"Listen. If Bryant says this sort of think in ten months, we can be all over it. But the election is a year away. We should be above the fray right now."
Walsh listened for a moment.
"Yes. I know he compared MADs to terrorists. And I recognize that it was a stupid thing to say. And I recognize that it represents just the sort of mindset that we are trying to avoid. But, frankly, we shouldn't be talking about what goes on in the other party right now. And if we do, we shouldn't be talking about MADs. The polls are pretty clear right now. Americans are evenly split on the economy right now, they're with us on the wars in Iraq and Syria, but MADs are a winning issue for the other party. Calling your opponent a bigot doesn't get you anywhere is half the country is bigots as well."
Walsh listened some more.
"Yes. I know most of the country isn't as crazy as Bryant. But I've made my decision, and I've stated my reasons. If you think I was wrong, gripe about it on your own time." Walsh put down the phone.
The President didn't have time to reflect on his conversation. He had other matters to attend to.
The White House needed to release statements about a shooting in Florida, a failed operation in Syria, and the flooding in Los Angeles. He scanned them all. He pressed a button, dialing the press liaison. "Florida and LA seem good. Not sure the Syria one sets the right tone. Ought to be less apologetic. We're fighting a war." He hung up without waiting for the 'yes, sir.'
Walsh reached over for the next thing on his desk. The budget for the London aid package. He looked at the numbers, and the comparisons from last year. He pressed another button, this time it was the Secretary of State.
"Jim, I saw the budget you sent me. Slashing all four categories? Listen, our relationship with Europe is a cornerstone of our efforts in Iraq. I don't want to come across as stingy."
Some babbling on the other end.
"Okay. That's actually a legitimate point. I know the State Department only has so much money, and I realize that it was the UK government that fired the missile. But look, they didn't really have a choice, did they? What could they do, let the whole world die? The virus was released by an American MAD, we need to be doing our share of the cleanup. Just add another ten percent to medical aid and twenty for reconstruction, okay."
After that, Walsh got to review dossiers on possible Supreme Court appointees. This was one of Walsh's least favorite parts of the job. Going through every single position the Justice held, trying to decide which ones would end up being important in the next thirty years on the court. Walsh really needed to find an aide for that sort of thing. Especially since the Republicans in the Senate would probably never confirm whoever he chose. Walsh was interrupted by a man knocking on his door.
Alexander Dalton was Walsh's most important adviser. Although he held no cabinet position, and wasn't listed among the president's staff, no other person dispensed advice on such a wide range of policies.
"Come in, Alex."
Walsh examined the man in front of him. He was in his early forties, maybe five years Walsh's junior. But already specks of gray were appearing in his hair. He had a long, square face, and gaunt hands, almost spiderlike. "The F-34's are a success, sir. Ten times the speed of sound, and invisible to radar." Dalton gazed at the contents of the President's desk. "Don't nominate Esher. He's been having an affair, and it would come out during the Senate hearings."
"Good to know. And what's going on with Oberon?"
"What indeed? To our knowledge, he has been involved in four separate bombings on four continents. He also released two separate manifestos, one explaining why MADs are the master race, the other explaining how to vaccinate against all flu's at once. I've looked it over, and it seems fine, but of course I've ordered additional tests. Oberon has called in a death threat against you, but we think he may have donated a thousand dollars to your campaign. He likely tried to take control of America's and Russia's nuclear silos, but the firewalls I designed are more than sufficient to stop him. There is mounting evidence that he sold the Chinese the designs for their Tengxi IV rockets, at a cost of two billion Euro. Also, we're fairly sure the explosion of the Poughkeepsie bus was his doing."
"Hold on. Why would Oberon kill a bus full of MADs."
"He didn't, it was merely a ruse. The three MADs are likely still alive."
"Do we know where they are?"
"The FBI has already captured Norm Baxter. Tom is working on acquiring Allegra Complex and Daniel O'Connor."
They were interrupted when an aide burst through the door. "Excuse me sir, and sir. We have the locations of the Amari twins. They are within range of one of our drones."
"What do you need me for," the president asked. "Blow them to smithereens. They design a bomb that kills twenty five Americans, and you won't kill them without my say-so?"
"W-Well, sir, they are in a school. There could be up to a hundred child casualties."
Shit. This was one of those moments that made the president wish he had become a lawyer. The two of them had killed Americans. And there was no telling how many more they would kill before they messed up. But still, Walsh didn't want the deaths of a hundred Iraqi kids on his hands, either. Damn those MADs for making him do this. Damn them to hell. "Kill 'em. Do it. It'll make them hate us even more, but we might never get a chance like this again."
"If I may," Alexander said, "they will not hate us for this. They won't know we're involved. It will be a simple matter to make it look as if the Amaris' own experiments went wrong, and caused the explosion."
Well. That might everything ever-so-slightly better. The aide rushed out. Dalton began typing on his phone.
"We were talking about Tom," the president prompted.
"I'm not ignoring you," Dalton said, still typing. "I am merely explaining to the world how the explosion that will happen in two minutes was not our fault." Dalton made eye contact with the president, although his fingers were still moving across the screen. "Yes. Tom will likely be incorporating the two into his own company. He believes with proper direction, they can be useful for a project the two of us are contemplating."
"Frankly, it is rather difficult to explain."
Uh-oh. Dalton had described things as difficult to explain before. That usually meant nobody could understand them except for particularly intelligent MADs.
"And what's Tom doing with that fusion reactor the two of you made?"
"Additional testing. We will likely be releasing it in a year or so."
The president opened his mouth.
"Before election day," Dalton specified, to the president's relief. "Plenty of time for you to take credit. And by the 2018 midterm elections, half of the country's electricity will be made with fusion power."
"Finally. You guys have cracked fusion power. Do you think one of those could power Air Force One? I would love to be the first person to fly in a fusion powered vehicle."
"Absolutely, but you wouldn't be the first. Oberon has been flying around in fusion powered planes for years. We have reason to believe that one of his armors is fusion powered."
"Oberon knows how to build a fusion reactor?"
"Why didn't he tell us? Doesn't he realize how much more we would appreciate MADs if he shared some of his work? He spends all his time complaining about how nobody likes him, and them slaps us in the face when he could give us candy."
"Well, he did just end the flu. But I think you misunderstand his goals. He has no interest in making neurotypicals like MADs. He simply wants to give the MADs enough power that it doesn't matter what neurotypicals think."
Alexander continued. "Once, right after Topeka, the two of us were being transported together. Our car was surrounded by what can only be described as a mob. As we got out, someone walked right up to us, to him actually. This fellow shook Oberon, threatened to tear off his mask, uttered a litany of slurs, and said that God hates MADs. And do you know what Oberon said?"
"He said that god is a lie that primitive minds tell each other in the dark."
Walsh was appalled that someone would say that, both as a politician and a devout Irish Catholic. "Definitely not into charming the public," he said. "I suppose that's more Tom's style, with the free energy and the computers."
"I wouldn't say that Tom is Oberon's opposite number. That would probably be someone like Samantha DeGrasse."
"That woman at the Alliance for MAD Acceptance?"
"Yes. She and her husband Jack are the co-chairs."
"Alright, then. What is Tom's game?"
"He's like me. His head is full of ideas, and he wants to use them to help."
"And that's why he wants me to stay president. Because the Republicans would shut him down."
"That's one of the reasons he's given you the support he has."
"Three hundred million dollars is a lot of money," Walsh said. "But I'm down about ten percent right now-"
"Thirteen," Dalton corrected. "If you run a more refined analysis."
"Thirteen percent," Walsh continued, "and even the richest man in the world can't afford to buy an election. Especially when most of the country thinks he is a psycho waiting to make our computers rise up against us."
"There is still plenty of time for more good works to change the voters' minds."
"Well, if anyone can do those good works, it's you, Alex. You're the smartest guy I know. Now get out there and do enough good that twenty million more people will vote for me!"
"I'll see what I can do," Dalton said. "I'll see what I can do."