I had the trade minister in China sit down as we were preparing for trade negotiations. He said, ‘Please don’t let people in the United States lose their confidence because when you lose your confidence, the rest of the world suffers’.
-Jon Huntsman, Jr.
Cecilia opened her eyes and looked around the room. It was different than the one she’d recalled being in before. She looked through the doorway and across the hall. She saw Dr. Tereshkova, sitting at her desk speaking on her phone. Cecilia caught the doctor’s attention by attempting to sit up in bed. Ludmila’s eyes flew open, and she hurriedly hung up the phone. She practically ran over to Cecilia, gently pressing down on her shoulders. “No..you must not try to get up. You’ve had a serious injury, and you shouldn’t move about.” Cecilia laid back down and looked the doctor squarely in the eye. “I am fine. I need to get back to work and get out of this hospital. Please help me arrange it.” Ludmila said, “Wait just a moment…please.” She walked over to her phone and dialed three digits. Cecilia could hear her asking for Dr. Kuznetsov to be paged. She wondered if that was a new doctor that Ludmila had brought in for consultation. Within five minutes, this Dr. Kuznetsov was in her room, examining her with stethoscope and flashlight in both eyes. He unwrapped the bandage on her head, and said something rapidly in Russian to Ludmila. He asked Cecilia in English, “And how are we feeling, Dr. Vasquez?” Cecilia replied, a trifle snapishly, “I don’t know how WE’RE feeling, but I’m feeling quite well, thank you. I’d like to leave this hospital if I may.” The doctor picked up her chart, looked at her again with a strange, quizzical expression, and finally said, “I can see no reason for you to have to stay. All your vital signs are normal. Your injury is healing well, and the swelling in your brain has diminished to the point where you can function. You’ve experienced quite an amazing recovery! You should be fine, as long as you don’t do anything foolish like take a transatlantic airplane ride.”
Cecilia sat up in bed, and asked Dr. Tereshkova if her clothes were available. Ludmila fetched them from the cupboard in the corner. Cecilia took the outfit she’d worn three days before when she came to visit Olga, went into the bathroom and put them on. Clearly she’d lost weight since her stay, as the slacks were loose around her waist. Cecilia reached into the cupboard to retrieve her backpack. She went into Ludmila’s office, and thanked her for the care she’d received during her stay. She asked that the bill be sent to her office, and left her card with her address. Ludmila was so stunned by her complete recovery, she could barely raise her voice to say that, under the circumstances, there would be no charge for her stay. Cecilia nodded, slung her backpack over her shoulder, and walked to the elevator. She passed Ratched’s post on the way out, waved airily to the nurse but stopping short of speaking to her. She pulled her cell phone out in the lobby, and attempted to contact Nikolai. There was no answer, and within two minutes she realized why. Nikolai and Tatiana were in the process of parking the car to come and see her.
Nikolai was hobbling on the gravel driveway, leaning on Tatiana for support. When he looked up and saw Cecilia standing there, an expression of joy and relief illuminated his face. “Checheelea! My dear! You are well!” Cecilia said she was feeling fine, apparently better than he suffering with his gout. Tatiana said the stress of the past few days had exacerbated his symptoms, but now that Cecilia was up and about, Tatiana was sure he would quickly recover. They walked back to the car and returned to Moscow.
Nikolai briefed Cecilia about his conversation with Colonel Oates two days ago, and his 72 hour deadline within which he needed to hear from her. Cecilia used her cell phone to contact him as they drove on the M5. He sounded relieved to hear from her, letting her know that a meeting had been scheduled for the day after tomorrow in the Secretary’s conference room to prepare the Secretary to assist with the President’s discussions with the Russians and the Chinese. Cecilia assured the colonel that she would be back in Washington in plenty of time to attend the meeting. She would be bringing the letter Nikolai had prepared, and upon his recovery from his gout, he would travel to New York to assist in the preparation for and presentation of the UN address. All was going according to plan.
Tatiana fixed one of her excellent meals to try to bolster Cecilia’s strength prior to her return to D.C. After the luncheon, Cecilia called her mother and Mirabel to assure them that, contrary to what they’d been led to believe, she was fine and would be returning home. Both women were greatly relieved to hear from her with such a good report.
Despite the doctor’s advice, on Saturday Cecilia took the next available Aeroflot to Frankfurt, and then the Delta flight to D.C. She arrived just before 1 PM at Reagan National, and took a cab to the Pentagon. The meeting was scheduled to start at 3 PM, so she had time to use the Secretary’s facilities to freshen up and change prior to the meeting. While she was in the shower, she heard Emily’s voice in her ear. “Cecilia – can you hear me?” It occurred to Cecilia that she wasn’t sure whether she had to verbalize her response or just think it. Then she remembered the baseball game, and knew she just had to think it. “I hear you Emily. The meeting will be getting started in a few minutes with the Secretary and staff. Any advice?” Emily’s voice in her ear said, “We’ll just listen and only speak when spoken to. Isn’t that the best way? That’s what Grandma always tells me.” Cecilia felt slightly foolish listening to the advice of a 10 year old, but nothing seemed normal anymore. She decided to keep listening.
The meeting started promptly at 3 PM. Colonel Oates used the holoprezi again to show the latest satellite photos of the Chinese troop movements in the northeast corner of the country. It seemed there were significantly more men and material there now, compared to the last series of aerial photos. Cecilia was asked only to provide a brief update of her visit to Russia and contact with Nikolai. She complied, providing only the information requested and nothing more about any other of her activities. The group was brief on the preliminary negotiations involving the Chinese, who were polite but non-commital. The Russians were spoiling for a fight, not entirely sure they wanted or needed American assistance with this border incursion. Fortunately, President Huntsman had an excellent relationship with both sides, and was slowly making progress in getting both sides to agree to work through the issue via the United Nations.
The day of the President’s address to the UN General Assembly arrived five weeks later. A transcript of the President’s speech was passed around prior to its presentation, to ensure there would be no issues of concern from either side. Both parties approved the document. Cecilia and Nikolai were present at the address, standing behind the President to be available if there were any questions from any of the delegates. This is a summary of what the President’s said:
“For the past decade, all you have heard was the description of the problems associated with water shortages. You have not heard any solutions that have effectively been implementable. I am here today to present the general assembly with a potential solution that should allay your collective fears about running out of potable water.
If I may, my water resource staff want me to give you some basic facts about fresh water on earth. I know you’ve seen all these statistics before, and the situation in each of our respective countries has not improved, in spite of all that education. But my staff wanted me to point out one important fact that must be stated. All the water that was ever on earth is still here. The issue is not so much the quantity of water, but its usage and uneven distribution. But these scientists here…” (and the President points to Nikolai and Cecilia) “are representatives of an interdisciplinary team now working on a project to find new sources of water from outside the planet. To be specific: they are developing strategies and techniques for extracting groundwater from Mars. Yes, from Mars. But there are technical issues that must be resolved in order to utilize this new source of water. And those technical issues can be resolved with enough time and resources. The more resources we collectively put against solving these issues, the faster our access will be to these new sources of water. Your colleagues from Russia and China and I have been in serious negotiations for the past month regarding a way to assist China with its severe water shortage. I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement with all the parties. Russia has agreed to share some of their water resources, and China will take some immediate steps to implement conservation measures that have previously been discussed but not implemented. The time for implementation of those conservation steps for all of us is now. I am pleased that we have been able to reach this agreement, and I thank the representatives from those two countries for their efforts toward this end. They have also agreed to double their funding for the Mars project. We anticipate that this increase in funding will decrease the time to success by 5 years. That reduction in time is most critical now, given the serious depletion of water resources in key countries such as China. I thank my colleagues for their cooperation and agreement.
You are familiar with Dr. Nikolai Kardashev. Dr. Kardashev teaches us that our growth requires additional resources, and when we begin to deplete those resources we must look to become what he refers to as a Type I civilization. Dr. Kardashev, would you like to elaborate?” Nikolai stepped up to the podium and adjusted the microphone to accommodate his height. He slowly began to speak. “I first proposed the Kardashev scale in 1964 – 6 decades ago – in anticipation of this day. Many of you are familiar with my scale, connecting growth to energy use and the development of technology to meet those energy needs. We are now on the verge of leaving our Type 0 status and embarking on becoming a Type I civilization. The most important factor in this advancement is not necessarily the use of fusion power or interplanetary travel. The most important factor is that we avoid the pitfalls that may well have impacted other civilizations in the cosmos that never made it beyond Type 0. They failed because of the power of nature, the atom, or one another. This effort to join together and increase the resources for the Mars terraforming project as an alternative to fighting over this limited resource – water – is a major step forward in becoming a Type I civilization. I am only too happy to see it happen in my lifetime. Thank you for your cooperation and thank you for your support.”
President Huntsman returned to the podium. And now I’d like to introduce Dr. Cecilia Vasquez, an integral part of the team that is working on this Mars project. Dr. Vasquez?
Cecilia stepped up to the podium. Emily and her grandmother were whispering in her ear. “Now Cecilia, just stay calm and say those things like we practiced,” Emily said. Her grandmother added, “Good luck.” Cecilia looked at the assemblage, and then reflected on everything she’d been through to get to this moment. It was quite a journey, but one in which she’d learned a good many lessons. But now she was prepared to share what they had indeed practiced for weeks. “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming today. What the parties to this agreement have done is to further critical research that will be of benefit to everyone on the planet. The Mars team, including Dr. Kardashev and I, truly believe we are on the verge of a significant breakthrough in being able to utilize resources from our neighbor planet that will indefinitely extend our life here on earth. We are confident that Mars colonization will be a reality, now sooner than later. With the progress being made with new fuels and rocket design, we will be ready to transport resources back and forth between the planets now in weeks instead of months. Your support will assist in this endeavor. So I just want to say..” Cecilia had a momentary brain freeze on her summary statement. Emily prompted her. “You want to say that it’s a real symbol of progress to fund science as a way to avoid the potential for conflict.” Cecilia smiled and delivered the final line. The group received a standing ovation, including from both the Russian and Chinese ambassadors. Cecilia thought, “Whew. That’s done. Maybe now I can get a decent meal and a good night’s rest! Thanks, Emily.” The voice replied, “You’re welcome. See you soon.”