Alby Stone: The Discovery

Copyright © 2017 Alby Stone

‘Of course, you understand the need for secrecy.’ Ted MacBride stared at the document once again, wishing the conference table would open up and swallow it – that he would wake up from this bad dream and find it was a Sunday and he could look forward to a nice, relaxing round of golf. ‘There’s no way the public can know this. The first major lunar mission for more than sixty years, a symbol of restored international harmony after the horrors of twenty years ago, and it’s a total fuck-up. Billions of dollars and this is what we get? The American people will go crazy.’

‘We are all in the same boat,’ said Fangzhou. ‘The People’s Republic of China has also invested heavily in this project.’ He swept a hand through the air, describing a circle that took in everyone present. ‘As have the governments of Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, the European Union and Russia. None of us want this. No one could have predicted what was found. But we must try to be positive.’

‘Agreed,’ said Kawasaki, the Japanese representative. He nodded toward Malinov, his Russian counterpart. ‘I believe Nikolai has a suggestion that may be helpful.’

The craggy Russian stood, groaning under his breath and yearning for a glass or two of vodka. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the International Lunar Survey Expedition has, from most of our points of view, been a disaster. The expected minerals and metallic ores do not exist. So from that perspective, our nations’ investments have been wasted. But all is not lost.’

‘Not lost? Are you fucking joking?’ Amy Holloway, the Australian, shook her head incredulously. ‘As Ted said, billions of US dollars and roughly the same from every government represented here. It’s a fucking catastrophe.’

‘Perhaps not,’ said Malinov. ‘ Let us review the findings. The Survey Team excavated at six points on the moon’s surface – north and south poles and four equidistant points on the lunar equator, as planned. They followed this with sixteen further excavations at sites roughly equidistant from the first set of tests. After consultation with Mission Control in Almaty, Houston and Beijing, another ten excavations were undertaken at sites selected at random. The results were consistent and conclusive. All previous lunar surveys, from earth or space, have been mistaken. The new survey conclusively shows the surface of the moon was originally an even layer of regolith, loose dust and rock about three metres deep, covering a non-lithic core. The visible features we see now – craters, so-called mountains, ridges and so on – are the result of displacement of that surface layer caused by meteor impacts over thousands of years. What we found beneath the regolith was wholly unexpected – something that has never shown up in any scientific study, though somehow it does seem to have been enshrined in terrestrial folklore.’

‘But how is that possible?’ Sondrine Menard, the EU representative, was practically tearing her immaculately coiffed brown hair out by the roots. ‘We have used radar, infrared and laser scanning, mass spectroscopy, all the tools of modern technology. And they all show the moon to be a solid mass of rock. They cannot have been fooled. It is impossible.’

‘Evidently, it is possible,’ said the Indian representative, who insisted upon being called Mrs Patel. ‘Instruments may lie but excavation does not. What we need to worry about is not that it happened – or what was being concealed – but how and why.’

‘We don’t know why, but we do know how it has gone undetected for so long,’ said Malinov. ‘The team drilled furher beneath the surface and found evidence of a transmitter, a device possibly thousands of years more advanced than anything we have. Somehow, it intercepts any beams or waves attempting to scan the moon and sends a fake return signal. It’s an automated defence mechanism, presumably placed there by an advanced non-human civilisation.’

‘What?’ Kawasaki was stunned. ‘Aliens? Why am I hearing this only now?’

Malinov and MacBride exchanged uneasy glances with Fangzhou. ‘The Presidents of Russia, China and the United States thought best to keep it under wraps. Temporarily.’

‘Permanently, you mean,’ said Holloway, folding her arms and wrinkling her nose in disgust. ‘You are only telling us now because you need our help in putting a positive spin on this fucking fiasco. What else have you bastards strong-armed the survey team into keeping it from us? Is that why they are still being held incommunicado in Houston?’

‘They’ve been able to talk to their families,’ said MacBride.

‘But they haven’t been allowed to discuss the mission,’ said Mrs Patel. ‘And there’s always a security officer present.’

‘Look, we don’t want mass panic,’ said MacBride. ‘You know what would happen if people found out aliens had visited thousands, maybe millions of years ago. Rioting, looting, lawlessness. All the world’s religions would be in serious trouble. Everyone would assume all that Roswell and Area 51 bullshit was true and they’d no longer trust our governments. We can’t admit the problem until we have a solution.’

‘A solution to what, exactly?’ asked Menard.

‘We need a way to exploit what the survey found,’ said Malinov. ‘If handled properly, this discovery could change the world for the better. We’ve all seen the same data, but I don’t think we’re not all reading it the same way. There’s a fantastic opportunity here. Just think about it. We could eliminate global suffering virtually overnight. We are open to ideas.’ 

‘Bring in the English,’ said Holloway.

Silence fell. Eye contact was avoided. The only sounds were those of shuffled papers and shifting bottoms. ‘Impossible,’ said Menard eventually. ‘Since it left the European Union, England has been…’ She searched for the right words.

‘Unstable, unpleasant and ungovernable,’ Holloway said. ‘Human rights abuses, crime rate through the roof, widespread racism and homophobia, administrative corruption, no investment, unemployment on a previously unimaginable scale, a dying economy. The whole country’s been sucked dry and asset-stripped by the very people who bankrolled the campaign to leave the EU. The English haven’t got a pot to piss in. And while they were cutting off their nose to spite their face, they also left the European Space Agency. No money and no involvement. But from what I’ve read today, they’ve got the know-how we need.’

Menard bristled. ‘The ESA also has the “know-how”, as you put it. In France we have experts who could resolve this.’

‘From what I’ve read today,’ Holloway repeated slowly, ‘only the English can provide the specialised expertise we need.’

‘They won’t go for it,’ said Mrs Patel. ‘It would wipe out their economy.’

‘Their economy is already wiped out,’ said Kawasaki. ‘Since the European finance centre switched to Frankfurt and international investors pulled out, even their service industries have collapsed. With Northern Ireland joining the Republic, and Scotland gaining independence and de facto control of North Sea oil, they have nothing the rest of the world wants, except cheap sex for sleazy tourists and the chance of a selfie at Stonehenge or outside Buckingham Palace. All the rich people have left for good except the Royal Family and the politicians, and they spend most of their time out of the country anyway. We know from the last UNICEF report that the only children not living in abject poverty are the ones selling themselves in the sex trade. Malnutrition is rife, and so are diseases associated with it. I never thought I’d say this, but in the year 2037 England is as bad as North Korea was before the revolution thirteen years ago. They may be impoverished international pariahs but we need them. If necessary we can fund the follow-up mission between us. Look upon it as an investment.’

‘I still don’t understand, said Park, the South Korean. ‘How can the English help?’

‘They can help,’ said Holloway, ‘because there is one man in the United Kingdom of England and Wales with an intimate knowledge of what was found beneath the lunar surface. One man who knows how to exploit it. One man who can save his people, and solve the world’s most pressing problem. And help us keep our jobs, of course.’

MacBride shrugged. ‘Okay, as long as our governments agree.’

‘We have no choice,’ said Holloway.

‘I agree,’ said Mrs Patel. ‘And if the governments of the United States, China and Russia are unwilling to do so, then the Indian government will make sure the world knows what is going on. As, I believe, will the governments of Japan, South Korea and Australia. Madame Menard?’

The Frenchwoman gave a traditional Gallic shrug. ‘I still think this is a matter best handled by the European Union, and specifically France, but I will abide by the majority decision. Reluctantly.’

‘Okay,’ said MacBride with a relieved sigh. ‘Let’s do it.’

*

The unusually large landing module touched down. After a while, the airlock door opened and a spacesuited man emerged clutching a spade, which he used to gauge the consistency of the regolith. The man gazed excitedly at the grey moonscape. Then he turned to the landing module and gave a thumbs-up. A few minutes later, a platform descended from the belly of the craft and when that met the ground a diminutive figure drove a small caterpillar-tracked vehicle from it to where the man stood. The smaller figure operated the digging mechanism, rolling his eyes occasionally as the standing man inexpertly supervised the excavation. After a while, the man held up a hand and the digger was moved back. He carefully studied the substance they had exposed, and nodded thoughtfully.

The man took a spoon from a pouch on his suit and gouged out a small sample, which he placed in a complicated airlock on his helmet’s faceplate. A tiny conveyor belt extended inward from the airlock and delivered the sample to his waiting mouth. He bit and chewed thoughtfully, then smiled delightedly and turned to his companion.

‘They were right – it is Wensleydale! Nicely matured, too. Now let’s get the ship loaded. Job well done, lad.’

Alby Stone: The Day the Earth Still Stood

Copyright © 2018 Alby Stone

Interior – the Oval Office of the White House. POTUS has his feet on desk and is ‘reading’ the latest issue of Playboy. An aide enters.

AIDE [urgently]: ‘Mr President, the aliens are invading!’

PRESIDENT[reluctantly removing his feet from the desk and his gaze from the centrefold]: ‘Whoa there! Whoa, I say! We talking about wetbacks, boy?’

AIDE: ‘Not the Mexicans this time, sir. These are real aliens, from outer space.’

PRESIDENT [slams fist on desk]: ‘Hot damn. Have the little green bastards landed in this once-again Great Nation yet?’

AIDE: ‘Not yet but they’re on their way. Shall I tell the hospitals to be prepared for mass casualties?’

PRESIDENT: ‘Only for the ones that got insurance, boy. Hey, are you sure about this? What does NASA say?’

AIDE: ‘Er – there’s nobody left at NASA, sir. They couldn’t afford hardware and staff after you cut their funding. I did call them but the janitor was on his break.’

PRESIDENT: ‘Fire the disrespectful asshole. He had it coming. So how come we know about this alien invasion?’

AIDE: ‘Routine interrogation of a suspected Muslim, sir.’

PRESIDENT: ‘Hey, I thought I’d thrown all those bastards out of this once-again Great Nation?’

AIDE: ‘You did, sir. But you didn’t rescind the executive order quotas for tort…  – I mean, enhanced interrogation of suspected Muslims. And others. The CIA has been rounding up anyone with a beard, just to make up the numbers for those reports you never read. There’s only ZZ Top and Ted Nugent left.’

PRESIDENT: ‘I always said the CIA are our greatest weapon in the war on terror. Those boys are keen, I’ll give them that.’

AIDE: ‘Erring on the side of caution, as you told the British Prime Minister.’

PRESIDENT [sighing]: ‘Was that ever a disappointment. When they told me Mrs May was gonna be paying me a visit, I thought they meant Brook Power. Instead I get an old broad who looked like she’d just won a lemon-sucking contest. And why the fuck was she wearing a Guantanamo Bay jumpsuit? I’ll never understand women. Or the Brits. Anyway, what did this terrorist guy say about the aliens?’

AIDE: ‘It only took a few sessions of waterboarding to make him spill the beans, Mr President. He told us all we need to know. The aliens are gonna land on the White House lawn with a big silver robot. Seems they sent spies here years ago to check us out, a little fat guy with a long neck and a bunch of others up at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.’

PRESIDENT [slams fist on desk]: ‘Devil’s Tower? Shit, they must be Satanist aliens. That silver robot sounds pretty cool, though. What else did he say?’

AIDE: ‘He told us everything, sir. Sang like Dolly at the Grand Ol’ Opry. Thanks to him we now know there’s going to be a robot rebellion and a plague of zombies, and a big war in some place called Westeros. I think that’s near Switzerland. He also told us where Elvis is hiding out.’

PRESIDENT: ‘You see? I always said torture works. Say, I got an idea. I’m gonna build a wall around our Great Planet. And I’m gonna make the aliens pay for it, one hundred per cent.’

AIDE: ‘Might be a problem there, Mr President. Since you cut funding to all government agencies and deported all the foreign workers, the construction industry has collapsed.’

PRESIDENT: ‘What about good old American know-how?’

AIDE: ‘You fired all the scientists because they disputed your alternative facts about alleged global warming and – well, pretty much everything.’

PRESIDENT [slams fist on desk]: ‘Those assholes had it coming. Damn. If the American people get wind of this there will be mass panic. My popularity rating might even go down. We’d better have a news blackout.’

AIDE: ‘No problem there, sir. Since you closed down most of the lying fake news agencies and pissed off Rightfart there’s only Fuchs left. And right now they’re busy covering the Clinton trial.’

PRESIDENT: ‘Is the Pentagon on standby?’

AIDE: ‘Mr President, the Pentagon is always on standby. But the military is thin on the ground since you cut the defence budget to pay for the total abolition of federal taxes and the alterations to Mount Rushmore.’

PRESIDENT: ‘One gold-plated Dump has got to be better than four outdated chumps. Well, I’m sure the NRA will step up to the plate. What about the nukes?’

AIDE: ‘Still aimed at North Korea, China and Mexico City, as per your instructions. We can’t change that because the new eyes-only target codes were in that last security report.’

PRESIDENT: ‘You mean…?’

AIDE: ‘Yes, sir. The one you wiped your butt with.’

President [slams fist on desk]: ‘Screw those CIA assholes! They shoulda warned me!’

AIDE: ‘They did try, Mr President. You fired the Director because he disagreed with the alternative facts, remember? And the one after him. And the one after…’

PRESIDENT: ‘The assholes had it coming. And only an asshole would believe fake news over alternative facts.’

AIDE: ‘Of course, sir. But the codes were the next item on the agenda.’

PRESIDENT: ‘Agenda? There was an agenda?’

AIDE: ‘You wiped your butt with that too, sir.’

PRESIDENT [slams fist on desk]: ‘Fuck it, I’m gonna fire the nukes anyway. That’ll make those Satanist alien wetbacks sit up and take notice. I’ll show those tentacled liberal fuckers I mean business. Who cares about a few dead commies and a bunch of radioactive Mexicans? The assholes had it coming. Nobody dumps on Dump. And we’ll be just fine in the bunker. Okay, now tell me. When’s the comeback concert?’

AIDE: ‘Sir? Comeback?’

PRESIDENT: ‘Elvis, of course. I want a front table.’

AIDE: ‘I’ll get right on to it. But sir, what about the response?’

PRESIDENT: ‘Response? What response?’

AIDE: ‘Nuclear response from China, sir. If we nuke ‘em, they won’t just let it go.’

PRESIDENT [slams fist on desk]: ‘I don’t give a flying fuck what the Chinese think. The only opinions I value are those of the people of this once-again Great Nation.’

AIDE: ‘Er, that’s because you’ve deported, executed or jailed anyone who doesn’t agree with you. Rightly so, of course.’

PRESIDENT: ‘The assholes had it coming. Damn. There’s only one thing for it. We have to go to Retcon 1.’

AIDE: ‘Um – don’t you mean Defcon 1?’

PRESIDENT: ‘I know what I mean. We need some backdated alternative facts, pronto. And the backdated alternative facts are that the feminazis, commies, liberals, Obama, Hillary Clinton, Muslims and Mexicans are responsible for this alien invasion shit storm and the coming nuclear catastrophe. Call the Pooch. This is his territory.’

AIDE: ‘Uh, you fired the Pooch, sir.’

PRESIDENT: ‘I did? Well, I guess the asshole must have had it coming. Right, get somebody else onto it. See if that guy from The West Wing is available. Meanwhile, I’ll go on Twitter and tell the people of our once-again Great Nation the reason the aliens are coming is the deal Obama made with that Australian motherfucker, and we can work up a story about the aliens being responsible for the Burning Man massacre.’

AIDE [shocked]: ‘There’s been a massacre at Burning Man?’

PRESIDENT: ‘Watch this space, son. The assholes had it coming. Rich people should play golf and make deals, not dick around in the desert like a bunch of fucking hippies. Okay, problem solved. Now what I was I doing?’

AIDE: ‘You were looking at the Playboy centrefold, sir.’

PRESIDENT: ‘Bullshit. I was reading the features. Hey, can you get me a coffee and a cheeseburger? And while you’re out, head down to the National Archives and bring me the Constitution.’

AIDE: ‘The Constitution? The original?’

PRESIDENT: ‘Yeah. I need a crap and I’ve run out of reports.’