Friday, September 4, 2015

Short Story: Missile


 

 Missile




I just lay there, spread out on the floor in front of the fan. It was just too hot to get anything done, even though I had a list of chores. It was sweltering, all I was wearing was underwear and I was still covered in sweat. The air from the fan hitting this perspiration felt good, I had to admit, but that was less than half of me at any given time.

-beep-

I turned my head toward the sound. My little notebook was set with reminders and I was supposed to be watering the peach trees at that point. Poor peach trees out in the sun, poor little peaches getting cooked before they are even ripe. Poor me for having to save them in this heat.

I rolled over with a grunt and located a pair of shorts and sandals. After getting them on I walked out the back door. I grabbed the watering hose and dropped it, it was blisteringly hot. Everything was too hot! I hit the knob on the faucet and the water flowed, it would soon cool off the hose enough for me to pick it up.

I pull the hose to the peach trees and begin spraying them down from top to bottom, I wanted as many leaves as possible to feel like it was raining. This might be a waste of precious water but I felt like the trees enjoyed it. Finally I began to fill up the little depression we had dug around the base of the trees.

After I was done I assumed my location in front of the fan. Just as I got comfortable another beep from my notebook alerted me. I glance in that direction to see that I had mail.

“Open mail.” I say to the ceiling. The computer opened the mail and displayed it. The story I had sent in was rejected. I sighed. There was no way that my story wasn't better than the one they had on their site today. None. Such is life for a noob like me.

-beep-

I see my next chore. I groaned before I finally stand up. I had to open the large, heavy door at the end of the hall. It was carefully balanced to be easy to open and shut, although it weighed about two tons. After I entered the other side I turned on the lights, a tight spiral staircase descended more than two hundred feet below.

I put my head on the palm scanner and then allowed the retina scan to see my iris. After the computer was completely sure that I was indeed me, the metal door unlocked. I ignored the small control room and went out another door and down some small metal steps. Once I was at the bottom I crossed underneath the intercontinental ballistic missile and checked the gauges on the fueling system.

It only took two minutes to confirm that everything looked perfectly in order. The fuel line pressure was exactly zero, because nothing was supposed to be happening. I opened an access panel and turned a primer knob a few times to flush the fuel line assembly. The pressure gauge hit 0.2 before it dropped again after I stopped.

Nothing wrong with it. Just another boring, routine system check. I looked up at the missile, the top of its 122-foot structure was shrouded in darkness. It sat there quietly, innocently not hurting anyone despite being a mass-killing machine.

The Sabre-3 Missile carried six independently targeted stealth warheads and could reach anywhere on Earth or in orbit out to 290 miles in altitude. It could take out the new Chinese Shingyan space station and five of their cities all by itself. If it were called upon to do so. Even with the heightened tensions in the Spratleys and the Taiwan Straights, there was really no reason it had to be used.

More than likely it would never be fired. History suggests that one day it would all be dismantled, the nuclear material buried deep in Nevada somewhere. Out of the many thousands of nuclear weapons built in the world, many had been decommissioned or put away from active duty. In human history atomic weapons had only been used five times, after all.

Almost two centuries in existence and only used “in anger” five times. Each time the world was shocked into not wanting to use the terrible instruments ever again, but keeping them ready just in case “they” saw weakness and attacked.

In three weeks the technicians would show up to inspect and make sure the missile would operate perfectly if needed. This was an annual thing. Like a ritual of some kind, maybe for the Church of Self-Immolation. Militarily it was outdated but, then again, they still used bayonets. In the modern battlefield this missile and its would be lucky to reach their targets. Anti-missile technology would alost assure they were destroyed around the time they reached orbit.

Then again maybe it is only a weapon of mutual destruction for a country like China that can called a “peer competitor”. Maybe this weapon would work fine against one of the lesser tyrannical nations, but history shows we don't pay them much attention until they get nukes at which point they are “safe”.

It's enough to make one cynical.

I start the long climb back to the surface after doing all of the checks. Just then I see red flashes of light and the two-ton door was slammed shut. The deafening alarm finally reached my ears or finally registered. I turn around and get back to the tiny control room. I see the terminals are already on and the launch sequence was ready.

I put my palm on the scanner and the missile was soon being fueled automatically. The six warheads were being programmed with target coordinates. The missile itself was being fed it's trajectory and launch vectors.

It dawned on me that I had nothing to do with any of this. My job was over. It also occurred to me that the enemy, whoever it was, probably knew exactly where this missile silo was located. The thought didn't bother me because we had the most advanced anti-missile technology of them all.

Unless the Shenyang space station had taken out our early warning and defense satellites. Surely they could not take them all down. I couldn't escape my little prison until the launch was complete, maybe I would have time to reach the hover-car and escape any return fire. Or I might actually be safer here.

With an astounding noise and bright flame the missile rose from the bottom of the silo, seemingly in slow motion at first. The little windows of the control room looking into the launch tube looked like the sun was pouring in for a moment. After the smoke cleared there really was some diffused sunlight from way up top.


I wasn't in any hurry as I climbed the stairs and palmed the scanner. The door opened for me this time and I was on the surface. The cabin was still there, I picked up the notebook computer and turned the fan off. Then I walked outside and pulled a couple of the peaches from the trees before I turned toward my hover-car.

The roaring of the missile was dying down to background noise. The line of smoke into the sky was fading, there were a few more missile trails on the horizon. For some reason I was totally at peace and I felt no worries as I climbed into the vehicle. Whether it was the end of the world or whether the territory being fought over was won or lost, it just did not matter to me.
_____

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