Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Peter Buck goes to work at his office at the White House. It is an ordinary day until the red phone, which has never rung before, rings. The president is on the phone, requesting Buck’s immediate presence at the White House bomb shelter.
Meanwhile, at the Strategic Air Command (SAC) war room, General Bogan and Colonel Cascio are giving a tour to Congressman Raskob and Mr. Gordon Knapp. Bogan explains to his visitors how the room works, including explaining the Big Board, which projects large maps indicating the movements of submarines, ships, and airplanes. Suddenly, the war room goes to Condition Blue: An unidentified flying object (UFO) is heading toward the United States from the Soviet Union. Six squadrons of six Vindicator nuclear bombers each are ordered to their fail-safe positions.
Bogan explains the fail-safe system to Raskob: It is meant to ensure that retaliatory measures will be taken against a Soviet first strike, even if the strike destroys all U.S. command and control capabilities. Raskob worries about mistakes triggering a war, but Cascio reassures him the system is foolproof. However, in a neighboring room, a small capacitor in Fail-Safe Activating Mechanism number six blows out unnoticed. The UFO turns out to be an off-course commercial jet with engine trouble, and the alert is cancelled. Five of the Vindicator squadrons turn back from their fail-safe positions. Because of the capacitor malfunction, Vindicator Group Six...
(The entire section is 1382 words.)
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