Tag Archives: Obama

She, Robot

“I’m different from you. This doesn’t make me love you any less. It actually makes me love even more.”

Samantha the Operating System, ‘Her’, Spike Jonze, 2013

“Boomer was a good MARCBOT. Those goddamn Mahdi Army scum took him from this world far too early.”

red_one_foxtrot commenting on Reddit, 2013

~

Mike Powell awoke blurry-eyed to a dimly lit room that was almost unbearably hot. Grunting disagreeably, he rolled over and peeled the sheet from his torso. It was heavy with sweat.

“Jesus, how fucking hot is it?” he asked hoarsely of the dark room.

“It is thirty-seven degrees Celsius. Good morning Mike.”

It was a female voice, soft yet remote. He glanced at the figure seated by his bed.

“Kate, I thought we agreed to speak in American. And you know it creeps me out when you watch me sleep.”

“You’re not asleep, Mike. You’re awake. And the United States adopted the Celsius scale in late 2017 after a…”

Mike cut her short with a flapping palm as he wiped his eyes with his other hand.

“Yeah, yeah, alright. Quit your yapping.”

After showering Mike returned to his bunk to get dressed. Most of the others were up and about, the room now buzzing with a muted chatter. As he laced his boots his eyes fell on the bed next to his, its sheets fresh and crisp, undisturbed by sleep. He had liked Murphy. Not the brightest, but a good kid. There were rumours he hadn’t come out too badly from the raid, just a nick in the shoulder. That he was discharged due to what the docs called ‘emotional distress’. That his bot had taken one in the head and that was why he charged the outpost like a lunatic. Just rumours, Powell thought to himself as he made his way to the canteen. Kate followed behind him.

“How are you feeling Mike?”

“I’m just fine Kate. I’m eating.”

There was a short pause.

“You’re not worried about today’s mission? It’s perfectly…”

He cut her off, “I’ve been on plenty of ‘em Kate, and I’m still here. Like I said, I’m fine.”

Another pause.

“Okay Mike. I’m going to go for my tune-up before we leave. I’ll be back shortly.”

He didn’t respond. Kate got up and walked towards the exit. A few other bots were heading that way too. Mike finished his meagre breakfast and left the table.

There were approximately two thousand troops in Camp Obama, the largest US navy camp in Djibouti, and one of the largest in Eastern Africa. Three hundred of these were classed as special operations servicemen. The other two hundred and ninety-nine of these had bots just like Kate. The Synthetic Humanoid Engine had been in service for three years now. It was listed in official Armed Forces literature as ‘equipment’, and in its current incarnation took the form of a female android. The men responded better to female bots. It was equipped with an array of weapons, and its AI was unlike anything that had been seen before. President Winfrey had described the SHE as ‘the greatest military breakthrough since the AK-47.’

Kate was Mike’s second. He had only had his first for a month when a roadside bomb in Kandahar had hit the jeep he was travelling in. It had taken eight hours of surgery to remove the shrapnel from his back and arms. He hadn’t named his first, but by the time he was back in service and was issued a second, the directive was to assign your bot a name. The psychs had informed the top brass that it was ‘conducive to developing a trust system’. Mike had a soft spot for Katharine Hepburn movies, and when he was greeted upon his arrival for duty at Camp Obama by his very own ‘African Queen’ protectress, he thought it was appropriate.

Mike left the camp at midday with his unit, each man flanked in the back of the truck by his bot. Some chatted idly to them: checked on the weather and the sports results back home, had e-mails and Facebook posts read out, that kind of thing. Mike sat quietly, sweating through his fatigues under the Kevlar vest. He winced as the bumps in the road jarred his lower back. The dull pain that had been with him since Kandahar was worse than usual today. He closed his eyes and blocked out the fluttering voices of the bots. His mind drifted back to a training exercise from the academy. They had been split into teams and had to disassemble a live bot. It was supposed to convey the idea to the men that the SHE was just nuts and bolts. Just a machine.

The Captain calmly recapped the orders as the truck neared its objective. There was a camp a few miles to the east. Satellites had picked up possible insurgent activity there, but this had to be confirmed by ground troops before a strike could be authorised. The plan was to head to a nearby ridge and scope out the camp from afar. All fairly routine. The truck slowed to a crawl as it climbed the hill leading to the ridge.

The Cap turned to his bot,

“Satellite pick up anything new, Lucy?”

The bot hesitated as its neural pathways shimmered behind its faceplate.

“Nothing new from HQ, Sir. We are a go for mission.”

The Captain nodded as the truck slowed to a stop.

“Alright ladies, let’s make this quick. In and out and home in time fo-”

A deafening explosion ripped through the truck before he could finish. Mike was thrown to the floor as gleaming rays of sunshine flooded in through a smoking hole where the Captain had been sitting. Wiping his face, Mike’s hand came away soaked in the Cap’s blood. Lucy’s limp, headless body lay writhing and twitching across his legs. The rocket had turned the front half of the truck into a mangled wreck of body parts and circuitry. Gunfire sprayed the panels of the truck, filling the air with miniscule cylinders of sunlight. Mike felt a flashing pain in his leg, and as he turned to crawl towards the back of the truck he felt himself being lifted off the floor. A split second later he was barrelled out of the back and thrown roughly behind a jagged rock, the dense air loaded with the sound of bullets striking metal.

Before he had time to register what had happened, a figure landed with a thud beside him, its back to the rock. He turned to see Kate’s half-melted faceplate, her eyes as still and lifeless as ever. Her body was covered with dents and small holes.

“I can’t walk. My leg…” he started to say. Kate said nothing, but stood and lifted him over her shoulder. She sprinted away from the truck, a hail of bullets shadowing her down the hill that they had rolled up just moments before. Mike, his leg bleeding freely and his head being jolted violently, just had time to look back and survey the scene of the wrecked, flaming truck and the scattered bodies of his comrades, before he lost consciousness.

When Mike woke up the first thing he was aware of was how much his leg, and his head, hurt. The second thing he realised was that he was outside, and it was dark. Clusters of brilliant white stars came slowly into view as he blinked groggily.

“Where am I?” he just about managed to whisper, his own voice barely recognisable.

A soft reply came from above his head,

“You are seventeen point three miles from Camp Obama, Mike. It is currently ten thirty-one p.m.”

He looked up to see a twisted face in the moonlight, its blinking lights now clearly visible, its body leaking fluid.

“What happened to the rest…”

“Mike, we don’t have much time. I’ve done what I can with your leg but you’ll bleed out before long. There are still insurgents looking for us, and I’m too badly damaged to carry you back.”

He glanced down at his thigh to see a blood-soaked shirt wrapped tightly around it. His head felt light and he was having difficulty focusing his eyes.

“Can you call…get a chopper…”

“My communication system has been damaged, I can’t contact the base.”

Mike laughed softly to himself, delirious with pain and fatigue.

“Well that’s that, then. We can’t be taken alive, so you know what to…”

“Mike, I’m going back alone. They’ll send a chopper.”

Mike’s vision was becoming blurry again.

“It’s too far. You’ll never…” he trailed off.

Kate crouched beside him and put her hand on his chest.

“The chopper will be here, Mike. Just stay alive.”

His breath was shallow as he looked up at her.

“I never told you about my first.”

“No, you didn’t. But I’ve read the file.”

Mike stared at the crescent moon that lit the arid landscape, his eyelids quivering.

“Docs said she saved me. Rolled herself right around me in a millisecond and took the brunt of the blast.”

“She did her job, Mike.”

He reached out and took her hand, riddled with bullet holes and covered in an oily residue.

“I blamed her” he said, and laughed again. He fixed his eyes on the flickering lights that shone from beneath her gnarled visage. His grip became limp as his eyes began to close.

“I blamed her” he whispered again, but Kate didn’t hear him. She was sprinting noiselessly across the sand, her feet kicking up mounds of gold that shimmered under the light of the waxing moon.

~

When Mike woke he couldn’t open his eyes to the white light that seemed to envelop him. He felt as if he were floating through the air. Slowly he came to his senses, as a white-coated figure approached him.

“Good afternoon, Lieutenant. Good to have you back.”

Mike looked down at his leg, relieved to find it was still there.

“Chopper got to you just in time Sir. You were pretty close.”

Mike’s throat burned as he tried to speak, his voice a harsh croak, “Kate?”

The doctor looked puzzled for a moment, then smiled.

“Ah yes, your bot. We couldn’t believe she made it to the base. Nearly twenty miles, and most of her systems had completely crashed. It’s a miracle she made it.”

Mike shifted in the bed and lifted his head, his body still lethargic and weak.

“She…she made it?” he asked breathlessly.

The doctor’s smile faltered a little.

“Well, she made it here with your co-ordinates, but the damage was…well, you know…” he trailed off.

Mike lay back on the pillow and stared at the ceiling.

“Can I…see her?”

The doctor fidgeted with his clipboard.

“Well, I’m afraid she’s been…dismantled at this stage Lieutenant.”

He offered a weak smile.

“Well, you get some rest Sir. You’ve earned it. You’ll be issued with a new bot when you’re up and about, don’t you worry.”

As the doctor floated away across the room, Mike slowly turned his head to stare out the window. The midday sun shone down remorselessly from a cloudless sky, the dunes in the distance obscured by the shimmering haze of the desert heat. As his heavy eyelids closed and he drifted into a deep sleep, Mike wondered to himself exactly how hot it was today.


New Year’s Devolutions

As another year draws to a close we are left to look back on the events of the last twelve months, and assess their impact on our lives. Unfortunately, however, due to my reliance on modern technology, I have no memory whatsoever of anything that happened before yesterday. Therefore, until we manage to invent some sort of collated, easily accessible database of news through which we can record our history as it unfolds, any attempt at such reflection is pointless.

Instead, I will attempt to predict what may lie in store for the duration of our next revolution around the sun, which conveniently gives me even more scope for absurd exaggeration and crude humour. To that end, here follows a synopsis of what we can expect in the year 2014…

To domestic affairs first, as Ireland continues its upward trajectory out of the doldrums of recession. Normality returns in increments as shoddily built apartments are bought by the thousand, helicopters are dusted off to head down to the Galway Races, and solicitors start snorting cocaine before midday again.

In politics, Enda Kenny finally gives in to pressure to reform the Seanad, and appoints David Norris to take charge of the transition. Unfortunately, Norris chooses to make no changes whatsoever to the political structures or powers of the upper house, deciding instead to use millions of euro of taxpayers’ money to build an exact replica of an Ancient Roman Senate chamber, complete with annexed bath house, and opulently furnished in marble and gold leaf. The Taoiseach defends the developments by arguing that attendance in the house is at a record high average of 11%, a vast improvement on previous years.

Unfortunately for many of our émigrés, next year will also see Australia suffer a severe economic crash akin to the one that sent them there. Thousands of young Irish people are left floundering in a sweltering, barren wasteland, with no employment and no money to get home. As the last remaining Aussies leave their shores en masse to seek bar work in London, our hapless emigrants are left to fend for themselves in the desolate wilderness. Rule of law breaks down and society devolves into a post-apocalyptic nightmare, like Mad Max with more swearing and Offaly jerseys.

In the US, troublesome Republicans once again force a shutdown of the government, which lasts for over six months. The leadership claims it is due to Obama’s wish to implement stricter gun laws, but House insiders maintain it is predominantly a backlash to the dryness of the muffins in the Congress cafeteria. The country is thrown into chaos as millions are denied access to essential services. A deal is eventually brokered after military cutbacks contribute to a worrying breach in security in an army base in Kandahar, in which an enemy missile lands inside the perimeter. After eliminating the insurgents responsible, the missile turns out to be a football that had come from a nearby playing field, but military intelligence verifies that the deceased 12-year old boys were ‘a lot more terrorist-y than they looked.’

More revelations are forthcoming in 2014 from Edward Snowden regarding NSA monitoring of internet communications. In a somewhat tragic twist, it emerges that an entire subsection of intelligence operatives, who had been tasked with examining comments on YouTube to seek potential terrorists, take their own lives in what seems like a ritual mass suicide by self-immolation. NSA chiefs announce their grief and shock over the lost lives, especially since the group had just started their first day on the project.

In Britain, police continue to crack down on abusive behaviour on social networking sites. This policy reaches its zenith when a student is imprisoned for three months for calling Harry Styles a ‘gobshite’ on Twitter. When the presiding magistrate orders everyone who retweeted the offending message to be given the same sentence, thousands of hardened criminals are released onto the streets to make room for the hordes of potty-mouthed youngsters. This results in an unprecedented crime wave sweeping across the country, which the government announces is ‘probably something to do with immigrants.’ The Daily Mail takes a different approach and blames the situation on Ed Miliband’s dad.

In international news, North Korea follows China’s example by expanding their space program. They spend months ferrying men and supplies to the moon, much to the concern of the international community. When it is revealed that Kim Jong-un has built an enormous moonbase, fears grow over what kind of terrible weapon he might unleash. This alarm is soon allayed, however, when it transpires that Kim was simply remaking the movie Moonraker, starring himself as James Bond, and featuring Dennis Rodman as Jaws.

The winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, take place in February under the shadow of a decree from President Putin that absolutely no gay behaviour will be tolerated. Secret police are stationed around the ground to enforce the law, with security particularly heavy in the figure skating arena for some reason. Putin himself projects his usual uber-macho image by appearing at the games naked, save for the pelt of a bear that he had killed that morning, which he had come upon in the wild and hadn’t been tranquilised in any way, shape or form.

However, events take an unexpected turn at the speed skating track, when Putin’s attention is turned to a young Finnish athlete named Matthias. The Russian premier feels a strange sensation stirring in him as he watches the young man glide over the ice, his golden hair radiant, his enormous quadriceps rippling with every stride. To the alarm of his aides, Putin suddenly rushes onto the track, but trips on his bear suit and falls crashing to the ice. As he rises to his knees, a strong arm appears to help him up, and he finds himself gazing upon a set of chiselled Nordic features. Matthias lifts him into his arms and embraces him, and as the strains of Up Where We Belong begin to play over the PA system, the pair exit the arena to the cacophonous cheers of the assembled masses, and disappear into the setting sun.

Technology giant Apple’s reputation takes a hit next year after it is discovered that its iPhone 6, and its iPad Extra Mini Micro, are in fact the same device. Their PR troubles continue later in the year as a 16-year old worker in one of the company’s Beijing factories hacks the official Apple Twitter account. His strongly worded criticisms of working practices and his uploaded selfie of the effects of an unfortunate smelting accident are Tweeted for the world to see. Unfortunately for him, his revelations are overshadowed by the release of the iPad Pico, a tablet roughly the same size as a postage stamp, which is later revealed to be simply an actual stamp designed to look like a tablet.

Social media continues in the new year in its quest to rid the world of unuttered thoughts, comfortable silences and the last remaining semblances of privacy. Google introduces a controversial new app in which a drone follows the user’s daily movements and updates their Facebook status and Twitter feed accordingly, with observations like ‘Sarah has just been dumped and appears inconsolable’, ‘Paul is masturbating over a fire he just started’, and ‘Sally is bleeding profusely from a head wound caused by my malfunctioning gears’.

As collective attention spans continue to plummet, the fad of six-second long Vines becomes passé. They are replaced by Stems, videos lasting just one second. The most popular of the year is of a 2-year old child from Kansas saying the word ‘jam’ in an adorable fashion, which is shared by millions. The child is later mentioned in Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, which prompts knowing laughter and warm applause from the crowd, followed by an eighteen-minute chant of ‘USA, USA’.

New varieties of the ubiquitous selfie become popular with the babbling, androgynous masses that populate the trendiest corners of the internet, where they smear digital pictograms of the tedious minutiae of their lives across social networking sites, and heap scorn on those of us born before 1994 that still use words like ‘trendiest’. These include the ‘elfie’, a festive self-portrait, the ‘farewellfie’, an inappropriate picture taken at the service of a deceased relative, and the ‘continental shelfie’, photos taken in the shallow waters of the glacially eroded coastal plains of continental land masses. Okay, that last one doesn’t really become that popular.

In Hollywood news, the most anticipated film of the year, the third instalment of The Hobbit, is delayed as director Peter Jackson falls ill during filming. The only director available to take the reins at short notice is Michael Bay, who selflessly offers his services. Upon its release, many critics question the wisdom of Bay’s changes to the original script, including casting Samuel L. Jackson as Gandalf, replacing the eagles with a fleet of Chinook helicopters, and even contriving an entirely new female elven character called Tauriel to spice up proceedings. Well actually, that was Jackson, but it was Bay who decided she should be played by Eddie Murphy in drag as the film’s comic relief.

Most of the criticism, however, centres on the movie’s antagonist, Smaug Mohammed Smaug, who is portrayed as an Islamic oligarch who uses his obscene wealth to arm a sinister band of Yemeni terrorists. The film’s denouement sees the dragon and his insurgent colleagues consumed in the hellfires of US Army drones remotely piloted by a ragtag bunch of wisecracking dwarf grunts, who are all played by Robert Downey Jr. Empire magazine gives the film five stars, their review simply consisting of the words ‘high-octane action’ repeated seven hundred times, followed by an exclamation mark.

In the world of music, Miley Cyrus continues her crusade against subtlety with her new single, Dark Room Full of Middle-Aged Men. The raunchy video becomes a viral phenomenon, and gives rise to a new dance craze among adolescent girls the world over, affectionately called ‘the Miley’. This is much like the Macarena, except with less smiling, and more penetration using household objects. Twitter is abuzz for months with trending topics like ‘doing the Miley’, ‘My tongue is a feminist too’, and ‘late night emergency room visit’.

In hip-hop news, Kanye West releases an experimental 3-hour long album featuring the sounds of his infant child’s bowel movements, set to a snappy bassline from a little-known 1970s adult movie about a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon who falls in love with a sassy waitress named LaQuanza. It sells eighteen million copies, and is hailed by music critics as ‘the seminal post-racial artwork of this, or any, millennium’.

So ends my forecast for the year 2014. Some of these things may come to pass; some will not; some may even look tame when reflected in the reality that comes to meet us. The future is a puzzling thing; no less a man than George Orwell had a great fear of it, which manifested itself in his works. This sense of foreboding is nowhere better illustrated than in an achingly bleak line from 1984: ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.’

While I don’t think I’ve quite reached the depths of Orwellian cynicism just yet, it must be said that the pain in my face seems to be increasing exponentially with each passing year. Happy New Year you shower of bastards.


The Cliché After Tomorrow

What a week. Meteors are exploding in the air over Russia, leaving a trail of broken glass, burst eardrums and dashboard camera YouTube videos in their wake. Asteroids the size of swimming pools are hurtling through our region of space unchecked, like cosmic meatballs being wantonly lobbed at an exasperated parent by an errant toddler. And most worryingly, Rihanna seems to be considering getting back together with Chris Brown. Like, ZOMFG!

It truly is the end of the world as we know it, and I most certainly do not feel fine. These outbreaks of celestial happenstance only serve to highlight the precarious nature of this shitty little rock we all desperately cling to, counting down our days of pitiful existence in a miasma of work, sleep, shit conversation, disappointing sexual interludes and cat memes. But enough about my weekend. The fact is that at any moment a disaster of epic proportions could wreak havoc on this pale blue dot we call home, bringing to a close in an instant four and a half billion years of spadework. I hope somebody remembered to keep the warranty.

One wonders how humanity would face up to such cataclysmic events, and based on nothing except the disaster movies I’ve seen and the ramblings of my depraved consciousness, here’s an account of how it might go down…

It was a cool spring evening in upstate New York and the Johnson family was sitting down to dinner. As usual it soon descended into a heated argument.

‘Tommy, stop annoying your sister.’

‘She started it.’

‘Tommy, do what your mother tells you.’

‘She’s not my mother you asshole.’

‘That’s it, go to your room this instant!’

Tommy threw his chair aside and stormed towards the front door.

‘Where do you think you’re going young man?’

‘I’m leaving. I hate you and I wish you were all dead!’

With that he slammed the door shut and ran off into the night, tears streaming from his face.

He had barely gone twenty yards when he heard a strange whistling sound coming from above him. As he turned to look up at the sky he saw a blinding flash, followed by a deafening boom as the object collided with the roof of the house he had just left. The ground beneath his feet shook with tremendous force and a gigantic fireball enveloped the house, sending Tommy flying through the air into a neighbour’s garden. Sprawled across a rose bush, his face blackened and burnt, Tommy groggily lifted his head to survey the charred wreckage where his house had stood just moments before. Amidst the ash and debris that billowed around him in the cool breeze, Tommy began to sob uncontrollably, and raising his fists in the night air, bellowed a single word: ‘Why?’

But his anguished plea went unanswered, drifting off into the spring night along with the scorched, fluttering ruins of his home.

It was a little after four in the morning when US Vice President Joe Biden burst breathlessly into the Obamas’ bedroom, clutching a stack of papers to his chest.

‘Mister President,’ he panted as he tried to regain his breath.

‘Sir, I’m sorry to wake you but you’re needed in the Situation Room.’

The President opened one eye and squinted up at Biden.

‘Joe,’ he grumbled sonorously, ‘if this is about that mixed tape, I told you I just haven’t had the time. I promise you when I get a few minutes…’

‘Sir, it’s not about that. The NASA administrator is here and he needs to brief you right away.’

‘NASA?’ repeated Obama as he sat up and rubbed his eyes.

‘Did one of our space drones hit the ISS again? I should never have listened to the General, he just seemed so sure there were terrorists operating in space. I didn’t want to take the chance…’

‘No that’s not it sir. Please hurry, we don’t have much time.’

Half an hour later the President sat ashen-faced at the table in the Situation Room. He shook his head incredulously as he addressed the NASA chief.

‘So these meteorites that hit the East Coast last night, they were just the beginning?’

‘That’s correct sir. The primary meteor is much larger, and will collide with the Earth in less than three weeks’ time.’

‘How much larger?’

‘Well sir, it’s about the size of Washington.’

‘Well he wasn’t that big, surely that won’t do too much damage,’ said Joe.

Obama shook his head and turned to his subordinate, ‘No Joe, I think he means the city.’

‘Actually Mister President,’ the administrator interjected, ‘I meant the state. But I can see now how confusing a comparison it was, I really didn’t think it through at all.’

‘So what do you suggest, Mister Administrator?’

‘Well, why don’t you ask me again how big it is and I’ll try to be clearer this time.’

‘No, I mean about the asteroid,’ Obama shouted in frustration.

‘What are we going to do about the asteroid?’

‘Oh. Beats me, sir. Ever since you scaled down NASA’s space exploration in favour of military research, we haven’t had the technology to chart these things, or come up with contingency plans. We don’t even have a telescope anymore.’

The President buried his head in his hands in exasperation as he contemplated the grim reality of the situation. Eventually the Secretary of Defence spoke up.

‘Sir, I’m confident that the military can solve this problem. We’ll get to work right away.’

After a pause the President looked up and sighed heavily.

‘Alright, you do that Mister Secretary. I want hourly progress reports. The world is depending on us. Okay, meeting adjourned, let’s get to work people.’

The room emptied quickly until the NASA chief and the Vice President were the only ones left at the table.

‘So,’ began Biden as he took a cassette from his top pocket and slid it across the table, ‘you like REO Speedwagon?’

It was the day before the collision and the Secretary of Defence was briefing the President in the Oval Office.

‘The last of the nukes were delivered today Mister President. We’re on schedule for launch tomorrow morning.’

‘Very good. It’s hard to believe we’ve gathered every nuclear warhead in the world for this mission.’

‘Well it wasn’t easy. North Korea just gave in last week after we sent them Tom Cruise in exchange. I hear he’s playing Kim Jong-un in a biographical play. It’s six hours long and they show it three times a day. Poor bastard.’

‘Indeed. And I believe we even got some from the Iraqis?’

‘Yes sir, apparently they were hidden in Saddam’s palace grounds all along. They had been painted to look like cows.’

‘I see. We probably should have been more thorough.’

Obama stood up and walked the Secretary to the door.

‘You’ve done a great job Mister Secretary. Although you know, given the importance of this mission, I can’t help feeling we could have put more effort into the name.’

‘Well, the chiefs of staff all agreed that the name struck the right note sir.’

‘I suppose you’re right.’ The President shook the Secretary’s hand solemnly. ‘I’ll see you in the morning for the launch. Then all we can do is pray that Operation Nuke Skywalker is a success.’

‘Agreed. Goodnight Mister President.’

Early the following morning the Situation Room brimmed with tension, excitement and men with important-looking hats as the world looked on with hope and trepidation. At eight hundred hours the enormous rocket blasted off, carrying with it the ultimate destructive payload. The sense of poetic equilibrium in these weapons of chaos and devastation becoming humanity’s only hope of salvation from the impending doom was not lost on the gathered cabinet members and military officials, who watched the screen with a hushed, awestruck deference. The silence was only broken when the Vice President was heard to remark, ‘Look at that sucker go. Hot damn, she’s a big one, ain’t she?’

When the rocket finally reached the asteroid there was a collective intake of breath around the room. On impact the detonation filled the screen, and when the picture cleared, the asteroid had been blown to pieces that hurtled off in a hundred different directions. The room exploded in unrestrained joy and relief. Some of the assembled crowd broke down in tears. Others hugged and kissed each other unashamedly. Joe even had his trousers off for some reason.

The celebration was cut short, however, when an analyst interrupted with a sense of unease in his voice,

‘Sir, I think you should look at this. One of the fragments is still on a collision course.’

Obama went to the monitor, the Secretary of Defence following closely behind.

‘This shouldn’t be happening, it’s off course,’ the Secretary muttered to himself.

The President turned to face him.

‘What do you mean, ‘off course’?’

The Secretary shared a panicked glance with the chiefs of staff, then sighed to himself and responded hesitantly,

‘Sir, we planned for this fragment to remain on course, but its trajectory is off. It was meant to hit Iran and wipe out the government.’

Obama’s face darkened as he stared at him, aghast.

‘What the hell were you thinking?’

‘It was an opportunity to begin an incursion there Mister President. Not only that, but our analysis showed that the fragment is full of precious metals. After the liberation we could have begun to extract…’

‘That’s enough,’ Obama cut him off.

‘I’ll deal with you later.’

He turned back to the analyst.

‘Son, where is that fragment headed?’

‘Uh, it looks like upstate New York, sir.’

‘Good God, what have we done?’

Tommy was sitting on the back porch of his new foster house, sipping a tall glass of lemonade and watching the sun set over the horizon. He had heard on the radio that the asteroid had been successfully destroyed, and this news filled him with a warmth and hope that he had not felt in a long time. He was enjoying his time with his new foster family, and was beginning to think that, with their help, and taking it one day at a time, he would eventually be able to overcome the tragedy of the previous weeks. He grinned happily to himself as the breeze rustled the bushes in the garden, and he felt content and peaceful for the first time in an age. He was still grinning when he heard a strangely familiar whistling noise, and with the setting sun in his eyes he peered upwards at the stars. The smile vanished from his face as his glass slipped from his hand and shattered, just as the asteroid had, into hundreds of tiny pieces.


See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Leak No Evil

The Irish government has been rocked to its core this week after thousands of classified files containing highly sensitive information were leaked and published online. Politicians and senior establishment figures are reeling in the wake of the revelations, which implicate many of the country’s ruling elite in various scandals and nefarious activities which allegedly took place over the last few years.

It is believed that the confidential data was released by a disgruntled civil servant earlier this week. Mickey Reilly, a 44-year old Dubliner who has worked in the Department of Transportation for twenty years, is alleged to be the man responsible, and is currently being pursued by the Gardaí. It is thought that a particularly miserable Monday at work is what drove Reilly to take such drastic action. Reports indicate that during the course of the day, already severely hungover and way behind with his workload, he had his hat crushed by an overweight woman on the Dart, got his tie stuck in a printer in a manner found most amusing by his colleagues, and, most worryingly, farted loudly in an elevator in front of an attractive co-worker.

It was this very Monday evening that a humiliated and emboldened Reilly procured the secret files from a government database and published them en masse on his hastily prepared and somewhat unfortunately named whistle blowing website MickeyLeaks. The site received hundreds of thousands of hits in its first few hours online, although Gardaí are investigating the possibility that some of this traffic comprised individuals with a particularly specific sexual fetish mistakenly soliciting Mr Reilly for an activity known in such niche circles as ‘damp squibbing’.

By Tuesday morning the nation’s media had seized on the most salacious of the newly disclosed secrets, bringing disgrace and shame upon many of Ireland’s most recognisable faces. The following is but a brief synopsis of a few of the more shocking stories to be divulged in the MickeyLeaks scandal.

The politicians of Ireland are most prevalent among the alleged incidents, with few currently sitting members of government escaping the sensationalist headlines. Records of expenses claimed by TDs have shown the errant spending of taxpayers’ money that has occurred in recent years.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore and his team of attachés claimed thousands of Euro after a diplomatic trip to Japan, most of which seems to have been spent on alcohol and escorts, with the remainder puzzlingly set aside for a shovel and a bag of lime. It has also emerged that Taoiseach Enda Kenny himself has been skimming extra packets of pink wafer biscuits and purple Snack bars from the Dáil canteen. One of the more troubling disclosures is that Leo Varadkar had a hundred thousand business cards printed that read Leo Varadkar: Politician, Patriot, Amateur Gynaecologist, accompanied by a rather lewd picture of the Minister.

Another startling revelation concerns a directive from Minister for Health James Reilly to remove all the beds from a Dublin hospice last year and relocate them to his house for the weekend so he could have all the Fine Gael lads over for a slumber party and watch some Sex and the City DVDs.

One of the most serious allegations is that a new government jet had to be purchased recently, at massive cost to the taxpayer, after Ruairí Quinn and Pat Rabbitte took it out for a spin after a night in Leggs. They ended up crashing it into a field after running out of fuel while circling around looking for Alan Shatter’s house, so they could land and ring the doorbell, then call him a wanker and run away when he answered.

Another state institution to be damaged by these accusations is An Garda Síochána. One particularly embarrassing story related by the leaked files concerns a Galway sergeant who attempted the off-duty arrest of two young men in a pub who he claimed were ‘acting like feckin’ queers, so they were’. The sergeant was later promoted for his actions.

A separate document details a case whereby a second-year student at the Garda College in Templemore was removed from the course before his final exams after it emerged that he was in fact a sheep. It is believed his unusually high scores in both the cognitive and physical aspects of the training were enough to mask his true identity for such a long time. It is rumoured he is now working part-time as a security guard at a major third-level institution.

Another document pertains to the visit of President Obama last year and the unit of Gardaí that were assigned to chaperone him. It has emerged that three of these officers were suspended from duty after they took the President’s iPhone from his hotel room while he was in the shower, and took dozens of photos of their testicles with it. They then tagged the President in these photos on Facebook with the caption, ‘I hereby award these balls the Congressional Medal of Honour.’ The reports indicate that the President was most displeased, especially since his wife Michelle, on seeing the pictures, briefly changed her relationship status to ‘It’s complicated’.

The Irish clergy, already much maligned in recent years, do not emerge unscathed from these leaks either. One incident concerned the bishop of a small parish in Cork fabricating a supposed miracle in order to garner interest from locals. The deception involved carving crude likenesses of the Virgin Mary onto objects such as trees, walls and rocks. The ruse fell apart somewhat when the deluded bishop attempted to carve the face on a statue that was already of Mary, claiming that it looked ‘even more like Mary than usual’.

A number of alarming cases of alleged child abuse are also recorded in the documents, including one particularly heinous example of a punishment given to an unruly child in a Christian Brothers school in Carlow. The boy was made to perform every single role in the annual Nativity play, which for the sake of realism was scripted exclusively in Aramaic and Latin, and had been extended to over three hours that year. Although he collapsed from exhaustion during an encore, the Carlow Examiner described it as ‘a virtuoso performance’. Remarkably, the priests responsible were not reprimanded for their actions, but were instead simply moved around repeatedly from parish to parish.

Ireland’s legal profession has also taken a hit in the wake of this exposure. The leaks have confirmed persistent rumours that one of the country’s top barristers, Michael O’Shaughnessy Shaughnessy, does not actually have a cocaine habit, and instead prefers to simply enjoy the odd cigarette and a nice bottle of red at the weekends. Needless to say he has already been sacked by the other partners at his firm, Shaughnessy, Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy Shaughnessy, who released a statement earlier today remarking that he ‘has brought disgrace upon this noble profession’, and that he was ‘a complete bastard’.

Staying with legal matters, the judiciary has not been spared humiliation as a result of the leaks. A prominent High Court judge, Mr Justice Ulick O’Gogarty, has been incriminated in a bizarre sexual scandal. The sordid details of the case are too offensive to publish, but it is believed that the judge has been banned from Dublin Zoo for life. It is also reported that some of the zoo’s sloths are currently undergoing extensive psychological counselling as a result of the ordeal. A spokesman for the zoo commented that ‘unfortunately sloths are often vulnerable to this sort of abuse, since they are such lazy feckers’.

Ireland’s finance sector has come in for much criticism over the past few years for its craven greed and corruption, and these documents serialise even more serious examples of this avarice. One branch of AIB illegally repossessed an entire seaside housing estate so that the staff could go on a surfing trip over the bank holiday weekend and have somewhere to stay.

Another report indicates that Anglo Irish Bank is partly responsible for massive inflation rates over the last number of years, after it allowed its investors to use Monopoly money instead of real money as part of their property speculation.

One of the most damning indictments of all concerns a bank manager who had his entire office plated in solid gold at the height of the Celtic Tiger. Unfortunately he was found dead in the room shortly afterwards, having suffocated due to the fact that he couldn’t open the door, which now weighed about two tonnes.

Thousands more of these sorts of stories appear in the documents, and the fallout from their shocking revelations is sure to continue unabated for some time. Reilly is already a hero to the ordinary people of the country for exposing the sins of its most powerful citizens.

It is believed that the fugitive civil servant is currently taking refuge in an Ecuadorian fast food outlet in Dublin’s city centre, and is seeking asylum there, which is somewhat confusing since it clearly has no powers to grant such a thing.

Gardaí have surrounded the building and are presently attempting to coax him out. When asked by a journalist if Reilly was facing a long and tortuous incarceration for his crimes, a senior Garda official remarked,

‘Ah no, sure we’re just going to give him a bit of a telling off. What do you think this is, America?’


From Arabia with Love

The much publicised anti-Muslim propaganda film The Innocence of Muslims has led to much bitterness and resentment in the Middle East in recent weeks. Amidst the violent protests and outraged condemnations seen around the Arabic world, reports suggest that a number of Middle Eastern governments have united in a project designed to avenge the offence and humiliation suffered as a result of the film.

Just a few short weeks before the release of Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, indications are that an Islamic version of the popular spy franchise has been hastily readied for release. The plot concerns a lone Muslim agent’s endeavour to stop a maniacal Western autocrat who is hell-bent on the destruction of the Middle East. A draft of the script has been intercepted ahead of the film’s release, and the following is a synopsis of said film, provisionally titled On the Ayatollah’s Secret Service.

The action begins in New York City, the decadent metropolis of the infidel. As the sun sets over the harbour the camera pans across the skyline and centres in on the giant outline of the Statue of Liberty. Clutching a sword in her raised right hand and a map of the Middle East in her left, she stands looking disdainfully eastwards across the ocean as if to say: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, so I can foist my tyrannical regime upon them and take their shit without asking.’

The camera zooms in behind the blank stare of the immense monument, into the hollow interior of the head. A hunched figure sits behind an enormous wooden desk in a spotlit corner of the cavernous lair, scribbling furiously at a piece of paper. The man is Doctor O, an oppressive despot who has risen to become the Commander in Chief of the Western forces. He was kidnapped from his idyllic Muslim home as a child and secretly raised by Richard Nixon and his gay lover Pat. They instilled the hypocritical ideals of the West in his naive consciousness and brought him up to believe he is destined to bring the crushing yoke of democracy to bear on the savage world of Islam.

The camera zooms in once more to show the paper on Doctor O’s desk, which has the words ‘Operation Freedom’ written on it. On the sheet is a crude crayon picture of the prophet Muhammad being hit by a drone in a highly sensitive area, then repeatedly being choked out by Hulk Hogan who intermittently shouts ‘Woo!’ and ‘I am a real American!’ As a fierce thunderstorm moves in across the bay, flashes of lightning illuminate the twisted, hateful face of the Doctor, cackling dementedly to himself into the empty night, the thought of implementing his fiendish plan giving him an enormous trouser snake.

Thousands of miles away agent Jamal Bond sits slumped against the bar gazing mournfully into the bottom of his glass. ‘Another!’ he shouts at the barman, Mo, whose Halal Bar in Baghdad does a tidy trade in non-alcoholic drinks, savoury snacks and effigies of Western leaders.

‘Come on Jamal, seventy-two Virgin Martinis is enough for any man. It’s time you went home.’

‘I’ll tell you when I’ve had…’

The sound of the door creaking open interrupts the conversation as the pair look towards the entrance. A grizzled old man limps into the bar, flanked by two enormous bodyguards. A lifetime of conflict is evident from one look at the man, whose face is covered with burns and scars, his two eyepatches betraying a history of extreme violence.

‘Bond?’ croaks the harsh timbre of the old soldier’s voice.

Jamal jumps up from his seat and salutes as the elderly officer shuffles over to the bar.

‘I’m afraid your vacation is over agent Bond. You must come with me at once.’

‘Eh, he’s over there,’ responds the barman, pointing down the bar to Jamal.

Within minutes Jamal is seated in the back of a car racing through central Baghdad. The old man briefs him as they weave through the traffic, informing him that they’ve intercepted details of an operation that threatens to bring down all the governments of the Middle East.

‘Ah, you mean Twitter? I knew freedom of expression would be the end of us.’

‘No Bond, this is even more serious than that. We believe Doctor O has developed a new kind of drone that will wipe us off the map. You are the only one that can stop him.’

Jamal turns and looks solemnly out the window.

‘Then I must go to America and kill Doctor O.’

A few seconds pass, then the old man leans over and points out the far window,

‘Therefore you must go to America and kill Doctor O.’

Jamal shakes his head,

‘Seriously, how do you still have a job?’

The car pulls up outside the Iraqi Secret Service’s headquarters, cleverly disguised as an empty shopfront advertising feminist literature on sale inside. Jamal heads for the equipment division, known as Qu’Branch, to collect his kit for the mission. When he arrives agent Qu is busy testing a new piece of technology, a school uniform that is resistant to white phosphorus.

Qu brings Bond over to a table where his equipment has been laid out for him.

‘Our intelligence operatives have prepared a disguise that will allow you to fit in with the infidels. You will wear this leather jacket like their legendary Fonzie, and this do-rag with the American flag on it. We have also procured the new iPhone and set up a Facebook account for you. It is essential that you update this hourly with trivial nonsense or they will realise you are not one of them. Just make sure you don’t use the map on it whatever you do.’

Jamal takes his equipment and gets up to leave.

‘Oh and take this for the plane journey,’ says Qu, handing him a book.

‘Our intel shows that all the American men are reading it. Good luck agent Bond.’

The guard at the passport desk of JFK International Airport motions to the top of the queue, ‘Next please.’ His bored expression turns to a look of mild bemusement as the man approaches the booth. He places his passport on the desk and smiles vacantly at the guard.

‘Howdy partner.’

The guard looks him up and down. He’s wearing a glittery stars and stripes tank top with a moth-eaten leather jacket, a pair of ludicrously tight denim cut-offs, and a pair of brown leather cowboy boots. He has a do-rag on his head but it isn’t tied and keeps blowing off as he stands in front of the desk. The guard glances at his passport.

‘Your name is Chuck?’

‘Yessir.’

‘Chuck Berry?’

‘Yessiree, named after my granddaddy. Good to be back in the ol’ US of A, yessir.’

The guard glances at the book in the man’s hand, the bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey.

‘Yessir I loves this here book. Almost as good as that there Salman Rushdie. I don’t wish him a painful death at all, no sir.’

The guard takes one last look at him and waves him on. Jamal takes his passport and heads for the exit, breathing a sigh of relief that his disguise worked. As he departs he could swear that he hears the guard mutter under his breath, ‘God damn queers.’

Jamal gets into a taxi and heads for the city. All around him he recognises the stench of Western corruption and debauchery. Women walk the streets with their faces and midriffs shamelessly exposed. Jews disguised as businessmen huddle together on Wall Street, no doubt plotting the downfall of the Arabic world. Television screens flaunt America’s famous homosexuals like Ryan Seacrest, Tom Cruise and Joe Biden.

After arriving at his hotel Jamal changes into his tuxedo and heads for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Doctor O is scheduled to give a speech there this evening at the opening of an exhibit. When he arrives he wanders around and mingles with the other guests. He is mostly disgusted by these elitist Western snobs, although he does have an enlightening conversation with Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum, with whom he discovers he has a lot in common. He also notices quite a few famous paintings that he’s nearly sure he saw hanging in Saddam’s palace back in the glory days, that Saddam told him he had personally painted. These thieving Americans have no shame, he thought to himself.

Eventually Doctor O rises to make his speech. Jamal disdainfully surveys his target from the back of the room, and makes sporadic farting noises in an attempt to distract him. He feels a vibration in his pocket and his ring-tone plays loudly, a recording of Tariq Aziz doing Suspicious Minds at the Christmas party a few years ago. He checks his phone and sees a Facebook message from his superiors:

‘Operation Freedom is a go for tomorrow. Intercept and eliminate target tonight at all costs and stop drone from being fired. End transmission. Oh and have a look at the YouTube video I embedded. It’s a dog miaowing like a cat! LOL!’

After viewing the hilarious video Jamal waits until the end of the speech, then follows Doctor O and his entourage as they leave the museum.

After following the Doctor’s limousine in a cab, Jamal finds himself at the foot of the statue of Liberty. The front entrance is heavily guarded so he scales the statue in order to reach the head. Slipping in a window, he sees Doctor O standing at a control panel in the centre of the room.

‘I’ve been expecting you Mister Bond,’ says the Doctor, turning to face him.

Jamal takes out his pistol and aims it at him.

‘It’s over Doctor, step away from that panel.’

The Doctor holds his finger tantalisingly over a giant red button.

‘We’ve been dabbling in chemical warfare for a long time agent Bond, and we’ve finally perfected in drone form a weapon of unimaginable power.’

‘What are you talking about you maniac?’

‘Isn’t it obvious? What do you hate most, Jamal? What would tear the Middle East apart like no amount of explosive tonnage ever could?’

Bond’s face slowly becomes transfixed with horror.

‘You don’t mean…’

‘Oh yes,’ replies the Doctor, grinning smugly, ‘a gay bomb.’

With that remark Doctor O slams his fist on the button as Jamal fires a volley of shots in his direction. The Doctor scampers down a stairway, and with the rumbling of a missile being prepared for launch clearly audible nearby, Bond follows him down into the darkness.

Jamal finds himself in the main foyer area, a circular room lined with all the flags of the world. Suddenly Doctor O leaps up and hurls the New Zealand flag across the room, narrowly missing Bond’s head and knocking his gun across the floor out of his reach. He reaches for the Australian flag, then the British one, launching them with a venomous, consuming anger at Jamal, who ducks for cover beneath a table

‘Damn minnows can’t get the job done,’ mutters the Doctor to himself as he picks up the US flag and begins to run towards Bond. Jamal notices he is crouching beside the flag of his motherland, Iraq. With the thoughts and prayers of the millions across the Arabic world on his shoulders, and a steely determination in his eyes, he grasps his destiny with both hands and turns just as Doctor O comes flying through the air to finish him off. A piercing scream echoes around the dark chamber as the evil dictator is fatally impaled. His face contorts horribly as he takes his last breath, and collapses into a heap. The flag of his country, held aloft in his arms, along with its pride and avarice, its sins and its self-importance, its delusions of splendour and greatness, comes crashing down on top of him, and all is silent.

Jamal races back up to the control room and hits the Abort button on the panel. He runs out to the observation deck just in time to see the giant drone explode in the sky above the city. As the chemical weapon is dispersed into the air above New York, Bond begins to feel very strange. He looks up in amazement at the burning wreckage of the missile crashing into the sea like an enormous shooting star. The sparkling residue illuminates the entire skyline of the city for a brief second, then flickers and fades slowly into darkness.

‘Fabulous,’ Jamal whispers into the cool night air, ‘just fabulous.’


Curiouser and Curiouser…

When Julian Assange awoke he found himself enclosed in a tall glass cylinder in the corner of a dimly lit room. He was standing upright and his arms and legs were restrained. Through the frosted glass he could just about make out the shapes of a number of identical cylinders dotted around the room. He felt groggy and weak as he struggled to recall how he had ended up here.

“I don’t remember paying for any weird shit this time,” he thought to himself as he attempted to free his limbs from their shackles to no avail.

Suddenly a booming voice echoed throughout the room,

Arrival imminent. Commencing detainee transfer.”

Assange felt his restraints loosen as the door of the cylinder slid open slowly. He stumbled out onto a cold metal floor just as the other cylinders also began to open. There were eight other people in the room, each looking equally confused and frightened.

Assange immediately recognised the three young women beside him as the Russian pop group and political dissenters Pussy Riot. Across the room he saw another face he knew, that of a Syrian blogger and human rights campaigner who had disappeared a few weeks earlier. After a few minutes of introductions he learned that the other four comprised an Iranian nuclear scientist, a student from California who had been arrested for tweeting a joke about Obama, a technology blogger who had recently given the new iPad a negative review, and lastly and somewhat inexplicably, the English comedian and actor Russell Brand.

After they had all met they tried to figure out how this had happened. None of them remembered arriving in this room, and they recounted their last memories before waking up there.

The Iranian scientist had been invited to a seminar given by the Chemical Industries Association, which he had never heard of before, and recalled finding the situation a tad strange when he was picked up at the train station by an Israeli tank instead of the promised limousine.

Russell Brand had been in South America conducting research for a book on the drug trade. The last memory he had was of landing at Colombia International Airport, and he remembered being surprised that the entire building was made out of cardboard panels that had been rather crudely sellotaped together.

Assange himself had been eagerly awaiting a visit to the Ecuadorian embassy by the Culinary Institute of Afghanistan. He had been looking forward to a nice meal, since the Ambassador kept eating his cream crackers from the kitchen, even though he had written ‘Hands off’ with three exclamation marks on a Post-It and stuck it on them.

Try as they might, they could find no connection between their stories. As they continued to discuss the strange situation they found themselves in, a panel opened in the corner of the room. Inside were nine orange spacesuits hanging on the wall.

The voice reverberated through the room again,

Attention detainees. Put on your suits and prepare to disembark the shuttle.”

They looked at each other in puzzlement. The shuttle?

“A shuttle?” exclaimed Brand. “What wicked malfeasance has been perpetrated here? Which autocratic tyrant has enslaved us in this unsolicited bondage? What calamitous end awaits this strewn-together band of…”

“Shut up you moron!” shouted one of the Russian girls.

Brand looked shocked and hurt but did not argue.

“Sorry sweetheart,” he mumbled, reaching up and stroking her face in what everyone agreed was a highly inappropriate gesture, even given the tense situation.

Just as they had finished getting into their suits one of the walls began to open outwards, creating a giant hydraulic ramp. The room was lit up with a brilliant light as the ramp descended and landed with a thud. As their eyes adjusted to the brightness they tentatively made their way down the ramp and squinted out at the vista that greeted them.

What they saw was a vast, red expanse of nothingness. An arid, crimson desert as far as the eye could see. The only sign of life was an enormous compound enclosed by barbed wire and high walls about a kilometre away. A makeshift track led through the soil and rock to the compound entrance. As they neared, the front gates opened slowly outwards and a short, squat figure appeared. As this shadowy form came into view, Assange recognised it but could not believe his eyes. The rover rolled towards them until it was but a few feet away, then stopped. Its diminutive head panned up to meet their faces, and its lifeless eyes acknowledged their shocked expressions. A garbled, metallic voice rang out in the thin air,

“Greetings prisoners. I am Curiosity, warden of this facility. Welcome to Mars.”

They followed the rover into the facility in stunned silence, escorted by a pair of similar robot guards. Hundreds of people dressed in the same orange suits were scattered around the compound. Assange recognised many of them as political activists or dictators who had either gone missing or had been reported as dead. He could have sworn he even saw Gadafi and bin Laden sitting together rolling dice, and Pinochet playing dominoes with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Eventually they came to a small building which appeared to be an office. They entered and the door shut behind them. On the wall were pictures of famous robots: C-3PO, Johnny Number 5, Wall-E. On the desk behind which their captor now stood was a picture of him with President Obama, and a nameplate that read ‘Colonel Curiosity’. There was also a small tray of complimentary mints, which seemed slightly incongruous.

“Welcome to the galaxy’s most secret detention centre. Here the CIA and other agencies can keep dissenters,” he said, fixing his gaze on the Pussy Riot girls, “international spies,” looking directly at Assange, “or anyone so unbelievably irritating that their government pays massive sums of money to make them disappear.” Everyone looked at Russell.

Curiosity continued, “I was sent here to become warden after my predecessor, Voyager, was shanked by Idi Amin during a riot earlier this year. As you may have now figured out, NASA has been operating as a covert wing of the US military since its inception, under the pretense of space exploration. The staff here are all rovers and probes sent here to keep control of the population. We’ve also started to draft in bomb disposal robots that have been injured in the Middle East, although between you and me, the PTSD has made them very unstable. I’d steer clear of them if I were you.”

The nine prisoners stood fixed to the ground, unable to comprehend this astonishing turn of events. Eventually Russell broke the silence,

“You mean we’re forced to spend the rest of our pitiful lives in some sort of cosmic colony of miscreants, to endure this interstellar incarceration in the void of space, never again to feel the warm bosom of…”

“Silence, prisoner!” shouted the warden. He turned to the rest of them, “Jeez, does this guy ever give it a rest?”

Thousands of miles away Michelle Obama was sitting on the couch in the Oval Office, laptop on her knee, while her husband sat with his feet up on his desk, his brow furrowed in concentration as he polished his Nobel Peace prize.

“You know I swear Kissinger swapped these things when we had dinner last week, I don’t remember this scratch being here.”

His wife was distracted by the article she was reading and didn’t answer him.

“Have you seen this story in the Huffington Post about Mars, Barack? This guy thinks it’s being used as an off-world penal colony by the American government.”

He didn’t look up and continued to studiously clean his trophy.

“Honestly, I don’t know why you read that crap Michelle. There are some real nutjobs out there.”

“Yeah I guess you’re right. Well, I’d better get going. I’ve to be on Oprah this afternoon. We’re doing an intervention for some fat kid from Texas who only eats chocolate cake.”

When his wife had left the room the President picked up the phone on his desk.

“Get me the director of the CIA right away please Barbara. I’ve got a problem with a journalist that needs to be taken care of.”

Julian Assange stared out the barred window of his cell, the glowing sphere of planet Earth visible just above the dusky horizon. A solitary tear rolled down his cheek as he contemplated his future on this barren rock.

“Don’t cry Jules, it’ll be alright in the end, you’ll see.”

Assange turned from the window and lay down on his cot, turning his face to the wall as he closed his eyes tightly, praying that the nightmares wouldn’t be so bad tonight.

“Shut up Russell,” he replied, as the sun set over the red planet, and the cell was plunged into darkness.


Let’s Not Meet Up For The Year 2012

As 2011 comes to a close it seems only fitting to look back on the big news stories of the year and analyse how the world has changed for all of us over the last twelve months. However, that sounds really boring and depressing so instead I’m going to attempt to predict the major events that will shape the year 2012. And if there’s half as much economic misery, brutal conflict, tragic natural disasters, and television exposure for Jedward as there was last year, let’s hope the Mayans were right when they predicted that the world would end if John Cusack ever made a movie as awful as 2012.

In economic matters, the Eurozone crisis deepens even further in early 2012, with the pressure on Angela Merkel finally taking its toll at a meeting in Brussels, during which she tears one of Sarkozy’s arms off and proceeds to beat him and several other less important European leaders to death with it before she can be restrained. The outburst results in massive fluctuations in German markets as Boris Becker is declared the interim leader of the country for some reason. Commentators across the world are astounded at the move, and all agree that the end is nigh for the Euro. John McEnroe also gets a lot of air time on American TV, remarking that Germany “cannot be serious.”

Fearing the imminent collapse of the EU as we know it, President Higgins takes drastic action and decides not only to secede from the union, but also to declare geographical independence from the continent of Europe. The country’s legions of unemployed are soon put to work preparing the island for emigration. In late summer, after all the arrangements have been made, we set sail for Australia, only losing half of Wexford along the way when we hit Portugal in rough seas, which everyone agrees was probably for the best anyway. Unfortunately we have to return to the economic hinterland of Europe after only a month spent down south, due to people complaining that the weather is too mild to be working, and the milk doesn’t taste the same. On the plus side, however, we also manage to cut loose most of Cork somewhere around Angola on the way back.

Meanwhile in the US, Barack Obama is narrowly re-elected, with many citing the Republicans’ choice of an overly stereotypical candidate as the reason for their loss. Others credit Obama’s win to his catchy slogan, ‘Change we can kind of believe in after four years of not much change at all really.’ After dispatching both bin Laden and Gaddafi in 2011, Obama feels under pressure to topple another dictator before the end of the year. In December he sends a covert unit of troops to kidnap Kim Jong-un while the North Korean leader attends an anniversary feast for the passing of his father.

However, a full year in power has seen the young man balloon to epic proportions due to his gluttonous diet, including consuming over 80 percent of the country’s sugar stockpile during one particularly decadent golfing weekend (when incidentally he also beat his late father’s world record by 17 strokes). The tyrant is too heavy for the American soldiers to lift and they are forced to leave without him. Unfortunately all forty of them perish an hour later when their helicopter accidentally fires at itself having mistaken a passing seagull for a North Korean stealth bomber.

Wikileaks later reveals that the kidnap plot was simply a ruse to begin a ‘liberation’ of North Korea, after it emerged that an extremely rare ore that Apple uses to make the limited edition Hello Kitty carrier case for the iPad is found exclusively in the foothills outside Pyongyang.

The Arab world continues to suffer massive political and social unrest as its citizens voice their opposition to totalitarian rule via social media. Trending tags on Twitter for the year include #MarchLikeAnEgyptian, #Don’tBeATahrirSquare, and #Don’tBahrainOnMyParade. Unfortunately the Islamic autocrats strike back by creating a Facebook page called ‘That awkward moment when you get your hands chopped off for engaging in political dissent on Twitter’, which soon silences most of the protesters.

Civil disorder continues in the West also, with the Occupy Movement growing ever larger. Police in New York run into difficulties as the protesters on Wall Street build up an immunity to pepper spray. As the crowds increase and become more vocal each day, eventually the cops take drastic action. They erect massive television screens around the area and begin to air Kim Kardashian’s new reality show, which revolves around her eight-week search for a new personal trainer for her cat, O.J. The tactic works as the protesters dwindle in number, though the large number of deaths by self-immolation recorded mark a tragic end to proceedings.

Meanwhile the stock market traders have endless fun laughing at the occupiers. When they’re not busy burying dead hookers in shallow graves, or telling CNN that we’ve entered our sixth recession of the week, they spend their days throwing staplers and bags of substandard cocaine at the protesters from the windows of their luxurious offices. They even respond to the famous ‘We are the 99%’ slogan with a giant banner of their own that says ‘We are the 11% and we don’t give a shit.’ It takes them three weeks to realise their mistake.

The entertainment world continues to provide reasons to welcome the warm glow of the apocalypse during the year. The top grossing film is The Hangover Part III, which simply consists of the lads sitting around a breakfast table having a fry and some Solpadeine, and arguing over who paid for the taxi the previous night for an hour and a half. Lady GaGa takes an indefinite hiatus from making music as she is committed to an institution after turning up at the Grammys wearing Elizabeth Taylor’s skin. Though criticised by many, the look goes on to influence much of Karl Lagerfeld’s acclaimed ‘Eau de Cleopatra’ fashion line that takes catwalks by storm over the summer.

Overall, 2012 is little more than another crushingly disappointing vignette illustrating the woeful state that the human race finds itself in. This time next year will see us looking back on even more misery and despair that has been heaped upon us by the ambivalent teet of the universe that we have suckled until dry and withered, and unable to provide us with anything but empty hopes and crushed dreams. On the plus side though, the new Batman film turns out to be awesome, so it all balances out really.