General Nels Savage surveyed the control room from the walkway that surrounded the room, watching the many officers typing on computers, walking around to deliver messages and talking onto headsets as they coordinated the war effort. He turned to the screens that surrounded the walls of the room, covering every available space that showed the troop locations and logistic information. The maps were covered in red dots, the counter in the corner of every screen too high for comfort. The number of soldiers lost in this war was unimaginable, and nearly a third of the entire population of the Earthy had been lost in total, and even that was only a rough estimate.. The announcement that he had to make would bring that number up even more. But it had to be done. The war must end.
General Savage gripped the handrail, knuckles turning white with pressure before he forced himself to loosen his grip.
"Ladies and Gentleman," he began. Almost instantly, everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and brought him or herself to stand at attention. Those without files in their hands saluted, a gesture which the General returned automatically.
"I commend you all on your efforts in this war," he said. "We thank you. Our country, thanks you. However..."
General Savage looked every single person in the room in the eye. "It's time," he said simply.
Deathly silence met his announcement. This had been discussed in so many war meetings, raised by so many generals but somehow no one ever truly expected this day to come.
Mutterings began to spread throughout the room, which the soldiers thought that he couldn't hear. The young general, only 25, ordering the drop of a nuclear bomb that had enough force to level a medium sized country. Savage raised his voice again, knuckles once again stark white against the rest of his hands.
"This order does not come from me," he said, silence regaining control in the room as soon as he started to speak. "It comes directly from the top, a meeting of all the leaders on our side of the war."
The people were still not happy, but above all, they were soldiers. A combination of new laws and the abandonment of previous warfare conventions meant that . these soldiers, if their superior gave them orders, would be followed. They may not be happy and they may not agree, but there was no choice in the matter. Those laws had been passed three years ago. In 7 days, it would have been exactly ten years after the first outbreak of war. It was time .
With one final glance around the room of silent soldiers, General Savage turned on his heel and walked out, followed as always by Lieutenant Martin Sage, the loyal officer never more than one step behind. The pair walked in silence back to the General's office, where Savage all but collapsed into his chair and dropped his head onto his palm, supported by his elbow resting on the desk. Lieutenant Sage stood at attention in front of his desk, waiting for orders.
"Make sure everyone gets what they need," Savage finally said, knowing that his trusted, long-time assistant would know what he was talking about.
"Yes sir ," replied Sage, before saluting. Savage returned it and Sage left the room quickly, leaving the General in silence.
The office he was sitting in was devoid of personal items; he hadn't had the time or the motivation to do anything about it since becoming General. However, it did have a computer sitting on the desk and that was what he turned to now, pulling up the copies of the statistics. With glazed eyes, he stared at the numbers on the screen until they were burnt into his retinas, staying in front of his face even when he blinked. As he sat there, the numbers at the end rolled over. Another 20 soldiers had been confirmed dead. Savage could remember how when he was a teenager and the war was just beginning, they had made such a big fuss when the soldiers had started dying, with a media message about every single one. He doubted whether anyone else would even notice these numbers tick over on the official statistics, except maybe their families.
This plan was the only hope. They were beginning to pull their soldiers back already, get them away from the designated strike zones and back home. It was the largest military operation in history, moving every single soldier home in 6 days. They might not be safe there, but it would take them from the fighting and home to the families who had given up all hope of ever seeing them alive again.
Savage clicked away the counter, stood up, and returned to the control room. He would do his part for his country, and right now, they needed every person they could get to organise the movement.
Six days later and General Savage was once again standing on the walkway looking over the people. It was strangely quiet in the room that was usually a hive of activity. With nothing else to do, no battles to relay information for and no supplies to arrange transport, the officers were sitting quietly at their desks. They only had one more task had to do.
Around the room, other generals and military personnel began to enter, one at a time. Each one stood at attention and a heavy weight seemed to press on the room. The very air seemed thick. General Sage looked around the room. Everyone who was supposed to be present was and it was with a heavy heart that he looked at the officer in charge down below. It's time.
"Fire," he said, voice echoing against the walls in the sudden hush.
The officer pressed the button that would fire multiple nuclear missiles, set up ahead of time. The screens around the walls were showing only one thing now, the paths the missiles would take.
"Target is estimated to arrive in 5 minutes," he said tonelessly.
One by one, the five hit their targets, with small dots that turned green with a successful impact appearing on screens around the room. General Savage felt surprisingly detached from the situation; instead he felt empty inside. The war had claimed too many lives already, but having hit the major missile launch stations and armouries supplying the war, it would be over soon. It had to be.
When the last missile hit and silence took its place, Savage gave a salute and left the room. Lieutenant Sage made to follow him, but a wordless dismissal of the junior officer gave Savage the solitude he needed. As soon as he made his way back to his office and sat down, he buried his face in his hands as what he had done hit him. The war might be over, but at what cost?
As it turned out, the war wasn't over. The countries wanted revenge for what they had lost in the missile strikes, and unfortunately, they still had weapons. The soldiers who had been sent home were called back up, to fight once again for their country and the war continued. One month after the initial nuclear strike, General Savage was once again in the control room. The death counters were rising continually and an extra column had been added to allow them to cope with the new statistics. They were handling the civilian deaths as well now, innocent citizens whose only crime had been to walk down a street or go to a shop.
The strike had done more than anyone had intended: it had opened up a new target zone for the war. The past conventions of warfare had gone out the window long ago, but now the remaining inhibitions people had were also gone. This war had dissolved into anything goes. Several exchanges of fire, some of which went slightly off target meant that the other countries weren't even pretending to aim for military targets anymore, and instead were firing at will. There had been no more nuclear weaponry, not since the strike. Savage saw that as one of the few good aspects of the situation. Radiation hadn't reached the home shore and he was beginning to think that it never would. .
He spoke much too soon.
It finally happened six months after the nuclear strike, 10 and a half years since war broke out. Three nuclear warheads were fired at Savage's country in an attack that focused on their three major military bases. The war room was spared, as it was located in a secret underground facility guarded and reinforced against explosives of any variety.
The lights and computers flickered and went out for a second before the backup generators kicked in, reinstating basic power. With the lights and ventilation the only systems to be on line, General Savage had to work quickly to establish what happened. His first step was to order every officer and all other personnel into the main control room. The soldiers respond quickly; many of them had experienced emergency situations, and even the ones that hadn't had all been trained for it at some point.
General Savage tried to reinstate the communication lines with the help of several techs that monitored the area. The systems themselves weren't damaged; however, they couldn't make contact with anyone outside of the facility. Always prepared for the worst, General Savage was starting to piece together what he thought had happened and it wasn't good. He had feared retaliation for the earlier nuclear strike since the moment he gave the order to fire, and now it looked like it had actually happened.
He told the techs to keep monitoring the communication lines while the remainder of the facility's personnel filed into the room. There was standing room only, but no one complained, standing at attention and looking to the General for orders. He wasn't going to lie to them.
"I don't know what happened," he said with a calm that he didn't feel.
"I can't give you much more information than what you already know. Security protocols are currently in place to lock down the building so we cannot enter or exit. An alarm will sound if anyone tries. I ask that you remain calm and that any additional personnel who know how to access the internal systems and checks our structure does so. I want to know everything as soon as you find out about it. Everyone else, please return to your quarters and stay there until I give the order."
Just as he finished giving his orders but before anyone could move, one of the officers monitoring the communications spoke up.
"Sir," she said, sounding unsure of whether she should be speaking.
"Yes?" Savage asked, moving over to her terminal.
"We have an incoming transmission," she replied, taking off her headset and passing it to the General. He fitted it over his own head, adjusting the microphone.
"General Savage," he said.
"Good," said a voice on the other end of the line. "This is Sax. We have some news; you won't like it though. It happened. The bombs have been dropped, we think as much as 50% of the surface has been levelled. You are to remain where you are and keep all the officers there. The war room will become our main base. Do you copy?" he said, voice distorted and unidentifiable through the interference.
"I copy," Savage replied, voice sounding steady, much to his surprise. With some of his worst fears confirmed, the only thing he had left was to try to keep some of his composure.
"Over and out," General Sax said, severing the connection. He took off the headset slowly, handing it back to the officer. No one said anything, each one sensing that something was wrong.
Savage returned to the front of the room where he had been standing before. "That was General Sax. The surface has been bombed with weapons carrying nuclear material. An estimated 50% of the surface area has been destroyed. I do not know any other details; however, everyone is to remain here until further notice. This base will become the centre of military operations," he said and hesitated before he continued.
"I am sorry ," he said, quieter, forcing the words out around the block that seemed to have formed in his throat. There was no sound from the assembled officers.
"Dismissed," Savage ordered after the silence grew too much for him to bear. He watched the men and women file out of the room or to a computer terminal and sighed.
"Sir?" asked Lieutenant Sage from where he stood to the side of the room.
General Savage looked at him. "Continue."
"What do we do now?" he asked. The few officers still in the room looked at them, wanting to hear the answer.
General Savage did not have a good one to give. "We wait," he said finally. He really didn't know what to do after that. The future was a mystery.