Wherein Brown meets a senator.
Last time: Brown and Carpenter relocated to an underground laboratory hidden beneath a Nevada ghost town.
Carpenter and I sat quietly behind a long, cherry colored table in Wainwright Labs’ conference room. I wondered what was above us–the old Gorlock Hotel? The hardware store? We could be a half mile from town for all I knew.
“Here they come,” Ray said. A half dozen young men in fancy suits entered the conference room along with one older gentleman. His hair was silver and his suit dark blue. An enamel flag pin hung from its left lapel. His teeth were too white and his skin too tight for his apparent age. The big teeth looked even whiter against his skin, which appeared to be dyed a rusty orange.
“Is this our spaceman? I suppose that’s not the politically correct term. Chronological engineer? Time fluid? Kevin, look into that. I don’t want the internet ganging up on me if I say the wrong thing.” The gentleman smiled as he approached me, hand extended. “I’m Red Newman. It’s my honor to meet you,” he said.
“Brown,” I said, and I shook his hand. “The honor is mine, Mr. Newman.”
“Please, Mr. Newman was my father. Call me Senator. Would you like some coffee? Kevin, find us some coffee. Well, this is quite a spread you have here, what with the ghost town upstairs and this high tech facility downstairs. We had a Sinclair station just like yours when I was a poor boy growing up just outside of Preston. Not a dime to our name, but my daddy always said, ‘Red, you can be anything you want in this great country. The sky’s the limit.’ He was right, but I tell you what: If he could see what 40 years of anti-business policies have done to towns like Gorlock he’d turn over in his grave.”
“Didn’t the interstate kill Gorlock?” I whispered to Carpenter.
“Don’t bother,” Carpenter said. “It won’t even make a dent.”
“Yes sir, it’s time we brought jobs back to Nevada. Good jobs–jobs that feed not just the stomach but the soul,” the senator said. “Where’s Kevin? Eddie, why don’t you go help Kevin find the coffee? Where was I? Small towns. Yes, sir. Small towns are the heart and soul of America. I’m reminded of a dear old woman I met up in San Jacinto. ‘Senator,’ she said to me. ‘ I worked hard my whole life, and for what?’ See, Brown, the American dream is in trouble. All over this state–heck, all over this great nation–good folks like that sweet old gal remember a better time. Your time, Brown. A time when jobs were good and plentiful, before taxes and regulations and immigrants ruined this great country.”
“America is ruined?” I asked.
“You’ve seen it for yourself!” the senator said. “It’s time to take our nation back!”
“So what can we do for you today, Senator?” Carpenter asked.
“We’d like Brown to–where is that coffee? Phillip, go find Kevin and Eddie and tell them to hurry up with that coffee.”
“I’m your senior council,” Phillip said. The senator waved his hand as if shooing away a fly. The lawyer sighed and rose wearily from his chair.
“We’d like Brown to make some appearances with us–hit the morning shows, some campaign stops, factory tours, that kind of thing. Do you like to talk, Brown? Well, that’s no matter. If you don’t, you can just stand there in a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap. I can do the talking for both of us. The important thing is to have you there, a living example of the lost times we so desperately need to get back to. A simpler time. Where in the hell is that coffee? Ricky, go find–”
“Senator, what we do here is pure research,” Carpenter said. “While we appreciate your passion, we must remain agnostic.”
“You’re devil worshipers?” Newman asked.
“Politically agnostic. Neutral,” Carpenter said.
“Well, I appreciate that,” the senator said. He leaned back in his chair. “A big, beautiful facility like this full of overpaid eggheads. Thirty years I’ve been a Nevada senator–I’m surprised I’m just learning about it. What’s your tax bill?”
“I’m afraid I’m not familiar with Wainwright’s accounting,” Carpenter said. “I’m just a scientist.”
“Oh, I understand that. We’re all unfamiliar with something. You scientists, for example. You aren’t familiar with how that climate change nonsense hurts American jobs. The blacks aren’t familiar with the fact that all lives matter. The fairies are unfamiliar with Christian persecution. All of you are unfamiliar with what my old buddy, George, used to say.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“You’re with us, or you’re against us,” Senator Newman said, and his too white teeth glowed against his rusty skin. I couldn’t tell whether he was smiling or snarling.