Friday, June 14, 2013

Chapter Thirty-Four: Deliverance

“Power is when you have every justification to kill and you don't.”
~Oskar Schindler

Footsteps in the dark.
“ohmygod… ohmygod…”
“Paul, shut up. Eddie? EDDIE!”
“huh... wha…?”
“Wake up. Someone’s coming.”
Edward hopped down from his bunk just as some dim, overhead lights kicked on in the hallway.  Stepping forward to the cell door, he tried to neaten himself up the best he could considering he still wore the hotel pajamas that he went to bed in the night before.
The footsteps grew closer.
Expecting an armed soldier, or at least an anonymous Intelligence Agent, John and Paul were both shocked when the Prime Minister himself appeared in front of his cell, wearing a friendly smile that he might have worn welcoming old friends into his home.
“Good morning, gentlemen! Did you sleep well?”
To their shock, there was no trace of sarcasm in the question.
“Beautifully,” Edward answered, matching his genial tone. “We couldn’t have asked for better accommodations!”
“I’m so glad to hear that!” he answered back.  From his jacket’s breast pocket he produced a set of keys. “Would you please come with me?” He asked, opening their cell door.
“But of course,” Edward answered casually, in stark contrast to the surreal confusion being felt by his companions.
He led them back down the long, poorly lit hallway. There were more cells, identical to theirs, but if they were occupied none of them could tell.  They were stopped just before the last checkpoint, manned by just a single guard, though armed with a Tavor Assault Rifle.
The Prime Minister had them wait a little ways back and went to speak with the guard. They could only hear snippets of the conversation that followed.
“Sir, I can’t…”
“Do you know who I am…?”
“…my orders…”
“…come from my office…”
“…highly irregular…”
“…will take full responsibility… …necessary paperwork…”
A few smiles came back their way as the two men worked through the authorization forms. They were met with a broad smile and a nod from Edward and confused stares from John and Paul.  Not five minutes later they were standing outside, next to what looked like an armored limousine.
“Um… Not to be rude, sir, but would happen to have our bags?” Edward asked.
“Oh, yes. Here let me get them for you.” The prime minister pulled their suitcases from the trunk.
“Guys, you, uh… might want to change before we go.  Make it fast, OK?”
The ride in the Limousine was eerily silent. The PM just kept looking out the window, wearing his stupid grin and acting as if they were just out for a family drive through the country. Edward never asked where they going, nor gave him any directions, yet forty-five minutes later, they were parked in a private hanger, looking at their jet.  The plane was fueled up and the crew was ready to depart. 
Paul and John continued in stunned silence, one occasionally looking at the other as if to ask, ‘Whats’s going on?’ Only to receive a shrug that said, ‘No idea!’
Edward let them board first, and then turned to the Prime Minister. “Thanks a lot for the ride. Would you care to join us?”
The PM smiled again and nodded in enthusiasm. “Oh, yes. That would be lovely.” His presence on the plane did nothing to assuage John and Paul’s now stunned confusion.
As they taxied out, and began to take off, the Prime Minister of one of the world’s great nuclear powers just sat and looked out the window, his grin reminiscent of an almost childlike curiosity and enthusiasm.  His seat faced rearward. Edward sat across from him, a small table between them.  Edward glanced towards the back of the plane, where both of his companions sat, each looking back with stunned confusion still written on their perplexed countenances.
Edward just smiled and held his hand up, half-waving. He nodded and winked at them as if to say, ‘Just watch.’
A few minutes later a bell rang overhead. At Edward’s request, the pilot was letting them know when they had left Israeli airspace.  Edward turned back and studied the Prime Minister’s behavior. He started to look around the inside of the plane.  He still wore his child-like smile, but now his brow furrowed, as if to say, ‘Huh, that’s strange.’
Edward could see every step as amusement gave way to bewilderment and then confusion.  When he finally looked directly at Edward, confusion gave way to immediate panic.
“GAH! YOU! How…?! What… What have you…?!”
Edward exploded in maniacal laughter, and stared into the Prime Minister with a looked that chilled his blood.  “By now I think you’re starting to understand something: NOBODY fucks with me.”
The PM’s face, and the white-knuckled grip he held onto the armrests would have been completely natural, were the plane going down. “H-how…?”
“How?  Don’t worry yourself about that. Let me just make sure you’re aware of the situation.  Not two hours ago, my companions and I were in the deepest, darkest  pit you could find to throw us in. And now? You’re on MY plane, heading back to MY country.  And, just as I’m sure you are, your ministers back home are wondering how the situation could have possibly gone so bad, so quickly.  But see… That’s what happens when people try to work against me. Things don’t work out the way they plan.  On the other hand… things DO always seem to have a way of working out for me.”
“Wh-what are you going to do to me?”
Edward furrowed his brow and cocked his head to the side. “Do to you?,” he laughed. “I’m not going to do ANYTHING to you.  I delivered my ultimatum. I said my piece. The only question is whether you wish to continue to enjoy our support or not.”
“B-but… Jihadist… Palestinian rebels…” He was too terrified to even repeat his own policy talking points.
“…Are mostly coming from Iran,” Edward finished. “And, just as I told CIA Director Panetta, Iran will be… dealt with… Assuming THIS conflict is brought to a peaceful resolution first.  Let’s stop writing Al-Quaeda’s propaganda for them first, all right?”
The PM had taken to hand-wringing.  He was trying to process what Edward had just told him. “S-So… you’ll do the same to Iran… as you’ve done to us?”
Edward chuckled. “Hardly. I haven’t really done ANYTHING to you. I offered some advice.  And in exchange for you resolving an expensive and bloody conflict in such a way as to ensure your lasting security, I’m giving you something in return: I will deal with your greatest enemy.  And compared to what I’m planning for them, what you and I are going through will look like a picnic lunch.  What they will experience will be more akin to… wholesale slaughter.  The PM just stared at him, stunned. “Assuming, of course, that you play ball.”
“You have a simple choice to make,” Edward continued. “You can continue to exist, in peace, with your greatest enemy swept from the earth and the strongest military in the history of mankind as your ally… Or, you can be left to face Iran, and whoever else’s toes you’ve stepped on over the years, alone, after the U.S. makes a public declaration that we no longer have any interest in your well-being and will take no part in coming to your defense.  And should you doubt my ability to deliver on either of those scenarios, perhaps you should ask yourself: Why are you on this plane right now?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“Why did you let us out of prison?”
“But do we understand one another, at least?”
Lacking any rational explanation for what had happened thus far, the PM just nodded his head.
“Good. Then there is one more thing I have to offer you. Can I assume that I am not someone you really want in your life? It’s OK. You can answer me candidly.”
The older man just nodded his head.
“In that case… If you do as I’m asking?  I give you my solemn vow that you will never see me or hear from me again as long as you live.”
The other continued to nod, looking defeated.
“Excellent. OK… So: We have many hours of flying ahead of us. We can talk, you and I, or I can arrange for communications to be set up between you and your Government back home.”
Another nod. “Yes, please. Thank you. I’ll… I’ll have Avi and Eli start hammering out our proposal.”
“Perfect.  And once we land in Washington, you are certainly welcome to stay on and meet with the President and Secretary of State, or I can arrange to have you immediately flown home.”
Thinking back to his foreign minister’s interpretation of his conversation with the Secretary of State, he was beginning to understand why they might want this man gone.  And  he guessed that they had already tried to accomplish this and failed. Now he had failed as well. Under those circumstances, he would just as soon not meet with them.  It hardly seemed worthwhile anyway, seeing as how they were no longer the ones in control. “No… I’ll go home.  We have… a lot of work to do.”
Edward only eavesdropped on their call enough to make sure he wouldn’t try martyring himself by ordering an airstrike on the plane, or something similar.
When they were finally home, exhausted form their ordeal and the long flight that had followed, the three companions collapsed on their beds and slept for many hours.  That evening the three of them drove back into the city together to meet up with Gretchen, West and Professor Todd at the Executive Building before going to dinner.  Epiphany opted not to go with them.
While waiting for West, Edward relayed the story of their adventure to Gretchen and Robert.
“And this guy here was crying like a bitch! ‘ohmygod… ohmygod…’” Edward was clearly having fun with this.
“What would expect?” Paul asked indignantly.
“I’d be scared,” Gretchen answered, as Robert nodded his head in agreement. “What happened next?”
Edward relayed most the rest of the story, but before he could finish, he was interrupted by West, who had just returned.
“Eddie, you’d better come see this.” He whispered, dragging him away from the others.
He led him to a conference room with a flat-screen tuned into CNN.  When Edward saw the headline banner, it was like getting kicked in the stomach:
“What the hell?!”
“Ed: Did you do that?”
“No. No fucking way! He was going to help us! He…” Edward’s fist balled up. His eyes narrowed in fury. He bounded out of the room, storming right past his friends, leaving them behind.
Obscenities flew out one after another as he quickly walked to his car.  Suspicion gave way to rage as he put it gear, floored it and flew home in record time.  Fumbling with the lock, and banging on the door furiously enough to knock it down, were it not made of steel, Edward barged right past Epiphany when she opened it.
“Eddie, what’s…”
But Edward just held up his index finger and scowled as her charged up the stairs and into his study, where the tablet lay of his desk.  Swiping it up he slammed his thumb down aggressively on the “HISTORY” icon and scrolled to the end.  Sure enough, the last command entered matched the instructions that he had left for Epiphany to use in the very likely circumstance that they were detained.
They matched… almost perfectly.
What was missing screamed out at him immediately: “…and will live for 200 more years according to his own free will.”
She had left off the last line.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?!” He screamed.
“What?!” She called out, annoyed, as she hurried up the stairs.
“Stop screaming at me! What the hell is wrong with you!?”
“WRONG WITH ME?!” Edward made a herculean effort to compose himself. “He lived… for another… 200 years.  You were supposed to write that. I explicitly told you to follow my instructions, to the letter. Why the FUCK, is that last bit missing here?!”
“Eddie… I…”
“WHAT?! WHAT?! You… WHAT?!  The Prime Minister of Israel is DEAD because you, you STUPID…!”
What caused her to interrupt might have started out as anger, but something in Edward’s eyes caused it to morph into fear. “Eddie, he was moving against us! They arrested you! I… I didn’t know where you were, I didn’t know what had happened…”
“FUCK YOU!” she screamed back, punching at him as he raised his arms to shield himself. “FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! YOU WERE DEAD FOR ALL I KNEW!” A moment of silence as she caught her breath. “And what’s this ‘wantonly murdered,’ crap?! You killed two hundred and thirty five people for Christ’s sake!  How DARE you get on your high horse with me!”
Edward did his best to remain calm. “Those people were part of the PROBLEM. This guy was going to help us. And now I only hope and pray that his successor doesn’t assume WE are the ones who killed him somehow!   As for the rest of it… I tried to do everything in my power to keep the blood off of anyone else’s hands. I didn’t want anyone else to be tainted by what I had done. The deaths were to be on my moral ledger and mine alone.  I wanted you to remain clean of that unless there was absolutely no other way.”
“Oh, I get it,” she shot back sarcastically, “So now I’m some kind of damaged goods to you? I’m tainted?!
Edward could only muster an apathetic shrug.
“You hypocritical, self-righteous, son of a…”
They argued for another half an hour before being interrupted by the doorbell. West was waiting outside. “Jesus, Eddie, don’t you ever answer your phone?!”
“Huh? Oh shit, I guess I left it in my jacket. What’s up?”
“Avigdor Lieberman has been named interim Prime Minister.  He’s been trying to get a hold of you.”
“You got a callback number?”
“I do, but don’t worry about that. Just take my phone. The call will be patched back through to it in about five, ten minutes or so.”
Edward took the phone and headed back upstairs. Epiphany, still visibly upset, came downstairs and waited with West.  As soon as the hour struck, the phone rang.
“This is Carpenter.”
“Good evening. This is Avidgdor Lieberman, I’ve been named…”
“Interim PM, I just heard. Congratulations on your appointment, Mister Prime Minister. It’s a shame that it couldn’t have come about under more favorable circumstances. And I’m deeply sorry for your country’s loss.”
“Yes, well… You never know how much time you have. Bibi was healthy, but he was getting older. Still too young to go, but… well, you have to appreciate every day you have down here, am I right?”
“Yes, sir, you certainly are.”
“Can I assume that the policy you presented to us is still in effect?”
“Yes, sir, it is.”
A long sigh from the other man. “OK. I had a very long conversation with the Prime Minister during his flight back.  We have some ideas.  Please rest assured that I intend to proceed as he was ready to.”
“I’m very glad to hear that.  And you should rest assured that the United States will be ready to do whatever is necessary to maintain the peace, once established.  Thank you for your time and hospitality, and for getting in touch with me.”
Hanging up, Edward was relieved, if a bit surprised, that there were no questions regarding how they were able to turn the situation back on their captors so quickly, or suspicion that they were involved in the man’s death.  He figured they would do an autopsy anyway. He wondered how a death like this one  would appear under examination, though he was certain it would clear away any suspicion that the man was poisoned, or that foul play was otherwise involved.
He looked down at the Tablet: Both traffic lights were now green. “Well, at least we’re back on track,” he muttered to himself.  His eyes then drifted over to a picture of him and Epiphany that he kept in a frame on his desk.  It was taken just before Christmas, last year. The grand plan had been set in motion by then, but no one had died yet. They looked happy. While he was still furious that she had gone against his orders, killing a potential ally in the process, he had no will left to keep fighting with her about it.  He sighed, and started looking for a way to make up without leaving her thinking that what she did was even remotely OK, and without painting himself as a monumental hypocrite doing it.
“It was easier facing down the Israeli’s!” he laughed to himself as he started down the stairs, mentally preparing to engage in some true diplomacy.

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