Powersat (The Grand Tour)

Powersat (The Grand Tour) by Ben Bova Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Powersat (The Grand Tour) by Ben Bova Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ben Bova
year, right? Europe, too.”
    “Right,” said Randolph.
    “Every President since Nixon has made noises about energy independence, right? But every year we buy more oil from the Arabs. That oil money funds dictatorships, slavery, attacks on Israel, you name it.”
    “And terrorism,” Randolph muttered.
    “Right!” Kinsky agreed. “And terrorism. Okay, so here’s you, with Astro Corporation. What are you trying to do?”
    “Stay afloat.”
    “No! You’re trying to open up a new source of energy for the U.S. of A. Solar power! Enough energy from one solar power satellite to replace all the fossil fuel and nuclear power plants in all of Texas!”
    “Or California.”
    “Or New York!”
    Dan sank back in his softly yielding chair. “Okay, so we’re offering a way off the oil teat. There’s nothing new in that.”
    “But the governor of Texas could use it as a campaign issue. It would bring him instant national attention. International attention!”
    “You think he’d buck the oil lobby?” Dan scoffed. “In your dreams.”
    Kinsky retorted, “He’s already bucking them with the environmental legislation he’s pushed through. He won the governorship without oil money!”
    “By a hair.”
    “But he won. He beat them.”
    “Yeah. And with a little luck maybe a terrorist will blow him up.”
    “So much the better!”
    Dan shook his head warily. “The politicians have backed away from us, Len. You know that God knows I’ve tried to get political support in Washington. They’re just not interested.”
    “That’s because you’re too goddamned independent for them. And NASA sees you as competition. Nobody in Washington is going to back a new private venture against an existing government agency.”
    “But we’re not competition …”
    “As you say it, boss: And rain makes applesauce.”
    Randolph stared at his P.R. director. “Did you know that that phrase came from NASA’s first director of public relations? He used it in a children’s book he wrote.”
    Kinsky shrugged carelessly. “Boss, you should meet the governor.”
    “I already did, once. Didn’t I?”
    “At the rollout ceremony for the spaceplane, yeah; he was here for that.”
    “So what do I do now? Go to the governor with my hat in my hand and ask him for a handout?”
    “No! You get him to invite you to Austin. And when you
get there, you tell him how you can help him get into the White House.”
    Despite his doubts, Dan smiled. “Okay. How do I get him to invite me to Austin?”
    “Leave that to me, boss. That’s what I get paid for.”

KHARTOUM, SUDAN
    T he Sun was setting over the dusty, picked-bare hills. Standing alone at the window of the now-empty conference room, Asim al-Bashir watched the molten red ball sinking slowly, slowly into the parched and dying earth, turning the cloudless hot sky into a bowl of burnished copper, sending long purple shadows across the decaying old stone fortress, the ancient mosque of the city’s central square, the modern office and apartment blocks that were already crumbling gradually into disrepair.
    After three days of sometimes bitter discussion, the others of The Nine had left the hotel to go their separate ways. They had listened to al-Bashir’s plan, incredulous at first, but with slowly increasing understanding. None of them were enthusiastic about it, but at last they had reluctantly given their approval. The power satellite would be used for their purposes, and the Americans would not even realize they had been attacked. But this attack would kill thousands, tens of thousands, and it would humble the arrogant Americans mercilessly. They will turn on themselves after this, al-Bashir thought, rending each other in an eruption of accusations and recriminations. They will do our work for us.
    And the very idea of a power satellite will be damned forever. Al-Bashir smiled to himself as he saw a future in which
the West became even more dependent on oil from the lands of Islam. Oil is

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