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Urquhart watched Macarthur taking it all in, making the rounds of his hookups and keeping careful notes. The man's obsession was familiar, almost comforting in a way. Urquhart could understand this need to see what could be seen, to seek out the litanies of speculation and terror. He recalled other crises, all those dangerous intersections of recent years -- Chernobyl, the Challenger fireworks, the Pentagon's little screentests in Grenada and Panama.

Each time, a few minutes into the present danger, there'd be Macarthur on the line from New York, L.A., or the desert, talking in that vague tone that said all our operators are busy but passing on the updates nice and steady.

There was a fellowship in this, as there would have been for any metropolitan American of a certain age. The inevitable effect of a history given to sudden ruptures, a history of missiles, cracked reactor vessels, and guns in the street. Both men had that nasty taste for apocalypse. They'd grown up inside the same nightmares.

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