Abram only realized the helicopter was coming to his house when the machine landed in the middle of the empty highway right in front of his driveway, its flood-lights piercing the pre-dawn night like an alien invasion. The rotors pelted him with dust and twigs and sand, but he was too exhausted to protect himself. He had personally dug three graves in the unforgiving Israeli earth that night. Thirty-one of his friends had died on the kibbutz since the Cataclysm.
A uniformed woman leapt from the back and trotted over, bent low under the blades. Shaking her short black hair into place, she pushed her Uzi around behind her thin frame and unconsciously checked the pistol at her hip.
"Doctor Meir? I am special agent Steinburg. Are you ready to go?" Her manner was pleasant but the tone was not to be argued with. Abram wondered if they taught it in military training, how to talk to people whose whole world is upside down.
He stepped forward to meet her.
"Yes, I am Meir. But I wasn't told about leaving. We’ve had no phone or communications… the electronics, machinery, all are disabled.”
"Yes, of course, sir. The courier did not arrive? You have been ordered to MAZI; I am to take you to The Kirya immediately." The woman tapped a finger on the hard leather of her belt. The dim light of pre-dawn turned everything an unhealthy blue-gray color.
When they landed on a patch of withered grass next to the multi-story military headquarters in the government complex, Agent Steinburg jumped from the craft before it was fully settled. She held the door open and beckoned Abram to disembark. The rising sun was painful on Abram's skin. He turned his face away and tucked his hands under his shirt.
"This way, doctor," Steinburg said, indicating double glass doors where a man and a woman stood, both dressed in scrubs.
The woman greeted him by name. "I'm sure you have many questions… as do we for you. But first, you must decontaminate. Downstairs, please."
Once through a security door, she spoke again. "I am Medical Tech Rosen and this is Alam Golder."
Alam… Abram wondered, why would a colonel come to greet him?
"Doctor, there’s a briefing in a few minutes," Golder said, “as soon as you are cleaned up.”
Golder nodded, and said, “Here we are…"
The room, dimly lit by emergency lights, was clearly one designed for bio/chemical decontamination. A man in HAZMAT gear asked Abram to strip off his clothes and shower with a soap that smelled of strong disinfectant. He waved what looked like a Geiger wand over Abram’s body and asked where he was the night of the Cataclysm. Abram said he always slept in the clinic’s underground bomb shelter during the summer months. The tech said that the shelter had probably saved his life.
After the shower, Abram proceeded through a plastic strips partition to find towels and a set of scrubs to dress in.
Golder, now in uniform, and Rosen collected Abram from the dressing room to escort him down another two levels. A soldier guarded the door to a large conference room where two dozen or so women and men were quietly conversing or nibbling on crackers from an open box on a side table. Abram poured himself a glass of water and drank deeply. Fatigue washed over him.
"Let's begin." Golder turned to a whiteboard while the people took the nearest seats around the table.
He wrote four letters on the board. W - E - E - P. With a deep sigh, he turned back to the gathered.
"I should give the top secret speech about now, but as you will learn, that is hardly necessary. However, it goes without saying this is… I don't have an appropriate adjective to describe how important and confidential the information you are about to receive is."
"This acronym stands for World-wide Extinction Event Protocol, which was invoked six hours ago."
Abram swept his gaze around the faces. Most seemed as clueless as he.
"I would be highly surprised if any of you knew of it. I only heard the name in a briefing an hour ago; someone will give you more information in a minute. The Protocol was apparently developed during the Cold War, should world-wide nuclear war ever come to pass."
"Has it? Is it nuclear war, then?" someone asked.
"War? No, not exactly – although a lot of missiles have been fired, it’s not all-out war. Yet." Golder rubbed his face with both palms. More people arrived, but no one turned to look.
Abram looked up at Golder. "Sir? What, exactly, has happened?"
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