Put Down The Phoenix
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We commit this act with heavy hearts, but clean consciences. There is much we would have liked to preserve, that we will destroy, but the price for inaction has risen too high. A cycle must end, for the next to begin. A phoenix must die, so it can rise again.

A was waiting in one of the smaller offices in the White House. They were looking out of the window impatiently, almost scared, listening to a newsfeed. It wasn't much good, of course. Important things within the US rarely made the news these days, and it was a calm week for the rest of the world. Calm, but not good. The Nile war showed no sign of seizing, even after all these decades. Neither did the Baltic War, nor the Second Balkan War, nor the Western European Civil War.

In more local news, a few local politicians were discussing the new race laws in Texas. None of them made a good point, and they descended into polemics a few words in. But it was just as well, because they all had the same opinions anyway. Their views only varied in the amount of time businesses should be granted to adjust. A fugitive had been found near Detroit, trying to cross the border. The name was known to A. It belonged to a journalist, one that A had silently dubbed 'the last honest journalist' two weeks ago; and who had been accused of being a spy not long after that. All in all, no good news, as expected. A noticed their leg trembling and forced it to stop, before looking at their watch.

Thirty years ago, we still held hope. We saw the corruption in the places of power, but it seemed surmountable then, and there was much good in the world to steel our hearts. But that was before the Second Civil War, before the Third World War, before the fall of Europe. Before the autocratic wave scoured all the world. There were elections, checks and balances, and the division of powers in quite a lot of countries then. For all the faults the world had, it had liberty and democracy as well. We didn't know it then, but those were good times.

Today, one in a million of the men in power have even just a sliver of morality left. Of all the people on this earth, one in a million is not enslaved to debt, or violence, or both. Even those who think they're holding the strings are bound tight by the very same cruel system they think they rule. We do not exaggerate in this. There is no country in this world anymore, without surveillance, and torturers, and death camps. If we do not act soon, we will become unable to; liberty and happiness will fully die, and the system that has slain them will spread itself among the stars, as an unassailable empire of misery.

Finally, B came through the door, grinning like a child that had just stolen the entire cookie jar, holding a card in their right hand. A closed the newsfeed.

A: "It worked?"

B:"Perfectly."

B put the card down on the desk and slid it over. A had the relevant site open in less than a second, after sending a pre-written message to a contact in Russia. A typed in the codes and found the attack pattern they had placed there earlier today.

A brief message returning from Russia :"All clear."

A armed all the warheads and sent out another set of pre-written messages, before leaning back with a sigh.

Do not believe we did not try. We fought tooth and nail in every hall of power, every hotel lobby, and every street. Today the best of us, who spoke openly, without hiding their faces, who never feared the executioner's axe nor the torturer's shackles, who never resorted to intrigue or violence; they are all dead or dying in despair. It is only us left now. Us, who hid our faces from the start, who never dared not to choose the lesser evil, who tread the paths of corruption to preserve our lives. It is only us cowards left now.

But our ways, wicked as they are, have granted us enough influence for this last gambit. The sins we've had to commit to get this far are great and numerous, and this last one of them shall eclipse them all; but we hope it will absolve us in the end.

We have bribed and cajoled, we have threatened and murdered, we have infiltrated all of the places we needed to control for this gambit to work, without stepping on the toes of anyone who could stop us. Tonight we will get the codes. The crews at the launchpads have all been persuaded or replaced, in the US as well as Russia. Every detection system we couldn't sabotage directly is set to have a power outage at our command.

Tonight, the world will be destroyed in atomic fire.

B was looking expectantly at A.

A: "That's it."

B: "All done?"

A: "All done."

A moment passed. A stood up.

A: "Have you thought of your last words yet."

B: "Have you made up your mind about that bottle of champagne yet?"

A: "I think we'd best leave it closed."

B: "Not really a thing to celebrate, is it."

A: "Not really, and you know how I am."

B: "You still have your doubts about your own motives."

A: "And what kind of person wouldn't."

B: "Maybe a person that made up their mind before committing the most significant act of their life?"

A: "You know I did, and you know I still feel this way."

B: "Fair enough."

Another moment passed in silence.

A: "So. Thought of any last words yet?"

B sighed. "I've thought about it, but I haven't got anything. Do you?"

A: "I've got something. Just have to polish it up a little."

Your bunkers will be the only ones to hold survivors; we have made sure of that. They are filled with ample supplies, hydroponics, data vaults, a com station capable of reaching station-side, but most importantly, you. Which is to say, survivors. It is a strange thing, having to pick the lucky few who might survive the calamity we seek to inflict upon this world. In the end, we simply decided to offer the places to the work crews and engineers that built the bunkers. They, which is to say, you, had to know about it either way, and their knowledge will be needed to keep the bunkers running. You should be able to live a comfortable life there. Both before and after the radiation has died down. Use that time to learn from this world and its demise.

Do not think us cynics, though our deeds are bleak. We trust in human nature. We hope, that you will not have the same needs as our ancestors did, that drove them to enslave their brothers and sisters; and we believe, that you will succeed in building a better world. That is why we dared destroy the old one.

We apologize, for all we have destroyed. For all the erased lives, extinct species, vaporized artifacts, and for what little hope and happiness was left in this world.

We promise, that we acted in the way we thought best for all, that our intentions were pure, even if we might have erred, and that there is not a single one of us conspirators among you, nor will our names be known to you, so as to prove the former, both to you and to ourselves.

We ask you, to hold morality and ethics in the highest regard. Do not forsake them for things that might seem more practical, and do not suffer a politician or official with a lack of them. The hansom to hell is drawn by a disregard for good and evil.

We wish you, a bright future. May the tale of your journey to the stars be a happy one, and not a tragedy, as ours would have been.

Goodbye.

A and B stood at the window, waiting.

B: "We've come a long way, haven't we."

A nodded in silent agreement.

B: "I wonder if it was always going to come to this."

A: "I think we could have won in a better way, long ago."

B: "It all went to shit with the Civil War, didn't it."

A: "Well, the Civil War had been a long time coming. Had we been more competent some ten years before then…"

B nodded in silent agreement.

A moment passed, then there was a faint but clearly visible light on the horizon.

A: "You know where that was, right."

B nodded, "The last target of the nearest launchpad."

A: "It'll only be a minute or so now."

Another moment passed.

A: "So. Did you think of your last words?"

B: "Did you polish up yours?"

A: "As a matter of fact, I did."

B: "Go on, let's hear it."

A took a deep breath and made an effort to look as stately as possible.

A: "May this 'end' be final for cruelty, war, and oppression; but only a new beginning for all the good in humanity."

B: "Yeah, that's real pretty."

A declined to comment with a look that said: "There's not enough time left to say that again."

B chuckled.

B: "Let's just hope this isn't like new years always is."

A looked at B with an expression somewhere between utter amusement and disbelief.

B chuckled again.

A broke.

A: "Your last words are a fucking jo– "

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