My name is Richard Moran, and this is the work of my life. I sit here at an old mechanical typewriter, using the cleanest paper I can find to write the story of my life as well as that of my society. I have dedicated my entire life to searching for answers to all of my questions. I have devoted my life to finding reason, to finding continuity in the chaos, and if I don't write this, my life will have been lived in vain. For reference, it is the year 1995, and The War took place almost ten years ago in 1986. I was seventeen when it all happened, and I have grown to an unbelievable age in those ten years: I hardly recognize myself anymore, thinking that the aged face I see in fragments of mirror cannot possibly be that of someone not yet even past thirty. I have an ancient bottle of Jack Daniel's Sour Mash Whiskey that I found a couple of years back that I plan on drinking on the tenth anniversary of The Day.
The story I'm about to lay out in front of you is a fantastic story of ironies, coincidences, little nuances in time that all happened to occur at within the same twenty or thirty minutes.
What I'm about to write may go down in history as The Truth, as precious as the Constitution of The United States used to be. Who knows... I might even be somebody's future deity. Wouldn't that be a gas! Little old me, ten years ago a speck in a world full of people, now one of the last of my kind, as far as I know.
Anyway, let me give a brief history of what happened. I'll get into cause later, but let me start by saying that the events I attempt to explain in these pages lead up to the launching of nuclear weapons by the United States, enshrouding the Soviet Union in a radioactive veil of destruction.
In the days that followed, a sort of nuclear frenzy broke out, affecting all nations who had nuclear weapons capability; the mid- and small-sized nation-states like Israel, Pakistan, India, Great Britain, and a whole long list of others. They all just packed their bombs into planes or onto missiles and wreaked havoc, all of them foolishly hoping their country wouldn't be hit. Even the tiny country of Liechtenstein, an insignificant nation, too small to do any harm whatsoever, was hit by megatons of nuclear explosives. Total chaos. Insanity.
Hardly any of the world was left. I was in a place far from any impact center, but I knew what had happened when my car wouldn't start and the radio was dead, even though the batteries were fresh. My family died that day, my friends, all of them dear to me. They all died that day. Along with most of the rest of my people, those of the United States of America, now just a fading name on maps and documents.
I call that day The Day. The Day; and when I say The Day, I mean the day the United States and the Soviet Union started shooting. No one ever would have thought it possible, at least not at that time. Peace talks between leaders President Ronald Reagan and Premier Mikhail Gorbachev were finished, the two of them walking out of Geneva, Switzerland with agreements that no one thought could be reached. But they had been, about a week before The Day.
Anyone who is still alive as I write this knows what happened on The Day, but I wanted to know what started it all, because with all the peace talk, it wasn't supposed to.
But it happened, although no fault of Reagan or Gorbachev, names probably forgotten. The name that should go down in infamy is that of Andrew Wiley. The leaders of the two super powers could have done nothing to stop what would happen on the fateful day of July 16th, 1986, The Day.
I am going to give you short histories of each of the main characters involved in the destruction of my civilization, and bring them together in one chain of events that I still find hard to believe. I call what happened the Kingpin Occurrence. Like a bowling ball hitting the first pin in just the right spot to set off a strike. Seemingly incongruous events that began the morning of June the 16th, 1986, and ended in the destruction of the human race as I knew it less than an hour later.
Some of this will be hard to believe, too many coincidences, you'll think. Some of the names every one knew then, words everyone used, may seem foreign to you. Bowling, for example - will anyone know what that is? A strike? The United States? For all I know, the English language may be obsolete. But that doesn't matter. I'm writing this for me first, at the climax of my life, and for future generations second, if there be any.
Andrew Wiley was not a thin man, nor a large one, not rich, not poor, not handsome, not ugly, not strong, not weak. Andrew Wiley was a very average person, married to an average woman, living in an average apartment, working in an average job.
Andrew was born in his mother's home in Winooski, Vermont, taken from his mother's womb by a midwife sitting between her legs. Winooski was a small city, right next to the largest in the state, which wasn't saying much as the entire state had a population of people less than that of sheep.
Andrew grew up in that small city, deciding in his junior year in high school to forget the University of Vermont, which was up the street, make a left, up the hill, take the right, you can't miss it.
He decided instead to attend Purdue University, and after he graduated from high school, he left for Indiana where the school was located.
Andrew was good with numbers and he decided that he wanted to be an accountant. He went through the Purdue Business School, getting his bachelor's degree in 1961, and then he went to Harvard to get his MBA, his grades in Purdue being excellent, good enough to get him into the prestigious university.
After graduating with his MBA, Wiley got a good job with a New York City accounting firm, and he stayed with the company until 1979 when he simply got fed up with being someone's employee and decided he would open up his own firm. Andrew decided on Washington D.C. as he had always loved the city and wanted to start anew in the town which was full of people who may require his services.
So Andrew went to D.C., got his license and hung out his shingle. His business got off to a slow start, but he soon gained a reputation of being a spectacular accountant and his business really started to get off the ground in 1981, business being brought in mostly by word of mouth.
He met Colleen in a bar to which he went every night after work, beginning in the early days of his firm when a stiff drink was just what he needed to try to forget the trials and tribulations of a small growing business. Now that it was off the ground, he came here not to forget but to congratulate himself on yet another successful day. Colleen came up to him, made bolder by the alcohol she had consumed that night, and told him that she had been watching him the past couple of days, and they struck up a conversation.
The conversation began to get personal, one thing led to another, and it didn't take them long to decide what they wanted to do that night. He took her to his apartment, and they made love in his bed. The next morning she cooked him breakfast, and she wasn't gone when he came back from work that night.
They married a month later in a small civil ceremony, neither of them big on religion. Her parents attended, but his didn't, his mother having died about five years before, and his father taking her death so hard that he just up and stopped taking care of himself, and Andrew was forced to put him in a home. The newlywed couple went to see him before flying to Aruba.
Colleen got pregnant a year later, but the child was stillborn, and she and Andrew decided to wait a few more years before trying again. The year was 1986, and Andrew and Colleen Wiley lived in their apartment all by themselves.
We are in the Wiley's apartment, a medium sized one, tastefully furnished. Entering the front door, there is a small vestibule with a table upon which sits silk roses in a white vase. Above this is an ornate mirror which matches the Victorian style of the table.
To the right of the vestibule is the bedroom, painted dark blue with coordinating colors in the furniture and curtains. There is a door which opens into the bathroom, and one which opens to a closet.
Leaving the bedroom, and up the hall is a study. The study contains a roll-top desk and a TRS-80 Model 1000 computer on a work table. The room has a lot of unused space.
To the left of the vestibule, and around the corner, is a closet which contains Andrew's galoshes, Colleen's boots, umbrellas, coats and jackets. Next to the closet is the Wiley's living room which contains a large screen color television, a VCR, an elaborate stereo system, an expansive record and tape collection, as well as a growing audio laser disk collection.
Walking through a doorway, you come to a dining room with a table for four, very fancily decorated. The last room in the Wiley apartment is the kitchen, a housewife's dream; something to do everything. The place gleamed with chrome, and this too was as tastefully decorated as a kitchen could get. Colleen works as a floor manager at a downtown Sears, and the combined incomes of Andrew and Colleen give them plenty of money to buy all of the latest conveniences. The Wiley's were in the kitchen on July the fourteenth, cooking Chinese food. The Wiley's have a very good marriage and they loved each other immensely, and they only fought on rare occasions. This was one of those rare occasions.
"Jesus Christ, Colleen," Andrew ejaculated. "If you honestly believe that there is something between Andrea and me then there is something seriously wrong here."
"Andy," she retorted, throwing the shrimp in oyster sauce packet on the counter. "All I said was that I think you've been spending too much time at work lately."
"Oh, and what was that supposed to mean, huh?"
"Nothing! You read things into what I say, things I never put there!"
"Oh, come on. Andrea told me that you have been calling during my lunch hour to make sure she's there, saying that you forgot that I took lunch at that time. Christ, I've been taking it at that time since 1984! You're just getting jealous over nothing. For all I know, you and Steve are screwing on the layaway mattresses on your lunch hour!"
"Hey, mister, there is nothing between Steve and me and you should know better than to say so!" She only called Andy mister when she was very angry or very upset. This time it was both.
"Please," he answered sarcastically. "At least I trust you enough to know that I don't need to check up on you every other day! Andrea is my secretary and nothing else. Col, I love you, and I don't need anyone else! If you don't understand that...If you can't..."
The bag of boil-a-rice he had been holding in his hands broke, as in his anger, he had been pulling at it, and brown and white rice spilled all over the floor. "Fuck!" Andy screamed and he stormed out of the kitchen into the bedroom closet and he slammed the door shut, something he only does when really angry because he once had read Stephen King's short story "The Boogeyman," and has since hated this dark closet. He heard Colleen using the Dustbuster to clean up the rice.
She turned off the burners on the stove, and went on a search for him. She came to the bedroom and walked over to the closet. She opened the door and saw him sitting with his knees to his chest, his arms wrapped around his legs, and his face positioned so that his nose was between his knees.
"Andy," she said, with a touch of a sob in her voice. "Andy," she repeated. He stared straight ahead.
"Andy, will you look at me?" she pleaded. He glanced up at her and then stared ahead again.
She got down on her knees and set herself in front of him.
"I'm sorry, Andy. I shouldn't accuse you of that. I do know you better than that. Its just that she's so...she's so damn...blonde, know what I mean?"
"Yes," he said in a grunt.
"Do you forgive me, Andy? Please?"
"I don't know," he said. "I'll have to think about it," he said with a smile. Then, with an even greater smile came a negative response.
Playing his game, she pleaded with him. "Oh, please, please, pleeeeese."
"Well, alright, but only if you kiss me first."
"Kiss you?" she said as she recoiled in mock horror. She put her hands up to her face and wondered out loud, "Will it be worth it?"
"You'll never know if it was or not if you don't," he chided.
"Well, alright." She bent down and kissed him on the forehead and as she began to pull up, he pulled her down on his legs as he straightened them out.
"You little shit!" she teased as she hit his shoulder with her closed fist.
Andy bent down to her mouth and kissed her. She struggled for a few seconds and then settled down and began to kiss back. After about a minute in a passionate embrace, Andy pulled away. Now it was his turn to do the apologizing.
"I lost my temper, sweetheart," he whispered as he stroked the hair out of her face. "I shouldn't have mentioned Steve. Do you forgive me?"
"I don't know," she said with a smile." I'll have to think about it."
"Shut up and kiss me, smart-ass."
They finished in the closet and Andy picked her up in his arms and walked over to the bed. He dropped her and she bounced on the dark blue comforter with a giggle. Her lay on top of her and he began to kiss her. They soon had removed their clothes and they made love. When they finished, Colleen spoke.
"Pretty good for an accountant," she teased.
"Go to sleep, wench," he retorted throwing his pillow at her.
"Yeah, a wench. But I still love you." He leaned over and kissed her. "Gimmie my pillow back."
She threw it in his face. They slept, forgetting dinner.
They woke at their usual 8:15, and Colleen made Andy breakfast. Colleen didn't start her shift until 10:00 so she did some laundry before getting dressed for work. Meanwhile, in his office at work, Andrew sat at his desk and, in his head, went over his plans.
"Colleen gets home from work at 5:30," he said to himself. "But she doesn't leave the house until around 10:00.That means I can shop in the morning when I leave, and by the time I'm finished, she'll be gone."
"Andrea," he said as he poked the intercom button on his phone.
"Yes, Mr. Wiley," she replied in a very blond voice. Despite her physical attributes, she was an extremely competent secretary.
"I'm going to take tomorrow off. Please have Al call me so I can speak to him."
"Will do." The intercom disconnected. Al was the person in Andrew's firm whom he trusted the most, and also who had been with the firm the longest.
Andrew sat back in his chair and thought about what he had planned for tomorrow night. He had ordered the roses and the necklace a few weeks before, and had reserved a bottle of Dom Perignon at the liquor store Monday.
There was no special occasion; Andy just thought he'd surprise Colleen, give his wife a night to remember.
Tuesday night came and went, with Andrew and Colleen sleeping soundly in each other's arms. It was their last night together.
The next morning, the routine was the same as the morning before, except instead of leaving for work, he left for the jewelry store to pick up the necklace he had ordered; it cost him almost a thousand dollars, but he knew that no amount of money great enough could be spent on Colleen. He went to the liquor store and got his bottle of champagne, another hundred dollars, and then walked to the grocery store. When he returned home from the store, carrying two filet mignons and all the fixings, Colleen had left. He started to set up the table when he realized that he had forgotten the flowers. He'd have to go out for them. It was 11:51.
Jonathan Wright had been a cop almost all of his life or at least you might be able to say that. He grew up in a small town in Mississippi, the son of a sheriff who, right in the middle of the civil rights movement, was promising to "Keep those stinkin' niggers in their place."
Wright was a closet racist, keeping his father's bigotry alive inside him. He had adored his father, and his racism grew tremendously stronger the day his father had been killed in a race riot in his town. Wright and his brother Timothy had seen the accidental killing, a black man firing a gun into the air as a deputy jumped on him, spoiling his aim, a bullet straying right smack in between Sheriff Wright's eyes.
They hunted down the man, and when they found him, they cut his throat with a hunting knife, and skinning him as they would have a rabbit or squirrel. They had been young then, seventeen and nineteen respectively, and their hatred for the negro race was almost fully developed at that time.
His memories of Mississippi and the deaths of his father and of his mother soon after that of his father prompted him to leave, and he did. He left for Washington D.C. where he had read in the local paper's classifieds that recruits for the D.C. Police Academy were being taken.
He passed through the Academy at the top of his class early in 1973. With the sort of upbringing he had had, he was one of the aptest pupils at the Academy, and his instructors all noted this.
He had been in the force for almost twenty years in 1986, but had not been promoted to any position higher than his current one of officer because of several race related incidents of police brutality. Any other cop would have been suspended, but when he kept his temper calm, he was a damn good cop, one of the best his superiors had under them.
Jonathan Wright had just returned from a vacation in New York City with his wife Kimberly and his son Robert for the Fourth of July holiday where they saw the fireworks over the Brooklyn Bridge and had watched the Statue of Liberty torch re-lit by President Reagan at the push of a button. Jon and Kim had a sour marriage, the only thing really still keeping them together being Bobby. Jon was getting fed up with Kim's spendthrift ways and watching his salary go to the credit card companies. A divorce was foreseeable.
Wright got up for an extended seven to seven shift at six, and Kim rose with him mumbling something about him being a lazy bastard who couldn't fry and egg if his life depended on it.
Jon sat and read the paper while waiting for his breakfast. A man of medium build, he ate a large breakfast, as well as a large lunch, which he usually bought at a hot dog stand on his beat. Not a word was exchanged between he and Kim, and when he finished, he got up, belched, and left without a kiss or any other sign of husbandry. She whispered "Pig" as he closed the door.
He walked to his station house, about a mile away, and changed when he got there. He went upstairs for his briefing. Tomorrow would be a big day, and some preliminary instructions would be given out today.
He came in a little late.
"...and the President will be arriving about 11:30 to make his speech. Now, I'm not going to get into details because some of you won't be on duty tomorrow, and because we must move on. Glad you could make it Tex," commented the sergeant.
"Yessir," Wright grunted as he sat in the corner. Some guy had called him Tex in the Academy when he had first gotten there because of his Southern accent, the people at the Academy not really caring that he was from Mississippi, and like all nicknames with humble beginnings, it had stuck.
"Now for all you beat cops," the sergeant continued. "I'll take care of you first so you can get out of here. I have one thing for you to remember. The Jury is becoming active again, and I want you all to watch out for them. They're training little punks pick-pocketing and purse snatching, and you should all be watching for the jackets."
The Jury was a gang consisting mostly of black kids from the 6th Street area, and on the back of their gang jackets was a stylized juror's bench with a skull over it, all bathed in white "light." They were a particularly violent group, known to collect "protection" money, and threaten senior citizens when the Social Security checks came.
"I don't want any violence, but let's not let them get away with any of their shit, huh? That's about it for now guys. Hit the street."
Wright left the station, uttering a lamenting sigh, thinking about his shift; twelve hours of walking his beat which included all streets between D Street and Constitution Avenue, and from 1st Street to 6th Street. His beat was intersected by those of five other officers, and he walked with one or the other of them every once in a while to break the tedium between calls.
Wright especially liked walking through Stanton Park. He liked the grass, even though this was a black neighborhood, and he would watch couples picnicking with their children running around. They should all go back to tending the fields, he frequently thought. He shook the thoughts from his head; it was thinking like that that had kept him from advancing in the force.
He got a call on his radio to check out a civil disturbance corner of 2nd and D. He ran to the corner to break up a fight between a teenager and the owner of one of the hundreds of tourist trap booths selling T-shirts or Reagan-Bush buttons that peppered the city. Another day on the beat.
At roll call the next morning, he was early. Today would be an important one. The captain addressed the group.
"Now all of you in this room will be stationed around the Capitol building, most of you scattered on the greens, but some of you will be behind the police lines to help Riot Control if its needed, which we don't expect it will.
"We expect a couple thousand or so people protesting that abortion thing that went through the Court, and some farmer groups, but nothing too major.
"The President will be coming into the building around 11:30, and the Secret Service will be handling all of those details, so don't worry yourself. He will address the joint session at noon, and should be heading out around one thirty. The heaviest activity, as most of you know, will be when the motorcades enter and leave.
"Let's get this thing through smoothly, OK guys? No fuck-ups or my ass is in a sling. Its 9:30 now, lets load into the trucks, and get over to the Capitol. The riot team is already there setting up the lines. The reports show demonstrators grouping in front of the Court and the Library. That's it. Do the force proud."
The eighty cops who had crowded into the briefing room built to hold only sixty filed out and headed for the buses for the short trip to the Capitol. This would be their last assignment.
By 11:50, the police officers were all at their posts, and Wright was walking along his post on Independence. He looked at the protestors across the street on the green and looked disgusted. Wright was a staunch Republican and Reagan supporter: Conservative right down to his toenails, and he was agreeable with everything the Court had been doing lately. He glanced at his watch: 11:53.
Edward Cooper, known only as Creem by the Jury, was born in D.C. in 1967, and had lived there all his life. He had been born illegitimate, and when his mother died, the Jury took him in. He had since grown to be a very important member in the gang, being the leader's right hand man.
Creem had served time in jail for armed robbery and got out on good behavior. He was on probation now, and on the fourteenth of July he was headed to his probation officer's office.
He walked in and the secretary noted his presence and told him to be seated.
He waited about fifteen minutes before his probation officer, the Prick, as Creem called him, motioned for him to enter the office. The secretary glanced up at him as he did and he clicked his tongue off the roof of his mouth and winked at her as she did. She looked down, unphased.
"Sit," the Prick said.
"Mmm...," Creem muttered as he sat, slouched, legs stretched in front of him.
"Been getting into any trouble, Edward?" the Prick enquired.
"Creem," he replied.
The Prick repeated the question, using his given name.
"Fuck," Creem whispered. This guy always gives me shit, he thought to himself.
"What? I'm afraid I missed that. I'll assume it was a yes?"
"Yeah, it was a friggin yes."
"So how you doing, Edward?"
"Uh-huh. Been eating well?"
What? he thought to himself.
"Man, what is this? Look, ya saw me, alright? Lemmie outa here, OK? This ain't no goddamn third degree. All I'm supposed to do is show."
"I know the rules, buddy," the Prick stated, making his point with his index finger pointed at Creem. "Alright, go. Go."
"See you tomorrow, Prick," he said as he rose.
"Hey, punk!" the Prick yelled after him. "I'm don't like that crap!"
The lecture fell on closed ears as Creem was already out of the office, headed for a meeting of the Jury.
The leader greeted him as he entered the Jury's apartment, paid for by drugs and various petty robberies, asked what had kept him and got "The Prick" as an answer. Creem sat down and they continued the meeting.
The President would be speaking at the Capitol tomorrow, the leader explained, and there would be plenty of people around there with wallets in pockets, purses around arms. They should have a field day.
"There'll be cops," he continued, "but they'll be mostly lookin' out for terrorist shit, and ain't gonna be watchin' for no pickpockets. Man, we are going to rake in the fuckin' dough tomorrow, I'll tell ya. Questions?"
Creem had one.
"What time, man? My old lady is up for a fuck, and a need to schedule her in, y'know?"
"Goddamn it Creem, is that all you ever think about is bangin' 'Dette?" asked a fellow Juror.
"Man, at least I think about doin' it with a girl, and not usin' my own fuckin' hand or some fuckin' faggot!"
"Fuck you," Creem retorted.
"Shut up, you sons-a-bitches. Jesus Christ. I want us to be there at eleven or so, alright? That should give you plenty of time with your bitch."
"Fuck you, too," he said as he stood up to leave.
Creem met Bernadette later that night and they slept at her house, her parents being away. In the morning, Creem snuck out before Bernadette awoke, and left for the Capitol. He'd never see her again.
Sheila Calloway worked in the New FBI Building. She was a switch board operator, and had been for two years. Sheila was pretty, with a good figure. Her voice was pleasant over the phone, one of the reasons she got her job. She was young, twenty-two, and had lived in Maryland before getting her job and moving into the city.
Sheila lives with her boyfriend, Alan, and has ever since she met him last year. She thinks about him a lot, and marriage is something she has been looking forward to. He, however, wants to get a good job before he marries her, and his duties at the Texaco station where he works isn't quite what he had in mind. He does, however, have an application on file at The Washington Post, trying to put his journalism degree to use.
They lived in a small three room apartment, the kitchen doubling as a dining room. The living room contained a stereo and a TV, black-and-white, and the bedroom was also small, barely accommodating a king sized bed and a dresser. The two of them led a good life, and their relationship was sound.
Sheila had lived in Maryland all her life, going to a two-year secretarial school there, and had gotten her job through the school. Her parents were people of moderate wealth, and had put her through school, but now she wanted to be on her own, and besides that, they didn't accept Alan, thinking him not good enough for their daughter. But she loved Alan, so she ignored them, and she spoke to them of him only when necessary.
On the night of the fourteenth, Sheila and Alan went to a revival theater to see a James Dean Double Feature, "Rebel Without a Cause," and "East of Eden." The week before it had been Ronald Reagan, and before that Humphrey Bogart. Tomorrow they were showing "The Giant" and some other film with Rock Hudson, but they'd seen them both a few months back during the Rock Hudson Week memorial screenings.
The theater was an easy walk from their apartment, and on the way home, they stopped at an all-night diner for coffee.
"My mother's birthday is next week, honey," Sheila commented, "and I think I should go up for it. Ummm...Do you want to come?"
"Sheila," Alan protested. "You know your parents don't like me, and I think it would just be awkward for me to be there. I mean, you know that I like your parents, but they're not too keen on me." She nodded understandingly. "Maybe they'll like me more when I get that job at the paper and we get married."
"Oh God, I hope so," she said as she took his hand. "I wish you all could get along. And you, buster," she continued with a smirk. "I hope you get that job quick, 'cause I want to be your wife more than anything else."
"I know, and I want to marry you too, but not without a good job. I'm not..."
"I'm not starting out this marriage on a bad financial foot..." she interrupted, having heard the line half a million times.
They finished their coffee and walked home hand in hand.
The next day, she left for work at her usual time of 8:30, and she parked her car at the New FBI Building, all the time thinking about how wonderful it will be when Alan gets that job at the paper---he'd been promised the next available spot---and the two of them finally get married. Her thoughts continued as she entered the building, went through all the security rigmarole, and finally got to her switchboard, where they abruptly ended as the tedium of patching through calls all day began.
As the day ended, the number of calls began to dwindle, and Alan began to totally occupy her thoughts. She loved this man, and she wanted to marry him before he had a chance to fall in love with anyone else.
That night they turned in early, falling asleep next to each other. She dreamt of him and their future, one that was soon to end.
On The Day, Sheila repeated the routine of the day before, as she had on countless others, but today instead of eating lunch in the cafeteria in the New FBI Building, she decided to brave traffic and go home for lunch. Maybe, Alan will be home, she thought, and boy do I need a kiss.
He wasn't home, which disappointed her, as well as relieved her, because she always feared finding him in bed with another woman. What she didn't know is that Alan feared finding her in the same situation when he occasionally came home for lunch. She fixed herself a sandwich and flipped on the TV. Donahue was on, and he was talking about the new AIDS vaccine. The guest said it was not a ticket to worry-free promiscuous sex because the vaccine only seemed to work in a certain percentage of the population. She flipped it off, having heard enough about AIDS the past few weeks.
She listened to the radio and finished her sandwich and drank a glass of milk before going out to the car early just in case there was a lot of traffic. It was almost noon, and it was usually bad this time of day. Was she going to be surprised.
Rebecca Olney is what one calls a militant. She came from California and is very actively involved in the dying feminist movement, was involved in the protests of Apartheid in South Africa before the civil war there, protested American involvement in South America and Soviet mistreatment of the Jews in Russia. Her cause this time was the recent Supreme Court decision overturning that body's past decisions concerning abortion, the conservative judges appointed by the president radically changing many of the controversial decisions of the past such as that of school prayer. Rebecca would probably protest that some other day.
On the evening before The Day, Rebecca was getting ready for the protests in front of the Capitol Building. Tomorrow was going to be a big day, the President and all the high politicians in the nation would be converging on one spot tomorrow, and with them came the press, the protestor's best friend. We want lots of press coverage, Rebecca thought to herself as she was painting pro-choice signs with a large group of people also preparing for the protest.
They would be converging on the Capitol green and they will be setting up their signs there. All of the regular protestors at Lexington Park and at the Supreme Court would be there---they expect a formidable turn-out.
Rebecca finished with her signs and bid the group farewell's and see-you-tomorrow's. She had few friends in the protest group, her ideas bordering on terrorism sometimes, and others tended not to take her seriously, ignoring her most of time. Rebecca knew that she was considered this way, a little strange, a little violent, a little radical. She was.
Tonight, she was going to prepare for the protest in her own little way, although she did this for all her protests. A safety net, she thought of it. A little bag of tricks, tricks she had not the need to use, but which she always brought just in case. She arrived in her third-rate hotel room, and all of her supplies were sitting there waiting for her, just where she'd laid them out earlier that day.
A gallon can of gasoline, some bottles, a lighter, a gun with two loaded clips, oily rags, and her treasure, a grenade her brother had brought back from Vietnam fifteen years ago. With this object, she had a particular love. She liked to pull the pin from it and hold it in her hand, knowing that the blast was a handhold away. A little game. Rebecca had once slept with it with the pin pulled once, just to see if she could. Rebecca Olney was a little bit crazy.
She slept well that night, and when her mechanical alarm clock went off at 9:30 the next morning, she was well rested. She took a shower and put on some light clothes. She then filled the bottles with the petrol and plugged them with the rags. She'd done it a thousand times before, as I said, before every protest; just in case things got out of hand, she was going to do some damage. She was going to leave her mark.
She packed the filled bottles into a padded picnic basket, loaded the gun with one eight-bullet clip, and slid the other into her pocket. The grenade was always close to her, in her jacket pocket. She got up and walked to the Capitol.
When she got there, there were many other protestors gathered on the green; the president would be here soon: It was 10:30.
Rebecca walked around, greeting the people she recognized, and some she didn't. Those she didn't know thought it a little strange that she was wearing a jacket on this day, as the forecast was hot, although not as strange that she be carrying a basket, as they all expected to be there a while.
Rebecca kept her hand in her pocket and fingered the grenade as she walked back to where she'd placed her protest sign, and said the little prayer she said before every protest.
"Dear God, please let this be the time."
Her prayers would be answered.
Lieutenant(j.g.) Walter King
Lieutenant King was trying to get a good night's sleep on the night before The Day. He had had a long day, and tomorrow would be just as long. This night they decided the route they would be taking as they delivered the Navy ordnance from Indian Head Ordnance Depot in Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia where warships that just docked were waiting for their explosives and such. Lieutenant King would be the lead driver in tomorrow's convoy, a very large one consisting of fifty seven trucks. The route they would take was not a direct one, but a safe one.
Leaving the depot, they would take Maryland 210, named appropriately Indian Head Highway, to Interstate 95, crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge; I-95 would take them almost all the way to Norfolk. Simple. They decided against taking US 301, because that would mean taking them through too many residential areas crossing over from Maryland 210; the ordnance they would be carrying would be live, unusual, but a step taken to save time at Norfolk---the ships were in for only a short while and the Navy didn't want to waste any time. There should be no problems. Simple. Lieutenant King was wrong.
Lieutenant King had been in the Navy since 1978, and he liked his post. He really couldn't stand the sea, strangely enough, and told his recruiter he'd only go in if he could be assured that he wouldn't be going out on the big hunks of metal that he supplied the arms for. He had been driving ordnance trucks since then. This was the first time he'd be commanding the entire line though, and he felt like he had just been picked for a admiralty. His excitement hindered sleep from entering his mind, but eventually he dozed off.
On The Day, King rose early like most military men do and went to the mess. He ate a hearty breakfast and went about the duties necessary for him to perform in order for him to lead the convoy. He went over the primary route and went through a few secondary ones. He chose his navigator, and requisitioned the appropriate maps to make the trip. At 10:30, the convoy left the depot, fifty-seven trucks pouring out onto Maryland 210. About forty minutes out, Lieutenant King got a call an his radio.
"Snake, Snake, this is Tomahawk, come in please," squawked the radio. King picked up the mike.
"This is Snake, Tomahawk; go."
"Snake, I'm afraid we have a bit of a problem. Maryland State just informed us that Woodrow Wilson is in the midst of a big tie-up, over."
"We understand, Tomahawk. What do you propose we do, over?"
"The Chief wants you to take 95 around the Big City, over."
"Will do, Tomahawk. Out" King replaced the mike.
"Well, that is going to make our trip a little longer, isn't ensign?" King taunted, knowing his navigator didn't like driving around with live shells behind his back.
"Yessir," came the quick response. Driving around with live shells at his back gave King a strange sense of power, a feeling he liked.
"You just let me know when we get to the exit for 95, ensign."
"Yessir," he answered, as a drop of sweat fell from his brow. But as the ensign was thinking of being blown to shreds, they passed the exit for 95, and King, waiting for the word didn't notice it either. The feeling of power, he thought, is overwhelming!
King saw the junction sign for 295 a couple of minutes later.
"Where are we?" he inquired.
Startled, the ensign fooled with his map and responded a minute later. "Sir, we, uh, we, we missed the 95 junction, sir."
"I can see that, mister, but where are we?"
As he asked, a Welcome to Washington D.C. sign passed by. "Oh shit," King moaned.
"Sir, if we grab 295 here, I think I can get us through without a hitch."
"295?" King echoed.
"Yessir. We get on 295...right here." King looked at him. "Trust me, sir."
King turned onto 295 and the great olive drab snake behind them followed.
"OK, sir," the ensign continued enthusiastically, as now he was feeling a sense of power. "295 will junction with Pennsylvania Avenue, and from there we get on 95, and that will bring us straight through: We cross the Case bridge here," all the time moving along the route with his finger, King, glancing down every chance he could. "...and that brings us down here, and away we go, on the route we had planned in the first place."
King mulled over it for a minute and decided that the ensign's route looked alright. "OK, we'll do it. You had better be right."
The great green snake came to Pennsylvania Avenue, and crossed the Sousa Bridge. King was driving, waiting for warning from the ensign that 295 was coming. The warning never came, the ensign assuming that King had seen the exit signs. They rolled right past the exit, and the ensign was alarmed.
"Lieutenant, that was the turn-off!"
"What??? Why didn't you say anything, fool? Oh Christ. Shit...I have to think...."
King pulled his truck over, and the great green snake pulled over too. King got out of the truck and walked to the second lead truck. A friend of his, Gray, was driving that one.
"Christ Gray," King said as his friend hopped from the driver's seat of his truck and walked towards King. "I have a fuckin' dolt for a navigator. Christ. Do know where we are?"
"We kinda noticed that we hadn't gone on the planned route, Walt, and, yeah, I know where we are. Welcome to Washington D.C."
The two discussed the situation, and conferred with a map in their hands. They decided to go through the city, taking Pennsylvania Avenue to Independence, maneuvering around the Capitol Building to again connect with Pennsylvania. They would proceed up 12th Street, to Route 29, getting off on 23rd Street, and working their way back to I-95. It was going to be a mess, they agreed, but it would be best. They didn't know that the President was speaking to the Congress that afternoon, about a half an hour or so later.
King got back in his truck, and the great green snake began its deadly slither through The City, Washington D.C. The time was 11:45.
Major General Clark Adamson
The General slept well at night knowing he did the job he did. Protecting the country was his duty, and he did so from the most technically advanced, the most computerized place in the world.
(His knowledge was biased, however, as NORAD stands for North American Aerospace Defense Command; the 'North American' itself is biased as it doesn't include Mexico, but NORAD is run by the United States and Canada from underneath Cheyenne Mountain in Wyoming. His thoughts that the United States ran NORAD on its own is a perfect example of the isolating American pride.)
Adamson ran NORAD, the one institution, if you could call it that, that had control over all the land and air based nuclear missiles inside the American border. Tens of thousands of kilotons of nuclear explosives at the disposal of the NORAD commander, although, of course, he had no say, except for advice, in the launching of these missiles...that job went entirely to the president. Adamson was glad that all he did was watch over U.S. and Canadian Air Force personnel sit in front of their video screens, watching for breeches in the radar security blanket which covered most of the North American continent.
Adamson was busy running computers through tests on the night of the fifteenth, playing war games, testing reaction time, and testing the time it took the missile silo crews to respond to the test. All in all it was a routine day. At 11:30 that evening, Adamson went to his bed with a content look on his face, confident that the computers were fool-proof, the crews totally reliable, everything perfect and ready should the need for them arise. Of course, with the recent agreements in Geneva, the need for all of this technical equipment may be obsolete some day, although paranoia and lack of real trust will probably keep this installation alive.
The next morning, Adamson awoke, shaved, showered, messed, and prepared for yet another dull day at Cheyenne.
He entered the nerve center where in front of huge rear-projection computer screens sat men and women sitting at smaller screens, all of them watching intently for any blips on those screens, any breech of the radar blanket.
Adamson sat in a glass walled room above every one else, and leaned back in his leather chair. Displayed across from him was a map of the continent, the radar blanket outlined with a lighter colored line. The Advanced Warning systems also were indicated on the map. To either side were various data displays, tactical information, reports coming in from various other agencies indicating positions of submarines, aircraft, surface ships, both friendly and Red.
The various screens his people were watching included those much like those air traffic controllers sat in front of, some sat in front of satellite information links, some in front of seismic indicator screens, showing sudden tremblings in the earth, the computer especially interested in those that would be created by a large scale explosion that would follow a nuclear explosion.
Today, NORAD was on an alert because the entire line of presidential succession was in Washington, all in one place for the President's speech concerning his latest talks with Gorbachev. The people in Washington who had nothing better to do had thought up this little scenario where the entire line of succession is blown to bits by some terrorist or the Ruskies decide to launch while the president is speaking. Adamson had protested that being on alert every time the president was in the company of the entire line, was ridiculous. But the president had insisted. Adamson was just doing his job, just like an obedient puppy dog. He just wanted his time to come up, the time which he would be at pension, when he and his wife could retire to San Diego like they had planned, and live off of his government checks.
Adamson didn't know how he'd get used to living a civilian life, having been in the military for so long, but he and Sylvia will make the most of it. The kids were all grown, all through college now, all on their own, supporting themselves, two of them also supporting families, the third engaged to be married in seven weeks.
Adamson sat back up in his chair and looked at the time: 11:55, and, having nothing better to do, he booted his computer. He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a disk. On this disk was something very important to Adamson, something he had had for only a few weeks, but something he had grown very attached to since then. He slid the disk into the drive and re-booted the computer. A logo came up on the screen and Adamson again set out to destroy the world in the game -NUCLEAR ACCIDENT-. It was ironic how soon the game would become reality.
Captain Alphonse Capario
Captain Capario had been with PeoplExpress since the beginning: He had seen his airline work its way up from next to nothing to one of the largest airlines in the country. He had flown with United and Delta before People's, and, although the pay was lower, his required stock holdings in the company had prompted him to invest heavily in the stock market, and, with the help of a brilliant young stock broker, he had cashed in. He invested now in high-yield corporate bonds, but with the money he had saved, he was basically living off of his salary and the interest from those accounts.
The income he brought in paid for his Porsche, his His and Hers Mercedes' and his grandiose house in Connecticut. The Captain was the son of two people who met on the way over from Italy in a boat. He was one of eight, and he kept in touch with all his siblings. Capario had thought about quitting People's, but ever since he was a kid he had wanted to fly. He had gotten his nose broken once in a basketball game, and that had screwed something up inside. He was heartbroken, the condition fixable, but expensive; he, however, would not be able to fly without the required operation.
His father took out a loan, mortgaged his home, in fact, to pay for the operation. It took, and Alphonse was on the right track again. Throughout high school, he kept his body in top shape, eating right always, playing on all the teams, etc. When he graduated, he went into the Air Force where he learned to fly. He left after fulfilling his obligation, and took it up commercially, as most military pilots did.
July the fifteenth, Capario had just come back from a vacation and his first flight was from the madness of People's Newark terminal to the quiet of Denver, Colorado. He flew the red-eye at 5:00 in the morning. He then flew back. Two flights. Quite a day. When he returned it was about twelve hours later. He looked at his watch. 5:37pm. Damn, he thought. That lay over in Denver fucked up all my plans. He sat glumly. He had planned to drive to his home, about an hour and a half from Newark, to see his wife and child Jimmy, but now there wasn't time. He had an eleven o'clock flight into Washington National that night, and he would be sleeping there that night, being scheduled for the matching flight back to Newark at noon the sixteenth.
He called June, his wife, and she accepted it with grace, the way she always did when he had not the time to come home. He headed for the pilot's lounge in the Newark terminal, a room with a microwave, a refrigerator stocked with all sorts of things, and another just with soda; no beer or liquor here: A pilot with a hangover is no pilot. A coffee machine and toaster were there too as well as a sink and stacks of paper napkins, cups, and plates. On the far wall was a television, stereo, and a video recorder stocked with the latest movies. On another wall were eight very comfortable beds. Capario knew they were comfortable because he had spent many nights in them.
He sauntered over to one of the beds after grabbing a cup of Sanka, not wishing to ruin his sleep. A friend of his was on the bed next to the one Capario chose, and after he fixed it up with fresh linen, Capario noticed him. His name was Erich, and he was reading the Times.
"Hey, Erich," Capario said. Erich put the paper down and saw Capario.
"Al!" he said with a light German accent, the kind one never gets rid of no matter how long you've been speaking English. "Long time no see, eh?" He offered his hand and Capario accepted and they shook them heartily.
"You staying here over night?" Capario asked.
"Yeah, guy. I got a 6:00am flight to Heathrow tomorrow." the New York to London was Capario's favorite, and he indicated his jealousy. "I like the short ones myself, but I suppose England is OK. What're you flyin'?"
"I got a short one," he answered with a laugh. "Newark to D.C. 11:00 tonight and back again at noon tomorrow. Anyway, enough business. How's Sarah?" he asked, referring to Erich's wife.
"Oh, she's fine, but more importantly, I hear through the grapevine that June is with child fat again. Naughty, naughty. Any truth?"
"Yeah," he answered, beaming. "She's due in February. We are really exited, man. You know we didn't think it could happen again; the first time they said was a one in a million." Capario had been injured at a football practice in his senior year; he had forgotten to wear his cup and had tried to block a punt with his balls. He did, but ended up going to the hospital writhing in pain. The doctor said that his testicles had been badly damaged and that sperm production was very low; chances that he would ever be a father were slim. He had been crushed, but when he and June found out about Jimmy, they went crazy. Now it had happened again. Nothing could have made him happier.
"Yup, due in February," Capario repeated as he lay back on the bed. He lay there for a minute and stared at the ceiling. Erich broke his trance.
"I congratulate you, my friend. Boy or girl."
"I want a girl---you know, the ideal nuclear family."
"So, what's new in the world," Capario asked, pointing to the Times.
"Huh? Oh...Not much. President's gunna be giving a speech to the special joint session tomorrow to brag about Geneva. But the reporters are saying that he going to have a lot to brag about. He'll be there at...well, just as you're getting in the air...noon."
"Mmmm....I'll have to remember that so I can inform my passengers that history is in the making below their feet. Anyway, Erich, it was good to see you. I gotta catch some shut eye."
"Alright Al. You sleep well, and fly straight."
Al chuckled. Erich ended all his conversations with "...and fly straight." He would have been disappointed had he not said it. He set the alarm at the head of the bed, and drifted off to sleep.
His flight to Washington was routine, and he slept again in Washington, to wake for his flight to New York a few hours later.
Capario had been right...his next flight, also his last, would allow his passengers to see history in the making: Unfortunately, none of those passengers would live long in the future they would see being made.
Capario left for his aircraft at 11:00 and got the craft ready for its departure in a little less than an hour. The traffic was moving exceptionally well, all the flights being on schedule. They should have no problem making the 11:50 departure time.
Michael Grimley was a tinkerer. He built things that only he knew the purpose of, some of which had no purpose. He hadn't attended school since graduating high school, and he was twenty-seven years old now. His father had died and the insurance and inheritance bought Grimley the tug he lived on. The boat, appropriately, The Tinkerer, was a fifty foot tugboat he had bought to turn into someplace he could carry out experiments without being bothered. The Coast Guard knew who he was and rarely bothered him, which suited him fine.
He went to port only when he needed fuel or supplies, and that time he stretched so he could spent as much time as possible on his projects. His current project was his baby. His rocket. He wanted to send something into space. Always had, and now he had his chance. In the cabin of the tug were stacks and stacks of magazines, Science Digest, Scientific American, and many others, technical journals, supply catalogs, university research papers, and books; hundreds of books dealing with a myriad of subjects.
In the center of the cabin is a table and on the table are more books and magazines, all of which, in various contexts and details, describe the structure of rocket engines, fuel for various liquid and solid propulsion systems, launch mechanisms, safety precautions, monitoring systems, and, most importantly, several books and articles detailing the construction and launching of your own rocket.
Grimley had been working on his rocket for a year and a half, and it was all ready for launch. He had built a launch tube on the aft deck of the tug, and it stood there, fifteen feet tall, sticking out like a sore thumb. This was his pride and joy. His dream. Grimley wanted to put something into the orbiting junkyard that is the space outside the earth's atmosphere. He wanted something with his name on it in the vacuum of space, something that would last forever, or at least as long as gravity permitted. All of the electrical wiring was complete. All the connections were secure. All systems were go, as the saying goes.
On the fifteenth of July, nineteen eighty-six, Michael Grimley was giving his rocket a run through, checking and rechecking all connections, all wiring, the batteries, the fuel. He spent the entire day going over every wire he had connected. He checked the launch panel, merely a countdown timer and a button, the timer being purely aesthetic, not being connected with any of the circuitry except the batteries. Finally, about 9:00 that evening, he set up his video camera and tape recorder. He was going to preserve this on audio and video tape, something to show his grandchildren, should he ever have any.
He went to bed that night with a smile on his face, content that the dream he'd had for ages, the project he had been working on for a year and a half, was finally ready. At 9:30 the next morning, he would launch his masterpiece, or so he had planned.
He, however, forgot to set his alarm clock, and did not awaken until 11:27 when a beam of sunlight struck his eyelids. He cursed himself and jumped out of bed. The countdown timer had long since run out, its LCD numerals both indicating zero, and the rocket sat on the aft deck awaiting its launch. Grimley looked at his watch, noted the time: 11:34, and decided that it was too late now; he'd eat breakfast and launch it afterwards. No big deal.
He went to his tiny galley and pulled a box of frozen waffles from the freezer and placed them in the toaster. He poured imitation maple syrup over them and wolfed them down, wanting to get to his rocket as quickly as possible. He finished, and went back outside to the blue sky dotted with a few clouds, stationary in the windless sky. A perfect day for a rocket launch. It was 11:57.
Andrew left his house at 11:51, and began to walk to the flower shop. He cursed himself for forgetting and needing to put the entire day on hold for even the short time it would take to get the flowers. But they were an important part of the evening: Six dozen roses do wonders for ambiance. He had loved roses ever since he was a child and fortunately for him, Colleen shared his love for the flower.
Traffic was relatively good today, he noted. But the parking situation situation was always bad, thus his decision to walk the ten or so blocks to the flower shop. He suddenly remembered that the President would be at the Capitol today, and he had heard on the news that a large protest crowd would be there.
Andy was sympathetic to the cause of the pro-lifers protesting the recent decisions of what the press had dubbed "Reagan's Conservative Court," and he had always been fascinated by the mentalities of these people who stand in front of government buildings holding signs shouting facts as well as insults at politicians. He'd have to go out of his way to see them.
He glanced at his watch. It read 11:53
Sheila pulled out of her garage in her Camaro, a gift of her parents upon her graduation from secretarial school, and drifted into the downtown traffic. She'd have to drive by the Capitol. Apparently, no one had expected the turn-out of protestors they got, and it was supposed to be quite a spectacle, hundreds of people being kept off the newly re-opened roads that encircled the Capitol. The crowd was not unruly, fortunately for the police, but it was a large one. The radio said that traffic was moving smoothly. She looked at her watch: 11:54. She had to be back to work at 12:15. She hoped that it was. She didn't want to be late.
The Jury members were standing near a tree at the far end of the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Creem was a little later and he ran to them.
"Hey man," the leader yelled out to him. "Get the fuck over here. Christ, man, you are always late. Shit."
"Sorry man, I had to come through all the fuckin' people over there. Man, they look like easy prey." He chuckled. "They're all so concerned about the President, they never miss their fuckin' wallets. Look, I lifted two comin' through. Shit, man, its gonna be easy pickins'."
"No shit, Creem. Watch the pigs, though man; the place is crawlin' with 'em."
"How about the rest a ya? Ya ready?"
The Group nodded and grunted in the affirmative, and the leader smiled.
"Let's go then. Back at the room at 1:00, OK? Let's go make some dough!"
The Jury dispersed and began to mingle with the crowd. Creem worked the people near the police line, the barricades of which were right up against the road. He lifted a pocket watch out of someone's pocket and flipped it open. He thought to himself that this one would be worth a good hundred. Swiss. Perfect. He noted the time before pocketing the watch: 11:54.
The long convoy moved slowly through the city streets. King tried to keep the trucks together, not wanting any of them to be separated form the group. When the line couldn't all make it through a stop light, a frequent occurrence, the rest of the line would stop or slow, waiting. It was tedious and time consuming. It took them forever to get to Independence Avenue, but when the Capitol came into view, King decided that this was the only way: We've gotten this far, he thought; we can't turn back now. He radioed to all the trucks another reminder of caution: Collectively, the convoy was carrying the equivalent of an thermonuclear bomb.
Sheila glanced into her rear view mirror and behind her and about seven other cars she saw a great many olive drab trucks. She thought this was strange, having never seen a military convoy in the city before. She shrugged her shoulders.
"What the fuck?" he whispered under his breath when he saw the trucks. "What the hell's this?"
Trucks! Military trucks! Wiley had always had a fascination with the military, ever since he was a kid and his father, who had used to be in the Vermont Army Reserves took him into the tank he piloted. He ran to the next cross walk and seeing the sign flashing DON'T WALK, he crossed quickly, his eyes never leaving the trucks. He saw U.S. NAVY stenciled on the canvas tops.
Rebecca saw the trucks from two blocks away. Ever since her brother came back from Vietnam, on the teetering edge between crazy and insane, she had hated the military. The trucks were coming nearer, and she was drawn to them. Her hand was on the grenade.
The light had turned green, and the person behind her honked his horn. She was looking into her rear view mirror, her gaze somehow obsessed with these trucks. So many of them! When the horn blasted again, she moved ahead instinctively, not looking ahead until after she glanced at the light. She started to brake as soon as she could, but it wasn't soon enough. She hit the man with the full force of her quick acceleration.
He had been watching the trucks intently, and the honking of a horn knocked him out of his trance. He saw a white Camaro coming right at him. He couldn't jump out of the way quickly enough, and he was hit, and then, as he fell, he was dragged under the car, which by this time was braking wildly, spinning into the opposite lanes, and being tossed around the road like a ball in traffic as it bounced off of the bumpers of cars going both directions. Wiley was dead, his body scraped along the road, his remains spread everywhere.
Sitting in his truck cab, over the roofs of all the cars, King saw the whole thing. But the first thing that jumped into his mind was not concern for the life of the man who was hit, but a lamenting thought that the convoy just got caught in the middle of a major accident. Cars were still bumping into each other, and steam from a couple of broken radiators filled the air.
"Goddamn it!" he exclaimed, and then he sank into his seat in defeat. They'd be here a while.
"Roger, Washington Tower," he responded to his runway assignment. He would be taking off a little early then he thought he would have, and he chuckled at this virtual impossibility. Wonders never cease. He began to taxi to his runway, and as he did so, he informed his passengers that he had gotten clearance and that they would be taking off in about two minutes. He looked at his chronometer. It said 11:56, and he chuckled again, remembering that an 11:50 departure time usually meant 12:15.
"OK guys, are you ready?" The countdown timer was set at ten seconds and he spoke into the camera.
"Ladies and gents, this is an historic moment. I am about to launch my rocket into space. It is 11:56, Wednesday, July 16th, 1986, and the Triumph is about to lift off of the deck of my boat into space. I am now getting ready to start off the countdown timer... and there it goes... ten... nine... eight... seven... six... five... four... three..." He placed his finger on the ignition button. "...two... one... zero! Ignition!" He punched the button with his finger. Steam began to emanate from the water underneath the rocket nozzle as the internal fuels began to ignite. The nose of the rocket rose out of the tube, then the middle of the rocket, and as it gained speed, the rocket itself rose out of the tube. The force of the thrust was pushing the back of the boat into the water. Michael ducked behind the metal plating he had put up to avoid the hot exhaust. The rocket rose in a fury of smoke, steam, and fire. It rose to a height of about thirty feet, and then it turned in the air, to the horror of Michael, the grave horror as evidenced by the look on his face, and it turned parallel to the sea, then perpendicular, and finally, it sped into the ocean.
Michael fell to his knees and then flat on the deck, sobbing.
A klaxon had sounded loud in the great hall, and lights flashed everywhere. Adamson had been in a trance, the game searching for something on the disk when he shook himself out of it. This only happened during a launch confirmation, and he knew it.
The intercom in his office belched a voice he didn't recognize, but one which was exited with nervous energy. The voice kept repeating his name, each repeat followed by a pause, presumably so he could answer. He did after he fully got himself back to consciousness.
"Adamson," he shouted as he punched the reply button on the intercom.
"Sir, this is Lieutenant Smith, sir. I have...well, sir, I have a launch confirmation from our satellite over the east coast. A definite launch, no error. My computer shows the possibility of a Red sub in the area."
"What about radar?" Adamson asked.
"Nothing, sir. But we did have something for a second after the launch, but it dropped out of sight quickly. The computer suggests a sub-launched cruise missile. Probable target, Washington D.C."
"I want a line opened into Washington. I want to know the second anything goes down. Get Andrews to scramble some fighters. I want visual confirmation. Go to Red Condition 4."
Oh man! Paradise! Expensive cars everywhere, just waiting for me to break a window and steal something, Creem thought as he stood looking at the wreck. He went to a Cadillac caught in it all and opened the door and pulled the driver out.
"Howdy!" Creem said as he knocked the driver out with one punch to the chin. He took the wallet from his vest pocket, and moved on to another car.
"Hey!" Wright yelled as he saw some nigger kid open the door of some white man's car. "Hey!" he yelled again as the nigger began to manhandle the white man. He said nothing when the nigger hit the white man. He just ran to the nigger and as he was about to open another car door, Wright brought his billy club down on the nigger's head.
"Take that, you nigger scum," he said as he did so. He hit him again, and again, turning his head and hair, his shirt and pants blood red. Some members of the Jury saw these proceedings and jumped Wright. As he went down in a fury of punches and kicks, he could be heard yelling "Get off a' me, you stupid niggers!"
Other members of the police force came over to the fight and began to pull the members of the Jury off of Wright, who was dead by now, a knife jutting from the nape of his neck.
The protestors around Rebecca had seen the turmoil in the street, and now saw a cop attacking and beating a black man, other black men jumping the cop, and more cops attacking the black men. They ran to the scene, and Rebecca went too, grenade in hand. But she wanted to go to the trucks. The trucks. She worked her way closer and closer.
"What is it, sir?" the ensign asked.
"Its a fuckin' riot. Oh Christ, we're never gonna get out of here. You and your goddamn bright ideas."
"Shut up," he interrupted. "Just shut up."
The DC-9 Eastern Air Shuttle sat at the foot of the runway, and Capario got ready to apply full thrust to the engines and release the brakes. He did so and the aircraft lurched forward quickly gaining speed. The plane's nose lifted off of the ground, and finally the rear gear. The plane was in the air, and the landing gear slowly folded into the belly of the plane. It quickly gained altitude and airspeed. It crossed the river, and flew over the city. It soon was over the Capitol and then away from it, as it flew out of the airspace over D.C. and into Maryland.
"Sir, Andrews reports that it is scrambling two fighters to confirm cruise missile."
"Good. Get me on the horn to the President."
"Goddamn it," he whispered to himself. For the first time in all of his long years in the Air Force, this was the first time he was ever scared. Really scared.
Rebecca walked slowly towards the lead truck, and as she neared it, she took the grenade form her pocket. She stood holding the grenade in her hand, feeling like the most powerful person on the earth.
She saw someone look out of the lead truck at her, saw him point her out the man sitting to his left, and saw the two of them stare at her. She slowly pulled the pin from the grenade and she held it gently, caressingly in her hands. She stood there thinking about how beautiful the explosion she was about to create would be. She ignored the shouts of the man hanging out the window of the truck and she tossed the grenade under the it.
"Sir? Sir? Sir!"
"What now, ensign?" King responded, visibly annoyed.
"A grenade sir. She's got a grenade!"
"Her, sir," he said as he pointed to a woman wearing a green surplus Army jacket. In her hand she held a grenade. He watched as she pulled the pin. He watched her look at the two of them. He stood out the window at yelled to her.
"No, lady! Hey lady, whaddaya think you're doing? Hey, don't... no... no... n-!"
His last no was cut off by a ripping explosion from underneath the truck. The explosion hit the live ordnance in the back. It exploded, and the force of the explosion hit Gray's truck not more than two feet behind King's and it too exploded, this one, containing more explosives, sent a ball of fire into the air. The explosions hit the third truck, and so on down the entire line of fifty-seven trucks. Enough explosives to equal a thermonuclear bomb, King had said. He had not exaggerated. The line of trucks exploded and took all the people, cars, and buildings in the area with them. The Capitol Building; gone. The White House; gone. Georgetown; gone. Arlington Cemetery; gone. Everything in a five mile circle; gone.
A huge pall of smoke rose into the air. It gathered at the top and mushroomed. Washington D.C.; gone in a flash of fire and smoke.
The blast hit the DC-9 and Capario was caught by surprise. The aircraft was about seven miles from Washington during the explosion. At least three other commercial aircraft were flying close enough to the capital to get picked out of the air. The airport was destroyed in the blast. As Capario's plane rocked in the shock waves, two Air Force F-16's made a call to Andrews Air Force Base, and they made it on the emergency mayday band, which emitted the signal on all frequencies; Capario and his co-pilot heard it through their headphones: "Oh Jesus...Oh Christ...Andrews, Washington is gone...A mushroom cloud indicative of a nuclear explo...." The transmission was cut off. On the ground, the people at Andrews, about six miles from Washington, felt the heat of the explosion shoot through the air, and the shock hit them too. Capario turned the plane on a tight angle not normally performed on a commercial jet, and watched as Washington came into view. He switched his radio to his emergency band, and transmitted.
"Oh my God...to whoever is listening...there's a huge mushroom cloud hanging over Washington D.C....Oh my God..." The air was dead for a minute. "Washington is shrouded in dust. My God, the devastation must be incredible."
He switched off the radio and turned the plane back on its course towards New York. He started to laugh. The laugh turned into a whimper, and he began to cry. New York wouldn't be there when they arrived. He knew it wouldn't be.
"...a nuclear explo..."
"That's it, sir; transmission cut off at the source," said the voice from the intercom.
"Try to raise Washington. Try to raise Andrews."
"We have been, General. There is no response from...we have a transmission coming in...commercial emergency band."
The whole room listened to the commercial airline pilot's short report. Adamson stood up in his glass room.
"Noooooo!" he screamed as he pushed his computer off his desk; it crashed to the floor with the flash of electric circuits suddenly being broken, and a small trail of smoke went up from the floor. "No!" he repeated as he banged his fist down on the table. He went into the hall.
"No transmissions from Washington?!?" he asked his crew.
"No sir," someone yelled back.
"Seismic reports," he demanded.
"Seismic recorders report large explosion in the Washington area, sir. No report from the Washington indicator itself," someone reported.
Adamson stood at the railing he had been leaning on for a moment.
"Get the bombers in the air. Send the call to our subs to launch. Call the missile silos. Tell them I am assuming control of the entire United States missile force due to the loss of the President and the entire line of succession in a nuclear explosion in Washington D.C. Give them the launch codes."
Someone stood up. "But sir, how can we know?" The look in his eyes was a mixture of fear and disbelief. Adamson felt the same was.
"Son, I understand. But we had a launch confirmation on the Atlantic coast not far from Norfolk. We have visual confirmation of a nuclear explosion from two sources, one of which we must assume disintegrated in the blast. We have seismic confirmation of an explosion 'somewhere in the Washington area.'" His voice changed from explanatory to firm and commanding. "Now you are to follow my orders and send the codes and messages as I have outlined them or I will have the guards shoot you for insubordination and cowardice in the face of a war situation!" He finished addressing the soldier and yelled to his captive audience: "We are at Red Condition 5!"
The messages went out, the missile silo crews turned their keys, entered codes into their computers, pushed launch buttons; bomber crews ran to their aircraft, some of them new B-1's, but most the old B-52's; the submarine crews received their messages through Very Long Wavelength transmissions, and they surfaced to launch.
So began the end of the world.
The United States threw everything it had at the Soviet Union, and when the Soviets found out what was going on, they launched theirs right back at the US of A. Alphonse Capario was right. There would be no New York left, had he returned there, but he didn't make it that far. He got caught in an explosion near Philadelphia. Michael Grimley didn't make it either: One of the Soviet warheads scheduled to hit Washington, one of the dozens to hit that area, strayed off course and exploded just off of the coast, catching The Tinkerer in its fury.
In the madness that followed, every nuclear device of any yield was used by the countries that had them. Cuba did a mighty fine job with South and Central America, and the NATO and Warsaw Pact missiles in Europe did a mighty fine job on each other. China effectively destroyed its allies and foes alike in Asia, and surprise Soviet missiles flew into China two days after The Day. I think Antarctica was left alone, but of that, no one can be sure. Few people survived, or at least few in America did. I've met thousands in this country, traveling on my rebuilt moped pulling a trailer tank full of gasoline, filled whenever I could find fuel, as I gathered the information for this account. I've met hundreds more over my rudimentary shortwave radio, talking to people in Europe and Africa, trying to get their own histories, their take on the events that cooked our little world. It is all true, I can assure you. The methods I used to obtain some of the information would be considered brutal I suppose, but no matter. I survive.
I live in radiation suits, and carry Geiger counters with me constantly. My life, however barren, is precious to me, although I have lost all that I loved.
As I sit here at my mechanical typewriter, a fading photo of my family sitting taped to one side of the key cover, a fading photo of an old girlfriend taped to the other side, I think of everything I have lost. I think of all that I missed out on. But, there are still things to celebrate. I celebrate the birthdays of all of my family members, and that of the girl I mentioned. And I celebrate my own birthday. I celebrate July the Fourth of every year; I keep track of the date, indeed, the year, using an old pocket watch with date, month, and year displays. No electronic parts. It works fine, and winding it every day is an important ritual in my life.
And I celebrate other anniversaries. The Day, I celebrate that, and as I told you, I have a bottle of JD for the tenth anniversary. I celebrate the anniversary of the day the sun came out again, and the day I found Cheyenne Mountain, all the people inside dead from either radiation or gunshot. I celebrate a lot of things. Every day I'm still alive I celebrate.
Goddamn you Andrew Wiley, for crossing that street. Goddamn you Sheila Calloway, for not looking before accelerating. Goddamn you, Edward Cooper, a.k.a. Creem, for being greedy. Goddamn you all for your role in the destruction of my society, of my civilization. You killed my family, all the people I loved. Goddamn you!
I wrote this when I was twenty-seven. I am now fifty-four, and a dying man. The radiation didn't get me, "old age" did. I'm dying, but that's not why I'm adding to my account after so many years. I am adding to it because the World Government wants me to, because I am revered in this new society as a teacher, one who knows. I suppose I like the way I live, or lived; comfortably, the best of everything, even fresh fruit and meat every now and then.
But they wanted me to make one last statement about the condition of the world before I die, and I am only too happy to comply. They came to me to help set this government up, to help design manufacturing plants, to help design generating plants, to reconnect trans-oceanic telephone lines. Things look good for this society. Upon my recommendations, only the healthiest of people live, and no amount of money can buy you out of euthanasia if your rad dose gets too high. I have always stayed well below it.
Yes, things look good for this society. It is growing, and it will eventually turn out to be The World Government its name advertises. Whether or not the future generations will have learned from the mistakes of my generation remains to be seen. Perhaps. Perhaps.
I am dying now, the original copy of my account yellowing and old in my hands, along with the pictures I mentioned. They will all go to the Archives to be kept in rad-proof glass. The Account, as it is called, the letters gilded in gold paint on every copy, has been read by all citizens of the World Government.
I helped establish this new government, modeling it after the best one of my time that I knew, that of the United States of America. I am revered as George Washington was, I suppose. A figurehead. I did accept the Presidency of The World Government for one term, and I have made sure that elections are democratic and fair. The euthanasia programs are soon to be phased out, and then the government will be truly democratic; equal rights for all. It will be as I have wanted it. This country will soon celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary, and I hope I last long enough to drink the bottle of Beefeater's Gin I found last month. If not, then good luck to The World Government. Good luck.
Note: I wrote this in 1986, based on the vague musings of UVM Professor Frank Bryan and his Kingpin Theory of History, that in the end, the downfall of society would be traceable back to one tiny, seemingly insignificant event. This story contains lots of hyperbole and grandiose ideas that I think are common for a teenage writer - President of the government, for example - but though lots of this could be edited out and refined, I felt the original, almost raw work was a better reflection of me than any edit I could do. That won't win it any prizes for literature, but it makes me happier.
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