Chapter 35: Coup d’état
At breakfast the next morning, Colonel Lawson received two more pieces of good news which lifted his spirit immensely. The first had been Eirik, who seemed to be doing rather well, considering their poor housing conditions and his broken forearm. Doctor Novikov assured him that as long as Jack had set the bones correctly, he would make a full recovery.
The second news came by what people in the Facility had affectionately called the “carrier frogs”. The Facility’s outer shell was not allowing any wireless transmission to go through except by subspace using the communication devices they had found which were, in themselves, useless for outside, simply because they couldn’t be taken out. The other problems were that they couldn’t drill holes in the walls to pass ordinary wires for electricity and communication cables. They were forced to revert to a pre-telegram era communication method, the carrier pigeon and horseback messengers, which in their case meant scuba divers. Since the beginning of the project, they had been using divers to carry notes, hard drives and information a few times a day. But tonight, the US Presidential candidates were neck and neck and despite a general blackout of news at night, Lawson had ordered an enthusiastic new employee, a non-commissioned private in the United States Army, to remain in the barracks and watch the election on a satellite TV, and to report the minute the election winner was called.
With the time difference, the private knew that it meant spending the night up watching CNN and Fox News, but he didn’t mind. His boss had taken the time to explain that the current Vice President, Theodore Grant, who had replaced Al Gore in the 1996 election as Bill Clinton’s running mate after the former had resigned to pursue his world climate presentations, was his long time friend and that they counted on the election to help with renewed funding for special environmental projects and help shape the future of the Facility in the right direction. The “kid” felt privileged that a full-bird colonel had taken the time to talk to him and explain the situation rather than just ordering him to do it. In the end it was essentially the same, but at least he felt good about it. He wouldn’t fail, no Sir, as he watched Fox news and zapped to CNN from time to time to see the map of the United States getting filled with blue and red states. He put on his dry suit halfway and placed the sleeves in his shoulder straps. He was now waiting with an unexpected excitement for the last states at the bottom right to turn, hopefully, to blue and then run to report the news. Less than a minute later, it did, as he switched back to Fox news, which now displayed a picture of Theodore Grant. On top of it, he could read “Grant Takes Florida.” Grant had won the 2000 elections. And by the time it took for the television to flash off and the light in the barracks to close, the private had already zipped his suit tight, shouldered his tank, and was running clumsily with his fins in his hands toward the water to tell the news to his boss that his friend was now the President of the United States of America.
Lawson received the news and knew better than to go to the surface and try to call his friend. He knew that tonight, everyone would want a piece of him and figured it could wait. So, he had thanked the private and returned to sleep.
The night had been shorter than most and, with the adrenaline still pumped up, he wasn’t able to sleep much but felt rested, nonetheless. He woke up a bit past 6:00 and made his way to the cafeteria with a smile.
As he turned the corner of the corridor leading to it, he noticed an increased volume of ambient chatter resonating in the hallways. Upon reaching the cafeteria itself, he saw that the people were buzzing like insects about the outcome of the recent elections—a phenomenon which he considered surprising, considering that half the people in the Facility were not Americans and shouldn’t generally care much about yesterday’s results—considering Grant’s campaign and his opponent’s lack of, well, lack of everything, except perhaps generous financial contributions from his family’s fortune and some disreputable industries.
As he approached, he could hear glimpses of conversations. “It’s a coup d'état, for the love of Christ.” “I can’t believe it. You guys now have a retard as the head of the most powerful army in the world.” “His brother, the former President, organized it for him.” At that last statement, Lawson understood everything. His friend, the briefly proclaimed 43rd President, had no brother. But his mind was still on Grant winning the election. That’s what the private had said. That’s what he had fallen asleep thinking of, and for the span of a night, the world continued to be green and beautiful. But was it only a dream? How can someone go to sleep in heaven and wake up in hell?
As he entered, old Fastny was there in front of the door, ready to exit the cafeteria. Seeing the Colonel, she offered her wrinkled hand and he took it. Her look was sincere and the dismay in her eyes was clear as day. It was real. His friend had somehow lost, but how? “I’m sorry Colonel; all I can say is my condolences. I always knew the elections were not completely fair in America like anywhere else, I suppose. But this, I wouldn’t have believed it possible.
“You seemed to know a lot more than me. What happened?” asked Lawson, motioning her to a room next to the cafeteria where the dry food was kept. They both entered and, as he closed the door, the noise died off completely. They sat at the table and she explained all that she had read from the Associated Press. Of course, AP didn’t call it a coup d'état, but a lot of people they interviewed did, saying that the Bakers had literally bought the Presidency. She also told him that there was a chance. Grant was already requesting a recount and people said that the fact that the media called it early was a big blunder and had likely helped Willy Baker to win.
The Colonel didn’t cry. But he had not taken it well or even gracefully, either, invoking a chorus of saints he knew and then some more for good measure. The rage he felt inside was almost unbearable. He knew the Baker’s agenda. He served under the elder brother eight years before. But now, that would be a lot worse. Jacob Baker was smart and not really religious. His gods were power and money. He only pretended to get the religious right in his pocket like loose change so he could discard them after the election. But William “Willy” Baker, that was a religious fanatic. A retard who had never travelled outside the United States even though his family owned a private jet and failed in everything he had ever tried. He was a drug addict and a barely literate man. Lawson knew that having the Bakers at the head of the nation again meant wars, death, and the end of the green movement and, ultimately, a fatal blow to the environment.
He also knew for a fact that Jacob Baker, being the ex-President, was still receiving secret CIA reports, so he knew about the Facility. That meant a world of troubles in the weeks to come, he assumed. Willy Baker would likely see the Facility as God’s home on Earth or some nonsense like that. Lawson felt that it would be futile to explain that they had not even found any sign of cultural heritage, let alone religious ones. The Bakers would likely influence the Council to appoint a more sympathetic leader, someone more in tune with their views.
Finally, he looked at Fastny who had patiently waited for him to regain his focus and forced a smile. He stood up and found his legs shaking. He had seen combat throughout his life and had never felt that vulnerable.
“Thank you for the update,” said Lawson, taking the news prints from her hands. “I’ll wait after lunch to go top site. I need to reach people in Washington.”
“I’m sure you will. It’s not likely that people are sleeping up there tonight,” replied Fastny, exiting the room and placing her hand on his shoulder as a sign of encouragement.