* * *
The offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs were old, but not in a decrepit way. The Palladian building was stately but could have been kept slightly cleaner on the outside. It was built from a white-grey stone, was three storeys high and dominated the streetscape of an elegant part of Dublin. Inside, the smell of wood and centuries of paint invaded the nose and gave the visitor a sense of authority and bureaucracy. But mostly it was cold, 18th century cold. No amount of radiators could unchill the civil servant’s bones in winter time and even in summer it refused to release its grip.
Frank Gleeson was on his sixth cup of tea. He was sat in his wooden office and had worn the legs off his assistant with the cuppa requests. His cup was stained brown on the inside from innumerable teas; he brought the cup with him when appointed to the cabinet and it definitely wasn’t going to leave him today. The brew was the only constant for him right now. He’d only heard the news thirty minutes ago and was trying to figure out what he should do, what he should say. Frank Gleeson was the minister for Foreign Affairs, well - there was no minister for extra-terrestrials so he was the closest fit. He was called into action to be the public face of the Alien Strategy.
He was a tall man with strong facial features, but he was just slightly past his best. And he was starting to let himself slide, let the odd wrinkle pass. He was broad too, he showed signs of an athletic past but now his shoulders were a little slumped.
Somehow, Frank had to put together a team to firstly assess the threat, but more likely assess how to maximise the opportunity for the government. A government that was stumbling from mistake to mistake and losing public confidence - it was fair to say that they really needed this. And needed to squeeze it for any advantage they could. If ever there was a day to dump bad news into the media and hope for a smooth ride, this was it. In fact this was so big, they almost couldn't fuck this up and that ride would last for days and weeks on end….. if they got their strategy right.
JJ Lucey was Mr. Gleeson’s assistant. Thin and fit, but also slightly effete at the same time. JJ had made it this far in his career but had no ambition above his station. He lived those ambitions out through the proxy of his employers. To him, everything played out in almost soap-opera fashion. Which gave him a giddy manner, keen to watch everything, but not get fully involved in the big decisions.
“This is better than boring old Brussels, eh!”
This didn't register anything more than a flicker of contempt from Frank.
“It’s somethin’ else, ha? I mean, an alien landing in Ireland of all places?”
Frank’s head moved up and his eyes were looking through the bottom of his eyebrows. “This isn’t some kind of joke JJ, this shit is real.”
“Yeah… I know like. I was just saying”
“Look, never mind. Let’s do this list - who did we say we needed again? Read it back to me.”
“Eh, ok… let me see. We need some military advisors, I’ve been talking to Defence already; Scientific input is needed, I’ve been in contact with Astronomy Ireland and the Science Foundation of Ireland; We need some international advice here, I’ve started some initial inquiries with NASA and also the European Space Agency; we need some kind of tourism angle - Bord Failte I presume will fill this gap and some marketing advisors - I’m not sure if we need one of the big private marketing companies or something like the IDA. This is a sketchy list Frank, we’ve never done this before!”
“Yeah, I know JJ. But look, it’s a good start I suppose. And c’mere don’t forget the big man, the Taoiseach”
“Yep” replied JJ and he trailed off and glided away into the adjoining room.
Frank watched JJ walk out the door and continued to stare in deliberation at nothing in particular. ‘This is my chance to shine’ he thought to himself, ‘I was shafted off to Foreign Affairs when I was persona non grata last year - Foreign fucking Affairs. That’s a sure-fire way to lower your visibility with the public; shaking hands with some dignitaries from countries that voters never heard of’. And especially, he thought, when he was shaking those hands on foreign soil. Often times, the cameras didn’t follow you over there and he doubted whether Irish people would be tuning into the local, bloody, Nicaraguan news. No, this news, this thing that happened or landed in his lap. This, he was sure, would be his chance to lead the way and show his worth not only to the Taoiseach but also to the public.