Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What I Actually Do at Work

"Are you still contagious?"  This isn't a good phrase to overhear at the best of times.  It definitely isn't a good phrase to hear in your staff kitchen.  It's right up there with "Has anybody seen my pet rat?" and "Botulism isn't half as bad as people think."

Incidentally, when I say "staff kitchen" I mean a sort of hybrid café/meeting place place sprawling over a high rent chunk of the 60th floor of our building.  There are tables, there are chairs, there are large windows affording magnificent views over the harbour and Garden Island where naval personnel struggle to cram tanks onto the landing craft attached to our new LHDs.  Yes, we've fixed the engine problems but have now discovered that our tanks aren't a perfect fit for the landing craft designed to take them from the ship to the shore.  Apparently if there's so much as a mild swell our entire armoured regiment will drown during deployment.  This isn't too much of a problem since the only thing we've used our tanks for since the Vietnam War is to provide a home for mice.  In the unlikely event that we ever have to use the multibillion dollar eyesores currently hulking at Garden Island for their designed role we would be wiser just to surrender immediately.

But back to our staff café.  It truly is amazing, it provides a place where the firm's employees can come, hang out and relax as long as they don't mind the fact that their employers are witnesses to the fact they're goofing off.  One can read papers, have meetings, listen to the music played just loud enough to interfere with conversations while not actually being loud enough to enjoy and eat a veritable hipsters wet dream of foodstuffs.  We have avocados of both the smashed and unsmashed varieties.  There are large mushrooms garnished with an egg (the foetus and fungi special).  There's so much Turkish bread that the people of Istanbul are in imminent danger of starvation and gluten free stuff everywhere.  In fact if gluten dares show its face in our café the staff would beat it to death with an avocado smasher.

The deserved centre of attention is the toaster.  This toaster is a thing of beauty by which I mean it is rather ugly in a sort of retro, artisanish way.  I'm sure we're all familiar with what toasters are supposed to look like.  Small metal things with slits in the top for the bread.  One drops the bread in the slits, pushes down on the convenient handle and a short while later toast is catapulted across the room in a cloud of burnt crust particles.  That's what a toaster looks like.  Not ours.  Ours is a rough metal box made of six sheets of unpolished metal that have apparently been screwed together more or less at random, possibly by indigenous tribesmen near the Ganges (which let's face it is where most Bangladeshi factories are located).  The first time I saw it I had to be prevented from posting letters into it.

When you ask the cafe staff for toast they actually give you bread and point you in the direction of this arcane device.  The bread can be sourdough, wholemeal or seeded (as I like to call it; white, brown or gritty) but whatever version you acquire you take it along to the ancestor of toasters long past and drop it onto a wire tray angled so that the bread, eventually, slides slowly into the metal box.  Then its wise to catch up on the news or do a little work (you will be billing a client for this time anyway) chat with friends or develop a new religion.  A ridiculously long time later the bread you dropped into the metal box will find its way out of the bottom in a state best described as "somewhat warm".  You could toast bread equally effectively by holding it up to direct sunlight for five minutes.

Strangely everybody seems quite happy with this result.  Possibly by the time the "toast" actually makes its appearance the recipient is so crazed with hunger that they would actually eat unhusked wheat if that's what the toaster produced.  Somewhat warm bread procured you can then spread it with avocado or peanut butter and enjoy it with your decaf almond latte. Butter will be provided if you ask for it as long as you're prepared to spend the rest of your life as a social pariah.

With all of this out of the way there is nothing for it but to return to your desk and do some actual work all the while hoping that the person who assured you of their non contagious status was telling the truth.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Maim Free Weekend

"Where the hell is she?"
I've got to admit I've become somewhat spoilt by the quality of my tech support.  I'm used to being able to contact my Tasmanian correspondent at any time of the day or night so the news that she had gone completely off grid and was incommunicado came as a bit of a surprise.
"Calm down," responded my Belarusian contact.  "Your heartbeat is dangerously high."
"And that's another thing.  Why do you need to monitor my vital signs?"
"Oh no reason," they assured me.  "It's certainly not because we've been testing unlicenced medical treatments on you while you sleep.  But it would be good to keep your heart rate and blood pressure within normal levels.  Also avoid shocks, loud noises and direct sunlight."
Fortunately before my eyeballs could start bleeding again they came back with good news.  Apparently the Rebels motorcycle gang had been having a get together in Tasmania and their sergeant at arms had spotted my correspondent in Swansea heading north.
"How do you know the Rebels' sergeant at arms?" I asked.
"Mind your own business," they suggested.

Fortunately before I could ask any more unwise questions my correspondent surfaced with tales of the wild outdoors.  Apparently she had taken her children (and some foolhardy friends) on a weekend away to a hippie commune type place which was devoid of internet contact with the outside world.  One of her friends was appalled to discover the place didn't have a website.  How she reacted to the lack of running water was a source of great amusement to my correspondent.  Apparently the whisky helped.

Yes several adult Tasmanians turned up on the hippie's doorstep herding a batch of kids and clutching enough cheese and alcohol to render the entire population both lactose intolerant and chronically alcoholic in the course of a weekend.  Do these guys know how to rough it or what?  Once settled in to what our ancestors of a couple of centuries ago would no doubt have called shelter they unleashed their children on the unsuspecting outdoors and retired to sample the cheese and wine.

My correspondent's memories of the entire weekend seem to be suspiciously hazy but she apparently departed with the same number of children she arrived with.  There was a whole lot of hippy constructed play equipment which somehow failed to maim the children despite their best efforts.  There were also llamas and sheep which the children attempted to befriend.  Strangely this didn't end in tears either, it didn't even end in streams of spittle running down the children's faces which indicates that llamas are somewhat more tolerant than, for example, me.

According to my correspondent there were whales off the coast (good place for them) but by this stage I was rather suspicious about the accuracy of her reports and I suspect she may have gained a hazy glimpse of trucks on the highway.  Possibly the only sharply focussed memory of the entire weekend (apart from children unaccountably not hurting themselves) was of the bath.  In order to have a hot bath one needed to light a fire and wait for several hours before going outside (where the bath was) and slipping into water hot enough to be used as the basis for stew while everybody else politely pretended to avert their eyes.  A friend of my correspondent (the one who was appalled at the absence of internet connection) found this an excellent way to deal with the whisky induced hypothermia of the previous night. 

The whole weekend was a great success despite the arrival of another child that none of the adults would admit to owning.  They left it behind at the end of the stay and nobody seems particularly concerned.  One of my correspondent's children noted it was better than their recent visit to Sydney.  She also noted that she wanted to join a bikie gang. 

Meanwhile on (or rather, just off) the mainland another colleague of mine spent the weekend vomiting over whales.  The whales were probably glad they lived in the ocean which allowed them to easily rinse themselves off.  It has to be said that cetaceans have had to put up with a lot from us over the years.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Shouldn't That be a Matter for the Minister for the Undead?

There are certain things you expect when you wind up as the president of a desperately poor African nation.  Firstly you expect to have the job for a goodly number of years.  Thirty or forty is considered about average.  Secondly you're not supposed to need to be too concerned about public opinion, public welfare or indeed public anything much.  Finally of course you expect to be able to loot enough out the country in that time to be able to die in a Swiss clinic of something appropriately affluent like diabetes or heart disease as opposed to your home village of something plebeian like malnutrition or ebola virus.

Pity then the president of Malawi.  Despite the best efforts of various presidents it remains stubbornly a multi party democracy where power can change hands by methods other than violence or natural attrition.  Indeed the last time it look like someone was going to play fast and loose with the constitution the army smacked them sharply around the head and said "Oi, respect the democratic process."  This means the president only has a couple of terms at best to get obscenely rich and he has to persuade the general population that they should let him do so.

Yes, life is tough for the president of Malawi (to be fair it's much tougher for virtually everyone else in the country) and things aren't being helped by the fact that he currently has to travel the countryside trying to persuade people not to hammer stakes through  the hearts of their fellow citizens.  You see Malawi whose normal threats are limited to mass starvation and sudden baby raids by the likes of Madonna and Angelina Jolie is facing a new and deadly danger.  Vampirism is apparently a serious threat in Malawi.

Actually no, vampirism is not a serious threat in Malawi.  Fear of vampires is a serious threat in Malawi.  Sufficiently serious that so far six people have been burnt or stoned to death by their neighbours on the suspicion that they might be part of the blood sucking undead.  Anti vampire vigilante mobs have been setting up road blocks and combing the area searching for anyone who might have longer than biologically necessary canines.

The UN has responded in much the same way as the UN does when crazy violence (and violence doesn't get much more crazy than this) erupts.  It has run away.  Once things calm down it will probably send in heavily armed peace keepers to help support the local prostitution industry.  Some NGOs have also pulled out particularly from the southern (apparently more vampire intensive) regions of the country.  What actually caused this outbreak of vampire related panic is somewhat unclear although it appears the rumours may actually have started in neighbouring Mozambique.  It wouldn't surprise me, you can't trust those beggars.  I'll bet they're sucking blood all over the place in Mozambique.

In possibly the most useful response to date the president of Malawi is touring affected areas trying to persuade the citizens that people they've known all their lives are unlikely, on balance, to be soulless animated corpses feasting on the lifeblood of the population.  Although coincidentally it is virtually his own job description.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Silly After Action Report - Tanks of Warsaw

Junior Officer paused before approaching the command post and checked that his uniform was exactly correct.  He was reporting for service with the famed Oberst von Kattelrussler and he wanted to make sure everything was just so.  No doubt von Kattelrussler would be a stickler for appearances.  Straightening his back and squaring his shoulders he marched forward and stamped to attention.  A group of harassed looking headquarters clerks, many swathed in bandages, glanced up at him without interest before returning to their own pursuits.

Junior Officer was about to speak when a lean, harassed looking man in a major's uniform came up.
"Are you the new junior officer?"
Junior Officer threw up an elbow cracking salute, "Yes sir!" he barked.
"Not so loud, we just got the oberst down.  I'm von Kummerbund, welcome to the unit.  Who ordered you here?"
"I volunteered sir, I have been following von Kattelrussler's exploits in the Volkische Beobachter and I couldn't wait to join."
"Dear Christ."
"Sir?" said Junior Officer in some puzzlement.

A figure shambled out of a nearby tent.  It wore a dressing gown, steel helmet and fluffy pink bunny slippers.
"What's all the noise about von Kummerbund."
Von Kummerbund pasted a look of respectful deference onto his face, "the new junior officer Herr Oberst, reporting for duty."
Oberst von Kattelrussler had what could be called a mobile face in so far as it twitched, jumped, spasmed and sometimes appeared to be attempting to flee his head entirely.  He sketched a salute with a hand clutching a teddy bear.
"About time we got a new junior officer, we haven't had one since Wittmann went off to join the SS."
"Actually sir," replied von Kummerbund, "we've had three since then."
"Really, what happened to them?"
"The first you sent off to reconnoitre a minefield; he found it.  The second you ran over with a Panzer IV because you couldn't find reverse gear and you shot the third because you thought he had rabies."
"The man was foaming at the mouth."
"He was shaving sir."

Oberst von Kattelrussler jumped at an imaginary sound and turned to Junior Officer who was desperately trying to maintain his composure.
"Welcome aboard Junior Officer.  Do you know anything about flamethrowers?"
"Ah, no sir."
"Excellent, learning on the job is the best way.  Pick up that flamethrower and head for the front.  Von Kummerbund will show you where to go."  Von Kattelrussler turned on his heel and started an animated conversation with his teddy bear.

Von Kummerbund watched as Junior Officer fumbled with the flamethrower at one point spilling highly flammable liquid over his freshly pressed uniform.
"Where should I go sir?" asked Junior Officer trying to disentangle himself from some tubing.
"Somewhere a very long way from me," replied von Kummerbund backing towards a convenient tank.

So the latest in a series of scenarios I'm provisionally entitling "Oberst von Kattelrussler Conquers the World".  This is BFP 124 - The Tanks of Warsaw.  As temporary commander of von Kattelrussler's long suffering legions I have to capture at least three of four victory buildings located an inconveniently long way away with apparently half the Polish army in between.  My forces are powerful, I have twenty three squads (including five assault engineers), a dozen machine guns (half light, half medium) plus a 75mm artillery piece, a 37mm anti tank gun, a clutch of demo charges and antitank rifles a pair of flamethrowers and thirteen tanks including half a dozen PzIIs and a pair of PzIVs.  Oh yes and I also have 100mm artillery if I can find anything to shoot at.  Ivan's defenders are no slouch either.  Seventeen squads divided between first line and green plus eight machine guns of his own, a pair of 37mm AT guns, an 81mm mortar and a truck mounting a 75mm gun on the flatbed.  In addition to this he could fortify half a dozen building locations, set three roadblocks and had a mass of wire and mines to guard his approaches.  Over the course of the game he would be reinforced by four very handy tanks and a pair of dinky little 47mm SP guns and a trio of elite squads who were obviously late to the battle.

My plan, as usual was simple.  I would simply pile up the infantry firepower, blow away his front line, advance modestly, consolidate and repeat.  I had the two PzIVs on board at the start (for the smoke) but kept the rest of my armour offboard until such things as roadblocks, mines and antitank guns became a little more apparent. 

The terrain lent itself to flank movements, I set up the bulk of my force on my right looking to push into the mess of buildings in front of me.  On the left I set up a smaller but still formidable force to push towards the sole victory building on that side.  in the centre I manned the graveyard with a couple of squads and a 37mm gun.  I held back my radio team looking to climb to a vantage point when required.

Things went almost disturbingly well in the first turn.  Both my tanks got smoke blocking Ivan's firelanes down the road that separated our forces.  On the right my flamethrower fried some defenders and I was able to push across the road into the buildings beyond.  On the left I wasn't quite as fortunate with the flamethrower but some well placed infantry smoke got me across the road there as well.  Ivan chose the runaway defence pulling his defenders back and not challenging my gains before pushing back again in the advance phase.

Turn 1, things are going disturbingly well

I had pushed across the road  on both flanks with virtually impunity thanks to the smoke but Ivan's centre was hanging tough.  Still on my right I had swept through the cluster of wooden buildings and up to his second line of defence and on the left I had seized a building and started to infiltrate down both sides of the road.  I say started because on my left a squad walked into a minefield and across the road I inadvertently advanced into a HIP unit.  Ivan's evil chuckle died in his throat as my guys waltzed out of the minefield unharmed and the squad that had bumped into the HIPsters killed them in CC.  I'll just repeat that; I killed a squad in CC and captured an mmg!  Apparently human sacrifice does please the gods after all.  Behind the action my gun crew slowly pushed my 37mm AT down the road towards the left hand roadblock.

I was pleased with my progress so far but things were about to slow down.  I moved a pair of squads past where he had hidden his squad and mmg to discover he had hidden a squad and flamethrower directly behind them.  I did survive the 24FP attack but then both my squads were tied up in melee.  And would remain tied up in melee for the next three turns.  This was infuriating because the position was a chokepoint and I couldn't get anyone past them.  Over on the right things had slowed too.  My plan was simple, build firepower, blow away his defenders, move forward, repeat.  Unfortunately Ivan also had a plan, it consisted of regularly shrugging off 24+2 shots from my attackers.  I tried attacking anyway and through the simple tactic of presenting more squads than Ivan could shoot at managed to push forward.  Ivan rolling an 11 on a FPF shot helped there.

In the centre I had zeroed my 75mm gun on his remaining defenders and slowly pounded them out of position, more by threat than damage.  Ivan declined to leave them there to die.  Along the way my right hand PzIV ran out of smoke but worse was to come.  My flamethrower team on the right ran out of fuel (apparently Junior Officer spilt it on his uniform) and when I finally got some guys across the road and into CC with his remaining defenders Ivan cheerfully rolled a snake eyes and wiped out a squad.

A PzIV behind the roadblock with a broken gun

I still had a mess of tanks to bring on but with little elbow room I couldn't see the point.  I did bring on a trio of PzIs to back up my forces.  This was probably a good idea as I was about to lose both my PzIVs.  On the left I rolled a PzIV up behind the road block and pushed some infantry into the road behind it as well.  There was a concealed stack down the road and a 2 flat shot revealed a squad, leader and hmg. More advancing fire broke the officer and then I did something truly silly.  My intention was to shroud the position with a smoke shell next turn but I couldn't resist the temptation to take a bounding fire shot with my 75mm. I rolled an eleven and broke the gun.

In the centre I had moved a squad and crew (now without flamethrower) forward and decided to back them up with the other PzIV.  This might have been a good idea but I took it too far.  I drove straight up to a squad with an atr which cheerfully destroyed it with a shot through the frontal armour.

The damn melee between on the left just kept on going but I finally got moving again on the right.  Ivan had generated a 7-0 leader for his squad that had got the snake eyes in CC and a 24+2 actually managed to break it and pin the squad.  I decided that this was the moment.  Grabbing a convenient stranger I bent them back over the altar and reached for the obsidian knife.  Religious duties over I sent my boys into CC.  This time I rolled snake eyes and generated my own 7-0.  Then I turned my attention to the CC on the left where two squads had been tied up for three turns and rolled another snake eyes.  This time I generated an 8-1 leader to cheer my boys on.  For some reason I committed these squads to clearing the roadblock, something they didn't manage to do for the rest of the game and removed two squads from my OB.

Halfway through the game and Ivan was being pushed back to his last line of defence but a combination of withdrawals and reinforcements had led to that last line of defence being a solid wall of Polish steel that I would somehow have to break through in four turns or less.  Things weren't helped when his left hand hmg broke my remaining flamethrower crew.  Getting those guys back into the game will be critical.  Other units captured the leftmost of the victory buildings which was one Ivan obviously thought he could afford to lose as there wasn't a fortified location in sight.  Feeling the need for more firepower I rolled on my PzIIs that had been waiting patiently in the wings until now

Over on the right Ivan had anchored a corner of his defence with an hmg toting squad but I had plans for that little sucker.  I had a single PzI lurking in the background doing nothing much and I trundled them down and sleazed the hmg team in bypass.  Then I sent in a half squad toting a DC.  I don't think I've ever successfully used a DC before.  This game would give me the opportunity to successfully use a whole bunch.  Anyway I blew him out of the building and seized the hmg for my very own.

Ivan had placed his 75mm gun truck over on the far left but with my troops swooping down towards his rear he pulled it back to help anchor his last line of defence.  It promptly nailed one of my PzIs as it was attempting to come up and support my left side.  The PzI who had helped my demo team get into the building on the right rolled forward one hex and promptly got flamed by a hitherto unrevealed 37mm gun.  This was excellent as it provided me with a little smoke cover.

I decided I had enough firepower on the right and pushed all but one of my PzIIs down the left.  There were anti personnel mines in the way but I figured I could take the chance.  The very first tank to move onto them was immobilised and I might have indulged in a little cursing but another four made their way through.  That minefield actually managed to immobilise another tank later, I had armour stacked two deep in the hex. I moved my PzIV (without MA) around the left hand victory building and waited for an opportunity to move it forward without it being killed.  I rolled a repair die roll every turn but neither repaired nor recalled the thing.

Taking advantage of the fact that the front line had moved forward my artillery spotters packed up their radio and trotted forward, hoping to find somewhere they could get a decent line of sight.  Far to the rear my 75mm gun crew did sterling service.  Every time Ivan got a sniper they jumped up and down to attract its attention.  I think they were pinned once and broken twice but they kept the trigger happy bastard out of my hair.

The next couple of turns were about bringing up enough troops for the final assault.  Slowed by mines, wire and roadblocks my troops and tanks on the right slowly built up enough force to launch an attack. I was helped by Ivan breaking the hmg which anchored his defence over here and I followed that up by breaking the squad manning it.  On the right I edged forward until I had a powerful force snuggled into stone buildings looking across the road.  Still there was a sea of Poles between me and my objectives.  On the right Ivan had brought on his tanks and positioned them behind a stone wall to cover the road.  The victory buildings were fortified and garrisoned with doughty troops.  On the left things were a little more adhoc. Ivan had a couple of tanks, his gun truck and he brought on his SP guns here as well.  However I had finally managed to bring up my kill stack and started dismantling his troops in the wooden buildings. With them out of the way I seized them for my own and managed to take out his gun truck with infantry fire.

Getting closer to the end game.  I've even managed to find a target for my artillery
You know what a PzIV with a malfunctioned MA is good for?  Diversions.  I rolled it behind the final wooden buildings on the left to pretend to threaten his armoured last stand over there.  Ivan totally refused to be diverted but while the PzIV was flirting with death at least one of my PzIIs had taken death out for dinner and a movie.  Smoke dispensers never work for me but I tried them anyway rolling my PzIIs down the street to cover the approach of my infantry towards the victory building.  I got smoke, hells yeah I got smoke.  It turned out Ivan's other 37mm gun was covering that road and it brewed my forward PzII up into sheets of nicely concealing smoke and flame. Thanks Ivan.

On the right I had a PzI and a PzII eager to give support to my troops but that 37mm had to go first.  I managed to get a squad into CC with the crew, I killed him and he CR'ed me but there was one less obstacle for my tanks.  Ivan helped a bit by breaking the MA of the tank he had hoped to help cover this location. Actually collectively we broke a heck of a lot of weaponry in this game.

Inching forward
Now with time running out I went for the end game.  My hapless PzIV I rolled right around behind his tanks and wound up in the street behind his mortar team and cheerfully machine gunned them into oblivion.  An 8-0 toting an antitank rifle ran out into the orchard to menace his armour (actually to try and make Ivan drop concealment by shooting at them but that didn't work so it was totally a plan to take on the armour).  Ivan had moved one of his SP guns around to support the mortar team and in the next turn my PzIV got a kill with its machine guns, who needs 75s?  But even better was to come.  Two of Ivan's tanks had an impressive 4 for their frontal armour which made them almost immune to the atrs but one of them had swivelled its turret to take a shot at my PzIV as it slunk past. My 8-0, with great skill, fired an antitank rifle into the rear of the turret and killed the thing.  He followed this up with a UK result on the surviving SP gun the next turn.  Suddenly Ivan was out of armour on the left.  It has to be admitted that Ivan street fought the PzIV and immobilised it but the crew stayed in and its machine guns dominated the road.

A little vehicular sleaze, some squirts from the flamethrower and a well positioned DC and I had a breach in the fortified location with only broken wreckage to stop me. I poured troops in and managed to clear the building in my final movement phase.

Over on the left I still had a road covered by tanks and machine guns to contend with and I had no DCs or flamethrowers.  You know what else can breach a fortified location?  A tank.  I drove the PzI straight in (bogging of course) but opening a path for infantry to follow.  I now had the numbers and the firepower while Ivan was virtually out of troops.  I lost some troops exploiting my initial breakthrough but finally wiped out his last SMC in the final CC phase of the game.  

Endgame.  One final CC a squad (me) vs a leader (Ivan).  It took two goes but I finally killed them.

Honesty compels me to admit that while the dice had swung from one side to the other during the game in the final couple of turns they came down against Ivan just when he needed them most.  Otherwise I might have wound up a location or two short.  I'm also wondering if I didn't screw Ivan over.  I know infantry can't enter a fortified location occupied by unbroken enemy units but we couldn't find anything that said a tank couldn't.  Opinions would be welcome now that my victory is on the record and its too late to change the result.

Oberst von Kattelrussler leaned against a ruined wall trying, unsuccessfully, to juggle with hand grenades.  His staff watched him from a distance which could be mistaken for respectful.  Suddenly Major von Kummerbund staggered out of the building coughing brick dust.
"I can't believe that worked," he gasped reaching for his waterbottle.
"I had no doubts," replied von Kattelrussler dropping a stick grenade onto his foot.  "Ouch!"
A strange figure approached them.  Junior Officer was smouldering gently, what was left of his hair was arranged in random clumps over a bright pink scalp.  His uniform was scorched and smelled of burnt skin and petrol.
"Gaah," said Junior Officer.  In case he wasn't clear he said it again, "Gaah, burning, ouch."  He collapsed into a foetal position and began sobbing.
"He'll fit in just fine," said von Kattelrussler beaming. "Welcome to the unit JO."


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Nemesis is Coming

I'm so brave when my enemies are far far away.  For some reason it never occurs to me that they might travel.  An email hit my inbox the other day that sent a trickle of ice down my spine.  Well I say "inbox" I actually mean "spam filter" because as my Belarusian tech support have pointed out it's basically the same thing and I certainly don't need both.  I'll trust my eastern European technomancers to deal with any issues that arise.  They were perfectly capable of dealing with the modified stuxnet worm the NSA unleashed on my systems a few days ago.  I asked them if they had any idea why the NSA might be targeting me but they said it was probably a coincidence and absolutely nothing to do with what they were doing with my computer while I was asleep.

Anyway the email that chilled me to the bone read as follows;

"Fear me, for I am coming!  From across the seas I descend, my shrieking minions by my side!  Great shall be your despair and devastation your fate!  We shall make a plaything of your hopes and crush your soul beneath our feet!" 

In terror I realised that my Tasmanian correspondent was coming for a visit and she was bringing her children.  Things have been a little, shall we say, "tense" between us recently.  There is the question of several years unpaid salary (in my defence nobody was prepared to convert Australian dollars into Tasmanian currency) a certain level of personal abuse (in my defence I didn't think she would be coming to Sydney any time soon) and boastful threats that I honestly didn't expect to be called on to carry out.  Now I would be made to pay for my transgressions and also the transgressions of my tech support team who (unknown to me) have been using her computer to distribute phishing scams world wide.

In desperation I contacted my Belarusian miracle workers, surely they could prevent this.  It wouldn't be the first airliner they had brought down into the sea.  Sadly they informed me they were tied up arranging North Korea's next missile test and couldn't spare the resources.  Also they'd already sold the television rights to the ensuing carnage when my reporter and I met face to face world wide.  Apparently its 8-1 odds against my surviving the encounter.  They did offer me a share of the t-shirt sales if I could survive more than five minutes.

Traitors!  I won't be lying to the Federal Police for them again.  Abandoned by all I grimly made my preparations.  I covered the floor of my apartment in butcher's paper (to soak up the blood), alerted the paramedics (which didn't do any good as they all had the afternoon off to watch proceedings on tv) and made sure I had a lot of sharp implements near to hand (these are to commit suicide with if the encounter becomes to painful to bear).  With all of that done I set my jaw and girded my loins and waited for the inevitable.  To help defuse the situation I decided to gather my co-workers around me and hold the meeting in a public location.  Perhaps the presence of witnesses would restrain my correspondent's wrath.  The news that all of my co-workers had bet against me didn't give me much hope.

The simple fact of the matter is my correspondent still hasn't forgiven me for demanding that she throw herself in front of the truck taking Mr Moo to the abattoir.  My, thoroughly reasonable, suggestion that she toss one of her kids in front of it instead was even less well received.  On Monday I receive my comeuppance for this and other crimes.