“I see that the test went swimmingly.”
Thornton’s corny dad joke landed dully in the comm tent.
He ignored the silence and our high-res grimaces.
“If these coordinates are to be believed you boys are less than a month’s trek from your destination.”
We groaned collectively.
The old spook was fond of subtle psychological torture. Likely cause he viewed it as practice.
Cold amusement flickered through slate blue eyes as he casually took a sip of my favorite beer.
“What’s the MO Baird?” He asked.
“A cold brew and a warm whore.” I considered aiming this joke at his mother but there’s something classic in his aura. Something of the high school principal or deacon that sealed my lips.
“Still a sophomore I see.”
“Better than a senior citizen.” I quipped. Surprised at the quickness of my own wits at such an early hour.
“I heard you were last in line for reveille. That’s why I’m picking you to help me reorient the team. So, once again Lieutenant Commander Baird…what is the mission objective?”
“Get high for Uncle Sam on the tax payers dime.”
“I see that you’re tired Lieutenant. Perhaps you’d like a change of occupation? This is a voluntary, privileged position, for which you applied. You are well compensated….but I hear maybe not enough. Your credit score seems to have slipped. Shelby’s cost a bit more than they did in my day. But, hey…you’re a smart guy… I’m sure America’s HR climate is highly hospitable to drunken seamen with dishonorable discharges.”
“No one else could do this job. We both know it.” I was too worn for threats.
“Your overconfidence may increase the probability of success. So, I’ll let your cocky bullshit slide. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want an answer. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want an answer, now.” He replied with steely vehemence.
Thornton never cussed. So I reluctantly turned on operation earnest boy-scout.
“PLATO – practical alchemy towards order – is a psychological and pharmacological project for which Captain Schmidt and I successfully competed – and were placed in leadership of – because we were the best of the best candidates…”
“The objective Lieutenant….”
“The objective is to expand knowledge of and develop techniques for pacification. It is a less than lethal weapon on a mass scale. A hippy bomb if you will. That and the free acid is what I signed up for.”
“Narrow your scope.”
“We are in the Amazon for the dual purpose of researching the correlation between geomantic practices such as henges and traditional medicines. We are also in pursuit of a possible cache of high technology in the city of Z. A hypothetical remnant of a civilization which seems to have been confirmed by Hoyt’s map.”
“Good. And how will you get there?”
“….” Before I could reply, I was again witness to a classic Thornton idiosyncrasy as the screen went black.
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