Lord Farscrape parked his cruiser in Earth orbit and sent a message to those whom he considered in charge of the planet, the United Nations. They who asked him to leave his name, number and a short message and would call him whenever someone was available.
Well of course he didn’t send a message, he was a Lord for heaven’s sake but his Comms room did.
Impatient, for he had come a long way, he buzzed his butler.
“Julian! What the parsec is going on down there? It’s not everyday an Olympic Class Starcruiser drops by here. I mean, look at all this antique junk bouncing off the sides of my force field.”
“We’ve had to edge out a bit, apparently these bits of junk are heavily associated with their global communications set up.”
“Why haven’t they replied? What’s up with them?”
“We’ve had a bewildering number of replies…sir, why not come down to the comm deck yourself? You’re not doing anything else.”
After a series of false starts, wrong turns, a humiliating experience in the galley where the contract catering crew of Neeps jeered at him, Farscrape swept majestically into the Comms area. He was generally ignored, mainly because they didn’t know who he was. This added to his mounting state of irritation and his fingers flexed and bent with the desire to strangle the technician who barely condescended to turn round from his screen.
“It’s a planet of madness – sir,” said Julian. He lifted a cube and held it up. A jabber of voices fought for ascendancy until he stroked one side and put the messages in order.
“Have you been sold Payment Protection Insurance in the last 10 years? Then you may have a claim…’
“There are many of these, from a small insignificant island called…” Here he nudged the technician.
The bored youth, with barely enough energy to open his mouth told him.
“The United Kingdom, contradiction in terms if you ask me.”
“Also, from a large densely populated sub continent called India…they seem to think we have a massive computer problem which they have detected somehow and are willing to help. They require some form of payment, in a medium in which we are as yet unable to oblige .”
“I was right then, a planet of commercial enterprise. We can do business! Keep me informed. I’m going back to my quarters. Oh, yes. Which is the best way back?”
Julian showed him the door, not out of deference but because Farscrape was trying to exit via an emergency airlock. He pressed a holo sensitive switch on Farscrape’s wrist; tapped in the code for his Lord’s private suite.
“Follow the blue lights, sir. Do not follow, I repeat, not, follow any red ones.”
Meanwhile, down on the planet below.
“OK Vince, level with me, no fancy BS, what the hell is it?”
“It’s a fucking starship, Mr President.”
“And what the hell’s that supposed to mean? Is it from one of the outer planets?”
“No sir, it’s from another star system as in...′ starship – travels between stars’…”
“What the hell do they want? Are they armed? Dangerous? What have we got?
Can we nuke ’em?”
“No sir, that would take out half the GPS and communication satellites, and the space station…manned space station, sir.
They want to speak to the British. They were exasperated trying to get hold of the U.N.”
“Those bastards! I’m not surprised – why aren’t they sorting out Syria? Ukraine? Thailand?
It’ll be us and the Brits again…get me what’s his name, Nick, er, Ed, or is it Dave Macaroon? I can never remember…”
A supercilious Foreign Office mandarin appeared on Farscrape’s holo screen.
“Good-day and how may we be of assistance?”
“I’m here to do business. I have a bulk cargo lifter on the other side of your fourth planet. Am I talking to the responsible decision maker?”
“For now I will be your point of contact. If I feel the need to elevate the situation further…”
Farscrape did the equivalent of holding his hand over the mouthpiece.
“…’fuck’s this guy?”
“A Foreign Office spokesman, sir. A diplomat; he has to shield his politically elected leaders from foolish errors in their decision making.”
“How did these people get into positions of authority? Wouldn’t work on my ship eh Julian?”
“No sir, never,” said Julian, eyebrow only raised slightly.
Farscrape reopened the channel.
“Now, what ever your name is, I need to come down and see you, talk face to face as it were.”
“Of course and I can send coordinates whenever you are ready.”
“I’m ready now. No need to hang about. I didn’t get to where I…”
“Do you have access to an Ordnance Survey Map? Translate our grid referencing system?”
Julian made positive signs.
“OK, send them now. Please wait a minute.”
“Julian, do you understand anything this person is saying at all?”
Julian keyed in numbers, turned.
“Sir, this a secret defence establishment, hardly a public meeting place. Ask him if you can meet…here”
“OK. Foreign Office man? How about HMS Belfast at midday. I’ll be there.”
He closed the contact.
“Right, I must get ready. What shall I wear?”
“Sir, I took the liberty of, ahem, appropriating suitable clothing from one of their boutique shops. Oh and you must first visit the Med Bay…”
“Right, inoculations and such. Do I get a gun?”
“A gun would be seen as provocative, sir. Also we need to make you fit the clothing. After all you are only one of their metres’ tall…”
“They’re calling in on the Brits? Who’ve we got there?”
“Our ambassador sir.”
“Not that asshole! Get someone with half an ounce of dog fuck on the case…”
On Earth. UK. London. River Thames.
Lord Farscrape materialised on the foredeck of HMS Belfast in front of a huge gun turret; three massive barrels famous for pounding the D Day landing beaches. A uniformed policeman approached and duly escorted him off the ship. He joined an annoyed crowd freshly disembarked for security reasons.
“How inconvenient. I have a meeting with your government in a few minutes,” he said to a fellow crowd member. Another nutter thought the man until Farscrape turned to survey the ship and removed his hat.
“You’ll need eyes in the back of your head down there…” was the advice from the surly mumbling comms tech. Advice which Farscrape insisted a good idea and overrode Julian’s reservations.
Julian, surveying the scene, made adjustments. Farscrape, hat replaced, was back aboard the ship in time for the official car to arrive. A ray of auto-suggestion blanked out fifteen seconds of the crowd members’ memories. A bode of advice that hat removal was unwise entered Farscrape’s mind.
Unfortunately the ray affected the officials too and they just stood nonplussed wondering why they were at the gangway of a Second World War battleship on the River Thames.
“Foreign Office?” called the momentarily advantaged Farscrape from the deck.
The leader of the Foreign Office delegation spoke.
“How can we help your people?”
Farscrape blinked. “Help? Why would you want to? No, I’m a businessman. Let the people look after themselves, I say. Now, I’ll put forward my offer, what I want and we’ll meet somewhere in the middle. So, without further…”
“Sir, ha ha, that’s not how we do things here…”
“Really? I have a billion tonnes of gold ore packed on a freighter backside of your Mars planet. We were quite careful not to upset your weather – seems you have quite a fragile hold on that down here…bear with me now. You have an excess of a certain gas which I can sell at a reasonable profit.”
“And which gas would that be sir?”
“Would be? No, you have definitely. I come from a median advanced race of spacefarers. You have an increasingly surplus quantity of what you name Carbon Dioxide; 400 parts per million to be precise, where 275 would be optimal. You are short of gold, otherwise why is it of such high value? Over to you.”
Sangfroid deserted the delegation for a minute or two.
“How would you extract such a huge quantity...? Excuse me.”
The Mandarin turned to his advisors. They muttered for a few moments.
“We would have problems with such a hoard of gold. Indeed the financial system would be in crisis and a world …the ramifications would need serious planning.’
Farscrape was growing impatient.
“So you don’t want to deal? Ah well, we’ll just pop over to Venus and take it. Bit hot but the lads’ll just have to suit up. I’ll take up no more of your time.”
He raised his wrist device, signalled to Julian. One of the delegation stepped forward.
“A moment, if you please. That wristwatch device you wear…”