Janet’s anxiety creeps in as she processes the contents of the classified folder. She only has a few minutes to take it all in before the United Nations convenes its General Session. The seats are filling quickly. She lowers her voice to keep the conversation private from the other ambassadors. “Benjamin, this is a devastating prognosis. The names of those who have signed off on this are some of the world’s most reputable scientists. Are you telling me a reversal of Earth’s magnetic poles is an imminent threat?”
Benjamin pulls his seat closer to her and puts his arm around the back of her chair. His smile is gone and replaced with a deep crease in his forehead. “This is the real deal, Janet.”
“How long have you known about this? How long has the White House known about this? How long have these scientists known about this?”
“I’ve known about it for twenty-four hours. I cannot speak for the President. The scientific community has been discussing this since 2008. They are at odds as to the frequency of magnetic pole reversals. The last one occurred thousands of years ago. The scientists do agree this planet is overdue. A pole reversal was actually expected in 2017, right after the solar eclipse.”
“Where were the media reports in 2017? I’m hearing this for the first time―and I’ve been following the Associated Press since college.”
“In the past, a magnetic pole reversal would have posted below the Kardashian updates. Now, we rely on technology to regulate almost every area of our lives. It could be a critical blip for the planet. Theoretically, planes could fall from the sky when their instruments fail. Computer systems could glitch. Our satellites could leave their orbit and drift into space. Our manned and unmanned missions across the galaxy could be in peril if there is an interruption in communication. Power grids could fail. Less likely (but still within range of needing a conversation) our weapons—including drones, nuclear warheads, and the electro-magnetic pulse bombs—might not respond until they are rebooted with new coordinates. These geophysicists say life will continue, but we will have to adapt to some changes. Casualties can’t really be measured at this time.”
Janet scans the room. It is more than half-filled now. She notices many people looking her way. They all know that she’s the new Ambassador from the United States. She’s sure they’re sizing her up. No one is close enough to hear her conversation, so she continues. “Benjamin, what I need first is a timeline. How do we know a magnetic pole reversal is imminent? Where is the undeniable proof? Since the President had this delivered to me, I can assume he wants me to get this topic into the agenda of the U.N. He knows this is my first day on the job. He knows the experts have not briefed me. What’s he thinking? What does he want me to do with this?”
“I agree with what you’re saying—I have the same questions. I believe the President wants this topic worked into your welcome address to flush out what other world leaders might know about it. I’ve observed UN sessions in the past. With all of the translating and fact checking done by assistants of the Ambassadors, it can take days—even weeks—to get deep into a topic.
“When you’re introduced today, you’ll have fifteen minutes on the floor. Thank them for the opportunity to serve alongside them, and then make short statements on the things you look forward to addressing in this year’s session. Just make a quick statement on the things the President’s team gave you and move on. Speak as if they should know about these things.
“We’ll go deeper with the President on Wednesday when we meet with him in the White House. You can do this, Janet. I have stood beside you for years. You can sell anyone on anything.
“Just do that breathing thing you do that helps you relax—or take a Xanax. And, if you don’t have one on you, I’ll loan you one of mine.” Benjamin winks at her. Excessive energy aside, he knows just how to calm Janet’s anxieties.
“Okay. I hear you. I’m sure you’re right. I have my ten points prepared on the nations who are infringing on other nations—as well as the effects of war on children. I will work the magnetic pole reversal into the opening comments. Sound good?”
“Yes. Except, Janet, you haven’t opened the other folder—the one on the asteroid headed for Earth. According to the report, there’s a slight chance of a collision with this asteroid in November. A much greater chance comes in 2036 on its return from orbiting the Sun. If this collision actually occurs, it could happen during your term, and the term of this President. You have to get this topic onto the floor as well.”
“And, how am I to skillfully and responsibly announce to the United Nations that a huge asteroid might hit Earth in as little as ten months, or as much as seven years from now—without causing international panic? Most scientists believe Earth’s last major collision with an asteroid caused the dinosaurs to go extinct.”
“There may be a third option to divert the asteroid on its first path. Look, no one said this job was going to be easy Janet. Let’s face it—if you thought that was the case, you wouldn’t have taken the position.”
“Benjamin, I am a woman addressing the United Nations on her first day. If I put both of these things on the floor, it will be like me telling the General Assembly we need to chase down Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster. Doing this will discredit me for the rest of my term. I am completely uncomfortable with this plan. I came here to be a voice for international peace and the protection of citizens held captive by the dictators of the world. I am prepared to talk about the funding of terrorist groups, the increase of weapons in Lebanon, the return of ISIS, the escalation of anti-Semitism and the need to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I do not want to destroy my credibility by discussing the things in these folders. I am simply not prepared.”
“Jan—you were the first appointee to the President’s Cabinet. Think a minute to consider why the first position he filled was the US Ambassador to the United Nations. He put you here because he knows he needs someone who can be cool under pressure. These aren’t easy times. You have stood on the bloodiest battlegrounds in the world and offered hope to those who had none. You rallied an entire planet to watch over the children of war. Put this information from the President’s team into your opening comments with the same confidence with which you supported the children.”
“Bennie, we’ve talked about this. You cannot fake passion. The people in this room will see right through me. As a side thought, how can I be sure this isn’t just a way to test someone’s theories—or the depth of global support of their theories—while intending to use my inexperience as an excuse later in the game? It sounds like there are some hidden agendas here.”
“You can’t know about all agendas, Janet. We are still debating global warming for God’s sake. Welcome to the world of politics. Trust your instinct. Does it tell you to back the President?”
“Of course it does, or I wouldn’t be here.”
“Then you know what you have to do. You may be surprised in a good way. We will have more facts on Wednesday.”
“Okay, I’ll do it. Just remember you are the only witness to me questioning the President on all of this—so don’t you go dying on me.”
“You got it!”
Some activity on the left side of the stage catches Janet’s attention. “Hey Ben, is that the Pope entering stage right? Is he addressing the General Assembly? Dear Lord! I knew the Catholic Church had a permanent seat here, but I had no idea that the Pope would be in the General Assembly today.”
Benjamin stretchers his neck to see the Pope. “It was announced late yesterday.”
“You knew about this? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Does seeing him here make you nervous?”
“Well, you just answered your own question.”
Benjamin flashes Janet his infamous dimples. He pushes the last folder into her hands and stands up to greet the assistant to the Ambassador of Uruguay. Janet sees her new job on a whole other level. Her stomach hurts.