August 2016


Early warning radar stations detected the object at around 1300 UTC+07:00. Unsealed records confirm the Soviet Air Defence Forces (PVO, after their acronym in Russian) command and control had flagged the object by 1302, a reflection of their high state of alert at the time.

An urgent scramble order was sent to the 18th Air Defense Army stationed at Box 39183, a closed city northeast of Norilsk, at 1321. Equipped with the latest Sukhoi SU-9 interceptors, pilots of the PVO were airborne by 1338. Interception of the object was acieved near Cape Chelyuskin moments later.

A full transcript of the pilots’ radio chatter was produced and later redacted at the direct request of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet a month after the incident. It continues to be unavailable in the archives, but references and paraphrases in other documents offer some clarity.

Despite being guided by ground-based radar, the SU-9s were unable to engage the target, unable to confirm it visually despite clear skies, and unable to target it with either missiles or gun pods. In fact, the SU-9s expended all of their available missiles and emptied their gun pods without ever scoring a hit or even achieving visual confirmation.

A second group of interceptors, from another base, was scheduled to arrive on station and attempt to engage the object, with the SU-9s already in the air landing to refuel. Around this time, contact was lost with both the object and the interceptors on radar.

Arriving on station about 5 minutes later, the new wave of SU-9s failed to find any sign of the object or of the flight of five planes that had attempted to interdict it.

An official report, partially redacted but later made available in archives, indicates that a large-scale search was carried out in the following weeks. Debris from the fired missiles was identified on the ground, but nothing from the planes or the object they had attempted to intercept was ever located.

The vanished airmen were written off as dead in training accidents and all information about them was suppressed. Their families were given a pension but instructed not to speak of the departed under penalty of imprisonment for revealing state secrets; at least one cousin of a pilot was processed through the Soviet prison system under such a charge before 1982.

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“We don’t go up there,” said Wickerford with a fearful glance up at the densely forested hills.

“Whyever not?” said Yewbow.

“That’s where…the monkeys live,” Wickerford whispered. A feral yodeling howl from the depths underscored the fear.

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Snails were slow, the wise ones say
And ill prepared to live
Their city burned one sad day
The wise ones unprepared
Then they went their separate ways
Snails seem better lived today

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“We are in position now, Don Exposito.” Juan Ramirez, the captain of the ship, reported. “Port Royal lays before us.”

“Excellent, capitán de navío, excellent,” said Exposito. “Report.”

“Our scouting barque reports that there are over twenty armed vessels in port, many of them of dubious or pirate origins,” Ramirez said. “They are supported by the fortress at the harbor entrance. Even with the advantage we have against their weapons and our superior firepower, it is unlikely that we will be able to take the city without reinforcements. Even then, alférez Diaz of our tercio detachment estimates that it will require 1000-3000 troops to pacify the city, occupy its fortifications, and turn its docks to our use.”

“A very thorough report,” said Expositio. “Thank you. But one thing mystifies me, capitán de navío.”

“What is that, Don Exposito?”

Exposito turned to his captain, a delighted grin slowly overating his features. “Who said anything about capturing the city?”

Ramirez’s features clouded. “I…I beg your pardon, Don Exposito?”

Exposito raised his arms. “We are not going to capture Port Royal,” he said. “We are going to destroy it utterly.”

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I held onto the stone lever, feeling the deepwoods moss gently caress my palm.

“There’s a lever in the woods/the old folks say/and when you pull it/things fly away.” I whispered the old schoolyard rhyme through lips thick with the sweat of a summer that had reached even the normally cool forests outside town.

Horatio had stayed where I’d put him, mewling quietly. That wouldn’t do; I’d chosen him because he was the most rambunctious of Clover’s litter. After a few moments I tossed his favorite toy out with my spare hand. A little ball that jingled and was full of catnip, it landed squarely in the middle of the great stone trapdoor that the lever activated.

The soft little kitten immediately bounded over to it, and at the first jingle I pulled the lever.

As it had the first time I’d tried it, the sound of impossibly ancient subterranean gears ground out a doleful bass melody beneath my feet. A second later, the trapdoor opened. Horatio yowled as he plunged into the inky blackness. A moment later, he reappeared, speeding up and out at a rocket’s pace, launched in the air as if from a catapult.

That sequence of events should have ended with Horatio as an adorable damp spot on the old glacier cliffs. Instead, he glided gently back down next to me on a pair of small wings that matched the motley pattern of his fur. Seemingly instinctively, ths kit folded his new appendaged up and took to licking himself delicately.

“That’s it, then,” I said. “It’s time.” I stepped onto the trapdoor, once again closed by now. I looped a piece of sturdy rope over the lever, and took a deep breath.

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“So the main character is a chimney sweep in Dickensian London, huh?”

“That’s right.”

“You write that their skin has a healthy glow. Wouldn’t that be impossible to tell with all the soot?”

“Well, they don’t get too sooty.”

“Uh-huh. Their job is to clean soot from soot-generators and they don’t get sooty.”

“They’re very careful.”

“You say this is supposed to be a realistic young adult novel?”

“Oh yes, very realistic. I did scads of research.”

“Okay then. How does the main character have such good teeth? You mention them several times.”

“He just naturally has good teeth.”

“Even if that were true, he’s a poor sweet in London before the invention of dentistry as we know it. What few teeth he had would be rancid, not the ‘pearly white gleam’ he ‘flashes’ when escaping Wickersham.”

“It’s just poetic license.”

“If you say so.”

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f4ntassyc14ssy
Banned for repeatedly purchasing items and returning them for a full refund with live hand grenades instead of the original objects.

r04chsexxypuppy
Banned for repeated shipping requests to regions that are pert of the system but have no physical postal address (e.g. Antarctica, the ISS, Point Nemo).

BaitedGoat1138
Banned for shipping “realistic statues” of animals that are, in fact, actual animals.

banksydr1vr
Banned for selling items for “local pickup” and then placing them in hard-to-reach places (e.g. under overpasses, glued to skyscraper tops, concealed in mechanical spaces).

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