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Author Topic: After  (Read 435 times)

Vikarion

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After
« on: 14 Aug 2016, 22:50 »

...only who is left.

Prologue.

0500, United States Strategic Command, 2019.

It had been a long morning for Dawn Reilly, and it wasn't nearly over. She hated this duty shift. Being a night person -  or as she preferred it, the smart worm - she preferred a shift that started in the afternoon or evening. So, of course, the Air Force put her to work in the morning, staring mindlessly at a few screens that basically told the world that all was well, or, at least, not ending.

The first warning she had, or, really, that anyone had, she would later think, was one of her computers, and those of a few others, suddenly demanding her attention with an insistent tone. Linked to several satellites, the computer was looking for ionizing radiation. If it had had feelings, it would have been very worried that a particular GPS satellite, with detection equipment more than a generation improved from the first "Vela" satellites designed for the same purpose, had just started screaming its head off about a massive amount of radiation, heat, and light appearing where it thought Moscow was supposed to be.

At first, Dawn wasn't that worried. This sort of thing had happened before, although, not with every indicator going off. The proper procedure was to inform higher, then start looking for what had gone wrong. In this case, she figured, it was probably a software glitch aboard the satellite, because the odds of several computers in SAC deciding to have the exact same fault were pretty low. It might be a hardware fault, though, in which case the Air Force would be shelling out 122 billion so that people could get directions in their cars...and also so that the Air Force would know when North Korea decided to test another nuke.

She did start worrying about two minutes later, after notifying her superiors, when whispers started spreading through the building. According to the grapevine, present in every military organization and often more accurate than the civilian version, no one could get in touch with Moscow.

* * *

0503, Strategic Missile Troops Command, 2019

Dima Smirnov, aide, handed the fax to General Roma Ivanov, with a head spinning in unreality. Dead Hand had activated. Dead Hand. The system designed to ensure retributive attack on anyone who tried to decapitate the Russian Federation, Dead Hand worked on the principle of "fail deadly". If Moscow and the political leadership of the country were destroyed by a nuclear attack, verified by sensors recording heat, radiation, and over-pressure, Dead Hand sent out a command, authorizing the use of strategic weapons. Nuclear weapons.

"It's confirmed, sir". He spoke mechanically, woodenly. He knew General Ivanov had family in Moscow, a wife, three children. He himself had a girlfriend there. He...

"But...why? Who?" The General nearly shouted it, or whispered it. Dima wasn't sure. But he had the answer for that, too.

"Tracking says that it's south-eastern heat and radiation residue", he replied, handing over another fax. "At least, close in. They lose the trail after that. We had no launch warning."

"What? The Chinese? But why? And how did they launch without us knowing?"

"Or the Indians, sir, according to Tracking. As for how, they think it's some sort of anti-radar coating, and launched when our visual satellites were out of range."

"Stealth technology? Since when do the Chinese have stealth technology? They've even promised no first use! What about the Americans?" The General's face wasn't angry, was almost bewildered, even curious. "Could it have been them? A false flag?"

"I'm afraid not, sir." Dima had thought the same, but only until he saw the track. "Tracking is sure. The Americans can't change physics, and it's a ballistic track. And we need to make a decision now, sir. If there are more of these stealth birds in the air, we may lose our entire strategic force before we can reply. What do we do, sir?"

Dima knew that the general knew this, but he felt, in some detached corner of his mind - across the aisle from the corner that was starting to wonder whether Ana could possibly have survived, the corner that he was trying to ignore - that it was his duty to keep things moving, keep the general focused on what to do, not why. And it worked. Ivanov's eyes narrowed as the general tried to think faster than was possible.

"What about a mistake? A maniac? Someone pushing the wrong button?" the general asked, not bothering to read the faxes.

"Not possible, sir. At least, we don't think so. The Chinese have at least as stringent controls as we do." He didn't add that the General knew this. Why add insolence from a subordinate to the man's problems?

"Can we talk to them?"

"EMP knocked out our non-hardened communications, sir."

The general nodded, and Dima felt a pang of near-pity for a man he had largely seen a serious, no nonsense mentor, a man with a black, dry wit, and someone he had never pitied before. Dima had no idea what to do, and he knew everything general Ivanov did. But Ivanov had to make a decision, now.

"It still might be a mistake," Ivanov growled, and paced five feet. "But we can't not respond. I'm not going to murder a billion Chinese for Moscow, though. I'm not!" He would have looked almost defiant, if he hadn't been so quiet, so pale. "We will respond. Land missiles, no MIRVS. Fire ten, say, at their silos. If it's a mistake, surely they can understand what we are doing, and why. If it's by accident, surely a few nukes exploding in the Taihang Mountains are less of a provocation than fucking Moscow!"

* * *

0512, The White House, 2019

"No, I fucking well won't!"

The President glared at the Secret Service agent, who looked shaken, although, the President knew, not because of the shouting - they were used to that by now - or the interruption of the very quick briefing. He tried to control his temper, which had not improved from being woken early and being still dressed in a bathrobe.

"Look, Scott," he managed. "Put the VP on the plane. I have to be here. That's my decision." He turned back to the attractive female - he needed to get her name - intelligence aide. "Continue." She opened her mouth to do so, when another woman popped into the room. "Mr. President, we have the Chinese Premier on the phone."

He sighed. He'd largely started his run for the Presidency as a publicity stunt, and would certainly have lost if his opponent hadn't collapsed from a stroke in the middle of their second debate. Right now, and for the past three years, he'd been wishing he had lost - the job had turned out to be far more complex, frustrating, and limited than he'd thought. And now - through no fault of his own, he was sure - everything looked to be going to shit. Even his hair, his personal pride and joy, was going grey, despite coloring. Grey! He picked up the phone.

"Good morning, Mr. President". The voice was soft, cultured. He wasn't sure if it actually was the Premier, or through an interpreter, so he played it safe.

"Not so good, if what I'm hearing is true. You have my assurances that we-"

"We know, Mr. President. I am calling to inform you that China considers the launches against us a clear use of weapons of mass destruction, a decapitation strike as a prelude to a further strike against civilian targets, and that we will not allow our nuclear forces to be destroyed without...on the ground."

"But..." the President, groggy, tried to think, furiously. "They think you nuked Moscow. What if we - "

"I have no further time, Mr. President. We must leave for a protected location. I am sorry. I called to inform you that if the United States refrains from interference, we will exercise no first use. Goodbye."

The phone clicked, and the President was left staring at a dead line. "And good luck..." he mumbled, staring at the phone in his hand, then looked up. "Any luck raising Moscow? Anyone over there?"

"No, Mr. President."
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Vikarion

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Re: After
« Reply #1 on: 15 Aug 2016, 00:18 »

0517, Strategic Missile Troops Command, 2019

Dima was becoming used to the unreality of it all, now. More faxes and calls were coming in, and now, more advanced communications were adapting to the loss of Moscow as a control hub. Now everything was running relative smoothly, right down into hell. For all the information they were getting was bad. The Russian counter-force ICBMs had barely cleared their silos before China had started launching as well. General Ivanov, looking grey, was looking over the missile tracks, while Dima sat at his own desk and simply waited for a request.

It didn't take long for the General to decide. There were too many missiles coming in for it to be a mere counter-force reply. There were the long range ICBMs Dong Feng-5s, road-mobile Dong Feng-21s, 31s, maybe others. These were city-killers, over 100 launches, and some with MIRVs, the multiple warheads allowing a single missile to hit many targets. There really only was one response, and Dima watched General Ivanov give the order. In less than a minute, all over Russia, silos opened, and SS-18 Satans, as well as others, like the mobile RT-2PM Topol, began to climb into the sky.

* * *

0521, The White House.

"The Russians have launched at China, sir." On the phone, and then off, was whoever was standing in for the Air Force Global Strike Command liaison, and the President let out a breath he hadn't been sure he was holding. The United States was now at DEFCON 1, and he had nearly ordered a strike at whatever madman was launching in Russia. But - and he was ashamed to feel relieved - the launches were tracing south-east, not west. Not towards his country.

Then the phone rang again, and he jumped, grabbing it and shoving it to his ear. "Yes?", he nearly shouted, as an aide dropped another document in front of him. "What?"

The same voice spoke he'd just spoken to came across the line. "Sir, two of the Russian launches appear to have been targeted in error. They're heading towards India. We're seeing launches from Indian Agni Vs, or possibly VIs."

"Agni?" The president had never heard of it.

"Like our Minuteman, sir. And...one moment...sir? It appears that Pakistan is launching on India. We believe that India will counter-launch immediately, since they are so close. And...Pakistan also appears to be launching a short-range missile salvo at Israel, sir."

"Oh, shit."

"That about sums it up, sir. The United Kingdom and France have gone to high-readiness."

"Thank you."

The president looked up to see another military-looking official, he should know who, but...the man spoke without preamble. "Mr President, we are receiving detonation confirmations of the first wave of Russian weapons. They were targeted on Chinese nuclear silos." With a nod, the man then retreated, and the president sat for ten seconds, trying to think. Then he picked up the phone to the State Department.

* * *

0523, Tel Aviv

In another bunker, another general sat, reading a flimsy dispatch. He had never expected to read it. He had hoped to never read it. And, for all that, it looked fairly innocent. It was merely a series of characters, an authorization code. What made it a horror for him was the words just above it.

Let me die with my enemies.

Since the holocaust, the Jewish State had always understood itself, and the Jewish people, to be at risk of annihilation. If such should occur, it was felt, the Jews should not leave peacefully a world that had persecuted them for so long, and so harshly. Thus, the Samson Option. And now, Pakistani nukes, fired in dying hate from a nation believing itself to be being attacked by its archenemy, India, were minutes away. It made a bit of sense - India's nuclear program had been a creation, in part, of the State of Israel. And now....Samson.

Like the figure of ancient myth, Israel would pull down the pillars of the world, as it expended its nuclear arsenal on every European and Middle Eastern country its missiles and planes could reach. Two thousand years of persecution and pain would be repaid in radioactive fire. He had entered the codes. It was inevitable now. He wondered how hot the fires of hell would be.
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Vikarion

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Re: After
« Reply #2 on: 15 Aug 2016, 01:31 »

0526 (US Eastern), London, United Kingdom

"They launched just before they got hit." The voice was calm, and the Prime Minister wished she possessed the same sort of calm. But how could one be calm in the face of such madness? Why on earth would the Israelis launch at England? What had England done but ever be a friend to the Jewish people? All because some madman in Russia...there was no time. Then another messenger barged in, from the Foreign Office.

"The Americans, the traitorous bastards! They're saying that they won't launch unless launched against! They're completely ignoring their NATO obligations!" He thrust a copy of the message at her, as if it were some sort of personal insult.

She shrugged, then shook her head. "Can you really blame them?" she asked. "I cannot." She turned to the first speaker, her minister of defense. "I will call the Queen", she said, and surprisingly, her voice was very quiet still, very calm. "After that, I must speak to the SSBN Control Officer at Northwood, please."

* * *

~0527, over China, Shanghai.

The missile had been an SS-18, a "Satan", packed with multiple warheads perched atop a massive tube of propellant. Its design, as with the design of any missile, was devilishly complex in the particular, but fundamentally simple over all: a mortar shell writ large, with its propellant aboard. That propellant was long gone, now, having fallen away to allow the nose cone to coast along ballistically in near-low-earth orbit. Then, carefully, the nose cone too fell away, and the malignant spires of multiple re-entry vehicles, each possessing a multi-megaton payload, were revealed.

Their guidance systems continued to align themselves as they separated from the missile nose base, and began to accelerate downwards as gravity took further hold. Each warhead shared a target with at least two others, both for redundancy, and for the purpose of ensuring total destruction of the target. That three of them were targeted on Shanghai, the most populated city on earth, was not something the warheads could care about. All they could care about, and did, was their barometric triggering systems.

* * *

0527, near Shanghai, China

Zhang was poor. He knew it. He also did not care. He had been a farmer most of his life, and had sent three of his children to the big city. Now they provided for him, as they thought, with far more modern conveniences than he needed, or wanted, really. His pride and joy was, and he felt, always would be, his ancient Ford pickup, even if he lived far from where he had salvaged and repaired it. It might be rusty, uncomfortable, and dusty, but he took a secret delight in driving his grandchildren around in it, much to the worry of their parents. Especially on a day like this, a rare family get together.

It was outside, in the afternoon, when he heard the noise, like one of the PLA jets that he'd heard once or twice in his life. A cracking boom, like an earthquake in the sky. He had gone out to grab some vegetables from his small, residential garden, and he turned his face to the sky to look for the plane. That saved his eyesight, mostly, from the sudden, brilliant flash far to the east. Instead, his skin felt suddenly hot, and he looked down, towards the horizon, towards Shanghai.

Where there had been a city, over the horizon but still a source of smog and smoke, something else rose. It was brilliant white, roiling with red, and purple, and black. It rose like a malicious demon, and the old farmer spared not a moment. He ran inside, screaming for everyone to get down in a tone that brooked no argument. His family did, and he did, and yet, almost too late. Not a second later, a hurricane of force, much diminished by distance, hit, blasting out windows, smashing him gently into the wall. Then there was another flash, and boom, and a third. And then, a silence.

They rose, as one, and filed outside, even the children being afraid to cry or talk in the unnatural silence. Far, far away, three balls of smoke and fire rose into the sky, and then there was another glow, to the north, too far to define.

"Tā mā de", he said, almost absently, then remembered the children, expecting his wife to exercise her sharp tongue. But she merely repeated the oath herself, staring in her own awe and fear at the rising mushrooms of ash. Chinese ashes, he thought, and then thought something else.

"We must go", he said, grabbing his adult daughter and son, and dragging them back to the house. "Get all the food. Get all the tools, everything into the Ford. Now!"

"But what about..." his daughter began, starting to blubber, and Zhang slapped her, gently, across the face, twice. He's never done that, not even when she was a child, and she stared at him, outraged. Good. "Later," he growled. "I remember some things you do not. We must head west, now. Don't take your silly little plastic cars anywhere. We will take the truck."

He would later think that only this, leaving immediately, had saved him and his family. There would be times he would wonder if it might not have been more merciful for them all to simply walk into those strange, malevolent clouds that reminded him of toadstools. But, in the end, they were alive.
« Last Edit: 26 Aug 2016, 18:27 by Vikarion »
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Vikarion

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Re: After
« Reply #3 on: 18 Aug 2016, 21:27 »

0529, US Eastern. North Sea.

Vengeance, one of the United Kingdom's four Vanguard-class SSBNs, had been patrolling deep beneath the waters of the North Sea, when the low frequency message had come through. When they came close enough to the surface, an antenna was floated, catching the repeated message. It was short.

The captain of a nuclear capable sub in the service of the Queen bore an awesome responsibility. Unlike his American counterparts, a UK nuke boat only carried sixteen of the American-made Trident-II ICBMs, but within each missile's nose cone dwelt eight W-88 warheads. Each independently targeted, each yielding about thirty-one times the destructive power of Little Boy, the executioner of the city of Hiroshima. And, also unlike his American counterpart, the captains of Vengeance and Vigilant, the two of the four submarines on patrol, had the discretion to choose whether to launch, without authorization codes, should he lose contact with the mother country.

But there was no such discretion now. The orders had come in. Hit Israel, in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv - should there be anything left. Probably, he thought, as his executive officer came running into the conn, Vigilant would be hitting China - she was supposed to be in the Atlantic or the Mediterranean - a long reach for Trident...but not too long. He already had his key.

It seemed that it didn't take very long at all. It seemed like it took forever. The confirmation codes, the keys, and then the submarine shuddered, over, and over, and, finally, Captain John Mark Boyd took the liberty of raising his periscope to watch the last missile racing away, heading into the east. It was wrong to linger, it wasn't doctrine, it was unsafe, with potentially hostile subs certainly racing to discover him, but what did that matter now?

He needn't have worried. The only other submarine in the area was an innocent and curious Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine, and being too far away to realize that it was a missile launch, the captain of that boat arrived only to find a few dolphins, also investigating. He and his crew took a few pictures, and congratulated their sonar technicians on hearing such an ephemeral display of ocean life. And while they did, preserved in their innocence by a storm of man-made atmospheric interference, in other seas, in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Indian, submarines of the French Triomphant-class, of the British Vanguard class, of the Indian Arihant class, slunk away, magazines empty, their crews somehow finding the absence of those weapons that had lurked within their hulls to be far more frightening than they had even been in place.

* * *

0529. US Eastern. English Channel.

Captain Henry Klein, commander of the USS Philippine Sea, swore, but only to himself. He - well, his ship - was trying to track the warhead that, supposedly, was heading in towards London. That was proving devilishly hard - either it was still too far away, or they weren't going to see it well enough to shoot, at all. And that would be that, for, oh, a few million people, at least.

The USS Philippine Sea was named for a great battle, not the greatest that the United States had fought, but one in which it had demonstrated its total domination of tactics, of the air, and of the sea, over the Imperial Japanese Fleet. It was "over the air" which had its crew, including one Henry Klein, German-American Midwesterner from Wyoming, crossing their fingers in hope. For the USS Philippine Sea was a Ticonderoga-class Aegis guided missile cruiser, outfitted with the latest radar and the most powerful SAMs, including a rather potent type that, more than occasionally, had proven eager to shoot down incoming ballistic warheads.

In tests. And not ICBMs.

And, this time, in the real world, the SM-3 SAMs were waiting eagerly, hopefully, as the computers hunted in vain for - his thoughts broke off as one of the techs suddenly yelped, hit a key, and then glanced back at him, a grin on her face. "I got it, I got it!" she almost shouted at him, and he didn't bother to correct her lack of discipline, not even noticing it, as he moved to stand behind her, hearing the rumble of the life-saving arrows rumbling away.

The SM-3 was, indeed, not rated against ICBMs. But the Jericho 3, for whatever reason, wasn't delivering its payload fast enough. Or perhaps the SAMs were simply better than Raytheon and Mitsubishi had advertised. One could forgive their skepticism, for intercepting a ballistic warhead is incredibly difficult. One problem is that it is an extremely small target, far smaller than a fighter, or even most satellites, which, in fact, the SM-3 rather liked hitting, insofar as a missile can like anything. Another problem was that a ballistic warhead comes in faster than an explosion propagates through air - so if one of the SM-3s detonated behind warhead, the blast and fragments would simply never catch up. For this reason, the first few SM-3s missed, detonating too far behind or to the side.

The fourth SM-3, however, being gifted with better radar tracking as the nuclear weapon moved closer overhead on its mission of destruction, solved this problem by the semi-miraculous feat of simply impacting it, and then detonating. At the speed at which the warhead was moving, however, the detonation was both inevitable and largely irrelevant - both the warhead and the SAM simply disintegrating. The fifth and sixth SM-3s, also in the air, each targeted whatever fragments had been reflecting radar a moment before, and tried to home in on them, before self-destructing.

There was a silence in the control room, only modified by the hushed breathing of the crew, and the rumble of the engines at flank speed. Then one of the techies, and no one remembered who it was later, gave out a quiet, sardonic, and yet somehow, completely relieved "well, so much for my London urban renewal project." The joke sat, like a bomb itself, in the air, and then everyone was suddenly laughing, crying, or running out of the room to throw up.

* * *

0529. US Eastern. Paris.

There was no anti-ballistic missile defense surrounding Paris. Some French, perhaps, had argued for requesting it from their allies, as Japan had, and Poland. Others had argued that it would be a provocation of the Russians. In any event, it did not matter now.

Not even everyone had heard, but many had, and people began to gather outside. There was no point in running, there was no panic. Some carried small radios, and while some of those still blared with the futile, hopeless warnings of the Sécurité Civile, others - then most - played, for the last few minutes, Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus . It was a song about love, perhaps not the best song, not a patriotic song, a song that had been called obscene, a song about sex, or perhaps a song about sex and love. Its great virtue, perhaps, was that it had been within the reach and recall of a man, thinking of his wife, just a few blocks away, as he put on the last song, the final song. Or perhaps its virtue was that it was unquestionably French, that it was sensual, and breathy, sexy, and sweet. It played from small radios, from shops, as people began to gather in the scant minute or three they had, maybe for a last cup of coffee, maybe just to try to look out, over, to see the Eiffel tower.

And then there was nothing but evil light.



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Vikarion

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Re: After
« Reply #4 on: 19 Aug 2016, 00:53 »

0539, Strategic Missile Troops Command, Russia

Dima looked around the room. It was partly empty. The last missiles had been launched, and orders had gone out to the submarines. There was nothing else to be done. Had there been, there would have been too little time to do it in.

The English had launched. So had the French. A few missiles at Israel, obviously, and a few at China, perhaps on general principles, but probably just because they hadn't changed the targeting parameters, and China was still launching missiles that might land in Europe. And, of course, at Russia, at the Motherland. That, too, was not hard to understand - somehow, one or two of the older missiles that were supposed to be re-targeted at China, well, hadn't been, or perhaps their aging guidance systems had failed, like the two that had exploded somewhere over India.

"And we were warned," Dima muttered to himself, "the army always did say that bad maintenance would kill you". Again, not that it made a difference. More than a couple aging rockets were heading towards India or France, now. The strategic arsenal, what of it was launch-capable - and that was, perhaps, seventy-five percent of the ICBM force, was heading towards targets across Europe, China, and even the Middle East, on the grounds that the Middle East was a source of oil for Europe, who Russia was now at war with, and would be - Dima glanced at his watch - for about ten more minutes. Only that, because while the Chinese had failed to launch at this particular target, neither the French nor the English had.

Someone was passing around bottles of vodka, the good stuff. Dima already had one, and continued to stare around the room as he drank, thinking. As for other means of sending out nukes, well, the first wave of Chinese missiles had gone for airbases, military bases, and silos. And what was the point, anyway? The missiles were plenty.

There was a consistent, annoying tone. It was one of the phones. Someone had managed to route a phone line to America, to here, from around Moscow, or something like that. Stupid Americans. Probably their idiot president, still thinking he could save the world. He snorted. Maybe he should answer it, tell them it was all an accident. That would set their heads spinning. His head was spinning. Or maybe it was the world that was spinning. Assholes. But there wasn't anyone to answer the phone. The Genera had ordered the vodka brought in, then gone to his quarters, and Dima had noticed that he'd taken his pistol. Dima couldn't see the point of that.

There'd been talk of nuking the Americans, too, but what for? More to the point, older Russian ICBMs were liquid-fuelled, and fueling them took time, time some of them did not have. They needed every bird to hit all of the cities, military targets, and naval bases that were their targets, especially considering that they had to double up on some that might have ABM protection. As well, any strike on the US would guarantee the death of any Russians that the Europeans and Chinese didn't nab. Even now, Mutually Assured Destruction held, even at the end.

The power flickered, went out, came back. External power had been lost, which meant that EMP had just hit part of the power grid. Somewhere close. Dima examined the vodka bottle, and smiled. At least, he considered, I won't have to worry about a hangover.

* * *

0545, United States Strategic Command.

Once, Dawn had watched a documentary about the Holocaust, and another time, about a terrible plane crash. She hadn't liked watching them, not simply because the events were horrible, not merely because you could imagine yourself caught up in them, but because, even just watching them, there was that horrible, terrible sense of inevitability, that sense of being unable to change anything, to stop anything, because it was in the past. Those people, when you watched them, were permanently, continuous, always caught in the moment of disaster, catastrophe, unable to be helped, always, inevitably, doomed.

Dawn had thought that that was, in some sense, sort of a hell. Now she had discovered a new hell, a true hell, as she and her companions in the tracking center watched as the world came apart around them.

A few of them had been noisily sick. Dawn wanted to be, but though her insides roiled, she hadn't eaten much, and she had a cast iron stomach. Others were crying. Most just stared at their screens, sometimes flinching at the tone when the computers thought they had a new launch. And there were lots of launches, and everyone could see them, because what was the point of compartmentalizing watch duties now?

It was funny, in a way. Everyone had thought that a nuclear strike would be on-time, coordinated. But it wasn't, they weren't. Some were ready, and launched right away - you could tell when the orders went out, because that part of a wave of launches contained the largest number. Then the remainders would trickle in - 10 more here, 5 there, a sub letting off sixteen sequentially. The computers would watch them, then track their potential target locations as the trajectory narrowed. They'd been informed that the United States intended not to launch unless launched against, and not even then, if it were only one or two hits. And so far, they'd had a charmed life, these United States. Only one Russian missile had been launched at them, an older model, and probably by mistake. They'd been narrowing its targets down when it had vanished from tracking, probably having blown up. There had even been a moment of dark humor, when North Korea had tried to launch...something...only for it to blow up on the pad. Then someone had hit Pyongyang with a multi-megaton payload, probably from a bomber, probably the Chinese, thinking that the madman was going to do something stupid. Well. Not anymore.

Someone had wheeled in a big screen tv from somewhere, and had a map up on it, like that display from that movie, Wargames. It wasn't automated, of course, but tracking and detonation sites were constantly updated. A repeating, scrolling list of cities that had been hit, and by whom, went down one side. Paris, by Russia and Israel. Berlin, the same. Hamburg, the same. Dresden. Nice. Birmingham. St. Petersburg. Volgograd. Belfast. Warsaw, for some reason. Madrid, again, for some unexplained reason. Spain didn't even have nukes. Beijing. Ankara. Baghdad, Tehran, Calcutta, New Delhi, Agra...so much for the Taj Mahal. Dawn had read somewhere, once, someone calling it "the tear-drop on the cheek of time". Now, now it, too, would have tears shed for it. Mecca. Medina. Jerusalem. The homes of religions preaching an apocalypse. Well, they had it now.

There went another, a bright glow in eastern Europe. Minsk. Another - Sevastopol. A bright dot in the west, Brighton. To the north, Oslo, then, another, Bergen. A few more in Scandanavia...Helsinki, Stockholm, Malmo. None of those in the north came from missiles...what was it, she wondered idly, a few Russian pilots lashing out with bombs before they ran out of fuel, ran out with no home to return to? Then Scapa Flow went, then Istanbul. So much for the Haga Sophia. Cairo blossomed into a large white dot, then a succession of several more marched up Italy: Naples, Rome, Venice - she would never take her boyfriend to travel on the gondolas there, now - Milan, Florence, Turin. More. All just...bright dots, now.

She was wrong. She was going to throw up. She grabbed the wastebasket next to her desk, and began dry heaving into it, until they weren't spasms of vomiting nothing, just wracking, wrenching sobs.



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Vikarion

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Re: After
« Reply #5 on: 26 Aug 2016, 19:32 »

0545, somewhere in Siberia, Russia

The Russian missile launch that had fallen off of the missile warning radars of the United States was not, in fact, a dud or a mistaken launch. It was an SS-18, an older but widespread model, and this one carried three warheads.

Sergei Alexandrovich watched the missile warheads track in on, he was sure, an innocent country. Well, he thought, not 'innocent'. Russians had plenty of reasons to hate Americans, but this was...well, stupid. And cruel. When this was all over, where would the Russians get help from, if not the Americans? Africa? Ha!

The reports came in. "A hit! A palpable hit!" cried "Grand Marshall" Alexei Pavlovich cried, then spun, turning to one of the other officers in the bunker. "How soon until they are all ready?" he demanded, red-faced from the two or three good snorts he had already taken.

Sergei loathed lieutenant colonel Alexei Pavlovich with a passion. If asked, he might have said that it was the man's connections to Moscow, and his corrupting greed, so grasping and petty that it had got him exiled, literally, to Siberia. He certainly would have mentioned the man's slimy willingness to pretend friendship with even the lower ranks of the enlisted - which no good officer ought - and worse, his willingness to betray the interests of those men, which no officer, good or not, should permit unless over their own dead body. And he might have mentioned that he didn't care for the way Pavlovich had ended up in command - by simply being in the right place when, a week ago, the base commander had up and died of a heart attack, just like that.

But what had him truly furious was this: despite having no orders, despite the fact that this missile base was supposed to have all of its birds on maintenance, despite the fact that there was absolutely no reason for it, aside from sheer spite, Alexei Pavlovich was reactivating all of the birds, and planned to use them against American cities. After promoting himself to "Grand Marshal", of course, and even shooting one or two men for "desertion".

He stared at his own map. The missile they'd fired, the single one which had been fueled, had not hit its target, at least as such. Its target had been the United States city of Great Falls, in Montana. It looked like all three warheads on the bird - they'd been taking them off, after all - had managed to do groundbursts on a town called "Helena". Groundbursts, designed for military targets. He checked an atlas, and shrugged. There was no one alive in Helena now, that was for certain. He thought.

For one stupid missile, and one stupid little town, the United States might not decide to drop its own large and significantly more accurate cornucopia of weaponry on Mother Russia. But he'd bet his life on the fact of some sort of retaliation. And if the "Grand Marshal" did get his weapons off...

He looked up, waiting on the tech's answer to Alexei Pavlovich. When he heard it, he nodded. Forty-five minutes until one of the other intact birds would be tested and ready to go. That might be enough time.

* * *

Logged