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

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Vol 39 Issue 23

Woman Checks Terror-Alert Level Before Leaving For Work

FORT DODGE, IA—As she does every morning, local resident Wendy Trotter, 33, consulted the Department of Homeland Security web site Tuesday to check the terror-alert level before leaving for work. "I like to leave the house prepared," said Trotter, a cashier at a local Cub Foods. "I'd hate to assume that the level is still Elevated, only to find myself caught in a High-level situation. And if I didn't check, how would I know whether I need to coordinate necessary security efforts with federal, state, and local law enforcement and begin contingency procedures by moving to an alternate venue?"

Banks Introduce 75-Cent Surcharge For Using Word 'Bank'

NEW YORK—Executives from the nation's 50 largest banks announced Monday that, effective July 1, all customers will be assessed a 75-cent surcharge each time they use the word "bank." "Now, each time a customer uses the word 'bank' in either its spoken or written form, 75 cents will be automatically deducted from his or her account," said Kenneth Nordland, 54, president of the American Banking Association. "For instance, if you say, 'I bank with Bank of America,' that would cost you $1.50." Nordland added that customers wishing to avoid the penalty are encouraged to use the alternate phrase "financial institution."

Christ Returns For Some Of His Old Things

JERUSALEM—After being away for nearly two millennia, Jesus Christ triumphantly returned Monday to pick up some of His old belongings. "I realize this isn't exactly how the world's Christians were imagining it, but I left a really comfortable pair of sandals in Galilee, and I wanted them back," said Christ, who died for our sins. "Also, I'm pretty sure I lent [Apostle] Simon Peter my best goblet at the Last Supper." This marks Christ's first return since 76 A.D., when he thought he'd forgotten to turn off his coffee pot.

Father's Day Gift Way Shittier Than Mother's Day Gift

TOPEKA, KS—For the seventh year in a row, the Father's Day gift that Robert Frankel, 48, received from his children Sunday was way shittier than the Mother's Day gift his wife received five weeks earlier. "Wow, thanks, Marc and Erica, they're great," Frankel said, as he unwrapped a $9 pair of padded socks. "These should really keep me warm." The gift, which stood in sharp contrast to the $85 day-spa gift certificate the children lovingly gave their mother on May 11, was presented without a card.

U.S. Refuses To Allow U.N. Weapons Inspectors Back Into Iraq

BAGHDAD, IRAQ—For the third time in as many weeks, U.S. officials denied U.N. weapons inspectors' request to reenter Iraq. "Thanks so much for the offer, but we can handle it from here," Lt. Gen. William Wallace told U.N. chief inspector Hans Blix. "We're getting very close to finding Saddam's massive WMD stockpile, and to have the U.N. get involved at this point would just complicate matters. Sorry." U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has given President Bush a June 28 deadline to let inspectors into Iraq.

GOP Reports Record Second-Quarter Profits

WASHINGTON, DC–At a stockholders meeting Monday, the Republican Party announced record profits for the second quarter of 2003, exceeding analysts' expectations by more than 20 cents per share.
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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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