David baldacci — the whole truth

David Baldacci
The Whole Truth
To Zoe and Luke
Why waste time discovering the truth when you can so easily create it?
– The person quoted above requested anonymity as he was not authorized to speak on the record as to matters of truth.
“Dick, I need a war.”
“Well, as always, you’ve come to the right place, Mr. Creel.”
“It won’t be a typical conflict.”
“I never expect typical from you.”
“But you have to sell it. You have to make them believe, Dick.”
“I can make them believe anything.”
AT PRECISELY ZERO HOURS UT, or midnight Universal Time, the image of the tortured man erupted onto the world’s most popular Web site.
The first six words he spoke would be remembered forever by everyone who heard them.
“I am dead. I was murdered.”
He was speaking Russian on the screen but at the bottom his tragic story was retold in virtually any language one desired with the press of a key. Secret Russian Federation police had beaten “confessions” of treason out of him and his family. He’d managed to escape and make this crude video.
Whoever held the camera had either been scared to death, drunk, or both, for the grainy film vibrated and shook every few seconds.
The man said if the video had been released that meant he’d been recaptured by government thugs and was already dead.
His crime? Simply wanting freedom.
“There are tens of thousands just like me,” he told the world. “Their bones lie heavy on the frozen tundra of Siberia and in the deep waters of Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan. You will see evidence of this soon. There are others who will take up the fight now that I am gone.”
He warned that while the world had focused on the Osama bin Ladens of the world for so long, the old evil, with a destructive force a million times greater than the combined Islamic renegades, was clearly back, and deadlier than ever.
“It is time the world knew the whole truth,” he shouted at the camera, then broke down in tears.
“My name is Konstantin. My name was Konstantin,” he corrected. “It is too late for me and my family. We are all dead now. My wife, my three children, all gone. Do not forget me, and why I died. Do not let my family perish in vain.”
As the man’s image and voice faded from view, a mushroom cloud lit up the screen, and superimposed on the bottom of this horrifying visual was the ominous tagline: First the Russian people, then the rest of the world. Can we afford to wait?
The production values were rudimentary, the special effects amateurish, but no one cared about that. Konstantin and his poor family had made the ultimate sacrifice so that the rest of the world would have a chance to live.
The first person to see the video, a computer programmer in Houston, was stunned. He e-mailed the file to a list of twenty friends on his share list. The next person to view it seconds later lived in France and suffered from insomnia. In tears, she sent it to fifty friends. The third viewer was from South Africa and was so incensed at what he’d seen that he phoned the BBC and then did an e-mail blast to eight hundred of his “closest” mates on the Web. A teenage girl in Norway watched the video in horror and then forwarded it to every person she knew. The next thousand people to view it lived in nineteen different countries and shared it with thirty friends each, and they with dozens each. What had started as a digital raindrop in the Internet ocean quickly exploded into a pixel-and-byte tsunami the size of a continent.