“Sir!” The lieutenant, clearly agitated, rushed into the staff room and snapped to attention.
“What is it, Mann? What’s the word from the field?” asked the general.
“We’re surrounded, sir!” The lieutenant lost his composure. “We’ve tried everything but the enemy is increasing. It’s all around us!” The lieutenant began to circle the room aimlessly, the last of his sanity sadly ebbing away.
The general nodded, his chin sinking to his chest. “I feared as much. Major Schmidt, put me on the hotline.”
Schmidt waddled to the corner where the red phone sat gleaming. It was a direct line to the Pentagon that connected automatically whenever the handset was lifted. Schmidt knew what it meant for the general to make this call. He hesitated for a moment, hoping to forestall the inevitable. But he knew his duty. He picked up the phone.
“Secretary Panetta? General Hansen, sir.” Despite the overwhelming sadness engulfing his heart, his voice did not quaver.
“I’ve been expecting your call for hours, Hansen. The press—well, most of it—is waiting anxiously for me to tell them what to write. They’re growing restless. I’ve warned them that the ‘area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security. Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar caps, the more frequent and devastating natural disasters’ all threaten the peace. This is war at its bloodiest. But we have, until China cashes in on the bonds they purchased from us, the strongest military on the face of this benighted planet. If any nation can battle climate change, it’s us.”
“It’s worse than we feared, sir,” began the general. “Nothing we’ve tried has been effective. And, sir, this is not all. Every weapon we throw at the enemy makes him stronger. Whatever we do is countered instantly. He only becomes stronger. It’s almost as if he knows what we’re going to do in advance. He…” The general’s voice took on a hysterical tinge.
“Snap out of it, man! Just tell me what happened.”
“Sir, we started by trying to shoot the carbon dioxide molecules from the sky. Reports indicate we’ve expended millions of rounds. But it’s no use. Our bullets are just too big. They sail harmlessly through the air.
“The plan to send the Army of M1 Abrams and Hummers on the offensive backfired. We drove and drove and drove but the enemy would not fight. We launched more missiles, rockets, and grenades than I can count. All of them fizzled. The Air Force sent wave after wave of fighters. They shot all they had. Nothing.
“It was only then that our scientists were able to show that everything we did—everything—only increased the number of the enemy. Regular munitions didn’t work, would never work.”
“This is bad, general. Very bad.”
“Yes, sir. A ray of hope was provided by British Intelligence. They worked out a scheme in which soldiers would take to the field and capture the enemy in hand-held non-EM-blocking polymerized containment devices—”
“—What in the world…?”
“Plastic baggies, sir. The plan was to march to the enemy’s hot zone, open the baggies and expose them to the air and then, before they had a chance to escape, to close the baggies and seal the enemy within.”
“Brilliant!” Secretary Panetta marveled.
“No, sir; not brilliant. Futile. Oh, I’ll admit the plan worked at first. Analysis showed that after the first twenty-four hours, the enemy was actually reduced by 0.00000000000034%.” The general sighed.
“Then what’s the problem? You didn’t run out of ammunition?”
“Plenty of ammunition, sir. But we ran out of storage space. We’ve filled all our hangers, offices, barracks, cupboards, closets, every space we could think of, but there just isn’t anywhere left to put the prisoners. But, sir, to anticipate your thoughts, even if we could find a place to put them, we can’t capture enough of the enemy fast enough. And paradoxically, the harder the soldiers work at putting these vile molecules out of commission, the more of them appear. It’s almost demonic.”
The line was silent for a minute. Finally, Secretary Panetta spoke. “You’re not saying what I think you’re saying, are you, general?”
“Sir, I…I can hardly speak the words. But a good general knows when a battle is lost.”
“I can’t tell the press the battle is lost. Our dear leader has promised the seas would recede and the skies would clear. I’ll do the only thing I can do.”
“What’s that, sir?”
“I’ll ask for more money to study the problem.”