In response to a growing refugee crisis from India, the Iranian Air Force blows up a bridge in Pakistan to cut off most of the refugee traffic, but this is deemed an act of war, leading to an escalating conflict that became a nuclear war which annihilated both countries.
Ice City, Greenland
[From the surface, all that is visible are the funnels, the massive, carefully sculpted wind catchers that continue to bring fresh, albeit cold, air to the three-hundred-kilometer maze below. Few of the quarter million people who once inhabited this hand-carved marvel of engineering have remained. Some stay to encourage the small but growing tourist trade. Some are here as custodians, living on the pension that goes with UNESCO’s renewed World Heritage Program. Some, like Ahmed Farahnakian, formerly Major Farahnakian of the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps Air Force, have nowhere else to go.]
India and Pakistan. Like North and South Korea or NATO and the old Warsaw Pact. If two sides were going to use nuclear weapons against each other, it had to be India and Pakistan. Everyone knew it, everyone expected it, and that is exactly why it didn’t happen. Because the danger was so omnipresent, all the machinery had been put in place over the years to avoid it. The hotline between the two capitals was in place, ambassadors were on a first-name basis, and generals, politicians, and everyone involved in the process was trained to make sure the day they all feared never came. No one could have imagined—I certainly didn’t—that events would unfold as they did.
The infection hadn’t hit us as hard as some other countries. Our land was very mountainous. Transportation was difficult. Our population was relatively small; given the size of our country and when you consider that many of our cities could be easily isolated by a proportionately large military, it is not difficult to see how optimistic our leadership was.
The problem was refugees, millions of them from the east, millions! Streaming across Baluchistan, throwing our plans into disarray. So many areas were already infected, great swarms slouching toward our cities. Our border guards were overwhelmed, entire outposts buried under waves of ghouls. There was no way to close the border and at the same time deal with our own outbreaks.
We demanded that the Pakistanis get control of their people. They assured us they were doing all they could. We knew they were lying.
The majority of refugees came from India, just passing through Pakistan in an attempt to reach someplace safe. Those in Islamabad were quite willing to let them go. Better to pass the problem along to another nation than have to deal with it themselves. Perhaps if we could have combined our forces, coordinated a joint operation at some appropriately defensible location. I know the plans were on the table. Pakistan’s south central mountains: the Pab, the Kirthar, the Central Brahui range. We could have stopped any number of refugees, or living dead. Our plan was refused. Some paranoid military attaché at their embassy told us outright that any foreign troops on their soil would be seen as a declaration of war. I don’t know if their president ever saw our proposal; our leaders never spoke to him directly. You see what I mean about India and Pakistan. We didn’t have their relationship. The diplomatic machinery was not in place. For all we know this little shit-eating colonel informed his government that we were attempting to annex their western provinces!
But what could we do? Every day hundreds of thousands of people crossed our border, and of those perhaps tens of thousands were infected! We had to take decisive action. We had to protect ourselves!
There is a road that runs between our two countries. It is small by your standards, not even paved in most places, but it was the main southern artery in Baluchistan. To cut it at just one place, the Ketch River Bridge, would have effectively sealed off 60 percent of all refugee traffic. I flew the mission myself, at night with a heavy escort. You didn’t need image intensifiers. You could see the headlights from miles away, a long, thin white trail in the darkness. I could even see small-arms flashes. The area was heavily infested. I targeted the bridge’s center foundation, which would be the hardest part to repair. The bombs separated cleanly. They were high-explosive, conventional ordnance, just enough to do the job. American aircraft, from when we used to be your allies of convenience, used to destroy a bridge built with American aid for the same purpose. The irony was not lost on the high command. Personally, I could have cared less. As soon as I felt my Phantom lighten, I hit my burners, waited for my observer plane’s report, and prayed with all my might that the Pakistanis wouldn’t retaliate.
Of course my prayers went unanswered. Three hours later their garrison at Qila Safed shot up our border station. I know now that our president and Ayatollah were willing to stand down. We’d gotten what we wanted, they’d gotten their revenge. Tit for tat, let it go. But who was going to tell the other side? Their embassy in Tehran had destroyed its codes and radios. That sonofabitching colonel had shot himself rather than betray any “state secrets.” We had no hotline, no diplomatic channels. We didn’t know how to contact the Pakistani leadership. We didn’t even know if there was any leadership left. It was such a mess, confusion turning to anger, anger turning on our neighbors. Every hour the conflict escalated. Border clashes, air strikes. It happened so fast, just three days of conventional warfare, neither side having any clear objective, just panicked rage.
We created a beast, a nuclear monster that neither side could tame…Tehran, Islamabad, Qom, Lahore, Bandar Abbas, Ormara, Emam Khomeyni, Faisalabad. No one knows how many died in the blasts or would die when the radiation clouds began to spread over our countries, over India, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, over America.
No one thought it could happen, not between us. For God’s sake, they helped us build our nuclear program from the ground up! They supplied the materials, the technology, the third party brokering with North Korea and Russian renegades…we wouldn’t have been a nuclear power if it wasn’t for our fraternal Muslim brothers. No one would have expected it, but then again, no one would have expected the dead to rise, now would they? Only one could have foreseen this, and I don’t believe in him anymore.