Stevens sat in the high-backed leather chair and folded his newspaper.
Placing it on the table beside him, he gently pulled his glass of aged
scotch and finished the last. He had just about decided that he really
should order another drink when he felt a hand pat the side of his

"Stevens" the man said, "good seeing you here. Would you mind terribly
if I joined you?"

"Of course not, Ingersol, please do" Stevens said, waving his hand at
the chair on the other side of the small table. There was something
about the younger man that always made Stevens feel old and, possibly,
feeble as well. With only 12 nuclear weapons, Ingersol was one of the
newer members of the club. With over 5000 deployable nuclear warheads
at his disposal, Stevens could barely remember the time when he only
had 12 to manage.

As if on cue a punctilious waiter, dressed in a crisp white shirt and
a red vest, arrived to see to their needs. Ingersol ordered a good
Kentucky bourbon, neat. Stevens took the opportunity to finally get
another scotch.

"So, how have things been?" Stevens asked, once they had the drinks
firmly in hand.

"Well, Stevens, thank you so much for asking. My neighbor has been
making some rude noises lately. I think I make him nervous."

"Most get used to it eventually" Stevens said, feeling that it was
somewhat his responsibility to help the younger man. "Only the members
of the club here can really understand the great responsibility we
bear. Few members though we may have."

Ingersol sighed. "Yes, I suppose that it the case" he said, looking down
at this bourbon.

Ingersol picked up the newspaper that Stevens had left on the table and
started going through it, rather half-heartedly. Stevens watched the
light from the high window of the room filter down onto an empty spot
on the floor, along its way illuminating the cigar and pipe smoke drifting
through the air. His mind wandered from this to that.

A man approached from across the room. He was dark and wore an
impeccably tailored Saville suit. His black beard looked as it had been
trimmed by a fleet of barbers it was so perfect. He nodded and sat down
on the chair opposite them.

Stevens nodded back at him. "Rashani. Good to see you again." He tried
to give him his best smile.

"You are very kind to remember me" Rashani said, looking very serious.

"Not at all" Stevens said. "We all know each other here, don't we?"

Rashani was the newest member of the club. He had only developed a
nuclear capability the previous year, and now managed 2 nuclear
warheads — although there were some who thought that it might be as
many as 6 warheads by the end of the year.

Ingersol cleared his throat. "I am so sorry, Rashani, that I haven't
gotten the time to welcome you here."

Rashani seemed to smile, and nodded. "It must be difficult for you,
I know" he said. "This is a most exclusive club."

Ingersol placed his drink on the small table. "It is not so much that
we discourage new members" he told Rashani. "It is, rather, the fact
that we wonder if they will conform to the code of conduct of the club."

Rashani's smile faded. He stared at Ingersol intently. "Is there
something about my conduct that you object to, my friend?" he said to
him. "Do I not also have two hands and two feet? Is not my suit as
nicely cut as yours, my shoes as expertly polished?"

Stevens thought he should intervene. These young ones were so
headstrong. They hadn't the experience of the older members of the
club, who had through the decades learned to treat each other politely.

"Well I don't think that anyone would say that, specifically" Stevens
told Rashani. He gave Ingersol a stern look. "If you are offended,
Rashani, we apologize."

Rashani gave it some thought. His smile returned. "Thank you, Stevens.
But I still do feel quite the outsider here."

Stevens took a sip of his scotch. "That will pass" he said, tipping his
glass at him. "That will soon pass. And then, I think, you will want to
stay with us for the duration."

Ingersol excused himself, saying that it was time for lunch. Rashani
asked to borrow Stevens' newspaper and set to work reading. Stevens'
mind resumed its wandering to and fro. It was so quiet in the club that
often you could lose yourself as the sounds of the outside world faded
into silence.