by Michael E. Lloyd
Chapter 19: Chief Surveyor’s Office, Mater
‘And so,’ reflected the Captain, ‘the more it changes ...’
‘Indeed,’ nodded Quo. ‘And I really did think ...’
‘Yes, yes, Number Two — your optimism is one of your greatest strengths, but let us please consider the board as it stands, and not as it might have stood.’
‘Now, I anticipated the governments would request more time for consultation, but I did not expect them to still be on the starting blocks. That leaves us with two options: to sit and wait for an indeterminate time, or to proceed with at least some of our planned and mandated exploitation actions. I have not called this meeting in your office without reason, Chief. What is our latest state of readiness in your department?’
‘Little change, ma’am. The last time I reported, we were ready to go to work at either of the California and Montana mines. Now, following its deliveries in Los Angeles and at the air base, the SOG-E is hovering in stealth above the Mojave site, and can begin its full-scale lutetium gathering upon receipt of the special local signal.
‘And you also discussed at that time a range of further surveying activities — all requiring Maelene Bay’s active support, of course — which would need to precede any longer-term extraction initiatives. But you instructed me to hold fire on all of that until at least after the Chicago meeting ...’
‘So I did, Chief. And now Washington has come and gone as well, and already twenty-four hours have passed with no contact from Deep Fraught. Ah, me — how time flies ...’
Quo was suddenly very concerned.
‘Is everything all right, ma’am?’
‘Most observant, Number Two. Except, of course that you already know the answer. I am, as it were, kicking myself for my decision to throw the firework of gold onto the dying embers of yesterday’s summit ...’
‘I hardly think that was a crucial factor in their decision to suspend the debate.’
‘No, but it may have been the last straw.’
‘The board as it stands, ma’am ...?’
‘Touchée! Yes, let us move on.
‘Despite the seemingly wholesale breakdown in negotiations, I have a feeling there may be further significant developments quite soon. So I am willing to wait a full seven Earth days before proceeding with new exploitation actions, and for three reasons ...
‘The first is that something might conceivably transpire from the House’s judgement of Kristy tomorrow — though if we have managed things properly, there should still be no identifiable linkage between her previously well-disguised Brighter Vale activities and the latent role she has played in the trade summit proceedings.
‘The second is that the House will be sitting until Friday afternoon. Perhaps Mr Veight and his colleague Congresswomen will choose to find further inspiration while still in Washington, and will put renewed covert pressure on the Department of State in their spare moments! Again, given the history of their initiatives to date, and their now-reduced power base, that is clearly another long shot.
‘My third reason is simpler, and it will no doubt make you smug with satisfaction, Number Two. I am going to hope that the Administration comes to its senses of its own accord, and that Deep Fraught, who is after all now largely on our side, makes an unexpected but welcome call to Raymond in the next few days, advising him that we can forge forward with constructive dialogue and joint project development. There, I have said it. Pure, unjustifiable optimism!’
‘Bravo!’ Quo positively grinned.
‘However ... you, Chief, will now work to produce detailed plans for a series of major surveying operations, in the pursuit of aluminium and magnesium, which we shall set in train with Maelene’s invaluable assistance one week from today, unless events in the meantime cause us to think again.’
‘Yes, ma’am! And may I raise one further subject?’
‘You will recall that we learnt in Columbia about the extremely limited number of viable deposits of lutetium-rich REEs around the world ...’
‘So do you feel there would be merit in also considering an expedition to the southern tropics of China?’
Quo stifled a Doman guffaw. ‘You fancy learning Mandarin and Cantonese in your spare time, do you? Because I do not!’
The Captain managed a far more diplomatic chuckle.
‘I think we have enough on our plates for the time being, Chief. But it’s good to know you are still right on top of things. Keep up the good work!
‘Now, Number Two — you have a few more social insights for us, I believe. As punchy as you can, please ...’
‘Ah, you mean “Wham, Bam ...” — but on second thoughts, no, you do not.
‘Well, I learnt a lot from Raymond’s little peek into the private thoughts of the people waiting at the airport, and from our own direct eavesdropping on the conversations of the London taxi driver, and the Heathrow travellers, and many others we have observed en passant. It is not a huge sample, and the views of the young vary somewhat from those of older people. But I see many common threads and unspoken agreements.
‘There are some very angry men and women of all ages out there.
‘They are dismayed that the misdeeds of politicians are often ignored or permitted. And that the miscreants are sometimes even given their party’s or government’s full support.
‘In fact, as I suggested before, there seems to have been an active and successful emasculation of entire swathes of the population, caused by total disbelief in their modern governments. Many people’s subconscious awareness is now that, in reality, almost everything they are told is a partial lie.
‘There is a lot of unspoken discomfort — Political Correctness seems to inhibit speaking out — about the notion of Intelligent Design which Mr Veight appears to propound.
‘But there is surprisingly little concern about environmental issues and the risks of disaster facing so many communities. It seems that Maelene and a few others are standing divided on this. If only all those on Earth knew of our own problems ...
‘There is serious worry everywhere about a continuous decline in Law and Order — particularly since almost all government statistics insist that the situation is continually improving. A lot of people are aghast at the combined effects of “new freedoms” and new security restrictions, which they feel increasingly reduce the liberty of individual law-abiding citizens, while easing the path for criminality and terrorism. Political Correctness again. Many of them seriously believe this is steadily destroying the society around them.
‘Nervousness is the hallmark of the current public mood. And the various governments’ own nervous actions have clearly failed to dispel it. Certainly not many people seem happy with the situation in Iraq, and I suspect Raymond’s original analysis back in Brussels last month, which I see you fully recall, will prove quite accurate ...
‘The compensation culture appears to have led, in both nations, to a Nanny State of overprotection, blame and liability. One result is that children these days get little exposure to risks, even at play, so they gain inadequate life experience and are at far greater risk when they emerge into the real world. But they are being programmed to automatically blame and litigate if anything should happen to them, or even if they can contrive something to happen. Many parents seem quite comfortable with this. Many others are not ...
‘There is continued racial intolerance lurking everywhere. For large numbers of people it seems to be the truth beneath a thin veneer of acceptance — the opposite of that politically correct attitude which they are forced to display. On this and many other subjects, the public appears to have evolved in very short order from a basically honest populace to one which is living a web of lies. Whatever one’s position on any particular issue, this is surely a very unhealthy body politic ...
‘People generally agree with those messages in the Jane Jacobs book we recently heard about ... but only when they think about them. They are far more preoccupied with the visible spiral of financial and moral decline of their market economy-based states. The rich apparently get richer, then cash it in and hide away. The cost of everything “essential” increases all the time. More and more people “need” benefits, but there is less and less public money to pay for them — the reversal of the principles of the welfare state.
‘And it seems that businesses and governments now pay lip-service to Service. The customer once was king. But Outsourcing (a synonym for the abdication of responsibility) rules the waves today, and people have to pay commercial rates for much that was once provided via taxes. And since the profit motive is now all-powerful, it is the Bottom Line which has become king.
‘And I have to say, ma’am, that I personally see a serious risk of the total outsourcing here of Politics itself, up to the very highest levels. In fact, I envisage all Federal Representatives reporting soon to the Chief Executive Officer of LawsAreUs Inc, and the Senators answering only to its Chairperson. And the majority of that corporation’s shares will, no doubt, have been purchased up-front by the Chinese.’
The Captain smiled wryly. ‘You are not joking, are you, Number Two?’
‘No, ma’am, I am not.
‘Now, back to the exploits of our friends and our other contacts.
‘I was most intrigued by the gambling in Las Vegas. It struck me that many of the people sitting for hours on end at those slot machines could be having a much happier and considerably leaner life if they would only put their money and their effort into some rather more energetic activity.
‘And I noticed how easy it is to get married there. That seems like an opportunity for disastrous outcomes in many cases. But Raymond assures me that Haiti is similarly always there when needed.
‘It is hard to disagree with Maelene’s view of the artificiality of the city, and much easier to dispute Toni’s rather misanthropic view of modern culture. But I did find some of his arguments quite persuasive, and reminiscent of Hilde’s impassioned words in Strasbourg ...
‘Maelene’s kindness with her Grand Canyon surprise delighted me, although I think she did it mainly for her own benefit! But her profound sense of the dangers facing the environment here are utterly unselfish. Toni’s nonchalance and innocence, by comparison, are startling. But he seems increasingly willing to listen and learn, though perhaps not for quite the right reasons. I sincerely hope Maelene does decide to take more evangelising action of that sort when her busy life allows it.
‘And we are seeing continued government nervousness about our innocent young Spaniard — but again, it seems to be mainly due to their stunningly flawed information systems. You know, I really am tempted to contribute a little advice in that area ...’
‘Since it involves our obligations to Toni,’ pondered the Captain, ‘I leave that to your good judgement, my friend. But make it discreet, and it should be nothing more than advice.’
‘Thank you, ma’am.
‘And the trivialisation of important matters continues, along with the disbelief, and the denial, and the mistrust in our friendly approach. Look at those summit meeting facilities in Chicago! And did you notice Lawrence Veight’s carefully confusing tactics throughout? That man is a real schemer! We must continue to watch him very closely.
‘And what awful management styles were being employed by Deep Fraught — especially the bullying and the over-reacting! We here on the Mater are very fortunate, ma’am ...’
‘Yes, yes, Number Two. Please keep it moving, and perhaps a little faster ...’
‘Maelene’s improving sensitivity to our situation and the world of the female was good to hear, was it not? And of course we are still seeing a lack of such sensitivity or sophistication among the human alpha males. And great weakness too, at that border crossing!
‘But while the developing relationship of Toni and Maelene seems on the surface to be characterised by differences — thoughtless and heartless words often contrasting with great tenderness — no deep male-female differentiation is apparent to me. They are both as cruel and as kind as the other, when the moods take them! Perhaps that is just the way it has to be ...
‘It is so disappointing to hear of a lack of adequate free health care in a society as “advanced” as this one. I understand there are far better provisions in many other countries — but it seems those too are now being steadily eroded by the increasing costs of almost everything essential.
‘Maelene’s point about urban development at Niagara was very well made. Humanity is patently spoiling its living environment in many different ways. And I was wondering, as she carelessly joked with Toni about “God’s wrath” causing so many disasters, how many people here think that their gods bear all the blame, and they themselves bear none ...
‘You know, in Toronto I really was fascinated by the summary of that new book. It ties up with so much of what I have been observing and reporting to you. At the heart of governments I have seen weak leadership at every turn, with the shameless manipulation of politicians by their staffers, and vice-versa! And the pecking order of world powers is becoming clearer — at least, as far as those blinkered powers still see it. The priorities of extant governments are plain, and are clearly centred on photo opportunities and re-election sound bites. And the individual selfishness continues. I wonder how much that Concorde flight cost DF’s taxpayers?
‘We are still seeing buck-passing, uninspiring and out-of-touch leadership, indecision and double-speaking. And much incompetence and brazen stalling. No wonder Mrs Pruston lost her patience in the Washington summit!
‘What a reaction the mere mention of gold invoked! How right you were in your original caution, ma’am. And so much for this government’s nod to Internationalism, and its dear ally’s response!
‘Veight’s impassioned defence of Kristy before the elders of the House was utterly fascinating for me. I simply cannot fathom the man, and probably never shall, without a direct look inside him. But I have resolved to resist that temptation forever — for my own sanity!
‘And finally — did you not all wonder at the clever, steady downgrading of the severity of Ms Toresito’s crimes by everybody present, as this morning’s private hearing progressed? I predict a very low “level of censure” in Mr Carough’s final judgement tomorrow ...’
‘I strongly suspect you will be proved right, Number Two. But that, of course, is their business. Let us now get on with ours!’
To be continued ...
Copyright © 2008 by Michael E. Lloyd