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Dante's Showroom
1999-11-16 00:25:41


We're Professionals, Dammit!
 
In 20 years we'll all be driving around in electric flying cars anyway.
-- Tjames Madison

 

Charged Pigdog hacks have penetrated the notorious London Arms Fair and penned this cynical and blatant HST plagiarism.

At London's Docklands the fecund bazaar was underway: City Airport had been taking thousands of sleek private jets from the world's most odious governments, whose leaders were arriving to a champagne fanfare at the world's biggest guns and ammo market outside Afghanistan.

From the train my companion and I got lost and walked several kilometers before arriving at a great gray monolith with sides of polished blue glass surrounded by scores of hairy activists. It was the place, all right.

I stowed my unsmoked joints in my breast pocket, attached my forged press card, pushed at the revolving door and was released into a hall full of background conversation noise, men in suits and flunkies carrying champagne glasses. Hundreds of stalls were laid out in four immense rows, carrying the equivalent of five Hiroshimas. The chatter and enthusiasm of the suit-crew was deeply disturbing. We made for a champagne flunky and drank a flute of Dutch courage. We looked anxiously about, but no one took any interest in us. Everyone was poring over display tables or clinking glasses and chatting effusively -- we were in!

My companion spotted the information desk. I spoke directly and firmly to the lovely young woman behind the desk.

"I'm looking for the anti-personnel mines. If you could just, ah, point out the way there, that'd be great." She gave us directions, a guide and a map showing where each manufacturer's stalls were.

At the mine section pride of place was given to new plastic undetectable mines.

"Now how much force does this one have?" A stocky Israeli was asking the salesman.

"This one here is low-force high-spread, sir. It'll injure a lot of personnel but not kill them. This is much more powerful. It will disengage a tank and is completely undetectable. It can be detonated by radio, wire or trip switch."

"Anything anti-tank is useful to me"

"Tank busters are down the hall, sir. We're antipersonnel. Please accept this pamphlet, sir."

We followed the Israeli towards the antitank section. I have always been full of admiration for the B-40, an extreme tank-busting hand-held rocket launcher, hopelessly inaccurate and with a terrible, terrible sound -- the perfect weapon for adolescent revolutionaries.

But we never got to see the B-40 because my companion grabbed my arm and whispered, "Jesus, don't look! That guy in the head scarf! I think he's Taliban."

"They wouldn't allow Taliban in here. And you spilt my drink," I cautioned him. He insisted that we investigate more closely.

A pinstripe-suited young man behind a table full of bits of metal and tail fins was handing leaflets to a man in some kind of middle-eastern uniform.

"Of course, sir. Absolutely, sir. Just tell our equipment team at the far end of the hall which aircraft your air force uses and we'll have them adapted to fit. Absolutely no bother, sir."

"Never Taliban," I stated. "That uniform is more like Saudi or Omani." My companion was not listening. He was trying to make himself visible to the champagne waiter, and losing his composure in the meantime.

I snatched at another champagne flute when one came near enough but spilt some on the next table.

"Watch out!" said an American. "That's expensive gear you're ruining, dog shit." He looked fire at me above his desk filled with leaflets about napalm. "Napalm -- now with Grumman guidance systems."

I turned away. The people here are all murderers, I thought in panic. My companion had gone. Logic dictated go to the bar and I felt good with that. I found the bar on a mezzanine level that overlooked the whole fair. It was bigger than we had thought, and a sign pointed to a garden with a field-gun display. In a corner Bae had winched up an entire Hawk and it hung over the heads of the dealers. My companion was talking to two suits whose nametags said "Hi!" and gave their first names.

"Yeah, I seen those babies work," my companion was saying.

"Massive blast radius! One pass and a whole convoy will go up. We've worked on this one for years. Bob here worked on the delivery mechanism."

"We took a chip from Northrop and put it in here. It tracks the target and pops the canister when it's still about 500 feet overhead. You can drop it from a high-flying plane or fit it into any shell for a conventional wide-caliber artillery piece." he said and smiled.

"Our prototypes were used in the secret war in Laos. We've improved them a lot since then. We've got them to spread more when they come out of the canister, and we've stopped them from detonating on impact so much."

"How much force do you need to get them to go?"

"About four or five Newtons. That's pretty delicate. In test they've gone off during heavy rainfall simulations, but the idea is to drop so many of them that a few getting blown prematurely or washed downstream of the objective won't make a difference."

"And it's a brilliant marketing strategy, too," said Bob.

"Only the cigarette industry has it better," said the other.

"Well," I said. "Drinks?"

My companion came to the bar with me.

"Bloody Mary," I offered as a joke. He turned on me.

"Jesus, you're fucking sick. I'm getting out of here."

"You're right. Maybe we could do with a walk outside." I patted my breast pocket. "Let's."

We walked round a corner away from the glass to smoke, but a guy in Arab headdress was being worked over by security. We walked along the path to the East India Docks instead.

"That fucker with the cluster bombs," my companion was saying. "That fucker needs his house hit with heavy art."

"Watch your tongue! I thought we were here to denounce violence altogether."

"These ignorant bastards make me sick. I mean, outraged. Utterly." He threw his hands in the air.

"Come on, I know you have a Colt at home. Just chill and be peaceful. Remember we're outgunned here."

"I can't handle those people without my medicine. Give me that."

"Do it for the free booze," I said.

Inside they were showing videos of Chechen installations being shelled by the new Russian artillery pieces. The audience murmured with approval.

"Once the rebels have been forced to leave their cover," the commentator was saying, "we can send in troops with uranium-depleted bullets. These can go straight through steel walls and still have more than twice the energy of conventional projectiles."

Brochures were being snapped up. My companion was hunched over and sniffling. I thought he was crying. He stood up laughing and passed me the bottle. Soon we were stumbling like lunatics. A passing waiter attracted our attentions and we made a surgical strike on his champagne glasses. In the confusion I knocked a piece of missile off one of the tables. My companion was floundering and we were both having difficulty keeping upright.

"Dumb shits," said the woman behind the table. My companion staggered up to her.

"Tell you what," he said. "I'll buy it. I'll buy that whole damn missile.

"Absolutely," I said. "And get us some of those fragmentation grenades."

"We can't sell to the public," said the woman frostily.

"Ridiculous," I said. "My taxes pay your wages. Give us the grenades." I showed her my British passport in case she didn't understand.

"Grenades are not for sale to the public," the woman snapped. "What will you do with them?"

"That's none of your business," barked my companion. "But since you asked, we're fishermen. We go offshore and drop those babies in the drink."

"Correct," I said. "The missile is for sharks. We need one with thermal imaging. Put it on my tab."

But the icy bitch called security instead.

"I don't think these people are real buyers," she said.

"Of course we're not! We're journalists."

At that a man in the shape of a gorilla deposited us outside the revolving door. "Fuck off, dipshits," said the corrupt female gorgon and went back inside.

"The fuckers! The fuckers!" my companion was screaming in incoherent rage. "We didn't even get a 9mm!"

He needed badly to calm down, and it was suggested that we try and score some smack, but we got ripped off by a Burmese refugee in Stratford. At first my companion wanted to cause him damage, but I pointed out that it was probably from Khun Sa's back garden and its sale would have only have afforded more guns for the rebel troops.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

jared@pigdog.org


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