“Colonel? Colonel, this is important. Are you paying attention?” James T. Krupp watched as Colonel Park took a drink of something probably alcoholic on the other end of the video conference. “Colonel, if you don’t want this mission, there are dozens of other pilots who would be happy to take your place.”
“The sub-light engine takes me up to point-oh-two-five light speed, the Krupp thingy does its thingy, and then I,” Park took another sip of his definitely alcoholic drink, “jump to the other side of the hill. Rinse, repeat, ad infinitum, et cetera, et cetera. I got it, doc. I had it six months ago.”
“My mother and I both dedicated our careers to this project, Colonel. I know you don’t care about that, but I thought maybe you’d care that it’s your ass that’s going to be in the ship. You might not care about the details now, but those details might just save your life on test day. So pay attention, please. Now let’s go over it again, okay, Colonel?”
Park set his drink aside and leaned into his camera, “First of all, we both know there’s a very real chance I’m going to die in that ship of yours, so pardon my ass if I want to enjoy what’s probably the twilight of my life here on Earth. Second of all, my name’s Jim; just like you. Stop calling me Colonel. You’re a civilian. You don’t have to call me Colonel. I told you Jim, or James, or Park will do just fine. Third of all, no, is that right? Thirdly? Third, I doubt you’ll find anyone to replace me in the next three days. Fourth… I don’t have a fourth. That was it. So…I guess let’s just pick up where we left off.”
Dr. Krupp pinched the bridge of his nose in a vain attempt to stave off the headache that had already arrived, “Fine. The, um, the… Shit. Where was I? The…”
“The stabilizing field will activate one hundred milliseconds before the Krupp warp drive initiates the jump.”
“Right, the stabilizing field.” Dr. Krupp paused, “Why don’t we just call it a day, and pick it up again tomorrow…morning.” Park had already disconnected his link before Krupp could finish his sentence. “I guess that’s a yes.”
Park downed his drink and stood up from his workstation. He walked over to the window and looked out at the desert. He had just gained two hours of downtime, but he had nothing to fill them. Quarantine had all of the creature comforts of home, but it was still just three rooms and one locked door.
He could eat, sleep, exercise, read, study, or surf the web on his data goggles. What he couldn’t do was go outside, and what he really wanted to do right now was go outside. He went to the bathroom to pour himself another drink instead. He set his glass on the counter and grabbed the bottle from its hiding place beneath the sink, but there was only enough bourbon left for one more drink. He had wanted to save it for his last night on Earth. He held the bottle up and sloshed the bourbon around while he decided whether to drink it or save it.
“Fuck it.” He unscrewed the cap and finished the last of his bourbon straight from the bottle.