And so my story begins:
One fine day early in the autumn of 2033, the president suggested to his defence minister that they conclude the weekly homeland security meeting with a private discussion at the picnic table on the South Lawn in front of the Oval Office.
The general, although he looked puzzled, simply replied, "Of course, sir."
A little later, they were seated opposite one another at the heavy wooden table. The Dyson dome held back the drizzle, and a multitude of anti-spying measures were in place. "Yes, Mr President? How may I be of assistance?"
"No need for such formality, please. Call me Liam."
"Of course, sir. How may I be of assistance, Liam? Would you like to hear my personal appraisal of the warm standby option?"
"Ah ... no," said the president, laughing briefly. It was not a positive laugh. "No, no. Nothing like that." He breathed in deeply. "Noah, I would like you to tell me about Operation Act of Grace."
"Forgive me for saying so, sir, but I don't think that's a good idea. Even the commander-in-chief of the armed forces himself doesn't need to know everything."
The president wagged his index finger. "Noah, Noah, Noah. I won't take that as an answer. This is the ..." He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket, pulled out a hand-written letter with the White House letterhead, and unfolded it. "This is the handover letter from my predecessor in office. It says here, and I quote word-for-word, "If you, my dear Liam, should ever find that continually staring into the abyss becomes too dark for you, and nothing seems to put things back into perspective, then ask your defence minister about Operation Act of Grace."" The president looked at him expectantly.
"I suppose it also says something along the lines of only considering it as a last resort. And I may add, sir, that your predecessor never even considered this last resort."
"He simply lived in less interesting times."
The general nodded and stood up. "We have to fly, Mr President."
For reading further, just download Andromeda SF Magazin 155! You will get a whole bunch of stories and essays from all around the contemporary German sf field, too.
(English story translation by Richard Marsh)