Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Five Red Balloons

NUCLEAR COMMAND BUNKER, MOSCOW – MORNING, 9/26/83

GENERAL ALARM NOISE

“Lieutenant Colonel Petrov! The general alarm has sounded!”

“I heard it, Private Jenkins. It’s an alarm. Loud as shit. Marlee Matlin would’ve heard it.”

“Colonel, the alarm means the Americans have fired their ICBM missiles at us.”

“The M stands for ‘missile.’ You don’t need to say missile.”

“Sir, please.”

“You think we should shoot ours at them?”

“This is what the manual calls for.”

“Are you authorized to read the manual?”

“No, sir, but I assumed you were.”

“I am.”

“Oh, good.”

“But it’s on back order. They said it would be here in September.”

“Of this year?”

“They didn’t say. Jenkins, don’t tell the KGB I said this, but Communism is not very detail-oriented.”

“Sir, we don’t have time to discuss the inherent flaws with any ideology. The Americans have launched their nukes at us!”

“How many?”

“The computer says five.”

“The computer’s working again?”

“Almost all day.”

“Jenkins, why would the Americans shoot five nukes at us? That makes no sense. I mean, one nuke makes sense. That’s a rogue general or an accident. And all the nukes makes sense. That’s World War III. But five? Something’s hinky.”

“Maybe the Americans are trying to confuse us, Colonel.”

“Yeeeeah, no. Nukes aren’t really ‘confusion weapons.’ You’re thinking about flash-bang grenades. Only thing confusing about a nuclear weapon is, you know: Hey, didn’t there used to be a city right there?”

“Sir, the computer says we’re being attacked.”

“Jenkins, it’s 1983; the computer’s a moron.”

“I cannot believe you’re going to sit there and ignore this.”

“I’m not going to ignore it. I’m going to monitor it closely. But it’s a malfunction.”

“What if it isn’t?”

“Are there still just five missiles?”

“Yes, sir.”

“They haven’t launched any more?”

“No, sir.”

“Yup! Computer’s a moron. This is a false alarm.”

“Sir, may I speak freely?”

“Of course not: you’re in the Soviet Union.”

“Regardless. I believe you quite presumptuous to think yourself smarter than the best computer Mother Russia could build.”

“Jenkins, it’s 64 K. I can beat it at chess. And we smoke around it constantly. The machine is wrong, and I’m right.”

GENERAL ALARM NOISE

“It is much louder than you, Colonel.”

“I’ll give you that.”

“Sir, I must insist that you respond to the alarm.”

“Fine.”

GENERAL ALARM SHUTTING-OFF NOISE

“There you go.”

“Sir!”

“What?”

“Colonel Petrov, under Soviet military code 663.1–”

“You’re making that up.”

“–I must insist that you turn your key.”

“Are we doing this bit?”

“TURN YOUR KEY, SIR.”

“Jenkins, this isn’t where we launch the nukes from. We don’t have the button. I make a call to my boss and then he does it.”

“Really? I totally thought we pushed the button.”

“How long have you been working here again?”

“Four years.”

“Sounds right. Jenkins, this is a false alarm. I’ll make you a bet. If I’m right, you owe me a bottle of vodka.”

“And if I’m right?”

“We get incinerated in a nuclear fireball.”

“This is a terrible bet.”

“Not for me.”

 

For Slanislav.

2 Comments

  1. It’s a story that deserves to be told, and thanks for illuminating Jenkins’ role in it!

  2. The Central Shaft

    September 19, 2017 at 5:34 am

    In Soviet Russia, the Colonel is the competent one. I like it.

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