(two days after "Test (A) Pilot")
"Without Lieutenant Yeager screaming into my ears, the new F-511-A flies like a dream!"
"Yes, Shane. And the cockpit's wonderfully silent even at acceleration," Niko agreed. "What do you think about the new machines, Doc?"
"The comps are great," he murmured, still concentrating on his CDU. "25 percent surplus calculation capac– Ouch!" He stumbled over something, and Zachary prevented him from falling. "What's–?! QBall, why are you running me down?"
"No time, no time...." BETA's skinny chief scientist hurried on. The four looked at each others and followed him.
"Hey, QBally, what's wrong?"
"Buzz is deactivated! By prime order of Cmdr. Walsh. Even his main batteries were melted down! I have to–"
He stopped after they rounded the corner towards the commander's office. The corridor was filled with people, mostly businessmen – each of them with the appearance and the nerve-eroding smile of a used car salesman, Sheela, Walsh's adjutant – now openly wearing a heavy blaster – stood her ground next two a couple of MPs. Spotting the Rangers and QBall, she waved them to work their way through the crowd.
Not for the first time, Niko was glad of Goose's broad shoulders and Zach's bionics...
Niko (and Sheela) sighed in relief when the office door slammed shut behind them and left them in the relative silence of Walsh's outer office. Relative silence because the room was filled with the pandemonium of a hundred self-executing, partially holographic voicemail messages, the beeping of emails being received, the ringing of com-access requests and the shrill of a mainframe warning about overstressed connection capacities. "Gods, Sheela. What's wrong he–?"
"I have to talk to the commander! Immediately!!" QBall interrupted her rudely. "It can't go on that one of my best works is deactivated in midst of–"
"IN THERE!!" Sheela, usually the embodiment of calmness, exploded, causing all four Rangers, including Gooseman, to twitch considerably, but failing to impress the infuriated chief scientist. "He wants to talk to you anyway!"
QBall stormed through the inner door...
[incredibly loud impolite shouting – fell victim to the censors]
Niko tapped gently against her right ear to check if it was still functioning and threw a cautious look at the door through which QBall had disappeared. "Well..." she whispered carefully, for she wasn't sure if she wasn't shouting in reality but couldn't hear properly at the moment. "At least we now know from whom you got your more colorful descriptions, Goose..." she drew a deep breath. "Sheela, please, what's going on here? And why...?" she made a helpless shrug towards the inner door.
The adjutant snorted. "Buzzwang made his final mistake, that's what!"
"And what did the recycled can consortium do?"
"It filled out and sent back all the warranty registration cards of the five hundred new warplanes BETA received, including the survey at the end, with Commander Walsh's data." Sheela snorted and unplugged the dozen com consoles in the room. "And he used the secret direct com for sending them back."
"Ouch." Doc snickered. "Sale rep, I hear your knocking..."
"Dare to reactivate that heap of industrial junk before the next glacier runs over Phoenix and you'll count sand grains in the Martian dust storms till the Queen marries the pope!!" The door was thrown shut after QBall.
"And where you learned to slam automated glide doors, my Goose man..." Doc murmured and frantically entered various commands into one of the consoles. Then he snickered faintly.
BETA's chief scientist stood dead still while he waited for his ears to stop ringing. He sighed. "Seems that was it for Buzz," he sighed again. "And I haven't even sent back the warranty cards for the alloys..."
Doc's snickering had become a full-fledged laughter by now. The others peered over his shoulders at the screen and read:
Fill Out Your Warranty Registration Card
Thank you for purchasing a McDonald Boing military aircraft. In order to protect your new investment, please take a few moments to fill out the warranty registration card below.
Answering the survey questions is not required, but the information will help us to develop new products that best meet your needs and desires.
First Name: Joseph
Last Name: Walsh
Password: BigBoss1 (max. 8 char)
Code Name: Hotshot
2. Which model aircraft did you purchase?
[_] F- 41 Raptor
[_] F- 42 Predator
[_] F- 45 Menace
[x] F-511-A Starfighter
3. Date of purchase (Year/Month/Day): 2091/08/17
4. Serial Number: 0847081608376604837460287634-BDA234
5. Please indicate where this product was purchased:
[_] Received as gift / aid package
[_] Catalogue / showroom
[_] Independent arms broker
[_] Mail order
[_] Discount store
[x] Government surplus
6. Please indicate how you became aware of the McDonald Boing product you have just purchased:
[_] Heard loud noise, looked up
[_] Store display
[_] Recommended by friend / relative / ally
[x] Political lobbying by manufacturer
[_] Was attacked by one
7. Please indicate the three (3) factors that most influenced your decision to purchase this McDonald Boing product:
[_] Style / appearance
[_] Speed / maneuverability
[_] Price / value
[_] Comfort / convenience
[x] Kickback / bribe
[_] Recommended by salesperson
[_] McDonald Boing reputation
[x] Advanced Weapons Systems
[x] Backroom politics
[_] Negative experience opposing one in combat
8. Please indicate the location(s) where this product will be used:
[x] Tortuna (not Psychocrypt)
[x] Spacecraft carrier
[_] Frontier planets
[_] Empty Zone
9. Please indicate the products that you currently own or intend to purchase in the near future:
[x] Color TV
[_] Quantum Singularity Powered Cannon Tower
[_] Killer Satellite
[x] InterSpace Missiles
[_] Space Shuttle
[x] Home Computer
[_] Nuclear Weapon
10. How would you describe yourself or your organization? (Indicate all that apply:)
[_] Communist / Socialist
[x] Primitive / Tribal
11. How did you pay for your McDonald Boing product?
[_] Deficit spending
[_] Suitcases of Starwynd Theta
[_] Oil revenues
[_] Personal check
[x] Credit card
[_] Ransom money
[_] Traveller's cheque
12. Your occupation:
[_] Sales / marketing
[_] Middle management
[_] Eccentric billionaire
[x] Defense Minister / General
13. To help us better understand our customers, please indicate the interests and activities in which you and your spouse enjoy participating on a regular basis:
[_] Boating / sailing
[_] Running / jogging
[_] Propaganda / misinformation
[_] Destabilization / overthrow
[_] Default on loans
[_] Black market / smuggling
[_] Collectibles / collections
[_] Watching sports on TV
[_] Interrogation / torture
[x] Household pets
[_] Crushing rebellions
[_] Espionage / reconnaissance
[_] Fashion clothing
[x] Border disputes
[_] Mutually Assured Destruction
Thank you for taking the time to fill out this questionnaire.
Your answers will be used in Market studies that will help McDonald Boing serve you better in the future - as well as allowing you to receive mailings and special offers from other companies, governments, extremist groups, and mysterious consortia. As a bonus for responding to this survey, you will be registered to win a brand new F-511-A in our Anti-Armada Sweepstakes!
Comments or suggestions about our fighter planes? Please write to:
McDONALD BOING CORPORATION
Marketing Department Military,