"It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expence, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expence, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will." ~ Adam Smith
Minerva, Chapter 43
'Hey Jack,' Dan said to Quinn.
'What the hell . . . .' Quinn said.
'There was a loose wall panel,' Dan explained.
'Well,' Quinn said, 'I'm sorry kid, but I've got to turn around. Your mom would kill me if I took you on this run.'
* * *
'A hit,' the operator announced. Yet another incoming missile had been successfully intercepted at sea.
'How long till our jets can fire?' Peckard asked. A huge mass of U.S. aircraft, including heavy bombers and supporting fighters, was headed for Minerva. Peckard had scrambled some of the Trust's fighters to meet them.
'Two minutes,' another technician answered.
'What the hell?' the technician said. 'Sir, come look at this.'
Peckard jogged over to the station. On the display, the group of fifty-two dots were suddenly multiplying.
'What's going on?' Peckard demanded. 'Are they dropping foil?'
'No sir,' an analyst answered. 'Those signatures cross-check on infrared as well as radar. We're getting a visual now . . . .'
An enhanced satellite photo slowly filled an overhead screen.
'Oh no,' someone whispered.
The U.S. warplanes were surrounded by hundreds of flying drones.
'Transfer control to Command Post Two,' Peckard ordered. The alternate headquarters was located several kilometers offshore. 'Everybody get down to the bunker.'
As his employees hurried into the elevator, Peckard opened the door to the stairwell. He wanted to watch the incoming bombers from the roof.
* * *
O'Toole and Tara could see the explosions on the horizon. Gradually, the growing black cloud turned into distinct aircraft. It seemed as if they were headed straight for the couple.
O'Toole wrapped his arms around Tara 's waist from behind.
'I love you,' he whispered into her ear.
* * *
'Mr. President,' General Merton pleaded, 'we lost over seventy pilots. We can't afford another run.'
'Damnit Merton,' Black exploded. 'We can't sit back with the job half done! There's no telling what those crazy bastards will pull if we don't wipe them out while we still can!'
Merton took a deep breath.
'Mr. President,' he said, 'in my capacity as a soldier in the executive branch, I cannot start a war without a formal declaration from the Congress. I believe that launching a second nuclear strike at this time would be an act of war, and hence unconstitutional. In good conscience, I cannot obey your order.'