Author : Lindsey McLeod
The President stood silhouetted against the huge windows of the White House, hands clasped behind her back, apparently deep in thought. Over those slender shoulders, Jane Randall could see a vast expanse of starry sky that looked like nothing more than the remains of God’s first sneeze. The moon hung low and dark in the sky, tinged with a faint green glow. The air swam like a crocodile, tepid and slick and sharp – the summer heat unusual even for late August. The darkness inside the Oval Office only seemed to only magnify the humidity. Ever since this particular mission had begun, the President had become obsessed with the current hot topic; namely, the movement of toxic substances to a place where it could not possibly bother the human race. She’d moved all the lamps into the empty conference rooms along the hall, claiming the darkness assisted with her concentration and dedication. The staff had, with silent and unanimous agreement in the way of office workers all over the world, decided that this statement clearly meant ‘please further assist the President’s concentration and dedication regarding the matter at hand by stealing these lamps’, and they were nothing if not patriotic.
A suited secretary scurried in on squeaking shoes that were only partially muffled by the thick carpet, and spoke quietly into the President’s ear. He gave Randall a brief, uninterested glance as he left. She wondered how he could bear the weight of a blazer in this oven. There was no air conditioning here – the President didn’t approve of it. Randall’s own suit jacket lay casually discarded in her casual, temporary office in the east wing, casually hiding her portable fan. She didn’t feel particularly good – or indeed, casual – about that, but then again she didn’t particularly enjoy broiling in her own skin. It did you good to enact small act of rebellions against authority. Kept the mind fresh.
Randall scratched under her ear nervously, tucked a wisp of escaped blonde hair back into her bun and folded her hands behind her back again, doing her best to appear unruffled and composed. The uncomfortable feeling grew, flapping anxiously around her stomach on small, leathery wings. A thick worm of sweat crawled down the back of her neck and dampened the crisp collar of her white shirt. She tugged at it uncomfortably and then cleared her throat in the politest possible way. You didn’t rush the leader of the Free World.
“Ms President?” she said cautiously.
“I’m sorry, General. You were saying?”
“Ma’am, we are experiencing some-” Randall hesitated only briefly before forcing the word out of her mouth with some distaste and more than a little guilt, “-uh, issues, concerning the disposal of the newest batch of nuclear waste.”
The President turned to face her, brown eyes sharp and searching. Her gaze examined Randall’s face and form with clinical precision. Cataloguing. Probing. It made Randall’s insides twist. The leather wings beat faster. The worm crawled further down her back.
“Are you telling me that we’ve used up all our resources already?” the President asked slowly.
Randall paused, unsure of how to phrase the comment without it sounding either trite or patronizing. “The… the moon is not an infinite object, ma’am.”
“Nothing is, Randall. Nothing is.”
The President looked thoughtful. There was a brief, awkward silence. Randall felt the conversation slipping away from her and tried desperately to regain some footing.
“Tell me, Randall,” said the President, turning again to stare out at the night sky, “what are we currently doing with Saturn?”
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