Tom with kids in Kuwait

Tom with kids in Kuwait
Tom with kids in Kuwait

Friday, April 29, 2011

Eye of the Beholder - a screenplay about duty

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER





INT.  NEWS DESK WITH BACKGROUND RUNNING FILE FOOTAGE OF BALLISTIC MISSILE PARADES (of Soviet Style tactical Nuclear weapons).  Network news theme playing to signal the start of the evening news broadcast.

News Anchors are TOM MICHAELS and SUSAN TRULY seated at the news desk.

TOM 

Good Evening, our top, and really our only story tonight is the world on the brink of nuclear destruction.  Despite the ongoing trend of the United States and the former Soviet Republics to destroy their nuclear arsenals, North Korea and Iran have moved entirely in the opposite direction.

SUSAN 

And they have done this much more rapidly than anyone in our government projected.  For an update on the threat, we go now to the White House pressroom for a statement from the National Security Advisor, William Pace.

SWITCH TO WHITE HOUSE PRESS ROOM.  There is a man in a suit looking off the platform for the arrival of Mr. Pace.

SPEAKER AT THE PRESSROOM LECTERN:

Ladies and Gentlemen, National Security Advisor William Pace.






PACE

 I have a brief statement and unfortunately will not be able to follow up with questions for reasons of national security.  Yesterday evening, the governments of South Korea, Japan, and the United States received an ultimatum from the government of North Korea demanding the unconditional surrender of South Korea and Japan within 72 hours.  Their demand also includes no opposition to occupying forces that will enter those countries at the end of this period.  Their stated intentions are to fire all of their nuclear missiles at targets in Japan and the United States if their terms are not met.  This ultimatum can be interpreted only as a declaration of war on the sovereignty of each of these countries.

I cannot reveal everything we know about the numbers and locations of North Korean missiles as this would give our adversary intelligence that he may not yet have, but I can tell you that we have confirmed that he has the ability to range most strategic locations in the United States. 

Many years ago, this country and the Soviet Union had thousands of missiles pointed at targets on each other’s soil.  We survived this period with a policy of mutually assured destruction.  The viability of this strange arrangement was that though our political systems were decidedly different, both the United States and the Soviet Union knew that a nuclear launch by either side would set off a series of launches that would devastate both sides, and ultimately the entire world.  Today, we are uncertain as to the political leadership of North Korea.  We have never dealt with a nuclear power that has demonstrated suicidal tendencies.  I can assure you that we will do everything possible to defuse this crisis, mitigate its effects, and use whatever force is necessary to destroy our enemy should he fail to listen to reason.  We must however prepare for the worst, and less than an hour ago, the President directed the 100% call up of all Guard and Reserve units, and effective immediately, an orderly transition to martial law is underway.  Each of your state governments has already been contacted by this office, as well as the mayors of our major metropolitan areas.  I ask all Americans to remain calm and pray for sanity to return to this world.  We will make more information available by all electronic media on an as available basis.  God be with you all.

PACE DEPARTS THE LECTURN and there is a stunned silence.





SWITCH BACK TO NEW DESK.

Tom (very somber):

  Susan, this is surely a day that I never believed would come.  What provisions should people be making at this point?

SUSAN 

As you know, the practice of building fallout shelters became almost nonexistent almost 30 years ago.  The best most of us can do at this point is to store several containers of water, stay indoors, and unplug all non-essential electronic devices.

TOM 

To protect them from the EMP?

SUSAN 

Yes, among the other devastating effects of a nuclear explosion is the electro-magnetic pulse which…

SWITCH TO OUTER LIMITS THEME.


Prologue


NARRATED:

For half a century mankind has possessed the ability to destroy itself and lay waste to our entire planet.  Operating on a model of mutually assured destruction, we have been content not to challenge the model and assert our attempts at worldly dominance through lesser forms of warfare, economics, and diplomacy.  Have we simply been na├»ve in assuming that newcomers to the nuclear family would also abide by its laws of deterrence?
 







INT.  A CONFERENCE ROOM WITH SEVERAL MILITARY OFFICERS AND SOME CIVILIAN OFFICIALS.  In the room are MACKEY (4 STARS), MAJOR GENERAL SOO (2 STARS), LTCOL JOHN HART (carrying large notebook computer case), and MR. PACE (Coat & tie—loosened).  Another 2 star general and others in the background that have no speaking parts.  The group has been watching the news broadcast.

General (4 stars) Mackey:

Turn that down.

General (2 stars) Kim Il Soo:

General, we can’t risk the software update for our ballistic missiles until this is resolved.

MACKEY: 

Agreed.  Even if we could do it incrementally, I don’t want the additional confounding factors.  I’ve been involved with our nuclear missile defenses for my entire career, but never thought that I would actually have to use them.  Don’t they understand they are only valuable as a deterrent against another nuclear power?

SOO: 

I’m certain they understand.  That doesn’t mean they won’t follow through with their threat.

MACKEY: 

Lieutenant Colonel Hart, you had best head west.  I want some physical separation of you and General Soo from the rest of us.  Remember; do not run that update program without personal orders from me.  It will leave us vulnerable for 40 minutes that I can’t afford.

HART 

Forty-eight minutes General.

MACKEY: 

Very well, 48 minutes.  Understand that I will live with the faults of the old system before I lose our ability to retaliate.  Move out.


HART 

Yes sir.

HART EXITS.

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR BILL MARTIN (to Mackey)

            General, could this ultimatum be tied to this system update?

MACKEY: 

You mean, do I have a leak?

MARTIN 

I don’t believe in coincidence.

MACKEY: 

General Soo, you had better get going as well.  I don’t have the assets to put you on a separate flight.

SOO: 

Just a moment first, please.  General, I am third generation American, committed to the defense of my homeland, and will launch missiles if that is my duty, but I will understand if you want me to recuse myself from the chain of command.

MACKEY:

 General, I do not doubt you.  Most of our ancestors came from somewhere else.  Is that why you brought your deputy?

SOO:

            It is.  I will do my duty, but if you are not comfortabl….

MACKEY: 

I have no intention of relieving you, recusing you, excusing you or doing anything else to you other than giving you a boot out the door so you make your flight.


SOO (departing):

 Yes sir.

MARTIN

 I didn’t want to imply that…

MACKEY: 

You didn’t.  He’s familiar enough with our wartime history to know what we’ve done to ethnic groups when faced with similar circumstances.  He just has enough Asian culture in him to make an unpleasant decision easier, if I needed to make it.

MARTIN 

China’s still a wildcard.  They say they won’t intervene directly, but have warned us about the effects of weapons crossing their borders.

MACKEY: 

They have to know some fallout is unavoidable.

MARTIN 

Their forces are all on alert, but they told the President that they would discuss the matter with the North Koreans.

MACKEY:

            Bill, you’re the politician.  What does discuss mean?

MARTIN

 It means they won’t commit to helping us defuse the situation, but will make a public gesture of goodwill.

MACKEY: 

And if preemptory strikes by us go astray, the Chinese have tenfold the Korean arsenal that can reach us.




MARTIN 

I’m just the messenger on this, but the White House did some early polling on this dilemma and most of the country said let them have South Korea and Japan.

MACKEY: 

And the President’s considering this?

MARTIN 

He’ll consider all options.

MACKEY: 

I know he never served a day in uniform, but doesn’t he know what happened when the world tried to appease Hitler.

MARTIN 

He’s well advised and won’t make this decision lightly.

MACKEY:

 There are a hundred thousand Americans in uniform in the Pacific theater.  What happens to them?

MARTIN 

He knows. He knows.  We’ve looked at every possible scenario we can think of.  Hitler, Vietnam, every time we or an ally have practiced brinkmanship, and thousands of hypothetical situations run through simulation in a second.  That only to go back and run them again, changing one, then two, then three variables.  He knows.  Believe me, he knows.


INT.  GENERAL SOO AND LTCOL HART IN THE BACKSEAT OF A SEDAN MOVING THROUGH WASHINGTON TRAFFIC.

HART

             I’m surprised that there’s not mass chaos in the streets.



SOO:

 There’s plenty of chaos.  Most of Fort Meyers is keeping key ground arteries open in the capitol.  National Guard units from Maryland and Virginia will augment later.  You had something else on your mind?

HART 

No sir.

SOO:

You’re quite the diplomat on top of holding one of the most volatile pieces of hardware in the country—probably in the world.

HART 

Diplomat?

SOO: 

Yes, I offered to step aside.  Mackey declined.

HART

 I don’t know what to say.  It’s great he backed you, but it’s terrible you even felt like you should ask or he would ask you.

SOO: 

He wouldn’t.  I’ve known him too long.  But if he had been directed to, I wanted to let him do it with honor.

HART 

They don’t teach that sort of loyalty at the academy.

SOO:

            Driver, this exit.

HART 

This goes to National not Andrews.

SOO: 

One of the benefits of national emergency is that we can put into service part of the civilian air fleet.  We’ll save at least an hour…and hours are becoming more and more precious.

CAR EXITS INTO CRYSTAL CITY.


INT.  BEIJING, CHINA
STRATEGIC MISSILE HEADQUARTERS.  WIN AND LTCOL LEE SIT IN AN ELEVATED PLATFORM ABOVE A WORK AREA WITH COMPUTER CONSOLES.  THE AREA BELOW HAS BIG SCREENS AND WORLD MAPS.

GENERAL WIN:

            Are all systems tied linked for simultaneous launch?

LTCOL LEE:

Yes, General.  From your order, most of the missiles will impact U.S. soil 45 minutes later.  145 targets pre-selected.  24 additional targets selectable enroute, and 31 pre-programmed for self destruct with 20 seconds of your command.  General, you do understand that the 31 must be destroyed as a group or not at all.

WIN: 

More than enough time.  I understand the constraints of the 31 warheads.  That is acceptable.

LEE 

General, despite my ability to launch all of our missiles at once, the U.S. satellites will detect all the launches from here and from Korea within one or two minutes.  They are ready to retaliate and the decision time will be almost instantaneous.

WIN: 

Do you doubt the sanity of your senior?

LEE 

No General.  Only of the outcome of such a massive strike.

WIN: 

You are wise and your honesty in your reply denotes courage colonel.  You know the ways and thoughts of the west--Mutually Assured Destruction.  MAD—the American affinity for special meaning in its acronyms is especially humorous.  Nonetheless, it is a valid concept regardless of its origin.  It is, of course, based on the premise that both parties can respond in kind. 


INT.  BASEMENT PARKING LOT IN CRYSTAL CITY.  SEDAN STOPS AT AN UNREMARKABLE ENTRYWAY.  PLAIN CLOTHESMEN COME TO ATTENTION AND OPEN THE DOOR.

HART

            Strange boarding area.

SOO: 

The White House isn’t the only place you can get a secret passage.  We had the budget for a couple of our own.  A mundane task I hope you live to avoid—the budget process, now there’s a battlefield.  In any case, we need to keep a low profile and this was the best available.  The coffee is better on these, I can assure you.

HART

I thought everything around here was sold to commercial interests?

SOO

Technically, it was.  You might say there are some commercial interests that your government doesn’t tell the world about. 











INT.  THE WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ROOM.  PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY is flanked by MS. PHILLIPS, MR. MARTIN, MR. PACE, AND GENERAL MACKEY.

PACE 

Mr. President, we have no real ballistic missile defense.  Our entire defense has always rested on the other side knowing that a launch by them ended their existence as well.  We have a handful of antiballistic missiles, but we’re still years away from fielding anything of the magnitude required to repel a full-scale assault. 

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

This is the same ballistic defense we geared down 4 years ago?

PACE

Yes sir, however, our protective posture would be no better off had we continued fielding on schedule.  The reason we stopped the fielding was because both the Korean and Chinese improved intercontinental missiles were too fast for our intercept missiles.  Our intercept rate was less than 15% in simulation.  The only way we could make our slower missiles work was to equip them with nuclear warheads…and that sort of defeats the purpose of the intercept missile in the first place.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY:

 Casualty estimates, Ms. Phillips.

MS PHILLIPS:

 Immediate friendly casualties, 80 to 120 million if 70% of the known warheads hit population centers.  Another 100 million in the next few weeks due to fallout….regardless of where they hit.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY: 

And other casualties?

MS PHILLIPS: 

If we retaliate in kind, the entire Korean Peninsula will be barren.  Extensive fallout will likely kill 20 to 40 million in China and Russia…at least those are their least populated regions.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY:

 Bill, Probable responses.

MARTIN 

Mr. President, the Chinese appear to be on full alert and we should expect at least some retaliation--some nuclear retaliation.  The Russians appear to be monitoring and we believe they will not retaliate directly, but will expect extensive reparations for any fallout.  That’s of course, based on the assumption that there are no impacts on Russian soil.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY: 

And?

MARTIN 

Sir the Iranians still appear to be a wildcard.  Our best estimate is they will sit this out and see if they can gain strength by avoiding casualties.  If we give in to the Korean demands…

MACKEY: 

North Korean demands.

MARTIN 

North Korean demands, then we can expect similar nuclear blackmail from the Iranians.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY: 

General, what are our chances of a pre-emptive first strike.

MACKEY: 

We have sufficient submarine based missiles in the AO to target all sites with a probable destruction or neutralization of 60% of the North Korean Launch capability.  With special ops forces, we could push 70% destruction.  The trouble with special ops is that if one team is detected, we may push the North Koreans to initiate launch at that point.


PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY:

            Can we go with a non-nuclear pre-emptive strike?

MACKEY: 

Not with a neutralization rate of more than 50%.  Too many of their sites are hardened.  And there is another factor.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY: 

Yes?

MARTIN 

Sir, we believe that the Chinese may have augmented the detection capability of the North Koreans.  They could detect even the close in launches and still have time to launch most of their warheads before our pre-emptive missiles could reach their targets.  Our best estimates tell us that the Koreans are sitting on a hair trigger for a nuclear launch.  They really didn’t have much choice once they issued a deadline with their ultimatum.

MACKEY: 

Sir, What did the Russians say about launching a pre-emptive strike?




PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY: 

I believe that Mr. Letzin’s advisors gave it a real consideration.  They, much like ourselves, had relegated nuclear warfare to counts of warheads maintained without real consideration of actually launching them.  He was direct and I believe as honest as one statesman can be with another.  They will not draw first blood for a nuclear holocaust.  His estimates of success were considerably less than your own general, even if they had agreed to launch them.

MACKEY: 

That puts us right back to Mutually Assured Destruction with one side not playing by the rules.



PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

Bill, what’s your best estimate if we accede to their demands and fight conventionally to at least hold mainland Japan while we evacuate our Korean based forces.

PACE

Sir, the North Korean ultimatum was clear that if we did anything short of complete surrender of these areas, they would launch their missiles.  Their position is so extreme that I don’t think we can appease them short of exactly what they asked for….demanded.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

Thanks Bill.  I’m not used to the terminology of blackmail either.  I do know that I have been given a demand that I cannot possibly give in to—even if I was disposed to do so.  I have no sovereign authority to speak for Japan or South Korea.  The United States may be the backbone of the Pacific Rim defense, but these are not territories of an empire—they are not mine to give in trade.

PACE

They may not be yours to give, but the Canadian and Mexican governments are insisting that you do just that.  Both heads of state are insisting on speaking with you.


PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

The effects of this will go well beyond our neighbor’s borders.  Our atmosphere and water have no borders. 

PACE

Well, Castro supports you.  He says he can empathize with anyone being blackmailed by another with the power to destroy them.  The ECC is insisting that you give in…






PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY
(Cutting off Pace)

Enough!  I’ll make amends with each of them if we live through this, but not now.  Have State reply to all that insist I give in by asking what part of their country will they give up in trade for those they want me to sacrifice--for those lands that aren’t mine to give.

PACE

Mr. President.  Are you serious?

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY


 Yes.  If they want on the battlefield of appeasement, ask them what they’re willing to give! 

PACE

Yes sir.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

Father Edwards, how’s your eschatology?

FATHER RAY EDWARDS:

Mr. President, if you’re asking me if this is the end of the world, I can’t tell you.  The general signs of the times are here, but this is not how most Biblical scholars believe the end of the age will begin.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY: 

Then I insist on believing there is a solution to this problem that does not involve the death of millions and I’m asking all of you to find it.  Bring in whomever you need.  If you need them, they have clearance and access.  Don’t be timid and don’t get wrapped up in the bureaucracy.  Find me a solution.  Ray, we need all the help we can get.  Please lead us in prayer before we adjourn.

EDWARDS:

Yes sir.  Heavenly Father, we humbly seek your divine…..


INT.  GENERAL SOO AND LTCOL HART EXITING WHAT APPEARS TO BE A SINGLE CAR ON A SUBWAY.  THEY ARE THE ONLY PASSENGERS.  VIEW IS ONLY FROM THE INSIDE.  THEY WALK A VERY SHORT DISTANCE AND GO UP AN ENCLOSED RAMP.

HART 

This is cloak and dagger.  No windows or anything.  This is as bad as being in a missile silo.

SOO: 

Well don’t get your hopes up, the window covers are locked down for the flight…as if that would help much if…

HART 

Right.

SOO

There is a nose camera in case you think this will be your last look at the monuments.

HART

            A last visit to my family is more along my line.

SOO

            You know we can’t….

HART

 I know General.  Marilyn and the girls knew from the look in my face that we might not see each other again.  She headed for her mother’s not knowing what would unfold over the next few hours, only that I wouldn’t be home until it was over.

BOTH ENTER THE PLANE AND ARE BUCKLED INTO THEIR SEATS AND THE NOSE CAMERA COMES ON.  The screen soon reveals pavement moving slowly under the aircraft.  SERGEANT CANTON checks that both belts are buckled and then seats himself to their rear.  The seats are similar to first class seating with a telephone between the armrests.



SOO (pointing to Canton with a head nod): 

He’s OK.  He has a quarter pound stick of C-4 in the overhead bin and detonators in the pouch on his belt.

HART 

All the makings of a hijacking.

SOO:

 He doesn’t know what you have in that case, but he has orders to destroy it if anyone storms the plane.  Your hardware may be shielded from the EMP, but Sergeant Canton will turn it into a thousand slivers of metal and silicon before he lets it out of our control.   Count on him getting some shuteye once we’re airborne.  He won’t get relieved for 24 hours.

HART

I thought it was SOP for the Marines to get those assignments?

SOO:

They were stuck at Andrews.  Sergeant Canton’s been well trained for this assignment.




PILOT’S VOICE

  General, we have been cleared for the next takeoff.  Please remain seated until we level off.

THE CAMERA SHOWS THE RUNWAY MOVING VERY QUICKLY UNDERNEATH THE PLANE UNTIL IT IS JUST A BLUR, THEN ANGLES UP AS THE PLANE APPEARS TO TAKE OFF.  The camera shows the Potomac River, then banks right over the Capitol area and the monuments.  The view is quickly obscured by clouds.  The cabin angles in accordance with the nose camera.






HART 

That was a smooth take-off.

SOO

 Enjoy any smooth ride you can get.  I’m certain it’s bugging the hell out of the pilot.  I’ll bet they nailed some fighter jock with this hop and told him to be gentle with his cargo. 

SEATBELT SIGN GOES OFF AND ACCOMPANIED BY A BELL.

SOO

 They must have told him not to keep the old guy buckled up too much too.  I’m going to let the segeant start his rack time.  One sugar in your coffee?

HART 

I can get it…

SOO: 

I insist.  You can tell Marilyn and the kids that you had a general as a flight attendant when you get home.

SOO GETS UP AND GOES TO THE BACK OF THE PLANE, removes the coffee pot and pours a cup of coffee and a cup of hot tea.  Hart is watching the viewing screen shows mostly cloud cover.  General Soo adds sugar and something else to the coffee, and then returns to his seat.

HART 

Now that’s service.

SOO

 So I did indulge my rank a little and told them to have the coffee and tea ready before take off.  I hope I didn’t compromise national security….

A PHONE RINGS IN THE ARMREST BETWEEN HART AND SOO.  SOO PICKS UP THE RECEIVER.



SOO

 General Soo.     (A short pause)…   Understood sir.  Soo out.

SOO HANGS UP THE PHONE.  HART GIVES AN INQUIRING LOOK.

SOO

We’re at DEFCON IV.  I didn’t get details.



INT.  BEIJING, CHINA
STRATEGIC MISSILE HEADQUARTERS.  FOCUS ON SMALL AREA ASSIGNED TO WIN AND LEE.

LEE 

Doesn’t it seem strange to block out the Western News broadcasts from here.  I can see restricting them to the general public, but wouldn’t you think we should get that extra source of intel?

WIN

 Lee you will most certainly make general.  The West has long delivered more intelligence to us through their media, than their media ever gave us credit for obtaining through espionage.  We think that the U.S. may have finally learned a lesson or two and will use the news networks to convincingly employ some sort of deception.  I am comfortable with our intelligence reports.  Are you having doubts?

LEE 

No General.  Just curious.

WIN

Good.  An idle mind would never have been assigned such responsibility as you have.  Now let’s turn our thoughts to our mission.  What can go wrong?





LEE 

Communications are good.  We have multiple redundancies in the network.  Encryption confidence is high.  Even if somebody could get through our safeguard layers, they couldn’t decipher whatever they tapped into before we could isolate that part of the network. Our status screen shows all systems are ready to receive launch commands from this location.  We will get a bright red visual and acoustic alarm if more than three stations go down for any reason.  We have had only two down at one time since the network has been up.  Outside of a pre-emptive strike, which we do not believe to be likely and would at best degrade us by 40%, the only failure scenario would be a reset of the time of the network.

WIN:

            Explain again how this could hinder launch.

LEE 

It’s a very improbable scenario, but because we used western technology in our network, we had to use an encapsulation remediation solution to solve the Y2K problems in the existing systems.

WIN: 

You’re losing favor colonel.  Again in warrior’s terms.

LEE

  Of course, general.  The firing systems of all of the missiles are fine, but the control network is made up of computers that could not roll over to the year 2000.  We set all of the computers back to 1980 so we would have almost 20 more years to replace the old systems.  If someone were to enter a date in late 1999 or beyond 2000, the system would lock up.  Each system would have to be unlocked individually, and that could take half an hour or days depending upon the engineers available at each site.  It’s really not a problem, general; the time cannot be entered locally at the missile sites unless we release control from here.  It can only be entered from this console.

WIN

How did you discover this?

LEE 

When the general told me that the system must be 100% foolproof, I ran everything I could think of through a fault tree---to see what would fail the system.  This was the only vulnerability.  There were other scenarios where one or two missile silos might not launch on time, but this was the only case where our retaliatory response would fail. 

WIN: 

You have done well colonel.  Your diligence will be rewarded.

LEE

 As long as only you and I have access to this console, no one else can change the time.  We will be ready to defend our soil with every missile we have.



INT.  SOO AND LTCOL HART SEATED AND APPARENTLY AIRBORNE.  LtCol Hart starting to nod off.  The video monitor at the front of the plane shows an airplane icon over an outline of the U.S.  The icon is over Kansas.

SOO: 

Colonel, before you start sawing logs, would you mind seeing if there’s any more tea.  I don’t want to wake the airman.

HART 

Sorry sir, I didn’t mean to nod off.

LTCOL HART RISES FROM HIS SEAT AND GOES TO THE REAR OF THE PLANE.

SOO:  

No problem.  I know about catching sleep where you can.









LTCOL HART WALKS BY THE AIRMAN AND THE AIRMAN OPENS ONE EYE AND LOOKS AT THE GENERAL WHO NODS.  Lee doesn’t see any of this.  Both the airman and the general tighten their seatbelts.  The airman pulls something from his pouch and clutches it in his hand.  LtCol Hart rubs his eyes as he pours the tea and then starts forward in the plane.  A bright flash permeates the closed windows, the coffee area sparks and smokes, and the plane takes an abrupt lurch forward throwing Hart hard to the deck.  The airman jumps on his back and sticks a syringe into his side before the lights go out and the cabin fills with smoke and the noise of a plane in a dive.





INT.  PRESIDENT’S CONFERENCE ROOM

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY:

            How much longer?

MARTIN

 20 hours to the deadline.  8 hours to the scheduled departure of the Chinese delegation. 

MACKEY: 

            How much buffer do we have to give the delegation?

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY: 

They won’t call us until they are back in Beijing, and even then I’m not so sure about their sense of urgency.  Count on less than 8 hours. 

MACKEY:

 I’m setting H-Hour at Deadline minus 6 hours.  We can adjust later or abort on your order, but the executing forces need to adjust their shifts to have their best people rested and ready to execute.  I only hope we are not so sleep deprived that we can’t think logically.





PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY: 

General.  Are you confident that we can control all of our missiles centrally?  This could go down to the last minute and I don’t want a loose cannon starting his own world war.

MACKEY: 

Yes sir.  We have set up a remote terminal in the oval office, there’s one in my office, and we have one remote terminal that I sent to Denver.  Any of those can initiate an immediate launch, stand down, or update the system software.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY: 

Update the software?

MACKEY: 

Yes sir.  That will be postponed until sometime in the future. That is, if we still have missiles in the silos and subs to control.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY: 

Is the remote terminal secure?

MACKEY: 

Yes sir.  I have two of my best officers with it, and a team of four Marines equipped with C-4 and orders to destroy it they are threatened in any way.  We have reinforced security here and at the location in my office with an infantry battalion surrounding each building. 

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

 If we initiate the launch from here, can it be stopped by one of the other locations?

MACKEY

Not unless we are cutoff.  Then one of the other sites can logon and reissue commands.  If we issue the launch codes and are knocked out here, the missiles will still launch.  I gave orders that the other terminal would not be used without my personal orders.  I can lock out the other terminals if you want.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

 No.  I won’t second-guess you and would not put the curse of this decision on another.  I’m sure the risks of redundancy have been well weighed against the risks of compromise.   What if all three units are knocked out?


            MACKEY

If we had any sites left, they could reprogram their systems in about 2 hours.  They’ll try to contact what’s left of the National Command Authority…if there’s anyone to talk to.


PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

Two hours.  That long?

MACKEY

Sir, if the North Koreans fire their missiles, you’ll have to make your decision in minutes. 



PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

 I know.  God help me, I know. 

MACKEY (somber and apologetic)

Sir, our systems are holding at between 94 and 97% readiness.  We can deliver on our promise of assured destruction.  And sir, if I’ve been unduly critical of your decision making process, I am truly sorry.  For a lifetime of posturing a hard line of strategic defense, I never believed we would face this.  I do not envy you your decisions. 

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY (starting to pace)

General, for all of the analysis I’ve heard, all of the simulations we’ve run, and all of the technology at my disposal; do you know what I’ve been running through my mind? 



MACKEY

No sir.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

Dr. Strangelove and War Games.  Did you see those movies?

MACKEY

Yes sir.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

Half a billion dollars worth of computer systems designed to assist in my decision-making, and I can’t get these movies out of my head.

MACKEY

That’s understandable, sir.  In one of them a loose cannon kicks off the end of the world and in the other, we’ve relinquished the decision making process to a computer.  You might say that we’ve come to our present posture somewhere in-between those two extremes.  You have central control, but you, not a machine will decide if we launch or not. They’re not so removed from reality. 

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

It’s that reality that I’m having trouble with, it’s this one.  General, would a sane warrior initiate a battle that he knew would destroy his homeland?  Do the North Korean’s really believe they can survive our retaliation?  Do they think I won’t respond?

MACKEY

No.  A sane man would not start such a war.  NSA has verified that all of our satellites are operational.  The Koreans gained some advantage by coming late to the nuclear family—they have much faster delivery missiles, but they do know that we will have ample time to detect their attack and launch our own before their missiles hit a single target.  They have no antiballistic defense.  They know we will destroy them if they attack. 



PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY

General, I pray frequently.  I don’t know if you consider that weakness in your commander in chief or not, but I find it necessary.  But now—now,  I don’t know whether to pray for sanity to return to our adversaries, for special understanding of how they view reality, or just for the strength for give the order that will surely destroy life as we know it.  Your earlier point is on target as well.  (NOW SPEAKING TO EVERYONE IN THE ROOM)   All of you see if you can get an hour’s sleep somewhere.  You deserve a moment of piece and of prayer. 




INT.  UNDERGROUND ROOM WITH HOSPITAL BED.  HOSPITAL BED ROOM HAS A WINDOW THAT LOOKS INTO A MAKESHIFT OPERATIONS CENTER WITH SOME COMPUTER TERMINALS.  LtCol Hart is in the bed with IV’s hooked up to his left arm.  A female nurse is checking the IV bags.  The nurse’s name is Lieutenant Calhoun as evidenced by her nametag, but she is obviously of Asian decent.


NURSE (LT. NANCY CALHOUN):

Colonel.  Colonel.  Are your awake?

HART

 Yes, I think.  Where am I?

SOO ENTERS FROM THE OPERATION ROOM.  HIS LEFT ARM IS IN A SLING.

SOO: 

Safe in Kansas, Dorothy.

HART 

What?



SOO:

 In an underground facility in Kansas.

HART 

The plane?

SOO

 EMP got us, but the plane had some manual and hydraulic back ups.  We made it.

HART 

I remember the flash, falling, and then feeling something stick me in the side.

SOO

 That was Sergeant Canton.  He stuck you with part of a detonator.  It didn’t go off.

HART

 I thought he was supposed to blow up the brief case not me.  How is he?

SOO 

He didn’t make it.  He got you buckled in and then me, but was standing when we crash landed.  We lost the pilots too.  Gives me some second thoughts about what I said about them in jest.  They died saving the two of us…and maybe this planet.

HART (excited):

The launch computer!

SOO:

 Safe in the operation room.  Are you coherent enough to make some decisions?

HART

 I think so….Yes sir!  I’m ready for duty.

HART STARTS TO GET UP AND REALIZES THAT HE IS ATTACHED TO AN IV TOWER.  HE THEN LOOKS AT HIS ARM AND NOTICES A BANDAGE AROUND HIS WRIST.
SOO 

Lieutenant.  Leave us.

LIEUTENANT CALHOUN

Yes General.

CALHOUN EXITS.

SOO

Your watch got a little toasty, just like the rest of the electronics that weren’t shielded.  Now, sit up and listen!  Our time is short and I need a decision from you.  I will not order you to do this.  It must seem logical to the both of us.  First let me tell you that if your family left the DC area as you told them to, then they are fine.

HART

            They did, before I reported in.  What happened sir?

SOO

Please listen.  The blast we encountered was from a sub-launched missile that detonated somewhere over the central part of the country.  We don’t’ know what the intended target was.  We detected a second missile launch headed for Washington DC.  The President ordered a retaliatory strike against North Korea while the missile was inbound.  A few minutes before the missile impacted, we had satellite reports of multiple launches from the Korean Peninsula, China, and Russia.  The president ordered full retaliation.  All of our missiles will launch in 9, no 8 minutes from now.

HART 

Then this is the end.






SOO

 Maybe.  Washington DC was destroyed, but the readings on the other launches were false.  We think the EMP caused the system to malfunction and it pulled up one of the worst-case scenarios.  The President did not have time to cancel his order.

HART

 North Korea?

SOO

North….South….Korea is no more.  We confirmed 14 high yield impacts.  We used multiple cruise conventional launches as well.  They are no longer a threat to us.  There were minimal protests from the Russians and Chinese, but neither wants to ante up for a real fight.

HART

Annihilated?  General you still have…had friends on the Korean Peninsula.

SOO

Colonel, I had more friends in D.C.  It seems that I’m fresh out of friends.  I need to put off my anguish at least for a little while longer.  John, I need your counsel and I need your consent to proceed further.




INT.  BEIJING, CHINA
STRATEGIC MISSILE HEADQUARTERS

WIN: 

Are we ready for launch?

LEE 

Yes General, all systems still ready.  Your orders, sir?



WIN: 

We will know within minutes.  Let me reward you for your diligence.  View our new emperor’s message to the west.

LEE

Emperor?

WIN INSERTS A VIDEOCASSETTE INTO A SMALL TV/VCR AND A TAPE BEGINS PLAYING.

WIN: 

See for yourself…and before it is viewed by the rest of the world.

TAPE BEGINS WITH A HISTORIC PICTORAL OF CHINESE EMPERORS, MAO-TSE-TUNG, AND MOST CURRENT LEADERS, THEN FOCUSES ON CHAIRMAN XI who delivers a speech in English with Chinese subtitles.  The message on the tape is:  “Today China asserts herself to the world.  We have long been exploited by the west and will tolerate this attack upon China no more.  China has just now launched 52 missiles bearing 192 nuclear warheads to targets in the United States of America.  Those with military targets will impact and rein their avenging fire regardless of your response.  Those heading for your population centers can be self destructed over the next twenty minutes.  The Chinese empire will most graciously destroy her own missiles heading for your cities with the unconditional surrender of the United States of America in the next 15 minutes.  Indecision will mean annihilation. 

WIN STOPS THE TAPE.

LEE

 General the Americans will respond with ten times the force we deliver.

WIN: 

If they can!  Their reliance on control of their strategic missiles through highly technical systems and the placement of one so close to the control of these systems who knows where his loyalties lie, will make this not only possible, but truly destiny for all who have honored their Asian ancestors.

LEE 

We can truly disable their systems?





WIN (pointing to telephone): 

This line remains open with the one that will tell me.  We are a culture that does not see time through the lives of men, but through the lives of dynasties.  Consider yourself at the threshold to that next dynasty.  This is an opportunity that may not come again for a hundred years.





INT.  UNDERGROUND BUNKER IN KANSAS.  Only Soo and Hart are visible in the small room next to the operations center.

SOO 

Yes.  Right now there are no missiles launches anywhere in the world.  We will change that in just over 7 minutes.  We will destroy the world in retaliation for the destruction of our capitol.

HART 

Do we try to stop it?

SOO

You mean trade one capitol for one country and search for sanity again?  That is my instinct, but it will leave us vulnerable for 48 minutes if you reset the system.

HART 

You mean run the software update.








SOO 

Do you know another way to stand down our attack?  We can get communications up with NORAD again in about 20 minutes and relinquish the National Command Authority where it belongs.  But it would take them 2 hours to reset all the systems to their control.  This is our decision.  I would make it on my own, but doubt my own loyalties and even my own sanity.



HART 

It seems the only ethical thing to do.  You really have reservations?

SOO:

 MACKEY’s last orders to you were not to use the system without his personal authority.

HART 

Is he alive?

SOO:

 No, but he stood by me when the political thing to do would have been to relieve me, at least temporarily. 

HART 

But he can’t give the order now.  We must stop this!

SOO:

 I agree, but I do not counter the orders of my seniors, of the president without some reservation.  To my mind it is, the ethical thing to do.  We have six minutes.  Can you do it?

HART PULLS THE IV’S OUT OF HIS ARM AND MOVES TO THE OPERATIONS CENTER.  Soo points to his computer that has been removed from his briefcase and powered up.  Hart sits at the small console and begins entering data.

HART 

Your key, general.

SOO AND HART EACH REMOVE THEIR KEYS FROM AROUND THEIR NECKS AND PLACE THEM IN A SMALL BOX ATTACHED TO THE NOTEBOOK COMPUTER.

SOO: 

Three, two, one, turn.

BOTH TURN THEIR KEYS.

HART 

We are logged on and verified.  Commencing running update program.   The ULF for the submarines will kick-in in about 2 minutes.  General, I can send a message to each site explaining the stand down and update from this terminal.

SOO: 

Perhaps.  Will it be accepted as authentic?

HART

 If the sites have communication with Norad, they can authenticate directly with them.

SOO:

            Can we communicate with NORAD directly with this?

HART 

Yes Sir.  Do you want…

SOO

Not yet.  Let’s save what we can of this world, and then do the explaining.








INT.  WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ROOM

MACKEY: 

Mr. President.  I have lost contact with General Soo and LtCol Hart.  Their aircraft never left Andrews.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY:

            Explanation.




MACKEY: 

None sir.  But I must assume the remote set has been compromised.  I’m canceling its access codes.





INT.  UNDERGROUND BUNKER IN KANSAS.  HART IS SEATED AT THE NOTEBOOK COMPUTER.  SOO IS PACING AND TALKING TO HART.  CALHOUN IS IN THE BACKGROUND.


SOO: 

What happens if we lose our link…if NORAD cuts us off?

HART

 Unlikely.  Now that the update’s running, it would take just as long to restore the earlier software.  They should see the authentication codes entered by our keys and let the update run.

SOO: 

So if we get cutoff, it’s still takes 48 minutes to reload the old software? 





HART 

Correct.  But the system will try to reconnect itself and finish the update.  It will try for five minutes, and then each site will automatically run it’s back up software to restore the old systems after that.

SOO: 

Verify that all sites are receiving.

HART 

Yes sir, all confirm download in progress including the submarines.  They are 90 seconds behind the land-based forces.

SOO: 

Well done.  Let me try the landline once more, and then I’ll compose the message to send if that doesn’t work.

SOO WALKS TO A TELEPHONE MANNED BY LIEUTENANT CALHOUN.

SOO: 

It is done.

SOO CRADLES THE PHONE. 

A DOOR OPENS TO THE RIGHT OF LTCOL HART and somebody starts to walk in.   Hart sees that this is Airman Canton in a coat and tie.  Canton sees Hart and goes back outside and closes the door.

HART 

That’s Canton!   What’s…

GENERAL SOO REMOVES THE SLING FROM HIS ARM.

SOO:

 That’s correct.  And you were right about another thing.  There is loyalty that is not taught at the academy--loyalty that spans generations and does not forget one’s true homeland or one’s true allies.



HART TURNS HIS KEY, PULLS IT FROM THE BOX AND RUNS FOR THE DOOR WHERE HE SAW CANTON.  Canton enters again, this time leading with a pistol.  Hart surprises him and uses his momentum to sling him into the room and run out the door.  Canton’s pistol slides across the floor.  Lt. Calhoun draws a pistol from underneath a console and raises it to fire.  SOO stops her as Hart exits.

SOO (To Calhoun)

Most unbecoming for a governess.  We have all the time we need.  Now change out of that uniform.  We must meet with the president shortly.  (PAUSE AND SMILE)   To accept his surrender on behalf of the Emperor.







INT.  BEIJING, CHINA
STRATEGIC MISSILE HEADQUARTERS

WIN HANGS UP THE TELEPHONE AND WALKS TOWARDS LTCOL LEE WHO IS WORKING THE KEYBOARD OF HIS CONSOLE.

LEE 

The word General?

WIN: 

Commence launch sequence.

LEE 

Yes sir.  Turn your key General.

WIN: 

Yes sir, General of the Empire.

BOTH TURN KEYS AND LEE LOOKS STRANGELY AT WIN.



WIN (continued):

 Rewards come quickly to the loyal.  The system will run automatically now?

LEE 

Three minutes to launch.  All on automatic controls.














INT.    LTCOL HART IS RUNNING DOWN A POORLY LIGHTED CORRIDOR WITH OVERHEAD WINDOW PANES THAT LET SUN LIGHT IN EVERY 20 YARDS.  He slides to a stop and sees what appears to be an aircraft simulator.  He quickly looks inside and sees the interior of the plane he was in.  He looks to see if anyone has followed him and continues down the corridor until he finds a door with a crash bar and bursts through it to the outside and very bright daylight.  He looks around in amazement as he can see the Washington Reagan National Airport and the Washington Monument across the Potomac River.  He drops to his knees and looks to the sky.

HART 

What have I done!  What have I done!

HART HANGS HIS HEAD.  TO HIS REAR IS TOTAL GRIDLOCK OF TRAFFIC.

ZOOM OUT TO WASHINGTON D.C. IN GRIDLOCK







ZOOM IN TO WHITE HOUSE
INT.  WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ROOM.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY:

  That arrogant Son….Lord give me composure at this most critical time.

PACE

 I agree sir.  The least the Chinese premier could have done was to give us an advance transcript of what he would say.

MARTIN 

And lose the chance to paint a picture of a world power.

MACKEY

 Mr. President.

MARTIN 

Make it quick, the Chinese broadcast is due in 90 seconds.



MACKEY:

 Sir, the remote unit logged into the system before we could shut it out.  It’s running the system update.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY: 

It’s what!  What does that mean?

MACKEY:


It means that we can’t control our missiles for another 41 minutes…and that’s if it keeps running the update.

AIR FORCE CAPTAIN BURST INTO THE ROOM





CAPTAIN

 General, the remote unit disconnected, all systems are running restore programs.

MACKEY:

 (To the Captain):  Log in with our unit now and keep that remote unit off the line…(Back to the President) Mr. President, our time to control our systems is now 48 minutes.

PRESIDENT MONTGOMERY 

Can you speed it up?

MACKEY:

             No Sir.

PACE WALKS UP TO THE PRESIDENT AND CAN’T SPEAK.  HE CLEARS HIS THROAT AND BEGINS TO TALK THROUGH HIS NERVOUSNESS.

PACE

Mr. President, we just confirmed by satellite over 50 silos opened across Mainland China and North Korea.  



















INT.  BEIJING, CHINA
STRATEGIC MISSILE HEADQUARTERS.  LTCOL LEE IS STILL AT HIS CONSOLE.  WIN IS PACING ABOUT THE LARGER ROOM WITH THE DISPLAY BOARDS.

WIN: 

Sixty seconds to a new empire.  Bring up the countdown window on the big screen.

LEE

            Yes sir.

LTCOL LEE’S SCREEN IS PROJECTED ONTO A LARGE VIEWING SCREEN.  IT SHOWS A COUNTDOWN IN BIG TEXT IN THE CENTER AND A STATUS BAR AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SCREEN WITH SMALLER TEXT.  WIN WALKS TOWARD THE LARGE SCREEN.

WIN (looking at big screen):

            Fifty-four, fifty-three, fifty-two,

WIN TURNS TOWARDS LTCOL LEE.

WIN (continued and excited):

 Oh the exhilaration of destroying an enemy so soundly!  The ambush of a world!  In an instant, the centuries of exploitation will be righted. 

WIN TURNS SLOWLY BACK TOWARDS THE BOARD TO WATCH THE COUNTDOWN. 

WIN:

 Thirty-nine, thirty-eight.   What is that in the lower right corner?  What is that!









FOCUS IN ON THE GENERAL STANDING NEAR THE BOTTOM OF THE LARGE SCREEN.  COUNTDOWN SCREEN SHOWS 36, 35, 34 CENTERED AND LARGE AND THE BOTTOM RIGHT CORNER SHOWS IN SMALLER TEXT:  SYSTEM DATE:  12-31-99, SYSTEM TIME 23:59:55…56…57

WIN:

Traitor!   What have you done?  Change it back!  Change it back!







INT.  WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ROOM
ALL HANDS LOOKING AT THE TV MOUNTED ON THE WALL.

PACE 

Here it comes…

THE CHINESE VIDEO BEGINS WITH THE HISTORIC SCENES and continues to play up to the point where the announcement begins.  All in the conference room are silent.

PACE  (continued)

Lord, save me from this production.

THE SCREEN GOES BLANK AND THEN RESUMES WITH A BLUE SCREEN WITH SIGNAL LOST CENTERED IN SMALL PRINT.  A MAN HAS WALKED UP TO MARTIN WHILE THE OTHERS WERE WATCHING THE BROADCAST.

MARTIN 

Mr. President, the Chinese Premier is holding for you in your office.  He says the situation is defused and all Korean nuclear forces are standing down.  And sir, he also said he sends his deepest regrets for increasing his own posture without just provocation.







EXT.  BEIJING CHINA
AN  ISOLATED COURTYARD.  TWO MEN ARE ESCORTED BY ARMED GUARD TO THE CENTER OF THE COURTYARD.  The armed guards walk away to the flanks.  The escorted men face about.  They are Win and Lee.  They stand motionless.  Zoom out picture to firing squad of 8 soldiers.  Eight fire at once and the two fall.




EXT.  WASHINGTON, DC

HART LOOKS AT A PICTURE OF HIS WIFE AND GIRLS, THEN SETS HIS WALLET DOWN AND LOOKS ACROSS THE ENTIRETY OF THE CAPITOL COURTYARD.  He steps out onto the ledge of a small window and the view changes to the Washington Monument.  The view changes back to Hart starting to lean out the window, when a large muscular hand grabs him by the belt and jerks him back into the monument.

SOLDIER

NOT ON MY WATCH!   Nobody jumps out of here on my watch…(recognizing the rank once he throws him to the floor)…sir.  Colonel, it’s all OK.  The Koreans backed off.  It’s OK.   Medic!…Get me a medic up here!  It will be all right sir…

HART (totally disoriented and dazed):

It will never be all right….


FADE OUT FROM THE SOLDIER AND THE MONUMENT AND WASHINGTON AND A VIEW OF EARTH FROM SPACE.

Epilogue

In a world where technology has enabled us to deceive and destroy one another from a computer console, we may find our heroes and casualties are not always on a bullet-ridden battlefield, and that duty is in the eyes of the beholder….