(Chapter 2: Sergei's Oasis)
Oasis of Sanity
When the novel, Brighter than the Sun, was written, the deterrent against nuclear war, was the MAD doctrine, the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction. In real terms, the doctrine is empty. It is not a foundation for security, but for escalating tensions that breeds insecurity, which ultimately assures universal destruction. Security can only be built on an active advancing of universal humanity on all levels, from the grassroots level to the strategic level. No other form of war avoidance is really possible. Every other approach is built of fantasy, instead of reality. Unfortunately the focus on reality is hard to get, and hard to hold on to, in an environment of fantasies and conspiracies. On rare occasions, when the focus is achieved, the miraculous can happen.
The dialog presented here is of the 2nd chapter of the novel, Brighter than the Sun, by Rolf Witzsche.
Sergei had retired when the emergency signal sounded. It had been a day filled with happy events and much eating and drinking; his daughter's wedding day. The siren's pulsating whine injected an eerie feeling over the satisfaction and happiness the day had brought. A new reality dawned that didn't fit this delicate human world. Anything prior to this moment became meaningless, suddenly, in the face of an impending extinction. He was well aware of what the siren meant. Its whine was a call to battle stations. It was a call to a kind of battle that no one had ever fought before. It was a wake-up call that stirred a new world into existence which had been carefully hidden within computer files, strategic models, thick walled steel tubes buried deep within the earth, and in submarines that carried death for the world's great cities.
This 'parallel' world had been intentionally ignored, though everyone knew of it. Few had dared to confront it or even speak of its danger, and those who did were scoffed at and ridiculed. In this fashion the myth of a benign nuclear force lived on like a fairy tale mythology of a mighty motherhood holding back the tide of evil. The reality was different. There was no greater evil in the world than the thing itself.
Sergei could feel it in his gut that the myth had ended. The real face of deterrence was about to appear in all its full ugliness. Nourished for ten-thousand days by armies of tireless workers, supported by the 'blood' of whole nations, the monster was about to unfold and shake the earth, and turn back history to its primordial beginnings when life was scarce on this planet.
Half asleep and half drunken from the day's celebrations, Sergei Arenski hurried from his bedroom as fast as he could, barefoot in his long nightgown, his robe hanging from one shoulder. He struggled to get his arm through the other sleeve as he rushed along the dimly lit corridor to the top of the stairs towards his office. He stopped briefly at the hall, looking down the circular stairway. There was no one coming, except Peter, his secretary. Apparently the guests below had not heard the siren. The music continued uninterrupted. Peter came running up, two stairs for each step, mumbling something Sergei could not make out.
Moments later, in the conference room, the two men looked at each other in silence. There was no need for words. As soon as the computer terminals came ready they would know how serious the situation was. One fact was in both their minds; the siren had never sounded before.
While they waited, the muted sound of the party pervaded the stillness. How happy Natalia had been, Sergei thought. She had danced like a whirlwind, deep into the night. She was everyone's favorite. She had always been loved and respected by everyone. That's just the way she was.
"She's a real ball of fire, that girl!" Sergei's friend Nicolayevitch had exclaimed to him after he had returned from the dance floor with her, wiping sweat from his forehead.
"Oh, is she too much for you, old friend?" Sergei had asked him, grinning and raising his glass for a toast.
All this was history now, a bright shadow of the past.
The wedding party had grown into one of the best of those legendary Russian celebrations. Vodka had flowed from early morning; spirits were high, exploding into vigorous singing, dancing and tall story telling, interspersed with bursts of laughter. "What must it feel like," Sergei thought. "Would one even notice anything at all, being evaporated alive?"
Deep in thought, he stared at the amber message on the computer screen. It told him to be patient. It indicated that the log-on was in progress. Both he and his wife Laara had treasured the moments of the wedding when Natalia's face had radiated great joy. Laara was convinced that Natalia and Gorki were the finest couple on earth, which no mother would likely dispute.
The wedding had been special in another way. While it was a civil wedding, a brief religious ceremony had been conducted in the private domain of his house surrounded by his friends and the local priest whom he knew and loved. The priest had been a friend of the family for a long time. Sergei and the priest more than respected each other in spite of their differing viewpoints, or maybe because of them. In any case, Sergei respected the clergy in a historical sense. Of course he claimed not to be a pious man, himself. He boasted that he had never set foot inside a church in all his life. But there was a Bible in his bookcase, an old copy, leather bound, with a heavily shaped back. The book had been taken down from time to time. Sergei was fascinated with historical things.
When acquaintances talked about religion, he would answer that he had his own religion, a private way of looking at spiritual reality. When asked to explain, he would sometimes talk about the struggles of the Siberian oil workers that he came in contact with when the northern bases were built. He would say: "Surely, if there is a God, he must live in those people up there and others like them, who toil against incredible odds to bring their product to far away markets, serving their fellow man and their country in the best way they are able."
Often he would add, "Out there, is where my church is."
Seldom anyone disagreed with him. His type of religion was one that easily crossed doctrinal boundaries. Its essence was an unbounded respect for his fellow man, which was deeply intertwined with a respect for the country he loved.
The silence in the big conference room was a brooding presence that crept into the mind. The feeling it roused was amplified by the soft background noise that filtered upstairs from the party, muffled by the heavy carpet that covered the floor. He could hear their laughter. It did not fit this world anymore that the guests downstairs were unaware off. Sergei became impatient, staring at the screen. He began to sweat. It seemed ages since the sign on had been started to gain access to the National Security Network. Eventually the logo appeared with a menu of eighteen control options. "Look at the message file," Peter suggested, waiting for his own sign-on to complete. A few keystrokes later a page of messages appeared on the screen.
"Damn! Damn!" Peter exclaimed. He slammed his fist on the table. He had never done this in Sergei's presence. Moments later his own sign-on had completed. He rushed to his terminal. Within seconds a long stream of Russian profanity flowed from his lips.
"Display the message file," he said to Sergei again.
"Actually, it isn't that bad," Sergei replied. "We should be thankful it wasn't a global attack."
"But can we be sure that it won't get to that," Peter cautioned him. "You don't know if our launch wasn't an automatic response to an incoming missile. In fact we don't know anything. There are no details logged! Is everyone asleep?"
"You're right, the launch reason should have been updated into the message file," said Sergei, a great deal calmer now. "The system is designed to journal these things, including the reason for any action taken. It might be just an exercise, Peter."
"What about the Strategic Committee, could these idiots start a war on their own?"
Sergei shook his head. "Theoretically yes, but not in practice. And if they had, a message to that effect should have been logged in the system. That's just the problem, Pete, nothing's been entered. All there is, is this single entry from North Point radar, reporting a launch from Freedom One, that's Lenin Base. There should have been lots of messages: Who authorized it? Why it was ordered? Who was in command of the launch? And, damn it, why was only one missile sent? For heavens sakes, why hasn't Lenin Base responded with a launch confirmation or denial? Even if something went wrong, there should have been an explanation of what has happened?"
From the political and romantic fiction novel by Rolf A. F. Witzsche
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