April 08, 2005

A Canticle For Lieberman (pt 4)

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.

"Robin, this expense report is a disaster. Two grand for 'ground transport' fees, three grand for a bodyguard and a safehouse, and another six grand for the cab. You've only got one receipt, most of it's cash, tell me how to explain this?"

He was rewarded with a big show of teeth and a couple of shiny mini-discs. "With these. With video from inside the CZ, bird's eye on a group of gardeners fighting off a police raid, they must have taken it themselves. They're from two different views over the scene, a little shaky but clear enough. And with this." She handed over a couple sheets of paper. "An interview with one of the gardeners. Anonymous, but good stuff, Jack. Urban terrorists don't take credit cards for bodyguard service, what do you want?"

"Cue it up. Let's see." He started looking through the interview writeup while she turned on the set and popped the first disc in. He waited to whistle appreciatively until they'd watched both pieces of footage. "Well. That was, not bad."

"Not bad, c'mon, it's great. And you should see the footage I took from the cab, plenty of local character for the background."

"Well, it'll be an eye-catching teaser, I'll give you that. Go edit your piece, make it six minutes. Have your basic script in my office in an hour and a half and get your segment made ASAP. Give a copy of the footage to the production team, they'll need to put a teaser on the six o'clock. When you're done with all that, write up an article to send out over the AP wire. I want it done before you go home so it can make the morning papers."

"Will do, boss."

She liked working with one of the talk stations on in the background. The station sent around memos with updated issue talking points as needed, but it was a boring way to get her head in the right place. Talk radio was so immersive, conveyed attitude so much better. When she made the effort to get the attitude down, she never got complaints about being off-key with her phrasing. Michael Coughlin was on, her favorite.

"(click)... do you have to say about that, Randall? These guys, these radical leftists are calling you out."

"Mike, their charges are just ridiculous. Look at the comparisons they make, the hateful things they say about us. Now, the Army of God is nothing like Hezbollah, nothing. For one thing, our mission is to protect the sanctity of life, while they're just a bunch of cold-blooded killers. I know some of my boys get a little rowdy sometimes, go a little too far, and no one is sorrier than I am about those young women. But lemme tell ya', those abortionist baby-killers had it coming."

"Some people say you lost a lot of sympathy for your cause when that van ..."

"Mike, it was practically a mercy killing. I sure don't condone it, but they take them up on those vans to Canada, to the godless west coast, or even down to Mexico, Mike ..." There were tears in his voice. "Mike, I'll tell you, only half these poor women come back from those charnel houses, and the rest ... God, Mike, they hurt in their hearts forever. I've had women come in to our centers crying their eyes out, they were so ashamed when their neighbors and families found out, it was a mercy to send them to the police so they could serve their penance."

"Randall, you make it sound like a more complicated issue ... (click)" Well, that was no damn use at all. Someone, somewhere, must be talking about the imminent collapse of civilization itself being mediated through the slums and contamination zones. It still impressed her how quickly the public had turned against the hapless people caught up in the CZs.

"(click) ... upreme Court ruling is a mockery of American faith and val ... (click) ... ighway bill is a big waste of ... (click) ... ese pissant countries are stealing our intellectual prop ... (click) ... oddam anarchists shooting up their own cities and no one will do anything about this tide of lazy rodents threatening ... Bingo.

She sent Gwen an email with an order for some takeout and got to work.

"... used to only worry about illegals, and our own citizen border patrols were able to handle that, some even gave their lives for it. The illegals are mostly too damn scared to come across and try to take our jobs now. A few crossers got shot, some heads got cracked open in L.A., Texas, and New Mexico, and as regrettable as that was, we're keeping work open for Americans. The lazy cowards learned their lessons. But I don't know what it will take before this inner city rabble, who has no respect for force, for authority ...

Really, stopping migration across the Mexican border was one of the circle's proudest moments. Families hadn't spent so much of their income on food in 50 years, and it had been a factor in pushing public acceptance of sealing off the contaminated zones. Feeding large, urban populations on foreign-made, pre-packaged military rations removed them from competition for groceries with the rest of the country. Prices had dropped enough to avoid a full-blown crisis, but the animosity continued to run admirably high.

The Monsanto-ADM Relief Act and the Urban Resistance Military Service Opportunity Act had passed quickly and virtually without comment. As an additional side benefit, the crippled Social Security system had been dealt a body blow with the loss of payroll taxes from non-citizens who would never collect benefits. Oh well, it was no time to dwell on past successes.

Didn't we write a story about the CZ military draft scares going around? If she remembered correctly, it had been a very thorough debunking of the urban legends running rampant since CZ residents had been required to submit to full background checks for rations pickup. Just because something was happening, well, that was no reason it couldn't be debunked.

"... still these terrorists in our midst just don't get it. We don't want them spreading their disease and filth through the rest of the country, to neighborhoods where our fellow citizens live clean lives. Folks, they want our sympathy, but they won't even keep a health quarantine. They don't care how many of you they kill, how many children they infect. Adding insult to injury, they eat, and I know this from very reliable sources, as good or better than our men and women in the military. I'm talking about the troops that lay their lives on the line for this country every day, the people whose sacrifice makes it possible for these ingrates in the CZ to live in a free country, they eat as well as them for free and they're still complaining ...

Gwen popped in with lunch. "Thanks, Gwen. How's that research coming?"

"Going fine. The Pentagon press secretary has been very helpful."

"Great. You did get some lunch for yourself, right?"

"Lunch was ages ago, but thanks for asking. Call me if you need anything else."

"... let me, let me just tell you how deep this thanklessness goes. How well these people are being treated, even better than those of us who still have to work to keep this country going, and they just have no end to their demands. Not only are they getting fed out of our paychecks, they get free medical care, they get help with their rent, and even reduced utilities. If I wasn't worried about the TB, hell, I'd move to one myself. ..."

Alright, now for that FAQ on the CZ rules. The Department of Health and Homeland Security website could have been laid out a little better, but at least the press section was pretty straightforward. Here we are, "Common Misconceptions About the Contaminated Zones," and the section on food policy will be riiight ... here.

"... this is the lieberal paradise, folks, exactly what the welfare pushers had in mind when they came up with the Social Security, and the New Deal, and the Great Society. Look at the CZ, and you are looking at the dream of Roosevelt, Johnson, and every other Demoncrat. A murdering mob of couch potatoes fed on the government dime, freed from the rule of law, and given every benefit imaginable.

"They're nothing short, my friends, of a poisonous den of traitors we've supported in our midst for far too long, weakening us from within. They won't be content until the whole country is covered in their pig slop, filled with lazy-minded, lazy-assed, immoral whackos without a grateful bone in their miserable bodies. They'd probably sell the country out to the Syrians for a bowl of hummus, if they aren't planning it now. Representatives, agents, if you will, dear listeners, of these verminous hordes work to break out of the contaminated zones every night to spread crime and disease as far as they can.

"You know, barely a week goes by when they don't infect a new neighborhood that has to get added, at huge expense to all of us, to the festering circles ..."

Yep, that would about do it. Her piece had, of course, to be packaged as a neutral news segment. But there was news, and then there was news. This was a politically sensitive topic, not some puff piece about a third world disease epidemic.

No one in the CZ was likely to see it, though. Cable providers had stopped installation and cut off existing customers when the first barriers were put up. It wasn't considered an essential service and the companies said they couldn't risk the maintenance staff. For the few who had internet access, the stations had stopped keeping public transcripts years ago.

"Hey, Robin, do you have a copy of those disks? The network affiliates want a piece of this and we have to get that teaser going."

"Sure, Jack. I'm actually done with these, have at. I could have emailed you a copy, you didn't have to come down."

"Eh. Gives me an excuse to stretch my legs. I started feeling at one with my chair."

"You're sounding awfully Zen there. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were some kind of New Age throwback." She looked wryly at him over the pen she was pointing his way.

He mimed an exaggerated cringe, arms warding off imaginary projectiles. "So serious today, so serious. It's goofy stuff, but you can't resist a phrase like being at one with your chair."

"You know I'm teasing, but don't let the big suits hear you talking like that. They can't afford to let word leak out that they're running some kind of affirmative action program for subversives. You techies are natural suspects, anyway, you've got to be protected from yourselves." Everything about her was smiling.

"Alright, alright, you're all work and no play today. Stop by the booth sometime when you need a laugh. I've got a great segment of an anchor talking to his girlfriend. Oh man, he didn't know the mike was live, you'll split a seam."

"I always say, if you want the good gossip, you have to know the production crew. Who is it?"

"I've learned a thing or two about keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. You can find out when you visit, ma'am." He snapped to attention and saluted smartly, winking as he dissolved the posture and closed the door behind him.

Robin got up and locked it, turned the radio off, then set up the equipment for doing her voiceover there in the office. It was only a few takes before she was happy with the script and the pacing. She wouldn't appear in most of it, and the extra time would be filled in with footage she'd taken on the way back from the window of the cab, the return of the captured police officers taken in front of the station, and a short interview with the station chief.

Her voice would be the soundtrack to buildings battered by gunfire and neglect, apartment blocks flattened by mortar bombardment, pockmarked streets, and rows of beans, lettuce, squash, and corn in every yard and open patch of ground in view. It would roll over glimpses of children playing under guard on barricaded streets, ducking for cover at the sight of a slow moving car. Gardeners and suspicious sentries ghosted in and out of view in their bulky clothes and masks, genderless from any significant distance.

The cost of gas inside the CZs had driven most cars off the road, but if they lingered too long, there was the risk of being escorted out by a neighborhood patrol vehicle kept running on the collected spare change of local families. They hadn't lingered too long. Now in the safety of her office, she regretted not having that visual to add to the collage.

She emailed the voiceover file and script to Jack, all the extra footage, and her rough video draft. He'd do his usual magic, and she'd be free to go home as soon as she got the approval on the video spot and the wire story was done. There was an appointment she needed to keep with the sauna tub in her condo, and later, a dinner date with Paul. Back to the keyboard.

"(click) ... could be building guerrilla armies in there for all we know. These urban terrorists have no respect for the law, no respect for their fellow citizens, and no respect for the truth. They get free food, but then some of them are too lazy to even go pick it up. So they tear up the streets that our tax dollars paid for, and they're dirt farming on the government dime, spreading more disease by keeping farm animals in the middle of our cities. On your hard-earned money. They say they're growing food, but everyone knows those people only know how to grow good ol' Mary Jane. Ganja. Loco weed, my friends, that's what they're growing in there, mark my words. That's why they're so hungry, they've got the munchies, go through their rations too fast.

"The only real question at this point, ladies and gentlemen, is whether this doped up army of lawless barbarians will overrun the flimsy checkpoints that hold them back, invade the rest of the country before somebody decides to do something. Friends, I don't say this often, but I am, believe it or not, afraid. Afraid for our way of life, for my ..."

To be continued.

Part 3 < > Part 5

Fiction Archive

Posted by natasha at April 8, 2005 01:48 AM | Fiction | Technorati links |

Excellent installment! In fact, an excellent series...

Posted by: Pluton at April 8, 2005 09:34 AM

Just because something was happening, well, that was no reason it couldn't be debunked.

Great quote, can I steal it?

Posted by: Joe Taylor at April 8, 2005 01:07 PM

Joe - Steal away ;)

Posted by: natasha at April 9, 2005 09:42 PM