"I didn't do anything and people want me dead. It's wrong. Why do people do the wrong thing?"
AUTHOR'S NOTE; Due to President Martin's blunder, HAL stops the wind all over the world threathening universal starvation from lack of rain. Only Theresa has any chance of preventing disaster.
She tells British Prime Minister Peter Blair she will try to gain control of HAL, but if she succeeds, she might also have limitless power.
Blair finds this frightening. Theresa offers to share power with a committee. Blair finds that even more terrifying.
He decides to let Theresa control HAL alone and defends his decision in a session of "Questions to the Prime Minister" at the House of Commons.
Theresa comments on this scene: "Prime Minister Blair brought up a hundred points about me I hadn't thought of myself. This was his Gettysburg Address".
A member from the opposition stood up and asked, “Can the Honorable Prime Minister assure this House that by his lonely decision our esteemed friend Mrs. Hartley can be trusted with this arduous task which she herself described the most impossible ever imposed on a human being without abundant assistance from His Majesty’s government?”
Blair jumped up to the table with his book of notes to answer.
“The time factor was crucial to my decision. Mrs. Hartley has been working on the problem for years. A team of assistants might take months to understand her theories and reach consensus on strategy. Let us give her a chance to make progress.”
He stalled and became pensive to get full control of his audience.
“We should consider how it came to be that Theresa Hartley was chosen to be host to HAL. Her character is impeccable. Her intellect is of the finest quality. No more perfect choice could be found for her task. HAL merged with her when she was ten. A few years earlier and she would have told everybody about HAL with most unfortunate results for herself and us. A few years later and she might not have developed the skills needed for the challenge. But she received HAL at age ten, old enough to know to keep HAL a secret, but young enough to set herself on that path of intellectual development to enable her to address the HAL problem. Did all these happy circumstances happen by chance, or by design?”
Now he really had their attention. They sat in stony silence wondering where he was going.
“Mrs. Hartley is not vindictive. You saw she had not said a word about the assassination attempt in our long discussion. Not a reprobating word from her for the man who tried to kill her. The morning after I drove her to Mr. Parker’s. She expressed sorrow for, in her words, ’the poor guy’. This is Theresa Hartley. This is the woman chosen to save us all. This is Saint Theresa among us now.”
The House stood up as one to cheer his answer. But the leader of the opposition wouldn’t let it rest. He stood up and was recognized.
“Is the Prime Minister aware it may come to pass Mrs. Hartley acting alone can do anything she wants no matter how outrageous and the whole world can’t stop her?”
The PM jumped back up.
“Who will trust a committee? We know Theresa well enough. The only thing that can stop Theresa is her own conscience and it will.”
The opposition leader kept at it.
“Does the Prime Minister agree a person with good conscience in ordinary circumstances can be overwhelmed in the extraordinary and be changed for the worse?”
“There is only one version of the truth. Theresa knows it and lives by it. I spoke with President Stinson last evening. She said everything is known about Theresa. Their intelligence agency has a room full of reports and tapes on every moment of her life for eight years. Teams of psychologists have studied these documents. There is nothing to suggest a fault in the steadiness of her character despite her youth. She is grounded on rock, not sand.”
“Does the Prime Minister agree a person with conscience should not be a physician if he has not been so trained, or one in a position of power without adequate education and experience?”
“My honorable friend points to jobs requiring skills. But Theresa does not set out to manipulate organs or people. Theresa’s job only requires cleverness and a good heart.”
And another question!
“Does the Prime Minister agree it may come to pass we have a person in power without democratic representation?”
“President Stinson’s people have studied Theresa and agree she supports democratic principles, but how do you make control of HAL democratic? I do not believe she will do anything contrary to people’s wishes. Have courage. She will ask nothing from us.”
One more shot.
“Is the Prime Minister aware it is written ‘As the heavens in height, and the earth in depth, the heart of kings is unfathomable’?”
“It is also written, ‘By patience is a ruler persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone’. The story of man is that the individual must deal with the world. In this case it works both ways. The world must deal with Theresa. She and we must deal with each other reasonably. Better to be alone in the jungle than in a dictatorship, but also better to be a fisherman than a governor of men if the people speak ill of you. Theresa will return kindness given to her.”
A woman rose to pose a question no American politician would get away with. But this was not America.
“Does the Prime Minister agree a man’s reaction to criticism is laughter while a woman’s reaction is unpredictable?”
The House burst out in laughter. It liked nothing better than a loaded question and this one was a minefield. Blair milked the moment looking around like he was afraid to answer. His expression was hilarious. Even Steve and I watching at the Parker residence were laughing. Finally, the PM got serious and paused. The world held its breath for twenty-seven seconds.
“I understand your fears. What human being can bear the responsibilities demanded of this woman? It hardly seems possible. We’ve seen many strong men broken from lesser challenges, men trained thirty or forty years for their tasks.
“What shall we do if a child leads us? And make no mistake, Theresa is younger than many of the children and grandchildren of the members of this House. Who are we dealing with? Will she change?
“I say, Theresa’s interests and endeavors may change, but not her heart. It is too well-considered. It is written ‘worse than death is the life of a fool’, but we saw in my talk with her Theresa is no fool. ‘Woe to thee when your king is a child’ says the Good Book, but Theresa shows lack of response to recent ill events. It is also written, ‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.’ Theresa’s works will be seen by all. She can only do good works if she cares at all what we think, and we’ve seen she does. In dealing with truth we are immortal. A woman who puts her trust in a higher power will be unchanged. Theresa will remain Theresa.”
Later in the story, when 18 year old Theresa has acquired limitless power over the whole world, she addresses the British House of Commons:
He indicated I had the floor. I got up and nervously walked forward.
“I’m not a public speaker. I never wanted to be. I’m talking to the media and the people on the street. Excuse this little piece of paper. It reminds me of the points I’ve been thinking of a long time.
“I’ve seen the world’s reaction to what I did. Parents are going wild because their children won’t die. Everybody is grateful. Believe me, I am aware of all this and I am happy about it. Let’s not talk about it.
“Like everybody else I’ve watched a lot of television. Everybody you see on television is there because they wanted to be. Movie stars, singers, dancers, politicians, reporters, they all wanted to get on television. They want the attention. I don’t.”
“Why are you here?” somebody asked.
I could single him out because he had stood up when he said that. I suppose it was a House rule. I stared at him with no attempt to hide my contempt. How dare he interrupt me! In answer to his own question, why had he spoken if not to attract attention to himself? This hypocrisy had to become plain to everyone as I stared his political career into oblivion.
“You interrupted me” I said. “Nobody interrupts me. I don’t need you.”
You could almost see the miserable man’s political career melting at his feet. He had dared to interrupt the world saver. There would be rioting in his hometown.
I looked over the crowd. “Reporters are the same way. They don’t let you complete a sentence. I didn’t even have a chance to open my mouth and they were telling lies about me the night I talked with Mr. Blair on television. They don’t know crap but they won’t shut up. I told Mr. Blair the next morning I would never talk to reporters. I didn’t ask for this and I won’t take garbage from anybody.”
A chill was felt around the room. The old rules were out. There was a new sheriff in town.
I resumed. “In high school I saw kids anxious to grow up. What’s the big deal about the adult world? Everybody drives themselves crazy trying to get a piece of the pie. They want more than they can get. I just want to fool around and enjoy watching the world. People forget I’m a kid. I don’t want to be anything else.”
At that, everybody stood up to applaud and cheer. I struck some kind of nerve with them. I’d have to work out why later. They settled down.
“I did the things I did because it was the decent thing to do. That’s all. I wasn’t looking to become famous. I didn’t seek publicity. I don’t want to be queen of the tabloids. I don’t want to be asked what’s my favorite food.
“I won’t answer reporters’ questions. Nobody elected you. I’ll talk with elected heads of state when necessary for the public good.
“Reporters say they want to interview me to find out what I’m like. Steve already told you at the Senate that I was perfect in every way. He may have exaggerated, but a thousand interviews won’t tell you more than that.
“Reporters want to find out what I plan to do. They say imagine the temptations that come with unlimited power! Who could resist changing things? I can resist temptation. I’m not going to tell anybody what to do. People know best what to do with their lives. When I was a little girl, baby chipmunks walked around my feet when I stood still. Mom taught me they need our protection. I was not to try to pick them up. Leave them alone and they’ll be all right. I’m still that little girl.”
A woman House member directly opposite me started crying. I saw similar sad faces around the room like somebody had died. I looked back at Steve who only shrugged. Blair said, “All is well”. I resumed.
“Reporters want to interview me because I did remarkable things. I’m not remarkable. Millions of girls are just like me. Go interview them!
“If I went around making speeches, somebody would find something I said that wasn’t correct. Then people would say I lie. That’s not going to happen. People need to know Theresa Hartley always tells the truth. I won’t go around making speeches.
“There is another important point. My work isn’t done. I still have to watch what HAL is doing. Some people will want me to do this or that with him. They will demonstrate for their pet project when it will benefit them at the cost to others. I cannot allow myself to be influenced by demonstrations. I have a responsibility to be fair to everybody.
“And finally this. I saved your lives. All I want in return is the right to walk on the street without being mobbed by a crowd of curiosity seekers and hounded by the paparazzi. You owe me that much.”
I waited a few seconds to let that last remark sink in. Then Steve and I walked out of the room.
Neither the House members nor any of the millions watching could believe it. They had never heard of any person with any kind of achievement no matter how small not seeking some kind of recognition for it. Nobody was immune. Even Medal of Honor winners, whose aura depended on a show of humility, at least gave one interview to one reporter. Here I’d just saved the world, and I wanted nothing to do with them. The all-powerful World Empress wouldn’t make the rounds of the talk shows and political meetings. I wanted a private life.