Tuesday, February 19, 2008

GroupThink: the Lighter Side - Chapter 7

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Year Minus 5

“So how do you know that these guys exist again?”

August Hanson shifted uneasily in his chair. The director of operations was staring at him like he expected him to proclaim himself Napoleon. As it was, he could kiss his career in the Bureau goodbye.

“The impossible level of coordination between individuals in the colony sir.”

“Riiiight. So basically, these people are working together?”

“Not just working together, Sir, they are anticipating needs, pooling resources and communicating with other colonies elsewhere in the nation, perhaps even the world.”

Robert Muller leaned back in his chair and looked at August.

“A world-wide conspiracy?”

“Possibly, sir, but at present I’m only concerned with the United States.”

His face expressionless, Muller raised a questioning eyebrow at Thomas Pickard, the deputy director. “Captain Pickard,” as only someone who outranked him would address him, gave a very slight shake of his head.

“And aside from this very high level of coordination, what do you think has demonstrated their intent?"

Augie tried to look the Director in the eye. He hoped he wasn’t sweating.

“None sir. But the point is that no one ever shows this level of coordination for prolonged periods of time. Not even religious fanatic groups! And I’ve found 3 colonies already!”

“Well, are they engaging in some sort of terrorist or criminal activities? Could we bring some of them in on other charges for questioning?"

“Not that I’ve been able to witness or determine after the fact…”

“In fact the level of crime in these “colonies” has dropped dramatically since they moved in, right?”

“Yes that’s quite correct, but the thing is that the original residents were not pushed out! They were assimilated into the colony. That’s how it seems to grow.

“OK, well, it sounds like you laid the ground work for an investigation to proceed with. At this point I’d like to confer with Pat, figure out what the options are, what resources we have available, that sort of thing. Then a plan can be created to deal with this…thing. How about if you go back and organize your information, check your sources in preparation for the next stage.”

Mr. Muller did have a nice way with people, particularly Bureau people, that could make them feel like they were marching off on a critical mission instead of, say, being nudged out of an office while some people could figure out what to do with him.

As the door clicked shut, a bit of pressure left the room as well. Muller regarded Pickard in a friendlier manner.

“So what do we have here, Captain? Romulans trying to invade Walmarts?”

Pickard winced at Muller’s statement but rallied. “Well, one thing that Hanson didn’t get to was the potential for such communities to hide fugitives. We know about Attica…”

“Yeah, 1200 people, convicts, guards, the whole bunch disappear. One of the groups Augie describes would be a perfect place for them to go, but why? A lot of them were pretty nasty guys. Why would a community want to have anything to do with rapists, armed robbers, convicted murderers and drug dealers?”

“It make no sense, I think he’s gone off on a long and expensive tangent. At best we have some people who are trying to clean up their neighborhood. At worst we have another “commune” style approach to urban living.

“What about Mr. Hanson?”

Pickard looked down at his hands.

“When he started at the Bureau he was bright, eager to get his career moving, you know the type, and above all, sane. I’m afraid that this investigation may have been too much for him. I’m considering putting him on some boring routine project and see how he progresses.”

“What about making him the F B eye for these groups?”

“I’d be nervous with that. He has not shown any…odd behavior outside of his interest in this case. Giving him more exposure could exacerbate the problem. On the other hand, he is good at spotting these groups, so if we really do want to keep an eye on them he would be very useful.”

Rob and Thom got up.

“We need to know if this Augie guy is going to be someone to nurture or someone to discard. I’m leaving it up to you to decide.”

“I see.”

* * *

Augie walked back to his “office.” Lately, the FBI had borrowed from the corporate world and inflicted cubicles on its employees instead of the more traditional offices. In fact, to increase efficiency, Augie actually shared a cube with…


“Hi Scott.”

Scott Slaughter, or “Dr. Slaughter” as people sometimes called him was a person who appeared to much more of a Bureau man than Augie was. He had taken to comparing August with Fox Mulder from “The X-Files” lately. Against all expectations, the two were actually friends.

“So how’d the meeting with Capt. Picard go?”

August sighed.

“Remember when we rehearsed it?”

“That bad eh?”


“Augie, Augie, Augie. I warned you that this was a bad idea…”

“I know.”

“…and that this investigation of yours is a waste of time and taxpayer money…”

“I know.”

“…and that if you want to rise up in the ranks you need to do something that is going to make them look good and that all this does is make you look crazy.”

“I know.”

“What were you thinking?!”

Augie paused and frowned.

“I don’t know.”

“Well look. What say you put this little X-File behind you and get crunching on something real? Take those Iraqi refugees…”

“We already looked into them. They’re just a bunch of slobs who fled the country and are trying to get by.”

“Yeah, but the point it that they barely speak English, go to mosque 3 times a day, listen to a cleric that is borderline, and people around them have heard them voice anti-American statements.”

“They’re just frustrated because they thought America would be some paradise and it turns out that things aren’t quite that simple.”

“That’s beside the point. We’ve received word from on high that we need to be more proactive in our approach to counter-terrorism. Rounding up these guys and detaining them in a nice, public way will send a message to the rest and make your boss look good.”

August had to admit that Scott had a point. Augie didn’t have any good leads to follow up, so doing that would show that he wasn’t just following wild goose chases.

“Hey man, it’s almost quitting time. Let’s head down to Grand Slam, have a few beers, talk this over…”

“You could hit on that new assistant.”

Scott clapped him on the back.

“That’s the spirit.”

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