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The stone wall was wet, cold. I could hear them—whoever they were—moving around above us, the faint scent of gunpowder filling the small space. The woman, a stranger, put her hand on my shoulder.

“Stay here,” she whispered. Mouthed it, really, she was so silent. “Don’t move.”

I didn’t.

I watched her crouch-walk along the stone foundation, the underground portion of a massive downtown hotel. She was small, maybe a buck-thirty at most. Fit, agile. She took a metal cylinder from somewhere in her jacket and, without stopping, attached it to the end of her gun. I suddenly felt very conscious of my lack of knowledge regarding guns, but in my defense, until ten minutes prior I’d never had any pointed at me.

I waited in the darkness, as instructed, looking and listening in vain for any hint at what was happening. Suddenly, two loud flashes, accompanied by two metallic sounding whistles. Then I heard what I can only describe as what it would sound like to drop a wet duffle bag of food on the ground.

I froze.

My brain knew what all of it meant. Gun fire. Dead bodies. My hero possibly one of the dead. My heart and lungs and nervous system, though, seemed to have lost all sense of what they were supposed to do.

After a moment—or a thousand years, for all I know—I looked behind me, but it only got darker and I had no clue what was waiting for me. I realized I had no idea how to get out without answering the question of who was still breathing, when I caught a glimpse of something moving toward me. I cursed myself for not learning karate or carrying a weapon or even just a rolled up magazine, something, anything to fight back with.

“Let’s go.”

I felt my breath leave my lungs at the same time all ability to stand left my legs.

“No. Get up! We don’t have a lot of time.”

With unexpected strength, given her size, she practically yanked my arm out of socket lifting me up, but it worked. I was moving.

“What the hell is happening?”

“Quiet. Stay with me, right here, on my left hip, that’s where you live until I say otherwise.”

“Who are those men?”

“Quiet, sir.”

I’d never seen a dead body before. Ever. Now I was stepping over two dead men. Big men. They looked like football players or soldiers or something. They were dressed like in Call of Duty. I couldn’t stand to look at one, the one with only half a face. The other one looked normal, like he was just taking a nap, except for the bloody hole just above his vest. It was one of those vests that had all the attachments. I suddenly wondered what the hell he was going to do with whatever was in all those pouches?

What were they going to do… to me?

The woman took one of the dead men’s guns. It was sort of like a pistol, but bigger. She grabbed a couple of the bullet things (clips?) and stuffed them in her pockets. Then she led me to a doorway, before tapping her watch.

“Go,” said a voice.

“I got him. East service entrance,” she said into the watch. “Get us out now.”


Before the voice on her watch completed the word, a spark hit the doorframe just above her head. She moved me away from it, pushing me up against a wall.

“Make it snappy,” she yelled, again into her watch.


I said it without thought. It was all reaction. I saw a shadowy figure moving toward us, it looked like he was carrying a gun, so some part of my reptile brain that didn’t want to die made my vocal chords alert her to this approaching threat. She fired twice and the shadow fell to the ground. She fired a few more times, in bursts.

Into her watch she said, “multiples, all directions, come in hot.”

“Roger. Ten seconds.”

“Make it five, and don’t shoot my ass.”

She fired again. Then her gun was empty. Without looking at it, she ejected the empty clip and put another one in, all in the span of less than a second. She fired again.

She looked at me.

“If I fall, you take this. Point it at the bad guys and pull the trigger. Understood?”

I said nothing.


“Yes!” I managed.

A sudden burst of gunfire echoed through the alley ways and into the opening where I was trying not to faint. It sounded like it was coming from everywhere, all at once.

The woman fell back, grabbing her side.


“Shit,” she said, before righting herself again and returning fire.

It went on for what I’m sure was only a few more seconds. In that time, though, I felt keenly aware of everything: The coolness of the night air; The different sounds of what I assumed were different guns; The smell of gun powder and the metallic smell of blood; My knees, how they ached from crouching; My heartbeat, which filled my ears.

Then it was over.


Not silence. Ringing.

My ears were ringing.

Even though she was injured, the woman was looking at me, mouthing something.

“No, I’m fine,” I said, deciphering what she was asking. “I’m fine. You’re hurt.”

She winked. I could start to hear her as she said, “…day at the office, sir.”

Before I knew what was happening I was in the back of an armored sedan. Men and women, all young and fit like the woman that helped me, all wearing dark suits, had hustled me along, keeping my head down, until I was seat-belted in and we were moving at a high speed.

Two or three black SUVs joined us, in front and behind us. There may have been more, but that’s all I could see. A helicopter was above us, I could see it’d lights flashing.

The car slowed, then stopped. We were in a parking garage or something. The same group of men and women escorted me to a room and handed me off to some middle-aged people in gray suits. They didn’t look as strong or tough, more like business people.

A woman that reminded me of my aunt Bernice walked up to me.

“Can I get you anything, sir? Water? Are you hungry?”

“Um. Coffee?”

She turned and, without a word, two young people moved quickly out of the room.

“Why don’t you have a seat. It’s been quite an ordeal for you, I’m sure.”

I sat.

She sat.

A moment later I was holding a mug of coffee. One of the two young people had a tray with creamer, sugar, that kind of stuff. I waved him off.

“What is all this about? Who were those people? Is that woman okay?”

“Agent Nguyen is expected to make a full recovery, sir.”


“Yes, sir. Secret Service. We’re not certain, at this point, who the operatives were or who they were working for, but our best and brightest are on that at this moment. I have no doubt we—“


“Yes, sir.”

“Why are operatives after me?”

She looked momentarily as confused as I’m sure I did.

“Do you, um, sir, do you not know that you won?”

“Won what?”

“The election, sir.”


“Yes, sir. You are the President Elect, sir.”

“President of what?”

She picked up a remote and clicked on the TV. It was a news broadcast. She unmuted the TV to some group of serious-looking talking heads.

“…never seen anything like this, Joy. This is truly uncharted territory.”

“Yes, but, constitutionally, is there—“

“Constitutionally, it appears to be completely within—“

“Yes, but, the Founders never intended that a bunch of internet trolls would steal the election with a write in campaign for a YouTuber.”

“A forty-year-old YouTuber that makes videos about where he launches fireworks from his rear end and crashes shopping carts into—“

“I hate to interrupt the panel, but we’re just getting word that an unknown terrorist cell made an apparent attempt to apprehend the President Elect, but the Secret Service was able to easily thwart the efforts and he is safely ensconced—“

She clicked it off.

“So, Mr. President Elect, can we get you into some clean clothes? Are you hungry, sir?”

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