Premiered 9/9/9 (9 September 2009)
The continuation of The Myth and Legend of D'PTah, an original novel by Dan Sewell Ward.
“I think everything went over amazingly well,” Jessica Enid said. “You were genuine, sincere, comforting, and left them knowing there was more to come at the next press conference. I can't see too many people who would find the Regency at all threatening after that performance.”
“Apparently, my dear,” Pete said, with a smile on his face, “You are not wholly familiar with the various and nefarious agendas of the elite, the mafias... plural... the vested interests, the... well... just about everybody on the planet. There are many who could take offense at millions of people just continuing to breath, much less asking for more gruel. Selected millions of course. Not the economic slaves. After all, someone has to do the work.”
“It's easy to be cynical,” David said, with no smile at all. “I'd be more likely to take Jessica's assessment. She's the expert here.”
“Ouch. I'm wounded,” Peter quickly feigned. “How can I possibly recover from such a devastating attack?”
David frowned. The two men were very different, something on the order of Hyde and Jeckle. But while Pete could have cared less about such differences, David oft times took it as a personal affront. I found myself liking Pete in that moment more than my husband. It's been said you can't laugh and be fearful at the same time. With Pete making me laugh, everything else seemed superfluous. I would prefer to choose laughter over fear any day of the week. If Pete had any value to the newly minted Regency, it was in keeping everything in perspective, keeping us laughing.
“Actually,” Jessica added with a sheepish smile, “I may have phrased my remarks slightly on the optimistic side. Pete's not entirely wrong. Not totally right, of course, but not entirely wrong.”
“I am redeemed,” Pete replied, with all the conviction of the recently converted.
Everyone could smile at Pete's antics, but far more noticeable was Jessica's aide, Charlotte Joy Weaver, who laughed aloud with just enough gusto to get everyone's attention. With everyone turning to watch her, she managed to stifle her overt enthusiasm. Pete meanwhile was truly taken aback, not something one was likely to witness more than once or twice in a lifetime. He didn't appear to really know what to do with Charlotte Joy, the latter who had already impressed everyone with her competence, eagerness, and ability to accomplish small miracles in record time. She was in our group based initially upon Jessica's recommendation, but it soon became obvious the reason why Jessica was so high on her. From my perspective, anyone who could keep Pete off balance was worth her weight in gold.
The momentary pause was interrupted by Laura, the consummate negotiator. “I seem to recall,” she began, “that an optimist is someone who believes that this is the best of all possible worlds; while a pessimist is someone who fears this is true.”
“But it's the same world,” David quickly noted. Several simply looked at him... until he caught on and frowned – his expression one of “okay fine, you got me.”
“Isn't the real question,” asked Joe, “about what to expect from any number of vested interests and what we can do to handle them... or even counter them?”
“We do have the best military in the world in our corner.” David seemed to be trying to redeem himself. But as so often happens, he simply got in deeper... even if he didn't realize it.
Pete shook his head, suddenly serious. “I'm thinking the Joint Chiefs might need another demonstration. Any chance of your friends arranging something like that?
The Regent looked at Pete for a second. “It's a possibility. But for the moment, let's see if we can come up with a game plan ourselves.”
Pete acknowledged the order, and turned to the others, giving them leave to make suggestions. Pete was nominally the Chief of Staff, but he didn't really quite live up to the billing. He was more and more simply the Regent's closest confidante. In that capacity, he excelled. But as an autocratic, demanding Chief of Staff, he just didn't have it in him. And in accordance with some of the new rules of the game, he was not always in the chain of command -- the latter which looked more like fencing than a single line.
Laura leaned forward slightly. “What about a diversion, a circus to distract and entertain? It won't help against the real reactionaries, but popularity among the masses might make them hesitate... or at least limit the extent of their plans. If they do procrastinate, the likelihood of a hidden agenda being found out is greater. I'm assuming that we still have some excellent intelligence sources.”
“Yes,” the Regent said.
Emily, who had been quiet and studious thus far, finally spoke up. “I like Laura's idea. There's the old adage that everyone needs something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. If you give people hope and meaningful work, you'll have done at the very least two out of the three.”
My female intuition wondered immediately if there were any additional messages in Emily's statement. Her presence at the meeting was somewhat gratuitous, as if her primary job was PR for the Regency... one that involved her being on the front lines most of the time... and consequently, not necessarily in the inner councils. So what was she trying to say now? But then again, did it even matter? Was I simply trying to find issues where none existed? Maybe I had no right to even ask the question. Emily and Daniel's relationship was still very, very private, and thus unknown... even to me. Maybe it was time for me to get back to the business at hand. In fact, I had almost missed the next comment.
Laura was shaking her head. “I'm not thinking jobs, health care, security and the like. This we can attack with a vengeance. But we're going to run into a lot of resistance from vested interests. We will be slogging it out, and it may very well sound like business as usual. The public generally doesn't have the attention span to wait for real change. What I'm talking about is something now... something with... pizzazz.”
“You're going to have to make sure the usual business is, at least in the eyes of the masses, under control. Before you add icing on the cake, first of all, you've got to provide them with the cake.” Joy smiled to underline her statements.
Pete unexpectedly laughed. “I don't think we want to tell them to eat cake.” To which, Joy turned, as if hurt... and with that lovely female undercurrent of 'hurt makes hurt', she grimaced, directing her energies in Pete's direction. Pete, of course, was essentially oblivious to Joy's chagrin. Typical!
Fortunately, for all concerned the Regent had found Pete's statement just funny enough and laughed. Then, abruptly, something caught his eye. He turned back to us and said, “I think that's enough for now. Let's try to follow up on Laura's circus, pizzazz. idea. I would also like to see some more specific polls of any of the several possibilities we can generate. That's all for now.”
Everyone got up to leave, with just enough affirmations to acknowledge their direction. The one thing we had learned in the last months was the art of dismissal without all the carpet dancing.
“Sally, I'd like you to stay,” the Regent added. I quickly set back down and avoided the eyes of anyone glancing to see why I was special. If they didn't know by now, then I wasn't going to tell them. I was after all the historian. I attended more meetings than anyone.. and took copious notes.
I could, however, feel Emily's eyes on me. Everyone else might have been accustomed to seeing me being taken aside... but Emily was not the regular at inner council meetings, and thus could still speculate and imagine all manner of subterfuge. I did know that she had alluded to Joy that she was feeling a bit cut out of the loop... spending so much time in promoting the Regent's agenda, acting the First Lady part, that she was missing out on helping to formulate the agenda. It was not a problem that I had a solution for... or for that matter that I even wanted to address. What would be, would just have to be. With what I was sure was a frown, she left the room without another word.
With everyone else out of the room, a wall panel opened and Hormer Volkov stepped into the room. Ah yes... the strikingly tall, well muscled man, dark haired and tanned, with intense, penetrating blue eyes. What always got my attention was that despite his stature he nevertheless entered into the inner sanctum of the Regent's private office with enough grace to make a deer blush. Despite my having already been introduced to the complexity... and the alleged humor... of the man, I was still mystified and stunned by his presence. Probably the “penetrating blue eyes”... or just the mystery enveloping him. I was surprised at first at Hormer's appearance, but then realized Lil was not there with him. It was just Hormer. Great!
Pete and I had made a substantial effort, but had never been able to find anything on Hormer; only that he was extremely well versed in what was happening... everywhere. Pete was convinced he was either a member of the Russian mafia, or a super secret Russian agency that had thus far escaped the scrutiny of the KGB. My immediate guess was that he was part of the Regency's own personal intelligence network. That would certainly explain why he knew me as well as I came to realize he did.
“You remember Hormer Volkov, Sally?” When I acknowledged as much – I never forget a really bad, sucker joke – the Regent continued, with a slight smile, “I know that he remembers you. But you also need to know that he can be trusted with anything... except perhaps the condition of my big toe. Of course, in extreme circumstances, even that.”
Volkov gave out a guffaw, and I quickly followed his lead. Then the new kid on the block, smiled. And it was one dazzling smile! To clinch his case, he said in a deep rich voice, “I'm honored.” This guy would make a great 007 spy – charming to a fault and carrying a mystique that virtually any female on the planet would gravitate to in an instant. He had danger written all over him, but also the sense that he could protect the fair damsel from any imaginable or unimaginable horror. As if reading my mind, he added, “Any service I can do for... milady... do not hesitate to ask.”
The Regent decided to remove the attention from my reddened face. “What've you got for us?”
“Lot's of secret meetings. The numbers of possible reactionaries is substantial. We're going to be faced with a significant time delay in tracking everyone, analyzing their comments, and providing response capabilities. Fortunately, a lot of the hush-hush stuff is of little or no concern. Also on our side is the fact that most are in a waiting game. There do seem to be a few groups who are somewhat more aggressive in their planning. Several are a bit into the cloak and dagger scenario, with one having the rather strange code name of “Sextant” . We know the attendees in that case, but nothing about the contents of their meeting. The location turned out to be quite a surprise. We'll do better next time.”
As I watched Hormer, I couldn't help but notice that he was either very, very good at hiding his feelings, or that he was not emotionally moved one way or the other. The topic of identifying friends and enemies was more a purely mental exercise. I simply could not see any thing bothering him, or encouraging him. It could all have been an elaborate game... but at least one in which he knew the rules.
The Regent had hesitated, thinking about what had been said, when suddenly he asked, “The military?”
“It appears we may have more loyalty from several foreign military chiefs than the local gentry. Some of the flag officers of other nations are enthusiastically embracing us -- admittedly for both altruistic and ulterior reasons. I think we can sort them out pretty effectively, know who to keep and who to marginalize. As for the local Four Horsemen, both the Air Force Chief and the CNO, Sudra, are already eager to meet with you on some specific proposals. We have a pretty good idea about what they're thinking, and we will want to encourage them. There is the distinct possibility of some very valuable results to be had, if either or both of their pet projects are successful – and we think both may be precisely that, even if some of the benefits are those not even imagined by either of them.
“In the interim, both MacIntosh and Sudra appear to be loyal to us, but we suspect that loyalty is contingent upon our actions in the future. If they really don't like what we're doing, they'll bolt. The Commandant of the Marine Corp on the other hand is probably already preparing for a coup... just in case. I doubt he will do anything precipitously, but he is going to be a much harder sell. While we may have won some over, the game is still afoot in his case. However, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mick, I don't think we will be able to trust. He'll go with the wind... nothing personal of course... just follow whichever opportunity appears to be in his momentary best interests.”
“Any immediate concerns?”
“No. The announcement served its purpose: it flushed out most of the potential revolutionaries so that we can begin following their activities after the press conference – which of course was the plan from the beginning... to find out who we had to keep tabs on.”
“Good. Do you think you've identified all the major threats?”
“No. The fact is that we can never be completely certain. We know, for example, that General Mick took a sail up the Chesapeake, but we have only name of the yacht's apparent owner. We're not even sure he was on board. I'm sure there were others, but we don't know who yet. These guys were pretty good at keeping their secrets. Accordingly, we will be focusing quite a bit more of our energies keeping this particular group under surveillance. I have a strong sense that General Mick will turn out to be a minor player among the members of this group, someone who is being used. I doubt he has ever even met the real principles; although possibly their agents and/or intermediaries.”
“What can we expect from a meeting with McIntosh or Sudra?”
“General McIntosh is easily swayed by technology, and thus we can probably assume he will be hoping to gain information in that regard. How he goes about it will probably be rather creative. He's an intelligent man. He's also, by the way, involved in an affair with a married woman. I can brief you on that, if you like.”
“Perhaps later. And Sudra?”
“The Chief of Naval Operations is probably the biggest enigma. On the one hand, he's extremely secretive and follows his own conscience. At the same time, he could be extremely helpful. It's been suggested that we make extra effort to gain him as an ally. He could be invaluable.”
“I agree. We'll do exactly that.”
“You should be aware that your suggestion concerning the unpredictability scenario has not yet gathered a lot of backers. Accordingly, I would tend to put it on a back burner for the present.” When the Regent frowned, Hormer added, ”Let's keep our priorities. They're working.”
For a moment, the Regent looked like he was about to challenge Hormer's emphasis, but then changed his mind, and seemed instead to be thinking of defusing any problem. “How's Lil?”
“Sleeping. She can't be disturbed.”
“Understood. Give her my regards when you again see her.”
And with that indirect dismissal, Hormer got up, gave me a quick smile, and slipped out of the room. Secret panels, I thought. That would explain a lot about the Volkov's comings and goings. It also caused a flurry in my mental fantasies to realize I was working in an atmosphere that included secret passages, mysterious meeting places, and who knows... perhaps a dungeon or two.
Later, when I had run down Pete, I began trying to put some of the pieces together. Pete was smiling from behind his desk, already guessing why I was there.
“I need a little background,” I began. “What does 'unpredictability scenario' conjure up?”
Pete smiled. He was, as always, way ahead of me. “When someone is predictable, they are also vulnerable. On the other hand, if Daniel, or rather the Regent, is not predictable, then he's less vulnerable. That's why the governments of belligerent countries often go to great lengths to make it appear that their leader is insane. If in fact he or she is insane, then no one can know what to expect – the crazy loon just might do something totally irrational and launch a major war, one which obviously could do a lot of damage. It's simply not a bad idea to have a leader who just might be crazy. Not to the point of being a loose cannon, necessarily – although more than one sovereign ruler has gotten a lot of mileage out of being thought of as cunningly insane. The better plan is to have someone who is impossible to read. The greater the incomprehensibility (and the lack of vulnerability), the greater the potential reward.”
“All of which leads me to suspect that this is not the same Daniel I knew before. He's now very, very different. Even unpredictable. Hopefully not insane.”
“Nevertheless, it's the nature of being a supreme leader.” Pete was still smiling.
“I still remember when Daniel began calling himself 'we' during the training.”
“Which I found very encouraging. He's identifying the success of the world with his own.”
“You would find it encouraging,” I replied, trying to smile as well. “But why is it I can no longer grasp intuitively his mind or know his thoughts... or even be able to make a good guess?”
“Because what he says and what you hear will always have only a passing acquaintance with one another. Think of it as internal security, keeping his own counsel, or whatever.”
“It sounds more like living on the edge.”
“Don't knock it. Living on the Edge has become my comfort zone.”
When I could see he was serious, I shook my head in a momentary wonder.
“I assume,” Pete said, taking advantage of my pause, “that Lil was there for your little meeting.”
“No,” I answered, finally having some insider news of my own. “She was... apparently... still sleeping. Hasn't she been using that excuse for the last month or so?
“Any great lady needs her beauty rest. Some need quite a bit more. I rather suspect she takes very long naps.”
That made no sense at all. I had to ask, “What are you talking about?”
Pete leaned forward and unlocked his desk drawer, the one filled with what I knew were his in-depth, alternative, exhaustive and very sensitive research. After sorting through several files -- all of which had varying marks of Secret, Top Secret, For My Eyes Only, Burn Before Reading, and the like -- he pulled one out (one of his FMEO files) and handed it to me. “Read the first page,” he said.
“Am I cleared for this,” I asked, only partially in jest.
“The first page is from [?],” Pete replied. “Just don't try to read the second page, or I'll have to have your mind wiped.”
It was Pete's standard attempt at biting humor, so I smiled. Still... I read the first page... by being very careful not to turn the page. My only comment, at some point in the photocopy, was “Holy shit.”
When I handed the file back to Pete, and he began locking it away, I asked, “Is that for real?”
“No idea really. Just a thread I've been following. Makes a lot sense, but I still don't know for certain. It just seems to fit with her anointing Daniel on Paros at the Ekatontapyliani.”
“Anointing? What the hell are you talking about?” I was almost on my feet... this was news!
Pete suddenly looked very displeased with himself. “Uh... forget I said that.”
I couldn't imagine forgetting. “No way, buddy. Now you have to tell me.”
“Actually, I can't, Sally. Trust me. I really can't.”
When it was clear he was deadly serious, I relented. I was still pissed and made every effort to convey as such by my expression. The only concession I received was his saying, “But rest assured; the first person I do tell will be you.”
I tried to be magnanimous, but my pique was clearly in evidence.
Pete smiled, and changed the subject. “Several of us have been discussing your idea about the apparent coincidences in the entertainment and art communities. I suppose the idea of far flung controllers sending messages to each other through such art is really rather appealing.”
“It's Laura's idea," I answered. "She thinks the world's controllers – at least the powers that be prior to the Regency – would never be so careless to allow anyone to know of their existence, much less their names. Instead, they used their subordinates – Hollywood producers, directors, writers, and the like – to put out their messages to the world. What has been so impressive is the fact that the movies often arrive just in time for external events to be explained. This is despite the minimum two or three year lead time to conceive and write a movie, make it, and then distribute it. The China Syndrome movie came out just 12 days before the very real nuclear accident at Three Mile Island.”
Pete leaned back, his attention more on his thoughts and how to express them, than on me. “I've been thinking about what I call the hidden agenda of the universe for many years, and the only conclusion is that what is happening with all those coincidentally 'transmitted messages' is way beyond any human agency. Those 'controllers' have superhuman capabilities; therefore by definition they're not men.”
“Not necessarily. There may be natural laws of which we don't have a clue under which all such coincidences are manifested. There may also be extra terrestrial, extra dimensional, and human forces at work as well. Of course, they are more likely to be simply fighting the current and swimming upstream for mating, and in the process creating all those incredibly temporary structures... or just to be contrary.”
“Possibly,” Pete replied, his studious frown waning as his mind worked on the question.
“Laura also said something about 'choosing sides'. You know anything about that?”
“I know something about everything,” Pete vainly admitted. “It's just that much of what I know is dead wrong. Still, it makes for a degree of entertainment either way.”
“In that case, enlighten me... or just entertain me,” I replied, smiling.
“You've heard about the Chinese 'curse': 'may you live in interesting times.' What the so-called curse failed to specifically mention was that there would come a point in the midst of said interesting times whereby a multitude of choices would be presented, not the least of which would be choosing sides. Does one go with honesty and integrity, a choice which carries with it all manner of challenge, not the least of which is that it's tends to put you in a very poor competitive position? Or does one take the choice of least resistance and shun all possible change? The latter is obviously an attempted energy saving device in that one doesn't have to go to the trouble of reviewing their existing paradigms and traditions – and thereby conserves their personal energy. In reality of course the latter often ends up requiring far more energy just to avoid looking through the telescope and thus risking wholesale bewilderment.
“Then there are the fence sitters. But this position is going to become very, very uncomfortable – for hopefully obvious reasons. Curiously, once a choice is made, things become enormously simpler.
“The basis gist is one can either accept a new reality and go with the flow -- surfing the waves of massive uncertainty -- or fight the current and cling like crazy to the rock on which their philosophy was founded. Of course, for various reasons said rock may begin taking its own journey in the rapidly but inexorably rising current, turning inevitably and ultimately into sand. In fact, anyone founding anything on a rock which ultimately becomes sand, makes it clear that such foundations may appear to be more stable, whereas in reality, they're just in for a longer tenure. Such has always been the flaw in thinking that one might found a religion on rock, inasmuch as all rocks will ultimately turn to sand. The only real certainty in the universe is one of constant change, and furthermore, at variable rates of change. The issue is whether or not people are going to cling to traditions and antiquated religions, or will they accept the vulnerability of living on the edge and responding with humorous indifference to the many opportunities which may float by? Attempts to cling to home, the soil and the land are not particularly recommended.”
“I always rather liked the idea,” I interjected, “of going with the flow... but then again I've always been rather fond of having a home to go to when everything else truly falls apart.”
Pete suddenly laughed. “You know, speaking of coincidences, just this last week, my brother contacted me and told me he wanted to buy my two plots in the family cemetery where my parent's have their final resting place.”
I couldn't resist the temptation. “He's plotting against you?”
Pete laughed, giving me a point on his imaginary blackboard. “Actually, I suspect his primary motivation was to avoid having me near him in the grave and hereafter – which when you think about it is incredible in and of itself. What rational being could think like that? But the fact remains that several of my family members were adamant about ensuring they have a place reserved for their corpse. Personally, I'd prefer to be buried at sea and give a few living creatures a free lunch. Can you fathom... pardon the pun... the idea that with someone's world ending, they would be overly concerned about wanting to claim a plot of ground for eternity... or at least until the next housing development begins in earnest?:
I could only shake my head and smile.
But Pete was on a roll. “What is with this unbridled fanaticism about preserving the physical body, one that has about as much value as an empty and no longer functional spacesuit? If one were to take the next logical step, then our mechanical vehicles which serve as our vehicles through life, in other words, our automobiles, should also be ceremoniously buried and equipped with a grave stone when it can no longer function properly. After all, if reincarnation is a reality, then our constant use of a sequence of space suits is on the same level as switching automobiles. The trick, of course, is that one should try to structure their current incarnation such that they will be able to trade up and get an even snazzier space suit for the next outing. Perhaps one without the waste disposal system running through a recreational area.”
Despite my best intentions, I laughed... shaking my head in dismay. “You are indeed hopeless,” I said. “I'd have to give up all of my conversations with you... if it weren't for the fact that a lot of what you say makes sense. And... it's entertaining.”
“It's just the rule for us optimists.” Pete's wry smile was truly captivating.
As I looked at him, I suddenly thought of David, who might more likely describe himself as a pessimist. I had already heard David's rumblings of discontent, forcing me into defending Daniel and the Regency. But the disagreements had been gentle ones. David wasn't ready to sever his lifeline to Daniel, not quite yet. Still... it occurred to me that perhaps Emily was. What, I wondered, would Pete think of these two?
Pete in fact had a lot of insight of both of these subjects. But as was noted immediately... his ideas and opinions were something that for the present were to be off the record. Of course, I still made mental notes – something to write down at a later time.
The following fragment alludes to several important events in the earliest days of the Regency. Unfortunately in this particular case the timing is not definitively known in terms of the chronology of events. Previously, the dating of many of the fragments -- which have provided thus far such a wealth of information -- has been based on their concordance with the step by step progress of the transition from a rule of petty chieftains to more universal rule of the Regency. Contrary to this trend, the below fragment cannot be so easily dated, and thus may be out of place in the general chronology. However, the events referenced here appear to have been mentioned in the preceding segment, and this is the reason for its being included in our report at this juncture in the narrative.
As to the exact timing of the below narrative, we are left only with hints and possible implications. Such a lack of precise and definitive descriptions have been challenged by certain alleged authorities of our modern academia. These individuals -- with their overwhelming desire for an end to all chaos, uncertainty, and only-time-will-tell scenarios -- fail to comprehend that the universal constraint of a time buffer in all things is perhaps the only thing standing between humanity and the utter failure of cause and effect. Reality demands that all events must manifest their destinies in their own time and place – irrespective of what any clinging-to-dogma, so-called scholar might fervently demand.
...we arrived, General MacIntosh was still in the conservatory with the Regent.
I had expected we would be told to wait, if only as a means to indicate our subordinate status. Such waiting periods have traditionally been artificially created to ensure the person who is waiting readily acknowledges the superiority of the person granting the interview. The individual in question might only be a patient of a medical doctor, for example, but unless they were first and foremost... well... patient – and thereby acknowledged the superiority of the doctor over allegedly lesser beings -- then they would in fact not henceforth be that particular M.D.'s "patient".
However, I was pleasantly surprised. The moment we arrived, my Admiral and I were immediately taken out to the glass conservatory, a comparatively serene place surrounded by trees, shrubs, and gardens. The area was pleasantly shaded, but otherwise open to the sky. Inside, there was considerably less greenery... and hopefully, no bugs! At least none with nefarious aims.
The Regent was sitting in an easy chair with a high back, a small desk in easy reach of his right hand. The desk had several reports on them which I immediately recognized as something Mac had probably presented to the Regent for his approval and/or for his information. Also close by was Peter Spasopeskovsky, the Regent's Chief of Staff. Another man, very tall and dark and who I had seen before – but where, I couldn't immediately recall -- was sitting on the other side of the desk intently following everything that was being said... Including being very much aware of our arrival. There was also the striking redhead of whom I had heard a great deal sitting closest to the Regent.
We knew next to nothing about the female, or the big guy for that matter, other than she (and he?) were apparently very influential with the Regent. On our side of the table, I would have expected General Mac to be accompanied by his aide, Navy Captain Rout Thomas. But I then recalled that Mac, who may have had some trust issues, didn't always confide in his aide, at least in the same open manner that Sudra did with me. (The latter, by the way, was something for which I was enormously grateful.) To round off the group, another individual – who I had seen before and who seemed to be a member of the Inner Circle -- sat on the other side of Thomas. I believe his name was Joe Rati, but in attempting to identify him, I was working from memory of the Admiral's briefing on everyone who seemed to have the Regent's ear.
Mac was sitting in a second, swivel easy chair with a low back (but clearly comfortable as Mac was smiling and almost lounging – one hand manipulating his sun glasses). This latter fact alone got my attention, as Mac was notorious for always wearing his sun glasses, sometimes even in the bowels of the Pentagon, the White House War Room, and the JCS meeting room (a place intentionally and notoriously devoid of transceiving any outside light or influence). These locations included, so the joke went, in his bedroom(s). Mac – and myself, I must admit – were both pilots and thus very prone to wearing sun glasses. The sun at altitude can be quite daunting. The fact that Mac had taken off his sunglasses even when he was technically out of doors (but still in the shade) was a noteworthy observation. It should have been front page news throughout the world. But the journalists had apparently missed it. Typical!
Admiral Sudra, on the other hand, was known for almost never wearing sunglasses, despite the fact that when at sea, the glare of the sun from the water can be blinding as well. Of course, the Admiral had spent his early years in submarines where the sun was seldom a factor. But even in the later years when he was commanding a major warship of the line, he never developed the habit of wearing sunglasses. He simply demanded of himself that he would not be badly affected by not having them – and thus he wasn't. He also assumed that in the middle of battle, one could have their glasses knocked off, and suddenly they would be in trouble with temporary blindness or unaccustomed headaches caused by the diffuse, reflected and refracted light. There would then be possibly a more extended time in which they would have to adjust to not having any shades at all.
The difference I suspect is that a navy ship can get blasted and severely damaged, but everyone is still at their posts and continuing the fight. For the pilot, however, any notable crunch on the aircraft – in terms of being just enough to loosen one's sunglasses – is usually more than sufficient to require an immediate ejection, bail out, abandon ship before she blows, the kind of quick action where if the pilot says “eject” and the co-pilot asks, “What?”, the co-pilot will have been talking to himself. This distinction between the two branches – pilots and sailors -- the Admiral had given me considerable grief – albeit in a friendly fashion – and almost always about my wearing sunglasses. I had in fact taken them off for this occasion – just to prove to him that I could take the glare of notoriety and the outdoors. But in the trek across the lawns, I had already regretted that decision. Somehow, humans missed out on a key evolutionary survival trait: specifically... automatic shading when the situation called for it.
I must admit that being an Air Force Colonel/pilot and an aide to a Navy Admiral had been enormously educational for me. It was the classic case of putting two viewpoints in the same box and seeing what transpired. A pilot and a submariner! What could they have been thinking? The Admiral once told me, however, that there had been one noteworthy occasion of a pilot spending time aboard the submarine he was commanding. It seemed the pilot was in anti-submarine warfare and a fleet admiral had decided that all such pilots needed to have some idea of the kind of people they might be up against. Thus the pilot was on a two-week temporary duty on a submarine.
By all accounts, the pilot was quite literally scared to death. Both pilots and submarine personnel earn hazardous duty pay – which for political correctness was later changed to “incentive pay”. However, this pilot, while thinking nothing about flying on potentially deadly missions found the idea of being underwater for extended periods of time to be decidedly dangerous and not something he ever wanted to do. The great irony was that while he was aboard the submarine, his aircraft back at his home squadron had crashed on take off on a training mission, killing all on board -- including the pilot who had temporarily taken his duty. And yet the pilot who had been spared because of his being on the submarine... was still scared of submarines. The Admiral had found this story to be amazing and full of meaning – while I kept thinking of the men who had died on what had been no more than a lousy training flight.
As Admiral Sudra and I entered the meeting in the conservatory, everyone seemed to be smiling and quite friendly. The Regent (and the others, obviously) stood at our arrival and the man extended his hand to both of us. Pleasantries were exchanged – with the notable exception of the tall strange dark fellow – and the Regent took charge of the conversation, addressing himself first to the Admiral.
“General McIntosh has been briefing us on a fascinating proposal, a cosmic ultima top secret project with the code name “PTS” -- of which you, Admiral, are probably already aware by unauthorized means.” There was a slight laugh from all but me, as the Admiral acknowledged that he was indeed aware, while Mac merely feigned a degree of surprise at his alleged secrets being common knowledge.
“As the general has been so kind to note, we seem to have something here that is quite ancient and almost literally begging us to drop by for tea. The fact it could ultimately provide humanity with a means to pull itself up by our bootstraps... and not depend upon our newly introduced friends – has a lot to recommend it. If needed, we may want the project to go public, providing the population with an intriguing distraction, something they can focus on... while other matters can be quietly accomplished.”
As I watched McIntosh I could see that he was feeling good. His briefing had clearly been at the very least partially successful. Mac quickly added, giving further substantiation of my conjecture, “But as I mentioned, I certainly would not want to discourage the NinGish from contributing any technology that might be useful. No sense in reinventing the wheel... or anything else for that matter.”
I almost laughed, but stifled it very quickly. It was clear that – just as Sudra had already briefed me – McIntosh's pet “PTS” project was almost certainly, in part, a ploy to get access to the NinGish technology, ostensibly for a worthwhile project, but with the primary and overriding purpose of just gaining more knowledge from our potential enemies.
The Regent, however, was way ahead of the game. “On the contrary, reinventing and/or rediscovery are two of the great delights associated with education. Forcefeeding information and the like removes the thrill of discovery and tends to remove the student as a possible contributor to the process.” Mac kept a straight face, but inwardly I suspected he was groaning. “Still, there is one portion of the technology which might be exceptionally useful in your project – something that might constitute... a radical change of pace. We can certainly point you in the right direction, and then let you discover and/or invent all the myriad possibilities. Who knows? You may in fact discover some things the NinGish had not even considered. In that case, everyone benefits.
“Meanwhile, Joe Rati will be joining the effort as my personal representative. He will also be the source in terms of bringing new technological hints into the mix. Perhaps the two of you will want to spend a little time together before you leave here, General.”
McIntosh was at his diplomatic best. “Of course. Happy to join forces.” Mac quickly acknowledged the new man who Mac knew would undoubtedly serve as a Regency spy in the project.
“And Joe... be sure and bring Laura in on this as well. I'm afraid you'd be useless without her. You will, after all, be located far from the maddening crowd.” Everyone smiled. What was not mentioned, and something the Admiral had alluded to earlier, was that “Laura” was something of an intuitive, as if she possessed her own personal intelligence service. Mac probably had no clue as to the second spy in his midst... and probably would not have believed her unorthodox ability had it been explained to him. From his viewpoint, if it wasn't technological, then surely it had no pragmatic use!
After the others had left, i.e., been dismissed, the Regent turned to the Admiral, who didn't bother to wait for any additional invitation.
“The report on world population levels and trends were submitted earlier.”
“I've read them. There was the sense that these reports have been in the hopper for a very long time, and just now updated for our benefit.”
“That's an accurate assessment. The previous Commander in Chief had no interest in such matters being made public and actively discouraged their dissemination. Still, the innate problems with overpopulation are not news. The reports do make convincing arguments that the problem cannot be ignored any longer, and in fact have on the most covert of levels already been addressed in part. The question is whether or not such previous strategies are similar to ones you would prefer to pursue.”
“The schemes thus far tried have the serious disadvantage of having been constrained to crude methodologies by the necessity for extreme secrecy. We would prefer both an open, public discussion on the topic – one with pre or post definitive actions and procedures – as well as our simultaneously pursuing some highly creative, alternative strategies. Can you help us there?”
“There are several groups which are actively studying... what might be construed as 'highly creative alternatives'. They are mentioned only slightly in the reports provided thus far, but as our ability to create the appropriate realities increases, we will immediately inform you accordingly.”
“Good. And on the subject of Global Warming: Are you personally convinced of the reality of the situation?”
“Yes sir, I am. The phenomenon is very real. The Gulf Stream is clearly being affected and in an adverse manner. As discussed in the report on your desk, it's relatively immaterial as to whether mankind is ultimately responsible, even in part. Meanwhile, the extent to which we can modify what appears to be an inexorable, long-term trend is very questionable.”
“Be assured, Admiral, that we will be spending considerable time and energy on your reports. We will also, hopefully, be working very close with you to formulate strategies on the very concrete steps which will be necessary in the near future. Is there anything you want to add right now?”
“No sir; not for the record.”
“Understood. With regard to what we discussed with General Mick yesterday...” When the Admiral acknowledged his understanding, the Regency continued, with a slight smile on this face. “There seem be a lot of world class industrialists eager to be our friends.”
“That is their particular style: any opportunity or opening to increase themselves.”
“At the same time, General Koenig doesn't seem to be petitioning us with any of his interests. Doesn't he have any pet project, or some suggestion that is ultimately profitable to someone? We trust he's keeping himself properly occupied. Or else, merely biding his time, seeing if our actions are up to speed with our talk.”
“In that regard, and on several other matters, I think it might be more appropriate to go 'off the record'.”
“I agree. I also want to discuss with you on a very private basis, a project of my own which I suspect you will find interesting and for which I will need your wholesale cooperation.”
With that, I and most of the others were summarily dismissed – albeit with all the bells and whistles and the appearances of being very cordial and courteous. I could not help but notice, however, that the redhead and the tall, dark stranger did not appear to have even considered that they might be dismissed as well. I left the four of them alone. I also noticed a darkening of the shades on the conservatory as I was exiting and the beginning of a subtle sound in the background, the latter which I recognized as electronic counter-intelligence, anti-data-collecting equipment. The conservatory was now apparently initiating its ultra secret, electronic cloaking devices. And here I was on the outside, walking across the lawn... and worse yet, without my sunglasses! Damn!
On the one hand, I knew that the Admiral would be briefing the Regent on the latest intelligence on General Koenig, and probably a dozen or so other groupings of suspicious people. Most of this I had already been aware, even if not in as much detail as I would have liked. Sudra kept me informed to the extent that I needed, but I have to believe I was not privy to some of the juicer details.
What intrigued me much more, however, was the Regent wanting to brief the Admiral on his own project. Whatever that might be must have been truly fascinating if he needed Sudra as an ally, and its security level was sufficiently restrictive so as not to include Sudra's aide... me.
Before I had the chance to think about the possibilities, however, I was greeted at the door into the inner offices by a very attractive woman. I immediately recognized her as being a member of the Regency's so-called Inner Circle from several photos the Admiral had acquired. (Okay, I admit it: I was far more likely to have studied intently and thus able to remember more easily the face of a beautiful woman than some guy, either of whom might have equal or dissimilar rankings in the inner circle hierarchy.)
“Hello,” she said, with a delightful smile on her face, “I'm Sally Baer.”
“Colonel Gabe Yagalone at your service,” I replied. I gave her a firm hand shake, and suddenly felt less disappointed in being left out of the current conversations in the conservatory.
“I assume you're wired for the occasion, but could we perhaps talk off the record?”
I almost swallowed my teeth. But her smile, and my stumbling could not be ignored. So I agreed. After which I attempted to engage in a meaningful conversation. I learned she was the official, personal historian – a fact which I wanted to investigate to the nth degree. I suggested lunch, dinner, breakfast, coffee... virtually any venue with which I could pump her for information – in a nice, gentlemanly manner or course. And all dealings would be strictly legitimate affairs of state. Oops... Forget I said that. Far be it for me to become a Lancelot rethread. Unless of course...
But then it hit me. “How is it that you are not in on the current conversation going on in the conservatory?”
Sally's smile lessened only slightly. “I wasn't invited. I don't have total access, even if I do have access most of the time. There's always a good reason for my attendance or my absence. I'm just not sure what the reason is in this case. I was pretty well briefed on all the reports and the Regent's reaction to them, but as to why he wants to present something extremely sensitive to the Admiral, I don't have a clue. I suppose there's always the possibility that both having spent time in submarines, perhaps the Regency is attempting some sort of bonding with the Admiral. Some kind of undercover... or underwater... format.”
“But you don't really believe that's the only reason...?”
“Of course not. I was merely attempting to save face... which you have quickly nullified and thereby proven that you're not the officer and gentleman that Congress has declared you to be.”
“My sincerest apologies,” I stammered. This woman was just a bit too quick for me. But then again all Mata Hari's, at least the successful ones, must of necessity be pretty quick on the uptake.
“I accept your apologies,” she replied, the smile returning. “And in that spirit, perhaps we can agree to help one another in solving all manner of life's little mysteries. I do adore enigmas, but only if I'm allowed to investigate and hopefully solve them. Why else could we possibly need mysteries and the like, if we weren't going to spend time figuring them out?”
I was captivated by the woman and eager, perhaps far too eager for my own good. “I feel certain we can consolidate our efforts, much to the benefit of all concerned.”
“Excellent,” she decreed. “Assuming of course that you just suggested that we can work together. It's something to which I would look forward.”
“You might in fact be able to solve one mystery for me right now,” I quickly interjected.
“I'd be delighted,” she replied with a dazzling smile. “I can hardly wait to grant you a favor.”
I watched her for just a moment, deciding that she was being entirely serious. It's been a long established tradition in the local power corridors that favors are a form of currency – ones which are notoriously immune to currency devaluations... barring of course a spectacular fall from grace by one of the issuing authorities. I quickly returned her smile, thereby acknowledging my indebtedness. “The big guy in the conservatory...”
“Not sure about the name. We weren't introduced.”
“Introductions are not automatic around here.”
“Obviously. But I'm certain I've seen him before. Just can't remember where.”
“Darn. I don't think I can help you with that one. I don't know exactly where you've been, and Hormer is notorious in appearing and disappearing in virtually every important venue under the sun. So I can't help you there. And I had so wanted you to be indebted to me.” Again she smiled the message, 'Yes, I'm serious; but the smile should help the medicine go down easier.'
“My career,” I began, “has never lent itself to meeting people outside the military and those civilian types directly associated with it. Do you know if Volkov has any military connections?”
“I doubt it,” she replied. “More like a military man's worse nightmare... a spy.” Abruptly, she laughed, “Or as my friend, Pete, would suggest, a member of the Russian mafia.”
“That's not it,” I replied. “At least I don't think so.”
“If I hear anything, I'll let you know. For now, I'm afraid I must get back to work. I played hooky specifically to meet you, but now my play time is over.”
We bid each other good bye, and I took advantage of the hospitality to relax in the spacious room – one almost the equivalent of a living room/study in a more fashionable neighborhood. I was still feeling good about my meeting with Sally when the idea suddenly struck me that she had probably been directed by the Regent to specifically meet me. She in fact had said as much. Worse yet I had almost bought it hook, line, and sinker. Obviously, she was attempting to gain my confidence so that she and the Regent would have another access route to Sudra and his intelligence gathering services.
The Regent had already bought off Mac with the apparent approval of his PTS project (of which I had detailed information already – including the quick and dirty slang terms of “the pints project” and the “quarter-gallon project”). I would also be willing to bet that General Mick and the Regency had also agreed upon a mutually beneficial, joint venture to cement the army's support of the Regency. We would know about that soon enough.
Still... the key seemed to be that the Regent was clearly very interested in obtaining the Admiral's enthusiastic support and cooperation in his own pet project. He would be interested in keeping tabs on the Admiral's loyalty, but at the same time use the Admiral's intelligence sources to keep track of the two generals. Meanwhile, what better way to keep track of the Admiral than to have the Regent's own very personal historian talk shop with the man who on a regular basis acted as the Admiral's side kick?
I can't say I was upset by the possibilities. If one is obliged to interact with another spy in some sort of tit for tat, I can't imagine a more attractive woman with which to do it. Which may well be, of course, why she was the one assigned to me. I found her attractive; therefore she could use my emotions to bring me in out of the cold. Made total sense. So why was I shivering?
I suspect my manliness might prefer the idea of her simply being attracted to me and my status or position. But if it is only the fates... and their facilitators... who have proclaimed our occasional discussions, I suppose I can live with that. My admiral might even find the possibilities interesting as well. I might in fact be ordered to cooperate with the very attractive enemy! Is there any greater directive than that? This is the kind of duty with which I can easily live. The role of Lancelot was looking better all the time. I could already see us joining forces to escape the bad guys, the music of Chevaliers De Sangreal  (from The Da Vinci Code) playing in the background.
I was still dissecting, planning, and relishing the coming forays into spy/counter-spy operations, when the Admiral came into the room, his meeting obviously concluded. Two other gentlemen who had made a point of keeping to themselves in another part of the room were quickly ushered out and in the direction of the conservatory.
As I caught up with the Admiral, he turned to me, and checking our location for secret talking, said, “In the event you hear anything of a project or rumor concerning something called 'ATSAS', be sure and let me know. It's important, and I will want to know about any links. Understood?”
I quickly acknowledge the standing orders, and we promptly left without another word.
“ATSAS” has been suggested by several scholars as being a mis-rendering of the word or name of “ATLAS”, the legendary Titan of Greek Mythology. While this is a viable possibility, most scholars with credentials and invaluable experience in the actual translation of the bronze sheets have insisted that the “ATSAS” is an accurate translation. As to its meaning, or whether it's an anagram for some phrase (as was the curious custom of many of these ancients), there will likely continue to be controversy and idle discussions. Hopefully, in future translations, this apparently very secret project will be explained or high lighted in some fashion.
Two final fragments to be mentioned at this juncture – although their dating is even more speculative – are more from what can be surmised as Yagalone's reporting:
...Koenig and some gung ho officers. One expendable Brigadier was to be commander of an 'elite unit', but one which would be leaked to Sudra and other intelligence agencies as a red herring. All the intelligence heads could then think they were keeping up with Koenig and his activities.
But Sudra was already on to his lesser counterpart. The far better kept secret was that General Koenig would be setting up two additional, independent elite commando units. To add icing to the cake, Koenig would publicly find considerable fault with two of his loyal but fanatical colonels, who would then be passed over for flag rank. In their apparent chagrin, they would begin talking retirement, find themselves in an apparent box canyon -- the inevitable end of career assignment -- and then be seen taking time off to enjoy the fruits of their lifetime labors.
Sudra smiled when he told me that of course both Colonels would be given an effective flag rank and would be up to their eyeballs in forming the two new, very secret elite units – with money being siphoned off to build up the two regiments who had been named, apparently for morale purposes of the excessively loyal troops, “The Eagle Legions.”
“I have to hand it to Koenig,” the Admiral had admitted. “It's a good plan. Provide a token secret elite force to be sacrificed to the wolves, and then take two nut cases who will do his every bidding, make them de facto generals with all the rights and privileges thereto, and then pretend they've been put out to pasture. It's really quite smart for Koenig.”
I suspect Admiral Sudra really enjoyed his interactions with General Koenig.
Meanwhile, the Admiral found my budding relationship with Sally to be a good idea. We agreed that both sides would be spying on one another, and we could always negotiate on the trading of any and all secrets. As has been noted countless times, everything was negotiable.
Sudra did, however, solve one little mystery for me – if only to avoid my using up points with Sally and incurring the return of a favor in the near future. Volkov had been remembered by Sudra as well, but with a notable increase in the detail. Looking at me, he had suggested, “Put a Major's uniform on him and see what you get.”
It was then I remember the Major who had escorted the President and the German Chancellor out of the war room on the day we were introduced to the NinGish. The “Major” had to be Hormer... or his cousin. What was fascinating was that the Admiral had already looked up the name and rank, but yet still had no clue as to who the hell the Major really was. He had been in the war room, and thus had possessed all of the credentials to get into the damn place, and yet all the records failed to show him having a past. How does one pass through the gates guarded by the meanest types in existence without having the credentials to do so? That fact bothered both myself and the Admiral... perhaps him more than me.
I left thinking that there was much more to learn, only to notice as I was dismissed that the Admiral had begun tinkering with a replay of the initial landing on the White House lawn. I knew that he now had access to the results of every imaginable detail of what had transpired on that fateful day -- results that had been generated by some of the most sophisticated imaging techniques available on the planet. Nothing, apparently, was going to be left to chance. I only caught a glimpse of what Sudra was reviewing, but apparently my boss was viewing some cleaned up scenes of the junior officer shooting at the Liaison. Other than that, I simply could not tell anything.
 "Sextant" is, among other things, the troika (Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin) code word for Tehran, Iran.
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]