Sunday, November 6, 2011

Interview with Michael Cardano, Friend to Emily Kane’s Family

What can you tell us about yourself? That’s usually the best place to start.

I think you’ll find I’m not that interesting. I’m just a bureaucrat who’s been in and out of government service. Most of the time, I’ve worked with the State Department in one capacity or another. Right now I work out of a think tank where I specialize in forecasts about Southeast Asian economies. It’s pretty dull stuff on the whole.

Is that what you were doing in the Philippines twenty years ago?

Oh, you know about that. [Pauses] Well, I was working out of the embassy in Manila in those days. I mainly worked on the Trade desk, assisting with import/export contracts, foreign investment, that sort of thing.

Did you have any contact with someone named Meacham in Manila?

Ahhh. So you’ve done some homework. Ordinarily I would stonewall you about Meacham…, like I was worried about national security. But I don’t think that matters anymore. What do you want to know?

Why doesn’t it matter anymore?

Since Meacham’s agents burned down my house and killed my chauffeur, I don’t think I have any reason to keep his secrets anymore. And they’re only his secrets. He’d like to think that his interests coincide with the nation’s security. But I don’t think that will turn out to be true, once the appropriate agencies begin to scrutinize his operations.

What was Meacham after at your house?

He was after my cook. He thinks she knows something about a specific genetics project, something he thinks has a military application. My cook used to work in a genetics lab in Tokyo. He’s mistaken about the research, about what that lab achieved. But he’s stubborn and he thinks he’s on the trail of something big. He wants to grab my cook and sweat the information out of her.

What exactly is the nature of this research?

It will sound preposterous once I tell you. But that’s how things go in the covert ops community. People imagine all sorts of extravagant possibilities, and then they get caught up in trying to make it real, or to steal it from someone they think has already done it. The rumor was that scientists working for the Mori Corporation had isolated a gene sequence that could be used to modify the aggressiveness and pain tolerance of soldiers, to make super soldiers. It came to be called the Predator project.

You’re right. It does sound preposterous. But what does it have to do with your cook?

She’s the daughter of the lead scientist on the Predator project. Her name is Yuki Kagami. She was his closest assistant, and she's a fully credentialed geneticist in her own right. She knew the research went nowhere, that it was a failure. But operatives from several foreign intelligence agencies had gotten wind of the project and were intent on stealing it. Meacham had sent me to Tokyo with a similar mission. But we were able to get inside the project through Yuki. We knew the truth about it. The problem was making Meacham believe it. Eventually all hell broke loose there, and the Chinese and the North Koreans tried to kidnap Dr. Kagami, or at least his daughter once he committed suicide. We spirited her out of Tokyo. But the problem was finding a safe place for her. She was in serious danger, and not just from foreign operatives. I took her in and hid her in my household.

It sounds like you took a huge risk on her behalf. Why would you do that?

Well, that is a long story. But maybe it’s good to let it out. Yuki and my bodyguard, George, were very close when we were in Tokyo. I didn’t realize how close at the time, but she trusted him, and she would never have trusted me. Anyway, we owed her a lot for the help she gave us then, and George was determined to help her, to keep her safe. And George is not the sort of person you dismiss easily, and I already owed him too much not to honor his wishes.

What exactly did you owe him?

In some sense, I owe him everything. He saved my life on more than one occasion. He also saved my career. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish much without him. It’s hard to explain, and the details probably aren’t all that important. The thing about George is that he is the perfect bodyguard. He’s not a big moose. Someone like that would scare off the sorts of contacts I was trying to make in those days. But George is a little guy, hardly noticeable. And yet he’s probably the most dangerous man I’ve ever met. I always felt safe when he was around. So I was determined to keep Yuki safe, and to keep George with me, wherever my career took me. The arrangement with George working as chauffeur and Yuki as cook in my household, that was his idea. It kept them safe, really it kept all of us safe for almost 17 years.

What do you think changed?

I don’t know exactly. But for whatever reason, Meacham came to believe the Predator gene was viable. As soon as that happened, he bent every effort to find Yuki. I knew that was probably inevitable, and we had made some general preparations. But when George’s niece was attacked at a concert by a covert strike team we knew we had to act fast.

George’s niece was attacked! What’s her connection to all of this?

That’s actually surprisingly hard to explain. I first met her in Hawaii when she was a toddler. He told me she was his brother’s daughter, that he was deathly ill and that he had to take care of her. He has kept her with him ever since. Of course, she wasn’t really his niece. She’s his daughter. On some level, I guess I must have suspected it. But George is a very discrete man, practically inscrutable. That’s one of the reasons he was so invaluable to me in the first place.

Why did he keep that from you? Weren’t you protecting him for all those years?

It’s true, I was protecting him. Of course, he was protecting me too. I can’t overemphasize that. Just consider how important she must be to him that he didn’t even trust me to know who she really is. She turns out to be the most important figure in this entire story.

Who exactly is she then?

Only a few months ago I would never have told you that. I would have kept that secret with me to the grave just to protect her. I owed that to George, and to Yuki. But Emily won’t have it anymore. She has refused to hide from people like Meacham. So I guess I can tell you about her now. She’s Emily Kane, George Kane’s daughter, but her mother is Yuki Kagami.

Did the strike team that attacked her know who she is?

No. I don’t think so. I think they probably wanted to grab her and trade her for Yuki. Or maybe they thought she could help them infiltrate my estate. I don’t know for sure what they wanted with her. Whatever it was, they didn’t get it. And as soon as she told George about it, we set our plans in motion. I sent my family away the next day, and we dissolved the rest of the estate over the next several days.

So, exactly how did she escape a professional strike team? She’s just a kid, isn’t she?

Yeah, I suppose you could say that. She was seventeen at the time. I don’t exactly know how she escaped that night. I would have thought it was impossible. But from what I’ve learned about her since it makes a lot more sense to me. She is a lot like her dad. He was the most amazing fighter I’ve ever seen, and the thing is you’d never suspect it just looking at him. Well, she spent most of her childhood at the local dojo working with the sensei there practically everyday. I never paid any attention to what she was doing down there. But I suppose I should have known. The sensei was an old friend of George’s, someone he met in Okinawa when he was stationed there. I guess he learned his fighting skills from him. It probably says a lot that he followed George here from Japan. Well, it turns out that she learned a lot at that dojo. Though I would never have believed it at the time, I now think she must have handled that team all by herself.

She took out a team of professional assassins all by herself? How is that possible?

I wouldn’t believe it if I were you either. But I can’t explain it any other way. She is just one tough customer. You know, I remember once when she was little, maybe six or seven years old, we were having a birthday party for her. I snuck up behind her, scooped her up and hoisted her over my head. But instead of shrieking and giggling like any normal kid, she squirms out of my grasp while I have her up in the air. She actually falls to the ground, like almost seven feet down. Well, she landed on her feet, thank goodness. But on the way down she turns toward me and I see into her eyes, and there’s no sign of panic there. I mean, she’s a little kid, but she’s totally calm and collected. When I think about that moment now, well it really says a lot about who she is.

She sounds like a special kid, but your story is still pretty hard to believe.

I know. It is hard to believe. But the more I’ve gotten to know her, … well I no longer assume anything is beyond her. She is just one amazing person.

If she’s as amazing as you say, has it occurred to you that she is a product of the Predator Project?

No. That program was a failure. Besides, I can’t believe that Yuki would create an experiment out of her own child. What she is, I’m absolutely certain, is a focused kid who has worked very hard and received some very good training. If you ever meet her, I’m confident you’ll come to the same conclusion.

Have any of the intelligence agencies that originally disrupted the Predator program in Tokyo started looking for her?

Yes. Unfortunately all of them have. Yuki and I urged her to let us hide her. We could create a new life for her. But she refuses, like I said. And once she makes up her mind, it’s pretty hard to budge her. That’s why she entered that karate tournament recently, to lure her pursuers out into the open.

You must be kidding! She really did that?

Yup. It was one of those tournaments that attracts a lot of armed forces personnel. Well, she made short work of a whole bunch of really tough guys, Marines, Navy Seals. It was a pretty formidable field. But she just dominated them. If you do a web search, you can probably find a video of it. Maybe that’ll show you how she handled that strike team the night of that concert.

Were any covert operatives at the tournament?

In fact, the Chinese sent a team there. I think it was the same team that was searching the southwest looking for Yuki and me. Apparently, they planned to grab her on the last night of the tournament, as soon as it became clear who she was. But she anticipated them. She confronted them in the parking lot behind the hotel where the tournament was held. I mean, just try to picture that. It’s the middle of the night, and there she is in a deserted parking lot surrounded by a team of foreign agents intent on capturing her. Well, they try to grab her, but she does to them what she just did to all those Marines in the tournament. I don’t think they know what hit them. Finally, she confronts the team leader, a man named T’ang. He looks into her eyes and sees something there. They speak for a moment, and then he packs up his team and leaves.

What on earth did she say to him?

I have no idea. But now you see what I mean. That must have been a pretty interesting conversation. I wish I knew what he said, or what she said to him.

How do you know so much about that night? Were you there?

No, I wasn't there. But there was an agent there, someone who used to work for Meacham. She goes by the name Connie. I heard about it from her.

Used to work for Meacham? What does that mean?

You know, I don't really know what to make of this woman. I'm pretty sure I don't trust her. But Emily does. I don't know all the details, but I think she was sent to kill Emily. But the plan must have gone awry somehow. Anyway, since then, apparently this woman has made a point of protecting her. But I can't help wondering if she doesn't have some other agenda. Still Emily must have seen something in her, and I guess I have to respect that, whatever misgivings I may have.

What’s Emily's next move? What’s your next move?

She’s gonna finish high school. She is just a kid after all. As for the rest of us, well, we’ve decided to come out of hiding. We’ve taken a house in Charlottesville, and I’ve taken a position in a think tank in DC.

Is she gonna be safe now?

I really don’t know. I hope so, but the Chinese weren’t the only ones interested in the Predator project. There are lots of folks who still might want to grab her, including some domestic groups, even Meacham. I’d really like to think she’ll be safe. I’d love to see her go to her senior prom, like any other kid, and then graduate and go to college. Of course, I’ll do whatever I can to protect her. But I just don’t know what to expect. The only thing I am certain of is that anyone underestimates her at their own peril.

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