Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Sir Kenneth Greyling’s eyebrows rise as a uniformed youth rushes into the members’ lounge, looks about frantically, then heads his way.
“Michael, I do believe this one’s for you.”
Major Mike Greyling looks up from his apple pie, catches his father’s gaze, and flicks a glance over his shoulder.
He put his fork down.
“Give me strength.”
The Lance Corporal comes to attention and salutes.
“Sir Greyling, excuse me for the intrusion. Major Greyling, Captain Rudd sends his apologies, but you’re needed at Control immediately.”
“At ease. So, you drew the short straw, they all laughed, then Captain Rudd gave you directions to find me, along with that demand. By any chance did he mention something after that? Maybe a colour, possibly a number?”
The Lance Corporal jumps a little.
“Yessir. Sorry sir. Gold Zero, sir.”
Mike’s right eyebrow twitches.
“Excuse me, father. It seems this interruption is warranted.”
Kenneth grins at the pair of them.
“I look forward to lurid headlines tomorrow.”
Mike looks longingly at his unfinished dessert, then accompanies the Lance Corporal from the room at the double.
Kenneth shakes his head, then raises his hand.
“Elliot? I’ll have a neat three fingers of Nolet’s to finish, and page my driver, would you?”

Mike barges into the control room to find it packed.
“Captain Rudd! You auditioning an audience or did I miss a memo?”
Heads turn. Uniformed bystanders pale. People start leaving.
The thickset Captain elbows his way through the thinning throng.
“Didn’t Lance Corporal Letting bring you up to speed?”
“Wound so tight he could barely speak. I dropped him by the path to the barracks and told him to get himself some food before coming back here.”
Rudd shakes his head.
“They’re sending us kids.”
“Focus, Captain.”
“We had a problem with the Ambassador.”
The six-hundred-kilo leader of the Phalastakn delegation. Imposing, yet disgustingly cheerful.
“What happened?”
Rudd mutters something under his breath. Mike snaps his fingers.
“Out with it.”
“A breach.”
Mike leans back against a desk. He looks about.
“Everybody else, out! From the top, Captain, and do keep it concise.”
“Five activists from ‘Alien Lie’, led by Emric Allen himself, managed to get into the compound and confront the delegation. He challenged them to prove they weren’t actors or puppets. There was a heated exchange that culminated in the Ambassador offering to eat Emric to prove he wasn’t any sort of fake. He insinuated that Emric’s brain would emerge intact as it was too dense to digest.”
Mike keeps his smile under control, then the possibilities hit.
“Please tell me Emric didn’t call his bluff?”
Rudd pales.
“Safe to say the surviving activists are now convinced the Phalastakn are real aliens. However, the backlash is mind-boggling. There are government departments I’ve never heard of ringing up, demanding access, answers, you know the drill.”
Mike does. After action comes reaction – from everybody who wasn’t there. Many of whom are incapable of fully understanding the dynamics of the original situation.
“Okay, Captain. I’m presuming the survivors are in a state. Provide first aid, ensure trauma referrals are made, then release them. Detention will only increase speculation. Extend the exclusion zone around the compound to a mile. Declare it a diplomatic enclave – gives us more control. But, before the new plans are broadcast, I want whoever let the activists in found. Get them fired or dishonourably discharged, pronto. No point in making a circus of it.”
Rudd salutes and starts to turn away. Mike snaps his fingers again.
“Nearly forgot. Ask the biologists if Phalastakn can suffer from indigestion, would you?”