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By Now, The Uzbekistanis Have Discovered The Disappearance Of Their Orbital Platform

Ah, I see we're all here. Well done, everyone. I was confident you could all get to this odd corner of Argentina by noon GMT, and you did not disappoint. Although I'm distressed that two of you were forced to risk exposure by using commercial flights. However, as you'll soon see, identity-containment is not our primary concern at this time.

Gentlemen, Mei-Ling, we are in crisis as of seven minutes ago, when space station UCCCPZ-5476-43-B failed to crest the horizon over Gdazny. Even if our adversary's NKVD-trained orbital-warfare officers have been uncharacteristically slow on the uptake, we must assume that the Uzbekistanis have, by now, discovered the disappearance of their Rasputin orbital kinetic-energy-weapon platform.

Please, everyone, quiet! We may be in a godforsaken backwater, and this may be a tent, but it is my operations center, and I will have silence. I will explain this to everyone once, understand? As we speak, the vital details are being burst-transmitted to your comlinks—for Klaus and Morgan, to your implants. For now, unless I indicate otherwise, please assume the worst. It's that bad.

Yes, operatives, it has come to this. Six weeks ago, the decision was made to open the Prometheus Dossier. Certain individuals felt that the Uzbeks were too... unstable, politically and financially, and could not be allowed to retain possession of certain leftover Russian toys. The European space agencies were very helpful in allowing us use of crucial resources and facilities, and there you have it. The Fader and his men intervened personally, and now we hold the high ground, if you will. But it was a risky project, and it has brought us to the brink.

At approximately 0515 Greenwich, a French AUGUR/CASSANDRA-class low-Earth-orbit meson-resonator operated by an adversary agency detected disturbances in the Earth's magnetosphere above the South Pole. This is not unusual, given the nature of certain international sub-indigo-clearance projects being carried out below the remaining Ross Ice Shelf, but it alerted someone it should not have, and a message was sent to the Uzbeks. Though several selfless anti-communications personnel gave their lives in the attempt, we could not intercept the transmission. But they do not know where we have moved Rasputin. We think they're searching exotic circumlunar orbits at the moment. Which is uncomfortably close to the truth, but it's a big sky.

So. If we are to avoid the biggest debacle since Barcelona, we must act quickly. Samandrea, you will compile a roster of anything with unfired retro-rockets in near-earth orbit. It does not matter what company, government, or international organization claims ownership; just get the damn list to Broadbranch in Emergency Acquisitions, cross-referenced with time-to-orbit for the following vectors. Also, get that idiot Alexei to estimate the survivability of a quarter—no, make that a half-kilo of weaponized plutonium entering the atmosphere in all possible insertion patterns for the orbits in this sitrep.

And let's have some coffee. A threat to civilization as we know it is no reason to neglect civilization as we know it, as your uncle would say. How the hell that buzzard dealt with this sort of thing happening every day during his tenure I don't know, God have mercy on his soul. There are days I wish he were still in charge, and I were still a station-keeper in Halifax. Not that I'd want to be in a coastal city if we screw this up.

All right. Technically, I'm not supposed to ask, but do we have any survivors of Project Yggdrasil in this room? Don't give me that look, Molyneaux! Allegations of mutiny and cannibalism were never proven, and they may be the finest zero-gravity combat elements in the Western world. Ben? Quinn? Sidney? I thought so, not that I ever would have asked. Why, Mr. Rosewood, you old coot, I never would have thought it. You are all promoted two ranks as of this moment, unless that would put you above me. Sorry, Quinn.

Congratulations to all of you. Now get to the scramjet at the helipad. You're expected at the Buenos Aires facility within the hour, where you will be issued Gauss weapons, fitted for extravehicular BDU packs, and rotated through circulatory-fluid replacement and augmentation by 0300. I hope you didn't have big breakfasts, gentlemen. You're deploying, rather vertically, within six hours. Godspeed. I wish I were going with you.

Mei-Ling! Get off that damn phone!

Right. I want the short list of equatorial nations who owe us favors and a geographical abstract of any relatively uninhabited tracts of land that are at least 12 miles long east-to-west and situated well above sea level. Evacuate the locals from each and every one of them, minimizing collateral losses. Don't look at me like that! If we did Laramie, we can do this.

Good. Now, Sergei, get at least one of your trained crisis-salvage crews to each of these locations and tell them that a high-speed cargo, hot in both the thermal and radioactive senses, will be arriving in a big hurry within, let me see, 18 hours. They need to have it on the trucks before sunrise local time. For those few who don't know Cyrillic, make sure you issue them cards showing the Russian designations for radioactivity, high magnetism, and xenotechnology.

All right. Everyone else is standby. Those with family in Western capital cities, please see the psych officer. Everyone else grab some sleep. It's going to be a long night.

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PITTSBURGH—Red wine and candlelight on the table before them, Deep Blue, the supercomputer that defeated reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, and Kasparov’s ex-wife, Yulia Vovk, quietly celebrated their 10th anniversary on Wednesday at a small French restaurant near Carnegie Mellon University, where Deep Blue was created.

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