Chapter 11

Eric Ronald did not want to face the media. He did not even want to leave his office. What he wanted to do was hole up in his office or the situation room, trying to figure out what to do about the surprising political movements all over the world. But he couldnÂ’t do that. Eric knew this. He had to face the world.

Taking a deep breath, he stepped out into the White House briefing room. Immediately, the dozens of reporters began to bombard him with questions. Ignoring them, he walked over to the podium and took his spot. Eric looked back over at his advisers. Out of them all, he caught BobbyÂ’s eye. The old man nodded. Eric nodded back, and then held up his hands. The press quieted down.

“One question at a time,” he said. Immediately, they started to shout again, but he raised his hands again, and they quieted. “Raise your hands.” Just about every hand went up. Eric pointed to a young reporter in the front row. “You.”

The reporter stood. “What’s your view on the unification of the orient under Emperor Sean White?”

Eric nodded. “A good question. I’ll try to answer it to the best of my ability. Sean White, as many of you already know, is the former director of the FBI. Until he proves otherwise, he could be classified as a traitor, and arrested. The only reason we have not is because he has neither threatened us directly or tried to release classified information. However, we at the White House refuse to recognize the Imperial Order as a legitimate government until Agent White proves otherwise. That is my view. Next question.” Hands went up again. Eric pointed to a reporter at random, and woman this time.

She stood. “What does the United States propose to do about the terrorist attacks on Australian ports?”

“The United States is preparing to send a detachment of troops to help restore order,” Eric said. “We are still waiting on clearance from the Australian government. Next question.”

He pointed to another reporter, who stood. “What’s your view on the surprise political movement in Russia?”

“Can you be more specific?” Eric asked, though he knew exactly what the reporter was talking about.

The reported nodded. “What’s your view on the sudden change in presidents? Specifically, what’s your view on the new Russian president, Warren King?”

“Yes, President Ronald,” said a voice from the back of the room. “What is your view on the new Russian president?”

Several things happened in that instant. Guards brought their weapons to bear on the figure standing in the back of the room. All the color drained from EricÂ’s face, and he gripped the sides of the lectern for support. Bobby and three other members of EricÂ’s staff passed out right there.

Ignoring the guns pointed at him and the reporters scooting away from him, Warren King himself strode down the aisle until he was standing right in front of Eric. “So?” he asked. “What do you think?

* * *

After Gollum had finished his business in the bathroom, Fred sent him to sneak around security. Then Fred and Sam headed up to the ticket counter. After waiting in line for about five minutes, the two finally made it up to the counter. The receptionist, a fiftyish lady, regarded them with disinterest. “Can I help you?”

Fred nodded. “We need tickets to The Black Gate. Russia.”

She raised her hand and stared at her fingernails. “Can’t help you.”

“I think you can,” Fred said.

“I think I can’t.” The receptionist continued to ignore him.

Fred pulled out his credit card and slapped it down on the desk. The woman glanced down at it. Fred glared at her. “I think you can,” he repeated.

“Sorry, kid. Can’t help you.” The receptionist turned away. “Next in line!”

Fred reached his hand into his pocket. Sam realized what he was about to do and cried out “Fred! No!” Before Sam could stop him, Fred had pulled out the ring and slammed it onto the receptionist’s computer. Instantly, the room went black.

Travelers and airline employees alike screamed. Sam could hear people crashing into things on the way out. Utter panic engulfed the room. Through the darkness, Sam could hear someone shouting for someone else to turn the backup generators on. Eventually, the room was covered in a dim light.

Through the light, Sam could see Fred leaning over the desk. His face was cold and hard like stone, and he had the receptionist’s shirt collar in his hand. “I think…” he hissed, sounding frighteningly like Gollum, “that you can help us.”

The receptionist, all color drained from her face, nodded. “I think… I might be able to.”

* * *

The sun shone pleasantly on the fields of corn and grain. The sounds of waves lapping on the nearby coastline filled the air. Nearby, Terrance Beard worked the fields, whistling as he working. For the first time in months, Martin felt at peace.

He sat in a chair just outside Terrance’s hut, sipping an island drink. Next to him, Phil was also relaxing and enjoying the sun. Terrance had opened his home to them once he learned of their connection to Greg. Seems that some years ago, Terrance and Greg had helped each other out of a tight jam. Now, Terrance was indebted to Greg, which served Martin well. It meant he could have another drink.

Martin looked over at Phil and couldn’t resist smiling. Phil was lying out on a lounge chair, shirtless and shoe less, looking more like someone who spent his whole life on a beach rather than someone who had just spent the last few months running from creepy bikers, being chased through a top-secret military base, fighting soldiers at an airfield, and being held prisoner on a battleship. And, after several days, Phil already had a killer tan. Martin couldn’t help laughing.

Phil looked over at him. “What?” Martin told him. Phil held out an arm and examined himself. “You’re right… I do have a killer tan.”

Martin laughed. “That’s all you can think of?”

“Right now?” Phil asked. “Yeah.” Then he laughed too. Soon, the two were laughing so hard they couldn’t stop. At that moment, Terrance walked over to get a drink from his hut. Pausing to look at the two, he scratched his head.

“Now,” he asked himself, “what could those two find so funny?” Then he shrugged and went inside the house.

* * *

The limo rolled through the streets of Sydney. Aaron studied Greg’s face as the old man stared out the window at the passing cityscape. Greg seemed worried. His brow was furrowed in concern. Aaron tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned his head.

“Yes?” Greg asked.

Aaron swallowed. “I was wondering… well… you seem concerned.”

“It’s Sean,” Greg explained. “I can’t go into too much detail here, as that would be a security risk, but I can say I’m worried about the kind of influence that Sean has over Prime Minister Winn.”

“You think he’s plotting something big?”

Greg nodded. “Something larger than we could guess. At first, I was worried that he – he being Sean – was controlling the Prime Minister through Greta Worm, but now I fear… I fear that it may be much worse.” Then he turned his head back towards the window, making it clear that the conversation was over.

Aaron couldn’t help being worried. If Greg, of all people, was concerned about this, it had to be really bad.

To Be Continued…

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