March 31, 2005

A Canticle For Lieberman (pt 2)

Pacific Views theater presents the continuation of a short work of fiction. Any resemblance of the characters to persons living or dead is purely in the interests of parable, satire, and entertainment. See the fiction archive for previous installments.

The interview started just like any other. Mr. del Corso was shown into the studio, and they got down to the serious business of introductions, then the final camera and lighting set-up.

"Mr. del Corso, I'm so glad to meet you. We're delighted you chose to come talk with us today, we'll have some jealous network competitors when this airs."

"My pleasure, Ms. Farraday."

"Call me Robin, please."

"Robin it is, then." He smiled, and it was warm and genuine. She almost felt sorry for him. "Your show has a good reputation, I'm looking forward to talking to you and your audience."

"Thank you, sir. I'm glad you could spend so much time with us today, we want to make sure and get the most out of our conversation. ... Ah, here we are, ready to go. Good evening, and thank you for joining us. I'm here with Jaime del Corso, former Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Mr. Secretary, you've surprised everyone by stating in an extensive interview with The New Yorker that the administration was involved at the highest levels with the attempted coup in Venezuela, and tried to compromise European Union diplomats at the United Nations. Could you briefly outline the story for our viewers?"

"Of course, Robin, and thank you for having me here this evening. As I told The New Yorker, the administration allowed unreliable Venezuelan expatriates to view information classified as NO FORN. That means it's illegal to show such intelligence to foreigners, and helped them use it to plan an ultimately unsuccessful coup. This is a high crime, and I don't think people understand the gravity of the breach. On top of that, this led directly to Venezuela's defense pact with China and India, further risking the security of this nation."

"And there were similar incidents in Brazil and Uruguay, were there not? Are you saying that US officials were involved in those, as well?"

"I suspect so, Robin. As I've said, when plans for such actions were brought before me, I rejected them as unworkable. It was shortly after that when I began to feel unwelcome at staff meetings, to be left out of discussions, to have my suggestions dismissed out of hand. But I have no direct evidence that the United States was involved in those attempted takeovers, which happened after I was encouraged to leave. What I can say is that the evidence of US involvement was convincing enough to the governments of Brazil and Uruguay that they immediately followed Venezuela in the defense pact and expelled our diplomats. I can also say that the way the coup attempts were made, from the details revealed to me by diplomatic contacts, they sound very much like the plans that went across my desk."

"And you've said this was tied to the UN espionage case?" The UN headquarters had been moved to London after a year of daily protests as urged on by radio personality Michael Coughlin, two carbombings, and anthrax in the mail. The British tabloids had aqcuired in one stroke a hotbed of intrigue that had always bored their American counterparts, and this incident kept them flush with stories for quite some time.

It was shortsighted, if you asked her. This story would have been over with inside of three weeks had they kept the UN in the US.

"Yes, Robin. Due to increased travel restrictions and suspicion on both sides of the Atlantic, Columbian and Honduran diplomats were recruited to get information from the Spanish on the European Union's Galileo global positioning satellites. These were the same channels through whom they'd coordinated local support and training for the San Somoza guerillas. They were looking for information that could be used to knock out the the satellites in the event of an open conflict with any nations that have Galileo contracts. Many in your audience may not have been made aware of the miscalculation this was."


"You see, the diplomats were concerned about reprisals for their countries. It was very difficult smoothing things over with their other allies when they were implicated in the Venezuela incident. They discussed the plans with their superiors, who then talked to each other, and they decided instead to run a sting ..."

God, she hated this. She succeeded valiantly in looking interested, but all she wanted to do was check the time. Ah, hell, just let him talk, it'll be over soon. Malfeasance ... a nuclear Brazil ... incompetence ... lack of reliable intelligence ... retaliation against dissenters ... Brussels in an uproar ... illegal use of ... oh god, end it now, please. At the start of her career, this would have been fascinating to her, but under the circumstances it was just a complete waste of time.

"Mr. Secretary, the administration has completely denied your claims, and anonymous senior staffers have suggested that you're merely disgruntled over being excluded from ..." Blah, blah, blah. And then it was a wrap. They'd gotten plenty of tape at this point. The set director called a break, and told the camera and sound teams to meet up in studio five in half an hour.

She chatted with del Corso as these instructions were barked out. He really was a lovely man. When the studio staff had gone, she reached over to touch del Corso lightly on the hand as he started to get up. He was mumbling something about getting a muffin before they were all gone. "Yes Robin?"

"Please wait just a moment, Mr. del Corso. I wanted to speak with you privately, while we're alone and the cameras are off."

"Of course. Is something wrong?"

"Perhaps. You see, there are people who won't be happy to hear that you've made these things public. Aren't you concerned about that?"

"Well, yes, but we've discussed this already in the interview. This is important information that the public needs to know. I've had a full life, a full career. I don't feel threatened by the thought of joining Angela prematurely, and that would look mighty suspicious, even if it still sounded all that terrible to me."

"I know, but Mr. del Corso, you do have other family members, do you not?" She let the question hang until his face froze. "You have a grandson who will be attending a party in his dorm this weekend. Who's to say that it won't be raided, that he won't be found in possession of some narcotic? Your son is the CEO of your prior company, and I believe they had some trouble with the IRS a few years ago during his tenure?"

He couldn't help breaking in, it was about time for the initial shock to wear off. "But that was cleared up. It was an innocent accounting error, they paid all the back taxes right away, haven't had a bit of trouble ..."

"Sir. I've been instructed to inform you that the matter might not be settled to the satisfaction of the Justice Department. Now you also have a granddaughter expecting her first child soon. She'll be delivering at Mt. Sinai hospital, and it would be unfortunate if she was the first patient to die of an antibiotic resistant strain of bacteria that pops up there from time to time. Would you like me to continue, sir? ... Mr. del Corso? Do you need some more water?"

He was too pale for the makeup to cover it, and he'd broken out in a heavy sweat. "But you, you, you're not ..." The stammering would probably continue for a few minutes without an interruption. The stage makeup was running down the top of his collar, leaving unsightly peach-colored blotches. She interrupted him.

"Mr. del Corso, you must understand that I'm only delivering a message. I have certain instructions on how to proceed, and I certainly don't want anything to happen to my own family."

"How can you do this, they have nothing to do with any of it. They've done nothing to you ..."

"Mr. del Corso, this isn't about me and I'm not empowered to negotiate with you, I have no such authority." His eyes were wide, and he was about to say something, but she cut him off. "Though I can make you an offer. The studio crew is changing out and being assigned somewhere else, and if they ask later, they'll be told you received a phone call. When the other crew arrives, which should be in about 45 minutes, we can begin the interview again. You will take all of it back, you will renounce the statements you made in that New Yorker article, you will apologize to the president and the permanent secretary for betraying their friendship and lying about them."

"And if I don't?"

"We'll air the first interview. I would feel very badly for your family, sir. Think how you'll feel when you have to accept this bargain later, after something tragic may have happened. I can only imagine what it would be like to know you could have prevented it this afternoon."

"I suppose I have no choice, do I?" He was looking for a response, but she made none. "I, I guess we'll be restarting the interview, Ms. Farraday."

She beamed. "I'll let you freshen up then, and call makeup. We also have a fresh shirt that might suit you. I'm afraid your collar is wrecked, these lights are quite warm. And Mr. del Corso?"

"Yes, Ms. Farraday?"

Her face was a blank slate. "You must call me Robin. You really must."

"Of course, Robin. Thank you for reminding me." He smiled again, but it didn't touch his eyes, and he unsteadily wandered towards the studio restrooms.

She probably wouldn't do this again for a while, it would have been too obvious, and she was relieved. Of course she always thanked Him for such assignments, but it was unpleasant to watch a person with del Corso's stature deflate before your very eyes.

Still, she reasoned, del Corso was a threat to the entire country. He should be putting that charm to work for the people he'd worked with all these years, show some loyalty, instead of putting accusations in the mouths of their enemies. If she wanted to look at it another way, catching it within a couple days like this was saving the poor man and his family a great deal of pain. Really she was helping him, and should be glad only his pride would be hurt.

She hummed her favorite new song while reviewing the second set of questions and notes. It was pretty clear how it would go, but it was important to pretend to be surprised, to preserve the element of spontaneity. After a while, she went for a stretch and a refill of coffee. Where had her assistant gone?

"Gwen? Gwen? There you are. We're going to be starting again in a few minutes, and I won't need you here for a couple hours. Can you get to work on the interview with admiral? Just review the Pentagon press releases and summarize them for me if you could."

"Do you think he'll have any new details about how his fleet cleared the mines in the Gulf, Ms. Farraday? My folks were so excited to hear about this win, you know they're both Gulf War vets, and they'll just want to hear -EV-rything."

"Gwen, if we ask him the right things, some new detail is bound to shake loose. Thanks for your help this morning, that's all for now." Her muffin and coffee were no doubt waiting at her desk and the other camera crew would be along shortly, so if she wanted a break she'd better get to it.

She was humming again as she headed to her office.

To be continued.

Part 1 < > Part 3

Fiction Archive

Posted by natasha at March 31, 2005 04:26 PM | Fiction | Technorati links |

Oh, now I am hooked!

Can't wait for the next installment.



Posted by: Hanna at April 3, 2005 04:57 AM