Monday, August 31, 2009

Daily Story 138: Dead Hand

The frantic conversation ceased as a secret service member burst into the cramped conference room on Air Force One. "He's on the line, mister President!"
The President straightened his tie and hair and gave the signal - one of his aides flipped a switch and the screen on the wall changed to show the Prime Minister of Russia.
"Boris, I'm glad I could reach you. I... couldn't help but notice that you appear to be launching some missiles?"

Boris Zubkov sighed deeply and nodded. "That is correct, my friend. Our systems detected a missile launch this morning from your silo in Alaska, and..."
"Boris! That's... that's totally inactive. We swear. There were some electrical issues..."
The Prime Minister held up his hands and the President fell silent. "We know," he said, "our satellites and other systems quickly determined that the false positive was the result of your electrical problems, with some passing geese adding to the confusion. We are fully aware that you are not attacking us."
Everyone in the conference room looked around nervously. "But... you did launch at us, correct?"

"During the cold war we built a number of safeguards - primarily as a deterrent, you understand. Even with our curent position being more secure, they were never actually deactivated. The initial launch detection went to the control bunker, but the more advanced systems that determined it to be a false alarm are on a different network."
The President pressed his hands against his temples and waited a second for the throbbing pain in his head to fade somewhat. "Are you saying... that this attack was fully automated?"
"Not fully, no... but as it so happens there was a problem with some of our communication protocols not being updated and so the soldier in the bunker was unable to contact anyone in command. He was under the impression that the attack had already started and that he alone was left to retaliate."

The Chief of Staff leaned over the conference table to face Boris. "You can stop them, right? You can deactivate them or divert them or..." he saw Boris already shaking his head and the question trickled off.
"I'm sorry, there is nothing we can do. All that I can tell you is that they are fifty megaton yield ICBMs, developed at Chelyabinsk-70. I was hoping that your missile defense grid could take care of them?"
"No," the President sighed, "the missile defense grid is bullshit. It doesn't work."
The president's military advisor paled. "Sir!"
"Oh, shut up. Like he won't find out soon enough anyway. Look, Boris, we had already spent a fortune and it wasn't working right so we decided to cut our losses and just... pretend."
Someone in the corner was staring at a laptop and cringing. "Fifty megaton... If one hits DC, people in Baltimore will receive 3rd degree burns. Damage will reach from the northern borders of Florida to halfway across Maine. How many are there?"
"Twelve." The President said.

Boris appeared to be crying. "I'm so very sorry. I hope that we can count on you to avoid further damage, seeing as this was a mistake...?"
The president waved dismissively at the screen. "Yes, yes, I'll give the command not to blast your God-forsaken country off the face of the Earth. Mistakes happen. But Boris? Seriously, fuck you."