"I didn't do anything and people want me dead. It's wrong. Why do people do the wrong thing?"
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Prime Minister Blair asked the BBC to show a montage of news films to show Theresa what has been going on the previous two weeks. President Martin committed suicide because he believed his action had condemned the human race to slow, miserable death by starvation.
Chapter seven, not shown in this LOOK INSIDE!, will be about Theresa's "Sunday night talk" with Prime Minister Blair on live television viewed by four billion people to try to find out what HAL is and what can be done about the crisis.
I was getting depressed. This BBC program had been giving me nothing but bad news. Did anything go right in this world?
The United States was also in a terrible mood. It had always been assumed a man with the will power to become President would never suddenly resign without a fight. President Nixon had resigned after being under tremendous pressure for two years. President Martin simply walked away. Commentators agreed it was another shock in a horrible week, but we shouldn’t be so surprised. The poor guy had condemned the world to a slow, miserable death. There was no chance he would be allowed to stay in office.
President Martin’s unprecedented sudden resignation with no warning was another indicator that the world was in a real mess.
I must have made some of my trademarked funny faces because Nancy laughed. I told her, “I wish I could walk away from his mess. An eighteen year old girl with no experience in anything has to save the world from extermination. Good luck, everybody!”
Vice-President Veronica Stinson was sworn in as President at four o’clock in the morning. Her first televised statement showed she was shaken. She said something about how we all had to pull together and do what we could. It was something like that. I didn’t pay much attention. I was shook up myself. Somehow all this disastrous mess had something to do with me. If I had told people about HAL years ago, would any of this have happened? That was my burden.
The program wasn’t over. There were more surprises.
The Captain of the ship that found me in the South Atlantic had given a statement last night when I arrived in England. His statement was taped while I was being driven by ambulance to London, a fair distance from shore. His ship was the newest British aircraft carrier.
As the BBC announcer explained, the program was quickly put together for me. I needed to know everything so that I could guess what HAL might be thinking all this time and why he did what he did. The Captain’s detailed statement was given in its entirety along with videos.
“We sailed with partial crews. Many sailors were visiting their homes all over England and couldn’t be called back in time for this panicked rush to the South Atlantic.
“It was a fool’s mission. It had taken seventy years to find the Titanic although it was known where it sank. Now, we were being asked to find a tiny body, which almost certainly sank, that may have been moved a hundred miles or more by ocean currents in any direction. Madness, I thought.
“In the beginning of the voyage we had to plow through ten to fifteen foot swells typical of the North Atlantic in June. The ship’s rolling motion was comforting to sailors who loved the rock-a-bye baby sensation, but in the last two days the ship felt virtually motionless as it skimmed on water as smooth as plate glass. It was unnerving. The Queen Elizabeth was a hundred and twenty miles from target at dawn when the radar screen operator said, ‘Something unusual ahead, sir’.
“I looked at the radar screen. An indistinct horizontal smudge could be seen.
“How wide is it?” I asked.
“A mile, sir. Can only be birds. Must be a million of them.”
“I considered how this could come about. Perhaps nuclear radiation killed a lot of fish. If so and Theresa’s body was floating, she drifted with the fish. We might find her after all!
“Lay a course for that flock of birds” I said.
“An hour later the sun was several diameters above the horizon. It was full light. On every ship sailors not on duty were on deck to see this once in a lifetime sight. Some passed around small, cheap binoculars bought in department stores, and some had video cameras waiting for a remarkable recording opportunity.
“Two more hours passed. I ordered a helicopter to fly ahead and take a closer look. It was soon close to the scene but not close enough to have its blades fouled by the birds. The helicopter crew looked down with binoculars and saw something never beheld by human eyes.”
“Captain. It’s a school of sharks. There are tens of thousands of them. The water is red.”
“It was a massive feeding frenzy. As we came nearer shark fins appeared briefly on the surface. They were all swimming toward the frenzy’s bloody waters which had spread out for many miles. It had been going on for days and the sharks could smell the blood from a great distance. I recognized the cursed white tips on the rounded dorsal fins. Bloody ocean whitetips. The scourge of seamen. Unlike the great white shark that stayed close to coastlines, the oceanic whitetip shark spanned the oceans. It killed more people than all other types of sharks combined.
“A dozen miles from the frenzy we slowed down to lower speeds until we reached the frenzy where we stopped to consider our next strategy. The frenzy was about four hundred yards wide and the carrier was stopped on the edge. The sea was red with blood everywhere and around the ship. Through binoculars I could see sharks fighting over pieces of dead sharks. They were eating each other.
“I searched the center of the frenzy where the activity was greatest.
“‘God in Heaven have mercy on us!’ I shouted. ‘Theresa Hartley is in the middle of it!’
“Sharks were lunging at the unconscious Theresa but were being killed before they could get a bite of her. Other sharks fed on the bleeding dead. This nightmare had been going on for days.
“I ordered a launch be lowered and twenty machine gunners to the deck.
“The launch was lowered with six sailors. It set off towards Theresa but it would not be safe to pull her out of the water with a crowd of sharks lunging at them. I ordered the machine gunners to fire at the sharks. Officers kept them firing to the left and right of Theresa but no closer than fifty yards from her lest they hit her or the launch. It was only necessary to wound one of the monsters and its blood drew attack from others. Thousands of rounds were fired per minute but only a small fraction of the sharks were being killed. Many times as many sharks swimming deeper down were coming up to the surface to join the frenzy. The slaughter was working. There were two areas of mayhem safe distances from Theresa. By the time the launch got to her there were only a few confused sharks nearby and they weren’t attacking.
“Theresa was unconscious. Her head and shoulders were above water. Two men pulled her into the boat and they headed back to the ship. She was placed in a large basket on a cable and hauled up to the deck as quickly as possible. She was rushed inside the carrier to sickbay. The jumpsuit was unzipped. Two electro-cardio leads were placed on her to see if there was any cardiac activity at all. There was no activity, no signs of life.
“The doctor pronounced her dead.”
The screen returned to a BBC announcer. “Next we hear Prime Minister Blair.”
Peter Blair came on the screen. He was reading from notes.
“Good evening, Mrs. Hartley. You asked to be told everything related to HAL. What I have to present involves his activity. I’ll be complete.
“When I heard you were dead the tears leaked from my eyes. So much hope crushed. As a staff member said, ‘It was a heroic effort, Prime Minister. Her family will be grateful.’ I said, ‘Thank you. We are all lost, ladies and gentlemen.’ Without you there was no possibility of communicating with the alien.
“The ships set off for home. Your empty bottles were found in your suit and we learned how you remained afloat. Of course, when you were on the Ronald Reagan nobody would have believed you could escape the plane, so nobody was suspicious of anything you carried on board. You were allowed to carry the garbage bag of bottles without anybody giving it a thought. The reason for wanting to remain afloat was easy to guess. A woman doesn’t mind dying so much if she knows her body will be preserved.
“Your Senate Committee called Ronald Reagan commander Admiral Ruck who had been told to stay in the Virginia area in case he was needed. Here is his testimony after you were found.”
The scene changed to a video of a large Senate hearing room.
Admiral Ruck was nervous when he sat at the Senate hearing’s witness table. In the eyes of many he was largely responsible for my death.
Senator Clay began.
“Admiral, we already know the circumstances of June 13. Before we go into the details, I would like to ask if Theresa Hartley could have been rescued after she entered the ocean water.”
Admiral Ruck held up a piece of paper. “I have a written answer to that question which I believe will clarify the situation. May I read it?”
“There is a remote possibility Theresa Hartley could have been saved if we had immediately sent out a fighter jet. The pilot could have reached her in ten minutes, and, in the unlikely event he saw her while flying low at two hundred miles an hour, he could have bailed out with a small raft, put her in the raft to get her out of the cold water, and she might have been revived when the helicopters came.
“But all this would have required my knowing that she was still afloat. I did not know that HAL had stopped the wind and waves around her causing the radio to go silent and leading me to believe she had sunk as any unconscious person in turbulent waters would have to do. I did not know that HAL had gotten her out of the plane and might be doing more to keep her alive. I could only believe the government had arranged for the fighter jet canopy to open up and let her get out of the plane, although what reason they had to do this was unknowable to me. I did not know about Theresa Hartley’s connection to HAL until one and a half hours later when the President spoke on television. By then it was long too late to save her. Because I didn‘t know all these things at the time it mattered, I have to say it was not possible to save her.”
He looked up at the Chairman to give a heartbreaking remark.
“When I saw it was a girl it was too late to change my mind. What could I do with her with six thousand people on the ship?”
I hate using clichés, but in this case there really wasn’t a dry eye in the room. It was a pitiful scene.
A long list of questions followed about how Admiral Ruck was given this assignment, what President Martin said to him, and who else knew about the operation. The Admiral looked like a broken man.
Finally, the Chairman said, “Thank you for testifying, Admiral.”
Prime Minister Blair came back on screen.
“Your death made most people give up hope. Universal starvation could not be prevented. The end times had come.”
Nancy had mentioned that Blair majored in literature in college, and it showed. He spoke dramatically. Nancy said he always talked like he was in a Shakespearean play. Maybe he was grandstanding. These days would be remembered for a long time. Grandstanding is hard to resist, I guess, and maybe I’d do it myself before all this was over.
“The world settled in for the long wait for the HMS Queen Elizabeth to return to England. Somber music was played on radio day and night. A favorite selection was Saint-Saens’s The Swan for cello and piano made famous by Russian ballet as The Dying Swan. But the most appropriate piece for the girl descended from the Irish was a soulful instrumental version of Danny Boy. It was perfect. Great Britain was proud to bring one of its own back home for a final visit.
“But for most of the world there was no consolation. Dreams of a good future were gone. There was nothing to look forward to but misery or death. Parents spent all the time they could with their children. Mothers held their children and cried, wondering why this horror was happening.
“The HMS Queen Elizabeth anchored near the coast of Southern England while you were moved to shore by helicopter. You were put in an ambulance for the long ride to London.
“I waited in a London hospital to receive you. I had to be there, it would be an insult to America if I wasn’t, but I wanted to be there. I felt it was my duty to pay respects to this important personage. I was also curious to see you.
“When the ambulance was two miles from the hospital I went down to the morgue where doctors and nurses waited. There would not be an autopsy; that was left to the Americans. But the English did want to make a ‘careful examination‘.
“From somewhere in London American soldiers had been found to carry the casket in. An American flag covered the casket as it was rolled into the morgue. The honor guard of U.S. soldiers removed the flag and took it away. The doctors moved you from the casket to an exam table.”
“’It’s been nearly fourteen days, Prime Minister’ said the chief doctor. ‘This won’t be pleasant.’
“’I’ve seen it before’ I said.
“A plastic waterproof bag covered a velvet body bag. The plastic bag was removed. The body bag was unzipped and slipped off. There you lay on the table still dressed in the clothes you wore when abducted fifteen days earlier.
“Everybody moved closer. You were remarkably well preserved. In fact you were in great shape. It soon dawned on us.
“You were perfectly preserved. You might have died 30 seconds ago.
“We looked at each other. Every person was afraid to say it. Could Theresa be alive?
“The chief doctor seized an ophthalmoscope to look at your retina, the only place where blood vessels could be seen directly. There was no breakdown.
“You were in absolutely perfect condition.
“Everybody looked at the doctor in expectant silence. What were we to do with you?
“The ranking doctor protested. ‘I don’t care how advanced these beings are. No technology can keep her alive this way.’
“I waited a moment to give the doctor’s comment due respect. Then I said, ‘Why not?’
“‘Every atom needs to be kept in its proper place. Her body uses all the space available. There’s no way to get to the atoms.’
“’Quite right, doctor, but if she dies we are all lost.’
“Everybody stared at the doctor. He knew he’d lost.
“’Put her in a patient room.’
“The room was heated to 105 degrees. The theory was that if your body temperature returned to normal your heart would automatically start beating. Much argument ensued among the doctors about what resuscitation procedures to use. It was decided to use none except as a desperate last resort. They didn’t know what HAL was doing. Any interference on their part might be harmful.
“The doctor in charge explained. ‘We’re not even going to take a blood sample. If anything is wrong with it there’s nothing we can do. There’s no circulation.’
“I nodded my understanding.
“’There is one more concern, Prime Minister. Some molecules of the body become denatured when subjected to low temperatures. It’s irreversible. She may revive briefly only to die later.’
“’When will we know?’
“‘Very quickly. It would be like radiation sickness. She will become nauseous within the hour, weaken and die. We could do nothing to stop it.’
“’Thank you for informing me.’
“If such were the case I’d have to get as much information out of you as possible in a short time. It would be a very unpleasant situation.
“The room was filled with every kind of diagnostic and monitoring equipment I could imagine and some whose purpose I couldn’t guess. Wires from your body led to a monitor to display temperature, an electrocardiogram machine to detect heartbeat, and an electroencephalogram machine to monitor brainwaves. All these machines registered nil.
“Your temperature was 56 degrees, up from 48 when you arrived at the hospital. It would take many hours to reach 98 degrees.
“Something had to be told to the people in the morning. But first I had to deal with the husband. ‘Get Steve Hartley on the phone’ I ordered. The connection was made after a representative at Steve’s apartment told him to put the phone on the hook.
“’Mr. Hartley. This is Prime Minister Blair. We have some rather startling news. Your wife arrived in absolutely perfect physical condition. It has been suggested that she is still alive and can be revived.’
“’When will this happen?’
“’If it happens, and we’re not sure it will, it will happen in twelve or more hours. Her temperature is 58 degrees. The room is heated to 105 degrees to raise her temperature naturally. The doctors don’t want to do anything unless she doesn’t revive by herself. Resuscitation techniques will only be used as a final measure if all else fails.’
“’Will she be the same Theresa?’
“’That, sir, is unpredictable.’
“’It would be sad to see her a vegetable.’
“’Would you do me a favor? Ask people to pray for her. God can’t ignore a hundred million people.’
“’He can’t. We shall be insistent.’
“In many hours your temperature reached 93 degrees. I had been visiting your room only twenty minutes at a time because of the heat, but now I remained. A nurse gave me a glass of ice water to sip.
“You reached 94.2 degrees. The cardiac monitor registered a single heartbeat and returned to a flatline.
“The seconds ticked off. Twenty-two seconds, and there was another solitary heartbeat. The count resumed. Twelve more seconds and a third heartbeat registered followed two seconds later by a steady heartbeat. Your heart was functioning.
“A minute went by. Your chest heaved in what looked like the breath of death, a final reflexive breath before the body gives up. After a delay of a few seconds your breathing resumed normally. All attention was now on the electroencephalograph monitor. If your brain didn’t work there was no artificial way to resuscitate it. It was all up to you.
“And there it was! Two of the twelve monitor lines were wiggling. Soon, all lines were wiggling. Everything seemed to be working.
“A few minutes later you started squirming like somebody in a dream. Your eyes opened and you started loudly crying. I understood. You were remembering that terrible ordeal of freezing in the water. Well of course! To you it seemed a moment before. How had we failed to anticipate this?”
Blair stopped for a moment and then said, “The rest you know. I know you’re the right person. I’ll see you in twenty minutes.”
So what had HAL done? Blair promised his presentation would show what HAL did, but I didn’t see anything.
“What did HAL do?” I asked Nancy. “He just let me revive myself. Does HAL even know what happened?”
Nancy looked at me with that doe’s eyes in the headlights expression.
Commentators took over on the television screen. One said, “How does the Prime Minister know Mrs. Hartley is the right person to restore the wind? Does she have communication with the alien? What haven’t we been told?”
It was a good question. Blair already knew from the way I acted on the hospital balcony that I didn’t even know about the wind business. He could not be sure I could do something about it.
Then I remembered something. When I woke up in the hospital Blair said I was the right kind of person to do what was needed. This made no sense if he meant restoring the wind. Anybody could do that if it could be done. What he meant was I would be the right kind of person after the wind situation was fixed. If I could influence HAL to restore the wind, I could influence him to do other things later. What kind of person I was would be very important.
I told Nancy, “He’s not talking about the wind. He’s talking about what I’ll do later. He knows I won’t mess up the world like a world dictator.”
“I see” said the suddenly aware Nancy. “It’s an amazing concept.”
“Your Prime Minister knew it one minute after I woke up. He’s a smart man.”
Blair’s job was to guide me in assuming great responsibilities without messing things up. He had to be very worried. How could a forty something Englishman connect with an eighteen year old American girl? It was like I was the alien from space.
I thought this was funny and repeated it to Nancy.
“Poor Blair. Dealing with me must be like dealing with a space alien.”
Yeah, well, poor me! I had to deal with a real alien who was destroying the world. And everybody expected me to save them. Just another day in a girl’s life.
I hung around for a few minutes and went downstairs. When I got out of the elevator some government men pointed the way to the meeting room.
All of humanity had been sweating blood all day waiting to hear what I had to say. The Earth stood still. Baseball games in America had been postponed. Highways were deserted. Plane flights were canceled for lack of passengers. Every person who could by any means stay home watching television did.
This was the critical meeting. If nothing came out of it “we are all lost”.