It’s been eight years since a nuclear war between Russia and the United States has left the surface of the Earth uninhabitable. All humans live and work below ground, sending weapons up to the leadies, robots designed to withstand the deadly radiation who continue to fight the war by proxy.
When the head of Internal Security for the Americans notices a visiting leady is non-radioactive for some reason he organizes a party to the surface to investigate. Once there they find there is no nuclear fallout and in fact no ongoing war. The leadies have been faking the entire thing, creating miniature destroyed cities and sending down ersatz war footage as life above ground (minus humans) is thriving.
The leadies decided if they kept a fake war going long enough the human’s hatred would burn itself out and then all of mankind could be united… or something like that. Their scheme seems kind of dubious to be honest but also kind of cute. The leadies trap these Americans, who now know the grand plan, on the surface, since it’s not quite time to expose the fake war to everyone. They are introduced to a small group of Russians who also ventured above ground at some point and also found out the truth, and together the two factions must learn how to get along.
Dick would reuse and expand this idea in his later novel The Penultimate Truth, although the circumstances of the phony war in that one are much more complicated.
In 1956 this story was adapted for NBC’s X Minus One radio series.
Cast of characters
- Taylor – planner for the U.S. war program
- Mary – Taylor’s wife
- Moss – Taylor’s supervisor
- Commander Franks – officer of Internal Security