I'll find you a padded cell.
Only Griff was not in the mood to hang around explaining, so he doubled in
size, aged noticeably and grew a substantial amount of wiry hair. "Do
you want a demonstration?" The voice was deep, almost disassociated from
the body, an illogical echo reverberating in the man's ears.
The soldier went white. "No sir." Two colleagues, armed marines
had appeared, only the sudden change stopped them in their tracks, they lost
the ability to move, were simply staring at the huge figure.
Griff returned to a more sensible configuration.
"This way sir, God, whatever."
In the main vestibule he met a familiar figure.
"Prince Bach-ael! Where is your spaceship?"
"I'm in god mode, that way I don't need one."
"Ah, that means it is important, I'll take you to the President immediately."
So it wasn't long before Griff was sitting in the Oval Office, a drink in
his hand, trying to appear casual. Not that he could sip it, it just gave
an appearance of normality.
"So, what brings you to Washington?"
"Curiosity I suppose. Have you heard of the Steel Mouse?"
The President shook her head wearily. "Yes, we believe him to be an errant
teenager with a high IQ. The tyke reckons he is an eco warrior." Twisting
her head at an angle she frowned. "Why?"
"You don't want to know yet. What was the last incident down to him?"
"Torching a farm trying to grow GM fruit. I consider him little more
than a vandal, luckily he hasn't injured anyone yet. The brat is elusive,
otherwise he'd end up in juvenile hall. This last incident could have gone
seriously wrong, if smoke alarms hadn't gone off people could have died."
"I thought people had accepted the need for genetic modification?"
"Not everybody, just the smart ones. Why don't I want to know?"
"I'm thinking, trying to work out a temporal angle. Anything else strange?"
The President laughed. "As weird as it gets. Spooky beyond the understanding
of the X-files."
"Maybe a month ago, every single person on Earth spoke at the identical
instant in time, two words. The same two words." There was a pause, probably
for dramatic effect. "Forty two."
"I'm sorry then," Griff sighed, shaking his head.
"I don't think there is anything I can do."
"Griff, you are worrying me."
"There is a chance that if I kill the Steel Mouse quickly enough there
would be a reprieve, but I doubt it."
"Reprieve, that sounds ominous."
Griff instinctively emptied the glass, which caused the President to frown.
Instantly Griff remembered he was ghosting, and drinking was a mistake. It
almost created a wet patch on the chair, Griff managed to hardwall it inside
his vapour form just in time, just so long as he remembered when he dissolved!
"I don't know how to say this, but someone is making waves."
"What do you mean?"
"Do you remember where I said you were standing?"
The President paled. "On a ledge up to our mouths in shit."
"I don't think it is possible for Mankind to hold its breath long enough."
"Griff, just spit it out."
"Have you seen The Mummy', the latest remake?"
"Yes," she said warily.
"Someone has just found a supply of the beetles."
"Enough to carpet the earth once they start breeding."
"They will probably eat every source of meat on the planet, anyone who
can escape them may survive as a vegetarian if they can protect themselves
for every minute of the day and night."
"That isn't funny."
"It's frightening in an extreme. I believe that the damage, the initial
seed has germinated. That was why God breathed on the population."
"I can't remember whether I mentioned it, but when I was struggling over
the thought of my previous assignment, God told me that he gave me a brain
the size of a planet so I could work things out. I asked if that made me Marvin,
and he said that Flash Gordon was little more than a quarterback. That means
that he is familiar with Hitchhiker', and I know his sense of humour
is probably worse than mine, or better, depending on how you look at it."
"You can't stop these beetles?"
"I haven't a clue where they are?"
"So after everything we are on a slow boat to nowhere?"
"It may be free fall to hell. It will depend on whether the timescale
is days, weeks, or months. I'd guess at weeks."
"Less than a year! That is not comforting. How many people can you take
"But nothing, the planet could not support an influx and it would destroy
the population, their whole way of life. There may be another option. I may
just have access to an ark."
"Where would we go?"
"I even know that. Only it would need surveying, to ensure it is viable."
"How soon can you get on it?"
"When I get back, but you need to get the ball rolling here."
"What do you mean?"
"I cannot evacuate the planet, it would take years. We need to be selective.
The Chosen Few in reverse, black bar codes get the reward, off the planet,
so only goody two shoes can get through."
"Honest as the day is long, hard working, good standard of health. Above
all, not a greedy bone in their body."
"Go back a bit."
"You said that there are these deadly beetles around, but you don't know
"I had a premonition, during the night images came to distress me, that
usually mean an impending chore. I saw scientists pull the original beetles
from metal ingots, that could have been anywhere. Later I saw..." Griff
shook his head, the dream images were somewhat illogical, maybe even symbolic.
"What did you see, it can't be worse than what you have revealed already?"
"No. I confronted the Steel Mouse on some sort of chat show and his arrogance
made me extremely angry. You can't touch me I'm immune'. Half the time
he was laughing. I'm the saviour of the World, a hero.' So I grabbed
him by the throat and proceeded to crush his windpipe. Not that it frightened
him. You can't actually harm me, we are on live television'.
At this point things became a little symbolic. No, how about this?'
I released him and grabbed his ankle. You are little more than a rat,
this is the best way to treat vermin'. By then he had somehow shrunk, he seemed
little more than an infant, so I swung him in the air and smashed his head
onto the floor."
"Griff, that's awful."
"It places the problem on your doorstep though."
"You could have asked him where the beetles were."
"By then they were out in the environment. To clarify things I looked
into the future. I saw a lakeside picnic area." Griff sighed. "I
need a drink."
"You've just had one."
Steam came out of his ears. "No, I'm a spirit entity, I forgot."
"I hadn't realised."
"That's because I thought it best to ring the bell."
"Thank you. The picnic area?"
"A child ran into the bushes and was eaten alive by beetle larvae, several
adults were also attacked. I didn't let it run too long I was almost violently
"Oh God! What must you think of us to treat us like this?" The President
was instinctively holding her hands together, just lightly, but still almost
as a prayer.
"Maybe he didn't do anything, just shook his head at Man's insatiable
greed and turned away."
"They came up in ore from fifteen miles underground. That sounds like
an instance of extreme greed to me. I can see us making a fortune, dig
"Just when I thought we had got over the last hurdle," she sighed.
"You obviously don't know where it came from?"
"No, people were in a laboratory, the scenery was nondescript. Anyway
the processing plant doesn't need to be anywhere near the mine. The only locational
tag was the Steel Mouse logo on the end of a bench."
"That doesn't help much, he must have rich parents because we've identified
his stupid trademark in places from California to Maine."
"If there was the slightest chance I could get to him I would put in
a lot of effort. But this is something the planet is going to have to endure.
All I can do is look at the best way to help. As I see it that means lifting
as many good people to a safe haven as possible."
"I'm glad you have acted so promptly."
"I thought I was spending far too much time enjoying myself."
"Oh, incidentally thank you."
"You did it yourself."
"How did you know what I was going to say?"
"I am a god!"
"It may seem worthless now, but I was chuffed to bits. The Nobel Peace
"You earned it, you have been instrumental in calming half the planet."
"Luckily that was how the judges saw it. I doubt they would have been
so enthusiastic if they had realised just how much I had a hand in it."
"I've probably used the analogy before, but you cannot remove a cancer
without killing any cells. Maybe a few healthy ones are inevitable, but the
rot has to go. Anyway, what did you do? Supplied chemist shops with some sealed
packets you were told would remove indelible ink."
"Only I knew what else it would do."
"So, would you repeat the exercise if need be?"
"Perhaps we should have, almost immediately. Then maybe we wouldn't be
in this mess."
"Maybe, but this is about Man's greed. I know you stamped on companies
but someone saw a golden egg and decided to exploit it. Fifteen miles of rock
is a lot of greed."
"I don't know the first thing about mining."
"Neither do I. Only I thought the deepest mines were two or three miles."
"Well they certainly dug into the Underworld if these bugs turn out to
be as bad as you suggest."
"Only I doubt they will realise it, even accept responsibility."
They talked for some time about the criteria and with every sentence it became
obvious that it was in no way simple. Responsible people in stable employment
were not that likely to take off on a whim, leaving everything behind. But
to mention that the end of the world was imminent would create hysteria and
perhaps encourage people to lie to obtain an escape route.
"Bearing in mind there is plenty of time to sort out suitable wording,
how do you want to run this then?"
Plenty of time? Well that was debatable, it would probably take a fair wedge
getting the prospective ark across to help.
"Hard copy adverts in substantial newspapers, not the gutter press. A
significant questionnaire on a web site, the questions must be worded in such
a way that they are unambiguous and if the answer is wrong they are ejected
from the site."
"Do they get a second chance?"
"No, we don't want them to practice, they type in, say a social security
number to get on. That will enable the computer to do a security check. Maybe
it will mean than they can be contacted if they pass but don't fancy quitting
"So, how would you start?"
"Have you ever stolen anything since the age of thirteen."
"Because they may have been cajoled by peer pressure to fall in line.
We can clarify details if necessary. A secondary question, maybe asking if
there was police involvement, more that one occurrence, something like that."
"How will we get around the revelation that they will be going to another
"Maybe we don't initially, not until they are on site. Again, it may
attract flies. A new self contained city would probably be an effective smoke
screen. We could infer that we are introducing the concept of crime free zones.
A garden city where safety can be virtually guaranteed, nobody, not even delivery
drivers will walk the streets unless they have passed scrutiny."
"That might work quite well. A fully functioning unit where the populous
will feel relaxed, it may even tempt people away from their jobs."
"We could also infer that if they give up a responsible position they
will be assured of suitable work once they relocate. Clearly many trades will
be obsolete, but we don't have to say like for like."
"Well, we need to bring in a continual stream of participants. That means
a runway for intercontinental flights away from nosey neighbours. How about
area 51? The actual city can be advertised as in verdant surroundings."
"Once you get over the notion of blue trees, yes. Eventually there will
be more choice, but one step at a time."
"Well that is remote enough. How will we police it?"
"Force field around the installation, that will keep out beetles if we
run past their release date."
"What do we tell the world about that?"
"Nothing just at the moment. When the news breaks we hit hard with as
much information as we can, but avoid the evacuation issue."
"You don't think if we blanketed the media we would alert the smelter,
or the laboratory and prevent their release. Stop the Steel Mouse screwing
life on Earth?"
"No. Two reasons. Primarily I imagine that they are already out there,
even though there has not been a report of the damage to a facility. If we
alert the public to a serious danger then they may link the adverts and wonder
what is going on. I do not want to be overwhelmed with numbers, at least not
dross. I expect that screening applicants will have a ten or twenty percent
drop out rate, I don't want eighty percent or it will take too long. The other
pertinent fact is that the future is not set in stone. When I look I see an
option on it. As I said, this is something you will have to survive. Even
if we stop the Steel Mouse there may be active beetles in the ore. The world
has uttered the fateful words, the clock is ticking."