In political news today, a trio of legislation directed at the nation’s Altered population have all failed to pass. The controversial HR 707, the bill that would drastically expand mandatory Altered registration, was narrowly defeated by a Senate vote of 51 – 49.
HR 611, the bill that would expand domestic military deployment beyond the current exceptions surrounding ‘Unstable Paragon-window Returns’ and effectively end the Posse Comitatus Act, did manage to narrowly pass through both house and senate only to be vetoed immediately upon reaching the president’s desk. President Sherman has been very emphatic in defending this decision by pointing at the literally HUNDREDS of pages of unrelated legislation that have been tacked onto the original bill.
And lastly, dying a much quieter death than the other two bills today, HR 1431 was voted down in the House by a staggering 393 – 8. The bill, submitted by the pro-Altered lobby, was targeted against the Criminal Altered Registry, which proponents of the bill contest is structured almost identically to the National Sex Offender Registry and has resulted in additional discrimination against Altered.
Proponents of all three bills have issued statements that they are undaunted by this setback, and plan to see new versions of their bills submitted during the next Congressional session.
Bertram Shane, CNN Political News Anchor
“Oh God, that’s not from the old newsreels, those are from that damned movie!” The petite brunette’s objection at the scene displayed on the monitor drew a round of soft laughter from the group of women assembled in the green room.
Jessica Lawson slumped down further in her chair and resisted the urge to pull her hair out as the sequence continued, chopped up bits of a Hollywood impression of her own life interspersed with snippets for the other guests. It was from this position that she noted a nervous looking production assistant leaning into the room.
“You’re on in three minutes, Colonel Lawson.” The young man bolted back through the doorway the instant the last word cleared his lips.
“Think he’s busy, or scared of you?” Jessica turned as one of the other women addressed her, and smiled at the suppressed laughter she saw in the other woman’s eyes.
“Honestly, probably both. Most people seem a little intimidated by me.” Jessica tugged her dress uniform into its proper configuration as she sat back properly upright. “I REALLY hate doing things like this.”
The taller woman sat down across from Jessica and extended a hand over the small table between them. “I’m Alicia Davis, by the way. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms Lawson. I-…”
“You’re one of the best chefs in the country.” Jessica interrupted Alicia as she accepted the handshake, then nodded towards the screen where an image of the grey haired woman seemed to be screaming at reality show contestants. “I really like your show. Call me Jessica, please.” The shorter woman almost kept a straight face at the other woman’s discomfiture at her spot in the montage.
“Well, I guess I can’t complain too much. At least that’s actually ME that they’re showing.” Both women giggled briefly. “Now I know why I’m here, I’m pretty famous for being a media sellout after all, but why are you on a show like this, Jessica?”
“Oh, you know how it is. The president vetoes a bill that no one had even heard about until it didn’t pass, and suddenly everyone is panicking that we won’t be able to step in and save them the next time there’s a Lunatic Return. Have to reassure the people that we’re still here and all that.”
“No, I can’t really imagine that I WOULD know anything about that.” Alicia chuckled softly at the thought. “Just because both of us are Altered, I think there’s a bit of a gulf between a celebrity chef and the army’s Champion.”
Jessica’s face momentarily crinkled in distaste at the title she couldn’t ever seem to rid herself of, but she was saved from having to explain the reaction when the PA stuck his head back through the doorway.
“You’re up, Colonel Lawson!”
“And welcome back to the show, everyone. My next guest joining me today should need no introduction. A woman who has taken female empowerment to a whole new level, and widely regarded as the most powerful Altered in the world, please join me in welcoming Lieutenant Colonel Jessica Lawson to our show!” Jessica managed to paste a politely interested smile on her face as she made her way across the stage to the comfortable looking chairs situated next to the desk of the hostess.
“Thank you for having me on your show, Ms Pearce.” Jessica shook the perky, blonde woman’s hand before seating herself, and successfully resisted the urge to turn the chair to either face directly at the hostess or directly at the audience.
“Oh please, call me Pamila, Colonel Lawson!”
Jessica managed not to wince at the bubbly, and extremely fake, tone of her hostess. “Well then, Pamila, please call me Jessica.”
“Well thank you, Jessica! We’re so happy you could join us for our ‘Women who change the world week.’ And as our only guest with such a huge influence both historical and contemporary!” The perky hostess leaned across the desk with an excited smile. “Tell us, what’s it like being the strongest woman in the world?”
“I honestly don’t think about it too much.” Jessica answered the expected question with practiced ease. Why does everyone always ask some version of that one? “I just get up every day, and do my job as best I can.”
“And how is it that you still manage to look so young?”
The brunette woman offered an exaggerated eye-roll as the audience broke out into scripted laughter at the question. “Excellent health care benefits.” She smirked as she noted a few genuine laughs from the audience.
“And do you have any thoughts you’d like to share on President Sherman’s surprise veto yesterday? It must have been a bit shocking to have such a pro-military politician suddenly reverse his position like this?”
“I honestly can’t say it was much of a surprise.” Jessica managed to hide a brief twinge of shock at the perky hostess’ sudden shift from fluff questions to current politics. “Though after having been around as long as I have, I find that politics don’t really surprise me anymore.”
The audience chuckled at Jessica’s deflection, though she noted a clear hint of annoyance in Pamila’s eyes before the hostess joined in with a soft giggle. “I imagine that must take a lot of the fun out of life though. No surprises left?”
“Oh, there are ALWAYS surprises left, Pamila. Just not many in POLITICS.” The petite guest smirked as she drew another spattering of laughter from the audience, and a more obvious annoyed glare from the hostess.
“So, as an Altered, I’m sure you must have felt some relief that the Registration Act expansion was voted down.”
“Was it? I hadn’t heard about that one.” Jessica’s smirk remained as she saw the stunned expression on the blonde’s face. So much for the plans from public relations to address all this later. Good thing Ms Pearce isn’t that good at ‘gotcha’ questions. “As a Paragon, I’m already covered under the existing act, after all.”
“They actually make the CHAMPION register? I’m shocked!”
“Every Paragon and Exemplar, and every Altered convicted of a crime.” The small woman pushed up one sleeve to reveal a heavy-looking, metallic red bracelet and offered a fresh smile. “No exceptions.”
“Well, I guess it’s true that you DO learn something new every day.” Pamila smiled widely out at the crowd as another round of scripted laughter began. “So, Jessica, what has it been like to witness SO much change in the world over your lifetime?”
Jessica noted the change in posture and tone, and combined it with the return to fluff questions. Whoever’s feeding her the political questions stopped. Awww. I was kinda looking forward to a slightly less boring interview for a change.
“And don’t think your flippant remarks on NATIONAL TELEVISION have gone unnoticed, Lieutenant Colonel Lawson. You are skirting DANGEROUSLY close to the line, AGAIN.” Colonel Nelson Burgess paced around the bored looking woman seated in front of his desk as he spoke, his face glowing red as he finished his tirade.
Jessica stared up at the office ceiling, seeming oblivious to the threatening tone from the small, uniformed man yelling at her. An uncomfortable silence stretched out for several long seconds before the small man finally broke it.
“WELL? What do you have to say for yourself?”
“Well, Colonel, considering we have to go through this EVERY time it’s decided that I need to be the face of AAC public relations, maybe you could finally pick someone else to handle the rest of the talk shows, sir?”
“Do you even know WHAT you did wrong?”
Stayed in the army long enough that Public Relations Officers became a serious thing. “I’m going to guess it has to do with my somewhat sarcastic evasions when the hostess of a fluff show suddenly started asking serious political questions, sir. Although I’m confused; did you want me to REALLY answer those questions on a show like that?”
“You shouldn’t have commented AT ALL without being properly prepared!”
“With all DUE respect, sir,” Jessica noted the hardening of the colonel’s expression as he read her intended meaning of the over-emphasized word. “I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you have. Trust me when I say, a senior military officer responding to any question with ANY variation of; ‘No Comment,’ is not going to go over well.”
“Are you saying you think you could do my job BETTER than I could, Colonel Lawson?”
“I would never WANT to do your job, Colonel Burgess. But considering I’ve been dealing with things like this for longer than you’ve been alive, I would appreciate a LITTLE less condescension, sir. Did I actually make any negative statements?”
“Well, nothing direct, no.”
“And did I do anything to undermine the military’s official/unofficial stance on anything, sir?”
“The point should be to REINFORCE our posture, not simply avoid erosion!”
“And at a proper press conference, that I’m sure General Mathis will be thrilled to hold himself, where those questions ARE the agenda; that will be an easy goal, sir. But I went on Good Morning with Pamila Pearce; not exactly a show renowned for its hard hitting political questions.”
Burgess mulled the point over for several long seconds before seeming to deflate with a long sigh. “Alright, colonel, you have a point. You did well in not saying anything damaging in the face of an unexpected ambush like that. So let’s move on to your schedule for the rest of the week.”
Jessica didn’t bother to stifle a loud groan. “No more talk shows for a while, please, sir?”
“You’ll be at the White House as part of the official security detail for this weekend’s meeting with several European leaders. You’ll need to be very public, and you’ll be expected to speak with select members of the press at specific times throughout, I’ll forward you the specifics.”
The petite brunette’s expression improved slightly. At least it’ll be LESS media than two years ago when they made me do a full round of the late shows. “Are we actually expecting anything that would require ME to be on presidential security, sir?”
“That’s not my department, colonel. You’ll have a separate briefing with Intelligence when we’re done here.”
Because there’s no intelligence in the PR division. “Of course, si-…”
“ATTENTION ALL PERSONNEL.” The base PA system interrupted Jessica and drew both officers’ attention to the speaker in the ceiling. “WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY DEPLOYMENT IN PROGRESS, COMBAT PERSONNEL REPORT IMMEDIATELY FOR TRANSIT.”
Colonel Burgess opened his mouth to say something as the echoes of the first announcement started to die away, but Jessica vanished from her seat before he could get a single syllable out.
“What do you mean I’m on STANDBY?” Jessica shouted her question at a young lieutenant, who suddenly looked like he wished he was anywhere else.
“Ma’am, Delta was the alert company tonight. They’ve already deployed their first and second platoons, and it’s not anticipated that any of the incidents will require more troops than that.”
Jessica sighed and waved a dismissal at the young man, who scurried eagerly away to take his place at one of the monitoring stations. The petite lieutenant colonel grabbed a headset from one of the empty stations and made her way across the room to stand next to the remarkably tall officer who’d been watching her exchange with an amused grin on his face.
“So what, you couldn’t wait for me to get here?”
The grin widened into a genuine smile. “New general, new orders. First come, first served; no waiting for the Champion to lead the way into all unknown situations.”
“You going to start with me NOW, Locke?”
A chuckle came from the tall man. “Yeah, sorry about that. Forgot you had to go play nice with the press all day, colonel.”
“Apology not yet accepted, captain. Now tell me what the hell is going on.” Jessica fiddled with her borrowed headset as she spoke. “Dammit, is this ANOTHER new design for these damned things?”
“That’s just the march of technology for you.” A large hand reached down to snag the offending device and began clicking small buttons and switches into the proper configuration. “As for what’s happening, couple groups of morons who bought the hype about us not being able to deploy domestic at all decided to go out and do stupid things.” The reconfigured headset was handed back to the impatient woman, and quickly slipped onto her head.
“…opy that, platoon two has contained their target, all hostiles have surrendered. Status update on platoon one?”
“Well THAT was quick.” Jessica glanced up at the man beside her, who nodded his agreement.
“The new guys know what they’re doing, and all signs point to this being a bunch of gang-bangers with no real heavy hitters. Not too surprising.”
Could I ever have even IMAGINED that someday the army would be running around chasing street thugs? Or even moreso, that I would be upset because I wasn’t one of the ones doing the chasing?
“Spread out platoon, targets in sight.” Jessica recognized the voice of Major Robbins, Delta’s CO, suddenly coming through her earpiece.
“Major, this is Intel. All four targets are confirmed repeat offenders and we have confirmed fatalities from local law enforcement. You are cleared for unrestricted engagement.” The petite woman looked up at her tall companion in shock, and saw her expression mirrored on his face.
“Tell me you transported platoon one out to a sparsely populated rural area.” Jessica’s tone was almost pleading as she looked up at the tall captain next to her.
“San Diego, downtown.”
“Are you-…” Jessica shook her head to clear the shock before pressing hard on the transmit button. “Robbins, this is Lawson, DO NOT ENGAGE unless you have cleared the area of civilians!”
“Platoon one, going in hot.”
The petite officer started to repeat her instructions in a louder tone, but stopped halfway through as she realized she wasn’t transmitting. “GOD DAMMIT, WHO CUT ME OFF?”
“That would be me, colonel.” Jessica started at the unexpected voice of General Mathis through the headset. “Delta has the situation under control, and you are SERIOUSLY overstepping your authority to-…”
Jessica was in the general’s office before he could finish his reprimand, the headset ripped off and crushed in a moment of absent minded anger. “Don’t you DARE tell me that I’m overstepping my authority, SIR. Unrestricted engagement in a heavily populated area? Do YOU want to take responsibility for the amount of people that are going to die?”
“Robbins isn’t incompetent, Colonel Lawson. I can respect your concern for civilian lives, but we CANNOT afford to take a soft approach when we receive an emergency assistance request from a state governor to deal with a group of repeat Altered offenders who have already killed at least a half a dozen police officers. Delta will keep any collateral contained.”
“Platoon one is comprised entirely of Paragon and Exemplar level Altered with abilities known for their area of effect, sir. They’re going to be the ones CAUSING the collateral damage, not containing it!”
“I’m not going to order my men to put themselves in more danger because you haven’t worked with them long enough to know THAT THEY CAN DO THEIR JOBS!” Mathis stood as he shouted at the small woman in front of him. “I know you want to be out there in the thick of things, colonel. But there are more Altered every year, and still only ONE of you. You’re dismissed. Bravo Company will take over on standby.”
“Sir, I don-…”
“AND we will go over the after action reports in the morning, and you’ll get to see that I was RIGHT, or we’ll find out that you were right and I’ll hold the new record for shortest division command in the AAC. Either way, we are DONE for tonight, colonel.”
Jessica stood silently in the office for several long seconds, matching the hard stare of her commanding officer with an unblinking gaze of her own. The staring contest was finally broken when a faint cheer became audible from the small speaker on the general’s desk. A quick push of a button restored full volume.
“This is Robbins, all five hostiles have been neutralized. Delta has zero casualties, repeat; zero casualties.”
“Satisfied, Colonel Lawson?”
“I’ll see you at 0800 to review those after action reports, sir.” Jessica snapped a quick salute, then vanished before the general could respond.