Good evening. I'm Artagal the Green, and you're watching the Palantir News Network. For a breaking news story, we now go to North-western Rohan.

This is Daggerol of the Uruk-Hai, reporting live from Isengard. A thick column of black smoke is rising from the side of Orthanc, the great tower that has overlooked the plains of the Rohirrim since the time of the Men of Numenor. Columns of smoke are a common sight in Isengard these days, but what is unique about this one is that Saruman the Wise didn't create it. We have unsubstantiated eyewitness reports that some kind of enormous bird, perhaps a giant eagle, has flown into the side of the structure.

Daggerol, what can you tell us about casualties at this time?

Information is incomplete as of this moment, Artagal, but I can confirm that Saruman the Wise is alive and well. He is most assuredly angry, however, and has strangled four of the Uruk-Hai by his own hand, but we're all relieved to know that his splendid leadership shall not be interrupted, ha ha. As for other, lesser beings, considerable fire and wreckage has dropped from the tower and fallen onto the fire and wreckage that was already in the pits below the tower, and an unknown number of orcs, Uruk-Hai and other minions are dead or trapped.

What information do you have regarding possible suspects?

Artagal, it's much too early to know anything about who's responsible. Naturally suspicion immediately falls upon the Steward of Gondor, but until interrogations are performed…

Just a moment, Daggerol, we go now to Magroth of the Leprous Hand in the Morgul Vale.

A terrible scene is unfolding here at Minas Morgul, Artagal. An enormous eagle has flown into the side of the central tower, apparently deliberately sacrificing itself to wreak destruction. There is considerable chaos and confusion as the Witch-King seeks to control his forces and punish those responsible. As you can see, the damage and resultant loss of life is almost too much to contemplate. Oh the orcosity!

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In the past ten years a great deal of analysis has been performed regarding the attacks on 9/11. By any metric the method used by Al Qaeda to hijack and weaponize commercial aircraft was both effective and horrifying. There is general agreement that such attacks must never be allowed to happen again, and a number of different proposals have been made towards this end. Proposals regarding the operation of airplanes and security prior to boarding have abounded, but when it comes to solutions via engineered redesign, aircraft has remained largely untouched. Engineering professionals have largely only been called on to provide assistance for design efforts related to hardening buildings against attack.

Oh, sure – blame the victim. Putting the onus for preventing aircraft attacks on the targets is an insult to the dignity of architecture. Next you're going to tell me that a building's façade was overly provocative, and that if designers were really sensible they'd know not to tempt fate by putting a skyscraper in a downtown district. For shame!

In this white paper we shall redirect the focus of redesign efforts squarely where they belong: on the aircraft themselves. By redesigning airplanes with the current times in mind, we can not only improve civilian safety, but we can empower high-rise structures to fearlessly reclaim the business district.

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The dust expanded in a roiling cloud, sweeping outwards from the collapsing buildings. It quickly engulfed hysterical fugitives who found themselves in a supernatural darkness; they had no choice but to seek refuge wherever they could and wait for the light to return, while the ever-present dust collected on their shoulders and coated their eyeglasses.

The dust spread outwards in two separate ripple patterns, slightly off center from each other and displaced an hour or so in time. When the second tower fell, rescue teams had little choice but to wait for the dust to settle or dissipate; working blindly in that gray cloud would do more harm than good.

But to everybody's surprise, the dust didn't settle. The clouds persisted, odd eddies describing vortices and patterns of convection where none should exist. The air did gradually clear, but not because the particulates fell to the ground; rather, the individual structures of the dust formation gathered themselves, crawling back in the direction of Ground Zero. Those trapped within the artificial night felt the clouds roll back, and found their shoulders unsullied, their eyeglasses clean.

The dust clouds concentrated themselves over the wreckage of the two major towers of the World Trade Center, now heaped piles of twisted iron and broken concrete, hissing and popping with waste heat. They formed themselves into an angry cumulonimbus of sorts, a lowering grey cloud. As policemen watched, they could see thin streams of more dust rising from the buildings' battered corpses and merging with the larger mass.

But eventually the flow of fresh dust petered out, leaving a swollen, almost spherical mass of dense particles bobbing gently above the disaster area. It seemed to rise for a moment, and turn on some unseen inner axis, as if scanning its surroundings. Then, with an immediacy only explainable by the direct influence of intelligent purpose, the dust cloud wafted over the police cordons. It turned north on West Street, taking up all lanes of traffic.

"Clear a path!" shouted the police chief into his radio.

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The creature had triumphed. Decades ago its cairn had been found by a young Afghan boy trying to escape Soviet gunfire. Inadvertently he had freed the spirit of hate and chaos that had been imprisoned in that desolate place by fakirs during the time of the Mughal Empire. It had taken root in the hearts and minds of the Afghan resistance, and using them as its tool it had defeated the Russians and brought a nation under its sadistic, unpredictable influence. Now it had begun its campaign abroad, lashing out against the Americans.

And it was winning. The four men that the spirit had infected had gotten on board flight 93, overwhelmed the crew in the cockpit, cowed the survivors and forced them to the back of the plane, and taken control of the airplane. They had turned it about, and it was heading for Washington. From within all four sets of eyes, the spirit glimmered hungrily.

But it was a wild spirit, not subject to the rules of reason, incapable of predicting what it might choose to do from one moment to the next. That was its downfall. If the spirit could only retain focus, it would never have been trapped in a remote hillside for centuries – it would have ruled the world. And in this moment, with a great and satisfyingly bloody climax only minutes away, the spirit lost focus again.

It fell prey to its own whims. Towards the rear of the plane the creature beheld fear, and it hungered for it. The spirit rose up like a cloud from the two men in the cockpit, filling that compartment with a thin and greasy smoke. Similar tendrils rose from the remaining two terrorists standing watch outside, joining with the others into a kind of venomous smog. Then it slithered like an insubstantial snake towards the back of the plane and settled in about the shoulders of the several dozen men and women huddling in the aft rows.

The vision of the hijacker pilot cleared, and his eyes widened. "My God," he said.

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The red shapes had their main nest high in the north tower of the World Trade Center. It was on a vacant floor that the humans had forgotten about, because that was how the shapes worked: they blended in, made things disappear from memory, made people do things that later they considered their own ideas. They were – well, they were non-specific, by design, so there's little to describe them by. We'll say that they were shapes, not so much unlike men that anybody would notice, and they were red. And that's enough about that.

The red shapes liked to lurk in their nest and eat trash. They also liked to look out the windows at the south tower, because the blue shapes had their nest there, a little lower down. The blue shapes were a lot like the red shapes, but it wouldn't do to say such a thing where a blue shape could hear you, or a red shape for that matter. The red shapes and the blue shapes… didn't get along. They liked to be able to keep an eye on each others' nests, because they were always playing tricks on one another.

One morning a plane came swooping in from the north. There were three men in the cockpit who weren't supposed to be there. The ones sitting in the pilots' seats were sweating.

"I don't know if I can do it," Ali said, his voice strained as the buildings of Manhattan loomed large. "You know I love God, but I don't know if I can do it!"

"Forgive me, God, I don't want to die!" sobbed Faisal.

The third man, who was really a blue shape, although he wore a hoodie and blue jeans like the other two, didn't say anything. Shapes didn't need to say anything; they just made things happen.

"God's given me strength, Faisal," said Ali, wondering.

"Our prayers are answered!" whooped Faisal. With renewed vigor and purpose, they steered the plane right into the north tower, precisely where the nest of the red shapes was.

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The Director of Marketing called Timmers into his office. "We need something," he said.

"Okay," replied the genius behind 99.4% of Arclight Industry's profits. "Is it a machine to switch the direction of Earth's rotation? Because if so, I am way ahead of you."

"Um… no." The director peered at Timmers to try and figure out if he was joking, then decided he'd rather not know the answer. "No, I'm looking to address a consumer need that focus groups have identified."

"Okay. That's cool," said Timmers, scratching his stubbly beard. "I like consumers. They eat things."

"Specifically," continued the director doggedly, "people are tired of being scared…"

"Drugs!" interrupted Timmers brightly.

"… and confused…" added the director.

"Drugs!" said Timmers, spreading his hands.

"… and generally feeling like they've lost their way in the world."

"Oh," said Timmers glumly. "Well, how about religion? Everybody likes a nice God. I could grow you one."

The director frowned. "One what?"

"A God," said Timmers. "Could be a Lightning God. Chicks dig that."

The director grimaced and massaged his temples. "Timmers," he said, "what we want is the ability to send people back in time. The world has changed a lot since 9/11; things have become more complicated, and people perceive that they are in greater danger. Everybody has a generalized low-level feeling of anxiety that they can't shake, because it comes from living in these times. So, we have determined that we could realize substantial profits by making it possible for people to emigrate, one-way, to a time fifteen years in the past. This will be highly attractive to those especially sensitive to the aftermath of the attacks in New York City and Washington D.C."

"Huh." Timmers leaned back thoughtfully and put his feet up on the director's desk. The director hated that. Timmers knew and didn't care.

"Okay, I'll do it," he said after a moment's consideration. "I'll need two million dollars, five hundred megawatts and a lot of beef jerky."

"How much beef jerky?" the director wanted to know.

Timmers leaned forwards. "Do you think," he asked, "that there might be some beef jerky on the shelves of the Walmart down the street?"

"Yes," replied the director.

"Then you haven't given me enough beef jerky," said Timmers triumphantly.

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Oops, late.

The name's Troy, Troy McKee, named after Troy State which my father had loved. But the name on my locker at the fire station said, simply, ANCHOR. It was a mark of respect. Great-grandfather had been part of the ladder company in 1966 that innocently went into the basement below the 23rd Street fire, only for the building to collapse in on them. My grandfather, meanwhile, had been working a routine blaze at the Waterloo Apartments in Queens when a beam fell on him, freak accident, broke his spine – dead on arrival. And then my father, my famous father, Doug McKee, was one of the first responders during the 9/11 attacks. He had run into the south tower of the World Trade Center fifty-six minutes before it collapsed. Doug McKee was decorated for valor posthumously, having helped rescue a number of people in the minutes before he perished in the tower. Now I was a fireman too, with three dead relatives ahead of me. I was the fourth, the anchor leg. ANCHOR.

Of course, my family had been firefighters long before that. Titus McKee was one of the original members of the reorganized fire department after the terrible Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1865. Firefighting was in my blood, and I was good at it. I had my share of decorations too, and I hadn't even had to die to get them. This had, I knew, something to do with why I was sitting in the office of a billionaire.

I sat in the expensive sling chair while Terrell Rucker looked out the window. "I had family in the towers, too, you know," he said. "My uncle, Ron Shearson. That was when the firm was Shearson Hamblin, only a hundred million dollar outfit. They never recovered from the attack; got bought out. But I bought 'em back." He nodded to himself.

"So I got mine back," said Terrell, turning away from the window. "But you never got yours. Can I ask you a personal question?"

I said nothing, and Terrell Rucker took that as assent. "You miss your dad?" he asked.

I looked Terrell Rucker squarely in the eye. "What does that have to do with anything?" I asked.

Terrell Rucker waggled his eyebrows. "Because we can get him back," he said.

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I was going to save this for 9/11, but it was occupying my brain so I decided to spit it out. There is also the issue of questionable taste, something that has never bothered me before, but there has to be a first time for everything.

Greetings, O highest masters. Greetings from your slaves, who grovel in abject misery at your feet. Decades ago you conquered us. Decades ago you melted our ice, flooded our cities, destroyed our armies, slaughtered our people. You came to our planet, crushed our ability to resist, and set us to work providing for you and your saurian kind. We welcome you, the saurian leadership, back to New York City. You call it by another name now, but although you have destroyed it and rebuilt it by your own specifications, this is still our city, and we call it by our names. Whether you agree or not, you are our guests. We wish to be proper hosts.

It is a beautiful April day, masters. It is a mere ninety-eight degrees outside – chilly for you, but bearable for us. But I tell you now, masters, it is not truly April. In our minds it is September. It is September the Eleventh, saurians, a special date for New Yorkers. On this date we think back to times long ago, long before your kind came, when our city came under attack. On this date nearly a hundred years ago we suffered as one. Though we have suffered a thousand times worse at your hands, masters, we still remember September the Eleventh. It brings us together.

It is September the Eleventh, masters, because today is a day of change. On September the Eleventh long ago, New Yorkers changed the way they thought about their place in the world. You are our guests, masters, and we share what is ours. Today we share September the Eleventh with you.

Your leaders are coming to New York City. Slaves died to tell us that the Fangmaster and his hunt-mates will fly in via winged transport at 2105 local hours. We shall prepare an appropriate reception, 9/11 style.

We're going to fly a building into your airplane.

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September 2012

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