"You don't need us to surrender the USA on a platter," said Ross, "let somebody else do this dirty work."
Fred began to laugh. "I am looking at the world champions of the chronic complainers right now." He continued laughing.
It was at this point, right in the heat of the battle that a thought hit me. It caused a great up-welling of shame. I could feel tears forming in my eyes. I had been lying to myself and to everyone else, as the man in the airplane would have pointed out. We were fighting one-another just like countries were fighting each other. This wasn't a fit platform for ending a war. Also, what we yelled at each other for, suddenly came to light as a total denial of the principle of natural unity, the fundamental principle that defines God and man as one in being. It demands one to recognize that there is but one I or Us, that we are all children of a single humanity. This all-embracing unity in the singularity of our common human soul may be the foundation for the Principle of Universal Love, I thought.
I looked at Fred, at Ross "What are we fighting about? Let's stop this right here," I said to Ross. "Fred doesn't deserve this kind of response from us. Let's think this through. I have known Fred for a long time. He is an intelligent person. We must give him credit for that and listen to what he has worked out. Maybe he has thought of something that we should have thought of a long time ago, but didn't. Building an active defense against nuclear missiles is a great idea, I'm all for it, but maybe Fred has something in mind that can make us more secure under the present circumstances."
"We should have scrapped the XB-70 Valkyrie before the Soviet's developed surface to air missiles," Tony interjected.
It seemed that Fred understood what Tony was saying.
"I agree with Fred that we need something concrete to put onto the table for the Soviets, and that this has to be done tomorrow, if not today, to assure that there won't be another cruise missile attack. The Soviets have demonstrated that they have a strong card. They invited us to play our card. The SDI is the only card that we've got to put onto the table. And how much is it worth under the circumstances. The whole geometry of the game changed last night. The SDI wouldn't have helped us one bit last night, even if it had been fully operational. Neither can we debate the President. That option is no longer open. We have missed the boat on that one, too. Maybe what Fred suggests is the only peace offer we can make to Russia under the present circumstances that really means something, that can elevate the entire peace process onto a higher level in spite of all the constraints. If this is so, I want to be a part of it. I have always tried to contribute a higher-level viewpoint or a higher-level idea in whatever situation I became involved in. I have not always been successful mind you, but that is what we must do. We must endeavor to raise the bar. We must give it our best shot. If we don't, we become slaves to the mediocrity of popular opinions, whether there is any truth in them or not."
Suddenly, everyone was quiet. Ross nodded. Heather smiled, which I took for a yes! Sylvia said that this approach was fundamentally sound. Tony said that the SDI appeared to him just like the XB-70 Valkyrie did, the finest airplane ever built that should have never been built. He explained to Fred that the superior performance of the Valkyrie had boxed the Soviets in, which had made matters worse, a lot worse.
Fred appeared to be stunned by the sudden change in our attitude, especially the change in my attitude. He was also determined not to let this show if he could help it. As if nothing had happened at all, he continued on to explain his plan.
"I thought your friends could convey this delicate issue in far more ideal terms," said Fred to me in the same tone of voice as before. "I don't want you to use them," he said. "I just want to make sure that the best people are involved in the process, and I believe your friends would love to be involved in this historic attempt by the United States of America to do something right for a change."
Ross nodded his agreement.
"Also, if your lady friend is as good a journalist as I've been told she is, verifying your reports, she may even ask for an on-site visit to one of the labs that are going to be shut down," said Fred.
"This could be the opportunity of a lifetime for a free-lancer," Ross added. He turned to Fred. "It looks more and more like this might work."
"What's more important, it would fit within the framework of what the President wants to pursue," said Fred.
"The problem is, the meeting starts in less than a week," said Ross, "which doesn't leave us much time to get things organized."
"Oh, you will have enough time if you leave today," Fred grinned. "Transportation has already been arranged." He began to laugh now. "I knew you would see it my way." He stood up from the coffee table that we'd all gathered around and went to the telephone, then he added while he dialed, "I wonder who the real diplomat is among us. Is it the one standing?" he said and laughed.
When he came back, he told us that we would be leaving at three in the afternoon. A floatplane would pick us up at the beach.
Ross and I looked at one-another. "You must be joking!" said Ross. "We can't just jump up and leave."
"Sure, we can," I assured him. "In an emergency like this we have no choice."
"Naturally, your ladies are invited to join you," Fred grinned and stuck his hands in his pockets and brought a pipe and tobacco out. "I want everybody at this meeting who understands the seriousness of the situation, who has experienced this nightmare first hand. Nobody else will be inclined to understand the priorities. And even you will likely waver," he said to me, "but not all of you together. So you must all go as a team. That's the only way this can work. Just make sure you'll be ready on time. The Air Force will fly you to Washington. From there, you'll be on the over-night commercial flight to Paris. From Paris you'll be booked on the first available local flight to Tempelhof in West Berlin. The rest you can arrange for yourselves. You may want to rent a car? All the passports that you'll need will be given to you in Berlin. Check in at the Hilton, and you'll find them waiting for you."
After this, Fred addressed Tony, telling him that he was now assigned to the diplomatic service as a liaison with the Air Force for special transportation requirements. That too, was prearranged.
"As you can see, the job has top priority. So get going!" he said to us. "Get yourself ready!"
We sat there and looked at each other. Heather grinned. Sylvia nodded and probably wondered whether this was real or just another dream. I looked at my watch. It was eleven o'clock.
"Get going you guys, you don't have much time to waste," Fred spurred everybody on.
While the girls cleared the table, I took Fred aside onto the balcony and asked his forgiveness for my stubborn behavior. I showed him the oil slick on the beach.
"I expected nothing less from you," Fred replied. "Your reactions were exactly like mine when this assignment was given to me. Except, I didn't have the option to yell back at the President. Actually, I expected more opposition from you. I expected more fire, more of your usual passion for what you know is right. Why did you surrender so soon? What happened?"
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