Friday, August 19, 2011

Chapter Twelve: A Brave New World

It is not possible to found a lasting power upon injustice, perjury, and treachery.”
~ Demosthenes
“The Conservative movement is reeling today from the loss of some of its brightest stars…”
Edward hit the snooze button out of habit before realizing what he was hearing.  He immediately sat up in bed and turned the radio back on.
“…are calling it a series of suicides.  No word yet on the extent of the death toll, but we will keep you posted as we get more information.”
Edward changed the channel.
“…along with fellow Fox News Personalities Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee, possibly others, which we’ll continue to report as we get verification.  Mister O’Rielly is survived by…”
Edward changed the channel again.
“…rumors that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia…”
…and again…
“…will have to hold special elections to fill the vacancies…”
…and again…
“How many are involved?  How many are we talking?  We’re getting reports of media personalities, business leaders, politicians…”
…and again…
“…a prayer for our late Reverend Pat…”
…before shutting it off. 
‘It worked,’ was his lone thought.  He knew that this meant he was a murderer. And yet he felt no guilt.  He also knew that, given the bizarre nature of the method, it would almost impossible for him not to get away with it. And yet he felt no elation at that. In that moment, he felt nothing at all other than a realization that what he was given was genuine and all that he was told was true, and that the real work was only just beginning. Beyond that, he almost felt numb.
Already awake, Epiphany called to him from downstairs, “Eddie get down here! You’ve got to see this!”
He joined her downstairs, in front of the television. “It worked! It’s all over the news!” She made little effort to contain her excitement.
“I know.” No effort was required to conceal his.
“The names just keep coming in! Oh my God. Eddie… This is incredible!”
“I know. What does Fox say?”
“Oh my God, wait until you see this!” She flipped to the Fox News Channel. “It’s out. Totally out. They’re not even broadcasting!  They’ve had this ‘technical difficulties’ screen up for like… an hour now!”
“How do you manage to wake up so early?”
“Seriously?!  THAT’S all you’ve got to say?  All this happening and you’re seriously wondering about how I woke up so early? What’s wrong with you?!”  She was shocked by his indifference, but there wasn’t a trace of anger in her voice. She was almost giddy.
He just smiled at her. As it felt forced, he wondered if it looked creepy. “Nothing.  But I’ve got something I’ve got to do.”
“What? Now?!”
“Right now.”
Sitting on the couch, behind the coffee table he picked up the tablet.  Both traffic lights – the one for himself, and the one tracking humanity’s fate – were green. Breathing a sigh of relief, he opened the Messenger application.
[Edward] Luci – U there?
The reply came back in seconds.
[Luci] Yes. Nice work, BTW.
[Edward] I have a question
[Edward] What would happen if I enter a fate that ended: and they live for 200 years under their own volition.
[Luci] Hmmm
[Luci] Interesting. You cant extend life w/ the table U know.
[Edward] Yeah, IK. But what would happen?

He waited a moment for her reply.
[Luci] The destiny would be fulfilled and assuming they were not already meant to live LONGER than 200 years, they would simply live out their lives as they otherwise would have. Y?
[Edward] Just curious. Thx!
[Luci] NP
“I need to go.” Edward said flatly.
“Where?” Epiphany was clearly confused. They hadn’t discussed any plans beyond those that were executed the night before.
“To the White House.”
“Very funny.” She was not amused.
“Dead serious.” He was not kidding. He quickly started upstairs.
“Are you out of your fucking mind?! Why?!” she asked, following him.
“Someone needs to fill the President in on what’s going on,” he said, rifling through the clothes in his closet.
He let her stare at him while he got dressed, refusing to fill the silence between them, his face in a state of stony expressionlessness.  “Eddie… What do you… mean?”
“They need to know the extent of what’s happened and why. And they’ll need to know that I am connected to it.”  He had a black dress shirt, one of his few ‘good shirts’ that he would normally wear with his ‘good suit’ and started to button it.
“Eddie... What the fuck? If they know what’s happened…” her voice was just above a whisper, “They’ll kill you.”
He stopped buttoning his shirt about halfway up and laughed out loud. “No. No, they won’t.  They’ll want answers. And keeping me alive is the only way they’ll get them. There’s so much more work to be done. I have to go.” 
“At least there’s nothing really connecting you to all of this; in any material way, I mean. But still...”
“Well…” He shrugged, taking a pair of black slacks from their hanger.
“Tell you what…” She was screaming at him, but he might as well have been discussing the weather. “Go back and look through the ‘History’ application on the tablet. It has every command we entered stored in its archive. See if you can figure it out before they do.”  He pulled one of his new black leather belts tightly around his waist and started back downstairs.
“Eddie… Don’t… Don’t do this…”
“Sorry, babe. It has to be done. Now, what was that guy’s name?” He was not really talking to her, just thinking out loud.
“WHAT guy?!”
“The secret service agent we met that day. Yeah, he’ll do.  He’ll do nicely. What was his…?”
“I have no idea who you’re even talking about!” She was clearly both confused and distressed.
“WEST! That was his name: WEST.” In a minute, Agent West’s profile was pulled up, and Edward began typing in his ‘fate’ field:
[At 8:00 AM, will greet Edward Carpenter at the East Gate and escort him to the Oval Office…]
He kept typing but Epiphany could not see what he was writing.  She was on the verge of tears.
“Eddie… No…”
He closed the screens down and went to the kitchen.  He took a few moments to write something on a piece of paper. Taking an envelope from the utility drawer he folded up the paper, placed it inside and sealed it.
Handing it to her, he said, “Take this. If I don’t contact you by 12:00 on Monday, I want you to do exactly as it says. Until then, don’t do ANYTHING. At all. Do you understand?”
“Eddie… no!  Why are you…?” she was desperate to stop him.
“No… Eddie… No…”
“Piff?  Can I trust you?”
“What? Yes. Yes!”
“Then please… I need you right now. I don’t need you to trust me, and I won’t even ask you to. But I need to know that I can trust you. Do you understand?”
She sniffed back tears. “Yes.”
“And so you’ll keep this,” he pointed at the envelope, “until noon on Monday. The day after tomorrow. I’ll call you then.  Otherwise? Do exactly as it says. OK?”
She sniffed again. “OK. Eddie… Why?
“It’s what must be done.”
“Should I drive you?”
“Oh, hell no,” he answered, sliding into his black trench coat. “I’ll take the metro. Stay here. Don’t go anywhere, don’t call anyone, and don’t DO anything. Just wait.  I’ll contact you the day after tomorrow. I promise. OK?”
“All right.”
“Now listen I need you to do two things, first thing on Monday morning. First: put the tablet and the tears in a safe deposit box. OK?”
She nodded.
“Then hide the key to it. You don’t have to go far with it. Find a spot and then send an email from one anonymous address to another, saying where the key is, and what bank it’s from. Got it?”
“How will I…?”
“Use the computers at the library. Set up two email accounts. Send the message from one to the other, and then leave me a phone message with one of the email addresses.  Make the password… Luci, with an ‘i,’ For both of them.”
“Eddie… Are we going to be in danger?”
He stooped and looked her straight in the eye.  “No.  As long as no one gets their hands of either of the artifacts? This will go down in history as nothing more than a mind-blowing coincidence. I’m just going to push them a little closer to the “act of God” explanation. And make sure they’re clear on what it all means.  If anyone DOES ask you anything, just tell them everything that’s happened for the past couple of weeks, just leaving out the bits about what we did with the Tablet, which no one would believe anyway. Otherwise? We met at a coffee shop, you moved in, I quit my shitty job, we spent the holidays at home. End of story.  All of it true and all dead ends for anyone investigating. As for what I did this morning? Tell them the truth: I woke up and frantically ran out the door, ranting about going to the White House. And that you don’t understand any of it! Nothing deceptive there at all!”
“Eddie, I can’t do…”
“YES! Yes, you can!  And if I do what I need you to correctly, they won’t even know to come here. The phone I’m taking is new, and I paid for the minutes with cash.  It has no contact info on it at all. All the info it’s registered under is fake.  They won’t know to come here until I’m already on my way back. And I won’t come back until I’ve given them enough to keep them busy for a while. And they’ll know that I’m not going anywhere. That, if anything, I plan to stick around – come back even. 
And I will call you. 12:00 noon, on Monday. Keep it together until then!
He kissed her as he left, leaving her visibly shaken. 
“Crazy son of a bitch.” She muttered as he closed the door.
He took the train into the city, and had to move pretty quickly to make it to the East Gate in by the appointed time.  The trench coat was too light for that time of year, and the snow that had fallen, but he found the brisk winter air exhilarating and jogged the entire distance from them station without a drop of sweat or a single breath of fatigue, slowing only for the occasional icy patch on the sidewalk.  When he arrived at 1600, he saw a familiar looking secret service agent there waiting for him.
“Good morning, West.”
“Good morning,” he replied, reaching around the security gate and swiping his card across the reader. “Will you accompany me?”
“Oh, absolutely.”
There were several security checkpoints, but Agent West waved him through each one.  A few minutes later, their footsteps echoed though the marble halls of the West Wing.  West opened the door to the Oval Office. It was empty.
“If you care to wait here?  The President will be along shortly, I’m sure.”
“That’s would be fine, thank you, West.”
“No problem, sir!” He gave a friendly smile as he close the door.
And, just like that, Edward was left there by himself.  He looked around at famous room for a moment, hardly believing he was really there.  “That was a lot easier than I thought it would be,” Edward laughed to himself.  He then did something that seemed out of character, even to himself: He sat down in the President’s chair and put his feet up on the desk.  Just so as not to freak out the Secret Service agents that would eventually be dealing with him, he removed the long trench coat and hung it on the back of the chair. His phone was in the front pocket.
Taking a deep breath, he focused on calming himself and organizing his thoughts. This was a unique opportunity and he knew that he might not get a second chance.
. . .
In another part of the White House a small group walked the halls, trying to get a handle on the situation.  As they walked, the President, Vice President, the Secretary of State and a dozen Secret Service Agents, including Agent West, received reports from staffers running up to give them the status on anyone they could confirm.  Those with longer updates walked with them for a while and tried to talk in between the chaotic bursts of information being shot at them.
“We’ve heard from Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kennedy,” mumbled a timid looking staffer in the back before she was interrupted.
“Congressman Bachmann, from Minnesota – confirmed dead!” another staffer shouted as they ran in.
“What about the Speaker, any word?”  the President asked.
“No word yet from either Former Speaker Pelosi or incoming Speaker Boehner.”
They were corrected by the quiet staffer in the back. “Um… No, Speaker Pelosi has checked in.  But no word yet from Justices Kagan, Thomas or Chief Justice Roberts.”
“But Scalia and Alito?” the Vice Presient asked.
“Um… confirmed dead.”
“OK, thanks Rachael.”
“Umm… Yeah.”
Another staffer ran up. “Senator Inhofe, sir,” they offered respectfully, their head down.
“I understand. Thanks.” The president answered. The pattern of fatalities was not lost him.  The pattern emerged fairly quickly, especially given similar reports about personalities from the Conservative media. “Any other updates on the Cabinet?”
The quiet girl in the back confirmed several names of members that had checked in but many were still unconfirmed. She was interrupted again.
“Reid,” said another staffer, running up and giving a quick thumbs-up. The President nodded.
The scene continued until they reached the oval office.  The overwhelmed staffer had followed them the entire way, but still had information to give them.  She was still calling out names of those confirmed dead or alive when the President opened the door.
The group froze at the sight of an unknown man, dressed in black, and sitting in the President’s chair, with his feet on the desk.
“Who the hell are you?!” barked the Vice President.
“Mister President,” Edward started, looking directly at the Head of State, “I’m the reason you have such a busy schedule today.”
In an instant he was stating at a wall of dark jackets, sunglasses and side arms.
“Son... I wouldn’t be so hasty, if I were you.” Edward said, putting his hands up as two agents approached him, guns drawn.

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