December 25, 2012
The Empire State Building
New York City
"So that's the long and the short of it, Cal. We could really use someone with your experience right about now."
Cal Walker sat back in his deep leather desk chair and glanced out at his panoramic view of midtown Manhattan. Though just past his eightieth birthday, Walker was still very much the same steely-eyed missile man who had helped America reach the Moon forty years earlier. His thin frame was still erect and strong, his ice blue eyes still pierced fiercely whenever he caught someone's gaze, his swept-back silver hair betrayed no sign of a receding hairline. Few men of his age could claim to feel and look so good. But since moving out of NASA and into the private sector in the mid-1970's, Walker had not only prospered financially but had also found a number of ways to keep himself feeling youthful.
"I'm glad you contacted me, John," Walker remarked into his telephone. "In fact I was just about to board a plane to Africa so I'm grateful I managed to catch your call. I'd be happy to help you in any way possible, though I doubt someone with my antiquated experience could help your young go-getters at NASA."
"You're being modest, Cal," Deke said as he poured himself another cup of coffee. "No one here has your expertise with a moon shot. I don't know what we'd do if we couldn't get you on board."
"I just wish my return to space, as it were, were under better circumstances. I imagine that the President must be very upset with the most recent casualty reports."
"I haven't spoken to him about them, but I can only imagine he is. That's why we're glad to get your help on the Phoenix redesign. The President is concerned that a panic might be imminent now that the source of the pulse has broken on the news. He wants us up there investigating it ASAP."
"Understandable of course. As I said, I am at your service. I'll see you at the Cape after the new year."
"Thanks Cal. I look forward to it."
Walker hung up the phone and turned his chair to face the man sitting on the opposite side of his desk.
"Well -- NASA's called me in."
The man gave an almost imperceptible shrug. "We were expecting this once the source of the EMP was analyzed."
"The President's put a rush on the mission. He wants a team to be on the Moon by the summer. Sometime in June, no later."
"That may work to our advantage."
"That's what I was thinking."
"Rushing to space can be a dangerous business."
"I know. But the President fears a worldwide panic if the source of the pulse goes unexplored."
"Then NASA has to attempt a mission."
Walker smiled thinly. "My thoughts exactly."