You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, Part 17

Posted: 29 January 2013 in fiction, writing, You'll Never Believe A Man Can Fly
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Chapter Nine

In the board-room of Doncaster and Monkton, voices were raised, which was fitting since tempers were as well. Monkton and Patt had been shouting at each other for twenty minutes, Williams staying quiet throughout it all.

A passer-by, passing, well, ‘by’, and looking on, as onlookers tend to, would have thought that Williams had the enormous patience of a saint in being able to resist jumping into the argument. However, as he’d proved many times in the past, Williams was anything but a saint. He wouldn’t have even qualified for inclusion on the list, although he’d have made a superb Devil’s Advocate. His quiet demeanour owed less to virtuous patience than it did to the certain knowledge that any interruption would only add more heat to the discussion but no light.

However, enough was enough, and Williams had slowly begun to get angry at what he heard. For a start, although Monkton had asked Patt to use his contacts to get someone in to look at the table, Williams was not naïve enough to assume that it would stop there. It annoyed him that for once Monkton appeared to have been precisely that innocent – it was unlike the senior man. Besides, Patt’s comments regarding the telephone call he’d had from Ross, and the contents thereof, worried him.

Moreover, he genuinely liked Davies, inasmuch as he genuinely liked anyone. The man was good at his work and, as well as being conscientious and honest, was reliable. That last attribute counted more than all others combined, as far as Williams was concerned. He was also concerned that events outside anyone’s control had forced him to re-evaluate an analysis of someone long after his initial assessment. He didn’t like that, didn’t like it at all.

He wondered what he could say to command attention from the others. Williams had begun to suspect that, as so often occurred when Patt and Monkton argued, they enjoyed the argument far more than they should have. Williams’ eyes wandered around the room and fell upon the gap in the table where Davies had hit it. Instantly the solution to his current problem presented itself.

He wasn’t foolish enough to risk his hand though, so he stood and took a heavy book from the coffee table. He lifted it above the table and waited for a moment, although he knew he could have run naked around the room and they wouldn’t have noticed. Well, maybe not. He let go of the book and it immediately fell to the table in a manner that would have pleased Sir Isaac Newton greatly; the short sharp bang! surprised the other two into silence. The nearness of the sound to the missing segment of table didn’t escape them. They stared grudgingly at Williams who, completely unaffected by the looks, leaned forward, placing his hands on the table.

“What on earth are you two playing at?” he asked. He was curious to see how they reacted and if those reactions matched his silent predictions. Patt he expected to fall silent almost immediately. It would be Monkton who’d bluster.

Depressingly, his expectations were almost immediately met. Patt stared at the table and then sat. Curiously, Williams had the idea that Patt hadn’t been staring at the book, but at the hand sized gap. Williams sighed as Monkton started to complain loudly at the interruption. “What are we playing at? One might ask…”

That was as far as he got before Patt, quietly, said “Shut up, Peter.”

Monkton reacted by giving him a sharp look, and then he quietened, knowing that Williams rarely spoke to him like that, and that when he had done so in the past, it had been with good reason. Williams revelled in the brief respite and then asked what he thought was the most apposite question: “Why?”

“Why what?” asked Patt in return.

“Look, Andrew, you say that you had a call from your nameless ex-colleague, and…”

“I never said he was an ex-colleague,” murmured Patt, who felt he should put up a token defence.

Williams, who thought that even a token defence was too much, started again. “You say that you had a call from your nameless ex-colleague, and he wanted to know why Davies hadn’t been suspended yet, yes?”

“Well, yes.”

“And you told him that Davies hadn’t turned up for work yet, right?”

“Yes…”

Williams let out an exasperated though guttural sound. “Then what’s the problem?”

Patt was about to tell Williams precisely what the problem was when there was a knock at the door.

He looked up and Colclough poked his head through. “Sorry to disturb, gentlemen, but there’s a message for you.” He looked puzzled though, as if he wasn’t sure of the meaning of the message.

“Yes,? Yes? What is it, man?” asked Monkton, taking out his frustration on Colclough, who was well used to it from Patt.

“It just says ‘look out of the window’.” Colclough looked at the message again, and repeated it.

“Look out of the window?” asked Monkton. “What do you mean, ‘look out of the window’?”

“That’s all the message says, Mr Monkton,” said Colclough.

“Peter, Andrew. Would you join me, please?” asked Williams, who had gone to the window and was staring out of it. “Thank you, Joe,” he said in dismissal.

Patt and Monkton walked to the windows, puzzled, and then joined their colleague staring in disbelief at the sight they saw.

Outside the main board room window, fifty feet off the ground, hovered Ian Davies.

– o –

At that precise moment, several miles away, and a hundred feet below Davies, Doctor Rosemary Clooney was rehearsing her opening words, trying to find the right tone.

She was still getting over the shock of being told by Docherty precisely to whom she would be delivering her briefing, but at the same time trying to remember whether or not she’d brought all the information with her to justify what would, undoubtedly, be regarded as science fiction. She sighed with relief as she remembered slipping the recorded DVD of the rats into a plastic wallet and bringing it with her.

As she approached a large set of double doors with the legend “PRIVATE – NO ENTRANCE EXCEPT FOR AUTHORISED PERSONNEL” written next to them in large white letters, she gasped. “Oh no,” she said, something that had troubled her from the moment she’d been driven into Downing Street springing to the forefront of her mind.

Docherty gave her an urgent look, concern flooding his features. “What is it?” he asked.

Clooney looked at him in genuine worry. “I just remembered. I didn’t vote for him.”

Docherty’s face creased, as if he was trying not to laugh, which was indeed the case. “Don’t worry about it – I doubt if he’ll ask you.”

“No,” she continued, “but what if he does?”

Docherty gave up the struggle and laughed. “I suspect that what you’re about to tell him will worry him far more than how you cast your vote three years ago.” He grinned at her sudden and inappropriate relief, and then continued, “Though he might well ask you whether you’re voting for him next time,” which didn’t exactly reassure her.

She soon gave up trying to remember the route she took from the front door of The Chief Whip’s Office, two doors down the street from the Prime Minister’s official residence, to what she’d been told was called COBRA, the Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. When she’d walked through the large black door with the number 12 on the front, she’d turned to Docherty, almost slightly disappointed that she didn’t get to walk through one of the most famous doors in England. But then Docherty, anticipating her comment, had merely asked her if she’d rather be in all the morning newspapers. Given that one of the reasons she was here was precisely because of the truth or otherwise of a newspaper report, she’d understood his meaning.

After she was taken down a dozen corridors, each more anonymous than the previous, they stopped at the door of an elevator. Waiting for them was a man who Docherty greeted with a respectful “sir”; he introduced his Head of Section to Clooney and vice versa. A soft ping signalled the arrival of the elevator and the three of them, accompanied by armed and uniformed soldiers, stepped inside. As soon as the doors closed, they dropped fifty feet and when the doors opened again, she was subjected to both a handprint and retina scan.

She asked Docherty what baseline they were using. After all, how had they previous scan results to compare these to? He gave her a look that basically, and quite effectively, told her to shut up.

They walked past two more armed soldiers into a large briefing room, far larger than Clooney had anticipated. There were about twenty people already in there and she swallowed hard as she recognised the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats. She turned her head and saw half a dozen men in military uniform and then the woman who was head of the Security Services, the first to allow herself to be known by name in the media.

A man she didn’t recognise came over to them. He nodded to Docherty’s boss and introduced himself to Docherty and Clooney. “Mr Docherty? Miss, I’m sorry, Doctor Clooney? I’m Anthony Bowman, the PM’s Chief Scientific Advisor. The PM will be down shortly. He’s just waiting for the men from over the pond.”

A voice came from their side. “Sir Anthony? They’re on their way down,” said a young man, hanging up a telephone.

“Right,” Bowman said, rubbing his hands. “Let’s sit down, shall we?”

At that, the doors opened, and the Prime Minister walked in, together with the Deputy Prime Minister and two men who had to be American, Clooney thought.

The Prime Minister, looking older and far more tired than he appeared on television, asked everyone to take their seats, and introduced the Americans as he did so. Clooney only half caught their names, but started at the position one of them held. She looked around again, wondering what her mother would have said at her daughter sitting in a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, assorted military personnel, the head of the UK’s intelligence services, and a Deputy Director of the CIA. Mum would probably have wanted to know if any of them were single, she thought.

As the Prime Minister was sitting, he beckoned to Bowman, who went over to him. They had a brief quiet, conversation, during which Bowman pointed at Clooney. Clooney saw the Prime Minister take a long, hard look at her.

When everyone was seated, the Prime Minister addressed the room. “Good evening, all. Thank you for coming at such short notice. As always with Blue Committee, there are no official minutes. Well…” he gave a small, tired smile, which was matched by many around the room. “However, I understand that we’re in for something of more than usual interest this evening.” He stopped, and looked as if he wanted to say more. But then he merely said, “OK, Dr Clooney, we’re all yours.”

He looked at her expectantly. Clooney panicked and looked at Docherty, who thankfully stood. “Prime Minister, gentlemen, Lady Constance,” he nodded at the sole other woman in the room. “You’ll have to forgive Doctor Clooney’s confusion and slight reticence. Until approximately ten minutes ago, she had no idea that she was going to brief this committee on the subject matter for discussion. Nor, as it happens, was she aware of the existence of this committee. However, I have no doubt that what she’s about to tell you will certainly deliver the ‘more than usual interest’ that the Prime Minister just promised.”

He sat, and as he did so, he whispered urgently to her. “Stand up, deliver your report, sit down. Don’t anticipate questions until they’re asked. Just tell them what they need to know.”

Clooney had used the few moments to gather her thoughts and especially how to grab their attention. She’d not seen a copy of The Guardian in the room, but would have bet her pension that everyone there would have read it. She stood slowly and pulled her copy from her briefing notes.

“Prime Minister, gentlemen, madam… you’ll have all seen this headline today, I presume?” She was greeted by nods and a few muttered comments about tabloid journalism and the gullibility of the masses.

“We’re fortunate,” she continued, “that the reactions you’ve all just expressed will, I have no doubt, be common.” Her mouth was dry, and suddenly there was a full glass in front of her; she noticed Docherty’s hand sliding away. She took a sip of ice cold water from the glass, and then went on. “After all, who would believe that a man can move things with his mind, can halt speeding cars with a look. In short, who would believe a man can fly?” She smiled, deliberately giving the impression that the very thought was laughable. And then she looked directly at the Prime Minister, who was also smiling. “There’s only one small problem, Prime Minister. This story? There’s every likelihood, indeed probability, that it’s true,” she said.

There was silence in the room for a moment, before the laughter started. Docherty, concerned, looked at Clooney, as if expecting her to crumble. To his surprise, she stood there waiting for the laughter to stop. When it subsided, a minute or two later, she said “I’ll repeat that for the hard of believing: it’s true.”

“Come now, Prime Minister,” said a man in uniform, “are we seriously expected to…?”

“Air Chief Marshall?” interrupted the Prime Minister. “Please do me the courtesy of shutting up, and Doctor Clooney the courtesy of listening to her? Please go on, Doctor,” he nodded to her, “you’ve got my attention.” His words implied to the others in the room that he hoped she had theirs as well.

Clooney swallowed again, opened her folders, scanned them for a moment, and started briefing Blue Committee on the material, what was known about it, the mutagenic effects thereof and why she thought Britain had its first real life super powered being.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 18 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.


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