by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents
Chapter 25, part 2
Chapter 26 and Chapter 27
appear in this issue.
Chapter 28: Time Out
‘How did it go, honey?’
‘Oh, quite well, I think. I gave them a piece of my mind. Raymond seems to think it had some effect.’
‘That’s great! Anything else?’
‘Well, we watched a clever little movie. Not much plot — plenty of action, though.’
‘Huh! Doesn’t sound like my kind of film. They’re all the same these days.’
‘I think you’re wrong about this one, Toni. Come on, let’s go for a walk and I’ll tell you all about it. But behave yourself — Lucia’s right behind us ...’
* * *
‘Ms Toresito? This is Raymond.’ ... ‘Yes, we do need to meet again, this very afternoon.’ ... ‘I understand. Yes, I can travel. I’m still in Oakland.’ ... ‘Four-thirty will be fine. Please give me the directions ...’
* * *
Kristy opened the door of her secluded log cabin retreat, and found not only Raymond but also a passing resemblance to a smiling Steve Shenner waiting outside. Suddenly comforted by the presence of her Vice-President, but then deciding she was not at all certain what to believe this time, she simply ushered them both in without saying a word.
‘Kristy,’ Raymond began, once they were sitting comfortably on her back porch with a generous cocktail to oil the wheels, ‘let me first explain why Steve seemed to disappear as you led us through the house.’
And he smiled his special new smile again.
‘As I can see you already suspect, Steve is not actually here at all. My colleague, who gave you that confusing impression when we arrived, and is no doubt still with us in spirit, is in fact another envoy from those who wish to do business with Brighter Vale and others. You will probably see a further example of her many talents in a few moments’ time.
‘We have talked again with Steve and your backers. They did not meet with much success in their first attempts to persuade your clients to abandon their latest, unattractive little habit. But we have now given them a lot more food for thought, and they have gone away to try much harder this time.
‘You will not be attempting to interfere with that process, will you, madam?’
‘No, I guess not.’
‘Good. Because you will have a far more important task to perform, in parallel with their work.’
‘Look, Raymond, I really haven’t got time for any more distractions like this! I’m already in bad shape after taking out most of Monday to be with you — and now this afternoon as well ...’
‘I’m afraid I am not offering you the option, Kristy. You are going to have to come to terms with this. If you cooperate with us, you stand a reasonable chance of rescuing your political career and everything else from the brink of disaster, which is precisely where it is currently positioned. In fact, I can see potential political glory ahead for you, if you play your cards carefully. But if not ...’
Raymond had successfully re-engaged the lady’s attention.
‘My employers have ambitions far beyond the procuring of lutetium. And while that little negotiation is proceeding with your own business partners, we should like you to open a gentle dialogue with one or two of your senior colleagues in government ...
‘You will recall that you were told, at your initial briefing in Oakland, that my employers would be able to offer valuable resources in exchange for the lutetium which they desperately need. In effect, they also seek many other commodities — and they have the power to reimburse the Earth most generously for what they take. And they do have the power to take it, believe me.’
‘Why should I believe you, Raymond?’
And he could see that she still did not.
‘Perhaps this will convince you ...’
Waiting discreetly off to the side, Carla was ready to play again her role as a 3-D projector, and the bemused Congresswoman was instantly treated to the first stunning re-run of the exclusive footage from the Mojave Desert.
‘Good,’ said Raymond when it was over and he had closely observed her dramatic change of heart. ‘That clears up another little uncertainty.
‘So, Kristy, you will carry away from this meeting a formal proposal to your government and their international allies. It contains no fine detail at this stage — it is merely an opening position. I have it written for you here, on a single sheet of paper.
‘It tells your masters simply that our visitors are close by, yet unseeable. That they wish no confrontation with those on Earth. Quite the opposite, in fact — they come to understand, and to trade in goods and services. They feel obliged to remain undetectable, because they see quite clearly that to do otherwise would entail immediate aggression towards them. They find this disappointing, but they are realists.
‘The essence of the proposal is their desire to recover large quantities of certain minerals and metals which are of immense importance to them, and which are either highly abundant or of relatively low importance on Earth. They are able to extract these with consummate ease. If your friends in government are at all dubious about this, you can now tell them you have seen the movie for yourself. Your description will match the reality they are busily discovering, on site, at this very moment.
‘In exchange, our visitors are offering equal-share deals, or payments in kind at rates far, far higher than our current market values, of a range of high-quality metals and minerals of which the Earth is known to have desperately low reserves. And, believe it or not, they carry free samples of all of these, ready for delivery on request.
‘They are in a position to carry out high-precision extractions, in North America, of several of the other minerals and metals of interest to them. And they will demonstrate this capability on demand, if so pressed. They can, in addition, conduct any further exploration and extraction activities they choose, anywhere in the world.
‘And that, in a nutshell, is it, Kristy.’
‘So what am I supposed to do now?’
‘I suggest you simply sit and think very carefully, once I have departed. And then decide whom you will approach with this essentially unbelievable news. Choose wisely. Choose those who will give you their credence and their trust.
‘Show them the offer, describe your evidence, and encourage them to cooperate. But you must warn them that you are being closely watched over at all times, and that any attempt by their agencies to extract information from you, involuntarily, or to give you anything less than total respect, safe-keeping and the support necessary for your extraordinary mission, will be met with sore retribution — the very opposite of our visitors’ present, very amicable approach.
‘And you must not yet reveal my own identity. There is much work I still have to do, and most discreetly, with your own Brighter Vale people, before I am able to “go public” at our next meeting. Indeed, when the time for that arrives, you must insist on diplomatic immunity for me, as the ambassador of our gracious visitors, and guaranteed protection for you, in your corresponding role. With the same cautions against ill-considered opposition which I have already described.
‘And you must plan, with your trusty leaders, for a summit meeting eleven days from now, on Monday May 12, at a place and a time which I shall later advise.
‘My taxi is still waiting outside. I wish you great good luck, Ms Toresito. And au revoir.’
* * *
Raymond was back in his room after his long trip into the valleys, and Toni and Maelene had been dragged rather reluctantly in from their equally long but more romantic stroll around the city.
Carla took the stage, and through her Quo spoke to them all once more.
‘Well, we find ourselves in a very satisfactory position tonight. This morning’s meeting was, eventually, a great success. And your contribution, Maelene, was timely and most effective.’
‘Thank you, Quo.’
‘And Raymond has this afternoon opened the door for our much wider initiative. Let us hope that Kristy will be able to deliver the next set of goods.
‘So there is now some real breathing space for you all.
‘Raymond, you are free to return home to your long-suffering wife for the coming seven days. But we shall need you back in action after that, to arrange and conduct your meetings over the following weekend and beyond. Carla will watch over you at all times, to ensure that you are not hounded by the authorities in any way. We do not anticipate that they will quickly make a connection between today’s events at the mine, and the Brighter Vale financiers, and the Starblaze Hotel meetings — but you never know. And Lucia will similarly stay close to Kristy, as the Congresswoman does her own very challenging work for us.’
‘It will be good to take a break, Quo. And I shall answer the call when it comes.’
‘Bravo, sir! Now, young Toni — we shall not need to watch over you in such a way. We have ensured that any connections between yourself and certain events of recent days have now been, shall we say, considerably blurred. We are hopeful that you will, in future, be left in the peace and privacy which is your birthright.’
‘That’s a relief! Thank you for sorting it out for me, Quo.’
‘Well, in the circumstances, it was the least I could do, my friend.
‘And Maelene, dear Maelene — we hope and trust that you remain beyond any suspicion. But we shall be here to help if anything should go wrong.’
‘I gotta believe it, right?’
‘But I still don’t know what I feel about all of this, you know. The big picture, I mean — everything you are doing here ...’
‘Well, you now have some time and space to think it through more fully. The Captain and the rest of the crew would like you and Toni to take a full week’s rest and recuperation in a top class beach resort of your choice, with all expenses paid. I understand that Santa Monica has much to commend it ...’
‘Well, that does sound real nice, Quo. What do you think, honey?’
‘I think it’s an awful idea!’
‘You are obviously back in very good spirits, Toni! Excellent. So once it is arranged, and before Raymond departs, we shall fix up a rendezvous with you both for the Sunday after next. Until then, Carla will not be watching your every move — nor indeed any of them! And I am sure that Salvatore Pirone will not come banging on your door again ...’
‘Is that a promise, Quo?’
‘Well, Maelene, promises are sometimes hard to keep. I am reasonably confident about this one. But I suspect the pair of you can rustle up a “Do Not Disturb” notice, just in case ...’
Copyright © 2006 by Michael E. Lloyd