On the eighth day of the eighth month of 1927, the first nuclear weapon was detonated near Black Crook Peak in Utah, Usona. During that period in history, the nation of Amadesis was more outwardly violent. They had secured a relatively large island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, and used their insidious resources to develop an arms program rivaling that of any legitimate country at the time. Though the blast radius was comparatively small at that point, and significantly far from populated areas, there were several casualties. These people happened to be camping, hiking, or just generally enjoying nature within range of detonation.
The Amadesins insisted that they chose that spot, on that day, for the specific reason that no one would die. The Day of No Death was a well-known but mysterious phenomenon that occurred every year. There were a number of ways to subvert death on that day. Bullets will bounce off of bodies, or the guns will jam. An unseen force will slow down falls. Fires will not grow out of control. But for the most part, death is halted by more subtle means, simply by manipulating reality so that no one is ever put in danger. The Amadesins, however, were big on going against the natural order of life, always claiming that they know the right way to do things. Experts ended up concluding that the reason the Amadesins were able to get so close to causing death was because they essentially did not believe in truth.
The dozens of survivors of the blast were left mutated, and in some cases, horribly disfigured. They demanded the Usonan government charge the Amadesin Nation with crimes against humanity, and force them to pay reparations. Unfortunately, Usona was composed of a few dozen independently governed states, and the national government was still in its infancy. Even with the help of its closest allies, they were no match for the Amadesins, who had already proven themselves to be technologically and militaristically more advanced than anyone else. And so, the survivors garnered assistance from private corporations. They stormed the Amadesis island stronghold, and after days of fighting, managed to take it over.
In response to this, the Amadesin Nation attacked Utah with ground troops, and began an occupation. Following years of concentration camps, diplomatic negotiations, and war, boundaries were redrawn. Usona agreed to hand over most of Utah as long as they released the roughly 500,000 non-Amadesin citizens. The neighboring states each took a chunk out of the borders, and left the wastelands to the invaders. Furthermore, the private citizens who had taken control over the original island were left alone, and allowed to form their own nation there.
All of the survivors had been rendered infertile from the radiation, however, one of them was already pregnant at the time of the disaster. She died months later in childbirth, but her son survived. Frederick Stockton showed no signs of damage from the radiation. He appeared to be perfectly healthy. He was a beloved citizen of the new nation of Federama, and though he was not part of its origins, he rose in power quite quickly. By the time he was 20 years old, he had been elected as the head of state, and given the title of Governor. Because of his parents’ eventual deaths, and because of all the pain that the Amadesins—and many others, for that matter—had caused throughout history, he formulated a plan.
Step one of Governor Stockton’s plan was to convince Federama’s allies that he could disarm Pakistan of its nuclear weapons, something India in particular was very interested in doing. But this had to be done in secret, of course. It would be a foreign relations nightmare for any of the other nations to admit that they were involved in such subterfuge. And so Stockton agreed to keep them out of it, and used all of his own resources to achieve his goals.
But they could not just steal or disable the weapons and call it a day. Such an act would cause international tension, but not prevent Pakistan from simply restarting the program. They would also have to destroy all technical documents regarding the bombs, demolish every facility tailored to design or manufacture the bombs, and also kidnap every Pakistani loyalist who was educated and intelligent enough to engineer further bombs. This took some time, and the allies were not privy to the entirety of their plans for Pakistan, let alone the rest of the world.
The attack was executed on a single day after months of spying and gathering intelligence. An assault team stormed the royal palace and made it look like rebels were trying to overthrow the government. Leadership fell into lockdown, and the military was mobilized to key strategic locations, leaving Stockton’s true targets vulnerable. They raided the manufacturing plants, and stole the weapons. They burned the documents and kidnapped the engineers. Overall it was a successful mission. The teams returned having accomplished everything on their lists, and Stockton was satisfied. But this was the easy part. They had taken more from Pakistan than anyone knew they would. Kidnapping was certainly not part of the arrangement, and so there was terrible backlash from the allies. Though the island was on its own lockdown, they allowed The Confederacy to send in the Usonian Ambassador to open up a discussion. The Minister of Foreign Affairs accompanied him.
Ambassador Rakin shook Stockton’s hand and nodded politely. “Governor. This is my translator, Tai Guo. He comes with me even when I’m not speaking to someone in a different language.”
“Is he okay?” Stockton asked.
“He doesn’t know everything. But he is sympathetic to our cause.”
“What about the minister?”
“She is not, but she’s not going anywhere,” Rakin explained. “We might as well speak freely.”
“Then we will proceed, and keep her here.”
“Yes,” Rakin agreed. “But I want details on the mission. I want to make sure that we’ve cleaned Pakistan out completely, and that we learned from any mistakes so that they do not occur during Stage Two. We have reason to believe that China is already gearing up for retaliation.”
“What is this?” the Minister of Foreign Affairs asked, horrified. “What is happening? You’re in on this?”
“I’m terribly sorry, Minister Wilkers,” Rakin said to her sadly. “But you insisted on coming with, and now no one comes in or leaves this island unless they’re on a nuclear assignment.”
Wilkers instinctively looked for the exits, but she knew she was trapped. “You two planned this all along? Why? What is Stage Two? What are you going to do now?”
“Now?” Stockton began with sincerity. “Now for the hard part.”
At this point in history, China was Pakistan’s best ally. They shared technology and resources with each other, and even had a sort of joint nuclear energy program. They were insulted and infuriated by Federama’s attack and disregard for international law. While China was preparing to deploy a military contingency against Federama, Stage Two of Governor Stockton’s plan went into effect. China’s nuclear weapons programs was the second largest in the world, and an invasion would not be sufficient enough for full disarmament. They also had an extremely formidable military branch that would swiftly and easily knock down any aggressors. Stockton knew this, and had planned to use a different tactic than the one against Pakistan.
Every country in the world contained a certain fraction of its population who identified as Amadesin. But the lowest by far, and mathematically surprisingly, was China. So because of this, there was not a lack of Chinese expatriates who had immigrated to Federama, and were loyal to its cause because of its act of courage against Amadesis years ago. China was originally, in fact, one of Federama’s best allies. But that didn’t mean that Stockton could allow them to keep their nuclear weapons. They had to be shut down, just like everybody else.
Federama had spent the better part of the last decade planting moles in strategic positions within the Chinese government. The day after the last Federama spy in China was in the right place was the day of the Pakistan invasion. Stockton was nothing if not incredibly intelligent. It was even said that genius level intelligence was his second superpower, but this was never formally tested. Stage Two was carried out much slower than Stage One. With each passing day, panic in China increased, along with their confusion. They began to make a lot of mistakes, and many lower-level officials, unsure of what was happening, ended up destroying nuclear documentation, which meant that Stockton’s people didn’t have to do it. Unlike Pakistan, whose nuclear armory contained only bombs that needed to be dropped or put in place, China’s inventory included missiles. Fortunately, these missiles could be released by the Federama spies, and detonated safely out of the range of innocents, sometimes even on the edge of the atmosphere.
Little by little, spies were pulled out of the country by Federama extraction teams; each one more shocking of a reveal than the last. The conspiracy went almost all the way up to the top. Most of the spies considered themselves to be loyal Chinese through and through, and betrayed their nation’s trust because they genuinely believed nuclear disarmament was the only way to prevent another Utah catastrophe. Though technically no one had died from that explosion, the number of deaths from Russia’s bombing on Georgia five years later following the Amadesins’ attempt was astronomical. It was actually probably the deciding factor in Stockton’s plans. Instead of recognizing the kind of devastation such weapons could have on the world, other governments seemed to take it as a success story, and chose to use it as a learning experience for their own programs. Their bombs were bigger and badder than the original, and let to continue, they could soon lead to The Eleventh Extinction.
While not condoning Federama’s extremist approach to nuclear disarmament, the government of India deployed their military in order to protect Federama’s borders from Chinese forces. They held the line for weeks while China continued to threaten total annihilation, even after Stage Two was complete. It was at this point that Stockton was forced to make an announcement that he was firmly against. He was trying to rid the world of its weapons; not create further panic. But this had to be done. In order to defend his own, he had to make the world believe that he really was the bad guy. He had to bluff and convince everyone that the weapons he had stolen from Pakistan and China could now be used against them, or anyone else who tried to make a move. This decision not only protected Federama, but also ensured that Russia would push them into Stage Three without even realizing it.
Governor Stockton stood at the podium and began his speech that was set to be broadcast in every region that agreed to it. He cleared his throat. “People of Earth. Five weeks ago, I released an invasion into Pakistan. Not long after, I engaged a league of spies that I had embedded within the Chinese government. They sent nuclear missiles into the atmosphere and detonated them away from potential casualties. But that’s not all we did. We...procured a number of engineers and scientists and recruited them to work for us. With these new resources, we enhanced our own nuclear program, and we have plenty to go around. Anyone who threatens us threatens the sanctity of human life, and we will use our weapons against such threats, even if the act results in seeming hypocrisy.
“Our now greatest ally, India has been utilizing its own people and resources to support and protect us. I have begun negotiations with them to figure out the best way for them to pull out of our waters and return home to their families. Do not take this a sign of weakness. We are stronger than ever. We will do what we must in order to push this planet into the future, and make it great again. The nuclear attacks in Utah and Georgia were only the beginning. Every year, a new nation begins plans to develop weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, those already with weapons increase their stores dramatically. I spent the first half of my tenure lobbying to form an oversight organization to make sure nuclear technology would be used only for energy and other benevolent endeavors. But I failed in this. And so I’m taking a different approach. I’m taking your weapons. This is not the end. I am not content with only stopping Pakistan and China from making a mistake that leads to World War IV. Many of you will say that I am foolish for revealing my plans and motivations to you, but I assure you that I know exactly what I’m doing.
“Surrender your weapons to us now, or face the consequences. Whatever you choose, I will find a way to get your bombs. I won’t let you keep them. I can’t. There is a new world order. In the past, you may have seen our tiny nation as negligible. But no more. We have technology beyond the weapons we stole that you know nothing about. We can overcome any obstacle in our way. We are small, but we are strong, and you cannot defeat us. Forget what you know about what your governments can do. They may be powerful, but we are now the leader. We are now...the world’s greatest Superpower.”
Though Federama was governed by a single system, and everyone within the government was on board with Governor Stockton’s vision, not all citizens were. Roma Tanner, the de facto leader of a coastal city was the primary voice against the mission. He had not been elected to any position, but he was the owner of a variety of different small shops, so many looked to him for general guidance. Every single day since the beginning of Stage One, Tanner requested audience with Stockton. His family had immigrated from Russia, which would very obviously be the focus of Stage Three, so his urgency was growing. Following the completion of Stage Two, Stockton was feeling comfortable with his position, and finally called for a meeting with Tanner.
“Why have you been avoiding me?”
“I’ve not,” Stockton promised him. “I’ve been busy, with obvious crises.”
“Yes, I’ve heard. I’m here to discuss some concerns. I’m not happy with you threatening the lives of my brothers and sisters around the world.”
“I’m not happy with it either,” Stockton agreed. “I felt I had no choice. If they don’t think we are capable of protecting ourselves, then we encourage them to come after us. I’m not the one who invented mutually assured destruction.”
“This isn’t mutual. Every time you take their weapons, and keep them for yourself, you are succeeding in increasing your own.”
“I have a plan.”
“I know. I’m trying to tell you that it’s not working.”
“No, I’m not talking about the plans to disarm the world. That’s going swimmingly. I mean I have a plan for what to do with the weapons once I’ve collected them all.
“And so what is it?”
Stockton took a sip from his tea. “I’m afraid that such information is known only to myself.”
“You’re telling me that your lieutenants and subordinates follow your ambitions blindly, without even knowing how it ends?”
“They trust me. You should too.”
“No, I should not. Your threat of nuclear retaliation is not working. All signs point to the very real possibility that Russia is calling your bluff and is planning on deploying missiles against us.”
“I have a contingency in place if this were to happen.”
“And I suppose you’re not going to tell me that either?”
“You would be correct.”
“You couldn’t possibly have enough spies in Russia, like you did with China. Their recruitment program is notoriously difficult to get through. The statistics on failouts are staggering. No one really knows what happens in the spy world, but it’s a common rumor that Usonia has been trying and failing for years to embed spies in Russia, or at least informants.”
“I don’t have any spies,” Stockton answered with a shrug. “But I have intelligence. I know where most of their weapons are. We’re still working on it. I would have liked more time, but these are the cards I was dealt.”
“No, Stockton, that’s not true. You’re the one dealing the cards. You’re the instigator of all this. And you have to stop. It’s only going to get worse. Usonia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, by an astronomical margin.”
Stockton chuckled. “That’s funny what you just said there. It’s not funny now, but it’ll be funny later. Trust me.”
Tanner ignored his remark. “What are you going to do when you inevitably reach the Stage for Usonia? They’re going to be the hardest.”
“Yes, they are. But that’s why I’m holding off on them. I’m hoping after I’m finished with France and the U.K., they’ll choose to disarm themselves.”
“That’s not going to happen. No one is going to do that.”
“We’re already talking to India about it.”
“Yes, they intend to disarm of their own accord. We’re just discussing specifics.”
Tanner seemed genuinely impressed with this, even knowing how supportive India had been throughout this whole endeavor. “Either way, that’s them. What about everyone else?”
“I’m handling each nuclear nation differently. I have considered all of the angles. Every single point of retaliation or resistance, I’ve planned for it.”
“I am a point of resistance, as are my constituents. Have you planned for us?”
“Indeed. In fact, I was putting off this meeting so that you can be here on this specific day. What you said about Russia is true, and will mark a turning point in our grand mission. We have been monitoring their communications, and we believe that they are about to, as you said, call my bluff very soon. Within minutes, actually.”
“Well, what are you going to do about it?”
“I have a plan.”
“Stop saying that!”
Stockton shrugged again. “It’s true.”
“It’s also meaningless to someone as ignorant on the matter as I am. If you want me to trust you, then read me in.”
He shook his head. “The only way I know that I can trust you is if I don’t read you in. You have to make the decision yourself.”
“What does that even mean?”
“You will soon have a choice. You can either push the button, and show me that you love your constituents, or you can do nothing, and risk not only this mission, but the lives of everyone you know.”
“I don’t understand.”
Governor Stockton’s special red phone rang. “Ah, here’s the call now.” He answered. “Yes, Mister Lazarov. What do you hear from the airwaves?” He waited for a response. “Are you sure?” He waited once more. “Have they already deployed?”
“Deployed?” Tanner repeated. “What’s happening?”
Stockton placed his hand over the mouthpiece and whispered, “Russia’s gonna nuke us.”
“Thank you very much, Radimir. My love to your family.” He hung up and walked over to the other side of the room.”
“They’ve already sent a missile, haven’t they? We have to get everyone to the bunkers.”
Stockton unlocked a cabinet and pulled a drawer from it. There was a single mauve button on it. He simply presented it to Tanner, as if trying to sell him a car.
Tanner jumped up and pushed the button without hesitation. Sirens went off across the entire island. Everyone and their mother was headed for safety in the bunkers below. “Is that going to be enough? Will the bunkers keep them safe?”
“Some of them, yes. The coastal bunkers couldn’t be dug too deep, but the Russians are almost certainly aiming for the center. For the people there, probably not. The Amadesins built the bunkers to protect themselves from that day’s technology, not today’s.”
“This is crazy!”
“I know. They’re all so shortsighted.”
“No, I mean what’s happening right now! The Russian missile will be here in, what, thirty minutes?”
“Closer to twenty.”
“You did this!” Tanner screamed. “You put us all in danger, and now it’s coming to fruition. Was this your plan? To have everyone die? I imagine you have a bunker that goes down a thousand sheam. You and your friends will be safe, while your country burns around you.”
“Nonsense,” the governor replied. “I’m staying right here.” He fiddled with a few instruments on the console. “Remember when we renovated my office a few years ago? I had to lobby for the tax money, even though it was seemingly frivolous?”
“Yes, as I recall, that was the first time we heard you say, I have a plan.”
“Well, I’m sorry to inform you that the renovation was mostly frivolous.” He playfully finished the sequence of commands on his instruments. The ceiling above them began to open up. “I couldn’t pass up the chance to have the best seat in the house. There’s no way I’m going down to a bunker.”
“We’re in the middle of the island,” Tanner said while watching with interest as the ceiling continued to disappear. “It’ll fall right on top of us.”
“It’ll try.” He casually placed his sunglasses on his face.
After the ceiling was finished, a set of television screens rose from the floor, cycling through security footage from around the island. Stockton was not lying about having technology behind the day at his disposal.
After time, the screens showed that no one was left on the streets, or even above ground level. “Tell me your plan,” Tanner insisted.
“I need to know if I can trust you. I’ve told you this.” He unlocked a second cabinet, and released a second drawer. A yellow button this time. “Push this. I’m not going to tell you what it does. But I can tell you that it will surprise Russia like none other.”
Tanner hesitated. “I can’t. I would rather die than send a barrage of missiles towards my enemies.”
“So you agree? My vision is right and good.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“And I didn’t say that the yellow button would deploy a missile.”
The security screens transformed to show the perspective of a single camera, each one revealing only part of the picture. The missile from Russia was on its way.”
“It’s your choice, Roma. Are you going to push the button or not? You have to decide in the next minute or two.”
Tanner stood there, stunned and sweating. He desperately exchanged looks between the yellow button, and the security screen. Fearful and feeling no other way out, he reached over and smashed his hand into the button. It opened a secret door from the bookcase. A woman came out of it. “Really, Stockton? Those theatrics? I say...”
“I knew you would come out on your own, in plenty of time, if he ended up not pushing it. You are nothing if not reliable, Mrs. Blackmore.”
“What’s going on?” Tanner cried.
Stockton handed Tanner a pair of sunglasses. “You might want these.”
Mrs. Blackmore walked to the center of the room and lifted her arms. The security camera became useless as they could now see the missile headed towards them with their own eyes. Tanner continued to sweat. A magical yellow light came out of Mrs. Blackmore’s hands and shot towards the missile. It overcame the deadly weapon, and in one bright flash of light, disappeared it.
Tanner removed his glasses and continued to stare as the yellow light faded away to reveal blue skies. “What the hell was that?”
“Oh yeah, you should know.” Stockton said with a smile. “Superpowers exist.”
“France. The one country that only has nuclear weapons pretty much because everyone else does, and because they have the resources for a program. Theirs is the most secretive and fickle, however, what with them refusing to report numbers, supposedly constantly switching facilities, and rejecting a healthy amount of international law. The only reason they’re allowed to go on as they do is because they don’t actually do anything wrong. They get along with the rest of Europe, and the majority of the Confederacy. They don’t go around starting wars, and the amount of foreign aid they provide is surpassed by no other nation.”
“All is as your opinion dictates,” replied Ambassador Tamboli of India.
Governor Stockton continued, largely ignoring the ambassador’s remark. “It is for this that the nuclear disarmament of France is the trickiest. Pakistan was the most dangerous, since we had done nothing like it before, and it required the most troops of mine. China’s taken the longest so far, and the most resources. And Russia was just violent and stubborn about the whole thing. But it is France that will ultimately give us the most trouble, because they’re smart, and we will never really know if we’ve gotten all of them. Following the events of Pakistan, they immediately modified their tactics for their nuclear arms. They quickly developed an impressive strategy of compartmentalization. I knew they would do this, which was why I haven’t relied on intelligence that I gathered before the mission, but I also spent months debating whether I should start with them instead of Pakistan. In the end, I could not, because the backlash from such a thing would have been too great. I had a number of parties interested in disarming Pakistan. Even though these parties were not outwardly happy with having been lied to about the specifics, they were secretly relieved. France, on the other hand, belongs to a collection of extremely powerful allies. Disarming them will be considered an act of betrayal.”
“I should say so.”
“And because of all this, I will not be able to continue alone. I am forming a new alliance; one loyal to our cause. Only non-nuclear nations will be allowed into this alliance, and the list of potentials is large, so I will need help whittling it down to a manageable size.”
“I would imagine that the more the better.”
“One might think so, but it would actually benefit the cause to have fewer, tighter allies, than dozens of countries who each feel marginalized and misrepresented.”
“I suppose that makes a certain logic. Are you asking me to assist you with your special list?” Ambassador Tamboli asked.
“I am,” Stockton answered.
Tamboli sighed heavily. “That’s all you had to say. Don’t know why you felt the need to go into such a huge speech.”
“You’re a diplomat. Aren’t speeches your drug of choice?”
Now Tamboli ignored him. “Let us see the list.” She looked over the sheet of paper that Stockton handed her. “Why is India not on here?”
“I can’t picture a world where you are not part of this glorious alliance. I didn’t put you on the list, because I didn’t want to risk you crossing yourself from it.”
“You know that I’m just the ambassador, right? I’m not the avatar for the entire nation of India. You can’t flatter me into joining you.”
“Yes I can,” Stockton nodded.
“I am also happily married.”
He shrugged. “We’ll see.”
Tamboli sighed again and set to work on that list. She took a pencil and quickly drew squiggly lines through countries one by one, as if she had ruminating on the matter for days. “There.”
“I’m surprised you kept Sweden.”
“Their historically precarious relationship with the United Kingdom should prove useful to you. They have always been against nuclear weapons, and are only staying out of this conflict because they are terribly afraid of World War IV.”
Stockton nodded again. “That makes perfect sense. See? This is why I need you.” He looked back down at the list. “Why did you remove Switzerland? Do they not have the same stance on nuclear weapons as Sweden?”
“They do, but they also exercise a level of isolationism. Of your list, they are the most outspoken against your interference in the business of independent states.”
“I hadn’t noticed.”
“Have you been paying much attention to countries that you’re not currently focused on trying to disarm?”
“No, you’re right. I haven’t. Good point.” He looked to the list once more. Good points all around. I will not ask you about the others. I can clearly trust your judgment, sight unseen.”
“Again, no need for the flattery.”
“Your modesty knows no bounds.”
Governor Stockton spent the better part of a year, cultivating relationships with the remaining nine countries on Tamboli’s list. While the first few stages of his mission involved relatively quick and decisive action, the next few nations needed to be dealt with delicately. The important thing about the alliance, was that it needed to appear as if those were the nations who were agreeing to become part of it, rather than a set of enemies against other alliances. It needed to be more of a council, and less of a coalition. Instead of trying to use the alliance to make a play against France, he was actually intending to romance them into joining up and disarming themselves, much like India had. And it worked. It took a very long time, and as Stockton had pointed out in the meeting with Tamboli, they could never really be sure that they had cleaned them out entirely, but it did work.
France had a number of conditions, not the least of which was that they would act to destroy their stockpile on their own, rather than simply handing them over to Federama. The fact that Federama now controlled over 50% of the world’s nuclear armament had the potential to cause more problems than it was promising to solve. Federama, and the rest of the new alliance, insisted that they oversee France’s safe destruction of their bombs. Stockton’s plan relied on him having as many of the weapons to himself for a period of time, but Russia had probably provided him with more than enough to get his point across. And it just wasn’t worth bullying France into giving up on that condition.
When all was said and done, Stage Five of the mission was successful. Once everything was over, France as a whole seemed almost to smile, like an addict ceremoniously burning their drug stash. People were more surprised than they thought they would be about how good it would feel to be free of the burden. They didn’t feel vulnerable. They felt ready to move forward; excited for a future of peace and happiness. Stockton had succeeded in not only disarming another country, but in swaying the public opinion. No more were people angry about their interference. Though the governments of the UK, Usonia, and Korea showed no signs of relenting, the majority of their populace was in favor of it. And after enough time, that would be all that mattered. Yes, things were going well, but they were about to get bad. As Korea threatened nuclear war with Usonia, knowing that no one would be able to stop them, Usonia and the UK were only strengthened in their resolve to keep armed.
Not ten years prior to the beginning of Governor Stockton and Federama’s plans to disarm the entire world, Usonia began to interfere in the business of other nations. Even though they were against Federama’s tactics, they were also glad to no longer be the focus of international outcry. The nation that felt the most slighted by Usonia’s persistent military presence was Korea. The great irony during Federama’s grand mission was that the nation with the lowest number of nuclear arms simultaneously had the highest number of military personnel overall. The more nuclear weapons that Federama took from the world, the more powerful Korea became.
To make matters worse, China’s feelings regarding Federama’s mission had not wavered, and they were traditionally close allies with Korea. In fact, China was often noted by scholars as playing a pivotal role in the reunification of Korea into a nation run by a single government. This was a major blow to the original allies of South Korea; Usonia and the United Kingdom in particular. World War IV was on everyone’s minds. If Korea began an aggressive campaign against just about anyone, this war was inevitable, and Federama’s nuclear stockpile would not be enough to stop it. Assuming Stockton’s new peace allies somehow agreed to provide military aid to Usonia and the U.K., Korea’s and China’s forces still outnumbered them two to one.
“Did you not see this coming?” asked Yorick Elder, the prime minister of the United Kingdom. He had traveled to Federama to personally discuss the looming threat.
“You mean, did I predict that Korea would threaten the world with total annihilation? No. Not to this degree, I didn’t.”
“I still presume you have a plan.”
“Because you apparently have thus far.”
“This is different. We’re talking guerilla warfare. I know very little about that. I’ve spent my entire life researching nuclear weapons.”
“What did you think was going to happen?” Elder asked. “You would destroy all nuclear weapons and we would all throw up our hands and agree that peace was the only option? Did you think war was no longer a concept we were capable of fathoming.”
“Well, n...no—” Stockton stammered.
“Because people were doing a fine job killing each other before the Amadesins sent that bomb that killed your family.”
“Now, listen here—”
“No, you listen! You thought you had something here. And I’m sure your final plan for this mission was going to be spectacular, and paradigm-shifting! But you clearly bit off more than you could chew, and had no idea what the world was going to look like for decades to come. You’ve been relying on your painstakingly detailed sneakery, and the global public forum, but now we’re in the nitty gritty. Now someone has made a choice you did not foresee, and you called me in to clean up your mess. You called me instead of President Cross because you figured I would be more likely to help you, and know how to do so.”
Governor Stockton waited with passive-aggressive patience, but then spoke again, “well? Do you know what to do?”
“I do, but you’re not going to like it.”
“What is it?”
“Like bees, or ants?”
“Like soldiers. The only way to overtake the Korean military, and prevent China from coming to their rescue is to swarm the peninsula quickly, efficiently, and chaotically. All borders need to be completely surrounded while strategic strike teams invade central locations—specifically nuclear facilities. Before China has time to react, the swarm is already dispersing. Also, a group of ants is called an army.”
“Even better. Unfortunately, our army is barely larger than Iceland’s Coast Guard. We would never be able to accomplish such a great feat.”
“You’re right. Federama alone would not. Fortunately, you have a hefty list of allies to supplement.”
“That’s a peace alliance. I would never be able to convince them to do this.”
“You could convince India, and they have the third largest military contingency in the world. Of course, we will assist as well, along with Usonia.”
“Don’t look at me like a child who's been given an extra cookie after dinner. Yes, we will be a part of this. Korea is a threat to everyone. In fact, it will be your job to attack the central points. The rest of us will comprise of the swarm.
“The Korean perimeter must be at least 3,000 naykos long!”
“More like 4,000. Your point?”
“My point is that...will this work?”
“It will probably take about five months of secret planning and refinement, but it can work. Our biggest concerns are China and World War IV, yeah?”
“Then swarm tactics is our only hope. We have to hit ‘em, and we have to hit ‘em hard before they have a chance to recover.”
“You sound like a Usonian.”
“You take that back!” Elder replied, only half-jokingly.
“Why would this prevent war?” Stockton asked, moving along. “China and Korea still have nearly half of the world’s military personnel, as you’ve pointed out. Combined with Russia, and maybe even Pakistan, they would be unstoppable.”
“Since the three of us will be the only ones with nuclear arms after it happens, we should be able to stave off war,” Elder explained.
Stockton had no answer.
“Ooooooh,” Elder began. “Oh, you still thought that Cross and I were still going to give up our weapons. Yes,” he said sarcastically, “I can see where you would think that. But no, we’re not going to surrender to you. You want our help, you’ll get it. You want our bombs, you get nothing.”
Stockton still had nothing to say.
“I can see the gears turning in your head. You’re trying to figure out how to get our help with disarming Korea, and then disarm us later. But you see, you did that with Pakistan, and it worked beautifully. But fool me once, as they say.”
“I’ll do it.”
“That either means you concede to the dynamic, or you think you can get the upperhand on us later.”
“Yes,” was all that Governor Stockton said.
Prime Minister Yorick Elder’s estimate of five months was much lower than the truth. Negotiating, compromising, and coordinating with the war alliance took twice that much time. One of the members of the peace alliance, Mongolia was asked to mediate peace negotiations with Korea. This not only continued to curry public favor, but also gave the war alliance time to set about their plans. A year after the idea was first conceived, Usonian and British air forces descended on the Sino-Korean border. The Indian Navy was already on their way to the Eastern and Southern coastlines of Korea, under the guise of disaster relief for the Philippines. Somewhat unlikely ally, Japan agreed to swarm Korea’s western coastline.
World War IV did not begin as a result of this assault, but there were a number of casualties on all sides. Federama did their part and sent in strike forces to steal the nuclear weapons from within Korea. They agreed, however, to not kidnap any scientific experts, as they had with Pakistan, China, and Russia. The deaths of Stage Six would go down in history as the biggest argument against the entire mission, but on the whole, it was another successful one. Governor Stockton also agreed to let the United Kingdom and Usonia keep their own nuclear weapons. But he had proverbial crossed his fingers behind his back. There was no way he wasn’t going back on his word on the matter, even if it meant Federama would lose acknowledgement from the Confederacy. There was too much at stake. He knew he had to formulate new plans to remove these weapons; he just didn’t know how. He was ultimately forced to ask for help from someone he had hoped to never see again.
Enemy of the state, Ellaraitch strode into Governor Stockton’s office with that same smug look on his face he always had. What else could be expected from someone who refused to divulge either his first or last name to the public; insisting that people refer to him by the one name alone? One thing to note about the Amadesis religion was that there were many extremely disparate sects. The main characteristics that held them all together were that they were all evil, they all believed in a single path to enlightenment, and they all considered harming others to be best practice. The largest sect engaged in a sick form of polygamy that not only allowed, but encouraged, child rape, along with good ol’ fashioned incest. Another tortured victims so badly that they were corrupted enough to join up themselves. There was even one that believed in some sort of presumably unknowable hierarchy where only a select few members would get into heaven, so that even being part of it didn’t guarantee you happiness.
Ellaraitch was the head of a sect of Amadesis that was the lesser of many evils; at the time, at least. He originally became famous as a prolific science fiction writer, churning out crap stories like cancer cells. He was known for charging new members with increasingly more money each time for therapeutic treatments, and for creating a level of privileged secrecy surpassed by none other. He would go on to be far more dangerous to the world, but for the moment, Stockton thought of him as the only way to reach his goals. Ellaraitch had always been against the violence of other Amadesins; particularly the ones that sent the bomb to Utah, but not because he wasn’t himself violent, but because he considered their methods to be tactless and unsophisticated. He fancied himself more strategic than that, and he would prove this to be true once his sect began to spiral out of control, and become dominant.
“I can help you remove the nuclear weapons of the U.K., but you’re not going to like how I plan to do it.” Ellaraitch sat in what was supposed to be Stockton’s chair, and drank his glass of alcohol. It wasn’t technically illegal on the island, but only because it never seemed necessary to pass a law.
“I’m not going to hurt anyone. I regret every casualty of the Korean invasion. I need the next step to be seamless and painless. If it can’t be, then I would rather just give up.”
“I do not intend to hurt anyone. It will hurt, yes, but not physically. It’ll only hurt you, because it’s going to take much longer than you wanted, and it’s not going to make you look good.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Have you heard of Tygreve Melsbach?”
Stockton thought back to his primary school days. “A leader of Belgium; the one who was exiled? That was centuries ago.”
“The important part of the lesson is not that he was exiled, but that he later returned to power. Like you, he took on an impossible mission, and suffered many setbacks before just losing completely.”
“Yeah...” Stockton was waiting for a point.
“And so he was sent to an island, much smaller than this one. He lived there for the better part of two decades, until secretly escaping, gathering support, and taking back his throne.”
“If he had tried to steal back power immediately after exilement, he would have failed. It was that time he spent away that made it work. In that time, the world changed. Trade deals were made, canals were dug, leaders came and went. By the time he left the island, he had been all but forgotten. He used this infamy to his advantage, knowing that the day’s leadership would severely underestimate his strength.”
“Are you asking me to go into exile?”
“Not exile. That wouldn’t work for you; not in modern times. But you have to fully accept your role as the world’s pariah. You have to suffer a scandal, get yourself sanctioned by the Confederacy, and then Federama has to wait at least five years before doing anything else that gets it noticed. You have to throw your little nation into obscurity so people let their guard down and stop worrying about what you do next.”
“This sounds like a trick to get me out of the way, so that you can take control of the Amadesins. You need the spotlight, and my mission is in your way right now.”
“This is true,” Ellaraitch conceded. “I see a benefit to my movement, but that doesn’t mean you cannot benefit as well.”
“Five years. Of just...doing nothing?”
“After the scandal, yes,” Ellaraitch reminded him.
“Of course, and what do you suggest this scandal be?”
“The United Kingdom.”
“Oh, that explains it. Thanks.”
“An attack from the United Kingdom, is what I mean; well...an apparent attack from them. They won’t actually have anything to do with it.”
“I have people in high offices of the U.K. They can make it look like they’re attacking you, but it’ll actually be your people. They can come in with a bunch of those—what are they called—helicopters. Soldiers will descend on the island, start shooting up the place, and steal all the weapons back.” He put up air quotes for the last few words.
Stockton just stared at the man for a minute or so. “You sound like an idiot. Well, even more of an idiot than usual. That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”
“They don’t have to be helicopters. They could be narrow-body jet airliners. We’ll claim the British threw the bombs into a volcano, along with a bunch of poor unfortunate souls. If you think what you did was bad, just wait until the public hears about the U.K. throwing people into a volcano.”
“This isn’t one of your bad books, Ellaraitch,” Stockton raised his voice. “This is real life. You can’t just come up with plot twists and narratively presentable fabrications to fit the story corner you’ve painted yourself into. This is why your religion is complete nonsense. No one would believe something like that. Airliners? In a volcano? Come on!”
He shrugged. “We can make it work.”
“No, we can’t. You’re asking thousands of people to keep quiet a huge and ridiculous lie.”
“Haven’t you already done that? No one knows what you’re really planning to do with these nuclear weapons. And your mission was a perfect secret until you actually began to execute it.”
“That was based on a system of compartmentalization. Not everyone is on board with this, and people have loose lips. The secret of the fact that the British never invaded my shores would be revealed eventually.”
“Sure, maybe in 1995, or something. But you won’t have to worry about that. We’re not going to just write a news story about the invasion, we’re going to actually stage one. Your citizens will be convinced that it happened because they’ll see it with their own eyes.”
It took a few more hours of discussion, but Governor Stockton was eventually persuaded to agree to the plan. It was the most frustrating thing that had ever happened to him, even up against the past year’s of problems. He knew in his soul that what Ellaraitch had come up with was ludicrous, but the more the man spoke, the more reasonable he sounded. It was evidently his superpower to make people believe preposterous lies wholeheartedly, and Stockton found he had no choice but to exploit that for his own gain. A few months following the conversation, “the United Kingdom” came in with helicopters—not airliners—with precision strike forces, conveniently similar to the ones that Stockton had deployed for his earlier missions. They recorded a series of carefully placed explosions with grainy and fuzzy security cameras.
A few Federama citizens were claimed to have been killed, while others were just kidnapped, along with the bombs and missiles. In reality, they were all removed from the island and taken to what Stockton had always referred to as the second location. He hadn’t needed much time to prepare for this, because this small island in Antarctica was already being used to house the actual weapons stolen from other countries. It was just another method of compartmentalization. If anything went wrong, he wanted the least number of people to be at risk of being within the blast radius. Even the strike teams didn’t originally know where the second location was. After each stage, they would place the weapons on a ship so that a different team could take them away.
The handful of people said to have been kidnapped had agreed to sacrifice their lives. They were either single people with no families, or entire families that were willing to relocate to a secret base in the middle of nowhere. They told the world that the United Kingdom military was responsible for this travesty. The Confederacy began an investigation, and they were unable to come up with any other legitimate explanation. As a kind of punishment, the U.K. was ordered to relinquish their own nuclear weapons, despite the fact that the ones supposedly stolen from Federama were never recovered. These British weapons were transported to an unknown location in Usonia, which was both disgusting and helpful to Stockton’s plans. Now, according to the world consciousness, Usonia was the only nation in the world with nuclear arms. That didn’t seem safe, but it did mean that there was only one more step in disarming the world entirely.
Governor Stockton continued to lead Federama, but with little global intrigue, for less than a year. He was then asked to step down from his position, and was replaced by his frenemy, Roma Tanner. Stockton left the island and joined the sacrificed in Antarctica. He waited there for three years, working on his plans for disarming the most powerful country in the world. The United States of Northern Integrated America. Usonia.
The year was 1961. Stockton had not spent the last few years while in exile playing solitaire and shoveling snow in Antarctica. He had continued working. His loyalists had been dispatched across Usonia to gather intelligence, much in the same way they had with the nations from earlier stages. Some spies were already in place, but much had changed since then, so he needed updated information. But this was not all he did. He had also succeeded in funding the campaign for the new leader of the free world.
Usonia was famous for pioneering a new form of governmental elections; one that was copied by other countries not long after it proved to be successful. For the first two months of an election year, every participating city large enough to qualify would hold their own presidential election. Anyone within reach who wanted to run for president would be able to, and for those first two months, they only had to convince their city that they were the right person for the job. No other city would even pay attention to them, and it was common to be running unopposed. For the next two months, each candidate who had won their city election would run a second campaign; this time competing with all the other city winners in their county. They would do this with a heavier purse, and greater notoriety. All county winners competed with each other for the next two months to win their state. Winners from a region of six states would compete across another two months until there were a total of seven candidates that would run against each other in the nationwide election for the last five weeks of the year. The incumbent would sometimes run as the eighth candidate, but they were not actually allowed to campaign since this was a distraction from running the country.
One benefit of this election structure was that it prevented only the richest from having a chance to serve their people. It did not take much money to campaign across a single city, and if you won that one, people would start to notice you, and provide you with funds so that you could go further. This also removed the need for political parties. Before this structure was implemented, people would regularly vote for whichever candidate belonged to their party, and all but completely ignore their actual position on the issues. This also meant that the candidates could be gradually whittled down until only the best remained, and once the electorate only have seven people to vote for, they knew that the six they were not yet familiar with had already been vetted by their area’s voters. But it was not without its flaws. When only rich and/or famous people could run for office, you pretty much knew what you were getting into. But when a random person from a random city who had no experience, could potentially run the country, it was possible to generate a somewhat fabricated narrative for them without anyone noticing. And this was especially true of any election before the data network was invented, and any six-year-old with a computer could run a background check.
Former governor of Federama, Frederick Stockton used this flaw to his advantage. Near the end of 1959, he personally traveled to Usonia in secret and recruited a woman named Larisa Peters. She had no prior aspirations for leadership, but she had a passion for politics, and a strong community in her Telamonic temple. Many believed in her, and her ideas of peace from sacrifice integrated well with Stockton’s plans for finally disarming the world. She would end up making one of the greatest sacrifices to carry out what she believed to be a righteous mission. She ran for president in the large city nearest to her town on a mild and generic platform; one that she won easily due to Stockton’s secret financial contributions. She continued through the elections, and found herself president eight months later.
After taking her position in the capital, Peters took a radical stance against Federama. She started out slowly making waves; an offhanded comment here, a meeting with the right person there. Within only a few months time, she had managed to create dozens of resistance groups all over; people who were angry with her, and were attempting to get her to step down. Protests began to crop up across the land, and she was facing a ton of backlash from congress. Almost no one was happy with her term, and the few who were happy could not be loud enough to be heard. Nobody so much as suspected that Peters had been working with Stockton. Again, this was before the personal computer was invented, and so tracing the campaign funds, and connecting the dots, would have been difficult at best.
The resistance grew and merged, until someone had the bright idea of making the connection between Peters’ ideas and everything that a certain former island leader had feared years ago. Suddenly, Stockton was no longer a pariah, but a hero to the people; one with a following ten times larger than his home’s population. Everybody wanted to be part of history, even if they weren’t educated enough to understand what the issues really were. More recruiters from the Antarctic base were dispatched to Usonia, and contacted the protesters. Together, they formulated a plan to get Stockton back on the radar for good, and in the best light possible. Eventually, he was able to officially step out of exilement, and begin to speak across Usonia. His following continued to increase until even people who weren’t really part of it agreed that he had been right all along.
Stockton held a highly publicized event where he would go to the capital of Usonia and request a meeting with President Peters. They stepped into a room together and began discussing the final stage of the final stage. It didn’t take very long, but they wanted to make it seem like Stockton was working tirelessly to convince her to change her mind, and so they just played cards for several hours. Once enough time had passed, an agreement had been supposedly reached. Peters took to the podium and announced plans to relieve her country of every single one of its nuclear weapons, and to place a moratorium on nuclear research that pertained to its applications for violence. People would go on to say that she only agreed to this so that she would not lose her chance at a second term, but most didn’t care. As long as the job was done, it didn’t matter how it had happened.
Months later, it was once again the eighth day of the eighth month, on the anniversary of the Utah bombing that had ultimately killed Stockton’s parents. He had invited his now gracer, President Peters to visit the secret Antarctic base. She was actually still at risk of being impeached by her electorate, but she wasn’t worried about that. Someone else could have the chair. She had no intention of putting her name on the ballot in 1965 anyway. She had some news of her own to give to Frederick, but wanted to let him tell his news first. He escorted her to a viewing room they overlooked the floor, and then went downstairs alone. Every single one of the hundreds of bombs and missiles that had not already begun the process of dismantlement were in one place. She positioned her lips over the microphone. “Is this safe?”
“You are perfectly safe in there,” Stockton assured her from the floor.
“Are you safe? Should you not be wearing protection, or something?”
“I was born immune to nuclear radiation.”
“You were? Because of Utah?”
“Because of Utah.”
“What are you doing, Frederick?”
“I want you to know that I had not intended on bringing you into this. I didn’t even know you existed when I started my plans. But those plans had to change, and when I first recruited you, I never knew that I would fall in love.”
“You’re scaring me. What are you going to do with these weapons? Why have they not yet been destroyed?”
“The world is sick, Larisa. It needs to be cleansed. I started forming this plan when I was still only a child. I never thought I would actually be able to get away with it, but humans have proved to be just as predictable as I suspected. Even with my setbacks and alterations, things went about the same as I thought they would. The only surprise was you and me. And I’m sorry for what I have to do now.”
“Oh my God. You’re going to send the bombs, aren’t you. This was your plan? To become what you claimed to fear the entire time?”
Frederick smiled. “That’s funny. You’ll understand. It might take years, but once I’m done here, and the world can begin anew, you’ll know that my mission was the best thing to happen to this planet since its coalescence.”
“Frederick. Don’t do this. You hear me? Do. Not. Do this!”
“Push the button, Tanner,” Frederick ordered.
“No!” Peters yelled, but Roma Tanner was in a separate room, so she couldn’t get to him. She banged on the door and watched in horror as Roma pushed the latte-colored button.
“Godspeed,” Roma said into the microphone. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you. Your country, and your planet, appreciates your sacrifice, even if they never know what happened here today.”
Frederick Stockton stepped into the machine and placed his hands on the metal bars to each side of him. The radiation from the weapons began to leak out of them and seep into his body. The power increased exponentially until he had absorbed all of the radiation. “If I could have,” he said through coughs and tremors, “I would have sent the weapons themselves, but we simply do not have the technology for it. The more I waited to implement the plan, the more weapons I would have needed to transport, and the more rockets I would have needed to build. I would never be able to keep up, and so this is my sacrifice. There is no truly safe way to dismantle a nuclear bomb, Larisa. They’re always dangerous, and the ones I let go could come back and bite you in the ass one day. There is also no safe way to set one off. You could do it over the ocean, but do you really want to do that for every bomb in the world? The environmental repercussions are beyond human understanding. I couldn’t risk that either. The only safe method is to get them off-world, and only I can do that. Close me up, Tanner.”
“Yes sir,” Roma replied.
Frederick continued speaking into his microphone. “I’m sorry it has to end like this, but also...I’m not sorry.” The door of the machine closed in front of him and lurched. It was preparing for takeoff. “I love you.”
“Oh my God, it’s a spaceship.” Larisa placed her hand over her mouth and gasped.
Roma began to count down, “Eleven...ten...nine...”
“Wait!” Larisa screamed. “Wait! I’m pregnant!”
Frederick smiled again. “I wish I could meet my child. How about we name the baby Gardenia? After my mother. Could you make that sacrifice for me?”
Tears dripped from Larisa’s cheeks. “That’s a beautiful name. It isn’t a sacrifice.”
“Goodbye.” The rocket shot out of the base and through the sky. It soared out of the atmosphere and into space. It was designed with no navigation. It was just supposed to go upwards as far as it could, for as long as it could. It was not until the rest of the world had mastered space travel did people know how far Stockton had made it away from the planet before his ship blew up. He died without ever being sure that his mission had succeeded. Since that day, save a few outliers that were stopped, the only nuclear research conducted had been for benevolent reasons like renewable energy. Frederick Stockton landed in the history books as the leader who had made the greatest sacrifice for the happiness of mankind.