Shorts – Get no respect

It’s hard to make money with short stories. The effort to sell them is more than to write them. And bad writing seems to show up more clearly when you can’t hide it in a nice fat book. I’m going to assemble my shorts – perhaps even add a couple new ones – and market them as a collection. One of the stories will be this:


By: Mackey Chandler


The number of stars gathered around the monitor was impressive. They were all general officers and Captain Joe Buckley was tense with so much high powered brass looking over his shoulder. So far he’d been able to answer all their questions in a manner that kept his own boss lurking in the background smiling.

“So this software has two solid intercepts to it’s credit?” General Hyatt asked.

“Yes sir, we had two real world intercepts at White Sands with both the advanced Patriot system configured for ballistic intercept and also the third generation Arrow developed with the Israelis. We have it running the fourth generation Arrow right now. The software remains unchanged but the Arrow hardware is slightly improved. Those changes in the Arrow have all been validated by the Israelis including four actual launches and intercepts.”

“So, show us on the screen the limits of what you are actually protecting right now,” General Polzinsky requested. Joe tapped a few keys and a dashed line defined a parabolic arch that cut around Baltimore to the north, well out over the Atlantic, and back in across the coast enclosing most of the East shore of the Chesapeake. There was a shaded area outside that line with diminishing probability of an intercept from Pittsburgh down to almost  North Carolina.

Major Leo Champion stepped back in to control the presentation. “If there is an intercontinental launch we expect the national system to deal with that. The big advantage of this system is it can deal with submarine launches the national system is not designed to catch. The time to impact on a sub launched missile can be as little as twenty seconds if they have the guts to get in really close.”

The screen flashed solid red three times rapidly in time with a buzzer. A box appeared out over the Atlantic beside an X and text in it said, Bandits (4) +37.5154N/-73.9292W – 12/04/09 – 1407:23 – Impact (2) +38.8100N/-76.8672W – 83 sec. Impact (2) +38.8946N/-77.0094W –88sec.

“I didn’t know you were going to run any exercises for us today.”

“We’re not, that’s a real launch,” Joe told him in a strangely calm voice. “Just beyond the continental shelf. You were right sir, They didn’t have the balls to ride right up the Potomac.”

“Aren’t you going to do something?” asked General Hyatt asked.

“It’s all automatic at this point. No human is fast enough to run it. D.C, and Andrews are targeted,” he mentioned conversationally.

The box on the screen had been joined by two circles over the Chesapeake that said MIRV separation confirmed – interceptors hot. The impact count was in the last thirty seconds.

The screen turned blue and text appeared. “The configuration of your hardware has changed three times since installation. Windows Genuine Advantage requires you to confirm the authenticity of your copy of Windows. To avoid running in limited mode you must call your Microsoft customer service representative and get a new validation number. Attempting to reboot will result in limited functionality until you call your customer service center. This is for your protection.”

Of course none of them had time to read the entire message.

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