Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The sea of faces looks like a spattering of pale raindrops against the dark pastiche of their clothing. This demonstration promised to be ‘a spectacular denial of President Lacorn’s policies’ and it is. The estimates place the heaving crowd at over a quarter of a million people. There are snack vendors and even souvenir stalls!

“No tyrants! No tyrants!”

Their cries are consistent, carefully orchestrated. My people have confirmed that all the lobbyists and hardcore groups have come in force. Speeches have been given.

“Ninety seconds before optimum is exceeded, sir.”

I look up at the ceiling. This will be a defining moment in the campaign. I walk over to the console.

“Stand clear. There will only be one with blood on his hands today.”

They look at me in surprise, relief plain on their faces. This may be necessary, but the scale is stupefying. It has kept me up vomiting into the early hours for a month. I think that nightmares will replace nausea after this.

“Sixty seconds.”

There is silence. Some of the para-military elements in the crowd have noticed the lack of official presences or watchers. They are starting to wave their hands to get attention when I reach down and press the button.

Thermobaric weapons are devastating. The fuel-air bomb is unbelievable in enclosed spaces, but used in the open it merely sentences a lot of people to an agonising death instead of pulverising them. The one slung under the media stand at the centre of the gathering has an augmented warhead to make it more deadly, not more humane.

I watch it all. Ignoring the tears streaming down my face and the sounds of my staff retching into waste bins behind me. People turned to flaming mist, people suffocating in a vacuum then screaming in silent agony as burning fuel fills the place where air should be. At the edges of the demonstration, I see people with blood shooting from their ears, noses and mouths. Then firestorm follows pressure wave. Obliteration rolls across the view.

“Close the borders. Implement Emergency Procedures.”

My staff stare at me. They have had the luxury of only bracing themselves for today, the start. I have not.

“This act will be condemned globally. Closed borders and martial law will make them hesitate. When we don’t do anything against them, they will hide behind their words and do nothing.”

“Sir. The fleets?”

Exceptional thinking in extremis. I nod to acknowledge the quality of question; although the answer is something I have had for weeks.

“All fleets are to co-ordinate with overseas bases to lift our entire presence, then return to international waters as soon as possible. Bring our boys and girls home.”

They kept on insinuating they wanted us to stop meddling. So we will gather in and see to our internal strifes. Intercontinental trade agreements with China will supply what we cannot make. The Chinese rulers have withstood nearly three millennia by being insular. Let us see how we do.

The rest of you? You’re on your own. Good luck.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows