* * *
“I, James Colin Hudson, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
John waved to the gathered faithful and smiled to boisterous cheers. He had done it; he had successfully stolen the presidency of the United States. He made appropriate dismissals of staff members and appointed enough to keep up the appearance of cleaning house and set into the motions of being president.
* * *
Several months after the inauguration, Teresa attended a private dinner with former president John Michaels. She was writing a story about what retired presidents did with their time. It was a puff piece, and she knew it, but John made sure she was at the top of the list of press invitees, and he was happy to have her around.
“Tim’s gonna be so upset that he didn’t get invited to shoot some video.”
John chuckled, “You and Tim can be there for my next great adventure, whatever President Hudson wants me to do.”
Something clicked in the back of Teresa’s mind. She viewed the whirlwind campaign with a detached perspective that she was unable to do when she was close to the story. It was the diaspora of a dandelion – each seed fluttering in the wind was a piece of the puzzle. She excused herself and went into the hall to make a phone call.
Her call was answered on the second ring; her brother was nothing if not predictable. “Tim,” she whispered after he got his greeting out of the way.
“What is it?”
“Do you have any video of any of the candidates together or with President Michaels?”
“I can look, but other than election night, nothing comes to mind.”
“Right,” she hissed, her voice getting louder with excitement. “There weren’t any Vice presidential candidate debates, either! Something doesn’t add up!”
She couldn’t have known John was listening at the door. She was comfortable with John and in her excitement made a rookie mistake: Talking about a sensitive story where others could hear her.
She had no way of knowing she would do no research, Tim would review no video, and no one would know of her suspicions. She also didn’t know she and her brother would leave their prominent capitol hill press positions to do documentary work in Africa. This future was decided the moment she indicated she had any idea what was going on. She returned to the room John was in, and she was met by a hypodermic needle.
As consciousness sublimated into darkness, she was aware of John speaking to her. “You and Doctor Mann will get to know each other very well.”
The realization of the situation hit her all at once. Whatever she had been injected with was now coursing through her body. She knew crying out or even challenging John was pointless. She knew these were her last moments.
Sic semper tyrannis. It was an errant thought – a Latin phrase from classes she took years ago. Those classes seemed to be her whole life then. They amounted to nothing now; the phrase was mocking her as she fought to regain control of her failing body. The world was black. Gritting her teeth she used her last grasp on consciousness to say the only thing on her mind: “You will not succeed…”
John smiled. “But my dear, I already have.”
Lowering her limp body into a nearby chair, he began making preparations for her and her brother to be delivered to Dr. Mann. He did not care what use he made of their bodies, as long as his secret was safe. As long as his reign continued indefinitely, he could do anything he wanted and no one could stand in his way.
He sighed. He didn’t think he would ever feel as young as he did with Teresa. He stepped out into the hallway, leaving Teresa slouched in a chair – she was one problem he would never have to deal with again.