JJ Lucey nodded towards the flashing light on Frank’s desk-phone.
“Line 2” he said.
Frank nodded back and picked up the phone, “Mr. President?” He started.
“Yes….. yes indeed…. that’s our intention of course. No, no, we’ll be taking care of that here - on this island”
After a time, JJ was back in the office - “How’s the French president then?”
“All good” Frank smiled. “He’s on board, took him a while to be convinced, but he promised a joint venture on scientific research. I assured him that Ireland was the right place, that it was OK to keep it in-house so to speak”
“Just like that?” JJ tested.
“Well, he’ll have to come and see for himself obviously. I think he just wanted an excuse to come and see the alien anyway. But, look - chalk it down in the book as one in the ‘yes’ column. Add it to the UK PM, POTUS, the Chancellor and the others.”
JJ made a mental note in the metaphorical column, while remembering the difficulty in getting the Americans to play ball, “Those Americans eh? That was not an easy ‘yes’ for us”.
Frank crinkled his eyebrows in agreement, and then laughed, “Yep, they wanted full control. They just couldn’t take the fact that America was not where this played out. I couldn’t be sure if it was because of the genuine safety concerns or whether Hollywood had prepared them for a different narrative for whenever this day arrived”.
They both allowed themselves a moment of light conjecture, a tangent, before getting their minds back to the work.
For the next few days, Frank and JJ put in the hours, talking turkey with the people who had the money and resources to help Ireland in a way they couldn't help themselves. Keeping the Alien, the visitor and interpretive centre, and the research in Ireland itself was the hardest bit. But he successfully played them off each other, as Ireland was always a plausible neutral ground to host anything. He wasn’t giving anything directly away to any rivals. Day after day JJ would nod at the flashing LEDs on the phone. He would start to point in a gun-like fashion out of boredom and playfulness at the phone. He would start thinking of nicknames for the various parties involved. Parties acting as proxies now that the premiers had done their legwork.
Martina had seen the potential of an event. An event where all the world’s leaders would be present and would get their pictures taken with the Alien - a kind of G8, only for E.T. instead of economics or whatever they really talked about at the G8 table. Frank had loved the idea and knew that this kind of visibility would set him up for good. The Taoiseach would never doubt him again and he could have his pick of portfolio, in Europe or at home. He might even have a realistic shot at the top job.
“Frank”, JJ disturbed him from deep thought.
“Yes JJ, what is it?”
“Yep, line one.”
Frank waved away JJ and stopped for a moment to look at the flashing light on the desk phone. he picked it up.
“Boss! How are you? I wasn’t expecting a call this late at night”.
“Frank” the Taoiseach began, “Thanks for taking the call at this time. I want to talk to you about your progress. You know, we’ve had our differences…”.
“Well, I’ve never had any difference with you…” Frank began.
“Shush Frank, let me speak. We may have had our differences in the past and I know you’ve been tipping away in a job you’ve never really fancied. But, I’ve been watching this closely over the last few weeks.”
Frank had a sinking feeling.
“And, anyway, I just wanted to say well done. Well done on the job so far - I didn’t think you’d pull it off so well. I knew you could do some kind of job on it, of course. But you’ve surpassed yourself.”
Frank felt lighter than air.
“Never let it be said I don't give compliments. Those feckers on the back benches think I’m an ingrate, that I’ve got here on their backs. But I got here on hard fucking work. And I recognise hard work when I see it. So I just wanted to, you know, say good work - and keep it up. We’re not finished yet.”
“Th - Thank you sir, boss. Much appreciated”
There was an awkward silence as both men let the energy fizzle out of the air for a moment.
“Well, good night Frank”
Frank put the phone down and stared at it for 2 or 3 minutes. He had a smile on his face. His smile straightened out after a few minutes. He then shook it off as he realised, he did indeed have more work to do. ‘Don’t fuck it up from here’ he thought to himself.
He spent the next few weeks getting all his ducks in a row, as he liked to say. Making sure all the itineraries made sense on his wall chart. Making sure the promised revenues all added up to whole of what was needed. It all hung on one day, one day that needed to go reasonably well. If he avoided any major screw-ups he would be seen as the man who delivered and made it happen. The man who really put Ireland on the map.
One day a week later he got a phone call with some welcome news.
“Frank, we’ve run every test we can think of, looked at every angle. I think we need to starting coming around to the idea that this is a friendly alien”. It was Lt. Murphy and Stapleton in conference with Frank.
“I concur” Stapleton chipped in, “I think people may have watch too many Hollywood movies. Out initial thoughts were of some malevolent force some kind of invasion party. But every indicator shows that the alien is placid, calm and willing to obey our requests on demand. It’s been nothing but cooperative”.
“Furthermore” Murphy jumped in again, “we have to throw out our biased pre-conceived notions. Yes it looks like a powerful specimen - but that doesn’t mean that aggression is it’s modus operandi. We’ve been assessing him with human eyes if you know what I mean.”
Frank hesitated, pleased but cautious - “You’re sure?”
“Absolutely” Stapleton chipped in, “we have a national treasure on our hands. Let’s make the most of it”.
“OK, thanks guys. Let’s put it to rest and move on with other pressing concerns”
They all clicked of the conference line and Frank looked up at JJ who was half inside the doorway.
“So, good news eh?”
“Sure is JJ. This is just what I wanted to hear. That was one of the most unstable elements of this project, it was a complete unknown. The guys have put it to bed and now we can really drive for the line” Frank was beaming, got up from his desk and made way to the office door.
“Go on ya good thing!” laughed JJ as Frank slipped past him and patted JJ on the shoulder.
Once Frank was out of sight, JJ’s face straightened back to neutral. He had been listening to all of the conversation just outside Frank’s door. He hesitated for a minute or two, not sure what to think. Then he spun around on his heels and walked back to his, smaller, office. After looking into the middle distance for another minute he decided on which number to dial. He picked up the receiver and used his pencil to punch the numbers into the phone, he still had contacts of his own, he thought to himself.