Thist section covers the introduction of Undepoldus to the public.
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The Spacers Council agreed with the proposal to approach the Fauna Preservation Trust (FPT) with the idea of housing Undepoldus at Regent's Park in his own special building. The members of the FPT voted to accept the proposal. It transpired that Admiral van Wijk had included in the proposal that the FPT would be paid rent for the use of the land where the new Undepoldus house would be built. The Spacers Council also arranged a special meeting with the members of the London Metropolitan Council who were members of the Parks and Planning committees. George showed them Undepoldus and explained how he was expected to grow. With the aid of processor simulations and a giant vidcom screen George showed the council committee members what he expected Undepoldus to look like as he grew older. Undepoldus was shown in comparison to British adder, an anaconda, a boa constrictor, a sei whale and a blue whale at various stages of his projected growth. George also showed a simulation of Undepoldus at his estimated final size on the soccer pitch at a football stadium.
The projected building design was shown next. The building
was planned so that it could accommodate Undepoldus when he reached
120 metres. The actual construction would be done in stages so
that the initial building would be quite small but would be added
to as needed .
A special transporter would be built to carry the rocks obtained for Undepoldus in an underground tunnel. At the remote end of the tunnel a loading platform would be built to receive containers of rocks from the transporter moveway system. These would be transported through the tunnel to an underground unloading bay under the new building. The unloaded rocks would then pass up a ramp to the feeding area under processor control. Undepoldus would be fed automatically.
The viewing area would be serviced by a strip so that no crowds would build up. The strip would be made longer as the building became larger.
There would be no problems with Undepoldus escaping. No building could keep him imprisoned because he can make holes in anything. The problem is to prevent him from being hurt. Accordingly the building would be made secure in many ways that will not be made public.
The London councillors were invited to ask questions about Undepoldus and his proposed accommodation.
The first question was asked by a woman councillor: "How do you know that Undepoldus will grow as big as you have projected.?"
George answered. "To be candid madam, we don't know. We expect him to grow continually as a tree does or as many fish do. We do know how fast he is growing."
George activated one of the displays he had shown earlier.
"As you can see, we assume that he was one centimetre long when he arrived on Earth. By using the scale here." George highlighted the scale. "We can see that his average daily growth rate is just under 3%. We have measured his growth rate since he was found. His growth rate is still just under 3% a day. The extension of the scale shows how big we expect him to be on a daily basis. He is now thirty-five centimetres long. In a week's time he will be forty-two centimetres long. In a month's time he will be seventy-nine centimetres long. I can put it another way. He doubles his length every twenty-seven days. Is that now clear to you madam?"
"What sort of creature is he?" Was asked by a man George could not identify.
"He is very different to any creature on Earth but he has many features that are found in Earth creatures. His whiskers seem to be like the fur of a polar bear. We think they act a light guides because he uses photosynthesis. He consumes minerals from rocks. This makes him a bit like a plant. He has an external stomach. It is a bit like the stomach of a starfish that eats coral. He moves around. That makes him like an animal. He can see, but no animal we know of has a vision system like his. He is very strange. We hope that when he is bigger we can find out more about him."
There were no more questions.
George said. "When we invited you here, we had a dilemma.
We need a safe place to keep him but we cannot build it without
your approval. Part of the way that we are keeping him safe is
to conceal the fact that he exists. Now we have shown him to you
and you know that he exists, we ask you to keep his existence
a secret until you have made a decision about our proposal. There
are good reasons for keeping him here in Britain, in London where
he was discovered. One reason is, it will give British people
the first chance of seeing him. A second reason is that this club
is near to Regent's Park and Spacers who are staying here can
help to look after him. If we cannot build a place for him at
Regent's Park, we will take him to Cameron in Arizona or Berlin
or Sydney or even to Lagrange Five. As a Scotsman by birth, I
would like him to stay in Britain."
The FPT representative, Anita Styles, stood up as George sat down.
"Ladies and Gentleman. When the Spacers asked us if we would like to house a creature from another world, we were flabbergasted. They explained to us that it was not dangerous but could grow to a very large size. We wanted to know more, of course. We were told a week ago what you have just been told today. If we did accept the creature, we would have to re-organise the existing animal enclosures to allow visitors to come and see and learn about the creature The Spacers League promised to cover all expenses and to make a contribution to the Trust. We decided unanimously to accept the offer. Undepoldus would attract visitors from all round the world to our park. We would be able to obtain more revenue to help preserve wild life all over the world. However, we could do nothing without making a formal planning application to build a new display enclosure. Until the enclosure is built, there will be nowhere to keep the creature safe. The FPT and the Spacers agreed that we should approach you confidentially because, as Mr. McFigg has said, the creature's main protection at the moment is secrecy. If you approve of the new building, it will not be necessary to maintain secrecy for much longer. We can provide temporary secure accommodation for Undepoldus in the Reptile House while the first stage of building is completed. We trust that you understand our position. Thank you for listening to us."
There was a hum of quiet conversation among the councillors
then one of them, Mr. Bhattir Sandhu, stood up.
Mrs Styles, Mr. McFigg, as the chairman of the planning committee I would like to thank you for inviting us here today. All of us have heard dreadful stories about alien monsters but now, having seen how gentle this alien is, I am sure that none of us will think of aliens from other worlds in the same way again. The two committees here cannot make a decision on their own. However, it is very seldom that our recommendations are not accepted by the whole council. In a moment I will ask your permission to take votes from the councillors who are here.
The first vote is: 'Do you approve of a new building to house the alien worm in Regent's Park.?' The second vote is: 'Do you agree to the proposal that an extraordinary meeting of the full council be called in closed session tomorrow at ten a.m. to vote on our recommendation.?' I will ask for a show of hands. Those in favour of the proposed new building please show."
All the councillors raised their hands.
"Those in favour of a closed session extraordinary meeting tomorrow at 10 a.m. please show."
The vote was unanimous.
Mr. Sandhu said. "Thank you. I declare that both motions have been unanimously supported. I will ask you all to sign a petition for an extraordinary meeting that will be transmitted to the Mayoress as soon as it is completed. Ten councillors are needed for such a petition, there are twenty-three of us here. I think it will be a great honour to have Undepoldus as one of our residents. If anyone has any further comments to make from the floor, please speak now."
"Mrs. Egan, Parks Committee. I would like to ask: 'When will the Undepoldus worm be put on display to the general public?"
Councillor Sandhu answered. "Mrs. Egan. Although we approve of the new building, we cannot speak for the whole council. There must be confirmation before any decision can be made. You know the rules. However, if the council approves, I am sure that Mrs. Styles and Mr. McFigg will arrange that he is put on show as soon as possible."
George spoke. "As soon as we receive written approval for the new building, we will hold a press conference to announce Undepoldus to the world. We will announce when and where Undepoldus can be seen then. I would like to take the opportunity now to thank you all for your support. We cannot presume that the council vote will be in our favour but we will start to prepare a place in the reptile house tonight. If the vote goes against us, we will have done some work for no purpose. If it is in our favour, we will be able to have a display ready in the shortest possible time. Finally, if any of you would like to meet Undepoldus, please come and see me before you leave."
Anita Styles said. "Unless anyone has any other business that they would like discussed now, that concludes our formal meeting. Is there any other business?"
There was none.
All of the councillors came up to George to see Undepoldus more closely. George stretched out his arm so that Undepoldus could crawl along it and let the people see him from all angles. George said. "He is not a soft furry animal. Do not try to stroke him."
Confirmation that the London Metropolitan Council had approved the building of Undepoldus house arrived at the Spacers Club at 10:30 the following morning. The councillors had not been told that work had begun in the Reptile House two days earlier. By the time that the confirmation arrived, the work had almost been completed.
The display area was arranged so that the public could see Undepoldus through a window made of armoured glass that sloped downwards away from them. In a trough below the window was a black painted area. This arrangement made the glass almost invisible. Inside the sloping glass were two mirrors that were arranged like an inverted periscope. These mirrors were fitted so that anyone who might be tempted to shoot Undepoldus would aim at an image one metre above him. The lighting units were flat panels that caused no shadows. The area behind the display was an office concealed by a black translucent curtain. This would enable George or anyone else who was with Undepoldus to see and hear him and the public passing by without being seen. George had also arranged that a vidcom unit and sound system were provided for Undepoldus to use so he would not be bored while on display. A diamond coated glass hopper fed by a conveyor was provided for his rock supply. Next to it was a bowl of water. A set of roboguides was prepared to provide commentaries for groups of visitors in a variety of different languages.
On the visitors' side was a pedestrian strip that could be adjusted in speed. It would allow visitors to see Undepoldus for between three and twenty seconds, A metal shutter would drop to cover the viewing area if the strip stopped unexpectedly. The safety precautions employed were not made public at the time.
When news of the permission to build arrived, the Rear Admiral sent a circular to the news agencies announcing a special press conference at the Spacers Club the following day. Peter Whitfield was brought to London to announce his discovery to the press.
Each news service was permitted send one journalist and one camera operator to the press conference because the accommodation in the Club lounge was limited. Nobody was allowed to bring any artefact except their clothes into the Club. Vidcom cameras, microrecorders and note-takers were provided by the Spacers. The journalists were told that they could keep the items they used after the press conference.
George opened the proceedings by introducing Marita. A sample sack identical to the one she had used had been filled with rocks of equivalent weight to show to the journalists. They were invited to try to lift it. A few tried but none succeeded. Marita then picked up the sack and carried it around the lounge on her shoulder before putting it down again. Marita then asked them again if any of them could lift the sack. No-one took up her offer.
George recounted the reasons why the Undepoldus Mission had only brought back rocks and explained how the damaged Undepoldus spacecraft had been recovered.
A large selection of the rocks were given to London University where graduate student Peter Whitfield analysed them.
Then he introduced Peter so that he could describe how he found the worm.
Peter directed the camera operators so that to show off the various aspects of Undepoldus to best advantage.
He said. "The analysis work went well until I discovered that some of the samples were apparently disappearing. As I was responsible for the samples, I didn't want anyone to notice that some of them had disappeared. I replaced them with other samples from the Solar System at first and then I used similar rocks from Earth. I could not work out why they were disappearing so I checked the sample cabinet several times a day. Then I found the worm that was eating them. I told Marita Andersson about the discovery. Shortly afterwards the University and the Spacers League jointly devised the story that I was stealing the rocks for my own purposes. The aim was to keep the existence of the worm a secret until more was known about it. I was officially expelled from the University for my actions but I actually went directly to the Spacers College voluntarily. The expulsion was revoked yesterday because the true story could be told today. Now, has anyone any questions?"
The journalists' questions and his answers went something like this:
"When did you discover the creature?"
"On the 24th of February"
"What sort of creature is it?"
"I'm sorry, I can't tell you yet. It is like a very peculiar caterpillar without legs."
"Could you stroke it like a cat?"
"If you wanted to. Its whiskers are like a yard brush. It would make your hands sore"
"Can you confirm that is not a newly discovered animal from Earth?"
"Absolutely, that is unless it was put in the sealed container by customs officials."
"What do you call it?"
"I call it Undepoldus from the name of the mission that brought it to Earth."
"How long was it when you discovered it?"
"Seventeen and a half centimetres."
"How long is it now?"
"Twenty-eight and a half centimetres."
"What sex is it?"
"It doesn't seem to have one."
"Have you looked?"
"Those with cameras can view it from underneath the tank through the glass."
George lifted its tank to eye level.
The camera presented a view of the underside of the worm through the glass bottom of the tank. Apart from the dark brown patch there was nothing of special import to be seen.
"Have a look for yourself." Peter said to the girl reporter who had asked him the question. She blushed and smiled at Peter's cheekiness. Her colleagues were not slow to capitalise on her embarrassment.
"What sort of noise does it make?" asked a vidcom newsman.
Peter bent over towards the man's ear and said:
"SShh" very quietly.
There was an immediate chorus from all the reporters.
"What did you say?"
This was of course misinterpreted and everyone fell silent for a few moments. Each was expecting to hear the noise it made. Hearing nothing, some thought they might have missed it before quiet prevailed. Others thought they were having their legs pulled by Peter.
Raising his hand to quieten them down a bit, Peter said in a raised voice:
"I said 'sshh' very quietly to imitate the sort of sound it makes."
There was continued misunderstanding, so the sound man controlling the P.A. lowered a microphone into the tank. Gradually, the rumbling crowd of journalists quietened as they listened. Only the faintest of faint hisses could be heard. The noise was similar to that made by a glass of champagne, just after it has been poured, but softer. As the sound man couldn't hear very much he increased the gain on the sound system and lowered the microphone until it was practically touching the bottom of the tank in front of Undepodus. The faint hiss was a little louder but still very quiet.
Suddenly there was a louder trickling sound followed by an ear-splitting explosion. The sound man pulled off his headphones as if they were on fire; they weren't - the microphone was. It was emitting clouds of black smoke. Peter had been watching the vidcom monitor and had expected the worm to try to eat the microphone, but even he was unprepared for the resulting deafening noise.
When they had recovered from the shock, the whole crowd burst into laughter. The bang was an excellent way to end the press conference - nobody wanted to ask any more questions. With their ears still ringing the reporters said their goodbyes and departed.
Peter was formally honoured later that day. The Fauna Preservation
Trust installed him as a life member at an extraordinary meeting
held at Regent's Park. Few members were able to be there in person
but the vidcom net linked a record number of participants.
Rear Admiral Chebychev and Commander Sincayvitch were pleased that the introduction of Undepoldus to the press had gone well. With George and Marita they entertained Peter to dinner in the Ambassador's dining room. Undepoldus was provided with a tank of rocks but he preferred to perch on George's shoulder. Peter recounted some of his experiences as a new cadet and was clearly happy to be at the Spacers College. When the meal was over, the Rear Admiral told stories about his early experiences as a Spacer. The Commander started to contribute one of his own when there was a call at the door. Gurprit stood there looking worried.
The Rear Admiral said. "Come in Lieutenant and close the door. You are looking very worried. What is the problem?"
"Chaos sir. All the strips that go in the direction of Regent's Park have stopped. All London bound moveway entrances on all moveways have been closed. North London is now a no go area for floaters. Hundreds of thousands of people are going to Regent's Park to see Undepoldus. Londoners like queuing sir. They all wanted to be among the first people to see Undepoldus at Regent's Park tomorrow morning. Most of them are carrying sleeping bags. The London Police have been overwhelmed by the crowds. All vidcom networks are telling people not to try to go to London. All flights to London from all over the world including the luxury sub-orbital services are fully booked for months ahead. If I may say so sir, we Spacers have become so used to Undepoldus that we did not realise what effect the news of his existence would have on the public sir."
"You may say so Lieutenant. None of us realised what impact the news of Undepoldus would have. We have become used to him being around. I'm afraid that it looks like a black mark for me. I should have foreseen the problem. I don't think that there is anything that we can do to stop the crowds now."
George said. "Sir, I have a suggestion. We can put Undepoldus on the conference room table and set up a series of vidcom cameras around him. The signals can be sent to all the news networks. We can announce that Undepoldus will not be going to Regent's Park until London traffic has returned to normality. I know that a lot of people will be disappointed sir but I think that is better than the chaos that exists at the moment. May I also suggest case five before the announcement is made sir? Some people might want to protest about the postponement here sir."
The Rear Admiral was about to interrupt but changed his mind. He said.
"George, your suggestion is the only course we can take in the circumstances. Case five is in force. Gurprit call on any Spacer you meet to assist you in setting up the vidcom cameras as George has suggested. You have the acting rank of Commander on my authority. Ivan would you please lend the Lieutenant your jacket. He might have problems convincing some Spacers of his authority without it. George, you thought of it. Prepare a speech for the announcement. Marita, please convey Undepoldus to the Conference room. Peter, please accompany Marita. Ivan, please go to your cabin and handle any vidcom calls from the London authorities. I will have to make a report to the Council forthwith."
Marita picked up the tank and held it close to George's shoulder. Undepoldus remained where he was. Marita put the tank on the table and picked up Undepoldus with both hands and put him in the tank. It was clear that he did not like this treatment but he stayed in the tank as Marita picked it up again.
George sat alone in the small dining room as he tried to work
out what form of words he would use. The chaos would have to be
stopped as quickly as possible. After a while he had decided what
he would say.
As he went towards the conference room he saw Spacers of every rank laying cables from the Conference room to the communications centre. When he got to the conference room Gurprit was directing the arrangement of the cameras as Spacers brought them in. Gurprit looked a little odd in the Commander's dress jacket. It was a bit large for him. George noted that Commander Surgeon Smith was following Gurprit's instructions as if he were a raw Lieutenant. Expertise had seniority over rank.
One of the cameras was focused on George as he sat down at the head of the table. Monitors were set up on either side of the camera. One showed the view that the public would see. The other was blank for the moment. Then a side view of one of the news services' anchor men, Russ Beatty, appeared. George composed himself as someone raised three fingers in front of the remote camera.
Russ was talking about the traffic chaos when he turned and saw George on his second monitor. He said. "We now pass you over to the Spacers Club where George McFigg, the worm's keeper will make an announcement."
George put on a sad face. In a sombre voice he said. "The worm Undepoldus is dead." George bowed his head and said nothing for fifteen seconds. Russ Beatty looked shocked. The Spacers in the Conference room looked aghast. Undepoldus was alive and well in front of them. George slowly raised his head and said. I said that to shock you. Undepoldus is not dead but London is dying by the minute. You have heard and seen that London's traffic system doesn't work anymore. The worm Undepoldus is the cause. Too many people want to see him at once. Undepoldus will not be at Regent's Park tomorrow."
George paused and imagined that he could see all those who were watching.
"I repeat. Undepoldus will not be at Regent's Park tomorrow.
Undepoldus will not go to Regent's Park until all London traffic has returned to normal. Everyone who has tried to go to Regent's Park tonight should go home now. You will all be able to see Undepoldus more clearly in your own homes than you ever could in Regent's Park." George gestured to Gurprit off camera.
"Here he is now." The monitor view switched to the tank.
George continued. "We will transmit views of Undepoldus live for forty-five minutes every hour until further notice.
We will organise a lottery for tickets to see Undepoldus at Regent's Park. To enter the lottery you must write your name and address on a postcard and send it to The Spacers Club, London by surface mail. Families and groups should send only one postcard with the names of all those who wish to see Undepoldus written clearly on the card. Any cards received without franked and dated stamps will be rejected. If we detect that anyone has sent two or more cards, that person will be permanently excluded from all lottery draws. When the lottery begins, five thousand people will selected at random each day. The winners will be notified of the date and time that they should arrive at the Regent's Park ticket office. Only those whose names are on the selected postcards will be admitted. All postcards delivered to the Spacers Club by the postal services will be checked by processor-controlled robots.
Finally, any person who causes a disturbance tonight or at any other time because of the postponement will be permanently barred from seeing Undepoldus at Regent's Park."
The camera view returned to George as he was finishing his announcement.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are sorry that we have had to take this course of action. You have seen why on your vidcoms. Undepoldus will be with us for a long time. Thank you for your attention."
"This message will be repeated several times an hour until further notice."
Gurprit switched off the microphones. The changing views of Undepoldus in his tank were resumed.
Gurprit then switched the monitors to the London news channels. One was repeating George's message unedited. Another showed police floaters over Marylebone Road. They were broadcasting George's message to the crowds below them with their P.A. systems. The view changed. In Piccadilly Circus the advertisement signs had been replaced by George's message. The stripway signs in the view simply flashed Out of Service. Crowds poured down Regent Street towards the camera. Most people stopped to see George's message displayed once, then they continued walking. George had seen recordings of the way crowds had gathered in London in the past for celebrations and funerals of famous people. As the news service cameras switched from view to view he saw that this time the crowds were not just in one area or along a chain of connected streets. Wherever the view was shown the density of the crowds was the same. There were incidents where crowds going towards Regent's Park met crowds going home. The sheer mass of people prevented movement in both directions. Police floaters were now broadcasting a few words taken from George's announcement. "Undepoldus will not be at Regent's Part tomorrow. Please go home."
A small group of protesters were on the street outside the
Spacers Club entrance. They shouted: "We want Undepoldus!
We want Undepoldus! What do we want? We want Undepoldus!"
As the news camera scanned the view, two Spacers could be seen
setting up a screen outside a first floor window. They disappeared
into the window and the screen lit up showing Undepoldus in his
tank. The crowd gave a half-hearted cheer and then began to disperse.
The vidcom view changed again to the crowds in Marylebone road.
Some were walking but most were now on strips. the 'Out of Service'
signs had gone and were replaced by the usual array of coloured
destination signs. Another view in Tottenham Court Road caught
a strip sign changing from red 'Out of Service' to flashing amber,
'Caution, Strip Starting, Please wait'. The crowds were visibly
less dense and the rate that they were dispersing increased as
more and more strips came back into service. The chaos was being
brought under control.
The vidcom views of the crowds were more and more interspersed with views of Undepoldus and less serious news items. The passengers on a chartered sub-orbital flight from Singapore demanded that the pilot turn back when they heard that Undepoldus would not be at Regent's Park. When the pilot said he couldn't turn back because the plane was in free fall, some of the passengers decided to try to take over the plane. The pilot responded by turning off the gravity units. This made most of the passengers bilious and the troublemakers helpless.
George's message had done its job. The mad rush of people towards Regent's Park had built up in four hours and took just over an hour to disperse. The chaos was over.
The next section covers the events in the Reptile House.
Viewers familiar with this subject may pass on to the following section.
Please select PASS or CONTINUE.