Copyright© 2015 by Gordon Johnson
It was the next day before Tom could get his interviews with each of the Malan Mothers. He struck more than a few problems with identities. Margo didn't want her husband back on Earth to know where she was; Ruth didn't want the criminals she had infiltrated to know where she was; her employers also wanted it kept secret. Esther was extremely wary of revealing to the US military that she had effectively deserted her military responsibilities, and preferred it remain that she had simply "disappeared".
He had already decided to downplay Jeannette's role in events, so only Esme could be identified without any repercussions.
Some agonising on Tom's part brought him to the conclusion that he had to call them "Mother A", Mother B", and so on, with an explanation that the women did not want their role as surrogate mothers to affect their future lives on Rehome. He would need to get a statement from the Governor to say that the stories were true as far as was known by the Colony, and that hiding their identities from public view was approved by his office.
Once they knew that their identities would not be revealed, the ladies became more forthcoming with their stories. Esme's former location could be stated, but Margo's would have to remain, "an American city". Jeannette would simply be "A former RAF servicewoman". Ruth's story would have to be extremely vague, saying that she had worked as an undercover agent for a security organisation in the United States.
Esther's tale would be even more difficult to tell. Tom decided to make it that she was "a serving officer in the US military", and that the author had seen documentation that confirmed her exact status. In her case, he would NOT claim that she was on Rehome. In fact, he eventually decided that in telling their stories he would not reveal "their current whereabouts", and simply leave it to the readers to draw their own conclusions, from the fact that the story appeared in the Rehome News!
Despite the normal rush to get a story out, he worked slowly on this one. He wanted every word to be both accurate and also unhelpful, for any person wanting to find them. Another ploy he adopted was to say that the ladies were currently living under assumed names. That would go some way to stopping a search for them.
A point occurred to Tom, that might be useful, and he phoned The Personalia to talk about it. They were willing to listen to anything impinging on the Malan children's lives. He explained his reasoning.
"My understanding is that any search being made that involved Rehome databases, where the name of any Malan mother was concerned, could be monitored by The Personalia. Is that so?"
"This is a correct statement, Tom Pfeiffer."
"In that case, are you able to prevent any of the ladies' names being found?"
"We see what you are thinking of, Tom Pfeiffer. We are in a position to substitute a similar, but different, name in the databases, if access is sought from Earth. Thus Esme Limbada might be replaced by Emilia Lambert, maintaining the same approximate position in database indexes, with the same initials. Would such a plan meet your concerns?"
"Indeed it would, my friends. Thank you."
The story would not link particular Malan children to particular mothers. That would be an unnecessary intrusion on their lives, and would contribute nothing to the effectiveness of the story.
His final paragraphs would be the killer point.
"These women were either volunteered, bribed, ordered, or otherwise coerced into becoming surrogate mothers to alien children. Having brought their children to term, the babies were cruelly snatched away by the political or military establishments, with the intentions of studying alien physiology and child development.
These poor women, their bodies ready to nourish their offspring, were completely deprived of that maternal task that their bodies were ready to perform, and for years afterwards they were given no information about what had happened to their children. The children were cocooned in an artificial environment as an object of scientific study; deprived of their mother's love.
Due to political pressures, Earth's politicians eventually asked The Personalia to take over responsibility for these children. The Personalia then asked the Rehome Colony to rear them in surroundings carefully prepared, to bring them up as Malan children should be, speaking the Malan language and learning about Malan customs and society. This was achieved by raising them, under the supervision of The Personalia, in a house in Metropolis sheltered from human society until the children were old enough to integrate with humanity.
The Personalia have now performed what should have been the human duty of Earth's political leaders: brought mothers and children together. This newsman saw this in action, and was quite touched by the love these Earth ladies still held towards their alien offspring. It was marvellous to watch a Malan child look at its mother for the first time, and say "Mummy, thank you for finding me", and the mother saying "I have missed you a great deal, Usgar (or Tuchgar, or Nargo, or Amech) – the names of these children.
The Personalia and Rehome Colony have done the "human" thing, welcoming and nurturing these children, while Earth's leaders treated these children as aliens only, to be shunned, studied, experimented on; everything except loved, a trait which is the greatest and most important indicator of our humanity."
When he had completed the text of the story, Tom sent it to the Governor for clearance to publish. Bob brought it home, to be vetted by his wives. As mothers themselves, they were the best judges of what was right. They approved the story without changing a word, and Bob gave Tom the go-ahead to disseminate it.
Tom prepared his distribution plan. He made contact with a large number of different news distributers in many countries, and told them that this story had to be released right after it was received. He explained that it was a social story that had political overtones, so he was concerned that the politicians might try to prevent publication if forewarned. That was why he wanted publication the same day or on the first occasion that the publication could use it.
He added a covering note, "You may read the story first, but I demand that if used, it should appear exactly as it was written, without editorial interference. It is an all or nothing release. If you cannot use it as is, then do not use it at all. The wording is that important. Translation into other languages MUST be done or approved by The Personalia (contact number attached). Should you choose to use the story, I am happy to accept a publication fee of half your normal rate. Follow-up stories may or may not be possible: it is not known yet if cooperation can be obtained for such follow-up stories."
He set up his computer system to send off the story to all parts of Earth at the same time. It had the desired effect. The story appeared in hundreds of newspapers all over Earth, and by the time the Authorities woke up to the danger of the story, it was too late. It was already viral on the Internet, on all the social networking websites, and within a few hours parliamentary representatives were getting calls from constituents, demanding that their member of parliament, etc. not have been involved in the abysmal treatment of the Malan children and their mothers.
Some replied innocently, declaring that they were in the dark about such matters, and would take it up with their party leader. Others tried to pretend that they knew nothing, but other representatives pointed out facts that they were aware of, putting the pretenders right in the muck. As someone once said, you can lie using words, but you can also lie with silence.
A few thus remained completely silent, not wanting to make any admission at all. Instead, they sent frantic messages to their senior colleagues: "What do we say?"
The panic messages went all the way up the line, to where those directly concerned were now looking for excuses, or other people to blame. The best targets were faceless officials, incompetent military advisers or procedures that had been misapplied. This was difficult to apply where most of those involved were officially unknown.
The buck finally got passed to UN Secretary-General, a man who had been entirely unaware of the whole affair until a few days previously.
He came to the conclusion that a) the real culprits were likely to be sheltered and hidden from view by politicians who did not want the full facts to emerge; b) The public needed a scapegoat, and that was himself; and 3) a personal apology to the Malan children was the best policy for him to adopt.
He asked The Personalia if they would provide transport for him to Rehome, so that he could perform this duty. They were pleased to do so, therefore he made a public announcement to the media.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the planet Earth, your representatives have failed to show decent humanity towards the Malan children born on Earth, and their mothers. I feel it is incumbent on me, as the appointed spokesman for humanity, to go to Rehome Colony, where these children now live, and apologise to them for mankind's inexcusable behaviour toward them.
I speak for those who, like me, were not told that such terrible behaviour was happening. I do not know which persons were the culprits, and which gave tacit approval by not objecting, so I leave it to the people of the world to decide whether their elected representatives acted correctly or not, and whether they should remain in office. Those who care for humanity should reveal what they know, and rely on the electorate to forgive them.
For me, seeking forgiveness from those affected is the only real remedy. I ask for your prayers to assist me in this task. Farewell."
His visit to Rehome started with a Landership landing on the East River and gliding over to the boundary between river and road. At the recommendation of The Personalia, a cherry-picker was used to deliver the Secretary-General from the road to the spaceship's hatch without any climbing being involved.
Within a few hours he was stepping out onto aircraft steps on the beach at Metropolis. As he got to the last step down, Governor of Rehome Colony Robert Kempe was there to greet him.
"Welcome to our colony, sir. You are our honoured guest. My car is waiting by the roadside, but we still have to walk across the sand to get there. That is one of the signs that we are a young colony, and not a fully-fledged planet yet."
As they walked together towards the road, the Secretary-General remarked, "I am not really a guest, Governor; more of a supplicant, here to ask your Malans for some forgiveness for the way Earth treated them."
Bob Kempe was conciliatory. "I understand that, sir. I saw your broadcast; it was recorded for me to see. It was an impressive performance! have arranged for you to visit the Malan children, and to meet their mothers, tomorrow. Today, you are our guest at the Governor's mansion, and we will put you up tonight, in one of the guest bedrooms."
"Oh, Thank you, Governor. That is most generous of you."
"Generous, my foot! We keep these rooms set aside for important visitors, and one doesn't get any more important than the Secretary-General of the United Nations! We are on official generosity expenses now, so enjoy it, sir.
"Anyway, my wife Mary is the best chef on the planet, and she wants to impress you with gourmet meals."
"You are confusing me sir. I thought your wife's name was Diane?"
"My first wife is Diane; she's head of Security. My second wife is Ruth; she's head of social services; my third wife is Mary; she has no colony position but is a businesswoman of note. My fourth wife is Helen, and she is Chief Meteorologist for the planet. They are all working women, sir, as well as the mothers of my children. You will meet them all at our evening meal. You should have brought your own wife with you."
"I never thought of it, Governor. I intended just a quick visit, to offer my apologies, then straight home again."
"In that case, sir, please phone your wife and tell her you will be delayed, due to formal duties as part of your now official visit to the colony."
"Can I do that when I get to your home, Governor? I want to see a little of this alien city, if I may?"
Bob agreed to this request, and leaned forward to tap Peter, his driver, on the shoulder. "Peter, the Secretary-General wants a tour of the city. Will you oblige him with a run around all the major sights, including the train station?"
"Certainly, sir. Tour coming up."
Their guest was puzzled. "Train station? What's special about your train station?"
"Not so much the station, sir. The trains here are those built by the Braalians. They are of their own design, and are all-electric, battery-powered, and almost completely silent. The seating in the passenger coaches was too low for us, so we added booster cushions to make them fit for adult humans."
The Secretary-General expressed interest. "That sounds like a worthwhile visit. Is there anything else unusual that you didn't mention?"
"Well, we found the city archive to be particularly edifying. It is not much to look at: a small locked building, and it took us a while to get into it. There was some idea that it might be an armoury!
"The special point about it is that the entire city plan in detail is held inside, down to the layout of the pipework in each building. We have since found much about with the city, converting it for human occupation, but apart from that, it is perfect. It has everything that most human cities OUGHT to have but don't. You don't need to go to the planning office to view building plans: they are all readily accessible in this building.
"The Personalia had fun translating the entire content into English for us. We discovered that you don't have to dig up the roads to repair services: they all run in tunnels underneath the city, with easy access to everything using a miniature railway that runs the length of each tunnel. So far, we haven't mentioned it to the railway buffs who come to Rehome to travel on the above-ground alien railways, which are expanding all the time.