Ask the Pros by Angela Grace

The following is an excerpt from a WIP that is relevant to the upcoming election.

Fictional Setting: Around the world, approximately three thousand women, former or current spies, live in high tech underground Bunkers.  It is where some women live permanently but all the women call, home.  The Bunkers have many functions.  For active duty spies, the bunker is a safe house.  For retired spies, it provides not only a safe place, but a space where they can live out their passions and interests.  For those who love to cook, they are the chefs and feed the masses.  The food is grown by the women who love to garden and work in green houses.  As you’ll read below, one such women is HazMet, who keeps the bunker safe from all things hazardous.  Each woman has a role and does that role well.  

For 30 minutes most mornings, at 4:30 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, the women meet, either in person or through the internet, to discuss current events and strategize.  

Although the WIP is fictional in nature, the story below is an accurate and true account of the conversation.

The 4:30 Meeting

Chapter 14

HazMet Video

“Thank You, Catch, for giving me 15 minutes even though I don’t actually have a plan to introduce. I can only offer some of my own insights, which may or may not be of help.” HazMet, dressed in all white was leaning on a stool, with a spotlight on her, the background dark.   Surrounding her, the audience was gathered, much like a TED talk.

“Today I want to tell you about the five words, actually a five-word sentence, that has terrified me for most of my life. Now most of you know me as HazMet and know I’ve spent my career cleaning up hazardous material and fighting oil rig fires. Pretty dangerous stuff.  So, you may think the five-word sentence that frightens me the most has to do with that work. But, you would be wrong. Though, “Fire In The Hole” does send a shutter through me.” 

“No, the five-word sentence was told to me, when I was about 10 years old, by a real nice guy, a gentle, peaceful man. He was a barber in a small town in Michigan. Everybody in town knew and loved this guy. He was a character. They called him Johnny … I called him Dad. So, as I said, he was a character. When a customer came into the shop that was a Republican, and my Dad remembered all of his customers, he would immediately start on trash talking the Republicans and become the biggest cheerleader for the Democrats. Sometimes, while the Republican was still in the barber chair and a Democrat walked in, he would completely reverse course and start trash talking about the Democrats. If a union guy came in, my Dad would talk up the corporate bosses. When the corporate bosses sat down, he would be all for the union. He always took the other side. And he could do so very well.” 

“I asked him once, ‘Dad why do you always argue with these guys? Why do you always take the other side? Don’t you want them to like you?’  He said, ‘oh honey, I argue because it makes the conversation fun, interesting. If I took their side, it would be boring. Men like to fight, compete. They like it when trouble is stirred up.’ I think that’s why the guys liked my Dad so much, the combativeness made them feel macho. 

“I believe he could talk to anyone about anything. He was naturally smart but he also kept up. He read two newspapers completely six days a week, plus a few monthly magazines. He spoke five languages. He was fluent in English, Ukrainian, German, Russian and French and could hold his own in Polish. He learned the languages when he was a young man. You see, he was born in Ukraine, in a small village, near the Black Sea. When he was about 20 years old, during World War II, the Russian Army came to his village one night and rounded up all the young men. They were given a choice, be shot and killed right then or enlist in the Russian Army. He said good-bye to his beloved mother and father that night and never saw or heard from them again. He was taken by train to somewhere in the heart of Russia. Dad was trained to be a soldier for a couple of weeks and then was put on another train heading to the German – Russian front. The problem was, they didn’t give him a gun! They didn’t give any of the new soldiers guns. They told them to grab a rifle from the soldiers that were killed.” 

“My Dad didn’t think this was such a good idea. He faked his own appendicitis attack by having his buddy punch him hard in that area. Long story short, the Russians believed him, dropped him off and his buddy at a town with a hospital, and ordered them back to the Army after his surgery. He and his friend snuck out the hospital. That began his two-year adventure of survival walking from Russia, through Germany, arriving in France.”

“When I was 10 years old, I had a conversation about his adventures with him that went like this:

“Dad, wasn’t that dangerous hiking through Germany, bombs going off, soldiers shooting everyone?”  I had watched a lot of World War II movies. 

“No honey, it wasn’t dangerous at all. The war was being fought on the fronts. Germany itself was very safe. People were living a good life. Hitler had brought them prosperity, money. They were happy.”

“They weren’t mad at Hitler. He caused this war. People were dying.”

“No, they weren’t mad at Hitler. Just the opposite, they supported and loved him. They were thrilled because he started the war. They were proud of him.” 

“But Dad, people were taken from their homes. Mom was taken as a slave for a rich land Barron. Didn’t the people know that?”

“Oh yes, they knew. But the people that were being taken were not Germans.  They were taking other people, like Jews or Ukrainians.”

“So, they didn’t care?”

“No, they didn’t care, they supported it.”

“They stood by him and let him do such awful things?”

“Yes. They didn’t just stand by him. He couldn’t do the holocaust by himself. They were part of it, too.” 

“But Dad, did the German people know about the Concentration Camps, the CONCENTRATION CAMPS!!!? Did they know about all those women and kids, starving to death!!!?”

“Yes. They knew everything.”

“But Dad, did they know about the GAS CHAMBERS? The GAS CHAMBERS? Dad did they know people were killed in the GAS CHAMBERS?!!!!!! They must have hated Hitler then, Right?!!!”

My Dad looked at me, with tears in his eyes and said five words I’ll always remember – “They loved him even more.” 

I was stunned. I am still stunned. 

“Dad, how can that be? How can that be?”

“My daughter, think about it … Hitler was fighting for them. He was their hero. He gave them money, prosperity; he made the German people rich. When they took millions of Jews away from their homes and killed them, who got their property? Who took their jobs? Who took over their businesses? Hitler gave whole companies and industries to his friends. He placed them in charge of government departments. They became wealthy. Of course they supported him. They fought for him. They protected him. Because protecting him – protected themselves.”

“That conversation has never left me. Five words tell the ugly truth: “They loved him even more.” The German people are the same as the Irish or Chinese or Swedish or any person living, any where, any time. The vast majority of people are greedy, selfish and look out for themselves first. 

“Thank you kindly for your attention.” HazMet quietly signed off. 

Silence hung in the room. Everyone sat deep in their own thoughts. Catch spoke, “Let’s take a break.” 

Chapter 15

Smoke’um’s Presentation

After reassembling, Smoke’um stood at the podium and began speaking without any introductory words:

“So, you open your Facebook page and you see a new posting with a picture of a madman screaming ‘I’m going to blow up the world!’ You look at it and think yada, yada, yada, whatever and scroll to another post. You’re not really paying attention and move on to other things. It’s troubling, but there’s nothing you can do about it. You blow it off.”

“Then the next day you open your Facebook page and you see the same picture of the madman, except this time he screams ‘Today, I’m going to blow up the SUV your daughter will be in, at 4:30 when she gets out of her piano lessons.’ This time the madman has your attention. It is a personal message for you. You have a daughter, and the madman knows it. She does have a piano lesson today and will be getting out at 4:30, and he knows this. She will be picked up by an SUV, and he knows this. With this type of specific, personal threat, you would take action. Most people would take this seriously and take action: invest in defending themselves; put aside doing what they planned for the day, focus on the threat, call others to help.  You pay attention.”

“This is what happened in the last election. The Russians, through Cambridge Analytical and others, weaponized social media. They got the personal information of millions of people and targeted them with information/propaganda created specifically to them. They made it emotional and personal. They could do this because they obtained specific personal information, knew how to use it and made millions of people afraid enough to vote against their own interests. He won, we all lost.”

“They will do this again. Until they are stopped.” Smoke’um sat down.  

Readers: If you would like to comment, please do.

Angela Grace

6 comments

  1. Wow – so well said – brought shivers. My father also spoke many languages and enjoyed conversations with people of opposing views, sometimes changing sides for the sake of the discussion (including with me, no doubt to make me think deeper). He was one of the Jews who survived the concentration camps, unfortunately losing much of his/my family to Hitler and his fellow murderers. Terrified by the comparison to today. Thank you for posting this.

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  2. A brief comment, I love this. I don’t want someone thinking I’m headed toward a survivalist situation, living underground and passionately hoarding my peanut M&Ms for that day the world goes bye-bye, but that social media one is being done daily with a ton of bots. I should stop while I’m ahead before going on about Hitler’s little brother.

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  3. Thank you for the powerful message. People don’t realize how events happening nationally are also affecting them personally. We all lost last time, and unless people become less apathetic, it will happen again.

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  4. Tahnk you for sharing this WIP – sounds intriguing and chilling at the same time. It reminds me of the timely Honor series by Radclyffe. As a reader, you want the story line to continue, yet the events hits so close to reality that you hesitate to turn another page. As an ex-Russian linguist, I love the people but never trust the government.

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