The palm reader bleeped and the steel door clicked ajar. Mark Alfred Evans MP pulled on the handle with more confidence than he felt. The buzz in the Secure Conference Room was deafening. On sighting their Minister of the Crown, the melee of uniforms and government grandees hushed to a dull roar.
The head man looked up hiding his doubt that this little known politician had an answer – any answer. They were all aware he was less than a week into being Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Defence. More to the point, he wouldn’t have had the job except for a Soho indiscretion by his illustrious predecessor. Barrels and scraping came to mind.
Taking a deep breath, Mark was determined not to let the Queen nor her subjects down. Also with a daughter in a private school and a Georgian house in Chelsea, he needed the money.
“What’s the situation, Air Vice Marshall? He hardly knew there ranks for god’s sake.
They made contact two hours ago – the expected signal was picked up at Jodrell Bank. Thee short pulses followed by three long”
Sounds like SOS thought Evans but felt levity was uncalled for.
“I see, no chance of an error, rogue signal, someone’s microwave?” He regretted the last suggestion the moment he said it.
The Air Force Officer looked at him with utter disdain.
“None whatsoever, the frequency is too high and it was spread spectrum”
“OK” The politician hadn’t a clue what he had been told.
“So what now?”
“The protocol requires your permission to transmit our location”
“You mean whizz past the Sun and we are the third rock on the right?”
“Something like that” This time the officer allowed himself a ghost of a smile.
Evans mind whirred furiously. A degree from the LSE in economics had not prepared him for this. Plus this morning his daughter had been complaining about a sore tummy. His lawyer wife had to get to court to defend some thug who had murdered pensioner. Breakfast therefore had been a tad chaotic; the rest of the morning hadn’t been much better.
Now he had to decide to signal back to an alien civilisation whose space fleet seemed to be on our astronomical doorstep.
He felt the sweat come though his cheap supermarket suit. He must go to a decent tailor on his new salary he thought inconsequentially.
Get a grip!
“Minister, we must have a decision please.”
At that, the Minister’s cell phone rang. Suddenly thirsting to hear his wife’s voice, he answered it. There were aghast looks around the room.
“Mark… Choe’s being violently sick at school.. You’ll have to pick her up.”
Why can’t you Liz?”
The Judge has gone out to consider his verdict… Jake could get life in prison”
“The boy who murdered that old man with a steak knife..”
“Now get into that fancy government car of yours and pick up your daughter..!”
The phone went dead
With a deep sigh, the Air Marshall tried again… slowly.
“What… Minister… do you want us to do?”
“Robert…signal back… they’ll find us anyway. Then phone the Prime Minister and tell her to get on TV and speak to the nation”
With new found confidence in his decision, he turned on his heal.
And aide rushing after him, “Where are you going Minister?”
“To pick up my sick child”
Good call, he thought.