Thursday, October 29, 2009

DBTL 46A: Three Days in October - Prologue

This is the latest installment in the Drowned Baby Timeline, an alternate history where Adolf Hitler drowned at birth and where World War II never took place. In the absence of our timeline's Manhattan Project, nuclear weapons have been developed independently in Italy, France, Great Britain, and the Polish Commonwealth. To avoid a European nuclear arms race, the four nations join together in September 1946 to create the Atomic Control Commission, tasked with maintaining a global monopoly on nuclear weapons . . .

London, Great Britain
4 October 1949

Prime Minister Anthony Eden looked up from the classified ACC report to see Edward Teller, the organization's Deputy Director, looking at him with that intense expression he habitually wore. God, but it gave him the willies.

"I don't suppose there can be any question about what the Americans are doing at Los Alamos," said Eden.

"None whatsoever," said Teller. "They are planning to test a uranium fission device sometime this month."

"But dropping an atom bomb on the place seems a bit, oh I don't know, perhaps the word I'm looking for here is harsh."

"Mr. Prime Minister, they are flouting the authority of the Atomic Control Commission."

"Well, I suppose, technically," said Eden. "But it's not as though they're going to go out and start tossing the things about higgledy-piggledy, are they? They may be a bit stand-offish, but I think we can trust them to show appropriate restraint when the time comes."

Eden could tell from Teller's expression that he wasn't buying it. "Mr. Prime Minister, what the Americans might choose to do with their weapons is not the issue. The issue is whether or not the League of Nations is serious about maintaining control of atomic power throughout the world. If we let the Americans defy us, then what will we tell the Russians when they come to us in a year's time and say 'We too have developed atomic weapons, and we too feel no need to yield control of them to you'? It is the thin end of the wedge, Mr. Prime Minister, the slippery slope. If they insist on building atomic weapons, then we must insist on keeping control of them. If they refuse us, then we must act to forestall them.

"It is therefore the recommendation of the Atomic Control Commission," Teller concluded, "that if the Americans do not surrender control of their Manhattan Project, we must employ an atomic device of a size suffcient to completely obliterate the research facility at Los Alamos."

"Errrm, how big?" said Eden.

Teller gave Eden a stern look. "As big as necessary, sir."

"And you want us to do it? England, you mean?"

"Only the UK and the Polish Commonwealth have the means to deliver the device to Los Alamos," said Teller, "and the UK is closer to North America. Also, it will be necessary to use Canada as a base for the attack, and Canada is a member of your Commonwealth."

"But I say," Eden spoke in some desperation, "won't the Americans become rather, erm, angry at us?"

Teller smiled what he perhaps thought was a reassuring smile. "It will not come to that, Mr. Prime Minister. Once they recognize the cost of intransigence, they will accede. They will have no choice. There will be no need to actually use the bombs."

"Bombs? I thought you said we would just need the one?"

Teller looked surprised. "Mr. Prime Minister, one always employs a backup in case of unforeseen contingencies. It is common sense."

"Very well, Dr. Teller," said Eden. "Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. I'll have a decision for you in the morning."

"But, Mr. Prime Minister, this is of the ut--"

"In the morning, Doctor."

"Yes, Mr. Prime Minister."

(to be continued)

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