27th Skeptic's Circle
There were still traces of the sunset visible on the western horizon as Prometheus slouched into the command tent. He paused outside to savor the cool night air before pulling aside the canvas flap and stepping in. He gestured to the staff to keep their seats as he pulled up a camp chair and collapsed into it.
Taking a moment to gather his thoughts, he could hear the sound of artillery in the distance – mostly outgoing, but a few scattered explosions could be heard in front and behind their lines.
"You’d have thought they’d have either gotten the range or stopped shooting." he muttered to his artillery staff officer.
"You’d think so, sir, but they haven’t. It’s mostly falling short or long – we haven’t been hit but the local towns and farms are taking a pounding."
The artillery officer glanced at a sheaf of papers. "Their artillery is too weak to range us, but they overload the powder charge to try and make up for it. They can’t hit the broad side of a barn and they’ve blown up or shot out most of their pieces."
Just then, a shell passed overhead making a horrific shriek, landing with a dull thud far behind them. A few of the staff members flinched, but most didn’t even seem to notice.
"That was one from the Generation Rescue Brigade, sir. It makes a hell of a noise, but they haven’t hit anything yet – and they’re mostly duds. Even if you did get hit, I wouldn’t take it personally – they probably weren’t aiming at you." He took a quick look at his briefing papers. "Their guns are small-caliber and their rifling is shot-out – only effective for scaring the civilians…and occasionally killing a few of them."
Prometheus stretched to see the situation map. "Is there any way we could move our lines so that the civilians wouldn’t catch it so badly?" The operations officer looked up from updating a map and said, "Sir, no matter where we’ve moved, the civilians keep getting pounded – I think they’re targeting them deliberately because they can’t do us any real damage."
Just then, Orac swept into the tent, whacking his cavalry Stetson against his thigh to knock off the road dust. "Orac, you old horse-blanket! Good to see you!" shouted Prometheus, clapping him on the shoulder and raising another cloud of pale dust. "I see that your brigade has been raising Hell all over the front – even got in a few good raids behind their lines. Great work!"
Orac shrugged with characteristic modesty. "We’ve been keeping busy, keeping them off-balance. Just doing our bit."
"And getting a price on your head for your efforts, I see." said Prometheus. They were interrupted by the dramatic entrance of Autism Diva. "I hope I’m not late." she said, brushing dust from her cloak.
"Not exactly regulation headgear, is that?" said Prometheus, pointing to her tiara. "It is in my brigade.", retorted the Diva. "Now that must be an interesting sight." muttered Orac under his breath.
"What were you saying about headgear?" said Bartholomew Cubbins from the tent flap as he removed one of his several hats. "I’m sure that I have one here that will satisfy whatever regulation you care to quote."
One by one and in small groups, the other Allied commanders filed into the tent. They exchanged greetings, got coffee and gradually settled into seats in front of the large map set up at one end of the tent.
Once they were all gathered, Prometheus stood up in front of the map and said, "Thank you all from taking time from the war to meet here tonight for our weekly conference. We’re a long way from final victory, but because of your efforts, we are closer to it this week than we were last week." He took a look around the room. "Now, I’d like to start off with a short report on the enemy order of battle. If you look at these charts here, here, here and here, you’ll see what we are up against." as he tapped each chart with his pointer.
"Our enemy is aggressive, committed and utterly ruthless – they will not hesitate to use any tactic that they think will aid them. They are not bound by the Rules of Science as we are, and they use that to their advantage. However, they are fighting on the side of ignorance and superstition, and so they will ultimately fail. Our job is to hasten that defeat and to minimize civilian casualties and suffering. The general population may not always understand that we are fighting for them, but we must never forget that."
As Prometheus sat down, Orac stood and strode to the map. Whacking his riding crop against it, he said, "My brigade has been hitting them wherever we see an opportunity. Last week, we did a deep penetration raid on Enthnoscience, causing heavy damage. Reconnaissance photos indicate that it will take them months to become combat effective again."
Striking another part of the map, he continued, "We also detected unexpected activity in the Alternative Medicine Spam sector and launched a spoiling attack. It looks like we set them back a bit." After pausing to answer a few questions, Orac sat down again, propping his dusty riding boots on an empty chair.
Next, Autism Diva stood and walked to the map. "My brigade has been concentrating our attacks on the Autism sector, punching holes in the Autism-Mercury Brigade and rolling up their flanks. We’ve cut off a number of their subordinate units and expect to have them mopped up directly. It will be hard, bloody fighting, but we’re confident that we will succeed." Her face took on a grim expression.
"However, what I wanted to talk about tonight is the grave potential for civilian casualties in our sector. We’ve already discovered the casual slaughter of a young child, for which the Autism-Mercury Brigade bears direct responsibility. Of course, they claim that he was a 'casualty of war' and have even tried to blame us for his death. Beware – these people are absolutely without conscience and will stop at nothing." She sat down without another word.
Walking to the map in the somber silence that followed Autism Diva’s announcement, Bartholomew Cubbins bowed his head for a moment before proceding. "My scouting units have been analyzing intercepts from the various units in the Autism Army Group East and have found a number of weaknesses in their plans." He proceeded with a detailed analysis of the myriad weaknesses of the "mercury-causes-autism hypothesis.
As he was moving to sit down, the air was ripped by the howl of a multi-engine jet bomber flying at tent-top level. It flew directly overhead, bathing them all in noise and the smell of burned kerosene, before turning away to the front lines. Shortly afterward, a rippling series of explosions could be heard far in the distance. Although a few of the staff officers had dived under tables, the Allied commanders sat or stood immobile, a look of stunned surprise on their faces.
"What was that!?" shouted Orac.
"Oh, that was the Bolen Bomber.", said Prometheus. "He comes over every night about this time. Comes in low and fast and makes a Hell of a racket, but he never hits anything. That is, he never hits us - half of the time he drops his bomb-load on his own side. That’s why our anti-aircraft guns don’t shoot at him – he’s doing our job for us."
Gathering his scattered notes Dr. RW, stepped to the podium and gave his briefing on the latest maneuvers in "alternative medicine." He was followed by Xenophile, who gave a run-down on cell-phone cancer scares.
After a short break to refill coffee cups, Paige's Page gave a brief tear=down on sports teams and their version of the old "Gott mit uns." fallacy. From the Rachel had a masterful analysis of Red Rain episodes that have had the anti-skeptics twisting in the wind and Ahistorically followed with an insightful demonstration of lying with statistics (and graphs)
The Second Sight detailed an punishing attack on Homeopathy, one of the oldest brigades in the enemy's order of battle and one that has been reconstituted more times than Florida orange juice. Moment of Science gave a stirring description of how he has dealt with Monsters and Creationists and The Incredible Hallq outlined his hand-to-hand battle with hypnosis.
Lord Runolfr gave a critical briefing on the roles given to science in the movies and was followed by Skeptico, who gave back-to-back briefings on Quantum Chopra and the media and their softball approach to "alternative medicine" .
Kevin Leitch detailed how the autism alties still don't understand the basics about science and Be Lambic or Green wrapped up the conference with a humorous tale of a psychic whose second sight needs glasses.
The eastern horizon was showing the first pale glimmers of daybreak as the Allied commanders said their farewells and mounted their steeds, helicopters, jeeps or APC's for the long trip back their commands. As he watched them go, Prometheus turned to his XO and, with a catch in his voice and a trace of moisture in his eyes, said "With allies like that, we can't help but win!"
Thank you one and all for your contributions, your support and, above all, your efforts in our common fight against ignorance and superstition.