Jan. 22nd, 2011

This probably really wants to be a longer treatment, but oh well.

Terry fidgeted under the withering stare of Major General Reese, Commander of UnisCorps Special Operations Division. General Reese had earned a reputation during the war effort of being a no-nonsense type, and as a civilian, Terry wasn’t sure what exactly qualified as ‘nonsense’. He therefore resolved to sit perfectly still and not move a muscle or say ‘Boo’ unless asked a direct question. Reese’s staff were scattered around the planning room, their eyes all boring into Terry from different sides as if they hoped to reduce him like a rogue meteor.

“Your great-great-great-great-grandfather,” said Reese, carefully counting out the ‘greats’, “was Jasper Maskelyne, correct?”

“True, sir,” replied Terry. He didn’t look much like his ancestor, but they both shared the same swooping black mustache.

“Jasper was a part of A Force during World War II,” said Reese. “Did good work as part of that unit. He was a civilian stage magician like you before the war, was he not?”

“That’s what the stories say, sir,” Terry said blandly. In truth there wasn’t much family lore to add to the public legend; Jasper Maskelyne wasn’t a family man, and he died bitter and estranged. Terry rankled at the description of ‘stage magician’; he was an illusionist, creating grand spectacles for the public’s amusement. There was a difference between that and pulling rabbits out of hats.

Reese shuffled through a stack of papers. “He made a number of convincing illusions to confuse Rommel,” said Reese, scanning the pages. “Made tanks look like trucks and vice versa. Created illusions of entire attacks from misdirecting sides. Disguised the City of Alexandria from bombing raids.” He looked up and peered at Terry. “What A Force did was pure heroism, my boy.”

Terry squirmed. “If you say so, sir,”

“I do say so.” Still staring at Terry, Reese picked up a glossy promotional poster from another stack of papers. His eyes slid over to scan it.

“It says here,” Reese observed, “that you made the moon disappear.”

“Simply a promotional stunt for a new casino, sir; an illusion involving…”

“I am aware of the details of your illusion.” Reese apparently made some kind of decision; he straightened the papers in his file and closed it before handing it off to an aide. Reese folded his hands and stared at Terry again.

“We’re restarting A Force,” Reese said briskly. “I want you on it. As of now, you are no longer a civilian; you are a part of UnisCorps SOD. You’ll receive a commission as a captain; we’ll deal with the details later. The remainder of this briefing is rated Most Secret.” He nodded at one of his staff, who started a projector.

“Udaran drone bombardments are increasing in intensity. Deep space reports indicate a new swarm of them is approaching the heliopause; they’ll be here raining down on us inside of 18 months. New strategies for defeating their drones must be devised.” The young colonel cycled the projector.

“We see here that Mars will be positioned on an intercept course between the drone swarm and the Earth,” continued the aide. “All evidence is that Udaran drones have very limited abilities to make intelligent decisions, target largely based on visual input, and do not seem to have inertial guidance. Based on these factors, A Force shall be deployed to implement a unique illusion.”

Reese stood up. “Maskelyne,” he said, “You’re going to make Mars look like the Earth.”
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