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.