• Drama at the South Pole

    A few eyebrows will have been raised at reports that the Prime Minister intended to take a personal bodyguard with him on a helicopter flight from Scott Base to the South Pole, for fear that an assassin might be lurking when he got there. But there is more to the story than meets the eye.

    On the day that the announcement was made, a select few trusted journalists were invited to a secret briefing given by the Controller and Overall Boss of the Prime Minister’s Personal Security Department – at a time of across-the-board cutbacks, the only government department to have escaped the axe and to have trebled in size. The Controller, known only as “Q” (though some of those in the know are confident that he is really Jonathan Coleman, the Minister for Defence), spoke from behind a screen.

    “Very few realise the scale of the operation now needed to ensure the Prime Minister’s safety,” Q began. “The Prime Minister’s security needs are now so pressing that 70% of this country’s defence effort must be committed to the task if those needs are to be met. And, when a crisis is imminent, it is literally all hands on deck.”

    “Our first indication that something was afoot was the Prime Minister’s fainting fit in the Christchurch restaurant. Our suspicion immediately fell on the red wine that the PM was enjoying that evening. We feared that the enemy had found a way of getting to the wine and lacing it with poison. When tested, it tasted a bit odd, but in the end there was nothing wrong with it, other than it was corked – it was just that the PM hadn’t noticed.

    We then suspected that he may have been struck by a poisoned dart. We were keen to have the PM undergo a full body search, to see if we could find any puncture marks, but unfortunately the PM declined unless we could get Liz Hurley to conduct the search. She was, however, otherwise engaged.

    The episode was enough, however, to put us on full multi-coloured alert. The general public would be amazed to know the extent of the precautions we are compelled to take in such circumstances. When, for example, the PM’s wife, Bronagh, goes to board the helicopter with him, we will intercept her and ensure that she has a DNA test to make sure that she is who she says she is – it’s frightening what skilled plastic surgeons can do these days and the PM might easily be fooled by a skilled impostor. And when the target is a major world figure like the PM, you can’t be too careful.

    The real cause for concern, though, was the intelligence reports we had received from our security services, courtesy of our friends in the CIA. They had picked up a well-founded report from one of their best informants on the “other side” that a well-known polar explorer had been “turned” and – following an epic journey across the frozen continent to the South Pole – was already in waiting, armed and dangerous, hidden under an ice floe at the foot of the Pole and disguised as a polar bear.”

    At this point, it is fair to say, there was a murmur from the back of the room. “But there aren’t any polar bears at the South Pole!” someone said. All eyes turned to the interjector.

    Q sounded a little discomforted but quickly regained his composure. He was not amused. “It shows how little you understand about these operations. The element of surprise was of course essential to the audacious plan. The unexpected was the key. It was intended that the PM would be so surprised at meeting a polar bear at the South Pole, or indeed anywhere, that he would fall back into default mode. It’s easy to imagine that the PM might, for example, invite the impostor to do a spot of gangnam dancing or some such, thus making himself an easy target for a lethal assault.”

    “Or ridicule,” someone murmured.

    “The PM, after all, is not entirely ignorant of the natural world,” Q continued, “and well understands from the films he has seen on the Antarctic that animals there – penguins and suchlike – have happy feet and enjoy dancing.

    We are confident that, having rumbled the plan, we are now on top of the situation. We believe we have foiled this dastardly plot. Any polar bear, whether real or in fancy dress, presenting itself to the PM at the South Pole can expect the full force of New Zealand military might to be brought to bear. The PM, I can assure you, is in safe hands.”

    Q cleared his throat, something Jonathan Coleman could perhaps do more often. “That’s it gentlemen,” he said. “I’m sure I can rely on your discretion. I leave it to you to decide how best to get across to the New Zealand public just how seriously we take these challenges.”

    Bryan Gould

    19 January 2013