Operation Houdini[1] was a secret Mesan Alignment operation that was in its late planning stage in mid-1922 PD. It involved an extensive list of Alignment personnel meant to "disappear," using aircar accidents and other such events to fake their deaths. (HH13, CS3)

Acceleration of the Evacuation[]

When the Gamma Center was destroyed and Dr. Herlander Simões revealed the existence of the Alignment to the rest of the universe, Houdini had to be accelerated and the lists of participants shortened. A number of "terrorist attacks" including nuclear bombings, falsely credited to the Audubon Ballroom, were staged on Mesan population centers in order to hide the rapid disappearances of Alignment assets (so-called the Ballroom Option) (CS3, SI3).

Attacks Covering Evacuation[]

Covering attacks were explained with faked terrorist Audubon Ballroom's statements. There were over a dozen incidents in August 1922 with the total death toll over 7,500, including:

  • sinking of the Magellan: 2825 official casualties, including 73 evacuated onion members.
  • Knight Tours shuttle shootdown: 25 official casualties, but in fact only two shuttle operators were killed.
  • Hugo de Vries Park, Franklin Tower: the detonation of a thermobaric bomb with almost 2,000 casualties.

Final Flourish[]

The Final Flourish attacks killed in the same day onion members not designated for evacuation. The secondary aim was to harm families of Mesan internal security troops, to provoke harsher retaliation.

  • Dobzhansky (Target Alpha): midair detonation of an eight kiloton nuclear charge inside a commercial flyer above the Dobzhansky Soccer Complex, killing everyone at a youth soccer match being played at the complex and three Mesan Alignment members, including George Vickers, who were scheduled to be culled—estimated 10,000 casualties.
  • Saracen Tower (Target Beta): the internal detonation of a 1.5 kiloton nuclear charge with thousands of casualties.
  • Dedrick Tower shopping center (Target Gamma): internal detonation of a one kiloton tactical nuclear charge with over 20,000 casualties.[2]
  • Blue Lagoon Amusement Park (Target Delta): the explosion of a twelve-kiloton warhead that killed c. 13,000 people.
  • Internal detonation of a thirteen kiloton nuclear charge inside a maintenance shop in another residential tower (Target Epsilon).
  • Masten Tower and Rasmussen Tower (Target Zeta): The midair three-kiloton detonation between both towers by a nuclear charge hidden inside an aircar.
  • Haldane (Target Eta): The surface detonation of a forty-five kiloton nuclear charge meant to eliminate the Mesan Alignment's Operation Houdini control center—almost 8,000 casualties, that killed virtually all of Final Flourish operatives.[3]
  • Midair one-kiloton detonation above the Nirenberg Mountains arranged by Collin Detweiler and Rufino Chernyshev to eliminate Janice Marinescu and Kevin Haas as witnesses.

Collateral Actions[]

More than six hundred additional members of the Mesan Alignment inner circle were killed in individual assassinations because there was no way to maneuver them into one of the mass casualty events.

During the course of Operation Houdini, it was revealed that Harriet Caldwell and Anthony Lindstrom, an agent of the Mesan Office of Investigation Domestic Intelligence Branch and her supervisor, were investigating the true identities of those behind the attack, requiring their elimination by the Alignment.

Another collateral action was the abduction of Xavier Conde and his news crew and subsequent on-camera murder of Vittoria Daramy, his producer. Daramy was killed because she questioned whether the sinking of the Magellan was in fact caused by Audubon Ballroom (CS3,SI4).

Detweiler's Final Act[]

When the Grand Alliance's 10th Fleet arrived in the Mesa System in October 1922 PD, the final stage of Houdini extractions had to be canceled and Albrecht Detweiler himself initiated a series of nuclear detonations, the Final Flourish, that killed himself, his wife, and all remaining Alignment assets[4] on the planet with the side effect of dealing an additional public relations blow to Manticore in the eyes of the Solarian public. The death toll was estimated by Mesan authorities to be six million victims. It was in fact an aborted third phase of the Operation Houdini (CS3, SI4).

  • 35 detonations on the planet, including:
    • nature preserve on an oceanic island,[5] a c. 2 MT nuclear charge.
    • some urban centers[6]
    • some small mountain resorts
    • some isolated manufacturing complexes on the prairie
    • a meteorological research station near the south pole
  • Four in-space detonations:
    • Lagrange One space station—almost three million victims.
    • a ship—a fast transport, equipped with the streak drive and disguised to look like a freighter, with 4,000 members of the Onion aboard.[7]
    • Two small installations.

Those explosions killed c. 10,000 members of the Onion, including almost 6,000 victims waiting for two more evacuation liners.


In total, Operation Houdini included 44 surface explosions, killing thousands of victims, while the subsequent Operation Rat Catcher caused around 40 thousand more casualties, including the deaths of 20 thousand second class citizens that occurred when the Mesan Internal Security Directorate used a kinetic energy weapon to destroy Hancock Tower. The largest number of deaths occurred in the destruction of the Lagrange One station however, with the death toll in its destruction reaching almost three million dead (CS3,SI4).


A consequence of Operation Houdini's Final Flourish was Operation Rat Catcher, the general pogrom of second-class citizens, undertaken by Mesan internal security agencies, instead of a search for the alleged terrorists.


  1. It was named for Harry Houdini, a noted escape artist and magician in the early 20th Century CE.
  2. There were four one-kiloton detonations, including the one in Dedrick Tower, that killed almost 60,000 people, including 17,327 members of the inner onion of the Mesan Alignment.
  3. Operatives not killed there or in the fake evacuation centers died, when their nanotech did not receive its next reset signal.
  4. Including Technodyne's R and D assets (infodump).
  5. Detweiler's home.
  6. Including probably the executive offices of Kepagane & Bellini, located in Beadle Tower in downtown Miescher. They were scheduled to be removed to eliminate all potentially incriminating data evidence and human management personnel that could lead anyone to question the true purpose of a nonexistent division hidden inside the company. The total casualty count was estimated at six to seven thousand (CS3, SI4).
  7. It seems fast transport ships of the Mesan Alignment were equipped with self destruction devices.