ever have someone tell you to stand up straight? look you in the eye when they're talking?

wherein an experimental rocket is launched from a local coastal air force base

The rocket was of the Lariat Series and although it would soon be phased out, the Lariat’s premise was simple enough with regards to anti-ballistic missile defense.

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A Lariat could be fired from any U.S. military installation or submarine in the world.

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If enemy missiles were detected—fired from their submarines or home turf—the Lariat, traveling in groups of up to ten to twenty, would gallop into the atmosphere to meet incoming.

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When directed, the Lariat’s nose would deploy twenty-one tungsten steel wire lariats, each with a retractable noose designed to lasso the fuselage of the opposing missiles. The engines of the Lariat were massive and when enemy missiles were caught in the wiring, they would be carried back to the launch site. At the very least, enough wire and noose would be spread around to confound the trajectories of the enemy objects, tangling the lot and pulling them out of the sky and into the ocean.

Success or failure of the mission would be monitored by the transmitter placed in the nose of the Lariat, sending directional information to AWACS flying in the area—the whole nine yards.
Today’s launch was aimed for the Kwajelein Atoll, in the South Pacific, just on the other side of the International Date Line, well within the Lariat’s 4800 mile range. Kwajelein means “abundance of material and spiritual blessing.” In the late 1940s, a handful of men traded their way onto the island with glass beads, baseball gloves, outboard motors and the commemorative notion of having just kicked the shit out of the Japanese. On November 21, 1963, the last proa or local, traditional boat was constructed. From then on the outboard was king and Little America sat tight with its radios, radars, Halloween pregnancies and Autumn bicycles for each of the many missile-types that over the years came howling out of the sky to kerplunk in local waters.
Forty-five minutes after launch, the Lariat entered Kwajelein airspace in its downward trajectory. It charged out of the atmosphere, tungsten wires and nooses looped around a fair collection of flying vehicles encountered during the arc of flight. The Lariat fell towards Kwajelein with a booty of two dozen birds, three weather balloons, two commercial airliners, one AWACS, Christmas ornaments, canned hams, and a white beard. It hit the beach pinging once across the lagoon like a water pale scattering clip-boarded technicians.
On the other side of the lagoon, some of the locals were tending to their boats.
“Touchdown,” said one, oiling his motor, checking the throttle.
“That was something.”
“Amazing, huh?”
“Yeah, something amazing.”
“Next one we reach out and touch.”

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