by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith
The photographers were finished, the speech defending the wiretaps was over, and now the newsmen were being ushered out of the room. The President was finished with his prepared remarks and was getting bored, so he started turning knobs and pushing random buttons.
Over the speakers came the sound of a toilet being flushed and then a shower curtain being opened and then water turned on and the temperature being adjusted. One of the technicians brushed past the president and switched the equipment from: LISTEN - REAL TIME to RECORD - USE LATER.
If the speakers had been given another minute, the room would have been awkward audience to Senator Hillary Clinton singing in the shower. The first song would have been “Proud Mary,” which contained some passages she didn’t have completely memorized, followed by, “Hail to the Chief,” which she knew in its entirety, down to the last stanza.
A technician said, “Please don’t touch things, Mr. President.”
“I’ve got a mandate. Elected twice.”
“Yes, but when it’s all said and done, you’re gonna want plausible deniability in here, and you won’t get that if your hands have been all over the equipment.”
The president smirked.
A door opened and in came a tall scientist wearing a white lab coat over some rather casual clothing. “If you have a few minutes, Mr. President, I’d like to show you something.”
The president followed the scientist. They entered the open door and went down a long flight of stairs. The room at the bottom of the stairs was bigger than the room above. It had more equipment and better carpeting.
“Please have a seat.”
The president sat and faced a TV screen.
“Could I ask what your security clearance is, Mr. President?”
“I can see anything I want, if I talk to Carl Rove before forming any opinions.”
“I see,” said the scientist. “Mr. President we’ve made a strange discovery. While we were listening in on those innocent conversations we’ve been monitoring, we’ve discovered a stream of television images that originate from deep space. We were aiming at a communications satellite and found something else.”
“Could it be cable?”
“No, Mr. President, it’s not cable.”
“How do you know they were meant for us?”
“That’s just it, they weren’t meant for us.”
“If they weren’t meant for us, should we be listening?”
The scientist just stared at the president to see if he was supposed to laugh. “I’d like you to look at some of the images we found.” He pushed a button on a remote.
The TV began glowing. There were creatures on the screen. Sentient creatures. They looked just like someone had given instructions to a group of three-year olds: “Make volcano creatures with fat legs and pointy heads.” and this was their idea of pointy-headed, fat-legged volcano creatures.
“These are ElboFites, from the planet Elbo.” said the scientist; “we get that name from their very own lips.”
“I don’t see any lips.”
The man in the lab coat touched the screen. “Here they are.” The president winced.
“It seems they are much like us. They eat. They drink. They have bloating and gas. They use toothpaste, deodorant and denture adhesive. They don’t appear to have invented cars yet, but they have animals like horses, which they have bred to enormous sizes. Everyone rides around on nine-passenger horses, which are four stories tall and big as a dinosaur. It appears these creatures spend a great deal of their resources feeding and caring for these huge animals. So, they haven’t invented cars.
“But they have invented television, and that’s what we’ve intercepted. They have 100 channels, but very little of it seems interesting. Here we have what appears to be either a sports channel or adult entertainment. At first it looks like this couple is playing tennis, but if you look close you can see that little feathery thing they are hitting back and forth over the net is actually an appendage of the male. At least we assume that’s the male.”
“I met Andre Aggasie once.”
“Yes, Mr. President.”
The president pointed at the TV screen. “I don’t hear any sounds,” he said.
“We can certainly let you listen in if you want. However this is from an alien civilization; it’s in a different language, in fact, a couple of different languages. But — if you pay attention — down at the bottom of the screen we have translations available. Let’s watch the following message and see what we can surmise.”
The TV screen went dark and then from out of nowhere came two of the big dinosaurs crashing into each other. It was pretty obvious one of the aliens was dead from the crash. Another creature, apparently a lawyer, was standing by a casket and he spoke in a somber tone.
“Tired of driving the big rigs for great pay while your child suffers from cerebral palsy — which may or may not have been the hospital’s fault? Then maybe it’s time for you to put medical billing and coding to work for you as you study to become a veterinary assistant hair styling professional stuffing envelopes in your spare time to earn extra income to hire Coffkin and Timsly, and get that workers’ comp settlement we’ve already had pre-approved for you here at the scooter store.”
“I’m not sure why you’re showing me this.”
“Mr. President, it’s because we need more funding.”
“To keep monitoring the phone calls here on Earth, and also to monitor these broadcasts from space. And it costs money to keep this kind of work secret.”
“Why do we want to watch all this stuff?”
“I thought you’d ask me that.” The man in the lab coat turned the alien television to a different channel. This was clearly their Sci-Fi channel. There were rockets and space suits and ray guns. “Watch this,” he said.
It was a red star with many planets circling about. Some of the planets were elongated and some were flattened but they were all definitely planets. All at once the third planet out from the red star exploded.
The president jumped up. “Oh my God, they destroyed Al-Da-Ran.”
“It wasn’t Al-Da-Ran.”
“Al-Da-Ran has no weapons. It’s not the rebel base.”
“That wasn’t Al-Da-Ran.”
“It wasn’t a planet known to us. It’s probably just a special effect in one of their movies. But it was the third planet. I think it would be safe to see this as some kind of a veiled threat.”
“Any connection with Osama?”
“How much funding are we talking about?”
“Ten billion to start. But that will increase.”
“Well as we listen to these aliens the suspicions will grow. That’s what listening in does. It makes you suspect things. Like here at home. It all starts off slowly. You have a phone call from the Middle East, say an innocent call from Akmed to his brother Kerkalva, and in the conversation Akmed says, ‘Take your shirts to that cleaner on Melrose, they’re having a sale. I saw it on the Internet’.
“But there isn’t a cleaners on Melrose, but there is one on Parker, and it used to be on Melrose. The next thing you know, we’re listening to people calling in and complaining about pleated skirts that weren’t ironed tight.
“And then the cleaners on Melrose calls a Chinese restaurant and wants to have an extra egg roll delivered to General Tso, and we seem to recognize the name. He’s probably working with the North Koreans!
“So we start following the guy who sweeps up the Chinese restaurant at night. By the end of the year the Caucasian people who work at the NSA are beginning to keep tabs on the Asian people who work at the NSA. And, it’s going to be even worse with the target being an alien culture like those ElboFites. They’re not like the Muslims, whom we can easily understand.”
* * *
Cape Kennedy: Six weeks later
The loudspeakers are counting down: “four... three... two... one...”
A rocket roars off the launch pad.
A general is shaking the President’s hand.
“Good job, General,” says the President.
“Thank you Mr. President,” says the General.
“But, what if it fails?”
“Then presently others will follow.”
“Have we heard from the Ewoks?”
“Yes sir, Mr. President. For a share of the funding, they are willing to interrogate any ElboFites that fall into our hands. I think it’s only a matter of time before Osama falls in our lap.”
“That’s okay, Mr. President... just leave things to me.”
Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith