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Pierre Will Be Leading The Vertical-Insertion Team Into The Vakhan Territory

Ah, yes, our new senior applied-science director. Come in, sir. Hello and welcome to our little corner of the operation. Tea? Turkish? Mei Ling, some tea for the honorable science director. Susan is well, I trust? Good, good. Of course, sir—right to brass tacks it is.

I believe you've met Pierre. No, don't look for him to salute, sir. Why, none of them do. With all due respect, it's not important. So, yes, Pierre will be leading the vertical-insertion team into the southwestern Vakhan territories. Our search for evidence will be facilitated by the fact that the region is most certainly deserted by now. For the time being, Pierre assumes that our nebulous opposition exercised a rather nasty nanotechnological option to cover their tracks. After all, that is what Pierre would have done himself. In any case, we need you to describe to Pierre exactly what it is he'll be looking for once he gets there. Once Thanatos Tertius, as we're calling it, is found, he'll dismantle and neutralize it.

Don't worry. He's capable. Pierre wrote the book on eliminating the Russian HIND assault helicopter using a standard NATO entrenching tool—literally. You can find a copy of it on the laptop you were issued this morning. So, to answer your question, he certainly can perform a "decent" field-expedited tachyonistic-reactor disassembly.

For the love of... Yes, sir, he's well aware that it will kill him. Really, I must take exception. You insult the intelligence or courage of Theta Omicron squad.

No, no, it's all right. This unpleasantness has us all a bit on edge. Indeed, we should probably just get this business over with. Yes, apology accepted.

Now, Alexandrova will be our extraction operative for the region. She'll need a working knowledge of the radioactive elements present on the far side of the Island of Stability. Rumors of the crashed orbital platform are beginning to reach the public, so she'll use that to our advantage as we develop a plausible cover accident. We have a spare MJOLNIR satellite that we could divert and crash in the area—it's about to be decommissioned anyway. We'll also need Research and Development to dig into their amusing little box of tricks. True, man may never cultivate that valley again, but we have to weigh the thousands against the millions in this game.

And this man here... allow me to introduce Jack Quetch. Ha ha, yes. Mr. Quetch is indeed flesh and blood. I suppose the time for denials is over. We've not only allowed him to live, but also made him a useful member of society. Our little society, anyway. Why, yes, Jack does look deceptively young. It's hard to believe that Jack was 15 when Kennedy was shot.

No, of course not. No, no. I was merely observing.

At any rate, sir, Jack needs to know the professional and personal details of each of your scientific colleagues outside of the department—anybody who knows even the merest hint of the principles that went into the construction of the Thanatos device. Jack has a list of some rather brilliant and unorthodox thinkers, and he'd like to go though that list with you. Shame. Brilliant men, all. A waste, certainly.

So that's our next 72 hours, I'm afraid. You're absolutely certain, sir, that the Thanatos mechanism requires as much time to accumulate enough potential for a second discharge? Good then. As you know, we are by no means certain where the first discharge was directed. We're having our orbital assets resituated to scan the lunar surface for signs of its effects, and then all sizable bodies in the inner solar system. Since Thanatic harmonics are not restricted by line-of-sight, or even strict Einsteinian dimensionality, judging the success of their test will be quite difficult. Not complaining, of course. Had they directed it at a populated area, we would most certainly know the device's effects—even though we do not know who "they" are. Reason enough to get right to work, no?

I extend our gratitude for the use of your formidable mind. I believe I may offer you the thanks of my superiors, as well. The steward will see you to the ancillary office, where the underteam, placed at your disposal, awaits your briefing. Thank you again. Goodbye, and pleasant evening.

Right. Ah, Jack? Yes. Wait until the good doctor has thoroughly briefed everyone on Thanatos, and then, ah, escort him... out, will you? We're fairly sure it wasn't him, but as you know, we must think in terms of capabilities and not intentions. However you think best. Thank you.

And Jack? I see here on his AD-736 he's specified cremation, so... there's no particular need to be neat.

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