Authors: Jaci Wheeler
Wes and I used the rest of the afternoon to wander around and look at the beauty of the buildings and check out our new surroundings. It was then that I realized we haven’t been told what to do now. All I know is that I’m to meet at the fountain at eight tomorrow morning, so what do we do until then?
“Hey Wes,” I stopped mid step. Wes continued to walk until he realized I was no longer next to him.
He turned around to look at me. “What?”
“Did Aspen tell you what we are supposed to do now?”
“What do you mean?” He asked.
I sigh, “I mean, where are we supposed to go, where are we staying for the night…what now?!”
“Oh. No she didn’t.” He said, seeming completely unfazed.
“Great! So we are just supposed to wander around like lost puppies. I don’t want to look incompetent on my first day, and I can’t go back to Annabelle and ask her; I’ll look totally ridiculous for not mentioning it earlier.”
Wes ponders this for a moment I'm sure after working out the calculations in his head. “You don’t want anyone thinking you are incompetent, neither do I. So what we need to do is find someone who already questions our competence to begin with, therefore, this can’t change their thinking of us.” Wow, I have no clue how his mind ever gets to where it does but the backwards thinking actually makes sense…somehow.
“But who could already question us, we’ve hardly met anyone!” At the same time we look at each other and both say, “Masters!”
Now all we had to do was find Masters, which in a place this size could take until past eight am tomorrow morning. It’s time to put on that fake confidence and act like I own it. We decided to go toward the lobby area where we first came in. There is a welcome desk with a woman in her early 20’s whose job, I would assume is to answer phones, direct people to departments and field the crazies. Perfect!
I walk up to her with purpose and give her my most confident smile. “Hello, My name Is Rosaline Thatcher. My friend Wes and I need to find Masters to help us get squared away, It’s my first day and to be honest I still haven’t gotten all the departments figured out and what not, so if you wouldn’t mind calling Masters to get us, it would be very appreciated.” There, that wasn’t so bad. Direct, confident, honest and polite. Although judging from the look on her face and slightly raised eyebrows, Masters, isn’t someone usually summoned. I try not to let the confidence slip, but the longer she stands there looking at me with disbelief the harder it is not to squirm. I thought about having her call Aspen instead, but then I’ll look like an idiot to three people and not just one…well now two.
“Just one moment.” She says, with a little more edge to her voice than I’d like. Yep, she definitely thinks I’m crazy! She is for sure going to the top of the coronation ceremony list so I can be the smug one then. Wait, is it even called a coronation? Who knows if there is a ceremony? They seem pretty no nonsense to me, but somehow the people are going to have to be informed aren’t they. A very loud, very annoyed throat was cleared directly behind me breaking me from my thoughts. I turn slowly knowing only one person who can sound that annoyed just at the sight of me.
“Oh good, Masters, Thank you for seeing us.”
“It’s not like I had much of a choice now did I, when Rochelle paged that there was a crazy fan girl in the lobby demanding to see me!” he said with that annoying smirk he has.
What?! Crazy fan girl?! OHHH, Rochelle is it?! I’ll have to remember that! I give her my just you wait smile and turn back to Masters.
“Well this crazy fan girl needs a place to sleep tonight.” His eyebrows shot up in surprise and I immediately turn beet red realizing how horrible that sounded. Even Wes shot me a ‘what on earth are you saying’ look. “I-I m-m-ean,” great and the future President stutters. This is going just peachy. I make a mental note to remind myself never to take advice from Wesley ever again. “Oh blast it all! No one told us what to do or where to go from here on out, since you so graciously met us here this morning we assumed you would have some idea on where to put us for the reminder of the evening, I assume there are some type of sleeping arrangements for Wes and I? Or are we to go back home and come again in the morning?”
He studies me for a moment and then puts up one finger motioning for me to stay I assume, and turns his back he speaks quietly into some type of device I can’t really tell what it is. That’s when I see the wires tucked behind his ear. He is head of defense, of course he would have all the fancy equipment. He turns back around just as abruptly, with a slight nod of his head he continues walking.
“Well I guess that’s our cue.” I whisper to Wesley
“And you say I have bad people skills.” He whispers back to me
We follow him down the hall and to the cylinder thing again. This is the perfect time to find out exactly what it is called. I’m too afraid to ask Masters anything at this point, and Wes happens to be a walking fountain of information so I whisper in his ear, “What is this thing called?”
“You mean the PVE?” Huh, that’s an odd name, which is exactly what I tell Wes.
“It stands for Pneumatic Vacuum Elevator.” Ah, now I see why they abbreviate it, wow, what a mouthful. This time we take it down several floors all the way to the bottom. Once the doors open, I nearly have to jog to keep up with Masters. I’m sure he is aware of my panting by now, but makes no point to slow his strides. I’m only 5’2 and I have the legs of someone who is only 5’2. Wes is a good 6’3 and Masters is what I would normally say is giant- sized but my guess is around 6’6 or so.
We finally reach what I’m hoping is our destination because I’m ready to curl up on the floor panting right now. This area has a very welcoming and homey type vibe to it. It smells of cinnamon in the hallway and there are several vases of flowers on small wooden end tables leading to an open space. A young woman smiles as she walks towards us. She has her light brown hair pulled back in a braid that goes down her back. She has glasses that hide her eyes and a shy look about her. She stops when she reaches us and puts out her hand. “Hi I’m Andi.” She shakes both Wes and my hand and turns to Masters. “I can take it from here, thanks Kevin.”
Kevin?! I thought everyone called him Masters. And the more I think about it she does seem more familiar with him than anyone else I’ve seen him interact with, very interesting. She’s much too young to be his wife or girlfriend, isn’t she? He’s at least fifteen to twenty years her senior. But I guess he’s attractive in that very scary I- eat- children- for -breakfast way. He must sense where my mind is going and not like it one bit because he gives me a pointed look and says, “Andi is my niece, she will take good care of you.” And turns on his heels and disappears around the corner. Ah, niece. That makes much more sense.
Andi giggles, “Not exactly one for conversation is he? Don’t worry, he grows on you. Don’t tell him I told you this, but underneath it all, he is nothing but a big teddy bear.” I wouldn’t exactly call her attractive but when she smiles and laughs it really does do a lot for her. She is very cute and sweet and I like her instantly. “If you would follow me I’ll show you to the guest quarters.” We follow her down the hall to an open family area. There are several couches, a fire place, a bookshelf full of books and several more vases full of flowers.
“This is wonderful.” I tell her sincerely.
She smiled proudly, “Thanks. I just took over the guest quarters only a few weeks ago. You wouldn’t believe the difference. I’m pretty sure it smelled like sweat socks and moth balls before.
“Let me guess, a man was in charge before?” I asked but it was really more of a statement.
She giggled again and nodded. “Yep! I really love to fix up spaces and make them look nice, so I volunteered. I enjoy working with the guests so much we decided just to keep me here.”
“A wise decision” I add. “So this is where we will be staying?”
“Yes, for now. Like I said it will just be for the night and tomorrow there might be a change. It is really up to you. This is just guest housing, mostly for people who come and go, or are here for a brief stay. We have employee housing as well. Then of course there is the Presidential House out back.”
“Oh, the President has his own house?” I ask
She starts to look a little uneasy, a look I’ve used to seeing when mentioning the President.
“It is for the President, yes. But President Vaughn hasn’t stayed in it.” I found this statement very odd, and give her a look that shows my confusion. She hastily adds, “The house is still new, so no one has lived in it yet. They just finished construction on it a few months ago.” Hmmm curious and more curious.
“So once I become President that is where I will live then?”
“Well, that is the plan, yes. Annabelle knows you are used to living with your parents and close by Wes, so she is leaving the option up to you, you can move into the Presidential housing or you can stay in the employee housing. Both are very nice. The only difference being the Presidential housing offers more privacy. Nothing has to be decided today.” We stop at a door marked “9”.
“We will put you in here Rosaline. And Wes will be just a few doors down in 13.” I raise my eyebrows; well it looks like she’s done her homework. She just smiles back at me and shyly looks at Wes. “Dinner will be at six in the Guest dining room. Follow the hall, turn left and you can’t miss it. The rest of the evening is up to you both. Breakfast is a help yourself type meal, or you can go to the cafeteria. You will find anything you need in the kitchen so please, help yourself. Coffee and juice as well as chocolate milk will be on the table along with some muffins and breads starting at six am. Have a wonderful night, if you need anything there are buzzers in your room that will notify me.” She gave us another shy smile and walked back down the hall.
“Well she was nice.” I say looking at Wes who was still looking after her.
“Hmm, oh yes, quite.”
“She seemed to like you too, if the blushing meant anything.” His eyebrows perked up a little but he instantly shot me down.
“Knock it off Roz will you, you know I’m much too intelligent to get caught up in girls, even the pretty ones.” Interesting, she wasn’t bad looking by any means, but Aspen is drop dead gorgeous and didn’t seem to have any effect at all on Wes.
“Remember Wes, smart guys can be happy too! Well I’m exhausted, I’m going to go lie down. If you want we can grab dinner and maybe take a walk around afterwards. Just come get me when you are ready, ok?”
“Sounds good to me, I’ll be back.” He took off towards his room and I walked into mine. It was very nice, minimal for sure, but the bed was soft and very comfortable and it has a nice cinnamon smell to it as well. A vase of fresh cut flowers sat on a night stand and pale yellow curtain covered a large picture window. I lay down on the bed and knew I wasn’t going to be sleeping. There was no way I could stop all the thoughts running around in my head. I decided to check out the joining bathroom and to my delight there was a huge tub and a basket of bubble bath, bath salts and candles. Andi, bless her!
I found a very soft robe in the closet and two fluffy yellow towels. I took a very nice relaxing bubble bath and thought over the events of the day. After going over the meeting in my mind no less than five times I decided that this really is what I am meant for. The feeling in the pit of my stomach is no longer dread, it is all excitement! It is a little scary still, the idea that all these people are going to look to me for answers, but I will have the Foundation Council to turn to, and I have amazing friends; the staff here at the Ministry, with the exception of Rochelle, has all exceeded my expectations. Yes, I think this is going to be a great fit! Now hopefully the Council agrees. If they decided it’s not worth the risk of telling me what I need to know, then this has all been for nothing. I will have to pick a new career and move on. YIKES! I can’t think of that now. Only a few more hours and everything will fall into place.
I wake up to pounding on the door and my name being yelled.
“Roz! Open the door, are you in there Roz!”
Oh crap! What time is it?! I overslept! I was up most of the night tossing and turning and figuring out what I wanted to say, just as the sun was coming up, I thought I would close my eyes for a moment. I guess that moment turned into a few hours and now Wes is going to have kittens. I jumped out of bed and open the door for him.
“Rosaline, you were still sleeping? You are going to make us so late, what were you thinking!” he is actually yelling at me now.
I pull him into my room! “Will you hush? You are going to cause a scene if your banging and yelling hasn’t already! Yes I overslept, no I didn’t mean to and the more time you take to yell at me, the longer it’s going to take for me to get ready! Just give me five minutes!”
I grab a dress and run into the bathroom. Thank God I took a bath last night and I don’t wear makeup. Every time I think maybe I should start doing more with my appearance I have a day like today that reminds me how practical not caring actually is. I hurry through the process of brushing my teeth, going to the bathroom, putting my dress on and brushing my hair. Not bad for three and a half minutes. I open the bathroom door to find Wes pacing the room with my shoes in his hands. He tosses them to me along with a muffin, bless his erratic little heart. I hurry into my shoes and out the door before my full five minutes is even up.
Even though we are still early, Wes berates me all the way up to the fountain. “You know Roz, if you are going to be the President, being punctual is going to have to become a priority for you.” After polishing off my muffin and taking a drink of chocolate milk that I was able to grab before we left, I tossed everything in the trash right before we made our way to the fountain.
“Wesley, will you calm down. I don’t need you getting me all worked up before this meeting! Why do you care anyway, you aren’t even going to this meeting! We are still ten minutes early and fighting over something that doesn’t even matter! If I’m going to have to learn to be punctual you are going to have to learn to chill the heck out! Ok?!”
He looks like someone had just stolen his calculator. “Ok. I’m sorry Roz, I’m trying. This has all been so hard for me and I don’t do well with change, but I really am trying.”
I instantly feel horrible for getting angry. He is trying, I know he is. This must be such a hard transition for him, and keeping to the things he can, must be of great importance.
“I’m sorry Wes, you are right. I shouldn’t have slept in and I need to be helping you right now not yelling at you. How about we compromise? You call me when you wake up in the morning and I will make sure I’m ready when you come get me.” This perks him right up instantly.
“That’s a wonderful idea Roz, I will make sure to do that every day!”
“You are going to make a brilliant President!”
Aww, how can you not love Wesley Sanders!
I swear he can read my mind because he instantly backed up and said, “Don’t hug me! My nerves can’t take it today!”
I burst out laughing! “Wesley, dear, I wouldn’t dream of it, but you know I adore you right?”
“Yes, I suppose I do.” He replied.
“What a heartfelt moment I interrupted. Shall I return later? ” The snarky red head asked.
“Good morning to you too Aspen, no, now is perfectly fine. Wes was just saying how you ruined him for all other women!”
“Oh I bet. She said looking at Wes like she was going to devour him.
I gave her a stern look. “Be nice to him today! No more mock flirting, his little heart can’t take it.”
She nods her head seriously. “Right-O. Serious flirting only! Got it!” Wes slowly started backing up not sure what he was getting into. “Oh come on Wesley, I’m only teasing. We are going to have a fun morning on our hands! I’m turning you over to Miles and his crew. He’s going to show you the ins and outs of the engineering department and you will no longer have to put up with my overwhelming beauty! Go on ahead and head up Roz, they are ready for you.”
Wesley looked absolutely thrilled. I’m not sure if it was getting a chance to make the engineers cry or to get out of Aspens lovely grasp but he looked overwhelmed with relief.
“Ok Wes, have a great morning! How about I meet you for lunch like yesterday in the café, does that work for you?”
“Sounds great to me Roz; go get ‘em!” With that he turned and left with Aspen while I made my way to the council room which I now refer to as “the cone of silence.” I get to the door and go through the steps of fully scanning myself into the room.
“Ah, you made it! Good morning dear.”
“Good morning Annabelle. I did, and I’m quite proud of myself for remembering how to fully scan in!” I say with a smile that must be contagious because everyone chuckles. Thank goodness the mood seems to have lifted drastically from where we left off yesterday.
“Well let’s not prolong the inevitable shall we. Miss Thatcher if you will take your seat we can get started.” Ah, yes, Peter the efficient, how could I forget.
“Good morning everyone!” I say in my chipper ‘I’m trying to be a morning person’ voice.
Samuel seems to be the observant one of the group, nothing gets past him I see. He gives me another award winning smile and says, “Ah good, a morning person!”
He knows very well that I’m not, I can tell, but I decide that we don’t have time for playing games, so I say, “Absolutely not. But I do whatever I have to in whatever time it needs to be done. Right now we need to get down to business, so what do you say Samuel, would you like to start us off?”
This seems to crack him up as he throws his head back and laughs. I guess he’s not used to being called out. “Bravo! Well done Roz, well done. Yes, my wise and beautiful leader, I think now is a perfect time to proceed. But I’m going to pass the honors over to Patience” He says with a flourish.
“Good morning Roz, I hope you slept well last night. Hopefully we can all come to a more concrete decision so things can move on from here.” I just stay silent and nod for her to go on.
“After you left yesterday we all sat around and discussed many things. The main thing we all kept coming back to is that you are what is best for this country, hands down. That has never been in question, but we have realized that sometimes you have to bend the rules a little for the greater good. So that is what we are prepared to do. It has been a very long standing rule that the reasons behind a president's dismissal or retirement, if you will, is locked away in the vault, never to be brought up again. President Vaughn himself isn’t allowed to discuss it with anyone or he will be immediately thrown into prison. Because of this, we don’t take sharing this type of news lightly. However, after hours of discussion we have all come to the conclusion that for your own safety, not to mention a very good point Lucas brought up about learning from history, we hope you will learn from the mistakes of the previous President so that they don’t become your own.”
I nod. It looks as I'd hoped, they are going to tell me, which means by the end of the day I am going to be President of United America. Ok, process that later, time to listen in.
Patience is starting to look a bit uncomfortable now; I could tell she was having some trouble wording what she wanted to say. She looked over at Amira who nodded and said very gracefully. “You see Rosaline, with all that being said, we will tell you what you need to know but only what you NEED to know. Certain details will not be disclosed in order to protect people, do you understand?”
I nod, “Yes, that is acceptable. I’m not worried about satisfying my curiosity Amira, I just don’t want to walk into a situation blind.”
She smiles wide. “Perfect, then we understand each other.”
She nods at Peter and surprising me, he began to take over. “You see Rosaline, the council members aren’t the only ones keeping track of the President. I don’t want you worried that people are looking over your shoulder and monitoring your every move, it doesn’t work that way. I'm going to be honest with you, while you are at the Ministry, the head of every department has the responsibility to make any concerns known to us weekly. As part of their reports, they are to inform us of your goings on within their department. Think of it as one more job you don’t have to do. This way as you are making changes happen and coming up with better ways to keep the country running, you won’t have to stop to inform us. All we want you to do is work your magic. Anytime anything regarding you comes to the department’s attention, the head of that department adds it into their weekly report. Listen to me very carefully now Roz, no president before you has been aware of this. They know it isn’t there job to inform us, so I’m sure they figured out something of the sort, but it’s never been stated. One of the reasons you must never tell anything of what we reveal to you is for your own protection. If people start to think you had an unfair advantage or that we don’t play by the rules, we could have another uprising on our hands. This is very important Roz.”
I gulped. They weren’t joking around. For a second I wanted them to stop telling me, I didn’t want to hear it anymore. But I know how I am; I will never feel completely safe or sure of what I’m doing until I know exactly what is going on around me.
“I understand” I was able to choke out.
“Very well then. The head of each department gives us a list of happenings only for that department. We then have to keep track of change in behaviors or moods; anything that is a sign that the stress of job might be getting to be too much. That is all I am going to say on that matter. We will not disclose who it is that keeps track of behavior other than to let you know that you will be doing random psych evaluations and meeting with a therapist on a scheduled basis as well. The pysch evals have always been; the therapist is going to be a new integration into the Ministry. We feel it will only help the staff, ourselves included.” I nod, all of this seems perfectly acceptable to me, if not a little over whelming.
Annabelle turns to me. “Now Roz, getting down to the heart of the matter, you are not here to replace President Vaughn.” Wait, what? Back up the truck.
“Ok, wait a second here. What do you mean I’m not here as his replacement? I thought you wanted me to be the next President of United America.” I say totally puzzled. She smiles at me with understanding.
“Yes honey, we do. I don’t mean to confuse you. You are replacing him as President, but you weren’t just brought in as his replacement. The position has been yours for the last ten years Roz. Everyone in the Ministry has known this…including President Vaughn.” Ooooooookay, things just got weird.
“In order to make sure I’m not completely getting this all wrong, because right now I’m not sure if what I’m thinking is correct, I’m going to tell you what I think is happening and you correct me if I’m wrong, ok?”
“That seems fair, yes please proceed.”
“Ok, so something happened to where President Vaughn was either no longer fit to run the country, or was starting to show signs that he wasn’t able to do something. My point being, you saw signs you didn’t think fitting for a President and you began searching through the candidate files, found me, began keeping track of me and decided once I turn sixteen you would fade him out and then bring me in. He gets mad for being kicked out and here we are. Is this correct?” Everyone around the table is now smiling at me, but somehow I feel it’s because I am the butt of their joke, not because I am in fact correct.
“NO, I’m sorry Roz. That is incorrect.”
Well oookay then. “Which part?”
“All of it.”
“Wait, what? All of it? How could I have been that far off?! If I’m not his replacement, then you are telling me he didn’t do something wrong ten years ago in order for you to look for me?” I ask totally bewildered now.
“Now, that Roz is correct. We didn’t go looking for you. Up until ten years ago we had no intention of even replacing the President.”
“Well oh my great aunt, I’m lost!” The room as a whole started laughing. Oops, didn’t mean to say that out loud, spending way too much time with Wes and his crazy phrases.
Lucas cleared his throat, “Annabelle, may I?” She nodded and Lucas began speaking, he had a very soft, yet confident voice. He would be perfect to read bedtime stories to children.
Rosaline, ten years ago we were approached by a woman named Natasha Starr. Miss Starr is on the Career Board and was given your file upon your birth. The Career Board has a very hard, very intense job. It is up to them to keep track of your life and know everything they can about the way you work. A few may call it invasive, but it has worked very well for us for many years. The Career Board sends us more reports than any other division to keep us updated on those they feel are worthy of keeping a closer eye on, you see. We had been getting the reports about you and had noticed that you seemed to display more of the qualities that we are looking for than any other child we had ever seen. The amount of compassion, intelligence, and fairness you had by far outnumbered those of your peers. However, there was an incident that Miss Starr felt needed to come to our attention immediately. The only reason she was granted such a meeting was because we were aware of you and had been very interested in your future.