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I'm Not Supposed to Die this Way

Pyrrhic victory is not a win

By Jason BasarabaPublished 12 days ago Updated 8 days ago 15 min read
52
I'm Not Supposed to Die this Way
Photo by Intricate Explorer on Unsplash

Sarah watches the coffee cup tumble from the desk, falling in slow motion, the contents pouring out like ooze from a lava lamp. In silence it meets the floor, bouncing off the plush burgundy carpet, the dark liquid vanishing immediately.

Dragging her eyes away from the rolling ceramic vessel, she glances up to the utter confusion surrounding her. Sarah is assaulted by reality yet drawn into the surrealism of the situation..

‘Breathe.’

A cacophony of voices echoes off the board room walls. People yelling into land line phones, long cords twisting and bouncing to an unheard rhythmic beat. Every giant screen on the wall displaying images of the world, others with enlarged faces talking to anyone who will listen, like a zoom meeting gone horribly wrong. The words 'Russia' and 'Korea' are sprinkled in the conversation. Those words grab her attention, however one word makes her anxiety surface, 'Nuclear.'

Sarah was told the Situation room with adjoining wings equaled five thousand square feet. It was packed like a frat house party, with about as much organization. A room this size, she should not have felt claustrophobic, but at this moment the feeling suffocated her.

She was an actor, not yet an A list actor, but that would all change with this new role. Always having to fight to earn her way, she learned to listen to her inner voice. It was the reason she was touring the white house today, everything was going perfect, she was feeling the part. Suddenly alarms sounded and they were swept up, herded into the room like a bunch of confused cattle. Then the side door burst open, and the President entered, surrounded by security and aides. Sarah was forced into a corner, where she stayed silent for the next forty-five minutes, nothing to do but watch the mayhem, as their smart phones were placed in a bin before entering. Suddenly, the room goes silent as someone asks.

"Mr. President, we are running out of options and time. What are your orders sir?"

All eyes turn to a tall man with wild untamed greying hair, Sarah remembers it was dark when he was first elected.

"Have we tried reaching out again?" He replies, already knowing the answer.

"Yes sir, several attempts to contact the Kremlin, all calls were ignored."

"What about North...?"

"They refused. Air Force One is ready sir we…"

“I’m staying.” The Potus stands unmoving, unblinking he glares at the world map. It was real time events, every missile silo known to them highlighted.

Sarah hears a voice echoing within. 'Go to him.' With hesitant steps she approaches the leader of the country.

'Comfort him.' It whispers.

Sarah speaks as loud as she dares. "Sir, just breathe, there is a solution to this, we just need to see it.”

Two aides spin around. The tall man stares down at this lady, whom he does not recognize. It may appear like he was unaware of what to do, but his intelligence shone through by the quick way he took her in, from her naturally kinky hair, fashionable, yet not overindulgent. This five-foot eight-inch women held herself with esteem. Her coffee cream skin is smooth and unblemished, something to be proud of for someone pushing forty. But it was her eyes that caught his attention, they were green, and they were looking directly at him.

"Excuse me, but I do not believe I know you." He states, with a touch of embarrassment. After all he should know everyone in this room.

"Sir, my name is Sarah I..." Before she can finish the lady who was guiding her through the Whitehouse tour speaks up.

"Sarah, is our Foreign analyst."

"Really, I thought Tyson Greer was our analyst?"

Sarah wants to speak before this gets out of hand. "To be clear I'm here because I am learning or rather studying about the analyst..." Again, The lady cuts her off.

"Sarah has not officially been signed on yet, it’s her orientation day, Tyson transferred to London to resolve the crisis, before it got this far, remember?"

Sarah was about to speak up again when she hears the voice say. "Listen to Linda, trust her." Linda's eyes never left Sarah, they had a look of desperation, a pleading about them that Sarah understood. An Unauthorized civilian in the situation room during a crisis, both are in more trouble than they could ever get themselves out of.

Sarah gives a slight nod.

Eyes still locked onto Sarah the tall man replies. "Apparently, they are doing a shitty job because it has gotten this far. I hope you understand these leaders better then Tyson did."

"Yes, sir I believe I do." Now, why did she say that?

A large man who, needed to either lose a few pounds or take out his uniform marches up and loudly exclaims. "Time for diplomacy is over Hollis, we must make our move before it’s too late. We cannot appear cowardice at this time."

In a reprimanding tone, the president counters. "General Mosley, I understand your motivation. However, as PRESIDENT, I am not ready to condemn thousands to death because I am afraid the other side will think less of us.” In a softer voice he adds. “Being a coward has nothing to do with this decision and you know it, Bill."

Bill begins to puff his chest for a second go at the president when Sarah hears the voice.

'The General is right.'

"Sir." Sarah speaks up. “Normally I would agree with you, however we have been trying and they refuse diplomacy. Ask your self why that is?"

In a calm but firm voice, the President says. "Ok, you have my attention, Why?"

'It's all about Chess.'

"It's all about chess." Sarah waits for more, but nothing comes to her.

"Chess?"

The general throws his hands in the air.

Sarah can only stare at everyone looking at her, even Linda has a strange look on her face.

"You have to be a little clearer Sarah. Time is running out and I need to know what the other side is thinking before they know."

Words begin to flow out of Sarah's mouth. "Chess is a struggle of will, strike and protect. White always makes the first move, automatically the opponent is on the defense. Ask yourself, who are we on the board, do we make the first move or counter?"

By Piotr Makowski on Unsplash

Taking a step back the President looks astonished. "You're telling me to launch a nuclear strike on them?"

"Yes." Exclaimed the General.

'No.'

Sarah Cries out. "No, not launch, but prepare to launch. Show them you will not wait for them to make the decision for you. You must force them to defend against us."

Silence.

A voice cries out. "Mr. President, Russia has begun opening their Silos, two Russian submarines have been spotted off the Cuban coast."

The General lost it. "It's too late, now we must react, order the launch."

The president turns to Sarah. "You were right."

"General, prepare the silos for launch." The general rushes away.

"What do you think will be their next move?"

The voice starts with a list of events that could unfold, her mind races at the possibilities of how quick this will play out, and then what? Sarah's mind whirls like a supercomputer, calculating odds, mostly wondering why she was still talking. Why was she still listening to the voice, she was way over her head, just tell the truth of why she was here and beg for forgiveness. Instead, she takes a deep breath and answers.

"The Russians, will start to mobilize troops, making it seem like they are all in. The Soviet Submarines will move to new positions, preparing to strike with their missiles. They will try to draw our attention away. Soon missiles will rain down from the north and from the south, all aimed at our military bases, but it is the Koreans who…"

"Jesus, what about the Koreans, will they strike the west coast?"

A different man with General stars speaks up. "Mr. President we are fairly confident that Korea has not produced a missile strong enough to reach Mainland USA. We know they are working on one, the Hwasong, but we have no proof it is developed or operational yet."

'It is.'

Sarah's anxiety increases, with head down she answers as best she can, the voice has been right so far. "The Koreans are unstable, they have more to prove, they have the potential to reach the west coast."

"That is insane. Mr. President, Korea has a missile that can fly up to forty-five hundred km, which would reach Guam. We have already alerted the base there. For them to hit our mainland they would have to have a missile capable of flying...."

"Eight to Ten thousand km, Yes General I believe they have the capability." Sarah's voice was firm. "I believe they can actually backup their threat."

Another voice calls out from the monitoring area, "Mr. President, Korea has opened their silo doors and there is movement on their bases. Ships have been deployed, from both Najin and Wonsan."

With out hesitation the president calls out. "Admiral, ready all fleets in Japan and Hawaii, contact the commanders of all nuclear submarines, including the northern fleet, tell them to prepare for targeting."

The noise in the room is one constant buzz, unless someone was talking directly at you, there was no way to make out any clear conversation.

The presidents Chief of staff approaches the group. In a strong voice he says. "Sir, we should verify the orders."

“Yes, thank you Carter.” With that he waves his arm, a tall man in uniform marches over, salutes the president.

The senior officer, retrieves a laminated card from a lanyard, breaks the seal and reads aloud. "Foxtrot - Kilo"

The room becomes quiet, tension feels like a wall of pressurized air, as the president retrieves his response card. Holding the biscuit in his hands, he snaps the package.

The president answers, "Charlie- Zulu."

The senior officer nods in agreement. The chief of staff calls. “The challenge code has been correctly answered, We have confirmed that this is indeed the President, he now has full control over the strike, or withdrawal. Are there any objections?"

No response.

The same voice that quieted the room moments ago did so once again. "Mr. president, congress has approved use of force. What is your order sir?"

"Prepare the launch, we will confirm the sequence when… IF we choose to fire."

The room takes on another level of fear and excitement, the president walks with stooped shoulders toward the safe built into the wall, bringing out another card he reads the numbers, as his aide punches in the code and opens the vault. The president retrieves the contents from within, walking to the long table he places the wooden box gently down. Two marines assume their post beside him.

'Go to him.'

Sarah instinctively moves forward, The guards step in, blocking her way. The commander and chief, sees her and commands. "Let her through."

Sarah stands by this man; seeing him struggle.

“He needs to prepare launch.

“Sir, I think we should start the launch sequence.” Sarah can’t believe she just said that.

The president slowly opens the box, turning to Sarah he asks. “Will I be remembered as the man who destroyed the world?”

“Or the Saviour.” Before Sarah has the chance to say more, a voice flushed with anxiety calls out. “Launch, launch, silo NK 2911 has launched.”

Heads swivel, watching as the trajectory becomes visible on the screen.

A Generals inquires. “Target?”

In seconds, the reply comes. “Guam, sir.”

The Army General glances with disgust at Sarah. “I knew they never had a missile with more range.”

Again, the technician calls. “Second missile launched…..trajectory appears to be…”

The voice falters.

“It’s ok son, where is the second missile is headed.”

”Hawaii sir, estimate, seventeen minutes for impa... Jesus, Russia just launched four land-based missiles. Heading for us, thirty minutes to impact."

As fast as he can the President opens the box with the codes, while calling out orders. "Call Aegis defense, launch GMD to intercept." Breaking open the first biscuit he yells out. "Carter, time to authenticate the codes. General Mosley alert all crews prepare for launch.”

“Yes sir.” The General is off before they even hear sir.

The president calls an order, “Admiral, Armageddon’s a go, have all subs fire, target their naval bases.”

By Elvis Bekmanis on Unsplash

Sarah steps back, this has gotten way out of control, she shouldn’t be here. She should be sipping a margarita on some beach, blissfully unaware that the world was about to blow itself apart. ‘Christ, I’m not supposed to die this way,’ She thinks.

The voice speaks softly, reassuring her. ‘Don’t panic.’

Don’t panic, what was she supposed to do?

He must not fire nuclear missiles into civilian domain.’

“How many can we launch, in retaliation before they strike again?” The President inquires. “If we go nuclear how many lives will we be extinguishing?"

“It’s to late to worry about collateral damage sir, they struck first.”

“I understand, military targets as a response are one thing, but an all-out launch...this isn’t right.”

Admiral Jericho replies as well, “We are past the point of no return, collateral damage is the least of our concern now.”

Shaking his head, the president replies in a quiet but strong voice. “It should always be part of our concern.”

Head bowed the admiral replies. “I know Hollis, I know, but what we do next will define the future.”

"If we all go nuclear it won't matter who wins, it will be a Pyrrhic victory at best." President stares ahead, “Will our defense missiles work?”

“Yes, sir. They have a 91% accuracy rating.”

Sarah pleads. “We must wait Mr. President. Destroying their bases should be enough to show them our strength.”

The room erupts.

“Who is this person…”

“She is not military, what does she know.”

“Listen to her, sir.”

On and on the request for and against went on until a voice burst the chaos bubble. “SILENCE.”

They all stop talking and watch as the president points to the screen. Like a video game the missiles blip on the screen. The GMD counter projectiles move in direct line of the descending nuclear missiles. The screen blips, and disappears for a moment, the picture returns blurry, a few more hiccups and then it became clear once more. The missiles closing in, alert sirens blare, another static disruption on the screen, soon all go blank.

“What the hell is going on, get the pictures back…”

The screens return, there are no missiles, only the world as it appeared two hours ago.

A new set of panic sets in.

“Sir the GMD's must have worked. We should retaliate.”

Again, voices erupt for the president to launch. With trembling hands, he breaks the seal and stares at the launch codes. The senior officer and Chief of staff break their seals and stare at their numbers.

‘No, do not launch.’

“Sir.” Sarah whispers.

The Potus glances at Sarah, with pleading in his eyes that seem to ask her.<What should I do?>

Trust’ Was all the voice said.

“Be the Saviour, sir” Their eyes lock and for a moment it was if he saw someone else, he looks surprised than just like that, relieved.

With confidence, President Hollis P. Buchannan set his card in the box and closes the lid. “We will not launch. I will not be the first to strike civilian targets. Carter, please try to contact them again.”

“Where are the missiles?”

Five-minute go by the screen remains empty, Gaum, and Hawaii contact them saying all is quiet. The subs reply, their missiles have disappeared.

The screen once more blips and then blur, a clear picture of the world from space appears. The surroundings screens show images of people living theirs lives.

A voice booms across the sound system.

Hello Mr. President. Right now, a similar message is being broadcast to every leader in the world. You have shown us there is hope. The Nuclear missiles have all been …taken care of. What happens after this conversation is up to all of you. We have temporarily disabled all weapons and computers. Every weaponized system in the world will become inactive for thirty minutes.”

Only a soft hum can be heard.

“You will need to reset your password when your system boots up and hopefully your mindset. Should you continue to play this out, we will not stop this again, the next move is up to all of you.”

Silence.

Goodbye and good luck.”

In the quiet everyone’s thoughts are the same, moments away from death. Before anyone can speak the phones begin to ring, The room takes on a different feel, everyone hoping the conversations signal a new beginning.

Sarah quietly leaves the room and walks down the hallway, oblivious to the people running up and down, brushing past her.

Behind you” She pauses and turns, seeing her guide walking towards her.

“Sarah, thank you. You were perfect.”

Staring at this women, Sarah feels like collapsing, instead she demands. “What the hell happened in there? That was not preparing for a role, that was fucking real. You never mentioned any of this, what did you get me into?”

Linda smiles in a soulful way. “We chose you, as we chose others in different parts of the world to play a role”

“Why me?”

“We have our reasons.”

Sarah steps closer to Linda, staring into her eyes, she asks. “Who are you people?”

In response Linda, taps her ear then holds out her hand. Sarah pulls out a tiny receiver from her ear and passes it to Linda.

Exhausted, Sarah asks. “Are we safe?”

Linda's eyes turn dark, penetrating and dead, as she replies in a thick accent. "Our people our now safe, yours...? " Linda shrugs.

Sirens sound once more.

Linda smiles. “Goodbye Sarah.”

Thank you for reading my story. If you enjoyed it , please leave a heart and comment. Pass it on to others if you wish.

Jason

Short Story
52

About the Creator

Jason Basaraba

I have enjoyed writing for most of my life, never professionally.

I wish to now share my stories with others, lets see where it goes.

Born and raised on the Canadian Prairies, I currently reside on the West Coast. I call both places home.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  4. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

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Comments (24)

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  • Emily Marie Concannona day ago

    Wow Jason! I loved this. I couldn't help but think of JFK and the Cuban Missile crisis. I've been reading about it a lot lately lol. Great job!

  • Tom Jardine2 days ago

    Well played Jason! Nice to see a fellow Canuck win a respectful award!

  • Attention grabbing to the end and a cliffhanger at that

  • Harmony Kent3 days ago

    I love the tension in this and the twist. Congratulations on being Top Story. All the best, Jason 💕🙂

  • Junior4 days ago

    Nice

  • Dean F. Hardy4 days ago

    Nicely done Jason. Happy to share Top Story honours with a well written piece such as this.

  • Paul Stewart4 days ago

    I am so very glad this was awarded Top Story. This is first-class storytelling!

  • Chua Yuan Heng4 days ago

    Nice story with a well-crafted storyline

  • Tiffany Gordon 4 days ago

    Brilliant storyline! Awesome storytelling! Stellar writing! Congrats on your well-deserved Top Story!

  • VIDHYASAGAR4 days ago

    Wowww ..It's really amazing 😍🔥🔥🤩🤩💞🤩🔥🤩

  • Pryor Da costa4 days ago

    Great story!! I post similar stuff and fiction stories like this one, you should check it out!! Have a good day!

  • Mark Gagnon4 days ago

    I liked how you intertwined chaos with calm and then, twisted the ending. Well done. You have a new follower.

  • Cathy holmes4 days ago

    Previously loved this one. Congrats on the Top Story.

  • Keila Aartila4 days ago

    I enjoyed this story. Very thought-provoking - well done!

  • Judey Kalchik4 days ago

    I was there with you throughout this story and did not anticipate the ending. Terrific!

  • Heather Hubler4 days ago

    Congratulations on your Top Story!!

  • Paul Stewart7 days ago

    Well done Jason. This was so very good. The tension was on a knife's edge and the character development over such a short space was perfect. Loved the twist. I wasn't subscribed before - I am now!

  • Heather Hubler8 days ago

    Well that was a heart-racing story! I was engaged from beginning to end. Just imagining having to make those decisions, high stakes! Loved the twist at the end too, great work :)

  • Rick Henry9 days ago

    What an interesting well detailed story. But we wouldn't expect anything less from Jason Basaraba.

  • Isn't it awesome when the story chooses you? Great job!!

  • Lilly Cooper10 days ago

    A very different take. I like that the required sentence for the challenge was not a dominating focus. A good read :)

  • Whoaaa, this story was so intense! It aas so gripping and suspenseful from beginning to end. I just couldn’t stop reading. Brilliant job on this story!

  • Cathy holmes11 days ago

    This is really good. Suspenseful from beginning to end. Very well done.

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