The Day Before Midnight
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Paramilitary terrorists who have taken over a top-secret nuclear complex kidnap Maryland welder Jack Hummel and force him to cut through a half-ton titanium block that conceals the launch button.
with all their Peacekeepers and death will be forever and ever. Come, my friend. It’s time. We must do that hard, terrible thing, our duty. We must be men.” Imperceptibly, Yasotay nodded, then looked back to the key. His fingers touched it. “On my command,” said Pashin. “Three, two—” Pashin had the impression of conflagration, of flames unending and unceasing, spreading through the world, eating its cities, its towns, its villages, its fields, of the long and total death of fire, in its
soon as they get here. First briefing is at 1200 hours and I’ll expect complete terrain familiarity.” Puller turned from the young man who took this order, a mild-looking twenty-eight-year-old FBI agent of no special ability named James Uckley who had been appointed Dick’s No. 1 guy because he was the first to show up, having been ordered onto the site by a special Bureau flash from his Hagerstown office, where he’d been investigating a bank embezzlement. Dick chose Uckley because he believed
loading stations under the big wings of the green birds. Tarnower cranked on his lug wrench, wiped the sweat from his brow, and—goddamn!—skinned his knuckles again. “Tighter, sir, you almost got it,” his chief crewman called. “The 20-mil ammo’s just come in.” “Great,” said Tarnower, twisting the wrench again. “Hurry up, Larry,” Leo said, and ducked on to the next plane, cackling gleefully. The assault plan that Delta had worked out was relatively simple. It was now predicted that the ANG
Hummel held the plasma-arc torch against the metal and watched the flame devour the titanium. Down here in the hole the world was serene and logical. He had a job to do, one he knew and almost loved, one he had done many, many times before. It was, after all, only cutting. He had, by this time, opened a deep wound in the smooth block of metal. But at the same time, and despite the mesmerizing, messianic quality of the flame a few inches beyond his eyes, it was hard to concentrate. It was all so
Washington a year. I’d just moved from the Strategic Study Group to the Targeting Committee. It was a big leap for me and it meant about ten extra grand a year. Not that we needed the money. Her folks had plenty, but it was nice to be doing well suddenly, and she said she’d finally figured out what strategic meant.” What does it mean? he’d asked. It means bombs, isn’t that right? Yes. You think about bombs. You think about war all day. I thought it was more abstract, somehow. Thinking about