24
Jun
10

The Incident

The conference call to which the Agent was referring was by now infamous. Not only did the effects involve the almost immediate disbanding of CACA itself, but the government of the host country, Plebeia, was on the verge of collapse for having spent so much money to organise something revealed to be so useless.

Just before the main CACA Plenary of the Leaders – the three-hour marathon meeting that essentially comprised the entire billion-dollar affair – someone with access to the secure room had surreptitiously dialled a number from the one phone available. Whoever did this had put the number on speed-dial in advance of the meeting and wisely left the phone on mute so that none of the leaders or their assistants could detect that a call was live.

The phone itself had been hidden inside the special purpose-built meeting table, not to disguise the communication devise, for one of the requirements of the meeting room had been to have a single phone line, but for design reasons. Aesthetically, wires and telephones looked messy and detracted from the overall ambiance of the meeting room. Indeed, the Facilities and Operations division at PEWE had spent countless hours devising ways to dress up the various spaces that Leaders might visit. They had done such a good job that the Leaders wasted a great deal of the slated meeting time discussing the various back drops and other decorative items bearing the Plebeian CACA logo and which, ultimately, was one of the major causes for the public’s outrage upon hearing the recorded phone call.

The number called was a Voice-Over-the-Internet-Protocol or VOIP line registered in a Nordic country to a false identity using a stolen credit card from a wealthy, and now perturbed, denizen of the Maghreb. The entire three-hour meeting was digitally recorded and posted on an independent media website through a proxy server that appeared to be situated somewhere in Oceania. The posting was timed so that the call began to air in its entirety at the outset of the final press conference for the CACA Plenary of the Leaders. Members of the international media were given a front row seat to watch the reactions of the Leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries as the closed-door meeting was replayed through the iPhone of one of the attending journalists.

Pictures of the red-faced and mortified Leader of what had arguably been the most powerful country in CACA graced nearly all of the major papers the next morning. She had been caught on tape flirting heavily with the much younger Leader of an Old World country. Both had maintained very public images of being traditional-minded and happily married – of course, to other people.  At the point in the recording when she could be heard to have said: “you’re being very naughty; don’t make me come over there and spank you,” seemingly as a result of his playful reluctance to sign on to the joint statement all of the Leaders’ assistances had prepared in advance of the meeting, this so-called Leader of the free world buried her face in hands and began to sob uncontrollably. Decades before, her husband (and predecessor in this job) had been involved in a sex-scandal that had nearly destroyed all of her chances at ever become Leader. Surely this innocent act would ruin everything, she thought.

Very seldom were the Leaders heard to have actually discussed anything serious. Sure, they traded figures on how broke each of their countries had become as a result of the recent economic crisis, but more often than not they talked about the fine food and wine they had just been fed or the bane of having to be in the media spotlight all the time. In fact, all of the Leaders came off looking more like pampered starlets rather than serious politicians. The ramifications, the world over, were so intense many governments were faced with the very real possibility of revolt from ordinarily docile populations. One phone call, thus, had the potential to bring down an entire system and, as a result, was more effective than any mass protest or violent act of terror had ever been before it.

All of the official investigations into who was behind the conference call, so the media had reported, had turned up nothing to date. It was becoming more and more evident that the conference call was an inside job, but other than that, any solid leads were elusive.

The Agent began to talk again, slowly and thoughtfully, “There was one curious thing that we have been careful not to leak to the media, but it’s only a matter of time before it gets out.”

Lia looked at the non-descript woman surprised and with interest.

“You know how you mentioned those scenarios earlier?”

Lia nodded at the Agent. “Yes, of course.”

“Well, a couple hundred, no more, were printed for the CACA Plenary. As you know, they were used to provide precise baby steps for all of the workers supporting the Plenary to follow.” The Agent paused.

Eager to hear more, Lia prodded, “OK?”

“Somehow, one of the actions listed to be taken, just after checking the meeting room, to make sure it was all in order before the Leaders were brought in, was to press the three top buttons on the phone.” The Agent stopped again and seemed to be considering whether or not she should tell Lia any more.

Lia shook her head as if bewildered. “That’s odd!”

The Agent agreed, nodding.

“But didn’t the person checking the room, phone or both not see what pressing those buttons would do? Phone keys are usually labelled.” asked Lia, still astonished.

“That’s the thing,” the Agent continued, “for design purposes PEWE had used a phone that had uniform buttons. So whoever dialled the number had no idea what they were doing.”

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