BBC WORLDNET. 9:05 A.M.
Report from Skyport:
"… evacuation was completed at the L1 space station this morning. In a daring rescue, the SSTO Arlington brought off two hundred and eleven persons and returned them safely to Skyport moments ago. The same spacecraft will leave shortly to join three other planes orbiting the Moon in the continuing effort to bring out Moonbase personnel." Moonbase, Grissom Country. 10:05 A.M.
Charlie listened on his private channel to an enraged Henry Kolladner. It was bad enough that Feinberg was trying to panic the nation. But someone in the administration was telling the media that Henry knew how dangerous the situation was, that he was recklessly playing with the lives of Americans. He'd find the leaker, the president swore, he'd run the bastard out of the administration and see that he never worked in this town again (by which he presumably meant the United States government). Not ever. He would even consider criminal action. Furthermore, he thought he knew who was doing it.
He went on in that vein for a while, but didn't name anyone. Charlie had a couple of suspects in mind, but he understood the turmoil that must have been generated in a meeting in which they decided to stand aside and risk a general disaster without issuing a warning. He understood why the decision had been taken, and was not inclined to be judgmental because he wasn't sure what the correct action should have been. We'll know Sunday morning, won't we?
"Charlie, they won't just hold this against me. I'm sorry to say it, but they'll remember the party in the fall. You'll probably end up paying the bill."
Considering the president's unspoken opposition to his candidacy, the remark was disingenuous. But the thought had occurred to Charlie too, although he suspected charges of a coverup wouldn't matter much. His connection with Moonbase would probably be enough to sink him. Still, he knew he needed to put a cheerful face on the situation. "Maybe not, Henry. If the rocks don't land on New York, everybody will say you did exactly the right thing. If they do…" He stared at the scrambler he'd plugged into the wall unit. "If they do, there probably won't be an election."
"We're doing what we can, Charlie. Moving supplies, equipment, getting troops in place. In case…"
"What about the rest of the world?"
"Everybody's scrambling. There's even some cooperation out there, believe it or not. North Korea, for God's sake, has offered to pitch in. But the mechanisms aren't in place. The major alliances may be able to coordinate mutual assistance efforts; elsewhere it'll be hit or miss."
"Well," said Charlie, "if we get lucky, get a near miss, something that just scares the bejesus out of everybody, maybe some good will come of it."
"I hope so." The president was briefly silent. "How are you holding out?"
Charlie hesitated. "Not so well, actually."
Henry went cold on the other end. "Spell it out, Charlie."
The vice president told him everything he knew. "They haven't announced it yet."
"You've got yourself into a box."
Charlie listened to static on the line. "Okay," said Henry. "We'll have an emergency in, uh, the Everglades. Needs the administration's point man for environment. You get the hell away from there. I'll send written confirmation and give the directive to the media so everybody knows you're being ordered out."
"Nobody'll believe the Everglades story."
"Then we'll think of something else. When you get the directive, you might protest publicly. Demand to stay on at Moonbase. That'd be a nice touch."