“What do you think, Jack?”
“I’m thinking a three iron, Mr. President.”
“I’d say a four iron.”
The golfing foursome included Director Morgenthau, Jack Marsh, CEO of Numenor Corp, Oatfield Brown, Secretary of Defense, President Theodore Mellon and their caddies.
“Four-iron it is,” answered the President decisively.
His milquetoast caddy, who was all of maybe fifty kilograms soaking wet and wearing boots, handed him the appropriate club grip-first which the President rudely yanked from his hand.
“You know, you could always use my satellite guided range-finder just to be sure,” offered Jack. Jack was always exploiting opportunities to dazzle the President with Numenor’s technological gadgetry, gadgetry that was brought to life by spectacularly advanced Chinese processors. Jack never knew for sure if some government program that funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into the development of some inane device might be expanded a hundredfold in the event the President took a fancy to it.
“I don’t need your Chinese cheat,” answered the President. “I’m a man of principles.” He took three practice swings, addressed the ball, readjusted his feet and swung. The steel club head shaved the tips of the grass and, with a crack, sent the ball careening low and fast like a miniature cruise missile rocketing across the fairway. It bounced off a tree with a thwack and into the deep rough.
Without even calling for a mulligan, President Mellon, self proclaimed man of principles, beckoned his spindly caddy to hand him another ball. He dropped it fairly, but to his dismay it rolled into an old divot. Unsatisfied with the lie, he reset the ball softly on the tips of the grass. He took three more practice swings and then hit the ball perfectly, sending it flying up the fairway like a white tracer, slightly fading to the left, and then bouncing three times before rolling up to the fringe of the green.
“Nice shot, Teddy,” congratulated Jack.
“You should be able to make birdie,” Axel observed as they started walking towards the green.
“So Axel, tell me, what did you find out?” asked the President as he shoved his club back into his caddy’s face.
Axel’s leathery face flushed with excitement. He had been waiting patiently for several weeks for the President to ask that question. It was not wise to bring these things up on the golf course as President Mellon was prone to automatically shoot them down in this venue.
“As you know, sir, we picked up an exile we had been tracking and brought him in for conditioning. We did a full workup on him. We chipped him, hotwired him, applied non-torture and aggressive interrogation, you know, the works.”
“We’ve come to the conclusion that The Delivery is…is a bluff.”
“Based on what?”
“Based on the fact that he didn’t give us anything despite us working him over pretty good.”
“Maybe he didn’t know anything?” suggested Oatfield.
“Shut up, Oat”, Axel thought. “We think he did. He maxed out on all the psych-parameters. He had three deviation scores on anti-authority-responsiveness. His brain dump rated just as high as any anti-pat that we’ve ever hotwired. Higher even than the Los Angel…”
“Maybe he just doesn’t like nats,” Oatfield interrupted. “What did you do to him before you hotwired him?”
“Nothing! We found him unconscious in an alley. His multi was hacked and his bank account was drained.”
“Could he be a Manchurian?” asked the President.
“No. Hypnotic routines definitely show up in the brain dump. He was probably sent here just to spook us— to get us off track. We didn’t find anything.”
“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” interrupted Oatfield.
They stopped at Jack’s ball. Jack took hold of his wedge and deftly pitched his ball up onto the green. Jack had parlayed his years of CEO schmoozing into an acute golfing skill. He waited for a compliment from the President but was left hanging.
“So Axel, sum it up for me,” continued the President, “do we have anything to worry about in Alaska?”
“Nothing, sir. There’s no coherent plan, just a lot of nebulous threats. We should act now before they get something together.”
“Jack,” asked the President as they continued their stroll to the fringe.
“Mr. President?” he responded, expecting a belated compliment.
“Your Board is okay with the plan, then?”
Deflated, Jack answered. “They’ve given the green light, Mr. President. They were a little concerned with China not going along but we’ve made arrangements with them.”
“So I can count on the Board for their campaign support?”
“Absolutely. Numenor has no more vested interests in Goldstein.”
“Excellent. So Axel can replay his homecoming game and we can finally put this embarrassing chapter in our history to bed.” The President stopped short of the fringe. Oatfield was shaking his head with a contemptible look on his face which compelled the President to ask for his input. “Oat? Do you have something to say?” He prayed Oat would just give up. “Oat can be such a pain in the ass about things like this,” the President thought.
“I think we could use a little more due diligence, Sir. Goldstein is really good at hiding their capabilities from us. Do we really need to rush in to this?”
“Decisiveness, Oat! I’m a man of action!” the President exclaimed. “Are we ready to proceed or not?”
“We have a division in Anchorage waiting for the order,” Morgenthau replied.
“A division? Isn’t that overkill?” asked the President.
“They’re mostly NaPol tacticals rather than regular Domestic Army. All the Reserves are tied up overseas. It’ll be great experience for them,” Axel explained.
“Fine. Just make it quick and clean. Keep our body count low and keep theirs low too, at least on paper anyway. I want you to call Anderson at Freemerica and make sure that the story gets spun the right way. Give him the ‘democratic necessity’ spiel. It works every time. Threaten access if they start to whine. They’ll roll over. We don’t want any bad publicity getting out. No pictures of charred corpses or kids missing limbs. This needs to be spun as a revolt by a bunch of redneck nut-jobs getting put down by the forces of freedom and democracy. People need to believe that this was the only means possible.
Oh, have Anderson drop some embeds in there, too. Show some soldiers handing out sugarless candy and American flags or something. Hell, give his embeds a seat on the top of a tank or something back in the rear. You know how those journalists are. Those arrogant assholes’ll make themselves into the story. While they’re on screen, getting face time, pretending to be Ernie Pyle, they’ll miss the whole damn thing. All the sheeple will see is holograms of dumbass reporters showing the world how brave they think they are. Oh, and make sure they know there’s a Pulitzer in it, too.”
“God bless the media,” Jack remarked.
“Give me my putter,” demanded the President. The caddy obliged and President Teddy Mellon addressed his ball which was resting on the fringe. “Oat, do you have anything else?”
“Well Sir, there’s an old axiom that goes ‘be humble or be humbled’.”
“Fuck you, Oat,” replied the President with a chuckle. “I got something that’ll make you humble and it’s right here, between my legs.”
Oat felt embarrassment but not for himself. “I’m a little concerned about the completeness of Axel’s findings. No disrespect intended, but these guys aren’t a bunch of militia nuts with pre-ban, bolt action rifles up there. They’re very savvy. They’ve made a great many technological breakthroughs in recent years. Their jamming equipment exceeds our detection and mitigation. They have better pulse emitters and cloaking devices. And I’m sure their entire zone is booby trapped and mined to the hilt. I think even Axel would concur that they know we’re coming. They’re ready, no doubt. Didn’t your detainee tell you that, Axel? I watched your tapes of Mr. Moore and I think we need a little extra time to make sure this goes as absolutely as smooth as possible. I am not in favor of rushing this.”
“Mr. President, it’s gonna be a cakewalk,” Jack burst in. “You’ve got the absolute best equipment that Numenor makes up there.”
“With the best Chinese chips,” added Oat, sarcastically.
“And the best trained paramilitary in the world,” Axel added, trying to blot out Oatfield by stepping in front of him.
“Do you disagree with Oat?” the President asked.
“Not entirely, sir,” answered Axel. “I think Oat is just being Oat. But there won’t be any problems. It’ll be a cakewalk.”
“Didn’t your Goldstein suspect escape?” asked Oat.
Oat’s question froze the foursome still. Jack and the President looked at Axel who was caught off guard. Oat wasn’t supposed to know that but Oat seemed to know everything, the son of a bitch. Axel should have been ready for this. He fidgeted while rifling through plausible lies to respond with. He had to get off the hook and diffuse the tension with an explanation that Oat could not expose. A flush came over his leathery face. He had not felt so awkward since he was an intern at the Department of Transportation Security.
“Our convoy got caught in an insurgent crossfire,” he explained. “His transport was blown to pieces and burned to a cinder. He was bound in the hold so he was completely vaporized in the fire.”
“Did you recover any DNA?” asked Oatfield.
“Damn you, Oat”, Axel thought.
“Well?” asked the President.
Think. Think. Think.
“No, sir. There was nothing to recover. Phosphorus burns too hot.”
“I didn’t know that insurgents had access to phosphorous,” observed Oatfield.
Director Morgenthau fumbled nervously. “Damn Oat. Damn him to hell,” he thought. “I hate him. He’ll ruin everything. Maybe I’ll sick the IRS on him,” he thought. “He’s on to me. He knows we incinerated the scene to cover up the embarrassment.” He thought.
“Well, they used it this time,” Axel assured the President hoping his pathos would be convincing.
“I’m not waiting any longer,” explained the President as he addressed his ball again with his putter. “Like I said, I’m a man of action! Jack, you’ll get your cartel operating authorization renewed by executive order just as soon as I get my campaign contribution. Oat, you’ll get to fight an easy, closed-ended battle for once, and win, legitimately, with honor.”
“I’m going to sit this one out, Sir, if you don’t mind,” Oat remarked. “I think Axel is more than capable of handling such a ‘cakewalk’, as he calls it.”
“Dirty bastard son of a bitch,” Axel thought. “Fine. I’ll run the whole damn thing.”
“Axel,” continued the President, “I guess you’ll finally get your homecoming revenge.”
“Are you gonna put that?” asked Axel, relieved that the ordeal was over and that he had escaped further scrutiny.
“Gimme some odds,” asked the President.
“How about twenty to one!” offered Jack, still feeling slighted for the President’s failure to recognize his spectacular wedge shot moments earlier.
“Twenty to one it is. How about five thousand dollars?”
“Sure, why not?” answered Jack. “I can expense it.”
“Gentlemen, how does this sound: we execute the operation on July 4, Independence Day! And it’ll all be over before the solar grills cool and the Susa marches fade.”
“Of course, during my vacation to Fiji,” thought Axel. “No worries, I’ll coordinate from the air en route.”
President Theodore Mellon swung his putter. His ball bounced off the fringe, rolled straight up the green, up and over a goose turd, and plopped directly into the plastic cup ten meters away.
During President Mellon’s self-congratulatory celebration and Jack’s ass-kissing-regalia, Mellon’s milquetoast caddy mentally accessed his cloaked brain chip and sent a short transmission to the processor in Brook’s glasses back in Goldstein. It read simply: “July 4”.
Chapter 17 Chapters 19 & 20 will be available next weekend
For those who missed the beginning of Devin's journey, click here for Chapter 1
Goldstein Republic can be purchased here at Amazon