The cherry blossoms were late in that fateful year of 2019. Things were unusually quiet along the shores of the Potomac and the powers that be were long gone to their respective lairs of sanctuary far away from the struggle for power inside the beltway.
The newly appointed secretary of state was still in his residence waiting for the outcome from heated discussions with the North Korean representative at the United Nations. Josh Randell was a former well-known swimmer on the United States Olympic Team and he was still single despite being in his mid-thirties. He was the youngest secretary of state ever appointed and it was almost unanimous support from both parties. That sort of support was rare in the current climate with Democrats and Republicans alike denigrating the other side like they were the minions of a foreign dictator rather than fellow Americans.
The elected President was hanging on by her nails to the oval office faced with mounting opposition and not only one, but two, congressional investigations convened after charges of fraud and obstruction of justice were tossed to a “Special Counsel” for deliberation. Both of those investigations were drawing to a final conclusion and it didn’t look promising for her to retain her seat of power. Recently, her attorneys constantly repeated their defense that her failing health and inability to recall accurately the events that took place in the last administration prevented them from mounting an adequate defense before the next election which would take place in less than eighteen months.
In all honesty, the president’s health was a matter of concern to her primary doctor. Doctor Felicia Francisco was a graduate of Johns Hopkins Medical School and she was board certified in both orthopedics and internal medicine. She had been called in to be the president’s personal physician because of her connections to the foremost Political Action Committee. It was an organization that was the primary contributor to her 2016 campaign and the one that had shoveled in tens of millions of dollars in the last days to insure her election. It wasn’t certain if that was for the number ads on television and radio or “walking around” money distributed liberally in most of the inner cities with large ethnic populations to milk for votes.
It certainly hadn’t been a new facet of American politics. Such chicanery had been around right from the beginning of the Republic.
Doctor Felicia was careful to attend to her sole patient’s emotional as well as her physical needs in a way not covered by the ethics rules of the medical profession. She would make certain her patient received the proper combination of stimulants and soothing sedatives to keep her on the straight and narrow at all times. It was probably the primary reason why she had not taken any questions in a press conference for almost a full year. She had gotten away with that in the pre-election cycle and it seemed like good policy when she was noticeably on edge due to her falling approval ratings.
Despite rumors of lesbian leanings, the commander in chief was more turned on by a muscular young lad with a rough attitude than by the sweet-smelling young interns surrounding her on a daily basis. Doctor Felicia was well aware of this and made it a point to furnish her boss with just what she needed at those times when her morale and spirits are at low ebb. That made her the chief procurer as well as the physician in residence in the White House and she took both jobs seriously. Her assistant Wendy Winsome was the youngest intern in the West Wing and she was constantly berated by her boss for wearing her skirts too short or too tight and sometimes both short and tight. Doctor Felicia kept a short chain on her assistant in more ways than one, but that was a private matter between the two of them.
The Chief of Staff was a fearsome Nazi constantly mumbling about members of the staff and press that needed serious re-education. His name was Fritz Schmidt and his father had been incarcerated for war crimes by The Hague long after his father’s eightieth birthday. Nobody ever brought up the subject in fear that the White House press would get wind of it and ruin any chance the incumbent President had to get re-elected the following year. The job of press secretary had been a bit of a revolving door in the past three years. It had reached a point that the most capable candidates no longer answered the telephone for fear they had been selected for the post.
The head correspondent for the only News Service that still openly criticized the President was Bill Weiss. He was a handsome twenty-something and had received a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the chemical warfare being waged in Syria against all rules of engagement agreed to by the warring sides. There was no doubt that the government in Damascus was at the back of that tactical disaster. The fact that the suddenly interested Russians were right in the middle of things didn’t act as a deterrent to their reluctant hosts that viewed them as a necessary nuisance. The lure of having a vital naval base right on the Mediterranean was the motivation for the Russian involvement. They were also there because their client state of Iran was providing the ground forces whilst they were furnishing the weapons to arm the imported fighters against the rebel factions trying to over throw the Syrian regime.
It was difficult where The United States stood in all of this because they had been the same old mistakes year after year and the wheels were still spinning. Meanwhile, the EU was overwhelmed with fleeing refugees and under the new President’s lenient policies almost a half million of them were now sitting in every state except Hawaii and Alaska. Strangely, the bulk of the new immigrants were located in the northern states of Michigan and Wisconsin and the generous Administration funded the wave of refugees despite fierce opposition from the Congress. The new president was just as enthusiastic about the use of executive privilege as the previous administration and a liberal mainstream press conveniently looked the other way to show their support.
The newest development was the addition of an entirely new line of defense with skilled lawyers to defend the President’s lawyers who had run afoul of the “obstruction of justice” charges brought up by Congress and the independent counsel.
One of the problem areas of the new administration was the inability to gain security clearance for many of the new people they were bringing onboard to fill the slots for the running of the government. There still was a high degree of lack of trust in the ground troops of the previous administration that the new President had been unable to shut down for the past three years.
This put the administration at odds with the professional ranks of the Intelligence services and the Military services that carried the brunt of the burden for Homeland Security. The agency called Homeland Security was so riddled with corruption and downright theft that the political opposition constantly called for disbanding the entire bloated agency. It was the same old argument that had plagued the older administration with the debacle called “Obamacare”. It was projected that the new premiums for the year 2020 would be so high that most of the people added under the Obamacare years would be unable to pay them and thus fall into the “uninsured” category and be forced to pay the penalty for not having insurance. It was just the opposite of what was promised when it first passed Congress under the famous guidance of “we will find out what is in this bill after we enact it.”
In all honesty, even the Chief of Staff would agree that the President had tired of the job and wanted nothing more than to attend fund raisers and rub elbows with the Hollywood crowd and society high rollers that hung on her every word like she was spouting verses for a little red book.
Down in the sub-basements of the Pentagon, in those cold air-conditioned rooms packed with rows of electronic hardware and viewing screens, the uniformed members of the different branches of the armed services watched their country disintegrating around them and they were unable to raise a finger in its defense because orders are orders. The Marines were the most disgusted with the chaotic fuzziness about rules of engagement and what constituted torture and what didn’t. The Air Force was the least concerned because they could fly their missions sitting on their ass up in Nevada or some other base far removed from the battlefield and watch the whole thing unfold on their video screen just like some game they had grown up playing until they were ready to drop from exhaustion. When it came to the upper echelons of the officer ranks, they kept their faces blank even when their reports were edited and revised to slant things the way the administration wanted for political or diplomatic reasons. The fact that it was at the cost of informing the general public of the true situation meant little in comparison to the risk of another drop in the administration’s favorability rating at a time when the new re-election team was being tasked with organizing for the upcoming November election.
In fact, the atmosphere in the pits of the Pentagon was in stark contrast to that in the White House. The tension was present in both worlds, but there was another underlying current that made the boots a little more enlivened and the look in the eye a little clearer and focused in the world of the military. Staff Sergeant Jennifer Jones was re-directing classified messages in crypto-format to various scattered bases around the world with a skill that she had learned in outposts in Africa and Afghanistan. Jennifer was originally from Reno, Nevada and she had enlisted to get away from her gambling addicted father. She loved him intensely but she couldn’t stand the shame of constantly running away from his gambling debts. It had taught her the stupidity of taking an unnecessary risk and to always consider the odds before kicking in the ante.
Her most recent “play hard” partner was the “missing one eye” Captain in the adjacent cell that monitored the display of screens watching the movements of all of the members of the cabinet and the members of the Supreme Court. He took his job seriously, despite the admission it was a “desk job” and not something he would have volunteered for. It was all they would give him because of the physical limitation and the fact he could no longer pilot a plane like he had done for the past fifteen years of military service. He was probably the most physically fit of the male members in the section and was sought after by most of them because of his light-hearted banter and sparkling positive personality that made getting laid fun instead of drama. His parents deplored the fact he had chosen a military career hoping that he would come to his senses and join the stock exchange like his wealthy father with offices in every major city. Mark Hughes knew their outlook on life and he regretted that he continued to be a disappointment to them.
Under the new rules of the administration, Mark would be riffed out of military service the following year unless he was promoted to Major. Everyone knew that was highly unlikely because his IED-caused loss of one eye made him unfit for flight duty or assignment to a combat zone and the services were so short of combat-ready bodies they had no choice but to cull the remaining members constantly to satisfy the enforced rules of budget cuts bleeding the military forces to a point of adequacy. It seemed strange to him that the powers that be would be sending billions of dollars of American gold reserves to an enemy state at the same time they were gutting the core of the active duty military and costing him his career.
Down in the murky waters off the shores of Norfolk, Virginia, a pair of silent killers exchanged Morse code messages with lighted lanterns as two nuclear submarines headed in different directions along the east coast of the United States. Their orders were ambiguous and their activity didn’t cause any heartburn in the intelligence services constantly monitoring all traffic in proximity to the shores of the country.
One lowly clerk at the NSA was sipping her tea trying to figure out the meaning for the increased “chatter” at dozens of locations across the country and finally put it down to the upcoming celebration for the Nation’s birth. She was only five days away from her wedding and in her defense her logic was more on the wedding night than on the screen right in front of her. Amy Harris at least had the common sense to write up a report of unusual activity and forward it to the CENCOM bunker in MacDill AFB washing her hands of it in true Pontius Pilate fashion.
The weekend duty desk at the DIA annex close to the Pentagon was in slow speed forward mode for lack of any actionable threat with the possible exception of the daffy North Koreans with their childlike lack of common sense. Of course, that was the same attitude that had opened the door for the whole ISIS thing that lost western control of most of the oil-rich Middle East. A young civilian contractor by the name of Jerry Reynolds saw the copy of the unusual activity report filed by the NSA and absently-mindedly pulled the file on keyword analysis. A red light started blinking on his screen and he read the words “POSSIBLE INTERNAL THREAT”. When he called up the risk analysis module, it stated “LEVEL 77%”. That surprised him and he immediately called the Homeland Security clearing desk and was informed by a recording that the “Office is closed for the weekend. Please leave a message and we will get back to you.”
Since he was the sort of personality that didn’t question authority, Jerry did exactly that and promptly forgot all about it because the football game was starting on the television down in the staff lounge and it was time for lunch.
It was just another day, no different than any other.