Moscow, USSR 1705 Zulu (2005 Local Time)
“Both of our missiles have successfully hit their targets,” KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov reported.
General Secretary Romanov took the news with equanimity. “Thank you, Viktor Mikhailovich.” He then turned away from the window and looked in the direction of the other Defense Council members. “So, now we wait, comrades.”
“Comrade General Secretary,” Marshal Akhromeyev said uneasily. “I advise you to leave the city immediately. If the Americans target Moscow—”
“They will not do such a thing, Marshal,” Romanov interrupted angrily. “Your own officers told me that right here in this room a short time ago.”
“Perhaps I am being too cautious,” Akhromeyev admitted.
“Yes. NATO will retaliate,” Romanov allowed. “But not against Moscow. We did not target London, Paris or Washington. I am prepared to accept a response that mimics our own attack and conveyed this to the American president.”
“That man is a dangerous, unpredictable cowboy,” Chebrikov reminded everyone present.
Romanov dismissed the assessment with a wave of his hand. “Reagan is no maniac. He will respond with a limited retaliation because he must. Following that, he will call for negotiations. This is a victory for us, comrades,” the general secretary shook his fists resolutely. “The war is effectively over.”
CNN Studios, Atlanta, Georgia 1715 Zulu (1315 Local Time)
The world was just now learning of the nuclear detonations in Spain and Canada. European-based networks were initially hampered by the communication disruptions thrown off by the Madrid blast. As a result, for the first sixty minutes following the detonation in Madrid, much of the Western world received the news through Bernard Shaw at the anchor desk in Atlanta. The first unconfirmed reports of Madrid’s destruction were aired on CNN, followed a short while later by the first pictures, taken by an independent journalist working on a war-related story in Quijorna, some 30 kilometers to the west. His still-image of the mushroom cloud set menacingly against the Spanish countryside would land on the covers of special edition newspapers released around the world in the coming hours and days.
In the United States, the news of Madrid was preceded by CNN and network coverage of the US government’s apparent evacuation from Washington. These two continuing events combined to create an instinctive mass evacuation from US and European cities that would carry on for some time.
Aboard NEACP-Primary 1729 Zulu (1319 Local Time)
The briefcase officially known as the Presidential Emergency Satchel sat on the conference room table. It was opened and its contents laid out in front of the President. The card containing the Gold Codes rested on top of its broken plastic covering, its work finished. The verification process was complete, and orders issued to SAC by President Reagan. Launch time was set for 1740 Zulu and CINC-SAC was confident there would be no problems.
“Mr.President, we’ll be using a pair of Minuteman III birds,” General Chain explained to Reagan and the other men around the table. “One sortie from Grand Forks and the other out of Warren. Three RVs on each bird. That will guarantee the complete destruction of both targets. Overkill really, all things considered. But effective.”
“Thank you, General.” Reagan said into the speakerphone. “I’ll be back in touch within five minutes.” He ended the connection and looked around the table. “Have I missed anything?”
“Sir, do you plan on sending a hotline message through to Romanov before the launch?” Secretary Weinberger asked.
Reagan hesitated and mulled it over. “I really do not want to,” he admitted honestly. “Yet I don’t want to cause a misunderstanding either. I’ll send one, but it will be short and to the point.”