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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”
—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
“Where are we?” Mae asked T who was sitting beside her as she looked out the porthole window.
“Minot Air Force Base,” T answered.
“Why are we here?”
“To refuel and resupply would be my guess.”
“Yeah, but why North Dakota? It’s awful,” Mae answered, longing for her cosmopolitan Beltway and $500 martinis.
“Not sure. Maybe they stop here so no one is inclined to get off.”
“How long before we take off?”
“Don’t know,” T whispered, “but we need to talk.”
“What about? Where?”
Mae followed T’s stare as he looked back over his shoulder, then forward, searching for anyone who might be within earshot. The coast was clear. “Here is as good a place as any. Let’s just keep our voices as low as we can.”
“What’s going on?”
“Something. I don’t know for sure, but there’s a vibe.”
“That’s right. New faces are coming in, meeting with the POTUS. Schedules are getting rearranged.”
“It’s something. It’s big. I have inside knowledge that they’re dumping the Veep.”
“Yeah. Word is Clancy will resign Friday.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know for sure. I can’t imagine why the president would drop him mid-term. He was a champion for my Amero Plan. If he goes, we lose a great deal of political capital.”
“Won’t the president appoint someone with similar views?”
“This is politics. I don’t think it’s entirely under his control. We’ll have to see who they bring in. That will tell everything. If I could only get the jump on who the new veep was, I could protect us; I could position the Treasury Department better. We have to be wary. They always throw a bunch of people under the bus when they make a change of this magnitude. I don’t want us under that bus, Mae.”
“What can I do?”
“I need to know who has the inside track. If not that, then I at least need to know who is applying the pressure to change VPs; who has the clout to make him resign? Who’s driving this?”
“In other words, find out if we’re the enemy of Clancy’s enemies?”
“I know the banks are against the Amero Plan, most of them, anyway. They’ll fight nationalization tooth and nail. If one of theirs gets the appointment, then we’ll have to adjust our game plan significantly.”
“Who do you think the front runners are?”
“Let’s hope it’s Senator Thurman from Ohio. He’s sponsoring the Amero legislation. Plus he went to Yale with the president, keeping it in the club if you know what I mean.”
“Any others come to mind?”
T hesitated in answering until two aides passed by on the aisle. “I don’t know. Abrams, maybe? He’s a Goldman guy, though. It would be pretty radical to put an actual banker retread into any high office. But if it’s him, I might be placed on a plane to Bermuda.”
“But your plan has the president’s and the senate’s support…”
“Yeah, they’re on board, mostly thanks to Thurman. He has all the opposition either bribed or cannibalizing itself. But he’s doing this at great risk to himself. The big banks account for half his campaign contributions. That’s gonna dry up for him in the next election cycle. He’ll probably have to retire.”
“What about the supremes? If you get it through, will it be challenged?”
“The POTUS owns the court so long as he stays inside the lines. They never rule in any way that undermines the legitimacy and authority of the federal government. Never.”
“Who else might oppose the plan, then?”
“Corporate influencers—multinationals sucking on the federal teat, defense contractors. As you know, their budgets are going to be slashed under my plan. Then there’s Likud, the EU, the Saudis. I don’t need to remind you how upset they already are at our international military disengagements. We’re only going to cut back more.”
“Supporting a candidate is one thing but could Israelis and Saudis actually depose a sitting VP? That doesn’t sound plausible.”
“Why not? They get them elected all the time.”
“What about the Department of Defense?” Mae asked, feigning ignorance. She regretted asking it, but it was so obvious a topic that to not ask about the DoD’s involvement would be revealing; it’s not what is said so much as what is not said.
“I didn’t want to go there,” T answered.
“Pushing and pulling campaign contributions is how the game is played, but a putsch to replace a sitting VP by an executive department like the DoD is a whole different thing. You’re talking about a military coup. I’m not sure I can even model how Treasury would deal with that.” T looked around again for eavesdroppers.
Mae felt a mist of cognitive dissonance cloud her reason. Her loyalty was to T, but T existed by the grace of the president. It was reasonable to expect DoD to try to protect their gravy train and mission, but changing the veep would not be enough. Other than breaking a senate tie, the veep didn’t have much power. She knew where T’s thought process was headed. She knew he wanted her to find out what Forteson knew. Forteson worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was a made man. He knew everything.
Mae sensed that T knew more, but that he was probing her for confirmation of it. They looked at each other, Mae sensing that he was trying to read her micro-expressions. He had masterfully guided her to what she was about to offer to do and she was helpless to resist it.
“So?” she asked, in an attempt to convince T she knew nothing more and was submitting to further instruction.
“What does he know?” T asked.
“Who? What do you mean?”
“C’mon, Mae. Forteson.”
“Don’t make me do that, T.”
“What is he to you, Mae? What has he done for you? What can he do for you? I discovered you. I made you. You cannot hide things from me. You owe me your complete loyalty. There’s no one else who will be your champion.”
Mae had no response. She thought about Forteson, his charm, his power over her. Mae did not believe in love, but she believed in desire, and she felt it for Forteson unlike any other man she had ever known.
“Come on, Mae. You’re not a schoolgirl. This is the big time. You’ve gained access that is very valuable. Help me so that I can help us. He must have revealed something during your pillow talk. Or maybe his cell phone went off when he was on top of you…”
“What’s wrong with you, T?”
“What’s wrong with me? Think rationally, Mae. Don’t let an infatuation cloud your reason.”
“There’s no infatuation.”
“I’m fucking him, that’s all.”
“You’re helplessly in love.”
“No, I’m not. I can end it anytime.”
“That would be a waste. I’m not asking you to do that.”
“I can’t spy on him, T. I’m leaving,” she said as she started to get up. T grabbed her arm and slammed her back down into her seat.
“What the hell?”
“You listen to me, Mae. This is no time for teenage romance. People’s lives are at stake here. I mean that. If this VP move is coming from the DoD then we have a great deal of maneuvering to do if we are going to survive. They’re not going to stop with veep. This is only their first step.”
Mae shrugged off his arm but remained seated. “What do you care? If you get fired you’ll just get on with Goldman or Chase.”
“Oh, you think that’s how this will be, just business as usual? If this is a DoD move then everything is different. I mean that. I’m not going to have any banker friends after this. I’m all in, Mae. We’re all all in. If the DoD is behind this, do you think the brass hats are going to just slip their guy in and call it good? No. If it’s a coup then this is just the start. They’ll turn the whole Beltway inside out. They’ve got their own guys, Mae, an army of West Point grads. They’ll cut us all loose and bring them in, maybe they’ll even put a few of us on trial to scare us away from ever attempting a comeback. We can’t let that be us, Mae. We’re almost there. My plan is going to save the government from ruin, but if the president goes then we won’t get to finish the job. Worse, we’ll be made into pariahs. We’ll be blamed for everything and they’ll get all the credit. We can’t let that happen, Mae. Help me.”
“What am I supposed to do, T?” Mae acquiesced. She felt helpless and weak for falling into his snare, but she knew he was right.
“The next time you and Forteson are together, you find out what’s going on. You get confirmation that the VP move is coming from DoD. Then you find out what is going to happen next. That will give me a chance to either insulate the president or undermine the joint chiefs.”
“I feel like you’re my pimp.”
“Don’t you ever forget it.”