That is the premise of Nightstalkers: Book of Truths. Rather prescient, I think.

Of course a lot more goes on. I base a lot of my fiction on fact so here are the facts and the very opening of Book of Truths:

Author’s note: I write factual fiction. I gather real events and add in a fictional premise and characters.

Yes: There was a Marine named Smedley Butler and he was awarded two Medals of Honor.

Yes: Churchill did say that truth must be attended by a Bodyguard of Lies.

Yes: The officially acknowledged first nuclear weapon ever “lost” by the US was in 1950 over Canada. Sorry, Canadians. Our bad.

Yes: When Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara instituted technical launch codes on nuclear weapons to prevent unauthorized deployment, the Strategic Air Command, on its own, decided to override that by setting all the codes to 00000000 and they stayed that way for a while before anyone caught on.

Yes: The Pentagon did secretly remove President Nixon’s ability to launch nuclear weapons in his erratic, waning days before he resigned.

Yes: President Jimmy Carter did send the nuclear launch authorization codes out with his laundry.

Yes: President Ronald Reagan had the codes in his pocket when he was shot and they ended up on the emergency room floor, forgotten about.

Yes: General Curtis LeMay strongly believed in a preemptive first strike against the Soviet Union.

Yes: The Russians did open their nuclear “football” in reaction to a satellite launch by the Norwegians.

Yes: The scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project did have a betting pool as to the yield of the Trinity Test, with the low end being a dud and the high end igniting the sky on fire and incinerating Earth.

Which leads us to today where…

Chapter One

Roland stood near the closed ramp of the Snake, rigged with parachute, M249 squad automatic weapon strapped tight to one side and dressed in a Level A Hazmat suit. His fellow Nightstalkers bet the over or under whether there actually was a nuke in the site he would be jumping down toward, and then whether it would go off when Roland landed on top of it.

Roland had big feet.

In the cargo bay, between the cockpit and the ramp where he waited, the other five members made their next bets…well, four, since Moms rarely joined any betting pool. She considered it unprofessional of a team leader to engage in pecuniary entanglements with team members. At least that’s the way Eagle, the pilot, explained it. On the other hand, maybe she had more important things on her mind, like the possibility of a nuke going off.

The ones taking the over on the detonation didn’t contemplate that none of them would be around to collect if they won.

“Fifteen minutes,” Eagle warned over the team net from the cockpit. “Depressurizing in two.”

“Check oxygen,” Nada ordered. All five in the cargo bay gave him a thumbs up after making sure their rigs were pumping oxygen into their Hazmat suits from the internal bottles. They gave Nada the thumbs up. “Ready back here,” he informed Eagle.

Moms held up a finger, cutting the betting chatter on the team net. Her head was cocked slightly to the side, which indicated she was listening in on the secure frequency back to the Ranch outside of Area 51. Which meant she was being briefed by their boss, Ms. Jones.

After thirty seconds, she nodded and spoke on the team net. “Doc, are you getting the alert message Ms. Jones forwarded?”

Doc was seated toward the front of the cargo bay, a laptop open. He’d pulled off his Hazmat gloves so he could work the mouse pad and keyboard. “Yes. I have it,” he said in his clipped Indian accent. “It is most strange. I have never seen this alert code before. Rather archaic.”

“Figure it out,” Moms said. “ASAP.”

Nightstalkers: Book of Truths