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CHAPTER EIGHT – THE REPRESENTATIVES ARE UNDERSTANDABLY NERVOUS.
Having reassured the French Ambassador – and also no doubt, the others therefore – the Commander took a moment to review the situation. His having been slightly delayed had in turn subsequently delayed the start of the meeting. Such was the nature of the meeting and indeed the responsibilities on his shoulders as well as the authority which had been placed in his hands.
Something which was evidenced by how almost every one seated at the table had leapt to attention as soon as the double doors had slid open and the Commander had marched into the room. Likewise, the several MP’s stationed equidistantly against the walls around the room had also come to attention. Although they also saluted, due to the fact that they were in full uniform as they were also wearing berets. Unlike the military personnel seated at the table who – although still in uniform – did not have caps or berets on.
The exceptions in respect of coming to attention, of course, were the five or six people who were dressed in civvies and not uniform.
And it is safe to say that the speed and the simultaneous nature with which all the military personnel present had come to attention had made the sound of the clicking of the heels of their military issues boots (which formed part of the whole ‘standing to attention’ process) a little startling for a couple of the civilian members present. Their not being used to such things
In all – including the five civilians – the table currently seated 30 people, with every chair except two presently being occupied.
“Ok. Good morning.” The Commander greeted them, wishing to continue the meeting. “Veles, secure room.” He added almost as a side statement.
Instantly there was a locking sound from the doors and the room lights – which up until that point had seemed like your everyday normal fluorescent type of lighting – took on an amber hue.
“Before we get down to business, I would like to welcome the representative from the United Arab Emirates.” The commander announced, nodding at a gentleman sat further down the table to his left who was dressed in civvies. “As usual,” The Commander continued, “in respect of our civilian guests, we employ a ‘no names, no pack drill’, policy. But please don’t take that as any suggestion that you are not welcome here.”
The ‘No names, no pack drill’ phrase originated in respect of the British Army and dated as far back as at least 1845, where it was recorded in a book of ‘hints to a soldier in service’. It referred to the fact that British Army soldiers at that time – who were caught doing something wrong – could be placed on a charge and could, as punishment, have to undertake ‘drill’ (exercise) in full uniform and carrying a heavy back ‘pack’. But, of course, if they didn’t know your name, they couldn’t charge you and you wouldn’t have to to the pack drill – hence ‘no names, no pack drill’.
The ‘no names, no pack drill’ statement that the Commander had made, also reminded everyone of the environment of extreme confidentiality, privacy and in so very many ways secrecy, in which they all operated. That having been said the new guest to whom the Commander was referring, was easily identifiable as he was the only one present wearing the traditional white Keffiyeh headdress and black agal.
“You are, of course, very welcome. And since this is your first time with us, please feel free to ask any questions.” The Commander continued.
“Thank you commander.” The man responded almost interrupting the Commander. “Right now I, on behalf of the federation I represent, have but one question. ‘Has the choice of shortlist been made, as yet?’
“Which, with respect, is no doubt the question we all want answered.” A well dressed middle aged English sounding woman sitting almost opposite him suggested. “Especially since my government has always expressed extreme reservations in respect of this particular course of action.” She added, with a deliberate tone of assertive seriousness in her voice.
“Yes, your government’s reservations are well known and have already been noted madam Ambassador.” The Commander replied without hesitation. “But despite those reservations, this course of action will progress and yes, I can tell you that, the short list has now been chosen.” Pausing momentarily, he studied her facial reactions looking for indications as to how she had taken his last statement.
“Which is why,” he continued, “I have decided to suspend this meeting and am inviting you and the other government and federation representatives to retire to your guest quarters whilst I brief my staff and so that we can get on with the next phase.”
It was an announcement which caused instant agitation and also a little annoyance amongst the civilians present. Not least of all, or so it appeared, for a fairly rotund and somewhat cross looking man sat at the other end of the table. Almost instantly he leaned forward in his chair as if he was about to speak.
“After all,” the Commander continued as if to cut off the gentleman’s objections before he even had a chance to voice them, “security and speed are essential at this point in the process, are they not? Veles, unseal the room.”
Almost immediately the double doors slid open, the lights took on their original colour and five of the MP’s who were stationed around the walls of the room stepped forward and stood behind the civilians representatives. “As usual you will be escorted to your quarters.” The Commander advised them. “And we will be resuming the meeting at 21 hundred hours. Please be patient until that time.”
Once he had finished making his statement the Commander picked up his electronic pad/tablet and started reading the screen. It was a technique – that of engaging in another activity immediate to having dismissed someone – he had learned, some time ago. It was a very effective way of ending conversations and reducing the potential for disagreement.
Two or three of the civilian representatives did glance at each other, but not one offered any actual objections. Choosing instead to simply comply with the Commander’s instructions. At least for the time being.
Once the civilians had all been escorted out of the room the Commander placed his tablet back on the table and once more gave the command for the room to be secured. Waiting momentarily for the sound of the doors locking and for the lighting to return to its amber hue.
“Display Logistical Report please, Veles.” The Commander instructed.
“Yes Commander.” came the instant response from the soft digital voice – referred to as Veles, and with it a holographic screen was immediately projected from the table’s surface.
“On screen you will see details of the task before us today.” The commander advised his staff. “The decision to go live with the next phase of this operation, threatens the very essence of it’s covert nature and in many ways the success of this operation and indeed the future of our planet may rest with how successful we are.” His steel-like expression underlined the seriousness of what he was saying.
“So this is going to work. Understood!” He continued. “Section leaders you know what you and your teams have to do. I want Psych Evals, Personal Profiles, Player Histories, Game Skills Analysis, Player Stats, Game Time Records, Log In Records, Technical skills Assessments, Communication Skills Assessments, Medal Counts and Listings for each and every member of the three flagged clans to be analysed and processed on my desk by eighteen hundred hours today.” Again he looked up at those assembled.
“Any questions?” He asked, receiving none in response as everyone was busy studying the display before him.
“OK. Get to it.” He added. “Meeting dismissed. Unseal room Veles.” And with that the Commander stood from his chair (with everyone else instantly coming to attention in response) and left the meeting and returned to his office.
“The representatives are understandably nervous Commander” Veles gently observed once the commander was seated. “And the British Ambassador is not a happy lady.”
“The British Ambassador is seldom a happy lady.” The Commander observed. “She is afflicted with the British condition of generally believing that she knows best.”
“But analysis indicates that she does accurately reflect the feeling of her government at this time.” Veles observed.
“I know Veles.” The Commander replied. “They have made their position and flexed their political muscles very clearly. After all isn’t that what this whole Brexit thing is about?” He observed. “Oh. The British public might believe that they were given a referendum in response to their voice and their concerns about immigration, the economy and their National Health Service. But really they were given a referendum as a way of the British government sending us, and yes conveniently for them also the EU, a very clear message that they are quite prepared to do their own thing, if they don’t get their own way.”