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and the colonel wanted to see them privately.
So the director turned us over to a woman aptly
named Griffin, who took us to a little room where she
proceeded to give us a pop quiz. "Do you understand
seismographic readings?" she asked.
"They show earthquakes," Jill piped up. "Do you
understand decimal points?" she threw back at the
woman in her most sarcastic voice.
The woman named Griffin had a stone face worthy
of a Gorgon. She turned on a computer screen and
started bringing up charts and numbers. "I won't bore
you with the numbers," she said wearily. "Seismo-
graphic labs in Nevada and New Mexico detected five
jolts that could only have been the result of a nuclear
bombardment. The probable ground zero is Salt Lake
City."
Jill and I looked at each other and saw our emotions
reflected in each other's faces. Jill tried so hard not to
cry that I couldn't stand it. I cried first, for both of us.
I thought about all those old comrades--Jerry,
Nate, even the president of the Council of Twelve.
They couldn't all be gone! I remembered two sisters
who seemed to have been touched by the hand of
God: Brinke and Linnea. I had helped them with their
study of the Book of Mormon. They couldn't be gone,
could they?
I hadn't admitted it to myself but until now an
ultimate vindication of my faith was my certainty
that Salt Lake City had been spared. That seemed to
be incontrovertible evidence of the hand of God at
work. We were, after all, the Church of the Latter-Day
Saints. The whole point was our belief that the time of
God's direct intervention was not over. His hand
must still touch the world, else how could we be
preserved after such a holocaust?
The Book of Mormon was still only a book, like the
Bible or the Koran or the Talmud. Surviving in a
world of real demons provided a sense of the super-
natural that could barely be approached by every
word of the First and Second Books of Nephi, Jacob,
Enos, Jarom, Omni, the Words of Mormon, Book of
Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, Third and Fourth Nephi,
Book of Mormon, Esther, and Moroni. The scientific
explanations carried only so much weight with me.
That we could witness today's events made every holy
text in the history of the human race seem more
relevant to modern man.
If the Tabernacle had just been nuked, however, I
needed to seriously rethink the prophecies.
Arlene looked fit and trim and beautifully deadly as
we went to Colonel Hooker's office. This was no time
for ladies first. I outranked her. I enjoyed outranking
a woman who was fit and trim and beautifully deadly.
The door was already open, and the colonel was
sitting behind his desk when I reached his threshold.
It had been a long time since I'd pounded the pines. I
stood in the doorway, raised my hand, and rapped on
the doorframe three times, good and hard.
Colonel Hooker looked up with a grim expression.
God only knew how many of us were left in the world.
The best thing about being a marine is the pride,
which gets back to the question of how a rabid
individualist chooses to serve. When you're a marine,
you choose; and men you respect must choose you,
and respect is a two-way street paved with honor. Pity
the poor monsters who got in our way.
"As you were," declared Hooker.
"Thank you, sir!" Arlene and I responded in
unison.
We went into his office, and he offered us each one
of his Afuente Gran Reserva cigars. They were big
suckers. Too bad neither Arlene nor I smoked. He lit
up and ordered us to become comfortable.
"I want to be certain you both understand the full
implications," he said. "This is a four-man mission.
The director has already pointed out your unique
qualifications. We might as well be frank about it.
This is not a mission from which anyone is expected
to return."
I glanced over at Arlene without being too obvious
about it. Her face was an impassive mask. She looks
that way only when she is exerting superhuman
control. It didn't take a telepath to read her thoughts:
Albert, Albert, Albert.
The colonel must have had a telepathic streak
himself. The next word out of his mouth was "Al-
bert." Arlene's mask cracked to the extent that her
eyes grew very wide. "Albert is my third choice for
this mission," Hooker went on. "I've chosen him
because of his record before the invasion and also
because he's a veteran of fighting these damned
monsters. Frankly, I don't think there are three other
human beings alive who have had experiences to
match yours."
"Probably not, sir," I agreed.
"If I were superstitious," he went on, "I'd say you
lead charmed lives. We've come up with a mission to
test that hypothesis. It will take a bit of doing, but you
will have a ship and a navy crew to fly it."
"You said the marine operation is a four-man [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]