Sunday, April 28, 2013

E.H.U.D.: Chapter 11

Chapter 11

Cold November wind whistled through the chain link fence surrounding the school yard, pushing the milling students further into the wind-shadow of the building.
“Can't believe they're keeping us outside like this...” Rachel muttered. 
“Shh, I can't hear,” her friend Tisha hissed. 
The voice of the woman called Cyd screeched out of the speakers of Tisha's mobile.   “Did we start out learning to kill people with our minds?  Phh-- Hell no.  No, we just... we just did shit for a while, you know?  Just kinda fucked around and...  Naw, the killin' came later.” 
Another voice said something indistinct, and Cyd laughed.  “Fuck.  Naw, no, no, no, I—I couldn't do anything cool like that now.  No, my power's still blocked.  I just got the memories.”
“I thought we already watched this one...” Rachel muttered. 
Tisha shrugged.  “You did maybe, but I don't remember it.”
Rachel grunted and pushed further back into the alcove they had taken shelter in.
The recording of Cyd continued.  “Hell yes, I was there.  What, you think I'm crazy?  That I'd lie about that?  Ha!  'Course I was there when the riot started.  Hell, I helped start it.  There was this crazy guy, see, and—”
“You know...” Rachel looked down at the tiny, red-haired pixie manically dancing across the mobile, “my uncle was there, when the riot started.”
“Yeah, he mentioned Cyd.”
“Dang.  What'd he think?  Crazy?”
Rachel shook her head.  “He never said, but I'm guessing crazy.”
Tisha looked up and met her friend’s eyes.  “And you think she's crazy, too.”
Rachel tried to look offended.  “Of course not!  We can't discount any—”
“Mmm, no.  Don't try to bullshit your way out of this.  You really think she's crazy and making it up.  Why?”
“Well...”  Rachel looked up from the mobile and out at the crowds of freezing, unhappy teenagers.  “Just too coincidental.  She's a super-soldier, who just happens to show up at the site of a pro-'hud rally, the day after her fellow super-soldier tries to kill the president.  She's unable to duplicate any powers, and our oh-so paranoid government has failed to pick up on her.  She's just a crazy street person who was in the right place at the right time to get a good story.”
Tisha nodded, then stretched her legs and stared up at the sky.  “Looks like snow.”
Rachel didn't look up.  “No it doesn't.”
“So if she's lying, why?  Just the attention?”
Rachel opened her mouth to respond, but didn't answer.  She stared at the screen for a moment, then gestured for the mobile to rewind the video.
“Shh!  Did you hear that?”
“What?”  Tisha leaned forward and scrutinized the screen.  “What'd she say?”
Rachel gestured for the mobile to play, and Cyd's high, nasal voice returned.  “—was this crazy guy, see, and he showed up there and was just watching.  And I was thinking, and was all like, 'Shit, he looks familiar.'  So I went over to him, and it was him, one of my buddies from the program.  What a fuckin' coincidence, huh?  So I was like, 'Hey, John!  What's up?'  And he just stared at me like I was crazy or something, and tired to buy me off, but I knew it was him; I'd recognize that bald little head of his anywhere, even with those stupid glasses.  And I started tellin' everybody—hey!  Hey, you!  Yeah, you, in the football jersey!”  Cyd broke off and started waving at someone off screen. 
Tisha gestured for the video to stop.  “You think she's talking about your uncle?”
“She described him perfectly...”
“That's hilarious!  And she thinks he's an EHUD?”
Rachel shook her head. 
“What?  She's crazy, right?  Why'd you care what she says?  Besides, that'd be cool if he really was one!”
“My dad thinks he's an EHUD”
“So I've heard him talking about it."  She shrugged.
Tisha dropped the mobile into her lap and leaned out past the edge of their alcove.  “Speaking of your dad; when the hell's he supposed to get here?”
Rachel shrugged.
“He knows it's his day right, and that we just can't walk out of here?”
“He knows...  probably just got caught up at work.”  She sighed, then stood up and began to pace in a tight circle.  “Shit.  I can't believe they're doing this to us!  They round us up and store us in these goddamn concentration camps all day, and now they won't let us leave until a fucking grown-up comes and holds our hands!”
Tisha nodded.  “Sucks.  That's the reactionaries for you.”
“Yeah, like we're gonna get caught in a riot right outside the school.  We should be free to leave on our own!”
Tisha snorted and swiped a hand at Rachel's leg.  “You just want to see Wayne without daddy finding out.”
Rachel stopped walking.  “Shut up.”  She dropped back down next to Tisha and grabbed for the mobile.  “Okay, forget detainment without just cause; we can argue the constitution later.  Let's watch something.”
Tisha opened her mouth, but Rachel cut her off.  “Not Cyd.  I've had too much Cyd.  See if AmeriNews has anything new on the riot yesterday.”
Tisha closed her mouth and reclaimed the mobile from Rachel.   “Okay... Oh!  Breaking news, it's been out for like ten minutes now, presidential statement about the Defenders!”
“Fatty's trying to bury the perjury, you think?”
“Video's loading!” 
The screen went black for a moment, then displayed a static shot of a lectern with the presidential seal on the front, then—
“Hey!”  Tisha leaned forward.  “That's not—”
On the screen, looking tired, his hair and beard sticking up in places, was Edgar Latterndale.
“My fellow Americans,” he began, his voice deep and firm, “it is my sad duty to inform you that this morning President Isaac Latterndale was assassinated in the presidential residence.  Following his unfortunate passing, and the abrupt resignation of Secretary of State Charlton Wong,  it has fallen to me to execute the duties of the office of President of the United States.”  He cleared his throat, looked at the lectern.
  “It may seem inappropriate to address matters of policy while the country should be in a period of morning, but unfortunately we are in a state of crisis, and policy must be addressed. 
“The Defenders.”
Rachel felt a tingle of excitement, a sense of impending change. 
“The previous official line regarding these so-called foreign saboteurs is now null and void; it is time to reveal the truth of them and their origins.  Everything alleged by the late Merv Lemlin is true, in general terms.  The American government created the Defenders.  Illegally, unethically.”
This was really happening.
“And I knew about it.”
Latterndale fell silent as a torrent of mixed emotions surged through Rachel.  Everything she had suspected, the hidden truth she had believed, was true.  But the man she had respected, the hero she had worshiped, had just acknowledged himself as a fraud.
Latterndale continued.  “I'm going to try to be honest with you; I didn't know all the facts.  I knew the first two subjects were volunteers, and I naturally assumed the rest were as well.  Nothing I was told contradicted that perception.”  He paused and inclined his head.  “Nothing reinforced that perception.  Judge that as you will.
“Now, if I knew about the truth, why didn't I come forward following Lemlin's accusations?  Why didn't anyone?  We were afraid.  Immediately following Lemlin's attack, my predecessor was not... rational.  He was unbalanced and threatening, and I feared for my family's safety.  I realize now that the greater threat was to let the deception stand, but it is far too late to make better choices.  All that is left to do is to move on, and I ask for your support in enacting new policy regarding the Defenders. 
“Based on wisdom given over the past two months by leveler heads, especially those of Senator Terstein and Ambassador Mokri, I feel that it is best to label the Defenders as weapons of mass destruction, to be placed under international authority and oversight.”
Tisha gasped and Rachel clutched her arm; Latterndale seemed determined to lose all credibility in this one speech.
“To ensure that these weapons will not be misused by any government or other power, only those experienced with the Defenders should be considered to oversee them.  As such, I would respectfully request that the United Nations accept the Defenders as political refugees from their country of origin, and grant them governance over the Defender weapons.”
Rachel released Tisha's arm.  The wording was clumsy, but it was brilliant: Latterndale had redeemed himself.
“As of this point, I no longer consider the Defenders as American citizens.  They are international diplomats, and will be treated with all the courtesy and authority that this distinction grants them.  To any Defenders watching this broadcast, I ask that you make yourselves known, that you connect with our government--with any government--to help us in achieving peace, to put this dark period behind us.  You Defenders have been hurt by us; now it is time for you Defenders to be defended by us.”
There were several moments of silence as Latterndale looked down at the podium, tapped his fingers, and finally nodded.  “There is much more that needs to be said, but I feel that it can best be said later.  The immediate problem is to right the wrong that has been done; the rest can come later.  Thank you.”  He turned and walked away.  The video ended.
“Oh, holy shit...”  Tisha stared at the screen.  “Isaac's dead...”
Rachel furrowed her brows.  “The man pulls off a brilliant piece of political bullshitting that gives the world self-aware mutually assured destruction, and all you can care about is that some old man died?”
“He was assassinated!  And 'the man' didn't tell us by who.”
“Why does that matter?”
Tisha lowered the mobile and fixed Rachel with a withering stare.  “Really?  Why do you think he didn't bring it up?  What possible reason could there be to not give away the identity of the assassin?”
“You don't have to be such a bitch about it.”  Rachel stood and rubbed her arms; the temperature was dropping.  “Condemning a Defender while trying to make nice would kill the message.”
“That's going to come back and bite him.”
“Doesn't matter.  Mystery 'hud kills the president, that's a major no-no, even if public opinion's on their side.  Latterndale can get away with this one thing.”
They remained like that for several minutes, Tisha sitting and scrolling through comments on her mobile, Rachel standing and shivering.
“You know,” Rachel said, fog curling away from her mouth, “if this goes down right, if Latterndale can push this whole independent Defenders thing with the U.N., everything's going to get better.  And then...  Then we can GET THE HELL OUT OF THIS FUCKING PLACE!”
Heads all around the schoolyard turned in her direction, and Rachel slumped down next to Tisha, resigned to wait for her father.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

E.H.U.D.: Chapter 10

Chapter 10

They knocked on the door just past two in the morning.  The first knock had no effect, the second knock woke Edgar, and the third knock was followed immediately by the sound of the jamb shattering as the door was kicked open.
Edgar jolted upright, immediately on edge by the absence of the security alarm.  There were footsteps on carpet, wood, stairs, carpet again.
Voices: “Spread out!”  “Secure every room!”  “Mr. Latterndale!  Mr. Latterndale!”
Upstairs, in his bedroom, he heard the terrified, suddenly-awake scream of Ethan, Amanda's frantic shouts of protest and anger.  “Get away from him, you bastards!  You can't have him, you can't—”
A flashlight, piercing blue in the darkness, switched on and swept the living room.
“In here!”
Edgar looked over the back of the couch and shielded his eye from the light.
“The hell—”
“No time, Mr. Latterndale!”
Strong arms gripped him and pulled him to his feet.
“Package secure, moving out.”
Disjointed images flooded around him—men in dark business suits, some wearing armored vests; EHUDs filling each doorway; Mandy, pushing down the stairs, trying to keep the men away from her son.
The intruders rushed Edgar towards the front door.  “Can't I at least get my fucking pants—”
“Sorry, sir; no time, sir.  Clothes are in the vehicle.”
“Edgar!  What's going on?”  Amanda was down the stairs, struggling against captors of her own, lunging toward her husband.  “What's going on?”
He tried to break away from the men who held him, but they were too strong.  “I don't know!  Get back to Ethan and—”
A young woman in a business suit and armored vest approached Amanda.  “Everything will be all right, ma'am.”
“Where are you taking him?”
Edgar was almost to the door.
“Please, ma'am, just return to your son.  You'll see your husband again soon.  Now, we're going to help you pack up anything you'll need for a few—”
“Where the hell are you taking him?!”
And then he was gone.  He felt the pebbles of the front walk digging into his feet as he was dragged towards a line of black utility vehicles parked along the curb.  There was movement in the windows of surrounding houses as neighbors peered out at what was going on.  Edgar felt a twinge of embarrassment, wondering what they must think of this, before abruptly realizing that he might never see Amanda again.
What had happened?  Had Isaac finally decided to clean house and frame Edgar for the entire Defender debacle? 
Only one way to find out....
They reached the middle of the line and Edgar was roughly forced into the back seat.  As soon as the door was closed, the vehicle was on the move.
There was an exhaling of breath, and a light turned on overhead.  Edgar blinked and recognized the face of a Secret Service agent.
“What's going on?”
The agent cleared his throat, then made eye contact.  “It is my unfortunate duty to inform you that at one seventeen this morning Isaac Latterndale, President of the United States of America, was assassinated.”
Silence filled the vehicle, dancing back and forth with the sound of tires on roadway.
“So why am I here?”
The agent cleared his throat again and passed a shopping bag across to Edgar.  “These should fit you.  We're going through and collecting all surviving members of the cabinet.  NSA's idea.  With so many deaths and resignations recently, it was thought best that we get a contingency in place to keep this government running until the next election.”
Edgar pulled a pair of pinstriped trousers and a pale blue shirt out of the bag.  “I'm assuming we're not going to the White House to swear in President Wong?”
The agent narrowed his eyes.  “Give us some credit.”
“I just assumed that if Isaac was involved with this—”
“The president was not aware of the plan.”
Edgar nodded and began to pull on the trousers.  Part of him was terrified; the agent had said “assassinated.”  There was no “accident”, no “natural causes”.  “Assassinated.”  In Edgar's mind: Defender.  On the other hand: Deep satisfaction.  The old man was finally dead, and Edgar didn't have to worry about him anymore.  It was as if a weight had lifted, and Edgar could walk tall and proud into whatever future Mistlethwakey had arranged.
Still needed to be sure.  “Am I correct in assuming it was a Defender who did this?”
“Yes, a Ms. Maria Ruiz.  You know her?”
Edgar swallowed; he knew her better than the agent ever guessed.  At first hostile, later one of the program's best results.  She had done a lot of off-the-books work for the past few administrations.  And the General had chosen her...  How long ago?  There was no way he could have programmed her in the last few months; he had planned this at least a year ago.
“I've met her a few times, yes.”
“She's in the Pentagon now, sedated and scrambled to hell and back.”
Edgar nodded and finished pulling on a pair of socks.
Time for the shirt.  What about Amanda?  Chances were that wherever they were taking Edgar, Amanda would be brought soon after.  He was now an important person in the government in exile; a family loose in the world was too big of a security risk.
Edgar finished dressing and return his attention to the agent.  “So, big question here—”

“Where are you taking us?”
Amanda stood, dressed for bed and feeling tired, in the middle of her dining room while armored security agents invaded her home and collected her belongings.
The agent standing before her sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.  “I'm sorry, ma'am, I don't know that.  As I've already told you, the location will be determined when—”
“Then tell me just where the fu—” She stopped herself from finishing the curse as she felt the weight of Ethan leaning on her leg.  “Where do you think you might be taking us?  Do you know that?”
The agent sighed again and closed her eyes in acquiescence.  “We have a number of secure facilities all across the country.  We'll try to keep you on the Eastern sea-board, as close to the capitol as possible, but I simply do not know, will not know, until a final decision is reached.” 
“But it will be someplace safe?”
The agent paused for an uncomfortably long time before responding, “Yes.”
Amanda nodded.  She knew.  None of them—the cabinet, their families—were safe anymore.  The agent hadn't said the word when informing her of Isaac's passing, but it was there, trying to hide behind every clinical report, every assurance of future safety.
Ethan yawned and pushed closer into Amanda's side.  She looked down at her son, then at her home and the invaders in it, and privately cursed Edgar.  She knew he was somehow responsible for this. 
It wasn't a feeling of blame; she wasn't trying to hang her problems on him.  There existed a deep-down, pit-of-her-stomach certainty that Edgar was wrapped up in this whole mess.  Memories of that night flicked in and out of her awareness, branded with new clarity.  In the East Room, watching Edgar's strange behavior, his furtive glances at Mistlethwakey, at the door.  The horrors of the next hour, the next night, had distracted her from what she had seen then.  Lost in the panic of the crowd, seeing her husband abandon her to face down the monster that had violated her reality, she was forced to put everything aside save Ethan.  There was nothing more important then, not even her own life.  She alone was left in the world, she alone to save their son.
Edgar's actions later that night—his soft words, gentle embrace, constant presence—should have ended the loneliness, should have brought the family closer together as she realized that Edgar's actions at the party had been to save his family, not his president.
But all that was lost in what she had seen in Edgar's eyes.  It was an old, familiar thing she had seen so many times before: there was something he wasn't telling her.  As the world crumbled, as people died, as the physical universe was shaken by the psychic, there was something Edgar wasn't telling her.
Analyzed by the light of that realization, Amanda knew that Edgar's bravery had not been that of a man defying the unknown.  It was that of a man who knew precisely what he was up against, and had calculated a fair chance of survival.  While Amanda and the rest of the guests had been lost in confusion, scared and alone, Edgar had known what was happening, what Lemlin was. 
If there were any truth to Lemlin's claims, then Edgar had been at the heart of it.
Now that heart was exposed, shedding its blood over the world.  The president was dead, the country was on the edge of chaos, and Edgar was out there somewhere, being taken to safety.
They wanted Amanda to be with him, safe by his side...
She couldn't.  She may not be safe here, but she would be even less safe with Edgar.  As much as she wanted to trust him to keep Ethan safe from the Defenders, she knew that the secret held in his eyes would destroy his family more absolutely than any external threat.
“Please, ma'am, we have to hurry.”  The agent stepped closer, as if trying to impress the need for haste through physical proximity.
Amanda sighed and looked down to Ethan, who was falling asleep on his feet.  As much as she wanted to stay in this house—her home—rather than follow Edgar, she couldn't separate Ethan from his father without letting the boy have his say.
“Are we being forced to go, or is this voluntary?”
“Voluntary.”  The agent sounded uncomfortable.
Amanda looked up at the agent and pointed into the kitchen.  “Could you excuse us, please?  I need to talk to my son.”
The agent remained for a moment, then went into the kitchen.
Amanda rested her hand on Ethan's shoulder and steered him towards the couch that his father had slept on minutes before.
“Mom,” Ethan half-yawned as he lay down, “do I have to go to school tomorrow?”
“No, you're up too late tonight,” she said, sitting and positioning his head on her lap.  “But right now we need to talk about something really important, alright?”
“Honey...  Uncle Isaac passed away.”
Ethan's eyes snapped open and he sat up.  “What?  When?”
“Just a few minutes ago.  That's why your father had to leave.”
“Did the EHUDs kill him?”
For a moment Amanda saw a squad of armored soldiers descending on the president, ripping him limb from limb with their powered suits, before realizing that Ethan had meant “Defenders.”
“I think so yes.  But listen...  The agents here, they want us to leave—”
“I heard that.”
Amanda nodded.  “Well...  I don't think we should.”
“Why not?”
Because your father is one of the scary people who's responsible for this whole mess, and besides, he's never loved you.  “Because I don't think we'll be any safer with him than on our own.  Because he might be in danger.”
“Like Uncle Isaac?”
He was only ten, she reminded herself.  He wasn't ready to hear that his father might be on a hit list.
“There might be danger.”
Ethan's face took on a look of determination.  “Then we can't leave him alone.”
“So you want to go with dad, even if that means leaving all your friends, this house?”
“We can't leave him alone.”
Amanda nodded, stood, and went into the kitchen.

Three hours of driving, and Edgar was in Maryland, only thirty miles from home, or so the agents told him.  He was holed-up in what appeared to be a corporate board-room: light wood paneling half-way up the walls, textured off-white wallpaper, a long table.  It was only when he looked up and saw the concrete ceiling, the exposed pipes and wiring, that he was able to convince himself that he was underground. 
He padded around to the head of the table and sat down, leaning back with his feet on the table.  As he stared up at the bare utility of the ceiling, he did some quick math and realized that six months ago that Mistlethwakey had promised him the presidency. 
“Where's Charlie?” he asked the single agent who had remained in the bunker.
“Hopefully, flying over New Jersey.”
“You don't know?”
“It takes at least half an hour to get to New York, even with Air Force One.”
Edgar nodded and hoped that Wong would simply turn down the promotion, rather than have a plane wreck.
He sat in silence for another few minutes, listening to the low sounds of the pipes overhead.  At some point he drifted off to sleep, only to awaken when someone slid through the double-doors at the end of the room.  It was Julia.
She smiled and tilted her head fractionally.  “Hey.”  She walked around the table, sitting about halfway down on Edgar's left side.
Hours slid by, and the remaining members of the cabinet drifted in one by one.
Edgar tried to gauge their reactions.  Julia seemed calm, reacting to conversation with cool indifference.  She did, on occasion, show signs of stress, raising her voice for no reason or glaring at someone who made a stupid comment, but Edgar chalked that up to lack of sleep.  It was the way she moved her body that showed her true feelings; she was far too deliberate.  All her steps were perfectly even, her back was too straight, she moved as if she were controlling her body remotely.  Edgar took that to be her coping, her trying to control the situation.
Eli, though, was an easy read.  He had never recovered from the first Defender attack.  Tonight he was jumpy, his eyes never staying still, his entire body jerking at every sudden movement, every too-loud sound.  His conversation was whispered, clipped, unsure.  Edgar wondered how long the man would last, and was amazed he made it this far.
For his own part, Edgar realized he was somewhat dazed.  He moved in a trance, responding with exaggerated ease.  Nothing and no one really seemed to bother him.  Nothing really seemed real.  The General was about to fulfill his promise to him, and Edgar was about to step into immortality.  Tonight, the nervous waiting was over.  Tonight, Edgar was simply... existing.
At some point in the early morning he must have given in to sleep.  The next thing he was aware of was a female voice, a gentle shove on his shoulder.
“Hey, wake up.”
“Not now, Mandy....”
“You need to wake up a little more than that.” 
It wasn't Amanda's voice.  He opened his eyes and saw the industrial lights of the secret complex glaring down at him, much closer than they should have been from ground level.  Raising his head exposed his body, fully clothed save for shoes, spread out on the conference table.  He turned and saw Julia Telk standing off to one side.
“Shit.  How long was I out?”
She shrugged.  “It's after noon now.”
“Shit.  They back yet?”
Julia shook her head.  “No.  But they called Eli and said they were about fifteen minutes out.”
“Shit.  They say how Wong's holding up?”
Julia shook her head again.
Edgar sighed and slumped back onto the table.  He turned his head and looked around, seeing other members of the Cabinet slumped in chairs, leaned on walls, all looking like they'd rather be anywhere but here.
He gave himself a few more minutes of relaxation, then swung off the table and approached Eli.  “Hey.”
Eli yelped and jerked, then turned to look at Edgar.  “Oh, uh, hey.”
“Just wanted to know what you've said about Isaac so far.”
“To the press?  About his death?”
Eli flinched at 'death.'  “Nothing.  Media blackout.  Not saying anything until Charlie's here.” 
Edgar closed his eyes and took a deep breath.  “Why?”
Eli shrugged.  “He might have something to say about it.”
“Do you realize how guilty this makes us look?”
Eli shrugged again.  “Not my problem.  Talk to Charlie.”
Edgar went back to the table and pulled out a chair.  He rummaged in his pocket for his mobile, then remembered that these weren't his pants.  Sleep seemed his only recourse at this point; he didn't want to talk to anyone.
A commotion by the door caught Edgar's attention, and he saw several agents enter.  Charlie wasn't with them.
He slumped back in his chair even as Julia left hers and stomped up to the lead agent.  “Where is he?”
The agent looked at her, exhaustion evident in his face, and said, “He's not coming.  He resigned.”
Julia nodded and glanced over her shoulder at Edgar.
The agent stepped past her and approached Edgar.  “Congratulations, Ed.”  He turned to face the rest of the cabinet and spoke, his voice at full volume.  “Secretary of Defense Edgar Latterndale shall now hold the office and responsibilities of President of the United states of America, until such a time as a vote of the people is to be held.” 
All eyes turned to Edgar, who stood and solemnly nodded.  The lead agent spoke into the microphone at his wrist, the doors opened again, and the elderly chief justice stepped through, her silver hair stark against her black robe.  She stopped before Edgar and held up a thick book.  “Don't know what your preferences are, but I went with a Bible.”
Edgar nodded.  “That'll work.”
The chief justice held out the Bible, Edgar rested his right hand on it, and she led him through the oath of office.  In a few minutes it was done, and Edgar was president.
Minutes later Edgar stood at the head of the table, the remnants of the cabinet arrayed around him, all waiting for him to say something...  He thought back to what Mistlethwakey had said, six months ago.  Edgar had been paid his price, now it was his time to work.  He was in the Oval Office--or the next best thing--and he needed to get the rest of the world to play along...
“Okay.”  Relief was replaced by tension, of anticipation of work to come.  He clapped his hands and bounced on his toes.  “Someone take notes on this.”
Julia raised her hand fractionally, and Edgar nodded in acknowledgment.  “Okay.  Call Terstein, tell him I want a phone conference ASAP, today if possible.  Next, need to talk with the U.N.  We're going to address the Defender issue head on, set them up as refugees seeking political asylum; no one can have hands on them.”
Several people around the room gasped.
Julia lowered her tablet stylus.  “You're saying we have some authority to give them asylum...  that means we have authority over them to begin with.”
“Yes.  Besides that all those known are American citizens, we're going to acknowledge that we made them.  Anyone who has a problem with that can leave now.”
No one answered.  Julia raised the stylus in anticipation of what Edgar would say next. 
“We're raising security alert level; things might get a little crazy in the next few days.  I want every branch of the military ready.  Also, call Mistlethwakey.  As of now, he's relieved of duty, and I want him ready to be NSA first thing tomorrow.”  He straightened, placed his hands on his hips, and nodded.
“That everything?” Julia asked, her eyebrows raised in frank disbelief.
“For you, yes.  Eli!”
Eli twitched and coughed.
“Get me a press conference.  The sooner, the better.  Twenty minutes.  Every network.”
Eli nodded and started scribbling into a notebook.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Edgar said, his arms outstretched.  “Welcome to the future!”  He dropped his arms and turned to look at the remaining agents.
“Now, where the hell is my family?”