[Following, I guess, from this story in which Rayford planned to crash the plane to foil Nicolae's plans, but waited until after the stop where Amanda got off because he didn't want to kill his wife. And then, just as he was preparing to crash, Nicolae relieved him of command.]
"Make no mistake about it," Nicolae said as he casually paced in the guestroom on GC One, ignoring the armed guards, their weapons trained on Rayford, "you will continue to be my pilot after this day is through, and you will never crash this plane. You can think about it, dream about it, wish it, but you will never place this plane or its passengers in danger.
"You will do this because I wish it so. Because it amuses me. Because I don't need a good reason and after today you should understand more than most that I am fully prepared to retaliate with undue force at the slightest provocation.
"I let your wife remain in the room while we discussed our plans because I wanted you to know. I wanted - yes. That. Right there. That moment of recognition that you had your chance to stop this and you didn't take it. You were too concerned about your own loved ones, too concerned about getting Amanda off the plane, to save millions.
"You know what's coming, don't you?" Nicolae knelt before the seated Rayford, bringing them eye to eye. He watched as Rayford considered trying to lunge forward and kill him, and as Rayford realized the guards would kill him before he did any real damage to Nicolae.
Nicolae took a moment to reflect that sometimes miracles weren't breaking the laws of physics sometimes they were as simple as the frangible bullet. A simple innovation that allowed guns and airplanes mix safely.
Nicolae returned his attention to Rayford, who had averted his eyes. "I would say I hate cliches, but the truth is I don't. Some cliches yes, of course, but others I love. I revel in them. And this one is so sweet, it's written on your face that you've already come to realize it. And yet, somehow, still the words will sting more when you hear them spoken than they do right now: You and I are very much alike. We're not so different.
"You could have crashed this plane when you learned of my plan. I gave you ample time, but your wife was on the plane then. So you waited. You traded one life for millions. They were nothing but an abstraction to you, not real people. Who cares if their odds of survival are severely diminished if it can make your loved one, and thus your mind, a little safer?
"Certainly not you. All this blood is on your hands too. I say this not to absolve myself, understand. My hands are soaked in it. But there is blame to go around. You could have stopped it, you didn't, and now innocents have died. Amanda may have warned some, I'm sure she did, but that is nothing compared to the lives you could have saved if you'd simply crashed the plane when you had the chance.
"Millions have died so that you could get what you wanted: Amanda safe. Millions have died in the service of your desires and that makes us the same.
"I don't know what's more beautiful, the recognition on your face, the shame, or the disgust. But I do so enjoy having you as my pilot, and so my pilot you will remain. This will happen. It will happen of your own choosing. At the appropriate time I'll explain to you exactly why you will choose this, but now," Nicolae looked at his watch, "Look at the time.
"If you'll excuse me, I have to go convince the world that most of the blood shed was the fault of your side, not mine, and I only very reluctantly retaliated, and only then to defend the innocent and minimize the casualties."
Nicolae allowed himself a smirk. "When I said that ten percent of the world's weapons would be kept as a deterrent I never actually expected that deterrent would have to actually" deep disingenuous emphasis on the second 'actually', driving home the falsehood of the claim in case, somehow, Rayford had missed it, "be used, and it was with a heavy heart and for the greater good that I did these things to end the war and keep the peace.
"They'll eat it up - the unwashed masses. You know they will. So afraid, so confused, so ready for someone to extend them a hand and lead them out of fear and darkness. They'll be mine by the end of the hour, no matter what your son in law may try to do to sway them.
"And as the masses go, so go the rest. Those who don't believe will be shouted down, or shunned, or thought dim. They'll be marginalized if they speak up, so most won't.
"Your religion compares people to sheep, and sheep they are. They'll follow any shepherd. My rod and my staff, they comfort them, but my voice is what will win the day today.
"So, ta-ta, I have a broadcast to make."
Nicolae stood and turned in a smooth motion, and was halfway to the door when he stopped, as if something had just occurred to him, "Just how bad was the education system in your former country? Have you ever read Omelas?" Rayford didn't answer, though Nicolae gave him ample time. "Stay or walk away?" Nicolae asked.
"Neither," Rayford said, barely above a mumble.
Nicolae's head turned, ever so slightly, back toward Rayford.
Rayford raised his head, raised his eyes, and though he was only looking at the back of Nicolae's head, the guards at least could feel the intensity of his gaze, "I save that fucking child."
Nicolae shrugged. "Well, I suppose you did today. Amanda is safe, after all. One life for millions. You chose to get her to safety and in that day and hour, all the prosperity and beauty and delight of not one but instead ten cities was destroyed. While I address the world, ask yourself if it was worth it." Nicolae left the room.
Minutes later an aide to Nicolae walked in, "The potentate wanted me to assure you that, once the casualties are determined, you will be provided with the names of every individual confirmed to have died in each of the ten targeted North American cities."
The aide turned to one of the guards, "I'm taping the speech for you Mike, from what I've seen it's his finest yet."
"Thanks," Mike said.-
[Skewed Slightly to the Left Index]