The Campaign Part VIII A Very Vegas Nevada November [Draft #2: 19 Pages 7,133 words June 21, 2018]

•June 20, 2018 • Leave a Comment

November 9, 2059

 

Kristin Ludlowe knocked on the door to the candidate’s private quarters onboard their recently remodeled campaign bus, but, getting no answer from inside, opened the door and stepped through. She heard the television and could see its flickering light, both coming from the general direction of the small sitting room.

So she made way along the hallway, but then she paused in the shadows just outside the room as the sight revealed itself. Three young women sat on a couch watching television.

Katherine Janney sat on one end of the couch, her arm around her teenage daughter Julia, but also around Samantha Connor, who sat at the other end. Sam, too, had her arm around Kate.

Seated with the girl between them; Kris thought to herself; the three were recognizable instantly to anyone anywhere as a family.

A new definition of family.’ Ludlowe thought, wondering momentarily whether or not; if the average American were to witness what it was she was seeing here; this might not, in fact, be exactly the kind of strong loving nuclear family they would actually want as America’s next first family living in the White House.

The flickering light from the television was more than enough to see Kate and Sam’s hands gently and caressing one another’s necks and shoulders even as Kate watched with her daughter.

Julia, for her part, made unmistakably clear the fact that she regarded both of the other women as being her mothers, even though; biologically speaking; neither were.

Kate’s other arm was around her daughter, even as the girl snuggled against Sam’s side on the couch.

Increasingly recalcitrant to shatter such a pristine moment, Kris cleared her throat loudly before emerging from the shadows. As always was the case, Samantha seemed to sense Kris’s presence even before she technically came into the older blonde woman’s direct line of sight.

She used her fingers caressing the side of her girlfriend’s neck to nudge and prod at the candidate’s shoulder.

When Kate turned to her, she gestured with her free hand in Ludlowe’s direction.

Kate, in turn, nudged Julia, who immediately switched off the television.

“What’s up, Kris?” Kate asked, stroking her daughter’s dark hair as Julia laid her head in her mother’s lap.

“Congresswoman;” Ludlow began, making clear the nature of what she had to say; “I wanted to re-brief you on who will be attending the campaign event in Vegas.”

The Congresswoman nodded, but Ludlowe noted that neither she nor her girlfriend ceased their caresses of one another. Kate lifted her other hand from her daughter’s head in order to gesture for Ludlowe to continue.

“The Vegas event will be a fundraiser for the Democratic-Republican Party at the Serapeum Suites and Resort;” She smiled at Sam, whose mother Hera was the proprietor of the Resort; “Leading up into the DNC’s candidates debate, which was cancelled late last month but was rescheduled for a week from yesterday. As was the case, both events will be hosted by the Stark Consolidated organization.”

Both Kate and Samantha smiled at one another, recognizing the rebranding given by Zoe Stark to her foundation in order to distinguish it from Stark Industries: the military industrial contractor corporation owned and operated by her billionaire father Anthony.

“The featured guests of honor at this fundraiser will be the newly-elected Mayors of Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.”

Kate nodded, unable to miss Samantha smiling at her. She knew her girlfriend admired her willingness to set selfishness aside and organize fundraisers not for her own campaign, but for the Democratic-Republican Party and its down-ballot candidates such as state governors and city mayors.

“We’re going to Arizona next month, are we not?” Samantha asked and Kristin bristled with the reminder that the candidate’s girlfriend had read the campaign’s carefully crafted schedule during the layover in London last month, but Ludlowe nodded.

“For the Phoenix Bipartisan Debate, yes.” She said. “December twelfth. A week later, there’s another DRNC fundraiser in California.” Kris could not miss the look that passed between the candidate and her girlfriend. “At that event, the guest of honor will be;” She rechecked her notes; “Yomiko Chang, recently elected mayor of San Francisco. Chang will also be present at the Vegas event.” Kris cleared her throat. “Congresswoman, I wonder whether…” She trailed off.

“What?” The Congresswoman wondered.

“There will be local and national press present at the Serapeum;” Ludlowe began again; “And I wanted to take this time to brief you on some of the current worldwide you might get requested to weigh in on.” Her pointed glance down at Julia in Kate’s lap pointed out the problem: Such security briefings were classified.

Julia appeared to get the same message as well as she immediately straightened, clambered to her feet and excused herself before retiring to her bedroom.

After she made certain the girl was gone, Kris sat down in a chair facing toward the Congresswoman but very deliberately away from her girlfriend.

Ludlow knew as well as the candidate did that as by far and away the most decorated officer in the more than hundred and fifty year history of the Air Force, Colonel Samantha Connor was cleared at the highest levels of code word classification.

That didn’t mean she had to enjoy her being in the room or sitting in on the security briefings.

“You’re aware, Congresswoman, of the news coming out of Turin.”

“Thousands evacuated.” The candidate nodded.

“And there have also been more than half a dozen fatalities.”

“All from the Po flooding over its banks?” Kate asked and Kris nodded. “There’s Intel out of Rome: Prime Minister Mekani is telling us, through underground routes of course, millions more in the metropolitan area of Lombardy administrative region are in danger from widespread torrential rain.”

Sam whistled softly.

“An emergency declaration from the Mekani government is expected by this time next weekend.”

“Speaking of governments;” Sam said; “What’s the latest to come out of Syria?”

“Dozens more government murders in the Homs governorate.” Ludlowe replied. “The United Nations puts the total toll at more than three thousand throughout eight months. Moving on into the Indian subcontinent.” Kris continued. “Sixteen people died and more than thirty more were injured in a stampede.”

Sam and Kate sat straighter in their seats.

“A what?” Kate asked.

“A stampede?” Sam said.

Ludlowe nodded. “At a religious festival in the Uttarchand state.” She checked her notebook. “Namely an ashram at an ancient city in the Haridwar district, a hundred miles north of New Delhi.”

“That’s the third this year.” Kristine Davis said, entering behind Ludlowe.

“That’s right.” Sam remembered. “A similar stampede killed more than a hundred at an ashram at a tiger reserve in Pathanamthitta back in March, was it?”
“January.” Davis corrected. “Kripalu Maharaj was in March.”

“How many?” Sam asked.

“Sixty killed and injured.” Davis responded.

 

 

 

 

 

She was not surprised to be confronted at the bottom of the steps by her Chief of Staff and she saw Kris coming up behind him.

“We need to talk.” Ken said without preamble.

Kate nodded, gesturing with her head to the nearby elevator, indicating that they should speak elsewhere, away from the curious ears of the crowd.

Sam watched Kate step into the elevator with General Welsh and her college roommate. She waited until her mother was engaged in a discussion with Zoe Stark before leaving the table and stepping into another lift herself.

 

 

 

Not even bothering to open the door all the way, Katherine Janney slipped through into the hotel suite.

She leaned back against the door, closing it behind her.

Closing her eyes, she tilted her head back until the back of her head rested back against the door.

She let her mouth fall open. She inhaled a deep breath, letting it out with a sigh. She startled as she felt a soft pair of lips alight gently on hers.

Without opening her eyes, she opened her mouth further, her muscles relaxing. The other correctly interpreted and accepted her nonverbal invitation, pressing her lips more tightly against Kate’s, pushing Kate’s head back against the door.

Kate felt the long fingers of two delicate hands wrap themselves around her wrists. She felt the strong hands lifting her limp, relaxed arms above her head.

As the other pinned her hands back against the door above her head, Kate leaned her head forward, pressing her open mouth tighter against the others. As the other woman seemed to tower above her and had captured her mouth from above, this required her to stand on her tiptoes. As the other woman felt Kate surging away from the door forward her, she released Kate’s mouth, leaving Kate breathless. When her eyes fluttered open, she saw a face smiling down at her, framed by an angelic halo of golden hair and backlit by bright noonday desert sunlight.

Kate looked up at her through lowered eyelashes, her eyes glazed with passion. Her chest heaving as she panted breathlessly was made all the more prominent by the fact that her wrists remained pinned against the door above them.

Leaving Kate’s wrists pinned against the door with one long-fingered hand, Sam lowered her other hand to take Kate’s chin in her fingertips, tugging her face up to kiss her lips lightly again.

Sam smiled against Kate’s lips as Kate tugged her hands free from her grasp, raising her hands to Sam’s shoulders and pulling her closer as she deepened the kiss.

At the same time, Kate pushed away from the door, forcing Sam to take a step back.

Sam responded by reaching up to peel Kate’s already-unbuttoned suit jacket off of her shoulders.

Kate willingly assisted by lowering her arms so that Sam could slide the jacket’s sleeves off.

Lifting her hands again, she made quick work of the fastenings of Sam’s uniform jacket.

Kate’s breathing through her nose quickened, her lips devouring Sam’s ravenously as she felt Sam’s fingers unbuttoning her shirt, pulling it open as she went. Kate was not even aware of when their roles reversed, Sam walking Kate backward, until the edge of the bed impacted the back of her knees. Her knees buckled and she allowed herself to fall backward on top of the covers, Sam following her down on top of her.

Sam again pulled her mouth away from Kate’s as they fell, watching as Kate’s head touched the pillow. She smiled as she saw Kate’s eyes flutter closed as her head sank into the soft pillow.

The rush of passion as Sam kissed her had made Kate momentarily forget how exhausted she was by the morning’s activity. As soon as her head hit the pillow, however, all of that exhaustion came surging back into her mind and compelled her eyes to flutter closed.

Sam smiled as she watched Kate snuggle the side of her face deeper into the pillow, her heavy breathing slowing and steadying. She watched Kate’s chest rise and fall until she was sure Kate was asleep, before carefully climbing off of her and sliding off of the bed. She left the exhausted candidate laying on her back atop the covers of the bed.

Sliding open the glass door, she stepped onto the balcony, turning around and sliding the curtains closed behind her, plunging the room with the slumbering candidate into darkness.

 

Samantha Connor stood tall and upright at the railing of the hotel’s top-floor balcony.

The Serapeum Hotel was located on the southernmost corner of the Las Vegas Strip and the balcony faced to the Southwest.

Connor’s eyes had lost focus as she stared straight ahead, as though her gaze extended all the way into the mountains on the horizon dozens of miles away. She heard the curtains slide apart and the glass door to the balcony slide open. She felt two soft hands slide gently under the loose back of her uniform jacket.

The hands slid along the sides of her blouse and around to her front.

Kate did not say a word as she wrapped her arms around Sam from behind, but instead bent her face forward gently into Sam long golden hair.

As Kate’s chest cam to press against her shoulderblades, Sam felt it rise and fall as Kate inhaled a deep breath through her nose of the smell of Sam’s hair.

Her hands moved, as though of their own volition, over Sam’s midriff through the corseted thin silk blouse.

Sam reached out to grasp the railing as Kate pulled her back against her and laid her chin on Sam’s shoulder.

“Hmmm.” She murmured as she turned her head to the side to lay the side of her cheek on the chevrons on the padded shoulder of Sam’s uniform. “How long was I out?”

“A couple of hours.” Sam answered. She finally turned her head to the side to look at Kate out of the corner of her eye as Kate began nonchalantly unbuttoning her blouse. “Then we have some time to kill.” Kate nuzzled Sam’s hair aside to press her lips to the side of her neck above the high collar of the uniform.

Sam let her eyes fall closed as she tilted her head to the side, a smile growing across her lips. “Feeling better?”

“Mhm.” Kate murmured against Sam’s temple. “Being with you always makes me feel good.” Kate told Sam close into her ear, her voice husky.

Just as Kate finished unbuttoning her blouse, Sam turned around within her embrace, lest Kate pull open her blouse out on the hotel balcony, revealing Sam’s undergarments to any onlookers on the Vegas Strip below.

“In that case, we should get back to bed.” Sam said as she began backing Kate toward the open patio door.

Kate pulled her head back in surprised at Sam’s words, then darted forward to swipe the tip of her tongue along Sam’s lower lip. “Do I look sleepy to you?” She asked pointedly, using her tongue to pull Sam’s lip into her mouth and nipping at it playfully with her kittenish front teeth.

“Oh, Kitty!” Sam sighed, feigning exasperation. “Oh Kitty, Kitty, Kitty Kat” She tisked, clucking with her tongue to mask the sound of her fingers unfastening the clasp on Kate’s bra. “Whoever said sleeping was on the agenda?”

Kate smiled as Sam pulled the bra out from under her unbuttoned shirt just as they crossed the threshold into the room.

Sam closed the screen door behind her but did not pull the glass door closed along with it or draw closed the curtains, opting instead to lower the Venetian blinds.

Kate was so entranced with Sam’s golden hair that she almost didn’t notice Sam backing her toward the bed again. “Oh no you don’t!” Kate spun Sam around and pushed her back onto the bed. “Not this time!” She pounced on Sam’s prone body, straddling the other’s thighs with hers. “It’s my turn to be on top.”

 

 

Serapeum Suites Resort

Las Vegas, Nevada

 

Friday November 14, 2059

 

It would never cease to be a strange experience;’ Kate thought to herself; ‘Watching herself in the mirror pulling on her suit jacket in preparation for meeting with her Presidential campaign staff; all the while listening to the voices on pundits on the television in the other room rambling on and on about how she was manifestly lacking in any qualification for the office of the Presidency.’

Then, as she was applying mascara to her eyelashes, the pundits’ voices stopped abruptly when the television was switched off and when she reopened her eyes, the lights above the mirror glimmered off of the golden hair of the woman standing in the doorway behind her.

“You ready?” Sam said.

Kate waited until she had finished applying her lipstick before replying as she turned around, reaching down to straighten her suit jacket. “How do I look?” Kate asked.

Her girlfriend pushed off of the doorjamb and sashayed across the space separating them. “You’re gorgeous.” She said earnestly, reaching a hand to caress Kate’s face before kissing her just softly enough not to smudge the coloring. Then, pulling back but not breaking eye contact, she added as if hearing Kate’s thoughts: “Very Presidential.”

Her girlfriend smiled appreciatively. “Thanks.”

“Shall we?” Sam held out a hand, which Kate took and they turned together toward the doorway.

The two were still holding hands when the elevator doors opened onto the ground floor lobby. As the ornate double doors to the conference room opened, however, Sam released Kate’s hand, trailing her fingertips tenderly down her girlfriend’s wrist and across her palm as she did so. All those present stood as the Congresswoman entered and Kate nodded to those joining the conference from the campaign’s other headquarters.

“What’s the latest?” She said, waving everyone to his or her seats.

“Senator Slatterly seems to be securing his lead in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania;” Tent Stevens paused. “Everything south of New England.”

Janney nodded.

“Speaking of New England, however; “Stevens continued. “Manchester and Nashua had an unexpected guest recently from New Jersey.”

“Sedwicks is there?” Kate asked.

“He was.” Stevens said. “Several days.” He paused again, glancing around as though checking whom within earshot might overhear. “His operation here appeared to be…well…curiously well-financed, Ma’am.”

Kate heaved a heavy breath. She had been expecting this and exchanged acknowledging glances with Kristin Ludlowe. “You’re wondering whether I know where his New Hampshire money was coming from.” She sighed. There were nods around the conference room. “I do.” The silence in the room as well as from those on the screens, suddenly settled resoundingly like a thunder strike as her staffers exchanged meaningful, if confused, glances amongst one another. “My father is financing Sedwicks..” Kate admitted finally.

“With all due respect, Congresswoman, how in the hell could you possibly be so sure of such a thing?” This came from Gina Everett, the campaign’s Press Secretary.

Surprising everyone once again, however, Kate made no movement toward reprimanding Everett for her impertinent outburst.

“Because;” She responded coldly with a genuinely humorless half-grin; “He told me he would.”

Nothing was said for a few minutes, but it was Lacey Moss, joining in from the campaign’s recently relocated southeastern headquarters in Florida, who broke the silence.

“Speaking of Senator Sedwicks;” She said. “He’s here.”

This got her Kate’s full and undivided attention.

“Doing and saying what, exactly?” Kate asked.

“He started the day in Fort Lauderdale for a breakfast fundraiser.” Moss answered. “This afternoon, only moments ago, in fact, he finished making remarks at an event in Tampa Bay.” She turned to request and handed from off-screen a paper. “He called out the Stark Consolidated rebuilding projects in Miami on the basis of Anthony Stark’s track record of overseas war profiteering.”

Kate rolled her eyes. “Sounds like a fairly flimsy critique;” She interjected; “Considering Zoe and her father have quite publicly disowned and disavowed one another repeatedly.”

Moss nodded. “Then Sedwicks moved on;” She continued, reading the second page of the transcript; “Talking about tidal waves of migrants.” She corrected herself. “He warned against a tsunami of immigration.”

Kate startled everyone by sitting up bot upright in her chair. “Tsunami of immigration—He used those exact words?” She wondered, her voice suddenly tight.

Moss nodded. “Several times, yes.”

With their attention focused on the candidate, those present in the conference room watched as Kate’s face contorted into an expression of an emotion that few of them had seen before and even fewer of these could identify, but which none of them liked or ever wished to see again. If the flickers in Kate’s eyes were really the flames they appeared to resemble, the screen upon which Moss’s image appeared would have been instantly incinerated.

“Excuse me.” The Congresswoman shoved her char back and strode to the door. “I just need a minute.”

Then she was gone, leaving her staff staring baffled after her and at one another.

“What in the wide world was that all about?” Moss wondered.

Everett was one step ahead of her, already pulling up a search for the words “tsunami of immigration”. “According to this;” She read the article her search terms turned up; “It says here the phrase was popularized during the early 2030’s;” Everyone nodded; “Especially as an indictment of the perception of an open-borders policy from California Congressman Samuel Lowe;” Everyone present perked up at the mention of the world-famous former President; “By his opponent in the 2032 Presidential election, Republican Party nominee…Republican Senator from New Hampshire: Alexander Janney.”

Her boss Kristin Ludlowe was on her feet and to the door before she finished reading.

Ludlowe found her friend pacing the Serapeum’s atrium angrily.

When Ludlowe laid what she thought was a comforting hand on the candidate’s shoulder, the Congresswoman swatted it away and whirled around on her. The frighteningly cold fire burning out of control in Kate’s eyes frightened her friend into taking a step back.

“That bastard son of a bitch!” Kate snarled, a low growl from deep in her throat through tightly clenched teeth. “How could he do this to me?”

Seeing the frightened expression she elicited in her friend with her demeanor appeared to calm Kate’s rage, replaced with despairing disbelief.

“How could he hate his own daughter that much?” Kate looked prepared to dissolve into tears and this time when Ludlowe laid her hands on her shoulders, she did not resist, permitting herself to be gently tugged into a comforting hug. “As if it’s not enough to merely give Sedwicks money.” She sobbed through trembling breaths. “Now he’s given Sedwicks his Presidential campaign playbook.”

Kris let go from the hug but kept her hand on her friend’s shoulders.

Kate’s shoulders shrugged up and down as she heaved a heavy sigh, sniffing the tears back into her eyes and blinking them away. “My father is joining Sedwicks for America as an advisor.”

“Informally and unofficially, of course.” Kris amended and, to her relief, her friend actually laughed.

“Of course.”

Kris studied her friend’s eyes where the tears, short-lived though they may have been, had still smudged her makeup. “You sure you’re ready to go back in there?”

After heaving a breath and straightening her shoulders, Kate finally nodded.

“Just for future reference;” Kate said as they approached the ornate doors to the conference room; “If anyone ever asks, this is the instant I decided to kick Sedwicks’ ass.”

Kris smiled and followed her friend through.

 

 

Jerome Mack and Edward Thomas Center

University of California—Las Vegas

 

Saturday November 15, 2059

 

4:00 PM

 

It happened gradually, seemingly merely by attrition, and Katherine Janney did not notice that the ever-omnipresent circle of Secret Service agents surrounding her had dissipated as she approached the James Cox Broadcasting Communications Enterprises Pavilion until she was almost entirely alone. She was preoccupied looking down at the stack of papers handed to her by her campaign staffers, and as such she almost walked into the woman who stood unobsequiously in her path. Kate stopped dead in her tracks and looked up irritably. “Is there something I can do for you?” Her voice trailed off and lost its irascible tone as she saw Samantha’s familiar pearlescent eyes staring back at her. He girlfriend was not smiling, however, and so Kate’s sardonic expression returned. “What is it exactly you want?”

“I just want to make certain your mind is where it’s supposed to be.”

“My mind is in there.” Kate stated, gesturing toward the door to the Pavilion beyond her girlfriend’s shoulder.

“Is it though?” Sam asked, scrutinizing her girlfriend dubiously. “You do understand Sedwicks isn’t in there, right?”

“Is that what this is about?” Kate asked. Sam said nothing. “That’s what this is about!” Kate threw up her hands, rolling her eyes, throwing her head back to toss her hair behind her back.

“I just want to make certain that you aren’t placing the cart before the proverbial horse here.” Sam said and Kate stopped.

“What in the wide world is that supposed mean?” Kate whirled on her girlfriend.

Sam stared at her sternly. “You’ve not yet won the nomination. Katherine.”

Kate sputtered. “You don’t think I can win!” Her girlfriend didn’t flinch as Kate’s clenched fist jabbed forward toward her face. But Kate stopped short, settling for sticking her finger in her girlfriend’s face.

Sam absorbed the candidate’s abuse apace, her face betraying no reaction. The air around her, however, appeared to darken and Kate startled as all the Venetian shades around the room slammed shut simultaneously. A part of Kate’s startlement stemmed from the rarity with which her girlfriend ever utilized her superhuman powers, especially her telekinetic abilities. In the darkness, the only source of light appeared to emanate from Sam herself, her skin appearing to glow even through the sequins bejeweling her skirt suit. By far the brightest light appeared to originate from her eyes, which flashed as though igniting and thereafter burned with fire.

“Katherine Alexandra Janney.” Sam enunciated, seemingly appearing to grow taller, towering over her girlfriend, as the space seemed to grow noticeably chillier. “Never have I questioned your destiny to be the President of the United States of America, one who changes the world and the course of history for all time. I am not doubting you!”

The light emanating from her appeared to diffuse, brightening the whole room around them and she appeared to shrink back down to Kate’s level as the fire in her eyes died down. She reached out to take Kate’s hands in hers. “I’m trying to help you.”

Kate hung her head, sufficiently chastened. “I’ve known Joe for most of your life.” She tried, defensively.

“So you know him well enough to know not to discount or underestimate him.” Sam said. “And if you take the Party’s nomination for granted, that’s exactly what you’d be doing.”

Kate glanced up at her girlfriend’s eyes, to see them burning intensely still. “You’ll get your shot at Sedwicks.” Sam assured her. “And when you do, I’ll be there, behind and beside you.” She used their intertwined fingers to lift her girlfriend’s chin, kissing her gently. “Like I’m right here with you tonight.”

 

 

Serapeum Suites Resort

Las Vegas, Nevada

 

Saturday, November 21, 2059

 

‘Her time in Vegas must be having some effect on her.’ Katherine Janney thought to herself.

This was little more than a Campaign senior staff conference call, the second in as many days, but as she turned from side to side in front of the mirror, her conscious mind recognized for the fist time that the silver pinstripes of her skirt suit were actually comprised of sequins. It was by far the most bedazzled outfit she owned, given to her as a gag gift by her girlfriend years ago upon her election to Congress, ironically enough on yet another trip together to Las Vegas.

She pursed her lips, wondering what in her subconscious had compelled her to pick this particular outfit out of her closet, and in doing so noticed that the bright red lipstick she had applied, too, was of the glittery variety.

From puberty up until prior to running for office, she had hardly ever worn any cosmetic makeup whatsoever, and even nearly three years after it still seemed strange. As such, what makeup products she had were by an large left over from much younger years. This particular glittery lip color she could not remember wearing since she was an undergraduate in college in her early twenties. Indeed, as she combed her hair wit her girlfriend’s hairbrush, her eyes registered the fact that she appeared far younger.

She was surprised, stepping out of the elevator into the hotel lobby when her Secret Service detail did not escort her to the conference room, instead depositing her before the ornate, towering gold-embossed double doors to the hotel ballroom.

The double doors swung open of their own volition, and Kate stepped precautiously into the darkened ballroom beyond. The blackness as the doors swung shut at her back was only momentary. A glowing vision materialized out of the darkness. Whether it was the ivory white dress sweeping around her feet as she walked, or the halo of golden hair that fanned out around her face as though blown around her head by some unseen updraft, Samantha Connor had never appeared as much like a heavenly angel than she did in that moment.

Kate barely managed to open her mouth before Sam’s descended upon it, rendering the candidate not only breathless and speechless, but unable to think of the question she had heretofore intended to ask.

As she saw Kate returning to Earth from her breathtaking kiss, Connor raised her hand and across the ballroom, a candelabra ignited, illuminating an ornate table and pair of chairs, surrounded by bouquets of beautiful flowers. Between them was set a sumptuous gourmet meal.

Sam smiled as she led her still-dazed girlfriend across to the table.

“What’s all that about?” Kate asked belatedly, finally recalling the thought he girlfriend’s expert kiss had stolen from her.

“Our anniversary.” Kate knew her girlfriend’s indignation was at the very least exaggerated, if not altogether feigned. “Seven years together.”

“Thursday November 21, 2052.” Kate calculated. “Thanksgiving.”

“The first night we slept together as lovers.” He girlfriend confirmed, and Kate looked over the flames at her sympathetically, understanding what she meant: That she was discounting the five years Kate had spent under her, albeit unwitting, control.

Her girlfriend, however, raised her hand again, and somewhere off in the darkness of the ballroom, a band began playing.

“Dinner, delicious though it looks, will have to wait.” Kate stood as she recognized the Joshua Alexander and William Steinberg song from a decade before she had been born, which had become the couple’s theme song since they got back together than Thanksgiving in Portland. She stepped over and helped her girlfriend get to her feet.

In response, Sam used her hands grasping Kate’s to twirl Kate around with her arms above her head, lowering them again crossed over Kate’s hips as Sam held her from behind. Together, they turned their heads toward one another as they mouthed the words to the songs eponymous chorus refrain, Sam’s hair falling around their faces. When the chorus concluded, Kate closed the distance between their lips, kissing Sam even as she freed her hand to caress her fingers up her girlfriend’s bare arms as they encircled her sides. Then Kate laid her head back on Sam’s shoulder, closing her eyes and swaying her hips in slow circles backward against her girlfriend’s. So they stayed for the remainder of the song, Sam only occasionally planting soft kisses on the side of her girlfriend’s neck.

When the song ended, Kate rotated around in her girlfriend’s arms, draping her own over Sam’s shoulders. She locked her gaze onto her girlfriend’s glowing eyes for only a few minutes before closing her moth over Sam’s own with a kiss that left Sam as breathless and speechless as Sam’s had done to Kate. There was no mistaking that the glint to Kate’s eye as their lips parted promised much more to come, but nonetheless for the moment, Kate appeared to be content to lean her forehead against her girlfriend’s.

Sam’s hair again fell to ensconce their faces, and the candelabra’s flickering light through the golden veil made Kate’s face, freshly flushed from their kiss, without a question in Sam’s mind the most breathtakingly beautiful thing she had ever seen in her lifetime. Kate’s eyes were closed as she swayed with the music, but her girlfriend resisted the urge to join her, not wanting to miss a moment as she studied every millimeter of Kate’s features in the muted glow. “My goddess, you’re gorgeous.” She said at last, recalcitrant to break the silence but unable to hold the thought inside any longer.

Kate did not open her eyes, but nudged forward slightly to rub the tip of her nose against Sam’s. Then forward more, brushing her lips at Sam’s so lightly they could barely be said to have touched at all. Sam reciprocated in kind, barely lapping at Kate’s lips with hers, and the pair spent the remainder of the song softly pecking quick, though not-quite-chaste kisses at one other’s lips.

After the music ended and they returned at last to the table to eat, Kate looked across and startled Sam by bursting out laughing aloud. Reaching into her pocket and withdrawing a hand mirror, she handed it to her girlfriend so the other could share in the joke. One look at her own reflection told Sam what had her girlfriend in such hysterics. The flickering light from the candles glittered off of her lips, which were now covered in as much of Kate’s bedazzled lipstick as her own. After Sam joined Kate in her laughter, both managed to settle down to their meal.

 

 

‘It really was the small things.’ Katherine Janney thought to herself, glancing downward as she threaded her fingers even more intertwined with her girlfriend’s.

They were walking together down one of the many busy streets within the Serapeum Resort and many of the people they passed nodded respectfully to Sam, recognizing her by her golden hair and mother-of-pearl eyes as the daughter of the Resort’s proprietor.

Many of the same people smiled at Kate, at least some of them no doubt recognizing the Congresswoman and Presidential candidate from television. These smiles increased exponentially in broadness and brightness when, even as they walked, the Congresswoman lay her head on Sam’s shoulder. The guests were under agreements not discuss anything that happened to see over overhear within the Serapeum’s walls with anyone in the outside world. But still nevertheless, the ubiquitous universal acceptance she saw on their faces at seeing she and Sam strolling down the street as so obviously a couple gave Kate hope. If the rest of the country was this accepting of their relationship…

Her train of thought was derailed when, as though sensing somehow what she had been thinking, her girlfriend turned them both into an alcove between two shops—too shallow and narrow to be called an alley—using her hand wrapped around Kate’s to gather up her other hand as well in a sweeping motion and pinning Kate’s hands against the wall above their heads. Kate looked around at the crowded sidewalk worriedly, momentarily concerned that the dominatrix “Mistress Helena” facet of Sam’s personality were reasserting itself.

Even though she was anticipating it, Kate still inhaled deeply and sharply through her nostrils as Sam’s lips captured hers.

Her concerns about Sam’s dominatrix side being in control evaporated at the tenderness with which Sam’s mouth descended on hers and as she saw Kate’s eyes fall closed, her girlfriend released the Congresswoman’s hands, allowing her girlfriend to drape her arms over Sam’s shoulders.

Both women’s lips curved into smiles against one another as they overheard a smattering of applause and raucous cheers from the crowd that had assembled around them on the sidewalk. No longer nervous about Sam displaying her dominatrix “Mistress Helena” side in public, especially with a United States Congresswoman in front of potential voters, Katherine Janney gave herself over to her girlfriend’s tender kiss.

‘Yes;’ She thought to herself, feeling her girlfriend’s fingers in her hair; ‘This was what she wanted.’

It really was the little things. Nothing elaborate. Just the hand of the woman she loved in hers as the walked down the street; the lips of the woman she loved on hers as they kiss in an alleyway or a shop doorway.

She wanted this, each and every day: Just the little things.

She knew well it would more than probably never happen, but in that moment, even surrounded as the two of them were by strangers, she wanted Sam to spontaneously drop to one knee and ask her to marry her. Kate had thought about doing it herself often enough.

But here within the Serapeum Resort, finally having what she had always wanted: getting to hold her girlfriend’s hand, to have her girlfriend kiss her passionately in public in full view of goddess only knew how many complete strangers, Katherine Janney was as certain as she had ever been before that Samantha Wells was the woman she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.

Kate locked eyes with Sam.

They nodded in unison and together they turned toward the assembled crowd.

“You have no idea how much of a pleasure it is to finally be able to shake your hand in person, Doctor.” The woman in front effused, grasping both of Kate’s hands in both of her and pumping them up and down enthusiastically. Her pre-adolescent daughter beside her seemed equally excited, but noticeably more timid in briefly shaking Kate’s hand.

The man standing beside the woman, apparently her husband, however, looked on thoroughly lost.

“I’m Congresswoman Katherine Janney;” Kate introduced herself, extending her hand again in his direction; “Oregon First.”

The man shook her extended hand, casting a glance at his wife. His son beside him, however, was looking at the other woman.

“And it’s my pleasure to introduce you to my girlfriend.” Kate added, wrapping her arm around Sam’s waist.

“Colonel Samantha Connor ;” Sam introduced herself, taking the hand of the boy who had been staring at her; “United States air Force.”

The boy’s father was evidently a military man himself and stood straighter, his gaze reassessing the blonde woman.

His wife was beaming. “Oh aren’t you an adorable couple!”

The introductions were repeated as the candidate moved through the crowd.

Kate was in the process of signing a copy of the Nineteenth Amendment for a woman pushing an infant in a stroller who said she planned to give it to her daughter when she grew up, when she saw Sam press a finger to the earpiece she wore under her hair.

A grin grew across Sam’s face as she turned to girlfriend.

“What’s up?” Kate asked.

“You’ll never believe who just walked in the Serapeum’s front door.” Sam said smiling.

 

Intrigued by how close Sam was playing the identity of the new visitor to her chest, Kate followed her girlfriend back the way they had come until they approached the hotel’s lobby.

Kate slowed as she saw the woman standing looking around in the Serapeum’s atrium and stopped dead wen the woman’s face turned to face toward her.

The face was one she had not seen in more than a dozen years. The woman’s silken hair and dark eyes, however, were unforgettable.

Katherine Janney found it remarkable just how amazingly similar Margaret Lowe looked at forty as she had at eighteen when they had first met.

The smile that lit up Margaret’s face at seeing Kate standing at the hallway off the lobby was also one Kate could not have easily forgotten even has she ever wanted to.

Margaret rushed forward to embrace her warmly momentarily before remembering to check her surroundings for possible cameras and as a precaution retreat into a comradely handshake.

“It’s been a long time, Peggy.” Kate managed falteringly, Margaret’s arms around her bringing back overwhelming memories.

“Long enough.” Peggy grinned, sweeping her hair out of her face and straightening her skirt suit as she glanced around at the Congresswoman’s assembling entourage of staffers. “Sort of feel like I’m stepping onto enemy territory, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah.” Kate took her by the arm. “We need to talk.”

 

“I really am very happy you and Sam managed to reconcile, Kathie.”

Kate reached across to lay a hand on Sam’s thigh, her foot rubbing up and down her girlfriend’s leg. “The credit goes entirely to her.” She said, smiling as Sam met her eyes. “She’s the one who showed up one day on my doorstep in Portland.”

“Holding signs or a stereo?” Peggy laughed, referencing the clichés from the late Twentieth and early 21st Century romantic comedies.

“Actually, I showed up at your office first.” Kate’s girlfriend clarified.

Kate nodded. “That’s true.” She smiled. “She made an appointment with my Secretary.”

“Candy was a cheap date.” Sam shrugged, smiling at the playful kick the commentary earned her from Kate.

“Oh, how romantic?” Peggy quipped.

“I did bring you lunch.” Sam said.

“The next day.” Kate amended.

 

Though she looked to be working in the other room, Kristin Ludlowe kept one ear and one eye on the friendly banter through the open doorway. Out of the corner of her eye she watched Margaret Lowe play nonchalantly with Kate’s hair between her fingers, her face hovering inches away from Kate’s own.

She had been suspicious the instant Lowe had walked into the hotel, knowing the woman had months before gone to work for her cousin, California Congressman Robert Seabourne. Her worry had been the same as that of the rest of Kate’s staff: That Lowe was there to gain inside intelligence on the Janney campaign; what was called in the politics business “Opposition Research”.

Now, however, she felt she was finally beginning to at last see the real reason for Lowe’s visit. The two women bantered like the oldest of friends, in spite of not having seen one another in more than a dozen years. However, the way Lowe looked at Kate was Ludlowe’s first clue; the second being the expression that flashed across her features whenever Kate and Sam looked at each other.

Kristin Ludlowe had felt the emotion toward Katherine Janney often enough to recognize its expression on sight..

The expression was one of jealousy; not for Kate, but for Sam. Combined with the longing look in Lowe’s eyes as she gazed at Kate’s face, which she kept her own face as close to as she safely inconspicuously could, there could be no doubt in Kristin Ludlowe’s mind.

Margaret Lowe was in love with Katherine Janney.

The two had not seen one another since Kate’s graduation from Lewis and Clark and her move to Harvard thirteen years ago, so Margaret’s feelings for her must have been old. But if Sam showed Ludlowe anything, it was that Katherine Janney wasn’t extraordinarily difficult woman to ever completely get over. Like Sam, Margaret Lowe evidently never had. The crestfallen expression that flashed across Lowe’s features whenever Kate and Sam’s eyes met was an unwilling and no doubt utter gut-wrenching acknowledgement of the fact that Kate did not reciprocate these feelings in return. What made Ludlowe watch Lowe closer, however, was that there was something in Lowe’s features that indicated quite clearly that at one point sometime in the past, she had.

Kate loved Margaret Lowe, or “Peggy”, like she loved all of her friends.

But there was almost unmistakable added element to Margaret’s heartbroken expression that said at some point in time their relationship had been something more—had meant something more.

 

 

 

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The Campaign Part V: Move Along Home

•March 9, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Manchester, New Hampshire

 

Saturday October 11, 2059

 

7:35 PM

 

“This is only temporary.” Kenneth Welsh said. “Just for the next couple of days.” He was speaking to the Congresswoman beside him, but his words were primarily directed towards her daughter at her side. The teenager looked despondent as the campaign staff checked in at the Homewood Hilton, a hotel less than a mile away from Manchester Airport.

Julia had been that way since the Democratic Republican National Committee’s relocating and rescheduling of its Party’s Presidential Primary debate at from the District of Columbia to Dartmouth College and from Monday October 13th to Sunday the 12th had forced the teenager to leave the speculative fiction novel convention “Motor City Comic-Con” a day early before the three day event ended.

“After Monday;” Ken explained; “Since we’ll be staying here in New Hampshire for the next couple of weeks, we’ve arranged more permanent accommodations for you out in Portsmouth.”

This news had the desired effect of perking up the sullen teenager, and the girl’s mother nodded appreciatively. “Thank you Ken. You’ve done a masterful job in so little time.” The campaign had last been in New Hampshire for the last Dartmouth debate less than three weeks earlier in September. Their stay this time extended more than two weeks until they left for Las Vegas on October 27th.

“You go upstairs and watch TV.” Kate handed her daughter off to the girl’s Secret Service bodyguard, Ellis Fox. “Just don’t forget our one rule.”

“I know. I know.” Julia waved back. “No News.”

At the request of her Press Secretary Gina Everett, the candidate had imposed a moratorium on both her daughter’s watching either the nightly evening news or late night talk shows and her activity on social networking media websites. Since the Congresswoman’s joint press conference with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom before a Joint session of the British Parliament, in which she had expressed her strongly held belief in secularism as the fundamental foundational principal of society in the western industrialized world, Kate had wanted to keep her daughter isolated from any undue outside influences in terms of unfiltered information input from unverifiable, un-vetted sources.

“Speaking of news.” Kristin Ludlowe told her, coming up from behind her. “In light of your calling off your scheduled trip to Berlin, there is someone who would like to speak with you in the conference room.” Curious, Kate followed her friend through the doors of the Homewood’s meeting room, immediately recognizing the image on the videoconferencing screen. “Good evening, Stazia.”

“Dobroye utro, Ekatya.” Nastassia Krusztcheckova greeted Kate, reminding her friend that it was five o’clock the next morning in the Russian capitol of Moscow. Nevertheless, Nastassia appeared as if she could have easily come from a formal ball in a leather halter-strapped brocade fabric bustier textured with a lace overlay. “Kak Zoya delayet?” Nastassia asked.

“Lady Stark is doing very well.” Kate answered, not having thought about the fact that, with Zoe recently having taken over management of the finances of her campaign’s Political Action Committee, Stazia would not have seen or perhaps even heard anything from her wife in weeks. “We are very fortunate to have her on board, thank you.”

Krusztcheckova nodded. “Would you tell her to give me call the next time you talk to her?”

“Of course.”

“Well then;” Nastassia said; “With the pleasantries dispensed with, moving on to business.”

Kate could not help but grin, thinking to herself what her campaign’s new National Security advisor, Chlaire Daniels, would without doubt have to say about a junior Oregon Congresswoman conducting business with the Russians without prior approval from official diplomatic channels.

“I must say, Ekatya;” Krusztcheckova told her; “That was quite the little political bombshell you dropped in London last Sunday.”

“Do you disagree?”

“Not entirely, on any intellectual level, at least.” The Russian Federation’s President responded diplomatically. Then she smiled across the thousands of miles at her old friend. “Albeit, it is admittedly difficult to un-hypocritically publicly support secularism when your official Presidential residence here in the Kremlin includes a church.” Her grin broadened. “Nine of them, to be precise.”

“Kak eto proishkodit v Kremle?” Kate asked in fluent Russian and Nastassia smiled.

“High of sixteen degrees here.” Krusztcheckova replied, knowing well the Congresswoman could convert Celsius to American Fahrenheit in her head, which she did, impressed that Moscow would be a balmy sixty degrees in October, a temperature the same as the October average of San Francisco.

“Brittany informed me the two of you had a pleasant and productive meeting at the G20 in Rome last month.” Janney said conversationally.

“Oh yes.” Krusztcheckova responded. “Prime Minister Nelson is a delightful conversationalist. She speaks frequently very highly of you, Ekatya.” Kate felt her face flush. “And Prime Minister Ventrinsca was such an enthusiastic host.” She smiled. “I even got to meet his beautiful young goddaughter, Cariana.” Stazia’s eyes searched the room around Kate. “The girl could not stop gushing about her… What would your American word for it be? “Pen Pal” in the States;” Her eyes returned to Kate; “A certain High school freshman in Washington named Julia?”

Kate was startled to hear her daughter’s name mentioned in connection with the First Daughter of Italy. She had not been aware that Julia had been corresponding, presumably while in school, with anyone overseas. She would need to talk to her daughter about that.

“Apparently;” Stazia was saying, making no attempt at not appearing to enjoy her older friend’s confusion; “Julia has been equally…effusive…with Cariana about a boy she thinks she might be developing a…how you might put it…crush on at her new school.”

“Did she give her pen pal this boy’s name, by any chance?” Kate asked as nonchalantly as she could, clearing her throat.

Stazia shook her head. “Sorry, Ekatya.” She said. “Cariana probably wouldn’t tell if she did.” She amended and Kate nodded in agreement, only somewhat comforted.

“Speaking of our loved ones, as we were.” Krusztcheckova continued. “I happened to catch a certain…what Americans call a “Town Hall” at La Jolla, San Diego in California.” She chuckled. “Oh, my dear sweet Ekatya;” She said affectionately; “I wonder sometime whether or not you even know how to step anywhere without making a splash.” She sighed. “This… What did you call it again? “Civis Americanus” doctrine for the use of military force;” She gave Kate an empathetic expression; “I for one foresee extraordinary difficulties getting such a thing agreed to by your Congress.” Kate could not honestly disagree with her there.

“However;” Her foreign friend hedged; “It does seem to me to be the kind of thing an American President would need her friends around the globe to help her with.” She smiled. “This was another topic of discussion with Prime Minister Nelson in Rome.”
“Oh?” Kate inquired curiously. “And?”
“If inaugurated in 2061, you will swear an oath to “preserve, protect and defend” America “against all enemies foreign and domestic”.” Krusztcheckova quoted and Kate nodded. “Using your American Department of Defense to defend Americans is indeed a noble goal.” She stood straighter, thrusting out her leather-clad chest. “If there is anything we can do to help you fulfill your oath of office, you need only let us know.”

“Thank you, Stazia.” Kate answered gratefully. Then she winked. “Once I get myself settled into the Oval Office, I’ll give you a call.” The Russian President nodded, smiling as her image faded from the screen.

 

After checking in to see to it Julia was situated in their Suite, Kate asked to be taken to the Janney for America Presidential campaign’s New Hampshire headquarters on Hanover Street.

The change from the last time the candidate had visited was obvious as soon as they stepped through the door. The first time she had seen it, the Manchester renovated theater had been being manned by only dozen or so young volunteers, mostly recent college graduates in their early twenties. Today, however, the interior looked for all the world like that of a beehive, with dozens if not hundreds of experienced paid professional political operatives in suits and ties, of all ages, skin colors and genders, in constant motion up and down stairs and around desks and tables. Seemingly ever inch of the interior was covered by chalkboards, corkboards, whiteboards and touch screens, all covered and filled with pages worth of algorithms, charts, graphs, numbers and text.

Her respect for her Congressional Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager Kenneth Welsh’s organizational capabilities grew by the minute as he gave her an in-depth tour of their world-class outreach operation, complete with call centers, some even with videoconferencing, as well as an entire online multimedia social networking team of twenty-something tech-savvy computer code programmers from Harvard and MIT. Ken mentioned that their headquarters in Hollywood employed a similar staff of tech experts from Caltech and Silicon Valley.

“Welcome home, Doctor Janney.” Trent Stevens greeted her.

“This was all him.” Ken said, gesturing to the multimedia bullpen around them.

“Well done, Princeton.”

 

 

“And I am pleasantly surprised and honored to see my old friend Nastassia Krusztcheckova, President of Russia, here with us.” Nastassia, too, stood to curtsy in acknowledgment of cheers from the crowd. “Since the tragic assassination of her father, former President Krusztchekov, seven years ago, President Krusztcheckova has worked tirelessly to reform Russia’s antiquated hereditary monarchy into something that more closely mirrors our Constitutional democracy.” She quieted the applause by holding up her hand. “as a sociologist by training and a member of Congress representing the best interests of my home, Oregon’s great First Congressional District, I can attest that the task of getting those who owe their positions of power to the entrenched sociopolitical system that be can be nothing short of Sisyphean.” She smiled at the reference to the Ancient Greek myth of the old man who attempted to cheat death and so was condemned by the god of the underworld to ceaselessly push a megalithic boulder up a step mountain over and over again and again for the rest of eternity. “President Krusztcheckova’s persistence in the face of such entrenched opposition and the success that she has had in healing a corrupt and unrepresentative government in her home country that she loves she be a role model for all of us who have been fortunate enough to be blessed with the honor of being entrusted with the responsibility of governing our nation and representing out friends, family and neighbors.” She looked meaningfully at Majority Leader Kickland and the Illinois Senator nodded in agreement with everything she had said. “No candidate can foresee what the world will look like during their term in office.” She said solemnly, looking around at her assembled supporters. “I don’t presume to know how the world will change even a year from now after I am elected.” She again waved away the smattering of applause. “But I can promise you this one thing today.” She looked at her staff intently. “Just as I have done in the House of Representatives for three years, I will not let a day go by while I am in the oval office in which I will not hold President Krusztcheckova’s example up as a model in every decision I make.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the blood drain from the faces of both her Communications Director and her Chief of Staff. Historically, American politicians modeling themselves after Russian leaders had not gone over well with the American public.

 

 

 

New Boston, New Hampshire

 

Tuesday October 14, 2059

 

Kristin Ludlow Watched her friends face carefully as the car wound and wove its way deeper up the back roads of rural central New Hampshire.

The Congresswoman’s expression remained unchanged even as the car crossed the security perimeter and was permitted entrance onto the Janney family estate.

They drew to a stop in front of a towering two-story Tudor-style townhouse perched atop the pinnacle of a high hill, which overlooked a gorgeous, sweeping expansive vista of the pristine, densely forested Appalachian valley stretching to the distant horizon in every direction. The estate’s owner was waiting for them, leaning on the railing of the ranch mansion’s front porch, having evidently been alerted to their arrival by the guard at the gatehouse.

Ludlowe had never actually met Senator Alexander Janney of New Hampshire face to face.

He had been retired from Congress for half a dozen years, yet he still insisted on dressing in a long-sleeved button-down shirt and tailor-fitted coat. His sole evident concession to the recent transition to the estate lifestyle of an elderly, rich ranching retiree were the brownish off-white tint to his shirt, tucked into khaki jeans with a leather belt and the woody brown color of his coat. “Welcome home, Katie.” A resoundingly deep baritone one would not ordinarily associate with a man in his mid-eighties greeted the Congresswoman.

Kris kept her close eye on the candidate, knowing how much her friend despised the nickname and anticipating Kate to bristle with hostility, especially considering her friend’s decades of resentment for her father. She was somewhat shocked to notice no such recoil, her young friend seeming even to welcome her elderly father’s warm embrace.

“How’s my favorite daughter?”

Katherine Janney internally bristled at the reminder of the years of preferential treatment she had received from the Senator over and above her two older sisters. She also strongly suspected the Senator’s question had been a rhetorical one and that there more than probably remained precious little about how the Congresswoman’s closely followed career was proceeding her elderly father did not know.

So she said nothing as they stepped inside the townhouse’s front door. The overtly courteous pleasantries continued as her took them inside and took their drink orders.

Kate almost heard her father grumble something inaudible when he heard his daughter request tea.

Ludlowe made certain to overcompensate by asking for a beer.

As her grinning father cheerfully handed Ludlowe the bottle, the candidate mad the requisite introductions.

“College roommate, eh?” The Senator said. “Wherefrom, I wonder?”

Even as Ludlowe opened her mouth to answer, the Senator held up a hand.

“Wait, let me guess.” He studied her. “I’m going to guess Missouri.”

“Close.” Kris said smiling. “East Saint Louis, Illinois.”

The Senator sat back, apparently satisfactorily placated and Kris cast Kate a glance over the rim of her beer bottle as she took a sip. The message was sardonic.
‘Oh yeah.’ Her expression seemed to say. ‘He’s a real nightmare this one.’

“So;” The Senator said, turning to his daughter; “How goes the family business?”

Kate said nothing, sipping her tea and eyeing Kris with a snide expression: ‘Just wait for it.’ She knew, or could guess what was to come next.

“Last I saw;” He father was saying; “You were standing for “wedding” pictures;” He exaggerated the air quotes around the word “wedding”; “With the dyke daughter of that red commie son of a bitch Krusztcheckov.”

Kate could only hide her smile with a sip from her teacup as she saw Ludlowe’s eyes go wide and her face pale at her father’s casual use of derogatory slurs for both lesbians and Russians. “Her wife’s been very helpful to my campaign.” She said, careful to keep her tone of voice from sounding defensive.

“Oh I saw.” Her father said. “Talk about turning your back on your family’s legacy. First she “marries” another lesbian: a pinko red Russian no less. Then she says she’s set to stop selling weapons. Where does she think her inheritance came from? Hippies singing Kum ba ya and pothead drum circles?”

Kate was careful to keep her expression emotionless, smiling inside: The Senator had not changed since the day her mother divorced him.

 

Kristin Ludlowe watched out the wide sweeping windows of the townhouse.

From the way that Kate had hurriedly finished her tea, her friend could tell the candidate was in increasingly desperate need of blowing off some steam following the conversation with the Senator and now Ludlowe knew how the Congresswoman would go about doing so.

The horse was mostly ivory white, with a patch of auburn blonde like a saddle across its flanks that matched its mane. Its rider hunkered low, her face almost obscured by the animals’ trailing mane as her own copper-colored red-gold hair likewise trailed behind her.

The Congresswoman’s unbuttoned double-breasted coat flapped behind her like a cape as she flew over the rolling hills overlooked by the windows where Ludlowe now stood.

Kris knew Kate was an accomplished and avid swimmer, yet somehow had never quite envisioned her younger friend as the experienced and expert equestrian she presently proved to be.

The field behind the ranch mansion was a rollercoaster of rolling hillocks dotted with loose patches of obviously old, wide, towering trees, their lowermost branches trimmed up to a height of twenty feet or so. These Kate maneuvered her mount around and between as if it were an obstacle course in basic training, a feat made all that much more impressive given the fact that she rode without reigns or saddle. The nudges of her heels against the horse’s flanks that prompted it to turn were very nearly imperceptible from a distance and she appeared to be able to moderate her mount’s velocity by means of likewise imperceptible pats and rubs of her hands on the horse’s neck. Perfectly balanced even through razor-sharp turns and over bouncing terrain, Kate made little to no apparent attempt at taking any hold of the horse’s hair as many rider without the use of reigns may have habitually done.

Ludlowe had been stunned and appalled by the elderly Janney’s derisive and derogatory references to the Congresswoman’s closest friends and she stiffened visibly at the windows as she saw the Senator approaching the fence at the edge of the field.

Evidently seeing the same, the Senator’s daughter effortlessly brought the horse to a relaxed trot and maneuvered her mount up to the fence line to greet her elderly father.

Katherine could tell that there was something bothering her father from the urgency of his ordinarily relaxed stride.

As she slid smoothly off of the horse to her feet on the ground, she fixed him with a look that sent that very message.

‘Was there something you wanted to ask me, father?’ Her eyes said, even without her having to speak the words aloud.

“Why are you really here, Katherine?” Alexander demanded.

Janney nodded and Ludlowe sow her look up to the windows where she was standing.

Even from a distance, Kris noticed both her eyes and her head move to the side. Once more, the unspoken signal was clear: Get the car started. Even as she watched, Ludlowe nodded understandingly and move away from the windows in the direction of the door to the townhouse; Kate led her horse back to its stable.

“I wanted to tell you;” She said, feeding the animal and refilling its water trough; “That I’m in love.”

The Senator stopped dead in the doorway to the barn, staring at Katherine, an unreadable jumble of emotional expressions contesting for ultimate supremacy across his features. “That’s… Fantastic!” He said finally, his voice somewhat hoarse, his throat dry. But he quickly cleared it, tightening his shoulders, his bearing straightening. “And when can I be expecting another grandchild?”

Kate fought not to roll her eyes as even when receiving good tidings, the conservative, old-fashioned traditionalist Senator could apparently hardly avoid taking a cheap jab at another comparison of Katherine against her two older sisters, both of whom had been married with children at least a decade ago.

Instead, summoning every ounce of diplomacy her few-year-long political career as a Congresswoman could muster, Katherine heaved a heavy breath.

“About that, father…” She trailed off even as she turned to him, every ounce of the old intimidation against ever upsetting him she had so often felt as a young child growing up on this very ranch suddenly coming flooding back into her conscious mind.

“Well;” Her father prompted; “Who’s the luckiest man alive on Earth? What’s his name?”

Katherine swallowed hard. “Her name is Samantha.” She said slowly, yet all at once.

Her father had been shoveling fresh hay into the horse’s stable with a pitchfork, but now almost dropped it on his own toes.

She saw his fingers first loosen around the handle before tightening again, as though throttling the pitchfork.

In spite of this, she kept her eyes on his, her steady gaze never wavering.

“I’m in love with a woman named Samantha, father.” She said, impressing even herself with the steadiness of her voice as she met his eyes with hers unflinchingly. “And she loves me—” Her words were interrupted as her father drove the pitchfork forcefully into the hard-packed Earth, risking startling the horse behind his back as much as it did his daughter.

His expression, however, had hardened into a mask that barely resembled that of a human man.

The hostility and anger, outright rage, that radiated from the fire burning from his glare forced Katherine to involuntarily take a step backward toward the barn door behind her.

“Get out!” Her father growled, the animalistic, predatory sound further spooking the horse, which likewise took several long steps back away from him. The Senator appeared to grow larger, looming like a thundercloud in the shadows of the stable. “Get off my property, dyke bitch!”

The demand need not be repeated twice as Kate had already turned around and was making a mad dash toward the waiting car.

She jumped in the open door, slamming it behind her, her father’s final parting words still ringing in her ears and in her mind.

“Tell Nate to expect sizeable donation.”

Kris had heard this last threat too and sat stunned that the Senator had just promised his support to the opposition party. Kris could see her friend trembling visibly from her lips to her legs.

Then as the car careened around the corner, bypassing the estate’s gatehouse, it was as if a dam had broken on a monsoon-swelled rive and, with an inhuman outcry of ultimate anguish, Congresswoman Katherine Janney collapsed, crumbling to the floor of the limousine in an uncontrollable fit of body-rocking sobs.

 

 

Franconia Notch State Park

Franconia Notch Parkway, Franconia, New Hampshire

 

Friday October 24, 2059

 

The cold of the frost on the glass against her cheek was all that stood between Kate and the warm embrace of a dreamless sleep, as she felt her eyelids growing weighty as she stared only half-seeing out the bus window. Over the top branches of the barren trees that marched past along the roadside ditch, the rolling hills were a uniform white until they faded into wavering mirages in the far distance. It was easy to discern that the area of Northern New Hampshire through which they were traveling had decades ago been agricultural land, as the snow-coated fields were subdivided into uniformly-sized sections by unnaturally-straight lines of coniferous evergreens.

“Doctor Janney.”

As she jerked her face away from the window, she remembered that people had been speaking to her. The voice belonged to a blonde woman in her early thirties with bright algae-green eyes.

“I’m sorry, Lacey.” She murmured, having recalled the name of the recent college graduate, a new addition to the campaign originally from Southern California. She smiled. “I’m tired. I apologize, everyone.” She looked around at the other staffers gathered in the cabin of the modified tour bus. “What’s our next stop?”

Another recent addition, this one a coiffed young fraternity legacy from Princeton, leaped at the open question.

“Berlin.” He piped up. “Berlin, New Hampshire.”

Kate sat back, nodding. “Is that so?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” The Princeton man, whose name she remembered was Stevens, seemed to recognize the seeming randomness of his enthusiasm, and so apparently resolved to speak more solemnly.

“That’s interesting;” She looked at her best friend and speechwriter; “Isn’t it?”

“It’s a small world.” Kristin Ludlowe said, nodding.

Kate saw her friend do her best to repress a smile as they both looked around at the other staffers, who were all in the process of glancing around at one another in obvious confusion.

Kris raised an eyebrow at her friend, indicating that it was she who would be the one to explain.

Kate nodded and cleared her throat. “Berlin is where my oldest sister was born.”

“I though you were from Manchester?” The young woman Kris had made her deputy, named Kristine Davis, piped up.

Kate smiled at the cute petite young strawberry blonde. “I was. But seven years earlier, when Maryline was born, my parents were living in Berlin.”

“So why is us going to Berlin so interesting?” Lacey asked.

“I presume you’ve all met Julia by now?” Everyone nodded. “My sister who was born in Berlin? She is Julia’s mother.” Some of the older staffers nodded understandingly, but the new additions seemed even more confused than before. Kate sighed. “For those of you who don’t already know, Julia is not my daughter. She’s my niece.”

“Does Julia know about Berlin?” Kris asked, seeming eager to move the others off the family history lesson and onto campaign matters.

Kate shrugged. “I’m not sure she even remembers what her mother’s face even looks like anymore, after all these years;” She glanced out the door in the direction of the girl’s cabin; “Much less where Marie was born.”

Ludlowe noted that Kate had used the French name her older sister had assumed upon moving with her husband to Europe.

Janney straightened, clearing her throat as she turned back to her staff. “Was there anything you guys wanted to tell me about before I go on at Berlin?”

Lacey and Stevens looked at one another. Davis shook her head.

“Any notes?” Kate prompted again. She smiled as she saw the woman Kris had hired to be her Press Secretary raises her hand, thinking that if everyone did the same these meetings could easily become like the classroom lectures she had attended at Harvard.

However, not wanting to actively discourage such courtesies, Janney nodded in the woman’s direction: “Yes, Gina?”

“Your chief rival for this state in the primary will be Senator Thomas Slatterly of New York.” From the way she was glancing down at the papers on her lap, it was clear she was reading polling results.

“Matheson and Seabourne?” Moss asked.

“As you predicted, Congresswoman;” She addressed Janney directly; “The senior Senator from Virginia has made it clear that he’s concentrating primarily on a Southern strategy.”

“Beginning in South Carolina before moving onto Georgia, and then Florida for Super Tuesday.” Lacey added.

Janney held up her hands. “Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The last time I checked, it was still September. What about Rob?”

Kris saw Gina inwardly bristle at the young Oregon Congresswoman referring to her older California colleague by his first name, something Ludlowe herself had impressed upon her friend not to do when speaking in public during the campaign.

It was known that the two had been early fast friends in the House of Representatives, and Kris was one of the few close enough to Kate to know that young Julia harbored a schoolgirl crush on Seabourne’s son Ryan, and she knew that the contention of their rivalry in the Primary campaign made her friend uncomfortable.

“Congressman Seabourne is in Washington.” Gin answered. “The data streams have him working to secure FEMA relief funds for this summer’s Colorado wildfires.”

Janney nodded.

Like herself, in representing California Seabourne was himself a transplant, and continued to harbor a great deal of affection and compassion for his home state.

“You said you had notes?” Kate asked Gina, who nodded.

“As we get closer to Nashua, I believe you should talk more about your relationship with President Whitford.”

“As opposed to?” Kris prompted.

Gina sighed. “You have talked a lot about you opposition to the Conservatives.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Lacey asked.

“Frankly, ma’am, I’ve become concerned about cognitive dissonance.”

“I beg your pardon?” Kate was now glaring hard at the newcomer, as though she could anticipate what was to come next.

“With all due respect, your father is widely credited as having been among the founders of the Conservative Party, ma’am.”

“He was never a member.” Kris said, giving her friend a calming look.

“Speaking professionally, as your Press Secretary, I don’t want to have to ask the voters of this state to try and make that kind of find distinction during an election year.” She glanced at the Congresswoman’s campaign speechwriter. “Do you?”

Kate sat back with a sigh. “What would you have me do?”

Gina smiled only very briefly at being given this opportunity to have her voice heard by the candidate. “The common wisdom within the mainstream beltway press media is that Senator Matheson has the DRNC nomination sewn up in the bag because he is President Whitford’s chosen successor.”

“John can’t stand the guy.” Kate said. She expected another admonishment for referring to the incumbent President by his first name, but instead Gina smiled.

“And that is precisely my point, Doctor.” She said, excitedly gesturing.

Everyone, including Kate, looked at her expectantly.

“Whitford is the most popular President the nation has had in a quarter of a century, since President Lowe back during the Second Cold War in the thirties;” The others, with glances at their polling results, nodded in agreement; “And you, Congresswoman, have a personal relationship with him.”

Janney shrugged noncommittally. “Joe introduced me to him five years ago.”

Gina bit her tongue to keep from reprimanding her for calling the sitting Majority Leader and President Pro Tempore of the Senate by a nickname, but Kristin grinned at her, reminding the Press Secretary of the fact that having a candidate who had been such close friends with the senior Senator from Illinois for so much of her life actually served to reinforce the point that she was making. “But you’re friends. Am I right?”

Kate shrugged again. “I suppose. Certainly more so than any of the other candidates.”

Ludlowe knew this was only due to the fact that Senator Kickland, the President Pro Tempore, had made the decision not to run for the Presidency this year.

“Precisely.” Gina said. “That is what you should emphasize.”

“Aren’t Presidential campaigns supposed to be all about change?” Stevens asked.

“The question is;” Moss countered, her lime green eyes brightening; “Would you actually change everything, Doctor?”

Janney thought about the question for several long minutes before shaking her head tentatively with a slow shrug of her shoulders. “Not much, to be perfectly honest.”

“So for all practical intents and purposes;” Kristin said, evidently thinking out loud; “A Katherine Janney Presidency would effectively be an…expansion on the Whitford Administration.”

Gina pointed to her. “And that’s our point.” She said.

The others still looked doubtful.

“You’re in a unique position, Congresswoman.” Gina told Kate. “Very nearly every candidate in a hundred years has had to promise the voters change, because more of the same was something to be avoided at all costs.

Kristin nodded, knowing that the change message dated back at least to the election of America’s first African-American President late in the first decade of the 21st century.

“But you, Doctor.” Gina was saying. “Your educational credentials give you credibility when you tell people you genuinely understand President Whitford’s policies;” Kristin nodded as Kate smiled at the reference to the decade she had spent in college; “And, even understanding them as you do, you can still honestly say that you genuinely agree with them.”

Janney was interested to see where her Press Secretary might be going with this.

“You, Congresswoman, uniquely among all the candidates that came before you, don’t need to flee from the “more of the same” message;” She glanced at the candidate’s speechwriter; “Because you can articulate and explain just exactly why it is that you wouldn’t change anything.”

“If it’s not broken, let’s not try to fix it.” Stevens summarized.

“Exactly.” Gina said. “We should distinguish ourselves with that message: Things are working perfectly, so there is nothing to need fixing.”

“It would definitely set us apart from the other candidates’ campaigns.” Kristin agreed.

“So you’re saying;” Janney attempted to sum up what she had heard; “That instead of distinguishing ourselves from the conservatives by talking about what they would do that we won’t, we instead distinguish ourselves from the other candidates from our own Party by talking about what is being done that we would keep doing.” Everyone nodded. “That’s very well thought out, Gina.” Kate complimented. “Work with Kris on rewriting the stump speeches.” She turned to her staff. “Thank you, everyone.”

Kristin was the last to leave, and stopped in the doorway to turn as she heard Kate’s voice.

“I never did like campaigning negative.” Janney said, half to herself. She looked at Kris. “Even if we did win, if we did it that way, wouldn’t we still have lost?”

Ludlowe was unsure how to answer, but was saved as she saw Kate close her eyes, her head falling back against her seat.

As Kristin closed the cabin door quietly, leaving the exhausted candidate to rest, she was still thinking about what her friend had said.

‘So Kate considered a victory won through negativity to be a defeat?’ She considered. ‘With an attitude like that;’ She decided; ‘She very much looked forward to seeing just exactly what a Katherine Janney Presidential Administration might look like.’

 

The Campaign Part IV: Upstarts and Broken Hearts [Draft 2: 24 Pages 11,594 Words March 9, 2018]

•March 9, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Chapter 1:

 

Boston Massachusetts

 

Monday September 29, 2059

 

Kenneth Welsh waited at Gate 33 of Terminal B of Logan International Airport and watched the passengers file out of the disembarkation ramp from the United US American airlines aircraft flight from Baltimore. He watched his goddaughter, Congresswoman Katherine Janney, her face hidden by a curtain of red hair as she engaged animatedly with the shorter auburn-haired young woman who walked beside her. When the younger woman spotted Ken waiting for them, her eyes lit up and she excused herself from her conversation with the Congresswoman in order to run forward and wrap her arms around the older man.

“Hey, daddy.” Estelle Mackenzie greeted her father.

“Welcome home, Stella.” Ken hugged his daughter. “Did you bring her?”
“Ellie’s right here.” Kate said, ushering the child toward her mother.

“Hi grandpa.” Elecktra Mackenzie said.

“Was she at the debate on Sunday?” Ken asked the girl’s mother and Stella nodded. “Did you enjoy watching your Auntie Katie at Morgan State?” Ken asked the girl and Kate smiled.

Though she was not actually Elecktra’s aunt, because of the close friendship of their fathers, Stella had grown up as very much the fourth Janney sister and Kate had been a part of Elecktra’s life since she was born eleven years earlier during Kate’s first year at Harvard.

Elecktra nodded as her mother swept the girl into her arms and onto her shoulder. “I thought she was the best and the smartest lady there.” Kate blushed slightly at the compliment, knowing that also onstage with her had been Congresswoman Ainsley Tomblinson of West Virginia, the speaker of the House of Representatives and third in the line of succession to the Presidency behind President Whitford and his Vice President. “I liked what she said about wanting everyone to be healthy.” The girl’s mother smiled at the candidate, knowing her daughter was referring to Kate’s proposal to expand the Universal Wellness Act, advocacy for which had become a central pillar of her campaign’s platform for the Democratic-Republican Party’s Nomination.

 

Another woman was waiting by the car as they exited the Airport.

“I’m not sure whether the two of you have ever met before.” Kate said. “Stella, this is Kristin Ludlowe, my campaign’s Communications Director, my old college roommate and my best friend.”

Stella looked surprised at this last addition, but smiled warmly as she shook Kris’s hand enthusiastically. “We meet at long last.”

Kris shook hands with the newcomer, looking to Kate expectantly for an explanation.

“Kris, I would like you to meet Doctor Estelle Mackenzie;” Kate saw Kris’s eyes go wide and she nodded. “Daughter of Kenneth Welsh;” she gestured to Ken standing behind them; “and her daughter Elecktra Mackenzie.” The girl on Stella’s shoulder waved shyly at the stranger as Stella and her father climbed into the waiting car.

Kris led Kate to the other car and Kate climbed inside to find her own daughter already waiting for her.

“Was that Principal Mackenzie?” Julia asked.

Kate had forgotten that the relationship between her and Stella had changed as Julia was now a student at Yorktown-Lee High School, where Stella was the Principal. She nodded. “Grandpa Kenny is her father. Remember?”

Julia thought for a long moment before nodding slowly.

Kate had always felt a pang of guilt at calling Ken Julia’s grandfather, which of course he wasn’t.

However, she rationalized her actions to herself via the fact that neither Julia’s biological mother Maryline nor her adopted one had been in contact with their father the Senator since he had abandoned their mother Patricia 28 years ago and as such Ken was the closest thing to a fatherly figure that either Kate or her daughter had ever known during that period of time.

 

They rode in silence across most of Boston; with the second car carrying Ken and Stella trailing close at their back. As they approached the intersection of Cambridge Street and Massachusetts Avenue, Kate was gazing out the window and Kris saw her stiffen visibly.

She mumbled something under her breath.

“Excuse me?” Kris leaned in to hear what Kate said. “I beg your pardon.”

“Stop the car.” Kate enunciated, not quite shouting the words, but raising her voice enough to sound commanding. “Pull over.”

Kris reached up and wrapped on the opaque glass partition behind her head, signaling their chauffer that he should assume manual control of the vehicle and do as the Congresswoman had ordered.

Kate had her door open even as the car glided alongside the curb and was stepping out onto the sidewalk even as it came to a stop. She walked slowly as though in some sort of trance-like state, up to the two-story Tudor-style house, with its castle-like towers and conical roofs She stood outside the picket fence between the sidewalk and the house’s front yard.

Bending forward, she leaned her crossed arms atop one of the fence posts, resting her chin on her folded hands.

Julia looked at Kris as her mother stood motionless, staring up at the house.

After several long minutes, Kate opened the fence’s front gate and walked slowly up to the house, climbing onto its front porch one step at a time.

She stood outside the house’s glass and screen front door, looking though it.

Then, to the surprise of those watching from the car, she leaned back against one of the columns of the porch, sliding down it as she sat down on the porch. From the car, it was impossible to see the expression on Kate’s face as she stared through the house’s front door. As such, there was little more that either Kris of Julia could do other than simply sit and watch the candidate from the car in silence.

Then, after what seemed like a short eternity, they saw Kate climb back to her feet, turn and walk back to the car. As she climbed back into the car, both Julie and Kris could clearly see that her face was streaked and glistening: The Congresswoman had been crying. As she sat down, however, she closed her eyes, inhaling a shuddering breath and swallowing a lump in her throat. When she reopened her eyes, the crease formed by her lips no longer quivered as though her entire features had frozen over.

“I hate Wednesdays.” She said.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2:

 

Charles Hotel

Bennett Street,

Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

Kenneth Welsh intercepted Kristin Ludlowe as she stormed out of the elevator across the lobby of the Charles Hotel. “The Congresswoman?” He inquired, reading the frustration on her face.

Kris slowed as he fell into step beside her, “She’s locked herself in the Presidential Suite.” Kris fumed.

“I got those files you requested.” Ken handed her the folder in his hands. “Any idea what’s gotten into her?” He asked.

Kris had opened the folder and flipped through the pages inside and now, to Ken’s surprise, she grinned with satisfaction. “I think I have a pretty good idea now.”

“What are those?” Ken asked, gesturing to the documents.

“Whatever got to Kate;” Kris explained; “It started after she ordered the car to stop outside a house at the corner of Cambridge and Massachusetts near Winthrop Square Park.” She flipped the folder around in her hands so that Ken could read the paper. “So I did some digging and pulled the records for that house and all of its former residents.” She pointed to the name on the list next to the year 2015.

“William Jefferson Brooks;” Ken read the entry aloud; “…Co-habitating with…” He looked up at Kris’s knowing grin.

“…Katherine Alexandra Janney.” Kris finished for him, nodding.

“So she used to live there.” Ken concluded, stating the obvious. “What does that mean?”

“Look at when Kate’s lease ended.” Kris gestured back to the document in his hands.

“August 2052.” Ken read.

“The same month she moved out to Portland.” Kris confirmed. She retrieved the document from Ken and turned around to begin walking back toward the elevators. “I knew that she moved out west, in part, because of a bad breakup with a boyfriend in Boston.” She told him over her shoulder. “I just didn’t know who it was that she broke up with…” She smiled gratefully back at him. “Until now.”

 

Kris nodded to Kim, who stood outside the hotel’s Presidential Suite as she knocked on the door.

A moment later, the door was opened by Julia, who nodded to Kris before returning to the book that she had been reading on one of the beds in the bedroom.

“She ‘s in there.” Julia gestured to the doorway to the suite’s living room.

At first Kris thought that Kate was watching television, but as she poked her head in the doorway, she could see that the screen Kate was staring at was blank.

She wrapped her knuckles on the doorjamb of the doorway, drawing the candidate’s attention to her. “We need to talk.”

Kate sighed. “What do you want, Kris?”

Kris held up the folder. “William Brooks?”

Kate rolled her eyes, sighing as she got up, walking deliberately back to the hotel suite’s minibar to fix herself a drink. The empty glass in her hand told Kris this would not be her first of the day. “Found out about that, did you now?”

“As opposed to seven years ago, you mean?” Kris let her frustration show in her tone of voice, earning her a hard glare from the Congresswoman.

“That’s not fair.” Kate chided, her eyes flashing.

Kris held up her hands. “All right. I apologize.”

Kate sighed as she stirred the ice in her glass. “No, I’m sorry Kris.” Her expression softened. “I should have told you. I know that.” She sat down on the sofa and gestured for Kris to have a seat in the chair across the coffee table from her. “You’re my best friend, Kris.” Kate confessed. “You deserved to know before now.”

Kris nodded. “If I had known, we could have rerouted from Logan to the Charles;” She gestured indicating the hotel around them; “That would have avoided Winthrop Square Park.”

At the mention of the house, fresh tears threatened at the edges of Kate’s eyes as she looked through the open doorway at her daughter in the bedroom.

“That was our housel” She said, her voice choked, her gaze distant; “The house we were going to get married in;” He gaze shifted to Julia and she smiled in spite of her tears; “The house we were going to raise our children in.”

Kris did not know how to respond and so said the only thing to her friend that she could think of. “You’ve raised Julia;” She told Kate; “Almost entirely on you own;” She smiled at her friend, who did not return her smile; “And she’s terrific.” She reached out to take Kate’s hands in her. “You’re a United States Congresswoman and a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.” She pointed down at the name on the sheet of paper in the folder open on the coffee table between them. “He’s not.” Using their clasped hands, she stood and pulled Kate to her feet. Kris walked around the table until they stood toe to toe with one another. “Look who’s still standing.”

The two old best friends hugged and Kris did not pull away even as she felt warm moisture soaking the shoulder of her shirt as Kate let the tears flow once more.

 

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Junior Forum, Harvard University Institute of Politics

Harvard University John Fitzgerald Kennedy School of Government

John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

Tuesday September 30, 2059

 

“In the nearly a century it was first founded;” The Dean said; “The Institute of Politics has played host to more than half a dozen former, future and sitting Presidents of the United States.” Kate glanced around the towering columns of the Forum at the portraits of the past speakers. “But our featured speaker tonight has to be one of the Kennedy School’s most distinguished graduates of the past few decades.” She saw him turn to smile surreptitiously back at her backstage. “She graduated from Harvard Law School with a degree in Constitutional Law in four years and two years later she earned her Doctorate from the Kennedy School in Political Sociology;” He grinned again; “At the ripe old age of twenty-eight.” This earned a smattering of mixed laughter and applause from the packed Forum’s capacity crowd. “Eight years later, she represents Oregon’s First Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives and is a candidate for the Democratic-Republican Party’s Nomination in next November’s Presidential election.” He stepped aside     from the podium, gesturing behind him. “Please help me welcome Congresswoman Katherine Janney.”

Kate stepped up onto the stage, squinting against not only the hot spotlights highlighting the stage, but also the flashes of cameras. She waved down the thunderous applause as she took the podium. She spotted Kris sitting off to one side, up in one of the lower balcony boxes closest to the stage where she stood. She saw her speechwriter watching her expectantly as she reached into her pocket and withdrew the carefully folded papers on which her friend had prepared the remarks she was to deliver.

As she laid the pages on the podium before her, however, she looked out again at the students packed in to the rafters of the room around her.

She paused for a long moment, lost deep in thought, a faraway look in her eyes.

Having been with Kate in their room at the Charles hotel the last time she had seen the same reminiscent reverent expression on the candidate’s face, this made Kristin Ludlowe very extremely nervous, remembering that at that time, only hours before, the Congresswoman had been almost catatonic with repressed rage against her first boyfriend.

Kris silently prayed that the renownedly free-spirited and independent-thinking former lawyer would, if only just for this one time, simply read the carefully crafted remarks prepared for her appearance here. Then, at long last, Kate spoke slowly.

“I had this whole speech written for me.” She lifted the pages up off the podium, waving them in the air. She glanced apologetically at Kris. “But I’m not reading it.” She made a show of crumpling up the paper and stuffing it into the pocket of her coat, but Kris could see that as she slipped the paper into the pocket, it was actually carefully folded.

This fact barely registered with her, however.

Kate had often heard of people having conniption fits, but she had never actually seen one firsthand until she looked over at the wide-eyed expression of shocked disbelief on her speechwriters face.

Turning away from her silently fuming best friend, she casually and informally leaned forward over the podium, resting her elbows and forearms atop it.

“You’re not other people.” She began conversationally. “I know all about you;” Her eyes swept penetratingly across the expectant faces arrayed before her; “Because I was you;” She half-grinned lopsidedly; “not all that long ago, really.” She saw the old Seniors return her smile knowingly, “I know what it is that you want;” She continued, standing up straight behind the lectern; “And I know enough to know that one thing you don’t want is to hear another career politician give you a version, however modified, of their campaign stump speech.”

The faraway look returned to her eyes as she shook her head.

“I’ll tell you the truth.” She sighed. “The truth is that this is not a campaign stop for me.” She smiled. “Then again, there is a debate over in Boston this weekend;” She shrugged; “So I suppose I should say this isn’t only a campaign stop.” She leaned over the lectern again. “This place;” She gestured beyond the walls of the forum to the campus of the Harvard Kennedy School around it; “Was my home for many years.” She pointed. “I lived right up on the corner of Cambridge Street and Massachusetts Avenue near Winthrop Square Park.” There was a smattering of cheers, which made her smile. “I don’t imagine that I was either the first or the only student to have gotten into Harvard because of my family’s fortune;” Amid the chuckles from the crowd, Kris noted how intentionally the Congresswoman had avoided referring to it as being her father’s money; “But that’s not why I’m here tonight.” The crowd quieted down, “I’m here because I worked my way through this school, first as an intern, then as an associate at a law firm called Janney, Kirks and Krueloe.” More people cheered. “I’m here tonight;” She continued; “Because I campaigned and got elected to Congress.” The applause grew. “I’m here tonight;” She concluded, having to raise her voice over the cheers; “Because I am campaigning for the Presidency of the United States of America!”

 

 

 

Chapter 3:

 

London, England

 

Saturday October 4, 2059

 

The aircraft’s wheels kissed that pavement of the runway at Heathrow International Airport and Katherine Janney was on her feet and headed toward the front of the plane even as it coated to a gentle halt. As she walked past the conference room, she smiled bemusedly at the staffers staring out the window at the entourage of dignitaries arrayed to greet her as the plane’s staircase was lowered. It had never really occurred to her that it would be unusual for the Prime Minister of the Kingdom to greet a Presidential candidate personally, but to the younger, newer members of her staff, she could certainly understand how strange it might seem at first glance for the leader of the fifth most powerful nation on Earth to greet the Junior Congresswoman from Oregon at the airport. As she stepped out onto the platform to begin descending the stairs, Janney knew that her own entourage was nothing to sneeze at either.

Her Chief of Staff Kenneth Welsh, dressed for the occasion in his full United States Marine Corps General uniform complete with his numerous medals and decorations, flanked her on her right-hand shoulder.

On her left, the black-suited Kimberley Frost guarded her daughter, who walked behind her at her back. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she walked briskly up to the waiting entourage, stepping directly up to stand toe-to-toe with a slender brunette with umber mahogany hair and ocean blue eyes. Even Kristin Ludlowe exchanged take-aback looks with her other staffers as the Congresswoman embraced the brunette.

Kate seemed to feel Kris’s bewilderment from behind her and turned as the hug ended to reach out and wave Kris over. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

Kris walked tentatively forward to stand beside the candidate. “You two know each other?” She asked her friend.

“Kris;” Kate gestured to the brunette; “This is Brittany Forrest-Nelson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.”

Kris shook the woman’s hand, even as she stared at Kate.

Of all of the people in the entourage of dignitaries from England, Kris would not have assumed that the one with whom Kate would share a personal friendship would be the Prime Minister herself.

Kate only nodded in answer to her question. “I first met Nelson when she was still in the Admiralty.”

“What was it?” The brunette confirmed. “Eighteen years ago now?”

“Which reminds me, by the way;” Kate smiled at her. “Colonel Connor sends her best.”

Kris nodded as it clicked in her mind how it was that the two women had met.

Nelson and Welsh greeted one another as a General to an Admiral. Then Nelson tilted her head to the side and craned her neck to look over Kate’s left shoulder: “I see there is another new addition.” She said.

Kate smiled, blushing slightly at realizing she had never before told Nelson about the girl. In a vain attempt to hide her embarrassment, she turned she hoped not too overly quickly away from Nelson, gesturing the girl forward: “Jewels, I’d like you to come and meet the Prime Minister.”

Julia stepped shyly out from behind Kate’s back and Nelson beamed, “Oh! Isn’t she darling!” She almost squealed. “What’s your name, sweetheart?”

Kate recognized that Julia was still too self-conscious to speak and so stepped in to answer for her. “Brittany, I’d like you to meet Julia;” She paused, stepping behind the girl to rest her hands on Julia’s shoulders; “My daughter.”

Nelson’s head shot up from staring adoringly at Julia to Kate’s face, her eyes going wide and her eyebrows vanishing up into her bangs.

Kate could only grin and to her surprise Nelson burst out laughing.

“Well!” She exclaimed. “Times really do change, I suppose, don’t they?” She glanced back and forth between mother and daughter before shaking her head, chuckling.

Kate, sensing that Nelson was envisioning her as the teenage girl she had first met a decade and a half earlier, met Nelson’s gaze evenly with a shrug and a thin grin. “People change too.”

“Speaking of which;” Nelson led them down the line of dignitaries; “There’s someone I’ve been simply dying to introduce you to;” She paused, looking down at Julia; “Both of you.” She looked back at the Congresswoman. “It’s one of those introductions that dictates must be conducted in person face to face.” She answered Kate unasked inquiry before the other woman opened her mouth. “You understand.”

Before Kate could answer, they arrived in front of a tall blonde woman who, Kate could now see, was by far and away the most garishly outfitted of either group.

She also saw, to her surprise, that the woman’s mere presence made even the Prime Minister shift uncomfortable as though intimidated.

Nelson took a deep breath before beginning the formal introductions: “Doctor Katherine Janney, United States Congresswoman representing the First Congressional District of the State of Oregon in the United States House of Representatives;” She began in her most official tone of voice, her proper upper-class British accent clipped and crisp; “It is my honor as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain to introduce to the Lady Diana Kensington;” She paused, looking back and forth between the faces of Kate and her daughter; “Duchess of Cambridge and Princess of Wales.”

It was Kate’s turn to have her eyes widen, an expression closely mirrored by her daughter, at realizing that the golden blond woman before them was a daughter of the British Royal Family and heiress to the throne of the United Kingdom.

“Your Royal Majesty.” Kate curtsied, bowing low at the waist, an action the girl at her side mimicked as best she could.

At hearing her speak, the Duchess cocked her head to the side with a smile. “Your mannerisms are very refined, Congresswoman.” She complimented. “And the accent I detect…” She looked down at Julia. “If it’s not improper for me to ask… What is your lineage?”

Kate had been anticipating the question since arriving in Europe. “My paternal grandmother, on my father’s side, is the Madame Roseline Saint Chlaire of Chateau Villette.” Diana nodded. “A very wealthy and powerful family indeed.” Kate said nothing.

It was a little-known secret, well kept because their name never appeared on any published lists, but the Saint Chlaire family was the wealthiest in the world, with a family fortune that dated back nearly two thousand years or more.

Kate should not have been surprised that if there were one person who would know all about the Saint Chlaires, it would be a Duchess.

The family’s ancestral estate of Chateau Villette outside Paris had been built in the late 18th century as a mirror duplicate of the royal palace of the French Sun King Louis XIV at Versailles and the Saint Chlaires traced their lineage back to a larger group of French noble families in the First Millennium CE, the Merovingians, from whom many if not most of the royal families of Western Europe including the ruling Windsors of the United Kingdom, traced their own heritages. At that thought, Kate could not help but smile, remembering that the woman standing before them was not only the Princess of the United Kingdom, but through a historical geopolitical quirk, of the Commonwealth of Canada, whose capitol of Ottawa Kate’s campaign had departed earlier that same day. A squeeze on her fingers pulled her thoughts back to the present, to the girl holding her hand.

She cleared her throat. “Your excellency;” She gestured; “This is my daughter, Julia.” She used Julia’s hand in hers to subtlely nudge the girl forward in front of her. “Jewels, meet her Royal Majesty the Princess.”

Julia may have been shy, but she was beaming brilliantly from ear to ear as she curtsied and shook hands with the Princess.

Diana turned back to Janney. “Your family has an estate here in London?” I was more of a statement than it was a question.

Kate nodded. “My Godmother does, yes;” She confirmed; “In Westminster.” This was news to everyone present and Kate felt all eyes on her. “It’s called Spencer House.” She explained.

Kris tapped Kate on the shoulder. “Excuse us, your Excellencies.” She drew Kate away from the Prime Minister and the Princess. “I have a surprise for you.” Kate looked at her quizzically. “I would like you to meet our pilot for this trip.” Kris gestured to the figure emerging from the airplane.

Kate shielded her eyes against the early morning sun to look up at the person standing at the top of the staircase.

But then an updraft off the hot tarmac lifted a singular stray strand of golden hair to catch a ray from the sun behind the figure’s head and Kate turned to her best friend, her eyes as wide open as her mouth.

Kris smiled and nodded, stepping back as Kate took off across the runway toward the aircraft.

The other figure had barely stepped off the bottom step of the staircase when Kate reached her, not slowing from a full run as she launched herself into the other’s arms.

Kate wasted no time in wrapping her own arms around the woman’s neck, taking the other’s face in both hands and pressing their lips to hers. Sam did not let Kate’s feet touch the ground as she hugged her to her and returned the kiss.

Kris glanced over at Prime Minister Nelson in time to see the whites of her eyes turn to saucers.

It had been clear that the way that Nelson knew Kate was through Sam, but Kris easily surmised that Nelson had never guessed what the nature of the relationship between Kate and Sam was until this moment. The kiss between the two seemed to go on forever and as it ended Sam finally set Kate back onto her feet.

Nelson was not the only one staring at the public display of affection and Kate’s face blushed bright red as she led Sam over to the woman standing behind the Prime Minister.

“Your Majesty, permit me to introduce you to Colonel Samantha Connor of the United States Air Force.” She turned to the woman on her arm. “Sam, it is my honor to introduce you to her Royal Majesty, Princess Diana of the United Kingdom.”

“Your reputation precedes you, Colonel.” Diana nodded as Sam curtsied courteously, glancing sidelong at the Prime Minister beside her.

Kris noted the fact that, even as she greeted the Princess, Kate never took her hand from Sam’s arm: ‘Almost as though;” Kris thought guiltily to herself; ‘Kate was afraid that she was a dream somehow and that she might simply drift away if they ever lost touch.’

Indeed, even as the entire entourage turned toward the terminal, Kate kept her arm threaded through Sam’s elbow and wrapped around her hips. Kris had felt guilty for forcing the Congresswoman to separate from the woman she loved for the sake of the campaign in California and had made the decision to relent and let Sam back into Kate’s life again after seeing how much their visit to Boston and the home of Kate’s ex had upset her friend. She smiled as, when Kate hugged her girlfriend close against her side and laid the side of her head on Sam’s shoulder as they walked, Kris knew she had made the right call.

 

Riding in the back of the limousine, which Sam had insisted on driving herself personally, Kate did her best to keep her gaze facing forward out the windshield toward their destination, but she could not help but watch out of the corner of her periphery Kristin’s eyes widen steadily as Sam pulled the car up alongside the Parthenon-like Greco-Roman marble columned façade of the palatial mansion and she realized that this was where they were headed.

Kris did not find her voice until they were climbing out of the cab.

Without quite knowing why she felt the need to speak in hushed tones as they ascended the marble staircase to the mansion’s columned portico, Kris leaned in close to Kate.

“This is yours?” She murmured reverently.

Kate shrugged. “It’s owned in the name of my paternal grandmother’s family;” She smiled knowingly as, in a flash of golden blonde halo of hair, Sam hurried up the stairs past them; “But it is the ancestral home of the family of my godmother.”

As though on cue, no sooner had the words left her lips than the towering metal doors swung wide and a tall woman with golden hair stepped out onto the portico. “Hello, Mother.” Sam said as the woman greeted her with a loving kiss on the forehead.

Doctor Hera Day opened her arms wide to receive Kate with an embrace. Even as she hugged her goddaughter, however, Hera eyed the brunette standing beside her. “I do not believe we’ve had the pleasure of being formally introduced.” Doctor Day stated in a clipped upper-class British accent, looking to Kate expectantly as she released her.

“Of course.” Kate nodded, clearing her throat. “Doctor Hera Day, this is Kristin Ludlowe, my Congressional Director of Communications;” At a glance from Sam, she amended with a grin; “And College roommate at Lewis and Clark.”

“This is Kris.” Hera nodded slowly, glancing to her daughter for confirmation. “Of course. I’ve heard so much about you already.”

As they walked into the house Kris leaned toward Kate, still eyeing Hera ahead of her. “So who is she?” She muttered conspiratorially.

Kate smiled. “You ever hear of someone called the Doctor?”

Kris scoffed. “Do I look like someone who subscribes to Area 51 conspiracy theories?” Kate said nothing, her expression unresponsive. “The Doctor is an urban legend.”

“Oh, she’s a legend all right!” Kate nodded forward to the woman gliding ahead of them.

Kris looked back and forth between them. “You don’t mean to tell me that she’s…” Kate nodded, deadpan serious.

“And the stories of some autonomous clandestine global independent international intelligence network hidden deep within the National Security and Defense Department…” “The NSDIA?” Kris nodded. “The National Security Department Intelligence Agency.” “It exists?”

Kate nodded. “Strictly speaking, it’s not supposed to.”

“And the city of futuristic technology buried under Area 51?” Kris’s head was spinning with this new information.

“We call it ‘Eureka’.” Sam said, causing Kris to startle as she came up behind her to wrap her arm back around Kate after the doors had closed behind them.

“So your father was a Senator, your godfather;” Kris nodded to Ken behind them; “Was Secretary of State and Defense, your girlfriend;” She indicated Sam; “Is a Colonel in the Air Force, your grandmother is the wealthiest woman in Europe with connections to the Royal Family of the United Kingdom;” She took a deep breath before continuing; “Your sister is running for District Attorney of Boston;” Kate smiled at the mention of her older sibling’s campaign, which paralleled her own; “And your godmother is the Director of the largest and most powerful clandestine classified secret agency in the world.” She glanced over at the couple beside her. “And you were Best Woman at the wedding of the multi-billionaire heiress of the largest technology company in the world to the President of the Russian Federation.” She added, almost as an afterthought.

She stopped walking and Kate turned around: “What is it, Kris?”

“The President of Russia, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the former Secretary of State and Defense, the Director of the National Security Department Intelligence Agency, the Royal Family of the United Kingdom, the future CEO of Stark Industries, the matriarch of the wealthiest family in Europe….” She trailed off: A thought had just occurred to her. “With your connections, Congresswoman, you are in a unique position.”

“What’s that?” Kate asked and Kris looked her in the eye.

“You are a beautiful and brilliant young woman, who may very well be the first person in the known recorded history of civilization to have been capable of having seriously considered world domination as a career trajectory.” Kate blushed modestly at the praise, but Kris was eyeing her with an expression of genuine confusion in her eyes. “So why all of this?” She asked and Kate cocked her head curiously. “Why go through this whole campaign for Congress and the Presidency?”

Kate did not hesitate, gesturing to point over Kris’s shoulder even as she turned to continue forward in the house arm-in-arm with her girlfriend. “For her.” Kate said.

Kris turned her head around to look behind her where her friend had pointed and saw Julia climbing the staircase behind them.

Standing there on the staircase of the Spencer House watching the fifteen year old climb the stairs behind the group Kristin Ludlowe felt her heart melt, knowing her friend spoke only the truth: Her whole political career…from the moment she had stood in Pioneer Square Plaza in Portland and announced her candidacy for the House of Representatives… Not one second of it had ever been for her own personal self-aggrandizement. A great many of the seemingly irreconcilable political idiosyncrasies that had caused Kris and her staff such headaches while Kate was the Representative from Oregon were explained, Kris now recognized, by this one very simple fact: Though she had been elected by the more than half a million voters in Oregon’s First Congressional District, Katherine Janney, now as ever, had a constituency of one. The young woman’s single-minded, occasionally almost obsessive doting dedication and devotion to the girl was made all that much more impressive by the knowledge that Julia was not even Kate’s own flesh and blood.

Kris knew little of the Congresswoman’s childhood, having first met her at age nineteen her freshmen year at Lewis and Clark, but judging from what she had been capable of gathering through the years, Katherine’s own mother Patricia, while unambiguously, undeniably and unquestionably loving all three of her daughters with all of her heart, was as a single mother after her divorce from the Senator unable to be as attentive a parent as many girls Kate’s age of eight at the time probably wanted.

Given this, Kris had often found herself wondering wherefrom her friend had acquired the necessary knowledge and skill set required to be to Julia what anyone who knew the two of them had little doubt was the most attentive and doting mother any girl could have ever wished for. What she recognized standing there on the stairs of Spencer House as Julia climbed the stairs past her after her mother was that it did not matter.

Kate would have been just as almost obsessively attentive to Julia over the years regardless whether she had been good at doing so or not. Katherine Janney was unimpeachably a brilliant mind, but like so many other things in her life as much as she used her knowledge and skill to mother her daughter, she also made the unorthodox and often idiosyncratic, even paradoxical relationship work itself out through an act of sheer force of will alone.

Kris had noted how tangibly tense Sam became in her interactions with Kate whenever Julia was present and now she understood why: It was because, knowing Kate as well as it was possible to, Sam was ever-acutely aware of the fact that, if it ever came down for Kate to a choice between the woman she loved and her daughter, the girl would win out every time.

This, too, was made all the more impactful by Kris’s knowledge of how head-over-heals, helplessly, hopelessly in love with Sam Kate actually was. What caused Kris to pause following behind Kate and Sam as much as anything, was a momentary flash of self-questioning. The reason it had been why she had originally effectively all but banished Sam from the Katherine Janney campaign trail had been because of questioning whether with Sam around Kate was intellectually and mentally capable of maintaining her priorities straight.

She recognized now that she need not have been concerned. Her friend’s priority had never once wavered in all of the years they had worked together.

Sam knew what Kris had not: That no matter how much Kate loved her, neither she nor their relationship did now or would ever top Kate’s list of priorities.

It was with admittedly mixed emotions that Kris acknowledged to herself that the Presidential campaign she had been tasked with coordinating was not and would never be, the number one item at the top of that list either. As Kate had said, she had campaigned for Congress and was campaigning for President because she believed it to be best for her beloved daughter. However, the truth that Sam had realized years ago about her relationship with Kate Kris now recognized was equally true if not more so of not only the Presidential campaign but indeed the Congresswoman’s political career: That Katherine Janney would not hesitate or even think twice about throwing it all away if she were earnestly and honestly convinced even for one moment that doing so was what was in the best interests of her daughter. Staring up the stairs after her friend, the recognition struck Kris that this was not going to change, meaning that she would need to accommodate somehow this new knowledge into the manner in which she coordinated the Congresswoman’s campaign. Not wanting to be left behind by a campaign she was ostensibly supposed to be leading and having stood stock still on the stairs of Spencer House for several minutes, lost deep in thought, Kris finally shrugged and followed where her friend and her daughter had gone.

 

London, England

 

Sunday October 5, 2059

 

7:00 AM

 

Kristin Ludlowe opened the door to the “Queen’s Bedroom” in the Spencer House without knocking.

Sensing no movement beyond, she slowed and entered as quietly as she could, figuring its occupants must still be asleep. Careful to remain concealed in the shadows of the unlit entryway, she surreptitiously peered around the corner of the wall into the bedroom, to see that she had been half-right.

Katherine Janney lay fast asleep with her fiery-mane pillowed on the breasts of Samantha Connor, who sat upright with her back resting on pillows against the headboard. Sam’s eyes were open and scanning the contents of the pad she held in her right hand, her left arm immobilized against her side by the weight of the woman who lay wrapped around her body.

More surprising to Kristin than the fact that Sam was already awake was to see that Kate remained dressed in the same blouse she had worn under her suit jacket the day before and the jacket’s matching skirt, meaning that she had fallen asleep still in her clothes. This, in turn, meant that even after their passionate display of affection upon being reunited out on the tarmac at Heathrow the previous afternoon, the two girlfriends had not made love at all last night. Having observed the woman in action, Kris found herself not at all surprised that Sam had restrained herself, but nevertheless she smiled, impressed with the restraint displayed by Kate. The tendency that being together in the same room alone with Sam had to lower or break Kate’s inhibitions had been among the primary reasons Kris had banned Sam from accompanying the campaign to begin with in the first place. These thoughts prompted her to look a second time at the scene before her. The picture of Kate curled against Sam’s side, their legs intertwined beneath the covers, her head pillowed in Sam’s breasts with a serenely contented smile curving her lips as he own chest rose and fell evenly in her dream-filled sleep, was as perfect an image of what love between two people could be as any Kris had ever seen. Thinking back to their days as roommates in college, amongst the first things Kris had noticed about her roommate was the fact that, unlike most nineteen-year-old girls, Kate showed absolutely no readily apparent interest in any of the boys her age that surrounded them at all times at Lewis and Clark.

Kate had told her many times all about how head-over-heels helplessly; hopelessly in love she was with a person she called “Sam”.

Kris, for her part, had always naturally assumed that “Sam” was short for “Samuel”, the name of a man.

But now she knew that the reason why Kate had showed no interest in boys was because the “Sam” with whom she was head-over-heels helplessly in love with was short for “Samantha”. Even as a heterosexual herself, Kris found herself unable to deny that she could see exactly why it was that Kate had been so infatuated.

Sam was the most breathtakingly gorgeous woman she had ever seen.

This train of thought led her where it always inevitably did, into wondering how far Kate and Sam’s relationship would last. If elected, Kate would be far from the first female President, the first having been elected more than forty years earlier, eight years before Kate had even been born. However, each of the preceding female Presidents had been married and they had all had husbands. Watching Kate and Sam together had frequently led Kris into wondering whether Katherine Janney would make history by becoming the first woman President with a wife. Lost deep in thought, Kris shifted out of the dimly lit entryway and Sam caught her movement. As she set aside the pad she had been reading, Kris was irked to see that it had been the campaign’s planned travel itinerary for the remainder of that year. Then Kris sense, felt more than saw or hear, another presence behind her.

She need not have turned around to know that it was Hera as she recognized that Sam had not been reacting to her presence, but rather to her mother’s.

Sam smiled as she carefully extricated her left arm from under Kate’s body, reaching down to gently lift Kate’s own left arm off of her chest. She eased the still-sleeping Congresswoman onto her back on the bed before sliding out from under the covers herself.

As she did so, her eyes never left those of her mother and as her facial expressions changed, Kris looked back and forth between the two, noticing Hera’s doing the same as though some conversation, in some form of nonverbal communication, were going on between mother and daughter. In spite of this being only the second time Kristin Ludlowe had ever met Doctor Hera Day, she had already deduced that Hera had, at least at one point, disapproved of her daughter’s relationship with Katherine Janney. That Hera was even more pleased to see both women still fully clothed than Kris herself had been was palpable in the air.

“Good morning, Mother.” Sam murmured quietly as she glided soundlessly away from the bed.

Kris noticed that, whereas during their nonverbal conversation Sam had never broken eye contact with her mother, when she at long last spoke aloud, she subtlely averted her gaze as she glided past.

 

9:30 AM

 

When Kate descended the spiral staircase a couple of hours later, showered and changed into a clean blouse and skirt suit, she walked into the Spencer House’s library to find it transformed into a bustling, busy campaign office. Television screens covered one wall in place of books on the bookshelves that lined the wall and everyone in the room had their own screen of some kind.

Trent Stevens, his face buried in his handheld mobile device, startled when Kate opened the doors as her he walked by.

Kris, huddled over a desktop computer monitor mounted atop one of the coffee tables with Gina Everett, looked up as the candidate entered. She raised her hand first to wave to her friend and then to snap her fingers in the direction of the window.

Kate looked where she gestured to see Lacey Moss standing by the window, her mobile phone tucked between her ear and her shoulder as she jotted down furiously on a pad in her hand.

At what was clearly a prearranged signal, she glanced over to the doorway, seeing the candidate and nodded to Kris, holding up her pen in acknowledgement. When she hung up her phone call, she turned to the Congresswoman.

“What’s all this?” Kate said, spreading her hands wide to encompass the library.

“This;” Lacey smiled; “Is your first overseas trip to Europe since you announced your campaign.”

“Making the most of it, are we?” Kate said, more a statement than a question.

Lacey nodded. “Unfortunately, Prime Minister Nelson has business at Ten Downing Street;” She said, referring to the United Kingdom’s equivalent of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; “You your godmother referred us to another MP;” She glanced down at her notes; “One Lord Marlboury the Second, the hereditary Earl of Shearlbourne.” She looked back up at the Congresswoman. “His office informed us it has invited you to a joint press conference with the Prime Minister, a public question and answer;” She smiled; “Before a joint session of Parliament.”
Kate’s eyes went wide. “So Brittany and I would be taking question not only from reporters, but from the public;” Moss nodded; “And addressing our answers to the members of both Houses of Parliament.”

“And to the cameras.” Lacey added.

“How did this Lord of Shearlbourne swing this?”

“Marlboury is the Secretary of State for Defense;” Kris said; “And first Secretary of State for Science.”

“An old friend of the family.” Added a voice from behind Kate and she turned around to see Zoe Stark enter the Library at her tail.

The two friends embraced as Kris approached them.

“Congresswoman Janney;” She announced after they separated; “I would like you to meet the new Finance Chairwoman of the Janney for America campaign Political Action Committee.”

Kate looked uncomprehending. “My doctorate was in sociology, not economics…” she looked back and forth between her two friends for a translation.

“It means she’s your banker.” Kris explained.

“More like I’m your bank.” Stark amended. “I’m in charge of raising money and I’ll be handling your campaign’s budget.”

Kate smiled gratefully. “Thank the Goddesses for you, then.” She said, relieved. “I always hated the idea of fundraising.”

“So does Stazia.” Stark nodded, referring to her wife, the President of Russia.

“Where is she?” Kate asked.

“Beijing.” Stark answered casually as if it were an everyday occurrence.

“Some of Senator Sedwicks’ economic policy proposals have the Chinese government somewhat worried about another trade war with the West if Sedwicks wins next November.” Kris explained.

“A trade war they worry might well precipitate another East-West Cold War.” Sam concluded as she entered.

Stark greeted her with a knowing nod of acknowledgment, which Sam returned before turning around to greet her girlfriend with a not overly long but nevertheless far from chaste kiss that left Kate flushed and momentarily at least more than a bit breathless.

“So Stazia seeks to reassure the Chinese;” Stark continued as Kris noted that even after their lips parted, Kate still refused to let her girlfriend go far from her grasp; “That the Treat of the Forbidden City is still very much in force.” She smiled knowingly at Sam. “She says the assurances of your friend John ware of special assistance.”

Kris looked lost until she recognized that the heiress was referring to the incumbent sitting President of the United States, Jonathan Whitford.

 

“Several of the candidates from the Conservative side in the American campaign;” The Parliamentarian began in a Welsh drawl; “Have made a central campaign issue of their vocal opposition to the Arab Nation States.” Both Congresswoman Katherine Janney and the British Prime Minister sitting at the table beside her on stage nodded. “The incumbent President of the United States Whitford made a name for himself in part through his stated willingness to meet and negotiate with any foreign leader, including those from Arab Nations, and more especially to do so without preconditions. Congresswoman Janney;” The Welsh Member of Parliament addressed his question the younger American; “In recent weeks, your campaign has made as one of the many virtues of your candidacy the consistency of your sociopolitical policies with those of the sitting Administration. If elected next November, can the citizens of both our countries and the world expect that such consistency will extend to your stance toward the Arab Nations?”

Kate stood from her seat and walked unhurriedly to the podium beside the table. “I thank you for your important and informed inquiry, Mister Keynes.” She nodded and the MP retook his seat. “It is true that not only my competitors across the aisle in this campaign but most if not all of the Christian Conservative Party have taken great pride in proclaiming from the proverbial mountaintops their ideological opposition, all too often on religious grounds, to the Islamist theocracy of the Caliphate in Mecca.” She paused, choosing her next words carefully. “Like my good friend of many years Jonathan Whitford, I would absolutely be ready willing and able to meet with the leader of any nation that had business before the government of the United States;” She held up a finger to quiet the rush of murmurs around the auditorium; “But under no circumstances is any such meeting to take place without preconditions.” She saw many members of her staff lean in, evidently thinking they might be about to hear yet another heretofore-unknown side of the famously diplomatic Congresswoman.

She deliberately hung her head for a long minute as though deep in thought, though she knew precisely what she intended to say. When she raised her eyes again to the assembled Parliamentarians, those closest to her could see that the fire that those who knew her best knew all too well was alight behind them. She saw Ken and Kris conceal grins, knowing the Harvard Sociologist was in her element and that class was in session for the Parliament.

“We, especially in the United States but by no means exclusively in the United States, have certain ideals upon which our western civilized society has been founded for centuries.” She began. “It must be made absolutely clear beyond doubt to all, especially those who do not necessarily share them, that we in the western world regard these foundational, fundamental principles to be, in the words of my nation’s founders “inalienable”, non-negotiable and not open to be traded away for any price.” Knowing she had piqued their interest, she elaborated: “Freedom of expression is one, be it the freedom of speech, the free press, or the right to protest. This must be understood to be absolute. Another is the principle of equal protection under the law regardless of culture, ethnicity, gender, language, nationality of origin, religious faith or lack thereof, race, sexual preference or skin color, including the right to representation at trial and equal suffrage for all adult citizens. Again, absolute, inalienable and non-negotiable.” She saw heads nod all around. On her side was exactly where she wanted them. This time it was her turn to grin. Now it was time to strike the anvil. “A third, equally as important as either of the others, is the freedom from religion.”

It took a moment, but all conversation in the room faded as wide eyes turned to her, including those of her staff and of the Prime Minister beside her. There was a polite cough from Gina Everett, her Press Secretary, evidently assuming the candidate had simply misspoken and awaiting a correction. Kate locked eyes with Kristin Ludlowe, whose eyes were wide, and shook her head subtlely. The message was crystal clear, and her Communications Director paled: There had been no mistake.

“America owes its status as the leader of the free world throughout the centuries to the foresight of its founders;” She said into the silence; “Who were learned and scholarly men who had studied the bloody religious wars of the thousand years after the decline of the western Roman Empire but before the Enlightenment era in which they then lived during which the Christian church had held absolute iron-fisted dominion over all of Europe, and concluded that the only way, in their words, “to form a more perfect union” was to have the official state religion of their new nation be that of no religion at all.”

As the stunned silence continued, the Congresswoman plucked the wireless microphone from the podium and began leisurely pacing the stage as she spoke.

“A possibly apocryphal anecdote about General George Washington says that when the author of the Constitution, James Madison, asked him if, as the First President of the United States, he wished to be addressed as “His Majesty, the Lord President”, Washington is alleged to have answered “I did not fight to defeat King George the Third, only to become King George the First.” Seeing bewilderment growing on several faces, she digressed from her tangent. “Even as the framers of the founding documents of the United States of America were inventing the unprecedented office of a President, something never seen before in western written recorded history; so too were they taking the equally revolutionary progressive step of establishing the first-ever western nation in the European tradition to have no official state religion: the world’s first-ever liberal progressive secularist representative democratic republic.”

She stopped pacing and returned to the podium, though she did not yet reattach the microphone. “In answer to your question, then, Honorable Representative Keynes, any meeting with any religious theocracy anywhere in the world, including that of the Islamist Caliphate, must begin and end with an understanding on their part that an America under a President Katherine Janney is free from any religious belief system or cult’s doctrine or dogma; and that we intend to stay that way. Non-negotiable.”

With those final two words, the syllables landing like hammer blows in the silent chamber, Congresswoman Katherine Janney dropped the microphone on the podium and stepped down, taking a few purposeful strides back to her seat beside the surprised but smiling Prime Minister.

A glance at Ludlowe confirmed what both already knew: no matter what else was said at what remained of the event, the above-the-fold banner headlines of every city’s major newspaper were already being written.

Kate looked down at her girlfriend seated in the front row to see Sam smiling up at her, beaming with pride. Standing from her seat, Sam began clapping slowly, applause with spread in waves across the ordinarily austere Parliamentary chambers. Kate saw the golden-haired woman mouth three words: “Game on, girlfriend” and she nodded.

Congresswoman Katherine Janney had indeed just changed the game.

 

 

Monday October 6, 2059

 

“Rosalind Franklin was the first person to take photographs of DNA.” Katherine explained, paraphrasing from the molecular biochemistry textbook laid open on her lap. “And it was those photographs that were what permitted Sir James Watson and Francis Crick to find that the shape of DNA was a double-helix.”

Julia nodded, writing the answer down on the pad a desktop in the Spencer House’s Library. “But I’ve seen the images.” Julie turned away from her homework. “Only Watson and Crick got the Nobel Prize, and there was no woman with them. But;” she held up a finger as her mother opened her mouth to answer; “I’ve looked through the list of Nobel winners and there had been lots of women.”

Kate smiled at how her daughter had anticipated what she knew would have been the very first excuse out of her mouth: That Franklin was denied a Prize because she was a female. “All women Nobel Prize winners up to that point;” She changed track quickly; “Had received their Awards because they were the partners, and in some cases the wives, of other Prize winners.”

“Franklin was a partner with Watson and Crick, wasn’t she?”

Kate sighed. “Unfortunately, she died before they were awarded their Prize, and at that time Nobel Prizes were not being awarded posthumously.”

Julia paused in her writing, noticing an unusual expression come across her aunt’s face. “Mom?” She reached out to lay her hand on Kate’s knee. “What is it?”

“Believe it or not;” Katherine said with an odd smile, in a distant tone of voice Julie could not identify or place; “When I was your age, I knew someone who had once been a former colleague of Doctor Watson.” She smiled as she cast a glance, she hoped not too obviously, in the direction of Sam, who sat reading in a chair across the room.

Knowing Sam’s exceptional hearing as she did, she should not have been surprised to discover that her girlfriend had been eavesdropping on her tutoring session with her daughter, as she saw an all-too-familiar familiar enigmatically knowing half-grin spread across Sam’s lips.

 

Before the girl could ask, however, the door opened and one of the First Daughter’s personal bodyguards, Secret Service agent Kimberley Frost, popped her head in. “I apologize for the interruption, Madam Congresswoman.” Kate closed the textbook between her knees. “Miss Daniels is here to see you, Ma’am.” Frost alerted her.

“Thank you, Kim.” The President sat up straight. “Send her in.”

Frost stood aside and the Congresswoman’s National Security Advisor Chlaire Daniels stepped inside.

“Hi, C.J.” Julia greeted.

Daniels, clearly preoccupied, did not reply except to nod. “Madam Congresswoman;” She said, clearly uneasy but not looking around; “DNI Kagan has requested your presence in on a conference call with the NSC.” She looked over at Sam. “Both of you.”

At the mention of the National Security Council, the Congresswoman was already on her feet and moving toward the door. She shot an apologetic glance toward her daughter as C.J. led her out into the hallway, but thankfully saw Julie nod understandingly; the sixteen-year-old high school sophomore being familiar with all of the terms Daniels had used and knowing the urgency of why her aunt couldn’t stay. Not for the first time, Kate heaved a sigh of relief that she had such an intelligent and well-educated daughter.

Katherine Janney closed her eyes, mentally making the all-important transition from her role as the mother of a teenage daughter into her role a member of the United States House of Representatives Intelligence and National Security Committee.

Around the conference table were more than half a dozen video screens. Kate slowed in her steps as she spotted the images of two people she had not expected. The first was an image being broadcast from the captain’s quarters of an aircraft carrier, and the woman in the Captain’s uniform was Rebecca Mavalently. The second was the man picture on the screen beside the one showing the Director of National Intelligence George Kagan at the far end of the table. That screen showed a face Katherine Janney had not seen in person in nearly half a dozen years: that of President of the United States Jonathan Whitford.

Mavalently caught Kate staring at her and nodded to her younger friend respectfully, the formality of the motion indicating to the President not to let her attention get distracted.

It was the President who spoke first. “Thank you for coming, Congresswoman.”

“What do we got?” Sam asked from behind her.

“There’s been a bit of a shake-up in Brussels.” Kagan answered.

“What’s happened?” Janney asked, recognizing the reference to the capitol city of the European Union.

“One of the most senior active field agents in the clandestine services has apparently gone rogue;” Daniels said; “And gone AWOL.”

“What?” The Congresswoman leaned over the table.

“Apparently;” Kagan explained, flushing visibly, whether from embarrassment or from indignant outrage of her own Kate couldn’t tell; “This particular agent was recruited, a number of years ago, directly out of a modern American municipal law enforcement department.”

The Congresswoman nodded, familiar with the common tactic for foreign agencies.

“However;” Daniels amended; “It has long been suspected, and recently come to light, that this agent had been in employ of an Eastern Eurasian-based organized criminal syndicate since several years before he left our country.”

To the young Congresswoman, this was all beginning to sound like a mid-twentieth-century spy thriller. “As devastating as this no doubt is for the EU, and as troubling as it is for our alliances;” The Congresswoman sat back; “I have to ask: Is there a reason you all thought to involve me in all this?”

“I’m afraid its far more devastating all around than you are aware, Ma’am;” Daniels rescued the DNI; “For one simple reason.” Before Kate could ask: “The agent was married for a number of years to another American law enforcement recruit, now a high-ranking officer based out of Paris, France.”

“That is quite a coincidence!” Kate scoffed incredulously. “Who’s the other agent?”

It was Mavalently who had the answer, one that silenced her young friend: “Commander Marie Neveu, of the European Union Intelligence Bureau.”

The Congresswoman turned as if in a daze and walked slowly out of the room without another word. Frost was waiting for her, but appeared surprised at how soon the Congresswoman reappeared.

“Kim” The Congresswoman called her name, her voice sounding distant.

“Yes, Madam Congresswoman?”

“Would you please arrange a video conference with Leo as soon as possible?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Please return to your post immediately.” The Congresswoman ordered over her shoulder as she climbed the stairs.

Not one to question, Kimberly Frost turned around and headed back to library.

 

No sooner had Leo Pierce donned his HUD sunglasses and wireless earpiece to find the Congresswoman sitting in one of the chairs around the coffee table in the center of a room; nursing a tall mug of what appeared to Pierce to be still-boiling-hot tea; than the Congresswoman began to speak, her voice low, giving it a resonant reverberating quality. “I need you;” She said, not looking up at him from the steam bubbling from her cup; “To increase the security around Jewels.”

“Why?” Leo asked.

“It doesn’t much matter how you do it.” The Congresswoman repeated as though he had not spoken. “Double, triple or even quadruple her guards if you feel its necessary. I don’t much care, as long as I know that absolutely no one can ever get to her past them.”

“Katherine, you better than most know I can’t do that without knowing what the threat is.” As he had hoped, his use of her name gained him a glance from the Congresswoman. But even the former FBI Chief felt a chill course through his body at the very nearly inhuman coldness of the fury in the young woman’s eyes, somewhere beyond stony coolness but icicles stabbing forth like knives. He was at once inexpressibly gratified at his knowledge such penetrating daggers could not possibly be directed toward him.

When the Congresswoman spoke, watching him through the mirage-like shimmer of the steam rising from the drink cupped between her hands, her voice had lost its previous rumbling reverberation, replaced by a tight hiss. “A rogue EUIB agent employed by an Eastern-European crime syndicate who infiltrated the EUIB by being recruited through the FBI from the LAPD ten years ago.”

Leo sat back, overwhelmed by the ramification for the Bureau. Seeing that Kate still watched him over the rim of her mug, he then leaned forward and asked the self-evident but noticeably unanswered question inherent in her explanation of the present danger: “What might this agent want with Julia?”

Kate sighed heavily. Though it appeared to Pierce at first glance as if the Congresswoman’s eyes had closed, he then saw that she was merely gazing searchingly down at her reflection in the bubbling liquid.

When her eyes shot up to him again the fiery flame was gone, leaving only a stony coldness, and Leo was reminded not for the first time just how young she really was. “He’s her father.” Was all she said.

 

“So this was her second husband?”

Katherine became aware that she had been hyper-focusing on the heavy rain droplets impacting the petals of a particular blossom of the rosebush in the garden across the Colonnade from her Office window, and jerked her attention back to the woman sitting on the couch in front of hers.

“Maryline’s?” Kristin Ludlowe repeated. “This was the man to whom she remarried?”

The Congresswoman nodded. “After her first husband was shot and killed in the line of duty.”

“And when was that?”

“I remember hearing about it when I was eighteen, my senior year in high school.”

Ludlowe looked at her, indicating that wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear.

She grinned, recognizing the message she was meaning to convey to her, as she amended: “Twenty years ago.”

“So Julia was born just two years later?” Kris saw the President’s fair complexion darken at the reminder that her adopted daughter had been the product of the deception of the older sister who had helped their mother raise her. “Does she know?” Kris subconsciously cast a glance in the general direction of where Julia slept. “Have you told her yet?”

Kate leaned back in her chair and shook her head. “She doesn’t even remember what her mother looks like.”

Kris sat back, considering this, having noticed the fact that the girl called her aunt “mom”, but never really having thought about the implications of this for their family life.

Before either of them spoke again, the door from the foyer opened and one of the Congresswoman’s personal agents, stepped into the doorway. “Madam Congresswoman?”

Kate sat up straight in her chair. “Yeah;” Subconsciously she reached up to comb her fingers through her hair, sweeping it around her shoulders with a toss of her head; “What’s up?”

“Doctor Day is here, Ma’am.”

For the first time that day, Kris saw the President perk up at the mention of the name.

“Send her in”

The agent stood aside and the tall, fair-skinned golden-haired woman swept ethereally into the room. “I know why you asked to see me, Katherine.”

“What’s the latest development from Brussels?” Kate.

“Mister Gates is classified on the respective lists of most wanted fugitives by the governments in Madrid, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome and Moscow.”

“The French are taking it personally?” Katherine grinned sidelong up at the tall woman hopefully.

“Indeed;” Hera nodded; “But it’s Germany and Russia, interestingly enough, who are making the most noise.”

Katherine’s face contorted in an expression Ludlowe couldn’t place. “Odd. I haven’t heard from Stazia.”

“The Krusztcheckova administration has made the decision to keep the depth to which the syndicate infiltrated the Bureau classified at the highest levels.”

The President swiveled to one side and leaned back as she crossed the heels of her shoes over the opposite corner of the couch. “DNI Kagan couldn’t give me a firm up or down answer on whether they suspect a connection to Gorbzerga’s mob in Russia.”

Hera paced slowly, her regal ivory-white dress shimmering a blinding silver in the changing sunlight patterns with each movement of her legs underneath. “I spoke to Ambassador Michaelov.” She said, obviously choosing her words with great care. “If there has ever existed between organized crime in the Federation and that on the Western European subcontinent, neither is evidently willing to confess to it publicly.”

“You mentioned noises coming from Berlin. What is Prime Minister Meckelberg saying?”

Day rolled her eyes and sighed theatrically. “Typically, as you’ve probably imagined, the Germans are complaining that Mierseln never bothered to inform them there was a covert operative active across their borders.”

“I hope no one in Brussels is taking that nonsense too seriously.” Hera shook her head. “Is Chateau Villette making any news?”

In spite of the shift in track, Hera was prepared with an answer. “The Saint Chlaire family, for all of their prominence, is keeping their connection to Commander Neveu quiet for the time being.”

“And Ventrinsca?”

Hera smiled, knowing good news would bring welcome levity to the distressed Congresswoman. “You will be pleased to hear that the Cabinerri have joined with the DCPJ in pledging every resource toward retrieving whatever agent Gates stole.”

The emotions warring within the young Congresswoman were clear on her face, knowing that among the first things the traitorous spy had stolen during his career had been her older sister’s heart. “Thank you for coming, Hera.” The Congresswoman said, standing.

“Know that I am available at your disposal anytime, Katherine.” Day responded as Kate came over to her

“I do.” Kate murmured as Hera embraced her.

 

The Imperfections in the Storm Book I: Before the Coming Storm Chapter 1: Daily Motions [Draft 2: 20 Pages 10,077 Words January 27, 2018]

•January 27, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, District of Columbia

Monday January 29, 2063

6:00 AM

 

The vibration of the handheld device jerked her jarringly out of the excessively pleasurable dream she had been in. Her long arm shot out from under the covers to catch the device as it bounced itself off the edge of the bedside table. Pressing her thumb to the pad to answer, she brought the device up to her ear.

“Who the hell is this?” She growled groggily and vaguely irritably, her voice hoarse; whether from overuse or disuse, she didn’t know, her voice muffled as she buried the side of her face deep into her pillow, desperate to return to the dream, as if her mane of tangled and matted hair could shield her from the realities intruding on her world of comfort.

Good morning, Ma’am.” The young man’s voice, sounding tinny through the earpiece, was chipper to a point she found cloying.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?” She closed her eyes against the sunlight.

I’ve got 0600 hours on mine.” The man answered and she groaned, shaking her head at his insistence on answering what hat been intended as a rhetorical inquiry.

“What could you possibly want at such an hour?” She griped, already knowing the answer, but at the moment feeling quite understandably curmudgeonly nevertheless. This time recognizing her rhetorical question for what it was, then man said nothing and she inhaled deeply a heavy sigh. “Is it that time?” She mumbled.

It’s that time.” The man’s voice confirmed.

She nodded, in spite of him not being there to see, flopping onto her back like a whale on a beach. “I’ll be right over.” She pressed thumb to the pad again to hang up on the call, tossing the device none-too-carefully back onto her bedside table. She turned to the side, flinging her arm out, but the back of her hand struck only mattress cushion. Her eyes flew open and she sat up against the headboard and flicked on the bedside light, casting a warm orange glow. Though the other side of the bed was empty, the depression in the memory material had not yet fully dissipated and as she ran her hand over it, she could still feel residual warmth.

Nodding again solemnly to herself, she sighed and swung her long legs over the side of the queen-sized bed, her toes sinking into the carpet. She hung her head shaking it to clear it of the hazy fog. She stroked her hands over her face and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. She reached up to ruffle her hands quickly back and forth through the shocks and tangled knots in her hair, the static generated by her fingers scraping her scalp just the tingle she needed to wake up. She pushed herself off the mattress and onto her feet. Alone in the otherwise empty bedroom, she casually stripped off the silk nightgown she slept in as she crossed from the bed to the adjoining private bathroom.

 

Emerging from behind the shower curtain amidst a billow of steam, she stepped over to the counter. Leaning her hands on the sink as she waited for the fogged glass to clear, she stared long and hard at her reflection as it came into focus to be certain the last haze of her dream had been banished.

The changes had been so gradual, day after day, that she herself was too close to notice them, but she knew the stress of her job must be taking its toll. Not yet forty, she could clearly see deepening lines in her fair-skinned complexion she knew were not there years before. She gripped the brush on the counter beside the sink and diligently combed each and every stray strand of her unruly hair down over her bare shoulders. She turned her head from side to side, almost tricking her eyes into believing she spotted strands of silver gray among the lustrous copper locks as the color caught the light. Then she turned away from the aging image in the glass and returned to the bedroom, crossing to her walk-in closet to dress for the day ahead of her.

She emerged, finishing pulling on the jacket of her slimming pinstripe pantsuit. Her hands moved with an efficiency honed over years from buttoning her jacket up to sweep her hair aside to attach her earrings, doing so without looking in a mirror, to fixing her shoulder-length tresses straight so that they gleamed a polished copper as glistening as the gold in her ears.

Katherine Janney nodded silently to the uniformed man standing outside her bedroom door. Down the corridor and across the hallway, she saw a black-haired young woman sitting in a chair outside of another bedroom door, reading a book.

She spotted the woman emerge over the pages and immediately tucked her reading material away as she stood. “Good morning, Ma’am.” She greeted, her tone low, indicating that the house’s other occupant was still sleeping.

“Hey, Kim.” Janney waved. “How did she do?” She gestured to the door beside Kim’s chair.

“All quiet.” Kim reported, her sigh indicating that the girl in question’s silence had been something less than complete.

Janney nodded as she moved past her down the corridor. “Thanks, Kim.”

“Should I inform her you’ll make time after school?” Kim asked as she passed and Kate stopped.

“I’ll be here by dinner this evening.” She promised, hanging her head.

“After dark?” Kim looked out the East window of the hall at the sun rising over the city rooftops.

The girl’s mother grimaced. “Probably.”

Kim sat back down and returned to her book without another word.

“Pass along my thanks to Ellie as well, will you?”

Kim waved dismissively as she returned to her reading.

Katherine tucked the lapels of the high collar of her suit around her neck against the frigid chill wind as she descended the front steps, even as she turned her face up to the warm early morning sunlight.

 

7:30 AM

 

“Thank you, gentlemen.” She acknowledged the uniformed men who opened the door for her as she walked into the Southwest Lobby to find a dark-skinned East Indian man awaiting her arrival. “Good Morning, Charlie.” She smiled.

“Good morning, Ma’am.” He greeted her in the same cheery voice she had heard over the phone line earlier that morning. As he quickly falling into step beside her, he handed her a steaming mug whose minty aroma tingled at her nostrils.

Katherine accepted the tea gratefully, letting her eyes fall closed as she took a long sip, leaving her aide to push open the set of double doors out of the columned lobby and into the office building. “What’s first?” She said, her voice clearer, along with her eyes and her head as she felt the infusion of caffeine charge her mind.

“Well;” Her aide clicked open the clasp on one of the stacks of leather portfolio he carried under his arm and opened it as they walked; “You’ve got a little while;” He glanced at his watch; “Before your meeting with the Secretaries in the Mural Room.”

Janney glanced at him expectantly. “PDB?” She prompted.

“Oh yes.” Her aide plucked a brightly –colored post it note off of the daily schedule. “You’ve got C.J. waiting in your office with your daily briefing.” She glanced sidelong at him. “You’ve been incommunicado for the past week. Speaking of which, welcome back.” She looked over at him oddly; reminding him that he had been everywhere she had with her. “DNI Kagan scheduled you for a meeting late this evening;” She rolled her eyes at the presumptiveness; “At Langley.” Her groan sounded more like a growl.

She nodded. “What’s next?”

Her aide turned the page. “Your presence has been requested at a sitting of the Committee on Administration, Conduct and Ethics and the Official Privileges and Reform, Regulations and Rules Subcommittees.” He read off of the sheet in his hands.

“Those are Joe’s Committees.” She said.

“Yes Ma’am.” Her aide confirmed. “The Leader asked you to sit in.”

“That should be interesting.” She said sardonically, rolling her eyes. “Let me guess the next bit.” She said, not turning to him, but instead becoming suddenly entranced by the bubbling tea in her cup. “Ken said he has to meet with me before I leave.”

“Yes Ma’am.” Her aide confirmed, handing her a leather portfolio of file folders.

“I’ll have a meeting with the Senior Staff before I leave for the hill.” She said, taking a sip.

“Yes, Ma’am.” Her aide made a quick note before going to sit down at his desk as they entered the foyer to her office.

“Good morning, Ma’am.” Her secretary said, giving her a smile and a nod.

“Morning Jan.” She said, forcing a tired smile in return. She walked on, opened the door and stepped into her office.

Even after all these years, the view out the high rounded bay windows behind the desk was still impressive. As she strode along the rounded edge of the golden imprint in the navy-blue circular carpet, she trailed her fingers over the back of the couch, cleaned and looking as new against the slightly archaic-looking architecture of the office.

Her mind was still back in the bedroom she had left earlier that morning. She put out a hand to lay it on her desk, and walked around to stand behind it.

There were only a couple of pictures on her desk. Most of them, with the exception of the two-person portrait, were of the same young person. Standing behind the desk in front of the windows, she laid her hands on the desktop, hanging her head and letting her eyes fall closed. Then, heaving a deep breath, she wrapped her knuckles on the desktop and lifted her head, tossing her hair behind her shoulders and opening her eyes. Only then did she acknowledge the presence of the woman who had stood silently, waiting patiently for her since before she opened the door.

“Good morning, C.J.” She forced a tired smile at her advisor.

Chlaire Jameson Daniels was a couple of years Katherine’s senior, her strawberry-yellow blonde hair pulled tightly back from her widows’ peak hairline and into a long ponytail that spouted from the crown of her head to feather the back of her neck. She had watched her superior since she stepped through the door.

Janney had rounded the outside wall of the circular office, her mind obviously preoccupied with other thoughts. When she wrapped her knuckles on her desk and tossed her copper hair back, however, her blue-green eyes were bright and crystal clear.

“Good morning, Madam President.” She said.

“What kind of day has it been, C.J.?” Janney asked.

“Al-Baghdadi has been activating armies out of bases on the Arabian Peninsula;” Daniels answered, talking about the fanatical caliph of the Arab Nation States and Janney nodded, having been briefed on the action in Arabia; “Mobilizing militias from Mecca and Medina.”

This was new information and the President sat down heavily in the chair behind her desk. “You think this is in response to the speech?” The President inquired, referring to her recent State of the Union before the Joint Session of both Houses of the Congress.

“It is in the opinion of the NSC, Yes.” The National Security Advisor confirmed with a curt nod.

“Where is this coming from?”

“The Intel is from Prime Minister Suliban in Istanbul.” C.J. said. “President Achmad agrees with our analysis and assessment,” After a beat, Janney nodded slowly, her face unreadable but not emotionless at the thought of the President of Iran. Daniels fell silent as well, understanding the mixed emotions in the President when it came to the subject of Tehran.

“Have we heard from Telaboni?” The President asked and the National Security Advisor nodded, understanding why her Commander in Chief would be interested in any action in Islamabad, as it was, after all, one of the only allies the Arab Nation States had remaining anywhere in the Arabic-speaking Islamic world, after the Iranian Republic allied itself with the western world decades earlier. “Kashmir is still a hotspot;” Daniels answered, not needing notes; “But the Khaiber pass is quiet…currently.”

Janney nodded. “Anything out of Egypt?”

“Cairo’s also quiet, according to our informants in Alexandria.”

“What’s next?” The President said and Daniels turned the page.

“The usual out of Lima on the Latin American loan you mentioned in you State of the Union.” The Advisor reported and the President nodded, expecting protestations from Peru. “Aren’t they avoiding accepting aide out of Argentina?”

“D’Abruzzo did desire to discuss the debt;” Daniels acknowledged; “Our earliest convenience, of course.”

“Schedule a call for the weekend.” The President said and Daniels nodded, taking down the note. “Caracas quiet?” Janney asked.

“All quiet in Managua as well;” C.J. confirmed; “But Havana…”

“What about it?” The President prompted.

“Castro called our Corps Seal garrison at Guantanamo.”

Janney sat straighter at attention in her chair. “About what?”

“The joint regime’s embassy consulate concluded the so-called “Contras” controlling Caracas came across the Canal.”

“Let me guess the next part;” The President said; “The Contras came out of Nicaragua.”

C.J. confirmed curtly. “Someone studied her Honduran history homework.”

The President stood. “Thank you, Commander Daniels.” She concluded the briefing.

“Thank you, Madam President.” C.J. curtsied courteously before turning toward the door and striding out.

 

The moment her Advisor was gone, the President turned and walked through a hidden side door disguised as identical to the rest of the walls of the Oval Office.

She made her way down the hallway toward her private study, but as she passed by the doorway to the dining room’s tiny kitchen, she jumped, startled as she felt superhumanly-strong arms reach out to seize the lapels of her suit and the next thing she knew, her eyes fell closed as tender lips pressed against her own. Katherine returned the kiss as those same strong arms wrapped around her back.

When the kiss ended, her eyes opened to meet those that hovered only inches away.

“Good morning to you too, Sam.” She murmured with a grin.

“Good morning, Kitty Kat.” Sam said.

Colonel Samantha Connor was tall, at least as tall as Kate’s six-foot height, with golden hair that glittered as it caught any light. She had the most extraordinary eyes Kate had ever seen in her life. They were shining mother-of-pearl and Kate could swear that they appeared to glow in darkness, including in the dim, muted illumination of the shadow-darkened corridor in which they now stood.

“Thanks for last night.” Kate said and Sam shrugged, smiling demurely.

“Sorry about this morning.” She responded. “I had a very early meeting at the Pentagon.” Kate nodded understandingly. Colonel Connor was Chief of Staff for the Air Force, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Then Sam brightened. “But I made you breakfast.” She led the President into the dining room.

As they sat down to eat, Kate asked. “So what was so urgent at the Pentagon?”

Sam sighed. “You blindsided a lot of the people I work with last week.” She said.

Kate nodded, knowing the section of her State of the Union speech the previous Sunday Sam was referring to.

“Committing the full resources of the United States armed forces to providing a blanket shield for the prevention of human rights violations and persecution of women homosexuals on the basis of gender and sexual orientation around the globe;” Connor paraphrased; “Especially against violence in the more hostile and isolated regimes.” She sighed and Kate sat back, preparing herself for a lecture. “The United States has had a doctrine of military intervention in cases of forceful takeovers of democratic governments by hostile foreign powers for nearly three quarters of a century, ever since the end of the First Cold War with the fall of the Soviet Union before the turn of the millennium;” She said; “But this is…”

“Unprecedented?” The President nodded. “I know.” She rested her elbows on the table.

Sam smiled sardonically at the understatement. “It’s the greatest reorientation of our doctrine for the use of military force since President Lowe signed the treaty of the Forbidden City ending the Second Cold war nearly a quarter of a century ago.”

Kate nodded, knowing that the Air Force Colonel had served during the final decade of that conflict. When she looked up, Sam too was leaning over the table, clasping Kate’s hands in hers.

“Don’t think I don’t know why you’re doing this.” She said, her eyes fixed penetratingly on the President’s.

Kate could only nod. Her girlfriend knew her mind better than probably anyone else alive.

“I love Julia too.” Sam said, stopping short of saying she loved the girl as much as Kate did as Julia’s mother.

Kate smiled. “And Julia loves you too.”

Sam did not return her smile, her expression remaining somber. “What you said last Sunday night.” Her gaze penetrated Kate’s mind searchingly. “This is about the kidnapping.” It was not a question.

Kate’s smile faded. “They beat her.” She said, her lips trembling, her voice cracking with emotion. “They tortured her.”

Seeing the all-too-familiar far-away look in her girlfriend’s eyes, Sam squeezed Kate’s hands in her, pulling her focus forcefully back to the present moment. “It was more than a year ago.” She reminded the President.

Kate averted her eyes, but when they returned they flashed with the old cold fire. “I don’t care.” She said, her lips creasing into a thin, tight line. “You wouldn’t understand.”

Sam said nothing, merely releasing Kate’s hands and sitting back, absorbing the emotionally motivated jab at the fact that Sam had never yet had any children of her own.

They finished the rest of their respective morning meals without a word and then Kate stood up.

“I have to go.” She said, factually, glancing at her watch. “I have a Cabinet meeting in the Mural Room.” She paused at the doorway. “C.J. mentioned military movement in the Arabian Peninsula.” She wondered aloud. “Isn’t the eleventh fleet in the Indian Ocean?”

Sam shrugged. “Becka will brief you at our next JCS meeting in the Sit Room.” She responded and the President nodded. Major Rebecca Mavalently was Captain of the Aircraft Carrier U.S.S. Enterprise and Chief of Staff of the Navy.

 

She returned to the Oval Office, closing the door resoundingly behind her. Standing again behind her desk, she took several deep breaths, once more forcing her mind to let go of the emotions dredged up by more than year-old memories that nevertheless felt like fresh wounds every time. She was already starting toward the door when her aide opened it to remind her of her meeting with her Cabinet.

 

9:30 AM

 

When she entered the Mural Room, the eleven individuals assembled around the long table: eight women and three men; leapt to their feet respectfully with a chorus of “Good Morning, Madam President.” The President shook hands with her Vice President, Theodore Matheson and her Secretary of State, Thomas Slatterly. She nodded respectfully in acknowledgement of a military salute given her by Jason Hunter, the Secretary of National Security and Defense. She brightened visibly as an older brunette woman approached her, whom she embraced with a hug,

“Welcome home, Madam President.” Margaret Lowe greeted her.

“It’s been too long, Peggy.” The President replied, pressing kissed to both of Lowe’s cheeks before the two met in the middle for a kiss on Peggy’s lips that lasted several long minutes longer than propriety required. Kate exchanged knowing winks with Elisabeth Pannabaker, her Deputy Attorney General, who sat beside her boss, Charlotte Cardezza. “Ladies and gentlemen;” The President pronounced, loud enough for the recording devices held by the press pool to pick up as she walked to the far end of the long table; “Welcome to the first official full-Cabinet meeting of year three.”

There was a smattering of subdued applause as she sat down, her Cabinet Secretaries following suit. After the press pool photographers had departed, the President spoke up.

“Let’s go around the room, shall we?” She turned to Secretary Hunter. “Pentagon?”

“You’re aware of the military mobilization from Medina.” Hunter prompted and the President nodded. “I just came from a breakfast with Colonel Connor.” Kate confirmed, catching a knowing grin from Peggy Lowe, her Secretary of International Trade.

“Istanbul station reports Suliban launched fighters out of a base at Ankara;” Hunter glanced at his briefing book; “Tripling the patrol along the Lebanese no-fly.”

The President nodded. “Response?” She prompted.

“Nothing outside occasional potshots with RPG’s from Beirut, but…” He shrugged.

“Very good.” The President pronounced, shifting her focus to her left. “Foreign Affairs.”

“The protests around the Temple Mount have grown over the weekend.” Slatterly said.

“How many?” Kate asked.

“Ten thousand at least.” Her Secretary said.

Kate heard a soft whistle from Pannabaker. “Is the Embassy in any danger?” She asked.

Slatterly shook his head. “General Goodwin is on the ground.” He assured her, referring to the Joint Operations Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Allied Forces.

“What about Caracas?” She asked. “How credible is the Intel from Castro on the Contras?”

“It’s been confirmed by our bases in Panama.”

The President nodded. “Could this be a proxy exchange in D’Abruzzo’s feud with the Columbian cartels?” She directed this question more at C.J., acknowledging the National Security Advisor as she entered the room. “How worried should we be?”

“Collusion between the Columbian Cartels and the Contras in Caracas could cut us off at the Canal.” C.J. confirmed.

“All due respect, Madam President;” Hunter interjected; “but Caracas may very well already be a lost cause, according to our contacts inside Central Intelligence.”

“I’ll be meeting with Director Bolten over at Langley later tonight.” The President said, before moving on. “Justice.”

“The Conservatives took majorities in the State Assemblies of several Southern states in last year’s elections.” Cardezza began and Kate grimaced, having watched her Party suffer said defeats on Midterm election night not quite three months before, in November. “Several legislative leaders at the State level have banded together to issue a challenge to your—Our administration’s expansion of the UWA.”

There were muted chuckles around the room, which the President silenced with a sidelong glance. “On what grounds?”

“Their complaint is with the nationalization of sexual education curricula and standards.” Cardezza nodded to Kevin Healy, the Secretary of Health and Education. “They assert that the new standards “condone unnatural homosexual lifestyles”.” She shot a quick glance over at her deputy, who sat tense and tight-lipped, though her face flushed visibly.

The President knew all too well the reason why, as a lifelong crusader for lesbians like herself, Liz Pannabaker would be understandably outraged by the ongoing obstinate opposition to equality for homosexuals, even in the free world.

“They claim that teaching adolescents not only how to have heterosexual sex safely;” Healy added; “But how to have risk-free homosexual sex as well infringes upon their right to practice their religious beliefs in sexual discrimination.”

Kate could not help but smile as she turned back to Secretary of State Slatterly. “That’s the same objection that the protesters around the Temple Mount have against my AUMF doctrine to prevent violence against women, is it not?”

The Secretary of State nodded. “The similarities are strikingly stark, Madam President.”

“Treasury?” The President prompted.

“Combined with your expansion of the UWA;” Lowe began; “Your expansion of America’s military mandate worldwide means that the annual budget surplus is going to take a hit.”

“How much, do you think?” The President asked.

“All other things being equal, assuming annual outlays as of Fiscal Year 2062;” Lowe looked down at her packet and Kate could see her running calculations in her head; “A little more than 19.33%, Ma’am.” She concluded.

The President grimaced, not liking the number, but she couldn’t help but half-grin, knowing well from experience that Lowe’s “guesses” were almost always accurate to the last decimal point. “Where does that leave us?”

“One and half trillion for Fiscal Year 2064.” Lowe answered.

“Transportation?” The President moved on to her left.

“The Pacific seaboard maglev expansion from LA to Las Vegas is on schedule to be completed by year’s end.” A short dark-haired woman named Claudia Ford reported. “As such;” She continued; “Another new expansion is planned, through Santa Fe to San Antonio.”

The President shook her head, whistling softly. “Anchorage to San Antonio?”

Ford nodded. “More than four thousand miles, Madam President.”

“How long a trip is that?” Healy asked her.

“Just over fourteen hours;” Ford answered; “At the maglev’s average cruising speed of just over three hundred miles per hour.”

“Keep me posted.” The President told her.

“Yes, Ma’am.”
“Agriculture?” Kate turned to the blonde woman seated next to Ford.

 

As the Cabinet Secretaries filed out of the Mural Room, Matheson approached the President.

“You gave one hell of a speech last Sunday, Madam President.” The Vice President complimented her. “I doubt I could have done better.”

The President favored him with a sardonic half-grin. Matheson had campaigned against her in the Primaries for the Democratic-Republican Presidential Nomination before accepting the running mate position on the ticket.

 

When she reentered the Oval Office, she was again greeted with a chorus of “Good morning, Madam President.” From the group assembled inside.

“What’s next?” She asked, sitting down behind her desk.

“The foreign international press is still hounding the State Department for an administration answer to the protesters surrounding the Temple Mount.” A tall woman with auburn hair who could have easily been Kate’s twin reported.

“Specific sources, Ginny?”

“BBC, the Guardian, Times of London, Agence-France Presse, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, International Business Times, Foreign Affairs and the CBC.” Gina Everett read.

“Our answer;” The President told her Press Secretary; “Is that our position in the Middle East for the past three decades stands: We do not support any theocratic military dictatorship; be it in an Arab nation, or in the Nation of Israel.”

“I’m sure the domestic press will want your answer to the protesters’ criticisms directed at your State of the Union Address;” Everett’s direct supervisor, a brunette with shoulder-length ebony hair named Kristin Ludlowe, interjected; “That your doctrine for the use of military force to prevent persecution infringes on their right to practice their religion.”

The President held up her hand, stopping her best friend from elaborating any further. “There is no right to discrimination;” She told the Communications Director; “And no one has any right to persecute.” Ludlowe nodded. “What’s next?” The President repeated.

“You’re meeting with Kickland and the Conduct Committee this afternoon.” Kenneth Welsh announced his presence as he entered the Oval Office.

The President forced a grin as she recalled her aide telling her that her Chief of Staff had asked to talk to her before the went to the Capitol.

“What do you think it’s about?” A bleached-blonde young woman with tanned skin and green eyes named Lacey Moss asked.

“We lost a lot of our allies on the Hill in November.” Ken began. “A lot of our allies lost their party Primaries, so a lot of the party’s Caucus in this new Congress is comprised of much more conservative Congressmen and Senators to the right of the Republican Caucus of the DRNC.”

“You don’t think they’ll try to reopen the investigation, do you?” Welsh’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Leopold Spencer, asked his superior.

Ken nodded. “The public opinion pushback from the kidnapping cover-up last year nearly cost the party its majorities in both Houses of Congress.” He turned to the President. “A lot of the party, particularly the right of the Republican part of it, are pretty pissed at you for that.”

“At us.” The President corrected, feeling the sudden need to remind her elderly Chief of Staff that the cover-up in question had been a collective effort of the entire administration. “And I thought Joe put the possibility of a formal probe to bed last summer.”

Her Chief of Staff shrugged. “Kickland lacks the control over the Caucus he had before the elections;” He conceded; “As does Tomblinson in the House.” He added, referring to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Ainsley Tomblinson of West Virginia. “Not only are their majorities not the same size they once were, but their Caucus in the new Congress is much more conservative.”

“Kickland’s also got the Conservatives to contend with.” Ken’s Deputy amended.

“Sedgewicks.” The President spat the name derisively as if it were nothing short of curse word and Leo nodded.

“The position of Minority Leader is more powerful than it’s been in nearly thirty years.”

Senate Minority Leader Nathan Sedgewicks of New Jersey had been the Conservative Party’s Presidential Nominee who had campaigned against Katherine Janney for the Presidency. The President’s despisal of Sedgewicks, however, her Senior Staff knew, went far deeper and was much more personal in nature than a mere three-years-ago electoral rivalry.

“The Conservatives will be wanting their pound of flesh.” Spencer told her, referencing the infamous antihero Shylocke from Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice”.

“We already gave them Foreman.” Kate said, glancing at the young Deputy Chief of staff for his reaction at the reference to his departed and disgraced predecessor. “What more might they want from us?”

“Foreman was the sacrificial lamb.” Welsh said. “His self-immolation appeased them for the time, but they don’t want your underlings, Madam President. They want you.”

The President shook her head. “The decision to keep the kidnapping secret was made by everyone here;” She gestured to her Senior Staff; “And everyone in there.” She indicated the Cabinet Room outside the office door. “I can’t think of anything an investigation of me might give them that they couldn’t get from any of you.”

Ludlowe had been silent for several long minutes, obviously deep in thought. Now she spoke up. “With all due respect, Madam President, information may very well not be their objective.”

“Then what?” Kate asked her friend. “What are they after?”

“In a word: Embarrassment.” Ludlowe answered and the President looked taken aback. “The point;” Kris continued; “May very well be to get you, specifically you, under oath on the record;” She glanced at Everett; “And on national television.”

“But why?” The President wondered.

Moss obviously picked up on her boss’s train of thought. “He knows.” She nodded to Ludlowe, who nodded confirmation in return.

The President looked between them, thoroughly lost.

“Senator Sedgewicks knows about you and Colonel Connor.” Moss told her and Kate’s eyes widened, then narrowed suspiciously.

“If so;” She inquired; “Why didn’t he use it against me years ago?”

“Optimum embarrassment;” Lacey looked the President in the eye; “Merely awaited the opportune moment.”

The President nodded slowly, hanging her head.

The cold, calculated, ruthless logic of the move was, is nothing else, textbook Sedgewicks. The New Jersey Conservative had only regained his seat in the November Midterms, after having resigned from the Senate to run for President against her. Simultaneously, with the Conservatives picking up seats at every level of government, he had automatically become the most powerful Minority Leader in nearly a generation. Now he had not only the ideal ammunition against his opponent’s administration, but also the ideal opportunity to put it to use to optimum effect.

Janney knew all to well, as did each member of her staff from the campaign that public humiliation, though thuggish, was by no means a tactic that Sedgewicks was in any way averse to as being beneath him.

If anything, humiliating the most powerful woman in the history of Western civilization by disclosing her more than decade-long elicit affair with an active military officer and member of the Joint Chiefs was something Sedgewicks would relish far too much to pass up.

“Nothing Sam and I have done is illegal;” The President insisted; “Or for that matter;” She added after a beat; “Immoral, unethical or improper.” Her eyes, however, had a faraway expression and her voice lacked conviction, even faltering on her last word as she remembered the early experimental activities of her relationship with Sam.

Kris shook her head. “It doesn’t matter, Madam President.” She leaned over the President’s desk daringly, locking eyes with her oldest best friend. “Politics is perception.” Her expression and voice were sympathetic. “You know that better than many of us.”

Moss once again agreed with her superior. “The mere appearance of any impropriety is all it takes to knock you down a peg or two.”

She ticked off the evidence on her fingers as she spoke. “The woman whom you’ve had a physically sexual relationship with since you were a teenager;” She paused, her lips creasing as his response from behind her reminded her that Spencer had not known this particular detail of the President’s previous private personal life; “A decorated War veteran, Commanding Officer of a top-secret classified Air Force base and former high-ranking official with DARPA;” There was no mistaking the air of pride in the President’s expression as her girlfriend’s achievements were mentioned; “Is appointed Chief of Staff of the Air Force upon her girlfriend’s inauguration as Commander in Chief and almost instantly becomes an unprecedentedly influential advisor on a wide variety of matters from the military and national defense to foreign and international affairs;” Moss shot a look at the President’s Chief of Staff before concluding; “With what is unquestionably equally unprecedented walk-in access to the Oval Office ordinarily reserved for only the President’s spouse.”

“You’re right, Madam President, that nothing about your relationship with Colonel Connor is illegal.” Spencer concluded, recovering quickly from his surprise. “You and Connor are both consenting grown-ups…who obviously love one another;” He looked to Ludlowe for confirmation, who nodded; “But the signatures of nepotism, I’m afraid, are unavoidable.”

“Any investigation would have a wide mandate.” Ludlowe told the President. “Essentially anything that could possibly be potentially tied to the homeland security of the United States would be fair game for them.” She looked sidelong at the woman sitting behind the desk. “There is a potential which we must be prepared for, that Sedgewicks might extend his questioning of you beyond Colonel Connor to any other women with whom you’ve had physical affairs, no matter how brief, over the years;” She opened her hand one finger at a time; “Your Deputy Attorney General, Your Secretary of International Trade and the Treasury, the wife of the President of the Russian Federation…”

Kate waved her off frantically. “All right, all right!” She said, trying her best not to see Moss and Spencer’s stunned expressions. “I get it! I got it!”

“Your being the first-ever unmarried woman ever to sit in that chair, behind that desk;” Ken agreed; “Does open all sorts of potential doors.”

The President, obviously overly eager to end this line of discussion, made a show of glancing at her watch. “Well;” she said, already starting toward the doors to the outside, as officers in uniform held them open; “Joe’s waiting for me.” She glanced jade daggers at Kristin as she passed by her. “Once more into the lion’s den, then, my friends?” There was precious little warmth in her sardonic smile as she seamlessly mixed Biblical and Shakespearean metaphors. “Wish me luck.”

Before any of the assembled staff could even open their mouths to do so, the President was gone, the armed Marine closing the Oval Office door resolutely in her wake.

 

Ludlowe’s words of warning, however, were still ringing foremost in the President’s mind as her armored limousine, codenamed Wolf Pack One, pulled up in front of the smooth marble steps of Capitol Hill. To her surprise, a familiar imposing figure already stood partway up the steps, evidently awaiting her arrival.

“I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you welcome home to Washington, Madam President.” Senate Majority Leader Josieph Kickland was a polished professional politician with carefully-coiffed graying hair that Kate had always secretly suspected to be a comb-over, but with the broadly muscular shoulders of the Heisman0trophy-winning College quarterback her had been before opting to run for office in his native Chicago instead of accepting any of the offers he had received from the National Football League upon his graduation from the University of Urbana at Champaign.

Kate held her own against Kickland’s crushing handshake, which he pulled into a breath-stealing bear hug. “Thank you;” She greeted, pulling away at long last; “For the hard-to-follow opening act at the Grant Park rally.”

Kickland, fanatically popular in Illinois, had packed at least ten thousand into the famous park in downtown Chicago to hear and cheer Katherine’s public pitch for the policies proposed in her speech before Congress. The Senator merely nodded demurely. “Be sure and thank your friend Kris for including my bill in the domestic policy section.”

“I will.” The President promised, gesturing up to the towering columned dome of the Capitol Building. “Shall we?”

 

The Republican members of the President’s party did their best to disguise it, speaking eloquently of the supposed concerns of their constituents for full disclosure and transparency on matters of national defense.

The minority members of the Committees were more emboldened, making little secret of the fact that their impending investigation would indeed be exactly what Ken and Kris had warned her it would be. The intention was evident: To use the spectre of Senator Sedgewicks airing all of Janney’s dirty proverbial laundry, every skeleton in her closet, to force the President to express regret and remorse over her administration’s actions, as well as her own, in the weeks and months surrounding her daughter’s days-long abduction by agents of the Arab Nation States.

The only regret on the President’s mind during her limousine ride back to the White House, however, was for snapping at Sam the way she had at breakfast.

She would never apologize, either in private let alone in public, for her response to Julia’s kidnapping; but she resolved to make up with the woman she loved immediately.

 

Minutes later, the President stood in the secure anteroom to the subterranean Situation Room beneath the West Wing, acknowledging the steady stream of salutes from the officers of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council as they filed inside.

When she at last spotted her Air Force Chief of Staff, she gestured Sam aside, into a darkened recessed alcove outside the anteroom and away from the Situation Room’s surveillance cameras and recording devices.

She pulled her blonde girlfriend into a kiss, wrapping her arms over Sam’s shoulders.

“What was that about?” The blonde asked, breathlessly, after Kate backed her face away at last.

“That;” Kate said, reaching up to refasten the collar of Sam’s Air Force Uniform that had somehow mysteriously come undone during the kiss; “Was my way of saying that I apologize.” She looked deep into Sam’s eyes as they glowed in the darkness. “I didn’t mean to burst out at you the way that I did after you made me breakfast.”

“We all have our triggers;” Sam said softly, stroking a stray strand of Kate’s copper hair that had fallen to feather the side of her face; “The things that set us off. Jewels is yours.”

Kate closed her eyes, leaning ever so slightly into Sam’s caress. “You were just trying to help me see the big picture.” She said, reaching up to take Sam’s hand in her, subtlely pressing it to her lips.

“I made a promise thirty years ago;” The President’s girlfriend reminded her lover; “To your mother and mine, that I would protect you.” She sighed, covering Kate’s hand with hers, clasping both of their hands together between the breast pockets of their suit jackets. “Sometimes;” She smiled, running her fingertips tenderly over the hairs on the back of Kate’s hand; “That means protecting you from yourself.”

“I’ve been around awhile;” Sam said, her glowing eyes penetrating into Kate’s. “Long enough to see cities rise and empires fall.” She released Kate’s hand as the President looked away, in order to reach up and take Kate’s chin in her fingers, turning her back to face her. “You’ve got demons, Kitty-Kat.” She said sternly, her eyes aglow with affectionate compassion. “I’ve made it my mission every minute we’ve been together for ten years now to keep you safe from them; from your own tendency toward…reactionary impulses;” She smiled, taking Kate’s hands and placing them against her own chest, atop the purple medallion pinned over her heart; “And I always will.”

After the lovers kissed passionately again, Kate took the Colonel by the hand, lifting the other to press against the scanner beside the door.

Sam did the same and they stepped together through the anteroom.

Kate felt a superhumanly strong squeeze on her fingers as she repeated the process, before she felt her girlfriend release her hand, trailing some distance behind the President, like a subordinate officer to the Commander in Chief should, as she entered the Situation room. “What kind of day has it been?” The President asked, using the military shorthand for a situation report as she nodded to the towering, muscle-bound American-American woman in an Admiral’s uniform standing at attention at the opposite end of the long table.

“The Arab army;” Admiral Condoleezza Falkenwrathe, Chairwoman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported; “Appears to be assembling at Arab bases in Bahrain.” As she spoke, the lights darkened and an image of the oblong island in question appeared behind her, showing its location within the Persian Gulf as seen from the geosynchronous low-Earth orbit of a geostationary National Security Reconnaissance Agency Office surveillance satellite.

“Anyone got odds Mecca’s making a move on Hormuz?” The Commander in Chief asked rhetorically, referring to the Iranian city that marked the entrance to the Persian Gulf from the Northwestern Indian Ocean.

“Almost certainly.” The Commandant of the Marine Corps confirmed. “However, we believe, if we shift our attention westward, there might be something more going on than meets the eye.”

“You mean sealing the Straits is just a diversion?” The President asked. “For what?”

The image behind the Admiral changed, showing the coast of the Persian Gulf in the lower right-hand corner, but centered on the twin rivers that fed into it: The Euphrates and the Tigris.

“Madam President;” Michael Bolten, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said soberingly; “We think Baghdad might be preparing to make a move against the Iranian border.”

The President sat back, staggered at the implications. “Kirkuk?” It was more a statement than it was an inquiry, but the Director of Central Intelligence nodded nevertheless.

“The Caliphate knows as well as we do, Madam President, that Tehran is their primary obstruction in the way of finally retaking Kurdistan.”

“What about Ankara?” Janney asked.

“True;” Bolten acknowledged; “The Turks had as much to do with the Kurds obtaining independence as anyone.”
“But?” The President prompted, sensing a qualification coming.

“With all due respect to Prime Minister Suliban;” Bolten hedged; “The bulk of Ankara’s assistance to Kurdistan in gaining and maintaining its sovereignty came before Turkey’s secularization in preparation for European Union and NATO membership.”

“So you think the Turks won’t help the Kurds because they’re not as Muslim as they used to be?” The President’s tone was incredulous.

Bolten shrugged. “They might still yet.” He conceded. “But nowhere near as much as the Iranians will and the Caliphate in Baghdad knows that, too.”

“Speaking of Suliban;” Janney said, moving on; “Where are we at with the increased air patrol out of Ankara over the Lebanese No-Fly?”

“Secularization or no;” A new voice spoke and the President smiled as she turned to her Naval chief of Staff, Major Mavalently; “Suliban still presides over and overwhelmingly Islamic citizenry.” Janney nodded. “His constituents no doubt have demanded action on Ankara’s part in safeguarding the Dome of the Rock from the potential of violent religious riots around the Temple Mount.”

“What’s the latest from General Goodwin on the ground in Jerusalem?” Janney asked.

“The NATO peacekeepers are so far successful in keeping the Islamist jihadists and the Israeli Jews sufficiently separated.” Secretary of State Slatterly said. “The Secretary General has agreed to call for a conference of the General Assembly to strengthen Resolution 20-360.”

 

McLean, Virginia

5:30 PM

 

Comfortably ensconced by the motorcade, the unmarked black sedan pulled almost noiselessly to a stop at the curb. The door with its darkly shaded window was opened and held open as the tall young woman stepped out, waving off assistance and shrugging back into her navy coat over a pantsuit as black as the car. She gestured for the remainder of the entourage to follow as she led the procession, striding determinedly toward the imposing edifice before them.

 

Inside, two colleagues were taking their evening break from their daily duties elsewhere in the building at an otherwise unoccupied reception checkpoint.

“Were you in on that meeting over at the Hoover Building, Pitt?” One asked, resting his elbows on the desk between them.

“You know we both were, Joe.” Kurt Pitt replied, tiredly. “Why? You going through the recordings?”

“Guilty.” Joe Giordino nodded, shrugging his shoulders. “Can’t say I understand any of what’s happening.” Pitt chuckled slightly and Giordino leaned over in his seat, eyebrows rising. “Can you?”

Pitt sat up in his reclining chair. “Secret Service is in the process of being transferred.”

“Transferred? Where to?”

“To the NSDIA.” Pitt mentioned, feigning casualness.
“And what’s that?” Giordino sounded exasperated, betraying his own uneasiness.

“The National Security Department Intelligence Agency.” Pitt elaborated. “Some classified top-secret outfit no one’s ever heard of. Operates out of some black-ops Air Force Base somewhere out in the middle of the desert in Nevada.”

“You think?” Joe said, more a statement than an inquiry.

“Pretty sure.”

Giorodino’s sigh was nearly a groan. “What sort of cheapskate flatfooted beat cop you think made that call?”

“Probably the same high-minded one who took the head of that same NSDIA agency and put them in the American Ambassadorship up at the United Nations in New York.” Pitt chuckled slightly. “Just some tall-headed bigwig over on Pennsylvania—” He broke off in mid-sentence and leapt to his feet. Giordino followed his gaze and immediately followed suit, recognizing the figure coming down the entryway by her distinctive fiery red-orange hair.

 

“For the Umpteenth time;” She said, mock-seriously, walking up to them; “I don’t wear wigs.” She tossed her head back, flinging that same hair behind her shoulder. “See?” She said, bemusedly, running her fingers through the cascading locks. “All mine.” She smiled then, genuinely amused at the two agents, standing so straight they were almost bent backwards. “Stand easy, gentlemen, before you sprain something.” The operatives relaxed with poorly concealed sighs of relief. “Agents Giordino and Pitt, I presume.”

“Yes, Madam President.” The two chorused nodding.

“Taking some personal time to ourselves, were we?” The President’s eyes flashed and the agents visibly withered.

“I—We should apologize, Madam President.” Pitt began.

“We didn’t mean anything by…”

“That’s fine.” She interjected before either of the friends could manage any excuse “I don’t mind breaks. Breaks every once in a while are good.” The friends glanced at each other, their relief tinged with confusion, without a word.

“I’m here to see the DNI.” The President said.

“He’s expecting you, Ma’am.” Pitt said, instantly pleased with the stability of his voice.

“Gentlemen.” The President nodded to tem as she resumed her stride past them. “Break’s over.” She added over her shoulder.

Th pair looked at each other, shared astonishment replacing any words to pass between them, until after the entourage had passed. Then they hurriedly packed up their belongings and returned to their offices.

 

“I don’t think I need to tell you, Madam President;” Director of National Intelligence Michael Kagan told her as he ushered her inside the open door to the Director’s office at the Langley Headquarters; “That there are a great many men and women her at Langley whose lives would be a lot easier right now if you had just given you address to the Congress and then left it at that.”

The President eyed the Director as she sat down. “It’s good to be back.” She said, implying it was not the greeting she had anticipated upon her arrival.

“I apologize for feeling I have to be so straightforward with you, Ma’am;” Bolten acknowledged; “But unlike the more…domestic policies outlined in your speech, no amount of campaign touring of swing states is going to fetch you the support of this community.”

“You’re the Director of National Intelligence.” The President reminded him. “As described, the job of the NSC is to advise and consent.” She stopped herself before telling him she didn’t need their support, saying instead: “Your support would be appreciated.”

“On paper, perhaps.” Bolten could think of little that he desired less than to challenge the President, a Constitutional lawyer herself, to a debate over the subject of Enumerated Powers.

“With all due respect, Madam President;” He changed tone diplomatically; “In your address to Congress, you gave a detailed…discourse on the subject of Latin American debt, and the relief thereof.” The President nodded in acknowledgement and appreciation of the praise of her articulateness and eloquence as an orator. “Then, five days later, you held a rally in Miami, Florida that, as many saw, launched an active attack against the Caribbean nation of Cuba and the South American country of Columbia.”

“Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach is beautiful in January.” The President hedged evasively. “Temperatures in the high seventies Fahrenheit, and the Mandarin Oriental is gorgeous.”

Kagan eyed the President silently, waiting without a word, and after a long moment, finally she sighed.

“C.J. briefed me on the connection between Castro and the cartels.” Kate said. “Is it the opinion of the Intelligence Directorate that any cooperative collaboration between the Columbian cartels and the Castro-financed Contras was caused by my address to the rally in Miami?”

“As I need not remind you, you are Commander in Chief of the military armed forces;” Kagan digressed; “And due deference to your friend down the road, Ma’am;” The President knew he was referring to Major Mavalently at the Pentagon; “But the Joint Chiefs are only one half of he NSC.” Bolten rotated his chair around to gaze out his window, which looked southeast across the Potomac. The relatively dim lights of Georgetown were drowned out in the darkening twilight by the glow of the shining white marble mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue, southeast of where they now sat. “I’m sure you must have studied your mid-twentieth-century western hemisphere history at the Harvard Kennedy School;” He said and out of his line of sight she nodded; “So I don’t feel the need to remind you of the headaches caused at the CIA the last time a Central American group calling itself the Contras surfaced.” Kate nodded again. “To say nothing of the continual chaos and controversy caused the last time a man named Castro came to be in charge in Cuba.”

“Caracas has been a lost cause since the second decade of this century;” The President deflected defensively; “Certainly since my father was first elected to the Senate.”

“There has been no American military presence in Cuba, or American military action against the cartels in Columbia for decades.” Kagan said, displaying intolerance for straying away from the important matter at hand.

The President sat back, chastened, but Kagan turned back around to look at her compassionately. “Even back then;” He told her; “Cooperation between Cubans and Columbian cartels was a nightmare shared amongst any and all parents of teenagers in America.” He said and Kate glanced up at him skeptically, albeit with a sly smile. “Julia’s different.” She said. “That’s not what I have nightmares about.”

“I know.” Kagan said. “With all due respect, Madam President, there is no one in the DNSD community who doesn’t know all too well precisely what it is that you have nightmares about.” Kate nodded appreciatively at his expression of empathy for her daughter. As a father of sons serving overseas, Kagan did indeed understand the overprotective instinct of a parent that the woman sitting across from him felt toward her own daughter. “But nevertheless, as the Director of the NSC, I would be remiss in my duties if I did not inquire here and now in this meeting as to what endgame exactly you had in mind in Miami.”

The President thought for several long minutes before she answered, choosing her each and every word carefully. “C.J. said Castro claims that the Central American Contras crossed the Panama Canal on their way to taking Caracas.” Kagan nodded. “We may not have an armed military presence in Panama anymore, but the Canal itself is under international law, and the Slatterly says the State Department maintains a diplomatic embassy presence there.” Kagan could tell the President was working out potential solution out loud. “If Cuba is communicating with Columbia via the Contras, then Ambassador Day could make the case before the General Assembly that the crossing of the Canal constituted a breach of NATO trade sanctions.” Kagan appeared as yet unconvinced, but Kate continued. “And if Castro’s financing of the Contras was in collusion with the Columbian cartels against D’Abruzzo, then Slatterly at State could invoke NAFTA.”

Kagan had been around the Janney administration for enough years to see many of the young President’s similarly tenuous leaps of logic, dating back to the votes the made as a junior Congresswoman years earlier, borne out after all was said and done.

“In that case, I can promise you I’ll get the NSC behind it.” He told her, standing and opening the door for her. “I’ll hop the first flight to Tipton and wrangle the NSRAO’s upper…Echelon.”

The President nodded, smiling at the wordplay on the famous headquarters building of the National Security Reconnaissance Agency Office, the largest and most powerful intelligence agency in the clandestine services community, at Fort Meade, Maryland. “Any special message you’d like me to deliver to my friend in the Joint Chiefs from you?” She asked as they walked outside.

“Just one of them comes to mind.” Bolten chuckled good-naturedly as he handed her off to her staffers. “I’d appreciate it as a personal favor if you could please ask your girlfriend Colonel Connor to kindly keep the NSDIA out of Langley’s way.” He smiled with a wink at her startlement and stunned double take before turning back toward the Headquarters building’s entryway.

 

6:30 PM

 

Katherine Janney nodded to Kim as she knocked on the door of the Lincoln bedroom.

“Come on in, Mom.” Her daughter called.

“How’d you know?” Kate asked as she opened the door.

“You’re the only one who ever knocks.” The raven-haired teenager seated at the desk answered.

“Sorry I missed you after school, honey.” Kate came around the back of the girl’s chair, leaning in to kiss the side of her face. “How’s homework coming?” She rested her chin on the girl’s shoulder.

“I already knocked out Chemistry.” Julia told her proudly, patting the notebook and textbook at the edge of the desk beside her. “I’m working my way through Biology, and I’ve still got AP Gov. left to go.” She nodded to the backpack on her bed, turning around with a smile. “I always save the easiest class for last.” She said, returning her mother’s kiss.

Kate patted her daughter on the shoulders. “I’m going to go change. Dinner in ETA ninety minutes alright?” Her daughter nodded distractedly and the President closed the bedroom door, crossing the hall to her own room, already stripping off her suit jacket and unbuttoning her blouse.

 

Katherine Janney mentally ticked off her twelfth lap and her head broke the water’s surface as she sensed a presence standing beside the pool even before she saw the figure. “We’re going to have to talk about this thing you have about watching me.” She said, tossing her wet hair behind her and wiping the water out of her eyes.

As Kate stood in the shallow end of the Olympic-sized swimming pool, the figure squatted down to bring their faces level with one another. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you you’re sexy in a swimsuit?” Sam said, seizing Kate’s face in her hand and kissing her.

“You have…repeatedly.” Kate murmured against her lips, her own curving into a smile. “Surprised to see me down here?” She asked as Sam stood, observing her girlfriend still dressed in her blue Air Force skirt suit.

Sam shrugged. “I sometimes forget this place still has a pool.” Kate grinned, knowing that the first swimming pool to be installed when the White House was built had been paved over to form the Press briefing room, and that this new second pool had only recently been rebuilt upon her request soon after her inauguration. “Now it has two.” She reminded her girlfriend, gesturing out the nearby window towards the White House grounds’ outdoor pool. “These sexy swimsuits you love so much;” She ran her fingers over the one-piece she wore, drawing Sam’s gaze along with them as she knew it would; “Aren’t exactly conducive to the temperatures in the Potomac in January.”

Sam reluctantly acknowledged the argument’s validity and as she walked casually around the poolside, the President glanced around. “You snuck by my best guards.” She said smiling. “Shall I report a security breach?” Sam stopped near the doorway. “You should know your agents work for me now.” She said with obviously exaggerated seriousness. “You signed the Order putting the Secret Service under my jurisdiction.”

“It’s under your agency;” Kate corrected, matching Sam’s mock-grave tone as she lifted herself out of the pool; “Which your mother officially doesn’t run anymore.” She plucked a towel from a nearby divan and started drying herself. “You’re not officially in charge of it either…yet.” She needled her girlfriend lightheartedly, prompting Sam to sneer at her, childishly sticking out her tongue in the President’s general direction.

“It’s almost eight.” Sam said as Kate wrapped the towel like a turban around her dripping hair, squeezing the water out of it like she was wringing a sponge.

The President nodded, gesturing her girlfriend forward. “Dinner time. Jewels will be waiting for us.”

 

After the three of them thoroughly enjoyed their evening meal of savory Lo Mein chicken-flavored spiral rotini with broccoli and spinach in a delicate basil and garlic herb flavored olive oil sauce, Julia went downstairs to the Oval Blue Room on the Second Floor to practice her Dance Team and Cheerleading routines and to rehearse for her high school’s upcoming musical production, while the President and her girlfriend retired together to the Presidential Residence’s third floor living room, where Katherine insisted on doing some reading of the briefings on the NATO peacekeeping mission and religious protests in Jerusalem, in spite of her girlfriend’s initial protestations and later attempts at distraction.

After only an hour, however, the President surrendered to Sam’s persistent kisses and venturesome fingertips, escorting her overly eager girlfriend by the hand down the hall, past the closed door of her daughter’s now-darkened and quiet bedroom to her own.

Sam had Kate’s wraparound blouse off almost before the President had finished closing her bedroom door behind them, prompting the President to seize her by the wrists with a skeptical glance. “Think about taking a breath?” She inquired rhetorically; acutely aware of the irony of saying so in the breathless murmur her girlfriend’s expert kisses left her with. “It’s only been five days, Samantha.” They had last spent the night together at the Mandarin Oriental the previous Thursday before the President’s rally in Miami Beach. With the Colonel’s duties in Nevada, and the President’s frequent overseas diplomatic meetings, the pair ordinary did not meet one another face to face in person for months at a time.

Sam was relentless, backing Kate toward the bed until they collapsed atop the mattress. “Take a look at that packet in your hand;” She said, even as she forced Kate to drop the briefing to the floor, freeing her own hand in the process; “And you can see all that can happen in five days.”

After that there were no more words, as Sam expertly dispensed with the President’s undergarments and pulled the covers over both of them in the darkening bedroom as the lights automatically faded out.

 

The Campaign Part VI: Ninety-Miles Away [Draft 2: 35 Pages 17,826 Words January 26, 2018]

•January 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Chapter 1:

Monday October 27, 2059

 

9:45 AM

 

Therese Ellis, Agent in charge of Aerospace for the National Security Department Intelligence Agency, leaned back in her chair, resisting the urge to close her eyes. ‘Just for a few minutes.’ She told herself. Instead, she tried to concentrate on the words on the page of the book open in her lap. It had been an early morning for her and she still had half a dozen hours at least on her shift. Her task this day was that of monitoring the airspace over and above the 99th United States Air Force Base Flight Wing Test and Training Center.

On an intellectual level, she knew that this was a classified Air Force facility and its airspace was restricted. On the other hand, she thought to herself sardonically, the problem with this job was…well…precisely that: the existence of this installation, in the salt flats of Yucca Mountain near the New Mexico border, was top-secret, known about only by a handful of high-ranking members of the military and the branches of the United States government. Most if not all air traffic was channeled toward McCaren Airport in Vegas. So the skies were always empty, making monitoring meaningless menial…

Her thoughts were interrupted by an unexpected alarm emanating from the monitor in front of her. The book toppled to the floor as she sat straight, staring at the signal that had appeared at the edge of the airspace area around the Airbase. Her fingers flew over a few keys, calling up the radar and sonar signals on the incoming aircraft. It was far too big to be a fighter, but too small to be a C-130 military transport plane. Indeed, it met all the specifications for a standard Boeing 700-series commercial airliner.

She reached over and punched the call button beside the monitor, summoning her superior.

Minutes later, two more women stood staring at the screen. Ellis had been joined at her station by Meredith Rothman, the woman in charge of all things Transportation-related, as well as her fellow Aerospace Agent Eva Vega.

“Question, Tess.” Her superior said, staring over her shoulder at the screen. “What in the wide world is a civilian commercial 700-serieis doing in classified airspace over an Air Force Base that, officially speaking, isn’t even supposed to exist?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Ellis said. “But what I can tell you is that their clearance code checks out.” She nodded to Vega as she pointed out the dozen-digit alphanumerical sequence. “I was just about to clear them.”

“T land?” Rothman demanded. “You are absolutely to do no such thing!”

“You know as well as me, Merry;” Tess told her friend; “What the Colonel would want;” She looked over at Rothman with a worried frown; “And that our beloved CO will have us pulling double detailing duties downstairs if I don’t do it.”

“Alright.” Rothman relented reluctantly. “I’ll be the first to admit to being genuinely curious which civilian might have access to our clearance codes and who or where they got them from.”

“Not to mention;” Tess said; “The question of how and why.”

 

Director of Campaign Communications Kristin Ludlowe was unhappy as she found herself uncomfortably pacing the already cramped conference room on board the recently re-christened “Janney For America” official campaign aircraft. “I don’t understand it.” She said. “I can’t understand you sometimes.” She paused, appearing to calm and collect herself.

“Not one, not two, but three of you Primary opponents for your Party’s nomination for Commander in Chief are former military veterans.” She articulated. “Three weeks ago, you made a major announcement about your planned foreign policy, in England of all places.” She closed her eyes and her lips, taking a tense breath. “And yet;” She enunciated through tightly- thin lips; “The first stop after two weeks in New Hampshire, state of the first Primary less than four months from today, is a military base;” She leaned over the table, planting her hands on the tabletop; “And the very large press section at the back of this very fancy airplane is entirely empty.”

“That wasn’t my decision to make.” Katherine Janney said calmly, having watched her best friend’s entire tirade without a word.

She met Ludlowe’s harsh glare with her own unwavering gaze, her green eyes flashing with a cool glow. “The very existence of this particular military facility is classified above Umbra clearance level.” She explained. “Any reporters we did bring would risk arrest and imprisonment under tribunal if they ever even so much as turned on a recording device.” As Ludlowe rolled her eyes laconically, throwing up her hands in an expression of only barely-exaggerated exasperation, Kate favored her friend with an enigmatically knowing smile. “You’ll just have to take that particular issue up with the Commanding Officer after we land.”

“Oh I will!” Ludlowe exclaimed. “Believe you me, I’m going to give them one hell of a piece of my mind!”

Kate could only grin. “Good luck with that Kris.”

Their conversation was ended abruptly by the announcement from the cockpit that the aircraft had been cleared by airbase control and was on approach.

 

Therese Ellis and her friend Meredith Rothman watched the monitor closely as it displayed an external overhead view of the airbase’s tarmac. The oversized, obviously customized, Boeing airliner slid silently to as stop and minutes later the forward door opened, extending downward into an elegantly appointed crimson-carpeted staircase. The first to emerge were an older balding man and a young brunette, both wearing matching black suits and dark sunglasses.

“Security.” Ellis guessed, tempted to zoom in to read the insignia emblazoned on the breast pockets of the young brunette’s tailored, fitted double-breasted suit. This, however, became unnecessary with the next individual to emerge: a tall woman in an elegant fitted skirt suit. Ellis and Agent Eva Vega exchanged a glance of mutual amazement with Meredith behind them as all of them instantly recognized the woman’s fiery copper-colored hair as it caught the morning sunlight. There could be no mistaking, as ever NSDIA Agent had learned to recognize this woman, thanks to her relationship with their base Commander, who even now they could see striding forward to greet their guest. The woman descending the steps was, without question in any of their minds, none other than Oregon Congresswoman Katherine Janney.

 

Katherine unbuttoned her pinstripe charcoal suit coat as she led the way to the plane’s front hatch, sliding it off her shoulders as she stepped out onto the top of the lowered gangway.

As she descended the steps to the tarmac, Kris exchanged nervous glances with Gina, the Press Secretary, as Katherine slung her jacket by its sleeves over her shoulder.

But Lacey couldn’t help but smile as the candidate shook her hair loose from its up-do, tossing it behind her shoulders.

‘It was;’ Kris thought, studying the Congresswoman closely; ‘As though her college roommate was making herself look as casual as possible, as if getting ready for a date.’

Upon looking around them, however, she shook off that particular possibility just as quickly as it occurred to her. Between the surrounding desert on three sides and the smattering of squat utilitarian buildings that dotted the mountainside and the lakeshore to their North, the attorney and speechwriter saw nothing that her best friend might find the remotest bit romantic. However, had she not been looking around toward the mountain that towered to the left of the airplane, Ludlowe may very well have missed the tall blonde striding toward it from that direction.

Kristin Ludlowe emerged from the forward door behind her friend and froze, her feet rooted to the floor as she recognized the golden hair of the woman in the air Force Colonel’s uniform striding forward to welcome the candidate with a kiss. As she forced her legs to descend the steps, she tore her eyes away, with effort, from the two women’s embrace in order to look around, knowing now where they were, something Kate had kept close to her chest since they had left Manchester at sunrise, heading West with the sun. Flying for more than half a dozen hours through three time zones, she realized they had arrived only two hours or so after they had taken off.

Kate broke away from her embrace as Ludlowe arrived beside her. “Kris, you told me moments ago you had a proverbial bone to pick with this Air Force facility’s Commanding Officer.” Kate said smiling. “So please permit me to present to you the C.O. of Groom Lake Air Force Base, Colonel Samantha Connor.”

“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Colonel Connor.” Ludlowe said, casting an intently meaningful glare over at her best friend as she shook Sam’s hand as she emphasized each syllable of the blonde’s title.

“The pleasure will be all mine, I’m sure. Nice to see you again, Kris.” Samantha smiled, though her eyes never lost their contact with Katherine’s. “Allow me the pleasure of saying welcome to Area 51.” Sam said, spreading her arms theatrically. Her smile, however, disappeared abruptly as she stood rigidly at attention once more.

Katherine need only have wondered at this for a moment before a gruff baritone voice at her back lent itself to the answer.

“At ease, Colonel.” Kenneth Welsh said, coming up behind the Congresswoman to stand at her other shoulder from Kris.

“Thank you, General.” Connor saluted before relaxing her rigid posture. She turned on her heel. “Right this way, if you would follow me please.”

Kris could only nod, not having honestly entirely believed the urban legends, regarding them as little more than conspiracy theories; about the facility in the Yucca Mountain salt flats of Southeastern Nevada, run by the enigmatic and mysterious “Doctor Day”, whom she now knew was Sam’s mother and Kate’s godmother, Hera Day, Director of the National Security Department Intelligence Agency.

“Is that…” She croak, her throat finding itself dry and having nothing to do with the desert heat as she pointed past Sam to a megalithic building built into the side of a towering mountain.

“We call it the Warehouse.” Sam said smiling. “Come on in, then.” Sam announced, smiling excitedly, tasking Kate by the arm and leading the way toward the Warehouse. “Time for the top-secret tour.”

Connor gestured to the muscularly built man with close-cropped sun-bleached hair who waited at attention beside the door and opened it as they approached his position. “This is Norman Makepeace.” If any of their party noted the fact that she had omitted to provide a military rank for the man, none gave any indication thereof. “He will conduct you on your tour of the base.” Her deliberate word choice should have indicated to the press, especially, that the muscle-bound man would serve as far more than merely a tour guide.

Kate, however, turned to her old friend, her expression serious. “Kristin Ludlowe, what you are about to witness, only a very select few people living have ever experienced.” She said, her deep green eyes penetrating. “Needless to say, you can say nothing of what you are going to see in there to anyone not standing right here.” She gestured to the three of them.

Kris nodded solemnly, still not trusting her voice enough to respond out loud with words.

“If you will excuse me;” Samantha continued, subliminally regaining covert eye contact with Katherine; “I have other urgent matters elsewhere that need my attention to tend to.” With that, she saluted again to Welsh before disappearing into the hangar.

 

Katherine toured the base for an hour or so. She took advantage of a particularly poorly-lit section of one of the warehouses to silently slip away from the tour group, which as she hoped continued on without giving any readily visible sign of noting her sudden absence from their midst.

As she wandered casually through the dimly lit warehouse; it should not have surprised her nearly as much as it did when, only mere minutes after having left the group behind her, a pair of long, strong arms reached out from the shadows and seized her, pulling her back into the shadows along with them. However, her startled squeak of surprise was muffled before it formed by the intimately familiar lips that closed over her open mouth. Strong but gentle hands crushed her tenderly against the feminine curves that she knew so well as her own fingers, grasping in the darkness of her closed eyes, tangled themselves in flowing tresses of golden hair. It was only partially due to the confined space that the other did not pull away as their breathless mouths at long last parted and the two held one another in silence for a long minute with their forehead and noses touching, neither opening their eyes.

“It’s been a long time, Kitty.” Samantha’s melodious voice broke the quiet, her voice a murmuring sigh as she rubbed her forehead against Kate’s own, their cheeks brushing. “I’ve missed you.”

“Too long.” Katherine agreed, almost a moan.

Sam opened her eyes as the tears that streaked unbidden down Kate’s face unexpectedly moistened the skin of her cheeks. She reached her hands up between them and took Kate’s face in her palms, scrutinizing the younger woman. She did not merely wipe away the tracks of Kate’s tears from her cheeks with her thumbs, opting to instead dart forward to kiss Kate’s face wherever she saw a teardrop.

In this way she soon had her girlfriend’s body trembling with silent giggles. “There.” She murmured melodiously with a pearlescent smile as Kate finally opened her no-longer-watering eyes. “All better?”

Kate grinned as she nodded, the maternal tone in Sam’s voice reminiscent of her old role as Janney’s babysitter when Kate and her sisters were children in Eugene.

This time it was Kate’s turn to wrap her arms around the older woman, crushing Sam to her as she recaptured the other woman’s mouth in another long kiss that seemed to last a small eternity before either of them were willing to relent.

Sam’s hands, meanwhile, roamed over her student and protégé’s intimately familiar curves, stroking and caressing Kate’s skin wherever she found it or made it exposed in ways she knew made Kate heat up like a furnace.

Indeed it was only when, lost as she was in Sam’s thoroughly expert kiss, Kate realized that the other’s clever fingers very nearly had her blouse completely unbuttoned that she at last stepped away from Sam’s embrace. Without a word, panting breathlessly from the unexpected intense rush of arousal Sam’s touch invoked her, Kate reached up between them and caught Sam’s hands gently by the wrists just as the blonde proceeded to reach inside her unbuttoned shirt to unclasp her bra.

“I have to get back.” She told her, what she meant as a firm proclamation coming out as something a little above a whisper.

Sam nodded recalcitrantly. “To be continued.” She promised with a lascivious gaze through lowered lashes, reaching out with her hands still held by her wrists between their bodies to hook her long fingers underneath the razor-thin spaghetti straps of Kate’s bra, caressing them tantalizingly down along the sensitive skin of her chest.

Kate felt her breath catch as Sam’s fingers reached her décolletage above the brassiere. “I’d count on it.” She moaned, surprising both Sam as well as herself as her voice came out in the form of a feral growl from somewhere deep in her chest.

As she turned around, Sam surprised her again by slipping her arms around her sides from behind to begin re-buttoning the blouse that she had so expertly undone.

Kate was so thoroughly distracted, however, by Sam’s lips on the sides of her neck and her lover’s melodious murmurs of lascivious promises into her ears that it was not until she was walking away that she recognized that her shirt had been redone without anything underneath.

Careful not to act too surprised, she turned casually around in time to see Sam holding her bra in one hand. At seeing the expression on Kate’s face as she stared back at her, Sam winked at her girlfriend as she neatly folded the piece of lingerie underwear and slid it into one of the side pockets of her Air Force uniform’s coat. Not wanting the visual evidence of her arousal to be visibly evident upon returning to the group, Kate deemed it prudent to re-don her dark suit coat upon stepping into a more brightly lit section of the base.

She thought at first that she had slipped back into the group as unnoticed as she had left it, until Kris came up surreptitiously behind her to murmur close into her ear. “And where did you wander off to, Congresswoman?”

Kate knew her old roommate to be almost pathologically even-tempered, and so recognized Kristin’s use of her title as well as her hushed hiss, to be as much an expression of her emotions as if she had yelled at her friend.

This, in the moment, made it all the sweeter for Kate to further frustrate her former colleague by smiling knowingly and replying simply: “That’s classified.”

After a time, Sam, who relieved Makepeace as their chaperone, rejoined them. The older woman caught Kate looking at her side pocket and glared meaningfully at the candidate, reminding her young girlfriend that they had to keep their illicit liaison covert. But then, when she was as certain as she could be that none of the others were looking at her, Kate saw Sam smile knowingly and wink at her again. To Kate, knowing the blonde as she did, the glow that alit in Sam’s eyes when she looked at her girlfriend sent one message as crystal-clearly as though she had spoken it aloud: That the bra in her suit pocket was anything but the only article of Kate’s clothing that Sam was intent on removing before that day came to an end. Being a young attractive woman working in a building bustling with male aides and pages fresh out of college, Katherine was accustomed to being ogled with the knowledge that the ogler was picturing her naked. However Sam was giving her a whole new understanding of what it meant for someone to undress her with his or her eyes. Even the Congresswoman had to admit to herself that there existed in this case an added eroticism in the fact that, unlike the post-adolescent pages, the blonde woman before her now knew every intimate detail of precisely what she looked like au natural.

 

 

 

Sam met her outside the door, and she led Kate through an ornately chandeliered entry hall.   Rounding a corner, she startled Kate by pushing her into an elevator, immediately distracting her as the doors closed behind them and they descended by pinning Kate against the wall of the lift with a ferociously passionate, fiercely consuming kiss.

Kate was still dazed from the kiss as Sam led her from the elevator onto what she vaguely recognized as being the streets of a town.

“Welcome to Eureka, Kitty.” Sam purred in her ear as they walked side by side. “Welcome to my home sweet home.”

            Between Sam’s murmuring in her ear and her kisses to the side of Kate’s neck, the next several long minutes passed for Kate like a blurred montage of images, sounds, feelings and sensation; very little of which, she guessed, she would remember come the following morning. The next thing she knew, they were standing in front of a Victorian-era-style home very much like the one she had shared with Julia in Portland. “Is this where you live?” Kate asked admiringly.

            Sam nodded, leading Kate by the hand up the front steps. She opened the door and stepped inside.

            Kate jumped back as a black-haired and black-suited figure abruptly materialized in front of them. Kate’s mind recognized two things about what it was that she was looking at simultaneously.

            The first was that it was not, indeed, a real person but rather a three-dimensional holographic projection. The second was that, in every way except the color of her hair and her attire, the image was that of the woman who stood beside her.

“Welcome, My Lady Helena.” The hologram greeted its blonde doppelgänger in Sam’s own voice.

            Kate startled again when the hologram turned to her.

“Welcome to Eureka, Katherine Janney.” Both Sam and her holographic image smiled at Kate’s reaction. “My name is Archimedes.” The hologram said. “But you may call me Archie.”

            As they walked further into the house, Kate leaned in toward Sam and looked at her dubiously.

            “It’s a long story.” Sam demurred. “I’ll tell you all about it one of these days, I promise.”

“I’ll hold you to that.” Kate stated firmly.

            By now they had reached the bedroom.

            Kate saw Sam open her mouth to order Archie away, but Kate covered her lips with her fingers. “Let her stay.” She purred lasciviously. “Let her watch.”

            Sam’s eyes widened not having seen this particular side of Kate for far too many years, but she nodded.

            Kate stepped back, reaching down to unbutton her coat and pulling it open to unveil her change in attire. She heard a low whistle of approval and was startled to realize it had come not from Sam but from the hologram standing behind her.

            Sam moved forward, sliding the coat off Kate’s now-bare shoulders as she enveloped Kate’s lips in her mouth.

            Kate moaned into Sam’s mouth as, backing her toward the bed, Sam’s fingers seemed to effortlessly undo all of the fastenings on her chemise at once, letting it fall to the floor before Kate collapsed back onto the bed. Kate ‘s fingers, in turn, made not quite as quick of work out of the frustratingly stubborn buttons of the shirt Sam wore in the flickering neon light cast by the hologram that stood silently watching them.

            Sam finally relieved her struggling lover by reaching up and pulling the two sides the sides of the shirt apart with brute force, buttons flying, nipping at Kate’s clavicle.

Kate hissed, her breath coming out in a rush as Sam hooked her fingers under the waistband of her underwear and slid them down her long legs and off.

Sam mumbled between kisses as she worked her way down Kate’s topless body. “We do have a lot of catching up to do.” She flipped Kate’s skirt up with her teeth and all conversation ended abruptly, Kate tangling her fingers in her lover’s golden hair as Sam’s head dipped down between her thighs.

 

Kate heard soft footsteps on the floor tiles behind her.

She set down her coffee mug on the table, closing her eyes and tilting her head to one side as Sam announced her presence by bending down to press her lips to the side of Kate’s neck.

As Sam straightened behind her chair, Kate leaned the back of her head against her. Knowing Sam’s inclination from when she was a girl to walking around averse to clothing when in her own home, Kate breathed a grateful sigh of relief as she opened her eyes to gaze up at the blonde’s face looking down at her that Sam had taken the extra time to throw on a dressing gown similar to her own. However, Kate’s hair resting against her belly had been enough to alert her to the fact that Sam had neglected to close the robe as it hung loosely over her shoulders.

She sat down across the table from Kate, her foot rubbing Kate’s leg underneath it. Sam walked her toes up over Kate’s knee and under her robe.

In spite of the seriousness of the question, and Sam’s toes on her thigh, Kate could not help but burst out laughing as she shook her head. “Can you imagine the headlines in the tabloids?”

“Oregon Congresswoman’s Lesbian Lover Air Force Colonel”?” Sam quipped. “Yes”. She added her other foot to rub Kate’s leg. “As a matter of fact, I can.” Sam lifted a lone eyebrow at the deliberate mention of her name, and smiled enigmatically as she took a sip of her tea.

 

 

 

Kristin Ludlowe stood at the upstairs portrait windows overlooking the edge of Eureka and the towering trees beyond. She craned her neck, trying to discern the rock roof of the vast subterranean city a thousand or so feet above. She was still struggling to het her bearings, having been introduced to the concept of this underground town and then to this thinking, “living” house: An incomprehensibly advanced Artificial Intelligence identifying itself as “Archimedes”, a clever pun on the town’s name. ‘She was standing a mile under the desert;’ She thought, shaking her head; ‘In house capable of making puns.’

In addition to her own reflection in the full-length window in front of her, she now saw that of her friend Katherine Janney walking up behind her. Kate was still in the process of pulling on a wraparound blouse which, Kris guessed, did not belong to her, fixing her disheveled hair and straightening her close-fitting skirt to not quite reach her knees. Kris did not turn as the Congresswoman joined her at the window, noticing but not saying that her friend had what were evidently two different shades of lipstick smeared around her mouth. This was the first she had seen of Kate in well over an hour, the candidate, at the conclusion of their guided grand tour, having almost immediately disappeared with the golden-haired Colonel into a wing of the house which Ludlowe noted had been ostentatiously omitted from her tour and which she suspected and now confirmed included the Colonel’s bedroom.

She saw Kate glancing at her through the glass, but instead looked down at the tall glass of hard alcohol in her hands. “Has Jewels seen this?” She said at last, her tone tight. Kate’s downward glance at her own chest gave her friend her answer. Clearly, thinking of her teenage daughter mere moments after making love to her secret girlfriend embarrassed Kate and Kris immediately regretted the insensitivity of her question. “I’m sorry, Katie.” She set her drink aside and embraced her friend. “This place is amazing!” She turned to look her friend in the eye. “And so is she.”

The insistent buzzing of the pager at Kris’s hip rudely interrupted their moment. Kate backed away as Kris plucked it off and opened the screen to read the message.

“Good mother of holly—” She trailed off, spinning around. “We need to find a television.”

“Who was the message from?” Kate asked as they descended the stairs to the sitting room, having left her own handheld device with her clothes in Sam’s bedroom.

“You remember meeting a woman named Lacey Moss?”

Kate grinned at the memory. “I appointed her head of the campaign in the Southeast. She works out of Miami.”

“Exactly.” Kris said, looking around the living room. “How do you turn this on?”

“I can help you with that.” Sam said, announcing her arrival. “Archie?” She snapped her fingers. Ludlowe jumped back as the window in front of her flashed to life.

“Oh my…” Kate raised her hands to cover her mouth at the moving images appearing on screen in front of them. The scene was one of as complete destruction and devastation as Kate had ever imagined. Winds whipped across the picture, uprooting whole trees by brute force and tearing roofs whole off the tops of buildings already submerged up to their second-floor balconies. The most jarring part of the experience for all three women was the banner in the upper left hand corner of the image that read, “LIVE” in all-capital letters.

“What you are watching;” The anchor’s voiceover announced; “Is currently live from our affiliate in Havana.”

“Cuba?” Kate and Sam exchanged glances.

“Fortunately for traumatized Cuban citizens;” The anchor continued; “Our sources at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tell us that what we are all watching is merely the trailing rear edge of Hurricane Theresa, which will gradually fade from the Cuban coastline in the coming day.”

Kate, however, knowing where the Cuban Capitol city was located, felt herself numb as she guessed the journalist’s next words even before a map of the Northern Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico appeared superimposed over the live feed. “Unfortunately for us Americans, as you can see, this Category Six Storm is headed due North-Northwest at almost eight miles an hour and so is expected to make landfall again as a Category Seven on the Outer Banks of Miami Beach before midnight tonight Eastern Time.”

Kris looked at her watch. “That’s in less than eight hours.”

Kate nodded, now understanding the urgency of the call from Moss. “Put her on.” She told her Communications Director, but the directive was reall aimed at Sam beside her.

Archie obeyed and an image of Lacey Moss appeared. “Congresswoman!” Moss said, having to speak loudly over the dull roar of wind outside the door at her back. “Glad you got some help.” In spite of the dire circumstances, She smiled and winked at Kate knowingly.

“Good to finally meet you, Miss Moss.” Sam said. “What’s the situation?”

“Theresa did her damnedest to wipe Cuba off the map.” Moss reported.

“So we saw.” Kris said. “How’s your location?”

“Dade County has been evacuated.” Moss said. “Sound like the Governor is preparing to lose everything South of the Everglades, at least for a little while.” She was interrupted as the wind blew the door behind her open with a loud bang that reverberated like a gunshot going off. Moss ducked down as the screen was obscured by a blizzard of swirling papers blown off of desks, until she managed to push the door closed again, leaning against it wearily after having struggled to walk against the gusts.

“Keep our people together.” Kate ordered. “And get out of there.”

“Aye, Ma’am.” Moss drawled with a half-hearted salute and clicked off.

“Enough sightseeing.” Kate said to Sam. “If South Florida’s going to drown…”

Ludlowe nodded. “Then you need to be as visible as humanly possible.”

Kate saw a familiar glow alight in Sam’s mother-of-pearl eyes. “I think I know just the place to do just that.”

“Good.” Kris started toward the door. “Get dressed.” Sensing both of her companions staring at her uncomprehendingly, Kris turned halfway around, reaching out with a finger as she passed Kate to wipe at the area around her lips, holding up her finger to show the Congresswoman the multiple colors before unceremoniously wiping it off on her friend’s borrowed blouse. “Suit up.” She said, walking backward now toward the outside without missing a beat. “Both of you.”

Then Archimedes sealed the house’s heavy metal door behind her and she was gone.

 

 

 

Chapter 2:

 

Las Vegas, Nevada

 

1:00 PM

 

The uniformed security guard emerged from the gatehouse, not recognizing the dark sedan that made it way down the casino resort strip. All he could see through the tinted window with the glare of the midday desert sun and the neon lights from the strip was the fiery copper hair of one of the passengers in the back of the limousine. He was just holding up his hand for the sedan to stop when he recognized the golden hair of the other, accentuated by the glinting of the medals adorning her chest.

“Director Carter!” He exclaimed as she rolled her window down. “Who’s the VIP?” He asked. The Director was passed identification by the woman, which she handed to the guard. He opened it and his eyes went wide. He leaned in the open window and turned to their guest. “Welcome to the Serapeum, Congresswoman.”

Sam smiled at the guard. “Thank you, Norman.”

But Katherine Janney could only stare, wide-eyed, up at the building in front of them. At first she thought it was just another Las Vegas hotel plated in gold. But now, closer up, she realized that the entire structure was made out of crystal.

The Serapeum Hotel itself was built in the shape of an ancient Egyptian temple complex, but with definite distinct Greco-Roman features. As a student of history, Late recognized the style as being that of the Ptolemaic Dynasty of the Second and Third Centuries BCE, after the conquest of ancient Egypt by Alexander the Great of Macedonia in the Fourth Century BCE but before the rise of the first Roman Emperor Octavius Augustus in the fist Century BCE.

The cab door opened and Kate nearly fell back into Sam getting out behind her as the simultaneous flash of a dozen cameras directed at her face blinded her.

Sam caught Kate as she stumbled, being sure to keep her hands on Kate’s hips hidden from the cameras so that Kate’s trip up would not be obvious enough to be noted by the reporters that surrounded the car. She gently pushed Kate forward and Kate regained her balance as she set foot outside the car.

As Sam climbed out of the car behind the candidate, she saw Kate being approached by a young woman with bobbed brunette hair, dressed in the uniform of campaign security, a stylized variation on that of the Secret service.

“A military base is secure;” She overheard the newcomer say to the Congresswoman sternly; “So I’m willing to let it go this time, but this is only going to work if you let me do my job.” Her gaze shifted from Kate’s face over her shoulder to the tall woman in the Air Force uniform coming up behind her.

Kate smiled as she felt Sam subtlely lay her fingers ever-so-lightly on the back of her hips, turning to make the introductions between the two women. “Sam, this is Kimberly Frost, my Security Attaché.” Sam smiled at the brunette, who looked to just out of college. “Kim, I’d like you to meet my old friend, Colonel Samantha Connor.”

Frost shook hands with her. “Colonel Connor, Director of Groom Lake Air force Base?” Sam nodded and She smiled. “Your reputation precedes you.”

They turned to ascend the steps toward the entranceway to the Serapeum.

As they passed through the grand entranceway with its towering colonnade of crystalline Corinthian columns, Sam pulled her arm away in order to dash forward into the open embrace of the tall woman who glided forward to greet them. “Hello, Mother.”

However, San need not have extricated herself after all, since as soon as the pair stepped in the entrance, Kate had halted dead in her tracks, dazzled. While the outside of the Hotel may not have been covered in gold, the inside was. The towering double doors that had stood open to the colonnade, several inches thick and twenty feet tall, were not blocks of solid steel, but were deeply sculpted with three-dimensional reliefs in layers of lustrous precious metals, the outermost of which was solid gold, around inner cores of crystal. The reliefs in gold continued across the ceiling that towered high above their heads. Every other door in sight as well as all of the room’s walls was likewise covered in gold.

Kate was forced to bling to refocus her eyes in order to attempt to delineate clearly where the room ended and where Doctor Hera Day began. Katherine Janney could not remember having seen her godmother dressed quite so…Kate’s mind searched for the appropriate term…Regal. She wore a resplendent golden gown whose high collar appeared to absorb the long flowing golden hair she shared in common with her daughter and the long, flowing train of the skirt of which likewise appeared to melt seamlessly into the crystal floor, which reflected the gold of the ceiling above it like a mirror.

“This is yours?” She wondered aloud, to no one in particular, her question addressed to both her girlfriend and her godmother.

“Actually;” Hera corrected airily; “It’s ours.” She gestured and it was at that point that Kate at long last acknowledged the presence of another person at Hera’s side, one that she was surprised she had not noticed before.

“Welcome, Congresswoman;” The other woman waved her hand theatrically; “To the Serapeum Hotel, Inn, Resort and Suites: A joint venture designed and built by Doctor Hera Day;” Zoe Stark Smiled; “And co-owned by Stark Industries.”

Looking around again, Kate could see certain similarities with some of the structures in Eureka. ‘The word “built” might be being applied a bit loosely here.’ She thought to herself. From both the outside and the inside, the Serapeum appeared utterly seamless as if it had been sculpted out of single solid piece of crystal. This, in turn, gave the building, like many if not most of those in Eureka, the appearance of having been not so much constructed as much as grown organically from the grown upward.

“Stazia requests me to convey to you her—our deepest and most heartfelt…feelings;” Stark blushed at trapping herself with her own sentence structure; “For how events are unfolding in Florida.”

Kate smiled sympathetically at the young heiress’s somewhat discombobulated state.

But then her smile vanished as she spotted a television screen over Zoe’s shoulder playing a live news channel.

 

It was at the bar in front of that very same television that Kristin Ludlowe found Congresswoman Katherine Janney three hours later, her eyes still glued to the screen even as she polished off the last of a dry gin martini. Whether it was her second or her sixth, Kris could not tell. Kris saw the Congresswoman’s phone sitting on the bar beside her.

“She’s not answering.” Kate nodded to the screen. “Satellite network’s jammed all over.”

On the screen was a middle-aged man with dark brown hair and blue-green eyes dressed in a Harris Tweed and penny loafers, explaining in a crisp, clipped upper-crust British accent that, because of the weakening of the jet stream in recent decades, Hurricane Theresa, now downgraded to a Category 1 tropical storm, would not be curving out into the mid-Atlantic after hitting the Florida peninsula, as other such storms had done in past decades, but was expected to graze along the Atlantic seaboard as far North as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. To Kris’s surprise, given his accent as well as his clothes, the banner across the bottom of the screen identified the man as a Professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

“He’s kind of cute.” Kate said, smiling dreamily up at the man on the screen.

As a map of North America displaying the storm’s projected course replaced his image, Kris sucked in her lungs, understanding now the emotional distress that led her friend to drink. Once city in particular was clearly labeled on the map: the nation’s Capitol, directly in the path of the storm. This suspicion was further confirmed by a quick look at the Congresswoman’s phone, the dial screen of which displayed a list of more than a dozen recent calls to the same number. The screen displayed a single word: “Jules”.

Kris waited patiently until Kate finally put down her martini glass before gently urging the Congresswoman out of the chair at the bar and onto her feet. “Come on, Katie.” She coaxed. “Someone’s here to see you.”

Kate resisted at first, at least until they reentered the Hotel lobby, but breathed an audible sigh of relief at seeing the young woman who stood at the head of a bustling crowd of people filling the space. “I can’t say how glad I am that you made it safely, Lacey.” She said earnestly, clasping Lacey Moss’s hands in her against her heart. She glanced over Moss’s shoulder. “Did we all…?”

Moss nodded. “We didn’t lose a single soul.” She said and then smiled. “But the damnedest thing happened on the way here.” Kate cocked her head curiously. “Our flight got rerouted to connect through another airport;” She stepped to one side; “And you’ll never guess who we found stranded at Dulles.”

The candidate clasped her hand to her face with a barely-repressed squeal of delight and dashed forward to take the girl standing behind Moss into her arms. “Jewels!” She hugged her daughter to her with a breath-stealing squeeze. “Oh thank the goddesses, you’re safe!”

 

After Julia was settled down and fast asleep in their hotel room, which, they had both noted with some amusement, was the Presidential Suite, Katherine Janney stood in the elevator heading downward, where she was joined a few floors later by an older woman in her late sixties.

“Good afternoon, Madam Speaker.” Janney acknowledged her fellow Congresswoman with a nod.

“Congresswoman.” The other nodded. Ainsley Tomblinson, the Senior Republican Congresswoman from Charleston, West Virginia and Speaker of the House of Representatives, in spite of being nearly twice Janney’s age, had made a point of striking up a close relationship with the Junior Congresswoman from Oregon’s First congressional District, evidently recognizing a kindred spirit. Indeed, the two women shared more in common than met the eye. Both were social scientists by training that had gone into politics. Tomblinson was a Cultural Anthropologist specializing in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations. Albeit, Kate acknowledged wryly, they were from rival Ivey-League colleges. Kate had graduated from Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts; whilst Tomblinson came out of Yale in nearby New Haven, Connecticut.

“I talked at length with the DRNC.” The speaker told her. “The Debate’s been cancelled.” Janney nodded. She had expected as such. “All the cable channels bumped us for round-the-clock hurricane coverage.” Ainsley explained.

“That’s understandable.” Kate said.

“I heard it said your campaign staff in Miami almost got caught in the eye of the storm.” Tomblinson turned to her colleague. “How’s your daughter doing?”

“She was exhausted.” Kate answered, gratefully appreciating her colleague’s person level of concern for her family. “Stella closed Yorktown-Lee for the remainder of the month.” She added and Tomblinson nodded, knowing Yorktown-Lee High School Principal Estelle Mackenzie the same way Janney did: through her father, Kenneth Welsh, her former colleague in the House before he resigned his seat as Massachusetts’ Senior Congressman to become Kate’s Congressional Chief of Staff.

Kate knew well that the Speaker had been among the many lifelong politicians throughout Washington who had been openly and vocally baffled by Ken’s decision. With his experience in the Cabinet as secretary of National Security and Defense, as well as previously as a military veteran of the Second Cold War and member of the Joint Chiefs, many on Capitol Hill and in Washington considered Welsh’s Congressional career quite promising, since it put him in a picture-perfect position for a potential campaign for the Presidency, which was popularly deemed a surefire shoe-in for the Democratic-Republican Nomination to succeed incumbent President Whitford when his term limit expired. So when Kenneth Welsh voluntarily stepped down from his seat to become first Campaign Manager and then Congressional Chief of Staff to a by-and-large then-little-known former attorney and Junior Congresswoman from Eugene, Oregon, some around the DC Beltway raised, albeit half in jest, the possibility that even in his late fifties, the most feared man in Washington was already beginning to lose his mind.

Glancing sidelong at the Speaker, Kate reminded herself that, over the past three years since her election, those criticisms had mostly been silenced as with Ken as her Chief of Staff and her relationships with Speaker Tomblinson and Senate Majority Leader Kickland of Illinois, Katherine Janney, in less than two two-year terms in the House, had managed to position herself as a serious contender in her Party’s upcoming Presidential Primaries.

Partisan political pundits on cable news channel talk shows still dismissed her as a spoiler candidate. However, even if they derided the young Oregon Congresswoman herself as lacking the necessary experience to take the Oval Office, no one with any knowledge of politics could doo the same for the man expertly running her campaign.

Her thoughts were disrupted as the elevator doors opened onto the Hotel lobby and the two Congresswomen emerged to be quickly surrounded and ensconced by their respective staffs and Secret Service security, parting the sea of reporters in front of them.

“Is this all just the local Las Vegas press?” Kate asked, turning to survey the sea of cameramen and photographers.

Gina Everett, Janney’s campaign Press Secretary, shook her head. “We’ve got the Los Angeles press her as well.”

“However did you swing that?” The Congresswoman asked.

“Our hostess pulled a few strings.” Kris told her and Kate nodded.

“Doctor Day is making the announcement about the Party cancelling the Las Vegas Debate.” Gina told the Congresswoman.

“I’m aware.” Kate answered almost before she finished nodding in the direction of Tomblinson.

“She’s arranged for you to speak once everyone is assembled.” Kris added, handing her a piece of paper. “I took the liberty of preparing some remarks;” She pointed to a line as Kate read it; “With a few things we thought you might wish to mention.”

Kate read the passage in question and looked up at her friend with a grin. “They’ll never see it coming.”

As they entered the Serapeum’s grand ballroom, where Hera was speaking from a small stage at the far end, Congressman Seabourne approached Janney from California.

“Shame about the debate.” Seabourne said, sardonically, smiling slyly.

“Saved you some embarrassment, I should say.” Janney jabbed back sparringly.

Seabourne raised an eyebrow, but did not respond directly. “Also about the school closings in DC.” Seabourne’s son Ryan, Kate recalled, was a senior at the same school in Washington where Julia was still a freshman. Kate wondered briefly if Ryan was the boy Julia had a crush on at school.

“Stella made the right decision;” Kate said; “For both our kids.”

“Is yours here?” Seabourne asked and Kate nodded.

“She’s asleep upstairs in our Suite.” She looked at him. “Yours?”

“Just got word.” Seabourne said with an all-too-familiar sigh of relief. “Landed at LAX half an hour ago.”

Kate smiled. “SoCal’s our next stop, you know.” She said and Seabourne returned her smile. “Mine too.”

They walked in the doors of the main hall to an eruption of thunderous applause and even more flashing cameras.

Kate smiled and waved to the assembled crowd, which looked like ten thousand people, even as she saw a dark-suited man trying to wedge his way through it toward her.

“Ma’am we have your—” He stopped dead in his tracks a few steps away, his eyes growing wide behind his tinted sunglasses as he recognized the tall blonde next to her.

Kate noted that Sam had stopped as well and turned to her. “Sam, this is the head of my Secret Service Detail—”

“Leo Pierce.” The blonde finished for her, causing Kate to turn and stare at her.

“Hello again, Special Agent Walker.” Pierce said, removing his sunglasses.

“You’ve met.” It was more of a conclusion than a question from Kate and Sam nodded: “When Leo here was the DC Bureau Chief of the FBI.”

Leo grinned. “What has it been now? Ten years?”

“Thirteen;” Sam corrected; “Nearly to the day.”

Leo nodded and turned back to Kate. “As I was saying, your table is right this way, Congresswoman.” He gestured toward the main stage at the front of the hall.

As they walked, Leo fell into step beside Sam.

“I’m curious, Walker.” He began and Sam turned to him. “Did you ever catch the black market arms dealer who was impersonating Mister Stark?”

Sam nodded, remembering the mission on which they had met. “We did, eventually.”

“Where?”
Sam sighed. “In the last place we ever might have suspected to look.” Leo looked at her with piqued curiosity and she grinned laconically. “He was one of our own.”

Leo’s Eyebrows arched. “And whatever happened to that handsome young Agent from Central Intelligence you were with? What was his name again? Parkinson?”

“Prichardson.” Sam nodded, smiling fondly at the memory. “James Prichardson.”

“You two made quite the couple.” Leo commented. “Does he still work with you?”

Sam hung her head and shook it. “He’s gone.”

“I’m so sorry.” Leo said. “What happened?”

 

Hera had finished with her remarks as Kate approached the small stage. “And now, with another further announcement, I am pleased and proud to introduce my beloved goddaughter, Congresswoman Katherine Janney.”

Kate saw many in attendance sit straighter in their seats at hearing for the first time what was for many of them this heretofore unbeknownst familial relationship between the candidate and their hostess, the Hotel’s primary proprietor. She smiled to herself as she ascended the stairs to the stage at seeing the lack of any reaction of the one person in attendance whom she knew would be utterly unsurprised by this information: Her father’s best friend and her lifelong mentor, Senator Josieph Kickland of Illinois. The Senate Majority Leader sat back utterly nonchalantly, his large, strong arms folded over his muscular, barrel-like chest beneath a double-breasted three-piece tuxedo which, in spite of his Heisman college quarterback build, he pulled off looking for the world like a bespoke upper-class English gentleman.

Her godmother gave her a warm squeezing hug and a kiss on both cheeks before stepping down as Kate took her place on the podium. She tried to mimic the waving gesture that Hera had used to silence the crowd, but found it not nearly as effective.

“Thank you.” He voice sounded weak through the nervous tightness in her chest at having so many eyes of so many people, so many of whom she loved and respected, all fixed solidly on her. She cleared her throat with a loud but polite cough and leaned over the podium in front of her, closer to the microphone. “Thank you Doctor Hera Day;” She began as the applause gradually faded; “And Zoe Stark for being so generous in hosting this lovely event here at the gorgeous Serapeum Hotel.” She let the applause for their hosts last only a few minutes before continuing with her acknowledgements. “And I am so very grateful and honored to see the faces of so many important people, friends, her with us today.” She gestured to her Chief of Staff’s table where Ken sat with her campaign’s surrogates. “We should all be grateful that my close friend and lifelong mentor, the great Senator Josieph Kickland of Illinois, our Senate’s Majority Leader, was able to join us here today;” Kickland stood and bowed as he was cheered and applauded;.

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen;” She said, standing at the lectern and pulling the pages out of the inside breast pocket of her suit jacket; “Honored guests;” She smiled at Seabourne; “And fellow members of the 136th United States Congress. My name is Doctor Katherine Janney, Member of the United States House of Representatives from Oregon’s First Congressional District.” Seeing nods throughout the room, she amended. “Most of you probably know of my father, former United states Senator Alexander Janney from New Hampshire.”

“In any case;” She digressed; “I have announcement to make.” She opened the folded paper on the podium and read. “Those among you who have been paying attention to the news today probably are aware that Hurricane Theresa, a Category Six and Seven storm, devastated the island nation of Cuba early this morning and the Southeastern Atlantic seaboard of the State of Florida this afternoon.” This was met with murmurs and nods. “Therefore, I hereby regrettably but nevertheless proudly announce to the nation and to the world;” She faced the video cameras, set up to broadcast the cancelled debate but now recording her words for the national nightly newscasts; “That I am formally rededicating the full resources of the Janney for America Presidential campaign to rebuilding, reconstruction and, where and when necessary, search and rescue efforts in the Cuban capitol city of Havana and the devastated Miami-Dade County in the great state of Florida.” She saw many in attendance rolling their eyes, unimpressed or even disgusted by the Oregon candidate’s apparent attempt at exploitation of a natural disaster. “These resources;” She continued, undeterred by the muttered disapproval; “Have been magnanimously donated, with the express approval of the Democratic-Republican National Committee, by the Janney for America campaign Political Action Committee’s new Financial Chairwoman and your hostess, Co-owner of the Serapeum Hotel, Resort and Suites: Zoe Stark.”

She gestured to Stark as she ascended the stairs to the stage, but was met with a stunned silence. She saw Kickland and Seabourne looking around at their respective staffs in evident disbelief as it dawned on her Primary rivals that she was referring not only to the relatively paltry resources of her campaign, but to the hum human resources, monetary assets and technological capabilities of Stark Industries.

Then, as if remembering that they were on television and that silence at the announcement of aide to natural disaster victims would not reflect well, Seabourne to her surprise, was the first to stand and start a raucous round of applause that rapidly spread outward as a wave and brought all three of her Primary opponents present and their respective staffs to their feet along with all in attendance as Kat stepped aside for Stark to take the stage. Everyone’s attention turned to the stage and to the dainty fair-skinned brunette that approached the podium.

Kate recognized the young woman’s attire and turned to Sam beside her.

“I let her borrow one of your old dresses.” Sam confirmed.

“Thank you.” Stark said, waving her standing and applauding audience back to their respective seats. “Thank you all for that warm welcome and please allow me to personally welcome all of you to the Serapeum.” Another smattering of applause erupted briefly. “And, with gratitude to Congresswoman Janney, let me assure you that neither I nor my beloved wife, President Nastassia Krusztcheckova of the Russian Federation, will rest easy until every soul, living or otherwise, in the nation of Cuba and the State of Florida is accounted for and every living person’s home and livelihood is fully recovered and restored securely to them in perpetuity.”

At this, Stark allowed another raucous round of applause from the assembled audience.

Kate saw Lacey Moss applauding more enthusiastically than many, relieved as a resident of Florida that her beloved home state would have access to the full resources of not only Stark Industries but also the Russian government.

“Both the congresswoman and I have already spoken at length with Jeanine Davis of FEMA at the DNSD.” Jeanine Gershon Davis was the Acting Assistant Deputy Director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, or FEMA, an Agency of the Department of National Security and Defense.

“As you also heard from my co-hostess Doctor Hera Day, the Democratic-Republican National Committee has cancelled tonight’s scheduled Debate between the four candidates for their Party’s nomination in this rom with us: Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Ainsley Tomblinson from Charleston, West Virginia, United States Senate Majority Leader Josieph Kickland of Illinois;” The candidates stood as their names were called; “Congressman Robert Seabourne form the California 47th Congressional District and Congresswoman Katherine Janney from the Oregon First Congressional District.”

“As such, the DRNC has decided on an alternative event for this evening’s festivities: A formal fundraiser for Florida!” This brought almost everyone in attendance to their feet. “As your hostess, I hope your staffs thought to have brought your fancy formal dress clothes.” Stark smiled. “If not, I’m sure my co-hostess;” She gestured to Hera; “Will be more than capable of finding something in your size.

“I’ll let some of the other fine speakers we have here today, including Senate Majority Leader Kickland, have their turn at the lectern;” she nodded to the Senator as he stood; “But I’ll be back to talk to you again later tonight.” She stood straighter, gesturing around the hotel. “In the meantime, I want all of you to enjoy yourselves;” She winked at Zoe Stark; “On the house, of course. See you all back in this ballroom later tonight!” She waved to the applauding audience as she stepped aside, pausing to kiss Kate on both cheeks before meeting in the middle a moment longer than needed.

“I dare say you just won the Florida Primary, Congresswoman.” Lacey Moss said on the way back to the elevator.

“It’s not for a few months yet;” Kate shrugged noncommittally before elbowing Moss good-naturedly; “So don’t you dare go and jinx it for all of us.”

She arrived back at the Presidential suite to find that her campaign bus had arrived with her wardrobe of formal dresses. She had decided to contrast with the gold color covering the Serapeum’s interior, while still sticking with the Greco-Roman motif and so selected an intricate and sophisticated, asymmetrical one-shoulder sleeveless, semi-sheer, iridescent bejeweled, bustier dress; woven in a fishnet-like style with metallic silver draped-crystal chain mail netting details and embroidered with silver sequin appliques, with cutout side panels on either side of her body. She chose the dress in part also to contrast against her fellow candidates. As the youngest woman ever to campaign for the Presidency, the 35-year-old was the only Presidential candidate who could hope to pull off the shimmering semi-nude illusion of the glittery crystal-encrusted cobweb-like gown.

As anticipated, Sam as the daughter of the Serapeum’s proprietor, looked every bit the part of a Greco-Roman goddess: her naturally ale alabaster skin appearing to meld seamlessly into a sheer, figure-hugging ivory dress which, in turn, appeared to shimmer silver with the movement of her legs as she walked. Even so, Kate could not help but hide a grin as her girlfriend’s eyes tried to widen outside their sockets when she saw the Congresswoman.

“Your dress looks amazing!” She gushed and Kate saw Rob Seabourne behind her subtly roll his eyes at the cliché about women and clothes. Even as he did so, however, Sam was already leaning in to murmur huskily into Kate’s ear. “I can’t wait to get you out of it.”

Kate suppressed a snidely-satisfied smile at seeing that her intricate ensemble has the desired effect on the Speaker of the House, the Representative’s cheeks and face flushing at how the form-fitting gown showed off her younger fellow Congresswoman’s toned physique and enviably curvaceous figure.

She and Sam shared a smile at seeing Zoe Stark subconsciously lick her lips as she saw them striding side by side across the ballroom.

Knowing her mother’s Hotel like the back of her hand Sam was able to guide Kate to the most secluded spot in the ballroom. The band was playing a selection of Billy Joel and Bob Dylan. Currently they were playing Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love”, and Sam spent the rest of the song with her arms around Kate, gently caressing her girlfriend’s skin with her fingertips wherever she could find it.

‘It was;’ Kate thought as she got quite thoroughly lost in the infinite depths of Sam’s mother-of-pearl eyes as they softly glowed in the dim near-darkness; ‘One of those moments that she could just live inside for the rest of her life.’

As the band wrapped up the song and launched into the next one, which was, Kate thought, appropriately enough, Billy Joel’s “She’s Got a Way About Her” Sam stole Kate’s breath with a deeply probing kiss on her lips before trailing tantalizingly feather-light kisses over to her temple behind her ear and down the side of her neck to her bare shoulder.

Kate, her eyes still lightly closed from the kiss, laid her chin on Sam’s shoulder in return. She opened her eyes and immediately almost wished she hadn’t.

Striding over to interrupt their tender time together were Lacey Moss and her boss, Kristin Ludlowe. Moss floated across the polished parquet-like crystal floor in a satin strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline and corseted bodice, the emerald color of which matched that of her eyes. Even Kris cleaned up nice, Kate thought, admiring the elegant off-the-shoulder drape detailing and deep plunging v-neckline of her old College roommate’s grape magenta halter-strapped gown.

“This had better be life-and-death important.” Kate said loudly, alerting her girlfriend to the other two women’s presence.

Ludlowe nodded urgently as Kate turned reluctantly to face them. “Two words, Congresswoman;” She said, indicating by her reference to Kate’s office that this was no social call; “Carlos Castro.”

Kate broke out of Sam’s embrace. “You’ve got to be kidding!”

The great-grandson of former Cuban dictator Raul Castro was well renown in the Cuban-American community of Miami County as a hotheaded populist firebrand. Many in Latin America likened Carlos to his great-uncle, the Cuban Communist revolution and longtime strongman Fidel Castro, whose recklessness during the First Cold War with Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev had brought the world closer than it had ever been before or since to an apocalyptic thermonuclear Armageddon with their mutual brinksmanship against American President John Kennedy.

Carlos, however, unlike his ancestors, was a serial entrepreneur, even all the while espousing an anti-establishment faux-populism and had amassed a vast multi-billion-dollar fortune in ventures ranging from alcohol to travel to magazines to casinos to real estate, all headquartered and located primarily in Southern Florida.

Moss nodded. “He’s pledged to rebuild the island.”

“After which;” Kate continued her though for her; “He’ll no doubt have himself appointed its new leader.”

“On a nearly-unstoppable wave of popular gratitude.” Kris confirmed.

“How easy it is for desperate people to forget the lessons of history.” Sam said, still softly stroking her girlfriend’s side with the arm wrapped around Kate.

Both Kate and Kris nodded, knowing now that no matter who won next Novembers election, the new President would soon need to contend with something no Western leader had for nearly half a century: A Castro in control of Cuba and one with tens of billions of dollars in offshore island bank accounts and his own private fleets of airplanes and large ships at his disposal. The consequences of which could not be accurately foreseen in advance with any reasonable degree of certainty.

“what about Florida?” Kate asked.

“The EPA is assisting Interior with its environmental assessment of the Everglades.” Moss answered.

“The mixing of fresh and salt water.” Kate nodded understandingly.

“The bad news is that several species are on the edge of extinction.” Moss said. “The good news is that, according to my contact at Natural Resources, the EPA has determined nearly all of the threatened species to be invasive—that is to say: Introduced by humans relatively recently rather than indigenous to the Florida peninsula.”

Kate nodded thoughtfully, understanding the logic of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ecological cost-benefit analysis. “And Miami?” She inquired.

“Many parts of Hurricane Theresa that made landfall ended up being only a Category Five.” Ludlowe reported and Kate grimaced inwardly at the word “only” to refer to wind speeds in excess of a hundred and fifty miles per hour. “So the damage to the city center was not nearly as devastating as the evacuation order issued anticipated.”

“You’ll be happy to hear, doctor Janney;” Lacey said; “That the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is still standing.” Kate and Sam smiled at one another, having had many happy memories at the Miami resort’s suites.

“Bit of a mixed bag, is it not?” Kate concluded. “Good work. Thank you both for the update.”

Ludlowe and Moss thanked her in return and turned away.

As she turned back to face Sam, Kate caught out of the corner of her periphery Zoe Stark standing, leaning against one of the marble-like crystal columns near the entrance to the Serapeum’s ballroom. The billionaire heiress’s dark hair, unique in her family of famous redheads, was accentuated by the black piping on the corseted bodice, with its sweetheart neckline, of her crimson scarlet strapless silk bustier dress. But, stunning though she looked, Kate’s heart still went out to the young lady, dressed to the nines but without her wife with whom to share in the festive fundraiser she herself had single-handedly arranged for the evening.

“Please excuse me, Sam.” Kate recalcitrantly extricated herself from her girlfriend’s tender embrace and walked away across the ballroom.

“Lonesome tonight?” She inquired, echoing the orchestra’s current rendering of Bob Dylan’s little-known cover of the sixties Elvis Presley song.

Stark made no attempt to disguise her gaze taking its time making it’s leisurely way up Kate’s body to her face. “Not if you don’t want me to be.” She said, seductively with a smile, holding her hand out.

“May I have the pleasure of a dance, Lady Stark?” Kate curtsied.

“for such a courteous request, you shall indeed.” Stark said as Kate took her by the hand, leading her in the direction of Sam’s secluded spot. As they swayed in slow circles, Stark apparently found her fingers as irresistibly drawn to Kate’s exposed skin as Sam had. “Speaking of my dear Stazia.” She said, using the nickname for her wife, Nastassia. “I don’t want you and I to ever speak with one another without me taking every opportunity to thank you from the depths of my heart for introducing us all those years ago.”

Kate accepted Stark’s gratitude graciously as they danced. “And thank you;” She said; “For delivering the Florida Primary on a silver platter.”

Zoe smiled, but shrugged. “The Stark family fortune, from my father and his father before him and his grandfather before him;” She demurred; “Has always been built on manufacturing deadly weapons of mass-destruction and war.” Janney nodded. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, she was well aware of the American military’s long-standing, nearly century-long contract with Stark Industries. “When I came of age and came into my inheritance.” Zoe continued, her fingers fiddling idly with the crystal-encrusted metallic silver chain mail covering Kate’s chest; “I resolved myself to use my share of my family’s money to save the lives of innocents everywhere instead of indiscriminately ending them en-masse.”

‘Being the first Lady of the country with the second-largest million-man military in the world;’ Kate thought to herself, admiring the earnestness in Stark’s eyes; ‘More likely than not did anything except hinder her humanitarian efforts.’

As the song ended, Kate saw Stark smile as she released her. “But I’m cutting in.” She deferred, turning Kate around in her arms’ embrace to face an approaching Sam.

In the secluded shadows, Sam surprised Stark by greeting her with a kiss on her lips that was, Kate assessed watching, anything but chaste and left Stark breathless. “Rooftop Presidential Suite Two B.” Sam murmured against Stark’s mouth as their lips parted. “We’ll be waiting.” She winked at Kate.

“Ten o’clock?” Kate suggested and Sam shrugged acquiescently. “No promises we won’t be beginning without you.”

As Sam led her away, Kate could not keep a straight face anymore and burst out laughing. “You do know Zoe’s a happily married woman, don’t you?” She inquired rhetorically as she draped her arms over Sam’s bare shoulders, staring intently into her girlfriend’s glowing eyes.

“I don’t Stazia would mind if it was with you.” Sam shrugged with a smirk. “Stazia owes you her life, remember?”

Kate’s face flushed, shaking her head. “That’s not how it works.” She resisted, albeit increasingly half-heartedly. “Services rendered in exchange for her wife?” She glanced askance at Sam.

Sam just shrugged again, turning to look over at Zoe, who was now seated in conversation with Lacey Moss, probably coordinating the Political Action Committee and Campaign’s efforts in Southern Florida. “We can go over there right now and call the whole thing off if it really makes you that uncomfortable;” She glanced at Kate, who was also looking at Stark; “If you don’t want her…”

“No!” Kate insisted reflexively, turning back to Sam, who smiled. “It’s definitely not that.”

“Then what?” Sam asked.

“It’s just that…” Kate hedged, hesitating; “Keeping you a secret was hard enough for me/” She glanced again at Stark seated with Lacey. “And if we add her…”

“Hey, Kitty-Kat.” Sam reached up to turn Kate’s face toward hers, locking her eyes with her girlfriend’s. “You know how the old saying goes around her.” She smiled lasciviously as she again stroked Kates’ exposed skin. “What happens in Vegas…”
“… Stays in Vegas.” Kate concluded.

“And what happens at the Serapeum…” Sam said seductively, kissing Kate.

“What Stazia won’t know can’t hurt us.” Kate caved, giving in to her gorgeous girlfriend’s expert and insistent touch. “This is going to be fun.”

 

 

 

There was a knock at the door.

“Come on in!” Kate answered reflexively, still more than mostly asleep.

With the clink of the door handle turning, however, Kate’s eyes shot wide open.

She need not have even turned her head to the side.

A sideways glance out of the corner of her eye showed the angelic face of the woman whose limbs were entwined with her body.

Sam’s knee rested between Kate’s thighs, her hand cupping over the top of Kate’s breast.

“Sam!” She hissed, moving her body against the one curled against hers.

“Ready for round five already?” Sam murmured, not opening her eyes and Kate inhaled sharply as Sam’s hand squeezed her breast.

            Fighting the urge to give in to the temptation of a fifth round of lovemaking, she turned her head to face Sam’s.

“You need to wake up!” She breathed.

            Sam opened one eye and smiled. Her smile faded when it was not returned and she saw the near-panicked urgency in Kate’s eyes.

“We have company!” Kate whispered.

            Sam’s reaction was similar to Kate’s. Her eyes flew wide open and she sat up in the bed, pushing Kate down as though readying herself to shield the candidate with her body.

“Mistress Hebe?” A voice came from the hallway from the door to the bedroom and Kate saw Sam relax as Zoe Stark stepped around the corner, still wearing her leather dress from earlier. Zoe smiled when she saw Sam sitting topless in the bed. “Liz told me I’d find you here.” She explained.

            At the mention of Elisabeth Pannabaker, Zoe’s mentor, Kate sat up in the bed beside Sam, pulling the covers up against her chest to cover herself, in the process holding Sam’s hand in place against her breast.

            Zoe had been moving toward the bed, seemingly intent on joining Sam in it, but stopped dead when she saw Kate. “Congresswoman!” She bowed her head to the side as though averting her eyes from Kate’s evident nakedness. Her eyes, however, never left the couple in the bed. “I- I apologize. I-I was not told that you were…” She trailed off as her gaze fell upon Sam’s hand cupping Kate’s breast.

“We are.” Sam confirmed, nodding, recognizing that the candidate beside her remained too petrified at having been caught red-handed, as it were, to speak.

            To Kate’s surprise, Zoe smiled.

“Please don’t tell Hera!” Kate managed to squeak, the words coming out all together in a rush as Sam slipped her hand out of Kate’s grasp, sliding it down off of Kate’s breast and between her legs.

            Zoe must have seen Kate’s eyes roll up; her head falling back slightly and deduced what was going on under the covers, because her grin broadened into a white-toothed smile from ear to ear. “As always, Mistress Hebe;” She bowed low to Sam; “Your secrets are safe with me.” She paused as she stood. “On one condition.”

            Kate and Sam both stared at her, Kate through fluttering eyelid.

“And what might that be, Lady Stark?” Sam question, her tone indicating that whatever relationship she and Zoe shared was not one in which she was accustomed to Stark ever dictating terms to her.

            Zoe shyly, almost demurely, began untying the corset on her dress’s bodice. “Is there space under those covers for three?” She asked.

            Sam and Kate looked at one another, then at Zoe as she peeled the leather dress off of her breasts like a snake shedding its skin.

            Kate nodded enthusiastically and Sam lifted the hand not between Kate’s legs to beckon Stark over with a crooked finger.

            Zoe shed the dress, which pooled on the floor at her feet and with a short loping start pounced on top of the two women in the bed.

 

Kate first thought upon awakening was, in retrospect, an odd one.

The thought that awoke her with a start was remembering that Sam had only closed the screen door and not the patio door. The difference was that the glass was soundproof and the thought that the screams and shrieks of their lovemaking had been broadcast out through the screen door onto the strip below prompted Kate to open her eyes wide and turn her head from side to side.

She was surprised to find she was alone in the bed.

“Congresswoman?” Zoe Stark’s voice came from some unseen side room. “Are you awake yet?”

            Kate titled her head back over the edge of the mattress and watched upside down as stark emerged round a corner into the bedroom. “After everything we just did;” Kate said, her voice hoarse as she flipped over onto her front, her eyes taking their time admiring the fact that Zoe was still naked; “You can call me Kate.”

            Stark smiled, then turned to call over her shoulder. “She’s awake!”

“So she is.” Sam confirmed as she stepped out to stand behind Zoe. “How are you feeling, Honeypot?” She asked Kate, using one of her pet names from when Kate was a teenager as she wrapped her arms around Zoe from behind, reaching up to cup the heiress’s breasts in the palms of her hands.

            Kate smiled as she watched Zoe tilt her head back onto Sam’s shoulder, turning her head to the side to kiss the side of her Mistress’s neck as Sam fondled her. “I’ll do my best to come up with a better term than “drained”.” She laughed.

            Sam nodded, releasing Stark’s breasts to lower her hands to between the heiress’s legs.

            Kate looked out at the darkness outside the window, recognizing that she must have been asleep for at least nearly an hour. “What have you two been up to?” She asked, turning back to the nude couple standing before her.

“Fooling… …Around.” Stark paused in mid-sentence to inhale a sharp gasp as Sam inserted first one than two fingers from each hand into her.

“We were waiting for you.” Sam continued and Zoe nodded.

 

 

Chapter 3:

 

Las Vegas, Nevada

 

Tuesday October 28, 2059

 

6:59 AM

 

Kristin Ludlowe waited impatiently in the elevator at the top floor of the Serapeum Hotel as the doors opened. Her eyes widened in surprise then narrowed dubiously as her boss, Congresswoman Katherine Janney and her girlfriend, Air Force Colonel Samantha Connor, stepped into the opened doors of the elevator accompanied unexpectedly by billionaire heiress Zoe Stark. She caught Kate’s eye, making little effort to disguise her disapproval as she caught Stark still straightening her skirt, which a quick look told Ludlowe had been put on backwards. Stark’s double-breasted suit jacket was unbuttoned and the camisole chemise under it was sheer enough and fit her snugly enough for a close observer to detect she wore no undergarments beneath.

Kate did not acknowledge Kris’s askance glance at her, facing forward. “Is Jules up?” She asked.

“Already on the bus;” Ludlowe answered brusquely, making a show of rolling back the sleeve of her own suit to look down at her watch; “Waiting for us.”

Also awaiting their arrival as the elevator opened on the Hotel lobby was Lacey Moss. Her bright green eyes took in Kate, Sam and Zoe, all in various stages of dress and nodded knowingly, having quickly and correctly guessed how and where the events of the night before had ended for the three women.

Zoe Stark was somewhat surprised when a young brunette wearing a dark suit and dark sunglasses blocking her path unceremoniously stopped her as she attempted to board Kate’s campaign bus behind the candidate.

“It’s okay, Kim.” Kate rested a reassuring hand on the brunette’s shoulder. “She’s coming down to SoCal with us.”

Kimberley Frost looked Zoe up and down before nodding stiffly and stepping aside.

As the bus began moving, Kate made her way to the back to check up on her daughter and Kris sat and watched Samantha Connor and Zoe Stark sit side by side, Sam’s arm nonchalantly around Stark’s waist, their heads together as they murmured in hushed tones, punctuated periodically by girlish giggles.

Kris was accustomed to casual affection on Kate’s part, particularly when She and Sam were together, but could not come to a certain conclusion about how she felt upon witnessing the same such publicly unabashed intimacy by her boss’s girlfriend with yet another woman. The Congresswoman may very well have been a newcomer to their threesome the night before, but Kris needed no clues to discern that it was far from the first time Samantha Connor and Zoe Stark had been physically intimate.

She was jerked to attention, suddenly becoming intently interested in the dossier in her lap as Kate rejoined her two compatriots. Ludlowe wondered idly whether, with her well-known commitment to complete forthrightness when it came to the people she loved: namely her daughter and her girlfriend; Kate had informed Julia about what had transpired last night in the Rooftop Suite of the Serapeum.

Kris knew Julia loved colonel Connor like another mother and was aware of the casual intimacy with which the uninhibited teenage socialite interact, even occasionally in public, with her own female friends. So Ludlowe wondered, which she could not recall having had occasion to before, whether Julia would approve or object to her mother engaging in a threesome with an heiress who, at only twenty-five, was less than a decade older than Julia.

 

“Will Lady Stark be in attendance at the Awards Show at the Pantages Theatre tonight?” Ludlowe asked when she caught the Congresswoman alone; Sam and Zoe having retired to continue their interplay in private.

“Of course.” Kate answered. “She’s a presenter.”

“And will Colonel Connor be accompanying you and Julia?” Kris persisted.

“Yes, Kris.” Kate said. “She’s nominated.”

“For what?” Ludlowe wondered.

“Best superhero.” Kate said and Kris recalled that the Congresswoman’s girlfriend had recently come out and admitted to having been the crime-stopping, life-saving vigilante Good Samaritan known as “Walker” in the Los Angeles area in the 1990’s. “She’s a shoe-in to win it.” The Congresswoman smiled before slipping into a side door.

 

 

 

Chapter 4:

 

900 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California

 

12:08 PM

 

Their first stop upon reaching Los Angeles was the Wilshire Grand.

“See you tonight.” Kate kissed her girlfriend goodbye in the doorway of her apartment after escorting her up, in spite of Ludlowe ordering the bus to only drop Colonel Connor off at the towering building’s front door.

“I look forward to seeing you.” Sam returned her kiss with a wink. “Wear something noticeable, will you?”

“I’d count on it, if I were you.” Kate called back as the elevator doors closed.

 

10880 Malibu Point
Malibu, California

 

1:08 PM

 

Their next stop was Malibu Point.

Kate had occasionally in the past made fun of Zoe Stark for living less than nine miles away from her father’s famous ancestral home at the aptly-named Point Dume. But she could not for the life of her fault the billionaire heiress for her house itself.

At 25,000 square feet, with eight bedrooms and ten bathrooms, it was larger even than the famous “Razor Residence” in La Jolla, San Diego. Stark’s Malibu mansion was evaluated at nearly a hundred and twenty million dollars. The technology inside the house, however, Kate knew, would have elevated this evaluation by another hundred and fifty million. The loan payment along, Stark had once jokingly hypothesized, would be over four hundred and twenty thousand dollars per month.

“Thanks for last night.” Stark kissed Kate, long and lingering, tugging lightly with kittenish teeth at Kate’s lower lip.

“Listen, Zoe;” Kate cast her glance out at the spectacular vista of the Pacific coast from the mansion’s majestic balcony; “Can I ask you to do me a favor?”

“You have but to name it and it’s yours.” Stark gazed up at her through lowered lashes. “You know that.”

“You see, I might very well be President someday in the no-too-far future;” Kate said, smiling ins spite of her attempt at seriousness, finding Stark’s own smile infectious; “And I just had a one-night-stand threesome in Vegas, a little over a year before Election Day, with the with the First Lady of the Russian federation…and…”

“…And you’re wondering if I’m about to tell my wife every illicit detail.” Stark laughed. “Our little secret is safe.” She put her fingers to her lips. “My lips are sealed.” She mimed turning a key in a lock. “Are yours?” She said, holding out the imagined key to Kate.

Playing along, Kate accepted the key before making a show of winding up to throw it like a Super bowl quarterback out into the pounding Pacific surf far beneath where they stood.

 

7000 Hollywood Boulevard,

Lost Angeles, California

 

2:21 PM

 

The Janney campaign bus then returned once again to the Roosevelt Hotel.

There were several long hours of Southern California sunlight left before the Awards ceremony that evening and so both Kate and Lacey Moss wasted little time in changing into their swimsuits and settling side by side beside the pool to sunbathe as Moss briefed the Congresswoman on the latest developments in the progress of the Seabourne campaign, their Primary rival in California and in the Stark-Industries-financed hurricane recovery efforts in Florida. Then Kate descended the steps into the pool to swim her laps and when she finished, Kristin Ludlowe was waiting for her.

The young Oregon Congresswoman was gratified to see that, unlike on their previous visit to Los Angeles back in September, her campaign Communications Director had gotten into the Southern California spirit herself, wearing a one-piece bathing suit a color of black that complimented her dark brunette hair.

“Come on in, Kris.” Kate told her, backstroking toward the deep end of the pool. Kris sat on the side of the pool, but did not enter the water past dangling her legs over the side to soak her feet in the water.

“Any news?” Kate asked.

“You recall, Congresswoman, the organization that took over control of Caracas late last year?”

Kate groaned audibly, standing and walking over to the stairs. She did indeed remember when a group calling themselves the Contras had invaded Venezuela across the Panama Canal. In spite of having named themselves after the anti-democratic, anti-government militant militias in nearby Nicaragua in the late twentieth century, this organization was quite different. Anything except anti-government, they had been quite effectively administrating the capitol city of Caracas, albeit under their own iron-fisted armed occupation, proving surprisingly adept at everything from health care to law enforcement. “What have they done now?” She asked, heading towards the Jacuzzi. “They’ve established their first official foreign embassy.” The Congresswoman staggered and stumbled as she slipped in her startled surprise on the edge of the Jacuzzi at hearing that the Contras were throwing their proverbial hat into the international diplomacy game.

However, she recovered quickly, her mind racing. “Let me guess.” She said as she stepped cautiously into the hot tub. “Havana?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Kris confirmed.

“A Castro in Cuba allied with the Contras.” Kate considered. “That’s a can of worms.”

Kris agreed. “And it’s a can that has landed squarely in your lap, Katie.”

“I got to be honest.” Moss piped up from her chair beside the pool. “I’m more concerned about having anti-democratic Contras ninety miles off the coast of Florida.”

“Lacey’s right.” Kate said. “We need to keep this campaign focused on the people who will be voting for us.”

“Or not.” Ludlowe quipped.

“I agree.” Kat said. “And we absolutely shouldn’t hesitate to dedicate time and energy to the international affairs aspects of the Oval Office.” She saw Moss throw up her hands, thankful that Kat had finally come around to the argument she had been making for the better part of a month. “However, we should focus on those international events that directly pertain to one or more of the forty-nine states.”

 

Kate had promised her girlfriend that, at the Awards show, she would be wearing a dress that would catch Sam’s eye and so she figured the best way to do that would be to wear a dress Sam had personally picked out and purchased for her.

She selected a strapless studded metallic silver multi-sequin mesh bustier tube mini dress filled with crystals, with a draped skirt with a gather on one side.

Sam had purchased it for her at the apparel retailer “G By Guess” at the Lloyd Center Mall in Portland, Oregon years earlier. Kate recalled Sam calling the dress “risqué” and jokingly describing the dress’s style as being “bondage-inspired”.

 

Pantages Theatre

6264 Hollywood Boulevard

Los Angeles, California

 

6:00 PM

 

Being a covert operative of an agency that wasn’t meant to be real, Kate was unsurprised to find Samantha Connor the one celebrity on the red carpet full of Hollywood’s actors and actresses not to be swarmed by frantic fans waving papers for autographs. While every other Award Nominee that night to step in the doors of the Pantages theater was urgently corralled by competing entertainment reporters for lengthy interviews, Sam had located a place still in view of the photo and video cameras, but outside of the range of the microphones.

Kate saw many actors and actresses engaged in quiet conversations, meant for what was colloquially called “B-roll” footage, soundless moving images used under voiceovers during network news broadcasts. As such, they used what were evidently exaggerated facial expressions and hand and body language gestures.

“I remember this thing.” Sam said, making a show of pricking her fingers on the metallic spikes jutting from Kate’s hip. “Much more buxom than when we bought it, isn’t it?” She smiled while admiring her reflection in mirrored shards all over the bustier’s padded bust.

“I’m not a teenage girl anymore.” Kate replied, returning the smile. As was always the case anytime she was around Sam, especially dressed as she was, Kate felt herself drawn to her gorgeous girlfriend, and having Sam’s smiling face as near to her own as it was made it that much more difficult to resist. She saw in Sam’s expression her girlfriend knew her well enough to tell what Kate was thinking and read her feelings. In response, Sam’s amazing mother-of-pearl eyes need no more than have chanced a glance monetarily in the direction of the camera flashes, reminding her girlfriend that any intimate displays of romantic affection would have to wait. As she saw many actor and actresses doing with their directors, producers and other celebrities around the theatre, Kate consoled herself with a quick kiss to each of her girlfriend’s cheeks as the two women embraced.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen;” The feminine British-accented voice of the voiceover announcer resonated; “To present the next award, please welcome a native of Los Angeles and heiress to the family that has financed the Pantages theatre ever since the late 1970’s. To present the award for “Best Superhero”, Zoe Stark.”

Both Kate and Sam stood and applauded wildly until Stark waved all those applauding to their seats.

“Since the inauguration of this Awards Ceremony in 2005, this stage has played host to more than its fair share of superheroes;” Zoe said; “From Iron Man and Spider Man to Batman and Superman;” She smiled knowingly; “And from Supergirl to Wonder Woman.”

“But tonight, for what is perhaps the first time in the more than half-century history of this event, we gather together to celebrate someone who needs neither a costume department nor computer-generated special effects to fight against the bad guys with superpowers.” Kate and same exchanged knowing looked, both of them knowing the bit about not needing a costume was something less than entirely accurate.

“Only a few here with us today, one would guess, are old enough to remember the Los Angeles of the late 20th Century;” Zoe continued; “But those who do will remember the crime-fighting vigilante known only by the pseudonym “Walker”.” Sam squeezed Kate’s hand calmingly as she felt Kate grab her upper arm at the shoulder and shake it with barely-contained excitement. “Those who saw Walker reported only a black suit and black hair;” Kate cast a glance at Sam seated at her arm, dressed in a glistening ivory white that matched the alabaster porcelain tone of her flawlessly unblemished skin. “And those who did are decades older today than they were then, but Walker herself, as you will soon see has not aged a day.” She winked at Sam as she made a show of unnecessarily opening the ceremonial award envelope on the podium.

“Tonight’s winner of the 54th Annual “Best Superhero” award goes to;” the held up the white paper with its gold calligraphy; “United States Air Force Colonel Samantha Connor!”

As Sam stood, Kate stood with her, embracing her girlfriend once again before Sam turned away and ascended to the stage. She repeated the ritual of chaste cheek kissing when she embraced Stark as she had when she had embraced Kate.

“Thank you, Lady Stark.” Sam said as she accepted the award: a pentagonal diamond shape with a relief of a stylized sharp-serif letter “S”. “For the record, I have actually aged 125 days.” She had to speak up in order to be heard over the increasingly confounded murmurs of those confused and surprised to see the Los Angeles super heroine of more than two thirds of a century before was a breathtakingly gorgeous blonde who appeared to be no older than her late twenties or mid thirties. Her remark was met with laughter, but Kate smiled knowingly to herself, having done the same math in her head and knowing what none else in the audience did: that her girlfriend was speaking the truth: In the 69 years since the year 1990, her enigmatically immortal girlfriend has aged exactly 125 days, 22 hours and 12 minutes.

“As I did when I was sneaking around Los Angeles in the shadows saving lives;” Connor continued; “I see many young faces out there tonight. So I’m guessing most of you know well what its like to go through a phase of teenage rebellion.” She saw nods all around the auditorium. “How many of you, I wonder, would believe me when I tell you that was what Walker was: an act of adolescent…”acting out”, as they may say.” She chuckled to herself at her own mouth’s misstep. “I’ve lived many lifetimes;” She murmured to herself with a sigh, likely not intending to voice her thoughts aloud, let alone into an open microphone; “And have had many adolescent phases over the years.” Kate was amazed as she watched actual tears streaming across Sam’s face as she cradled the award in her arms as one would a swaddled infant. “You have no idea how gratified I feel to have even one of the lives I’ve lived honored this way.” She reached up to caress her face, her tears apparently startling her as much as they had Kate. “I want to thank my mother, who has always believed I could be a better version of myself, and my beloved girrr—” Kate heard Sam growl under her breath, and saw the almost physically pained expression on her face as she barely caught herself just in time to keep from inadvertently outing both herself and her girlfriend. “—The people I love.” Connor corrected herself carefully, tactfully retreating immediately.

Kate empathetically felt her pain at not being able to acknowledge the woman she loved. This was made especially poignant by the fact that Sam had confessed to Kate that it was the rekindling of their relationship that had given her the confidence to come out of the shadows and admit to having been Walker. In that sense, Sam would not be receiving this Award at all were it not for Kate, and to not be able to thank her girlfriend in her acceptance speech had to be emotionally excruciating.

Kate embraced her girlfriend, gently squeezing her reassuringly and easing her back into her seat as she saw Sam softly sobbing into her shoulder.
11:00 PM

 

Sam surreptitiously slipped into the far side door of the Congresswoman’s limousine, out of view of the video photographers. She rode the half-hour to the Wilshire Grand wrapped in Kate’s arms.

“You just tell me the words;” Kate softly said finally after ten minutes of silence settled inside the limousine; “And I’ll get out right now.”

“Not on Interstate 101, your won’t.” Her girlfriend tightened her fingers’ grip on the Congresswoman’s arms around her.

“I wasn’t talking about the car.” Kate continued. “I was talking about the campaign.”

Her girlfriend jerked back, staring at her, sensing the earnestness in her tone of voice, yet her eyes still searching for any hint of jest and finding none. “You shouldn’t joke around about stuff like this.” She said slowly, enunciating uncertainly.

“Who’s joking?” Janney answered.

“You’re not just talking about running for President, are you?” Sam stared art her incredulously. “You mean Congress.”

“If it’s what’s keeping us apart;” Kate kissed her girlfriend, startling Sam, who stiffened in her embrace; “I’ll hand Ainsley my letter of resignation first thing tomorrow morning.”

Sam felt emotion overcoming her startlement. “You’d do that;” Her voice choked as it caught in her throat; “For me?”

Kate shook her head, surprising Sam again by smiling softly. “For us.” She kissed Sam again, and this time she felt the blonde melt in her arms, disintegrating in tears.

 

Sam did not join Kate in the Wilshire’s seventh-floor rooftop pool, sitting instead on the side swinging her long in the shallow end as she sipped a glass of the Grand’s complimentary 1990 Chandon Chardonnay Champagne. Sam was still dressed in her glistening ivory gown, the underwater lights from the pool casting it in a cerulean glow. Having “forgotten” her bathing suit, Kate had borrowed one of Sam’s, at Sam’s strong suggestion, only after she threatened, only partly in jest, to go out to pool to go swimming without one on. “You can’t quit Congress.” Sam said as the candidate surfaced and stood in the shallow end in front of her.

“I don’t care about Congress.” Kate told her coldly.

“But it’s your chosen career.” Sam insisted.

“My career means nothing to me next to the people I love.” Kate stated. “You know that.”

“I don’t want you to step down.” Sam said, persistently. “I also know;” She set her Champagne aside and slipped into the shallow pool, the long flowing train of her gown floating behind her as she glided through the water toward Kate; “You well enough to know that you want to win this election.” She reached her girlfriend, lifting her dripping hands out of the water to lift Kate’s head to face hers. “So what’s this really all about?”

The candidate did not meet her girlfriend’s penetrating eyes, her gaze seeming to see straight through Sam, acquiring a distant expression. “You weren’t there.” She said, in a faraway tone from somewhere in her chest that sounded alien even to herself. “You didn’t see.”
“See what, Kitty Kat?” Sam asked, caressing Kate’s face and hair.

“The look.” Janney shivered physically at the memory. “Do you know;” She said, finally meeting Sam’s eyes with her own, the icy fire in them a match for the glow of Sam’s eyes in the late night darkness of the rooftop; “In thirty-five years, I can’t ever remember having seen an expression of such utter disgust on anyone before…” She trailed off, as the icy fire in her eyes appeared to spread to freeze her entire body. “…Such unabashed, unadulterated raw hatred.”
“Whose face are we talking about here?” Sam said, unable to disguise the concern in her voice as Kate’s demeanor made the already cool night air feel frigid.

“My father’s.” Kate answered, surprisingly emotionlessly.

Sam backed away a step before she could think better of it. “You saw him?” She realized the redundancy of the inquiry only after the words had already left her lips.

“I spoke to him.” Kate confirmed coldly. “Kris convinced me to take advantage of our time in Manchester two weeks ago.

“What for?” Connor was grown genuinely curious.

“I wanted to tell him that I was in love.” Kate chuckled humorlessly, ruefully at the memory.

“And did you?” Sam asked.
“I did.” Kate looked through Sam again off into the horizon, a mirthless smile spreading across her lips. “He asked me when he should be expecting another grandson.”

“And that’s when you told him the truth.” Connor concluded, nodding understandingly. She saw her girlfriends, bottom lip trembling as she struggled to nod.

Kate inhaled a shuddering breath as she resisted the urge to sniffle, her eyes nevertheless squeezing out tears despite her best efforts at composure. “He k…He kicked me o…off the estate.” She managed falteringly through a quivering throat.

“Oh Kitty.” Sam reached out again to wrap her arms around Kate, but to her surprise, fighting the urge to collapse into her girlfriend’s embrace, Kate drew away.

“I’m done.” She said, her lip’s tremble having ceased, her voice evening out. The icy daggers returned to her eyes, seeming to freeze the tears before they were halfway down her cheeks. “I’m sick of sneaking around.” She raised her arms over her head and drove them down to slap the water with the sound of a rifle that reverberated off the glass facade towering above them.

She turned around, climbing out of the pool before Sam could react. “Since that day when you walked back into my life; “ She said, an unexpected smile lighting up her expression brighter even than the lights from the pool; “I’ve wanted so badly each and every day to scream from the rooftops;” She reached the corner of the Wilshire’s terrace and, before Sam could stop her, did precisely that; “I love Samantha Wells!” She shrieked in the general direction of her hometown of Eugene, Oregon.

“I love Doctor Sarah Carter!” She called, in the direction of Occidental College and the Griffith Park Observatory.

“I love Colonel Samantha Connor!” She called toward the East, wherefrom they had come earlier that day, in the direction of Groom Lake.

“I love Helena Carter and Helena Wells!” She screamed at the top of her lungs to the northeast, in the vague direction of London.

Sam stood stock still, staring at the soaking swimmer shrieking her self-hoarse. Kate repeated the rolodex of names at the top of her lungs in ever direction from the rooftop until the moisture dripping in her eyes was from exertion and she was panting, her chest heaving.

When she finally turned around, Sam had risen out of the pool and stood behind her.

“You’ve spent all your lifetimes hiding behind all of these different names in all of these different places.” Kate croaked hoarsely. “I don’t want to hide you anymore.” She reached out and took Sam’s hand in hers. “I’ve given you a home where you will live forever.” She placed Sam’s hand over her right breast and Connor could feel her ponding heart. “It’s right here.”

“When I said I didn’t care about the campaign or Congress, I meant it literally.” Kate said. “I don’t care if it’s in the White House or in a hole in the ground;” She wrapped her arms around Sam, soaking the rest of her dress; “So long as I get to wake up every morning with you at my side.”

“All of your covers, all of your facades, all of your identities, all of your lifetimes;” Kate reached her hands up to run them through Sam’s golden hair, now plastered to her alabaster porcelain skin; “All of your memories, all of your names, all of your personas, all of your selves and all of your stories.” She ran her hands down Sam’s sides to her hips. “I love all of you.” To Sam’s surprise, she turned her girlfriend around within her embrace, tugging her hips to hug her from behind, and Connor found herself looking out over the city. “And I want the world to know it; the whole world.” Kate kissed Connor’s cheek, working her way over and down to press soft kisses to the side of Sam’s neck and shoulder.

Sam sighed, tilting her head to the side as Kate’s kiss trailed to her throat but looked over at Kate when the candidate playfully took the transparent strap of her dress between her kittenish front teeth. “I want to love all of you, publicly, for all the world to see.” As she slid the strap across Sam’s shoulder to drape down her bare bicep before doing likewise to the other, Sam felt Kate’s hands about her hips inching their way downward toward the hemline of her skirt’s hip-high slit.

“Not out here, you won’t.” If only in the interest of modesty, Sam turned around as Kate’s hand slid inside the skirt’s slit. “I’m, however, about to make love to all of you.” She reached up to return the favor of sliding the straps of Kate’s swimsuit from her shoulders before reaching down to seize her girlfriend’s daringly venturesome hand, escorting her in quick steps to the door to her poolside apartment.

Kate’s hand, once freed from her grasp, returned under her skirt, but Connor kissed Kate, in one fluid motion pulling her lover to her and pushing the door resoundingly closed behind them.

 

Wilshire Grand Center
Los Angeles, California

Wednesday, October 29, 2059

 

7:09 AM

 

Katherine Janney awake to an angelic vision. The face that hovered next to and above hers was framed by a halo of golden hair, backlit by the rising morning sun. She found herself gazing deeply into the most amazing pair of eyes she had ever seen. The vision grew even more luminous as the woman gazing down at her smiled.

“My goddess, you’re beautiful.” Her melodious voice murmured.

Kate grinned, thinking Sam must have stolen the words right out of her mind, but was distracted from such thoughts by the lips that descended softly onto her own. “You still love to watch me sleep.” Kate assessed softly, feeling for the first time her girlfriends lower body still entwined with her own under the disheveled covers.

“I’ve been thinking.” Sam said. “About what you said last night.”

“I didn’t mean to ruin the evening by getting all emotion—” Sam silenced her with a finger pressed against her lips.

“You said you wanted to wake up beside me every morning.”

“Isn’t this nice?” Kate cocked her head to the side, confused.

Sam smiled. “It is indeed.” She conceded, stoking her hand down Kate’s neck to the sheet covering her chest. “Which is why I got to wondering why it’s not enough.” Her girlfriend opened her mouth to reply but Sam lifted her hand against and Kate closed her lips. “What we have;” Sam elaborated, caressing Kate’s hair as it splayed across the pillow beneath her head; “What we’ve had for all these years.”

“No.” Kate told her in a tone that broached no argumentation. “It’s not enough for me anymore.” The next thing Connor knew, Kate had reversed their positions, rolling over on top of her girlfriend. “I want to live with you.” Kate told her, reaching up to brush Sam’s hair behind her ear. “Keeping you a secret.” She took Sam’s retreating fingers into her mouth, nipping Sam’s middle finger between her front teeth. “This isn’t living.” She continued to caress Sam’s hair across the side of her face. “This is hiding.”

“I’m used to that.” Sam said, smiling snidely.

She saw Kate’s face fall and her girlfriend drew away. “I thought I was different.”
“You are.” Sam drew her face back to her for a kiss. “I’ve never felt about anyone before the way I feel about you.” She nipped at Kates bottom lip, tugging on it playfully as their mouths parted. “And I know that the same is true for you.” She bit her own bottom lip, gazing up at Kate through lowered eyelashes. “And that’s what scares me.”

Kate’s fingers froze against the skin of Sam’s pulse point. “You’re scared of me?”

Sam shook her head. “Scared for you.” She corrected. “You told me once, years ago, that just touching me gave you…What did you call it? …A “contact high”?” Kate nodded her head gradually. “A metaphor, for obvious reasons.” Sam gazed penetratingly into Kate’s wide eyes. “But I’ve been around this town enough to know what addiction looks like.”

“You think I’m addicted to you?” Kate asked.

“I know you are.” Sam said, smiling. “It’s just a physical law of the universe now.” Her voice had changed to pitch-perfect imitation of Kate’s own as she repeated back her words from years earlier to her. “You own me.”

“Okay, so I’m hooked on making love to the most gorgeous woman in the world.” Kate said sardonically. “You say that as if it’s something sinister.” She smiled, retuning Sam’s playful tugging of her bottom lip as they kissed. “I say its something to celebrate.”

“Your words last night got me worried;” Sam struggled to stay serious as her girlfriend caressed the side of the neck, first with her fingers and then with her lips. “That it might have been the addiction doing the talking.”

“If your prescription is going cold turkey, Doctor Carter;” Kate murmured close into her ear, kissing the temple behind it as her fingers caressed Sam’s hair out of the way; “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask for a second opinion.”

“You need to focus.” Connor could not help but chuckle at the inherent irony of the statement coming from her increasingly distracted mind at that moment. “You need to win.” Mustering reluctant effort, she gently pushed Kate’s face away from her shoulder, where it had begun to venture lower toward her chest. “I need you to win.” Sam stated solidly. “And so do you.”

She rolled over to push her girlfriend under her once more. “When you and Jules are settled in at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” She promised. “Then we’ll talk about my moving in.”

“You know I’ll hold you to that.” Kate said.

“I do.”
“But first I have to win the election.” Kate nodded with a sigh that turned into a sly chuckle. “Don’t you think I see what you did there, Agent Walker.”

“And winning means…” Connor prompted.
“…Keeping you a secret.” Kate sighed, running her fingers through her hair. “I know.”

“How long are you in Los Angeles for?” Sam asked.

“I’m here all week.” Kate corrected herself. “Five more days, including today.”

“However shall we spend all the time?” Sam smiled, lowering her face to pull the sheet covering Kate’s chest down with her teeth.

 

The Campaign   Part III: “A Stranger in Her Hometown” [Draft 2: 10 Pages 4,245 Words, January 26, 2018]

•January 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

“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

 

 

 

Chapter 1:

 

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.”

Janney nodded.

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.

Ken nodded.

“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.”

Welsh nodded.

“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.”

Kate laughed.

“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.”

 

 

 

Chapter 2:

 

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.”

 

The Campaign Part II: Sleepless in Miami Confidential [Draft 2: 9 Pages 4,290 Words January 26, 2018]

•January 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Chapter 1:

Mandarin Oriental

Miami Florida

 

Sunday September 7, 2059

 

Kate spotted the young woman as soon as she turned to look at her. As her head broke the surface of the Jacuzzi, her bleached blonde hair caught the yellow beams of the southern Florida noonday sun and as she turned her face in Kate’s direction, it seemed, so did her bright green eyes. Upon spotting Kate, she climbed from the Jacuzzi, her long hair still dripping and glistening with water droplets. She slipped into a nearly translucent silk dressing robe that matched the lime green of her two-piece bathing suit as she rounded the edge of the swimming pool toward Kate.

“I recognize you from the VMA’s on Friday, don’t I?” She asked, referring to the Teen Choice Awards attended by Kate and her daughter At the American Airlines Arena two nights earlier, and Kate nodded her head. “What are you doing here?”

Before Kate could even open her mouth to reply, the woman continued. “I’m actually supposed to be meeting someone here.” Kate’s eyebrows rose, figuring that she should at the very least feign interest, and the woman nodded, dropping down onto the chair beside Kate’s. “A two-term United States Congresswoman, and a candidate for President no less.” Kate’s eyebrows rose, her eyes widening. “Supposed to be some lawyer-doctor from the Kennedy School.” She shrugged.

“True she has a teenage daughter;” The woman continued; “But I heard word she spent more than just a couple of nights at the Wilshire Tower and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with an Astrophysics Professor from Occidental.” Kate’s best efforts kept her expressionless. “Not that I’m saying that I necessarily can blame her.” She reclined back in her chair, her robe falling open. “I met this Doctor Sarah Carter years ago and let me tell you: She’s a knockout!” Kate smiled sardonically at this, thinking silently to herself that the woman was right about Carter in more ways than she would ever know.

“Forgive my rudeness;” The woman sat up in her chair, swinging her legs over and leaning over to extend her hand; “My name is Lacey Moss. What’s your name?”

Kate reached up to lower her sunglasses to the tip of her nose before reaching out to take the woman’s hand. “Katherine Janney.” She shook the woman’s hands even as she smiled at seeing the other’s eyes seeming to bulge clean out of their sockets, as wide and white as saucers. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Moss.”

The woman jumped to her feet, reflexively jerking her hand away from Kate’s grip. “I am so very terribly sorry!” She apologized. “I wasn’t saying…. I didn’t mean…” She babbled nervously as Kate straightened the back of her chair to sit up. “You know what? To hell with it!” Lacey huffed. “I’ll just move to some other country.” She turned to leave.

“Have a seat, Miss Moss.” Kate gestured to the chair she had just vacated.

“I should just go….”

“Sit.” Kate did not raise her voice, but her tone left no room for objection.

Moss dropped heavily into the chair, mortified. When she at long last lifted her eyes from the ground, she saw to her surprise that the Congresswoman was doing the very last thing she would have ever expected her to do: She was smiling at her.

Kate’s eyes were scanning her up and down, and Lacey was suddenly conscientious of how little the silk gown hid, as the Congresswoman’s gaze felt as though it could easily have penetrated into her heart and soul even through the thickest overcoat. “FSU?” She said finally, referring to the University in the state Capitol of Tallahassee, and Moss nodded. “You work for the Democratic-Republican Party?”

“Yes, Madam Congresswoman.” Moss confirmed.

“Not anymore, you don’t.” Janney told her, prompting Moss to look up at her, and then back down at the floor.

“You’re going to have me fired, aren’t you?” It was more of a statement of fact than it was a question. “I understand completely.”

Kate’s grin never wavered. “You could think of it as a promotion and say thank you.” She said sardonically. “You’ll be heading up my campaign for the Southeastern States from now on.”

Moss’s head jerked back up, though it took her mind a moment to completely process the words. When she did she beamed. “You won’t regret this decision, Congresswoman.”

Kate turned away from her as she reclined the back of her seat again, pushing her sunglasses back up her nose. “I prefer Doctor, Miss Moss.”

Lacey cocked her head to the side curiously for a moment, but then nodded. “Of course, Doctor.” She got up, tucking her gown around her and hurried away.

“You were right.” Kate said after her, stopping her in her tracks. Kate did not turn towards her and so Moss did not turn back around when she spoke. “About Sarah.” Kate smiled as she turned her face up to the sun. “She is a knockout;” Lacey saw Kate turn her face toward her, lowered her sunglasses; “I more ways than one.” Lacey returned her wink and her smile.

She was still smiling as she changed back into her clothes, and when she climbed into her car, and she didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the afternoon.

 

When she returned to the Mandarin Oriental Dynasty suite in the Western corner of the top nineteenth floor of the hotel, Kate was not surprised to see her daughter repacking her belongings back into her suitcase for the flight back to Washington. She was, however, surprised to note that Julia was still in her dress from the Video Music Awards the night before: a dark green, ruched silk-like satin spaghetti-strapped sheath cocktail dress.

Kate glanced at Ellis Fox, her daughter’s Secret Service bodyguard, who shrugged her shoulders. “I guess she liked it.”

“Just make sure she changes before her flight.” Kate told Ellie, as little louder than was necessary, loud enough for her daughter to overhear, before continuing past the open door to the living room and into her own bedroom to change out of her swimsuit herself.

 

  1. Wilcox International Airport

Miami, Florida

 

Monday September 8, 2059

 

The next morning, Katherine Janney stood on the North Terminal’s Concourse D of the Miami Airport, the gate for Southwest, giving her fourteen-year-old daughter a hug and a kiss goodbye. “Have fun on at your new school, sweetheart.” As much as she might try to think of this as her seeing Julia off to her first day of high school, this did nothing to dispel the ever-omnipresent lingering knowledge that the high school in question was nearly a thousand miles away.

As she had arranged the month before, Julia’s Secret Service bodyguards, Special Agents Kimberley Frost and Ellis Fox, accompanied Julia onto the airplane and, Kate knew, would also be accompanying her teenage daughter to her new school in Washington the next day.

Recalcitrantly, as the airline’s last call for final boarding blared over the Airport’s public address system, Julia finally managed to extract herself from her mother’s embrace.

Kate stayed on one knee where she had been to hug her daughter, as though rooted to the thinly-carpeted floor, until an airport steward stepped over to cordon off the gate, his gaze on the nearby airport security station, appearing ready to wave them over to remove the young woman. Janney’s Secret Service Detail stepped forward to discourage him from any such rash action, but stood down when the candidate finally climbed back onto her feet.

Without a word, and seemingly without even so much as acknowledging that the others present were even there, she stepped over to the window and watched without a word as the 747, with its Southwest insignia, accelerated away from the airport down the runway east toward Biscayne Bay. She heaved a heavy sigh of ill-disguised relief as the plane’s wheels lift off the tarmac, but continued to watch it until it disappeared from view into the cloudless blue sky.

“Right then!” She cleared her throat with a huff, straightening as she turned around and reaching down to smooth out her skirt suit. “What’s next?”

 

 

 

Chapter 2:

 

Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, California

 

Saturday September 13, 2059

 

“The Congresswoman certainly made news at the Latin Grammy Awards last night;” Gina Everett told the assembled staff seated in a semicircle around her inside the Janney Campaign’s California headquarters in downtown Los Angeles; “And I don’t think it was because of her dress;” She looked over at Kate with a failed attempt at concealing a wry smile; “Surprisingly enough.”

Clearing her throat, she turned away from the group and toward the screen on the wall behind her, flipping it on. On it, the red-haired Candidate was spotted and waved over by one of the reporters from Univision: The station that broadcast the Latin Grammy Awards.

Kate could not help but grin as she spotted, out of the corner of her eye, several of the younger campaign staffer’s eyes go noticeably wider at seeing the form-fitting mint-green old-Hollywood-style dress that she had worn to the event in Miami the night before, with its embellished jewel-beaded gaping cutout neckline that showcased her ample cleavage.

“You were here in Miami for the MTV Video Music Awards with your teenage daughter last week;” The interviewer said to her in Spanish, the English subtitles scrolling across the bottom of the screen; “But what roots could a granddaughter of French and German immigrants have in the Latin or Hispanic American community?”

“Several years ago, when I was working as a named Partner at Janney, Kirks and Krueloe in Portland, Oregon;” Janney answered in fluent Spanish, prompting many of her staffers at the LA headquarters to look over at her in surprise; “I defended an organization called the Alliance for the Right to Love from persecution by a Sectarian religious cult.” Kate saw Kristin Ludlowe nod, having worked with Janney as her fellow lawyer at the firm on the case in question. “The organization’s Chief Counsel and I enlisted the assistance of outside counsel;” Janney said to the interviewer; “A brilliant attorney from Los Angeles, who was working at the time with the American Civil Liberties Union, named Charlotte Cardezza.”

It was the Univision correspondent’s turn to turn to her with wide eyes: Cardezza was now something of an iconic celebrity within the Latino community, not only inside California but also throughout the country.

“Speaking of which, I have an announcement to make;” The Candidate looked directly into the camera; “And I figure the Latin Grammys is as good of a place as any to make it.” She turned to address the audience. “If I am elected President of the States next November, one of my first appointments will be to nominate Charlotte Cardezza as your next Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice.”

Gina paused the footage on Janney’s smile and the reporter’s surprised expression and turned to her boss. “Kris, we all know you worked with the Congresswoman in Portland.” Ludlowe nodded. “Did she give you any sort of a hint that she was going to do this yesterday?”

Ludlowe shook her head. “No.” She glared at her friend, who did not turn to meet her stare. “She most definitely did not.”

Everett turned back to the screen. “Let us watch what happened on Univision here in LA a couple of hours later.”

The screen switched to show the face of attorney Charlotte Cardezza, with the Univision logo in the corner.

“A member of the House and Candidate for President has told us exclusively tonight that, if elected next year, they would nominate you for the Justice Department.” The off-screen interviewer told her in Spanish. “Would that interest you?”

“What is their name?” Cardezza asked.

“Katherine.” The interviewer answered, evidently having to glance at their notes. “Congresswoman Catherine Janney of Oregon.”

Even on the screen, they could see Cardezza’s expression light up visibly. “This interests me very much.” She responded. “Of course, I will be more than happy to accept the job.”

Everyone in the room responded with surprise at the seeming absolute surety in Janney’s election implied by the phrasing of Cardezza’s answer; Everyone except for the Congresswoman herself, who merely smiled.

“Any idea why she’s so confident you’ll win, Doctor?” Chlaire Daniels, her National Security Advisor, asked.

Janney shrugged, shaking her head. “What can I say?” She looked over at Kris with a smile. “I have some amazing friends. That reminds me;” She glanced at her watch; “I’ve got to go pick up Jewels at the airport. She got up and walked out to her waiting car.

 

Los Angeles International Airport

 

Katherine Janney waited at the United American terminal and watched the airport crews attach the collapsible accordion-like ramp to the door of the airplane parked outside the window. It had been so long since she had been separated from her daughter for any appreciable length of time that she felt herself unexpectedly antsy as she waited for Julia do disembark. She knew from the last report that she had received from Air Force Major Rebecca Mavalently, her daughter’s godmother, before the flight had taken off from Washington’s Reagan-Dulles Airport that she and Julia had been seated at or near the front of the aircraft’s first class passenger cabin and so she anticipated that her daughter would be among the first passengers to exit the aircraft.

As the passengers disembarked from the door of the aircraft into the boarding ramp, Julia herself was not immediately recognizably distinguishable from the similarly dressed passengers that surrounded her. The dark-suited young woman at her side, however; with her mirrored sunglasses and her bleached blonde hair cropped short and pulled tightly back to unveil the wire in her ear; was immediately recognizable. As the last of the passengers in front of them went their separate ways, Julia rushed forward to hug her mother. The other woman removed her sunglasses, her eyes widening and her eyebrow quirking as the lithe Congresswoman, to her surprise, hefted the teenager into her arms as though she weighed next to nothing.

“How did the first week of high school go?” Kate asked, ostensibly to the girl in her arms, but a sidelong glance indicated she was addressing her daughter’s escort.

“She loves her classes.” Ellis Fox answered and Julia nodded enthusiastically as her mother lowered her to her feet.

As they started walking back toward the main concourse, Julia hurrying ahead of them, Kate turned to the Secret Service Agent expectantly, as if having intuited that there was something else Ellie wasn’t telling her.

“Academically, high school is going well.” Fox needed no prompting. “Socially…” She trailed off. “Well, let us just say things have become somewhat more complicated.”

“Oh?” Kate’s auburn eyebrow arched. “Is that so?”

Ellie shrugged, watching her boss out of the corner of her periphery to gauge her reaction to her next words. “Apparently, Madam Congresswoman; “She began, formally, before hesitating; “There’s a boy involved.”

The Congresswoman’s reaction to these dreaded words was not at all what one would have expected from the admittedly over-protective mother of a high-school-aged teenage daughter: She actually smiled. “What’s his name?”

“We don’t know.” Ellie began.

“She wouldn’t tell us.” Becka explained from behind them, having overheard and been eavesdropping on their exchange. Kate opened her mouth, but Becka reached out to lay a restraining hand on her shoulder. “Before you ask;” She preempted Kate’s coming question; “What she did tell us is that she won’t tell you either.”

 

Having gotten Julia settled in at the Roosevelt, Kate left her in the care of Kimberly Frost and returned with her staff to the campaign’s California headquarters on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.

Everett directed her a back room where she found Kristine Davis waiting with a pair or briefing books.

She handed one to the Congresswoman, who sat across from her beside Davis’s direct supervisor, Kristin Ludlowe. “You’ve been briefed on the monsoon flooding in Sindh Province, Pakistan.” Davis said, more of a statement than an inquiry.

 

 

El Capitan Theatre, Hollywood Boulevard,

Los Angeles, California

 

Saturday September 13, 2059

 

Kate’s staff, led by Ken and Kris, rejoined the candidate and her daughter as they left the red carpet rope line behind and passed through the doors of the El Capitan Theatre, falling into what appeared to be a reception line for meeting the hosts and sponsors of the American Choreography Awards.

Kris complimented the candidate on her dress, but Kate barely heard her, her ears having picked up a feminine, melodious voice from the far end of the receiving line that was at once intimately familiar and yet at the same time she could not place how it could have come to be here. Kris was in the middle of greeting Julia when she broke off in mid-sentence, her face jerking up as she spotted the event’s benefactor, who stood at the end of the line.

Even Ken’s eyes grew wide as he, too, recognized the figure in the long golden gown.

“Congresswoman Janney;” Hera Day smiled glowingly as she reached out to take Kate’s hands in hers; “You have no idea how pleased we are that you were able to attend tonight.”

“What are you doing here?” Kate asked before she could think to stop herself. She knew well enough to lean toward the other woman before she spoke, her voice little above a whisper. Nevertheless, she hung her head, her face flushing, averting her gaze to the floor at her feet at the reproving glare her outburst earned her from her godmother.

Ken was more tactful. “You’re the benefactor?” He asked, sounding genuinely shocked.

“The Serapeum owns the El Capitan, yes.” Hera nodded noncommittally, referring to the casino on the Las Vegas strip that she ran with Zoe Stark. “But the advocate for the American Choreography Awards is not me.” She smiled as Kate’s head jerked back up to her in surprise and a second figure detached itself as though by mitosis to emerge from behind her. “You all know my daughter.”

“Hello again, Miss Ludlowe.” Sam greeted Kris.

Out of the corner of her eye, Kate noticed that even as she shook hands with Sam, Kristin’s gaze never once left the candidate, carefully gauging her reaction to this unanticipated reunion with her ostensibly recently ex-lover. She noticed too that even as she greeted her daughter and the other members of her staff, though she never turned to face the candidate directly, Sam’s eyes would frequently dart sideways to Kate and a smile would grow on her lips, which she would them immediately make a concerted effort to disguise.

Then at long last, the moment of truth arrived as Sam turned to face Kate.

Kate, knowing what she had promised Kris and under her watchful eye, had ever intention of adhering to her part in their arrangement. However, though she doubted even her own mother could see through it, Kate recognized the expression on Sam’s face and could tell from the pained expression in her mother-o-pearl eyes that Sam herself was deeply conflicted. Kate was just beginning to grow nervous that Sam’s internal battle would render what she would say or do difficult if not impossible to predict when the other straightened her shoulders, her chest rising and falling as she heaved a deep breath and her throat bobbing as she swallowed a lump hard before her lips curved into s friendly smile as she reached out to take Kate’s hands in her just as her mother had.

“It is a pleasure that you;” She paused and turned to Julia; “And your daughter are here tonight.”

To any dispassionate and objective outside observer, Sam’s tone would have sounded entirely genuine. But Kate, having known the blonde woman as intimately as it was possible to, had little difficulty picking up on the strain thinly veiled underlying her ever carefully-chosen word. Kate recognized this, in no small part, due to being able to identify completely: Having been in Sam’s same position of not being permitted to express her full feelings and forced to disguise them under the veneer of a diplomatic tone.

Kate smiled. “I’m here for her.” She gestured to her daughter. “Jewels is the Broadway buff of our household.” Julia nodded with a grin. “She’s a fan girl of one of the musical performers nominated for an award tonight.”

“Oh?” Sam looked down at the girl. “Which one is that? What’s her name?” she glanced at Kate to check that she had the actress’s gender accurate.

“Adele Dazeem.” Julia answered. “I hope she wins.”

“I’m sure she will.” Sam said with a knowing wink at the girl’s mother.

 

 

Playhouse Hollywood, Hollywood Boulevard

Los Angeles, California

 

Later that night, at the Awards After Party, Kristin Ludlowe approached the candidate table.

She slowed, her eyes narrowing as she spotted that Kate was not alone.

Sam Sat in the booth beside her, their heads ducked together over the tabletop as they conversed quietly, seemingly oblivious to the raucous uproar all around them.

This struck Ludlowe as a picture-perfect example of the reason why Sam’s relationship with the Congresswoman caused Kris so much concern as her campaign’s Communications Director: Whenever the two women were together, they had the distinct propensity to behave as though they existed in their own private bubble world, regardless of wherever they happened to be in the moment. However, as the light from the table illuminated Kate’s smiling face, her old friend recognized that she was seeing something special: Kate’s smile was genuine; She was genuinely happy in this moment, something that was all too rare on the campaign trail.

She needed no guesses to know what, or rather whom, it was that was making Kate happy and seeing the two women together like this, in one of their relaxed moments, their faces mere inches apart as they both leaned across the tabletop toward one another, it was both easy to see that there were genuinely deep mutual feelings shared between the two and at the same time not at all difficult to see why. Kris blinked. She had told Sam back at the Roosevelt Hotel the month before that she did not and could not blame Kate for having fallen in love with the otherworldly ethereal blonde.

What she realized looking at the two of them together now was that she could not blame the blonde for falling in love with Kate either. Ever since they had been roommates together at Lewis and Clark back in Portland, Kris had always been quietly, secretly envious of her younger friend, not only just for her seemingly effortless supermodel-like beauty, but also for her mind as well. Albeit, Kris had admittedly not known Kate at any point in time prior to her relationship with Sam but only afterwards and so she had no way of discerning for certain how much of what she envied in Kate was thanks to Sam’s influence on her. However, I Kate had been anywhere near as beautiful or as brilliant as a teenager as she was now as an adult, who in their right mind could fault the blonde for falling as head-over-heels in love with the young girl as Kate had with Sam?

As much to jerk her own thoughts back to the present moment as to alert the two women to her presence, Ludlowe cleared her throat with a loud but polite cough. Both women immediately sat back from where they had been leaning over the table and looked up at her.

“What’s up, Kris?” Kate asked. If she was perturbed at all by the interruption, she disguised it perfectly.

“Congresswoman.” Ludlowe began, striding over to her side at the table, standing, she hoped not too overtly deliberately, directly between Kate and Sam. She made a show of opening the portfolio folder she carried in her arms and drawing a single sheet of paper, even though this was not necessary, as she had already read what it said. “This just came over the wires.” She saw Kate and Sam both grin at the antiquated reference to the archaic system by which news used to be retrieved in the twentieth century.

“What is it?” Kate asked as Kris laid the sheet on the table.

“I thought you should know;” Ludlowe responded; “That Congressman Seabourne, your rival for the California Primary vote in the debate tomorrow night;” She emphasized the date of the debate with a meaningful glance over at Sam; “Has just named his chief Economic Advisor.” Kate’s auburn eyebrow arched up into her bangs. “She’s his cousin.” Ludlowe explained. “A young woman by the name of Margaret Lowe.”

“Peggy?” Kate exclaimed, exchanging a surprised look with Sam.

“You know her?” Kris was, if anything even more surprised than either one of them.

Kate nodded with a reminiscent smile. “After she graduated from the University of Oregon in Eugene, she was my Macroeconomics teacher at Oak Hill Academy my senior year of high school.”

Ludlowe nodded: From the knowing grin between Sam and Kate at the mention of the woman’s nickname, Ludlowe had momentarily feared some sort of scandalous potential conflict of interest somewhere in the young candidate’s recent past.

“She was also captain of the cheerleading and dance team.” Kate added with a fond smile, which prompted Kris to be the one to arch an eyebrow interestedly.

“Well;” Kris continued, not lingering overly long on the image of the Congresswoman as a cheerleader; “Miss Lowe went on to earn her Masters degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business;” She glanced at her college roommate; “In Macroeconomics.”

 

 
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