“Mr. Paulson,” the general shouted through the door. “They’ve breached our defenses.”
“Impossible,” Paulson said, immersed in a poker game with his peers. “Our weapons are far more powerful than anyone else’s.”
General Cromwell stood less tall than before. He had been Paulson’s personal bodyguard for years and when the Great Conflict began, Paulson saw him as the natural heir to the military might possessed by his father’s compatriots. When Paulson ordered their executions, Cromwell became the leader of a private army, commanding missiles, aircraft, ships, tanks and troops by the thousands. This army would be merged with remnants of the Chinese army who swore fealty to Chang, and with Keisha’s warriors, who needed a stronger voice to contain the factions which had developed. Semanov’s attitude was that as long as Paulson was running the military side of things, he could tend to the necessities of civilized society: he provided the infrastructure and fuel for this new world.
Cromwell took in what he saw as a now putrid scene; four ordinary people, no different from anyone else in terms of their basic genetic structure, who somehow believed the world was theirs to command because they held all the money. “Mr. Paulson, with respect, sir. You may hold the codes to the most powerful weapons systems on earth, but you failed to account for one thing over these years.”
Paulson sneered at Cromwell. It was clear the general was little more than a henchman. “And what is that, General?”
“Weapons are made by the hand of man,” the general stated. “Which means they break down and must be maintained. You allowed these weapons to gather dust and now they’re malfunctioning. The warheads don’t respond to commands from our systems. The missile’s fuel is stale and not igniting. We have the edge, on paper. However, our advantage in reality is that our weapons are merely blunt objects to lob at our enemies. They cannot ignite, or explode, or react, or vaporize. They are, for all intents and purposes, fancy paperweights.”
“Nonsense,” Paulson laughed it off. “It’s just a matter of knocking the rust off, that’s all!”
Cromwell couldn’t believe his ears. Was Paulson really that obtuse? “You don’t under…”
Then a shot range out, and a blood dripped from a hole in Cromwell’s forehead. He dropped to the floor, dead. Paulson turned around, and saw smoke pouring from Semanov’s revolver. In his thick Russian accent, he grunted. “He always talked too much. He forgets, we have guns, and guns don’t get rusty if you use them. Mr. Paulson, why don’t you arm our troops and just tell them to mow down the opponents like the wild dogs they are.”
Chang took a sip of his cognac, then shook his head in disagreement. “You Russians are all alike. Kill them, kill them, kill them. Misdirection and illusion is what is needed, not a giant show of brute force. Why not just fly the Tsar Cannon in from Moscow and load it full of plutonium? Maybe that will solve all our problems, eh?”
Semanov went back to looking at his cards. Keisha then walked in, her male concubine in tow. “Gentlemen, there is a large number of protesters on edge of our town. I think we should eliminate them and show the world how powerful we really are.”
“We did that once before,” Paulson offered. “Remember, when we held that press conference ten years ago announcing our group were the ones really in control. You remember how well that went over.”
“This is silly,” Semanov said. “We have nuclear weapons which can destroy this planet a hundred times over. Why not just vaporize them?”
“Of course you would say that,” Chang smirked. “Cromwell, for all his flaws as a general, was correct and, had you listened rather than simply gunning him down, you would remember what your Soviet-era reports told you about maintenance on those devices. The wiring, the casings, the cores, they all need to be maintained.”
“They we simply find scientists out there and bribe them with our gold, “Semanov smiled.
“Sickening,” Keisha said. “You think that gold is all that mankind wants. I remember when we once wanted to do good in the…”
Another shot. Again, blood dripped from Keisha’s forehead, but it was not Semanov’s pistol which struck the fatal blow. Instead, Chang’s pistol fired the shot. Keisha fell back to the ground, eyes rolled back into her head. Whatever headache she suffered was quickly relieved by the stopping of her heart. Death would come several seconds later.
“You had to kill her?” Paulson groaned. “What happened to our solidarity?”
“Solidarity,” Chang laughed. “Is the province of boys and fools. Keisha was a liability. She saw goodness in the people where there was only savagery. She wished not to be a god, but a savior. Her mandate was nullified.”
Keisha’s concubine, Breun, didn’t fare much better. Second later, the shocked man was felled by both Semanov and Chang, two shots to the chest. The first punctured his lung, the second severed his aorta. It took several minutes for the gurgling and wheezing to stop, then Semanov stood, walked over the still convulsing body and, grabbing an ancient battle axe, took a swing into the man’s head, splitting it open like a watermelon. Smugly, Semanov spit on the brains oozing from the gaping hole, then went back to his poker game.
“Damned fools,” he grunted. “Now, I see you and raise you three..”
Semonov moved a three stacks of platinum coins to the center. Chang, ever the slick politician, motioned the servants to dispose the bodies and clean up the mess. Paulson, no stranger to death and murder, simply went along with it. Suddenly, another soldier appeared. This one he did not recognize. The female appeared to be Japanese, and spoke choppy English in a thick accent.”
“Mr. Chang,” she stuttered. “The troops are being over run by the protesters.”
Sighing, Chang picked up a phone and began speaking to one of the other commanders. “This is Chang. Kill them all.”