Lord Farscrape sat at ease in an enormous office belonging to Apple Computers at Battersea Power Station, London, England. He liked the Brits, liked the UK, a country so one time driven by capitalism and free enterprise its flag symbolically never saw a sunset. Small examples of its grandeur popped up here and there; Nelson’s Column, his ship, The Victory; HMS Belfast where he’d first made acquaintance with the very people who’d given it all away; bored and broke from fighting costly wars on principles, the grand scheme of which would have argued cooperation or at least separate ways.
Tim Cook, the man in charge of Apple, had flown in specially to meet him and was being briefed on what to expect in his meeting with a star Lord who had no interest in anything but “doing some business”. Julian, his butler cum executive officer, geolocated 300 miles above him monitored the briefing below.
Tim, he’s a strange one, he’s oddly human while only having a partial grasp of things down here. He consults with someone in the starship above [Here everyone in the room always looks upward] called Julian who seems to have a total grasp of everything about us but defers to his “Lord”. They have manners which are charmingly old fashioned.
Explain? Said Tim.
Well, he beams down, Startrek fashion, but not directly into the room. He arrives outside, spooking the shit out of security and anyone in the vicinity, then knocks on the door…
‘Tim Cook, I’m sort of in charge here’
“Sort of?’ said Farscrape. ‘Good. I’m sort of in charge of a Galactic Mining Corporation. That’s my ship up there, haven’t a clue how it works, how to navigate it, pilot it but here we are together. A mystery as yet unrevealed I take advantage of.’
Tim Cook considered. He was much in the same boat. There on the sufferance of the shareholders and the continued success of their products.
‘I know what you mean. I do keep up with developments but some of our engineers…’
‘’…Clever people? No clue how to run a company but they’d like your job? Ha!’
‘We are spacefarers who’ve learnt to take steps to cover…er..eventualities like mutiny or subversive ambitions.’
Cook raised an eyebrow. ‘Such as?’
‘Well they sign up with me in the hope of fabulous riches and retirement at the end. Which I honour. They also agree to accept an explosive implant which I control, to be removed at the end of the contract.’
Cook’s eyes widened. ‘And you have used…?’
‘No, never. We don’t even implant anything now. They just think we do. It suffices.’
‘There are a million questions. Wouldn’t it be better if you had a team down here?’
‘No, I’m bound by rules. I’m deniable. Have you seen the ship? Seen a photo image of me? No, I think not. Julian can remove your memory of this meeting in a flash. Tedious because it removes mine and I’m confused for days.’
‘You are aware we might consider recording this ourselves?’
Julian, up on the ship, wondered at his master’s sudden shift to suave operator. Perhaps his clumsy act was just that; an act. He was a Lord after all. He first met Farscrape on a holiday planet far away. Farscrape liked to party. Julian was laid off as second mate on a cruiser and was at a loose end. Taking a stroll along an ocean boulevard just outside his accommodation he rounded a corner and looked down at the waves splashing and swirling around rusty girders supporting the building. A narrow strip of sand lay immediately below.
Julian gloomily assessed his remaining credit and his resume. A chromium tug up in orbit was hiring but it was a 5 year contract and a downward career move. Staying meant catering, behind the scenes, not paid enough to get to his home planet and the Neeps held sway. No promotion there.
A klaxon alarm and a siren. A voice gasped at him. ‘Help, if the Provosts get me I’m ruined! I’ll pay you!’
Looking up, Julian saw him. A naked, red faced short man, he must have climbed out of an upper floor window and shinned down a stanchion to the beach but the final leap daunted him. Julian came to a decision, climbed up, helped the man down and ushered him under the plasteel walkway underhang.
The Provosts’ vehicle dopplered past them and headed into the town.
‘Thanks, I owe you. He pulled a medallion device over his head. Take this to my hotel, The Esperanza. The major domo knows me. Tell him it’s the usual and I need clothes, credit and a comset soon as.’
‘Who shall I say?’
‘Farscrape, Lord Farscrape. Quick as you can please.’
Out on the Thames a Police launch bobbed up and down. Chief Inspector Cleverley and two other civilians aimed binoculars at the old power station.
The CIA man said ‘you sure he’s in there? How?’
‘Disturbance in the Force,’ said the sarcastic MI6 man. The other two looked at him as if they’d found dog shit on their shoes.
’We intercepted their calls. Cook doesn’t just jump on a jet for a chat. The space channel is monitored by GCHQ. They don’t scramble anything. It’s like they hold us in contempt.
CIA said ‘What do they want?’ He glared at MI6, daring him to make a facetious response.
‘CO2, the Foreign office man told us. CO2; we’ve got a surplus of it. They know it’s around 400 and would be better at 275,’
‘How do they know?’
‘Don’t ask me. They’ve come here in a starship at fuck knows what speed. I imagine they’re quite good at science and shit.’
‘We can’t see them now. They disappeared but the ore freighter is still there off Mars.’
‘Probably because you freaks targeted them with missiles. What is the matter with you yanks? It’s not a movie script. You can’t just get Will Smith or Bruce Willis to sort it out for you.’
‘Please get this asshole reassigned, Cleverley. I can’t work with him.’
Cleverley weighed him up. ‘He does have a point, if a little sarcastic and you are here at our invitation. More like you will be on a plane to Langley. Best you kiss and make up.’
‘Hmmff! Can’t you arrest him?’
MI6 laughed ‘On what charge? He’s an illegal alien?’
In the Apple offices Farscrape’s inner ear bones were stimulated from above.
‘Sir, the local security services, not surprisingly, are interested.’ He played back the intercepted Police launch conversation. ‘The politics of this planet are, to say the least, fractious. Perhaps we should wait a generation or two. We’ve reviewed some of their entertainment media. The default attitude to visiting aliens is that we are hostile and want to plunder their resources. I’ve set a quiet field around you. Mr Cook will not hear your reply.’
Farscrape held up a hand to Tim Cook. ‘Please excuse me.’ He pointed upwards and made a telephone gesture Julian had taught him.
‘Listen Julian, we could just take the gas we want. I can terraform 2 new planets with their surplus. We can even offer them a planet and transport to hold half their ridiculously expanding population. Seven billion of them; we can fix their climate concerns with a few cheap surplus satellites. We could be gods to them without them even knowing or any obligation. We have the tech to make their Mars habitable in two or three generations and make travel there practically instantaneous. What did you call it? win-win for them. If we go back and propose this to you know who they’ll throw it open to the competition and we may not win the contract. Just now all they want is a fucking wrist communicator with a few add ons.’
‘Sir, teleportation is not just an add-on. Their whole infrastructure is based on conventional vehicular slow transportation. Their economies run on scarce money which they are geared to strive for. We are forbidden by “The Directive” for these very reasons. Let’s just take it from Venus as you threatened.’
‘How long have I got?’
‘Three months. Why?’
‘I want to study them. I like them.’
‘OK, sir and do I erase the currently exposed?’
‘Yes…wait. The sarcastic one on the boat. I want him on board. Sounds like he can take it and Cook. Erase our conversation and his team’s memories. Leave a door open.’
Ever walked into a room and wondered what you went in for? Several people including a President of the USA had that uneasy feeling. Don’t leave your phone around for little children to play with. They might reset it and lose all your photos, contacts and messages. They might send a signal to a median spacefaring starship with a commercial interest in carbon dioxide.
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