Five Minutes to Midnight

(Fall 1992)

Everything was under control. Really.

The Pacific Rim forces were sweeping through eastern Russia. Territories in Africa, now virtually depopulated by the Trembles, were occupied by a new army every few days, and had changed hands from the European Community to the United States to the New Equality Alliance to the Pacific Rim until there were nearly more casualties from the fighting than from the original plague. Central America was a bloody battleground between the US and the NEA, with both sides claiming sovereignity. But at least fighting was still confined to conventional weaponry --- except for the Jihad terrorist strike against Israel, of course. And even that use of nuclear arms had not been repeated. A delegation of religious leaders was petitioning the UN to enforce a cease-fire, and World War III would certainly not last much longer, one way or another.

The scientific situation was equally well in hand. The flooding of coastal cities due to the melting of the polar icecaps was a problem, but bubble technology had kept many cities safe, and scientists were surely close to a solution. The earthquakes rattling Asia and the Pacific Rim had been terribly devastating, and had demolished much of China's agricultural base, but they had stopped as suddenly as they began and probably would not recur. The exact origin of the giant lizard that had raged through downtown Tokyo was unknown, but SHIELD, the UN superhero team, had beaten it and would no doubt be able to beat any subsequent relatives. SHIELD had also neutralized the threat of Captain Capacitor and his robot armies, for the third time. Certainly any further developments would be dealt with equally efficiently.

The next development occurred on an otherwise perfectly normal Tuesday afternoon. The spaceship landed in front of the UN building in Coast City, announced themselves to the UN, and politely asked them to put an end to World War III and form a world government. The UN, just as politely, declined, and said everything was under control, thank you very much. The aliens clarified: this was not a suggestion.

Then the situation began to deteriorate. The UN was handling the negotiations with its customary efficiency, when the alien space ship blew up. Then the Pentagon blew up. Then US President Washington Jones went missing --- the First Lady turned up dead. SHIELD agent Lickety Split was found murdered. So was the Mexican Presidente. The entire Egyptian delegation was wiped out by a bomb. A strange ovoid object appeared hovering above Coast City, inside the bubble. The local security forces started a private war, destroying two-thirds of the city. James Bond stopped a group of thieves trying to break into the vault of priceless auction items for the Trembles Benefit. And the Elvis Fan Club began to picket the aliens to return the King.

Amidst the chaos, one fact remained clear: an alien armada was en route to the Earth, and the world's governments had ten days to cease squabbling and pick a world leader, or the aliens would do so for them.

Laura Baldwin
Charles Hope
Mahk LeBlanc
Tim Stellmach
The MIT Assassins' Guild