Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)
TITLE: of Olympic Proportion
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Something had hit the fan. Mid-level analysts, like Martin, didn’t get called into the CIA Director’s office at four in the morning over the trivial. The early call, though, wasn’t responsible for his exhaustion—love for a certain freckle-faced wife was.
After more security hurdles than usual, he was finally escorted into a small paneled conference room. At the far end of an oblong table sat the Director and Martin’s boss, Tim. Someone Martin didn’t know stood behind them. Their attention shifted to the doorway.
“Morning, Martin—come on over here,” said Tim, “This is Director Wahlberg, and Bernie, an in-house translator.” No handshakes, only nods. “Last night we processed a packet from Beijing—partially addressed to you. It contained a thumb drive.”
"Take a seat and see what you make of it,” said Tim. “Here’s a hard copy of the translation.” Bernie handed Martin stapled papers.
The Director didn’t waste any time double-clicking the audio file. A clear voice began speaking in Chinese.
“There are issues to discuss, Comrade, with all respect, of course.”
“First, Liu Yan, one of our nation’s premier dancers, fell during rehearsal. She may be paralyzed for life. We should issue a statement.”
“Nothing will be issued. Days before the opening you want to dampen the festivities? It will wait—I will put a choke on the press.”
Oh, Lord, thought Martin, that second voice belonged to one of the highest-ranking members of the Chinese Politburo.
“We are worried about how the quality of air will look when broadcast, Comrade.”
“Factory production in the city has been reduced or halted. Road use is restricted. Commodities have been siphoned from surrounding populations in order to produce the desired appearance. One storm and the skies will clear. Have faith in your state. These games will bring honor even to my grandson’s generation.”
“There is the matter of protesters, Comrade. They claim our government is funding the genocide in Darfur.”
“Protesters will not be a problem. Visa’s have been denied and revoked for some time. Over 100,000 armed military patrol. The slightest unrest will be squelched.”
There was a pause on the recording, followed by a short cough. “And the foreign press?”
“Like our citizens, they have only restricted Internet access. There are over 300,000 security cameras in Beijing alone. Every Internet Café, taxi, hotel, place of worship, and subway--monitored. Eyes will see through everything.”
“Thank you, Comrade. And we have taken references to Mao from the opening ceremonies. We also have the parade of fifty-five Chinese ethnic groups prepared—all Han children, naturally. Another pause, then: Will the foreign media believe what we present?”
“They have as much interest in making these Olympics successful as we do. Anything else?”
“Good. Yesterday I watched rehearsals—the girl singing “Ode to the Motherland” is homely. Have someone more aesthetically pleasing replace her on stage. For all your efforts, I will see it’s reported four billion people viewed the opening ceremonies.”
“Thank you, Comrade!” Chairs scraped over a floor.
“That’s it,” said the Director, with a click. “Your take?”
“I don’t know about the Olympic official, but the other one—well, you know who he is.” Silence all around. Waiting. Martin forced himself to ask: “Who sent it?”
Bernie handed him another sheet of paper. The overt surveillance focused on Martin made his neck itch.
I send this in the name of He who is Holy. I ask only you look after one who has engraved above his heart: 1 Peter 2:16
When a wife changes a son’s clothes next, she will find it and rage, but she will hide it from her father to protect the only thing she loves more than him—for that, I am thankful.
Reading the words, Martin recalled an underground friendship formed half a world away while studying abroad—his fears of the last twenty minutes solidified. “What’s the verse?”
Bernie read from a Post-it note. “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”
Three sets of dark pupils waited for Martin’s reaction. “In a way, Mr. Politburo was right,” he offered them. “Eyes will see through everything—even their own charade.”
Martin needed time to think.
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