Devra’s Interview At Hulong

Catherine Fan had mixed emotions.  She felt left out of this operation despite the fact that she was commanding it. Fan had never met Devra Bogdanovich, only spoken to her once when they carved up the corpse of Niantic with ADA's help. Yuen Ni, however, had supervised Dr. Bogdanovich at CERN.  

So Ni took the lead in the recruitment. 

Fan didn’t like it. 

Ni was the competition.  

Though Fan was putatively her superior, due to the labyrinthine politics of Hulong Transglobal, Ni had a special status Fan found bothersome. And no small part of that status came from her involvement in the Niantic Project, not to mention her prior status as Director of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) which, oddly enough conveyed a great deal of status despite Hulong’s Chinese origins.  Was Hulong’s agenda to become less Chinese, or did they use shadowy American ties to keep the government at bay.  They were not mutually exclusive agendas.

Or was Ni a double agent working for the Chinese government?

Any way around, Fan wanted it all to go away: The Niantic Project, Hank Johnson, Devra Bogdanovich and Yuen Ni.  She wished she’d never heard about XM.  

“You’ll be happy to know that it seems Hank is safe India...”  Ni said.  It was part of the planned script, but Fan didn’t like the way Ni said it.  It was as if she’d meant it.  Odd thing about Hank Johnson was that nobody seemed to want him dead. Fan had virtually ordered Antoine Smith to kill Johnson in India, but he disobeyed the order.  Or more specifically, lived to the letter of the order, but ignored the not-so-veiled subtext of it.  Fan could not directly order Johnson’s death, but she thought she had made it pretty clear that she would be happy with that outcome.

“No thanks to Hulong, I suspect.” Devra answered.  

“I have nothing to do with that part of the operation...” Ni responded. That was not in the script. Ni had gone off book.  But then Bogdanovich’s response had not been among those that the profiling consultants had predicted.  Fan hoped that this wasn’t just the first of a number of errors.  

“No that would be Mr. Smith, wouldn’t it?” The American responded.  Also not another predicted response.  It should have been.  Dr. Bogdanovich was nothing if not a gifted researcher.  Of course she had been gathering what information she had about Hank Johnson.  She and the American Archeologist had gone back a long time.  It was unclear whether they had ever been involved in a ‘relationship’ -- such a vague American term.  They had wasted half an hour discussing the annoyingly vague courtship rituals of the Americans.  
Ni was back on script.  “Devra, just cooperate today...”

“I like you.  And I respect you.  Hulong can be a good home for you. Our interests are more aligned than you think.”  The camera angle didn’t allow Fan to see her face, but Ni sounded sincere.  

The door opened, the camera flashed momentarily blinding Bodanovich while Ni slipped into the darkness as Hwang’s psych team had planned.  ‘Take away the familiar’ was what it said in the brief.  

Devra stepped out of the car.  She appeared surprised to see Hwang.  Check.  She looked around.  Saw the ascending ramp. There was no escape.  She was supposed to be feeling trapped now.  Oddly, she didn’t look uncomfortable.  But Bogdanovich was tough.  She was fifteen steps from breaking.

“Good to see you again, Dr. Bogdanovich.” Hwong said, bowing.
Devra stuck out her hand.  Hwang didn’t put his forward.  Withhold custom.  Remind her she is not in her environment.

Fan waited in the observation room behind the two-way mirror.  She contemplated looking at her phone, checking her email.  She was weaning herself off of the electrical umbilical.   Phone checking is a sign of nervousness.  Fan was to create activity, not respond to others.  She tried to think of questions to ask, orders to issue, but couldn’t think of any.  She just sat.  She wanted to project serenity. Some executive guide told her serenity is the ultimate manifestation of power and she believed it.  Even if she wasn’t comfortable of power, she could look like she was.  

Devra was led into the room.  She picked a seat without hesitation.  He had her back to Fan’s mirror.  She had taken Hwang off balance.  She wasn’t supposed to pick that one.  Fan couldn’t help but be amused. She found Hwang’s outward appearance of confidence offputting.  The walk-through hadn’t contemplated Devra taking that seat.  Fan would have to watch the interview on a monitor.

“Mrs. Bogdanovich,  what do you have to offer us?” Mistake her name. Make her feel unimportant. As if we know little about her.

“I’m not married, Mister Hwang,”  she responded.  “And in this context it is perhaps more relevant that you refer to me as Dr. Bogdanovich.”

If Devra was supposed to be:  Fearful. Intimidated. Trapped as the brief had indicated.  She wasn’t acting it.  

She went on.  “The answer to your question is  simple Mr. Hwong.... (did she get his name wrong on purpose?)  Salvation.  Salvation, Dr. Hwang. If the N’zeer find us, we will be destroyed.”

One of the techs in the observation room noted that voice stress analysis detected no indication of deception.

Fan watched with renewed interest.  “We are a business, Dr. Bogdanovich.  We worry about bottom lines, not existential transdimensional threats.  We believe that if you can turn down the portals, you can also turn them up.”

“It doesn’t work that way.” She responded.  

Hwang hesitated. His plan had failed.  He was beginning to perspire. Fan found herself slightly amused. There was something about the blonde woman that she admired.

Hwang could barely hide his desperation.  “Did you bring the last of your XM inoculation with you?”  

“Don’t you think this interview will go better if we both work under the assumption that neither of us is stupid?” Devra responded.

Hwang took a step back.  Like  a boxer who had been surprised by a jab.    “We do not think you are stupid.  But we also know that you are afraid to have it out of your control. You have it, don’t you? You might as well tell us. We will find out, of course.”  Fan smiled.  She was actively rooting for the American scientist at this point.  

“Who’s behind the mirror?” Devra asked. Then she turned around. It was as if she could see through the glass. Could see Fan.

“Where is the last of the inoculation, Devra?”

Bogdanovich stood up.  She was tall.  She reached into her purse.  There was activity in the observation room.  Had she been checked for weapons.  Bodanovich pulled out a cigarette and lit it. Slowly. Casually.  Enjoying the moment. She exhaled smoke in Hwang’s direction. She walked towards him, speaking as she walked.  “I gave it to Hubert Farlowe.  Good luck getting it from him. If I die,  I didn’t give him any instructions. In order to randomize the outcome. God knows what he’ll do with it. Especially when he finds out that I’m dead.”

Hwang stepped backwards, against the wall.  Looking trapped. Humiliated.  But more than that, fearful.

“He will do nothing, because he will have no way of knowing that you are dead.”  Hwang said.  It was not a good answer, but he did not have a better one.  And he had to answer. 

“The world leaks secrets, Dr. Hwang.  We might as well not even try to keep them.  You ought to know that.  If I die. He will know.  If nothing else, he will feel my absence.” Then she turned back to the mirror.  Took another puff.  “But you’re right.  I didn’t give it to Farlowe.”

“If you did not give the last injection to Farlowe, what did you do with it.  We can negotiate.”

She spun around and held up her hand, in front of Hwang’s face.  He froze. Delicate fingers from her other hand reached up to her ring finger.  “This isn’t a wedding ring, Dr. Hwang.’  The fingers tripped a hidden spring and a needle popped out. “It is a poisoner’s ring.”

Hwang lost control. He fled to the door.  Tried to open it.  It was locked.

“You are going to inject me?”

Bogdanovich smiled.  “No.”

She turned back to the mirror.  She jabbed the ring into her neck, near her jugular vein.  Blood dripped from the wound, reminding Fan of a vampire movie.  Bogdanovich smiled.  But with the smile came the darkness. It seemed to emit from her eyes.  Fan looked away, but the darkness spread.

Spread everywhere.  It was like no darkness she’d ever seen before. It was as if the veneer of he world was being stripped away.

The last thing she heard was the shattering of glass.
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