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Development of our Yankee “vox cutter” proceeded quickly. The phone virus was coming along, and we had a SIMM chip in the works. However, we realized that even if we trained a million strategically located phone slaves to call us whenever they heard Osama’s voice, or any voice in our voiceprint library, what good would that do us if Laden & Co. never lifted a receiver? We needed something to drive al-Qaeda to a phone. What we needed was a special friends-and-family calling plan for them, and we wondered if the army’s new guilt serum might do the trick.

Not that we imagined for a moment that bin Laden felt any guilt or remorse over murdering three thousand Americans. But a crime doesn’t have to be an atrocity to stimulate the TC effect: everyday misdemeanors might do, like shorting waiters or telling off-color jokes. Bin Laden is human and not an angel, and he must regret something he has done. He does have four wives, after all. And what about his 53 brothers and sisters and innumerable nephews and nieces? Just how many weddings and funerals did he have to miss while hiding in a cave? He inherited $80 million from his father and quickly turned it into $250 million. Even if that kind of return was earned honestly, how to explain to his 24 children that Daddy blew it all on jihad? And how to explain to them his thing for Whitney Houston?


We set things in motion. First off was sizing up the deposed skunk works PI on the True Confessions project. I sent M and C up there to see if he wasn’t suffering a case of defense-contractor hangover. He proved to be unapproachable, but one of his researchers had full-blown civil-liberties remorse. She had been caching her lab notes from the start and was trying to decide whether or not to post them anony­mously on the Internet (as if that might absolve her). She was only too glad to turn them over to us–Amnesty International.

Before we could proceed any further, we had to test the drug ourselves in a real-world situation. There was no open or ethical way to do this, but at least we could do it in a controlled setting. So our wizards mixed up a test batch of TC, and my team performed our shopping-mall field trial. TC lived up to its billing, and the fact was not lost on us that many of our subjects turned to their cell phones for impromptu confessionals.

Next was enlisting Professor Mellow Yellow. I wanted to soften him up first, so I sent G and C to his university office posing as DEA agents to scare the bejesus out of him. I was waiting for him in his home greenhouse when he showed up an hour later. I was sitting on a stool next to a potting bench that held trays of dandelions. Some of the cheery yellow flowers were sugar-frosted with sticky cannabis resin. I introduced myself as Mr. Homeland Security and told him about all the kinds of trouble he was in. Then, in true TV cop-show fashion, I offered to call off the drug dicks if he volunteered to serve his country in a very important mission. As it turned out, Prof. ­Mellow was so enthused by our mission and the sheer complexity of his part in it that I almost regretted siccing the DEA crew on him.

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Credit: Istvan Banyai

Tagged: Communications

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