The world blew out in To be precise, at noon on January 20, There was an irony that only a very few people fully appreciated. That is, about 0. Back about thirty years or so a science fiction writer called Arthur C. Clarke had gotten together with a movie director called Stanley Kubrick and made a film called A Space Odyssey.
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The world blew out in To be precise, at noon on January 20, There was an irony that only a very few people fully appreciated. That is, about 0. Back about thirty years or so a science fiction writer called Arthur C.
Clarke had gotten together with a movie director called Stanley Kubrick and made a film called A Space Odyssey. The film, the beginning of a series of such films, had a message. For many who had seen it and read the story in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the year had become a symbol of optimism and hope for the future of mankind. Calmer times were only just around the corner. Peace and prosperity were assured. So much for fantasy. The bomb was not triggered above the city, nor was it the result of a preemptive strike by a passel of missiles hurtling in through the air defense screens and hitting the deck.
It erupted without warning in the bowels of the Soviet embassy, in a basement section that was a restricted area even to the ambassador, V. Vorishin, who, like just about everyone else within a five-mile radius, was vaporized.
Vorishin was not actually in the embassy at the time. He, along with a multitude of other foreign dignitaries and a vast assemblage of national and civic leaders, journalists, members of the judiciary, show biz personalities and thousands who were just along for the spectacle, was on Capitol Hill, attending the inauguration of the forty-third President of the United States, a man in his sixties, a man who had first come to fame back in the early s as a dark-horse contender for the Democratic leadership, strongly favored at the time by young voters called "yuppies.
The blast hurtled outward, pulverizing anything and everything that stood in its way. Tall buildings were uprooted like trees, falling apart as they descended to the earth, the shattered pieces of masonry, stone, steel girders and glass sent whirling in a deadly vortex. Incredibly, a few, a very few, of those in the city survived the initial blast, but they were soon put out of their misery.
Within a few minutes two other, smaller, bombs exploded: one, to the northwest of the city in Bethesda, beneath a chic art gallery owned by a man whose father had "defected" to the West from Bulgaria twenty years earlier; the other, to the south, in the basement storage area of a large drugstore situated in Indian Head, across the river.
The effect of these two secondary bombs can only be described as monstrous. The initial shock wave, already losing momentum, was renewed, strengthened, fortified. A firestorm developed. Hurricane-force winds hurled the superheated fire-mass around until the very air itself seemed to ignite. The Potomac River was sucked up into the fiery sky in a vast, roiling waterspout that evaporated even as it rose. Dust and ash and pulverized debris cut off the sunlight, as though someone had thrown a switch.
Immense damage was sustained in Baltimore, Hagerstown, Fredericksburg, Annapolis. The city of Washington, along with its inner and outlying suburbs, was wiped off the face of the earth, leaving only a crater large enough to house a few Shea Stadiums and a lot of seared rubble.
There had to be a prologue. Some might argue that the prologue began to unfold when Karl Marx first met Friedrich Engels and began to postulate an alternative political creed to that which held sway in the early nineteenth century.
Others might push the jumping-off point further back in time: to the French Revolution, say, or the teachings of Rousseau and Babeuf. Or even But this is academic. Although the roots of the virtual destruction of a global way of life must necessarily lie deep in the past, the actual concrete and significant causes clearly took place within a generation of the moment of disaster.
The history of the last fifty years of the twentieth century is one of general gloom shot with stabs of light. Perhaps one could say the same about the history of the world since man first shuffled out of the caves and began to hunt and gather and till the land. But so much happened during the twentieth century, and so much of it happened so fast, that a good analogy might be of a car on a long downward slope whose driver suddenly discovers that the fluid is running out of his brakes.
No matter that the slope is a gentle one; once momentum has been achieved, a certain point reached then passed, there is no stopping the downward rush that very soon becomes headlong, irreversible, terminal. During this time atomic power became more than just a science fiction cliche; West and East glared at each other during the Cold War; tensions eased as detente became a political priority; pacts were signed, treaties ratified; an arms race began, got out of hand; black-gold blackmail became a hideous reality when the Arab oil states became greedy for power; money markets throughout the world rocked and teetered; enormous economic depression arrived, stayed for more than a decade.
In the s and s America got its fingers burned in Southeast Asia, fighting a war that, despite what later apologists maintained, could never have been won. In the late s to early s, the same old story was rerun in Latin America, for the same old reasons. This time, however, the stakes were higher and the face cards more evenly distributed. For a time the world tottered on the brink of a Third and probably final World War. In the end, both superpowers, Russia and America, backed off. For the moment, mutual face-saving became the order of the day.
In President Reagan was succeeded by his vice president. Gorbachev across a table in Geneva so that both could pull back from the brink with as much grace as could be mustered. One might have expected that a grateful U.
But the electorate is notoriously fickle. In the Republicans were skinned by the Democrats, led by an aging Democratic figure, a long-time politician from a family of political stars, a man with a terrible driving record in his native Massachusetts.
The American public had had it up to its collective back teeth with the GOP. Over the previous twelve years there had been too many close calls, too many near disasters. It was time to turn to a symbol of the past, time to revert to a New Frontier style of politics. But the presidency of this East Coast aristocrat — whose political acumen, never particularly strong in the first place, had been frayed and shredded by years of self-indulgence and self-pity — was an unmitigated disaster.
After four years of inept rule, verging at times on the catastrophic, the electorate demanded the return of the devil they knew, and in the previous President, in any case still regarded by the mandarins of his own party as a sound, even muscular, choice, took the country by a landslide and became, for only the second time in American history, an ousted President who returned to the White House in triumph.
Or what was left of it. In a spectacular and bloody coup the Soviet leader N. Ryzhkov was gunned down, in the corridors of the Kremlin itself, by hardline Stalinist revisionists. The upper echelons of the Soviet army, in particular, were decimated. The coup had been masterminded by KGB chief V. Pritisch who, it was rumored, had already disposed of the previous head of the KGB, V. Chebrikov, five years earlier. Chebrikov, a close ally of both Gorbachev and Ryzhkov, had died of a brain tumor and been given a full and impressive state funeral; however, some said a lethal injection, administered by Pritisch himself, had helped Chebrikov on his way.
Pritisch was a hard-liner who detested the West, favored the bleaker aspects of Stalinism and was determined to revert to the original Marxist-Leninist line of total world revolution leading to total world domination. On the other hand he was as much of a pragmatist as any serious politician, and although it might be supposed that the bombs that destroyed Washington were detonated at his instigation, this was by no means the case. Pritisch needed time to plan, a ten-year breathing space, after the short but savage mayhem he had inflicted on his own country, in which to develop his global strategies.
The bombs that destroyed Washington gave him nothing. They were the work, in fact, of a secret and even more extreme junta of disaffected senior internal security officers who, for five years or more before the Pritisch coup, had been plotting not simply for revolution but for outright war.
This group, headed by two shadowy figures in the Soviet hierarchy, B. Sokolovsky and N. Yudenich, were fanatical purists who believed that over the past generation there had been too much humiliation and marking time, too little action. They called themselves vsesozhzhenie, or "terrible fire. The fat-cat corruption of the Brezhnev era had, they felt, never been entirely eradicated, even under the brisk, no-nonsense rule of Gorbachev. The growth of consumerism, the importation of decadent, Western-style petit bourgeois values into western Russia appalled them.
But if the domestic scene was one at which they looked with sour eyes, the international scene, and Soviet foreign policy in general, seemed to these philosophers of the "terrible fire" one of gross mismanagement, a succession of blunders and embarrassments. The disastrous intervention in Lebanon during the mid to late s had led a number of Middle Eastern allies to back away from Soviet influence right into the welcoming arms of the United States.
The tactical retreat from Afghanistan in the late s had been, for them, a humbling experience. And the return of Soviet forces in even greater numbers only three years later had merely resulted in an even more debilitating and long-drawn-out war of attrition with the rebels that still smoldered into the late s.
The bloody holocaust that had swept South Africa in , when President Botha, after three years of vacillation, finally offered the black population limited as opposed to universal suffrage: far too little, far too late, had been a shambles politically as well as literally, for the victorious, Marxist-oriented African National Congress had turned its back on its Soviet mentors and accepted aid from the increasingly capitalistic China.
The back-down over Latin America had been, the vsesozhzheniethought, nothing short of an act of cowardice. And the assassination of Fidel Castro in , probably engineered by rogue members of the American CIA, had not been dealt with at all with the firmness — the sternness, even — that was, the plotters felt, required. The subsequent uprising had been put down by the Cuban army with no help from the Soviet Union, who were still uneasy, so soon after the Latin American crisis, about cruising into dangerous waters.
The fact that the U. The gradual spread of Islamic fundamentalism from Iran into Turkmen and Uzbekistan had slowly but surely, like a relentlessly insidious maggot, reached up into the southern parts of Kazakhstan: extremely sensitive territory. On the other side of the Golodnaya Steppe lay some of the most secret military establishments in the whole of the USSR. All in all, the past thirty years seemed to them to have been a time of confusion and disorientation, a time of feeble men and feeble policies.
In spite of the massive strides forward in agriculture, historically the weak link in Soviet domestic affairs, the huge leaps in industrial manufacturing and, more important, technological development in outer space, there seemed to those of the vsesozhzhenieto have been a loss of direction. A loss of faith in the old Marxist-Leninist ideologies. A loss of purity. Purity, it was argued, could only be regained in the heart of the fire.
Fire cleansed. The world must be set alight. Or twenty. Or a hundred. The strong feeling in the country was this: the Republicans, in general, were politically right of center; the Democrats, in general, were politically left. Better, therefore, to go for the party that might — just might — find some common ground with the new rulers of Russia than the party whose inveterate and historic belligerence might — just might — upset the Soviets into doing something drastic and irreversible.
The American electorate could well have gotten it right. There could have been some kind of cobbled-together short-term accommodation with Pritisch, although Pritisch himself viewed matters in the longer term and had made up his mind that within a decade the entire world scene must be transformed.
But this, too, is academic.
Plot[ edit ] On the morning of January 20, the climax of the Cold War set the post-apocalyptic stage for the series. The end game began with a pre-emptive strike on Washington. Underground nuclear bombs were detonated from within the basement of the Soviet embassy, by an elite group of Spetsnaz operatives, destroying the central command structure and political system of the United States. For an indefinite period of time a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union devastated both countries and subsequently the entire planet but little details are known outside both countries. All manner of genetic contagions were released infecting the survivors of the firestorm with horrible illnesses. The geography , climate , and ecosystems of the world had changed dramatically. What was left of the United States came to be known as the Deathlands.
Pilgrimage to Hell
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