"What is the casualty count?" demanded U.S. President Wilhelm Steinitz.
"580 killed and over 1000 wounded, many seriously. The death count is guaranteed to rise," answered Homeland Security Secretary Frank Marshall. "The shrapnel wounds are really nasty. Local hospitals were overwhelmed. The stampede after the explosion made things worse. Stadium management did the right thing by not allowing any camera footage of the carnage to be shown on the big screen because that would have accelerated the stampede, but that said, many people who saw a genuine NFL drone overhead ran for the exits."
"Have we made any progress on the culprits?" queried Steinitz.
"We have plenty of leads, but no one has taken credit for it yet. It could be Islamic terrorists or it could be domestic ones," answered FBI Director Paul Morphy. "My money is on some domestic sociopath, the same type of person who shines lasers in the eyes of pilots when their aircraft is on final approach or flies drones into the path of landing aircraft. I think this was done just for kicks."
"I agree with Paul, but this was not a random or spontaneous act. Remember that the NFL had just approved the use of drones for NFL Films and for broadcasts. The perpetrator took the time to buy the exact model of drone used by the NFL," added Marshall. "When the terror drone arrived, no one noticed."
"How was the bomb constructed?" asked Steinitz.
"This was an octocopter with the addition of a larger, ninth propeller on top of the main chassis to counteract the added weight, technically making it a novemcopter. The NFL normally has a camera suspended from the chassis, but the bombers acquired the shell of a camera or bought a camera and removed the guts and filled it with ANFO and short wood screws. ANFO was mounted around each rotor arm in plastic pipe, with, we believe, short wood screws glued to the bottom. The pipe was larger than the arm and was slipped over the arm. And the main chassis was packed with ammonium nitrate and covered in some kind of plastic cover and coated in glue and short wood screws," replied Morphy.
"The sequence went like this. The drone entered the stadium during the third quarter when the home team was driving for a touchdown which would put them ahead for the first time that day. Pretty much everyone's eyes were glued to the field. Looking at the footage, they timed it perfectly, with the drone dropping almost to the heads of the fans below before exploding," continued Morphy. "The camera body and chassis resulted in the largest blast with the arms sending shrapnel down in a wider pattern."
"But what has delayed the investigation is that the main chassis, with the communications equipment, was converted into shrapnel. We're still working through the evidence, but we're missing some important pieces of the drone. We believe those pieces are lying in victims, both dead and alive, with retrieval from the latter forced to wait for obvious medical and humanitarian reasons," continued Morphy. "Looking at the footage, it's obvious that the drone had thicker arms and one more propeller than the regular NFL ones, but the few people looking up at it were smiling in anticipation of having their mug spread throughout the country so they missed the clues."
"What has the NFL announced?" asked Steinitz.
"They've canceled all games for this weekend, but I don't know what they can do in the short term against rogue drones," replied Marshall. "I suggested to them to restrict all games to closed stadiums and ask team owners of open-air ones to investigate adding a roof, but the latter is obviously a long-term solution. For the short term, however, they have a shortage of closed domes. They have four domed and four retractable stadiums. There are some college football domed stadiums which might work, but only Carrier Dome in Syracuse has an acceptable fan capacity. Most baseball stadiums should work, but I think the owners would be unhappy about it due to the schedule overlap and destruction of infields. In Canada, there's Rogers Centre in Toronto, Olympic Stadium in Montreal, and BC Place in Vancouver. Montreal would love to have us because it does not have a regular football team playing there. The NFL is already revamping its schedule to have some Sunday games played during the week in domes, but fans with season tickets will not be happy and groundskeepers may not have enough time to repair the damage before the next game."
"And fans will probably never tolerate having a drone fly over them again," added Marshall.
"If I may say something," began Technology Advisor Emmanuel Lasker. "The first problem is that we are not set-up to identify all flying objects. Drones can be large or they can be small. We need radar technology that has a real-time picture of flying objects even as small as a basketball. The second problem is tracing them back to their owner. Someone can buy a drone in a store and pay cash or buy it on the Internet with a pre-paid card and have it shipped to an anonymous private box. The third problem is stopping it in flight. We have a number of technologies to capture or cripple drones in flight, but all are problematic. A helicopter can fly above one and release a weighted net. A helicopter can direct an electromagnetic pulse to it to fry its electronics, but if the helicopter is flying above the drone, that pulse will continue to the ground and destroy any electronics there as well, though that's probably the least of our worries. We have jamming devices which would prevent the drone from communicating with its owner, but we'd still have a bomb in the air. A helicopter crewman could fire a shotgun at it, but some pellets will continue down to the ground at lethal speed. Even if the helicopter can arrange itself to be even with the drone or a little below it, shotgun pellets can still cause serious injury as many people in the Middle East have discovered when weapons are fired into the sky in celebration of something or other."
"I'd like to add to that the fact that our radar systems were designed to track relatively large objects flying above the ground and structures. They were not designed to track small objects flying between buildings," said FAA Administrator Jose Raul Capablanca. "The last administration really opened Pandora's box when it allowed delivery companies to employ drones. We warned them that concentrating on firearms and not on drones would come back to bite us."
"So how do we prevent another one?" asked Steinitz.
"Since we cannot track all drones, we're stuck for now. We need Congress to allocate money for better tracking technology. And it should be obvious that this problem is not restricted to the NFL. Many cities have baseball and/or soccer stadiums. Colleges and universities have outdoor stadiums. Cities have outdoor festivals during the summer months. Not to mention high school sports," answered Capablanca. "We need to collate a list of all available helicopters and start practicing the dropping of weighted nets from them. It won't be elegant, but it might be the only short-term solution."
"We need to start discussions on implementing a registration scheme where businesses are required to verify a person's identity before selling a drone, whether from a brick-and-mortar retail store or online," added Morphy. "We need to have addresses for buyers so we can track them. We should ban the online sale of drones."
"DARPA is working on a device, a large shotgun really, that a person would hold, firing a net to envelop a drone flying overhead, but that seems so Matt Helm," mentioned Lasker.
The sound of the doorknob turning caused some of the attendees to turn to the source of the noise.
"You really must see this now," interrupted National Security Advisor Howard Staunton as he opened the door and walked into the conference room while rubbing his nose with his left hand and holding a laptop with his right.
"I tried to warn him, but ... he walked into the mirror again!" interjected the president's secretary.
That's all right, Alice, we know how he is," answered Steinitz. "Nice of you to join us, Howard."
Staunton placed the laptop directly in front of Steinitz. He pressed the space bar, awakening the Linux operating system. The others walked behind Steinitz to see what the laptop had to offer.
"Recognize this?" asked Staunton.
"That looks like a Chinese Long March missile, its latest with solid fuel propellant. But where was the photo taken? The blackish hills look familiar," pondered Morphy.
"Oh, you are not serious!" declared Steinitz incredulously.
"That's right, this video is from the Moon," announced Staunton. "We hacked into their video feed."
"China has a Long March missile on the moon?" asked Marshall.
"My wife works for NASA. She told me that China has made a large number of trips to the Moon without fanfare. She always thought it was about mining," added Capablanca.
"Wasn't the official line from China that it was simply attempting to gain the same technological advantage that the U.S. gained during its space missions: Velcro, Tang, miniaturized electronics, and all that?" asked Lasker
"It was always about mining. It is no secret that China was mining for helium-3 for use in nuclear fusion, as it is much more common on the Moon due to the solar wind depositing it there. It wants to be the sole source for helium-3," declared Staunton. "Remember when China put strict limits on its rare earth minerals, used in motors, green energy, and all of our weapon systems? It appears that China is doing it again."
Steinitz gave him an inquisitive look. "Did China get the missile there in pieces?" he asked Staunton.
"After enough moves, a pawn becomes a queen. And there's more," replied Staunton. "Unless you speak Mandarin you will just have to take my word for it, but here is the official announcement that just aired. China announced that it now has a space defense identification zone surrounding the entire Moon. Unlike the air defense identification zone it declared in the East China Sea, it is not asking for flight itineraries in advance. It declared that it now controls the entire Moon and will not brook any interference in territory it has owned for thousands of years."
"Put cats in the coffee and mice in the tea," reflected Capablanca.
"Early Chinese astronomers Ruan Xiaoxu, Shi Shen, and Gan De were mentioned as having discovered the Moon starting in the 5th Century BC, giving China the oldest claim on it," answered Staunton.
"Sure, like the participants in the Trojan War never looked up in the sky during the fall of Troy around 1200 BC," sarcastically remarked Morphy.
"Homer, who lived around 400 years after the sack of Troy, mentioned the Sun-god Helios in the very beginning of the Odyssey. I doubt if he only saw the Sun in the sky," added Lasker.
"The Chinese media is warning the U.S. to not repeat so-called erroneous remarks regarding its new space zone, in other words, we are just supposed to accept it as established fact," continued Staunton.
"China said the exact same thing when it created the South China Sea and East China Sea exclusion zones," added Marshall. "The wasp in a wig."
"Your red majesty shouldn't purr so loud," mulled Lasker.
"Do we have any spacecraft to counterattack, to check China like we did by sending B-52 bombers into its East China Sea air zone?" asked Steinitz. "Or even as a gambit to see if China is bluffing?"
"You might as well try to catch a Bandersnatch. All we have are rockets sufficiently powerful to put a satellite into Earth orbit. The extra stages needed for travel to the Moon are not even designed yet," answered Staunton. "We allowed the shuttle to retire without replacing it, but it did not have the legs to travel to the Moon anyway. We had those insane conversations regarding travel to Mars, even though the trip each way would take 1-2 years -- the Religious Right never did permit a discussion regarding sex in space -- and NASA was pretty much allowed to wither on the vine. The Russians might be able to cobble a spacecraft together, but neither of us has devised a robust anti-missile system for this scenario -- and we're not exactly on speaking terms with the Russians after their capers in Eastern Europe and the implosion of the Middle East."
"What about the Outer Space Treaty of 1967? Doesn't that require China to allow all signatories to freely visit the Moon and all installations on it?" asked Steinitz.
"It's very provoking, but did Japan and China have the right to declare large parts of the ocean in East Asia to be subject to their whims with respect to their air zones? I suspect China will invoke Article XII -- 'Such representatives shall give reasonable advance notice of a projected visit, in order that appropriate consultations may be held and that maximum precautions may be taken to assure safety and to avoid interference with normal operations in the facility to be visited' -- as its justification," retorted Staunton.
"All the king's horses and all the king's men," muttered Marshall.
"Red rook deflects white bishop," ruminated Lasker. "Caïssa has abandoned us to our fate."
"And when I found the door was shut, I tried to turn the handle, but," mused Capablanca.
"What was it that Jim Lovell said after the explosion of the oxygen tank on Apollo 13?" pondered Morphy.
"We've just lost the Moon!" answered Steinitz.
© Copyright Pete Prunskunas, 2015. All rights reserved.