Randy Bragg lives in the small Central Florida town of Fort Repose and appears to be drifting down a somewhat aimless path in life when his older brother, Colonel Mark Bragg, an Air Force Intelligence officer, sends his wife and two children to stay in Fort Repose, explaining that, because the Soviet government believes it can succeed, it will be emboldened to risk war. Mark is flying his family down to Florida for their protection while he stays at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska. Soon after, an American fighter pilot attempting to intercept an enemy plane over the Mediterranean inadvertently fires an AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking missile that goes off course and hits an ammunition depot in Latakia, Syria, resulting in a large explosion. This event becomes the apparent casus belli for the Soviet Union to launch a nuclear strike against the United States and her allies. Early the following morning, Soviet missiles arrive from over the Arctic, as well as from submarine, while American missiles are sent in response. Randy and his house guests are awakened by shaking due to nearby bombing, one explosion temporarily blinds Peyton, Randy's neice.