Frank looked around the room at the assembled stars of officedom and bureaucracy. He was somewhere between hopeful and confident that they would emerge with some strategy, if not by pure osmosis. Five minutes earlier he had received a terse phone call from the Taoiseach; “Make it work” was all he said. Frank didn’t need any more pressure on top of the pressure he was putting on himself.
“Right” he said, “Thank you all for coming. I appreciate this was short notice for many of you, but I think the situation we have on our hands is unprecedented. We have a difficult task ahead of us, we’ll have to break new ground a lot of the time. Frankly, we’ll be making shit up as we go along sometimes. That’s why we have your making-shit-up skills Martina”
Martina Skerries’s thick skin meant that this slided right off her. She was, apparently, a marketing guru. She was in her mid-forties and thin, unnaturally so. The rumour was she’d had plastic surgery, her hair was shoulder length and perfectly straight with a side part, akin to American news anchors.
Martina continued “sometimes we’ll be using tried and tested methods of communications, classic media defence and maximising our opportunities from this, public and private”
Larry Gould butted in “What does maximising our opportunities mean?”
Larry was on the scientific side of the table, an astronomer. He was slightly disheveled and had glasses with rims that seemed to remain unchanged since the mid nineties.
“I’m glad you asked” said Martina. “There is obvious fascination with this incident, not just nationally, but globally. People will want to tune in, to log on, to read and to visit. Ireland has become the centre of the universe. We need to strike while the iron is hot, build a brand, build an association between this event and Ireland. We need to create websites, maybe a 24-hour alien TV channel - call it Alien Watch or Alien Live or something, make alien dolls and alien-related toys. Wait, we could build an interpretive centre! Help people understand where he came from.”
“We don’t know where he came from!” said Frank
“It doesn’t matter, make the shit up if we have to. It can’t be disproved anyway, the Alien isn’t exactly forthcoming.”
Eyes around the room started to roll.
She continued “we could get people to pay to see him, lines of people. The possibilities are endless”
“I hate it when people start with I’m glad you asked” moaned Larry.
“Ok, let’s not get carried away”. Frank was reigning it all back in “Look, thanks Martina, some really emm, inventive ideas there”.
Secretary General Stapleton stepped in: “From a defence and military standpoint - we need to think about the wider situation. We need to secure the Alien’s status here, in this country. We need to show that we can handle this and make sure nobody trumps us and takes him offshore to a bigger facility. We need to prove that he’s safe, that means quickly investing in any security measures that are needed. I don’t want fucking NATO or the UN or the US or whoever feeling that they need to take charge in the interest of humanity. We can deal with it, we’re a fine little nation and this is our chance to show it.”
“Nice speech” Larry felt it was his time to speak, “We have no idea of his capabilities, how do we secure against that? We cannot determine his taxonomy, I mean, it’s humanoid up to a point. I just think that this guy is from somewhere very far away, somewhere where normal evolution does not mean a traditional humanoid form. I’m surprised he’s able to breathe our atmosphere, I couldn’t make out a nose of any sort, not one I’m familiar with.”
After his initial burst of energy Larry became more reticent.
“But I guess it’s a big galaxy and who knows what kind of planets are in this neck of the universal woods, I suppose Doppler spectroscopy can only tell us so much”.
The meeting went on for another two hours and everybody looked after their self-interests, mostly. Frank convened the committee for the evening and they all agreed to come back tomorrow. Frank hoped that they would begin to see the bigger picture and that some sort of cohesive plan would emerge. He didn’t have long, he thought. The people grew impatient.
Lieutenant Murphy and his people had transported the ship back to the warehouse. It was strapped on to a flat-bed truck, one of those very wide ones for moving cranes and large mining equipment. Motorbikes escorted the truck front and back and people came out to their front gates to watch this curiosity pass by. Once in the warehouse, they had scanned the ship with all the latest technology they could get their hands on. They used magnetometry, radar, tomography and laser scanners but none could give them an idea of what was contained within the ship. The outer metal was of a yet unidentified substance. They hadn’t managed to open the door either.
All attempts to communicate with the Alien resulted in a blank non-answer. He always sat or stood when directed but nothing useful could be discerned though normal communication methods. Whenever they ran out of ideas they lead the alien back to it’s holding cell, which was a cage in the middle of the room. The alien showed no outward irritation at this incarceration. This gave the men space to rethink and regurgitate their strategies.
“Have you tried some torture at all?” said one of the officers.
“Yera, yeah” replied Lieutenant Murphy, “A bit of torture, then break for lunch, then another spot of torture.”
His looked turned dark, “Who do you think we are? The philistines? Anyway, I wouldn’t know where to start. I mean, where are his weak spots? Does he even feel pain?”
The soldiers returned to their silent state.
“No, we are stuck with him - and he with us. All we have to look forward to is some kind of proxy Stockholm syndrome. Where we do all the talking”
Back in Dublin, after yet another session with mediocre progress, Martina and Stapleton were talking in a side corridor.
“We have to make Ireland look good, look like we belong at the top table” hushed Stapleton.
Martina was in agreement, “this is exactly why I’m here sir. We gotta work together on this. If you can see your way to making sure we have an adequate budget, we can sell this whichever way you want. But, you have to let me craft the wording, I’ll need tight control.”
The idea of letting a marketeer fashion his responses to the press gave him pause for thought. “Yeah, I suppose. I get your point, let me brew on this and we can work something out”
“Don’t take too long”, she warned, “I can’t make everyone look equally good”.
Larry was trying to catch up with him before he disappeared into his office.
“We’ll resume after lunch, Larry. Can you give me just 20 minutes here?”
“Look Frank” Larry impeached as he swivelled his head for witnesses. “You gotta make sure that this is done right. We only get one chance here. We need to put the money into a team who can put the time in, do the research. We need to make sure we squeeze the most scientific data possible out of this, no matter how long it takes. Don’t feel as if we have to show our hand too early, this is a scientific matter, primarily.
Frank sighed, “I don’t have those luxuries Larry. There are other interests involved”
Larry rebuked, “Interests created by a modern, greedy, human society. Hands fumbling in the tills, sullying this grand moment. We’ve got an inferiority complex, we’re putting ourselves under pressure, when no pressure exists! If this were Sweden or Norway they would have a high minded approach to this, no messing”.
“Look” Frank’s palm was raised in a reassuring manner. “I get it, I’m on your side. Really, I am. But my job is to bring all the strands together.”
“Strands! What bloody strands? There is only one strand. The massive, elephant in the room, opportunity which stares us in the face”
Frank was tired and only had nods of appeasement for him as he backed into his office. A cup of tea was in order. He needed to bring this all together, he knew. The Taoiseach had entrusted him with this project and it was his way back in. Back into the fold, back into the Taoiseach’s trust.