Character Interview for Writing.com's "What a Character!" Contest
|"Are you sure you want to do this?" I asked. "We can wait for a better time if--"
"I've already put this off for too long," Jernard replied, forcing a quick smile to cover the look of dread on the rest of his face. "That's part of the problem--that there's never going to be a better time. I doubt I can get through everything in one run, but I'll tell you as much as I can. Can you still understand me?"
"Your levels look fine," I said, but then I realized what he meant. "What's with the sudden accent?"
"This is what I sound like without my ability," he replied, and he seemed amused as I turned the audio meter around where he could see it. "I still know English pretty well, but please stop me if I say something strange. Slang tends to mess me up sometimes, but this will allow your recording equipment to pick up what I say without translation."
"So what you do under normal circumstances is--"
"Speak as normal and let my ability do the rest," he replied then smirked. "It works both ways, too. Unless I have the ability off, I just see and hear everyone speaking Hannarian."
"So your brain has the ability to get inside people's minds and translate for you?" I asked, and he gave me a humoring nod. "How?"
"That's a lot like asking someone how breathing works," he replied, glancing up at the ceiling like he was trying to think. "I can send you all the detailed medical jargon in a file, but that won't be enough to explain everything. I know that I can turn this on and off--kind of like holding your breath for awhile--but for the most part it's automatic. I don't even have to concentrate for it to work. Is there anything else you need me to do before we start?"
I shook my head, annoyed at myself that I'd just missed recording everything he'd just said. I used the controls on my DMR to move the three remote cameras I had into position--one on him, one on me, and a third with a longer shot of the entire office with both of us in view.
"I think we're all right now," I said, taking a deep breath and looking at the camera that was on me. "Ready in 3...2...Today is December 10th, 2300. I'm Portia Roberts here with Hannaria's Ambassador to--wait, I should probably address you as Emperor now since your son said--"
"That's not official yet," he interrupted, and his eyes flared bright blue like the title had upset him. "Plus the last thing I need is more people trying to kill me. Ambassador is fine."
"I still have to start over again. 3...2...Today is December 10th, 2300. I'm Portia Roberts here with Hannaria's Ambassador to Earth. He has agreed today to answer my questions with no preconditions, half of which were pulled from the list created by the International Board of Journalist Professionals in 2268."
"You've been digging back a bit, haven't you?" he asked, and he looked like he was trying to hold back from laughing at me. "You were what--negative four years old when that thing came out? I remember I made that entire group furious--disappeared for fifteen years after they presented me with the list and demanded I answer everything."
"They did have some good questions," I said in a hopeful tone, but I was still quick to add. "I also screened out the ones I thought had biased wording."
He gave an indifferent shrug.
"Fair enough, I guess. What's the first question?"
I looked down at my notes then back up at him.
"I guess I'll start with two major ones I think everyone wants to know, including me. Why did you come to Earth, Ambassador? What do you want from us?"
He frowned, and I considered the possibility he was about to get up and disappear for another fifteen years. After a moment however, he sighed and half-smiled at the floor.
"You're not going to make this easy on me, are you?"
"If you wanted someone like that, you shouldn't have picked me," I replied in a firm tone, but then I noticed his hands were shaking on his lap. "There's no reason to be nervous, though--not if you're just telling people the truth."
He looked down at his hands until they stopped trembling then looked back up at me.
"It's not the truth that makes me nervous, Ms. Roberts," he replied in a quiet tone. "It's detangling everything I've lied about so the truth will make sense again."
Everything about my training was telling me to stay objective and not to lose sight that the teenage-looking boy sitting across from me was not some vulnerable kid but an alien almost a hundred times my age. I caught a glimpse of something however--a flash of intense pain and grief in his expression--that seemed genuine. He recovered so fast however that I wasn't sure whether I'd just imagined it.
"Maybe you should start at the beginning then," I replied. "It may be better just to pretend like you've told us nothing."
"I guess I can try that."
He stood up and started to scoot his chair back.
"Hey, wait a second," I said, looking at the camera monitors. "You're getting out of frame. What are you--"
"Just in case you get the urge to throw something at me," he explained as I scrambled to readjust two of the cameras. "I'm so exhausted right now that my reflexes are kind of shot..."
"Is all of it that bad?" I asked, and he smirked.
"You may even try to kill me before we're done."
"I doubt that," I replied, but he looked behind him to make sure he couldn't move back any farther.
"So, when did you decide you wanted to be a reporter?" he asked, relaxing back into his chair.
I knew what he was trying to do, and I wasn't going to fall for it.
"I thought I was supposed to be interviewing you, Ambassador--not the other way around."
He smirked again.
"Please, just humor me for a minute," he replied. "This isn't some sort of trick to get you off topic."
I thought about it for a moment.
"I was maybe eleven or twelve. Why do you want to know?"
"What's the most miserable job position you can imagine?" he asked instead of answering me, and I felt my frustration building.
"I don't know," I replied, trying to think of a way to regain control of the conversation. "I guess anything where a person feels like they have no real purpose. What are you getting at?"
He nodded like he was satisfied with my answers.
"In our culture, children aren't asked what they want to be when they grow up," he explained. "We're directed from birth into a range of positions based on our family lines and abilities. My wife Rhaynan and I first came to Earth because it was our obligation--our job. On a personal level, we never wanted anything from Earth except the opportunity to leave it once our task was finished. To be honest, I was miserable when we first arrived--believing that what we were doing had no real purpose compared to other things I wanted to do with my life."
He was quiet for a moment, waiting for me to ask him something else. This time it took me awhile to work up the nerve.
"You want to admit in a public interview that you were spies?" I asked, hoping he'd realize how what he said could be interpreted and not get angry at me.
He gave me an odd look and shook his head.
"Spies have an agenda--something they're looking to find or uncover. Rhay and I were supposed to just passively observe Earth for a period of time and not attempt to interfere with anything. For the most part, that's what we tried to do--be objective and keep our heads down."
"But to what end?" I asked. "Who was going to see what you documented once you returned?"
"Just the Emperor--who up until recently was Rhaynan's cousin Jicah--and maybe a handful of his trade advisers like my grandfather," he replied, but then he sighed at my skeptical expression. "I know it's difficult not to see the situation as something more sinister, but this was intended to be a very mundane process. Up until things started to fall apart, Rhay and I just followed what we thought we were supposed to do."
"So what went wrong?" I asked, and his face cringed. "I--"
"It wasn't instant, but over time it was almost everything you can imagine," he interrupted. "We never wanted this, Ms. Roberts--the conflict with the EIP and all the needless deaths that have resulted from it. It was my decisions that led us into it, though. I do have to face that--admit that."
He wiped his eyes with his jacket sleeve then just stared at me like he was bracing himself for my next question. I reached over to my DMR and cut the power to the cameras and the microphone, and his eyebrows rose in surprise.
"What really happened in 2113, Jernard--off the record?" I asked, but his painful expression returned and didn't go away as his gaze dropped to the floor. "I already know you and Rhaynan were here long before that, but why did you wait until that year to quit hiding?"
He sighed then looked back up at me.
"Our son Andrew was dying of cancer," he replied, his voice unsteady but no longer accented. "It was either we found a way to contact someone who could help him or allow the disease to kill him. In hindsight, we were unprepared for everything else that came along with revealing our existence. I'm not trying to justify that everything I did was right because I know now that it wasn't. I was terrified for my family's safety, and I did things that I wouldn't have done if I'd been thinking more clearly..."
"Like what?" I asked, but at that moment his DMR beeped.
He was quiet as he looked down at the message.
"I'm sorry, but I have to go," he said as he stood up, but he seemed relieved by the interruption. "I promise we'll finish this later. How many more questions do you have?"
I found the screen with my list and showed him. He shook his head but smirked again.
"Why me?" I asked before he reached the doorway, but his expression seemed confused when he turned around to face me. "Out of all the reporters you could have chosen for this, why me?"
"You care--about people, I mean," he replied. "That means a lot--and Rhay and I relate more to you than most of your colleagues."
I though about this--about all the times where I'd crossed a professional line to try to help someone even when my superiors had threatened to fire me for it. Up until the point my actions started to gain positive attention of viewers--and made the station more money--I'd been told it was a weakness that I needed to let go.
"Sometimes caring can get you into trouble," I replied, and he nodded. "Is that why were you afraid to tell everyone about your son's situation? I can't say I can speak for all of humanity, but I do think most people would've responded better to the truth if you'd just given us a chance."
He shook his head.
"I was never worried about most people, Ms. Roberts," he replied with a smirk then turned away from me to go down the hallway. "It's just easier to keep the sharks at bay when they think you can't bleed..."
Interview Word Count: 1979
More of both of these characters can be found in:
Book four in the series will be beginning in August 2010. For more information on me and all my available books (Kindle and paperback formats), visit my Amazon.com author page by clicking here.