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"I cannae change the laws of physics! I've got to have thirty minutes!"
Scotty (eight minutes before the Enterprise might be destroyed), Star Trek: The Original Series

Related to Magic Countdown, the piece of dialogue where a harried subordinate needs to fire up the engines, activate a forcefield or solve the big case. It always goes something like this...

Harried Subordinate: I can have it running in 20 minutes.
Boss: You've got five!

Inevitably, they pull it out of the bag.

The reasoning behind this sort of exchange varies. When in an emergency situation, it's usually because more time is literally not available. However difficult the task or unreasonable the deadline, nothing can be done about it. It may require the subordinate to cut corners or take risks they otherwise wouldn't, but if the consequences for failure are severe enough, it may still be the best of bad options.

In other situations, it's usually because the person calling the shots believes their subordinate can do better than they say they can. Maybe said subordinate is lazy or unmotivated, maybe they're too much of a perfectionist, or maybe they're just the type of person who works better under pressure. Or maybe, as anyone who has worked in a corporate team structure can attest, the boss doesn't have a good idea of how long the task actually requires and is making an unreasonable demand.

Extra points when the original estimate is in a given time unit and they're told they have the same number of a smaller time unit. ("I need five hours!" "You've got five minutes.")


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan
    • When Eren launches his attack on Liberio, Pieck, who has the power of the Cart Titan, meets up with the members of the Cart Titan's crew. They say they can equip the Cart Titan's armor in 15 minutes, and she says, "Do it in ten."
    • Near the end of the series, when some Azumabito engineers announce that it will take 30 minutes to get a ship ready to leave, Magath says that they need to do it in fifteen, given the stakes: the fate of humanity is on the line, and every second counts.
  • Eureka Seven: In the E7 manga, Dewey is using Anemone deliver a cancer-like virus to the scub coral in order to kill it. Woz manages to get a copy of the virus and says he'll need an hour to reverse-engineer it to make an antidote, but then adds he can do it in 15 minutes.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, Gon demands Neferpitou come with him to heal Kite, but she's busy healing Komugi on Meruem's orders. Gon asks how much time she'll need. Neferpitou intentionally asks for four times more time than she needs, just so Gon can reject it. After he does, Neferpitou then asks for the amount of time she actually needs, and Gon grants that.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, Team Bucciarati heads to Sardinia in order to replay the actions of the Boss's lover to find out who took her photo, which will provide a clue to the Boss's identity. The task falls to Abbachio, whose Stand is uniquely suited to that purpose, but since their enemies are nearby, they're pressed for time.
    Abbachio: If we're going back 15 years... It might take 8-10 minutes.
    Bucciarati: Do it in five.
  • In the backstory of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Alicia Testarossa's mother told her superiors that the final stage of assembling and testing her new power plant would take a month. They gave her ten days. As a result, mistakes were made and the reactor failed catastrophically. Alicia was one of the casualties of the resulting accident.
  • In New Game!, Aoba is asked by her new boss, Hifumi, about her progress on an assignment. Aoba admits that she's behind schedule and asks for a two day extension, which her boss grants immediately. Aoba is forced to admit that she can actually get it done a single day.

    Comic Books 
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader: After being placed in charge of the fleet, Vader establishes his dominance by asking the new Admiral how long it will take to repair the damage done in the final showdown, and then ordering him to get it done in half the time.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert:
    • One strip features a terrible piece of software that does nothing but erase disk drives and use the computer's sound card to swear at people. Why? Because Dilbert and his team said they would need six months to create a new software product, but the PHB only gave them one month.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Titan A.E., while the eponymous ship is under attack, Kale tells his gunners he needs time to adjust its reactors. He asks for them to buy him a few hours (his tone makes it clear he knows how impossible this is). Stith replies with "What can you do with a few minutes?" Eventually rendered moot: rather than fix it his way, they wind up taking a third option.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Max succeeds in Running the Blockade with the Mack truck but it gets damaged in the process, so the Mechanic looks it over and gives a Long List of faults, with a clueless assistant shouting it all back to Papagallo.
    Papagallo: Well, what does all that mean?
    Mechanic's Assistant: [to the Mechanic] What does that mean?
    Mechanic: 24 hours.
    Mechanic's Assistant: [to Papagallo] 24 hours?
    Papagallo: You've got 12!
    Mechanic: Okay.
    Mechanic's Assistant: (grinning) Okay!
  • Star Trek:
    • In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Kirk bumps up the launch date of the Enterprise by about 10 hours and forgoes the shakedown cruise because they need to intercept the alien ship heading for Earth. Despite Scotty's promises, this proves to be a horrible decision that nearly gets the ship destroyed. Thankfully Spock turns up to get the warp drive working.
    • In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock informs Kirk, "If we go by the book as Saavik suggests, hours will seem like days," before stating that repairs on the Enterprise will take two days to complete. Turns out that "By the book" is meant as a clue that Spock's message is in code (according to Starfleet Regulations, all communications over monitored lines must be encoded), and when he said two days, he meant two hours. When Kirk shows up two hours later, repairs are a bit behind the coded schedule but Enterprise is nevertheless in better shape than Khan believes it to be. Then done dramatically in the "Genesis Countdown" scene.
      Kirk: Scotty, I need warp speed in four minutes or we're all dead. [no answer] Scotty?! Sulu, get us out of here!
    • In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Scotty tells Kirk that refit will take "eight weeks, sir. But you don't have eight weeks, so I'll do it for you in two." Kirk asks if he multiplies all estimates by four. Scott says he has to, "how else would I keep up my reputation as a miracle worker?"
    • In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Scotty says he needs two weeks to get the Enterprise operational and Kirk gives him three. The Enterprise ends up being a disaster and Scotty's reply is "I think you gave me too much time."
    • In Star Trek (2009), when a black hole threatens to swallow the Enterprise, Scotty doesn't give Kirk any lip.
      Kirk: Scotty, get us outta here!
    • In Star Trek Into Darkness, Scotty's response to Kirk once again making impossible demands:
      Scotty: It's not easy, just give me two seconds alright? Yer mad bastard!
  • Real life, and the film of Apollo 13:
    Lovell: Freddo, how long does it take to power up the LEM?
    Haise: Three hours, by the checklist.
    Lovell: We don't have that much time.note 
    • Also:
      Gene: I want whatever you guys got on these power-up procedures. I don't want the whole damn Bible. Just gimme a couple chapters. We gotta get somethin' up to these guys.
      Deke: They're workin' on it now.
      Man: I'll call over to the simulator and get an estimate.
      Gene: GODDAMMIT! I don't WANT another estimate. I want the procedures. Now!
  • In Crimson Tide, Vogler the electrical engineer has been trying (and failing) to fix the radio for half the movie. Denzel Washington gives him a big motivational speech and says "it's just like in Star Trek, the captain says 'I need more warp speed' and Scotty finds a way. Well you're my Scotty and I need warp speed NOW." It works.
  • Swordfish: "The best hackers in the world can do it in sixty minutes. Unfortunately, I need somebody who can do it in sixty seconds..." The hacker in question manages it, despite a gun to his head and some significant... distraction elsewhere...
  • Invoked by The Wolf in Pulp Fiction: "That's in the valley, thirty minutes away... I'll be there in ten." When he pulls up, an on-screen caption informs us that it's exactly 9 minutes and 37 seconds later.
  • In The Martian, after Mark Watney is left alone on Mars, the plan by NASA is to launch a resupply probe to provide extra food that will help sustain him long enough for him to be picked up by the next manned Mars mission. JPL says it will take six months to ready the probe, but they're forced to cut that down to three months, because that's how long their window is to launch. The head of NASA predicts the course of the conversation to follow. The director of JPL says he needs a change of clothes when the HAB's airlock explodes and kills Mark's potatoes, forcing them to accelerate their launch window. Unfortunately, it eventually gets so bad that NASA is forced to skip their pre-launch inspection, and the result is the probe exploding on take-off. After that, the Chinese offer to help with their own booster rocket, which necessitates more Scotty Time. After that, JPL is told to get a sixty day turnaround done in less than thirty.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • The Avengers (2012): When told by Coulson that it will take 30 minutes to evacuate the SHIELD compound, Fury simply says "do better." Sure enough, when the compound implodes roughly ten minutes later, many SHIELD agents are still trapped in the rubble (though Coulson himself gets out in time.)
    • When Nick Fury orders Maria Hill to Washington in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, she tells him to give her four hours to get there. Fury gives her three.
  • In the Russian movie Admiral, a destroyer is vastly outgunned by a German cruiser when a shell knocks out their engine. The engineer says he can repair the damage in half an hour. The captain gives them 15 minutes as the German warship is bearing down on them. His Number Two says even that's too long. "In fifteen minutes they'll turn us into a sieve!"
  • In Alien, Parker and Brett can be seen inflating their repair estimate after the Nostromo damages itself trying to land on LV426. It's less about appearing a miracle worker than Those Two Guys being reluctant to put some elbow grease in when they're not being paid extra to do so.
    Ripley: (voice from comm) How long before we're functional?
    Brett: 17 hours, tell her.
    Parker: (into comm) At least 25 hours.
  • Small Soldiers: Larry and Irwin are both taken aback when the CEO orders that the new toy line be ready for shipment within three months, when it takes at least six months to go through product testing and focus groups.
  • In the climax of Top Gun, Stinger gives the order to scramble more fighters to reinforce Maverick and Iceman. Upon being told that repairs to the Enterprise's catapults will take ten minutes, Stinger angrily remarks that the fight will be over in two.
  • Midway (2019) has a couple of Truth in Television versions.
    • Admiral Nimitz is shown the USS Yorktown has a massive hole blasted in her deck from 500 pound bomb during the Battle of the Coral Sea. It was estimated that the damage would need three months in a dry dock in the United States to get fixed, but they reckon they can fix it in a couple of weeks. Nimitz says he wants her at sea in 72 hours. Not only do they pull it off, but Yorktown is back at sea in half that time.
    • Subverted when the Japanese carrier aircraft are ordered to change their weapons load. When Admiral Nagumo demands to know if the strike aircraft are ready yet, the harried hangar officer replies that they need more time. He is told he has five minutes. It's ultimately moot; the American strike aircraft are already on their way, and strike when the planes are still below decks, causing maximum carnage when the bombs and aviation fuel explode in the confined space.
  • In Wonder Woman (2017), General Ludendorff asks a subordinate how long it will take him to get the chemical plant operational, and when the man estimates two days, Ludendorff replies he has until tonight. The subordinate protests that his men have not had food or rest, and Ludendorff chides them for being complacent, saying an attack could happen at any time, before shooting the man.

  • Ciaphas Cain: When Coming in Hot in a shuttle, Cain gets asked for an ETA and looks at the pilot, who tells him "Seven minutes". Cain dutifully tells ground control "Four minutes", and tells the pilot it's best to make sure everything's in place.
  • Discussed in one of the Dinotopia books - in The Lost City, a troodon jeweller advises his apprentice to always quadruple the estimate of how long a job will take. That way, even if it takes twice as long as he thinks it will, the client will still be impressed.
  • The clacks system needs a renovation in Going Postal that would cost two hundred thousand dollars (and take at least nine months). The chief engineer is offered $50,000 instead. This is another sign of the incompetence of the cutthroat board of directors, as well as Reacher Gilt's skills as a B.S. artist; he has the engineer so wound up by that point that it doesn't even occur to him that he's being given only a quarter of what he asked for. The board actually approved the full amount; Gilt pocketed the difference. Fortunately for said engineer, he keeps a hell of a paper trail through the whole thing.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Umbridge asks Snape for some more Veritaserum to interrogate Harry, whom she has just caught using her fireplace for an illegal chat. He tells her that, unfortunately, she used it all up in the previous interrogation , and brewing more would take a month.note  She responds to this by declaring him "deliberately unhelpful" and putting him on probation. It's the start of her Villainous Breakdown. Given revelations in Deathly Hallows, he may have been lying about being out. He was lying about having ever given her real Veritaserum (according to Dumbledore in the denouement). Certainly Umbridge's accusation that he was being deliberately unhelpful, though poorly thought out, was correct — even if he wasn't lying, he could have conveniently run out earlier, and/or conveniently forgot to restock.
  • In the X-Wing Series novel Solo Command, Zsinj's engineer is trying to repair the hyperdrive after Kirney sabotaged it. His estimate is "Pessimistically, an hour. Optimistically, less. I'm not sure how much less." Zsinj's reply is simply: "As much less as possible." The task ends up taking the engineer 40 minutes. Zsinj makes a note to give him a bonus.
    • In an earlier book in the series, Wedge Antilles asks his mechanics how long their procedures will take and they inform him it'll be several hours; Wedge is clearly unhappy, but just tells them to do what they can. Once he leaves, the chief engineer notes that it'll be only one hour, and offers to play sabaccnote  with the others after they're done. Definitely Played for Laughs, especially as one part cited as needing urgent repair was completely made up. Much to their dismay, however, Wedge soon comes back and sticks around the hanger while awaiting a guest, leading them to do useless busywork so the commander doesn't catch on.
  • In the Prince Roger series, the unit armorer is asked to build a half-size model of a tall sailing ship. Conversation paraphrased:
    Roger: How much time do you need?
    Poertena: Two months should do it.
    Roger: Can you do it in six weeks?
    Poertena: I can try, but the only reason I said two months is that I knew I wasn't getting three.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blake's 7:
    • When the main characters first seize the Liberator, Jenna says she might eventually work out how to make this unfamiliar alien vessel start and stop. As their guards are getting impatient to know what's happened to them, Blake says they have two minutes, and goes to seal the airlock. They get 'start' right Just in Time to save Blake's life from a guard who's about to shoot him.
    • In "Time Squad", Avon says he needs five minutes to do something, then adds, "Yes I know, make it two."
    • In "Breakdown", a neurosurgeon is operating on a member of the crew, but Blake realizes he's stalling until a Federation pursuit force arrives.
      Blake: How soon can you complete [the operation]?
      Kayn: Thirty-five minutes.
      Blake: Do it in twenty.
      Kayn: [unimpressed] Or you'll kill me.
      Blake: Oh, no, no, no. In twenty-five minutes I'm returning you to your [space] station. If you haven't completed your work—
      Kayn: Your threats don't bother me in the least, you know.
      Blake: [calmly] —I shall destroy your hands. Twenty minutes.
    • Subverted in the episode "Stardrive". With a Federation patrol closing in on them, the Stardrive's inventor says she needs 50 minutes to connect it up. She's told she has 45 minutes, but eventually it comes down to a few seconds they don't have, so Avon ends up sacrificing her to save the ship by setting the controls to launch when she makes the final connection.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the first season finale of the revived series, the Doctor is scrambling for a way to take out an entire Dalek fleet using a massive transmitter array. He can rig the satellite to hit them with a brain-frying "delta wave", but...
      The Doctor: Trouble is, wave this size, building this big, brain as clever as mine, should take about, ohhh, three days? How long 'til the fleet arrives?
      Davitch: ...Thirty-two minutes.
      The Doctor: [suddenly working a lot faster]
      • He manages to rig a Delta Wave transmitter, but there's a catch: He doesn't have the time to refine the transmitter so it will only target the Daleks, meaning if he activates the makeshift transmitter, it will kill all the humans as well.
    • "Flesh and Stone":
      The Doctor: The security protocols are still online and there's no way to override them. It's impossible.
      River: How impossible?
      The Doctor: Two minutes.
  • Inverted on an episode of Friends. The groom is missing and they have to stall the bride.
    Ross: How long until she absolutely has to start getting ready?
    Rachel: Maybe an hour...
    Ross: I need two.
    Rachel: Then why did you ask?
  • In Leverage:
    Nathan: Sophie, how long would it take you to stage a musical?
    Sophie: Six weeks.
    Nathan: You have two days.
  • Lost had one during The Great Repair of the Ajira plane in the Grand Finale:
    Miles: Hey, how much longer 'til we get this thing in the air?
    Frank: I still have to check the electrical and the hydraulics. Five hours, maybe six.
    Richard: You've got maybe one.
  • In one episode of The Love Boat, Gopher takes a broken face-plaque to someone to fix while the ship is in port. The guy says he can do it for $100, but it will take six weeks to a year; Gopher ups the pay to $200 and it can be done by six o'clock.
  • Gibbs of NCIS did this a number of times in early seasons. One good example is when Kate tells him a certain task will take three days and responds "You have four [Beat] hours."
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi: In "Part V", Roken says he'll need three to four hours to fix the hangar doors. Obi-Wan gives him one. Fortunately, Haja figures out the likely source of the sabotage and Leia is able to repair it.
  • The Pretender: In the episode "Every Picture Tells a Story", Miss Parker corners Broots the tech guy right after he enters the Centre. She asks him how long it'll take him to do something. He says 24 hours, she gives him 12, and after she leaves, he says to himself that he coulda done it in 8.
  • A Saturday Night Live sketch, a parody of the show Scandal, makes fun of how all the Gladiators can get so much done in an absurdly short period of time (except for Kelsey the intern, who holds up the line by asking for details).
    Olivia: "It's encrypted. Huck, how long would it take to decrypt this?"
    Huck: "I'd say twenty-four hours."
    Olivia: "I need you to do it in one minute."
    Huck: "Let me see what I can do." [Hits one key]. "Okay, done."
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • Deconstructed with this exchange:
        Hammond: Just tell me the minute we can send a probe through.
        Siler: That'll be 24 hours, General, minimum.
        Hammond: I'll give you half that.
        Siler: No sir, it doesn't work that way. 24 hours is the best I can do.
    • Stargate Atlantis:
      • Rodney McKay usually exaggerates the time required intentionally, either so he looks like a genius when he gets done quicker or so he can claim he didn't have enough time if he fails. By a certain point in the series, everyone knows he does this and expects him to finish his work quicker, only for him to reveal that this time, he was giving the accurate estimate. Further supported in the episode "Condemned", where the leader of the inmates immediately realizes that McKay does this. He is not amused.
      • Parodied often when Sheppard would ask McKay for an estimate on something impossible to judge, like how long it would be until a reactor exploded, only to then question whatever figure McKay would give him, leading an infuriated McKay to point out the number was meaningless to begin with!
      • And when McKay is feeling particularly like an Insufferable Genius, you get something like this:
        Rodney: I'm Dr. Rodney McKay, alright? Difficult takes a few seconds; impossible, a few minutes.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In "The Naked Now", Sarah MacDougal, the ship's first chief engineer, says it will take weeks to convert the tractor beam into a repulsor, only to be upstaged by Wesley Crusher, who does it in a few minutes.
    • In "The Ensigns of Command", Picard orders Geordi, Wesley and O'Brien to come up with a way to get the transporters to break through a heavy radiation field to evacuate an entire colony before the Sheliak arrive to blow them up (it's the alien's world and the colonists aren't supposed to be down there; no one knew for over a hundred years because of said radiation). At the end of the episode, Geordi finally admits it would take fifteen years with a hundred-strong team, but by that time Picard decided to Take a Third Option and get the Sheliak to wait for a transport ship to arrive.
    • In the episode "Relics", Scotty tells Geordi that he always overstated how much time it would take to fix something because the captain would always give him less time than he said he would need.
      Scotty: And how long would it really take?
      Geordi: An hour!
      Scotty: Och, you didn't tell him how long it would really take, did ye?
      Geordi: Well of course I did!
      Scotty: Oh, laddie, you've got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker!
    • In one episode, Geordi became his own Phrase Catcher when he comes into a room and Picard asks him for a time frame. He tells him it will take 3 hours, and then immediately, as Picard is starting to talk, follows up with "I know, I'll get it done in 2, but..." and then lays out some other problems they have that have to be dealt with.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • "The Die Is Cast": After the Defiant's cloaking device is sabotaged, O'Brien says it will take ten hours to fix and Sisko gives him two. While O'Brien does end up fixing it in well under ten hours, it's also explicitly stated at one point that he's been at it for three hours, well over the time limit given to him by Sisko.
    • In "Shattered Mirror", Sisko is the one who says he can have the Defiant overhauled in two weeks, and Mirror O'Brien is the one who tells him he only has four days.
    • In "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River", a harried O'Brien tries to acquire a graviton stabilizer for Sisko — O'Brien says it would take a month to acquire, Sisko gives him three days. In enlisting Nog's help, he accidentally barters away the Captain's desk in a ludicrously long Chain of Deals. O'Brien's ready to face the music when, suddenly, the desk reappears along with Nog, who has allegedly been polishing it. The stabilizer is on hand, too, and a relieved O'Brien promises to install it in six hours; Sisko tells him to make it two.
    • In "The Assignment", Chief O'Brien tells the pah-wraith possessing his wife that he needs 36 hours to make all the adjustments to the station that it's demanding. It gives him 13, with his wife's and daughter's lives at stake if he fails. While O'Brien was almost certainly highballing his estimate to stall for time, he'd still have failed to meet the deadline if he hadn't recruited the surprisingly brilliant Rom to help him.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • In an early episode, Voyager's new Chief Engineer B'Elanna Torres tells Captain Janeway that she won't be ready before tomorrow. Janeway says she wants the task done by the end of the day and starts to walk off, this being how the conversation would end in any other Trek series. B'Elanna however stops her. "No, Captain. When I say tomorrow, I mean tomorrow. I don't exaggerate. Tomorrow is the best I can do." The next day, B'Elanna's away team beams over to the other vessel, and when Janeway calls to tell them to hurry up, she's surprised to find they've already completed the job quickly and efficiently.
    • In a later episode, there's the following conversation. A straight example, but far more reasonable than most:
      Janeway: How much time do you need?
      Kim: How does 72 hours sound?
      Janeway: Like 24 too many.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: In the episode "A Mirror, Darkly", Trip (who's just been tortured) is ordered to get the engine of a starship a hundred years more advanced than anything he's ever seen before working, half of which is disassembled and sitting in the hangar. When he says he can fix it in two or three days, Archer demands he does it in twelve hours. This has less to do with Tucker's competence than it does with Mirror Archer being an asshole.
    Trip: Sir, I don't even know what some of these systems are supposed to do. It's like I'm an engineer on a steamship, coming across the first interplanetary transport.
    Archer: If we don't have warp capability in 12 hours, I'm going to find a new Chief Engineer.
  • Spoofed on Studio C with Do It In One, where a new crew member on a Starfleet-like ship does not yet know to give the captain, who compulsively halves the work estimates he's given, an estimate at least twice the length she actually needs to complete her tasks. Catching on, she manages to exploit this quirk to give her and the entire crew a party and halving their work week.
  • The West Wing: In the season 4 episode "Election Night", Christian Slater's character is asked how long it will take to prepare a report. He answers "3 hours." The Secretary of Defense, several generals, and the White House chief of staff laugh at him, and then the latter says, "you have twenty minutes."

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Parodied by Suzy Eddie Izzard when she talks Star Trek:
    Kirk: Scotty, we need warp 5 in ten minutes or we're toast!
    Scott: I can give you thirty-five miles an hour in a week.

    Theme Parks 
  • The Muppets do this in Muppet*Vision 3D with the final number right before it starts.
    Sam: It is a glorious three-hour finale.
    Kermit: You got a minute and a half!

    Video Games 
  • Lash from Advance Wars:
    • In Mission 27: Sinking Feeling, due to her raging ego she tells her superiors she can do 30 days worth of repairs in only 17 days. She's able to pull it off if you let her, albeit at the cost of using her troops as additional manpower for the repairs — this cripples her defensive front enough that Jess is able to swoop in and sink all her battleships with minimal resistance.
  • ANNO: Mutationem: Castor informs C that he has managed to acquire the device needed to obtain the Artifact of Doom, but needs several days of testing before utilizing it. C demands preparations begin immediately, ignoring Castor's warning that rushing the process would risk a spatial collapse in reality.
  • In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare at the end of the game when your squad is trying to escape from the enemy stronghold, Cpt. Price desperately calls in an evacuation from his superiors... Subverted when the evac doesn't actually make it until all but two of your squad members are dead.
    Price: Baseplate, this is Bravo Six! What's the status on our helicopter, over?
    Baseplate: Bravo Six, the bird has been delayed, E.T.A. fifteen minutes.
    Price: Not good enough, Baseplate! We'll be dead in ten!
  • Hitman: Absolution: When asked how much cocaine he's planning to buy, The King of Chinatown simply says "all" of it, then threatens Snowman if he doesn't return with an answer in five, not ten, minutes.
  • In Mass Effect 2, EDI rats out Joker for padding time estimates in order to make himself look good for coming in under them. Shepard can either tell Joker to stop it, or EDI to leave him alone.
  • The heist in Nikolai's first season of Queen of Thieves hinges upon the heroine being able to successfully forge a painting - a newly-discovered Van Gogh which is about to be unveiled at the Louvre - with only fifteen minutes in the presence of the original to do most of the work. During the actual heist, Zoe informs the heroine that the security setup has changed - instead of the expected fifteen minutes, she now has ten. With some encouragement from Nikolai, she manages to pull it off.
  • Road of the Dead 2: The evacuation helicopter breaks down just before Diane and Cocheta can escape. The on-board mechanic offers repairs in five minutes, to which General Sherman anwsers "You have TWO." Justified since A: they're a sitting duck surrounded by literally millions of zombies, and B: they're about to be nuked, and as Sherman points out, "That bomb will go off whether we're here or not."

    Web Comics 
  • In Freefall, an executive sends out a requisition for 14 satellites, expecting that it will be cut down to 10, which is the number he actually needs. Instead, because the department needs to use up its money in order to avoid budget cuts in the next quarter, he ends up with 20.
  • In Girl Genius, Agatha finds a hidden room in a library. The students and staff had been searching for it for centuries, but she took about ten minutes, which she justifies by pointing out she doesn't have a lot of time.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    Leela: The ship's fixed except for the cup-holder, and I should have that operational within ten hours.
    Professor: You've got eight!
  • in Starship Troopers: Invasion Varro is told the ship's engines will be running in ten minutes, but he wants them done in five. The response: is that a hard five minutes or a sort-of five? It's a hard five.
  • In Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Survivor", Scotty says that it'll take hours to repair the ship's deflector shield, but it's seemingly restored to working order within minutes. Afterwards, Kirk calls Scotty to congratulate him, but Scotty points out he's still nowhere close to being finished, causing Kirk to realise it was actually Winston.
  • In Star Trek: Lower Decks episode "Temporal Edict", Captain Freeman learns of "buffer time" from Boimler and bans the concept, putting everyone on strict deadlines. This causes chaos and fatigue as everyone's rushing to do everything in the strict time they have.

    Real Life 
  • In May 1942, the USS Yorktown was heavily damaged after the Battle of the Coral Sea, and it was estimated that it would take three months of repair before she was seaworthy again. After only 72 hours, Pearl Harbor dockworkers laboring around the clock had managed to patch her up enough to sail and launch/land aircraft, just barely in time for Yorktown to join two other US carriers at the Battle of Midway. As a result of this herculean effort, not only did the veteran aviators flying from Yorktown inflict more damage on the enemy than those from the Hornet (most of whom missed the Japanese fleet entirely), but Yorktown herself twice received air strikes that otherwise might have hit the Hornet and Enterprise. Between both attacks, her repair teams were so effective that the Japanese pilots mounting the second attack assumed they had taken out a second, previously undamaged carrier. Since the Japanese had assumed they would only be facing the two American carriers known to be available, they falsely believed both were now out of action and were caught off guard when their last remaining carrier Hiryu was attacked and sunk by aircraft from Enterprise and Hornet, ending the battle with a decisive victory for the Americans.
  • There is a story that Stalin once ordered someone to design and build a new plane in three months. When the designer objected that the Americans needed two years, Stalin interrupted with "Are you an American?" The plane was ready in time, but there seem to have been some shortcomings.
  • In the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, the Soviet authorities tried to pull this on the cleanup crews (paraphrased translations):
    Soviet Minister of Energy: It gives me great pleasure to announce that Chernobyl Unit 4 [ed: that's the same reactor that had been blown to smithereens a few days before] will be back online by the end of the year.
    Civil Defense General: Uh, guys, we're looking at something like seven years to clean up the fallout from the site.
    Soviet Deputy General Secretary: You've got seven months. If you're not done by then, we'll relieve you of your [Communist Party membership] card.
    Civil Defense General: If that's the way it is, don't bother to wait seven months. Take my card now.
  • Repair estimates and safety limits are often made conservatively precisely to allow some flexibility in the case of an emergency (it may take 2 days to fix problem A, but you could very well discover problem B while dealing with problem A, adding another day to the repair time), as well as account for the fact that there is no Exact Time to Failure in Real Life.