“We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the power of the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.”
“He’s clean,” called one of the agents, after patting him down.
“Coat’s just got a phone in it,” said the other.
“Hang on those for me, would you?” Edward asked the agent sarcastically. The agent just looked at him. Clearly he was not amused.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?” the President asked him, stepping forward, flanked by Secret Service Agents, clearly on high alert.
“I’m someone who knows a thing or two about the two hundred and thirty five souls you’re trying to account for this morning.”
Gasps of shock rippled through the room at that revelation. The silence was broken by the Vice-President. “Two-hundred…”
“…and Thirty Five, Mister Vice-President.”
“Rachel, how many have we accounted for so far?”
“Um… Seventy One, sir,” a voice answered meekly, from the back.
“Well, you’ve got your work cut out for you then, huh? Think of it like Pokémon: Don’t stop ‘til you get ‘em all!”
The Vice President gave a cold laugh. “Son, do you have any idea how much trouble you’re in right now?”
“Do you, Joe? How much do you really know about what’s happened?”
“Mister Vice-President, if you don’t mind!”
But Edward had turned his attention back to the President. “Mister President, I can help you sort a lot of this out, but you’ll need to have your men fully investigate each scene first. Otherwise, I don’t think you’ll be ready to hear what I have to say. In the meantime, I wonder if I could partake of the hospitality of one of your holding cells. Just for a couple of days, until you have some sense of what you think has happened. I’ll go voluntarily, but I’d like to get there by 9:00, if possible.”
Another laugh from the Vice President, “Oh, you’ll have your cell, all right. But what’s your big hurry?”
Edward looked directly into the Vice President’s eyes and paused, making him just the slightest bit uncomfortable. “Because at precisely 9:00 this morning, one of your men is going to try to kill me.”
Several of the Agents looked at each other, wondering what was going on. The Vice President sounded insulted. “Now look here! That’s not how we do things around here! We’re going…”
But he was cut off by the President, holding up his hand. “We’ll have to hold you. At a minimum, you’re in serious trouble just being in this room.”
“Your guy let me in,” Edward answered.
The President raised an eyebrow at that. “Really? Which one?”
“Check your security tapes.” West’s eyes widened in realization he was the one who had let him in. Edward noticed this, but did his best not to acknowledge it.
The President sighed. “OK, so that’s how you want to do this? Why don’t you tell me what you know about what’s happened and, more importantly, HOW you've come to know it?”
“As I said, my explanation is unlikely to be satisfactory before you’ve investigated each scene. But I’ll answer your last question first, as best as I can: I woke up this morning and simply KNEW. I knew the way you know the sun will set tonight and will rise again tomorrow morning. I knew the way you know how to breathe. Like a revelation of sorts, an epiphany, if you will…”
The Vice-President snorted derisively at this, but Edward continued. “At each scene you will find the deceased have left two things for you. The first is a video record of the event, including an explanation, in their own words, of WHY they felt the needed to do this. The second is a message, consisting of a single line. Each individual line is part of a larger manifesto. Once assembled, these words of wisdom are intended to be a guiding vision for this country and its government and its people for generations and ages to come. You’ll know them when you see them too: Each is written in the deceased's own blood.”
The Secretary of State looked like she was going to be sick. “The deceased's own…”
“Blood. That’s correct Madame Secretary. And their own handwriting, if you feel the need to investigate it that thoroughly. Though, between the video tapes and any DNA evidence you’ll inevitably gather, it should hardly be necessary to take it that far.
The Vice-President was more angry and defiant than shocked. “This is absurd; I can’t believe we’re…”
But again the President raised his hand, and silenced him with a sideway glance, brow furrowed. He then turned back to Edward. “OK. Suppose we believe you – and we’ll find out soon enough – but even if everything you’re telling us is true, it only makes you looks very guilty. Everything you’re telling us is admissible in court. You haven’t been arrested, though you’ll be placed in custody soon enough, but you know that everything is this room gets recorded, and that all of that is admissible as evidence, correct?”
Edward stood up. “Mister President, time is short. Perhaps we could talk while we walk? I’m sure your agents have a cell that we can reach in the next ten minutes or so?”
The President looked at one of the agents.
“Absolutely. We’ve got a cell for him. We can take the tunnel.”
“Great,” the President answered. “Then let’s get going, shall we? You we’re saying?”
The entire group left the office and were escorted down a staircase hidden behind security doors, Edward continued. “You mentioned ‘evidence’ Mister President. I’m not concerned about that. These deaths, as you’ll soon confirm happened at precisely the same moment in time. Ten minutes before midnight, Eastern Standard Time to be exact. And I’m sure you realize that I cannot be in two places at once, let alone two-hundred and thirty five. What your investigation will conclude is that there is simply no way I could have done this.”
“And yet you know everything about it. How did it happen then?”
They had reached the bottom of the staircase and were now in the basement. They started towards another set of security doors, on the other side of the long corridor. As they walked they passed a bowling alley, the kitchen and several utility rooms for the many members of the various maintenance staffs.
“HOW it happened isn’t all that important. At least it’s not that much of a mystery: There are videos of every single incident. Watch them. And decide for yourself. What you really need to understand - what is CRITICAL for you to understand - is WHY it happened. The manifesto that they’ve left behind will not doubt reveal much of it, once it’s assembled, but I can give you a summary of what it’s going to tell you, and why this all happened.”
The President raised his eyebrows in mock curiosity. “Oh? And why is that?”
Edward stopped walking. One of the agents closest to him bumped into him as he did. He was aware that another was clutching his gun, and watching him closely. Huis eyes narroed as he looked directly at the President. “Because, Mister President: You have failed.”
The first thing that anyone heard was a gasp of surprise from someone in the back of the group. This was followed immediately by indignant protests from both the Vice-President and the Secretary of State. The President waved his hands in an effort to hush them. They could see he was getting annoyed, but by the time he turned back to Edward, his façade of perfect calm had been restored. “And how, exactly, have I failed?”
The agents opened the security doors and Edward started walking again, a little faster this time. The group quickened their pace to keep up. They were now walking down a long, damp, unfurnished, poorly lit, concrete hallway. “Because you have squandered an historic opportunity, Mister President. You were elected by a wide margin, after your Party was given a huge majority in the House and a Filibuster-Proof majority in the Senate and what have you done with it?”
“Passed a stimulus plan, reformed health care, invested in…”
“YOU HAVE PANDERED TO THE OPPOSITION!”
Again the group stopped walking, stunned buy Edward’s sudden outburst. He started walking again and the group followed him. “You have capitulated and caved to the opposition on every major point of policy and have barely even asked for anything in return, let alone gotten anything! You have sold out every single progressive policy and instead offered little more than warmed-over Republican ideas as alternatives. You act as if by giving them something they want they’ll somehow magically abandon their partisan ways, grow up and start acting like responsible Legislators who will put Country ahead of Party and Self. Mister President: What country have you been living in for the past 30 years?”
“It is only by acting in a bipartisan manner…” but the President was not going to get any farther.
“YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE WHO GIVES A DAMN ABOUT BIPARTISANSHIP AND SOLVING PROBLEMS!”
Silence followed as Edward voice echoed though the long passageway.
“Mister President, these people have go ON RECORD as saying that your failure – that making you a one term president – is their top priority! These people have no intention of LETTING you solve any problems! They don’t WANT problems to be solved! They will take every one of their failed policies and more, and then BLAME YOU when their own ideas don’t work! Listen to the story the media is telling: Your stimulus has failed. No jobs have come from it. Putting aside that this is a lie, to the extent that it has failed, WHY has it done so? Because the opposition wasn’t going to let you spend enough money to fix things! They advocate for austerity during a time of economic recession! And you’ve gone along with it! WHY?! That’s psychotic! What: Do you think they’ll thank you for taking the blame for both THEIR deficits AND their lousy economy? Do you really think they’re NOT going to continue to hang both of these around your neck, and the necks of your party and progressives in general, and USE these against you so that they can reclaim the power that was taken from them?! Mister President, I don’t think you have any idea who you’re dealing with here!”
The President wasn’t sure if he meant Congressional Republicans or Edward himself. “I think you’re oversimplifying…”
But Edward just went on. “Meanwhile the wars continue, the Patriot Act not only persists but has been expanded, Guantanamo remains open…”
Now it was the Vice-President’s turn, “Well, what do you us to do about that?! What happened when some of those terrorists get acquitted, huh? What do you want us to do?”
“I want you to have some faith in the American system of justice, Mister Vice-President! I want the Government to do its job and get good convictions, with legitimate evidence against ACTUAL wrong-doers! I want to stop hearing ‘state-secrets’ as an excuse for you lot to do whatever you please, especially when it comes to policies that are not only unpopular with the American people, but which are gross violations of basic human rights – the very thing we are supposedly fighting for! And if we CAN’T make that case? Then on what basis are we holding them in the first place?!”
He turned his attention aback to the president. “You were elected to restore economic growth, something that had utterly unraveled and died under your predecessor’s administration. And yet the very people responsible for that are not only obstructing you from accomplishing this but are also hammering you over the deficit – a deficit caused by your decision to back off of tax-reform and allow you’re predecessor tax polies to continue! Tax policies which, along with his two un-funded wars, are the CAUSE of the deficit in the first place! Was it really your GOAL to get blamed for everything your predecessor and your opposition have ruined? And to do so while, at the same time, their media tells the story that you keep blaming your predecessor for everything?!
The Republicans couldn’t have done this much damage on their own! So little would be any different were they in power, but at least THEY’D be taking the blame for the abysmal results of their ridiculous polices! You’ve not only continued to maintain their disastrous policies, but you’ve implemented more of their ideas than they were ever able to! And when they inevitably fail, YOU will be blamed - and your Party and progressives by extension! And the very people whose philosophy the American people are trying to get rid of will once again achieve at least another eight-year stranglehold on political power!”
As they walked through the tunnel, they passed in front of several more sets of security doors, behind which were offices, conference room, interrogation rooms and others, before finally reaching the one in front on of their destination. One of the secret service agents opened it, revealing a small cement block room, painted white and containing nothing but an old, empty desk, a threadbare office chair and a holding cell.
Edward stood in front of the cell door as another agent fumbled with keys to open it.
“It would be one thing if you ever got ANYTHING in return, or if these policies had any merit, but look at what it all amounts to: They call for lower taxes, even as they blame you for the deficit. The call for austerity, even as they blame you for the economy. They put anonymous holds on every single appointee to head up any regulatory body, and then blame you when government ‘doesn’t work.’ They fight every effort to invest in alternative energy, even as the last of the glaciers melt away to nothing due to carbon dioxide emissions and our economy – YOUR economy – continues to be stifled by high gas prices! They badgered you into giving up on comprehensive immigration reform, then hammer for being weak on illegal immigration, even as deportations are at an all-time high! They call net neutrality censorship, even as they make plans to try and control the internet just as they’ve taken control of the media! They advocate for a health care system that allows people to die for the sake of preserving profits all the while saying that YOUR PLAN has ‘death panels’ in it! Well, Mister President, in a way, it does because you’ve now put ALL OF US at the mercy of THAT VERY SYSTEM! And reformed it just enough to make their screwing of us the least bit palatable! I’m sure Madame Secretary here knows exactly what I’m talking about there! You have capitulated to these people on every point even as they’ve blamed YOU for every one of their failed policies that you’ve implemented - all of which are either Right-Wing polices or are failing because of concessions you made to these Right-Wing saboteurs, even as they call you a ‘socialist.’”
The cell door was now open, but the Agents only stood by while the nearly one-sided conversation continued.
“And the effect of all of this? Your own voting base is fed up with you! And you just took a huge loss in the mid-terms because of all of it! And your Press Secretary isn’t helping matters when he says we’re a bunch of whiners because we only got 90% of what we asked for! Mister President: We haven’t gotten ANYTHING that we asked for! No – strike that: That we were promised. There isn’t a single issue that you haven’t failed on, and there’s not a single failure that is not directly attributable to your insistence on caving into to the demands of an opposition intent on nothing more than destroying you! We did not vote for a Democrat because we wanted to help the Republicans!”
“I have to be the President to ALL people, not just my voting base. That what makes…”
But Edward cut him off again. “That would be fine if the opposition represented any broad number of Americans, but they only represent the rich! They only represent the wealthy! They represent the single smallest constituency in the country: The top 1%!”
“And social conservatives.” The vice-president interjected.
Edward scoffed at this. “Social Conservatism,” he said with contempt, “is nothing more than an appeal to people’s bigotry and superstitions in order to get them to vote against their economic interests, all in a fraudulently pious effort to take the curse off of what amounts to a massive money and power grab on the part of the already rich and powerful. We on the Left are not asking you to only take care of US, Mister President. On the contrary we want to see that all Americans are taken care of. Yet you insist on continuing to pander to those who honestly represent only the elite in our society, and their interests over all others. THAT’S why this happened Mister President, and that’s why I’m here: You have already squandered one historic opportunity. I’m going to make sure you don’t squander this one. I’m going to make sure that the sacrifice of the two hundred and thirty five who’ve died will hot have been in vain. And very soon, you’ll realize that I’m someone you’re going to have to listen too… if another tragedy is going to be prevented.”
The Vice-President puffed up his posture at that remark. “Is that a THREAT, son?!”
Edward ignored him, and kept his focus squarely on the President. “Mister President, I’m not your enemy. I’m not trying to threaten you. I’m trying to save you.”
There was a sincerity to what Edward said that made it difficult for the President to simply wave him off. He also knew that this man was connected to all of this somehow. And he wanted more than anything to know exactly that was. And there was something else about him, some elusive property that he could not quite put his finger on, that made him impossible to dismiss. “OK. So why is it that I should listen to YOU? Or the even believe you.”
“You don’t believe in me now. I understand that. I expected it, in fact. But come Monday, you might reconsider.”
“Oh, Jesus! What’s going to happen on Monday?!” asked the Vice President, who was quickly approaching the limit of what he could reasonably cope with in a single day.
As he spoke, a sidearm rose up into the periphery of everyone’s view. At once their attention shifted from Edward to Agent West, who was aiming it at the middle of Edward’s chest.
“You’ll see.” Edward closed his eyes and smiling. Standing in front of the open cell door, he spread his arms wide.
“West, what the hell are you doing?!” the Vice-President yelled. But it happened before anyone could react.