When the headsets were in place and the men were ready, Claussen pushed the Play button.
The logo faded away, and the soundtrack began to play in quality, digital stereo. Charles Claussen had supervised the presentation’s musical selection and had personally selected Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3, known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. He savored the subtle irony of the choice. The composer had been inspired by the words a prisoner left behind, scratched on the wall of a Gestapo prison cell during World War II.
Somber music unfolded like a flower opening to bloom, and sorrowful images filled the screen. The first was a photograph of a man in the terminal stage of AIDS, taken just before his death. The other three men flinched, and Spencer even turned away from the screen.
“Watch carefully, my friends,” Claussen insisted. “This is what we are fighting, what we are up against.”
That image transitioned to show two men embracing, then quickly changed to show two women kissing.
“Disgusting,” Waverly muttered. “That’s why we need a marriage law that defines it as a pact between a man and a woman, as God intended.”
The next series of images showed young men of color in gang clothes, an aging Asian woman struggling to carry a string shopping bag, and a toothless man wrapped in a blanket on a park bench as he held a coffee can in outstretched hands, hoping for a handout. The voice-over said the man was so lazy he couldn’t even bother to get up to beg. There were many more examples like those, each photo chosen to demonstrate the people Claussen considered detritus—social misfits. The images had been carefully chosen to evoke loathing.
The last image showed two men walking away, the camera smoothly zooming in on the yarmulkes they wore. Then the video faded to black.
“Wouldn’t our world be better if we didn’t have to see such things?” the voice-over said.
Gorecki’s haunting melody faded and segued into different music that featured an edgy beat. The musical change made a statement: something new, something to pay attention to. Fresh images showed graphic videos with scenes of rioting and destruction so familiar from the newscasts during the economic conference in 2010, and from several riots at sporting events in the years following.
Images blended long shots and close-ups, with frame after frame capturing people wearing balaclavas and other disguises to keep from being identified. A soundtrack of sirens and police whistles ran over scenes of windows being smashed, stores looted, and cars overturned. The last scene was a long camera pan of hoodlums setting a police cruiser on fire.
Waverly sneered as he watched police officers forming a phalanx and moving in, swinging batons. The sound of their clubs hitting flesh could be clearly heard over the shouting and sirens.
“See that?” Waverly stood and pointed to an officer delivering a brutal blow with his baton. “That goon the police officer is hitting is getting just what he deserves.”
The other three nodded in agreement and made no comment when the camera zoomed in on police officers to show how black tape had been used to cover their badge numbers.
The sound effects on the video faded and a voice-over condemned the protesters as gangsters, Communists, agitators, thugs, mercenaries, and criminals. There was no reference to the thousands of peaceful demonstrators: mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles. Ordinary people who wanted to vent their displeasure at the way the ruling class was ruining the economy and their way of life. Claussen had personally overseen the editing, of course, making sure that any such views were left out of this presentation. He paused the video, knowing the men at the table needed no further convincing.
“Someone has to stand up to the hoodlums,” Winston said smoothly, and the others harrumphed in agreement. “Decades of permissive parenting have led us to this point. It’s time to remind the spoiled-rotten youth that their party is over.”
“Hear, hear,” Spencer said with a self-important sputter.
“That was the background. Now watch what comes next,” Claussen said, resuming the video.
The hymn “How Great Thou Art” began playing in the background, the perfect, uplifting soundtrack to underscore how Claussen’s plan would rescue society from itself. He smiled inwardly, knowing the others wouldn’t appreciate the parody of this musical choice. Research by a noted musicologist had pointed out the similarities of that great hymn to the “Horst Wessel Lied,” the infamous Nazi rallying song. A careful listener could recognize the parallels between the two melodies. Claussen thought it was the perfect touch—his evil plan camouflaged by a great religious hymn.
The music rose in volume as blueprints and renderings began to appear. The voice-over described new construction and plans for the modification of existing buildings as the video displayed scenes bathed in a warm glow. People could be seen strolling along beautiful walkways threading through landscaped atria.
“The centerpiece of CleanSweep,” the voice-over stated, “will be the headquarters for our new national security service. CleanSweep will be built in the downtown core.” An image of a multistory, glass-and-chrome building filled the screen.
Charles put the display on pause again. “I studied the strategy Disney used in Central Florida in the early 1960s. They secretly purchased land over an extended period of time. Nobody knew who the buyer was. They were able to outmaneuver speculators, and the secret for the amusement park was carefully guarded until they made the official announcement that established Walt Disney World near Orlando. I did the same, and I’ve had a team clandestinely negotiating for the past five years.” He paused for effect. “Now we can put that real estate to good use, for a change.”
He restarted the video.
The scene shifted from renderings of the headquarters building to structures in another location. “This is an example of one of the planned intake centers,” the voice-over went on, in a perceptibly excited tone. The music in the background now transitioned to the soothing, repetitive melody of a Philip Glass composition.
“We make sure the buildings are constructed to the highest security standards, without sacrificing detainee comfort. Each inmate can expect clean accommodations,” the voice-over explained as a picture of dormitory rooms appeared on the screen. “Each person can expect a plain but healthy meal. You will, however, note the absence of luxury items. This is intentional.”
“For example,” the voice went on, “there will be strategically placed, flat-screen, high-definition TV screens, but they will broadcast only educational messages and important announcements. Sorry, detainees,” the voice added in the manner of a sports commentator giving a play-by-play, “you won’t be watching any games or movies on these televisions.”
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