemed probable from Alex's experience with her that Sara didn't rely on pure logic to sort things out and crawled through our world at the same pace as the rest of us. For a being who ought to have a five-figure IQ, Sara didn't seem to show much in the way of insight into the human condition. But then, if her consciousness was as powerful as her mechanism, she wouldn't resemble anything even remotely human. For about the umpteenth time, Alex wished he could have a little chat with her creators.
    With Astin signalling that he was way past ready, Sara finally said, "I guess you're right. Don't worry, Alex. I'll do my part. We'll show these characters a thing or three."
    "Alright then! And cheer up. Jeez, you're acting like such a mope. You oughtta be able to play this crowd like a violin. Just act your usual self and don't forget to smile. You impress the powers-that-be in the US and the other 'civilized' countries will follow their lead. So let's wrap this dog-and-pony show up and go home, and you won't have to fool with this kinda crap again. Deal?"
    She sighed, "Deal."

    "Just call me Susan, Senator," said Sara as the imposingly authoritative figure graciously kissed her hand.
    "I am so delighted to meet you, young lady," he intoned mellifluously. "We have all heard so many wonderful things the past few weeks that we just had to meet you. I do hope you will forgive the inconvenience occasioned by our curiosity."
    "Think nothing of it, sir," she replied almost -- but not quite -- deferentially. "Glad to be of service. I just hope I don't disappoint you."
    Sara moved among them gracefully, chatting familiarly and knowledgeably with each one, showing a grasp of their individual interests that flattered them yet challenging them just enough to win their respect. It would appear that she basically charmed the pants off of them, but she knew that their polite chatter was a way for them to test her character and intentions, and whether or not she could be manipulated.
    They were used to this sort of thing. It was the way they waged war and they were good at it. They were surprised and actually somewhat delighted to discover that Sara was as invulnerable to their verbal snares and wit as she was to more mundane projectiles. They collectively came away from the close encounter with the feeling that they could trust her, and that might have been the most remarkable part of the day's demonstration.
    Eventually, the dignitaries took their seats in the bleachers and Astin began the show. Sara levitated to her position as a target about a half-mile away, facing the audience in front of a high, thick berm of piled-up earth.
    About twenty yards in front of the bleachers, slightly off to one side, was the tank. It wasn't exactly the latest model, an M-60 appropriated from the Army boneyard at Fort Bliss. It had been patched up and given a fresh paint job to cover the rust and wear. About the only thing that worked was the enormous 105-mm cannon that poked its way out of the turret into the desert air, pointing directly at Sara, who waved her readiness.
    There had been a slight glitch during rehearsals when the technician who was to have operated the gun refused to actually fire at Sara. He just couldn't do it. Neither could Alex. Nobody wanted to pull the trigger and shoot at the cute blonde target, no matter how finely they appreciated her ability to withstand the blast. They had to rig up a radio activated remote control so that Sara could do it herself. The same squeamishness applied to all of their munitions deliveries. Susan had no problem taking control, though.
    From his position in the blockhouse, Alex announced over the loudspeakers that the first shot would be a high-explosive round. He gave a melodramatic countdown while the onlookers hastily adjusted their earplugs and safety glasses. When the big gun went off at zero, the tremendous muzzle blast slammed a cloud of dust into the air from the bare ground around the tank and hammered the chests of the onlookers like a boxer's blow. They could clearly see the glowing tracer arc into its intended target, hitting Sara directly in the 'S'. There was a flash and huge ball of thick, black smoke that instantly obscured her, followed in seconds by the heavy crunching sound of the projectile's explosion against her chest.
    The slow morning wind gradually blew the cloud away, revealing a completely unaffected Sara, waving cheerily to show she was just fine. TV monitors in shade boxes provided instant slow-motion replay from several angles. There was no doubt that the shell had found its mark and was totally ineffective. She hadn't even flinched, adjusting her position slightly at the last instant so that the impact would be centered perfectly.
    Alex announced that the second shot would be a HEAT round -- High Explosive Anti-Tank. Again, the gigantic flash and fury of the gun pounded the watchers mercilessly, involuntarily rocking them back on the narrow benches. There was a small but brilliant flash as it hit her, the vicious jet of fire designed to explosively melt through steel armor splashing impotently against her slender form in a shower of incandescence.
    The third shot was a sabot round, designed to kinetically punch a relatively thin spike through the thickest armor, spraying the insides of an armored fighting vehicle with a gout of white-hot depleted uranium. The gun spoke thunderously, making the tank recoil violently and shaking the visitors remorselessly. The sabot's guiding shards could be seen flying off to either side as the dense, narrow core went on to find its mark. The rebound pinwheeled away in a cascade of spinning, molten sparks, returning the enormous noise of two hard objects in terrible collision, followed by the hideous whining spall of the projectile's whirling ricochet as it flew high into the air. Again, Sara waved to show she was unharmed. The monitors confirmed a good hit.
    The fourth shot was a lead-filled solid round, no explosives, nothing fancy. The cannon roared gut-wrenchingly as usual, but this time Sara caught the big bullet with her bare hands, then flew back to the bleachers with her trophy. It was hot enough to singe the wooden seat she set it on, so she gently blew on it with her special thick, cold, nearly-liquid nitrogen breath until it frosted over.
    While they gingerly touched it, Sara skipped over behind the blockhouse, returning with a 4,000-pound TV-guided 'bunker buster' bomb under her arm, painted bright orange. She pointed the lens on the front of the bomb at the guests as she walked back to them and the picture from it was displayed on one of the monitors. Once they had a good look at it, she soared off into the deep blue desert sky above them while keeping the camera in its nose aimed at the receding bleachers.
    At about ten thousand feet, Sara rendezvoused with a chase plane whose own camera view was relayed to another monitor. Astin pointed out a spot of white-painted desert less than a mile away that would be the target zone. The delegation glanced nervously at each other, wondering if they should object to their uncomfortable proximity to such a test.
    Before anyone could say anything, Alex announced, "Bombs away," and Sara raced from the free-falling cylinder to take up her position at ground zero. The onlookers could see the orange dash in the sky as it moved down from left to right. Still another monitor displayed a view from behind Sara showing the bomb's rapid approach.
    Fascinated, they craned their necks to watch the bomb's-eye view as Sara's image swelled until it suddenly filled the screen, guided unerringly by Susan's precise radio commands. Two screens turned to static as an enormous fireball out on the desert floor wrenched their attention away, a fountain of smoke shooting into the air above the target as the ground camera behind Sara was destroyed.
    They felt sudden heat on their exposed skin and could see the shimmering shock wave racing toward them, kicking up a curtain of sand and dust. Its arrival slammed at them, whipping their clothes and stinging their faces. Blinking away the afterimage and grit in their eyes, they saw Sara serenely floating back to them from the smoking crater, cape fluttering majestically behind her.
    The visitors were in much worse shape than she was. They were sweating now, hair disheveled, clothing wrinkled and stained. Cordite fumes from the cannon stung their dust-filled nostrils, they were half-deafened in spite of their earplugs, their eyes were inflamed underneath their ineffectual safety glasses, and their throats were parched. One expensive toupee was missing.
    As Sara touched lightly down in front of them, an Honest John tactical artillery missile suddenly took off uprange behind her. She told them, "I'm gonna give it a little head start, then try to catch it."
    The missile had launched in silence leaving a roiling pillar of gray smoke behind it. When the sound unexpectedly reached them a few seconds later, it was worse than the previous bangs and booms, a searing white noise of incredible intensity that only slowly dwindled into a horrific screeching. Sara suddenly darted off after it, catching it easily before it burned out and bringing it back to lay at their feet, its nozzle still smoking, adding to the array of chemical stenches they'd been subjected to so far.
    Astin led the group from their seats to watch the next event, which involved Sara becoming a missile herself, streaking low across the flat, desert floor from the other side of the valley, faster than their eyes could follow, leaving a brilliant meteoric trail of superheated air and a rooster tail of dust as she slammed into the reinforced concrete of an abandoned static test stand built into the side of a two-hundred-foot-high rocky hill at the base of the Organ Mountains behind the bleachers.
    The entire hill disintegrated, the dome of its shattered remains heaving slowly into the air and settling back down in a tremendous pall of dust and falling debris. Aside from the considerable sound, attenuated by distance and echoing ominously from the canyon-riven mountains, the most striking effect was akin to an earthquake, as the overstressed ground rippled shock waves in concentric circles from the site of the catastrophe.
    Alex and the technicians with him scrambled in panic out of the blockhouse as it seemed to shift precariously on its base. All of the dignitaries fell down. Lots of windows were shattered at the not-too-distant military base, along with dishes thrown out of cupboards. People felt the tremors in Las Cruces, down in the Rio Grande valley on the other side of the mountains.
    Sara returned covered with dust and radiating a considerable amount of heat, which quickly faded. She managed to shake off the dust, probably aided by ultrasonics or some kind of electrostatic charge, and soon was none the worse for her experience. Her audience was nearly done in by now, though. Alex and Astin helped them back to their seats in the bleachers and passed out some refreshments.
    "Nearly finished, guys," she told them reassuringly. "Just a couple more things and then we can all go back to the base."
    She went over to the tank and stood beside the gun barrel. "First, I'm gonna make you some souvenirs," she announced, and her lasers flashed, cutting the thick tube into precise slices, like a bunch of big, metal doughnuts. The actinic glare of vaporizing metal was impossible to look at, casting sharply-defined moving shadows in every direction, but it only took her a few seconds. She cooled the heavy rings with her breath and passed them out to everyone. The lands and grooves of the barrel's rifling made them look like gears turned inside-out. In a nice touch, she had laser-etched a copy of her emblem on each one along with her autograph, 'Susan'.
    "Alright, this is the last dance, so bear with me just a few more minutes. I'm gonna melt this thing with x-rays -- in midair."
    The bottom of the vehicle was relatively too thin-skinned for her purposes, so she casually flipped the front of the tank into the air and caught it underneath at the balance point, pressing it effortlessly over her head with one hand. Then she flipped it into the air like a flapjack, catching it upside down by the top of the thickly armored turret, bits and pieces of stuff falling out of the open hatch to the accompaniment of a great deal of clanging and banging from loose heavy objects rattling around loudly inside. Like a shot putter, she crouched low, then heaved the whole thing in a high arc toward the still-smoking crater left by the bunker buster. Both of the treads and several wheels couldn't take the sudden acceleration, tearing away noisily and flying off on their own short trajectories.
    At the peak of the tank's flight, Susan unleashed her beams. First, high-intensity UV to explosively heat two parallel narrow paths through the air, the shock waves creating a near vacuum between her and her target. Microseconds later, x-rays followed, free to travel inside the evacuated corridors without interference from atmospheric absorption. The highly penetrating x-rays explosively sublimated twin paths completely through the tank, producing shock waves radiating secondary x-rays that more or less evenly heated the rest of the target. This Susan-managed sequence was repeated several times in less than a second to different parts of the vehicle until enough energy had been delivered to do the job.
    Several things happened almost simultaneously. The paint, wiring insulation, rubber and lubricants ignited as the metal itself liquefied, turning into a molten shower of small droplets by the the explosively burning flammables. The droplets themselves ignited as the incandescent iron burned in the atmosphere, becoming thousands of bright flares.
    Unexpectedly, the last pathfinder laser beam of the sequence broke completely through one of the thinner parts of the tank and connected with the now closely looming thunderheads moving across the valley, creating an electrically conductive path of ionized air that drew a sudden massive discharge of static electricity between the cloud and Sara's eyes, arcing from her face to the ground at her feet.
    The sizzling pop of the lasers was followed almost instantaneously by the sharp crack and prolonged ripping boom of unanticipated lightning that made everybody else jump, hair standing on end from the closeness of the bolt as its energy dispersed through the surrounding ground following a profusion of buried cables. The TV monitors shattered, spraying the VIPs with small chunks of crumbled safety glass. Every circuit in the blockhouse ignited in a shower of sparks. Alex and the techs found themselves running for their lives again as smoke quickly filled the building.
    Unnoticed, a few surviving blobs of flaming molten steel splashed into the bomb crater.
    It got much worse.
    A couple of trucks parked next to the bleachers suddenly disgorged more than a dozen black-clad men, heavily armed, most swaddled with explosives and all with the determined look of fanaticism in their eyes. They quickly grabbed the bewildered and shell-shocked dignitaries, putting automatic pistols to their temples.
    Astin tried to interfere, but one of the men slapped a device against his bionic leg which began to spasm uncontrollably. He went down in agony.
    Their leader screamed at Sara. "We are ready to die, spawn of Satan! Do not interfere with our holy mission or these wretches will die with us."
    Sara stood transfixed as all this unfolded, looking as if she was completely surprised by this turn of events. But as the group of terrorists started to drag their hostages toward their waiting trucks, Sara moved quickly to block their way.
    "Put down your weapons and release the hostages," she commanded, the effect made somewhat less than authoritative by her little girl voice. But she had the body language down pat, standing with feet firmly planted far apart, fisted hands on her hips, radiating determination and defiance.
    The leader tightened his grip on his detonator and bellowed, "Death to Amerika! Death to..."
    He never finished the sentence.
    Susan sprang into action in a blur no one could follow. Her speed left little sonic shock waves behind her as she almost simultaneously neutralized their detonators, temporarily blinded them, reduced their weapons to junk, and then stunned them. Before they hit the ground, every one of them had been tied up with wires torn from their own explosive vests.
    She tried to catch each of the VIPs as they sagged to the ground in confusion and exhaustion from the incredible barrage of events. Astin finally gained control of his own electronics and helped the visitors to their seats, assisted by Alex and the techs. Sara rounded up the dazed gunmen and herded them in front of the bleachers.
    Where they took a bow.
    "Well done, gentlemen," Astin congratulated them. Turning to the visitors, he said, "Allow me to introduce Commander Cody and his very theatrical Navy SEAL team. I'm sure you'll agree that they made excellent terrorists. I think they deserve a nice round of applause."
    Astin, Sara, Alex and the techs had to do all the clapping.
    "This concludes our demonstration," Astin announced. "The bus will take us back to the base..."
    Sara blurted, "Yay! Lunch..."
    "...after which we will have a question and answer session," he continued. "We will have complete summaries and videos of all of today's events made available to your offices."
    "I hope you enjoyed the show," beamed Sara.
    For some reason, nobody answered.


Chapter Twenty-six: Scrutiny


Table of Contents

Patrick Hill, 2000