by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents
Chapter 25, part 2
Chapter 26 and Chapter 28
appear in this issue.
Chapter 27: Handler’s Studio, Mater
Carla and Lucia were both on passive watch in the Studio when their three senior officers arrived unannounced.
‘No, please don’t get up, Handlers,’ smiled the Captain. ‘We old ones can remain standing, or walk as we talk. I am certain Maelene would approve — and this should not take long ...
‘So, as we all appreciate, we now have yet another Special Communication to consider. Life is never straightforward, is it? But I shall return to its contents in a moment. Let us first make a brief appraisal of where we stand, and consider our immediate plans. Your report, please, Chief ...’
‘Ma’am. The SOG-E procedure worked perfectly, and there are no indications of any breakdown in its stealth protection. It returned in good condition, and it is being prepared for its next sortie, whenever that may turn out to be.
‘And the sample of lutetium which we have gathered appears to be of very good quality and in remarkably rich concentrations within the ore. On the basis of the estimated size of the complete deposit, it could provide an extremely worthwhile boost to our dwindling supply.’
‘Excellent news. Fine work, Chief — and you too, of course, Lucia.
‘Now, Number Two ...’
‘A fascinating middle-game, would you not agree, my friends? The rooks and the bishops are all subdued, and the pawns are blocked, but the King and the knights have barely awoken from their slumbers ...’
‘A most illuminating perspective on the situation, I am sure. But perhaps we could now move swiftly on to your recommendations?’
‘As you wish. We should volunteer Ms Kristy Toresito as the natural ambassador of her nation’s government, and encourage her to carry our broad proposition to them — in much the same way, and over the same period, as the Brighter Vale team is about to do with its own clients.’
‘Much in accord with my own thinking, Number Two. And my compliments to you and Carla also, for your most satisfactory results.
‘So, for the time being at least — while we consider the very latest Doman developments — are there any disagreements in principle with this action plan?’
None were contemplated.
‘Good. So, to our new Orders, recently received through the good offices of CP18, RIP.
‘First, we see a change in the status of gold. Your immediate analysis please, Chief.’
‘Ma’am. As we all know, our reserves of gold at home are steadily reducing, but they had always been considered adequate for the medium-term. Indeed, we have recognised a more urgent need for it here on Earth, and we had, as you know, included it as one of our potential barter offerings in the planned negotiations.
‘But the latest communication indicates further bad news from the recent inter-regional surveys — this time, on the true extent of our gold reserves.
‘Gold is the most ductile of all the metals, and its role in the infrastructure of our very large star-craft is increasingly critical. So I conclude that it is no longer viable to include it in our overall offer. On the contrary, the clear message from home is that we should instead add a limited amount of that element to our own shopping list.’
‘All implications understood, Chief. But I am sure you also recognise the emotional, as well as the economic and industrial sensitivities towards this particular metal on Earth. We shall, of course, remove it at once from our presently un-revealed offer of reimbursement, but we shall not, at this stage at least, indicate our active interest in obtaining some for ourselves. That, I feel, could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, before the talking has even begun ...’
‘Absolutely,’ concurred Quo.
‘And our second new Order is a fascinating one,’ the Captain continued. ‘I did promise you, Number Two, that the wheel might come full circle ...’
‘You did indeed, ma’am.’
‘... and so we are now given yet another fact-finding mission, in addition to the need to maintain sustained pressure on the geological front. How do you interpret it, my friend?’
‘They patently require the Missions, ma’am, to understand in some depth the burning issues of the day in a significant “pocket” of each new world’s governing species.
‘And reading between the lines, I conclude that our President has probably managed to persuade the Council of the Regions that an ability to offer, to the societies which each Mission is observing, some appropriate and helpful guidance for social evolution might prove to be a useful trick up our negotiating sleeves, in addition to those of barter and unrefusable offers ...’
‘My thoughts exactly. I am personally very pleased to hear of this. And you?’
‘I too am delighted. In our spare moments in Europe and the USA, Carla and I have noted much that we do not yet fully comprehend. In fact, I have already begun a little list ...’
‘Just as I had anticipated. In fact, as I can clearly see ...
‘But Number Two, this is hardly a little list, is it? Political correctness, politicians’ misdeeds and miracle escapes, environmental issues, and Intelligent Design. Failing law and order, so-called new freedoms, widespread public nervousness, censorship, angry ageing men, and the “nanny state”. Continued racial intolerance, collapse of the inner cities, financial and moral decline, and the outsourcing of everything ...
‘So, do you yet have any particular priorities amongst these many topics?’
‘No, ma’am. I have only just begun ...’
‘You think there may be more?’
‘Highly likely, ma’am.’
‘Well, if adding the issue of gold would probably break this delicate camel’s back, piling that lot on top would, I suspect, bury it completely! For the time being, we shall make absolutely no mention to those on Earth of this extension to the fact-finding Aim, nor of your interesting little list. Keep it dry, Number Two.’
‘As you wish.’
‘So — we shall proceed at once to visit Ms Toresito and invite her to open our global trade discussions. And after that we should be able to decide just what to do, for now, with our remaining little helpers.
‘Are there any further observations, my friends?’
‘Only one,’ mused Lucia. ‘I do hope we can try and check up on Salvatore in Venice, at some time in the future — just to see if he’s back on the rails, after everything that has happened.’
‘I certainly feel we should try to make such an effort, one day, Lucia. And maybe we shall be able to do more than just that ...’
Copyright © 2006 by Michael E. Lloyd