Of Historic Significance (1987)


Smith entered the great chamber thinking about the terrible announcement he had the “honor” of sharing with the delegates. As he slowly walked towards the front, the representatives of various allies began to quiet down. And by the time he arrived at his destination, the bickering had stopped and their full attention was on Smith. He looked out over the audience, noting the fear and apprehension in their expressions. They knew what the announcement was, had been expecting it, but now that it had actually happened…

A thought entered his mind, the messenger is usually blamed for the contents of the message he delivers rather than the one who creates the bad news. But it was too late to back out now. Mentally shrugging, Smith cleared his throat and began his address.

“You have been gathered here today to relay a message to your respective peoples. It is a message of the greatest importance and historical significance.

“As you well remember, the last war, the most devastating one to date, was won with the aid of a most unique and terrible weapon. Its method of destruction was so novel and its power so great, the enemy was forced to capitulate. Peace was declared and it was only then we began to see the horrible price we all had to pay.

There was some murmuring in the crowd. Smith raised his voice to be heard above it. “I say ‘we’ because we know now their scientists were not far behind in developing this ultimate weapon. Those victims lying in gutted ruins with those horrible burns could just as easily have been our people instead of theirs.

“After these lingering side effects of our weapon became known, we succumbed to our feelings of guilt and have practically ended all research in the area. Oh, we have been working on ways to control it for use in the private sector, but the development of new military applications ceased. That was a mistake. For while we have been growing fat and complacent in peacetime prosperity, one of our ex-allies has continued research in secret and now they have caught up with us.

“Yes, we have conclusive proof that our new enemy has already tested it at least once.” Smith lost control of the audience. The delegates all spoke at once in indignation and anger. How could this have happened? How could they develop something as technically advanced as that? Smith raised his to get their attention again, angered at their ignorance and typical prejudices.

“We don’t have much time. How they did it is not an important question any longer. It has been rendered academic. Instead we must figure out how to maintain the balance of power or we may find ourselves on the losing end of the most terrible war this planet has ever witnessed. Because whether we accept it or not, the facts cannot be ignored:

“The Neanderthals now have fire too.”

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