“This is damn serious,” Admiral Horner said. “The air force has been lucky so far, but naval assets have been lost, as you all should know, in incidents similar to this. This most recent Dreamland encounter swindled you out of two F-15s just like our loss of a P-3 and F-14 last year near Puerto Rico. Worse still, the Norfolk event. I don’t think I need to remind anyone here about our losses in that incident. The pattern is the same.”
“Could it be the elusive fifth species?” Professor Moresby said.
Even the air seemed to disappear.
The officers sat frozen; fears of inadequacy compressed their innards. They hung there, suspended, as if dumped into the suffocating vacuum of space.
For once, the machinery in General Taylor’s head powered down. Emotional batteries kickedin. How will this ever end?
Blood circulated again in his colleagues’ arteries. Their cheeks blushed. Moresby twiddled his thumbs.
At first, the professor’s movement unnerved Taylor. To remind the working group about the fifth species—the daunting, mysterious, unpredictable fifth species—would only encourage more self-destruction.
But watching the old man, Taylor realized the professor’s simple act clarified everything.
“This group knows where I stand. The fifth speciesis obviously a dangerous threat,” Admiral Horner said, confirming Taylor’s concerns. “Could be the most dangerous. This is what Saint Mary is all about. I don’t put much stock in such things as communications, the hybrids, disinformation, or other intangibles. We need to take a stand. Our day of infamy has come and gone, gentlemen, and I don’t see us fighting back. Saint Mary may have grown out of fear, but I don’t see us doing enough to conquer that fear.”
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