A Disarming Story: Part One

 

author: Walter M. Spink | September 2007

 

Inshallallah! My name is Ahmad Amir Sheikh. Of course I remember. How could I forget? I was only ten then, in 2031, but of course I remember when it blew up. It was late May, a beautiful summer day. They say that you could hear the roar for miles in every direction. They say that the whole atoll turned to a vast cloud of rising dust in seconds. What incredible power! And of course that was just the start.

And then the tsunami. Amazing! And they did not even expect it; so that was where the tragedy lay. The Coconut Atoll was of course totally uninhabited; and it was not the fallout from the explosion that was the problem—those who planned the whole thing took great plans to consider the prevailing winds. As far as they knew no one would suffer from any side effects. As far as they knew it was all carefully planned.

But, carried away by the intensity of their convictions, they did not think of the tsunami. On one island, seven hundred miles away, at least three thousand people died—suddenly drowned, or shattered by the uprooted houses and trees and other things. A few thousand more perished on other even farther shores. One of the great tragedies, and it was never intended!

The very next day, on May 30, 2031, the announcement appeared. I remember how mystified we were. What was the point of blowing up a helpless and uninhabited atoll, which no one ever visited and about which no one cared!

However, we quickly got the point when the announcement came. This is what appeared in the media. The source was unknown:

“Your friends, who are working for the good of the world, are deeply apologetic for the unexpected disaster that has occurred on the islands adjacent to the so-called Coconut Atoll. We intended only to describe the power that we have in our hands, with which we intend to resolve the problems of a world that has reached a state of deeply dangerous confrontation. In country after country, lethal weapons are pointed at enemy and friend alike, awaiting only some cruel decision or absurd mistake, to begin a nuclear confrontation that could be the end of the world.

Our goal has been, and is, to disarm the present world, and to start a better one—a world of the type of which we have always dreamed. But we had no idea of the disaster that the beginning of our global initiative has wrought. We trust that the end of our actions will in some way, eventually, excuse the pain that we have caused.

However, we will go on; and now you understand the power that we possess. We have offered you evidence, and you are going to have to use it for your own benefit. And now, here is our ultimatum:

The United States of America alone has spent three trillion wasted dollars in their attempt to model the world to their own liking in recent years; and other countries have spend lesser, but equally absurd, amounts. We are insisting that you allocate an equally vast amount to humanitarian offices, the amount to be deposited in a fund set up under UNESCO, according to our plan. You have six months to make these payments and for UNESCO (which must get its act together) to give proof of their appropriate usage.

At the same time, your so-called Coalition has sent no less than 200,000 troops (many to an early death!) to the Near East. We are now insisting that you send an equal number of young students both to, and from, that area, to live and study and learn to love their fellows in those alien lands that are now so much the heart of the world’s tensions. This extensive exchange program should be planned and started within the same six-month period, the necessary funding deposited with UNESCO. UNESCO must prepare!

At the end of six months, if these demands are not met to our satisfaction, and to the satisfaction of a multinational committee set up through UNESCO (at our behest) to plan and oversee this initiative, we will begin to destroy a number of major cities in the USA. The USA is being chosen as the “test case” because so much of the world’s power is concentrated therein. Other nations will also be soon chosen if they do not equally fall in line. Obviously, we do not want to visit such disasters upon a world that should be able to live without its present explosive contentions; but if our demands are not sufficiently met by this time, we shall carry out this promise that we are making to you.

In due course, we may (or may not) tell you who we are, and where we are. That is irrelevant to our purposes. We have no intention of assuming the ultimate power over the transformed world. However, for the present we expect vigorous compliance with our orders. You can speak of us as the Visionaries. That is our wish. But you can call us the Perpetrators if you prefer.

It is still a matter of dispute as to whether the destruction of New York City was a justifiable action. Even though it is now universally admitted that the end achieved was in the best interest of the world, did the end justify the means? One cannot help but ask the same question regarding the horrifying but (many would say) productive destruction of Hiroshima—as opposed, one might say, to the gratuitous destruction of Nagasaki. These are questions that, at least for me, are not easily answered. But I must get on with my story.

As it turned out, New York’s destruction, which the Visionaries desperately (but without much conviction) hoped would be averted by compliance, was not as simple as thought. But the Visionaries persisted in their plan, convinced that only a staggering disaster, using New York as a prime example could change the insistently destructive direction of the world. Half measures would not have sufficient effect. And there is no time to waste.

Of course, the authorities in the USA, insisting that “America will never yield to terrorists” reacted with fury more than with fear when the shock of the Visionaries’ “absurd demands” first reached them. Needless to say they were also adamant about refusing to fund humanitarian services to match the many billions that they had wasted for war. As for supporting the delegations of students back and forth between contending countries of the world, the whole idea was shelved as irrelevant to the world’s needs. And most important of all--as for unburdening themselves of their vastly destructive arsenals, it was taken, at least at first, as little more than a macabre joke. The Senate and the House disposed of the matter in the fastest vote of the year, and it was unanimous. In all other countries too, even those that would welcome the disarming of the great powers, the rejection was equally uniform. Their pride in their national identities was too profound to tolerate such an inconceivable transformation of the world.

But I am getting ahead of my story again. On July 31, 2031, two months after their initial announcement, as the result of obvious non-compliance, the Visionaries announced that a nuclear device, shielded by lead, and hidden in one of the cities of the USA would be detonated within the next fifteen days, after a warning was given to the inhabitants to evacuate the city. Four days advance notice would be given for this evacuation, and for the removal of artifacts, animals, financial paraphernalia, even the records of wars, considered important to the nation and the world. Then the name of the city to be blown up would be announced.

At this point, Homeland Security put all of the cities of the United States on Red Alert, and started the massive process of searching out the bomb. The search went on with all powers at the government’s disposal. One can well imagine the sudden chaos that suddenly now descended upon the country, at a huge expenditure of time, money, and energy. Nothing was found. Increasingly, the threat that the implanted bomb was in some city came to be viewed as a hoax: the Coconut Atoll operation may have exhausted the terrorists’ capabilities.

The truth is, the bomb was not yet in place. The Visionaries had wished only to give a lesson in disruption, and to disperse and exhaust the country’s security forces to what was at this point a “false alarm”. But their intentions remained clear, and the bomb would indeed be planted before the fifteen day deadline was up.

In the meantime, the Visionaries, convinced that their program of transformation would not be taken seriously if they did not take the boldest action imaginable, but horrified at the thought that the authorities might not order the total evacuation of New York City, decided to provide one more “relatively harmless” example of their nuclear capabilities. Unnoticed, at night, they had hidden a box with a small bomb, readied for detonation by remote signal, deep within a huge pile of cow manure at a dairy farm in Montana. It would not be disturbed, in normal course, until the next spring’s planting season.

“Dear Friends”, the media announcement declared, on the morning of July 4, 2031, “to further convince the world of our intentions, we have placed another small “sample” bomb, like that which destroyed the Coconut Atoll, out in the Montana farmlands. It is somewhere in the very general vicinity of Billings, Montana, It will be detonated in approximately forty-eight hours from the time of this announcement. Since we do not wish to be responsible for the loss of a single life, we suggest that all residents of the area move expeditiously to locations at least ten miles from the county borders.

“Our threat to American cities, needless to say, is still in effect. If compliance with our demands has not seriously begun by August 10, 2031, we will announce the chosen city, advise its total and rapid evacuation, and destroy it. And following our carefully outlined program, we will, if our demands are still resisted, target other cities in a carefully considered lethal sequence.

The frantic evacuation and consequent destruction of a sizable area of Montana, was a clear success. Although some doubters insisted that they would remain on their farms, sure that the whole thing was a hoax, even they were safely removed by the authorities, along with a number of the best horses and cows. In general, pigs and chickens were left to their own devices.

The detonation of the Montana bomb was not only impressive, but also horribly convincing in its impact. And now, finally, it was the turn of New York City.

The Big Apple Bomb, as its familiars called it, was packed in a large suitcase, with its detonation device ready to be activated by a wireless signal. Lined with a thick lead shield, to prevent its radiation being detectable at anything but a few feet, it was carefully hidden under the back seat of a stolen Corolla decorated with nothing more than a tattered “Jesus Saves” on the back. The attractive license plate, from the “Land of 1000 lakes” had been “borrowed” from the vehicle of a traveling Minnesota businessman the night before. As ordinary as it was, the car, with its precious cargo, easily made the short trip into the city without event. Event would follow.

The “explosive” car was parked in the long-term section of a parking garage on 24th street. The driver told the attendant that he would leave it there for a few days, until he came back from a train journey in New England.

On the evening of August 10, 2031 the announcement was made, directed at the President of the United States: “If you are still not complying with our demands, after ninety-six hours—allowing, that is, four days to save your most important museum collections and the like—we will destroy New York City, as the first in our series of destructive “advisories”. Our goal is a better world, a world without war, without the absurdity of the mutual aggression that all believe may soon destroy us all. Our own aggression, by contrast, is not mutual; we, and we alone, are going to force you to disarm—to take your fences down, and to start a better world.”

Immediately, as you can imagine, Homeland Security (funded in the billions!) went into full swing. While millions of residents were precipitously rushing out of the city to the safety of the far distance, thousands of operatives started combing the city for any clues that would lead them to the hidden threat. If, as they now believed, the bomb really existed, the question was: who brought it, what power were they representing, how did they bring it, when did they bring it, where did they hide it. Canvassing from door to door would hardly help, because the bomb itself was probably lying, serenely isolated, in its secret hiding place, it location known only to a single person, now long gone from the wired city.

However, remarkably (or maybe not?), they did find it! Using their heads for a change instead of their feet, the detective squad opined that the bomb had probably been brought into the city in a car or truck, and that, if so, it might well still be hidden in the vehicle, waiting for its detonation. And where would such a vehicle be, if the driver, fearful of the coming destruction, had left the city. Even if the driver was willing to die in the ensuing blast, he would only arouse suspicion if he stayed anywhere near the car. So the car was probably waiting for the final moment alone.

The car, of course, could hardly have been parked on the street. It would attract both local notice and a burden of tickets. Nor would it make sense to have put it in some private parking space belonging to a friend of the terrorists, where it would surely be caught up in the police sweep. So the logical conclusion—they were of course getting very warm!—was that the vehicle in question might be parked in hopeful anonymity in one of the city’s many parking structures. But which, and where, and what kind of car?

At this point a deputy from the drug squad made a brilliant suggestion. He opined that, to preserve the perpetrators’ anonymity, the car—if indeed a car was used—would probably have been be stolen, and that it would probably also have stolen license plates. And he further suggested that all recent police records should be checked, for the reports of any stolen plates, and also of any stolen car. Following these suggestions, a long computer of stolen cars and licenses was generated, and a host of search teams were rapidly sent out to check all parking garages, the task in fact made easier because so many people had fled from the city during the initial hours of the evacuation.

Sure enough, the stolen Corolla, sporting the stolen Minnesota plate was discovered after a mere day’s search, in the parking structure where it had been left, the nuclear bomb under the rear seat. Keeping the happy event a secret, for fear that the evil device would be detonated by remote signal if word of its discovery got out, the explosives experts were immediately brought to the scene, to render the bomb harmless. Thus, even though the President was adamant in “refusing to yield to terrorists” was the city saved.

 

The truth is, the Visionaries had anticipated that, after an immense and instructive disruption time of turmoil, the bomb would indeed be found. They were far too wise—even if they had failed to expect the tsunami—to plant a bomb in a city parking structure, with stolen plates, and not to anticipate its discovery with the generous time—a full four days—that had been allowed. It was, in fact, no matter how macabre a device, intended only as a further instructive proof of their possession of a world-changing destructive power.

The very next day, late on August 12, 2031, a new media announcement appeared. We congratulate the forces of Homeland Security and the New York Police Department, on finding our bomb. We can all learn a lesson from your success, so what you did is for the best; your discovery only helps to confirm the total seriousness of our program—painful though it may be—for the transformation of the world. And be assured that we have many more of these instructive devices in reserve.

In this regard, we have already hidden—but this time with a more serious intent—another bomb elsewhere in Manhattan. This device is programmed to explode on August 15, 2031, if you still show no clear evidence of compliance with our demands. So for the world’s sake, you must now evacuate the great city once again, if your leaders intend to persist in their recalcitrance. We assume that you have already saved the most important objects in your museums, as well as your cherished financial records, as a result of the previous crisis. In the uncertain event that you find this bomb too, we will play the same tune a third time. Meanwhile you might well be more astute in considering our demands.

To further strengthen our case for a global disarmament, we are hereby announcing that on September 1, 2031, we are going to demolish two of your five remaining major cities—we will not be more specific—if you are still not in compliance with our well-intentioned threats. In this latter case, we will provide exactly twenty-four hours notice (we were unnecessarily generous before) for evacuation so, no matter what city you reside in, you may well find it advisable to begin the process of evacuation (and the salvage of the items pertaining to your cultural heritage) well in advance of the destruction that will take place if your leaders have not yet yielded to our demands.

Finally, we ourselves do not expect compliance yet; it is going to take some time to change the world, wise at it would be to do so. Our program anticipates a necessary continuation of these saddening events for some time longer; but eventually your leaders will comply. We, being both unknown and unreachable, have the power to be more adamant than those whom we could so easily destroy.

Since the general (but already weakening!) conviction of the whole country was still that “America must never yield to terrorists”, that we must at all events preserve our nation’s cherished sovereignty, the overwhelming and sobering opinion of the American populace was that we should stand firm. But this patriotic stance was sobering confused with the conviction that the terrorists—how could they be called “Visionaries”?—were totally serious, and that New York City might indeed soon be sacrificed.

However, with the threat to the other frustratingly unnamed cities, the nation’s resolve was indeed weakening, and this erosion of confidence was now intensely magnified by the understandable flight from all such urban centers that the new threat initiated; a flight not so much to the suburbs—for how could one measure the likely scale of the disaster—as to the countryside far beyond. Everything, in every city, businesses, schools, churches, places of entertainment, was now rapidly being vacated, with an unimaginable disruption of normal life and activity, enhanced by the increasing self-absorbed departure of vast numbers of the service personnel necessary for the normal operation of the cities.

If this flight was already frantic, it became immeasurably more so a few days hence, when reality suddenly and very clearly dawned.

On August 15, 2031, without further warning, the whole of Manhattan Island was demolished by a tremendous nuclear blast. From the treasuries of Wall Street, to the sanctified precincts of Columbia University, the very heart of New York City was laid low. The outlying suburbs were unbelievably shattered as well, while the gathering effects of fall-out were promising seasons of desolation yet to come. And this unimaginable disaster had all been generated by a modest nuclear device carefully buried beneath the stairway leading down to a student’s basement apartment on East 29th street. Happily, the students, like the millions of other residents of the spread-out metropolis, had long since rushed out of the city.

Yet still the leaders of the nation were recalcitrant. The very national integrity, which they so cherished, was being threatened with extinction. But what were America’s leaders to do? Where, and who, were their assailants? Was it, as some insisted, Al Qaeda, or some similar faith-crazed group, that could dare to do such a thing, pretending that it was for the common good? pretending that it was for the common good? And if so, how could they be prevented from further destruction of the world? Even if their base of operation was in some friendly country, and if we knew this, how could we attack, and perhaps destroy, the whole country, merely because there was a single pustule on their body politic? Indeed, how could we destroy such a country, without being destroyed in return; for according to the sacrosanct laws of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), with their vastly sensitive warning systems that all such nations had now developed, they would have “Launched on Warning” even before our missiles struck their stores.

Or, as Al Qaeda insisted, was this unbelievable program of destruction the work of some other destructive force? Perhaps the culprit was one of the increasingly numerous “nuclear” nations worried about the world’s contentions getting totally out of control and sweeping them away in some horribly shared destruction. Or could it be some private group of well-placed nuclear scientists convinced that in this way, and perhaps only in this way, they could save civilization from self-destruction? How was one to know? The traitorous actions of Pakistan’s Dr.A.Q. Khan decades ago still haunted the world’s memory; could other such powerful officials, for reasons either religious or political, be the source of supply to our unknown assailants?

Another question: where are all the “Cold War” nuclear bombs and missiles that represent the Russian inheritance. Old and to some degree outmoded as they are, they could still supply the core needs of our far more advanced present weapons’ technology. Perhaps most sobering of all, it seems certain that even when Israel was wiped off the face of the earth in the terrible confrontation of 2025, a very great portion of their nuclear devices had been saved, having been stored, for security reasons, on a ship registered under a foreign flag, and floating in the safety of some far sea. Although, conforming with Israel’s anticipated needs, these were devices of modest size—on the order of the “Fat Boy” who destroyed Hiroshima—they would be ideal for the destruction of the world’s cities. Could it be that, in one final gesture, the Israeli leaders had put the key into the hands of the Visionaries? These were all questions that only the future would resolve.

With the destruction of Minneapolis and Phoenix, a fusion of despair and chaos reigned. Where would be the end of it? How could America survive this turbulent destruction of its very way of life? For, despite the valiant efforts of Homeland Security, and indeed all of the other relevant governmental agencies, no way had been found to put a stop to the escalating destruction.

Sadly, it was like Iraq of the century’s first two decades revisited. However, now the bombs were not tin cans intended to kill a few innocents on the edge of the highway, but receptacles of the very power of the gods themselves. Able to wipe out a city in a second, the power now was vastly different, but the point and the pressure was the same. It was the same unstoppable problem; one could never know where they would strike next, and even when a few were neutralized, everyone knew that there were many more to come. But now again, in this strangely parallel world of developing catastrophe, the very powers that could, if they so wished, totally destroy the world, retained their infuriatingly serene silence.

But now, in this climate of catastrophe, the pressure from the Visionaries was becoming constantly more insistent; and as the seriousness of their program was becoming more and more unrelentingly evident, the mood of the public was finally, even if painfully, changing. The fact that the Visionaries did in fact appear to have humanitarian goals, and the very reasonableness of their insistence that it was the usages of war that had so deeply wasted the world’s birthright, these truths began to resonate not only throughout the country but also throughout the world. Was it not true that we had wasted our inheritance? And was it not also true, that if we took proper action, we could finally make a better world of one that was all too rapidly going wrong?

On November 15, 2031, a startling and shocking announcement came in the media. The Visionaries, as if admitting their lack of success in convincing America to join their envisioned World Community, now announced a plan to destroy five major American cities—specifics not given—between Dec 15 2031, and Dec 30, 2031. They would give no warning, the expectation being that everyone in every major city would flee to the far countryside for salvation. This would produce the ultimate chaos. In fact, it was generally agreed that the political and cultural system of the country could not survive such a trauma. And it was further declared that this was not the end. If necessary, this unthinkable program of gratuitous destruction would go on and on. The Time of Truth had come!

It was a this point that, swallowing both pride and patriotism, the leaders of America, admitted that they were ready to finally yield to the Visionaries’ demands. The process of totally dismantling our grossly overstuffed arsenal would be begun “with all deliberate speed”; after some necessary financial negotiations, the three trillion “war” dollars would be turned over to UNESCO, and (this was a happier initiative) the massive student exchange would be begun.

What a day for the world—as we see it now!—this was! As soon as America yielded, so painfully, to the humane threats of the Visionaries, nation after nation followed suit, all too aware that their cities would be similarly obliterated if they did not.

But now, to complete the story properly, I must tell you that, as we now know, the Visionaries had no intention of bombing the five unnamed cities, even considering the fact that it was to be expected—almost unbelievably!—that all of the major cities of the nation would have been totally evacuated. The Visionaries were in fact bluffing; they read the temper of the country, and they believed that finally, at this point, the leaders of the USA would finally yield; and they were right.

This was of course for the best; for although the Visionaries had planned to retract their threats at the very last minute, they had no intention of taking the pressure off the world, and planned to continue on as before, if it was so required. In any case, this does not matter now. The deed is done, and we must celebrate the event. It was, in fact, the start of a new world. Our new world.

*******************************

A Disarming Story: Part One

Inshallallah! My name is Ahmad Amir Sheikh. Of course I remember. How could I forget? I was only ten then, in 2031, but of course I remember when it blew up. It was late May, a beautiful summer day.

author: Walter M. Spink | September 2007 

 

Inshallallah! My name is Ahmad Amir Sheikh. Of course I remember. How could I forget? I was only ten then, in 2031, but of course I remember when it blew up. It was late May, a beautiful summer day. They say that you could hear the roar for miles in every direction. They say that the whole atoll turned to a vast cloud of rising dust in seconds. What incredible power! And of course that was just the start.

 

And then the tsunami. Amazing! And they did not even expect it; so that was where the tragedy lay. The Coconut Atoll was of course totally uninhabited; and it was not the fallout from the explosion that was the problem—those who planned the whole thing took great plans to consider the prevailing winds. As far as they knew no one would suffer from any side effects. As far as they knew it was all carefully planned.

 

But, carried away by the intensity of their convictions, they did not think of the tsunami. On one island, seven hundred miles away, at least three thousand people died—suddenly drowned, or shattered by the uprooted houses and trees and other things. A few thousand more perished on other even farther shores. One of the great tragedies, and it was never intended!

 

The very next day, on May 30, 2031, the announcement appeared. I remember how mystified we were. What was the point of blowing up a helpless and uninhabited atoll, which no one ever visited and about which no one cared!

 

However, we quickly got the point when the announcement came. This is what appeared in the media. The source was unknown:

 

“Your friends, who are working for the good of the world, are deeply apologetic for the unexpected disaster that has occurred on the islands adjacent to the so-called Coconut Atoll. We intended only to describe the power that we have in our hands, with which we intend to resolve the problems of a world that has reached a state of deeply dangerous confrontation. In country after country, lethal weapons are pointed at enemy and friend alike, awaiting only some cruel decision or absurd mistake, to begin a nuclear confrontation that could be the end of the world.

 

Our goal has been, and is, to disarm the present world, and to start a better one—a world of the type of which we have always dreamed. But we had no idea of the disaster that the beginning of our global initiative has wrought. We trust that the end of our actions will in some way, eventually, excuse the pain that we have caused.

 

However, we will go on; and now you understand the power that we possess. We have offered you evidence, and you are going to have to use it for your own benefit. And now, here is our ultimatum:

 

The United States of America alone has spent three trillion wasted dollars in their attempt to model the world to their own liking in recent years; and other countries have spend lesser, but equally absurd, amounts. We are insisting that you allocate an equally vast amount to humanitarian offices, the amount to be deposited in a fund set up under UNESCO, according to our plan. You have six months to make these payments and for UNESCO (which must get its act together) to give proof of their appropriate usage.

 

At the same time, your so-called Coalition has sent no less than 200,000 troops (many to an early death!) to the Near East. We are now insisting that you send an equal number of young students both to, and from, that area, to live and study and learn to love their fellows in those alien lands that are now so much the heart of the world’s tensions. This extensive exchange program should be planned and started within the same six-month period, the necessary funding deposited with UNESCO. UNESCO must prepare!

 

At the end of six months, if these demands are not met to our satisfaction, and to the satisfaction of a multinational committee set up through UNESCO (at our behest) to plan and oversee this initiative, we will begin to destroy a number of major cities in the USA. The USA is being chosen as the “test case” because so much of the world’s power is concentrated therein. Other nations will also be soon chosen if they do not equally fall in line. Obviously, we do not want to visit such disasters upon a world that should be able to live without its present explosive contentions; but if our demands are not sufficiently met by this time, we shall carry out this promise that we are making to you.

 

In due course, we may (or may not) tell you who we are, and where we are. That is irrelevant to our purposes. We have no intention of assuming the ultimate power over the transformed world. However, for the present we expect vigorous compliance with our orders. You can speak of us as the Visionaries. That is our wish. But you can call us the Perpetrators if you prefer.

 

It is still a matter of dispute as to whether the destruction of New York City was a justifiable action. Even though it is now universally admitted that the end achieved was in the best interest of the world, did the end justify the means? One cannot help but ask the same question regarding the horrifying but (many would say) productive destruction of Hiroshima—as opposed, one might say, to the gratuitous destruction of Nagasaki. These are questions that, at least for me, are not easily answered. But I must get on with my story.

 

As it turned out, New York’s destruction, which the Visionaries desperately (but without much conviction) hoped would be averted by compliance, was not as simple as thought. But the Visionaries persisted in their plan, convinced that only a staggering disaster, using New York as a prime example could change the insistently destructive direction of the world. Half measures would not have sufficient effect. And there is no time to waste.

 

Of course, the authorities in the USA, insisting that “America will never yield to terrorists” reacted with fury more than with fear when the shock of the Visionaries’ “absurd demands” first reached them. Needless to say they were also adamant about refusing to fund humanitarian services to match the many billions that they had wasted for war. As for supporting the delegations of students back and forth between contending countries of the world, the whole idea was shelved as irrelevant to the world’s needs. And most important of all--as for unburdening themselves of their vastly destructive arsenals, it was taken, at least at first, as little more than a macabre joke. The Senate and the House disposed of the matter in the fastest vote of the year, and it was unanimous. In all other countries too, even those that would welcome the disarming of the great powers, the rejection was equally uniform. Their pride in their national identities was too profound to tolerate such an inconceivable transformation of the world.

 

But I am getting ahead of my story again. On July 31, 2031, two months after their initial announcement, as the result of obvious non-compliance, the Visionaries announced that a nuclear device, shielded by lead, and hidden in one of the cities of the USA would be detonated within the next fifteen days, after a warning was given to the inhabitants to evacuate the city. Four days advance notice would be given for this evacuation, and for the removal of artifacts, animals, financial paraphernalia, even the records of wars, considered important to the nation and the world. Then the name of the city to be blown up would be announced.

 

At this point, Homeland Security put all of the cities of the United States on Red Alert, and started the massive process of searching out the bomb. The search went on with all powers at the government’s disposal. One can well imagine the sudden chaos that suddenly now descended upon the country, at a huge expenditure of time, money, and energy. Nothing was found. Increasingly, the threat that the implanted bomb was in some city came to be viewed as a hoax: the Coconut Atoll operation may have exhausted the terrorists’ capabilities.

 

The truth is, the bomb was not yet in place. The Visionaries had wished only to give a lesson in disruption, and to disperse and exhaust the country’s security forces to what was at this point a “false alarm”. But their intentions remained clear, and the bomb would indeed be planted before the fifteen day deadline was up.

 

In the meantime, the Visionaries, convinced that their program of transformation would not be taken seriously if they did not take the boldest action imaginable, but horrified at the thought that the authorities might not order the total evacuation of New York City, decided to provide one more “relatively harmless” example of their nuclear capabilities. Unnoticed, at night, they had hidden a box with a small bomb, readied for detonation by remote signal, deep within a huge pile of cow manure at a dairy farm in Montana. It would not be disturbed, in normal course, until the next spring’s planting season.

 

“Dear Friends”, the media announcement declared, on the morning of July 4, 2031, “to further convince the world of our intentions, we have placed another small “sample” bomb, like that which destroyed the Coconut Atoll, out in the Montana farmlands. It is somewhere in the very general vicinity of Billings, Montana, It will be detonated in approximately forty-eight hours from the time of this announcement. Since we do not wish to be responsible for the loss of a single life, we suggest that all residents of the area move expeditiously to locations at least ten miles from the county borders.

 

“Our threat to American cities, needless to say, is still in effect. If compliance with our demands has not seriously begun by August 10, 2031, we will announce the chosen city, advise its total and rapid evacuation, and destroy it. And following our carefully outlined program, we will, if our demands are still resisted, target other cities in a carefully considered lethal sequence.

 

The frantic evacuation and consequent destruction of a sizable area of Montana, was a clear success. Although some doubters insisted that they would remain on their farms, sure that the whole thing was a hoax, even they were safely removed by the authorities, along with a number of the best horses and cows. In general, pigs and chickens were left to their own devices.

 

The detonation of the Montana bomb was not only impressive, but also horribly convincing in its impact. And now, finally, it was the turn of New York City.

 

The Big Apple Bomb, as its familiars called it, was packed in a large suitcase, with its detonation device ready to be activated by a wireless signal. Lined with a thick lead shield, to prevent its radiation being detectable at anything but a few feet, it was carefully hidden under the back seat of a stolen Corolla decorated with nothing more than a tattered “Jesus Saves” on the back. The attractive license plate, from the “Land of 1000 lakes” had been “borrowed” from the vehicle of a traveling Minnesota businessman the night before. As ordinary as it was, the car, with its precious cargo, easily made the short trip into the city without event. Event would follow.

 

The “explosive” car was parked in the long-term section of a parking garage on 24th street. The driver told the attendant that he would leave it there for a few days, until he came back from a train journey in New England.

 

On the evening of August 10, 2031 the announcement was made, directed at the President of the United States: “If you are still not complying with our demands, after ninety-six hours—allowing, that is, four days to save your most important museum collections and the like—we will destroy New York City, as the first in our series of destructive “advisories”. Our goal is a better world, a world without war, without the absurdity of the mutual aggression that all believe may soon destroy us all. Our own aggression, by contrast, is not mutual; we, and we alone, are going to force you to disarm—to take your fences down, and to start a better world.”

 

Immediately, as you can imagine, Homeland Security (funded in the billions!) went into full swing. While millions of residents were precipitously rushing out of the city to the safety of the far distance, thousands of operatives started combing the city for any clues that would lead them to the hidden threat. If, as they now believed, the bomb really existed, the question was: who brought it, what power were they representing, how did they bring it, when did they bring it, where did they hide it. Canvassing from door to door would hardly help, because the bomb itself was probably lying, serenely isolated, in its secret hiding place, it location known only to a single person, now long gone from the wired city.

 

However, remarkably (or maybe not?), they did find it! Using their heads for a change instead of their feet, the detective squad opined that the bomb had probably been brought into the city in a car or truck, and that, if so, it might well still be hidden in the vehicle, waiting for its detonation. And where would such a vehicle be, if the driver, fearful of the coming destruction, had left the city. Even if the driver was willing to die in the ensuing blast, he would only arouse suspicion if he stayed anywhere near the car. So the car was probably waiting for the final moment alone.

 

The car, of course, could hardly have been parked on the street. It would attract both local notice and a burden of tickets. Nor would it make sense to have put it in some private parking space belonging to a friend of the terrorists, where it would surely be caught up in the police sweep. So the logical conclusion—they were of course getting very warm!—was that the vehicle in question might be parked in hopeful anonymity in one of the city’s many parking structures. But which, and where, and what kind of car?

 

At this point a deputy from the drug squad made a brilliant suggestion. He opined that, to preserve the perpetrators’ anonymity, the car—if indeed a car was used—would probably have been be stolen, and that it would probably also have stolen license plates. And he further suggested that all recent police records should be checked, for the reports of any stolen plates, and also of any stolen car. Following these suggestions, a long computer of stolen cars and licenses was generated, and a host of search teams were rapidly sent out to check all parking garages, the task in fact made easier because so many people had fled from the city during the initial hours of the evacuation.

 

Sure enough, the stolen Corolla, sporting the stolen Minnesota plate was discovered after a mere day’s search, in the parking structure where it had been left, the nuclear bomb under the rear seat. Keeping the happy event a secret, for fear that the evil device would be detonated by remote signal if word of its discovery got out, the explosives experts were immediately brought to the scene, to render the bomb harmless. Thus, even though the President was adamant in “refusing to yield to terrorists” was the city saved.

 

The truth is, the Visionaries had anticipated that, after an immense and instructive disruption time of turmoil, the bomb would indeed be found. They were far too wise—even if they had failed to expect the tsunami—to plant a bomb in a city parking structure, with stolen plates, and not to anticipate its discovery with the generous time—a full four days—that had been allowed. It was, in fact, no matter how macabre a device, intended only as a further instructive proof of their possession of a world-changing destructive power.

 

The very next day, late on August 12, 2031, a new media announcement appeared. We congratulate the forces of Homeland Security and the New York Police Department, on finding our bomb. We can all learn a lesson from your success, so what you did is for the best; your discovery only helps to confirm the total seriousness of our program—painful though it may be—for the transformation of the world. And be assured that we have many more of these instructive devices in reserve.

 

In this regard, we have already hidden—but this time with a more serious intent—another bomb elsewhere in Manhattan. This device is programmed to explode on August 15, 2031, if you still show no clear evidence of compliance with our demands. So for the world’s sake, you must now evacuate the great city once again, if your leaders intend to persist in their recalcitrance. We assume that you have already saved the most important objects in your museums, as well as your cherished financial records, as a result of the previous crisis. In the uncertain event that you find this bomb too, we will play the same tune a third time. Meanwhile you might well be more astute in considering our demands.

 

To further strengthen our case for a global disarmament, we are hereby announcing that on September 1, 2031, we are going to demolish two of your five remaining major cities—we will not be more specific—if you are still not in compliance with our well-intentioned threats. In this latter case, we will provide exactly twenty-four hours notice (we were unnecessarily generous before) for evacuation so, no matter what city you reside in, you may well find it advisable to begin the process of evacuation (and the salvage of the items pertaining to your cultural heritage) well in advance of the destruction that will take place if your leaders have not yet yielded to our demands.

 

Finally, we ourselves do not expect compliance yet; it is going to take some time to change the world, wise at it would be to do so. Our program anticipates a necessary continuation of these saddening events for some time longer; but eventually your leaders will comply. We, being both unknown and unreachable, have the power to be more adamant than those whom we could so easily destroy.

 

Since the general (but already weakening!) conviction of the whole country was still that “America must never yield to terrorists”, that we must at all events preserve our nation’s cherished sovereignty, the overwhelming and sobering opinion of the American populace was that we should stand firm. But this patriotic stance was sobering confused with the conviction that the terrorists—how could they be called “Visionaries”?—were totally serious, and that New York City might indeed soon be sacrificed.

 

However, with the threat to the other frustratingly unnamed cities, the nation’s resolve was indeed weakening, and this erosion of confidence was now intensely magnified by the understandable flight from all such urban centers that the new threat initiated; a flight not so much to the suburbs—for how could one measure the likely scale of the disaster—as to the countryside far beyond. Everything, in every city, businesses, schools, churches, places of entertainment, was now rapidly being vacated, with an unimaginable disruption of normal life and activity, enhanced by the increasing self-absorbed departure of vast numbers of the service personnel necessary for the normal operation of the cities.

 

If this flight was already frantic, it became immeasurably more so a few days hence, when reality suddenly and very clearly dawned.

 

On August 15, 2031, without further warning, the whole of Manhattan Island was demolished by a tremendous nuclear blast. From the treasuries of Wall Street, to the sanctified precincts of Columbia University, the very heart of New York City was laid low. The outlying suburbs were unbelievably shattered as well, while the gathering effects of fall-out were promising seasons of desolation yet to come. And this unimaginable disaster had all been generated by a modest nuclear device carefully buried beneath the stairway leading down to a student’s basement apartment on East 29th street. Happily, the students, like the millions of other residents of the spread-out metropolis, had long since rushed out of the city.

 

Yet still the leaders of the nation were recalcitrant. The very national integrity, which they so cherished, was being threatened with extinction. But what were America’s leaders to do? Where, and who, were their assailants? Was it, as some insisted, Al Qaeda, or some similar faith-crazed group, that could dare to do such a thing, pretending that it was for the common good? pretending that it was for the common good? And if so, how could they be prevented from further destruction of the world? Even if their base of operation was in some friendly country, and if we knew this, how could we attack, and perhaps destroy, the whole country, merely because there was a single pustule on their body politic? Indeed, how could we destroy such a country, without being destroyed in return; for according to the sacrosanct laws of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), with their vastly sensitive warning systems that all such nations had now developed, they would have “Launched on Warning” even before our missiles struck their stores.

 

Or, as Al Qaeda insisted, was this unbelievable program of destruction the work of some other destructive force? Perhaps the culprit was one of the increasingly numerous “nuclear” nations worried about the world’s contentions getting totally out of control and sweeping them away in some horribly shared destruction. Or could it be some private group of well-placed nuclear scientists convinced that in this way, and perhaps only in this way, they could save civilization from self-destruction? How was one to know? The traitorous actions of Pakistan’s Dr.A.Q. Khan decades ago still haunted the world’s memory; could other such powerful officials, for reasons either religious or political, be the source of supply to our unknown assailants?

 

 

Another question: where are all the “Cold War” nuclear bombs and missiles that represent the Russian inheritance. Old and to some degree outmoded as they are, they could still supply the core needs of our far more advanced present weapons’ technology. Perhaps most sobering of all, it seems certain that even when Israel was wiped off the face of the earth in the terrible confrontation of 2025, a very great portion of their nuclear devices had been saved, having been stored, for security reasons, on a ship registered under a foreign flag, and floating in the safety of some far sea. Although, conforming with Israel’s anticipated needs, these were devices of modest size—on the order of the “Fat Boy” who destroyed Hiroshima—they would be ideal for the destruction of the world’s cities. Could it be that, in one final gesture, the Israeli leaders had put the key into the hands of the Visionaries? These were all questions that only the future would resolve.

 

With the destruction of Minneapolis and Phoenix, a fusion of despair and chaos reigned. Where would be the end of it? How could America survive this turbulent destruction of its very way of life? For, despite the valiant efforts of Homeland Security, and indeed all of the other relevant governmental agencies, no way had been found to put a stop to the escalating destruction.

 

Sadly, it was like Iraq of the century’s first two decades revisited. However, now the bombs were not tin cans intended to kill a few innocents on the edge of the highway, but receptacles of the very power of the gods themselves. Able to wipe out a city in a second, the power now was vastly different, but the point and the pressure was the same. It was the same unstoppable problem; one could never know where they would strike next, and even when a few were neutralized, everyone knew that there were many more to come. But now again, in this strangely parallel world of developing catastrophe, the very powers that could, if they so wished, totally destroy the world, retained their infuriatingly serene silence.

 

But now, in this climate of catastrophe, the pressure from the Visionaries was becoming constantly more insistent; and as the seriousness of their program was becoming more and more unrelentingly evident, the mood of the public was finally, even if painfully, changing. The fact that the Visionaries did in fact appear to have humanitarian goals, and the very reasonableness of their insistence that it was the usages of war that had so deeply wasted the world’s birthright, these truths began to resonate not only throughout the country but also throughout the world. Was it not true that we had wasted our inheritance? And was it not also true, that if we took proper action, we could finally make a better world of one that was all too rapidly going wrong?

 

On November 15, 2031, a startling and shocking announcement came in the media. The Visionaries, as if admitting their lack of success in convincing America to join their envisioned World Community, now announced a plan to destroy five major American cities—specifics not given—between Dec 15 2031, and Dec 30, 2031. They would give no warning, the expectation being that everyone in every major city would flee to the far countryside for salvation. This would produce the ultimate chaos. In fact, it was generally agreed that the political and cultural system of the country could not survive such a trauma. And it was further declared that this was not the end. If necessary, this unthinkable program of gratuitous destruction would go on and on. The Time of Truth had come!

 

It was a this point that, swallowing both pride and patriotism, the leaders of America, admitted that they were ready to finally yield to the Visionaries’ demands. The process of totally dismantling our grossly overstuffed arsenal would be begun “with all deliberate speed”; after some necessary financial negotiations, the three trillion “war” dollars would be turned over to UNESCO, and (this was a happier initiative) the massive student exchange would be begun.

 

What a day for the world—as we see it now!—this was! As soon as America yielded, so painfully, to the humane threats of the Visionaries, nation after nation followed suit, all too aware that their cities would be similarly obliterated if they did not.

 

But now, to complete the story properly, I must tell you that, as we now know, the Visionaries had no intention of bombing the five unnamed cities, even considering the fact that it was to be expected—almost unbelievably!—that all of the major cities of the nation would have been totally evacuated. The Visionaries were in fact bluffing; they read the temper of the country, and they believed that finally, at this point, the leaders of the USA would finally yield; and they were right.

 

This was of course for the best; for although the Visionaries had planned to retract their threats at the very last minute, they had no intention of taking the pressure off the world, and planned to continue on as before, if it was so required. In any case, this does not matter now. The deed is done, and we must celebrate the event. It was, in fact, the start of a new world. Our new world.

 

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