The CIA chief for Southeast Asia rushed into the director's office. "Sir, India has just disappeared from the face of the Earth."

"What are you talking about?""Here are the U-2 photos. India used to be here - now it's gone."

"Are you sure India was here in the first place?"

"Yes, sir. India was right here. Something big must have happened for it to disappear from sight."

"Is it possible India wants us to think it is no longer there so it can embarrass the CIA?"

"I doubt it, sir. Our agents have been watching everything India has been doing, and we didn't see anything that looked suspicious."

The director looked at the photos. "What is this large cloud?"

"I don't know, sir. We think it looks like a hydrogen bomb."

"That's impossible. India doesn't know how to construct a hydrogen bomb.

"What was the last intercept we had from our listening devices?"

"All the person said was, `10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.' We're trying to break the code now."

Another top CIA executive rushed into the office. "Sir, Pakistan has disappeared from the face of the Earth."

The director seemed slightly annoyed. "We'd better find out what's going on. Any ideas?"

"No, sir. The only thing our photos show is a mushroom cloud floating over its capital."

"Ask the National Weather Service if a mushroom cloud has anything to do with El Nino."

"Are you going to tell the president, sir?"

"I'm not sure. He's getting such bad news these days I hate to bother him."

1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate