every vidscreen, in every home, in every country on the surface
of the planet blacked out. From global networks to local shopping
channels, none were exempt. For five minutes, technicians the
world over struggled to penetrate the transmission block, while
frustrated viewers fiddled with ultra-tran optical connections
and repeatedly made manual / automatic channel searches, before
resorting to a short, sharp thump on the lids of their decoder
the screens flashed back to life, an identical picture appeared.
No matter which channel had been on before, nowhere was the program
as advertised. The content, however, was about to change the lives
of the entire human population.
Mountjoy stared at the camera. The anchorman for GlobalCom News
looked terrified, his face drained of colour, sweat running down
off his forehead and onto the collar of his fresh white shirt.
you possibly introduce me, do you think?" came the polite,
well-spoken male voice, from off-screen.
er... GlobalCom News..." The autocue was still blank, and
nothing could have prepared him for this. His lips continued to
move, but only a succession of rasping sounds escaped.
on, old chap, you can do it. Just say what I told you to say,
glanced worriedly at his hastily scribbled notes. His eyes flickered,
nervously, towards the source of his encouragement. "People
of Earth," he began, having loosened his tie and swallowed
hard, "GlobalCom News has been chosen to broadcast an unprecedented
the way! Carry on."
recovered his composure a little, "...an unprecedented event,
in the history of our planet. A little over an hour ago, the offices
of GlobalCom News were invaded by a"
invaded! Let's say requisitioned, shall we?" came the perky
offices were 'Requisitioned' by a group who call themselves the
R-I-T-A. The purpose of this action has, hitherto, remained a
mystery. However, we understand the RITA have blocked every transmission
on Earth, and replaced it with the live broadcast that you are
currently watching. To quote from the era of classical television:
'Please do not attempt to adjust your sets'."
thank you," Doug replied, uncertainly. "I have here
in the studio with me, the Commander-in-Chief of the RITA: Ladies
and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to Xyton." Camera
three pulled back. In front of the familiar GCN logo, Doug Mountjoy
sat on the left-hand side of the newsdesk. To the right, the owner
of the steady, cultured voice beamed happily at the camera. Xyton
was resplendent in military uniform, an alien design, yet strangely
familiar. The material shone titanium-white, with gold trim and
ruby-coloured epaulets. His dark orange hair stuck out at an odd
angle, from beneath his huge, blue-peaked black cap. Xyton's skin
had a subtle green sheen to it, but apart from that he looked
almost human; albeit a human with an extraordinarily large head.
Beside him hung a ceremonial sword, studio lights glinting off
the silver scabbard, and a golden hilt with gem-encrusted cage
do you do?" Xyton's face now filled the screen. "I would
like to assure you that we mean no harm to your people. However,
as anticipated, we have encountered some resistance. We apologise
in advance for the display you are about to witness, and for the
regrettable demise of a few, very brave individuals, who are currently
attempting to prevent our access to this studio's transmission."
The sound of gun fire could be heard in the background. "Please
refrain from sending any more troops, to what would be their,
almost certain, death. As you will shortly see, such actions would
be entirely futile, indeed, rather unfortunate in the circumstances."
new camera angle appeared, and it took the bewildered humans a
few moments to realise that were looking at an aerial view of
Commander provided a voice-over, "This is a real-time transmission
from one of our ships, which is in an advanced geostationary orbit
above your planet. We have selected this expanse of water, in
order to provide you with a little demonstration." The picture
returned to the studio, as Xyton turned to one of his cohorts
and said, "Please ask our Tactical Weapons Officer to charge
one of the low-power pulse cannons and to await my command."
came the disciplined response, as the picture returned to the
dizzying view of the lake.
see, not only do we have the ability to take control of your global
broadcasting network, and to project a simulcast across the face
of your planet, we also have the power to do this. FIRE!"
Fear gripped every soul watching, as the entire lake evaporated
within seconds. The picture switched back to the studio again.
"What do you think of that then, eh?" said Xyton, proudly.
Doug Mountjoy was staring at his monitor in disbelief, as the
Commander continued, "Pretty good show, I'd say. Even our
ships' most basic weapons are tuned for molecular sensitivity.
If your experts were to investigate the floor of this area, they
would find that absolutely no damage had been done to the underlying
rock structure. As for the water itself, that has formed an immense
cloud over what you call Ohio and Pennsylvania. I'm afraid that
it would rain for days on end, causing terrible storms, flooding
and hardship, wherever it fell. Such would be the impact of suddenly
displacing such a massive quantity of water. However, we have
no intention of causing you any unnecessary harm. FIRE!"
This time the weapon focused on the lake-cloud. With superb control,
the swirling mass of condensing water was directed back down to
Earth andapart from wrecking a few boats and stunning a
variety of wildlifeLake Erie was gently recreated, with
barely a ripple.
cannot do this to us! What right have you to come here? We will
blow you out of the sky!" Doug's outburst caught the Commander
by surprise, and echoed the feelings that erupted in most of the
global audience. Outrage was laced with indignation, but they
were equally fearful of confronting the impotence of their situation.
dear chap," said Xyton, soothingly, "even our most basic
ship outguns your entire planet by a billion to one. We really
don't want to get involved in the ghastly business of conflict,
especially in what would inevitably be such a one-sided affair.
After all, we'd be damaging some prime real estate." He looked
directly into the camera. "We would like you to consider
yourselves as both tenants and operatives on our behalf."
Doug managed to ask, weakly.
dear, dear, how tiresome," said Xyton, as another skirmish
broke out, this time at the edge of the studio itself. The floor
manager was accidentally caught in the crossfire, as the last
of the human troops were effortlessly countered. Doug watched,
uncomfortably, as pieces of his former colleague slid down the
wall to his right.
you idiotic Throogain pack-mule! How many times? Set the pulveriser
on stun, not splatter, you fool!"
sorry, Sir. This human-form H-S-S-S. is extremely difficult to
function in. These finger appendages make fire-arm operation a
bit tricky for me, Sir." He added, sheepishly.
else seems to be managing. Do you want to find yourself scrubbing
out the ship's latrines?" Xyton shouted.
Sir. It won't happen again, Sir."
grief." Xyton turned back to address the GlobalCom News anchorman.
"Now then, where were we ?" A section of human colon
landed on the desk between them. Xyton unsheathed his sword.
no, please, have mercy," Doug pushed himself back into his
Commander's blade flicked the offending offal from the surface
of the desk, and onto the floor. Resheathing his ceremonial sword,
he gave the cowering man a placatory smile. "Don't worry,
old chap. No-one else on your planet need die or suffer. I can
only offer my most profuse apologies for the incompetence of that
imbecile," he gestured towards Jgikloran, who shuffled about
as the tips of his ears went turquoise. "I think it's time
for me to converse with the President of the Earth Senate before
anything else distasteful occurs. Prior to this broadcast we requested
that he should enter the Senate HQ studio room. Do you know if
he might be available for a little chat?"
find out," Doug fiddled with his earpiece and was rewarded
with confirmation from the GCN control booth. "I have the
President for you, Commander Xyton."
Xyton was visibly delighted and leant forward to whisper to Doug,
"Take me to your leader, eh?" He winked at the anchorman
and attempted what he considered to be the appropriate form of
laughter. It fell on stony ground. "Ah, hmmm. No matter."
President's anxious face came up on the screen. Barely an hour
ago he'd been tucked up in bed, slumbering under the effects of
the tranquillisers that his personal physician had given him to
allay the worries and stresses of office, following the collapse
of the talks on global unification. The Earth Senate had only
been in existence for two months. Many of the countries which
it supposedly represented were not so much members, as more on
an unofficial wish list. They could have no way of knowing just
how aware the aliens were of their situation. It would be a bluff
of power-play tactics.
the stimulants surged through his veins, to counteract the tranquillisers,
the newly-elected President of the Earth Senate was as jittery
as any human could be; even back in the days when coffee was still
legal. The Central Senate (the power base of the Earth Senate)
had needed a well-known spokesman, someone that people would recognise,
but overall someone who had no potentially damaging opinions of
their own, someone who could be moulded. There'd been precious
little opportunity for briefing, and Sam Walker was used to having
a script. His earpiece was connected to the entire board of the
Central Senate. Hopefully they would be able to feed him some
of his lines. The world was watching, and what happened next would
President, how marvellous to have this opportunity to discuss
my proposal with you," Xyton grinned.
Commander. May I be assured that you have no further plans for
any more demonstrations?" asked the President.
course, of course. It is my intention to conduct these proceedings
in as genial a manner as possible."
pleased to hear it, but I must tell you that by entering the premises
of GlobalCom News illegally you have violated the law."
right, oh, dear, sorry about that." Xyton was momentarily
caught off-guard, surprised that Earth's representative would
utter such a banal tautology. "Shall we proceed?"
huh. So... what d'you want?"
good, straight to the point, eh? We have given you the name of
our organisation, in a close approximation to its meaning in your
language. RITA stands for the "Radical Intergalactic Travel
agency?" blurted the President, somewhat taken aback.
and this superb planet of yours will make an ideal holiday destination.
It is a jewel in this sector, and has the most extraordinary potential
in the galactic tourism market."
voice whispered into Walker's earpiece, "Keep him talking!"
Cautiously, he replied to Xyton, "I'm sorry, Commander. You've
lost me. Could you explain in more detail, please, so that I can
more better respondulate?"
he could reply, Jgikloran marched up to him. "Sir. An attempt
has been made on our ship!"
attempt? You mean they've actually tried to attack us?" he
asked, incredulously. "Do you know about this?" Xyton
demanded of the President.
voices screamed, unintelligibly, into his earpiece. "Yeah."
he replied, quietly, already aware of the outcome from the display
on his personal strategic monitor.
Walker, I must admit to being more than a little disappointed
in you. Having witnessed our demonstration you must have been
aware of the impossibility of success in any form of retaliation.
I assume that you know what happened?"
do, yes," he tugged the squealing earpiece out and let it
dangle over his shoulder. "You gotta understand, we had to
give our nukular warheads a go." The President watched the
main vidscreen as it changed to a broadcast from Fleet Command
ship. The replay showed the warheads targeting the alien ship,
and their subsequent atomisation by its pulse cannons. The missiles
had barely left the Earth's atmosphere.
Commander-in-Chief of the RITA reappeared on the screen. "So,
what would you do now if you were in my position, Mr Walker?"
Xyton purposely dropped the Presidential title, adding to the
threatening overtone of his question.
well, I can only speak to myself, but I guess that I'd consider
making another demonstration of my invincibility, if I were to
find myself sitting in your current position, just where you are
about now with all options firmly under the table." Sam replied,
trying to conceal the tremor in his voice, painfully aware that
he might have just sentenced hundreds, if not thousands, of his
fellow humans to death, as they clustered around vidscreens in
is a frank and honest reply, Mr. President," said Xyton,
tactfully reinstating formalities, whilst trying to work out what
he'd just said. "I trust that we may now conduct our discussion
in an equally frank and honest manner?" He had the upper
hand and the point had been made. "As for another demonstration..."
he let it hang in the air as the residents of the Earth collectively
held their breath, "...I believe that our neutralisation
of your somewhat puny slings and arrows has achieved that objective.
Would you concur?"
Whatever's in the past is over." Sam Walker visibly slumped,
both from relief and despair. Key members of the Central Senate,
crowded into the HQ studio doorway, could almost hear the global
stock market crashing. Sam spoke up again, "Could I ask just
one thing of you?"
feel free," the Commander had returned to his previously
congenial manner. "Let's see if I can accommodate you,"
he smiled, magnanimously.
I take it, from the previous comment that one of your troops made
earlier, that we ain't seeing you in your true form? He said something
about a human-form H-S-S-S thing?"
Holographic Shell Suit-shield, that is correct, as is your assumption
about our form. Why do you ask?"
we are to enter into productive discourse I think we should know
precisely with whom it is that we are dealing." The Central
Senate looked at each other, aghast. Where had this sudden streak
of candid diplomacy sprung from? "After all, I don't want
you alien guys misunderestimating me!" They relaxed again.
laughed. "I see. I must warn you that many of your species
may find it somewhat distressing to see me in my...how did you
put it? Ah yes, 'True form.' I had not envisaged this situation
occurring at such an early stage of our relationship."
if we're gonna be interfacing with each other."
well. I recommend that if any human watching this broadcast is
of an especially sensitive nature, then they should turn away
for the duration of my revealment."
er... you're green men from outer space?" asked Sam, returning
to more familiar form.
so much green as, lemon yellow." Xyton turned to Jgikloran,
"Wouldn't you say?"
lemon yellow, Sir. Possibly with a hint of gold, if I may be so
laughed again, "Indeed you may, indeed you may." He
turned back to the expectant face on the vidscreen. "We shall
provide you with some music, to put you at your ease. Our research
into your perception of alien encounters has predominantly involved
cinematographic records, and it is from these that we have chosen
a piece of music which we trust will be evocative of the experience
and, hopefully, match your expectations. Its duration will also
serve to indicate the period in which some humans may prefer to
avert their gaze."
sound of Clara Rockmore playing "Valse Sentimentale"
by Tchaikovsky filled the air. Doug Mountjoy found himself with
a knowing smile on his face, despite himself. The President, however,
looked utterly bewildered; a frequently used expression, in his
dragged a wide metallic disc, with upturned edges, on the floor
in front of the newsdesk. Xyton stepped onto it. Jgikloran bent
down, pressed a sequence of panels on the side of the disc, and
then stood back. The Holographic Shell Suit-shield disengaged.
Walker managed to mutter under his breath, "Oh, sweet baby
alien stood three metres tall, four elephantine legs supporting
its ovoid body. Six upper limbs extended and contracted; nightmarish
pseudopodia issuing from slitted pockets in a black, glistening
uniform. Its head resembled a precariously balanced doughnut tossed
onto the top of an egg. Hundreds of rapidly blinking eyes stared
out from the circumference of the gently-rocking toroid. Where
its glowing skin was uncovered, gold swirled with cadmium yellow,
and mustard with lemon, flowing about each other like a fuel spill
on water. As the seduced camera focused in on the beauty of that
display, it revealed a greater horror. Xyton's skin wriggled and
writhed; the alien's flesh crept!
of the eyes in a ninety-degree arc focused on a nearby monitor.
A familiar voice drowned out the music of the theramin, and addressed
the screen. "I have been speaking to you through a vocalator,
situated just below what you would refer to as my head. What you
are seeing on your screens is a symbiotic relationship between
Ikthoovians, our species, and Skolexianssimilar to your
annelids. As a species, we Ikthoovians are unable to control our
body temperature, but Skolexians can absorb extremes of both.
If it is too hot, then they cool our body fluids, and the reverse
if we are in a cold climate. Without them, even the most minimal
variation from our ideal environmental temperature would throw
our systems into cascading hyper- or hypothermia. They are also
omnirobic, which is to say that no matter which combination of
gases I inhale these creatures will absorb them and release the
correct balance of nitrogen, sulphur and hydrogen back into my
body fluids; also compensating for any lack of gases in a given
atmosphere by releasing their own reserves. Handy little fellows,
don't you think?"
human occupants of GlobalCom News studio were transfixed, akin
to a small circle of rabbits caught in a car's headlights. These
nightmarishly alien creatures held their lives in the balance,
and their future in their hands; that they would be their masters
was an inescapable certainty.
a signal from Xyton, Jgikloran leapt forward to reengage the HSSS,
and once the Commander's appearance had reestablished itself into
human form he stepped off the platform. Jgikloran activated another
panel on the side of the disc and it performed a miraculous act
of origami, folding in upon itself repeatedly, until it was small
enough for him to pick it up and pop it into a pocket on the arm
of his combat jacket.
you satisfied, Mr. President?" Xyton asked, as he retook
his seat opposite Doug Mountjoy.
took a moment for Sam to compose himself, before he replied, "I
am. Can you advisorate me on your known intentions and your unknown
ones, as far as we're concerned?" he managed, still feeling
numb from the shock of seeing the real Ikthoovian.
Well now, as I said previously, we operate a travel agency and
your planet has the most superb potential."
have an atmosphere that is really quite agreeable to a wide range
of visitors, as well as having a variety of climates and environments
which can be matched to individual species. Having deserts and
water in substantial quantities is also a tremendous asset, as
these are sought-after features in the off-world leisure industry.
You also have sufficient historical and contemporary culture to
keep your guests amused, as well as a healthy attitude to the
opportunities afforded by commercial enterprise. Naturally, there
will be a few sacrifices along the way"
That's barbaric!" exclaimed the President, visibly shocked.
human sacrifices! Goodness me, what do you take us forunless,
of course, you insist?" The sarcastic tone in his voice and
the sly grin gave him away. "No, no. You will simply have
to forfeit a few conveniences which, quite frankly, you will have
to learn to live without at some point in the future anyway."
President of the Earth Senate had fallen quiet. The GCN anchorman
stepped in, "Commander, I am sure that I will be voicing
the concerns of all of our viewers when I ask. Precisely what
do you mean by that?"
Mr. Mountjoy, how lovely to have you join in with us." Xyton
swivelled to face him, pulled a document from the inside pocket
of his uniform, and unrolled it, before facing the camera. "We
will not accept any action, or activity, which threatens to damage
our investment, either in the immediate or long term future. We
know that, as a species, you are well aware of the fact that many
of your so-called advances are putting a considerable strain on
your delightful biosphere. Within one Earth year no discharge
of pollutants or nonbiodegradable waste products into the air,
seas, rivers or soil will be permitted. Similarly, no acts of
war or violence shall be sanctioned. Any attempt at the modification
or manipulation of the genetic structure of any living organism
is henceforth forbidden. No animal shall be killed for any purpose
other than consumption, and that shall be carried out under strict
guidelines. Special programs will be initiated to maintain rare
species and to help them to flourish, because the greater the
biodiversity, the greater the interest from off-world tourists.
Certain regions of your planet will be out-of-bounds, except for
those directly involved in the tourist service industry. Any reports
of anti-tourist behaviour, from species-specific racism to sabotage,
will be dealt with in a zero-tolerance manner. Anyone found to
be in contravention of these regulations will be transferred to
an off-world penal colony."
impossible," said the President, who had been made to replace
his earpiece while the camera focused on Xyton. "We cannot
agree to the alienization of our world and just stand idly by,
not doing nuthin'."
dear chap, I am not seeking your agreement. I am telling you how
it will be. We have no wish to plunge humans back into their Dark
Ages, merely to protect and nurture our assets. We can show you
a new way forward. Means of transport with zero-harmful emissions,
industry without pollution, consumption without waste and negotiation
without conflict. As managing directors of the E-R-F, we will
bring you benefits that you can hardly begin to imagine."
all sounds too good to be true in principle, but impossible to
realise. We can't manage without planes and cars and trains and
factories. How are we to defend ourselves against rogue dictators
and acts of terrorism? How can there be progress without scientific
research? How can our world survive if the financial infrastructure
collapses?" Sam repeated the words as they came to his ear,
but added something of his own, "What's the E-R-F anyhow?"
think you've missed the point, Mr. President. Fossil fuels not
only damage the atmosphere, but have also kept global power in
the hands of a minority group. You happen to be part of the privileged
few, but it's only a temporary position. Those fuels will, ultimately,
be exhausted, but by then the biospheric damage will have been
catastrophic. An uneven balance of power is a recipe for conflict,
and one that we've encountered many, many times before. Equality
is the key, Sam Walker, and with it comes peace. Most individuals
I've met, of whatever species we have encountered, have wanted
peace. We have found that the elimination of aggressors is always
for the greater good, be that by financial or physical means.
As a species you have extraordinary potential, and we will help
you to achieve it. In one year's time you will be living in paradise.
As for financial considerations, there will be a huge growth in
alien facility servicing contracts and associated freight cargo
management. Within a few years you will be trading directly with
other planets, and many of you will have the opportunity for off-world
leisure experiences of your own. I shall ensure that our new brochure
is made available to all humans at the earliest opportunity."
Xyton smiled reassuringly to camera, before addressing the President
again. "This is going to happen, Sam, and you can be a part
of it. A very important part, in fact." The Commander-in-Chief
of the RITA was about to play his trump card. "The ERF stands
for the Earth Resort Facility, of which the Ikthoovians are self-appointed
managing directors. We would like to offer you, Mr. President,
the position of Chief Human In Management Protocol." Xyton
smiled triumphantly. He'd sized the President up and cut the cloth
Walker had no idea what management protocol was but the chief
human part sounded mighty good. "You mean I'd be in charge
of running the whole planet? Head Honcho?" he asked, excitedly.
would be in charge of the planet, but you, Mr. Presidentor
should I say Chief?would be our top dog, our Earthly representative.
As you put it, Head Honcho, chief of the squad." Xyton waited
to see what would happen. He'd played this game countless times
Central Senate knew that what was on the table would instantly
force the more recalcitrant nations into their dream of global
unification. The Earth Senate would become a reality if Walker
played along. By the way he was bouncing up and down on his chair,
he shouldn't be too difficult to persuade. They whispered into
his earpiece one more time.
life'll be a heck of a lot easier round here with just one person
in charge, and even easier for me if that one person is me in
the first place. I accept, Xyton!" he roared.
You are now, officially, the Chief Human In Management Protocol.
Congratulations. I shall come to visit you later today and we
can begin to work on our plans for a fruitful relationship."
vidscreens around the world returned to their scheduled broadcasts,
although these were soon to be interrupted once more by a frenzy
of news reports and updates.
Chief Human In Management Protocol leant back in his chair with
a smug grin on his face. He ruled the Earth. It was all he'd ever
dreamt of and with the most powerful ally imaginable.
months passed before anyone dared to draw the attention of the
recently appointed Chief Human In Management Protocol, of the
Earth Resort Facility, to the glaring acronym of his title.