Lieutenant Hawthorn stared across his cluttered desk at Victor and Professor Hill, not quite sure if they were pranking him or not.
Bodil maintained her smile while Victor remained stony-faced, well-practiced in not revealing amusement at the utterings of those who paid his wages. Bodil sat forward in her seat.
"I said. We would like you to provide us with five experienced, fully armed Rangers to accompany us on our expedition north. We will also need two trucks...
make that three because we will have equipment, along with supplies for the whole party for, let's say fourteen days.
Oh, and we may need rapid evacuation at short notice so we will also require a vertibird on standby at all times."
Victor leaned across to whisper in her ear. When he had finished, Bodil addressed the Lieutenant again.
"We are also going to need Ranger armour and small arms for our entire party, with enough ammunition for a sustained firefight. Not that we are hoping for..."
"You're joking, right?"
Professor Hill sat back again.
"I assure you I am not, Lieutenant."
The Ranger officer rested his arms on his desktop, interlacing his fingers. He spoke with confident smugness.
"I'm sure that Sergeant Glasser has explained to you that, during the current situation concerning the unstable nuclear facility, which you yourselves brought to our attention.
We are within our remit to cancel any and all archaeological exploration because the available Rangers are required to deal with the ongoing situation.
Professor Hill, we are already overstretched providing the government teams with assistance and protection.
Taking Rangers away from this to provide protection to an archaeological expedition is not only unfair to the other research teams, we just don't have the personnel."
Bodil listened politely until Lieutenant Hawthorn had finished.
"Yes Lieutenant, Sergeant Glasser did, indeed, go to great lengths explaining exactly that to us.
" The 'well there you go then' expression settled over the Lieutenant's face like the cooling skin of a rice pudding. Bodil smiled.
"But, Lieutenant, as I'm sure you are familiar with the contents of the standard contract between the Ranger force and any academic expedition,
the Rangers are obligated to provide all necessary manpower and equipment to allow such expeditions to fulfil their purpose."
Hawthorn returned the smile.
"And as I'm sure you are also familiar with said standard contract, Professor,
the Ranger force can cancel any proposed academic expedition if it deems that the available Ranger force cannot provide sufficient protection required by such an expedition."
Bodil's smile grew into a wide grin, much to the sudden suspicion of Lieutenant Hawthorn.
"I'm glad you brought that up, Lieutenant." As she spoke, Professor Hill leisurely flicked through the pages of her PDA notebook. "We both agree on the conditions of the standard contract.
However," she sent the page she had found to the Lieutenant's own PDA.
"As you can see, the contract between the Rangers and the Troy Foundation for this rather expensive and multi-organisational expedition is not exactly standard.
In particular, I'd like to refer you to Section1 paragraph 24." She stopped to let the Lieutenant find and read the reference.
When Lieutenant Hawthorn had finished reading, he looked up. Bodil saw from his sudden pallor that the implication of what he had just read was very apparent to him.
"As you can now see, Lieutenant, any restrictions the Rangers can place only apply to 'academic' expeditions, Archaeological, anthropological, biological etc.
What they don't apply to are anything outside of academia, such as our own reason for being here."
"And what exactly is your reason for being here professor? You are an archaeologist are you not? And you also have an anthropologist or two on your team if I remember correctly."
"Yes, I am and yes we do. But we also have the head of the Troy family security, who is heading this expedition by the way. Myself and doctor Awolowo are simply advisors.
Now, as to the nature of the expedition, I'm afraid you'll have to take that up with Miss Ellie, but I doubt she will be particularly forthcoming."
Lieutenant Hawthorn started to shake his head.
"We can't. We just don't have the manpower...
" But he knew that if these people wanted to push matters, then he would have to find them what they wanted, even if it meant requisitioning Rangers and extra supplies from headquarters.
And that would go down like the proverbial lead balloon. He could see the years stretching ahead, the oldest lieutenant in the Rangers.
Bodil tossed the lifeline she had been holding all this time.
"I understand your problem Lieutenant, I really do. Let me see if I can offer a solution.
" The look on the Ranger officer's face reminded Bodil so much of a third-year student given an extra week to get their paper in.
"How about, you just let us have Ranger Weis?" The Lieutenant looked like he could have proposed to Bodil on the spot. She quickly forestalled him. "Oh, and Goliath."
The lieutenant's face fell like a sickly-looking stone.
"How do you know about Goliath?"
Bodil and Victor left Lieutenant Hawthorn's office some minutes later. They walked through the maze of busy corridors in silence for a few seconds before Victor spoke.
"I think that went quite well."
"Yes, I think it did." Bodil glanced sideways. "Do you think we should have asked for more?"
Victor turned his head and smiled.
"Judging by the vein on his forehead, I think we got it just about right."
Now far enough away from the lieutenant's office, Victor and Bodil allowed themselves to laugh away the anxiety over how the meeting could have gone very wrong.
Victor rubbed his hands.
"Let's tell Ellie and then go for a drink."
Bodil looped an arm around his.
"How about we go for a drink, and then tell Ellie?"
So, a couple of drinks later, a meeting was called and the rest of the team was told of the results of Bodil Hill's experience of contractual law...
well, as far as it pertained to archaeological expeditions anyway.
There were a couple of concerns, however.
"So," Amy began, hoping she had misunderstood. "We're all going to be going outside, but with just this one Ranger to protect us?"
Eyes turned to the professor, who turned to Victor. After glancing at Ellie, Victor folded his arms.
"Ranger Weis has proved himself to be a highly competent man to have around, and he is very familiar with the local tribes, something that is going to be really useful."
Dr Awolowo took up the floating doubt expressed by his assistant.
"But he is just one man."
"Yes, but we will also have Goliath and all the protection that offers. We'll be quite safe from anything the jungle can throw at us."
The doctor picked up on the implication.
"The jungle, but I thought we were going south, following that live cable you found?"