The Invisible Hand: Inimical (episode ten)
He was, however, by training and profession, a representative of Great Britain, and acting in his nation’s interests was within his scope. To know more of this plan meant only to take on unnecessary responsibility; to know enough to communicate its import, and reassure his superiors that the operation was progressing satisfactorily, was Newbolt’s mission.
“Well, Mr. Newbolt,” Van Nest asked, “any more we can tell you? How much do you think you understand?”
“I understand,” Newbolt answered, “that you are developing a sort of radio-wave detection system and are eager to test it. I believe, or I have got the impression, that you hope to use the opportunity of arranging for press coverage, in order that the activity and equipment at the site will provide a diversion. I gather that this diversion may augment a plausible explanation that might be put forward should your testing produce effects which are noticeable and possibly alarming…and that the intention is to produce effects which are noticeable and perhaps alarming, for the purpose of creating the suspicion of some sort of influence at work. Finally, that doubts must be raised as to the possibility of something unexpected occurring which can’t be satisfactorily explained, and yet can’t be dismissed. All of which will generally produce a discouraging effect on any plan which may exist for using the Hindenburg as a covert weapon.”
“So you feel ready to communicate your position to your chiefs?”
Newbolt thoughtfully agreed, and thanked Admiral Wenham, Van Nest and Campbell. He hesitated a bit over thanking the Russian, but chose to address him as “sir”. He then took up his case and departed for the British embassy.
Arthur Newbolt had some notion of writing his memoirs one day when he retired from the Foreign Service. He kept his notes in a diary, taking care to avoid anything compromising…although he might on occasion, exercising literary license, recast the irresistible story; and, having some skill in coded communication, he had worked out a system for reminding himself of events that might one day be de-classified.
His recent meeting had been one of the odder experiences of his career. He noted that at one point, he’d found himself confused by an incongruity, and inwardly concocting an explanation for it. Then again, he recalled Van Nest’s mentioning of a man, Creel, for whom he’d worked, as though Newbolt would know this name; he had, in short, been told a story that seemed to start in the middle. And yes, on consideration, the agency Van Nest had referred to, never had been said to actually exist. It was left as a matter of inference. A reasonable way, Newbolt presumed, of demonstrating the effectiveness of persuasion.
(copyright 2014, 2018 Stephanie Foster)