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Jewish World Review August 2, 2002/ 24 Menachem-Av, 5762

Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn
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Armageddon out of here |
'Gentlemen, the clock is ticking," barked grizzled maverick Colonel Bruce Willis, striding across the floor at Mission Control and indicating the screen with his stogy. "This is asteroid 2002 NT7. It measures 1.2 miles across and it's coming our way at 28km per second. We haven't seen anything that wide going down that fast since the Starr Report. At precisely 0647 Eastern Time on February 1, 2019, NT7 is scheduled to hit the earth, wiping out an entire continent and plunging the planet into nuclear winter. Our job is to stop it. You've all been hand-picked because you're experts in your fields."

He scanned the room. These were guys he went back with a long way. "Most of you know Jack. He'll bring us up to date."

Intergalactic troubleshooter Jack Straw (Ben Affleck) stepped forward. "I flew up there three days ago to defuse the situation, but unfortunately the asteroid refused to see me. So, er, that's about it really. Armageddon in to see him tomorrow or Monday. End of the week maybe."

"Nice work," said Bruce. "Jack's role is critical. Like to say a word, Norman?"

Norman Mineta (Jackie Chan) stood in front of the video screen. Bruce had personally recruited the distinguished US Transportation Secretary to come up with innovative defense solutions and be the ethnic minority character who gets eaten by the space monster 20 minutes before the end.

"This is the face of the enemy," said Norman, flipping a button and zooming in. "He's an asteroid, he's two kilometers wide, and his preferred m.o. is to drop out of the sky. We have to make sure he doesn't get through. How do we do that? By remaining true to our values as Americans and taking strength in our diversity, etc, etc. This mission will not tolerate any celestial profiling. Law-abiding members of the asteroid community should not have to put up with any more intimate celestial body searches than anybody else. There are all kinds of things dropping out of the sky - apples, hailstones, frozen blocks of airplane urine, snowflakes, suicidal corporate executives, autumn leaves - and we're committed to stopping and searching all of them. That's the only way we'll prevent this asteroid tragedy from occurring. If we don't find more grannies to harass, then the asteroids will have won."

"I want to second what Norman said," began Robert Mueller (Tommy Lee Jones), director of the FBI. "The Bureau takes the possibility of an asteroid attack in February 2019 very seriously. That's why I've formed a task force to make sure a list of options is on my desk by March, 2022."

"If we're to pull this off," said Bruce, "we'll need a lot of renegade misfit types. This isn't the kind of mission where you can go by the book, and, when it comes to books you can't go by, this is the master - David Duncan of Arthur Andersen."

David (Steve Buscemi) started the accountdown: "10, 9, 12, 14.3, 18.7, 29.64" But eventually the renegade maverick crew were on their way, flying by the seat of their renegade pants. David's plan was audacious. "This asteroid is a huge monolithic structure that's about to crash. Our only chance is to land on the surface and burrow deep down inside it until we reach the finance director's office. Then I'll have about 10 minutes to prevent the $857 billion in operating costs from leaking out by burying them as capital expenditures and breaking up the lethal asteroid into dozens of offshore partnerships which will fall harmlessly to earth in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Belize, Jersey and Liechtenstein."

"You'll never get away with it," said Jack.

"I know it sounds crazy, but it's our only chance," said David.

"No, wait!" cried Mary Robinson (Drew Barrymore). "The only way we'll ever really face down this crisis is if we address the root causes." Her fingers punched furiously at the control pad. "Poverty breeds desperation. Desperation breeds resentment. No, that's not it. Resentment breeds" But every attempt by Mary to crack the code seemed only to feed the asteroid and drive it on, until it filled the black void ahead.

"Let's face it," said Bruce. "When was the last time any of us faced down an unstoppable force hundreds of years old hurtling toward us at breakneck speed?"

"I did," said boyish charmer Tony Blair (Tom Hanks) from the back of the ship. "Rose Addis coming at me on a trolley down the corridor of the Whittington. Okay, guys. Stand back. This is our last chance." He punched a series of numbers in the control panel and instantly, amazingly, the asteroid came to a complete halt and just sat there.

Bruce wiped the sweat from his brow. "How the hell did you do that?"

"Simple," said Tony. "I transferred operating responsibility for this section of the galaxy to Railtrack."

From somewhere outside the ship came a tinny announcement: "Due to engineering works in the Bushey area, the 2019 asteroid will not now be arriving until 2274."

"Phew," said Bruce, and radioed back to earth. "Euston, we don't have a problem."

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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is Senior Contributing Editor of The National Post. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Mark Steyn