Avalanche – Snippet 05
They had regained some of their strength as the minutes stretched on; they kept their focus on the building, making sure that nothing untoward was going to happen to Vickie. Still, from what they could hear…the news was not good. Arthur Chang, dead, as well as a number of the delegates. Thousands of Metisians had also been lost. The city destroyed. Most of their people–save for poor Moji–had escaped, though none of them were unscathed.
It was going to be a long, long day.
Vickie’s hair was plastered to her scalp with sweat, and she shook and shivered with shock.Â How could everything have gone so wrong, so quickly?Â “Oh God, what do we do with them?” she wailed aloud.Â “There’s not enough secure ECHO bases on the planet to hide all of–”
Eight-Ball was pinging like a crazy thing.Â “Yes, I know!” she screamed at it, without looking at it.Â “The shit has hit the industrial fan!Â Leave me alone!”
And just at the moment that she felt as if she was going to crack wide open and lose it all…a pair of hands settled on her shoulders, and calm and renewed energy flowed into her, like nothing she had ever felt before.
“Steady, little sister,” Sera murmured from behind her.Â “You do not face this alone.Â One more minute, two, or thirty will make no difference.Â We will find answers now, and more answers later.”
Right.Â It doesn’t matter if we patch something together that won’t hold, as long as we start on something that will hold right away while the patch buys us timeâ€¦.
“Okay,” she said aloud.Â “I’ve got twenty or thirty, no more than forty Metisian saucers in the air with various numbers of refugees, most of them from Metis.Â Metis is toast and no point in worrying about it right now, put that out of our minds for the moment.Â Right now I need to find someplace to stash the Metisians and their saucers where the Kriegers won’t find them and they also won’t get abducted by our dear allies.”
“So…that’s what, ’bout a thousand Metisian refugees we’re talkin’ ’bout?”
“Give or take.Â The thing is, near as I can tell, even a kid knows enough about Metisian tech to make him valuable.”Â She clutched both her hands in her hair, as she listened with half an ear to Bella’s speech.
“Between what is in the saucers themselves, and what even a child knows, yes,” Sera confirmed.
John shook his head. “The problem isn’t how valuable they are–well, no, that is a problem–the bigger problem right now is that there’s so damn many of ’em. I’ve got some places that are out of the way, but not for nearly that many folks. We need somewhere to bed them down, where they’ll be accessible, but safe at the same time.” John chewed on his lower lip, his arms crossed in front of his chest. “I don’t trust any military with them, not ours or anyone else’s. So, landin’ them at a military airstrip is outta the question.”
“I’ve got Alex Tesla’s secret list of bug-out bases and they could handle maybe a hundred,” Vickie confirmed.Â “You know what will happen if they land anywhere open.”
“Let’s keep at least some of those bases in reserve, for Metisian VIPs. Best to shuttle them there after we’ve got all of the rest of ’em secure. Problem is, how in the hell do you hide ’bout forty flyin’ saucers? Without Area 51, or anyone possibly connected to it?”
“If I trusted Mom and Dad’s bossesâ€¦.but I don’t.Â They’d have to report something this big upstream and Poof!” she made a little explosion motion with her fingers.Â “Here come the Men In Black to haul them away.”
“Exactly; same problem as Big Army. We’re keepin’ these people out of government hands for as long as humanly possible; let them decide what suits them best, when it’s safe for them to come outta hidin’.”
Eight-Ball’s pings had turned into a kind of warble.Â Vickie had reached out a hand to dial down the volume, but it was obvious that either the program had malfunctioned or it thought it had something important.
“Are there wilderness areas we could put them down in–” Vickie shook her head at her own suggestion, and giggled with an edge of hysteria in it, as Sera sent out another wave of calm.Â “Dear gods, can you imagine Metisians trying to camp?”
“Not enough bleach to keep those jumpsuits blindin’ white. Maybe they have gizmos for that, thoughâ€¦” John started pacing, shaking his head with a look of consternation on his face. He paused mid-stride, glancing over at the monitor that was hooked up to Eight-Ball. The screen was flicking through a series of black and white images; group shots of men in labcoats and suits, rockets in flight, schematics, profile shots of individual men, views of laboratoriesâ€¦
Smart little bastard!
“Vic, Sera—hold up a second.” John turned to face the women, pointing at the monitor. “Your gizmo, it’s got it; ‘Operation Paperclip’. Not Nazis, this time, though. Metisians.”
“Wait, what?” Vickie said, looking at him in confusion, then following his pointing finger to Eight-Ball’s monitor.Â “Operation–” Her face remained locked in confusion for a moment.Â “Oh, okay I…but that’s the problem, not the solution!Â Where do we send them?”
“Is it the problem, though? Think around it, switch the parts. Everyone wants ’em because they’re Metisians. How do we fix that?”
Suddenly Eight-Ball’s screen blanked.Â Then it showed the map of South America.Â A red dot on that map that was in the location they all knew too well now, Metis.Â Eight-Ball zoomed in on the map, showing the outlines of the countries of South America, and the Peruvian Andes.Â And out.Â And in.Â And out.Â And in.
The third time, both Vickie’s hands flew to her mouth.Â “Oh.Â My.Â Gods.Â Ohmygods!Â That’s it!”Â She whirled and her hands went to her main keyboard.Â “Overwatch: Open Metis: All.Â Bella, I need your ECHO diplomatic override.Â I need to talk directly to the President of Peru.”
Bella’s reply came immediately.Â “You’ve got a bypass to his secretary in the diplomatic protocols, patch me through.Â Explain what you need to both of us at the same time.”
Vickie’s fingers flew again, and a moment later she was speaking in Spanish.Â John’s Spanish was just good enough to understand that she was convincing the Peruvian President’s secretary that this was enough of an emergency to put her through to his desk, interrupting whatever else he was doing.
Since his skies–at least those over Metis–were full of Thulian ships, that probably was a given.
“Senor Presidente–” Vickie began.
“English, please,” he replied.Â “For brevity.Â The Thulians appear to be leaving our airspace.Â Are we to expect them back?”
“Not that I know of.Â I am calling about a different matter.Â ECHO CEO Bella Parker is also on the call.Â We have several hundred Metisian refugees–”
“One thousand, three hundred and twenty four,” Bella interrupted.
“–in the air, in stealthed craft that cannot stay up there forever.Â Every one of them is a valuable asset.Â Every one of them has basic knowledge of Metisian science and access to more information.Â Every nation on earth will want them.Â They were all born on Peruvian soil.Â Do I have to make myself plainer?”
“….Madre de Dios….”
Bella’s mind worked as quickly as Vickie’s had.Â “Mister President, I am fairly sure I can get a substantial percentage, if not all, of the Metisians to agree to work on behalf and for the benefit of Peru, no matter what country they end up working in. But they need the protection of actual, physical, Peruvian papers and passports, and they need these things yesterday.”
Without that protection, they’ll end up like the German scientists at the end of World War II–in the hands of whoever grabs them first,” Vickie added.Â “Once they’re Peruvian citizens I am fairly sure that all of South America, and probably whoever doesn’t manage to get one of them in their countries, will take serious offense at any of them ‘vanishing.'”
“Not to mention that if they vanish, there’s not a lot of incentive for the other countries of the world to do anything if the Thulians come looking for them.Â Give them Peru’s protection, keep them sovereign and free with ECHO’s help, and you have a young, inexhaustible gold mine on your hands in the form of what they’ll part with, or what other countries will pay for their services.Â Plus, whatever they can decipher from what you guys get out of the wreck of Metis.”
“Senorita Parker, you are a powerful negotiator.”Â The president laughed shakily.Â “I see your points.Â Give me perhaps half an hour to determine logistically how many people each of our embassies and consulates can process, and how many we can process how quickly here.Â Then you and I can begin sending these…stealthed craft…to land directly where it is most expedient.”