My Short and Long-Term 2016 Presidential Election Predictions before the Iowa Primary

•February 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is likely to defeat Senator Bernard Sanders (D-VT) in the February 1, 2016 Iowa Democratic Caucus, as polls show Clinton beating Sanders in Iowa by between 21 percentage points [57%-36% (Margin of Error: 5%), Gravis Marketing, January 12, 2016] and 29 percentage points [59%-30% (Margin of Error: 3.1%), Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa, January 18, 2016].

Senator Sanders, however, is likely to defeat Clinton the February 9, 2016 New Hampshire Democratic Primary, as polls show Sanders beating Clinton in New Hampshire by between 13 percentage points [50%-37% (Margin of Error: 5%), Fox News, January 7, 2016] and 27 percentage points [60%-33% (Margin of Error: 4.8%), CNN, January 18, 2016]

Clinton, in turn, is likely to defeat Senator Sanders in the February 27, 2016 South Carolina Democratic Primary, as polls show Clinton beating Sanders in South Carolina by between 22 percentage points [60%-38% (Margin of Error: 9.4%), CBS News, January 21, 2016] and 37 percentage points [64%-27% (Margin of Error: 4.6%), Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York, January 23, 2016]

 

Clinton is also likely to win the 2016 Democratic Party Presidential Nomination at the July 25, 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as polls show Clinton defeating Sanders for the Democratic Nomination for President by between 12 percentage points [49%-37% (Margin of Error: 5%), Fox News, January 21, 2016; 50%-38% (Margin of Error: 5.4%), Investor’s Business Daily, Los Angeles, California, January 27, 2016] and 25 percentage points [59%-34% (Margin of Error: 4.9%), NBC News/Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2016].

 

On the other side of the aisle, the likely winner of the February 1, 2016 Iowa Republican Caucus is Donald Trump, as polls show Trump leading his nearest rival, Senator Rafael Cruz (R-TX), in Iowa by 11 percentage points [Trump: 37%-Cruz: 26%, CNN, January 20, 2016; Trump: 34%-Cruz: 23%, Fox News, January 21, 2016].

Trump is also the likely winner of the February 9, 2016 New Hampshire Republican Caucus, as polls show Trump defeating his nearest Republican rivals: Governor John Kasich (R-OH), Senator Rafael Cruz (R-TX) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL); in New Hampshire by between 11 percentage points [Trump:25%-Kasich: 14%-Rubio: 14%, American Research Group, January 10, 2016] and 20 percentage points [Trump: 32%-Kasich: 12%, Reach Communications, January 7, 2016; Trump: 34%-Cruz: 14%, CNN, January 18, 2016; Trump: 35%-Kasich: 15%, Gravis Marketing, January 18, 2016].

Trump is also the likely winner of the February 20, 2016 South Carolina Republican Primary, as polls show Trump beating his nearest rival, Senator Rafael Cruz (R-TX), in South Carolina by between 14 percentage points [Trump: 32%-Cruz: 18%, Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia)/Savannah Morning News (Savannah, Georgia), January 15, 2016] and 19 percentage points [Trump: 40%-Cruz: 21%, CBS News, January 21, 2016].

 

Trump is also likely to win the 2016 Republican Party Presidential Nomination at the July 18, 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, as polls show Trump beating his nearest rival, Senator Rafael Cruz (R-TX), for the Republican Nomination for President by between 10 percentage points [Trump: 31%-Cruz: 21%, Investor’s Business Daily, Los Angeles, California, January 27, 2016] and 22 percentage points [Trump: 41%-Cruz: 19%, CNN, January 24, 2016]

 

If former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wins the 2016 Democratic Party Presidential Nomination at the July 25, 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Donald Trump wins the 2016 Republican Party Presidential Nomination at the July 18, 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, then Clinton is likely to win the November 8, 2016 Presidential election, as polls show Clinton beating Trump for the Presidency by 10 percentage points [51%-41% (Margin of Error: 3.5%), NBC News/Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2016]

If, on the other hand, Senator Bernard Sanders (D-VT) wins the 2016 Democratic Presidential Nomination, and if Donald Trump wins the 2016 Republican Presidential Nomination, then Senator Sanders is the likely winner of the November 8, 2016 Presidential election, as polls show Sanders beating Trump for the Presidency by 15 percentage points [54%-39% (Margin of Error: 3.5%), NBC News/Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2016].

 

The Status of the 2016 Presidential election…Now that it Actually is 2016.

•January 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Quinnipiac University, December 20, 2015: http://www.quinnipiac.edu/images/polling/us/us12222015_Uhkm63g.pdf

Senator Bernard Sanders (D-VT): 51%
Donald Trump (R-N/A): 38%

 

ABC News/Washington Post, December 13, 2015: http://www.langerresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/1174a2GOPElection.pdf

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 50%
Donald Trump (R-N/A):  44%

 

NBC News/Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2015: http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/nbc-poll-clinton-would-trounce-trump-lose-rubio-carson-n478676

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 50%
Donald Trump (R-N/A): 40%

 

Marist College, December 2, 2015: http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/clinton-leads-2016-match-ups-carson-rubio-run-closest-n474591

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 51%
Senator Rafael Cruz (R-TX): 44%

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 52%
Donald Trump (R-N/A): 41%

 

Marist College, November 4, 2015:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 52%
Governor John Bush (R-FL): 44%

Senator Bernard Sanders (D-VT): 51%
Governor John Bush (R-FL): 41%

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 53%
Senator Rafael Cruz (R-TX): 43%

Senator Bernard Sanders (D-VT): 51%
Senator Rafael Cruz (R-TX): 39%

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 53%
Cara Fiorina (R-N/A): 43%

Senator Bernard Sanders (D-VT): 53%
Cara Fiorina (R-N/A): 39%

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 50%
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL): 45%

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 56%
Donald Trump (R-N/A): 41%

Senator Bernard Sanders (D-VT): 53%
Donald Trump (R-N/A): 41%

 

NBC News/Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2015: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/MSNBC/Sections/A_Politics/15463%20NBCWSJ%20Late%20October%20Poll%20(4).pdf

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 50%
Donald Trump (R-N/A): 42%

Senator Bernard Sanders (D-VT): 50%
Donald Trump (R-N/A): 41%

 

CNN, October 17, 2015: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/10/18/democrats.pdf

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 50%
Donald Trump (R-N/A): 45%

Senator Bernard Sanders (D-VT): 53%
Donald Trump (R-N/A): 44%

 

NBC News/Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2015: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/MSNBC/Sections/A_Politics/15398%20NBCWSJ%20September%20Poll%20(2).pdf

Senator Bernard Sanders (D-VT): 52%
Donald Trump (R-N/A): 36%

 

Marist College, September 9, 2015: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/poll-democrats-claim-resounding-latino-support-over-gop

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 52%
Senator Rafael Cruz (R-TX): 41%

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 50%
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL): 44%

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 53%
Donald Trump (R-N/A): 40%

The Campaign Part I: “Takeoff” [Draft #2: 36 Pages 18,989 Words December 31, 2015]

•December 31, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Leaving home, out on the road I’ve been down before,

I’ve been thinking about my home.

But my love life seems so far away and I feel like it’s all been done.

Somebody’s trying to make me stay. You know I’ve got to be moving on.

Goodbye to all my friends at home.

Goodbye to people I’ve trusted.

I’ve got to go out and make my way.

I might get rich. You know I might get busted.

But my heart keeps calling me backwards.

Riding high, I’ve got tears in my eyes.

You know you’ve got to go through hell before you get to heaven.”

-Paul Pena, “Jet Airliner”, 1973.

 

Pioneer Plaza, Portland, Oregon

 

Friday June 6, 2059

 

She checked her appearance one more time in the mirror and took a deep breath as she heard the introductory video begin on the screen above her head.

I was at the hospital and I knew as soon as she was born that she was destined to do something great.” She smiled as she heard an English-accented voice she recognized immediately as that of her godmother. The Congresswoman had heard similar proclamations from the family and friends of countless other men and women, and the words had ubiquitously rang with well-intentioned hyperbole. But there was an earnestness in this woman’s voice that left no doubt that she meant every word and that every word was the truth.

What was one of you most memorable moments as a Senator?” The film’s narrator asked.

I was a junior Senator, two years into my first term in the Senate.” The Congresswoman frowned with disapproval as she heard the voice of her mentor Joe Kickland met with a chorus of boos from her audience. She found herself shaking her head, understanding that Kickland was now her political rival for the next year’s campaign, but nevertheless marveling that even at what was otherwise an ostensibly positive event all about her, partisan ideological politics could still show its ugly face. “One day in the middle of our summer recess, one of my friends from across the aisle got in touch with me.” Kickland continued. “Alex Janney was New England Republican and he knew that I was a Midwestern Democrat, but he invited me up to his ranch near Nashua.” He laughed. “There was card-playing and ballgame watching, the usual;” He paused; “But the highlight of the day was when Alex’s wife Pat introduced me to their newest child: a gorgeous red-haired, green-eyed baby girl named Katherine.” Listening to him recount his first impressions of her as a child, the Congresswoman leaned in close to the mirror, studying her bright emerald eyes and running her fingers through her hair, the color of polished copper. “I remember before I left the ranch;“ Kickland continued; “I turned to Pat and I told her that if ever there was anything that she or her daughter might need, that I would do everything I could to help.”

And you kept to that.” The film’s narrator prompted and she could envision Kickland nodding affirmatively: “And to that I hold.”

Katherine was always very mature for her age.” The voice of Samantha Wells, her childhood babysitter, remembered aloud.

That maturity was tested when Katherine’s parents separated and her mother moved and her two sisters across the continent to Eugene, Oregon.” The narrator commented.

Patricia had made it very clear, in no uncertain terms;” Now the voice was that of Kenneth Welsh, her godfather and Congressional Chief of Staff; “That if he declared his candidacy for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2032, she would be left with no choice but to divorce him and take their children with her.”

Katherine was just eight years old at the time.” The narrator added. “Katherine Janney graduated as the Valedictorian of Oak Hill School in Eugene, Oregon on May 29, 2043 and began her undergraduate Major in Political Science at Lewis and Clark University in Portland that September.” As she had anticipated, the Oregon Congresswoman heard an eruption of cheers and applause from the Portland crowd at the mention of her nearby alma mater.

After receiving her Masters in International Constitutional Law from Harvard and practicing law in Boston for two years;” The narrator continued; “Janney returned to Portland to practice law at Janney, Kirks and Krueloe;” There was a smattering of applause from the section of the crowd closest to the twelve-story law office across the street from the Northeastern corner of the Plaza above her; “While still finishing her Doctoral degree from Harvard’s John Kennedy School of Government. The 28-year-old’s return to Oregon accompanied the most substantial change in her life when she adopted her eight year old niece Julia.” The Congresswoman chanced a glance over at the closed door to what had been designated as her teenage daughter’s dressing room. “After four years of practicing law in Portland, Janney’s father resigned from the Senate;” This, too, was met with cheers and applause from her crown; “And Janney ran and was elected to the House of Representatives from Oregon’s First Congressional District.” The crowd erupted with raucous cheers and applause from the crowd. “Breaking with the common wisdom inside the Washington beltway, Janney continued to live with her daughter in Portland throughout her two terms in Congress.”

            As the introductory video concluded, the Congresswoman got up out of her chair and made her way toward the staircase to the stage above. She stopped at the bottom, however, as she heard Samantha’s voice again, not onscreen this time but onstage.

“I’ve known this woman for twenty-four years.” Wells began. “Which I’m sure to you must seem like only slightly longer than you have been her watching this video.” The quip was met with laughter from the crowd, and the Congresswoman smiled, picturing the half-smirk that had always accompanied the blonde’s wry sense of humor. “I first met her less than a mile Northeast of this Plaza at Bill Naito Fountain, on Southwest Naito Parkway.” This, too, aroused a smattering of chuckles from local Portland residents in the crowd. “And now, without further ado, it is my privilege to introduce your Congresswoman, Katherine Janney.”

            As the crowd erupted in raucous cheers and applause, Kate ascended the staircase and emerged out onto the stage and for the first time saw the ten-thousand-strong crowd in Portland’s Pioneer Plaza. She met Wells at center stage for a congratulatory hug. The two women kissed one another on each cheek in their families’ customary greeting, before meeting in the middle for a compassionate kiss on the lips that lingered for several long minutes longer than was strictly conventionally acceptable.

“Happy birthday, Kitty-Kat.” Samantha told her as their lips finally separated at long last.

Will I see you tonight?” Kate asked the blonde.

Samantha nodded. “There’s champagne chilling in the tenth-floor Queen Suite of our hotel.” She gestured with her head in the direction of the Northwest corner of the Plaza. “Corner of Broadway and Washington?” She reminded Kate, who nodded with a grin. “I remember it well.” She chuckled as they parted and she stepped up to the microphone podium, waving with a smile to the cheering crowd assembled to hear her announcement.

As you’ve heard;” She began, and the crowd quieted almost immediately upon hearing her voice for the first time; “I have made a habit of breaking with convention.” This was met with a smattering of quiet applause. “Most have historically made this speech from their hometown where they were born.” She paused, looking off to the East, in the direction, nearly three thousand miles away, of her own birthplace of Manchester New Hampshire. “But as you have also heard;” She continued with a fondly reminiscent smile; “That it was only when I came here to Portland that my life truly began;” The crowd erupted with cheers again and Kate turned around to see, as the knew that she would, a tall raven-haired fourteen-year-old girl emerging onto the stage behind her; “When my beautiful daughter Julia came into my life.”

            Julia, still dazzled by the size of the crowd looking at her, walked nervously up to take her mother’s hand, which gave hers a reassuring squeeze before Kate turned back to the podium. “And it was with the help of all of you, along with your fellow Oregonians from Eugene;” There was a short burst of cheers from Southwest of the Plaza; “And from Salem that my political career began on this very stage four years ago.” She and her daughter looked at one another, both remembering the night of her victory celebration here in Portland upon winning her election to Congress for the first time. “And so it is fitting that you here in this city that I—that we love;” She smiled at her daughter as she corrected herself; “Be the first to see and hear as I, Katherine Alexandra Janney, formally and officially announce my candidacy for the Democratic-Republican nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America.” Before she had gotten the sentence out, the plaza in front of them erupted with cheers and the flashes of thousands of cameras, as Kate lifted her and her daughter’s into the air above her head.

 

Eight Weeks Later

 

Wednesday, July 30, 2059

 

Katherine Janney was awoken from her memory of her Presidential campaign announcement by a gentle tap on her shoulder. The first thing she felt even before opening her eyes was a weight on her opposite shoulder. Opening her eyes to see the interior of the passenger cabin of an airplane, she turned to look to her side. She smiled as she saw that the weight she had felt on her shoulder was the raven-haired head of her young daughter, who had fallen asleep six hours into the ten-hour flight. Only then did she turn to look up at who it was that had tapped her on her other shoulder.

A brunette woman stood in the aisle beside her. She gestured to the sleeping girl on Kate’s shoulder with a concerned expression. “I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

Kate smiled as she shook her head silently and gestured the woman to the seat facing hers on he modified campaign plane. Kristin Ludlowe had been her roommate at Lewis and Clark and a fellow lawyer with her in Portland, and was now her Presidential campaign speechwriter.

‘I wanted to run you through a rough outline of our two-week swing through California, Congresswoman.” Ludlowe said and Janney nodded. “We’ll be landing at Lindbergh Filed International Airport in less than an hour.” Ludlowe told her, and Kate turned to look out the window to her right at the sun rising over the Eastern horizon. “You’ll be staying in the tenth floor Presidential Suite at the Ulysses Grant Hotel on Broadway in downtown San Diego.”

“The Presidential Suite?” Julia asked, indicating that she was awake and listening but without opening her eyes.

“One of three.” Ludlowe flipped through the folder open on her lap. “They’re the only rooms that are equipped to meet the needs of the Secret Service.”

Kate nodded understandingly, still not having quite gotten used to the constant presence of the detail assigned to her since her announcement. “What’s the event?” She asked.

“You’ll be addressing the Golden State SDCC International Convention at the University of California—San in La Jolla.” Ludlowe read.

Kate shook her head, never having heard of it before. “The what?”

Julia turned her head to look up at her aunt with a self-satisfied smirk of anticipation: “SDCC stands for ‘San Diego Comic book Convention’.”

Kate turned back to Kristin in disbelief: “Comic-Con?” Ludlowe nodded: “It goes until Monday.” and Kate sighed resignedly. “What’s next?”

“Next Friday, that’s the eighth;” Ludlowe replied; “We’ll be travelling by bus two hours north to Los Angeles, where you’ll be staying in the twelfth floor Roosevelt Suite at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel seven miles Northwest of downtown.”

“So what’s first on the schedule in LA?” Kate asked.

“On Friday night, the two of you have an Awards ceremony at Universal City Plaza in Universal City twenty minutes North.” Kate and her daughter smiled at each other with eager anticipation for what was only their second occasion to get dressed up for since her campaign announcement two months earlier. “And then, of course, on Sunday, Congresswoman;” Ludlowe drew Kate’s attention back to her itinerary; “You have what will be your first DRNC debate, which is being held at the Dolby Kodak theatre just down Hollywood Boulevard from our hotel.”

Janney nodded. “Who’s in?” She asked.

“Senator Slatterly will not be contesting the California Primary;” Ludlowe read; “So you will be up against Congresswoman Tomblinson of West Virginia, Senator Kickland of Illinois;” She noticed the affectionate smile that spread Kate’s lips at the mention of her lifelong mentor, but pretended that she hadn’t; “And, of course, Congressman Seabourne, whose 47th Congressional District includes all of Los Angeles County.” She shot a meaningful look up at the candidate.

Kate nodded, understanding her friend’s meaning: That she should not be surprised if California’s local favourite son emerged the victor of the debate or, when all was said and done, of the California Primary itself.

“And then back to San Diego?” Julia said optimistically.

Ludlowe nodded. “The Convention runs the weekend of the sixteenth as well.” Julia grinned. “You two are scheduled to spend Labor Day weekend in London, then Julia;” She gestured to the girl; “Starts Freshmen year at Yorktown-Lee in Washington on Tuesday the Second.”

Julia suddenly paled at the mention of the first day of high school and asked to be excused to her room on the campaign plane. After she was gone, Ludlowe lingered.

“Was there something else, Kris?” Kate asked her.

“Kate…” Her friend’s use of her first name indicated to Kate that this was a conversation not in her capacity as Congresswoman but as Kristin’s friend.

“What is it, Kris?” Kate looked her in the eyes.

“We received a formal request for a meeting from a lecturer at a College in LA.” Ludlowe hedged.

Kate saw through her friend’s dodge so immediately that she could not help but laugh out loud: “A college in Los Angeles? You mean Occidental?” Ludlowe’s expression confirmed her guess. “This lecturer’s name wouldn’t happen to Professor Sarah Carter, would it?” This time Ludlowe managed a poker face. “Tall? Blonde? Young-looking;” She inhaled a deep breath letting it out with a fond sigh and a lascivious smile: “Devastatingly gorgeous.”

Ludlowe sighed, giving in. “Doctor Carter lives at Wilshire Grand Tower, sixty-ninth floor.”

“I remember it well.” Kate said, under her breath but loud enough for Kristin to hear her, nodding.

“She’ll meet you there.” Ludlowe told her.

Ulysses Grant Hotel, Broadway, San Diego, California

There was a knock on the door of the Penthouse Presidential Suite. Katherine Janney got up from the counter where she had been working on her laptop notebook and walked over as one of her Secret Service Agents opened the door to let her Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager, Kenneth Welsh inside, trailed closely by a dark-haired young woman.

“You must be the new applicant for my daughter’s Secret Service detail.” The Congresswoman greeted the newcomer.

“Doctor Janney;” Welsh made the introductions; “This is Kimberley Frost.” The two women shoo hands before turning into the Suite’s living room. Kate sat on one end of the L-shaped couch along one corner of the wall, while Welsh occupied the other. Frost remained standing in front of them.

“I take it you’re just out of college?” Kate asked, judging the young woman to be no older than her late twenties.

Frost nodded. “Yes, Ma’am.”

“Where did you graduate from?” The answer was in the folder of paper that lay open on Kate’s lap, but she wanted to here it from Frost. “Virginia Tech, Ma’am.”

“You have a degree in law enforcement.” It was more a statement than a question from Kenneth Welsh, but Frost nodded.

“What was your major?” Kate asked. “Criminology, Ma’am.”

“So you know what you’re looking for, then?” Kate waved the young woman to the chair across from her.

“You could say that, Ma’am.” Frost said as she sat. “I have read every profile ever written on your daughter.”

“You’ve done your homework.” Kate smiled approvingly.

“Yes, Ma’am.” The hint of a grin tugged at the corners of Frost’s lips.

“Where are we weakest?” Kate asked, earning her a surprised look from her Campaign Manager.

Frost took a deep breath before answering. “You’ve got a unique problem, Ma’am.” She said finally.

“And that is?” Kate leaned forward in her seat.

“You’re too popular.” Frost answered frankly. “Both of you.”

“Too popular to be President?” Welsh sounded incredulous.

Frost shook her head. “Too popular to be safe.”

“You’re afraid that we might get mobbed to death?” Kate sat back, crossing her arms in front of her chest. To her surprise, Frost was silent for a long moment. “What I meant when I told you that the problem that you have is unique;” She explained; “Was that you may very well be the first Presidential candidate in recent history who is at almost no risk of assassination.”
“They would probably beg to differ with you on that point.” Kate gestured over he shoulder to the Secret Service Agent still standing by the door to the Presidential Suite. Frost shrugged, and Kate sighed. “So where, then, does the risk lie?” She asked, resignedly.

“Fanboys.” Frost answered simply. Both of the members of her audience looked uncomprehending. “When someone gets as much media attention as your daughter does;” Frost explained; “It runs the risk of her more…unstable fans deluding themselves into believing that they share some sort of real-life relationship with her.”

“Jewels is fourteen years old.” Kate said, evidently still not quite buying into Frost’s case. “So what kind of people are we talking about here? Pedophiles?” Frost shook her head again. “It is my strong belief that the single greatest threat to your daughter’s safety comes from teenage boys close to her own age.” She sighed. “Unfortunately, it’s by no means a new or original story: A fan of a celebrity make-believes that they share a deep personal relationship with them, and in their quest to make their fantasy a reality ends up endangering the life of the target of their adoration.”

Welsh was nodding. “John Lennon of the Beatles was killed by a rabid fan in Manhattan;” He pointed out; “And the Princess of the British Royal Family in the 1990’s died trying to escape the paparazzi.” Frost nodded in agreement.

“So you believe the paparazzi to be a threat?” Kate asked her pointedly.

Before Frost could answer, there was a knock and the door was opened for a tall strawberry-blonde redhead. “And you are?” Kate asked the newcomer.

“Gina Everett, Ma’am.” The woman introduced herself. “Miss Ludlowe hired me as your Press Secretary.” Janney nodded, pleased that her friend had finally filled the long-vacant post in her campaign.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt anything;” Everett nodded apologetically to her bosses; “But it’s now past eight o’clock and the Congresswoman has an event to get to downtown at nine.”

Kate nodded, standing. “Thank you…Gina, was it?” The woman nodded. “Gina Everett, yes ma’am.”

“Where’s Jewels?” Kate asked. Everett paused, looking over at Welsh. “Ma’am, the Fundraiser is being held at the Basic Bar on Tenth Avenue, so…”

“Adults only?” Kate surmised, and Gina nodded. “Yes Ma’am.”

“If I might suggest;” Kristin Ludlowe interjected, following on the heels of her Press Secretary into the Suite’s Living Room; “ The SDCC is holding a game night on the fourth floor of the Manchester Grand Hyatt.” She looked first at Kate and then at Frost, who had stood when Kate did. “It’s within fifteen-minute walking distance of the Fundraiser.” She offered.

“Very well then.” Kate nodded to her friend and turned to Frost. “We’ll consider this your test run.” She told her daughter’s new agent. “You will accompany Jewels to the Comic Con Game Night, and we’ll see how it goes from there.”

Frost smiled for the first time that day as she nodded, almost bowing. “Thank you, Doctor Janney.” She said sincerely. “You won’t regret this.” Before Kate could respond, Frost was out the door.

Kate turned to Ludlowe and Everett, gesturing to the door herself. “Shall we away, then?”

 

University of California—San Diego

La Jolla, California

 

Thursday July 31, 2059

 

Julia had run ahead and entered the Price Center in front of her, trailed closely by Kimberley Frost, but Katherine Janney ascended the steps past the 50-year-old bronze statue of the Ancient Greek sea god Poseidon more slowly. Entering the double doors, she turned left down the hall toward the West Ballroom. As she passed a salon to her left and the bathrooms to her right, she hardly noticed that her Secret Service detail had faded around her. She paused at a T-junction of the hallway with another as she sensed more than felt another presence behind. She did not turn around fully, but merely turned her head to one side just enough to look behind her out of the corner of her eye, seeing nothing.

No sooner had she turned back around to resume walking when she heard a familiarly feminine voice close into her ear: “What is a place like you doing in a woman like this?” Kate felt warm breath on the side of her neck. Then she felt invisible fingers sweep her long hair off of her shoulder, and calmly reached behind her to grasp the hand by the wrist. She heard the surprised gasp behind her, followed by a girlish giggle. “You forget;” She said, before a pair of invisible lips closed over her own; “I know all your old tricks.”

When she reopened her eyes as the lips left hers, she was less than surprised to see two mother-of-pearl eyes, framed by cascades of flowing golden blonde hair, gazing back at her. As she stepped back, she watched as the rest of the blonde woman’s body appear as out of thin air inches at a time from the shoulders down.

“Welcome to San Diego Comic-Con.” Samantha Wells said, striking a posed in her costume, which consisted of an ornate golden metal breastplate over an off-black figure-fitting full-body suit.

“Valkyrie?” Kate asked, referring to female warrior angels of Norse mythology. Wells shrugged. Invisible Woman, with a touch of the Lady Siph.” She gestured behind her to the images of the two comic book super-heroines on the banner advertising Marvel Worldwide Publishing Group hanging in the Atrium behind her.

“You must be quite a hit with this crowd.” Kate said as they turned to continue walking toward the ballroom. Sam looked over at her. “We get the LA Times;” The Oregon Congresswoman reminded her, referring o the newspaper of Los Angeles; “Even in Washington.”

Samantha nodded. “Oh yeah;” She muttered, half under her breath; “That.”

“Why did you do it?” Kate asked and Wells sighed. “I fell in love;” Kate turned to her, surprise competing with betrayal on her face; “With a man.” Sam added quickly, and the crestfallen look of betrayal on Kate’s face vanished as she heaved a weakly concealed sigh of relief. “Lucky guy.” Kate commented with a smile, and Sam nodded. “Who is he?”

Samantha did not answer her question directly. “We worked together for Hera out at Groom Lake.” She demurred vaguely. “He had grown up in California.”

“And?” Kate prompted, genuinely curious about her ex-girlfriend’s mystery man. “And he figured out that I was Walker.” Sam shrugged.

“So what happened?” Kate asked as the approached the ballroom. “He got reassigned;” Sam sighed; “By mother.” Kate nodded, understanding beginning to dawn on her face. “So you came out to the world as Walker for the same reason you became Walker in the first place;” She smiled at Samantha; “As an act of rebellion against Hera.” Samantha nodded.

“So how does it feel to be out of the closet as a real-life super-heroine?” Kate asked. Sam surprised her by wrapping her arms around her and pulling her in for another long kiss just outside the doors to the ballroom. “Always better when you’re here.” She answered over her shoulder after they parted and she turned to enter the ballroom ahead of the still-slightly dazed Congresswoman.

Kate nodded to Kristin Ludlowe as she entered the room, and the speechwriter sent Everett toward the stage. A moment later, the announcer at the podium cleared his throat into the microphone, silencing the capacity crowd that had jammed themselves into the ballroom. “Ladies and gentlemen of the 89th Annual Golden States Comic Book Convention International;” He began, prompting some cheers from those dressed in costumes in the crowd; “In addition to tonight’s guest speaker, we have a very special surprise appearance for you.” This piqued Kate’s interest, as she had been informed that she would be the only one speaking in that room that evening. “Here tonight to introduce the Keynote for the Commencement of the 89th San Diego Comic Con, all the way from her home in Moscow, it is my honor to introduce to you the chief benefactor of the SDCC International, the Lady Zoe Stark.” Kate smiled as she followed her speechwriter toward the stage, watching the young woman cross the stage to a roar of cheers from the spectators and take the podium.

“Thank you for being here tonight.” Stark began in her melodious tone, waving to quiet the crowd. “I feel sorry that my beautiful wife Nastassia could not attend the Convention this year, but she has important and immediate affairs of state that urgently needed her attention.” Kate nodded understandingly, having attended the young billionaire heiress’s wedding earlier that year to the President of the Russian Federation, Nastassia Krusztcheckova, in Portland where the pair had first met. She smiled, feeling a sense of pride in knowing that it was she who had been the one to introduce them to one another five years earlier.

“But;” Stark continued, bringing Kate out of her impromptu reverie of her memories from her time as a lawyer; “I feel privileged to be here with you tonight;” She smiled at her crowd; “And now, without further ado, I hope you will join with me in welcoming, from San Francisco, the beautiful Julia Gates-Allen;” Kate was surprised to see Julia enter the stage opposite her; “And her mother, from Eugene, Oregon, and with my endorsement here tonight your next President of these United States, Congresswoman Katherine Janney.”

As she entered the stage from behind the curtains, Kate was almost blown back into them by the thunderous explosion of raucous cheers and deafening applause from the crowd, which seeing it now she estimated to be at least ten thousand strong.

“Thank you!” She had to shout to be heard over the cheers, even with the aide of the microphone. “Thank you for that enthusiastic welcome.” The crowd quieted down upon hearing her voice. Kate looked down at her daughter, who had descended from the stage to take her seat in the front row. Her eyes shifted to Samantha, also seated in the front row watching her, and her voice softened with affection as their eyes met. “Thank you.” She said, earnestly, before turning back to her crowd. “And thank you to the beautiful Zoe Stark; “She gestured to the woman descending from the stage, earning another round of applause; “And to the University of California—San Diego for making this wonderful event possible.” This got even more cheers from the local students who had also come to hear her speak.

She waited patiently for quiet before continuing. “If you’ve been following the news lately;” She said; “Then this might not come as much a surprise to you, but that is the first time that anyone like the Lady Stark has ever used my name and the Presidency in a sentence in a forum such as this.” This was greeted with sounds of disapproval from the audience, which Kate quieted with a wave of her hand. “So thank you all again for your enthusiasm for me here tonight;” She smiled; “Because we’re going to need all we can get.” Her supporters cheered. “Around the same time that I met the Lady Stark and the young woman who would become her wife;” Kate told the crowd; “I was invited to Washington to meet another person whom I have an abiding admiration for;” she eyed her crowd, ready to gauge their reaction; “President Jonathan Whitford.” She arched an eyebrow at the smattering of disapproving boos from certain segments of the room. “None of that now!” She scolded. “We want none of that. President Whitford has served our country for the past seven years with courage and dignity, and I consider him to be a good, close personal friend of mine.” There were murmurs of confusion through the audience. “Now, I know that some of my fellow candidate for the Democratic-Republican nomination can say the same;” She conceded; “And one of them, at least, has said so: My lifelong mentor and my role model in Congress;” Again she gauged the reaction of the audience; “Senate Majority Leader Josieph Kickland.” Again, she waved off the more widespread booing dismissively. “Both are good and honorable men who have served our country well in Washington;” The murmurs of confusion grew; “With whom I just so happen to have definitive ideological differences on certain serious issues.” This silenced the confused murmurs.

“There are others in this country, on both side of the partisan ideological divide, who have also served it with as much dignity and honor as any Congresswoman, Senator or President;” She said, knowing now that she had the audiences undivided attention, and wanting to get to her foremost campaign issue; And they deserve the same honor and dignity in return as everyone else gets.” She looked down at the crowd, making it clear she was not reading her words off of notes or a prompter. “Their only fault was the family they were born into.” Those who heard her speak before now recognized to which issue she was referring, and began to nod their heads in agreement. “I understand what the exclusion of these Americans can be like better than many;” She told them; “Because my own father is one of those men and women.” This time she deliberately made no attempt to quiet the disapproving boos that spread through her crowd. “I have made my top issue in my campaign for the Presidency, and will make my top priority in my first term as President, legislation to amend the Universal Wellness Act of 2036;” The crowd began to cheer even before she finished speaking; “Expanding it to cover all naturalized immigrants to America and the First-Generation natural-born citizen children of those immigrant parents.”

She spoke louder, making no attempt to quiet the applause as it grew with each word she spoke. “So if making America the healthiest nation on Earth is as personal for you as it is for me;” She paused, and the din died down a bit; “If you want a leader of the free world whose first thought every morning and last thought every night is how to make the world a better place;” She smiled as she looked down at her daughter; “For the next generation;” Julia was on her feet, applauding with her fellow convention-goers; “Then tell you friends and spread the word;” Kate looked over at Kristin Ludlowe standing at the edge of the stage; “Because you haven’t seen anything yet!” This brought all ten thousand to their feet. “My name is Katherine Janney, and I’m just getting started!” She bowed her head as she stepped back from the podium, her chest heaving as she caught her breath from the rush of adrenaline from speaking to the enthusiastic crowd. “Thank you!” she waved her hand high in the air as she turned and walked off stage, with her daughter following close behind her.

Both Kristin Ludlowe and her Press Secretary Gina Everett were applauding with the crowd as Janney descended the stairs from the stage. The Congresswoman and candidate smiled at her College roommate, who was staring at her with an expression of awe and admiration: “The hard part is clearing you throat, really.” She quipped, deadpan.

 

Ulysses Grant Hotel,

San Diego, California

 

Friday August 1, 2059

 

Trailed by Kimberley Frost and another young woman, Kristin Ludlowe approached the door to the Presidential Suite. “Is the Congresswoman available?” She asked the Secret Service Agent standing beside the doorway. “She’s in the bedroom;” The agent said, nodding his head toward the door, and Ludlowe nodded gratefully as her hand started toward the latch; “With Doctor Carter.” The agent added, and Ludlowe paused with her fingers on the doorknob, taking a deep breath before opening the door. “I’ll let her know she has company.” The agent said before she could ask.

They had been waiting outside the bedroom door for what felt to Ludlowe like several long minutes, and she was just lifting her hand to knock when the door opened. Kate was still in the process of pulling her suit jacket on over her shirt, which, Ludlowe noted, was still not completely buttoned. As Kate combed her still-disheveled hair over the collar of her jacket, which she self-conscientiously pulled up to cover the sides of her neck, her friend caught a glimpse of a rapidly moving flash of equally disheveled golden-blonde hair over Kate’s shoulder disappearing into the nearby bathroom.

“What do you need, Kris?” Kate obviously tried, but did not quite succeed, keeping the impatience at being interrupted out of her tone of voice as she reattached her earrings under her hair.

“Congresswoman Janney;” Frost stepped forward; “I wanted you to meet the agent that I will be bringing with me onto your daughter’s Secret Service Detail.” She gestured to the younger woman standing behind her as Kate began walking toward the dining room. “This is Ellis Fox.” The young woman leaped forward to shake Kate’s outstretched hand. “You can call me Ellie, Congresswoman.” Frost shot her a reproving glare. “She’s my…Protégé.”

“How old are you?” Kate asked the newcomer. “I’m 23, Ma’am.” Fox answered. “Another recent law enforcement graduate?” Kate was looking at Frost skeptically. “Yes, Ma’am.” Frost and Fox chorused together. “From where?” Kate asked. “Georgetown, Ma’am.” Fox responded proudly. “In what?” “Criminal Justice, ma’am.” Kate nodded. “Do you concur with Miss Frost’s assessment of the threat to my daughter from…what did you call them again? Fanboys?”
“I do, Congresswoman.” Fox replied. Kate smiled. “Good.” She said, walking behind the bar and reaching onto the refrigerator. “Jewels starts high school in a few weeks, as you know.” She did not look up at them as she poured herself a drink. “And I want Miss Fox here—Ellie;” She corrected herself quickly with a grin; “To accompany her on campus at all times.” Ellie blushed bright red and smiled at her supervisor, neither having anticipated this sort of honor. “Thank, you for you trust, ma’am.” Frost answered for her, judging her protégé at a loss for words at the moment. “May I ask why?” “You may indeed, Miss Frost;” Kate said, stepping away from the bar with drink in hand; “Can I call you Kim?” The agent, not expecting the question, could only nod. “The way I see it, Kim;” Kate continued, sitting down in one of the chairs in the living room; “If I’m going to keep on stirring up trouble in the DRNC;” She smiled up at her speechwriter, who returned her grin with a nod; “Then my family has got to be guarded 24 seven.” She gestured to the younger agent. “And as far as I can tell, Ellie here blends in with a campus full of teenage high school students better than any other agent the Service’s got.” Kim nodded, agreeing with the Candidate’s reasoning. “Thank you ma’am.” She led her still-shell-shocked protégé from the suite.

“Was there something else?” Kate asked her friend after they had left, and Ludlowe caught her shooting a glance back at the still-open door to the bedroom out of the corner of her eye. “Yes, Congresswoman;” Ludlowe said, emphasizing her use of her friend’s title as she glared meaningfully down at Kate’s still-unbuttoned shirt. “There is.” She pulled a folder out of the inside pocket of her jacket and dropped it intentionally jarringly onto the Candidate’s lap, startling Kate’s attention back to her. “You have a fundraiser at the Moniker on Sixteenth Street at seven.” She did not wait for Kate to respond before walking past her toward the door. “The motorcade is waiting downstairs.” She shot a cautionary glare at the open bedroom doorway as she caught a single mother-of-pearl eye framed by golden hair peeking surreptitiously around the doorjamb at her.

 

Tuesday, August 5 2059

7:30 PM

 

Katherine Janney opened her eyes at the sound of a knock on the door, not even having realized she had fallen asleep to the rhythmic rocking of her new Campaign bus, as it left San Diego heading North. She hopped off the bed and opened the door for her Campaign Manager, Kenneth Welsh.

“I see they found you a cabin.” Welsh said, looking around the utilitarian accommodations.

Kate nodded: “Such as it is.” Her “cabin”, as Welsh had called it, on the specially redesigned bus consisted of a bed, a bathroom with a shower and sink, a walk-in closet with a full-length mirror and little else besides. “What do you got for me?” Kate asked him, nodding to the large package Welsh held delicately in his hands as though it were made of porcelain and might shatter; holding it safely away from his body, she noticed, as though he were afraid of contamination by it.

“Oh, this!” Welsh handed her the box as she held out her arms for it. “It was left in the bedroom of the Suite at the Grant after you left on Friday night.” He signed, as though relieved to be rid of the burden. “The Secret Service confiscated it before you got back.” He explained at her dubious expression. “It took them until yesterday to scan it and test it every which way.” He reached into his pocket. “It came with this envelope attached.” With her hands full of the package, he took the liberty of tucking the envelope carefully into the breast pocket of her suit. “They never read it.” He assured her, patting her pocket gently. “It said for your eyes only.”

She smiled, holding the package close with one hand as she closed the door with the other. “Thank you, Ken.”

Having a pretty good idea whom the package was from, she made sure her door was closed securely behind her before turning around and laying the box on top of the covers on the bed. She reached up to withdraw the envelope from her breast pocket and used her long fingernails to carefully break the seal, unfolding the letter inside. Reading the top lines in a familiar handwriting confirmed her presumption as o its author.

My dear sweet Kitty Kat;” The note began. And Kate found herself reading the words in a familiar melodious feminine voice in her head; “I don’t expect to see you at Comic-Con again.”

How well she knows me.’ Kate thought, rolling her eyes.

But we’ll always have Portland.” Kate smiled at the topical variation on the immortal romantic line from the timeless mid-20th Century classic film “Casablanca”; in this case, Kate knew, referring to their four-year-long romantic relationship whole Kate was studying for her Bachelor’s in Political Science back in Oregon. ‘Difficult as it was to believe;’ Kate thought to herself, re-reading the line in Sam’s voice again; ‘That had been more than twelve years ago.’

I do, however, hope to see you in one of the enclosed on my television.” The note continued, and Kate glanced over at the box on the bed. “Know that I am now, have been and remain forever yours;” Sam’s note concluded, making Kate smile fondly; “Love to you now and forever, Samantha.” Kate sighed happily as she set the note aside and turned toward Sam’s package.

She made sure to untie the shimmering ribbon around it as daintily with her fingertips as she could see that I had been tied by Sam’s days before, grateful that her Protection Detail had not been to overly invasive in searching the unmarked parcel for potential problems it posed to the Congresswoman. As she opened the lid slowly, she could feel the contents expanding from their compacted state. As she slid the lid aside, she found herself unable to resist running her fingers over the soft, feathery silken fabric of the first of the gowns folded carefully inside. Gradually, almost reverently, she lifted the first of the gowns from the box, watching as the fabric uncoiled itself inch-by-inch and unfurled over the side of he bed until it reached the floor at her feet.

She frowned in momentary confusion: In spite of its translucent back, the gown overall appeared too conservative for her tastes, which she was certain Sam knew well. Sam knew Kate’s propensity for strapless dresses and this was the polar opposite, having not just merely traps over the shoulders but short sleeves of hick, densely woven fabric covering the shoulders and high v-front collar of frilly fishnet around the neck. Though the dress was low-cut in front, an interlaced cross-hatching of feathers covered up the sides of the bared décolletage. As Kate held the dress up in front of her, she also discovered that, though clearly designed to be floor-length, this first gown was several inches at least too short for her six-foot height. She nodded with a knowing grin, understanding then that Sam had not intended this particular gown for her, but for her younger teenage campaign companion in the smaller cabin down the hall.

Doing her best to re-fold Julia’s gown as neatly as she could as the bus swayed as it swerved around a corner and setting it aside. Feeling certain that Sam would not have sent her more than one gown for Julia, she quickly stripped off her clothes and slipped into the next dress in the box without even looking. When she was done, she stepped into the cabin’s closet to look at herself in the full-length mirror, and she could have sworn that she quite literally felt her jaw hit the floor as her eyes went wide and her eyebrows disappeared into her bangs.

If Julia’s dress had been far too conservative, this one was precisely the opposite in every respect. As she pulled it on, she felt that the same embroidered translucent silk that had comprised the back of Julia’s gown covered the strapless sweetheart neckline.

Again, Kate frowned. She knew from experience how much Sam loved seeing her dressed in black. She also knew that Sam was aware of how much Kate loved the color red, since as a teenager, when they had their affair, it had matched the color of her hair. As she twirled in front of the mirror, however, she saw that the dress’s skirt, though it appeared black from the outside, was lined in bright red, which was revealed by the subtle slim-cut double front slits up to her hip.

“Sheds our whole promise of transparency in a new light.” Kate’s feet cleared the floor of the bus at the sound of her friend’s voice from behind her. She reflexively wrapped her arms round herself, only then discovering the cutouts at the sides of her dress. “Oh please!” Her old college roommate almost chuckled as closed the bedroom door behind her. “You haven’t anything I haven’t seen, remember?” Kate blushed as she sheepishly dropped her hands to her sides. “Mind you…” Ludlowe cocked her head to the side with an admiring smile as she sank down onto the edge of the bed, leaning back on her hands behind her. “I can’t remember the last time I saw quite so much of it.” Kate turned her head to stare back at Kris with a wide-eyed look of mock-shock, wondering for the moment whether her old coworker might not be hitting on her.

“Is there something you need from me, Miss Ludlowe?” Kate did her level best to effect her most professional posture in spite of her revealing attire. She first tried clasping her hands together behind her back, but she caught Ludlowe’s eyes widen and her eyebrows rise as this caused her chest to thrust outward toward her Director of Communications. She resolved herself to folding her arms crossed under her chest.

“Yes, as a matter of fact.” Ludlowe scooted up to rest her back against the headboard of the bed. “I have some concerns.”

“Concerning?” Kate turned back around toward the closet, pretending to study herself in the mirror as she turned from side to side, running her hands down her dress, but clandestinely looking back at Kris through the mirror.

“The TCA’s.” Kris answered, reaching over to snatch the glossy engraved invitations to the Teen Choice Awards from the bedside table and flashing it in front of her, indicating that she had seen Kate watching her.

“What about them?” Kate asked. Kristin did not answer directly, turning her face away to place the invitations back onto the table beside her. “Kris, if you don’t thing I should go, why don’t you just say so.”

“I don’t think you should go.” Kris interrupted her even before she finished her sentence, folding her hands in front of her.

Kate’s eyes went wide, not expecting her friend to accept her invitation to speak her mind. Then her eyes narrowed as she again as she studied the other’s implacable countenance. “Let me guess;” she turned around from the mirror, no longer making any secret about regarding the woman on the bed; “These concerns of yours have something to do with the proximity of the Awards show on Friday night with the debate on Sunday night.”

“I worry it will be make it difficult to be taken seriously, next to a the Senate Majority Leader and the House Speaker;” She gestured toward Kate; “Especially and particularly;” She grinned; “When you arrive wearing that.”

“Where does it say that a Presidential campaign can’t be enjoyable for anyone?”

“A candidate can run for President for fun;” Ludlowe corrected; “Unless she’s a woman.” Her smile broadened. “A woman who looks like you, in particular.”

“You know I’m not running for fun.” Kate stared at her campaign’s Communications Director aghast. “I’m serious.”

“My point exactly.” Kristin said. “Female candidates, particularly ones so…” She glanced over at Kate as she posed again in the mirror; “…Young, need to show voters that they are serious candidates;” She reached over to lightly tip the invitations on the edge of the table into the waste basket underneath it; “By acting like it.”

Kate huffed. “Well, that particular rule book;” She sashayed over to the waste basket, making a display of leaning over and plucking the invitations from inside; “Is in desperate need of tearing up.”

Her friend, however, wasn’t about to admit defeat. “Each and every man;” She stared hard at Kate until she was certain she had the candidate’s complete attention; “And woman who has ever campaigned for the Presidency for fun has crashed and burned in spectacular fashion.” She reached out to pluck the invitations from Janney fingers as she spoke. “Every…single…time.” She dropped each invitation back into the wastebasket with each separate individual syllable.

Kate huffed in exasperation, not bothering to retrieve the invitations again as she turned away from her friend to face out the window at the sun setting on the waters of the Pacific Ocean. “That’s because it takes a certain amount of insanity to want to launch a Presidential campaign in the first place.” Her friend acknowledged the validity of her statement noncommittally. “Incidentally, each man that has been crazy enough to have done it for the fun of it has also been too stupid to get elected.”

“So;” Ludlow summed up her point; “What you’re counting on the voters seeing in you is that, while you may be crazy;” She was laughing out loud now; “At least you’re not stupid?”

Kate turned to her with a smile of her own. “And what better way to begin showing them that;” She said, walking back toward the closet with, Ludlowe noted, the invitations in hand; “Than to be on their television screens in an evening gown one night;” She made a show of tucking the invitations safely away in the breast pocket of the suit that she had taken off earlier; “And in a business suit the next?”

“Making yourself a debutante will only encourage your fellow candidates underestimate you.” Her Communications Director warned, scooting off the bed and stepping toward the door. She stopped when she heard Kate burst out laughing.

“Have you seen television recently?” Kate turned to her. “Or the net?” Kristin neither confirmed nor denied this, and so her friend continued. “I’m already a celebrity, Kris!” She gestured out the door toward the room down the hall. “We both are!” She turned around to face the mirror again. “When the Americans who watch television see me, they already don’t see a politician.” Even after two terms in Congress, Ludlowe never ceased to be surprised at the level of distaste with which her friend uttered the word, as though it were something approaching a curse. She smiled as she saw Kate strike a model’s pose in front of the mirror. “They see someone who looks like she belongs more on the runways of Fashion Week in Milan than in the Halls of the Capital in Washington.”

“What are you saying?” Ludlow had her hand on the doorknob, but now dropped it to her side.

“What I’m saying;” Kate turned around to face her; “Is let’s take the superstar status we already have;” She held up the embossed invitations to the Teen Choice Awards; “And actually make waves with the campaign.”

Having been trained in public relations, “making waves” was among the things that Ludlowe had it drilled into her to avoid as though it were the Black Death, and the somewhat nauseous draining of her face at her candidate’s words must have shown it, because Kate smiled at her. “And as far as Joe and the others underestimating me…” She said, turning to look at the setting sun igniting the Pacific a brilliant orange. “Men have been doing that since the moment I showed my face in the inside of a courtroom.” Her former fellow attorney again acknowledged that this was true, and Kate looked over at her with a lopsided half-grin. “And after all these years as my speechwriter;” She said, her eyes flashing with the challenge; “Are you really meaning to stand there and say to my face that you can’t imagine a way to make that work to my advantage?”

Ludlowe’s eyebrows raised, her lips creasing as she considered the possibilities.

“I suppose, if I’m saying anything, Kris;” Kate began sashaying gradually across the carpet toward her best friend until they faced one another, reaching out to take the other’s hands in hers; “What I am is asking you to trust me.” She stared her friend hard in the eyes. “Please.” She smiled as she saw Ludlowe wavering in her eyes. “Believe in me.”

“Believe what?” Ludlowe was finally forced to pull her hands away and break eye contact with Kate’s penetrating gaze, reaching again to seize the door handle.

“I won’t make a fool out of you.” Kate answered as her friend walked away.

“You’d better not!” Kris called back over her shoulder, before Kate again closed the door behind her, turning back to the closet to change back into her clothes.

 

Two Days Later

 

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood,

Los Angeles, California

 

Thursday August 7, 2059

8:45 PM

 

Kristin Ludlowe stood leaning over the corner of the railing of the balcony on the Roosevelt’s twelfth floor that overlooked the hotel’s pool. The lights illuminating the pool’s iconic painted pattern of half-circle shapes were blocked out one by one by the tall figure moving gracefully through the water, her long hair railing behind her. Kristin knew that her best friend had been on the swim team both at her high school in Eugene, Oregon and then at Harvard, and as the Congresswoman’s Public Relations director she was all too aware of the fact that since moving to the District of Columbia had taken up a weekly ritual of swimming in the Potomac River. ‘Kate had been right;’ She thought to herself as she looked down at her friend a dozen stories below her; ‘When she had said that she more closely resembles a fashion runway supermodel than the Harvard-educated sociologist that she was.’ And since they were roommates together in College back in Oregon, Ludlowe had never ceased to be amazed at the extraordinary physical strength of her younger friend’s lithe and slender limbs. Even now, as she watched, Kate moved through the water of the Roosevelt’s Olympic-sized swimming pool with sufficient speed to leave a wake behind her. Ludlowe must have been hypnotized by watching Kate move back and forth across the length of the pool, because she did not hear the door from the Presidential Penthouse Suite open nor the footsteps stride up the balcony toward her, until she nearly jumped at sensing another woman’s presence right beside her.

“I bought that swimsuit for Kate;” Samantha Wells said, breaking the long silence with which Kris had been watching Congresswoman; “At the Victoria’s Secret store inside the Washington Square Mall in Portland;” She looked over at Kate’s best friend, gauging her reaction; “When she was eighteen years old.”

Ludlow huffed at the reminder of how much longer Sam had known Kate than she had, at least more than seventeen years. However, in wondering how it was that the woman standing beside her could see the swimsuit worn by the woman in the water more than hundred feet below them in sufficient detail to tell wherefrom it had been purchased and when, Kris found herself marveling anew, in a purely platonic way, at her friend’s figure. The knowledge that a swimsuit Kate had worn as a teenager still fit her more than a decade and half later somehow made Kate’s toned physique all the more impressive for it.

Sam was still studying her. “You don’t care for me very much, do you?”

Ludlowe shook her head. “It’s not you that I don’t like.” Sam said nothing, sensing there was a “but” coming. “Your…special relationship with the Congresswoman, however, on the other hand….”

“Our relationship;” Sam corrected, emphasizing the pronoun; “Is a mutual one.”

“Oh, I don’t blame her.” Ludlowe glanced over at her, her eyes appraising up and down the blonde woman’s body. Sam’s fitted suit left little of her figure to the viewer’s imagination. “It’s not her fault that she fell in love with you.”

“You’re saying it’s mine?” Sam looked affronted.

Ludlowe said nothing, turning back to watch Kate, so Sam eyed her hard until the other turned to her, at which point she locked her eyes on Kristin’s. “I love Kate.” She said, the earnestness in her voice matching the meaningfulness of her gaze. “You have to believe me when I say that I would never do anything to harm her in any way.”

“I do believe that.” Kristin nodded. She glanced back at the doors to the Suite. “Not on purpose.”
“What are you implying?” Sam looked genuinely confused.

“I’m not implying anything.” Ludlowe replied. “I’m telling you;” She turned away from the railing to face the blonde; “That you and your relationship with Katherine is, at best, a distraction.”

“Do I distract you?” Sam said suggestively, as she studied Ludlowe’s form in much the same way the other had hers.

“Believe it or not;” Kristin said, finally tearing her eyes away from Sam and turning back to the pool; “You’re not my type.” She leaned over the balcony’s railing. “But I’ve seen the expression in her eyes when she looks at you.” She pulled the invitations to the Awards show the next night from her breast pocket. “And the chances against the Congresswoman’s campaign are already great as it stands.” She turned to Sam. “The very least we need would be a distracted candidate as well.”

Sam was silent in thought for a long moment before speaking. “I should go.” She sighed as she turned toward the door to the hotel.

Ludlowe did not turn to look at her. “You should.” The tone of her voice was as emotionless as her face was expressionless. She stood on the balcony for several long minutes more, before turning herself to reenter the hotel.

Katherine Janney’s head broke the surface of the water as her fingers touched the metal of the railing along the pool stairs, cold contrasted against the warm water of the pool itself. The first thing she noticed when she opened her eyes was her college roommate sitting on one of the lawn chairs beside the pool.
Kristin Ludlowe stood as Kate ascended the steps, holding out a towel. Kate, still dripping, plucked the towel from her outstretched hand and began wrapping it around the wet hair trailing down her back, squeezing the water out of her hair by twisting it like a sponge. Knowing now that it was one that had been bought by her lover for Kate when she was still a teenager, Kris studied Kate’s swimsuit much more closely even as she reached behind her to hand Kate a terrycloth bathrobe. ‘She could see now;’ She thought; ‘How Sam had identified Kate’s swimsuit from afar.’ The suit itself was… distinctive… especially from behind, in that the back, what there was of it, barely covered her behind up to her lower back, which Ludlowe caught a glimpse of as Kate slipped her arms through the sleeves of the robe.

 

Valley Boulevard

Rosemead, California

 

Friday August 8, 2059

10:55 PM

 

The bartender at the Teen Choice Awards After Party was a young man in his early twenties, and Katherine Janney had his full attention even as she stepped up to the bar a the VIP Lounge.

“Congratulations on your win, ma’am.” He said, recognizing her from the awards show broadcast. “What can I get for you?”

“I’ll take a Buck’s Fizz Mimosa, if you’ve got it.” Kate replied.

“Coming right up, ma’am.” Most of the attendees at the party were under the state’s legal drinking age, and so the bartender was more than happy to finally get the chance to use his hard-earned liquor license to serve something other than ginger ale and Doctor Pepper. He placed the bubbly orange drink, in champagne flute, on the bar and garnished it with and orange twist.

“That’s quite very grown-up drink;” She heard a familiar, yet unexpected voice, say from behind her; “For someone so young.”

“I believe I’m old enough to handle it, Congressman” Kate reached out to pluck the glass flute from the bar before turning slowly around. “Don’t you?”

The expression on Congressman Robert Seabourne’s features was worth a thousand words, with surprised recognition and embarrassed humiliation sparing across his face all in the space of a long minute. “Congresswoman Janney;” He swallowed the lump in his throat after he had collected himself; “I apologize.” His eyes dared a glance downward at her dress. “Wearing that…. Here, tonight;” He stammered; “From behind, you looked…” To his surprise, where most other women would have promptly either splashed their drink in his face and slapped him or done it the other way around, Katherine Janney actually smiled.

“I looked like a twenty-something Stanford sorority pledge;” She finished for him, reaching up to pluck the strawberry garnish from the rim of her glass by its stem before continuing; “Who would be suitably star-struck LA’s very own Congressional Representative?” Her sardonic tone implied was less a guess than an accusation. Then she grinned a him: “I’m flattered, Rob.” She turned to the bartender. “You’d better make the next one a Ginger Beer Shandy.”

Seabourne’s mouth opened to repudiate her implication but closed it again, mentally pleading the fifth. Instead, he wasted no time in very deliberately changing the subject. “The last thing I heard, you were down at the UC-San Diego, receiving quite the public endorsement from LA’s other favourite prodigal child.”

“I’ve known Zoe for seven years.” Kate retorted. “I was the best man, or woman rather I should say, at her and Stazia’s wedding.” She emphasized her used of the shortened form of Nastassia’s name as an indication of her close relationship with the couple. “You really expected getting her endorsement?”
“Well;” Seabourne shrugged noncommittally, neither confirming nor denying that he had had such an anticipation; “Her family fortune comes from DNSD contracts;” He said, referring to the Department of National Security and Defense; “And I am Chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Committee in the House.”
“Then you should look for an endorsement from her father.” An unexpected third voice said from behind Kate, and the Congresswoman startled as she felt an arm wrap possessively around her waist. “Sam!” She blurted, even before looking over to see the face of the blonde coming to stand beside her.

Sam saw the Congressman looking at Kate expectantly, and recognizing that Kate herself was surprised speechless by her unexpected arrival, she reached forward to take his outstretched hand. “Colonel Samantha Connor;” she introduced herself, glancing meaningfully back at Kate to ensure she knew which was the correct alias to use; “United States Air Force.”

“The Commanding officer of Groom Lake Air Force Base.” Seabourne nodded. “Your service record is the stuff of legend in the Committee.” He explained with a grin. “Congressman Robert Seabourne;” He introduced himself in return, in spite of sensing it was unnecessary bringing her hand to his lips; “California 47th Congressional District.”

Sam smiled as she spotted Kate rolling her eyes in her periphery, and turned to her. “Congresswoman;” She offered her hand to Kate; “May I have the pleasure of a dance?”

Kate nodded, and Sam turned back to Seabourne. “If you will excuse us, please.” As she led Kate by the hand onto the dance floor, the candidate turned to her colleague: “See you on Sunday, Congressman.” She told him, before melting away into the crowd.

When they were safely out of Seabourne’s sightline, Sam pulled Kate to her and wrapped her arms around her, leaning in to press a tender, loving kiss to her lips. As she felt the Congresswoman begin to melt in her arms, she found she couldn’t resist. “So where’s your surfboard?” She asked, referring to the large, brightly colored oblong placards traditionally given out to winners of Teen Choice Awards.

Kate grinned against her lips. The same thing that happened to the package you left me in our bedroom.” She reached down to take Sam’s hands by the wrists, running hem over the dress that she wore. “It got confiscated.” Abruptly, she pulled back from their kiss, staring at Sam in sudden revelation. “It was you, wasn’t it?” She studied the blonde’s features. “You were the one who nominated me, weren’t you?”

Sam nodded, rotating Sam around in her arms as the song changed to hold her from behind. “I had help.” She rested her chin on Kate’s shoulder as the other swayed her hips against hers. “Kris thought you being on national television tonight without winning anything would look bad.”

Kate giggled as Sam pressed a feather-light kiss o the side of her neck as they danced. “I should have known.” She sighed, reaching down to cover Sam’s hands on her hips with her own. “She’s so sure I won’t walk away with the debate on Sunday, I suppose I can’t exactly blame her for wanting me to at least win at something this weekend.”

“And what do you think will happen?” Sam asked, and Kate turned toward her to find Sam studying her closely, their faces mere inches apart.

“I for one don’t believe I need to win.” Kate answered, turning back around in Sam’s arms as the music changed again, slowing.

“What do you need to do?” Sam wondered, genuinely curious.

“Show up;” Kate grinned at the unsatisfied expression on Sam’s face; “And show up to play.”

“Meaning?”

“We’ve been on this campaign for nearly three months now;” Kate lowered her head to study her fingers strumming at the spandex laces up the front of Sam’s orchid high-shine nylon dress; “And…” Kate trailed off, and Sam reached down to take her chin between her fingers, lifting her head up to face her: “What is it?” She asked, a tinge of concern creeping into the tone of her voice.

They had stopped dancing, and Sam turned them to start walking back toward the bar.

“It’s just something Kris said to me on the bus ride from San Diego.” Kate answered, reaching around Sam’s sides to strum her fingers along the laces up the back of Sam’s dress as they walked. “I was trying on the dresses you left for me.” She smiled, reaching up to brush at Sam’s golden blonde hair. “She called me a debutante.”

Sam chuckled, but the expression on Kate’s features sobered her: “What about it?”

“She’s right.” Kate murmured softly, and Sam released her in surprise, her eyebrows rising as they sat down across from one another: “How so?”

“We’ve been on this campaign for nearly three months now;” Kate repeated, picking up her original drink; “And to this day there are those people out there…and in here;” She glanced over to where Seabourne sat at the bar; “Who still think that it’s some sort of vanity exercise on my part.”
“And Kris is one of them?” Sam questioned her, dubiously.
Kate shrugged. “She thinks that this;” She waved her hand in the air, indicating the VIP Lounge and the party around them; “All of this is part of why I’m not being taken seriously as a candidate.”

“And?” Sam prompted. She saw Kate’s lips creased and her eyes harden in all-too-familiar expression of determination that she recognized from her college years: “That all ends Sunday night.” Kate stated, her resolute tone of voice broaching no room for doubt.

Sam smiled, picking up the second drink Kate had ordered for herself, raising it in a toast to clink her champagne flute against the one in Kate’s hand. “To tearing up the rule book.”

Kate turned to her, wondering how she could have known about that part of her conversation with Ludlowe, but Sam merely smiled enigmatically, a familiar mischievous glimmer in her eyes, and so Kate merely raised her glass. “Game on.” She said.

 

Two Days Later

 

Dolby Kodak Theater,

Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood,
Los Angeles, California

 

Sunday August 10, 2059

10:00 PM

 

“That concludes our Democratic-Republican National Committee’s Third California Primary Debate for this evening;” The woman said. “On behalf of my co-moderators: Abdul Abrams of the ABC Evening Report, Babita Bacon of the BBC, Candy Campbell of the CBS Evening News, and Norman Northam of National Public Radio; I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Dolby Kodak Theater in Hollywood for hosting this event.” She turned around to the crowd as they began to applaud, before turning back to face the podiums in front of her. “I would especially like to thank our candidates for participating in in this debate here tonight: Speaker of the House of Representatives Ainsley Tomblinson of West Virginia, Senate Majority Leader Josieph Kickland of Illinois, Congressman Robert Seabourne of California and Congresswoman Katherine Janney of Oregon.” She turned to face the camera. “I’ve been your host and moderator for this evening, Manisha Namdar of MSNBC, goodnight.”

Katherine Janney stepped down from her podium as her daughter Julia ran up onto the stage from the audience to embrace her. Knowing full well hat the wide-angle cameras of the 24-hour live news broadcast networks were still on them, Kate made a show of wrapping her arms around he daughter, knowing that her fellow candidates were in the process of being likewise greeted by their much-larger families. Over Julia’s shoulder, she spotted her Communications director descending he steps toward the stage, making a slicing motion across her throat with her hand, signing to her candidate that the cameras were no longer on her and Kate nodded as she released her daughter.

Kate smiled as she saw another familiar face trailing behind Kris: that of Rebecca Mavalently, still dressed in her Navy blue dress uniform skirt suit. Kate surmised that she had comes straight to the theater from the command bridge of the Navy’s Gerald Ford-class aircraft super-carrier U.S.S. Enterprise as it had docked that afternoon in at the Long Beach Naval Shipyards thirty miles to the south. Kate’s older sister Caroline had informed that morning that she would not be able to get to California from Boston in time to attend the debate, and so Kate was silently grateful to have Julia’s godmother in town to look after the girl, a poorly-concealed relief that must have shown in her expression as she handed her daughter off to Becka.

Ludlow came up to her, ready to begin their post-debate review, but Kate waved her off, and turned instead toward the rear entrance. She inhaled a deep breath as she stepped out into the Orchid Street alley behind the theater. Had she been as exhausted by he rigors of the debate as she had pretended to be in front of her friend minutes earlier, she might indeed have been tempted to book a room at the Hollywood Celebrity Orchid Suites Hotel across the street. However, in reality, far be it from being exhausted by the debate, she felt exhilarated. She walked along Orchid in silence until she came to a bus stop, before summoning a city cab. Like most taxis in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles, the cabs at the Dolby Kodak Theater more closely resembled luxury limousines than they did the yellow taxis in cities such as New York.

As she climbed into the spacious back seat of the cab, the rational part of Kate’s mind told her that what she was experiencing was the residual high from the adrenaline rush that had accompanied her debate performance. Nonetheless, when the black-suited driver asked her where in Los Angeles she wanted to go, Kate did not hesitate to give voice o the first answer that sprung to the forefront of her mind, and half an hour later the cab pulled up in front of he Wilshire Boulevard entrance to the Wilshire Grand Tower. Kate smiled as she told the driver whom he should bill for her ride, and upon walking into the tower took the elevator up to the 69th floor.

She knocked once on the door of the Wilshire’s palatial Royal Suite, and was just raising her arm to knock again when the door flew open and two long arms reached out from the shadows within and with superhuman strength pulled her bodily inside, the door closing resolutely with finality and locking behind her.

 

Wilshire Grand Intercontinental, Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angles, California
Monday August 11, 2059
7:00 AM

 

Katherine Janney awoke in the Royal Suite’s bed and stretched out her arm to the other side, only to sit up in the bed abruptly in the bed upon finding that she was alone, looking around the room, She smiled as she spotted Sam walking past the door to the bedroom.

The other woman was looking down at the floor as she walked and so did not see that she was being observed.

Kate lay back in the bed, tucking her hands behind her head and propping her arms up on the pillows against the headboard of the bed as she saw Sam walk in the same downward-facing manner back across the doorway again. Kate watched Sam pace back and forth across the doorway another half a dozen times before she spoke up: What are you up to?”

Sam startled at the sound of Kate’s voice, but recovered just as quickly and she smiled. “I was hoping to have them all before you woke up.”

“All of what?” Kate asked, sitting up and Sam held out her hand, opening it to reveal buttons. Kate recognized hem as the ones from the blouse that she had been wearing the night before.

“I only found five.” Sam admitted. “I’m still missing three of them. You want to help?”

“I’d love to.” Kate smiled, glancing down at the sheet she had wrapped around her chest. “But, as it happens, I haven’t a thing to wear.”

Sam blushed. “Your staff’s going to catch up to you any minute now.” She tucked the buttons into the breast pocket of her shirt before stepping into her walk-in closet. “You’ll have to borrow one of mine.”

“You think it will fit?” Kate said.

“Ten years ago, maybe not;” Sam’s voice echoed out to her from inside the close, before she emerged holding a shimmering blue satin wrap around shirt; “But you’ve grown.” She nodded to where the sheet wrapped snugly around Kate’s chest.

Kate looked at her expectantly, holding out her hand.

Sam smiled. “I haven’t found your bra either, I’m afraid.”

Kate looked at her dubiously, but shrugged her shoulders with a sigh. Unselfconsciously dropping the sheet, she slipped into Sam’s shirt. She looked up to see Sam holding out the shiny shirt’s matching skirt. Kate gave her a look.

“It will look better than yours.” Sam assured her.

Kate shrugged and hopped off he bed. She was halfway through pulling on the skirt when she stopped, looking up at Sam.

“I’ll make sure you get them back.” Sam said, referring to Kate’s underwear.

Kate thought she saw an indication on her girlfriend’s face that she knew precisely where her underwear was, but shook her head and finished pulling on the skirt. Kate followed Sam into her apartment’s dining room for breakfast. “So what was all this for?”

Sam turned to see Kate lift her button-less shirt from where she found it hanging on the back of one of the dining room chairs and smiled recognizing she was inquiring into the wild and unbridled passion of Sam’s lovemaking the night before. “I thought you did very well last night.” Sam told her.

“You were there?” Kate inquired, wondering how Sam could have seen the debate at the Kodak Theatre and still been there to greet her when she arrived at her apartment at the Wilshire Grand.

Sam nodded. “And I wasn’t the only one who thought so, either.” They sat down at the breakfast table. “I was sitting beside your old friend Kristin;” Sam explained as Kate started eating; “And I could have sworn she spent the entire debate with her bottom jaw on the floor.”

Kate laughed at this as Sam began eating her own meal.

“I came to see you at the Roosevelt last week.” Sam mentioned casually.

Kate stopped eating. “You did? I didn’t see you.”

Sam nodded. “I was up on the balcony while you were downstairs swimming.” Sam explained. “Kristin was there.”

Kate studied Sam as she finished her breakfast. “She said something to you about me, didn’t she?”

Sam shrugged. “She told me the same thing that you told me that she told you;” Kate could not help but grin at the remarkable grammar at work in the sentence; “That I’m a distraction.” Kate’s shoulders fell at realizing that their conversation at the Teen Choice Awards after party had not been the first time that Sam had heard this accusation. “That I bother you.”

“Hey!” Kate said, drawing Sam’s attention back to her as she go up from her seat on the opposite side of the table, moving across the dining room to stand beside Sam’s chair. “You’ll never bother me.” She promised, reaching out to lay her hands on Sam’s shoulders, her fingers kneading the muscles where her shoulders met the sides of her neck. “Except for in all of the ways that I love to be bothered.” Kate said close into Sam’s ear as she leaned down to press a kiss to the side of Sam’s neck, prompting Sam’s lips to curve into a smile.

“I think your friend Kristin realized the same thing last night.” Without Kate’s knowledge, Sam had scooted her chair back and surreptitiously extended her arm around Kate’s hips and now she surprised the candidate by using her arm around Kate’s waist to pull her girlfriend off of her feet and onto her lap.

“What did she realize?” Kate asked, adjusting herself to settle more comfortably into Sam’s lap, wrapping her arms around her girlfriend’s neck.

“That I do distract you.” Sam darted forward to kiss Kate on the lips. “That I do bother you.” She kissed Kate again. “But that, as it turns out, none of that matters.” She smiled as she gazed deeply into Kate’s eyes. “Because, even being distracted and bothered by me;” She reached up to brush at a stray strand of copper hair that had fallen into the side of Kate’s mouth; “You were still able to talk circles around everyone else on that stage.”

Just as she finished, their romantic moment was shattered by the sound of the apartment’s doorbell, followed closely by a knock on Sam’s door.

“That would be Kris.” Kate said, apologetically, hesitating for a long moment before recalcitrantly hopping off of Sam’s lap and back onto her feet.

Sam followed her out of the dining room, stopping to check a wall-mounted monitor. “She has an older man with her.”

“That would be Ken.” Kate said, fixing her hair and straightening her borrowed shirt and skirt.

“And two young women.” Sam concluded.

“Those would be Secret Service agents.” Kate sighed, silently thankful that at the very least they had not brought her daughter Julia with them.

Standing in the hallway leading to the apartment’s front door, she turned to one of the wall-mounted mirrors to ensure that she did not have any of Sam’s lipstick around her mouth, or anywhere else. Combing her copper hair down straight over the shoulders her borrowed blue shirt with her fingernails, she spun toward the door. Finally, she turned her head to Sam and nodded.

“Let them in.” She confirmed and Sam pressed the button beside the monitor that unlocked the front door.

The door flew open and Kim and Ellie charged into the apartment, their hands on their side arms under their uniform coats. Seeing the Congresswoman standing, seemingly unharmed and alone, the Secret Service agents relaxed and turned to nod to the staffers waiting outside. “We’re clear.” Kim announced, the last word coming out in a slow drawl as she spotted Sam, who had sat back down at the dining room table. She turned to the Congresswoman, who nodded to her, gesturing subtlely with her hand that Kim should keep her weapon in its holster.

Sam stood when she saw Kenneth Welsh enter her apartment, raising her hand in a military salute. “Good morning, General Welsh.”

If the greeting surprised Ken, he did a good job of hiding it, merely nodding in acknowledgement to the blonde: “As you were, Colonel Connor.”

Kate could have sworn that she felt the air in the apartment grow tangibly cooler and thicker when Kristin Ludlowe stormed into the apartment like the high-pressure front of an oncoming whirlwind.

She looked ready to grab her college roommate roughly by the arm and drag her bodily out of the other woman’s apartment. But, with visible effort, he restrained herself from laying hands on her boss, settling instead for stepping up to stand so close to Kate’s face that the tips of their noses were inches from touching. She took a deep breath, having been ready to launch into a reproving reprimand of her friend, but again she stopped herself short, closing her eyes as she let it out again with a long sigh as her tense shoulders relaxed.

To Kate’s surprise, her friend actually smiled at her, albeit ruefully. “You’re making me begin to regret delivering that message to you on the plane last month.”

Kate’s smiled was more sardonic as she tilted her head to the side as she regarded her friend with eyes that glowed brightly. “Oh, Kris.” She said softly, reaching out to lay a hand on Ludlowe’s shoulder, in the process subtlely pushing her Director of Communications back away from her face so that they stood at arms’ length from one another across the hallway. “I’ve known where Sam’s apartment is for years.

Kris grinned, looking around. “It’s a nice place.” She complimented. “Your girlfriend must be wealthy.”

Kate shrugged noncommittally. “Her mother is.”

Kris, however, was hardly listing to her response, her eyes scanning the deep v neckline of Kate’s shimmering wraparound shirt. “Her bed is not the only thing the two of you share, I see.” She said, partly under her breath, voicing her thoughts aloud. She looked up as soon as she finished, her eyes watching Kate’s face for her usual disapproval of Ludlowe voicing her opinions on Sam aloud.

It was Kris’s turn to be surprised by the bright white-toothed smile that spread Kate’s lips as she ran her own hands over the shimmering satin. “She has nice things.” The Congresswoman agreed, seeing Sam looking over her shoulder at Sam standing in the dining room behind her.

Ken cleared his throat with a polite cough, drawing the candidate’s attention to her campaign manager. “We have to brief you, Congresswoman;” He said, also clearly thrown off his equilibrium by Kate’s changed attire; “About the aftermath of last night’s debate.”
Kate nodded. “I’ll be right down and I’ll meet you in the car.” This was directly primarily at Kim and Ellie, who had continued to eye Sam suspiciously, but Ken understood gestured to the two agents to follow him out of the apartment. Kate noted that Kris lingered at the door, but shrugged off her friend’s watchful gaze as she crossed the hallway to where Sam stood in the doorway from the dining room. “See you soon?” She said hopefully as she wrapped her arms around her girlfriend’s waist and kissed her long, lovingly and lingeringly on her lips.

Sam only smiled enigmatically, reaching up with one hand to brush at Kate’s hair, caressing the side of her face with the backs of her fingers. “Until next time.” She said, kissing Kate again before the other turned toward the door.

Kate nodded to Kris, who followed her out of the apartment, pausing only long enough to pull the door closed behind them with one last hard, sharp glare at its occupant.

“So what was the verdict?” Kate asked Kris after the car had pulled away from the Wilshire Grand.

Ludlowe, noting that her friend took until the car was approaching McArthur Park before she stopped watching the Wilshire recede behind them, cleared her throat as she opened the file on her laptop. “Exit and focus group polling in the last twelve hours is shows a narrow majority giving last night’s debate to Congressman Seabourne.” She told the Congresswoman, who nodded: “As we expected.”
“Indeed it is.” Kris confirmed, exchanging meaningful looks with Ken. “But here is what we didn’t.” She handed Kate a printout displaying a pie chart of percentages in different colors. “A large minority of Californians, both attendees and television viewers of the debate last night, disagree.”

Kate looked up from reading the polling results, wide-eyed. “They say I won?”

Her speechwriter nodded. “The same is true in this morning’s latest nationwide polls as well.” She handed the candidate a packet of listings of poll results from across the country.

“What does all this mean?” Kate asked, still processing the information she was reading.

“What it means;” Her campaign manager answered from the car seat beside her; “Is that you are a real candidate.”
“Meaning?” Kate looked at the Communications Director, who clarified: “What Ken means is that you’re now a contender for the Nomination.”
“According to whom?” Kate asked, glancing back and forth between the two dubiously.

Ludlowe reached out to the buttons on her armrest, turning on the television screen on the inside wall of the cab behind her. “ABC, CBS, and NBC, for one.” She said, switching the channel to each network’s morning news shows, all of which, to Kate’s surprise, showed an image of her Congressional portrait over the anchor’s shoulder.
“What does this mean for me?” Kate asked her Communications Director nervously, still watching the news networks play stock footage of her walking the halls of the capitol. “And for Jewels?”

Ken looked ready to answer, but Kris beat him to it. “It means that we’re going to have local, state and national press watching and following our every move from now on.” The color drained from Kate’s face and Kris leaned forward intently prompting Kate to do the same across from her. “What that means for you is something I’ve been trying to tell you since before landed in California last month;” She eyed her college roommate penetratingly: “It means no more overnight visits with your secret Mistress at the Wilshire Grand.”

Kate grinned at Kris referring to her relationship with the blonde as an affair. “Sam’s the one who’s married, not me.” She reminded her friend of Sam’s wedding to her husband James Prichardson the year before. “So she’s not my Mistress. If anything, I’m hers.”

Kris’s expression sobered her, however, her speechwriter in no mood to quibble with such specifics. “I’m serious, Congresswoman.” She said.

“Believe it or not;” Ken added; “There is a “Family Values” conservative right wing even within the Democratic-Republican Party.” Ludlow nodded in agreement. “They will be turned off by a candidate who is…aaahhh…” He trailed off, recalcitrant to use the L-word in addressing his goddaughter.

“Batting for the other team?” Kate finished for him, and even Ludlowe could not help but grin at the old twentieth century euphemism for homosexuality.

Ken nodded. “We already have your young age and your inexperience going against us.” He told her. “In addition to, as you mentioned to Miss Ludlowe, the fact that you don’t exactly look like a President to begin with.”

Kate gave her college roommate a look, knowing Kris must have told her campaign manager about their conversation on the bus from San Diego.

“Your relationship with Mister Brooks in college is already public knowledge.” Ken added, doing his best to ignore the chill in the air that emanated from Kate at the mention of the ex-boyfriend who had cheated on her. “A revelation of your…special relationship with Colonel Connor could make even non-Family Values voters doubt the wisdom of voting for you.”
“Why?” Kate burst out laughing out loud. “Because they’ll think that I can’t be trusted to make up my mind which gender I prefer?” Ken looked visibly uncomfortable. “I’m not even attracted to all women in general.” Kate eyed her best friend and college roommate as she spoke. “Just to one very specific woman in particular.”

“You’re not hearing us.” Ken shook his head.

“You’re not listening to us.” Kris chorused with him.

“No, I’m disagreeing with you.” Kate said, not looking at either one of them. “It’s not that I’m not listening or not hearing. I am capable of ding all three things at the same time.”

Ludlowe took a deep breath, trying not to raise her voice to her friend and to keep her exasperation out of her voice. “You’re not the leader of the free world yet.” She said.

“Maybe after you’re President, if things are looking up for you;” Ken told her, noncommittally; “Then we can discuss disclosing the true… extent of your relationship with Miss Wells.”

“We’d take a hit in the polls.” Kris agreed. “But if you’re popular, that might not make all that big of a difference.” She looked at Kate. “But for right now, after last night, when you’re just starting to get noticed;” She saw Kate heave a haltering sign of resignation, closing her eyes as she nodded solemnly; “We can’t afford to give any ground to anyone.”

“I know Joe.” Kate said quietly, and Kris could tell she was on the last legs of her argument. “He would never use it as ammunition against me.” She looked at her campaign manager. “Neither would Rob.”

“Not all politicians are as honest and honorable about family values as Senate Majority Leader Kickland and Congressman Seabourne.” Ken reminded her. “You know that better than most.”

Kate could only nod, knowing her godfather was referring to the abandonment of her mother and two sisters by their father in his campaign for the Presidency a quarter of a century before when Kate was a child. “Very well.” She sighed resignedly. “You win.” She chanced a glance back in the direction they had come, seeing the Wilshire Grand Tower dominating the Los Angeles skyline behind them. “No more visits with Sam;” She looked over at Ludlowe; “For the rest of the time we’re here in California.” She qualified.

Ludlowe opened her mouth to object, to demand a more long-term commitment to her campaign policy from the candidate, but closed it again as the all-too-familiar look of dedication in Kate’s glowing green eyes told her all she needed to know that this was the best deal they would get out of her love-smitten friend. She nodded. “We’ll be coming back to LA for the second California DRNC debate this time next month.”

With the matter settled to her staff’s albeit reluctant satisfaction, Kate sat back and they rode the remaining twenty minutes in silence.

Rebecca Mavalently met them in front of the Orange Drive entrance of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. She, too, greeted Welsh with a military salute, which Ken acknowledged with a nod: “Hello again, Major.” He sidestepped to stand out of the way as Julia rushed forward to greet her mother as the candidate emerged from the car.

“Thanks for taking care of Jewels, Becka.” Kate said to the girl’s godmother as her daughter released her. “I know it’s been a while.”
“I understand completely.” Mavalently waved off her gratitude demurely. “I should know better than anyone just how…demanding Colonel Connor is.” She winked at her young friend with a knowing half-grin.

Kate nodded in agreement. Sam had been Becka’s Commanding Officer in the Air Force.

 


 

Three Days Later

 

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California

 

Thursday August 14, 2059

8:40 PM

 

Samantha Wells stepped out of the Roosevelt’s Presidential Suite onto the tenth floor balcony. Her long coat caught the evening wind that swirled down from the Hollywood Hills as she gracefully hopped up to perch on the balcony railing. She looked down and smiled as her keen eyesight caught the glimmer of the lights of the hotel pool off of the copper hair of the woman swimming below. Then she nonchalantly stepped off the railing.

Katherine Janney’s head broke the surface of the pool and she stood in the shallow end, turning around and preparing to dive in for another lap. She turned around just in time to see a barefooted figure in a long coat land in a crouch on the cobblestones at the far end of the pool. The woman’s long blonde hair had fallen about her face as she landed, but as she lifted her face to look up at Kate, a pair of familiar mother-of-pearl eyes glowed from behind the golden veil.

“Show off.” Kate called to her and Sam smiled as she stood, reaching up to sweep her hair out of her face. “Not exactly hiding, are we?” Kate had only very rarely seen her girlfriend flaunt her superhuman abilities in public in all of the years they had known one another.

As if in answer to her question, Sam shed her long jacket and stepped over the side of the pool, making barely a ripple as she plunged over her head into the water. She surfaced with her long hair plastered to the back of her neck, treading water with one hand and reaching out to beckon Kate over with a crooked finger of the other.

Kate followed through with her original plan and dived back into the water, swimming the length of the Olympic-sized pool beneath the water to surface inches away from her waiting companion. She opened her eyes while still underwater, taking her time rising slowly to the surface as she surveyed Sam’s swimsuit. It was, like hers, one of those that Sam had purchased at Nordstrom’s in Portland nearly seventeen years earlier, with geometric embroidery on the cups, which were embellished with faceted crystals.

“All right!” Sam took her by the shoulders, lifting her head above the surface. “Enough ogling.” The minute Kate’s face broke water; Sam grabbed it and pulled it to hers for a long, deep kiss.

“Sam, I…You…We…” Kate stammered, her hands on Sam’s shoulders pushing as she tried to step back away. Sam, however, held onto her hips with one arm lifting her other hand to interrupt Kate before she could speak.

“I’m not coming with you to San Diego tomorrow.” She assured the candidate.

“So this is what? Goodbye?” Kate looked at her dubiously.

“For now.” Sam shrugged, returning her other hand to warp around Kate’s waist as well. “I happen to know there’s another DRNC Debate here in LA a month from yesterday.” Kate nodded. “You’ll be back here then and…”
“We’ll see what happens.” Kate stopped her before she could go into overly much detail.

Sam looked at her sympathetically. “I heard what Kris said.” She told Kate. “And, believe it or not, I intend on taking it to heart.”

“Meaning what?” Kate wondered.

Sam readjusted her arms around Kate under the water, wrapping them tighter and pulling her girlfriend closer against her. “Kris cares a great deal about you, Kitty.” She said, locking eyes with Kate. “And so do I, and so I am going to respect her wishes.”

“You’re breaking up with me?” Kate’s jaw dropped aghast and she tried again to pull away.

Sam smiled, resisting the urge o burst out laughing out loud. “As far as Kris, and everyone else in the world, is concerned, yes, this is goodbye.”

“But not really?” Kate’s eyes narrowed. “What’ve you got in mind?”

“Kris thinks we shouldn’t be seeing each other anymore, and I agree.” Sam explained. “And as your Director of Communications, all of your telephone conversations should be going through her from now on.” Kate said nothing, her face registering surprise mixed with doubt. “But there are ways for us to communicate without seeing each other’s faces or hearing one another’s voices.” Kate smiled. “We’re just going to have to get creative about it is all.”

“You’re the Mistress of all things covert, Special Agent Walker;” Kate ran her hands down the fabric of Sam’s suit; “You must’ve picked up a trick or two which could help.”

“Interestingly;” Sam smiled; “I think high tech isn’t the key here. We need to move in the opposite direction.”

“Go old school?” Kate wondered and Sam nodded.

“I worked with a Special Agent from Langley.” She began.

“The CIA?” Kate arched an auburn eyebrow.

“The Agency had a system in the early twenty-first century, by which field Agents could communicate with their handlers and team members back home.” Sam elaborated. “It was a sort of sonic iconographic system of communication.” Kate looked uncomprehending. “Iconographic systems use symbols to represent concepts, emotions, feelings, ideas, and thoughts, instead of using words.” Sam explained to her. “As an auditory system rather than a visual one, the CIA uses sounds instead of symbols.”

“Like a code.” Kate confirmed.
“And only the person sending the signals and the person receiving them recognize what concept or idea each sound is representing.” Sam nodded.

Kate smiled. “I like it.” She leaned in to kiss Sam again. But then, even before their lips parted she frowned, tilting her head back to gaze up at the tenth floor balcony Sam had stepped from. “Speaking of covert;” She looked back down at Sam. “How did you manage to slip past my Secret Service Protection Detail in the first place?”

Sam smiled. “Your safety, and your candidacy, is of great importance to my mother.” She hedged, not answering Kate’s question directly. “Mother is also a very powerful and influential person in the United States government, and over the years her reach has grown to have her hand in many different government agencies.”
“Do you mean to say that…?” Kate trailed off.

Sam nodded. “Since the day you announced your candidacy, your Secret Service has been working for her.”

“And for you.” Kate amended and Sam shrugged. “So my entire detail is—”

“All Warehouse Agents.” Sam nodded.

“So I take it;” Kate reached between them to run her fingers over the crystals embellishing Sam’s suit; “We have this hotel all to ourselves for tonight.”

“This is our last night together for almost a month.” Sam released Kate’s hips and reached up to take Kate’s hands in hers, beginning to lead her in the direction of the stairs out of the pool.

“We should make every last moment last.” Kate agreed.
 

 

Two Days Later

 

University of California—San Diego

 

Saturday August 16, 2059

 

Congresswoman Katherine Janney sat at one of the tables under the metal staircase in the Atrium of the Price Center with a binder propped open on the table in front of her. While she appeared to be enthusiastically studying the briefing booklet she held in her right hand, the fingers of her left were busy tapping on a small piano keyboard that lay on the table at the crook of he binder as would a telegraph operator. While she had quickly picked up on the meanings of the trilling beeps, tones and whistles that sounded in her earpiece, disguised as an earring beneath her hair, it had taken her this long to get the hang of replying. She was smiling not only because now she and Sam were finally able to carry on a conversation, but because what had started on the bus ride to San Diego the day before as Shakespearean messages of love and adoration had grown increasingly explicit coinciding with her arrival at the University.

The concentration that it required to decipher Sam’s latest reply was interrupted as her ears picked up on the sound of heels on the metal steps above her head. She snatched the keyboard from the table and stuffed it into the breast pocket of her suit jacket, lowering the binder just in time to see Kristin Ludlowe approaching the table.

“The Town Hall symposium begins in less than an hour, Congresswoman.” Kris told her without preamble. “I addition to questions about your proposed expansion of the UWA;” She reached out and flipped the binder back open to the page on the Universal Wellness Act; “You can also expect a discussion on the foreign policy doctrine you introduced in the debate last weekend.”

Kate nodded. “I’m prepared.” She cleared her throat as Sam trilled an obscenely erotic suggestion in her ear involving vegetables.

“Since we are at a University;” Ludlowe gestured to the University Center around them; “You can also expect questions on what your agenda might be for improving public education.”
Kate shrugged. “I only have just the one.”
Ludlowe nodded slowly, sitting down in the chair across the table from her with a heavy sigh. “About that.” She reached out to lower the binder that shielded Kate’s face from hers in order to look her friend in the eye. “I think it might be a bit early in the Primary year yet to begin identifying potential Cabinet Secretary nominees.” She looked down at the keypad in Kate’s hand, her eyebrow rising. “Have you even talked to Ken about it yet?”

Kate sighed with a huff, reaching out lift the binder up again, breaking eye contact with Ludlowe. “Stella can make up her own mind for herself.” She said dismissively. “She’s over twenty-one.”

 

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.” The man said. “My name Juan Callafon Santikian Diaz. I’m Professor of Foreign Affairs and International Relations at the School of Global Policy here at the University. Welcome to the second of our six-part series of interviews with the candidates for the Democratic-Republican Party nomination. Our guest for this evening earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Lewis and Clark University in Portland, Oregon, her Masters Degree from Harvard Law School and her Doctorate in Geopolitical Sociology from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. She was recently reelected to a second term as the Junior Congresswoman in the United States House of Representatives from Oregon’s First Congressional District. Please join me in welcoming Doctor Katherine Janney.”

Kate stepped confidently and purposely from behind the curtain onto the stage and was almost blown backwards by a thundering roar of applause.

Momentarily blinded by the spotlights shining down on the stage, Kate waved to the crowd, which, as she took her seat and her eyes adjusted, she saw was the capacity crowd for the University’s auditorium.

“Thank you for joining us, Congresswoman.” Diaz welcomed her.

“Thank you for having me.”

“Let’s just jump right into my subject: Foreign policy.” Diaz said, and Kate nodded. “In the Democratic-Republican Presidential Debate in Los Angeles on Sunday, you hinted at what could be a politically…unprecedented doctrine for the use of American military hegemony.” He chose his words carefully. “How would you explain your point of view?” He gestured to the audience and Kate nodded again as she turned to address them.

“Twenty centuries ago;” Kate began; “A man or woman could walk from Scotland to the Sinai;” she let her gaze scan from one side of the auditorium to the other; “And from Portugal to the Persian Gulf. And they could do this free from the fear of any harm.” Kate continued. “The only protection they needed was two words: “Civis Romanus”.”

“And for those out there who don’t speak Latin?” Diaz prompted.

“It means “I am a citizen of Rome”.” Kate answered and Diaz nodded. “Rome was the superpower of the Old World; with the best-equipped, most technologically-sophisticated, best-trained armed military fighting forces the world had ever seen;” She saw nods throughout the room; “Whose swift retribution was universally understood to be a guarantee if any of Rome’s citizens should come to harm of any kind anywhere within the Roman Empire.”

“So if this is supposed to be a commentary on American foreign policy in the 21st century;” Diaz was eyeing the candidate dubiously; “What are you saying?”

“What I am saying;” Kate heaved a heavy sigh; “Is that the United States should be what it has proclaimed itself to be since the Second World War: A global superpower, by acting like one.”

“And what does that mean to you?” Diaz asked.

“That American citizens should be able to walk this planet Earth free from molestation;” Kate looked down at Julia, seated as always in the front row, as she spoke; “And that guarantee should not simply be met with our words;” She now shifted her meaningful gaze to her Director of Communications; “It must be met with our strength.” Her eyes shifted again to Becka, her voice strong.

“President Lowe proposed a strikingly similar idea twenty years ago;” Diaz reminded her and the audience; “Near the end of the Second Cold War.”

Kate nodded. “I was twelve years old the Manchurians attacked Oahu;” In spite of the ostensibly solemn subject, this reminder of just how young the youngest candidate in the campaign really was elicited a laugh from the crowd; “But yes;” Kate grinned down at her godfather, who had commanded the Pacific fleet at the time; “I do remember President Lowe. However, since the 30’s;” She looked again at her daughter; “We have seen Americans travelling abroad having been abducted, kidnapped straight out of their cars, held for ransom, imprisoned in cells for days without charge, tortured , beaten, brutalized, assaulted, molested, raped…” She said, her voice hoarse. She saw Ludlow glaring at her and shaking her head and recognized that she was getting emotional as her voice cracked on the last word. She let her eyes fall lightly closed and inhaled a deep breath before continuing calmly. “Especially in the Arab Nation-States of the Middle East.”

Diaz appeared taken aback somewhat by the candidate’s passionate yet articulate diatribe, but sat straight in his seat as he nodded in agreement, glancing at the audience to see them reacting similarly.

“My campaign’s public relations and Communications advise me that I generally avoid any breaching Establishment Clause Separations;” She smiled at Gina Everett, her new Press Secretary; “But, to paraphrase Chapters Seven through Eleven of the Book of Exodus, since the Pharaohs still won’t let our people go, then they get our plagues;” Her gaze again shifted to Becka and Ken; “Or our cavalry;” Becka grinned; “Whichever can get there the fastest.”

Ken was glaring at her, clearly uncomfortable as the crowd greeted her proclamation with a standing ovation on the theater’s balcony behind him.

‘If the rest of the nation reacts as enthusiastically…’ Kate thought to herself.

A series of beeps in her ear translated to Sam finishing her thought for her; “I wouldn’t be surprised;” Sam’s message trilled in her ear; “If history records this as the Janney Doctrine.”

When the applause died down, Diaz turned back to her.

“If we could;” He said and the audience fell silent again; “I would like to move away from foreign affairs and onto more domestic policy.” Kate nodded. “I think it safe to say that the primary impetus behind your Presidential run has been your proposed exponential expansion of President’s Lowe Universal Wellness Act of two dozen years ago.”

Kate nodded as Diaz reached into his briefcase and withdrew a pad.

“But Minasha Namdar of NBC News posted on the net just earlier today a report that a correspondent by the name of Norman Northam over at NPR News had obtained a leaked document; a memorandum from your campaign’s Deputy Director of Communications, stating that even though it’s still more than a year before election day, you’re already in the process of picking out potential nominees for Cabinet appointments.”

Out of the corner of her corner of her periphery, Kate noticed Kristin’s eyes go as wide and as white as saucers and all of the color drain from her face as she paled visibly.

“Specifically;” Diaz continued; “Your pick for the post of Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Human Services.” He looked down at his pad. “A woman by the name of Estelle Mackenzie.”

Kate saw Ken join Kristin’s expression at the publicizing of his daughter’s name; but she nodded.

“Miss Namdar did her homework;” Diaz commented; “And her article included another piece of information that Northam’s initial leak did not.” He looked out at the crowd before back to the candidate. “That Miss Mackenzie is, in fact, none other than the daughter of your Congressional Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager.”

This time the surprise from the crowd was audible and Diaz leaned in, his gaze as intense as his tone.

“Can you explain to this audience here tonight how it is, if elected next November, you would justify such an appointment that appears to me to be a clear case of nepotism?”

Kate’s smile did not leave her face, but her expression in her eyes hardened at the accusation. “Doctor Estelle Mackenzie;” She began, slowly, emphasizing the woman’s title; “Has a degree in English from Princeton and earned her Ph.D. in Secondary Education from New York University.” She smiled at her godfather, who returned her nod in acknowledgement of her defense of his daughter. “She is now the Principal of Yorktown-Lee High School in the District of Columbia;” She returned her gaze hard to her interviewer; “Where I will be sending my own daughter in just a couple of weeks.”

Diaz nodded, recognizing the confidence this indicated the candidate had in Mackenzie. “Yorktown-Lee?” Diaz repeated, flipping through his notebook. “You’re not the only candidate to send their child to that school, are you?”

Kate shook her head. “I am not.” She smiled. “California’s very own Congressman Robert Seabourne’s son Ryan is presently a student there.” She smiled down at Julia, who she noticed had hung her head in an attempt to hide her grin and flushing face at the mention of Ryan. Kate had known Julia harbored a not-so-secret crush on the Congressman’s son since the two had first met, via their parents being colleagues, three years earlier. “A couple of years from now, Miss Mackenzie will be sending her own daughter, Elecktra, to high school there as well.” Kate added as an afterthought.

“If I could;” Diaz shifted, clearly uncomfortable by the long silence; “Would like to now move back to the subject that we skipped over earlier: health care.” Kate nodded. “As a member of Congress, you have been a very vocal critic of the policies of both President Whitford and your own Democratic-Republican Party when it came to the Universal Wellness Act of 2036.” Kate nodded. “Yet, in Congress, you were only ever a member of the House Committee on Intergovernmental Relations and Foreign Affairs, which makes a certain amount of sense considering the nature of your degree from the Kennedy School.”

“Did I detect a question here?” Kate smiled.

“I’m just wondering why you would be so interested in a healthcare bill from twenty years ago.” Diaz leaned in again. “Could you explain that?”
Kate nodded slowly, thinking for a long moment. “My interest in the Universal Wellness Act begins in post-World-War-Two Paris, France with a young lady named Roseline Saint Chlaire.” Diaz looked intrigued and the interest of the audience was likewise similarly piqued. “She met a young Berliner named Maximillian Rhozenkho, whose family had fled Germany when the Soviets put up the Wall in Berlin.” Diaz nodded, familiar with the history of the First Cold War. “They moved to New York City and married. They moved to Massachusetts, where Roseline had a son that they named Alexander.” She saw her friends in the front row nodding, knowing now where she was headed. “While in college in Boston, Alexander Rhozenkho met a Scottish-Irish woman from Eugene, Oregon named Patricia Janney.” She saw Diaz’s eyes light up in recognition and she nodded but continued. “They married and moved to Berlin, New Hampshire.”

“Four years later, Patricia had a daughter they named Maryline in honor of Alexander’s mother Roseline.” She saw Becka in particular nodding her head at this. “Alexander was elected to the United States Senate in the 218 Midterm elections and two years later Patricia had a second daughter they named Caroline. Alexander built a mansion outside of Manchester and the four years later Patricia had a third daughter.” She paused, looking around the room for effect. “My mother and father named me Katherine.”

She turned back to her interviewer. “That is a long answer to a short question, Professor but that is why I have a vest interest in expanding the UWA.” She looked back at the crowd. “As the law stands today as the first-generation child of two foreign-born immigrant parents, my father: Alexander Janney, who served my home state of New Hampshire for thirty years as its Senator, is not qualified for coverage, at 75 years old, under the Universal Wellness Act passed twenty-two years ago.

Diaz nodded, a snide half-smile growing at the corner of his mouth. “It should be noted, for our audience, that as I am sure you are already aware, Congresswoman Janney, your father voted against the Universal Wellness Act as a member of the United States Senate in 2036.”

Kate nodded again. “Again, I was twelve at the time;” She smiled; “But yes, I am aware of that fact.” She sighed. “My father was—Is—a Conservative Republican;” She emphasized the correction, emphasizing that her father was still very much alive; “I am a progressive liberal Democrat. My father and I disagree politically on very nearly everything.” She sat back in her chair with a deep breath. “But he served New Hampshire well for thirty years.” She looked at Diaz poignantly. “So whatever differences I may have with my father over matters of policy;” She waved her hand in the air, resting her elbow on the armrest; “And they are legion;” She grinned; “I will still fight just as hard for her right to be covered under the Universal Wellness Act;” She deliberately emphasized the word “Universal”; “As I have fought and will fight for everyone else’s rights.”

This prompted a few in the audience to break their requested silence, producing a smattering of applause.

Diaz did not reprimand them, instead glancing at his watch and leaning forward as he stood from his chair. “Thank you, Doctor Janney, for speaking with me this evening.”

Kate smiled as she stood, taking his outstretched hand. “It was my pleasure. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.”

Diaz released her hand and gestured to her as he turned to the audience. “Congresswoman Katherine Janney, ladies and gentlemen.”

This time, no one felt any compunction about leaping to their feet, which the assembled capacity crowd in the theatre did in waves as they applauded deafeningly.

Kate waved to her supporters as she turned to exit the stage.

The Last Day of Atlantis

•December 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Armenelos, Lantea [Modern-day Antarctica]

101st Century BCE

 

The very first few instants upon awakening were always a little bit overwhelming. The deafening cacophony that exploded in her head as she opened her eyes forced her to squeeze them tightly shut again. She lay perfectly still in her bed for what felt like a long moment, focusing all of her concentration on a single sound, that of her own rhythmic heartbeat, and on the feeling of her steady even breaths, until she had successfully filtered out the symphony of other voices. Every year now, it seemed to her, it got easier to tune out the voices, and the effort took less and less time.

She sat up in the bed, tugging the covers tightly around her body, both against the chill wind of the coming winter and in reflexive reaction to the sudden and startling recognition that even here in her private bedchamber she was not alone. “Good morning, my Lady.” The attractive young lithesome blonde girl curtsied low at the knees, bowing her head to one side to avert her face as she held out a long flowing gown. The maid stood, still averting her gaze as her mistress slipped the robe over her shoulders and synched its belt around her hips.

Stepping out onto the balcony, she could see from her perch near the top of the tallest tower that most of the twinkling lights of the city still flickered in the early predawn quasi-darkness. She leaned on the banister of the railing, smiling as the first beams of the rising sun lanced out from between the encircling mountains, provoking the white stone around her to glitter as they struck the crystalline sides of the tower.

Mesmerized as she was every morning, she only straightened when she noticed something out of the ordinary about the way that the sun, by this time peeking above the highest peaks of the easternmost mountain ranges, shimmered off of some of the buildings directly beneath where she stood. Namely, that it wasn’t.

Raising a hand to shield her eyes from the direct sunlight that now bathed the balcony; she raised her gaze slowly as she saw a similar shadow spread to other buildings. Her eyes went wide, even as she squinted upward. Slowly descending from the sky directly above the pinnacle of the tower was a nearly undifferentiated expanse of shining metal. It took her glancing back down at the shadow the object casting over the city in order to discern its shape, but the instant she did she felt her heart skip a beat.

Swirling the gown’s train behind her, she turned her back on the sunrise and dashed back inside.

 

Never a dull moment, even in peacetime.’ Oma thought to herself sardonically, doing her level best not to slump her shoulders as she reclined on the oversized throne. She had heard it said that the queens and empresses of Africa and Central Eurasia were fanned with the fronds of large palm trees. The only thing own her attendants held in their hands were data pads. ‘One would think that being worshipped as a goddess wouldn’t be quite so alike to being the executive of a corporation.’ She half-grinned ruefully as she was handed yet another report or requisition form.

Then she sat up in her chair, huffing a sigh of ill-concealed relief, as she was mercifully rescued from having to sign or initial anything further by the towering doors of the high-ceilinged hall swinging open. Her grin spread into a white-toothed smile at seeing the tall golden-haired figure that strode through the doorway. Not surprisingly, the first thing that Oma noted about the younger woman was how she was dressed: wearing a sparkling floor-length dress that matched her hair. The second thing was the fact that she was speed walking, literally tripping over her own feet in her efforts not to break into a jog. “You may be dismissed.” Oma waved to her attendants, who no sooner than she had spoken turned and faded back into the shadows of the hall whence from they always seemed to appear. Meanwhile, the younger woman had apparently judged her proximity to the throne to be sufficient and eased to a surprisingly gentle halt given her velocity.

“Good morning, your Majesty.” She curtsied courteously, lifting the skirt of her golden gown as she bowed at the waist. Oma rose from the throne, descending the steps leading up to it as smoothly as though her feet hovered in the air above each one. She had hardly set foot at the bottom of the stairs when she reached out to lift the younger woman out of her bow and took the smallest step forward to embrace her daughter. “It’s good to have you home, Hera.”

“I think I know why you’re here.” Oma kissed her daughter. Hera stared into her mother’s eyes. She could feel the Queen probing and prodding inside her mind, Oma easily searching around her daughter’s brain.

“It’s the Excalibur, isn’t it?” It was more of a statement than it was a question.

That explained her dress.’ Oma thought, knowing all too well about her daughter’s attraction to the commander of the Excalibur and seeing the hopefulness shining in Hera’s eyes. Never having wanted to do anything to encourage what she perceived to be an unhealthy infatuation in her chosen heir and successor. Oma did not answer her question directly. However Oma also knew that Hera was, after all was said and done, her mother’s daughter, meaning that it was both extraordinarily difficult if not impossible to deceive her and a highly risky proposition for one to even try. Hera would discover the truth soon enough, particularly in this case, so Oma could perceive little utility in not being completely honest with her. “Eorsil has returned from Avalon.” She nodded. No sooner had she finished the first three words of her sentence than she could see Hera trembling as she resisted jumping up and down with excitement. Oma forced a smile she hoped appeared sincere. “Go”. Hera had turned and disappeared out the door of the hall before Oma reached her throne again.

 

Hera arrived at the transport room.

“Good morning, your Excellency.” The man behind the controls greeted her in a voice she immediately recognized as being one of those that she heard in her head every morning. “Inform Lord Eorsil that the House of Cronus is prepared to welcome him whenever he is ready.” She nodded to the controller.

Hera shielded her eyes as the room was filled with a blinding white light. When the light faded, a tall man with curly dark brown hair stood on the platform. As he stepped from the platform, he bowed low at the waist, reaching out to lift her proffered hand in his and bring it gently to his lips.

“My Lady Hera.” He beamed up at her, a smile she returned bashfully, still unaccustomed to being revered as royalty by someone with whom she had played as a child.

“General.” She dipped in an abbreviated curtsy as he stood. “Welcome to Armenelos.”

He nodded, and then winked at her. “I have a surprise for you, my dear.” Hera cocked her head to one side curiously, quirking an eyebrow. With a roguish half-grin, Eorsil swirled his cape theatrically as he stepped smoothly aside, unveiling a tall woman with maroon hair and mother of pearl eyes standing on the platform behind him.

Hera cognizant of how girlish she must have appeared as she clasped her hands in front of her mouth with a high-pitched squeal, but was beyond caring about appearances. “Athena!” She exclaimed, vaulting forward to startle her younger sister with a crushing squeeze. “You’re home!” Athena returned the embrace more gently, and Hera pulled her face away from her sister’s shoulder. “You were back on the home world.” She said, as though just realizing it and Athena nodded. “How did you get on board the Excalibur?” “The cruiser above the city?” Athena cast a glance over Hera’s shoulder to Eorsil. “It’s not my ship.” Eorsil told Hera. Hera released her sister and turned back and forth between the two newcomers. “I don’t understand.” She said. “Whose is it?” “The Queen’s.” Eorsil answered. Hera turned to Athena, who nodded. “It’s the Aurora.”

 

Eorsil strode ahead of Hera and Athena, who walked arm in arm, as the doors to the throne room were swung open and they stepped over the threshold. The two sisters hung back but Eorsil strode forward, interestingly enough to nearly the same place that Hera had earlier, before dropping to one knee and bowing his head low. “It is an honor, your Majesty.”

Oma stood from her throne and descended the steps. “You may rise, General Eorsil.” Eorsil straightened to his feet as the Queen glided past him.

With the formalities dispensed with, Athena rushed forward into her mother’s arm. “Well, isn’t this a lovely surprised!” Oma hugged her daughter. “Welcome home!” Athena released her mother as Hera came up to join them. “Why did you leave Icthelion?”

Athena turned away. “I got a call;” She looked up and over at mother; “From Moros.” Hera nodded, thinking that went some distance to explaining how she came to arrive at the same time as Eorsil, Moros’ apprentice.

“Janus?” Her mother asked.

Athena nodded. “Moros believes he may very well be preparing.” Eorsil said from behind them, where he had been standing at attention safeguarding the doorway to the throne room.

This was the first Hera was hearing of this. “Preparing for what?” She asked her mother.

“For war.” Her sister told her.

“Against the Krenim?” Oma confirmed.

“And the Sydhe.” Athena nodded.

“War?” Hera was still catching up. “Where?”

“Right here.” Eorsil said, causing Hera to jump, not having realized he was behind her. “On Earth.” Athena turned her gaze to the window, to the shadow cast by the hovering battle cruiser. “Or rather, above it.”

The long moment of silence that fell between the four, as each one contemplated the implications of such an action was shattered by the sound of excited voices coming down the hallway just outside the throne room. The four of them turned toward the doorway to see a tall slender girl with long silver hair and dressed in a matching light periwinkle silk dress.

Athena’s face lit up at the sight of her younger sister and protégé and the two embraced. “Artemis.” Athena breathed. “Oh, how I missed you.”

“Hey, Artie.” Hera greeted her sister with a far gentler hug than Athena had. Abruptly she felt Artemis’ body stiffen in her arms as the girl looked over her shoulder to see Oma standing back near her throne.

“Oh!” She breathed, evidently nervously. “Hello, mother.”

Hera released the girl from her embrace and withdrew, just as the reason for her sister’s unease made itself known. Rounding the doorjamb into the throne room, close on the heels of her childhood friend, came an ecru-skinned supple woman with close-cropped dark brown, nearly black hair. “Gwen.” Hera breathed, her voice drowned out by the melodramatic huff from her mother.

“Janus is going to call a meeting of the Council.” The Queen announced brusquely. “I must go and prepare.” With that, she turned and exited the room.

Gwen turned to her friend. “She’s still giving me the silent treatment?” Artemis shrugged. “Even after all these years?”

“Old enmities die hard.” Hera explained.

“It has nothing to do with you.” Athena reassured her, hugging her sister’s best friend. “It’s just your whole family that she despises.”

“Thanks for that.” Gwen laughed. “That’s reassuring.”

“That said.” Athena said. “If mother was right about Janus calling an assembly of the Council…” She looked around at her sisters, one older and the other younger.

“We should be getting ready ourselves as well.” Hera confirmed. The newcomer, Athena, received hugs from each of her sisters before the four women went their separate ways.

 

It always had been a trick to locate the doorway to the Council chamber, even for one who had been inside them far more frequently than most, in the labyrinthine maze of corridors that composed the infrequently-trafficked lower most levels of downtown Armenelos. The floor-length train of the long-sleeved high-collared gold dress she wore, if possible, even further complicated it. The gown was uncomfortably more conservative than Hera was ordinarily accustomed to. She caught her long fingers subconsciously tugging at the puffy cuffs that enwrapped her wrists as she walked.

Approaching where she knew the Council chamber to be located, she was pleasantly surprised to find a bronze-skinned man with close-cropped curly black hair standing outside a pair of towering embossed and doors. “Horus!” She called, doing her level best to hurry across the carpet, which she discovered to be far deeper than it appeared, in her impractical six-inch stiletto heels.

The man turned and she saw a brilliant white-toothed smile light up his face. “Hera?” He feigned an exaggerated lack of recognition. “Is that you?”

She was breathing raggedly by the time she reached him, and was keenly cognizant from her aching ankles of just how ungraceful and unladylike she must have appeared tripping her way down the hall, but she still managed a sisterly sock to the side of his arm. “Of course it’s me, you big lug!” Then she gratefully fell into his embrace as his muscular arms lifted her bodily off of her feet. “Take it easy, by fella!” She laughed breathlessly as he crushed the air from her lungs with his shoulder. “Down boy!” To her relief, he lowered her back onto her heels.

“How are you, Hera?” He stepped back, freeing her to carefully go about straightening her beaded gown. “You look amazing!” He exclaimed admiringly.

She turned her head to the side to smile up at him as she bent over to rearrange her dress’s train around her heeled shoes. “Thank you.” She straightened and cleared her throat. “I don’t…I’m not…I don’t ordinarily look like this…I mean, I’m not usually dressed this way.”

“You should.” She glared at him to find him smirking smugly at her.

“You’re kidding me, right?” He shrugged with a roguish half-grin.

Their awkward moment between was mercifully cut short by yet another woman’s voice calling the man’s name. “Horus!” Horus turned around to meet the oncoming hug of Artemis, looking far more mature than the baby of the family that she was in a thick-strapped dress of thickly woven dark blue fabric with layers of purple silk that swirled like clouds around her legs.

Hera experienced a brief pang of envy at seeing that her younger sibling had been permitted the freedom to wear something much more alike to what she herself usually preferred while it was all but mandated that, as the Queen’s eldest child and handpicked heir to her throne, Hera be forced to dress in a much more formal and reserved manner.

“You’ve grown.” Horus complimented Artemis with a winning grin. “More beautiful, that is.” Artemis flushed at the naked and unabashed flattery from her childhood mentor.

Once again, what would have otherwise been an uncomfortably lengthy silence was broken.

“Good!” came a sultry feminine voice. “I was hoping I wouldn’t be late.” Hera and Artemis turned, and Hera did a double take when she saw a tall woman with her shoulder-length copper red hair mostly covered by an embossed gold-studded headdress, wearing a thinly halter-strapped dress. The floor-length maroon wraparound skirt, composed of interconnected strings of beads, displayed an embroidery-like pattern of gold. Over her shoulders the woman wore a sleeveless trailing gown of shimmering crimson silk.

“You’ve actually managed to come early, Eve.” Hera complimented her younger sister. She could see even Artemis’ eyes growing wide with the sheer amount of skin revealed by her older sister’s relatively skimpy attire, at least in comparison to Hera’s. She sensed her youngest sister’s discomfort grow as Eve embraced her, and was relieved when they were soon joined by their fourth sibling.

In stark and striking contrast to the arrival before her, Athena had apparently opted to all but forego her femininity verily nearly altogether. The swirling wraparound dress Athena wore was almost completely covered over by a fitted metal breastplate. A separate piece of gilded metal encircled her middle like a belt. The helmet from the top of which Athena’s long maroon hair emerged like a feather plume matched the bronze color of the copper corset.

There was the sound of the banging of a gavel from inside the chamber.

“That’s my cue.” Horus excused himself, pulling the door open just wide enough to slip inside. Minutes later, they heard his voice from inside. “Ladies and gentlemen of the Asgard High Council;” The towering embossed doors swung open wide; “Presenting Arfindel of Icthelion, daughter of the House of Cronus, Duchess of Luna.” Artemis beamed excitedly at her sisters before turning and stepping into the chamber. “Aphrodite of Ogygia, daughter of Queen Oma Desala, Duchess of Lesbos.” Eve stood to her full height, thrusting her chest out and sweeping her silk robe behind her like a cape as she marched through the doors and into the chamber. “Pallas Minerva of Delphi, daughter of King Cronus, Duchess of Athens.” Athena straightened to attention and marched into the Council chamber, leaving Hera standing alone in the hallway. She readied herself, smoothing out her dress everywhere, and closing her eyes to calm her mind. “Princess Herat-Kau of Olympia, daughter of Queen Oma Desala and heir to the throne of Valarlorien.”

Hera mimicked her younger sisters by straightening her shoulders and placing one foot directly in front of the other, as she strode forward. The heavy metal doors swung resoundingly closed behind her with a clang that reverberated throughout the vastness of the chamber. Hera resisted the reflex to raise her hands to shield her eyes as the chamber suddenly became lit. Instead she kept her gaze straight ahead, fighting the impulse to look up and around at the towering ceiling and columned walls. As such she made the throne-like central chair that she knew would be occupied by her mother the center of her focus. In doing so she ignored for the moment the half-circle of other seats, some occupied others not, into which she walked. Only when Horus waved her to the steps leading up to her own seat, directly to the right of her mother’s and to the left of Athena’s, did she raise her gaze to look around at the others. The chair at the left hand of her mother’s, even more throne-like, sat empty while the two seats to the left of it were occupied.

As she climbed the steps she curtsied to the older man in the seat farthest to her right. A tall man with long grey hair and a thick curling silvery beard and moustache to match occupied it. “Greetings, Moros.” The old man returned with a nod of his head, and the younger man to his left smiled at her broadly with even, brilliant white teeth. He was tall with long arms and legs. His long hair framed a symmetrical face with sculpted features. She returned his smile. “Hello Janus.”

No sooner was she seated than the gavel sounded again. “This meeting of the Asgard High Council is hereby called to order; Her royal Majesty Oma Desala, Queen of Armenelos and wife of Cronus, King of Valarlorien is presiding.” All eyes in the chamber, including Hera’s own, turned the throne-like Seat at her left hand. For someone in a position of such authority, Hera was surprised at how conservatively, even demurely, her mother dressed for such an occasion as this. When the Queen was seated, Janus stood and descended the steps to the brightly lit floor.

“Your Majesty;” He began with a bow; “Ladies and gentlemen of the Asgard High Council, as many of you may very well already be aware, the Princess and I;” He shot a charming wink and half-grin in Hera’s direction and she blushed as every eye in the chamber, including her mother’s, once again turned to her; “Recently returned from Ilium.”

“On the River Seine in Gaul?” The question came from a Council member by the name of Ares. “Isn’t that deep inside the Sydhe’s dominion? “

Janus nodded. “As you well know, your Majesty;” He addressed his response directly to the Queen; “Ilium was one of the few cities built by our people since the Krenim granted stewardship of the earth to the Sydhe millennia ago, and so was constructed in just such a way as to as nearly mirror the cities of the Krenim, such as Abydos;” He glanced up at Eve; “in its architecture as was practical.” With a look to Ares, who sat back at having his concern addressed, Janus continued. “Our mission there was to investigate the condition of the indigenous inhabitants, the humans, in an environment we too often do not get to see since, as Admiral Ares stated, it is overrun by our enemies.”

“The members of this Council have no enemies to speak of.” Oma corrected airily; “Except, that is, perhaps on another.” She added, looking around the chamber.

“Of course naturally.” Janus differed.

“But please proceed with your report, Doctor.”

“Members of the Council, you may choose, not to think of the Sydhe as your enemies;” Janus, too, looked around at his fellow Council members. “But think even if only to yourselves, whether they would even hesitate to say the same of your, of all our people.”

He glanced sidelong up at Ares, then at Athena, as he spoke.” They may have begun millennia ago as merely misguided individuals of our kind corrupted over the years by the Krenim.” He looked directly at the Queen, “But if indeed any shred of our greatness still remains within their hearts, it is buried in a hole so deep and so dark that no one may ever be able to locate it, not even myself if given ten million years more to live.” Knowing the Asgard’s leading scientific mind to be, of all of them, the one least given over to hyperbole, Oma’s eyebrows raised at this eloquent deriding of the Sydhe. Janus turned to Eve. “They are cruel, monsters even.”

Eve’s eyes narrowed, knowing this to be a hidden lesson directed at her. “Members of the Council, your Majesty;” Janus continued, sobering from his emotional plea; “The indigenous humans of this world exist in a world of enslavement and exploitation under the heel of the Sydhe. Those who do not live out their lives in bitter, homeless destitution and poverty are the ones fortunate enough, if such a word can even be applied, to serve as slaves either to the Sydhe themselves directly or to those lucky few whom they have deemed to prop up into the privileged elite.” Seeing the dubious expressions on the Council members’ faces, Janus pre-empted their critique. “The Sydhe rely upon a vast class of humans for whom manual labor is all that keeps them from destitution in order to construct their great monuments and palaces.”

“The Sydhe are descendants of our own people.” This again from Ares. “Surely they have the strength, the power, and the ability to move megalithic stone blocks of towering marble columns into place themselves. Human strength, as we all well know is anemic in contrast.”

“So why would they employ such fragile animals;” Janus shot an apologetic look to Hera knowing of her compassion for the natives; “to build for them?” Ares nodded expectantly. “It is true the Sydhe can do far more with their power than human muscle. What the Sydhe lack is the will.” Even Oma cocked her head to one side in curiosity at this statement, not believing the Sydhe to be all that far removed from her own people. “Many of their kind have grown lethargic nap on their every whip or desire being doted on by their human servants, so even to the point of morbid obesity.” He caught Oma looking over at each of her daughters, in spite of knowing confidently it would never be something they might need worry over. “Nothing in our travels was so disquieting to us both;” He looked at Hera, knowing she would agree; “As was the stark contrast between an obese Sydhe overlord and their emaciated human slaves.”

Hera nodded with a shudder, the memory burned forever into her conscience as well as his.

“Very few humans die of old age.” Janus said, and Council members took notice, this prognosis coming from the mouth of only a very few scientifically educated Doctors among their number. “Those who either cannot find employment or are unable to work due to infirmities almost ubiquitously join their family members in dying from hunger or dehydration.” He looked meaningfully at the noticeably empty seat reserved for the king’s younger brother. “Even those game fully employed in the service of the Sydhe or their human underlings are either beaten to death by their taskmasters for making mistakes in their work or are killed in a mishap on the job itself.”

“I presume we are talking about human men.” This from a soft-spoken introverted Councilor named Hestia.

“For the most part.” Janus nodded.

“What happens, then, to their families?”

“If they happen to have any male children even remotely close to the age at which one is the first able to perform manual labor, those sons are immediately ushered into taking their father’ places in the workforce.”

“And if only female children have been produced?” Hestia leaned in.

“The limited protection having a member of the labor force afforded the family expires with the husband and father, and the wife and daughters become enslaved to the Sydhe overlord or human underling.”

Hera saw Hestia Blanche a pale white and huddle back into her chair.

“Come now!” The outburst came from Osiris. “Let us be done with the sob stories, shall we?” Hera saw Janus bristle at the impugning of his objectivity, “We all respect your scientific credentials.” Osiris hedged, and Janus looked incredulous of the compliment’s sincerity. “But we are also just as well aware of your predilection for the females of this world and your long and sordid history of… What shall we call them? escapades amongst numerous human women.”

Janus looked ready to dress down his fellow Council member when he was preempted by Eve, who leapt to his defense.

“The Doctor’s objectivity is not in question here.” She stated to a chamber that had fallen silent with surprise at the estranged black sheep of the House of Cronus coming to the defense of its most respected member. “Nor, I believe, should objectivity be striven for in such study.”

“What do you believe, Aphrodite?” The question came from Janus’ own older brother Moros.

“I believe that we, the Asgard, stand to gain by engaging with the humans on their level rather than from ours.” She turned to her older sister. “I also believe we have failed at gaining anything by acting as if we stand above the humans of this Earth.” Hera nodded.

“A lovely sentiment, in theory, I am certain.” Ares said, caustically. “But we are, in fact, superior to the humans in very nearly every way imaginable. That is simply the reality.”

“And if we carry on approaching our people’s every interaction with the humans from just that starting point of view;” Eve retorted, the glow of her eyes igniting with a flash; “Then I ask the Council to contemplate this: What is it, exactly, that separates our regard for the humans from that of the Sydhe who enslave them?”

Both Ares and Osiris sat back, chastened. ‘Emasculated might be the better term.’ Hera thought, but was interrupted as her sister continued.

“I however, have never claimed to be an expert on humans.” Eve told the Council as Janus bowed to the Queen and returned to his seat. “For that, I refer you to the Princess.” She gestured theatrically to Hera before sitting.

Hera accepted the honor and descended the steps to the floor. “Your Majesty.” She curtsied low to the floor in her mother’s direction, in her nervousness being very careful not to refer to the Queen as family but rather formally as had her half-brother before her. ‘In Janus’ case it was a bit easier, though.’ She thought. ‘Oma wasn’t even his biological mother, but merely the second wife of his father Cronus.’ “Members of the Council, I can report to you that the human condition belies their nature.” Every ear leaned in to listen after this cryptic introductory statement.

“What Admiral Ares said was true.” She began, deliberately not casting even as much as a glance toward Ares. “The human body, compared to our own, is weak.”

Janus seemed surprised by this concession, knowing in how high regard Hera held the humans.

“However;” She continued, looking at him; “Even with all of our powers and abilities, all of our gifts as Asgards, the capacity of the human brain, no smaller nor any less complex than our own, may very well be capable of greatness that we here in this magnificent city of ours could only ever hope to dream of.”

Oma smiled at her daughter, hearing the passion come through in Hera’s every word; and every member of the Council could see and hear that their Princess spoke only what she believed in her heart to be the truth.

“In answer to the admiral’s question;” Hera continued, again not meeting his gaze; “The reason why the Sydhe chose this planet and this species, the humans, to enslave is, I believe, because of their strength.” She continued quickly even before he could scoff dismissively. “The strength that the Sydhe exploit each and every day we sit here is not the power of the human body, which is little compared to ours;” She looked at Moros and his brother; “But it is the sheer might of their will.” She sensed heads nodding all around the room. Even Janus himself raised his eyebrows, apparently having never thought about slavery that way before. “The Sydhe have grown powerful on this world;” She continued, her eyes aglow; “Not because they are descended from the same Valorien ancestors as we are;” She glanced at Athena, the most recent arrival from the Asgard’s ancestral home world of Valarlorien; “But because they found a way to contain and harness what is by far and away the most powerful source of Energy this world has to offer;” She turned back to the Queen; “The collective will of the entire human race, and to focus and direct it, in a concentrated form, toward their own ends.”

Even Osiris had little alternative but to agree with this.

“If that power could be but unleashed from the bondage that the Sydhe keep it bottled up in;” Hera felt herself gesture with her hands, recognizing the impropriety of it almost immediately; “I believe that the humans, of their own free will, could one day not too far in the future build for themselves towering metropolises to dwarf Armenelos or any Asgard city on Valarlorien.”

“The Council appreciates the depths of your knowledge of the humans;” Said another Council member, Hephaestus, and Hera saw her mother beaming with pride in her daughter and heir; “As well as your obvious passion in pleading on their behalf.” Looking around at her sisters, Hera could see that they sensed the same “however” coming that she did. “But I believe the majority of us here would agree with me that you are being both youthfully naïve;” Hera saw Oma bristle the same as her daughters at the dismissive reference to her eldest child’s age; “And overtly idealistic in speculating on what these humans might do if given their freedom.” Hephaestus looked first at Ares, then to Osiris as he spoke. “Your opinions about human capabilities, while no doubt well-informed by your experiences in Gaul, are, I think, nevertheless overly optimistic.”

Hera opened her mouth to reply, but closed it again as she felt a familiar touch on her mind.

“You’ve spoken you piece.” She heard Janus’ voice resonate inside her head. “Don’t give them the satisfaction. He isn’t worthy of your time.”

Hera nodded, careful not to reply aloud. “Your Majesty;” She curtsied again to her mother; “I hereby yield the floor.” She nodded to Janus as she returned to her seat.

Osiris stood, making it known in doing so that it was as a direct challenge to Janus’ leadership of the council. “I, for one, would very much like to hear more from the Lady Aphrodite.” He gestured to Eve. “As I am led to understand that she, too, is recently back from a mission of her own.”

Hera saw eve glaring harshly at Osiris, wondering how any council member might have become privy to that piece of information, which was meant to be kept secret within their immediate family. Nevertheless, willing but not wanting to start such an argument in public, she descended the steps to the floor.

“Indeed it is true, members of the Council;” She began, seeing no utility in in anything other but full disclosure; “that I recently returned from the Krenim city of Abydos, on the banks of the River Nile.” There were surprised murmurs from around the chamber. “I was there to witness what had only been rumored before among the Asgard.” She continued, not giving the Council members the time to question her.

“That being?” Osiris prompted.

“The exploitation of living human females in the religious rituals that the Sydhe employ to keep their slaves believing that the Krenim are their gods.”

Again gasps of shock went up around her. “If I’m not very much mistaken;” Osiris pressed, leaning in; “Do not the sacred rituals of the Sydhe involve the ritualistic sacrifice of non-sentient domesticated quadruped mammals?”

“Many do.” Eve replied. “But, as I discovered, not all.”

“What do these Sydhe human rituals you observed consist of?” Hestia asked, genuinely curious.

“The religious belief that the Sydhe employ to keep their human slaves under their thumb is that the Krenim are all-powerful gods who singlehandedly magically created not only the first humans, but all life on this planet, and indeed the planet itself and its star and moon.” She looked at Janus to see the Asgard’s most educated scientist struggling to keep from laughing at the absurdity of such a belief. “Because of this;” She continued, addressing Hestia directly; “The humans believe the capability to create life to something supernatural and godlike.”

Hera could predict what was coming next, and could see her mother and sisters shifting uncomfortably in their seats.

“They therefore regard the act of procreation as divine and magical.”

“And the Sydhe take advantage of this?” The Queen asked through an audible lump in her throat.

Eve nodded slowly, hanging her head. “Unfortunately they do. Many of the morning congregations, which by tradition occur on a given day each week, arranged for the humans to worship their Krenim gods; what the Sydhe call “prostration”; also involve the most recent daughters to come of age among the families present being offered as tribute for their Sydhe master to have ritualistic intercourse with.”

“And this is done openly?” Hera found herself asking.

“As publicly as possible, before the assembled congregation, who regard it to be a sacred act and a great honor.”

“Enough of this!” The eruption originated from a fair-skinned woman with braided dark hair dressed in flowing white. All the Council members turned to face her, except for Hera who instead looked to Moros.

She saw the eyes beneath the brows narrow and the mouth beneath the bushy grey moustache tighten into a narrow line at his wife’s impertinence.

“Will you yield for a question from Councilor Ganos Lal, Lady Aphrodite?” He asked in his low gruff tone, the formality obviously a way to prickle at his wife for her improper outburst.

Eve curtsied, playing along with the delaying tactic to further needle the woman. “With your Majesty’s permission;” Oma nodded to her daughter; “I hereby yield the floor momentarily.”

“What I have to say;” Ganos Lal began; “Is not so much an inquiry as it is an accusation.” This prompted mutters from her fellow Council members. “And that is this;” She elaborated; “That what you claim as objective observation in the empiricist vein of your half-brother’s science;” She gestured to Janus, who sat stoically beside his older brother; “Is, as a matter of actual facts, nothing more than mere sensationalism contrived and crafted for maximum possible emotional impact.”

Even if that were the case;’ Hera thought, watching Eve’s face flush as she bit her tongue to keep her mouth closed; ‘The passion of Ganos Lal’s outburst did nothing if not prove its effectiveness.’

“And furthermore;” Ganos Lal continued; “I accuse the Lady Aphrodite of playing the pawn, like her older sister the Princess;” She glared hard at Hera; “In the warmongering propaganda of their older half-brother Janus.” Having made her point, Ganos Lal sat back.

“Warmongering?” Moros’ growl, even under his breath, echoed in the chamber. He appeared ready to leap to his feet and confront his wife when Hera saw Janus place a calming hand on his older brother’s shoulder, restraining him back in his chair even as he stood.

“That might well be true, Councilor;” Janus said matter-of-factly, and every eye turned to him in surprise; “If it were the case that the Lady Aphrodite’s testimony were irrelevant or in any way extraneous to the purpose why we are gathered here.” He now had everyone’s full and undivided attention, and Hera could see from the straightening of his shoulders that he knew it too. “However I, for one, do not believe it is so.” He casually, almost nonchalantly, started descending the steps from his seat to the floor. “Indeed one could argue, as I will, that what my younger sisters saw in their travels;” Oma noted that he did not refer to them as his half-siblings; “Is precisely why it is that we must go to war.” He looked to Hestia. “In order to put an end to just such atrocities once and for all of time.” Her turned to Ares, Ganos Lal and Osiris in turn. “You would agree with me, I take it, that the abominations described by the Lady Aphrodite are indeed abhorrent?” He received nods all around. “Then let us be rid of them forever.” With that he in acknowledgement to Eve, who still held the floor, and both returned to their seats.

“It is worth noting;” Athena piped up; “Before any more talk of war proceeds, that the Asgard and our technology currently present here on Earth would not be enough to guarantee us as complete of a victory in such a war as I am sure all the members of this Council would be most comfortable with.” She glanced over at Eve. “Particularly if it turns out to be the case, as I believe it is ever-increasingly more likely to, that we would face the Sydhe and the Krenim joining their forces against us.” She saw Ares open his mouth to object, but preempted him. “To be certain, Asgard technology and weaponry is overwhelmingly superior to that of the Krenim;” She smiled across the chamber; “Thanks, in no insignificant part, to the inventions of Doctor Janus.”

Janus nodded in acknowledgement of the praise for his work by the Asgard’s foremost leading strategist and tactician.

“We would be more than capable of emerging victorious from any given singular localized confrontation with either the Krenim or their Sydhe underlings.” Ares nodded confidently. “However;” Athena continued; “given our current status, both in personnel as well as armaments, on this world;” She gestured, indicating the city around them; “I can see no clear path to the complete defeat of their combined forces overall in an all-out war.”

“In addition;” Janus added, beneficently; “It is only right that every member of this Council vote on such a serious measure as this;” He indicated all of the empty seats; “And that we should proceed with it only if we have the support of a true majority fully representing the will of our people.” Everyone present nodded in agreement.

“With no objections.” The Queen stood, all of the Councilors following suit. “This meeting of the Asgard High Council hereby stands adjourned;” She banged her gavel; “While any and all of our people who have a desire to participate either in this vote;” She looked down at Janus, who nodded gratefully; “Ore the war that may follow, are recalled to Earth from our home world.”

365 Days Out

•November 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Marist College (Poughkeepsie, New York), November 4, 2015:

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 52%
John Bush (R-TX): 44% 

Bernard Sanders (D-NY): 51%
John Bush (R-FL): 41%

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 53%
Rafael Cruz (R-TX): 43%

Bernard Sanders (D-VT): 51%
Rafael Cruz (R-AB): 39%

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 53%
Cara Fiorina (R-TX): 43%

Bernard Sanders (D-NY): 53%
Cara Fiorina (R-VA): 39%

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 50%
Marco Rubio (R-FL): 45%

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 56%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 41%

Bernard Sanders (D-NY): 53%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 41%

 

NBC News/Wall Street Journal (New York City, New York), October 29, 2015: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/MSNBC/Sections/A_Politics/15463%20NBCWSJ%20Late%20October%20Poll%20(4).pdf

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 50%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 42%

Bernard Sanders (D-NY): 50%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 41%

 

CNN (Atlanta, Georgia), October 17, 2015: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/10/18/democrats.pdf

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 50%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 45%

Bernard Sanders (D-NY): 53%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 44%

 

NBC News/Wall Street Journal (New York City, New York), September 24, 2015: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/MSNBC/Sections/A_Politics/15398%20NBCWSJ%20September%20Poll%20(2).pdf

Bernard Sanders (D-NY): 52%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 36%

 

Marist College (Poughkeepsie, New York), September 9, 2015: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/poll-democrats-claim-resounding-latino-support-over-gop

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 52%
Rafael Cruz (R-TX): 41%

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 50%
Marco Rubio (R-FL): 44%

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 53%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 40%

 

CNN (Atlanta, Georgia), August 16, 2015: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/08/18/rel8b.-.democrats.2016.pdf

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 52%
John Bush (R-TX): 43%

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 53%
Cara Fiorina (R-TX): 43%

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 51%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 45%

 

Marist College (Poughkeepsie, New York), July 28, 2015: http://maristpoll.marist.edu/wp-content/misc/usapolls/us150722/2016July/Complete%20July%202015%20McClatchy_Marist%20Poll_2016_Tables.pdf#page=1 

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 50%
Christopher Christie (R-NY): 40%

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 53%
Cara Fiorina (R-TX): 35%

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 50%
Michael Huckabee (R-AR): 41%

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 54%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 38%

 

CNN (Atlanta, Georgia), July 25, 2015: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2179399-cnn-orc-poll-2016-election-9-a-m-july-26-2015.html

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 51%
John Bush (R-TX): 46%

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 56%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 40%

Bernard Sanders (D-NY): 59%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 38%

 

Public Policy Polling (Raleigh, North Carolina), July 21, 2015: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2015/PPP_Release_National_72215.pdf

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 50%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 37%

 

ABC News/Washington Post, July 19, 2015: https://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2015/07/20/National-Politics/Polling/question_15783.xml?uuid=jViITi8jEeWBj6JC8o5wIg#

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 50%
John Bush (R-TX): 44%

 

Suffolk University (Boston, Massachusetts), July 12, 2015:

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 51%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 34%

 

CNN (Atlanta, Georgia), June 28, 2015: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/06/30/trumpbushclinton.pdf

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 54%
John Bush (R-TX): 41%

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 55%
Christopher Christie (R-NJ): 39%

Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 56%
Marco Rubio (R-FL): 40%

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 59%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 35%

 

Fox News Channel Network (New York City, New York), June 23, 2015: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/interactive/2015/06/24/0624152016iranweb/

Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 51%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 34%

“Sin”-plicity Itself

•August 30, 2015 • Leave a Comment

There is a concept that you might be familiar with.
It’s called “Occam’s Razor”, and it states that, given the choice between any number of different scenarios, the one that is simplest is, more than probably, the one that is most likely to be correct.
So lets ask this question:
Which is more probable?
1.) That a woman made from the rib of a man made out of dirt was persuaded into eating a magical pomegranate from a magical tree by a talking snake with legs in a garden in what is now the Persian Gulf that was magically spoken into existence with magic spells and incantations by an invisible, inaudible, imperceptible, intangible, immaterial non-corporeal, spaceless timeless extra-dimensional supernatural ghost in he sky sometime in the fifth millennium BCE [around the same time of the construction of the Great Pyramids at Giza in Ancient Egypt], and that the invisible ghost in the sky placed a magical curse (called “sin”) upon the rib woman and the dirt man that has been inherited by all 7 billion of their descendants for the past six thousand years, until that same ghost magically impregnated a Jewish Palestinian woman, who then gave birth in a barn to a carpenter and fisherman who grew up to become a professional exorcist who could heal blind people by spitting on them and throwing mud in their faces and a Jewish priest and rabbi, who was arrested, tried and convicted for treason and sedition by the provincial governor of Roman-occupied Judea in the early First Century CE, and was executed by crucifixion, dying from blood loss and asphyxiation from having rusty iron nails hammered through his wrists, was buried in a cave in the desert, and then rose from the dead as a zombie before magically ascending into the sky.
OR
2.) That the authors of the Bible were primitive, ignorant, scientifically-illiterate, superstitious, barbaric, animal-and-human sacrificing, goat-herding, nomadic, cave-dwelling stone age desert savages who wrote that their perfect, inerrant and infallible omnibenevolent, all-seeing and all-knowing omniscient, omnipresent and all-powerful omnipotent god of the universe was a hateful, intolerant, homophobic, misogynistic, neophobic, racist, sexist xenophobic bigot who committed the psychopathic genocidal mass-murders of tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children in order to retroactively and/or preemptively justify themselves when they themselves carried out precisely the same inhumane atrocities and crimes against humanity, and wrote in the Bible than anyone who did not believe that this genocidal psychopathic bigot was, in fact, omnibenevolent, infallible and perfect will be tortured mercilessly by being burned alive for the rest of eternity as a way of frightening their fellow gullible pre-scientific bronze age tribesmen into never questioning that their inherent right to rule over them and to brutally conquer others was derived directly from an all-powerful omnipotent god of the universe?
Here, then, is the question to ask yourself:
Which of these two answers is the simplest and, thereby, the easiest to believe?
Now, apply Occam’s Razor.
Welcome to atheism, my friend!

T-Minus Fourteen Months

•August 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

CNN/TIME Magazine, New York City, New York, Sunday August 16, 2015 [450 Days from Election Day]:  http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/08/18/rel8b.-.democrats.2016.pdf 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 51%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 45%

Senator [2001-2009] Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 52%
Governor [1999-2007] John Bush (R-FL): 43%

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-IL): 52%
Governor Scott Walker (R-WI): 46%

First Lady Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 53%
Cara Fiorina (R-VA): 43%

Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York, Tuesday July 28, 2015 [470 Days from Election Day]:  http://maristpoll.marist.edu/wp-content/misc/usapolls/us150722/2016July/Complete%20July%202015%20McClatchy_Marist%20Poll_2016_Tables.pdf#page=1 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 54%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 38%

First Lady Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 53%
Cara Fiorina (R-VA): 35%

Senator [2001-2007] Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 50%
Governor [1996-2007] Michael Huckabee (R-AR): 41%

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 50%
Governor Christopher Christie (R-NJ): 40%

CNN/TIME Magazine, New York City, New York, Saturday July 25, 2015 [472 Days from Election Day]: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2179399-cnn-orc-poll-2016-election-9-a-m-july-26-2015.html 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 56%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 40%

Senator [2001-2009] Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 51%
Governor [1999-2007] John Bush (R-FL): 46%

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-IL): 53%
Governor Scott Walker (R-WI): 44%

Public Policy Polling, Raleigh, North Carolina, Tuesday July 21, 2015 [477 Days from Election Day]:  http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2015/PPP_Release_National_72215.pdf 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 50%
Donald Trump (R-FL): 37%

ABC News, New York City, New York, Sunday July 19, 2015 [478 Days from Election Day]:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2015/07/20/National-Politics/Polling/question_15783.xml?uuid=jViITi8jEeWBj6JC8o5wIg# 

Senator [2001-2009] Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 50%
Governor [1999-2007] John Bush (R-FL): 44%

CNN/TIME Magazine, New York City, New York, Sunday June 28, 2015 [500 Days from Election Day]: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/06/30/trumpbushclinton.pdf  

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 59%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 35%

Senator [2001-2009] Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 54%
Governor [1999-2007] John Bush (R-FL): 41%

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 56%
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL): 40%

21st Century Fox, New York City, New York, Tuesday June 23, 2015 [505 Days from Election Day]:  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/interactive/2015/06/24/0624152016iranweb/ 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 51%
Donald Trump (R-NY): 34%

News Corporation, New York City, New York, Thursday June 18, 2015 [510 Days from Election Day]:  http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/MSNBC/Sections/A_Politics/6_22_PollPDF.pdf 

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 50%
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL): 40%

CNN/TIME Magazine, New York City, New York, Sunday May 31, 2015 [528 Days from Election Day]:  http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/06/01/2016.poll.pdf 

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 52%
Senator Rafael Cruz (R-AB): 43%

CNN/TIME Magazine, New York City, New York, Sunday April 19, 2015 [570 Days from Election Day]:  http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/04/20/cnnorc2016poll04202015.pdf 

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-AR): 55%
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL): 41%

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 60%
Senator Rafael Cruz (R-AB): 36%

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY): 58%
Senator Rand Paul (R-PA): 39%

 
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