Short Story for North & South

Phantasm, by Howard Gaukrodger

January, 2014. 300 words. Any topic.
Entered for North & South Magazine contest, Bauer Media Group, NZ.

“Scott! Call everyone in! And get Defence.”

A new dispatch hit the PM’s desk. That’s it then, he thought. It’s gone.

“I’ll cut to the chase. This meeting will end in 15 minutes. By then, you will know what I know, and I will know what you’re going to do about it. We’ve lost Phantasm.”

“The laser we’re funding for the health sector?”

“Not quite.” sighed Greg.

“Damn it, Greg! Tell them!”

The Defence Minister hesitated, “Phantasm is an array of miniaturised, helium-neon lasers capable of projecting multi-directional, 3D, scalable images… of tanks, planes, infantry. They..” “Thank you, Greg. The point is gentlemen, and lady, the Aussies inadvertently picked it up during a drugs bust, and it was stolen from them en route to Gurney Airport, PNG. It’s now in the hands of God knows who.”

Time stood still. Minds reconfigured to images of war. In turn, they each assumed a role:

“I’ll get onto the High Commission, Canberra.”


“Greg! Airport, port… Hell! Every landing strip in PNG!” said the PM.

The team broke up. If Phantasm fell into the wrong hands, combat strategies would have to be rewritten.

“Sir, London – Line 1.”

“Hello, Godfrey. Your carrier pigeons have been rather quick…”

The prime ministers gnarled at the crisis. London promised assistance; Wellington promised a solution.

Three days, four days…

Armed police descended on a fisherman at Alotau Wharf, eastern PNG. Fingers pointed. Items exchanged hands. Within minutes, a military helicopter lowered two NZ scientists.

The punctured inflatable aboard the fishing boat bore signs of a struggle, and there, wedged into the transom, was a small, titanium bracket displaying the unmistakable logo of Aerospace NZ.

It was only on closer inspection days later that blood was found. DNA tests identified it as that of a UK SAS officer.