May 20, 3:00 AM GMT


     Congresswoman Catherine Aimes gazed out the window at the Washington Monument while President Eckland studies the brief she had brought him. The Washington Monument towered majestically against the hazy blue sky. The gleaming white edifice always reminded her of a giant rocket ready for take-off. 
     The president closed the folder and looked up. “Thank you, Catherine, for this update from Geneva. I hope we've put enough pressure on Moscow to get the disarmament talks moving again."
     Your proposal for mutual space development is too tempting an offer to refuse. I'm sure it will elicit a favorable response.
     "At least I've dangled a good-sized carrot in front of their nose. How much of the stick have they seen?"
     "None yet. Should I introduce it when I return to Geneva?"
   "That's what I'd like to discuss with you. Do you think the orbital weapons system is developed enough to be a serious factor in the negotiations?"
     "The Russians already suspect Project Black Sword is past the drawing board. If they knew how far advanced it is, the talks would certainly be affected." 
    
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The Catacombs of Doom
     "At least I've dangled a good-sized carrot in front of their nose. How much of the stick have they seen?"
     "Why don't you give me a rundown on what you know about the satellite system."
     Catherine gave him a quizzical stare. "All my information comes from the confidential packet distributed to the House Committee. Of course, you have access to much more than that."
     "I realize that, Catherine. I'd like to learn the extent of your personal knowledge to help me evaluate the status of the negotiations."
     Catherine opened her mouth to respond, but stopped when a peculiar thumping sounded beyond the Oval Office door.
     The president scowled. "No one's supposed to interrupt us. Tell whoever it is to go away. We've got to get this hammered out before you return to Geneva."
     Catherine stood up and walked to the door. She twisted the knob, but the door would not open. She grabbed it with both hands and wrenched with all her strength. The latch gave way.
     Catherine screamed.
A huge dragon crashed through the doorway, brushed past the congresswoman, and forced its way to the center of the room. Blue smoke poured from its nostrils in twin fumaroles. It spied the petrified form of the president and promptly incinerated him in a ball of fire.