The Peacemaker Incident
by George S. Karagiannis
A high-ranking diplomat named Zoonoo and nicknamed “Peacemaker” is negotiating a treaty with space aliens called Zotras. U.S. intelligence agencies have gotten wind of a plot to assassinate the diplomat and start a war with the aliens. Agent Aidan Reed is recruited to use his telepathic powers to uncover and foil the plot.
A green olive rolled to the edge of the glass and was passionately smothered by the woman’s lips, which left behind traces of a radiant red lipstick. The woman swiveled on her bar stool. She had no company but the contemporary sound of the piano keys assembling a soft jazz instrumental glamorously accredited by the impresario host a while ago.
Aidan had been watching her as she enjoyed the last drops of her martini cocktail. She smelled the alcoholic vapors of gin and vermouth and crossed her legs, deliberately exposing her black stockings to his visuals. Although his hormones had gone mad, Aidan tried to impress her by exposing an escape artist persona from his insides and pretended absolute indifference to her erotic calls.
The lights went down as the pianist introduced the audience to the next piece, shifting the mood to more melancholic tunes. Dramatized instrumental interrogations between strings and percussion were on the loose. After adapting to the harmony, Aidan eyed the woman to keep on with her eye-contact game and attempted to break into her motivations with his brainpower.
To his own surprise he realized she was, in fact, a monster and not what she appeared to be. The woman was very intuitive; her eyes betrayed she sensed Aidan’s emotional shift as his confidence relocated to a state of uncertainty.
She left her seat and approached him, her heels making a clattering sound. She sat down in the chair next to him. She smiled, but her warmness had vanished; their contact had turned aloof.
“You know, right? You dummied me already,” she asked him.
“For once, just once, I simply needed a hot girl to hang out with. Am I asking too much?” asked Aidan massaging his neck in disappointment.
“Not tonight,” she smiled and brought her purse on the table. She opened it vigilantly: makeup kits along with taster bottles of classy perfumes caught his attention. She brought out a folder and handed it to him.
“This is Zoonoo, the so-called peacemaker,” the woman informed him.
“I know him,” murmured Aidan. “He is a key negotiator and charismatic diplomat sealing the peace treaty and good relationships between humans and Zotras.” He leafed through the paperwork very swiftly, absorbing the gist of the bureaucratic pile.
There were pictures from formal and informal meetings in which Zoonoo had participated. There was a detailed history of his actions, the journeys he made to Earth, the reporters he talked to, the restaurants he dined in, the hotels he stayed at, even the animals he petted.
“An intelligence source suggests he might be targeted for assassination,” the woman said in a strictly professional tone. “Mr. Reed, we will need your telepathy services in order to spy on the motivation of our prospective killer. This is a matter of national security.”
Aidan hissed out a sigh. “Who’s the primary suspect?”
“CIA believes there might be at leak at the Feds,” the woman frowned.
“The FBI? Why on earth would they want to assassinate Zoonoo?”
“We don’t know yet. All we know is that peculiar discussions have been intercepted by our microsatellites at the office of the Deputy Director, National Intelligence Service. We ran voice recognition software and sound analysis algorithms but the voices were very vague and distorted. Even when we tried to match them with known individuals from the Bureau to facilitate queries, no hits were returned.”
“Might be a setup.”
“Might be. In any case, we decided to put the tape inside for you. I suppose you can’t dummy people from a distance, though. You can only attack telepathically in a tete-a-tete situation like the two of us, right now,” she continued, sensually changing her voice.
The pianist was now popping in some random incoherent keys in a grotesque rhythm and framed a vampire concerto with baritone vocals, as if he was trying to practice some last-minute inspiration he had had the previous night at the conservatory.
Aidan drank in one shot his leftover whiskey and diffused his nervousness by firmly slamming the empty glass on the table. He swiftly turned his gaze to the fleshly part of his companion’s beauty. “It would be too cliché to ask you out, after this is over, right?”
* * *
Raindrops produced a creaky sound as if they were metallic spikes. The rain hit the windshield very hard and soon dissolved onto the glass like bacteria sizzling under a microscope lens.
The mesmerizing dim lights coming from the hotel neon sign across the street polarized through the water, striking Aidan hypnotically.
He held his tape recorder and pressed the “play” button.
Initially there was a long silence decorated with static from tiny scratches in the film. Seconds later, he heard a hoarse breathing, steady but evidently forced. Perhaps the result of a long-term smoking habit, appearing with the first signs of lung or throat cancer, thought Aidan.
“There shouldn’t be a next time,” someone said. A male, maybe in his thirties; forties at best. It was unclear whether this voice came from the person hoarsely breathing moments before. There was a whisper from afar; not easy to capture its source.
“We made sure Zoonoo will depart.” This second voice was more raucous and was more likely to belong to the person who had been breathing at the beginning.
Then a fax machine received an incoming message in the background. Some light footsteps followed. It was too complicated to perform a thorough analysis without sophisticated equipment or machinery. “Permanently,” the first man echoed again. The transmission ended there.
He pressed “rewind.” A group of bikers in hoods passed by the street next to his window in a desperate attempt to find a temporary shelter from the heavy rain. The moon crawled out of the squeezed clouds but soon disappeared behind the ghastly suburban smog. Two businessmen were smoking outside at the hotel entrance, from time to time glancing at Aidan’s direction with mistrust.
He played the tape ten more times, just to be on the safe side; he didn’t miss a detail.
* * *
“I’m not a church type of person,” Aidan said, his fingers crossed. his belly stretched back in the pew of Saint John the Baptist, his chin curved by his sigmoid smile.
The choir was singing an ominous hymn in a byzantine tempo. The rhythm resembled neoclassical tintinnabuli performed by an old-fashioned accordion and rusty percussion. Lights were turned off as the second round of psalms was about to begin, and the hand-made wax candles had been flickering in exhaled voice steams, giving the impression of flying imps and stone gargoyles coming into life.
“No worries.” A man in a grey fedora, sitting behind Aidan whispered into his left ear. “I just popped in, approximately fifteen minutes late. I’m impressed you sensed my presence, so precisely on time.”
“What kind of a superhero am I, after all?” Aidan sighed dully and clumsily turned his head some degrees to catch the agent’s outline with the corner of his eye.
“I’ve been warned of the kind of reception you keep offering to FBI agents. I would be more than grateful if you wouldn’t dummy me just for fun,” the agent pleaded.
Aidan laughed with discretion so he wouldn’t annoy the nearby participants showing respect for the house of God. “Even if I did, you would never be able to file printed evidence for that, Mr. Grey.” Aidan’s voice was filled with certainty. “But I won’t. A long time ago I decided not to mess with other people’s lives and to avoid unnecessary conflicts. What can you tell me about the peacemaker, Mr. Grey? Is he targeted by the FBI for a reason?”
“Oh, straight to the point, I see,” the FBI agent said. “This is why the greatest crime prevention unit of CIA has sent their best man! To put a stop to an atrocious crime against our beloved aliens,” the FBI agent said sarcastically.
“I’d appreciate an honest reply, Mr. Grey.”
“You want the truth, huh? The truth is the purpose of this meeting was for you to dummy me. Yes, the FBI wishes Zoonoo was dead. You see, Mr. Dummy... the aliens are not what they appear to be. The peace treaty they signed with us was the first step of their invasion of Earth. We are pretty much sure they are going to break the treaty as soon as they find humanity’s weak spots. Right now they are spying on us. Who would never want to take over a new planet for his own industry, right?”
“There’s no evidence the aliens are hostile. On the contrary, Zoonoo has intervened in a timely manner, forestalling a war between the humans and the Zotras. Zoonoo is worshipped as the peacemaker! The reason behind his targeting is evidently to compromise the good relationship we have with the Zotras. I could think of third parties with special political interests to be involved in this assassination attempt.”
The choir had transformed the psalm into a less baroque instrumental scherzo, resembling a sequence of symphony movements, additionally granting the meter with some slightly controlled acceleration each time. Most of the candles had already burnt out, and the smell of wax now offered a delirious experience.
“Mr. Dummy, the FBI has scheduled no assassination attempt for Zoonoo; and it would never do so, that I can guarantee. We are, however, determined to keep an eye on the Zotras, trying to track down any malevolent or suspicious behavior and report it immediately to the government.
“I admit we have intercepted all their communication frequencies and have run plagiarism software of all their recent documentation to see if they match with their imperialistic agenda. So far, we have no clues linking them to a conspiracy against humanity. However, I’m pretty sure they are hiding something. That is what I am going to find, Mr. Dummy.”
“So, the FBI would never compromise the peace treaty with the Zotras?” Aidan asked skeptically.
“Never, as far as I’m concerned. However, I am not sure we would prevent it if we had the chance,” Mr. Grey said. “If you know what I mean,” he added.
There was a brief moment they both had nothing to say. “I know what you mean, Mr. Grey,” said Aidan and stood up. “It was nice talking to you. And now my apologies, I’m in the middle of a very important investigation.”
“Good night to you, as well,” Mr. Grey said and lowered his fedora to avoid eye contact or simply to get some sleep.
* * *
The night rain had turned the road crevices into tiny pools of mud, while the tiles on the pavement orchestrated a duct network guiding the excess water to the sewers. Several parked cars outside Saint John the Baptist served as shelters for alley cats or raccoons that had already started their night forays for the garbage trashed in front yards.
Mr. Grey might have been an asshole in the discussion, but at least he was an honest asshole, Aidan thought. Of course, Aidan had taken the opportunity to reach the agent’s perception signature and dummied him. He would never pass up such a chance.
Aidan realized this guy desperately wanted Zoonoo dead, but his motives were naive. He could hardly be capable of orchestrating an assassination against the Zotran representative, and he would never support such a policy in the FBI. He wanted good for humanity and found some meaning in serving its xenophobic side. Therefore, Aidan should turn his focus elsewhere, if he wanted to reveal the identity of the assassin.
After a small hop over a puddle he walked towards his car, haunted by a persistent feeling he was being followed. He stared at the silent street, where the asphalt was decorated by the dancing shadows of trees in the dense moonlight.
There was a car parked on the opposite side of the road, inside of which he could see the driver’s hands touching the wheel, ready to start the engine. He wasn’t able to map any facial characteristics though, as the driver was gazing ahead with only a mild turn of his head, as if he was watching Aidan through his reflection in the mirror.
Aidan tightened the belt of his long grey coat and rushed for his car. Just as he was about to reach it, a tall man appeared out of nowhere and stood motionless in front of him, blocking his way. In reflex, Aidan’s muscles tightened and prepared for impact. His adrenals started already giving him all the vigor he needed for a struggle.
A small breeze shook a piece of the man’s coat. The persistent silence made Aidan very nervous. He must have been hiding behind the tree in that yard, Aidan thought.
“Would you mind joining me for a short walk, Mr. Reed?” the man asked politely.
“I see no reason not to,” replied Aidan, relieved.
The man offered a handshake and Aidan accepted.
“My apologies for scaring you off, Mr. Reed. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Walter Cook, director of the FBI central unit,” the man said.
“Oh, another FBI agent. I just talked to one of your representatives. I concluded you do not pose a threat to the peace treaty,” Aidan explained and smiled.
The two men started walking towards Saint Elizabeth Park. At that hour of the day, they could only picture a few youngsters or homeless people trying to declare their dominion by urinating publicly and claiming the trees as theirs.
“Mr. Grey will soon retire, or be retired. You see, he has a distorted vision about the situation, Mr. Reed,” Agent Cook smiled back.
“What do you mean?”
“He is a clear and present danger to the bureau. Sociopathic behaviors are not accepted. Mr. Grey is very well versed in creating conspiracy theories, and the last thing we need, especially since the relations between humans and Zotras are sensitive, is to give more doubts to the Zotras and make them start questioning our good faith.”
“You think Mr. Grey would be capable of killing the peacemaker, just to verify his conspiracy theory and start a war with the Zotras?” Aidan asked.
The park trees were soaked; water dripped from the edge of their leaves, but the trees still provided a waterproof shelter underneath. The two men stopped for a while under the canopy of a pine tree, their shoes immersed in the mud several inches above their ankles.
“That I am not sure, Mr. Reed,” Agent Cook said, “What I am capable of assuring you though, is that an FBI agent has already attempted to kill the peacemaker. This incident took place during the first attempts at negotiations between our race and the Zotras.
“We were lucky the Zotras didn’t begin a war after what we tried to do to their representative. Zoonoo was a phenomenal diplomat, as he suggested the peace treaty to be signed after all.
“The assassin’s name was Colter Brigwood. He had served in the FBI for more than fifteen years. He unfortunately committed suicide after he failed to kill Zoonoo and we didn’t manage to finish interrogating him.
“You see, he kept a titanium capsule behind his teeth.” Agent Cook deliberately showed his yellowish teeth to Aidan, by forcing a smile. “He swallowed it before we managed to intervene. We had to bury the Brigwood Case and render the file as classified. However, subsequent investigation on Brigwood’s activity before the incident revealed a long-term contact with the Flame Core.”
“The Flame Core?”
“It’s an anti-alien organization,” Agent Cook explained. “They are human protesters against any type of alien presence on Earth or even involvement in human affairs. We suspect they are behind sporadic terrorist attacks. Members of the Flame Core are mostly after alien convoys whose purpose is tourism. We had to put this organization on our watch list some months ago, since linkage analysis had connected several of its members to many serious crimes against aliens.”
“So, you believe that Mr. Grey is involved with the Flame Core and plans Zoonoo’s assassination?”
“I’m not suggesting anything. I’m simply trying to enlighten you.”
“Forget it,” Aidan replied. “I’ve already dummied Mr. Grey, as I’ve just done to you. You both are not bad people, you simply enjoy back-stabbing each other for the fun of it.”
“Perhaps, Mr. Reed. But what if I told you the Flame Core might have undercover agents that are dummies too?”
That was a possibility that had skipped Aidan’s attention. Given that Mr. Grey was a dummy, Aidan would never be capable of infiltrating his mind and picking on his motives. Aidan was a strong telepath, but not strong enough to comprehend the motives of other dummies.
Agent Cook handed a folder to Aidan. Moments after the document was exposed in the rain, small acidic drops were already washing off the black inked letters from the front page. Aidan took a brief look at the document, titled “The Brigwood Case,” and immediately nested it in his coat.
“Good luck with your hunt, Mr. Reed,” Agent Cook said and disappeared into the dark.
So, the Flame Core could be a third party with an agenda, Aidan thought.
* * *
Copyright © 2013 by George S. Karagiannis