by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents
Chapter 6, part 1
appear in this issue.
Chapter 6: Copenhagen, Denmark
part 2 of 2
Lucia had meanwhile stationed her unseen self, well before midday, in front of the CKGS building on Solvgade.
The Domans did not wish, if it could be avoided, to make a cold call on the cool Ms Holden inside her office building. That would be far too complicated and risky. But they had to wait nearly two hours before they struck lucky.
Marie-Anne suddenly emerged into the newly-restored spring sunshine, strode off into the nearby Botanical Gardens, and sat down to eat her late lunch on a bench beneath a large and spreading plane tree. And Plan B was set in motion.
A few minutes later, a tall, blond and classically-handsome young Dane marched straight up to her with remarkable self-confidence, a merrily-whistling smile on his face and a large and colourful bouquet in his arms.
‘Frøken, I was walking just now on the other side of this lawn, and I saw you sit down, and I simply had to go and buy you some flowers. You are absolutely gorgeous. I hope you will accept them, please, with my deepest admiration!’
Marie-Anne was, to put it mildly, quite shocked by the sound of her favourite song and the look of this very handsome boy. ‘Oh no, sir, I couldn’t possibly ...’
‘But I insist! And by the way, my name is Fritz.’
‘I don’t know what to say, Fritz.’
‘Say nothing, sweet angel. And I promise not to disturb you any longer. Except — may I perhaps ask the most beautiful woman in Copenhagen for just one little kiss? It would make me a very happy man ...’
‘I really don’t think ...’
‘OK — look, I’ll ask you for two kisses, and then you can say “No” to the second one ... all right?’
‘Oh, Fritz, you’re absolutely crazy! ... No, we mustn’t ... No, really ...’
Marie-Anne’s ideal man could never have managed to kiss her for real. But he had now wormed his way into close enough proximity to the weakly-protesting and hugely-flattered young woman. He dropped the non-existent flowers, took her head in his virtual hands, and transported her to another plane entirely ...
Goddag, Marie-Anne. May I introduce myself? I am known formally as the Chief Surveyor, but you may call me “Chief”. And as you will see, we share many common professional interests.
‘But where is Fritz?’
I am not your Fritz, I regret. I am very different from him! But that is immaterial. Please now forget all about him. Allow me instead to understand you a little better, Ms Holden ...
The Transferral Sphere was enabled, at a fairly shallow level. The Mater hoped this would be a fleeting and limited engagement.
Ah, I observe that you studied a wide range of subjects during your time at the Geological Institute, Marie-Anne. Hydrogeology, climate research, hydrocarbon research, geophysics and geochemistry. And the mysteries of the Earth’s deep interior, and its magmatic processes, and the formation of minerals. Most impressive — and you emerged with a fine Master’s degree to demonstrate your prowess!
And of course you took advantage of the opportunity to complement your work here with a short field study programme at the University of Venice ...
‘How strange! I don’t quite know what’s happening here, Chief, but that’s the second time in a few hours that I’ve been reminded of my time in Venice!’
On board the Mater, the Chief kicked herself hard. She really would need to get smarter at this engagement business. Seated hard at work alongside her, Lucia the Handler nodded ruefully in unspoken agreement.
Ah ... I should actually like you to forget all about Venice, Marie-Anne. Instead, please tell us a little about Carlensen-Klaus Geological Services.
‘I can certainly do exactly that — I am their Public Relations Officer! So ... as it says in our attractive little information brochure, CKGS conducts expert analyses of geological samples for small Scandinavian exploration companies. We provide initial recommendations on the potential for economically viable refining of whatever useful minerals and elements we identify in those samples.’
Yes ... and ...?
‘Well, that’s all I can tell you. That’s our approved public mission statement.’
Yes, yes, Marie-Anne, but we wish to know much more than this. I am well aware that you are far better informed.
‘Ah, Chief, I’m afraid most of our work is highly confidential, to protect our clients’ commercial opportunities if and when we make any promising findings.’
Oh dear, Marie-Anne. I was hoping we were not going to have to extract this information from you as laboriously as you appear to extract the elements from your clients’ samples. But we shall clearly need to do so ...
The Chief adjusted the Mater’s Transferral Sphere controls from mild to medium strength, and also enabled a full Truth Delta Analysis of all that would now be revealed by their well-placed subject.
Marie-Anne’s tongue at once loosened significantly.
‘Well,’ she said, ‘the principal activities of CKGS actually take place very much in the background.
‘The full international minerals analysis service we provide is known in the trade as “off-shore advice”. It allows exploration companies all over the world to avoid conducting such studies within the country of discovery. There are lots of regulations controlling that, you know ...
‘The official vehicle for the receipt and return of the samples sent to us is a small, retail import-export business for mineral collectors. It’s not even located here in Copenhagen.’
As she spoke, the well-heeled young woman was steadily but unconsciously revealing to those on the Mater that her own TDA profile tended strongly towards Inversions.
They could already see that there were significant differences, within the various CKGS documents which she herself had authored and maintained, between what she stated to be true, and what would have been closer to the whole truth. And it seemed her sense of guilt about all of this was quite mild, because it was typically the case that certain data or information was just “missing”, rather than having been explicitly invented, or understated, or overstated.
And she was allowing these untruths to permeate her work, not for any direct personal gain, but because of the straightforward pressures of her Company’s unwritten rules.
The Mater understood well enough the power of gentle blackmail. That device had already been a key ingredient in many of its own engagement strategies.
That is much better, my dear. Please continue ...
‘Hmm ... well, Chief, I do know there’s a lot of “incompleteness” in the information we release. Not just in the documents published by our specialists here, but in many other places — computer databases and so on.
‘I know all this because the company has agreements with many of our clients — small consultancies and exploration firms from all over the world, not just in Scandinavia as we suggest in our brochure — which allow us full, direct read-write access to those clients’ own internal databases, on an absolutely “guaranteed confidential” basis.
‘And the very high fees which we charge for this most confidential work are always partly hidden within those we bill the clients for more “open” broad research and information services, and partly paid for quite separately in cash and kind.
‘Now, you seem to be hinting that you’re particularly interested in three specific elements: Rhodium, Silicon and Lutetium.’
Quite correct, Marie-Anne.
‘Well yes, there certainly have been projects at CKGS involving two of those, and I think it’s fair to say there are various omissions of information in most of the associated published documents.
‘But look — none of us here wishes to make a fuss about this, and end up as the one whose career is sacrificed to encourage the others! I certainly don’t want it to be me ...’
Please do not worry yourself unduly, Ms Holden. This is a more private conversation than you can ever imagine. We are, after all, not newspaper journalists.
You will now kindly focus all your attention on the subject of lutetium.
We wish specifically to know if there are, on Earth, any mineral ores, for which we might for the moment use the label “Gerontite”, which contain this particular element in significant and easily extracted quantities ...
‘I see. Well, several years ago, a tiny deposit of a previously unknown mineral sub-type, matching that profile exactly, was discovered in the USA.
‘Now, this was something special. All the main “Rare Earth” ore groups only hold lutetium in minuscule amounts — and never on its own. So obtaining it from them has always been a laborious and complex process. That’s why the end-product is so expensive ... weight for weight, it costs six times more than gold on the world market.
‘But this “Gerontite”, as you quaintly call it, held virtually nothing but lutetium! That would make the refining process much, much easier and cheaper. Very special indeed! And that’s probably why no information on those high-potential deposits ever appeared in any public records.’
That is fascinating, Marie-Anne. In fact, it is just the sort of news we were hoping for.
So, what can you tell us about the people who discovered all this?
‘Well, Chief, it was a company called Forretan Exploration which made that original find, not far from their headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina. We’ve done ore analyses for Forretan for nearly twenty years — gold, silver, all the usual stuff.
‘Anyway ... a few years ago, near the state border with Georgia, they carried out some very discreet extractions in the vicinity of a known pocket of “Rare Earth” ore called monazite, which has been mined over there, on and off, for over a century. And they found something quite remarkable — a completely new ore!
‘Then they decided to send a small team across the USA, to a desert region of eastern California which has always had the best-known “normal” lutetium reserves in the country, hidden deep inside the well-known bastnaesite ore.
‘And that clever little team, knowing just what they were looking for, hit upon even richer deposits of the new ore — your “Gerontite” — and in far greater quantities, I believe.
‘They then followed our standard procedure. They did some simple field tests of their own, of course, and then they sent a few samples to CKGS (disguised, as usual, as a shipment of collectors’ pieces). We analysed them, and updated Forretan’s own databases directly with our findings and recommendations. All in absolute confidence, of course.
‘Then it all went very quiet. And I have no idea what Forretan decided to do. They will have pursued that particular opportunity just as they saw fit. I wasn’t in any way involved in the project myself ... only the external interfaces, you know? And the guy who drove it internally at this end, Andreas Onnesen — well, he left the company a while ago, with no forwarding address. That’s also standard company practice.
‘I do know that the only direct contact any of us ever had with Forretan Exploration was with their own PR man, Norman Crofton. He’s probably still with them. He told me once that he’d been in that job for ever, and always would be!’
Thank you very much, Ms Holden. I think this information will more than suffice.
And although there is clearly something rotten in this state of affairs, I shall not try to persuade you to modify, just yet, your own personal integrity levels. I can see how very important it is for you to maintain your present position at CKGS, and all that comes along with it.
But when you finally make a move, to start that family you are hoping for — oh yes, I know all about those plans, Marie-Anne — then perhaps you will be able to study your heart rather more closely than your wallet, and make fewer compromises with your own conscience.
So return now to normality, young lady. And may I wish you future health, happiness and honesty.
* * *
Salvatore left Amelienborg Square and pointed himself at the Christiansborg Palace, consulting his guide book as he walked. ‘What a power house!’ he said, out loud. The huge complex accommodated not just the Parliament, and the Supreme Court, and lots of Ministry buildings and museums ... but also the Royal Reception Chambers. And those were his goal.
He bought his ticket, exchanged his shoes for delicate canvas slippers to protect the priceless parquet floors, and was treated to a fine group tour of one huge, magnificent room after another, each supplemented with a fascinating royal history recounted by the expert guide in faultless English.
When it was over, he still had plenty of time to spare. He strode out again to the north, and spent a happy hour wandering in the gardens of Rosenborg Castle and exploring the fascinating interior with all its treasures, including the glorious Danish Crown Jewels.
Finally, he came back southwards to the old Rundetaarn astronomical observatory, climbed steadily up its interior spiral ramp — built sufficiently wide to take a coach and horses, no less — and enjoyed, from the top, a fine view of the city all around.
* * *
While Salvatore was half-way through his rapid tour of Copenhagen, the Chief was debriefing with Quo. And they had no disagreement on the immediate way forward.
It was clearly time for them to cross the Atlantic, and investigate more closely the true state of those mineral resources which for them held so much interest, in a land in which they appeared to be so abundant. Perhaps more abundant, in one particular case, than even most experts realised.
And they had hopefully established the name of the gentleman who would soon be welcoming them to the Earth’s own New World. So they were all ready to go.
But it was now well into the afternoon. Probably wrong to try and force a hurried departure and a flight to the USA that evening. No, they would let Pirone have a few more hours to himself before putting him back to work. He would have a long, thirty-hour Wednesday ahead of him.
* * *
Around five o’clock, as he neared the bottom of the long and winding carriageway of the near-deserted Rundetaarn, Salvatore was pleasantly surprised to see Lucia waiting demurely for him, just around the bend. He stopped in his tracks, unsure of what to do; but she glided smoothly up to her valued Illuminator, took his head in her hands for another, quite private little embrace, and swiftly passed across the Mater’s conclusions and his next set of instructions ...
The afternoon’s sightseeing was clearly at an end. With Lucia once again un-made, but doubtless not far away, Salvatore at once sought out an Internet café and sat down to his latest little challenge.
Within a few minutes he had booked an open return air ticket, again with Scandinavian Airways. The flight out would depart early the following afternoon — Wednesday already! This time his destination was Newark, New Jersey.
He wouldn’t be there for very long. But he’d need somewhere to sleep overnight. It would be nice, he thought briefly, to drop in on Jeff Dean in New York City; but he suspected it would be wiser to have a pre-booked destination address, to keep the famous US Immigration authorities happy — and he really couldn’t be bothered to try and organise that with Jeff from here. So he searched the world-wide travel site again, and soon plumped for a basic single room at one of the vanilla-flavoured airport hotels.
Then, after checking various departure schedules for the following Thursday morning, he fixed up the second leg of his journey: the early Continental flight out of Newark direct to Columbia, South Carolina.
Back to the travel site. Another hotel, this time in the heart of Columbia. The Chief had told him to book it for at least two days. He made it three.
Job done. He stuck his credit card back in his wallet, and was just about to get up and leave when he realised he needed a plan for the coming evening. Pizza and jazz clubs, of course — what else? And then his pocket guidebook, supplemented by the Internet, proved that Copenhagen could certainly supply a very nice Italian dinner, if you insisted, and was a particularly good place to come in search of jazz music ...
He wondered whether Lucia would care to join him for the evening. He looked all around several times, trying to formulate a smile, hoping she’d get the message and pop up again soon. Then he wandered out of the café and made his way back to his hotel room, to get changed for his night on the town.
She was already there and waiting for him. And yes, she’d love to come out with him later, thank you — but she would leave him in peace to enjoy his dinner first.
* * *
Salvatore had been, that afternoon, only a humble observer of the stuff of royalty. But that evening, the loyal staff of the Giovanni Pizzeria on Vimmelskaftet treated him like a real king.
Sure, they often had honoured Italian guests in their excellent Italian restaurant, but rarely one who announced within minutes, and with a fistful of hundred-kroner bills as a strong encouragement for fine service, that he would like the most expensive starter, the biggest and best pizza the Chef had ever made, their most luxurious dessert, and the finest bottle of Italian wine in the cellar.
He left the restaurant very full and very well-oiled. But he didn’t feel too guilty. This sort of luck didn’t hit you every day. And he had already promised himself that, the next morning, he would put the rest of his large wad of unused kroner in an envelope and post it off to his parents.
Lucia was waiting for him on the pavement outside, thankfully unaccosted by any interested natives. They strolled over to Vingardsstrade, and Salvatore checked out several of its promising night spots, before moving on to consider the famous Copenhagen Jazz House. But in the end he settled for Club Montmartre on Norregade. Lucia followed him in, completely unnoticed, then joined him discreetly at his corner table, and they enjoyed a pleasant, relaxing evening in each other’s largely unspeaking, carefully listening company.
As they walked back to his hotel, close to midnight, Lucia spoke up. ‘You don’t play any instruments yourself, do you Salvi?’
‘Only those in the planes I fly!’
‘Idiot! But seriously — wouldn’t you like to?’
‘Of course I would! But I can’t sing in tune, or even keep a rhythm. I’ve got the music in me, but it can’t get out!’
‘Ha ha ha! Well, I think we’re going to have to do something about that one day, my friend ...’
Copyright © 2006 by Michael E. Lloyd