The Lure of the Satellite
Publication date: June 2011
Digital Book format: PDF (Adobe DRM)
HE MIGHT HAVE BROUGHT PEACE ON EARTH . . . BUT FOR HER . . . Excerpt At four in the morning Major John Redfield was awakened by rough shaking. "Today," he was told. "You're leaving today." He quickly dressed, packed a few belongings, and wrote a short letter to his wife. At five, he and Colonel Cunningham were called in for a final briefing by General Moseley, the senior Operations Research officer. "We want you to understand exactly why we're timing things this way," General Moseley said. "We estimate that rocket's about ninety per cent safe right now. You'll have nine chances out of ten of getting up there alive. But if we wait four weeks we can make the mission ninety-eight per cent safe. Here's a curve." He showed them a graph on which a curve rose from left to right. "That's safety plotted against time. The longer you wait, the more bugs we get out of the rocket. But here's another curve. This shows the probability that Eurasia will start something if we wait." Redfield examined the graph carefully. "Thirty per cent probability that Eurasia will act within a week. Is war that close?" Moseley nodded. "It is- if we don't act first. Of course, once you're up there, they won't dare start a war until they've neutralized our advantage. So here's a final curve. We've lumped everything together and plotted estimated benefit to the Alliance against time. The peak is today. That's why you're going up before the rocket's really finished." "It's strange," Redfield said, "but I don't feel worried at all. I have, such intense hate for Eurasia that more than anything else in the world I want a chance to strike out against them. I had a friend once. They held him prisoner for two years. Then they let him go." "I know," Moseley said. "I've seen some of those cases, though I wish to God I hadn't. It's unbelievable that a human being could live through something like that." "What frightens me," Cunningham said, "aren't the ones who have been physically tortured. It's the ones that come back in perfect health without a single mark anywhere on their bodies- nothing changed but their minds." "Good," said Moseley. "You each have strong personal motivations. Now, the way I look at your mission is this. Our struggle is a conflict between technology and psychology. We're far ahead of Eurasia in science and engineering, and they're far ahead of us in propaganda, espionage, and torture. So far, their psychology has been beating our technology all hollow. But here's where we even the score. Once you're up there in space, there isn't a damn thing to stop you from seeing everything that happens in Eurasia. We'll be able to strike at them, and they won't be able to strike back. Their only chance then will be to get a space station themselves, but in four months we'll have two more rockets up there that will be armed. So these next months are crucial. This will be the best chance we've ever had to neutralize their threat. The whole future of the Alliance may depend on what you do. Don't fail." At noon they took off from the Florida base, and an hour later they were a thousand miles in the sky. They floated around the world in a roughly north-south orbit, making one revolution every two hours, while the world rotated below them from west to east at its twenty-four hour rate. The plane of their orbit included the sun, so that they crossed the equator near noon and midnight. The ascent had been uneventful except for the strange new feeling of weightlessness during the periods when they coasted with the motors off. At first they found this pleasant and soothing, but after a few minutes it became dizzying and both men hastily swallowed capsules of Vertamine. By the time the rocket was fully established in its orbit, the vertigo had decreased and become bearable. But Redfield still had a mild sensation that his head was slowly swimming around.