TODAY'S SUBJECT:  Bracken:  An appreciation

To me, one of the best characters in the Q-orpus is Bracken, Q's DiF in Moscow.  What appeals to me most about him is that he seems to be such a "regular guy," understated in his role as DiF, yet cool, competent, understanding, and very creative under fire.  It's such a welcome change from all these ultrarational superhuman dysfunctional types who infest the Bureau's battle-scarred, sportscar-wrecking, cockroach-stomping, wintry-smiling, icy-eyed, mice-strangling, anal-retentive, drive-your-wife-to-suicide minions.

Herewith, three outstanding "Bracken moments":

1.  Briefing under extreme duress.  I just love that scene where Bracken briefs Q in the car after arriving in Moscow.  Bracken might shuffle his feet too much, but when the pressure's on you can't get any cooler than this:  "'Instructions,' I said.  He waited two seconds. We both had to listen. 'If you can drive us out of it,' he said evenly, 'do that.' We listened again, and heard the distant sound of a car. 'But not unless the chances are good.'" [04:105-106]  The best part of this, I think, is that it is not just Q who's being evaluated here, but Bracken.  Q's already well frazzled, so Bracken must know he's being watched to see how he responds to a field crisis.  He responds superbly.

2.  Snowball cover.  During the scene where Q is briefing Bracken after escaping the van on his way to the Serbsky Institute, Q almost loses it when a kid hits him with a snowball.  Bracken instantly starts laughing, makes a snowball and throws it back.  That's why I say Bracken seems like a "regular guy":  I just can't see that occurring on a spur of the moment to someone like Ferris or Loman (or even Fane or Cone), and as Q points out, it's excellent cover.

3.  Having "the touch" with subordinates.  Finally, I greatly enjoyed the gentle nonverbal communication that accompanies Bracken's quiet persuasion of Q to stay in the target area.  Talk about knowing your executive.  Q says, "Don't tell Croder you had to talk me into going on."  Bracken replies:  "But I didn't."  Then he touches Q's arm briefly as they cross to the car [end of Chapter 11].  That's just beautiful; with that brief gesture and phrase, you see Bracken's understanding of the horrors of Q's recent experiences (intuiting that he ought not offer too much sympathy), yet the firmness of his position (notice, in the preceding conversation, that he simply will not let Q talk him out of continuing to participate the mission), and finally, his understanding of what's really important to Q.

I wish we'd been able to see more of Bracken in the Q-orpus.  Along with the sometimes rather too objectionably figural characters from the active staff at the Bureau, there must have been a large number of quietly competent individuals who kept things on an even keel.  You'd needed to have had some solid glue to hold together with all those flakes.