1984, or, the Year the Soviets blew up Congress

15th December, 1960

A man walks silently through the cold, bitter halls of the Kremlin, fingers trembling in the cold. Inside, his mind burns with ideas, cursing the engineers who defy him, the assistants that conspire to usurp his position, his competitors in the military. Twelve days ago, he suffered his first heart attack. He can still remember the doctor's face when he storms out of the hospital to check on his office, his plans. He knows that he cannot continue like this forever- his pains in the stomach were no longer the dull aches of his youth, easily dismissed as the aftereffects of overwork or drinking. Still, he cannot bring himself to stop.

He looks up at the sky, at the stars that he knows are there but remain stubbornly invisible behind the winter fog that blinds Moscow. Three years ago, he had proven to the world that his plans would work. Now he had bigger plans, a beautiful device that would carry not steel, but humans, a device that would reach the moon itself. No, he told himself, he could not rest.

Almost by accident, he had reached the front entrance. The guards wave him in. That day his name will not be recorded, nor the day after that. In the official records, all that will be written is that the Chief Designer had arrived.

Svetlana Ivanova, "Red Star Rising - The Soviet Space program from 1945-1981"
To this day it is not certain why Khrushchev chose to dismiss Chelomey. There were rumours that his protege had grown violent, hurling invectives at his rival after a bitter night of drinking. Perhaps the heart attack enlightened the Premier to the dangers he faced attempting to continue the space program with two rivals in command. Whatever the reason, 1961 will be remembered as the year Sergei Korolev became, for the first time indisputably, the director of the Space Program of the Union of Socialist Republics.


(Reposted in the correct forum) First attempt, please do not murder.
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25th December, 1975

Observers that night on the Siberian plains would not have seen anything of note. The frosted wastes, so long devoid of life or light, would remain just as inhospitable as they had been for the past century, possibly millenia. The men and women of the 4th Special Reserve Division, who officially did not exist, also did not notice anything out of the ordinary. For three weeks now, since they had been diverted from their barracks in the dead of night, they had been told only one thing: Confirm presence of target. Radio report at 1800 hours every day.

The "target" was a large, concrete slab, shielded from sight thanks to a fortunate dip in the mountains, fenced off by signs in the dirt with a roughly three mile radius, forming a crude circle. On the slab were strange indentations, a series of concentric circles from the direct centre, where someone had written something in English. Of course, none of the small, freezing squad could read it, and as far as they could tell nothing else of note was to be found. On the very first night of their duty some foolhardy soul had, after one vodka too many, volunteered to run out and touch the rock, just on the off chance that it would turn out to be radioactive or explosive, but the target seemed just like an ordinary slab. Since then, in the absence of any commanding officer save some nondescript man in a well-kept uniform who appeared every two weeks with the supply truck, the brave and thoroughly bored soldiers of the 4th had made seven more such excursions, up to and including walking on top of, sitting on, touching the centre off, and even (in one notable case) pissing on the target, but as far as they could tell nothing could persuade the slab to reveal its secrets. Surely, they reasoned, it couldn't simply be a slab to test some new bomber?

Their aspersions would soon be confirmed. For, as the soldiers of the 4th Special Reserve Division laid in their by now thoroughly worn and distinctly uncomfortable tents for the 23rd day in a row, they did not notice a small, flashing star pass above their position far above the sky.

They did not notice the bright flash, nor the light that descended upon them.

They did not notice that, despite their best efforts, equipment in a city that was also not supposed to exist had made a fatal miscalculation of several milliseconds.

Therefore, they did not notice when, several moments after the flashing star passed above their location, an earthshaking impact shook the Siberian tundra, instantly vaporising the 4th Special Reserve Division.

The target, it had to be said, remained present.
Transcript of interview with Sergei Khrushchev, 1995

Sergei (S)
Interviewer (I)

S: The early 1960s were a very interesting time to be working in the Soviet space sector. The shakeups with Chelomey meant that I was now directed to work for OKB-1, under what we then called the Chief Designer. He was a strong personality, radical, filled with awe-inspiring ideas. With Chelomey out of the way it didn't take long for Korolev to fold OKB-456, Glushko's engine labs, under his purview. After that it was smooth sailing.

I: But as I understoof it, the leadership had set up multiple divided bureaus unlike the American NASA, designed to fight with each other and grow from internal competition. When did that stop being the case?

S: Oh, that was not to say the Korolev had an easy time of it, no. Ha! He was, how shall I put it, singularly persistent when it came to getting his way. To be honest, after Yangel's death in Nedelin- this was back in 1960, when we were still testing hypergolic fuels- Korolev had already lost one of his major competitors. I can't comment on my father's motivations, but I can certainly say that the heart attack allowed him to re-evaluate this approach. Besides, he had enough things to worry about, what with sending missiles to Castro and all that. (Soft laughter)

I: So you think that Korolev won your father over?

S: He certainly won me over! It is rare, I think, to see a man with such drive, such energy, such absolute devotion to his work. I was stunned. He managed to set us on the path to the Moon right after the Americans, threatened to set Glushko on fire if he didn't get the engine for his beloved N-1 working. We all lived in awe of him, and most of us didn't even know his name!

I: Still, he never went to the moon.

S: (Pause) No, never. And I think it broke his heart to know that. Of course, we did do... other things.
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Three Worlds Collide
1st September, 1962

His papers said he was an agricultural scientist. If he died tomorrow, he knew, that was who he would be buried as, his family never knowing what became of the shy boy who went to Moscow University because he wanted to join the Revolution. To die on foreign soil, serving the movement, was a sad and lonely fate, but one necessary to ensure that the capitalist invaders would never again threaten his home.

In the dead of night, he took one last look at the pile of missiles, covered just barely in tarp, and began to dig.

10th September, 1962

The man in the Kremlin was old, balding, and wanted nothing more than to sleep. Worst of all, night had fallen in Moscow, and it was damned cold. In America, he knew, the capitalists would be finishing their luncheons, secure in the knowledge that they had a knife to the throat of the Soviet Union. He thought back to his time in the Black Sea, peering over the April shoreline to glimpse the NATO-occupied lands beyond, knowing in his heart that, just beyond the horizon, missiles waited that could reach Moscow before his long-range ICBMs could even finish fueling. It had not been a pleasant vacation.

But now he would show them. All year Korolev had been proving his doubters in the military wrong, churning out schematic after schematic at a staggering pace. It was a bold move, to halt the crash production of his heavy-set Molniya rockets in favour of a new, more refined design for the N1. Korolev now talked of ending the domination of the R-7, his own creation, permanently, introducing a new era of Soviet space after acquiescing to Glushkov on the issue of introducing hypergolic propellants. Having merged the N-1 with the nascent Proton project, work was now proceeding at an unprecedented pace. Promises were in the air, talks of launches in 1964 or 1965, manned missions to the moon to celebrate the Revolution. And he was happy to sponsor them, so long as Korolev also made sure to improve Soviet nuclear capabilities along the side.

He turned back to his desk. There was a new document there, slipped in by an assistant during his reverie. It was from Korolev, detailing improvments to the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System and possibly incorporating some of Chelomey's projects he had taken over. For the first time in recent memory, Nikita Khrushchev allowed himself a smile. Korolev could have his dreams, military and civilian. In the meantime, he would find other ways to keep the Western imperialists at bay...

20th September, 1962

Washington D.C. was cold too, and growing colder. Although it was barely the end of September, a winter chill had begun to set in, something noticeable in the mornings and, increasingly, the evenings. A man sat behind the Resolute Desk, deep in thought. His hands were not hands that trembled from early morning marches to the Kremlin. No, his hands hardly ever trembled from the cold, if at all. When the President of the United States was uncomfortable, someone usually resolved that in a hurry.

Of course, that did nothing for his nerves. Psychological discomfort was a whole other matter entirely.

Only a few days ago, at Rice University, he had given a stirring speech about the unfortunately-named Apollo program, a speech that would hopefully turn the tide of public support in his favour. Things were different now from those early days in 1961, when he had been reeling from the Bay of Pigs and needed a new vision to unite the nation. Now, after the string of events in Cuba, the Soviets seemed to have an upper hand in everything, especially space. Observers had watched the steady stream of reports coming from Baikonur and Pletesk with something resembling awe, Khrushchev's bold claims about hitting flies at 8000 miles now being backed up by a small but growing Soviet network that began to cover the sky. "Red Stars over America", the newspapers called it.

On one hand, this was excellent news. Congress would not allow the Soviets to humiliate them in space, especially not after Cuba's increasingly agressive posturing. On the other hand, calls were now growing to scrap the Apollo programme entirely, and focus funds on establishing a grip in low-earth orbit, possibly revolving around space stations. The expected budget for the moon mission had ballooned from a respectable but manageable sum of 5 billion to a whopping 20 billion seemingly overnight, with additional price tags attached to the Mercury and Gemini programmes that got the US moon-ready in the first place. The Soviets, for their part, never seemed too interested in the Moon, even after picking up steam in early 1962.

Until now. He picked up the first of the two documents before him. One was the Soviet response to his speech. Translated from Russian, with annotations rushed in on the way to the Oval Office, its message was simple enough. It began by listing the litany of Soviet "Firsts" in space, from Sputnik to Gargarin. It ended with a momentous promise. "The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will bring the revolution to Humanity's final frontier in the name of all mankind, and expand the reach of our international comrades to the Moon before the 50th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1967."

The declaration was radical, shocking in its naked ambition and "faster-than-you" posturing. Only one year ago he had received reliable intelligence that the Soviet space program was in disarray, marred by competing bureaus whose inefficiencies mirrored the various competing efforts of the Nazis under Hitler. How fitting, that methods used to crush dissent by one despot would be used again by another, to their own detriment. In December there were rumours that the Chief Designer, whoever he was, had grown ill. Nothing seemed to make sense any more, not the acceleration, and certainly not this suddenly aggressive tone. He could only guess that something had happened in the high echelons of Soviet leadership, that Khrushchev or the military had finally started to take space seriously. A sudden termor raced through him, a mixture of excitement and fear, pure adrenaline as he realised the implications of the message.

1967. That was a deadline. More importantly, it was a midterm campaign talking point. John F. Kennedy rose up, called for his aides. The space race would begin for real.

Before he could organise a meeting with the director of NASA, however, he also took a look at the second report, something from the DIA about suspicious Cuban air defense sites. It urged him to end the military "No U-2" policy adoped after a series of embarrasments in the Far East and Taiwan. After giving it some thought, he decided to support that as well. It was well known to both sides that accelerations in space activity were tied to advances in ballistics, and the Soviet space program had just gotten very accelerated indeed.

He was sure nothing would come of it. After all, Khrushchev had promised.
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Transcript of interview with Sergei Khrushchev, 1995

I: Let's talk a little bit more about Glushko. I've been led to believe that he and Korolev were mortal enemies, at least before 1961. How did Korolev come around to supporting his hated foe, especially after being given unprecedented influence over the Soviet space program?

S: You know, I'm also of two minds about the subject. (Soft laughter) It might not surprise you, but the Designer was never very forthcoming about his intentions. In the beginning I thought there was a bit of quid pro quo, you know, Korolev accepts hypergolics and Glushko accepts hydrogen fuels. After glasnost got underway I did talk with a few of the American rocket engineers, and they swore up and down that if we hadn't moved on to hydrogen they would have beaten us with the F1 hands down.

I: And now?

S: Looking back, I never realised how serious the split was in the first place. Nedelin was practically a watchword of Korolev's, especially after watching his rival die in that fireball... Perhaps he saw the West getting a decisive lead after Titan II, or the heart attack gave him perspective. It's quite interesting, how sometimes freedom makes us aware of our limits. Had Khrushchev not given him blanket control, perhaps he would have allowed his rivals to wear on him and refused to accept their suggestions or tried to, as the Americans say, "play hardball". (Soft laughter) We had dinner together in the Bureau, once, the three of us. Korolev and Glushko were working late on some new design, and I had been conscripted to be their assistant... Not a word. Silence all the way through, then back to work.

I: Not a word... Fascinating story, Mr. Khrushchev. I mean, many people would say that the rekindled Korolev-Glushko partnership was one of the key features of the Soviet space programme.

S: In many ways, it was a family. A Karamazov sort of family, but still.

I: A kind of technical haven, escaping from the mess of politics, that sort of thing?

S: Without a doubt. Especially in 1962!
1st October, 1962

It had taken far too long to assemble the committee, the man in the Situation Room thought to himself.

Secret memorandums rushed to the National Security Council. Experts flown in from across the country, assembled generals and intelligentsia recalled from distant shores. Perhaps a week ago, these men would have been arguing about funding, about directives, about petty control. Now they would argue about the fate of the world.

Silently, with a knowing glance at the attorney general to his side, John F. Kennedy reached down to activate a tape recorder, then began to speak.

"The first meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council is called to order."

The issues at hand were obvious. The CIA director had made his case clear, and the military brass sided with him: these were missile sites. They were in the preliminary stages of construction, to be sure, and the missiles themselves remained stubbornly hidden, but the surrounding anti-air platforms matched almost exactly with what images of Soviet emplacements they had been able to scavenge from those vast and silent lands beyond the Iron Curtain. There were Soviet missiles and Soviet engineers working to install them in Cuba. As far as the Pentagon was concerned, Khrushchev had broken his promise.

The other advisors, those from the Department of State, gave their reservations in turn: the key was not whether those were Soviet anti-air platforms, they argued, but whether they were protecting Soviet missile platforms. Castro had made his alignment clear after the Bay of Pigs disaster, and a Soviet-sponsored defensive buildup was to be expected- indeed, the Khrushchev himself had said as much in his letter. Anti-air platforms defended many objectives, civilian and military alike. There influx had been witnessed by the CIA already, in August. Whether these sites would be part of the defensive military emplacements he had promised or to guard medium range ballistic missiles was yet to be seen. They recommended caution, diplomacy, one even suggesting a form of Pascal's Wager: If there were no missiles, action would be unnecessary. If there were missiles, the balance of mutually-assured destruction would remain unchanged. With all the advances in Soviet ballistics, they argued, did it really matter if our death came from Havana rather than Moscow? Redraw your red line, Mr. President. Publicly warn Khrushchev. He'll stop.

The Chiefs of Staff were apopleptic. Such ignorance! If the emplacements were legitimate, there would be no need to construct them in the dead of night, devoid of fanfare. If the weak-willed liberals in the State Department didn't recognise that they were dealing with future missile sites in the making, that was their failure. The fact that the missiles were yet to be seen was of no importance- the shape and design of the sites already betrayed their intentions. The good news, they argued, was that the Soviets had now been caught with one foot ashore, one foot at sea. An air strike followed by a series of extensive sorties- 600 in all, or perhaps 700 if they delayed for another few weeks- would purge the Communist influence that haunted the coasts of Florida, possibly before Moscow could sneak any more personnel onto the island. Thirteen minutes, they reminded Kennedy. If the Soviets managed to install and launch a medium-range missile from Cuba, it would annihilate Washington D.C. in thirteen minutes. Where would your "red line" be then, Mr. President?

Mr. President?

Kennedy was silent. For five long minutes the Executive Committee stared, first at the Commander-in-Chief, then at each other.

Finally, he looked up. There was no rage in his voice, only resignation.

"We need to tell the world."
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5th October, 1962

Transcript of speech given by John F. Kennedy. 5th October 1962
"Good evening, my fellow citizens. This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, disturbing evidence has suggested that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island.

The purpose of these bases, once fully established, can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western hemisphere. Only last month, as evidence of the preliminary stages for this rapid offensive buildup entered my hands, Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin informed my brother Robert Kennedy, transmitting a message directly from Chairman Khrushchev himself, that the Soviet Union would only supply defensive weapons to Cuba. We are now in the process of witnessing this solemn and critical promise being broken.

Recognising, therefore, the need to defend our own security, and of the entire Western hemisphere, and under the authority entrusted to me by the Constitution as endorsed by the Resolution of the Congress, I have directed that should further evidence of a nuclear buildup occuring in Cuba surface within seven days, the following steps should be taken immediately:

To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine of all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba shall be initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back. Furthermore, if it should come to pass that such actions have not halted this offensive buildup, then we will respond to continued Soviet aggravation in the satellite state of Cuba with decisive military action, to ensure the safety and security of all allied nations of freedom. It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.

It is my hope that Chairman Khrushchev will honour his commitment to the strict defense of Cuba, abandon his course of world domination, and join in a historic effort to end the perilous arms race and transform the history of man. Therefore, if the transfer of nuclear arms from the Soviet Union to Cuba is indeed occuring as I fear, I call upon Chairman Khrushchev to end and reverse this course now. I call upon him further to halt and eliminate any clandestine, reckless, and provocative threats to world peace that are present pursuits of the Soviet Union, and to understand that stable relations between our two nations depends upon a foundation of trust, instead of a foundation of deception.

Our goal, as always, shall not be the victory of might, but the vindication of right, not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world.

God willing, that goal will be achieved."

Fidel Castro sits in silence as the man in the television finishes his speech. The spineless weakling, that Khrushchev had promised him would only make a fuss. The spinelss weakling, who was now giving him an ultimatum. With an incohate, almost bestial growl springing from his throat, he begins to destroy his office, flipping the table over with a tremedenous crash. Then, roaring, infuriated, he calls for his aides.

"Get me Khrushchev."
7th October, 1962

The Kremlin is a mess. Around every corner officers rush in a blind, semi-autonomous panic, papers changing hands rapidly without motive or cause. A general sense of terror has gripped the normally solemn hallways, a terror palpable in every bead of sweat and trembling brow. The Presidium has been holding a marathon meeting for over eighteen hours since the American diabolus ex machina on the fifth, a meeting that shows no sign of stopping.

Round and round and round the alternatives cycle: Push for the missiles to be installed faster. Concede to Castro, and brandish their forces. Pretend that nothing was happening. Negotiate for some sort of non-invasion pact, or even a withdrawal in Turkey. Khrushchev looks at the tired, annoyed, and generally exhausted members around him, and knows that if he fails to resolve the situation his days are numbered. Luckily, he has a plan.

"Comrades-" he tried to begin, but the rabble ignores him. One of the invited ministers- Gromyko- is shouting about their international reputation. Khrushchev tries again.

"Comrades, I-"

Gromyko continues his tirade. Malinovsky, irascible and twitchy after six hours of solid debate, fires back with a solid insult about Turkey. "The parasitic imperialists have already besmirched their name amongst the nations-"

Khrushchev had had enough.

"COMRADES, FUCK THE INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION! I am chiefly concerned, as the Chairman of the Presidium, as to whether the international nations from which our reputation derives will continue to exist by the end of this week!"

Silence. He has their attention. "Now, I understand that our position does not seem substaintially positive-" There is a snort somewhere down the table, but a quick glare silences it. "- but we are on the cusp of a great opportunity-"

"Opportunity?" Suslov, who had been quietly smirking for the better part of the last hour, is pouncing. "Your revisionist tactics and subterfuge have landed us with a wooden knife in our trousers, and you speak about opportunity?" The Stalinist relic's face twists in some paroxysm of glee. "Has your dotage and obsolescence finally claimed you, Chairman Khrushchev?"

"Not before you, Orgburo man, not before you." At the very mention of that dissolved agency Suslov's face flushes a delicate shade of crimson, temporarily silencing him. "Now. The Americans have overplayed their hand. Their evidence is spurious, obtained without consent, and largely a product of conjecture. In their efforts to shroud their vile actions in the cloak of international diplomacy, they have called a meeting of the United Nations. We will use this meeting to demonstrate the depths of their hollow arguments." He pauses for effect, glancing at his notes.

"Dobrinin will emphasise that our deployments are defensive in nature, that they were necessitated by America's shameful attempt to violate Cuban sovereignity in 1961, and that any interruption of these deployments based on false and motivated accusations will be treated as an act of aggression. The missiles we hide and retrieve, and when their spy planes see nothing they will be shown as fools and barbarians. We will graciously offer, through Radio Moscow, a new agreement: forever promise not to invade Cuba, and we will terminate the defensive buildup." The Chairman glares at his Presidium, daring them to disagree. Perhaps, after these last few words, he will finally be able to sleep.

"Excellent. Arrange to contact Dobrinin-"

"Chairman!" A young aide rushes in, his face flustered, waving a document of some sort. "This- just in- from Cuba-" He collapses at the end of the desk, weakly flipping a translated document in Khrushchev's direction. Suslov is smirking again, somehow.

"Read it out, Chairman."

Castro was enraged. Kennedy had accused him of being a satellite state. The deployment was now jeopardised before the first missiles could even be ready. Far from safeguarding world revolution, he would now be martyred by the inevitable American invasion. Reveal the missiles, he said. Make it clear that any invasion will lead to thermonuclear war. Dare them to back down.

Khrushchev falls backwards, into his chair. His legs no longer seem capable of holding him up. With a dull thud he scatters the letter across the table. Somewhere in the distance, a clock chimes midnight.

The meeting of the 22nd Presidium of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union will continue, after all.
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Author Update 1:

The Vaguely Human Presence behind the Forum Account begins to speak...

Hi! First of all, thanks to everyone for not tearing my first try at a timeline to shreds. I fully expected to either be blown to bits or sink silently into the void, but thankfully that hasn't quite happened yet (though I'm certain there will be plenty of opportunities as we reach the end of the beginning). I thought that, since the proverbial Act One for this timeline will be coming to a close soon and I'm still doing this, I should talk a little bit about the general direction of the timeline.

I'm not quite sure where this is going yet

I'm wondering where this TL is going...

So far, most of the feedback I've received has been some variation of "not sure where this is going". This is, at least for the most part, by design. While some of the vagueness without doubt comes from my own inadequacies as a writer, I do believe that one of the more interesting aspects of Alternate History is how seemingly insignificant changes can have massive consequences (the technical POD for this timeline is "Guy on test site decides not to take smoke break").

Furthermore, developing and following the unexpected results of these consequences is, at least for me, half the fun, and I'm less interested in looking at a timeline where the scenario can be predicted just by reading the title (The most obvious of which being "wHaT iF NaZIs wIn WoRlD waR 2/??!?!?@"- this is also why I'm a big fan of "small historical character makes big impact" timelines like the absolutely awesome Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire). Following this logic I've decided not to include, at least until a substantial part of this timeline has finished, an explanation for exactly how the Soviets will "blow up Congress", but rest assured that it will be spectacular...

One last note on writing style: The way I have written this timeline is somewhat of a departure from the generally diegetic/retrospective tone taken on most timelines, with a heavier emphasis on narrative rather than sources presumably written after the fact (books, snippets from reports, radio shows, tv broadcasts etc.). This helps maintain an atmosphere of uncertainty since most secondary sources suffer from Too-Much-Information syndrome, meaning that they are almost always written with perfect hindsight and therefore useless as tension builders except in brief snippets. In comparison, first-hand recollection means that characters only know as much as the situation allows, creating a more natural narrative flow. Of course, that doesn't mean such sources will be missing entirely- the interview with Sergei will continue as a scene break for at least the foreseeable future.

Roadmap: Act One ends with the conclusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the whole timeline will probably end with 1984 plus a few updates up to the millenium point. Until then, thanks for reading!
So far, most of the feedback I've received has been some variation of "not sure where this is going". This is, at least for the most part, by design. While some of the vagueness without doubt comes from my own inadequacies as a writer, I do believe that one of the more interesting aspects of Alternate History is how seemingly insignificant changes can have massive consequences (the technical POD for this timeline is "Guy on test site decides not to take smoke break").
I hope you didn't take my comment as a criticism - I enjoy timelines where we don't know the exact result from the beginning. It adds suspense, and as you mention in your last paragraph, tension as well.

It's very well written, and I'm enjoying it very much so far. Keep on writing, please!

(The most obvious of which being "wHaT iF NaZIs wIn WoRlD waR 2/??!?!?@"- this is also why I'm a big fan of "small historical character makes big impact" timelines like the absolutely awesome Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire).
Funny you mention Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire - I'd say its probably my favorite timeline on this site. Very well-written, very detailed (so few timelines manage to describe the way the world changes beyond the geopolitical situation, whereas ZRE also gave us many glimpses into the changes in culture - both in Russia and the West - caused by the divergence, among other things), and a very interesting PoD and subsequent course of events.
I hope you didn't take my comment as a criticism - I enjoy timelines where we don't know the exact result from the beginning. It adds suspense, and as you mention in your last paragraph, tension as well.

It's very well written, and I'm enjoying it very much so far. Keep on writing, please!

Funny you mention Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire - I'd say its probably my favorite timeline on this site. Very well-written, very detailed (so few timelines manage to describe the way the world changes beyond the geopolitical situation, whereas ZRE also gave us many glimpses into the changes in culture - both in Russia and the West - caused by the divergence, among other things), and a very interesting PoD and subsequent course of events.

Thanks a lot! Always nice to see another Zhirinovsky fan :)
Black Monday (Part 1)
Channel 4 Presents

A Three-part Specialty Television Programme
Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Trans-Atlantic Friendship Pact

Based on the international bestseller "Two powers, Two wars: The Cuban Missile Crisis from the Inside"
by Robert Kennedy and Sergei Khrushchev

Black Monday

Part One:
9th October, 1962


Narrator: In our modern, gentle age, it is easy to forget how close the world once came to nuclear annihilation. Two superpowers, locked in a titanic struggle, once brought human civilisation to the brink of destruction before learning the true cost of warfare, pausing only to gaze down from the edge of the cliff. Indeed, for most of the Seventies and early Eighties the belief in imminent destruction was so pervasive that "No move left except to wait" became the catchphrase of a generation, spawning from the hit science fiction thriller WarMind in which a supercomputer predicts the end of the world through "Global Thermonuclear Warfare". Yet in the fifties and even the sixties it would not have been uncommon to hear generals planning all-out nuclear assaults or presidents boasting about nuclear arsenals. What changed?

Our scene is set in October of 1962, on the island dictatorship of Cuba. For more than a week now the Americans have become aware of secret Soviet installations on the "imprisoned island", installations that involve missiles so long that the trucks triving them cannot turn on village roads. These are nuclear missiles- and today, on the 9th of October, the world will learn that even the best laid plans of tacticians and masterminds go oft awry, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.


00:00 EST

The man drinking coffee squints as he turns toward the high moon, hearing for the second time that week the telltale radar squeal of an approaching plane. Almost reflexively, his legs tense, and for a moment he feels the urge to spring up and bark an order to shoot, but then he reassures himself- only a spy plane. They were officers of the Red Army, and their orders were to defend themselves. Orders he would not betray, despite the insistent, nagging fear in his hindbrain that he was wrong, that they all were wrong, and that these were the American bombers coming to wipe them off the face of the earth.

If the rumours spreading around camp were true, that day would not be long from now.

00:47 EST

The man smoking his Cohiba cigar reads, over and over again, a letter from Nikita Khrushchev. It cautioned patience, resolution, and above all silence. Promises were made, complex slow-burning schemes hinting at mutual defense treaties to come and equal status for Cuba in the halls of nations. All hinging upon his cooperation in the coming UN emergency session. Slowly, he places the letter down next to a large, empty, glass.

He is enraged.

The letter is coddling, demeaning, almost condescending in its unfailing politeness, treating him as if he were some sort of spoilt, petulant prince who could be sweet-talked into signing over some paltry fiefdom. But he was also right. The overzealous Americans had spoilt their hand, and so long as he stayed put there was likely an immunity agreement waiting for him. Frustrated, he begins to pace around his newly restored office, seething quietly at being muzzled in such an indiginifed- nay, even vassal-like- fashion.

A buzz distracts him from his reverie. Another one of the goddamn spy planes, here to check for his lack of progress on the missile front. For a moment, his ire returns, ire at being subsumed, forced to stopper his single advantage over the Americans, his embarrassment at being made out to be some sort of Soviet puppet. Growling again, he seizes one of his young attendants, points upwards.

"Get. It. Down."

"But- but Prime Minister-"

"Get. It. Down!"

The moment of anger passes, and he briefly wonders whether this annoyance will be some sort of mistake. But, no matter his reservations, to raise a defiant finger against the Americans was the only satisfaction oen got around these parts.

01:42 EST

In the distance, the officer can make out some sort of Cuban military man, dressed sharply in olive green as he picks his way across the moon-drenched roads and into the bunker. Towards him. This was not cause for concern, at least until he was politely, yet resolutely, thrust aside while a cadre of heavily armed Cuban officers suddenly began manning the anti-air emplacement. The commanding general was nowhere to be found. He worked, furiously, to remember his few lines of Spanish.

"No- No- Soviet control-" With one look the new officer silences him, dark-haired, resolute. He says a single word. "Cuba." Then, quietly, he begins muttering in Spanish to his troops, bringing the emplacement to life.

Cuban mouths give the order.

Cuban hands pull the trigger.

In the distant skies above the glittering Carribean, a Soviet S75-Dvina surface-to-air missile shoots down an American CIA spy plane.

Insert: Excerpt from a CIA report at 0400 hours, 09/OCT/1961

....The loss of the U-2 over Banes was probably caused by intercept by an SA-2 from the Banes site, or pilot hypoxia, with the former appearing more likely on the basis of present information.

Active Soviet involvement is suspected, with a small likelihood of Cuban military intervention. Based on existing evidence, the most likely conclusion appears to be Soviet tension over a long reconnaissance flight leading to SA-2 deployment against the U-2...

05:02 EST
Washington D.C.

"Mr. President. EXCOMM is waiting in the situation room."

The man in the White House awakes, bleary-eyed and searching for the cause of the sudden light. "Wh- what time is it?"

"Five o'clock in the morning, sir."

"What is this about?"

"Cuba, sir. Something's happened to one of our U2s."

Consciousness struck him as if a pillar falling from the sky. "What happened?"

"We think the Soviets shot it down, sir."

14:00 MSK

"Premier Khrushchev. Premier Khrushchev!"

The man in the Kremlin wakes fitfully from his mid-afternoon dozing, startled. The endless meetings had taken their toll on him, lining his face with silent, formless scars that nevertheless gave him the impression of a man many years his senior. It is evident in the way he moves, in the way he talks: life is leaving the elder statesman.

"What is it this time?" He mutters not with irritation but resignation, a tired anticipation of worse news to come.

"It's Cuba, sir. We got a report Castro's men took over one of our S75 emplacements and shot down a U-2." the aid says, visibly sweating. "What do we do, sir?"

Fear is evident in Khrushchev's face. You can almost see the alarm and shock running through every vein. He trembles, falters. "Assemble... Assemble the Presidium." The attendant turns to leave. "Wait, no. Who else knows?"

"In Moscow? Only the Army, the KGB, and you, sir- Castro's sent a message specifically for you." The response is even briefer this time. Take action, or we will defend ourselves.

"And the Americans, of course."

"Yes, sir. The Americans."

For the first time since he's woken up, Khrushchev looks towards the ceiling. "Malinovsky was right." He speaks with dread into the camera.

"With nuclear missiles on the board, you can never play chess- only roulette."

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