The lightning crashes like the hand of doom, multi-armed streaks which are stronger than anything I've seen in this life. Everything they touched exploded, unable to channel the power fast enough into the ground. Car alarms are going off from the parking lot as each stroke sets up a wave of sound powerful enough to shake buildings to their foundations. The rain is pouring down and the desert is flooding, the hard ground unable to absorb the water quickly. Even the specially designed airfield is under 3 inches of water, grounding all flights and the storm shuts down all outside activities.
Our desert facility, removed from the heat island effect of the city, receives the full blows of the monsoon. I sit in my office and rearrange the shelves to accommodate the latest acquisitions of rare volumes. The first edition of Arizona Nights now is accompanied by other first editions by White, including Gold, Ranchero, The Leopard Woman and The Westerners. My laptop sits open on my desk, the latest statistical reports on the state of the world are open in a large .pdf file which had been received only two hours ago. Here, from the sanctity of Shamballa, all the statistics seem unreal and/or distant. Reading the files while listening to the thunder seemed most fitting. The danger within both emphasized quite dramatically and memorably.
The Fortezza door guard pulses silently with a light blue glow. A small lcd screen announces Tech7's ID and within moments the latch unlocks and the thick door opens effortlessly and smoothly, similar to the measured movements of a bank vault door.
"You are." Tech7 replies, her brown hair luxuriously frames her soft skin and intelligent eyes.
"It's quite a storm, isn't it?"
"Yes, I thought you might like some company."
She knows me well enough to know I would be thinking about her during the storm. This time last year I was at her home during a fierce storm and we spent a memorable night gazing into a fire that was battling errant rain drops descending her chimney while lying on a large white flokati rug.
"Which company? General Electric? Microsoft? A pharmaceutical or two?"
She smiles. Even for a lame joke she smiles and it lights up the room. Her own personal brand of electric lightning flashes from her eyes which seem to grow bigger and deeper in an instant.
"Those companies can't offer you much you don't already have. Let's see...electricity, software and perhaps some aspirin. The company I represent offers you much, much more."
"Hmm. Naturally, I will have to review the portfolio."
"Of course. Companies are always changing. It is never wise to jump into something blindly."
I close my laptop, glance at the electronic message board to see if there is any messages for me and there are none. It is a slow night and only the research lab on sublevel 4 is still staffed and working on a new method of radiation reduction for the use in small reactors designed for future transportation. A large number of security sensors have been triggered by the lightning and rain which is annoying the security staff who are busily chatting in the facility message board and reporting false alarms.
I motion Tech7 to my small couch/daybed and she curls her legs under her.
"Did you read the report already?" she asks.
She knows I would. Just as I know she would read it all as soon as it was transmitted. The file represents the real state of the world and is sent out semi-annually to intelligence facilities from a black-op clearinghouse outside Langely.
"Yes. Paints quite a pretty picture doesn't it?"
"A nuclear third world, an overrun, economically emasculated USA, religious zealotry in every nation sans China - how can you be blind to such sublime beauty?"
She laughs and I sit down next to her. Her touch is gentle as she grabs my hand.
"Some things will never change." she says as she gazes deep into my eyes.
"I know. It's just..."
"You feel you still need to save the world from itself."
"Yes....and no. I'm learning to see the concealed beauty in destruction and rebirth...I just..."
"Want to control and guide it."
"Yes. Old trees don't bend easily. So much useless suffering and destruction."
"There is no such thing - you know that of all people! Everything has a cause and effect and each outcome has positives and negatives. Heck, you spent months helping me understanding this and you were right."
"You know the cobblers kids go barefoot."
She kisses me. It is more than a kiss. It is like resuscitation. She gives to me of herself so that I can take strength from her - and I do.
My cell phone is ringing. Why is it always these type of times! I break from her lips reluctantly and jump towards my desk where my cell phone sits next to a 35 year old Panasonic electric pencil sharpener that sharpens better than any sharpener made today.
"I thought you were never going to pick up."
The President's voice sounds relaxed. More relaxed than I've heard it in weeks.
"I was busy - but I'm here now - what's up?"
"Sarah Palin…do you like her?"
"Sure. What's not to like. She wasn't a fan of the USSR like Biden and I don't think she was doing white lines with Obama back in the eighties."
"They want to meet you."
"I wants you two to talk. I set it up."
"Is this about funding?"
"No. that's secure. This is about briefing and disclosure."
"No, just Palin. I want you to brief her. She needs to know just where the land lies."
"Does Cheney know about this?"
"Who do you think is en route to Shamballa on Air Force Two at this very moment?"
"We're having a heck of a storm here right now."
"You think that is going to dissuade Dick?"
"Tell her everything."
"Yes. She's the one."
"Ok. When's Dick scheduled to arrive?"
"Let's see....about twenty-two minutes from now."
"Well then I better get ready."
"I'll let you go. Have fun." The line clicks. Tech7 looks up at me and knows another mission is about to begin.
"We need to activate the emergency runway and prepare for Air Force Two"
"Air Force Two?"
"Yeah. I'm going to meet Palin and brief her."
"Brief her? About what?" Tech7 has risen to her feet in a mix of protest and confusion.
"She not VP yet. That would break about three dozen national security laws"
"She will be. And no, that's why Bush called. It's an Executive Order."
Tech7 walks up to me and gives me a kiss on the cheek. She turns and I know I can count on her to prepare for Air Force Two. "Good luck." she says.
Cheney sits across from me. His suit is Brooks Brothers and is blue. He doesn't wear a tie, but has on a light grey shirt. Air Force Two has taken off and we are en route to Minnesota.
"So Dick, how does it feel?"
"We accomplished a lot, didn't we?"
"Yeah. More than most folks will ever know."
"What's the plan for the economy?"
"I've got personal guarantees that they'll hold gas prices until the elections. They'll work with us to get decent legislation."
"What about nuclear?"
"You still want us to open up 10 super reactors?"
"Yes. Radiation reduction technology is almost ready. Less than two years from today we'll be ready to design clean reactors."
"We'll pave the way for them before we leave."
"While I'm asking, any other favors you'd like before we leave?"
"Hmmm. I'll think about it."
"Think fast. We're putting to bed a whole bunch of Executive Orders right now."
"I'll have my X-mas list sent to your office in two days...is that fast enough?"
"Yeah that'll do."
Cheney looks at me. He's half smiling and half in thought.
"You still like me?"
"Sure I do. Do you want me to give you some more good press on my blog?"
"You know you're the only one in the 'media' who ever did?"
"Yeah, my press secretary did a Nielsen search and you're apparently the only one who likes me enough to write up a favorable article about my Vice-Presidency."
"So you wanted to make sure you didn't lose your one fan after these 4 years?"
"Something like that."
"No need to worry. You've done better than any VP in at least the last 75 years. You know it and I know it. If no one else knows it or appreciates it, that makes no difference...does it?"
I watch him look out the window, over the white clouds lit beneath by city lights miles below and he is still smiling. "No, it doesn't does it."
We walk out and I see a motorcade awaits us at the edge of the runway.
"The olympics are long over but this moment - right now - feels like the moment we are passing the real torch doesn't it?" Cheney says as we await the stairway to be fastened.
"Yes. This is it. Let's not blow it."
"Never." Cheney whispers under his breath, "Never."