1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, The District of Columbia
Friday February 9, 2063
The telephone vibrated as it rang, jarring her rudely out of the pleasurable dream she had been engaged in. She buried her face in her pillow, as if her mane of tangled and matted hair could shield her from the realities intruding on her world of comfort, but her long arm shot out from under her blankets to catch the handset as it toppled over the edge of the bedside table. Tightening her fingers around it with a groan, she opened her eyes and flicked on the bedside light, casting a warm orange glow. She collapsed back onto the pillow and flipped over onto her back, ruefully acknowledging to herself that this was one of those rarest of occasions on which she was actually glad that the side of her bed next to her lay empty, and brought the receiver to her lips.
“Good Morning, Ma’am.” An, at the moment, cloyingly chipper voice greeted her through the speaker even as she opened her mouth to speak.
“Is it that time?” She croaked, her voice hoarse, whether from overuse or disuse, she didn’t know.
The kid’s chuckle sounded like maracas through the phone. “Yes, Ma’am.”
“I’ll be right over. She groaned, with some effort setting the handset back on its cradle as she sat up, swinging her long legs over the side of the bed. She hung her head, stroking her hands over her face, and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. She reached up to ruffle her hands quickly back and forth through the shocks and tangled knots in her hair, the static generated by her fingers scraping her scalp just the tingle she needed to wake up from her dream. Getting up from the bed, she turned to step into the adjoining bathroom to shower.
Fifteen minutes later, she stood in front of the full-length mirror on the door of her walk-in closet, finishing pulling on the jacket of her pantsuit. Her hands moved with an efficiency honed over years from buttoning her jacket up to sweep her hair aside to attach her earrings to combing her shoulder-length tresses straight, so that they gleamed a polished copper as glistening as the gold in her ears. Judging her appearance presentable, she stared at her self in the mirror for a long moment, to be certain that the last haze of her dream had been banished, before turning toward the door.
“Morning, Ted.” She nodded to the suited man standing waiting beside her bedroom door.
The dark-haired young woman sitting reading a book down the hall stood as she spotted the woman exit her apartment. “Good morning, Ma’am.” She greeted her tone low, indicating that the building’s other occupant was still sleeping.
“How’d she do, Kim?” The copper-haired woman asked in the same hushed voice, indicating the still-securely-locked door next to where the other had been sitting. “All quiet.” Kim reported, her sigh indicating that the girl in question’s silence had been something less than complete.
The redhead nodded. “Thanks, Kim.”
“Should I tell her you’ll make time after school?” The girl’s mother grimaced: “I’ll be here to see her this evening.”
“After dark?” Kim looked out the East window of the hall at the sun rising over the city rooftops. “Probably.” Kim sat back down and returned to her book without another word. “Pass along my thanks to Ellie as well, will you?” With that, the woman turned and headed down the hallway toward the stairs, the suited man following several paces behind her.
“Thank you, gentlemen.” She acknowledged the uniformed men who held open the front doors for her as she descended the front steps. She tucked the high collar of her coat around her neck against the frigid February chill wind, even as she turned her face up to the warm early morning sunlight.
The woman nodded to the uniformed men who opened the door as she walked into the Southwest Lobby.
Her personal aide quickly fell into step beside her: “Welcome back, Ma’am.“ He greeted her in the same cheery voice she had heard earlier that morning over the phone.
As they walked the woman looked over at him oddly, reminding him that he had been everywhere she had with her. “What’s first? She said.
“Well;” The young man said, opening one of the stacks of file folders in his hands; “You’ve got C.J. waiting in your office with your daily briefing.” She glanced sidelong at him. “You’ve been incommunicado for the past week.” She nodded. “Speaking of which, Director Bolten scheduled you for a meeting late this afternoon;” She rolled her eyes at the presumptiveness; “At his office.” Her groan sounded more like a growl.
“You’ve got the morning Senior Staff meeting. Then you leave for the Hill…”
“Joe?” She said interrupting.
“Yes Ma’am. He’s asked you to sit in on a meeting of the Ethics Committee and the Committee on Privileges and Official Conduct with the Rules, Administration and Reform subcommittee.” He read off of the sheet in his hands.
“That should be interesting.” She said sardonically, rolling her eyes. They passed through a couple of double doors
“Ken has to meet with you before you leave;” Her assistant said, handing her a stack of file folders. “And you have a meeting with the Secretaries when you get back.” They turned and entered the entry foyer to her office. He went to sit down at his own desk.
“Good morning Ma’am.” Her secretary said, giving her a smile and a nod.
“Morning Jan.” She said forcing a tired smile in return. She walked on, opened the door and stepped into her office.
There were only a couple of pictures on her desk, most of them, with the exception of the two-person portrait, were of the same young person. With a sigh, she surveyed the room, her eyes taking it all in a single sweep. It was time to begin her day, and she was ready to face it.
Comfortably ensconced by the motorcade, the unmarked black sedan pulled almost noiselessly to a stop at the curb. The door with its darkly shaded window was opened and held open as the tall young woman stepped out, waving off assistance and shrugging back into her navy coat over a pantsuit as black as the car. She gestured for the remainder of the entourage to follow as she led the procession, striding determinedly toward the imposing edifice before them.
Inside, two operators were taking their lunch break.
“Were you in on that meeting over at the Hoover Building, Pitt?” One asked.
“Not really.” Pitt replied, tiredly. “Why? Did you get through the recording?”
The other shook his head, chuckling slightly. “Annabeth is on some streamlining kick lately. Read the transcript, though.”
“What’s up, Al?” Pitt sat up in his reclining chair, eyebrows rising.
Al leaned over in his seat, resting his elbows on the desk between them. “We’re to be transferred.”
“CIA, NSRAO, and the SS.”
“From where?” Pitt sounded exasperated, betraying his own uneasiness. “Where to?”
“From Homeland to the DNSD somewhere.” Al mentioned, feigning casualness.
“You think?” Pitt said, more a statement than an inquiry.
Pitt sighed nearly a groan. “What sort of cheep flatfoot do you think would have made a call like that one?”
“Just some tall-headed, high-minded bigwig over on Pennsylvania—” He broke off as his head shot up the moment he spotted someone coming down the entry hall, the two nearly leaping from their seats, recognizing their visitor’s flowing hair.
“For the Nth time;” She said, mock-seriously, walking up to them; “I don’t wear wigs.” She smiled then, genuinely amused at the two agents, standing so straight they were almost bent backwards. “Stand easy, gentlemen, before you sprain something.” The operatives relaxed, if only slightly uneasily. “Agents Toscano and Pitt, I presume.”
“Yes, Madam President.” They chorused. “We…”
“I don’t mind.” She interjected, well before the pair of friends could manage an excuse. “Breaks every once in a while are good.” The friends glanced at each other, lost. “Anyway, I’m here to see the Director.”
“He’s expecting you, Ma’am.” Pitt said, instantly pleased with the stability of his voice.
“Thank you.” The President said as she started back past them, resuming her stride down the hallway. “Both of you.” She added.
“It was only after the entourage had passed that the pair looked at each other, shared astonishment replacing any words to pass between them.
“I have to tell you, Madam President;” Michael Bolten said; “The Agency has some very real concerns about the new doctrine for the use of force you voiced Sunday night.”
The President eyed the CIA Director as she sat down. “It’s good to be back.” She said, implying it was not the greeting she had anticipated upon her arrival.
“I apologize for feeling I have to be so straightforward with you, Ma’am;” Bolten acknowledged; “But unlike the more…domestic policies outlined in your speech, no amount of campaign touring of swing states is going to fetch you the support of this community.”
“You’re the Director of Central Intelligence.” The President reminded him. “As described, the job of the NSC is to advise and consent.” She stopped herself before telling him she didn’t need their support, saying instead: “Your support would be appreciated.”
“On paper, perhaps.” Bolten could think of little that he desired less than to challenge the President, a Constitutional lawyer herself, to a debate over the subject of Enumerated Powers. “With all due respect, Madam President;” He changed tone diplomatically; “Five nights ago you committed the full resources of the United States armed forces to the prevention of persecution on the basis of gender and sexual orientation around the globe.” The President nodded at the paraphrase from her speech to Congress the weekend before. “Providing a blanket shield for women and homosexuals against violence, especially in the more…isolated regimes;” He saw the President bristle, knowing all too well to which nations he was referring; “Is going to require an around-the-clock activation of every surveillance operation we—that is to say the United States—has.” He carefully avoided any implication that the services of his Agency were in any way out of the President’s hands. “Due deference to your friend down the road, Ma’am;” The President knew he was referring to her Chief of Staff of the Navy and Air Force, a Spaceplane pilot and aircraft carrier Captain, at the Pentagon; “But the Joint Chiefs are only one half of he NSC.”
As the President sat back, chastened, Bolten rotated his chair around to gaze out his window, which looked southeast across the Potomac. The relatively dim lights of Georgetown were drowned out in the darkening twilight by the glow of the shining white marble mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue, southeast of where they now sat.
“We’ve had a doctrine of military intervention in cases of forceful takeovers of overseas countries by hostile powers for more than a quarter of a century;” He said, to no one in particular; “Ever since the end of the Second Cold War;” The President nodded, remembering the pronouncement by then-President Lowe; “But the blanket prevention of human rights violations by hostile regimes, that’s…” He trailed off.
“Unprecedented, I know.” The President planted her elbows on her knees, brushing her copper hair out of her face as she leaned forward before resting her hands on the front of Bolten’s desk. When she looked up, Bolten had rotated his chair around again and was leaning forward over his desk, his hands reaching out to clasp hers. The President fought her instinct to jerk her hands out of his reach, but his next words stopped her pulling away from him.
“I know why you’re doing this.” Bolten told her.
She looked him in the face, to see his eyes fixed penetratingly onto hers. “At least;” He hedged, breaking eye contact; “I think I’m pretty sure why.” When he turned back to her, his face was solemn. “This is about the kidnapping, isn’t it?”
This time, when she dropped her hands from his grasp, he let them fall to her lap, but the faraway look in the President’s eyes as she hung her head told him that he had it spot on.
“They beat her;” She said, her voice cracking; “Tortured her.”
“It was more than a year ago.” He reminded her.
“I don’t care.” She shook her head. When she opened her eyes at him, they flashed a brilliant green, hard as shards of emerald. “You wouldn’t understand.”
Again not wanting to upset her, he nodded and sat back, shaking his head, not arguing that as a father of sons serving overseas, he did indeed understand the overprotective instinct of a parent that the woman sitting across from him felt toward her own daughter.
“What those men did to her…” The young President’s voice shook with emotion. “I don’t want that to happen to anyone else ever again.”
Bolten knew the woman well enough to know that when she said the words “anyone else”, what she really meant was “anyone else’s child”. He nodded, recognizing there would be no budging his much younger superior from her mission. “In that case, I can promise you I’ll get Langley behind it.” He told her, standing and opening the door for her. “I’ll hop the first flight to Tipton and wrangle the Office’s upper…Echelon as Fort Meade.”
The President nodded, smiling at the wordplay on the NSRAO’s famous headquarters building in Maryland. “Any special message you’d like me to deliver to the Joint Chiefs of Staff from you?” She asked as they walked.
Bolten chuckled as he handed her off to her staffers. “You just tell them to stay out of our way.” He replied, turning back toward his office.