“Yes, General, hell of a mess.” Colonel Donney Porchelli agreed looking around at the crash scene. The fire that had consumed the ranch house was almost extinguished now. Huge, portable lamps lighted what was left of the house and the grounds. The warhead had missed by more than two hundred miles. It had flattened an old ranch house deep in the Jemez Mountains setting it on fire and killing the two occupants.
“The couple died instantly,” Porchelli answered before the General could ask.
“The warhead, anything left of it?”
“What we found is over here.” He pointed to the small tarp that lay on the ground near the ruined ranch house.
The General pushed the scraps apart with his gloved hand. He wasn’t happy. Someone, probably at Drapper, had screwed up what should have been a simple calculation of trajectory.
The barn, however, was not damaged. The General noticed one of the men lift something into his arms just outside the barn. .
“What’s that?” the General asked pointing.
Porchelli met the airman halfway. He returned a minute later out of breath holding a small child in his arms.
“She was in the barn,” he said.
The General looked closely. The child, probably no more than three year old, was crying, clutching a worn brown Teddy bear.
“I guess we have a problem General?”
“I guess we do Colonel, any ideas?”
“None sir”, he answered. “It’s above my pay grade.”
“As you said Donny, that’s above your pay grade. Burn the place. Make sure you get the animals out of the barn; I don’t want any PETA types investigating and getting nosy. Fewer the questions, the better, accidents happen. Right?” Reinhardt said thinking about the consequences of the system failure to meeting the deadline that Secretary had set.
“I don’t like it” the Colonel said worried. He didn’t entirely trust General Reinhardt.
The General knelt down to be on the child’s level. With a light hand, he brushed her hair back, away from her eyes. “Honey, it’s going to be okay,” he removed his glove so he could caress her face, drying her tears as he did so. “Come, I’ve a real treat for you.” He pointed towards where a small helicopter at one end of the well-lit field.
Taking his hand, she followed him towards the sound of beating eggs on hard ground.