Two Minutes To Midnight
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It was a miserable day.

The temperature was a fair few degrees lower than expected and the howling Siberian winds did little to improve things. A group of men in fur coats walking through the snow stuck out like little brown fingers in the sheer white landscape they found themselves in. Slowly but surely they plowed a path through the thick blanket of snow and towards a grey concrete bunker at the edge of the cliffside.

General Popov was the first to arrive at the bunker. He reached into his coat pockets and produced a key, which he used to open the cold metal door.

"After you."

He stood aside to allow his top two researchers and a thinly mustached man from Moscow into the structure. Once inside, the thinly mustached man removed his ushanka and glanced around the area. He was greeted by a small array of monitors, computers, and other devices. His gaze crept forward and to the front of the bunker, where a meager and modest observational deck had been constructed. He grinned, approaching the deck.

"I understand your team has worked tirelessly to make this project come to fruition, General."

"Yes. This time we are sure we have something."

"We shall see."

The two researchers began adjusting dials and knobs on the terminals they were stationed at. Various lights switched on as Popov sighed, rubbing his hands together. The thinly mustached man rummaged through his pockets and produced a cigarette and lighter. He lit his vice and took a long drag.

"General Popov, sir, the device is ready for priming," one of the researchers spoke up.

"Thank you, Pavel. Initiating priming sequence."

Popov moved toward one of the terminals and threw open a small hatch to reveal a button. He paused for a moment before pressing it. Another light in the bunker switched on, covering the room in a faint red glow. Popov took a deep breath and moved towards the observational deck to join the thinly mustached man.

"Detonation will be ready in one minute."

"Thank you, Yaroslav. Let us hope for success."

The two men stood side by side, overlooking a massive snow-filled valley.

"How are things progressing, General?"

"Everything is going according to plan so far. Detonation will be ready in one minute."

"Good, good."

Popov folded his hands behind his back, anxiously swaying back and forth. Popov wondered if the Americans were somewhere in the middle of the desert testing the same technology they were. He wondered if maybe they wished they were somewhere cold instead of the blistering Nevada heat. He wondered if maybe, just maybe, they were as close to a breakthrough as he and his team were. He shrugged to himself slightly; it didn't matter.

This time. This was their last time. If they didn't succeed in their objective today, the entire project would be canceled and the last few years of work would have been for nothing. He would be disgraced by the party and likely demoted. But Popov couldn't allow for that happen. He had hoped the device he and his men were working on would yield results thanks to a new schematic discovered from the late days of the Great Patriotic War.

Popov swallowed nervously. Even though his men had uncovered the schematic, they were still unable to fully replicate its functionality. He had thought that if maybe they had more time, they would have been able to flawlessly recreate the planned device. But they didn't have any more time. The thinly mustached man from Moscow was already there and he expected results. Results Popov wasn't sure he could give.

"In 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…"

At first, there was nothing. Popov and the thinly mustached man exchanged a strained smile. Just as Popov was getting ready to speak, an atomic fireball spread out in the valley below. Trees burned to a crisp, rocks were pulverized, and the once howling winds seemed to stop for a moment as the explosion culminated in a large mushroom-shaped cloud in the near distance. What followed was a dead silence.

"Fuck." Popov muttered. "Fuck!" he exclaimed, tossing his ushanka to the ground.

The thinly mustached man took another drag of his cigarette and leaned against the cold bunker wall.

The two researchers appeared to shrink away in the back of the room as Popov regained his composure.

"I am sorry, friend. I am not typically so easy to anger. It is just, we are so close to a breakthrough and-"

"And yet you've produced nothing."

"Well, you see-"

"It has been five years, Popov. You promised Moscow results two years ago."

"I know that if we just-"

"This project is now way over budget and has wasted several nuclear payloads."

"But-"

"Payloads we can't get back."

"Yes-"

"Payloads the Americans are likely catching up on building."

"I understand. I am sorry. You may dismantle this project if you see fit."

There was another brief silence. The thinly mustached man put out his cigarette against the concrete wall and let it fall to the floor.

"You misunderstand, Popov."

"Oh?"

"The state isn't interested in abandoning this project."

"But I thought this was our last attempt?"

"It would have been, yes, but we recently made an interesting discovery."

"Do tell, friend."

"GRU-P discovered an anomaly in Korea. I think it may be key to creating this Slepoj Glaz of yours."

"An anomaly? The GRU-P? You're not suggesting this becomes one of your projects, are you?"

"I am, yes."

"I… I don't know how I would feel about that."

"How you feel doesn't matter, General. What matters is that they provide results, which I understand you need desperately."

"… fine. Tell me about this anomaly."

"Gladly."

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