Or very early. Depending upon your point of view.
The labs and facilities are much quieter now. “Official” partial funding ceased weeks before the inauguration so that Shamballa could be completely spun off from the Executive Branch. Anything that belonged to the Agency was returned to the Agency. Same with the DOD. The books are all clear and Shamballa is no longer subject to orders from the Executive Branch. If I were a religious man I would be thanking god for that, as it is, I merely thank the foresight of the former EOP lawyers and the will of ODIN.
The video links to Camp David and the White House Situation Room have been severed. Unbelievably, now the White House is referred to as simply "The House" by its new social secretary. Sure it's insane, but perish forbid over two centuries of tradition should stand in the way of excising the word "white" from something like the White House. Contrary to expectations - racism is more active than ever in DC and is practiced by our new President and his underlings. This, of course, limits the talent pool and by default, the competence of the nation‘s Executive Branch. Perhaps putting a black coat of paint over the White House can help them better cope with their deep-seated inferiority complexes, but I doubt even that would help.
The comlink to Bush's Crawford Ranch is still intact, not that it makes much difference since ODIN will not be calling the shots any more.
I sit at my desk and click through the security cameras feeds. The flight hangars are only half filled. The construction hangars sit empty. The garages and weapon storage is still stocked to capacity, but only due to our direct purchase of the contents from the government. The sub-levels are home to only two active research projects, a tiny fraction of the capacity of which they are capable. Many familiar faces have been transferred, still others chose to retire. Many projects have been discontinued or moved to lesser facilities. I find I have much more time on my hands - and for some reason I don't like it.
Tech7 appears in my doorway. She pauses and leans against the frame. My heart skips a beat.
"So why is it you seem so down?"
"You? Scared? Impossible."
She walks over. She places her hands on either side of my face and holds my jaw. I gaze down into her light brown eyes and like deep pools they draw me in.
"I am scared. Scared for the country. The world. They don't know what they're doing and the one's that do know what they are doing are trying to ruin the world. I just - "
She places her finger over my lips and I take her hand in mine, kiss it and place it on her heart.
"We’ve done our service - eight years, and spilled blood and tears for this nation. We‘ve earned this respite a thousand times over."
I take her in my arms and I hold her. If gods could shape people, she would be the gods pride and joy. She feels good. Not just good - holding her is like capturing a moment of exuberant joy and giving it flesh and form. Like having the arm or leg you lost reappear in perfect working order, like being blind and suddenly having sight. Like a glass of water for a man whose walked sixty miles across a scorching desert.
I pull her tighter, I look into her eyes - her heavenly eyes which are only shaped like human eyes, but are so much more - infinite wells that one can find no bottom when one enters- and I kiss her.
She pulls away and speaks.
“Do you remember when I first was assigned to Shamballa? And how you would steal glances at me like some embarrassed school boy? How for years we could work side by side and pretend we didn’t want to hold each other forever and never let go?”
“Yes, I remember. Even though I didn’t hold you, didn’t kiss you, I still loved you. We both knew that. That look you always gave me…yes that one! That look was like air for me. It sustained me. Wherever we were - Iraq, Latvia, Colombia, Iran, 70,000 feet in the air or deep inside some mountain, being shot at by terrorists or face to face with the unknown, whenever you would give me that look I was whole - fearless and content.”
“Yes, well now saving the world can come second to us. No more rushing to DC for meetings with Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld. Now saving the world can be done on our own terms - not theirs. This is a new beginning, you should be ecstatic. Don‘t be afraid to embrace our future, it will be spectacular - no other outcome is even possible, you know that as well as I.”
She now kisses me. It’s more than a kiss. Far more. Merriam-Webster doesn’t have a word to describe what it is and so I am simply left speechless.
(Dedicated to all the amazing employees who worked at Shamballa from 2000-2008)