The Last Rites
John Ritchie
Dorsal Winner
Raise your right hand and place it palm forward on the pad. Ignore the klaxon.
Wait for the green light. Oh Jesus, faster, please!
Allow the door to open fully. Ignore the klaxon.
Step into the chamber and face the wall. THAT FUCKING KLAXON!
Count to five slowly, SLOWLY! while the door closes behind you. Ignore the klaxon.
Depress the handle firmly! Oh merciful God be with me now and...
Breathe in as the express elevator descends. Thank Christ! I can't hear that fucking klaxon anymore.
As you feel the elevator decelerate, bend your knees to absorb the gravity induced weight increase. When the elevator stops you will be at Launch Control level.

Wait for the door to open. WAIT!
Walk to the entrance to your cubicle. Walk, you bastard! Don't run.
Wait at the cubicle door. Wait, you sumbitch, Wait! Where the fuck is MacKenzie! Where the fuck...
The Launch Commander will walk to the entrance to his cubicle. Run, you bastard, RUN!
MacKenzie is walking to the entrance to his cubicle. MacKenzie is following orders.
The Launch Commander will remove the key chain from around his neck.
MacKenzie is removing the key chain from around his neck!
Remove the key chain from around your neck.
FUCK! He is waiting for me to get my KEY!
Push your key into the cubicle door lock.
The Launch Commander will control the count
Mackenzie: "On my count. One, two, three!"
Turn the key. Shit! The DOOR... is opening.
Enter the cubicle. Sit in the chair, then turn the chair to face the control panel and lock the chair into position.
Mackenzie is in the next cubicle. There are random reflections in the bullet proof glass between us. The LED segments of the digital counters flash giving the minutes and seconds until the incoming missiles impact.

Open the Launch Command manual. Open your sealed orders. Check the Alert code.
Find page Crimson Tango 3.
Enter the Launch Code Sequences using the numeric key-pad. SLOWLY! DON'T FUCK UP!
Wait for confirmation. Wait! Shit! How much longer, how much... Mackenzie speaking calmly and clearly. "Ten seconds to launch. Five... Four... Three...

They buried me at Arlington cemetery with full military honours, because my death occurred in the line of duty. It is ironic that it wasn't enemy action that killed me, but heart failure. I died of sheer, abject, terror. Unable to think the unthinkable, unable to face the responsibility of destroying another country with a full scale nuclear attack, even when I believed my own country faced destruction. My mother received the folded flag. They didn't tell her that I died during an exercise, that I died because I believed it was real.

First published: August 2005
comments to the writer: Knob'