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Posted on Apr 14, 2006 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features, TIAOW

The Incorrect Art of War [Episode 17] – The Ultimate Weapon

By A J Summersgill and Jim H Moreno

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Starring:

Doctor Sinister

Doctor Sinister. An evil Supervillain with an insane lust for power. From his secret island base, the Doctor plans to become future Emperor and Warlord of the planet Earth. Enjoys the company of cats and cloned genetically modified Dinosaurs.

And featuring:

General Menace. Graduated from West Point Military Academy with honours, served for twenty-five years in the US Army, reaching level of 2-star General in command of training facilities before being recruited by Doctor Sinister to command his New Model Army of World Domination. Has a penchant for cigars.

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EPISODE 17 – "The Ultimate Weapon"

There is a tense atmosphere in the darkened War Room as Doctor Sinister and several of his cohorts gather around the massive thirty-foot high viewscreen that dominates one end of the chamber. In one corner of the screen, a smaller picture-in-picture display shows an enormous missile being readied on a launch pad. The rest of the screen is filled with a computerised image of the Earth’s surface as seen from satellites in orbit. Flashing icons show the location of Doctor Sinister’s bases and agents all around the world, and a large red star shows the location of the main secret island base itself.

As the Doctor and General Menace watch impatiently, the scientists in the room finish their calculations and step back from the main console, nodding curtly at the two senior men, nervously clutching their clipboards. Green lights flash across the board on all consoles. On the screen, men and vehicles hurry away from the missile pad as small tendrils of smoke begin to billow from the rocket motors.

General Menace: My Lord, everything appears to be ready. We can begin the countdown.

Doctor Sinister: Excellent!! (Doctor Sinister turns to a secondary console, inserts an elaborate key into a large lock and twists it) Let history unfold!! (On the screen, flames begin to lick at the bottom of the missile) 10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…launch the missile!

(On the screen, flames explode from the bottom of the missile and it leaps into the air with a torrent of black smoke. The camera tries to follow the missile into the air, but it swiftly disappears, and as it does, so too does the picture-in-picture display. Simultaneously, the main screen showing the map of the Earth now also depicts a dotted line heading away from the island base as the missile speeds up into the atmosphere and across the surface of the planet at incredible speed)

Missile away, telemetry readings normal. Tracking reports normal course and speed.

Fantastic!

Missile now at three miles height, ten miles downrange, we are ready for phase 2 my Lord.

Very good. Activate the Stealth Screen!

(General Menace activates a small switch on a remote control in his hands and, on the main screen, the dotted line suddenly vanishes. There is a round of applause from all those gathered)

Congratulations my Lord – you’ve done it!! You’ve actually DONE it!

Activate the satellite scanners – I want to be sure…

(The screen display shifts to show the flashing locations of geo-stationary Sinister satellites in orbit as they scan the planet with their own onboard equipment. But the missile does not reappear on the screen)

No trace your Excellency – the device appears to be 100% effective. It’s a total success!

Thank you General, thank you. Yes, I’ve done it – the first RADAR invisible ICBM. Undetectable and invisible, we can now launch nuclear weapons at any target on the planet with impunity!

I had my doubts Sagacity, but this is truly exceptional. For the first time since the start of the Cold War, a nuclear power has the ability to engage in a first-strike scenario without fear of retaliation. The missiles will arrive before anyone even knows they have been launched, and, if we activate the stealth screens before launch, no-one will even know who fired them. My Lord, you’ve finally broken the delicate balance of power! I’ll take steps to have all our missiles equipped with the stealth screen at once.

General – we have invented the ULTIMATE weapon! Drinks and double-bonuses all round I think.

And cigars?

What?

Oh, never mind…

(There is a sudden pinging noise from the main screen and the dotted line trace of the missile reappears. The assembled scientists sheepishly look at their clipboards and mumble amongst themselves)

What’s going on?

I don’t know, the stealth screen on the missile suddenly dropped out and it’s visible to everyone…

Reactivate it!

(The throng of scientists scrambles to the control consoles, flicking switches and pulling levers as Doctor Sinister paces up and down, his robotic arm twitching)

Well?

(General Menace joins in, twisting dials and loooking at readouts)

I’m trying, but something is overriding the controls…

(The General snaps around as he hears sparking noises from a control board in the far corner – and sees a pair of Siamese cats slowly and methodically stripping the insulation from a bundle of cables leading into the rock wall)

Argh! No!!

What’s up?

My Lord, respectfully, your bloody cats, they’ve trashed the transmission console, they must have deactivated the stealth screen remotely and now we’ll never get it back up again…

But we must, that missile can be seen by everyone…

(Klaxons ring through the chamber)

Now what?

Our missile has been detected by an American satellite…this is not good.

If they trace where it came from…

(More klaxons chime incessantly)

Not just the Americans, a Chinese satellite is picking up the missile as well, and now the Russians have seen it…

(A warning buzzer sounds from the main viewscreen which turns a violent shade of scarlet and announces a Red Alert throughout the base)

What now?

Enemy missile launch, someone’s traced the source of our missile – and they’re firing back.

But ours was just a test, there’s no warhead on board.

I would hazard a guess that since this was a top secret project, they probably don’t know that it’s not armed. Hang on…picking up more launches now, a British submarine in the Atlantic has fired a Trident missile at our location…the Russians have fired an ICBM and the Chinese have launched another five toward our general position. It’s going to get hot…

Five?

They don’t do things by halves your Excellency…wait…looks like the French are involved now, I’ve got another three traces coming from western Europe – I told you it was a bad idea to run that website…

It was a good idea at the time – besides which, this is no time for arguments General – how long until the first missile impacts?

About ten minutes my Lord.

Alright then, let’s look at our options – can we activate the orbital defences?

The what?

The orbital lasers we launched to shoot down enemy missiles.

Erm…

We do have orbital lasers to shoot down enemy missiles, don’t we?

Well, not as such my Lord, you will remember we held a meeting about this a year ago, and I went to great pains to inform you that the project wasn’t feasible. That kind of technology isn’t available, no matter what President Reagan thought in the 1980’s.

OK, then what about the satellite railguns?

Still on the drawing board my Lord.

The atomic X-Ray emitters?

Errr…there’s no such thing my Lord.

I’m disappointed, so that’s a big "no" to the Star Wars weapons then?

I’m afraid so. We can’t even rely on the Ewoks. Erm, nine minutes left my Lord.

OK, what about our own submarine fleet? Can’t we counter-attack?

Well, technically we could, if you were prepared for total nuclear armageddon, but they won’t be checking in for another two hours, and this entire facility will be a bubbling mess of goo by then.

Which leaves?

Well, running away would seem to be a good idea right now.

Excellent, that sounds like a plan then. We shall run away. (To the Scientists) Gentlemen, thank you for your assistance, as incompetent as it was, if I ever need to construct another communications console that can be field-stripped by a cat, I’ll know where to come. Assuming you survive that is. It goes without saying, your double-bonuses are cancelled.

Eight minutes my Lord, we must hurry…

Follow me General!

(Doctor Sinister and General Menace head towards the rock wall and enter a metal door, followed at a languid pace by the two cats. Once inside, the door closes. It is an elevator)

Up or down my Lord?

Ooh, down I should think, this thing goes down three hundred levels. I’ve an escape pod in the submarine pens that will do very nicely.

Very well my Lord. (The elevator lurches as General Menace hits the down button and it plumetts down the shaft. The General then checks a display on his remote control pad) Oh dear.

What’s up now?

Our eight minutes just got slashed to three, an update from the computer shows the nearest missile to be much closer than we first thought.

Ah. That’s a bit of a problem then.

How so?

It’ll take five minutes for this elevator to reach the bottom. Let’s hope the rock around us will withstand the accummulated detonation of a dozen nuclear warheads.

Hmmm…with respect my Lord, I think that’s asking a bit much. Two minutes now.

Oh well General, it was nice knowing you.

And you too my Lord. On the plus side, if we survive this, we have at least learnt a valuable lesson.

We have? Oh yes, of course, never allow a cat near the missile communications console.

Well, yes, there is that, but we’ve also learnt something else.

Which is?

There’s no such thing as an ultimate weapon. Even if the stealth missile had worked, someone would have found a way to detect it in the end. Nothing is ever perfect. There’s always an eternal battle between weapon designers and those seeking to counteract the new systems that appear in the battlefield. It’s the way of things. Not to mention that the more complicated you make a thing, the more possibilities there are for it to go wrong. Such as cats chewing on the wires. Maybe we should focus on the simple things for a change… One minute to go.

(They stand in silence)

I wonder if I’ve got time to recite my favourite song…

nuked.jpg

Will our, erm, "heroes" survive the blistering nuclear strike directed at them by no less than five major world powers?

Will Doctor Sinister ever see the light of day again?

Will his island base be blasted to smithereens?

Will General Menace ever get hold of some cigars?

Find out (probably) in the next exciting episode of…The Incorrect Art of War!!

A J Summersgill

andrew@armchairgeneral.com

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