by Kevin Kulesza

Captain Frank Carter was devastated. He was leaving his little house in Pasadena, in the middle of his daughter’s sixth birthday party, for what could very well be the last time. At Fourteen-hundred hours, he received a phone call from Joe Wilson, an old friend since before either enlisted, telling him that he had received orders to report to Atlantis Base immediately, under some directive from Congress. Carter feigned being disgruntled and disappointed by the news, but that was only a brave face put on for the sake of his wife Martha, and his two kids, fifteen year old Sam and six year old Lily. Inside, however, he was terrified. He knew that there was only one order from Congress that would require him at Atlantis Base so quickly.

For the past year he was involved with a top secret project known only by the codename Atlantis, a super weapon built in 1956 by American scientists in the hopes that, in the event of war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., they would destroy their opponent slightly more than they themselves were destroyed. The Atlantis was a long-range ICBM; it was designed with the same stealth technology being applied to jet fighters, making early warning systems ineffectual, and was given cutting edge Artificial Intelligence, far ahead of its time. One Atlantis missile had the explosive capacity of millions of nuclear bombs, and it would penetrate deeper into the Earth before it exploded. The result would create massive earthquakes, destroy cities, and, in some cases, sink the entire country into the ocean. The destructive power of Project Atlantis was so great, that the government swore not to use it. That is, until the Soviets got one. The missile was reassembled, armed, and aimed directly at Moscow in less than twenty four hours.

Upon arrival at the base Carter was greeted by Joe Wilson and a few others who were speaking almost exclusively in small talk, no one willing mention the task at hand.

“How are the wife and kids, Frank?”

“Doing well, thanks for asking, Joe. Lily turned six today. How’s Jenny?”

“Jenny left me for some lawyer in New York,” responded Joe, concealing the pain in his voice.

Before long, the men were called to attention as General Arkwright, the commanding officer in charge of the project, came to the front of the room. He ordered the men at ease.

“Men, many of you probably know why we are here. Congress has thus far failed to negotiate a mutual disarmament settlement with Moscow. They feel that preemptive attack is our best chance of survival. We have been ordered to launch the Atlantis. The coordinates are set; all that is left to do is hit the Activation button. One of you, who has been randomly selected, is going to do this.”

He read a name off of a little peace of paper in his hand.

“Captain Franklin Carter.”

Carter was appalled at the task that lay before him. He wanted to fight the Commies; he had to follow orders. But then he thought that the Soviets were likely giving the same order to one of their own.

“I won’t be as bad as the Communists, sir. I won’t commit genocide.

The General was livid.

“Carter, you were given a direct order. You will obey it, or I will have you court marshaled.”

“General Arkwright, if you were given an order to end the world, how would you respond?”

The General was silent for a long moment, but then relented. He ordered three other soldiers to do the same, but all refused. Finally, a voice rose from the crowd.

“I’ll do it, General.”

It was Joe Wilson who had agreed to the task. He approached the console where the controls to the Atlantis were, sighed audibly, and pushed the button. The base rocked with the force of the missile launching. When it was over, Wilson spoke up again.

“General, I would like to request a favor.”

“What is it, son?”

“Don’t let my name be recorded. I don’t want to be tied to this thing. I don’t want to be remembered as a murderer.”

Those were Joe Wilson’s last words, before he drew his sidearm, put it to his right temple, and squeezed the trigger, content to let the man who killed humanity be the first to die. With the exception of some scientists and technicians to monitor the missile’s progress, General Arkwright dismissed the troops. Captain Carter drove immediately home, gathered his wife and children into the living room, and held them close.

“I love all of you,” he said before regaining his composure. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there today, Lily. How was the party….”

“I don’t understand, this wasn’t supposed to happen.”

“I don’t care what was supposed to happen, tell me what did happen.”

The scientist explained as best he could, despite being nearly as baffled as General Arkwright. “The missile’s programming had the protection of American citizens as a prime directive. It did some in-flight calculations, and computed that the U.S. had a ninety-seven point three percent chance of being destroyed if it hit Moscow, so it changed its trajectory, colliding with the Soviet missile.”

The General was perplexed, but quickly regained his composure.

“Shut the project down. Burn the documents, shred the files, and everyone gets sworn to secrecy. As far as the world need be concerned, Project Atlantis never happened.”