An Arrow for an Olive Branch; A Sci-Fi Short Story, Pt5
Later that evening, following the President's speech, people across the nation took to the streets after hearing of Ghar's ultimatum. People were afraid for themselves and their families. While violence wasn’t unheard of, more often, candlelight vigils spontaneously popped up as a way for people to express their feelings.
Some demanded the President release the military to attack the aliens preemptively with nuclear missiles. But the President stood against this pressure, refusing to expose the planet to the dangers of Earth's own weapons in addition to those of the enemy.
Very Large Telescope, South Africa
On day one following Ghar’s ultimatum, while the governments of Earth considered the threats and demands of the alien robot, Ruth was keeping track of Ghar's ark by monitoring data from a variety of sites around the world with powerful telescopes. It was during this time that Ghar moved his ark from its orbit around Jupiter to a geosynchronous orbit with Earth above Washington, D.C.
For two days, world leaders debated how to respond. Many believed, that even though the aliens might defeat Earth militarily, it would be impossible for them to occupy the planet with a limited number of robots. Others countered that the constant threat of annihilation would deter any global rebellion.
On the evening of day two, one-hundred-ninety-six nations voted unanimously to surrender and accept Ghar’s terms.
With Toshu serving as a communication medium, President Golden delivered the decision to Ghar and requested that the governments of Earth still be given the third day to make preparations. Ghar fell for the ruse. While the nations of Earth appeared to be waving a white flag, they were not throwing in the towel. All recognized that, since the alien craft was holding its position near Washington, D.C., the United States would likely bear the brunt of Ghar's retaliation once he learned the surrender had been a deception.
Early in the morning on day three, the NSC met in the Situation Room with Toshu in attendance. She told the Council that she was defecting from her master and seeking asylum on Earth, in the United States. She offered her services as an advisor and requested that she be allowed to return to the alien ship as a spy if it proved to be beneficial at some point.
Toshu also informed the NSC that the alien robot had a single weapon with which he could annihilate the Earth. Tunneling beams would bore holes into the core, then matter-antimatter collisions would produce an explosion engineered to break the Earth into pieces. In Toshu's opinion, if Earth did not surrender, Ghar would attack with his robots rather than destroy the planet they so desperately needed.
Mid-morning on day three, a team of scientists met in the White House Situation room. Ruth and Toshu participated by video while en route to another location where their expertise was needed. The group consisted of Astronomer and team coordinator, Dr. Richard Smith, Theoretical Physicist, Dr. Anton Ferris, Laser Physicist, Dr. Theodore Raiman, Meteorologist, Dr. Roger Pike, as well as Ruth, an astrophysicist, and Toshu, a communications specialist. Their assignment was to conceptualize a weapon and develop a strategy by which the military would defeat Ghar's forces. This creative and unexpected approach was a frustration to the Pentagon and baffled Congress.
Dr. Smith directed the first question to their alien guest. "Toshu, tell us about the robots, their number, their capabilities in battle."
"When we left our planet, there were more than two hundred arks, each carrying ten thousand people and one thousand Rhonks. We had been traveling for over a year using Earth's accounting for time when the arks began to disappear one by one. Ghar was unwilling to impede our progress toward your solar system to search for them until finally, only two arks remained, Ghar's and another under Commander Rhall, which began to drift as we drew near to your planet."
Something incapacitated the Rhonites on each of the lost arks, and the Rhonks failed to take over navigation. As a result, Ghar lost ninety-nine percent of his robots, meaning that approximately one thousand will exit the ark when they attack Earth. If the Rhonks aboard Commander Rhall's ark are still functioning, that number will rise to two thousand. Individual propulsion tubes will carry them through the atmosphere and protect them from the heat and radiation. Once through, they will discard the casings and descend using anti-gravity."
"Why don't our fighters just blow them out of the sky?" said Dr. Raiman.
"You would destroy some of them, no doubt," said Toshu. "But the Rhonks would be more than a match for your aircraft. The robots have exceptional maneuverability, and their lasers are precise and deadly. Your jets launch missiles that twist and turn as they chase down the enemy. The robots' lasers travel at the speed of light. On the ground, I once saw a laser used as a sword. It swept across the battlefield and severed the bodies of ten thousand in one pass. In the end, the robots would win in the air and on the ground. Make no mistake. One thousand Rhonks are more than enough for Ghar to defeat Earth."
The room was silent as the scientists dealt with the impact of Toshu's words.
"As daunting as that sounds,” said Dr. Smith, "We are looking for a point of vulnerability.”
"They'll be most exposed while descending. The next several days will be completely overcast," said Dr. Pike. "I'm wondering if there is a way for us to use the weather to our advantage."
"Mr. President, Gentlemen," Ruth said, interrupting the discussion. "Toshu and I have arrived at our destination." The scientists all focused on the video screen on the wall. It showed Toshu and Ruth inside the small ark where they had been participating in the meeting by video.
"Ruth, Toshu, be careful." The President stood to speak. "No heroics beyond what you are already doing. I want to see you both back here as soon as possible. Ruth, I still can't believe I let you talk me into this madness."
"Mr. President, as a scientist, I can't pass up the opportunity to see the derelict spacecraft up close and personal. Toshu knows her way around."
“Toshu,” said Dr. Ferris in his slow, shaky voice. “Is there any possibility that Ghar will send Rhonks to take over Rhall’s ark?”
“No, He doesn’t have to protect it from anyone. You don’t have the ability to gain entrance to the ark, and Ghar doesn’t yet suspect that I would assist you. The primary danger is that he will have the Rhonks attack Earth directly from here. That is one of the reasons I decided to go on board. I must find a way to remove this threat.”
“You'll know soon enough what’s going on inside that ship," said the President. "May God protect you both."
Ruth examined the outside of the spacecraft referred to as Rhall's ark, the same craft that had struck the moon and nearly sent her and Joe to the bottom of Erlanger crater. She decided to use this time to get to know her alien friend a little better. "As a communications specialist for an evil, alien dictator, you have an enormous amount of scientific knowledge. Are you simply a voracious reader of scientific journals, or what?"
"Before I worked for Ghar, I was a physicist. I gave that up to take the position I hold now because it keeps me close to him. The closer I am to him, the more he trusts me. The more he trusts me, the more damage I can do to him when the time finally comes."
"How close can you get to a robot?"
"I was in my apartment one evening. I had just finished my steam bath and was drying myself. My communication terminal was on, and Ghar was watching me. And I let him watch because if he felt that I trusted him that much, he might trust me even more."
Ruth wrestled with her emotions as a woman and with her interest as a scientist. "It seems that artificial intelligence was only a first step in the evolution of the Rhonks. Is curiosity the second?” Ruth pondered the idea. Or is it more than that?