Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Snowflake in Norway... -002

I'm participating in a story-a-day challenge from a Reddit writing group. My story is based on this prompt.


Allison didn't know it, but the most fateful event that day in Oslo wasn't the sightseeing, nor was it the time spent with her new husband on her honeymoon. She was sitting on the veranda of a coffee shop, browsing through pictures she had taken the day before. John was inside, attempting to order in the broken Norwegian his grandfather had tried teaching him years ago. As she waited, she noticed that the temperature had fallen significantly in the last half hour.

On his way home from a long day of delivering produce, Emil received a phone call from his very pregnant sister, Fatima. She'd begun having contractions, and although she stressed that there was no need to hurry, Emil gunned the engine of his Volkswagen Jetta and began speeding through the rural farmlands of Central Turkey.

Jin-Ho Park watched the sun setting over the Demilitarized Zone along the 38th Parallel between North and South Korea. He was chosen to be a guard at the Joint Security Area-- a compound straddling the DMZ which was built to allow North Korean and South Korean diplomats to meet on (technically) neutral ground-- because he was six feet tall. His superiors wanted him to tower over his South Korean counterparts; due to years of widespread famine and malnutrition, North Koreans on average were four inches shorter than South Koreans, and it was something that the diminutive Kim Jong-Il had been sensitive about. For years, Jin-Ho had stood opposite a number of young South Korean soldiers, studying them intently. But something was different today, and he wasn't sure what it was; everything just seemed... off.

Bao Li was trying to stay awake as he watched the Chinese Military satellite feed. Right about now, Harmony One would be somewhere over the Middle East, programmed to detect heat signatures from known NATO and American missile sites.

Finally, John set Allison's espresso in front of her. As the two of them discussed the places they'd go and the distant relatives they'd visit, a single snowflake drifted down from the overcast skies over Oslo, landing in Allison's drink. She furrowed her brow upon seeing this interloping precipitation, then pulled her coat tightly around her shoulders.

"Are there any seats inside?" she asked. John craned his neck for a moment, then stood up.

"There's a table in the corner; let's grab it." They stood up, grabbing their drinks and their other belongings. Unbeknownst to Allison, as she scooped up her purse, he iPhone tumbled to the ground, landing just under the table.

Francois hated his job. He was a French soldier, stationed with NATO troops in Turkey, babysitting air-to-air missiles which kept a close watch on the southern skies. Originally, the fears had been of an Iranian attack on NATO troops, which had precipitated the placement of these missiles in the first place.  But then some intrepid journalist had noticed that the Iranian state-run media had photoshopped those "leaked" photos of Iran's suprise long-range missile test; now the missiles were pointed at nothing more specific than "south".

Cenk had just spotted an empty table in the corner of the cafe when a young African couple sat down. No, probably black Americans, he thought. He scanned the cafe for another table, but the only open one was outside. Making his way out there, he was just about to take a seat when he saw something white and squarish on the ground. Bending over, he picked it up and held it for a moment, not believing his luck.

The last of his counterparts had only arrived a week or so prior, Jin-Ho realized, and as they stared at each other across 75 meters of open courtyard, he suddenly saw what it was that had been bothering him: this soldier-- no, all the South Koreans-- were more muscular, more fluid in their motions. Jin-Ho's father had been a Taekwando olympian for North Korea in the 1980's; these soldiers weren't draftees like the others, they were built like his father was at his prime.

Cenk walked as quickly as he could through the narrow alleyways toward his cousin's house, the iPhone planted firmly in his pocket. His sister, Fatima, was due to give birth any day now back in Turkey, and he had promised to send money to her for the baby. Until now, he had worked a few odd jobs here and there, but an illegal Turk in Norway was unlikely to find something permanent, and everything he'd earned had gone just to housing and feeding himself. But now.... He knew a man, another Turk, who would buy this from him, and would offer a fair price at that. First, though, he would call Fatima to see if she'd had the child yet. He hoped that if it were a son, perhaps she and Emil might name it after him.  He dialed her number from memory, hoping that she'd understand why he hadn't sent any money yet.

"Have you seen my phone?" Allison asked John as they left the cafe.

Francois was patrolling the perimeter fence that ran alongside the highway, watching the traffic as it raced past. Turkish drivers, he reflected, were just as crazy here as they were in Lyons.

Jin-Ho heard the commotion before he saw the general. A high-ranking official and Party Vice-Chair, Jin-Ho recognized him from previous inspections of the facility. Jin-Ho was too disciplined to turn and watch him as he lorded about; instead, his focus was still on the South Koreans across the yard. They seem awfully tense, he thought. The general stopped about 10 yards to Jin-Ho's right, just in his peripheral vision. The general chased his entourage away with a wave of his hand and walked up to Jin-Ho. Nervous, Jin-Ho snapped to attention as the general asked him a few rudimentary questions; he was so short that Jin-Ho towered over him. And as he looked down at the general, he saw something odd: the general was wearing running shoes, painted to look like dress shoes.

Emil was already passing the other cars on the highway at a furious speed when the phone rang again. Without looking, he reached over, but the damned thing fell into the gap between the passenger seat and the door. Emil wrenched himself over to retrieve it, and as he sat back up, he suddenly found that he was headed right towards the fence of the military base.

Francois was watching a pair of NATO soldiers attempting to change a tire on a jet fuel truck when he heard a number of cars honking and swerving. He saw the grocery truck driving the wrong way, straight toward the 

Bao sat up straight suddenly. It looked too cold to be a missile launch, but he wasn't certain. Rocket fuel burned at a certain temperature when it mixed, but then, a lot of other substances burned in that temperature range as well. Still, it was his duty to log the incident for the Chinese intelligence agencies to investigate. He did that quickly, then he turned on his stashed cell phone and dialed, informing his handler in Pyongyang, North Korea, about the suspected launch.

Jin-Ho watched as the general slowly meandered about the courtyard, almost imperceptibly drifting closer and closer toward the other side. The South Koreans didn't seem nervous about such a high-ranking official getting too close; Jin-Ho thought that they seemed too uninterested, actually. And that was when he realized what was happening: the general was defecting. It must have been planned out: the South Koreans were anticipating this, and had probably planned it out. Jin-Ho didn't have a rifle-- firearms were outlawed at the DMZ-- but there was a secret stash, of course, and the South Koreans were known to keep one as well (both stashes being as close as allowed by the armistice without technically violating it).

Cenk stared at the phone for a moment. It had rung four or five times, then cut off.  Oh well, he thought as he stepped into the trader's shop.

Jin-Ho instinctively bolted as soon as the general began making a run for it. He was fifteen or twenty yards behind, but he was taller and younger, and he tackled the general just before he could cross the painted line that divided the nations. The two men struggled, and in the melee, the general managed to wiggle to the point that he reached a hand across the line. That was all the South Koreans needed; a dozen of the Special Forces soldiers joined the fight, followed by the North Koreans. Batons were pulled, and Jin-Ho found himself engaged with three South Koreans. And that's when someone pulled a handgun. Jin-Ho felt a bullet rip through his chest. Just before he blacked out, he saw the general's head explode in a shower of blood and brains.

Kim Jong-Un was woken from a very good dream in which he was playing golf with his father again. He liked golf; he didn't really like being Supreme Leader. He angrily picked up the offending phone, a hotline from the intelligence services. He listened impatiently as they wove a story about missile launches in Turkey and a firefight on the DMZ. Irritated, he simply barked, "well launch something!" and rolled over to go back to sleep.

And that's how a snowflake led to the nuclear holocaust that killed 5.2 billion people.

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