I can’t resist a little Arts wise-crack. He glances around furtively and returns his gaze to me. Puffing his chest out, he roars at me for the benefit of anyone listening. “You and your blackleg associates won’t be getting away with this, Mollified!”Whipping his gaze left and right to make sure he’s in the clear, he shuffles a little closer to the window and lowers his voice to a careful whisper.“Is everything going to plan?”“Why, of course, Doc, of course. Brady and the rest of the fat cats aren’t going to know what’s hit them once today is over.”Even as an inveterate liar, it does occasionally pain me to have to stoop to an untruth. Brady and company know precisely the manner in which they’ll be hit, because I’ve been considerate enough to ensure that an itemised quote for the services I’m about to render was emailed to every member of Governing Authority over the past week. The good Dr Allen, thankfully, is still in the dark about that for the moment.Truth be told – which it rarely is, with me – Belfield’s answer to Big Jim Larkin thinks that I’m on his side here. This isn’t the first time we’ve had one of these seedy little meetings. I’ve been grooming the SIPTU mouthpiece for weeks now, steadily building up his confidence and convincing him that Mollified & Mollified Inc. truly mean no harm to the working man. And indeed we don’t – provided, of course, that the working man doesn’t get in our way.For the moment, the Belfield Bukharin is content to believe that all the pleasant skulduggery I’ve been up to over the past two weeks is in aid of today’s Big Lefty Day Out.“Don’t worry,” I whisper back, struggling to hide the smirk. “You hurry down to the main picket and keep the troops going. I’ll check in with my lot now.”With that, I take off in a haze of exhaust fumes, leaving the rabble-rousing academic to blink after me before continuing on his way.I screech to a halt outside the Student Centre and jump out of the Land Cruiser to draw a deep breath of satisfaction and anticipation before marching up the concrete steps.Inside, the assembled crowd falls silent at my appearance, staring expectantly toward me. It’s not almost like a general about to address his troops before going into battle. That’s exactly what this is.Facing me in the tiled atrium of the Student Centre is a motley crew of the very best that the world’s murky mercenary network has to offer. Killers, assassins, hired guns – I’ve got them all right here. It’s quite astonishing what a bit of deft work on CraigsList and a blank cheque from the NUI can do to build a personal army.And these boys mean business. Looking at the array of lean, tanned faces, with muscles bulging under faded combat fatigues, I find it hard to suppress an involuntary shiver, even though I know that I’m the employer here, not the potential victim. At any rate, I hope I won’t be ending up a murder victim. Still, the old Mollified charm has never failed yet.Composing myself, I step up to the nearest gaggle of hard men and offer a careful smile, glancing down at the cheat sheet I’d printed off before I left the house.“Solomon, isn’t it?” I address the man-mountain who appears to lead this particular faction.He smiles back, revealing two jagged ranks of gold-capped teeth. I suppress another squirming fit, and remember why the name had stuck in my head from the recruitment session last week.Solomon “Chop-Chop” Nkumbe, if I recall it exactly. The fastest man with a machete in West Africa – if not the neatest, if the widows of the Ivory Coast are to be believed. Still, profitable workmanship can’t happen without the right tools.There’ll never be a safe way to say it, so I just go for it. Reaching behind my back, I produce a linen pinafore and hand it over to the giant. “This is your, eh… uniform… for today.”He growls slightly, and fixes me with a most unedifying glare. Backing quickly away, I hastily draw the cheque book from my pocket and wave it at him. At the hint of filthy lucre, the tension is instantly broken and a smile breaks his craggy features once again.“But of course, Slightly!”He barks a quick order and his men follow suit, strapping the pinafores on over their webbing and cartridge belts.“Excellent! You’ll be manning the restaurant for the day!”I quickly stride around the remainder of my real-life A Team and hand out their assignments. One-day stoppage? We’ll soon see.As I shepherd my strike force out the door, my phone vibrates in my pocket. It’s Brady, anxiously checking in. “R we gud 2 go?”The ingrate. DIT students could make a better fist of spelling. Still, for the moment, I’m relying on him for the remaining half of M&M’s fee. I punch back a quick reply in the affirmative, and wander over to the SU Corridor to make a coffee and await events. Being in command has its perks, I reflect to myself, as I settle in to my recliner.
~~By 10am, word has filtered back over the two-way radio. My own little attempt at a Dramsoc staging of The Eagle Has Landed has worked a charm. Everywhere, service across campus has carried on as normal.The South Africans are manning the library check-in desks with marked efficiency, there’s a clutch of Belgian paratroopers offering French tutorials in the Arts Block, and a squad of burly Ghurkhas are conducting rather wide-eyed secondary school pupils on whistle-stop tours of the campus. Over in Science, two stocky Ukrainian sappers are giving a First Year Chemistry class a practical demonstration in material mixing. I know this last detail without needing to use the radio, because I can hear the periodic explosions from my office. Ah, the joys of being an educational administrator.I’m still enjoying my little reverie when there’s a commotion outside the office. The door crashes open to reveal a very, very disgruntled looking senior Sociology lecturer.“You lying rat!” he shrieks, lunging for me across the table. “You promised me you’d have extra numbers to boost the picket line! And now, you’ve got them… working?! You told me you were a bloody Socialist!”This could be tricky, so I proceed as carefully as I can. I take him through it patiently.“Indeed I am, Doc. There are very few more fervently committed to the principles of socialism than I. Equal and fair distribution of wealth, that’s always been the name of my game.”He doesn’t seem to like this. “Do you think I’m a fool, Mollified?!”“Calm down,” I insist. “It’s true. Fair distribution to me, to my mistresses, to the Toyota dealer in Ranelagh, to my dealer… need I go on?”He’s about to heave a laptop at me when something seems to click into place behind his eyes. “Fair distribution… of just how much?” he asks, carefully.Despite my many failings, I still place some store in modesty, so I scribble Brady’s figure on a scrap of jotting paper and slide it across the table. His eyes open wider as he locates the decimal place.“But, that’s…”“I know,” I nod. “All those unclaimed registration over-charges. It’s like some grotesque version of all the ticket stubs at Dublin Bus Head Office.”He turns it over quickly in his head. Idealism never has much of hope against cold, hard logic.“20 per cent?” he suggests.I counter quickly. “15, and my boys in the library will throw in enough swiped Che Guevara biographies to keep you engrossed for the rest of the winter.”We have a deal.
~~Within an hour, Allen’s worked his persuasive magic down at the picket line, and staff members are starting to shuffle back to work all over campus. But there’s one small problem.The boys, you see, have quickly become quite attached to their new roles. Over in the Tierney Building, two wiry Zimbabwean gunmen have been processing student administration queries with an efficiency that the place hasn’t seen since the days of Cardinal Newman, while students already seem to be becoming quite fond of the culinary output of the tattooed Chechen cook who’s taken up residence in 911. They’re not in a hurry to finish up the job any time soon, and I’m not quite sure the student body want them to leave.This creates a problem, however. If my gang of thugs aren’t allowed to move on to their next bit of work, then there’ll be a vital ingredient missing from war zones and dark alleyways the world over.On the other hand though, if the majority of UCD’s staff members are allowed back, then villages the world over will still be lacking their idiots. I think about it, and make my decision. It’s time for some impromptu career exchanges.Gesturing Chop-Chop over, I get him and his men to quickly swap clothing with the frightened looking staff members gathered outside the O’Reilly Hall. Once it’s complete, I stride across to address the lecturers and workers now garbed in ridiculously over-sized camouflage. Behind them in the car park, engines are revving on the military trucks waiting to transport them to Dublin Airport for their charter flights to various hot and dangerous parts of the world.“What happens to you next will be… very interesting,” I drawl. “Think of it as simply an extended field-trip. Examining the practical effects of Darwinism.” I mumble the last sentence though. You can’t completely take away their hope.As I watch one of the key human components of UCD file away under armed guard, I’m aware that I may have just done something very, very bad – even by my standards. But then I turn around just in time to catch the look of youthful excitement on a south Dublin Arts fresher’s face, as a bearded Serbian militiaman shows him exactly where to punch someone so as to instantly paralyse them.I had that excitement once, too. Maybe my changes will make UCD a better place. It’s never too late to try and be good.Merry Christmas, Mr Mollified.