The team of Russian, French, Japanese, Chinese, and German scientists, and their heavily armed escort, worked their way through the remains of Oklahoma City. Half of it was rubble, melted glass, and scorched ground. The other half still stood, though it clearly needed repair.
They’d seen too many bodies on their walk already. Bodies in every city, and every town. Many of them as charred as the ground, others as damaged as what was left standing. In the cities, and towns, almost no one survived.
The French team checked their radiation exposure badges, “We may have 30 minutes left.” Then they resumed measuring the radiation levels of everything. Dirt, parts of bricks, chunks of concrete, melted pavement, everything.
The Russian team took pictures of everything, hoping the pictures could provide a three dimensional digital reconstruction of the area, so they could identify where the cruise missile had impacted the ground.
The Chinese placed markers every 10 feet, in a square pattern, to help measure the size of the area the blast had leveled. Several of them knelt, and silently prayed to whatever gods there were, that this never happened again.
The Japanese and the Germans worked on air flow patterns, cloud cover, humidity, temperature, and general records about the environment. Several of them spoke quietly to each other of how the Americans had sown the wind, and sadly reaped the whirlwind.
All of them knew they would find nothing alive. No people. No cats, dogs, rats, birds, snakes, squirrels. Nothing. Nothing would have survived the power of the blast, and the overwhelming dose of neutron radiation it released.
One of the Russians stopped his work before a steel door, embedded in the remains of a rebar wall. The door stood alone, the building it had been part of was gone, nothing but piles of debris here and there.
The other teams stopped when they saw him standing before that door, and they joined him.
Somehow, by some magic unknown to human science, the door still stood, and the paint on it had not burned away, nor was it black or charred.
It was a painting of a man. He was crouched down, one hand touching the ground, the other his head. None of them knew what it meant. The Russians took pictures of the door, from every angle.
Too soon, their time was up, and the transport helicopters touched down, they boarded them, and were carried away, to the safety of the heavily shielded research base the United Nations had constructed to support their research.
The Chinese and Japanese scientists spoke frequently of what had happened, and why, and how many lives had been lost, and how much of the world would be uninhabitable for centuries. The Japanese were the most experienced with post nuclear blast recoveries, and their insight was highly valued.
The lead Chinese scientist politely noted, “There was no other way.”
The lead Japanese scientist responded, “Indeed.”
They both looked out of the helicopter windows at the devastated landscape below. The Chinese man spoke first, “All this because one of the corona-viruses mutated, and became able to spread among humans.”
The Japanese man nodded, “The Americans always sought someone to blame.”
“It was not our fault,” the Chinese man shook his head, and was no longer able to hold back his emotions, and tears silently flowed from the corners of his eyes. “It was no one’s fault.”
“We all know that. Even half the Americans knew that.”
The Russian leader placed his hand on the Chinese man’s shoulder, “It was their own fault.” He looked at the devastation below. “They insisted on blaming someone, and then set about getting even.” He paused, then sighed. “It was their way. Their nationalistic pride. And it killed them.”
The Chinese man knew. The US had launched military strikes at China, and all its allies. They’d blown North Korea off the face of the planet. They’d left a hole in the ground where Wuhan had been that glowed green in the dark, and was visible from the International Space Station. That, all by itself, triggered a global response, with thousands of nuclear weapons launched against the US.
The Russian nodded at his Chinese friend. “We could not let them destroy the entire world out of their pride and arrogance.”
The Japanese man spoke, quietly, “They sowed the wind. They reaped the storm.”
Written in response to the prompt for week 156 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them all.