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“Welcome to the show, Secretary Dahl, and congratulations on your recent confirmation earlier this spring as head of the Department of Transhuman Affairs,” Ben Glick said with his unique mix of solicitude and disdain. “Why don’t you tell myself and my audience how you’re going to deal with the transhuman problem in this country and how you’ll be working with the Defense Department and State Department to deal with transhuman threats abroad.”

“Well,” the guest said, clearly taken aback, “thank you so much, Mr. Glick, for telling me what my agenda is supposed to be, particularly the foreign affairs role you seem to think I have. If you don’t mind, though, I’ll wait on President Obama to tell me what he sees my priorities being on what you call a ‘problem’ and what I simply see as a fact of life. We have transhumans…”

“…so, you don’t have any original thoughts,  Secretary Dahl?” the host goaded him. “The man who brought us socialist Obamacare and who’s trampling on the Constitution and refusing to produce a physical birth certificate from the U.S. has to march you through every step? Well, why does he need a secretary to head the department, then? He can just keep doing nothing and run Transhuman Affairs himself.”

“I think you’re well aware of the fact I meant I’ll be getting my broad goals and parameters from the President, as do all Cabinet members, Mr. Glick. And the U.S. government has hardly been ‘doing nothing’ as you say with regard to transhumans.”

“Really? What has been done with regard to the transhuman problem?”

“These are fellow humans, sir, not a ‘problem’ to be solved.”

“Oh, I’ll grant you there are a small number—those who watch me regularly, I’m sure—who side with humanity, but they aren’t human, sir. That’s why we call them ‘transhuman’ and they most certainly are a problem, as evidenced by the crimes so many of them commit and the damage the so-called ‘heroes’ do as well.”

Dahl rolled his eyes visibly. “You’re talking about a very small percentage of the population of transhumans, out of the already small percentage who have significant powers.”

“Interesting word choice: significant. Yes, Mr. Secretary, I worry about the ones I don’t see talked about on the news, or who have powers that aren’t showy, who might be using them to get over on humans, or push them out of jobs, or influence them, as the Socialist-in-Chief looks the other way.”

“I’m well aware of your conspiracy theories, but making charts of presumed connections between the Oval Office, transhuman agitators or anyone else with your dry erase markers on a whiteboard when you’re on the air hardly makes your theories fact.”

“Oh, certainly, sir, belittle my audience.”

“It’s not your audience that I’m addressing, and I’m still not sure what it is you think the President should be doing that isn’t already being done, particularly my part, given that my department is concerned with issues of health, discrimination and social issues—not law enforcement.”

“Well, aside from no longer cozying up to transhumans behind closed doors and handing the keys to the kingdom to them,” Ben Glick said loftily, “how about he give us some enforcement of the laws against them?”

“I’m a bit more concerned in my department about enforcing laws that should be protecting them to ensure they have the same rights as any other American, but the fact is that transhumans who break the law are arrested by local authorities or the FBI depending on the nature of their crime.”

“Oh, yes, some of them—for show. Those who aren’t of any use, since ‘President’ Obama has a history of throwing inconvenient people under the bus, as it were,” the talk show host responded. “How about…oh…Doctor Holiday?”

“Why would you pick him?” Secretary Dahl asked. “The government clearly has him in its sights. He’s on FBI’s most-wanted list.”

“And yet still at large—for Obama’s entire administration.”

“All of Bush’s, too, I should add,” Secretary Dahl said.

“Yes, but not with an official ‘hands off’ rule from the Oval Office back then.”

The Transhuman Affairs Secretary got an “ah-ha” look on his face. “I see. The so-called order to let Doctor Holiday do whatever he pleases. It doesn’t exist. It never did. It never will. More conspiracy theories, as is the idea that the government created him.”

“On Christmas 2009, just last year, he tossed a man into his own burning house after accusing him of horrific crimes for which there was no evidence—killing him without letting him have the benefit of a trial—and putting a whole neighborhood in danger. On Veteran’s Day three years ago, he dug up several caskets in Arlington Cemetery and flung them away. Several months ago, on New Year’s, he murdered…”

“Look, let me stop you there,” Secretary Dahl said. “I’ll grant you the Christmas example, as it was murder, though I should note the family has since confirmed many of the accusations. But all three caskets at Arlington turned out to be problematic—two of them were in the wrong graves, having been switched, and one corpse was of a soldier who it later turned out was guilty of several heinous crimes while deployed in Iraq. As for the New Year’s incident, we have the word of one man that Doctor Holiday did it. I’ll remind you of how many people accuse Doctor Holiday of everything under the sun, even when it isn’t a holiday, like the woman who drowned her three children a few years back and said ‘Doctor Holiday did it’ or the man who robbed the bank he worked at a few days before Easter and said Doctor Holiday did it. Even BP was trying to blame their oil spill in the Gulf on Doctor Holiday for the first few weeks. Need I go on?”

“Still, he walks free, and on that Christmas incident, why didn’t the authorities notify the FBI unless they were ordered to ignore…”

“As I understand it, Mr. Glick, the local authorities were a bit frightened and confused and were slow in letting the FBI know, and there was a mix-up in the message going through proper channels once the FBI was called…”

“So, every time Doctor Holiday shows up, the FBI or military are conveniently nowhere to be found.”

“You know as well as I do that Doctor Holiday seems to have a very large number of powers, and…”

“…and apparently friends in high places,” Ben Glick snapped. “There should be teams ready nationwide so that the moment someone spots Doctor Holiday, an Apache helicopter is sent out to fire a Sidewinder missile right at that menace to society.”

“Aside from the danger of using a Sidewinder on a single man in what would be a populated area most likely, weren’t you just complaining how Doctor Holiday denied a man the right to a trial by summarily executing him?” Secretary Dahl noted. “And now you want him executed on the spot?”

“The Constitution was written by humans and for humans, Mr. Secretary,” Glick said. “Someone like Doctor Holiday deserves no more consideration for due process than a rabid wolf in a Macy’s.”

* * *

Zoe consulted her e-mail and her Twitter account on her smart phone, then set it down to take a drink of her mocha with a double-shot of espresso. As she did, she heard the scrape of a chair behind her as someone sat at the table there, then a quiet voice saying, “Ms. Dawson—you should go to the library and look for some books by Donald Miller. An associate of Query’s would like to make your acquaintance in that section.”

Then the man moved his chair closer to his table, and she heard him sip at some beverage loudly.

Her heart seemed to stop in her chest for a moment, and she wondered if it was a trap set by Janus or Underworld to test her or trip her up, then realized the ridiculousness of that. They’d have to know she called him first, and that seemed unlikely. She hadn’t used her own phone or her normal e-mail account to do that. Then once she dispensed with that fear she felt a fresh wave of anxiety as she wondered how deep she was getting if she actually had gotten Query’s attention.

Part of me wonders if the wiser move would simply have been to play along with Underworld and take her offer at face value, Zoe considered. Except I don’t like being forced into a corner and I’m not sure I can just turn off my conscience that easily.

She stood up, gathered her things, and headed back to the campus to visit the library, hoping that her mysterious contact hadn’t meant the city library. She thought about asking him, and then wondered how many eyes Underworld or Janus might have on her, and kept walking instead.

* * *

The man behind the desk sighed, removed his feet from the top of it, and then leaned forward, hands steepled together in front of him. “Bob, I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with the direction of this project. I’m particularly uncomfortable now that I’m only just finding out about its existence 17 months into my presidency.”

“I only found out about it a couple days ago myself, sir,” responded the Secretary of Defense. “This has been an active but largely black-budget project for many years, and apparently they’re under a standing executive order to only bring themselves to my attention or yours at certain milestone points. Like this one, for which they need approval to proceed.”

“This just isn’t right,” President Obama said. “It smells bad, Bob.”

“But it isn’t some ultra-secret autonomous project or some rogue thing, sir, as evidenced by the safeguards and approval processes we’re seeing now.”

“I promised a more transparent government, not a more opaque one.”

“This isn’t the kind of thing we can tell people about, but I think it’s a project we need, no matter how distasteful it might seem. Look, we know that China is pushing transhuman development plans, both training the ones they have—most of them in the military—and working on ways to activate dormant transhuman genes in otherwise normal citizens.”

“China isn’t an enemy, I should point out,” the President said.

“Nor a friend, really, when we get down to it,” added Secretary of State Clinton, who had been silent until that point. “They already flex the muscle they have owning so much of our debt and being such an economic force potentially. Their people are already genetically predisposed more to transhuman powers than our largely white population here in the U.S., and they have a fifth of the world’s people in their borders.”

“Hillary’s right, sir. They will push the envelope, and if they decide to be aggressive, we will be at a serious disadvantage,” Secretary Gates added.

“General Alexander knew about this?”

“Yes sir,” Secretary Gates admitted. “He was NSA director under President Bush, too, and oversees it. He, like the facility in question, was under a standing order…”

“…he authorized them to take the next step and gave them a deadline to produce induced transhumans,” the President pointed out, an edge to his voice. “That is totally unacceptable.”

“Unfortunately, sir, it was part of his job, and written into his national security duties, as well as his military obligations, to only notify you when he needed authorization. He gave them a deadline, but only you can push the button on this,” Secretary Gates noted. “Given that China is mostly on our minds here, but also Iran and other nations who are more predisposed to their people becoming transhumans, you, me and Secretary Clinton need to know about this. But we either need to be on board with it, or stop and bury the project and make sure no one ever finds out about it. Those are really our only two options.”

For several minutes, the president of the United States said nothing. “Shit I need a cigarette,” he muttered. “OK. Hillary, Bob, we need to keep a tight lid on this. Obviously. I don’t like it one bit, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much I can do about what’s already been done, so let’s finish the project’s currently active phase. But I swear to God, if General Alexander or anyone else authorizes any new warm bodies to be added in in this exercise, I will make sure some heads start rolling, no matter what ‘standing executive orders’ are in place. And speaking of that, I want the general in here tomorrow to give me a full accounting of these standing orders he has as director of the National Security Agency and what orders the Genesis One facility has, or I’ll have him manning an Arctic research station by week’s end. Are we clear?”

“Crystal-clear, sir,” Robert Gates noted, and Hillary Clinton herself just nodded.

“I need a lot more convincing that this is important enough to keep going,” the President added. “As of right now, I’m feeling like this batch of poor guinea pigs in this program needs to be the last.”

* * *

In a quiet warehouse far from the New Judah city limits, a man in a suit walked nervously to the center of the structure, and stopped. After a while, he said, “I hope you’re here. You’re not an easy woman to find, my employer was very clear that I needed to reach you, and I am supposed to report back soon.”

“Is that your way of suggesting that I can’t kill you or people will know right away you’re missing?” came the gleeful reply from above. Moments later, Tooth Fairy dropped from above, and grunted as she hit the ground a little harder than she planned on.

“Just trying to emphasize that I don’t want to rush you, but I have to,” the man said.

“Oh, really? So I have to make a decision now. Is that it?” she asked, opening her mouth and letting her normal teeth turn into long needle-like curving fangs.

The man put his hands before his chest, waving them back and forth quickly. “Not at all, ma’am. I just need to be able to report that you got my message and that I gave you the means to contact my employer.”

“Are you a cop?” she asked suddenly.

“No.”

“For your sake, I hope not. Because if a bunch of boys in blue rush in here, you’ll be dead before they take me and certain unmentionable parts of your anatomy will be in my mouth—and not in a loving or affectionate manner.”

“That won’t be necessary…”

“Damn!” she said, smiling and with a playful look in her eyes, which contrasted hideously with her toothy visage. She let the teeth revert to normal. “That’s a pity. Well, you’ve given me your message. I’m really not the joining type, though. Maybe killing you would be a good message to send to that effect.”

“It’s just an offer, ma’am. An expression of respect for your abilities and a chance for you to say yes or no as you please.”

“Call me ma’am one more time, and I’m going to have a snicky-snack,” Tooth Fairy said. “Go on, now, and run back to Janus. Leave your card or whatever on the ground and fly away home little ladybug.”

“Yes, ma…” the man said, then bit down on his tongue, set a business card on the ground, and hurried away as fast as he could without completely abandoning his dignity or decorum.

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Comments
  1. Alexander says:

    I dig the realism being drawn into the story with the incorporation of this new cast.

  2. Deacon Blue says:

    Thanks. I considered fictionalizing everything early on but then realized there might be a lot of value in placing events just enough in the past to know how things happened in our reality, but close enough chronologically to feel “current.”

    Still, I’m sure my attempt to mix real people and fictional ones, along with real and fictional events, will cause me narrative or continuity problems at some point. 😉

    But what the hell, why not live dangerously, right?

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