Sunday, November 01, 2015

Day 1 - Death On Two Legs


“Mr. President,” said General Renfield, his voice ever so slightly strained, “we really need you to make a decision on this.”

President Douglas Moore ignored him, and continued to stare in silence at the array of screens, at the swathes of data and maps laid before him, and felt a singular bead of sweat begin to trickle slowly down his left temple. His very first week in office and he’d walked into the biggest crisis the USA had faced since Cuba in ‘62. The fate of the country rested on the decision he would reach in the next few minutes. He turned to look at the faces at the table, all staring at him expectantly, waiting for him to tell them what to do.

“And we’re sure that it was the Chinese who were responsible for the cyberattack on our infrastructure?” he asked.

“90% certainty, sir,” said Eveline Chambers, Director of National Intelligence.

“90% certainty, Eveline?” said Arthur Ellis, Secretary of State, twisting in his chair so that he faced her, “Which means that there is a 10% chance that you’re intelligence is completely wrong. What if all this is just a coincidence?”

“That’s 90% certainty, plus we have unexpectedly lost contact with one of our satellites, a satellite that just so happens to be the one we should have over China right now Mr. Secretary” replied Chambers dispassionately, “Mr. President, China has just delivered a devastating attack on our infrastructure from coast-to-coast and now they’ve blinded us.”

“But these could be two unconnected things, isn’t that right?” continued Ellis.

“They could be,” said Chambers, her green eyes boring into the Secretary of State, “Or China could be fuelling its missiles right now and prepping them for launch. We know they’ve been conducting full trials on the new DF-35A hypersonic missile in the last year, this could be their play.”

“Our belief Mr. President,” said Renfield, “is that China is going to use this as an opportunity to conduct a pre-emptive attack on the Seventh fleet and our base in Okinawa. If that happens, thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Japanese, will die and we’ll effectively be removed as a power in the East Pacific.”

President Moore gripped the sides of his desk until his knuckles were white. Hundreds of thousands of deaths, on his watch. How had he ended up in this position? He found that he couldn’t even remember his election campaign, couldn’t remember the inauguration; all he had was this moment in which the whole nation depended upon him.

“We have a full range of responses available, sir.” said Renfield, “as I stated, we believe a limited nuclear strike of key Chinese military targets and bases will result in a positive outcome for us.”

“A positive outcome?” said Ellis, “how in the hell do we spin millions of dead Chinese as a positive outcome, General?”

President Moore ignored them, tuned out their voices, and sought guidance from his conscience. Could he give the order which would start a nuclear conflict and kill millions? On one hand, the thought troubled him; on the other, he remembered the words of the Bible his father had taught him.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” he whispered the words, barely loud enough for anyone to hear.

“Mr. President?” asked Chambers.

“Jeremiah 29:11,” replied President Moore, “Those were words my father told me to live by. Trust in God, he said, trust that God has a plan.”

“With all due respect, sir” said Ellis, “I hardly think that this is the time to be quoting scripture. If we make the wrong decision here today, we run the risk of throwing this country into World War 3…”

“I don’t think you’re hearing what I’m saying Arthur,” said President Moore, “we are all God’s children, we are all part of God’s plan. The decision I make today is part of that plan, don’t you see? If it is to be that World War 3 starts today because of our actions then that is because God has decreed that it must happen that way. It will be for a greater good.”

“I have to call a vote of no confidence,” said Ellis, pushing his chair back and standing up. “Think what you are suggesting here, Douglas.”

“I know what I am doing,” said the President, suddenly seized with a certainty of his actions, “I have never been more certain of anything in my life. And you will do well to remember to refer to me as Mr. President, Arthur.”

“Are you all just going to let him do this?” pleaded Ellis, looking in turn to each of the members of the National Security Council, none of whom would meet his gaze. “This is insanity!”

“Get him out of here,” ordered Moore, and two secret service agents approached Ellis from behind, roughly taking him by his arms and half dragging him out of the command centre. The heavy doors shut behind them, leaving the room in silence.

“Do I have permission to begin the limited strike?” asked General Renfield.

“No,” said the President, staring off into the middle distance, “you do not, General Renfield.”

“Sir?”

“I want a comprehensive strike on every Chinese military target.”

“We have an option for that sir, but the collateral damage is going to be extensive.”

“It’s alright,” beamed the President, “God knows what is best for us; he has put me here today to enact his plan. We only have to put our trust in him. Prepare our forces.”

He motioned to the secret service agent beside him and a black suitcase was laid out on the table in front of him. He held his palm against the sensor on its lid until the case clicked softly open and then passed it back to the agent, who opened a laptop that was inside. President Moore then reached inside his jacket pocket and removed a credit-card sized piece of plastic which he then esnapped in two with his hands.

“Gold code; Alpha, Lima, Three, Zero, Five, Bravo, Eight, Zero, Four, Three.”

“Authorisation confirmed, sir.” said the agent at the laptop, “I now need confirmation from the Secretary of Defence.”

All eyes turned to Miranda Mayhew, seated at the far end of the desk. She had stayed silent throughout the discussions and now was deathly pale, her gaze fixed resolutely on the papers that were spread out on the desk in front of her.

“Miranda,” prompted the President.

“I don’t know whether we should do this, Mr. President,” she said, her voice trembling. “We are authorising the deaths of tens of millions of people.”

“I want you to remember the Bible, Miranda. Remember Isaiah where it is written: Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

“I’m afraid,” sobbed Miranda.

“Give me the code,” said the President firmly. “Give me the goddamn code, Miranda.”

She took the card from her pocket, eyes welling up with tears and broke it in two, reading out the digits and numerals with a voice so small it was hard to hear.

“Gold Code: Tango, Alpha, Seven, Six, One, Zulu, Nine, Nine, Three, Five.”

“Authorisation confirmed. Nuclear codes have been accepted.”

“Are we ready to launch?” asked the President.

“On your command,” said General Renfield grimly, “we have missile boats throughout the Pacific, B2 bombers in the air and our silos are fully prepped.”

President Moore steepled his fingers and looked up to the ceiling, imagining the plumes of fire that would soon be rising from the sea and from the land, of the destruction that lay ahead. He took comfort from his faith, certain that God would not have led him wrong in this moment.

“Fire.”


*   *   *   *


“Senator Moore?” The voice was distant to begin with but grew louder. “Senator Moore?”

He blinked, disorientated by the sudden bright lights. He was lying down looking straight up at the lights and a man in a white coat was looming over him, detaching some kind of wires from his temples. Where in the hell was he? What had happened to his orders?

“Sir, it’s natural to be a little confused at this time,” said the man, “You’ve just undergone a fully immersive experience.”

He tried to make sense of the words, his memory was foggy, his mind sluggish.

“Senator Moore,” a different voice this time, coming from his left and he tilted his head to see Arthur Ellis, Secretary of State standing beside him.

“What happened?” he croaked, his throat rough and dry.

“You just underwent the Presidential Suitability test, Douglas” said Ellis, a pained expression on his face.

“How did I do?”

“You failed Douglas,” said Ellis. “You failed, thank God.”

1 comment:

Gabriela Koleva said...

Haha, love the ending! Well done :D