Short no. 1, something about pride goeth before the fall.
The doomsday device was never supposed to be triggered. It was supposed to be a deterrant. No sane man would have acted against it, because to do so would mean their ruin.
Buttler's mistake, he reflected, was believing that all men were sane.
The idea had been simple. Put an end to the spying, the standoffs, the posturing, the saber-rattling, the arms race, everything. With his machine in place, there would no longer be a point to any of it. He would have been safe, his regime would have been secure, and he would have gone down in history as the man who brought lasting peace out of one of the most dangerous conflicts in human history.
When the device had been announced, and its function had been proven, the UN had been utterly enraged. He had stood at the podium, at what was very nearly a war crime trial, explaining that he was not telling them what he would do, he was telling them what he had done.
"There is no point in threatening me," he had said, in the sentence that had made headlines across the world. "My nation and myself may no longer be meaningfully threatened in anything but empty words." He was proud of that one. It made a good sound bite. "The device cannot be disabled without setting it off. Any attack on our nation will automatically trigger the chain reaction. The device will tolerate no tampering, and will function for a thousand years at the very least. I have verified its functionality with my own researchers, as well as several seperate independent agencies. The blueprints and infrastructure of the device are available publicly. It is foolproof. By threat of global doom, I declare world peace. I do not name myself emperor, or dictator, or anything more than I already am. But peace will be my legacy."
Legacy. There was no legacy anymore. As far as he knew, he was the only man still alive in the whole world, with no one to remember his good intentions. It was too much to grasp. The entire population of the earth, dead, because of a few nutjobs, and his own brilliance.
He had nearly run the rations dry. The air filters were in the red, and would soon stop functioning properly. The water was starting to taste funny. And he could no longer manage the boredom and the guilt.
Buttler sealed himself inside the radiation suit. It wouldn't keep everything out; nothing could. But it would keep him moving for a while. The suit had a tape recorder. 30 minutes of tape, he guessed. It'd have to do. Did the radiation ruin magnetic tape? He didn't know. But he didn't think it mattered too much. Not a whole lot did, anymore.
He went through the extensive process of opening the door. There were a lot of fail-safes, to ensure that the secure door was not opened by accident or carelessness. The door, while massive, was well constructed, and exceptionally balanced. It swung open easily.
At first glance, the Capital did not appear so different. Traffic jams were common, and litter had always been a bit of a problem. But the traffic jams were usually punctuated by car horns and profanity, and the litter didn't usually include so many corpses. Buttler verified that the tape recorder was running.
"My Name is Frank Buttler," he said into the microphone. "I am the former Premier of the United North American Collective and it is my fault that humankind is gone."
Buttler started to walk. "It was my machine that killed the planet," he began. "I designed the concept of it, I hired the men who built it, and my short-sightedness caused its detonation." He spoke in a monotone, weaving his way through the gridlocked traffic jam of people trying to flee, as though there was a place to which they could flee.
"My people were afraid for their lives, for the lives of their families, and for the safety of their way of life. The idealogical conflict that might have escalated to war was foolish, but to some men, it was real. Many truly believed that a different economic philosophy of another nation across the ocean, represented a very real threat to the heart and soul of a country." Buttler sighed. "We could not afford another war, both in terms of money and men. Missiles are not a deterrent when the enemy has them as well. The world needed an outside threat; a Sword of Damacles hanging above the head of man and woman, rich and poor, communist and capitalist. Globalization would be easy if all men feared one thing equally. Something beyond anyone's control."
"And so, I created the doomsday system. And for a while, it worked perfectly. Everyone stopped building missiles, stopped stockpiling guns, and there was peace. Actual, real peace. Hell, I sat in a room with the new premier of my nation, as he spoke about trade agreements with the enemy." Buttler smiled at the memory. "Such a thing would not have been possible before my machine."
The wind was plastering the radiation suit against Buttler's skin. Wind which contained the invisible, deadly particles of radiation. Particles that were, even now, sneaking through the suit and into his body.
"I did not understand that not all men desire to live, before all other things. There are men who believe some things so strongly, that they would happily die, and take billions with them." Buttler's next breath was shaky. "Billions. I staked the survival of the human race on the idea that the human race wanted to survive. And almost all of them did."
He stared up at the spire, a symbol of his nation, one of the most recognizable structures in the world. In its day. But one man, two men, only a handful, killed us all. And I was one of those men."
"Please, if you find this, know that I'm sorry. Know that it is my fault. I may not have pulled the trigger, but I put the gun against the planet's head."