"However, if you had mobilized a broad-based support for the project," Steve continued," with contributions from all over the country, including from across the world, Adam Smith's fascism wouldn't loom quite so tall anymore. Then the project would have a chance to succeed. Your opposers wouldn't know how to react then. In fact, they wouldn't react at all, lest they be exposing themselves as the modern beastmen modeled after the Inquisition. They can't afford that kind of exposure. They can't risk people tearing the mask off their face. They'd sooner let you proceed. Adam Smith succeeds because he has broad based support, and so had Torquemada or else he wouldn't have been able to do what he did."
"That's how we must present the cancellation of the SDI, mustn't we?" Ushi added. "We must take the SDI away from Adam Smith who has turned it into an instrument for creating division, and offer it up as a universal gift from the American people to the Russian people, all wrapped up in the fabric of the universal kiss. That's the motive. Won't that generate worldwide support? Then we would ride on the wave of that support to propose to the world the vastly greater, new strategic defense initiative that is needed to protect mankind from the otherwise ravishing effect of the next Ice Age in a hundred years time. We must say to the world, right at this world forum, you fools don't you know that Nemesis is coming? You fools, don't you know that nuclear war isn't the biggest thing to fear? The biggest thing is the coming Ice Age. You fools, don't you know that the present warm climate of our interglacial period is ending, and that our agriculture is keyed to this warm climate, and therefore ends with it? You fools, don't you know that when agriculture goes, which is endangered by the coming cold climate, so goes our food resource and mankind is endangered to die by starvation? You fools, why haven't you requested the governments of the world to develop universal indoor agriculture as a means for our global survival?"
"That is what we must say at the conference," I said quietly, "but we have to present it in a manner that it becomes indeed a universal kiss that enriches and benefits the whole of mankind. The coming Ice Age is the most critical element in geologic history when the most advanced species on earth becomes critically endangered. I must say to them gently, don't you know that we have to build defenses against this horrendous danger, and that we have it within us to do this if we put our childish games aside and become serious in defending ourselves? That's the kind of stuff that Jason had taught us at the beach, free of charge, in his Wreck Beach University."
I remembered Fred's words that the deeper reason for our mission was to outflank the Empire by luring Russia away from its assigned role as an adversary. It became plain to me that this could only be done by laying the basis for a New Renaissance, a New Renaissance by which the whole world becomes uplifted in the dynamics of its love for one-another. "Such a process invariably involves the platform of the universal kiss. Without it no renaissance is possible. Nothing less than a real universal kiss, whatever that would translate into, would be sufficient for a start," I said. "Ushi's suggestion therefore, comes to light as a practical first step," I said to everyone. No one disagreed.
Long after the dinner was over that night, after the dishes had been cleared away and the political talk had ground to a halt, the 'conversation' became interspersed with yawning.
"Time to call it a night," said Tony. However, going to bed didn't seem right. A gentle breeze swept in from the water, from the direction of the marina where a million lights still glistened from the forest of masts and decorated rigging.
Steve nudged me as I was paying the bill. "Let's go for a walk," he suggested, "we can't let such a lovely evening go to waste. Anyone interested?" he asked.
I suspected that he knew that I was interested, even if no one else evidently was.
The restaurant was located at the end of a promenade that was lit by ornate lanterns mounted on cast iron lampposts that were set up along the sea wall. Instead of a railing along the edge to the water, long iron chains were strung from post to post between the lanterns, mostly for decoration. The long flowing lines also seemed to make the promenade appear longer than it probably was.
Steve didn't say anything as we began our walk. This silence wasn't his style. Also it seemed that the scenery wasn't the focal point of our walk or else he would have remarked on it. It struck me in this silence that Steve and I had never been alone together since we came to Venice. This would have been an ideal time for further conversation. Instead there was this silence unfolding. Something was troubling him. But what was it? He had become quiet near the end of the dinner. I had attributed it to sleepiness, but even for that his silence war too unlike his usual self.
"What do you make of all this?" he asked finally, breaking the silence himself.
"This, being what? Do you mean our mission, Steve, the cancellation of the SDI project?"
He didn't reply, but nodded.
It suddenly dawned on me what he might have meant. Something didn't add up about the whole SDI affair. I could feel it too. Except, I couldn't quite tell what it was that didn't add up. I told him so.
"On the one hand I feel like we are traitors," I said to him. "We are about to announce the destruction of the only physical defense system that makes any sense. On the other hand I know that we are doing the right thing."
"That's a paradox," said Steve. "What bothers me about this paradox," he said, "is the way the SDI has originally been perceived, and how it is being perceived now. Here, we have another paradox, a paradox within a paradox. Everyone tells us that the SDI is meant to protect civilization. That's what an anti-missile defense system is designed to do. But even while we were building it, it increased the division in the world to the point that the SDI itself became obsolete before it got off the ground."
"Just like the XB-70 Valkyrie," I interjected.
Steve looked at me and nodded. "I suppose so," he said. "The SDI created another arms race within the arms race by which it became obsolete. It has thereby made the world infinitely more vulnerable than it has been before. I think our President is right in wanting to get rid of this exposure. The so-called defensive shield that we were planning to build would become our undoing if we didn't get rid of it. It seems that even our brain-dead President is able to sense this. Except he doesn't know why. My question, Peter, is, do we know the answer?"
"That's a paradox," I answered.
"No, this isn't precisely the paradox that puzzles me," he said and stopped.
We had stopped at a bench facing the water. He invited me to sit down with him. The water and the sky were black before us, except for a spot of light that appeared to be a ferryboat coming in from the island of Lido.
"The paradox that puzzles me," said Steve, "is the inconsistency that I see behind the scene. The stature of the man who created the SDI concept, and what the SDI became, don't match. The man who created the SDI concept is a scientist, like myself. His technological concept of searching for new physical principles is brilliant, and so is the humanitarian intent of protecting the populations from the unfolding insanity in the world. My problem is that I cannot see how such a brilliant and advanced scientist and thinker can make the enormous blunder to create an instrument that causes ever-greater division in the world, and this at the most volatile point in history. The two elements don't go together."
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