Chapter 15

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Scattered across the floor of a large, otherwise empty chamber, numerous groups of well-dressed, mostly middle-aged people sat or stood in clusters .

Consisting of a widely diverse range of races, creeds and colours, most were despondently silent, but a small group in the far back corner of the room were chatting among themselves, in a desultory manner.

Made up of two men in dark suits and a woman in a cream-coloured skirt and matching jacket, this particular group sported the kind of immaculately prepared hair that comes from either time, copious amounts of hairspray and serious dedication, or your own personal hairdresser.  Given that these three were the president of the United States of America, the prime minister of Great Britain and the chancellor of Germany, it was a fair bet that in their cases it was the latter.

"It was the damnedest thing," said the president.  "I was just teeing off on the back nine at Camp David when the first reports of attacks started rolling in.  The secret service bundled me down into the bunker, quicker than green grass goes through a goose.  But those Ri-jellians tracked me down lickety-split, burrowed through ten feet of concrete like it was butter on hotcakes and then made those secret service boys look about as useful as pogo-sticks in quicksand.  Bullets just bounced off those damn aliens as they came waltzing in, kicking secret service butt seven ways from Sunday.  And not just kicking their butt, but insulting 'em, too!  And their mamas!  Seemed like they didn't speak any English except for that.  Anyway, they trussed me up, called me a son of a motherless goat, flew me over the cities they'd blown up and then they made me sign a formal surrender, to stop 'em blowing up more.  Evil alien sumbitches."

"Ja, it was much the same for me," replied the chancellor.  "Except that I was in the Bundestag giving a speech to rally the country, when I was captured.  They told me I was a warthog-faced buffoon, showed me Berlin in flames and then took me to meet some admiral, who accepted my surrender."  She shook her head.  "Was für ein arschloch."  She turned to the British PM.  "And you?"

The prime minister stared dreamily into space.  "Yes, that would have been the ticket.  Delivering a rousing speech, giving heart to the people, harking back to the days of Churchill, the western front, fighting them on the beaches, bracing ourselves to our duty, etc..."  He trailed off.

The chancellor and the president exchanged a glance.  "So..." said the president.  "What were you doing when they got you?"

The PM gave a wan smile.  "Boffing a cabinet undersecretary in a cupboard, I'm afraid.  You know how it is.  Seemed like the world was ending.  Thought I may as well go out with a bang, rather than a whimper."

"Boffing?" queried the chancellor.  "Is this some sort of briefing?"

"Well, not exactly.  Although as it turns out, it was rather brief.  Alas, I was plucked from Tilda's arms and given the same treatment as you two.  Let's see, what did they call me?  Ah yes, a festering gumboil, I believe it was.  Then a quick tour of the blazing sights of Britain and unconditional surrender, on the pain of more bits being set ablaze.  I met your admiral as well, Chancellor.  What an utter wanker.  Had to talk to him through some sort of robotic translating device, but if thirty years in politics has taught me one thing, it's how to recognise a complete knobhead when I see one, regardless of the language he's speaking.  That, and to always lock the cupboard."

The president gazed around the room.  "Those Ri-jellians have been busy little assholes.  Look's like all the gang's here.  We must have the leader of just about every country on Earth.  Let's see—that's the Chinese president's over there, chatting with the Dalai Lama, we've got Indonesia and India over in the corner, and just along from them, what's-his-face from Brazil is chewing the ear off of the South African guy.  Let's see, who else—Burma, Argentina, Egypt, Ukraine, Australia, New Zealand—"

"That's not the Australian prime minister," interrupted the British PM.

"Huh?  It sure as hell looks like him."

The PM chuckled.  "That's the point.  That poor sap is a look-alike the real Australian prime minister hires to sit in for him, during boring public appearances.  Nothing important, just the ones where you need to show your face and wave to the crowd for a bit.  The Rigellians nabbed the imposter from the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where officially the PM was meant to be supporting the Australian team, but in reality the genuine article was probably relaxing at home—and no doubt on to his second bottle of red."

"How do you know this?" demanded the Chancellor.

"Well, firstly the Aussie PM put me on to his little scam, the last time we met on official business.  Recommended I do the same thing, cheeky blighter.  Secondly, I had a chat to Mr Lookalike over there, who confirmed the story.  And thirdly, Admiral Wanker asked me if by any chance I might know the whereabouts of the Australian prime minister.  It would seem as though he is still at large."

"Well, I'll be dipped in molasses and rolled in corn flakes.  Good for him.  Can't see it doing him much good though—looks like the battle for the Earth is pretty much done."

The chancellor looked thoughtful.  "It is a curious thing—this insistence on obtaining our surrenders.  The Rigellians clearly have overwhelming technical and military superiority, so why do they bother?  Why not just kill us all and seize control?  It is surely within their capabilities."

The PM gave his tie an anxious tug.  "Yes, well—let's not give them any ideas.  You're right though.  I mean, that's the Algerian prime minister over there.  No offense to the fellow, but who gives a rat's testicles about Algeria?  Admittedly it's rather a big place, but it's 90% desert.  For that matter, who gives a toss about Australia?  Nice beaches, and we need someone to play for the Ashes, but beyond that, who cares?  It's a puzzle."

Their conversation was interrupted by the opening of the chamber's only door and the arrival of yet another middle-aged man in a suit, thrust roughly into the room by a couple of guards.  The platform-soled pair consulted a portable data-screen, before grabbing another of the world-leaders, and dragging his protesting form away.  Pausing in the doorway, one of the guards turned to address the chamber.

"All human-types!  Attentions!  You is all"—he glanced at the data-screen—"foul, loathsome, evil little cockroaches!"  He gave a satisfied nod, and the little group departed, the door slamming closed behind them. 

The British PM waved to the dazed-looking newcomer.  "That's the Swedish prime minister."  Expression glazed and gait unsteady, the politician tottered over to join them.

The PM gestured for him to take a seat.  "I say old fellow, you're looking a little worse for wear.  What did the wretched alien fiends want with you?

"They wanted me to make an announcement."

"An announcement?  Announcing what?"

The Swede regarded him with solemn eyes.  "The complete and utter renouncement of all human control of my country.  The handover of power to Rigel.  The requirement to do as our new overlords command—on pain of death.  They recorded this announcement and it will be broadcast on television, on radio, and on social media, so that all Swedes might see it."

"I'll be damned if I'll make that announcement," growled the US president.  "I may have surrendered my country, but them l'il alien bastards can do their own dirty work when it comes to getting the word out."

The Swedish PM gave a hollow smile.  "You will make the announcement.  I was as you are now,  sure that I would refuse, but they have ways to change your mind.  Terrible ways."

The British PM's eyes widened.  "Good gracious.  What are these ways?  Some sort of advanced alien mind-control?  High-tech torture devices?  Fiendish drugs that make you do as they say?"

"They slapped me!"  A single tear rolled down the Swede's cheek. "And then they called me an empty headed animal food-trough wiper!" he sobbed, before bursting into tears.

"They went Monty Python on his arse," breathed the PM.  His eyes narrowed.  "Those bastards."

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