“Touching down in New England town.
Feel the heat coming down.
And I’m going with some hesitation.
You know that I can surely see that I don’t want to get caught up in any of that funky shit going down in the city.”
-Paul Pena, “Jet Airliner”, 1973
Manchester, New Hampshire
Sunday September 21, 2059
The young man shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other as he waited impatiently in the cordoned-off incoming passenger receiving area of the Manchester International Airport.
He was a native of New England, so the cold weather never bothered him, but even he found the sunless days up North here in New Hampshire to be gloomy.
‘Not that New Jersey was all that much nicer.’ He thought to himself.
Growing up in what had effectively been absorbed as a suburb of Manhattan, his family had never been affluent enough to take tourist travel and he found it interesting that his first-ever time outside the Tri-State Area was to a place that most people in his hometown would have regarded to be the middle of nowhere. But then again, only a month ago, he had been just out of college, an English Major: a difficult field in which to find workable employment, when he was approached by a man whose name everyone in all of New England knew well: Kenneth Welsh.
He had been surprised when the former Massachusetts Congressman and Washington insider had asked him to join the Presidential Campaign of a Congresswoman from Oregon and he had immediately eagerly agreed. He had asked Welsh what he wanted him to do to help and was told, to his surprise, to come here to Manchester, New Hampshire to set up the Presidential Campaign’s New England Headquarters.
The Campaign had been out in California for the past month and the candidate was even now flying to Manchester all the way from Oregon. So here he was, less than six months after his graduation, a one-man welcoming committee for someone whom, from what little he had paid attention to about political matters since his arrival, had a chance of very easily being elected as the next leader of the Western world.
Looking out the airport window, the clouds hung low in a near-solid blanket just over the tops of the buildings of the city. As he watched, the clouds to the west appeared to part, letting shafts of sunlight through the overcast and a large jet airliner descended from the cloud layer toward the ground as though having itself punched a gaping hole in the overcast. As a two-term Congresswoman and candidate for the Presidency of the United States who was self-financing her campaign from her own family fortune, he would have naturally assumed that his new employer would have had her very own private campaign airplane but the shaft of midmorning sunlight let through by its penetration of the clouds that caught the insignia of Northwest Airways, a subsidiary of United US American, on the Airbus’s fletched tail informed him otherwise. The two-engine aircraft appeared oblivious to the sixty-mile-per-hour winds as it glided like a paraglide to kiss the pavement runway with its wheels.
What had started the day as a prestigious assignment mad him feel more like an errand boy than he ever had before as he stood at the reception line, holding a sign with the Congresswoman’s last name on it and watching the other passengers file out of the boarding ramp.
He spotted her even as she exited the plane into the far end of the ramp, not only because her six-foot height brought the top of her head above the other women and all but a few of the men that surrounded her but also because that head was crowned with a mane of the most fiery red-orange hair he had ever seen.
When the men and women in front of her had gone their respective ways, she he finally got his first good look at the tall redheaded woman even as she spotted him in return. As her eyes widened with recognition, he got his first really good look at them and he nearly dropped the sign.
He knew that as the sign in his hands read, the Congresswoman was the daughter of former Senator Alexander Janney.
With her fiery red-orange hair and bright green eyes, however, she looked nothing like him.
‘Indeed;’ He thought as she walked purposefully up the ramp toward him; ‘She did not even look like a politician.’
Between her tall, lithe, long-limbed slender frame and her voluptuous, curvaceous figure, she looked like she would fit in better on the runways of Milan during Fashion Week than she would in the halls of the Capitol Building in Washington. What he had known about her was that she had two postgraduate degrees: a law degree and a Ph.D. from the Harvard Kennedy School and that she had served two terms in Congress. Based upon this, he had been operating under the assumption that he would be meeting a woman who would be, at the very least, in her mid to late forties. The red-haired green-eyed woman before him, however, could have easily passed for one in her early twenties.
“I’m Congresswoman Katherine Janney.” She said, nodding to the sign in his hands and though it was muted, he picked up on the inflection of her famous father’s Franco-German accent in her voice.
As she approached him, surrounded as she was by black0suited men and women whom he now recognized as being Secret Service Agents, a second, slightly shorter figure emerged as though by mitosis from behind her.
He would hardly have noticed the second figure were it not for the contrasts between the two.
In addition to their difference in height and the evident difference in age between them, the second figure’s ebony hair contrasted against her older companion’s fiery red-orange man.
He noted this, in part, because he thought that the younger girl’s appearance much more closely resembled the features of Senator Janney, which he would not have known were not his image ubiquitous throughout the state of New Hampshire.
“What’s your name?” The girl asked in a melodious voice.
“Stevens.” He answered, in an inner city New York inflection, almost before she had finished speaking, clearing his throat. “Trent Stevens.”
The taller woman was smiling: “This is my daughter, Julia.” She eyed him scrutinously. “Let me guess… Princeton?”
He nodded. “Yes, Congresswoman.”
The girl at her side’s eyes widened and she turned to look up at the taller woman as her mother stiffened and her eyes narrowed.
“You’re new.” She said, patiently. “So you wouldn’t know, but I prefer to be addressed by my salutation, not my profession.”
Stevens cocked his head to the side curiously but nodded. “I’m sorry, Doctor Janney.”
Tent Stevens watched Congresswoman Katherine Janney as they rode through the streets of Manchester.
Knowing what he did of her life story: that she had not lived in her father’s home state in more than twenty years, cast the otherwise unreadable expression on her face as she gazed out the window of the cab in a new and different light.
“So how goes the New Hampshire Campaign Headquarters?” She asked, breaking the silence that had fallen since they had gotten into the waiting car outside the airport.
“It exists.” Stevens replied somewhat slowly with a long heavy sigh. She did not look up at him but he could sense her lack of satisfaction with this response. “Which is more than could be said a month ago.”
She nodded. “How many do we have working for us?”
Stevens did not even need to look at the folder on his lap. “Less than twenty;” He answered; “All volunteer interns.”
She must have sensed something in his tone of voice, because her gaze darted to him out of the corner of her periphery. “What’s wrong with them?” she asked, reading his expression in an instant.
“Nothing!” He insisted, a bit too quickly, she thought. “They’re terrific, every one of them! But…”
She turned to face him then as he trailed off. “We’re outnumbered.” She finished for him and he nodded. “Senator Slatterly?” Another nod. “Where’s he at?”
Stevens looked down at his notes. “He set up shop—his headquarters—in Nashua back in August.”
She nodded, understanding the habit to make the state capitol a campaign’s base. “How many?”
“All told;” Stevens read; “He’s got over a hundred full-time officers and employees and we think likely ten time the number of pollsters, door-to-door get out the vote workers and interns.”
The Congresswoman took each number in stride, her expression never flinching. “What about our citizen surrogates?” She asked, referring to the large, influential upper-class families in the state that had pledged to spread the campaign’s message in their localities.
Stevens sighed. “Many of them were loyal supporters of your father—the Senator—until he stepped aside four years ago.” He prefaced, stalling but she fixed him with her eyes: “And?”
“They say they want to meet you, to speak with you, to hear from you;” Stevens cast about for the right way to phrase their demand; “Before they’ll campaign for you.”
The Congresswoman frowned at this unanticipated obstacle. “We’re meeting them at HQ?” She guessed.
“No, Ma’am.” Stevens shifted in his seat. “They insist that you speak with them in person;” She nodded; “In their homes.” Stevens finished slowly.
The Congresswoman’s eyes widened at the prospect as did those of her teenage daughter. But then, mercifully, Stevens thought, her attention was diverted as the car pulled up to the curb in front of the building in downtown that housed her new headquarters: What looked like an old movie theater that had been remodeled into a two-story storefront with a warehouse behind.
“We’d better get started.” She said as the door was opened and held open by one of her Secret Service detail. Kate tucked the high collar of her coat around her cheeks against the stinging wind as she stepped from the car and onto the curb. She tilted her heads back to look up at the towering façade, then turned around and bent over to her daughter climb out of the car and onto the sidewalk.
“Frankly, Madam Congresswoman;” Stevens continued as he followed her out of the car; “The campaign here in Manchester has been awaiting the arrival of the campaign staff that accompanied your campaign in California.”
To his surprise, this last actually caused the Congresswoman’s face to alight.
“Well then;” She said with a smile; “It’s a good thing I brought some of my people.”
Even as she spoke, the doors of the building burst open and a retinue of people exited to join them on the sidewalk. The Congresswoman’s smile was mirrored on the face of the man who led the procession.
She barely hesitated, throwing her arms around the older man. “I missed you.”
“Welcome home, Katie.” He said; doing a good job not acting surprised by the intimacy of her greeting. “You’re a sight for sore eyes.” He chuckled. “And sore shoulders, sore knees…”
As though recognizing a mistake, Kate pulled back, returning the hug to a comradely handshake.
“And I see you brought along a nice sample of out target audience.” He said, turning to her shorter traveling companion standing by Kate’s side.
“Not quite yet.” The teenager said, holding up four fingers to indicate how long before she could vote.
“I wanted her to see all of the places I knew as a kid growing up.” Kate said, wrapping her arm around her daughter. Her friend nodded, saying nothing.
If that was what she wanted her daughter to believe was the reason for this vacation trip up North, he was not about to contradict her in front of the girl. However, he still strongly suspected that Kate’s true incentive to bring the teenager with her on this particular trip to New England happened to be exactly what he said: As the youngest Congresswoman to ever run for President, Janney would definitely need to monopolize the votes of young citizens.
He suspected that she was correct in her calculation that showing up at her campaign events, which were primarily held in school gymnasiums and auditoriums as well as on college and university campuses, with a young teenage girl, especially one who appeared older than her age, by her side would serve her exceedingly well with young voters.
“What he said.” The smiling woman behind him said, shaking her hand.
The Congresswoman turned to Stevens. “Princeton, you know my Campaign Manager, Kenneth Welsh;” Stevens nodded to the man who had hired him, who was grinning at her invention of a nickname for Stevens; “And this is my Director of Communications, Kristin Ludlowe;” She grinned between Stevens and the brunette; “Your new boss.”
Stevens saw the woman’s ebony eyebrow lift, as she looked him up and down.
“Kris, this is your newest Deputy…”
“Trent Stevens.” He interrupted her, leaning forward and extending his hand.
Ludlowe took it and shook it, exchanging an unreadable look with the Congresswoman.
“I’m glad to see you made it, Julia.” Said another woman as she stepped toward them from where she had been waiting sheltered from the wind by what looked like used to be the box office.
“What kind of day has it been, Miss Frost?” Welsh asked.
“We have successfully background checked all activists whom will be hosting events of the Congresswoman, as well as cleared all establishments at which she is scheduled to make an appearance…” She turned to Katherine. “Without incident.”
Stevens eyed the one Welsh had referred to as “Frost” with the connoisseur’s eye of a human lie detector. He turned to cast a sidelong glance over at the Campaign Manager, nodding his head to one side, indicating the young woman.
“Kim is a recent graduate from the Criminology Department at Virginia Tech.” Kate informed him.
“I can vouch for her.” Said a well-built man, who proceeded to greet Welsh respectfully.
“Hello, Leo.” Kate greeted him.
Stevens nodded, evidently deferring to the judgment of the Congresswoman’s own Chief of Security.
Then they all turned to the woman who had hesitantly exited behind them.
“Who is she?” Ludlowe asked, leaning in toward Kate. “She wouldn’t speak to us until you arrived.”
Kate smiled at the newcomer.
The woman had yellow-blonde hair pulled tightly back and secured at the crown of her head into a long ponytail that fanned out to feather the back of her neck. Her eyes were the color of emeralds and as hard and sharp.
“I am pleased and proud to introduce you all to my campaign’s new National Security Advisor, Chlaire Daniels.”
“You can call me C.J.” The woman said, shaking hands with each of them.
Ken’s eyes narrowed. “C.J. Daniels.” He enunciated syllable by syllable as though rolling the name around in his head. “I think I might’ve seen your name around before. What’s your background?”
“Until recently;” C.J. exchanged a knowing but indecipherable look with the Congresswoman; “I headed the Department of Digital and Electronic Cryptographology for Security Reconnaissance down at Echelon.” She told him, referring to the headquarters of the NSRAO in Fort Meade, Maryland.
“Which reminds me;” Daniels turned to the candidate; “I had a contact down at Langley who made your acquaintance, Congresswoman.” Kate cocked her head curiously. “A Special Agent at Central Intelligence named James Prichardson.” Kate’s eyes widened and Ludlowe’s eyebrows rose as both recognized the name. “so you do know him.” Kate nodded slowly. “You see, he evidently dropped off the face of the Earth about twelve years ago.”
“Not off the surface of the Earth;” Kate said as though in a trance as she turned and walked inside; “Just beneath it.”
C.J.’s eyes widened at the cryptic response and she turned to Ludlowe, who shrugged her shoulders as she followed her friend through the door.
One at a time, the group passed through the storefront’s rotating door. The scene on the other side was as near to total chaos as Kate had ever experienced: Row upon row of people of all ages, genders, colors, shapes and sizes, each seated with a computer monitor and a telephone headset; every one of them, it seemed, talking at the same time. Looking up, they could see a second level composed of causeways and platforms and accessible by a number of curving staircases.
“Welcome to the mother ship, Doctor.” Stevens said.
The cacophony of voices seemed to fade when the newcomers entered the space.
A young man appeared at the railing of the nearest platform. His mouth opened and closed for a couple of minutes before words were emitted. “Oh, goodness!” He managed. “Congresswoman Janney.”
The scraping of chairs being pushed out and a building eruption of applause followed.
Kate stood frozen, rooted where she stood, staring in disbelief at the dozens of volunteers standing and clapping. Her young daughter gripped her hand, shrinking timidly behind Frost.
Stevens waved the workers to sit back down.
‘Twenty twenty-something’s sure could fill such a large space.’ she thought, leaning on the railing and looking down on the chaos below her.
“Full of sound and fury;” Came the voice of her godfather coming up the spiral staircase behind her, as though having heard her thought aloud; “Signifying nothing.”
“William Shakespeare, Macbeth;” She identified without turning around to look at him; “Act five, Scene five.”
Welsh joined her at the railing and together they surveyed the bustle of the campaign’s headquarters below them in silence for several long minutes.
At long last, Welsh had the impulse that he should say something.
“How do you think Jules is doing;” He asked, referring to his friend’s teenage daughter, gesturing to the floor below; “With this?”
“I honestly don’t know.” Kate sighed heavily as she stood straight. Her old friend looked over at her. “Things just move so quickly.” She conceded. “I was just reelected last year.” She inclined her head toward him with a meaningful glance. “Thank you again for that, by the way.”
“So I was sworn in and took office. Becka and I agreed that it would be wrong to pull Jewels out of school halfway through the year.” She finally turned away from the view to face her old friend. “We just moved to D.C.” She told him, groaning at the memory of the cross-continental trip from Oregon. “And before I knew it, before we had even had a chance to get settled, here I’m back in Manchester after two and a half decades, nearly half a year before the New Hampshire Primary.” Her Campaign Manager absorbed her tirade at pace, his laugh-wrinkled face betraying no expression. “I mean, I’m not sure whether you were as aware as I was the amount of strain that it placed on her when I ran for the First.” She added, recalling her campaign for her Oregon Congressional District.
“That was quite a lot for a ten year old to take. Julia’s a lot older now.” He reminded her. He earned a sidelong glance at the term “a lot” but he reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder, bringing her to glance up at him. “You’d be amazed at how engaged a teenage girl can be.”
She rolled her eyes. “I wish I had your confidence.”
“You would;” Ken said, lifting his hand to pat her on the back. “If you had known the fiery-haired Eugene middle school sixth grader that I did.”
“Shall we?” Welsh said as he led her away from the railing. “We have strategizing to do.”
Kate smiled as they descended into the chaos.
“There’s very little left for the Congresswoman to win here.”
“I am going to win the New Hampshire Primary.” Janney said, in a tone that broached no argument.
Ludlowe gestured to the volunteers. “They wouldn’t be her if they didn’t think so too.”
Kate smiled and she exchanged winks with her teenage daughter.
“This will leave whatever other Democratic-Republicans enter the race battling each other for a second place finish. Which;” Kristin continued; “Makes the Granite State the perfect spot for you to introduce yourself to the nation and construct your own bio.”
“You haven’t lived in this state since you were eight years old.” Kenneth Welsh reminded her in his capacity as campaign manager.
“Which is why;” Ludlowe told her friend; “We have you set up in venues specially selected in order for you to best elaborate your personal narrative.”
“We have somewhat of an advantage;” Ludlowe told her friend; “In that we are capable to plan far ahead, long distance, right here at present. By the time this November rolls around, we will have effectively done everything we need to do in order to win here and we’ll be on our way off to…” she looked at Welsh.
“Nevada’s next.” He said.
“…Nevada then.” She finished. “And the best bit of it is we’ll be the only ones there.”
Moore Theatre, Hopkins Center for the Arts
Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire
Sunday September 21, 2059
“Congresswoman Janney;” The moderator began; “Your father, Senator Alexander Janney, is perceived by many as being the very living embodiment of the Granite State. As you yourself said in an interview with Professor Juan Diaz of the University of California—San Diego last month, your policies, your proposals, represent a radical departure from those of New Hampshire’s favorite native-born son.” Kate nodded. “Given this, how might you plan on reconciling being to the Progressive side of the sociopolitical spectrum even within your own political party in the House of Representatives with the Social Conservative platform upon which the voters of your home state reelected your father to the Senate half a dozen times over nearly forty years?”
“If I may;” Senator Thomas Slatterly interjected from the podium beside her; “I believe, to rephrase what our judicious moderator was really trying to say;” He nodded to the moderator, who waved him to continue, before turning to Kate beside him; “To paraphrase the famous and immortal words of Senator Lloyd Bentsen from a debate seventy years ago next month: I served with Alexander Janney in the United States Senator. You, Congresswoman, are no Alexander Janney.”
This was greeted with prolonged applause, which was admonished by the moderator, but Kate merely creased her lips into a thin grin. The flash in her eyes, however, was as predatory as that of a retriever who had caught a pheasant. When she spoke, her tone was measured and diplomatic.
“Firstly, to our judicious moderator’s question;” Janney began; “Let us clarify on thing: My father was actually born in New York City and went to school in Massachusetts, where he met my mother in Boston. That’s important to note.”
Out of the corner of her periphery, she say Kristin Ludlowe, her Communications Director and Gina Everett, her Press Secretary, blanching visibly; Gina’s mouth gaping open, mouthing the words: “Oh my…”
“Secondly, Senator, to your point;” she turned back to Slatterly; “Yes, you’re right.” She could see eyes widening throughout the audience, including those of the moderator. “I am indeed not my father. But do you know what?” She looked down at her daughter seated in the front row. “That is precisely the reason why the people not only of the State of New Hampshire, but of the United States of America should vote for me.”
If her Press Secretary had paled previously, at this Gina Everett went white.
“My father was born and raised during the First Cold War and voted against the Treaty of the Forbidden City between President Lowe and President Krusztcheckov that ended the Second because it permitted the Russian Federation to keep its annexed lands, such as Kazakhstan.” She smiled. “I was the Best Maid of Honor at the wedding of Russian President Krusztcheckova.” She saw Ludlowe nod. “My father voted against the universal Wellness Act of 2036. I have campaigned to expand it my entire career in elected office.” She thought, but did not say, that this sounded a great deal more impressive out loud than it was, taking into consideration the fact that she had won her first election less than three years earlier. “but most importantly of all;” she continued; “My entire adult life, everything I have done has been devoted to my family.” She nodded to her daughter, who smiled. “If my father had been anywhere nearly as dedicated to his daughters as I have been to mine…” She trailed off; her voice cracking and her mouth shaking as she blinked back tears. “…Then I wouldn’t be standing her where I am tonight.” He voice steadied along with her breathing after she heaved a heavy, deep breath.
The audience sat in silence and she could tell it was because her fellow candidates and even the moderator were speechless.
“I don’t want the people of New Hampshire to vote for me because I share the same last name as my father.” She concluded. “The American people should vote for me, if for no other reason, because of just how very different from my father I really am;” Ignoring the advice of her staff, she raised her hands above her podium, bringing them down with each syllable to emphasize her message; “In all the ways that really matter.”