“Shall I show you to your seat, Madam Ambassador?” The officer in uniform startles Janet. She is equally as startled by the “Madam Ambassador.”
“Yes, that will be wonderful. Thank you.” Janet follows the officer to her seat. He is an imposing figure―well over six feet tall and wearing a polished badge fashioned with the U.N. emblem. Though he is a member of the United Nations Police (UNPOL), he is not carrying a gun. No weapons are allowed inside the Assembly Hall.
The seating arrangement in the arena is set alphabetical by the English translation of each nation’s name. At the beginning of each yearly session in September, one nation selects the primo spot through a drawing. That nation gets the first seat in the left front row of the Assembly Hall. The remaining nations take their place alphabetically from the nation drawn through to the letter z. Then, the order returns to the letter a until every seat fills. This year Russia was drawn. This places Janet’s seat near the front right.
Janet’s assistant, Benjamin Hume, waits for her at her desk. His strikingly good looks and eternal enthusiasm actually annoy Janet. She does appreciate his ability to sense the agendas of others, his accuracy, and his attention to detail. He is one of the few people she transferred from her documentary team to her U.N. team. Benjamin is loyal to a fault, and will make her appear polished and professional in spite of her insecurities.
“So, tell me, Mr. Hume, how many countries are actually represented on your necktie today? Trying to make some new friends, are we?” It’s a standing joke on Janet’s team that Benjamin makes his emotional statements through his neckties. Janet claims that with one look at his tie, she can tell if he’s angry, happy, indignant, or in love. Benjamin is a good sport and goes along with it. He maintains he’s just a lonely, passive-aggressive man―who uses neckties rather than words to out his feelings. Today’s necktie is a bright swirly pattern, too many colors to count.
“Ha! Good one boss. Actually, there are only 15 colors on the 193 Flags of Nations hanging outside. My tie has seventeen, including two that are not on any nation’s flag. Tell me, why do you suppose not a single nation chose to use lavender or fuchsia? I suppose we could debate this ad nauseam. Personally, I think it is a statement against sexual expression. Do you want to use my observation on the six o’clock news? It’s certainly controversial enough to make the cut. It could be your first statement to the Press as U.N. Ambassador. What say you?”
Benjamin’s provocative style causes Janet to adore him while still finding many of their conversations to be exhausting. “No, that won’t be necessary, Benny. I’m thinking we’ll stick to the President’s agenda today—if it is all the same to you. I figure he faxed it in for a reason.” Benjamin laughs and hugs her shoulders. He does this several times a day. It is his way of dissolving tension and giving Janet a boost of much-needed confidence.
Benjamin keeps talking as he pulls up a spare chair from Uruguay’s table. “Well, I say we give the President’s agenda a whirl. He has some doozies lined up for you today. I am glad you wore your long skirt. You’re going to need it.”
Wondering what Benjamin means, but not wanting to waste the few minutes they have before the session begins, Janet decides to let the comment drop. “So fill me in B-Boy. What do we know?”
“I have prepared briefs for each of the topics the President is passionate about this session. There’s the matter of Russia refusing to leave Ukrainian territory. There’s the matter of Russia helping to arm Iran with nuclear weapons―which in turn is helping to arm Middle-Eastern terrorist groups. There is the rumor that Russia is holding hands under the table with China in a plot against Israel. As you can see, there is lots of Russian stuff today. Raise your hand if you are surprised.
“There’s also the question of why the desert rejuvenation system invented by the First Lady’s private company was just granted an international business license that lists Israel as its founding state. Some believe this company is ‘shrouded in calculated secrecy.’ The starving nations that border the deserts want to know why they can’t have access to the invention’s rejuvenation technology―and, of course, water. You’ll need to ease the tension on this one. Some are calling this an attempt at genocide by Israel and the United States. Have you noticed the United States takes the blame for every bad thing that happens on this planet? What would you call this phenomenon?”
“Right now, I’d call it job security.”
Benjamin lets out a belly laugh. “You are right, as usual. If the things I covered are boring you, there are always tabloids. I got this one hot off the press: A magnetic pole reversal interrupting the world’s power grids sometime in the next few years―unless we take evasive action now. There is also the giant asteroid hurtling through space on its way to end life on Earth. Where would you like to begin?”
Janet searches for a reply. She knows going into full-out panic mode on day one would not bode well for her image. She reaches for a glass and sips some water from the pitcher sitting on her desk. She takes several deep breaths while avoiding direct eye contact with Benjamin. Once she is sure she can speak without her voice cracking, she responds. “Well, assuming you’re serious, I’ll answer I have adequate experience and briefings on the problems between the nations, so let’s begin with the briefings on the last two items on your list. Which of the two do you think is the more important one?”
“Well, that depends. The magnetic pole reversal is all the rage on Netflix’s new Serious Science Show, but the asteroid just made the cover of the National Enquirer. Viewership comparison is twenty million for Serious Science and four million for the National Enquirer. The good news is, there are at least twenty-four million people who won’t be surprised by these developments.”
This is the place in the conversation where Benjamin usually winks, and Janet follows the wink with sarcasm. One look into his eyes confirms Janet’s fear, though; Benjamin is completely serious. She shifts uncomfortably in her seat and opens the top folder marked “Classified: Property of the United States of America.” It’s entitled Magnetic Pole Reverse.