Glimmer of Hope (Land of Tomorrow Book 1)

BOOK: Glimmer of Hope (Land of Tomorrow Book 1)
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Glimmer of Hope

 

 

Glimmer of Hope

Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. King. All Rights Reserved.

 

For More Information Contact:

 

Three Kings Publishing

115 Canterbury Court

Princeton, Kentucky 42445

[email protected]

Glimmer of Hope

Book I in the
Land of Tomorrow
series

by Ryan King

Copyright © 2012 by Ryan King

 

For Kristin, my wife and best friend, who makes me happy and for my sons who make me proud.

 

Prologue

I’ve been lying to myself
, she thought.
All these years I promised I’d never do it. But then the time came, and routine was simply too powerful to overcome. With a word I betrayed myself and destroyed the world.

Major Susan Rivera stared down at the enthusiastically blinking and austere grey console board. She was surprisingly calm. The indicator lights were all a sickeningly green tone and she imagined if she vomited now the color would complement those lights nicely.

Why, she wondered, but more importantly, how? She had kept a secret deep in her heart most of her career. Susan had determined that if the time ever came to rain down fire upon the earth, she wouldn’t participate, she wouldn’t fight back. She decided long ago that if called upon to launch her missiles, she would refuse, allowing the country she loved to be obliterated. Better for one nation and its people to be destroyed than the entire planet, she’d reasoned after years of agonizing soul searching. She didn't see her decision as betrayal, but as a courage born of selfless conviction.

“Twelve birds away ma’am,” said Lieutenant Jacobs excitedly typing on his keyboard. “Running confirmations now.”

It had all happened so fast. They had run the drill thousands of times before and when it happened for real, Susan’s brain and body responded without conscious thought. She authenticated the message. She turned her key. She pushed the button to launch her missiles. A single instance of inefficiency on her part in any step would have been sufficient to stop the launch.
Where are my convictions now?

Susan was shaken from her troubled thoughts by a subtle change in Lieutenant Jacobs’ attitude. They had grown close over the last few years working in the launch tube together and were sensitive to each others' mood and feelings. She turned to see him frowning down at the computer terminal. “Ma’am, the confirmation checks actually show we’ve only launched eleven of the birds. Number Eight’s still sitting in the silo.”

“Run diagnostics,” she said automatically without thinking. Her voice sounded calm and confident to her ears. That was good.

She looked around the small grey vault of a room. There was nothing appealing about the hard edges, tomblike construction, or cold surfaces, but she found it all oddly comfortable. This room was closer to who she was and more a home than the lonely and cold apartment where she slept, ate microwave means, and stored her stuff.

Part of her wanted to retreat into the fantasy of believing this was simply another drill. It would be so easy. At some point an authoritative voice would announce over the intercom that the drill was complete and tell them when and where to report for an after action review.

Maybe that was exactly what was happening
, she thought.
We've been getting soft and command has decided to add an additional level of realism.
It wouldn't be difficult for them to fake all of this. How would we know?

Jacobs swiveled his chair towards her with concern bordering on distress. “Ma’am, the diagnostics confirm, we still have a bird in the silo. Computer says it’s a Code 23 Error.”

Great, a Code 23 Error
, she thought.
Systems Interface Malfunction
. This was the computer program’s catch-all whenever it didn’t know what the hell was actually wrong. Susan often wondered why the programmers couldn’t have simply allowed the system to respond honestly in such cases. “Heck, I don’t know what’s wrong, we were designed by the lowest bidder after all.” This would have been more apt and infinitely less frustrating.

Susan picked up the radio microphone and turned the knob to their assigned post-launch strategic command net. They could now break radio silence. “Stormchaser, Stormchaser, this is Raven’s Nest Five. SITREP follows, over.”

There was a pause of perhaps ten seconds and Susan was about to repeat her call when a harried and frustrated voice answered, “Raven’s Nest Five, this is Stormchaser, go!” Susan could hear a considerable amount of voices and activity in the background.

“Stormchaser, we have a successful launch on eleven birds, but may have one still in the nest. We’re running contingency drills now.”

“Roger that Raven Five, inform us of any change. Stormchaser out!”

Susan looked at the handset and the ominously dead line. Any launch failure during a drill was grounds for an internal command investigation. She had expected questions, guidance, yelling, anything. They had just launched eleven intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying over one hundred ten-megaton nuclear warheads and their higher headquarters response was preoccupation.

This is no drill. This is really happening.

Still, this preoccupation disturbed her. She would have appreciated some follow-up questions or guidance. Something. Anything. They weren't trained, or expected, to improvise.

Probably have a lot going on
, Susan thought.
Besides, this business is about redundancy. One bird doesn’t make much difference in the big scheme. Whether Sevastopol, Pyongyang, or Tehran was hit with ten kilotons instead of thirty was pretty much moot. Hell, we don't even know our missiles' targets; we could have just obliterated Rhode Island for all I know.

Susan stood up from her chair startling Jacobs who jumped and yelped. She turned to him with her hand out, “Easy, just going to check the outside display.”
I’ll have to be careful now
, she told herself.
Anything out of the routine will make him nervous, especially after the reality of what is going on sinks in
. She walked over to the intercom near the heavy sealed vault door and depressed the green ‘talk’ button.

“Sergeant Timmons, can you check your display out there and tell us what you’ve got?” she said into the intercom.

Timmons must have been standing on the other side of the door waiting, “Roger ma’am, one moment,” he answered immediately.

Susan looked around at their small vault. It was strange how this place had always been comforting to her, but something about it was now menacing. She surveyed the room, but couldn't put her finger on the exact cause for her unease. Jacobs simply sat staring at the screen without moving. She suddenly felt a knot in her stomach. The launch had preempted breakfast.
I'm not afraid,
she told herself,
only hungry.

Her thermos of coffee sat on the floor and she almost poured herself a cup, but decided that was a bad idea. Coffee always made her have to go pee and she didn’t want to leave Jacobs alone for even a few seconds. The lavatory was only a small enclosure within the vault, but it might as well be worlds away in this situation. She had a sudden mental flash of a wasp landing on her arm on a bright sunny day. Danger was in the air, but the best thing to do was stay calm.

“Ma’am, the board shows bird eight still in the tube,” said Timmons through the intercom.

Susan nodded, “Yeah, that’s what we’ve got. Can you call the duty contractor and tell them to get down here right away.”

“Will do, ma’am.” answered the ever-efficient Timmons.

Not even a year ago there would have been a contractor on duty during the night shift and not just during the day. Hell, when she was a lieutenant they didn’t have contractors at all. Trained airmen would have fixed the problem half awake and hung over. Times changed and budget cuts made it more difficult to destroy the world evidently. Susan sat back down trying to calm herself. Looking at Jacobs certainly didn’t help.

“How you doing, Jacobs?” she asked in a voice far too cheerful she realized after she said it.

Jacobs started in his seat and then turned to her slowly as if his neck didn’t work properly. His face was normal, but his eyes were wide. “Where do you think those missiles are going? Who did we just kill?”

“Don’t know,” answered Susan. “Don’t care,” she lied. “We did our job, now we have to keep doing our job. You know that. The shrinks told us this feeling would come, guilt is normal. Doesn’t mean we did anything wrong. We did our job. We saved the damn free world. We're real American heroes; probably get medals and promotions for this.”

Jacobs just stared at her. The knot in her stomach grew and she was about to say something, anything to break that stare when Timmons' voice came over the intercom.

“Ma’am, talked to the duty contractor at his house.”

Relieved to be away from Jacobs’s strangeness, Susan went to the intercom and spoke in eagerly. “Is he coming down?”

“I don’t think so, ma’am," Timmons answered with a chuckle. "He kind of freaked out when I told him we had a hang fire. Said he damn well hoped we had eleven more hang fires. I told him we were good on the other eleven, just needed to fire the last one.” Timmons’ southern voice was so calm he could have been explaining the best way to snag catfish back home.

“Is he coming?” Susan asked again trying to keep the exasperation out of her voice.

“That’s what I was trying to tell you, ma’am,” said Timmons. “He wigged out and dropped the phone. I heard him screaming for his family to get up and get in the car. I listened to the ruckus for several minutes, but he never came back on.”

Damn it
, Susan thought.
Think. When we were lieutenants, in the days before contractors, we were all cross-trained in everyone else’s job. The systems and technology are certainly more advanced, but maybe I can do something
.

For some inexplicable reason, now that she had fired eleven missiles, the most important thing in her existence was to finish the job and fire the last one. She knew this was ridiculous, but in for a penny, in for a pound, her mother had always said. Moving forward seemed the only safe route.

“Sergeant Timmons, I’m going to come out and see what I can do. Maybe it’s something easy I can figure out.” She unlocked her side of the vault door and waited for Timmons to unlock his side so she could exit.

There was a very long pause before Timmons came back on the intercom. “Uh, ma’am, you know I can’t do that. The procedures say I can’t let you out until we either get a stand down order or you have launched all the birds.”

Susan leaned her forehead against the cool steel of the door and chuckled. “I know Timmons, but we can’t fire that last missile. It’s a system malfunction. I need to get out of here to go figure out what is wrong,” she explained patiently.

Another long pause, “Yes ma’am, I understand that, but the procedures are clear. I can’t let you out until the board shows all your birds are away.”

Susan felt the knot in her stomach turn into a knife, twisting painfully. Timmons' reaction was ridiculous but not surprising. They were all psychologically screened and specially selected for their penchant for following rules and not deviating from established policies. Strategic Command wanted people who relied upon procedures no matter what and didn’t think too deeply about the reality of what they were doing.

“Timmons, the procedures say we get a technician in here to check out the problem, but I don’t think that is going to happen. Given the situation, I think we need to figure this out on our own, don’t you?” Susan tried to keep the frustration and sarcasm out of her voice, but it was hard. Her thin veneer of calm was slipping and she was starting to feel a little trapped.

Susan turned back to look at Jacobs who had resumed his disturbing stare at the computer monitors. Seeing him unnerved her more and she was about to start yelling at Timmons when she was thrown off her feet. Her head struck the flood and bounced. She saw bright floating stars and knew she was going to pass out. Part of her welcomed that option. The earth rumbled and shook again as the lights dimmed slowly and then went black.

Oh shit
, Susan thought in the thick darkness and tasted blood in her mouth.
Must have taken a direct hit topside
. The lights came back on in a weak flickering sort of way that indicated generator backup power was now in use.
Can't lose consciousness
, she thought and forced herself to sit up.

“What was that?” asked Jacobs, who had kept his seat, but wasn’t staring at the screen anymore.

Susan, disoriented, answered without thinking, “Nuke strike. Probably within a few miles of here. Big one.”

Jacobs stood suddenly backing away from her with wide eyes and both hands covering his open mouth. Susan slowly climbed to her feet without taking her eyes off Jacobs. “Take it easy now. One thing at a time. Could have been something else. Maybe some seismic activity from another strike somewhere else. Somewhere..far away, maybe.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it!” Jacobs screamed at her and began pacing in the crowded vault, hands on his head tugging at his hair absently.

Susan decided she liked this even less than Creepy Distracted Stare At The Monitors Jacobs. She went to the intercom again. “Timmons, you still out there? You okay?”

The calm southern voice again, “No worries ma’am, okay out here.”

“Timmons, we need to get out of here, we’ve-“

Jacobs pushed her aside sticking his face into the intercom. He savagely punched the send button with his fist. “Let us out of here you country fuck!” He stood there staring at the intercom breathing like an enraged bull.

Susan eased away from Jacobs. “Let's just relax, lieutenant,” she said in her dealing-with-a-skittish-horse voice. “We’ll get through this, just have to stay calm.” An idea occurred to Susan, “Why don’t you turn on the radio and see if you can get any information.”

BOOK: Glimmer of Hope (Land of Tomorrow Book 1)
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