Jeez…how to choose? I spend long enough with my stuff that I can’t tell too easily what’s the “best” I’ve done, and what’s just my favorite. Assuming it’s not just crap to begin with.
Well, here goes…
*The briefcase slid across the desk surface with the smooth, velvety sound of leather against rosewood, belying it’s considerable bulk. A gloved hand reached around it’s manacle, keyed a combination, and opened the lid.
Yet another screen waited inside, immediately flickering to life.
A single, tabbed menu appeared, with a master title “SIOP”
The President carefully removed a pair of booklets from the simple integral keyboard, placed a finger to the trackball, and clicked the tab labeled MAJ ATK OPTNS—CENTCOM.
The menu changed into a table of arcane codewords, next to a default map window.
“…It’s ‘118_GOCHIHR.’” came a voice at the President’s side. Daria turned to the National Security Advisor, raising an eyebrow. “You wrote it?”
Eulmeyer shrugged. “Not all of it.”
*Good old RAND, *thought the President, clicking the button again.
The map display grew, showing a full representation of the Khalifah.
“Henry, Chief…are you linked up?”
A row of red LEDs blinked by the side of the screen, before the replies came on the comm line.
“I see it on my end, ma’am.”
“Pentagon Actual. We are go.”
“All right, let’s see a full target list…” The President drug an onscreen slider from it’s default position, to it’s opposite extreme. Obligingly, a text window above the slider changed from “MINIMUM” to “DOUBLE PLUS MAXIMUM.”
Daria almost forced herself to look look at the map screen…and the multitude of new targets superimposed on the map.
Eulmeyer stabbed at the screen with a long index finger. “As you can see, Red is for ‘counterforce’ targets—military, strategic assets. That’s ‘First Strike’ stuff. Yellow is for ‘countervalue’ targets…”
“…‘Second Strike.’ Population centers, industrial assets. Natural resources.” The President finished.
Buzcout’s voice crackled over the line, again. “Now transmitting modifications to SIOP based on Chinese data…”
There was an uncharacteristically long delay, accompanied by the blinking LEDs, as the deeply encrypted data was received, decoded, processed.
About half of the yellow dots disappeared, with a much smaller handful of the red ones, replaced by pulsing orange. Curiously, a rough line of dots seemed to have been planted along the Khalifah’s twisted northern border…apparently away from anything of possible value. The President squinted…and at least one was in the southern Caspian Sea.
“General…the data you sent me looks like they’re making a…‘skirmish line’ to the north. Is this right?”
“It’s right…” Eulmeyer said, leaning across the desk. “General, this looks like the Chinese are trying something we call ‘Fallout Sculpting’…surface-bursting nukes in empty sectors upwind of spots they want to target. Like…crapping in the Mississippi at Baton Rouge to give New Orleans cholera…”
The President’s eyes twisted towards the advisor, almost on their own. Nasty.
There was a pause, and some muffled speech sounds on the line, before the Chairman of the Join Chiefs came back on. “Yes…they’re telling me the same thing, here. It certainly seems to explain some things.”
‘They?’ Ah, of course…“General, is doctor DeWitt there? While we’re on the subject, I’d like to have him start on—”
“Ma’am,” Buzcout interrupted, “There’s something I think you should see, first. Transmitting now…”
Delay, flicker, and a sprinkling of new dots, blue this time, appeared on the Football’s map screen.
“These are the targets that Chinese intel suggests we hit, minus a few that we DID already know about…” The President scanned the image…a number of the pulsing dots—bunkers, or safe houses, Daria imagined—were on the outskirts of cities, a few in the countryside, or in the nooks of mountain ranges…
…and the rest were aligned, filling in gaps, with the line of orange dots to the north.
*“Son…of a bitch…”