"I'll see you and raise you five," said a guard named Washburn.
It could be worse, Sophia thought. They were at least all being kept together and were being cared for and fed. It had been ten days since they had crashed. They had learned they were being held in the main hospital area at Inastranka Army Air Base. It was a drafty metal hut, one of many half cylinders that were almost buried in the snow.
Escape was out of the question. Too many were still trying to recover with and all too often from the ridiculously primitive medical care. They actually used restraining devices instead of accelerated bone regeneration techniques.
Even if they could move, there were armed guards all over the place. And if they could get past the guards inside the hospital and all the guards that no doubt were outside, where would they go?
At least the Colonel agreed to remove the guard dogs. That was a relief. They were snarling wild animals. It was only a matter of time until one managed to connect with those long teeth and rip someone open.
Sophie tossed in ten chips. "I will see you and raise you five." Even the new group of guards seemed nicer. They were less boring anyway. Instead of standing and staring at them, they brought with something to do. She guessed it came from the new group being older and more mature. They were definitely not trying to intimidate anyone.
Washburn stared at his cards and then tossed in five chips, then pulled a small flask out from under his coat. "Want me to warm up that coffee?"
He topped off her coffee nicely and then poured a bit into his. Washburn's bottle had the mix she liked the best. He said it was called Johnny Walker Black Label. Each guard had their own bottle of soothing warmth.
It wasn't just the guards that were so friendly. The new nurses were too. A nurse named Sharon was serving a concoction called bourbon eggnog to Adam, Rachel and two others as they played a game named Monopoly. She idly watched as she had several cups of Washburn's coffee and easily won all of his chips. Too easy. She was bored. Washburn was showing her a game called Go when one of THOSE guards came in. "You are wanted by the Colonel," he said firmly.
"Please come with me, Ma'am."
Sophie put the little white stone down on the checkered board. Washburn handed her a thick jacket and helped put it on. "That's wolf fur. It's cold outside. Stay warm."
Washburn's coffee left her a bit unsteady on her feet, but she followed the guard. The snow had been plowed from the path but it fell so fast that it still came up to her knees.
She recognized the building she was taken into. It was the brig, where she had been interrogated and photographed.
The guard led her into the cell block. "In here," he said, pointing at an open door. She meekly obeyed.
Inside, he hand cuffed her and shackled her and locked her to a giant steel ring at the rear of the cell and locked it. "What is this for," she said. "We've been completely cooperative." His only answer was to lock the cell door.
As soon as he left, two guards she didn't recognize came to the door and pointed submachine guns at her. Then one called "Secured."
She could hear footsteps. Then a man with two stars on his shoulder looked in. He had a beefy, determined face and a small mustache. "My bosses have sent me a long, cold way because you asked for me. You had better make sure this trip is worth it."
An aide brought in a chair and a note book and put it down for him and then started the recorder device.
Things began to make more sense to Sophia suddenly as she looked at the men looking at her. They weren't suddenly that nice. She evaluated options for a moment. She knew what their primary objective had to be and that her original plan was still the soundest.
The general took a cigarette of a case and lit it."You know who I am. If I've been dragged all the way here for nothing then I want to catch the first train back."
"No, General. I just wasn't expecting you. They gave me no notice."
"You're a prisoner. They weren't going to distribute invitations."
She looked at the guards and their large guns. "No. I suppose not. Have you been briefed, General?"
"I know where you claim to be from. So tell me something I don't know."
"Alright, General. To begin with, you have Soviet spies in your organization."
His face soured. "Who?"
"I don't know."
"That isn't much to go on."
"We learned of your nuclear weapons program through an encrypted radio transmission. That is where we also learned your name. The transmission was from California in America and it was sent in a Russian intelligence code and in a transmission directed in the direction of Siberia. We didn't get much. It sounded you are working on simple fission devices using material refined at the Hanford nuclear reservation."
The general started writing furiously. "What else do you know?"
She shrugged. "The rest is from guesswork and observation from our lunar station. We know you haven't done a test. We believe you are a year away, perhaps even two. We suspect you are both short of materials and you don't know how to complete your little gadget."
"And you want to help us?"
Sophie nodded. "Yes."
"How would you help us?"
"If you really want, we'll just give you the complete plans to an atomic bomb. But there is a much better way."
He smiled. "You mean peace?"
She laughed. "Hardly." Despite her chains, her hands moved, like she was rolling a ball. "You have no word for it. Ours comes from a quite delicious pastry. It's a spicy hot center coated in layers of different sweets."
"You want to bake us a cake?"
"This cake explodes with ten times the force of a simple fission bomb. It uses less of your scarce fissionable materials and will be lighter and smaller, allowing you to more easily weaponize it. We think we could have a test explosion in six weeks."
"This technology is ancient for us, General. It is like a hundred of your artillery gun makers going back to ancient Roman times. With access to their metal casting works, your gun makers could easily construct a crude muzzle loading cannon in six weeks."
"Once you have obliterated Tokyo and Berlin and ended the war, we would start working on increasing your fissionables stockpiles. You will need enough to defeat the Soviet Union before they develop their own bomb."
"The Russkies couldn't climb out of their own tub of vodka without our help."
"You must assume they know what you know about the atomic bomb. Do you know the incredible things Stalin has forced his people to do during this war? No, general. Five years after the end of the war and Stalin will have the bomb. You will have only that long to defeat the Soviet Union and end world communism. If nothing else, it is America's duty as the leader of the free world to save the people in Europe and China."
"What do you mean?"
"If you fight this war without atomic weapons, the Soviet Union will continue pushing the Germans back all the way to Berlin. They'll conquer Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and all those poor people in Eastern Europe who survived Hitler will just exchange one murdering dictator for another. Stalin already has a very strong presence in China and South East Asia. He will roll into there when the Japanese are chased out. China, Viet Nam, Thailand, Burma and Korea will become part of his Empire after the war if America doesn't stop him."
Later in a conference room, the general took off his stars and put on a major's gold oak leaves. Washburn idly stroked a German Shephard dog. He too was dressed as a Major, as were several of the other guards and nurses. Ryan sat at the far end of the briefing room table. "What can you tell me?"
"Her physics isn't mumbo jumbo," said the ex-General. "I think she's telling the truth."
"I wouldn't be so sure of that," said Washburn. "She's the best poker player I've ever seen."
"What else can you tell me?"
"They're smarter than us," said the nurse who had served eggnog. "Not just how quickly they learn but the way they use information. Their scores in Monopoly, Chess and Go all show that they can think ahead further, think faster and keep more in their heads at once than we do."
Washburn nodded. "Yes, but not totally out of the realm of human experience. The biggest difference I saw is, well in the emotional realm."
"Colonel, ever had a dog?"
Ryan nodded, smiling. "We have a farm collie named Whiskey. Two different color eyes and the smartest thing on four feet."
"Do you ever talk to your dog?"
"Do you ever talk with your dog, like almost carry out a conversation?"
Ryan looked back with a sideways glance.
Washburn raised his hand. "I know. He's a dog. But don't you just know what he's thinking?"
Ryan nodded. "Yeah. I do."
"Well they don't. None of them do." He scratched the German Shephard again. "I use Lady here in my civilian practice with abused children. The children understand her. She's wonderful with them. Some days I think she's a better psychiatrist than I am. Only none of your prisoners knew understood Lady, and I don't think she could understand them. When she went to lick their hands, they were afraid. When she smiled, they acted like she was going to bite them."
"So you're saying they don't have dogs on Mars. Maybe they're just a bunch of Nazi dog haters."
"When God made Eve for Adam, he made dogs so Adam would have someone who would listen to him. Dogs are everywhere on Earth. Even in Germany, Japan and Russia. They look so different but they all are dogs. It's really like God made dogs to understand us and for us to understand them. Only none of them do."
The nurse nodded, her eyes wide. "What if God didn't make them?"