Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Soundboarding Part II

Read Part I

One day, the doorbell rang. A lanky man in a pinstripe suit, and sporting a Chaplin mustachio, stood on the front stoop. When Corman opened the front door, the man introduced himself as Nipsey Krimp. He said that he represented a research company called Microsecond Arbitrage, which was interested in speaking to his wife. Corman asked how Krimp had heard of her.

"We're a technology company," he said slyly. "We have ways of finding new talent."

"New talent?" he said. "But she already has a job."

"Yes, I understand that," Krimp said. "But still, I'd like to make her an offer."

He had certainly timed his visit right -- it was then that Alva came home. Corman was about to ask Krimp to leave, but Alva wanted to hear what he had to say.

"I can only speak to Mrs. Corman," Krimp explained. The look Corman got from his wife told him to leave them alone. They adjourned to the living room, and Corman pretended to go to his office.

Being a Hearist, however, Corman was able to hear the conversation by lingering in the hallway outside his home office. He didn't catch everything that was said, but did hear "special skills", "security clearance", and "national security."

Corman went to his office and ran some Internet searches on Microsecond Arbitrage. He learned they were a military contractor that worked closely with the CIA. He couldn't imagine what they'd want with Alva. When Krimp finally left, Alva said she wasn't at liberty to fill him in on the purpose of the meeting.

"But that's crazy!" Corman said. "A stranger comes here out of the blue, demands to speak to you privately, and you can't tell me what he wanted?"

"I'm sorry," she said and went into the kitchen to make something to eat. As she made a BLT, it sounded to Corman like she was using claymores and marching band cymbals to accomplish the task.

* * *

A week after Nispey Krimp's visit, Alva informed Corman that she had been offered a job that would take her out of the country for an unspecified amount of time.

"Does this have anything to do with Krimp and his outfit?" Corman said, incredulous.

"I can't say," Alva said.

Two weeks later, after Alva finished up at her job, she left to work for Microsecond Arbitrage. Following a two-week orientation with them, the nature of her assignment was revealed. Nipsey Krimp, her case manager, filled her in.

"You're being assigned to a location known as 'The Barracks.' It's a reconverted cruise ship, outfitted with cells and interrogation rooms, where only the most high value prisoners are kept."

Luckily, the employee living quarters there hadn't been changed from those the luxury cruise ship had before becoming The Barracks. The mess hall was the same opulent dining room -- complete with patriotic ice sculptures -- where passengers once dined. There was even a swimming pool and gym area available to all employees. Alva settled in quickly and soon felt like she was on vacation.

Then Krimp paid her a visit.

He was grim as he showed her a picture of the first prisoner she would assist in interrogating. "Ozi Blaze Kuku is impervious to physical pain," Krimp explained, leading Alva from her cabin down several decks to the windowless interrogation room where she would be working.

"His pain threshold is off the charts, so we've been unable to induce him to give us information using any of our conventional methods," Krimp said. "We're hoping that you can break him."

Krimp led Alva into the interrogation room. It looked like the kitchen of any ordinary middle class North American home. There was a counter with a stainless steel sink, cupboards filled with dishes, drawers filled with cutlery. There was a refrigerator stocked with food, and even a dishwasher. The only thing that appeared out of the ordinary was the heavy wooden chair bolted to the tile floor a few feet away. It had thick leather straps for binding occupants at the arms, legs and head.

Off to the side was a table with recording and stenographic equipment.

As Alva familiarized herself with the interrogation room's kitchen, Kuku was led into the room under guard. He was in shackles and had a black hood over his head. The guards placed him in the chair, fastened him in place without taking off his shackles. Then pulled the hood away. The guards left the room and remained at the door outside.

Kuku blinked, blinded momentarily by the fluorescent lights beaming off the white kitchen walls. When his eyes grew accustomed to the surroundings, his dark gaze fell on Alva. His face cracked into an unpleasant smile. Suddenly, he laughed. He spoke something in his native language, Mqqistani. Alva didn't understand.

A slight crackle came from a speaker in the ceiling, followed by Krimp's voice: "Agent 48Q, You may commence loading the dishwasher."

Kuku watched Alva open the dishwasher. After his extraordinary rendition from Mqqistan three years before, he was subjected to months of waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation and sirens blasting in his cell. Little did the infidels know that these techniques merely replicated the experience of attending a Kuku family reunion. Now it appeared that the Agents of Satan were trying to bore to death.

"It will never work," Kuku said in Mqqistani. He began to laugh again, but the cackling caught in his throat when a coffee mug slipped from Alva's hand. The mug slammed onto the kitchen counter and crashed to the tile floor.

Alva began loading the dishwasher.

Outside the interrogation room, the two seasoned guards heard Kuku's moans morph into wails, and finally into shrieks. His cries were counterpointed by a bizarre onslaught of banging and crashing, and the random clank of cutlery in the stainless steel sink. By the time they re-entered the room thirty minutes later to return him to his cell, Kuku was a gibbering, weeping mess.

* * *

Back home, Corman soon found the silence in the house overwhelming. He piled dishes precariously in the sink, hoping they would slowly dislodge themselves over time, and clank and shift, and fill some of the void. He asked friends to come over and attempt to simulate the racket Alva made. They were no help. They broke a pile of dishes, but never recreated his wife's dynamic discordant noise.

At one point, Corman hired prostitutes to come to the house and load his dishwasher, bake brownies, or cook omelets. Most of the bewildered girls balked entirely at the weirdness of the request, but the few who made the attempt only managed to arouse Corman's lonely missing of his wife.

He eventually took the radical step of buying several sets of dishes, piling them on the roof of his house at various points, and waiting for the wind to blow them off. The noise of it was random, all right, but it did more to unnerve the neighbors than assuage his missing Alva.

When the doorbell rang one day, Corman rushed to answer it, hoping it was Nipsey Krimp come to say Alva's assignment was complete and she would be coming home.

No such luck. It was the local police making a "wondering if everything's all right" visit.

* * *

For her own part, Alva made short work of the high-value captives in custody. She had reduced them all to pliable, pitiable putty. After two months at The Barracks, she was reassigned to The School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia where she was made instructor of advanced interrogation techniques. It seemed the military was on the verge of a near-fool-proof mode of interrogation with her "soundboarding," as they called it. The only trouble was, no student -- regardless how accomplished a torturer or dedicated a murderer -- could master Soundboarding. No one could replicate the sheer randomness and spectrum of Alva's domestic cacophony. Her students were tested by physicians, and finally she went through a battery of physical and psychological tests.

Dr. Fangolini, senior physician of the S.O.A., summed up the findings this way: "Mrs. Corman is the absolute embodiment of Chaos Theory."

In order to allow her to return to civilian life, several weeks' worth of video footage of her making omelets, baking browniess, and, of course, loading and unloading a dishwasher, were made. They were played back during interrogations.

After almost ten months away from home, Alva returned. During her time away, she'd only been allowed to write to him once a month, and was not allowed any of the mail Corman sent in care of Microsecond Arbitrage. She was given a bundle of Corman's letters to her to read on the flight home.

She returned to find a chastened Corman, and kitchen filled with regular dishes and cutlery -- gone were the carbonized silentware Corman had purchased in the months before Nipsey Krimp's initial visit.

Life in their ordinary neighborhood returned to normal. Exhausted as she was from traveling, Alva gave in to Corman's request that she make them omelets for dinner. As he sat in his office -- listening to sounds that brought to mind lead pellets being dropped on the roof of a tin shed; machine gun fire striking empty oil drums; and ceramic cats being hackey-sacked with hollow, aluminum feet -- he strove to hear the percussion in it all. Alas he could not, so he simply decided that his nervous system now wore a dog collar and a gimp mask.

No comments: