Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by HeySeuss
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Since the transition, Mike Gerard's days started at 5am sharp, in order to allow him to start the day with a run. That involved a protection detail from the Secret Service. Gerard was known in the WH as a fitness nut, a guy that pulled himself back from injury during his days in the Army and put himself back together. He wasn't the only man in DC that was up at this hour jogging in the vicinity of DuPont Circle. Exercise was one of the coping mechanisms for White House Staffers.

It was his chance to clear his head and prepare for the morning. There was a phone, and then a tablet and then other means of communication, but he ignored the incoming mail, the flood of info that came in over the course of any given night that was routine info, keeping track of so much political news as well as specific departmental warnings.

That assumed he didn't get a call in the night. He knew the cycle well, he worked for John Kerry as SecState and was prepared for it when he took AJ's job offer.

He had a couple of podcasts that he ran with, not necessarily political, but interesting, to help get his brain moving along with his body in the early hours, when the deep blue flushed pink and threatened a sunrise. He'd long since gotten used to the feeling of the prosthetic leg hitting concrete. He still wore long pants to try and keep the thing from becoming an object of notice, though he once had a guy say, "You should pin up the pant leg and use it for all it's worth." Campaign guy, but Mike was notoriously humorous about it, so he asked, "You mean like put a bumper sticker on it?"

The sun was about to start the ascent, but you could still see the stars. There were a lot of threats the administration would have to deal with. They inherited an America and a world at unrest. But all that seemed to pale in comparison to what was out there.

--

The Chief of Staff of the White House had a tremendous job, and in this White House, it was even more tremendous. They were a presidency already in crisis and got to select the staff for it, similar to how Churchill was able to bring in his people in 1940. AJ Shepard bucked party loyalty and went for the people who could get the job done, retaining some staff from the Biden/Booker presidency and bringing in Republicans.

There was fury on FOX, fury in the Freedom Caucus and fury among the Democratic party, because they hadn't been briefed. The Speaker and other leadership had been briefed and were, for the moment, staying very tight lipped. There were threats made to the effect, by the former federal prosecutor president, that leaks would be pursued relentlessly on this issue and so far the pax held.

But Mike knew, as he was whisked to the White House in a dark limo, already going through his tablet and all the things stacked up on it, that this would not hold long. Everyone knew it, and the first thing on the agenda was a bright and early morning meeting between the principals and several others to decide the best course of action on how to broach it to the American public.

To wit, there was an automated probe nearby in the Solar System, and it reached out to several world governments simultaneously -- the ones that had dishes pointed at space. This meant that the EU states knew, but so did Russia and the People's Republic of China. Putting aside for the moment that none of these states announced first contact, there was a thorny issue of how to do it, who to confer with and how much to say.

The probe was not AI, but it was able to conduct the basics of contact; the first message was a sort of code for first contact, an artificial pattern that was picked up by signals people, who then sent their own signals.

Once they sent back a standard first contact broadcast provided by SETI, the thing analyzed it and then was able to communicate back, in English, with a basic query for more info.

By the time they were feeding it raw text of great works of humanity alongside reality TV, the Probe was able to communicate more extensively and then told them, "Successful contact. Initiating Survey Report Protocol. Standby for further contact." It left a piece of itself there as a network node, to translate, and the bigger bulk of the thing disappeared.

The information that came from it from there on out was minimal.

But it was enough.

A Chief of Staff was an errand boy, an enforcer and a facilitator. The White House staff, all appointed, were drawn from a number of different sources, but there was a pattern. They went with younger people who had the stamina and energy in many of the roles because stamina would be a thing, including the press secretary who was a holdover, but otherwise staffed the Assistant roles with older heads, preferring people with an experience of just how complicated policy could be.

Mike was on the young side, but he felt like they had a team in place that could handle the day to day execution of the agenda. Selection on the basis of resume had a downfall -- it had the press sniffing for the story. They were wondering what was going on. For the most part, they'd gotten it wrong. They were speculating on Earthly matters, wondering if it was some sort of war with Russia or some sort of other nuclear crisis.

The White House, even at the early 6:30am arrival of the Chief of Staff, was already humming and moving right along; it never really stopped, but overnight staff had briefings and data prepared as the daytime staff came on. There was a lot going on, but he insisted on keeping himself neatly trimmed and carefully starched. The appearance of calm was important, looking frazzled was not an option. He'd moved out of the workout gear with a quick shower and into a navy suit and a crisp white shirt and a muted but textured burgundy tie - patterns were frowned upon in government. He was stretching it by keeping his beard, but the beard was there in Afghanistan and it was part of the image these days. Otherwise, he kept his hair down to a neat, but not high and tight, combed style that would pass as militarily acceptable, parted from the right.

It was a source of gentle ribbing from friends, including AJ, that there was a GQ magazine article on how he had to be lying about buying off the rack.

Despite his role, his office was a cramped space with a small desk dominated by two monitors, pictures of his wife and kids and a coffee mug that said, "I survived another meeting that should have been an email." Painted off white, with a low ceiling and packed with desks, he had a space to himself, but it was small. The furniture was surprisingly functional and not all that fancy -- he knew from direct experience that senators had nicer offices. The cabinet secretaries had offices in their respective buildings. The Eisenhower executive building had better offices. But when you worked in the White House, you were at the mercy of old architecture, shoehorned into a symbol.

But with that symbol came the realization that you were in the White House.

The phones were already ringing as the staff arrived, sucking down the coffee they got on the way to work, a mix of Starbucks, fancier stuff for those who cared, and cafeteria coffee from a kiosk set up for staffers. Keyboards were already clattering, in some cases, because this was It. Some of the most intense jobs on the planet, at a time when the planet was about to slip into an existential danger and opportunity.

--

The situation room was a long table with seats. Seats against the walls. Flatscreens against the walls. Mostly set to the news, because there was always monitoring of the political discourse in America. As a concession to modernity, the recent renovation involved a lot of extra plugs being put in so people could charge phones, laptops, watches and whatever else they needed. Mike occasionally wondered if they should have set up hooks for IV's so they could run lines of coffee, and Xanax, down to the people at the table. He carried a binder, a notebook, a laptop and a tablet along with him, and he had staffers carrying more. Others would be arriving in the same condition, loaded down with the data. So much of the job was sifting through to get to the most important bits. That was the exhaustion of this sort of job, the amount of actual, hardcore studying, reading of reports, that happened. Focus was everything here.

Once other filed in, with the principals at the table and the back-benchers, the staff and lesser positions sitting along the wall, it was Mike that started off the meeting, but it wasn't as if this particular meeting's topic was unknown.

Once the room was secured, they had the go ahead to start, "Good morning. The President has decided that we can no longer hold this information from the public much longer, it is not viable. We've done a good job until now of preventing leaks and keeping it quiet while gathering info. However, today's agenda is to lay out the options for rolling out Contact to the press and the world at large," he began somberly in that no-confusion-this-is-Massachusetts accent, standing at first, but settling into his chair as he opened the proceedings. There would be pictures of this for official release, so he stayed in his jacket.

There was tension around the room. How the information came out and the reactions among, for example, religious nuts, conspiracy theorists and cultists, could lead to a lot of chaos and confusion in this country and others. Beyond that, there would be a reaction in the UN, and then the politics of first contact as an international relations exercise, would begin as well. Haves, have nots, economic and strategic interests. The people in the room would lay out the various options for action and submit that to the president. As Chief of Staff, he'd be the one responsible for what landed on the President's desk. Theoretically the gatekeeper, Mike already knew that the best way to control the White House Staff was to have a mechanism for adverse advice to be heard up the line if necessary if someone lobbied hard enough. There were other White Houses where the alternatives were squelched. That wasn't on his watch, especially in a mixed 'Crisis' administration with a wider than usual spectrum of views.

The whole ball of wax. This was the team.

It was a huge decision with profound consequences. And the president wanted advice from the people he brought on to manage this chaos.

"Benton, this may be something we need to do at a press brief where we bring AJ in, if we do it fast," his expression and tone indicated he wasn't thinking in that direction but left it out there to consider and discard, "Otherwise, we need to look at the optics of scheduling an address and what forum to do it in."

And figuring out that part was where the fun started.
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Star Lord
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Benton crossed his arms as he listened to the Chief of Staff announced that the press had to be
informed about first contact. He had to roll his eyes at the idea. Both he and the President will never
understand the impact that the media has in the country unlike Benton. After all, Benton worked for them
for many years before getting into politics. He wanted to say how bad of an idea it was to release this
kind of information to the public. That the press are a bunch of fear mongers who cared more about money
than publishing the whole story. And releasing the news that aliens have contacted Earth will result in
chaos.

The Chief of Staff told Benton to write something for the President at a press briefing. He nodded and
wrote down some notes before responding, "I will have something down for the President to use, Mike.
And I was thinking that the President should address the United Nations so we have a basic understanding
of other nations' thoughts on the aliens. Afterwards, I was thinking of setting up a meeting with NATO
to address a possible meeting with the aliens face-to-face. And I was also considering for the President
to call for an emergency summit with both Russia and China to discuss the possibility of an alien
invasion. In private."

However, Benton wanted to say more about how stupid it was to release the information to the people.
"Plus, we need to be ready for any negative responses for the American citizens. The press is going to
eat this groundbreaking information up and spit it out for the public. And it isn't going to be pretty.
So, I was thinking that both the President and I answer any questions that the press has. It's the best
way to ensure a positive outcome for releasing this information to the media. I hope the speechwriters
come up with something good."

When he was done speaking to the Chief of Staff, he grabbed a notepad and started to write down notes
for the press briefing.
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Byrd Man
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"I think this is too important for a simple press conference," Bill said from his spot halfway down the table. He clicked the black ballpoint pen in his hand a few times before resting it on the legal pad scribbled with unintelligible words written in his own private shorthand.

"If we go public, which I am not 100% in favor of at this juncture, we do it with a live message to the world from the Oval Office. A historic message that marks the start of a new era in humanity. Just the president and the camera, telling everyone that we are not alone."

He motioned towards Gerard with one of his long, thin hands.

"No reporters who can steal the spotlight by asking questions and getting AJ to say something he's not prepared to say, or something he doesn't want to say. Instead of busting the dam wide open, the president lets a little trickle out and tells the world that he plans to address the UN, the summit with Russia and China, etc. All that good stuff. But you do it later. For now, we get in front of this thing by announcing they have made contact with us. Make the EU and all the rest look like they're following in our footsteps and there's no doubt in the mind's of the world that we're walking point on this."
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Mike nodded as he jotted notes into a leather-bound notebook; mnemonic trick. If you wrote it down, it was easier to recall, "Let's assume that we are going to roll it out, and plan for if we need to do it fast, and if we have time to plan it more meticulously. If we do a NATO summit after the announcement, we are leaving the Russians and Chinese out in the cold. Security Council is an option, G10 is another option."

But he was in a roomful of Republicans, and he could practically detect the temperature dropping at the mention of the UN.

He glanced toward one of the staffers, an international law guy, "What's the consensus on international law governing first contact protocol?"

The man, of an age with Mike, answered promptly, "Nothing but some guidelines created by non-governmental organizations. 1960's vintage suggestions to the UN, non-binding."

He glanced back over to the table, "So we're in the clear on handling contact unilaterally," he said as he leaned forward.

"However, an additional option is to negotiate with relevant powers to create a structure for cooperation in space for mutual defense and the interests of Earth. Take the lead, sure, but then create a consensus that gives us legitimacy to continue in that role." Mike, who had been a staffer for a Secretary of State, knew that this was easier said than done, that's why he flicked his pen as if to acknowledge that, sure, this was a huge undertaking and it would take an awful lot of time they might or might not have.

That, of course, was the downside.
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Secretary of Defense 'Abe' Farran was seated about halfway down the table, almost right across from Bill, sipping his coffee from an unmarked lidded styrofoam cup. He'd made no attempt to speak as of yet, but spoke up at the mention of defense negotiations.

"I second that, Mike. There's no way of knowing the intentions of whatever did contact us, and if they're here to take what they want by force, we're gonna need all of our allies on board." He paused, glancing down, mouth half open.

"I'll have to suggest a UN Security Council meeting, with all due respect to those opposed. While a NATO summit will include our closest allies, we'd be excluding the two other largest fighting forces on this Earth. We need to get the Russians and Chinese on board ASAP, or else we risk causing further division which could be detrimental to any cooperation in negotiation and defense." Abe explained, running his hand across his closed laptop before him, charging cord running to one of the many plugs.
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"I have to disagree with you both. If we were to set up a UN Security Council meeting, we would have
to worry about one of the country's ability to veto. Thus, we meet with Russia and China separately
about plans on defending Earth for a possible invasion. Even with all of NATO on our side, we won't have
enough firepower to take on aliens with advanced technologies. However, with Russia and China, we might
have a fighting chance." Benton responded to Mike and 'Abe' as he put down his pen. "The NATO summit
will be designed with peaceful solutions in mind while the summit with Russia and China will be more
focused on defending our planet for possible hostile aliens."

He took a quick drink of water before pointing at Mike with the glass in his hand. "I have to agree with
Mike's approach to the situation. Let the President make the historic announcement and I will deal with
any questions that the press will have. I would also say that we should wait until we get more facts
before releasing it to the public."

Benton placed the glass down on the table and got back to writing on his notepad.
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"If we have to bring in China and Russia, why not bring the EU into the fold?" Bill asked. "Or at least the EU countries that matter."

Bill glanced towards the Secretary of Defense and flashed a wry smile.

"I think my ambivalence towards the UN has been well documented and is well known to everyone here in the room. The UN and the Security Council can wait until it's all a fait accompli, what matters is what we do before even bringing it to them. This summit, because that's what it's going to be, is going to be about more than just defense. We'll need a gameplan for studying whatever the hell is out there. That is going to involve science along research and development. Western and Central Europe are fantastic at stuff like that."

With a shrug, Bill leaned back in his chair.

"Plus, having the EU at the table gives us allies for the meeting. We'll have almost all the NATO countries represented without none of the NATO stigma. The old cold warrior in me doesn't like the idea of being too reliant on China and Russia for anything. Especially with something as monumental as this."
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"The EU is also a large chunk of the research capability of this planet," Mike agreed, "and we will probably need research agreements sooner than later anyway. Having a proposal for coalition and cooperation will go better on the Hill." They would need emergency spending to supplement the budget they inherited from the previous administration, but that was another conversation for a different meeting. Here, they were concerned with optics.

Mike's job, of course, as Chief of Staff was to take point on the Hill, territory he knew from serving on there. His hand, almost of its own accord, was jotting notes that would come in handy there, "JOBS" "TECHNOLOGY TRAINING," and, to perhaps assuage conservatives, "WE NEED ENV. ENGINEERS NOT PHILOSOPHERS."

Mike was quietly grateful that Bill brought up cooperation and hammered home the point. As the Democrat in the room, he wanted to make sure to step lightly on his beliefs and save it for when he needed it. His job was to help the president manage his white house and push the agenda of the United States and, by extension, all of humanity forward at a critical juncture in their collective history. Mistakes would potentially mean species annihilation.
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Joe held the medal around his neck and gave a silent prayer for peace. Peace of mind. He turned back to the receiver pressed against his chest and sighed. "I'll keep you updated, but we'll need to meet immediately after we've covered matters today, so don't let anyone get too far." He paused and listened. "Yes, tell him I appreciate the prompt response and will be in touch shortly. You've done a great job Jake." General Edwards placed the phone down and rubbed his bare scalp. Lt. General Jacob Chambers was one of the highest ranking officers in the United States Military, yet as the Director of the Joint Staff, he was a glorified secretary. Joe smiled. Despite this, the DJS position was one of the most coveted posts among the top brass for its role as a stepping stone to a four star promotion.

Joe had chosen Jake for the role due to his impressive organizational abilities and for the respect that those of higher authority held for him. It took a strength of character to manage some of the biggest egos in the armed forces. Joe knew he couldn't hold him forever, but at the moment, he was invaluable.

The prior briefing at the Pentagon had been a tense affair to say the least. The Joint Chiefs had agreed, with Joe's final approval, to raise the alert system to Defcon 3--a status that hadn't been reached since the September 11th attacks. Some had argued for higher, while others had disagreed that this situation warranted any sort of raised alert at all. In the end, they had all come to a consensus, something that Joe was unwilling disband the meeting without. Indecisiveness and hand-wringing was the last thing the country needed.

He alerted Abe and AJ immediately and had spoken to Bill not long afterward. By now, everyone who needed to know, should know.

After a short discussion with the Air Force Chief of Staff, he received a cliff notes summary of their current SAM and ABM capabilities courtesy of the Missile Defense Agency.

--

Joe listened to the discussion while absently staring at colored bands attached to the breast of his jacket. He was able to better grasp the conversation if he held his gaze on something neutral. He flipped through the binder in front of him, and noted that Mike had included his own report in time for the meeting. He wasn't especially familiar with Gerard, but he seemed to be quite capable...whatever his politics.

Joe coughed and organized his thoughts. "As most of you know, we've issued an order to raise the current alert status to Defcon 3. Being placed on such high alert, I would recommend opening a dialogue in an attempt to dampen any foreign concerns of hostile US action. If we are to take point on this, excluding anyone of significance from this conversation might be a misstep." With that, his piece was said. In a meeting with the President and Secretary of Defense, he could afford to be more direct about his opinion. In this situation, his was just one of many, and he would defer to whatever judgement the collective formed.
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Waking before the dawn had become a habit when she served in the Army. She always felt she had to prove herself better than the men just to be perceived on the same level with the male officers. Her persistence and tenacity earned her a Bronze Star Medal for her work in Saudia Arabia during both Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Elements of the 82nd Airborne Division were some of the first units in country in 1990 and much of the planning to get the 1st Brigade to the desert was conducted by then second Lieutenant Brienne Sylvester and her section.

By zero four fifteen, she was in her Secret Service-manned uparmored suburban heading to Arlington National Cemetery. The 3rd Infantry Regiment, the Old Guard who posted for all the burials at the National Cemetery had been placed on alert at zero dark thirty prepared to role out as if they were going to combat for the express purpose of providing additional security for the Vice President while she conducted Physical Fitness Training running along the roadways of the cemetery. Officers of the Battalions considered it a great training tool, they often had a Quick Reaction Force prepared whenever a VIP was on their grounds.

Five miles and thirty-five minutes later, Vice President Sylvester and her security detachment were on their way back to the US Naval Observatory and number one Observatory Circle. After showering and dressing, she rushed to the suburban to be driven to the West Wing of the White House. She quickly sipped her coffee, black and sampled an array of fruits one of her aides placed in the vehicle. She scanned through her e-mails while Peggy briefed her on the day’s agenda. She listened to the young woman speak while scanning over the E-mails stopping to quickly scan over the more important ones. It was just past zero six hundred hours by the time she arrived. She made her way to her office at the end of the hall past the Oval Office, right across from the Chief of Staff.

“Good morning, Mr. Gerard,” a curt greeting to the Chief, a slight lilt in her voice accompanied by her Texas accent. The door closed behind her and her aide. Margaret “Peggy” Lawton stood 5’ 11” with long auburn hair. She dressed in a similar fashion as the Vice President. Her light blue eyes made the 31-year old Harvard graduate very attractive. She always seemed to stand out in every room she entered. The young woman held a Master’s degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations.

--

Peggy took a seat against the wall, near the Vice President, tablet in hand ready to record notes as the meeting commenced. Later, she would read her notes back to the Veep to confirm they both were on the same sheet of music.

The Chief of Staff lead the meeting as usual, “Benton, this may be something we need to do at a press brief where we bring AJ in, if we do it fast." The Chief addressed the Press Secretary. Bri could see the young man from Seattle visibly squirm as though nervous about the task. When the Chief suggested the Press conference to inform the public about the arrival of friends from distant worlds, Bri considered a televised briefing by the President alone; not in the presence of the press, denying them the opportunity to ask irrelevant questions. Get right to the point and spell it out for everyone.

Apparently, the kid was thinking the same thing she was, "I think this is too important for a simple press conference. If we go public, which I am not 100% in favor of at this juncture, we do it with a live message to the world from the Oval Office. An historic message that marks the start of a new era in humanity. Just the president and the camera, telling everyone that we are not alone."

“I believe Mr. Birch is absolutely correct. I agree completely with his assessment on the issue,” Vice President Sylvester stated her support in a commanding Texas voice.

The conversation turned to the European Union which if served properly with members who were all in agreement could be a formidable group. They were larger than the United States of America when working collectively. The members of the EU had the tendency to argue over lesser issues more often which served as an impediment to any real discussion. The hope was they would view this visitation as an extremely serious matter and not allow petty squabbles to get in their way.

“Mike, I like this idea best,” The Vice President interjected her opinion. She rarely called the Chief by his first name, preferring to address everyone by Mister or Miss. “With you addressing Congress, I will meet with the president to discuss your idea for informing the people. Personally, I believe it is best to let the people know instead of trying to keep the others’ visit a secret. Keeping this a secret could prove to be exceedingly difficult since we have no control over who may see them. I will urge the president to make it appear the US is taking the lead on discussions and that we are in contact with the Europeans and others. We should definitely include the Russians and the Chinese on this. Undoubtedly, they know as much as we do. I think we have passed the moment where if they wanted to destroy us, they would have done so already. We can assume they seek dialogue. We need to be prepared with a response. I will speak to the President about this. Thank you, Mr. Gerard.”

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"Using the minutes of this meeting, we can ensure that AJ has all the options on the table," reviewing reports drafted by staff was part of his function, "but I also think the address is the best forum for this and will indicate that there is consensus on this. We need to coordinate the press strategy after the announcement." Part of the Chief of Staff's job was to filter up to the president and then back down, but Mike wasn't absolutely controlling, because iron-fist tactics were off-putting and closed down avenues of consideration.

...and AJ was a guy that liked to consider all angles. He'd have been there for that meeting, but he had other meetings that were important too, things even a president couldn't wriggle out of.

"Madam Vice President, I would advise, if your schedule allows for it, to consider going on some Sunday shows; if we schedule them ahead of time before the presidential address, we will be driving up engagement for the address itself. Charlotte," he indicated one of his staffers, female, one of the president's speechwriters for national security matters, "can coordinate with your prep staff with the remarks that we're already preparing for the president when he decides on forum and based on what sort of followup foreign negotiation strategy we're going to pursue. Bill, if you wish, I think we need to sit down and work out a schedule of who we need to set up calls with for AJ."

The President was going to be working as hard as any of them the rest of the week, especially as he started to sound out the EU powers. Bill and Mike had State experience and could assist with the setups, as Mike's Russian was fluent, but these delicate conversations would be between the heads of state.

Mike had the feeling that he'd be running this well into the night and envisioned enough coffee and sandwiches to get his staff through.

"Unless there is something further to add regarding the selection of venues for press engagement and forums for foreign policy, we need to turn to the military preparations, as this touches both. Secretary Farran, General Edwards, we will need to communicate to the public and other world governments what or military preparations are going to look like. This includes negotiating with signatories, the primary parties anyway, to the Outer Space Treaty to provide for a military presence in space as a defensive measure against extra-solar potential threats. It may be necessary for the president to communicate a clear vision of what we are going to do as a government to address the potential threats that we now know exist."

His tone was somber, but his delivery flat, Mike didn't do a lot of camera style performance when there wasn't a camera on or he wasn't trying to persuade someone, this was his 'all business' persona, especially in an environment where emotions were sampled carefully. This was a new White House in crisis management and he knew that leaks happened. Florid language, raised voices, impassioned tones would be noted and relayed to the press no matter how much leakproofing you tried to do.

"The President would like your best proposals on how to structure our military, including radical options, in order to address this threat. What assets will be needed, including those that can be converted over from existing organizations." The hope was that there were proposals already being considered in preparation for the meeting.
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“Sorry for being late,” Hyo said as he tries to find a seat with his name on it. And it seems like whoever had seated him never consider his opinions toward military spending. himself a mental to ask for who is the seating, the Japanese man whispered to the Secretary of Defense next to him in a tone to avoid disrupting the conversation between the Chief of Staff and the Vice President.

And after sometimes of note taking and pen scratching his forehead, the Secretary of Treasury couldn’t help but to release a long sigh as he shifted his gaze toward the white ceilings.

“If I can. I would really wish for our people to never know this.”

The reason behind it was straightforward. The nation as a whole is not yet able to withstand such an important news, not right after the ex-president was just died because of stress. And the election, although it didn't spark too many controversies, it is still raised some questions within the people’s mind for the president’s capabilities to turn this boat. China, inevitably, had become another superpower. The EU, despite the absence of the UK, had somewhat decimated the economy, is still going quite strong and having a trend to become one unified front. And the President’s mission, which is no less hard than FDR’s task to revitalize the US’ crippling economy during his time, is to play his card right. Win, the US would likely to still be dominant in this economic race. Lose, and the largest market would surely locate in Asia, with the Chinese at their captain.

But then again, maybe he is just complicated things too much. Maybe, the world would still go around, and the stock markets would only dip a little before bouncing back. But then again, Hyo was never the one to take the chance.

“But I assume we could spare a few billions for military equipment. I would need the president’s signature to approve the new fund for the army of course. Besides that, I would really appreciate if we could ask for the Congress to increase the debt ceilings. After all, we are in great need of preparation in advancing technologies, rebuilding and upgrading infrastructures, as well as supplying with high-tech military equipments. I also have some plans on the way, but that required further research and more time are needed. ”
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EVENTS

- FIRST CONTACT REVEALED IN TELEVISED ADDRESS BY US PRESIDENT - In a TV address, President AJ Shepard announced to the world the existence of alien life. A probe, orbiting Uranus, was picked up by government satellites of multiple nations. Further analysis and signals sent to the alien probe led to a single broadcast message: "Successful contact. Initiating Survey Report Protocol. Standby for further contact."

The President announced also the plan, in response to First Contact, to pursue an agenda of cooperation between the nations that have a significant presence in space, including the EU, Russia, China and India. The move, criticized in some quarters as setting up "haves and have nots" in the space race, came under fire in the UN General Assembly, where calls were made by the UN Secretary General to have the UN take the lead on alien first contact. This measure was veto'ed in the Security Council. The US announced diplomatic summits with the G10 powers to discuss scientific, economic and military cooperation to address a response plan to First Contact. The President also announced the formation of a new Space Force, as did several other nations.

The announcement set off a flurry of speculation regarding the nature of alien life, along with celebrations in some quarters, as well as fear in others. Science fiction authors have weighed in with a variety of scenarios and the current New York Times bestseller list include classics like "The Left Hand of Darkness," by Ursula Le Guin, "The Sirens of Titan," by Kurt Vonnegut, and "The Foundation Trilogy," by Isaac Asimov. Also popular are purchases of firearms and survival equipment, as some groups prepare for the 'inevitable alien infiltration and invasion of America."

The markets were volatile in the first week after the announcement, but overall, the prospect of government contracts related to the formation of the Space Force, research and development funding for DARPA and other agencies, a surge in certain stock prices, primarily those that had some connection to aerospace technology.

- The Swedish Space Agency, Rymdstyrelsen, announced that it is the first nation to enter into dialogue with the Uranus Probe (sorry guys, I fucking had to) and has begun to glean data from the probe. Carl Nilson, the head of the agency, announced that a 'significant' amount of information was gleaned from the latest exchange, mostly about the purpose of the probe, the findings of which it is forwarding to other world governments for consideration.

- In Bangladesh, the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, a Salafist group, has mounted an attack on facilities run by Space Research and Remote Sensing Organization in partnership with US, European, Chinese and Japanese agencies for the purpose of satellite communications. The attacks were timed together and involved militants assaulting these sites in Mumbai-style waves of sappers. Worldwide, fundamentalist groups of all stripes are becoming more vocal and restive, and the FBI has already apprehended members of one cult, the Congregation of Joy, that was planning a group suicide that involved children in eastern Washington state.

- A series of cyberattacks aimed at American communications hubs, observatories, space launch centers and other space infrastructure, including university-based, government, military and commercial facilities were detected and stopped. A multi-agency investigation is underway, without a clear idea who the perpetrators are.

- Also in the US, US Secretary of Commerce Raymond Rose is forced to resign admit a series of New York Times articles exposing his connection to several firms that were awarded lucrative space and defense contracts related to the newly established Space Force. His resignation comes as a blow to an administration that ran on transparency and accountability, and the President was forced to give a statement on the resignation. In response to the scandal, a review on contracts and procurement across multiple agencies have been initiated by the Office of the Inspector General for the Departments of Defense, Commerce and Education.
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Byrd Man
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"I'm not late am I?"

Bill and his staff were among the last to filter into the Situation Room for the meeting. He noticed AJ had yet to show up. Good, at least he beat the president here.

"Even with a police escort, traffic from here to Foggy Bottom was a nightmare."

Foggy Bottom was new. He'd worked there a long time ago, but now he was the man in charge. Acting Secretary of State while Arnie Prescott dealt with... well, whatever it was he was dealing with. They all reacted to the news about the probe in different ways. After learning the truth, Bill had spent the weekend in his study reading pulpy detective novels to keep his mind occupied. Prescott had take a deep plunge into a shallow liquor bottle. He was still taking his laps when his family had him sent to rehab. That came on the heels of Raymond Rose's resignation. So in an effort to make it seem like the government wasn't falling apart, he was just on leave while Bill filled in as Sec. State.

He found his seat halfway down the conference table, facing General Edwards across the table, and sagged a bit as he sat down. Being NSA was already a full-time job. SecState on top of it, in the middle of the greatest crisis in human history, meant he was working sixteen to twenty hour days. Coordinating things with other nations, dealing with crises that were popping up all over the globe. A thousand fires to be put out every week. But he knew he wasn't the only one working insanely long hours. Everyone in this room were all dealing with a new normal, a post-probe world where every single facet of modern life was being effect. All of them except the Postmaster General. That son of a bitch still left the office at five o'clock every day.

"I just got off the phone with the Kremlin before heading over," Bill announced. "They think it would be in the best interest of world stability that the US and Russia take over communication with the probe. They want us to push the Swedes out of the way so the two of us can get in the driver's seat. We had a pool going on over at State on how long it would take them to pull that stunt. I was off by a week."
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by HeySeuss
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The long days were standard in the White House and they all knew it. Often the days came where he'd be barely in bed, barely saw the kids and barely communicated with his wife, when he got some sort of a call. Prescott burned right out, and Bill had to cover, but it was also the Chief of Staff's job to coordinate what was going on, and it was a constant grind. The press secretary got reporters, but Mike got the Hill, which was, like State and like the Press Office, a constant exercise in diplomacy and communication. You did not just fob off the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, you had to brief the guy or you had to get the right staff to do it. Odds were, you had to prepare for that meeting.

And you had to prepare the President, when necessary, which was always right now.

This wasn't to spare the workload of AJ, this was to keep the workload and responsibility from crushing one person, the President, entirely. He wasn't taking it easy either. The grind was a constant flow of emails on every device he owned, so that he was never free of them. If he was in his little office in the West Wing, he was hammering away at a cheap plastic keyboard through emails that demanded responses, flagging them or forwarding them. The Eisenhower Matrix was a good weapon; four quadrants and an axis for two categories: "Important/Not Important" and "Urgent/Not Urgent." If not on his actual computer, he had a laptop, a tablet, and a cell phone, and had taken to carrying a small fabric keyboard for the tablet. He learned that it was faster to handle texts on that thing by keyboard than trying to screw around with a touchscreen. The volume was immense.

Part of his hell was that the Important and Urgent was a practically limitless list. But there was also a talented staff to delegate to. They barely kept him afloat.

"Some of the people on the Hill are not happy with the idea that Sweden currently holds the best understanding of the Probe, but that's a pretty bold request even from the Russians, Bill," he said with a wan smile to match the understating tone. Mike Gerard didn't look rumpled, but he looked like he was running on all cylinders and conserving his energy.

He understood the position though; the Russians were concerned about their ability to hold onto their prestige in a world where their geographic rivals, the EU, seemed positioned to dominate through their much more robust research and scientific establishment. That wasn't to say the Russians weren't without resources, but they were afraid of sucking hind teat. Oil stocks were not looking well, not with a renewed and invigorated debate about Earth's energy resources, an argument Mike was particularly aware of given his work when he was a Senator. The break for the sweeping energy bill he sponsored came about after a solid several months of haggling and cajoling senators and getting AJ Shepard on his side.

He wasn't necessarily a policymaker, but he was most certainly an advisor to the president, and the Chief of Staff served at the President's pleasure. It was also worth noting that the role was whatever the President wanted it to be. He kept the Russia comment down to that observation about the mood on the Hill.

Over coffee, AJ and he both noted that from the information they had alone of the probe's separation and the departure of a piece of it, that there was an energy technology out there well beyond the power that could be harnessed by terrestrial technology, and that information leaking out created economic shockwaves that drove interest rates down as a stability measure. Russia clearly felt they had a good position now, but it would dwindle over time. Thus the request, and all its potential disruption and fallout. Nothing was easy, that was for granted.

Things were hairy. And that didn't even bring in the part about someone attempting a cyber-warfare attack on certain parts of their infrastructure, Bangladesh's crisis in the wake of a series of attacks or that they had a domestic terrorism threat barely held in check.

The President did arrive momentarily later, preceded by Secret Service agents that established the security in the room and ushered the man in. Andrew James "AJ" Shepard was a former federal prosecutor and looked the part, dark suit and a striped tie, along with the conservative sort of solid shirt that said, "I work with the FBI." Presidents and politicians in general didn't really go for unusual suits, to the point where Barack Obama once drew comment for wearing a tan suit on a hot day. But, perhaps owing to the internal nature of where they were, the man was wearing a pair of boat shoes, which was wholly inconsistent with his political image of a no-nonsense western lawyer gone senator that had a gift of concise, sometimes terse, communication. He had a tendency, like Robert McNamara, to wear wire-framed glasses that produced that sort of steely effect. He'd been a good trial lawyer once, but he also put them on or put in contacts as the situation demanded.

He worked hard to erase Harvard from his public image, because that was part of being a Republican. But the comfortable, even slightly ratty, footwear gave him away in private. It was almost a signal for Mike; it meant that they wouldn't be photographing any element of this meeting. There were a bunch of laptops, cords, tablets, phones, coffee cups, notebooks, folders, binders, stacks of paper and so forth on the table, marked in various ways. The reports might have taken hours to compile, prepared by the deputies in the room to brief the principals. The idea was to summarize and support as best possible without wasting time.

"Good morning everyone," the president nodded to the room as he stepped to the head of the table, eschewing the podium that was set up in the Situation Room. He was used to using a courtroom voice if necessary, "We have a lot on our plates, so let's wade into it. Bill, Russia. You indicated by email that they want us to freeze out the EU. Brienne, I was hoping for your input first."
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Gunther
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The Chief of Staff was bold, she admitted that to herself and he was well versed; knew the right buzzwords. She liked Mike Gerard because he was informed and organized. He made a great Chief of Staff. Often times she felt like she was playing catch up because he was always seven steps ahead of her. That made her feel slightly inept, but wasn’t that his job? To brief the President and Vice President on the situation? Isn’t that the reason they were in the situation room; receiving a sitrep? It was just like in the Army. Someone was always briefing the commander and the XO on what was going on and the old man made the decision. Everyone else just had to live with it and support even if it ruffled a few feathers.

The problem for Brienne Sylvester was she could be something of a control freak and wanted to know first, but that would be wrong. She was a news junky listening to everything she could get ahold of. When she heard the news from several different sources and listened to the NSA’s Intelligence briefing on the world situation it made it easier to filter out the fake news or the stuff that was irrelevant—not important. Fortunately, she was patient and disciplined. This was a problem, managed internally for the Vice President; one the other staffers would not know from watching her; she held her cards close to the vest when she needed to.

"Good morning, AJ!" Brienne Sylvester stated with a warm smile. It was one of those smiles that could have gotten her elected to President if she ran; one of her more charming charismatic traits.

Not one for beating around the bush, Bri dove right in. “Obviously the Russian President is jockeying for position. They had a fall from grace thirty years ago and want to re-emerge in this new world as a Super Power just as they used to be. We need to placate them somehow. Give them something, but the aliens reached out to the Swedes. They have the communications technology. The equipment. I say we allow the Swedes to continue as a mouthpiece for the world. But the key thing to remember here is, the world is nothing more than a confederation of 193 nations. That is 193 voices, not one. More than likely, whoever is talking to the Swedes is representative of everyone on their end. The Swedes do not represent the entirety of our planet, but neither do the Russians or the Americans. As the Global Superpower we do have a better leg to stand on, but the Russians could argue for that same position. Knowing they are not what they once were, their only card is to unite with us and push the Swedes out.” Most of the people around the table knew what she was saying. She just felt it necessary to clarify the point to fully comprehend where the American policy on Russia, Sweden and the aliens was coming from.

“We need to make a positive gesture to the Russians to include them in our communications, but they do not need to be consulted on what we say to the aliens. First, we need to talk to Sweden to find out what is being said at both ends and insure the United States is kept inside the loop. Who is the American Ambassador to Sweden? We need to get him or her dialed in and representing us in this conversation.”

“Do we know what the visitors are saying to the Swedes? If we consult many of the science fiction authors, they would have us believe that many of the alien invaders want to come here and destroy the dominant species, so they can harvest our natural resources. Obviously killing the human species is not on their agenda. We should count ourselves fortunate in that regard. Any assistance we may render to them may provide us with a technology coup; even if we have to reverse engineer something to understand how it works and manufacture it for ourselves, it will still be a win.”

“We also need to dissect every message the visitors send to the Swedes. Maybe we can garner some intelligence about them from their messages. That will help us to understand who we are dealing with. We have no idea what sort of capabilities, strengths, numbers or resources these entities may have. We must take these first few steps carefully with trepidation.”

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“Yeah, we could threaten the Russian about another sanction coming from us,” Hyo murmured to himself as the Vice President making her points clear from across the table. But to be true, the first part of the meeting doesn’t really concern him. After all, it is their expertise. And it is better to leave the matter to the master, despite the fact that he is also one of the best in his work.

Looking to the vacant seat next to him, where Raymond Rose usually seated comfortably with a lukewarm cup of coffee in hand, a sense of nostalgia come across Hyo’s mind. But there wasn’t that much to remember about. Yes, they were colleagues. Yes, they are co-workers that prefer to exchange some unlaughable jokes during pass time. And sometimes, they do give others favors in supporting each other bills when addressing the House. But that is that. Ain’t no decades of friendships nor comrades in the political battlefield. Just an acquaintance to each other.

But still, a question is needed to put forth, why did Raymond do that? It has only been a few months in and already a person is out? Hyo knew he wouldn’t buy that. For surely, nobody would be sacrificing their clean status because of something like this. Unless it is because of someone bribe him which required an investigation from the FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit). But the current situation requires more undivided attention from Hyo. After all, this is not only about Ray but the whole department itself. And as a matter of fact, it is reasonably difficult to interfere the nation’s economy without dabbing into the Department of Commerce’s specialties, which would make him look like a power hungry politician if do so.

“Yes. Don’t be too worried about the Russian. The fact is that they are more dependent on us than we to them on import and export speak for itself. So, I suppose another sanction threat would be enough to stop the Russian from at bringing this to the table. For the Chinese, I will try to think of a solution about this…”

Hyo stopped, seemingly trying to construct his next line while sipping the cold coffee.

“As I was saying, I will try doing my best with the Chinese. But it is not within my power to promote domestic commerce. And there are only two solutions that I see, we could consider another candidate. Or we could separate it up in half, half goes to the Department of Labor and the rest for the Treasury.”

For Hyo, it was a bold move. Of course, he knew the proposal would likely to never get past the Lower House, he wasn't betting on it. Actually, if that bill gets to the President’s table, there is a more severe problem to fix than just deleting the Secretary of Commerce out of the presidential succession line. No, his reason was comparatively simple. It was just a warning shot, a reminder for any people in this room to not fiddling with their personal interests during these times. Because for Hyo, what if the President heard the suggestion from the Vice President and actually choose the person she handpicked. There would be groups in this room. And although that chance is slim, he would prefer not taking that road or any roads with the same mindset.

“Well, while we are still on the discussion of the economy, I had recently sent a bill to amend the Dodd-Frank Act. As you all know, after the President’s message, 5 banks declared its failure and a few minor strikes happened. The 5 banks were all community banks with each asset are less than 50 million dollars. Fortunately, we found another a bank that would gladly take all deposits of three. The others two? Not so successful. Of course, what ensured has been paid off. But about 9000 to 11000 people were affected quite heavily. So it would really help me if you guys can put a nice word when the amended version gets propose into the Lower and Upper House. ”
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"I'll do what I can," Bill said with a nod towards Hyo. "I golf with the House Banking Committee Chairman. I'll whisper sweet nothings into his ear the next time we're on the links."

Bill suddenly remembered that he hadn't golfed since... well, since he was informed about the alien crisis. As much fun as it was for him, who had the time any more?

"But back to Russia," he said with a glance towards the veep. "Madam Vice President, you raise some good points. Sweden is willing to share their communications with us and have given us snippets once things have been translated. So far it's basic questions about our planet and people, how old we are and if we're carbon-based. Shannon Volgel is our ambassador over there and she's been instructed to treat the Swedes with kid gloves. They're responding well to that, less so with Russia's more forceful approach. They're already wary and I'm afraid if we go along with the Kremlin, they may cut us both off and control the conversation entirely. Things get messy when that happens."
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"There's no way to stop the Swedes now, they know more than we do at this point. Exchange of information is a necessity here anyway, bottom line." In a planetary crisis, or impending one, Mike was thinking essentially of the idea that national agendas were less important, but he'd always been an internationalist. However, the political chaos leading up to consensus was a thing that he was keen to manage. They had no idea when they'd be doing more than talking to a seemingly-automated probe, but they knew it was coming. It could be a century or more, or it could be tomorrow.

"The alien agenda at this juncture is hard to gauge on the basis of that communication, but we should be prepared for any number of scenarios," He almost referenced "To Serve Man" but realized that someone would leak that and create chaos in the press. It was a controversial story right now, and in an era of heightened fear, he didn't want to add fuel to that fire.

So Mike Gerard did the smart thing and sipped his coffee in order to gain a moment to phrase a reply, rather than just respond.

The public conversation was already influenced by sci-fi reading; Mike never thought he'd be reading sci-fi books in this job, but he'd had a few revelations courtesy of reading for something besides entertainment. A couple of these novels discussed the impact of inability to communicate and how that touched off tragedies. "We will need to feel out a even a friendly contact very carefully. I think the Russians will appreciate that mindset," he added without mentioning the Yeltsin years. The dissolution of the old Soviet order gave rise to something less than promised and the Russians were wary of a game changer now, "But if I were asking questions of that probe, I'd want to know a ballpark on travel time. If the probe is sticking to technical topics, then we should query about interstellar travel times, perhaps even ask it how it got here so quickly, and how quickly the probe's information will get back to the other side."

The President nodded at Mike, but then glanced over the table and then back to Bill, his coffee untouched, "Well, this is what you get for double-dipping, Bill," he said wryly, "How do you feel about convincing the Swedes to broker this information to the Russians through us? Also, I want to suggest to our friends in Sweden that our priority is to obtain data and that we are willing to combine resources on a joint scientific task force to that effect -- we should have a sit down with Dr. Feinberg," director of the National Science Foundation, "and Bob Gordon," NASA director, "and figure out what to propose to the Swedes in terms of collaboration."

"Any thoughts on that, Bridgette? I think Bill should keep the dialogue going with Russia, but I think you might need to take a plane trip to Sweden." AJ's intent here was obvious, rapprochement between Scandinavia, close to the Baltic states and wary, and Russia, which was scared shitless like the rest of them. And, calculating it, he knew that sending a woman leader to spearhead would play over well in that region.
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