Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Sonya Newman, Part One


I've been fiddling about with writing a novel. One of the things I did in this process was to experiment with writing a character thread.

So here's three short scenes with Sonya Newman, a fictional reporter for Fox News:

I was once ambushed by a reporter in New Hampshire.

The video of the interview is still in the public record, but here’s how I saw it.

Governor John Andrew March of Minnesota had entered the New Hampshire primary election for the Republican nomination for the office of President. Susan, the rest of the campaign team, and myself were here to do the grunt work of political campaigning.

If you want to know what that involved, go find a copy in the archives of Take Back Your Government by Robert Anson Heinlein. At that time the originally printed copies of this manual on political campaigning being purchased by members of the Tea Party Movement for about fifty dollars each on the used book market. And no, I did not sell my copy to anyone at the time.

Apart from substituting laptop computers and ink jet printers for typewriters and mimeographs we basically followed the instructions within.

So I’m standing offstage while John is giving a speech at a local American Legion post when four people walked up to me.

The first was Sonya Newman of Fox News. In terms of appearance she came up to my eye level in high heels and had brown hair with a tendency to frizz. With her was a cameraman and a sound man, along with another young man bearing a laptop case and a clipboard, all of whom I would presume were also with Fox News.

“Miss Newman,” I said, “aren’t you supposed to be sitting behind a desk somewhere?”

“Mister Keller,” Newman responded, “I was wondering if we could ask you some questions?”

“You already are.” I said.

I could clearly see that the red light indicating that the camera was running was on. And my initial reply apparently didn’t stop Miss Newman.

“Multiple questions, sir.” She said.

“I don’t know why.” I said. “I’m really not at all comfortable doing a live interview. And by the way, I practiced that answer! And also I’m not the one running for president.”

That still didn’t stop Miss Newman.

“But you are expected to have a major role in a March Administration, sir.” She said with complete journalistic seriousness.

“Doing what?” I said. “Certainly not a cabinet post?” There’s no shortage of people who are qualified for those.”

At this point I was beginning to suspect that nothing short of the deliberate use of deadly force was going to stop Miss Newman.

“It is expected that you would serve as the White House Chief of Staff in a March Administration.” She said with continuing seriousness.

“Sonya,” I replied with a slight note of annoyance, “seeing to it that the I’s are properly dotted and the T’s are properly crossed isn’t really that big of a deal.”

And then Miss Newman said something with a slight journalistic smile.

“There are some people who say that you have undue influence on Governor March.”

“Name one.” I said.

“His sister Anne.” Miss Newman Replied.

Unlike John, his older sister Anne Elizabeth March had attended the University of Minnesota and had been successfully indoctrinated into becoming a lesbian and a Marxist agitator. The local television stations and the daily socialist rag of the Twin Cities, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, would feature her in video or still photograph at the front of every leftist demonstration against the actions and policies of John March as the governor of the state of Minnesota.

And there was one other serious fault of character on her part.

“Sonya, are you aware of the fact that Anne March is a Truther?” I said.

“No.” She replied.

Truthers were a generally Leftist and completely insane cult that would blame any negative event, such as a terrorist attack, on a sitting Conservative administration, or any other ideological opponents in general, without any regard for the facts. To give an example, even though we were clearly and completely innocent of the act, the Cult of the Truthers were openly blaming John, Susan, and myself for the death of President Elect Sandra Chapman after the Final Election.

“Well you know,” I said, “Truthers will believe anything, except the truth.”

Sonya Newman knew dammed well that I was right. There was no way that She could use Anne March as an authority on this particular matter. I decided to go in for the kill.

“Seriously Sonya,” I said, “Governor John Andrew March is a well off and well educated gentleman, and he has a doctorate from one of those old and famous English universities, and they don’t give those things away in a box of Cracker Jacks you know.”

Newman had to nod on camera at that point.

“Now I’m just a working class slob from Nordeast Minneapolis,” I said, “and I just barely managed to finish high school.”

“Now really...” Said Miss Newman.

I interrupted her.

“Sonya,” I said, “I had to go to summer school to get the ONE credit I needed to meet the graduation requirement.”

“So you missed graduating with your class?” Said Miss Newman.

“The counselor for that class, a woman named Pomeroy, told me that I could take part in the ceremony and get a empty diploma holder.” I said. “But I decided not to do it.”

I think Miss Newman was a bit shocked to hear that.

“Why not?” She asked.

“Sonya, the choice was really simple.” I said. “I could either rent a silly costume, with money that I scarcely had, and stand outside on a hot summer day -- we had them in June in Minneapolis back then -- and listen to a member of the local socialist nomenklatura drone on and on and on about how wonderful it was to be a good socialist drone in the radiant socialist future, all in order to pretend to receive an certificate that I didn’t earn! Or, I could do menial labor for two hours at the minimum wage in air conditioned comfort.”

Miss Newman just stared at me.

“As I said,” I said, “it was an easy choice.”

The ladies at the candy shop that I worked at after school found it difficult to believe that I would make that choice.

Sonya Newman looked like I had just told her that the Virgin Mary was not really a virgin. I strongly suspect what she said next was actually spontaneous.

“You’re not running for president?” She said.

I tried to answer in the campaign mode.

“I would accept the nomination,” I said, “but John Andrew March is far better qualified than I ever will be for the office of President of the United States.”

Before Newman could say anything else I added another comment.

“And John’s family always wanted him to run for President,” I said, “they’re just really, really, really upset that he’s running as a Republican. Minnesota limousine liberals are funny that way.”

Actually they wanted their oldest son, Richard Charles March the Third, to eventually stand for that office. His premature death by a heroin overdose put a stop to that dream.

Miss Newman had recovered at this point and was back in the reporter mode.

“There are some questions about how you and Governor March became good friends for over three decades.” She said.

I immediately jumped to the conclusion that Sonya Newman was referring to the rumors of a long homosexual relationship that were running rampant in the otherwise empty heads of the Leftist Commentariat. Never mind the nice young English lady that John married in a nice English ceremony in a nice English church while he was working on his doctorate in history in England. And, of course, pay absolutely no attention to the three nice children that John and his nice English wife were raising with the assistance of their nice English governess.

But it would only take a single pinprick of truth to pop the giant bubble of falsehood.

“Sonya,” I said, “John and I met through our common hobby of war gaming.”

I was not about to mention Traveller, Dungeons and Dragons, or any other role playing game at that point.

“Seriously,” I said, “John had a small storeroom in the basement of the family home set aside for running Blitzkrieg by the Avalon Hill game company, and that was a really long and hard game to play.”

I probably shouldn’t have said that last part.

Apparently Miss Newman had not caught it or she decided not to run with it.

“So you’re saying that was it was a difficult game to play?”

“It took days to run a full game.” I replied. “And that was long before the first generation of personal computers hit the market.”

Another thing I wasn’t going to mention at that time was that John had to put a padlock on that room and restart a game after his older brother had made a mess in the room while shooting up a dose of heroin.

It was time to drop the rhetorical hammer on Newman.

“Sonya,” I said, “when an old friend offers you a job that you can do at significantly better salary than you’re already earning, you accept it. To refuse to do so is simply insane.”

“And let’s face it,” I added, “it really looks good on the resume.”

Then Newman got to her actual point.

“So what would you do if Governor Chapman receives the Republican nomination?” She said.

It was obvious that Newman was favoring Chapman at the time. During the taping of a previous interview with her Chapman had to tell Newman to stop “soft balling” her. Even though her comment was edited out of the broadcast version of the interview it somehow leaked out to a video file website. The self-styled comedians within the Leftist Commentariat were overdoing their response, with lesbian overtones, to this particular gaffe, as usual.

Since the rhetorical hammer I dropped on Newman didn’t work it was now time to drop the rhetorical sixteen-ton weight on her.

“Miss Newman,” I said, “if Governor Sandra Chapman of Alaska were to receive the Republican nomination for the office of President of the United States I would give her my full support and make every effort to see that she is elected.”

The Fox News camera did not catch the blank look that appeared on Newman’s face.

Time for the killer blow.

“And if Governor Chapman were elected I would graciously accept any position that she offered, or I would firmly recommend someone for the position who I believe is more qualified.”

I’m really sure that Miss Newman really didn’t expect that answer.

It was at this time that John had finished his speech and was shaking hands with supporters as he departed from the stage.

It was time to ditch Miss Newman.

“John!” I shouted to him. “I’ve got Sonya Newman from Fox News over here! Want to talk to her?”

John was too well practiced an actor to visibly show any sign that he really didn’t want to speak to her.

“Sure.” He said with a smile as he walked up to us.

“Seriously Sonya,” I said, “the idea that I’m the evil genius pulling the strings is simply ridiculous.”

I turned to walk away, after John took over the contact with the Fox News field team, and I saw Susan standing there.

I never noticed her listening to the conversation with Newman.

I walked up to her and gave her a really good kiss.

Any Truther watching this would, of course, openly declare that I was faking it and that I was really thinking of doing something sexual with John.

When we unlocked lips Susan asked me a question.

“You would really do that?” She said.

“Do what?” I said.

“Work for Chapman?” She said.

“Only if we had to go to Plan B.” I said.

Plan B was for John to accept the second spot on the national ballot, presumably with Governor Chapman on top.

And yes, we already got the inherent jokes from that concept out of our respective systems.

“Okay then.” She said. “So what class did you take?”

“Class?” I said.

“In summer school,” she said, “to get your diploma?”

“English.” I said. “I think I did a book report on The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, for something like the seventh time.”

I could swear that there was a deep metaphysical element to the groan that Susan gave out when I answered that question.

Sonya Newman, Part Two


Susan and I had been driving to work together at this point. It had been my turn to drive, Which left Susan free to be shocked and angry when we drove up to the house she shared with two other young women.

On the street in front of the house the Minneapolis Fire Department had put the fire that had been set on her Ford Escort. From the pattern of damage on the car I immediately guessed that the fire had been set with an old school Molotov cocktail.

The Minneapolis Police were already present and an uniformed officer had been posted at the open front door of Susan’s house. When Susan I walked up I got a good look at the door. It did not look like it had been forced open.

“I’m sorry,” said the officer at the door, “this is a crime scene.”

It was time to let this fellow know who the boss was.

“Officer,” I said, “I’m Al Keller, the Governor’s Chief of Staff.”

I then pointed to Susan with my right thumb and spoke again.

“And this is Susan Mercer, she’s the press secretary for Governor March’s presidential campaign.”

I then used the right thumb to point over my back at the burned up hulk of the car on the street.

“She is the owner of that car that’s about to towed away as evidence.” I continued. “I believe that she will need to speak to the detectives investigating this incident.”

The unpleasant fact of reality at the time was that the political administration of the city of Minneapolis had been solidly under the control of the local branch of the other party for over three decades.

Yes, the Democratic Farmer Labor Party of Minnesota is every bit as bad as it sounds.

John, in his capacity as governor, had found it necessary to tell the current mayor of Minneapolis that if municipal administration’s slack attitude toward acts of violence against Republicans in his city continued that he would send in a military police unit from the Minnesota National Guard to deal with the problem. It was now obvious that this incident could very well trigger that response.

And every cop in Minneapolis was fully well aware of this.

The cop at the front door nodded.

“Of course, sir.” He said. “If you would follow me ma’am.”

As the cop lead Susan into her own home I saw two more vehicles drive up to the crime scene. They were an uplink van and a minivan belonging to KMSP-TV, the local Fox Network affiliate.
In the minivan was one of the local reporters and Sonya Newman. Sonya had been assigned by Fox News to John’s campaign for president. Off the air everyone working on the campaign called her Sunny.

“Susan,” I said, “go in and talk to the cops, I’ll talk to Sunny and Tom.”

Susan nodded and went into the house with the front door cop. I turned to walk over to the reporters.

“Hi Sunny, hello Tom.” I said.

“Hi Al,” said Sunny. Tom just nodded.

“Tom,” I said, “Susan’s inside with the cops, why don’t you go in and talk to them.”

“Alright.” Said Tom sullenly. And he went inside the house.

“Al,” said Sunny, “what’s with you and Tom, apart from you being straight?”

“I recommended a book to him.” I said.

Atlas Shrugged or Starship Troopers?” She said.

The Pink Swastika,” I replied, “it’s about homosexual culture in the Weimar Republic and the subsequent Reich.”

“I know Ernst Rohm was gay.” She said.

“It goes further than that.” I said. “Apparently there was a big split back in the Weimar days with two completely antithetical groups in Germany, one group ultimately got sent to the camps, and the other group basically joined a certain party and ended up running the camps.”

Sunny frowned.

“Okay.” She said. “I can see why Tom would be upset to read that.”

Sunny then looked and pointed at the charred wreck of Susan’s car.

“So why did this happen?” She asked.

I saw that the rear bumper of the car, with it’s two bumper stickers, was still intact. I walked over and pointed to it.

“Well,” I said, “Susan has made no secret of the fact that she had worked on the election campaign of Little Larry Null.”

I then pointed to the stickers on the bumper. The first was a NULL sticker from the previous presidential election. The second was a MARCH sticker from the current campaign.

“In fact John brought her in the campaign the moment that she mentioned that fact.” I said.

Then I had a thought.

“Can we do this again with the camera running?”

“Yes.” Said Sunny.

She looked back at the cameraman, who then nodded in apparent agreement.
We started over again when Sonya Newman, the intrepid reporter for the Fox News Channel, asked me why this incident happened.

I repeated what I had said before and then continued on.

“Miss Mercer decided that the election of Laurence Null was a mistake and she wanted everyone on the road to know it, someone on the other side clearly has a problem with this.”

When camera switched off Sunny asked me another question.

“So what do you really think about this.” She said.

“I can’t really say.” I replied. “I want John to win this one.”

That wasn’t going to stop Sunny.

“If I say anything, it will be that its from an anonymous campaign official.” She said.

I stepped up and whispered in her ear.

“It involves duct tape, a set of headphones, and an old Yoko Ono record, one from the late Sixties on the Apple Records label.”

Sunny stepped back a bit.

“You know,” she said, “there is such a thing as water boarding.”

It was at the moment that Tom stepped out from the house and walked over to us. He walked up to me and spoke.

“Al,” he said, “you better go inside and talk to Susan.”

That was the longest sentence Tom had spoken to me off camera in almost a year.

I walked into the house and went straight to Susan’s room. It was very readily apparent that there was no damage to the door of the house or to anything not belonging to Susan.

When I entered Susan’s room I saw that practically everything was damaged in some way.
Including her pink teddy bear.

I had to jump to the conclusion that one or both the roommates were involved in this act of vandalism. But that was something for the Minneapolis Police to sort out.  If the Mayor and his crew didn’t get in the way.

Susan was sitting on the bed holding her teddy bear in her hands. I sat down next to her.

“Grandma gave her to me.” Susan said.

I took a closer look at the bear and saw a small white tag with three letters in the Cyrillic alphabet.

“Russian?” I asked.

Susan replied.

“Grandma bought her in Leningrad during one of those silly fraternal socialist tours of the old Soviet Union.”

I nodded and then had an idea.

“My mom has a sewing machine.” I said. “She could stitch her back together.”

Susan looked at me and nodded.

“And it’s time for you to meet her anyway.” I also said.

“Okay.” She replied.

Sonya Newman, Part Three


I remember the day the Final War began.

John had set up the headquarters of his administration in Omaha. We had hoped that this would be a temporary arrangement until former President Null could be persuaded to properly step down in Washington or was otherwise dealt with.

The actual office used by John, and myself as his chief of staff, were within the perimeter of Offutt Air Force Base. John and I actually shared a small office space in the Strategic Command’s underground bunker.

I had come into work early that morning and was in my little cubicle in the temporary presidential office catching up on the inevitable paperwork when an alarm sounded.

I ran down the hall, flashed my photo I.D. card to the Air Force sentry guarding the door, and entered the primary control center.

There was a flurry of activity in the control center as the primary display board, which dominated an entire wall of the room, showed some kind of activity in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean just off of Spain.

I caught my breath from my short run and stepped up to the watch officer, an Air Force Brigadier General, his name tag said “Curtis”, who was on watch in the underground command post.

“General,” I said, “what the Hell is going on?”

Brigadier General Curtis looked at me as if I was a Martian who just appeared in the command post by an act of teleportation. He then apparently remembered that I was actually supposed to be here and answered my question.

“Sir,” he said, “NORAD has reported the launch of three ballistic missiles from a submarine in the Atlantic off of Spain.”

NORAD was a combined American and Canadian military organization whose primary mission was to detect air and space borne attacks against our two respective nations and our allies. Their primary assets were a group of powerful radar stations and a constellation of satellites for detecting and tracking missile launches anywhere on the planet.

I asked the general a question.

“Any idea who launched them and where they’re going?”

“Not at this time, sir.” Curtis replied. “We still have the open line to NORAD, sir.”

I pointed to the nearest phone with a line button blinking.

“Line one, sir.” Said General Curtis.

I picked up the phone and punched the blinking line button.

“Hello.” I said. “This is Al Keller, Chief of Staff for President March, may I speak to the watch officer, please?”

“Yes sir!” Said the voice on the other end of the line.

The next voice on the line sounded French Canadian.

“This is Brigadier General Lambert.” He said.

“General,” I said, “any idea who launched those missiles and where they’re going?”

“We have no idea who launched them, yet.” He said. “As far as we can tell the target is the State of Israel.”

That’s insane. I thought.

No. I had not really thought that, I had emotionally felt it.

“General Lambert,” I said, “would you please notify the Israelis?”

“Mister Keller,” he said, “that would require a presidential order.”

Bullshit. I thought.

“Moot point, General.” I replied. “My next phone call will be to the Prime Minister of Israel.”

“Mister Keller,” he said, “you do not have the authority to do that.”

I looked over to General Curtis. He had been listening to the conversation with Lambert. He covered the lower part of the phone receiver with the palm of his right hand, turned to a staff officer, and spoke.

“Call the Israelis,” he said, “let them know what’s coming their way.”

“And while we’re at it,” I jumped in, “call the Navy and let them know where that missile boat is, I’m sure the president will want it forced to the surface or sent to the bottom.”

A Navy Commander, apparently representing our own ballistic missile submarine force in the command center, spoke up.

“I’m on it, sir!” He shouted.

General Curtis commented in a voice barely above the level of a whisper.

“I’ll settle for sunk.” He said.

“Yes.” I said in agreement.

General Curtis then barked out an order to another staff officer.

“Lieutenant,” he said, “call the NRO and see what they have on this attack.”

An Air Force Sergeant turned around at her station and spoke to me.

“Sir,” she said, “I have the Prime Minister’s office on line two.”

I didn’t bother to say anything to Canadian Brigadier General Lambert at NORAD as I switched over to the second line on my phone. The Prime Minister was actually on the line.

“Sir,” I said, “this is Al Keller in Omaha.”

“Al,” he said, “why are you calling? Where is President March?”

I had met the current Prime Minister when John had visited Israel during the primary campaign in order to obtain the equivalent of “street cred” in the area of foreign affairs.

“The president is boarding the airborne command post.” I replied.

Or John should be if we’re following the operational procedure that we rehearsed.

“Benny,” I said, “it is my duty to inform you that three ballistic missiles have been launched from a submarine toward the State of Israel.”

“Do you know who is responsible for this attack?” He replied.

“Not at this time, sir.” I said.

I then saw the Lieutenant who called the NRO coming up to me with a sheet of paper.

“Just a moment.” I said to the Prime Minister.

The Lieutenant gave me the sheet of paper with a note written on it.

It said:


I spoke again to the Prime Minister.

“Sir, the National Reconnaissance Office says that they’re French M-five-one missiles with a total of eighteen to thirty warheads of a hundred and ten kilotons yield each.”

I could hear the Israeli air raid warning sirens start up over the phone line.

“Benny,” I said, “if I wasn’t a goddamned atheist I would say a prayer for Israel.”

“I think you just did.” He replied.

I had to say something else.

“Benny, we’ll do everything we can for the survivors.” I said. “They’ll have a place here with us, you have my word on that.”

“Of course you will.” Said the Prime Minister.

I could hear someone speaking to the Prime Minister in the background over the phone line.

“I have to go.” He said. “May God be with you.”

The line went dead.

I was silent. I had to mentally pause for a moment.

“That was definitely a prayer.” Said Curtis. “You definitely expressed a desire for divine intervention, without the usual fluffery.”

I turned my head to look at Curtis.

“My Pop was very disappointed that I didn’t follow him into the ministry.” He said.

“What denomination?” I asked.

“Methodist.” He said.

“Okay.” I replied.

One of the sergeants in the control center stood up at his work station.

“General!” He shouted. “Fox News has someone reporting live from Jerusalem!”

“Put it on the big screen!” General Curtis commanded.

The image from Fox News appeared on the main screen to the right of the map showing the track of the three French missiles in flight.

It was midnight and Sonya Newman was reporting live from Jerusalem.

Sunny’s hair was a little more frizzed than usual and she clearly appeared to be afraid of something on the air. But she was trying to do her job.

After the election the management at Fox News had given her a choice of assignments outside of the United States. In part this was to allow her to get away from escalating level of violence being carried out by followers of former president Null against those who were perceived to be opponents of his continued and now illegal occupancy of the White House.

Sunny had no idea what was going on apart from the local civil defense sirens sounding off. She was saying that she and her camera crew were about to go down to a shelter when someone off camera shouted something. The camera shifted off of Sunny to something in the sky.

The display on the main part of the primary display in the command center showed that the warheads of the French missiles had reached Israel.

The view from the Fox News camera in Jerusalem showed three of the reentry vehicles dropping down on the city.

Sunny tried to describe what she saw. It was almost a play by play account as the locally based anti-missile battery tried to intercept the incoming warheads.

The first two warheads were killed on live television. The interceptor missiles failed to hit the third warhead.

Sonya Newman of Fox News made one final comment.

“One of the them got through.”

The was a very brief flash of light from the last warhead before the loss of the video signal from Jerusalem.

Everyone in the command center sat in stunned silence.

I had to say something.


“Yes, sir.”

“I believe that the president will want to review any existing plans for action against the French.” I said. “There should be something on file.”

The fact that the French government, through their insistence on maintaining an independent foreign policy that was often antithetical to our interests, and by creating their own independent nuclear strike force, should have necessitated the creation of a separate plan for action against it.

And our field grade staff officers need to be kept busy in peacetime as well.

General Curtis sent the colonel standing next to him out to retrieve the relevant files.

When the airborne command post landed the general and I met the president on the ground. We all piled into one of the Chevy Suburban vehicles that our security group (the Secret Service was with former President Null) had scrounged up.

As we drove back to the headquarters General Curtis gave a brief summary of the existing options for dealing with the French. When he finished I spoke up.

“John,” I said to the President, “I made a promise to Benny that we would give their survivors sanctuary here in the States.”

John closed his eyes and nodded, and then thought for a moment.

“Al,” he said, “I think I’m going to have Susan fill in as chief of staff.”

I nodded.

John continued.

“This will be your project,” he said, “any asset you need, you got it. And anyone who doesn’t follow your orders goes straight to Leavenworth!”

“I’ll need a written executive order for that.” I replied.

“You got it!” Said President John Andrew March.

The driver of the Suburban dropped President March and General Curtis off at the command post. The driver then continued on to the field officer housing area of the air base where Susan and I were staying.

I found Susan sitting on the couch in the living room. The television set was showing the Fox News Channels continuing coverage of aftermath of the French attack on Israel. At the moment Fox News was showing internet video, apparently from the West Bank or Gaza area, of the glowing mushroom clouds rising above the cities of Israel. Some of the Palestinians were in the streets celebrating.

I was not consoled by the fact that those savages were now getting full exposure to some very dirty fallout from the attack.

I sat down next to Susan and gave her a hug. She held her teddy bear tightly and her face clearly showed signs that she had been crying.

“I saw Sunny.” She said.

“I know.” I replied.