The White House, Aug. 26, 1945
Groves looked around the oval office. The center of things, he thought. The very center. But he wasn’t comfortable here, and he was sure Kira wouldn’t be, either.
“Mr. President, I appreciate your hospitality, but I’m afraid this is a bit too public,” he said.
“We’ll continue this in the movie projection room, of course,” Truman said. “I had things set up there as you requested. I understand that it’s an urgent matter of national security, or you wouldn’t be here.”
“With all due respect, sir, the room beneath the projection room might be better suited on this occasion.”
“The shelter? But the war’s over. Who could attack us now?”
“That’s what we need to discuss. Jean,” he indicated Kira, “has got the film; I can carry the projector.
“I could send for—”
“It has to be us, sir, just us.”
With obvious reluctance, Truman led the way out of the office and down to the basement. They were followed by the Secret Service agents, who didn’t have any idea what this was all about and wouldn’t ask. True to their mandate, they took up their posts outside the door to the shelter as the President and his guests entered.
It was cramped inside, but there was enough room for Groves to set up the projector at one end and direct it at the reinforced concrete wall at the other, though that did mean he and Kira had to nudge a few crates of emergency supplies out of the way.
“Before I show the film, I have to explain a few things, Mr. President,” Groves said, as he glanced at Kira. “To begin with… this isn’t my secretary, and her name isn’t Jean – not that it matters.”
“She is a fine figure of a woman, Groves,” Truman said, “but I don’t see…”
He looked at Kira, who gave a small wave.
“She is not of this Earth, and she is not human in any ordinary sense of the word.”
“I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about, but I’m from Missouri.”
“I’m from Velor,” Kira said.
Truman looked angry. Groves was embarrassed. Things were not getting off to a good start.
“Please excuse Kira,” he said. “She’s unfamiliar with some local idioms.”
He turned to Kira, mindful that she must be embarrassed now.
“It’s a figure of speech,” he explained. “Missouri is called the Show Me state. The President was saying that he needs to be convinced. So start convincing him. It’s time for you to move up in the world.”
Then he turned back to Truman.
“Mr. President, would you please look at her feet?”
Grumpily, Truman did so, then his dark eyebrows rose behind his wire framed spectacles and with honest wonder, he asked, “Now that is an impressive trick, young lady; how’d you do that?” He glanced reflexively at the ceiling, looking for wires holding the six foot blonde a clear two inches off the floor, then…
“It’s no trick Mr. President,” Groves answered, getting Truman’s drift. “How could we set it up? We didn’t bring anything down here besides ourselves and the clothes on our backs. And we haven’t been out of your sight for a moment.”
“She must be wearing some gizmo, like in… what was that comic strip… Buck Rogers.”
“I don’t see any gizmo? Do you see a gizmo?”
Truman stared at her chest.
“I’m not about to ask her to show you what’s there,” Groves said. “But think about it: if we had an anti-gravity device, especially one that small, you would have been briefed about it.”
Then he gestured towards a crate of emergency rations. “Kira, if you would?”
Kira nodded and, still smiling brightly, effortlessly lifted the 43-pound crate one handed. But Truman still wasn’t convinced.
“Any circus could do what you just did there, young lady, only they’d do it with a sparkly leotard and bells on.”
Kira quirked her lips, “I could change into something very similar to a leotard quite quickly, Mr. President. If it’d help; you just need to close your eyes for a moment.”
Groves groaned inwardly and tried not to think how the sight of Kira’s uniform, which he knew she was wearing under her skirt and blouse, would make the situation even worse. Trying to get the conversation back on track, he glared at Kira while saying, “About the war, sir...”
Groves hesitated, knowing that what he was about to say would sound ludicrous – it was ludicrous – and that the merest word from the President would bring the Secret Service bursting back into the room. Hopefully the two small displays would buy him enough stunned silence to finish what he had to say without also finishing his career.
“War’s over, Groves,” Truman answered succinctly. “Your bombs helped win it.”
“Yes sir. But it is preventing the next war that I want to talk about, Mr. President.”
“I told you before: Kira is not of this world. She is of a superhuman race from a world that is leading thousands of others in war against an evil empire, and there is a great danger that the empire will bring that war here.”
“This had better be good, not some dog-and-pony show like Szilard’s petition, saying I shouldn’t have used your bomb and that we shouldn’t use it again. Bunch of crybabies; they spend years building a weapon and it never occurs to them that weapons kill people?”
“Szilard and his Chicago people went off the reservation. I tried to talk them out of it, but... what we’re dealing with here has nothing to do with disarmament, or with the bomb. At least, not our bomb. The others I mentioned who are like Kira… they might be helping the Russians.”
“This whole thing sounds like the biggest crock of shit I ever heard. If I didn’t know who you are, what you’ve done for the country, I’d throw you out right this minute. And if you can’t back up this story pronto, you’re through. Forget about being a General, nobody will even hire you as a traffic cop. I’ll see to it.”
“That’s what we’re here for.”
Groves loaded the film, switched on the projector. Truman watched from a fold-down chair as he screened the footage.
* * *
“You shot this yourself?” Truman asked.
“They could fake this sort of thing in Hollywood.”
“I wasn’t working on a Hollywood budget.”
“But I have to be absolutely sure. You understand that.”
“We don’t have anything like Jumbo here.”
“What about that drum of water? Let’s see her lift that one-handed.”
It must weigh at least 500 pounds, Groves knew. But Kira lifted it easily, her long fingers visibly deforming the metal rim. And without losing that balance, she set it back down gently.
Truman finally looked impressed.
“Can you repeat that other trick? The one in the film?”
“Not unless you ask one of your agents for a gun. I wouldn’t recommend that.”
“Would a Swiss Army knife do? I think there’s at least one in with the canned goods.”
Groves got up, rummaged around, and found it, gingerly handed it to the President. Truman snapped open the blade, tested it against his thumb and looked at Groves. Groves nodded to Kira.
Faced with the reality before him, Truman suddenly looked uncertain. Taking pity on him, Kira leaned over and plucked it from his unresisting fingers, then to his widening eyes she stabbed herself in the belly – or tried to, only to break the knife.
Despite having seen the film, Truman gurgled in shock and took a compassionate step forward. Yet when Kira pulled her hand back, showing the snapped blade, the only damage was a neat slit in her blouse.
“Have you got some kind of armor?” he asked Kira, peering at the shimmering metallic blue threads of her uniform visible through the cut.
“No, Mr. President.” She pulled her blouse and uniform top up above her navel to prove that she was totally unharmed.
“I think you two have made your case. Groves, you and your people gave me a hammer over the Russians with the bomb, and now it looks as if you’re giving me another.”
“That’s not exactly how it works,” Kira said. “You’ll have to be patient. I have a long and complicated story to tell.”
“Well, a few minutes ago, I’d have said you had about as much chance of selling me your story as Margaret would getting a contract with the Metropolitan Opera. But I guess I’d better hear you out now.”
“There is a war raging,” Kira began. “A struggle for Heaven and Earth…”