Scene: Just another day in NM

SCENE: A military-drab observation bunker, furnished with uncomfortable government-issue oak chairs. They are arrayed in front of a large bank of black-and-white TV monitors displaying telemetry readouts and closed-circuit shots of a desert landing pad.

A man nattily attired in casual slacks, cleats and a golf shirt, sits frozen, bug-eyed pre-coronary gaze fixed on a monitor that until recently showed much activity. Somewhere to one side, there is muffled, cheerful humming, and the throaty gurgle of shitty plumbing.

CASUAL SLACKS AND GOLF SHIRT: (Suddenly snapping unfocussed eyes back from some distant and complicated interior place. Bellowing:) "What the fuck just happened?!"

TANNOY SPEAKER: (Crackling, disembodied, yet noticeably nervous) "We're not sure, sir. Something went wrong."

CASUAL SLACKS AND GOLF SHIRT: "Something went wrong... Something...WENT...WRONG! No shit, Sherlock! That's 1,200-plus fucking GIs we have to pretend got aced by the goddam Viet Cong. And where the Christ are we going to get another fucking Jesus? "

TANNOY SPEAKER: (Halting) "There are the... The Understudies...?" (trails off)

CASUAL SLACKS AND GOLF SHIRT: "There are no more understudies, you syphyllitic nincompoop! The last ones got their asses terminated with extreme prejudice at Ban Dong, before we could de-insert 'em and mobilize 'em back to the States."

A man in a BLUE SUIT and rimless bifocal glasses emerges from the bathroom, cheerful and zipping his fly. He surveys the room and slowly deduces that he missed something.

BLUE SUIT: (Speaking to the air) "Wha-a-a-at?"

TANNOY SPEAKER:"We're not sure, sir. The gravity brake on the tractor beam just didn't engage - again. It worked when we tested it with the dummy loads yesterday... (Suddenly defensive, voice rising to a wail) We thought we had the problem solved."

CASUAL SLACKS AND GOLF SHIRT: (Losing last vestige of composure) "You thought. You fucking thought! You ain't paid to fucking think! Fix that crappy alien excuse for high technology, dammit! We ain't got time to fuck around anymore! Election's next year! We need this fucking Second Coming gag to work, and we need it to work yesterday!"

(Pauses, breathes deeply. Glowers darkly, in a way he fondly imagines to be Nixonian, then refocusses:)

"Anything on Pavlov?"

BLUE SUIT: Adjusts his tie, clears his throat

CASUAL SLACKS AND GOLF SHIRT: Reading the telltale signs, sighs loudly and visibly braces himself for the coming line of lame, quasi-intellectual bullshit.

BLUE SUIT: "What we know is, despite our not knowing Pavlov's precise whereabouts, we're pretty sure what we know is that we don't know what we hope we will soon know..."

CASUAL SLACKS AND GOLF SHIRT: (Rolling his eyes) "I don't even want to know. Fuck! Shit! Damn! Bugger!"

BLUE SUIT: (Bristles, straightens, bifocals glinting oddly as he does) "There's been possibly-reliable intel from somewhere around the Panamanian border. We're checking it out."

Behind them, ignored, the monitors display myriad angles of the arrival of special troops from Mortuary Affairs Company. Huey helicopters descend onto the spattered, steaming remains of Operation Frijoles-Cuatro Jinetes. With military precision, they don surgical masks, gumboots, rubber aprons and gloves. With rather less precision, they start to pitchfork through the reeking offal to extract hideously-bent military dogtags.