what planet?

A small shuttle carrying a group of diverse tourists was approaching the space customer service complex for member planets in Galactic Federation Sector Four. The impressive, gleaming white structure of the complex hung motionless in the star-peppered blackness.

In the Facilitation Matrix, for such was the name of the complex’s contact centre, operatives from a variety of races sat at banks of desks, manning communication channels. At a separate desk Kevan Smeeton, an Earthling in his twenties, slightly built, attractive and dark haired, listened to a message from reception, then switched his channel to voicemail and removed his slimline headset. He got up, adjusted his tie – collars and ties were back in fashion and considered extremely chic - crossed the big room, heading for an exit, then paused as curvaceous Melly hipped and thighed into his path. 

Melanie Scarlett, lately the proud promoter of Happiness Huddles and referred to behind her back as the Queen of Spin, had formerly worked in the Pubic Sector on Earth, according to a particularly unfortunate misspelling in the ‘Hello Everyone’ email she had dispatched on her arrival at the complex. Eyeing Kevan, she patted her golden curls. ‘I’ve had my hair done,’ she told him. ‘What do you think, darling?’ 

‘It looks OK,’ he replied, making an effort. 

Melly leaned towards him confidentially. ‘I’m not a natural blonde, you know, but Margo, the stylist with the blue rinse at ‘Dyeing to Help You’, says I am in a way because my hair is naturally dyed.’ 

Kevan laughed. ‘Silly old bag.’ 

Perhaps fortunately, they were interrupted at that point by Rollo Osborne, Chief Excellence Initiator, his fair hair styled in graceful waves above delicately aquiline features. Largely amiable but quite genuinely mad, Rollo had been nicknamed Caligula by the staff and was half expected to announce his divinity soon. He now began to enthuse about the new, vivid 3D pictures mounted on the walls and depicting the Solar System, though confessed himself disappointed that no close-up of his favourite planet, Saturn, was in evidence. Melly made a mental note to move the acquisition of one to the very top of her priority list. 

Rollo also expressed his admiration of the large, laminated coloured diagram prominently displayed in the Convivial Coffee Court: ‘Snappy little key takeaways to return to your desk and your work with. Couldn’t be bettered’, Melly my pet, I think with that and the pictures – terribly uplifting, you see - we’ve certainly solved the staff morale issue.’ 

Melly simpered. ‘I think the anus is on the staff now to obtain full benefit,’ she said. 

Rollo nodded earnestly. Kevan almost lost it. Melly’s ignorance was quite fabulous, of course, but on occasion, he had to admit, undeniably entertaining. 

‘Now - about the new Shared Service,’ Rollo went on, in a lower voice. ‘As we know, serving all sectors from one Centre of Excellence based here will mean overall streamlining and reducing of heads. Time to touch on it in my staff newsletter, but I need a sugar coating.’

‘A page border in a soft pink will cushion the blow, I think,’ Melly contributed. 

Rollo stared in admiring wonderment. ‘My darling, you really are a treasure!’ He paused. ‘The Visioneers have finished a dynamic Target Operating Model for the project that’s excitement-on-a-stick amazing and even the Implementation Roadmap is teetering on the edge of climax. We just need to season the dish with a smattering of house-style touches from us. Kevan, I expect some orgasmically pertinent stuff from you. We need to form a Knowledge Circle, I think. Tuesday. Working lunch? Soyella baps and lashings of antlo juice? Organise please, Melly my precious.’ 


In the complex’s spacious reception area, where banal pipe music played continually, Dr Who, the sea breezes of the planet Kandalinga still in his nostrils, stepped from his Tardis, which had materialised in a far corner beside a vending machine for Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate. He glimpsed Kevan greeting the visitors from the shuttle and reached the group in time to hear a potted history of the Galactic Federation. The founders, Kevan explained oracularly, had been Earth, Mars, Alpha Centauri and Arcturus, later augmented by Peladon, Araban, Veyonara, Zanador and others. 

Dr Who drifted along with the assorted party of beings into the Facilitation Matrix. Calls could be heard being taken and responses given. The Doctor managed to buttonhole Kevan and asked about the Visioneers, who the young man had referred to in his well-worn spiel. Kevan, about to continue in the same vein, was caught in the old man’s fiercely intelligent glare and switched abruptly to real world talk. The Visioneers, he confided, were a race of extremely canny, green insectoid creatures originally called the Nagashra, who had renamed themselves and begun to peddle their staggeringly expensive ideas for efficiency, downsizing and money-saving, which were eagerly lapped up by the incurably gullible, who consistently overlooked the fact that their major budget problems dated from the point they had first employed these scaly consultants. 

‘We’re all far too distracted from what’s important,’ Kevan admitted. ‘Meanwhile, more and more front-line fieldwork volunteers assist with the real social issues.’ 

‘You mentioned that all calls are logged in an online contact diary, did you not, my boy? I suppose they’re categorised? Are you allowed to tell me how many are actually from your service users on member planets who require advice?’ 

Kevan tapped at a keyboard. ‘Under the Freedom of Information Act, you’re allowed to know the colour of my underpants.’ He studied the monitor screen. His smile faded. Total disbelief was written on his face. ‘I don’t believe it!’ He looked cynically at Dr Who after a moment. ‘Or perhaps I do. There are none – none at all!’ 

The Doctor, his long silvery white hair shining under the lights, nodded sadly. ‘Not a report anyone would want to see, I suspect. Yes, your unpaid volunteers are now shouldering all the real-life issues. Here, your primary purpose has quietly disappeared from the equation. Only pontificating over side issues remains.’ 

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copyright 2013