The Price of Freedom (Chapter One)


“Where did you say that they’ve spotted these things again?”

“The biggest places,” Elizabeth Brunswick began, rolling her eyes. She started to type on one of the bigger computers, so that images of cities showed on the large screen. She pushed her hair back from her face and began to name the cities. “New York City, Phoenix, Philadelphia… the list goes on and on… ”

A few of the people in the room who were sitting in the other computers turned to look. Viola and Elizabeth glanced at the people who were peeking; they turned back to their work at the computers. 

 Viola Lodge rubbed her forehead with her fingers. She wasn’t pretty, to get that straight. She wasn’t all that skinny, and she had a blemished complexion from having acne as a child and wrinkles were forming on her face. And, even though she was still young, she did nothing to stop them.

But, she wasn’t ugly either.

Viola Lodge was Viola Lodge. Distant, but down to earth. Delicate, but, yet, strong. Discrete, and up-front. No one could figure out what she was, or try to get her to change so that she could be easier to understand. No one wanted to anyway.

“And,” she began, sighing, “are all the 911 calls from different places?” Viola wished that the answer would be ‘no.’ But, her gut feeling — which was never wrong — told her that she wouldn’t not get the answer she wanted. 

Elizabeth Brunswick shook her head. “Sorry to say, Ms. Vice President,” she started in false respect, “But they’re all from different places, a different city.” That was all Viola wanted to hear, but Elizabeth kept talking, as she usually did. “And more are coming in by the minute, but we haven’t checked since the original calls.”

“And how many original calls were there exactly?” Viola rolled her eyes as she spoke. She hoped that she wasn’t sounding frightened. Not frightened in front of Elizabeth Brunswick, out of all people. To be honest with herself, she was scared out of her mind.

All the computer workers wrinkled their faces, some even closed their eyes, as they cringed. Maybe they thought that they could scrunch themselves up so much they would turn to nothing, and wouldn’t have to deal with the looming problem. 

 Elizabeth Brunswick bit her lip just before mustering out the words: “There were 20 original 911 calls.” She fumbled with her hands. “But there must be hundreds now… some might be from new places.” 

“Twenty!” Viola screeched, losing all her cool. 

“Make that 21.”

 The door swung open, and it smashed loudly against the wall. All the heads in the room turned to look as President Richard Werrington entered. Everyone but Viola rose and saluted him.

“Way to make an entrance… ” Elizabeth Brunswick muttered sarcastically. Soft enough that only Viola could hear. Viola shot her a death-glare to shut her up. Though, inside, Viola agreed with her. She just wasn’t willing to admit it.

 “What do you mean?” She asked hastily, waking up to him. She tried not to show it, but her eyes began to water and her heart beat rapidly. She had to crane her neck to look up to Richard, who stood at 6’3”. 

“I don’t recall you telling me that you’re blind, Ms. Vice President,” Richard Werrington started. He took off the white gloves that he was wearing and shoved them into his pocket. “Have you even bothered to look outside? One of those… things — ” he gestured at the screen — “is right outside.”

“Well, that’s news,” Elizabeth Brunswick said nervously.

Even though her voice shook, she held herself high and kept her chin up. Elizabeth Brunswick didn’t brand herself as a woman who got scared easily. She wouldn’t let it fear overcome her now. Even in a situation such as the one before them.

Richard pushed back his wavy, dark-blond hair. “You!” He said, turning and pointing to one of the workers. “Call Mr. Irving and arrange for an Air Force 1 jet to be ready for take-off. I’m getting out of here.”

“Yessir,” the employee said quickly. 

“Mr. President,” Viola scolded. “This is no time for your usual crap! We don’t even know what these things are!” She turned back to the screen that now displayed the different glowing lights. “I mean, they could be comets… rocket ships… even meteorites — ”

 “Bombs,” Richard said flatly. 

“I’m sorry, what?” Elizabeth Brunswick cut in. She scoffed slightly, but she didn’t seem to intend to make the sound she did. Some of the computer workers looked up anxiously. “Did you just say, bombs?” 

“Yes, bombs, Miss Secretary,” Richard stated. “And if you’ve got one ounce of sense in you, you would issue a national emergency and get out of here as fast as you can.” 

“How do we know that they’re bombs?” Viola asked. She scrolled on the computer, and it zoomed in on the light, having to adjust to the new zoom. “We can’t be sure, and who would possibly want to attack us.”

“North Korea… for one.” Richard began, counting on his fingers. “Then there’s China… Russia… ” He paused for a second and crossed his arms. “To be honest, we’ve pissed off so many countries it could be anyone.”

“Richard James Werrington!” Viola screeched. “If you really think that this is a national emergency — then you shouldn’t be fooling around like this! Every day it’s the same damn thing –”

 “Mr. President… ” Elizabeth Brunswick’s voice was oddly feeble. She was standing next to one of the workers at their computer. Her face was paler than it usually was, and her purple veins were visible in her highly exposed neck and arms. That was another thing Viola wasn’t fond off… 

 She gulped and turned to Viola and Richard. Her eyes were wide, but her back straight. “I… I… um… I think that you might just be right… ” she said so horsley, it was almost a whisper.

 Richard and Viola both heard her, even though her voice was soft. They still couldn’t comprehend what she had just said. Even Richard, who had suspected it, was praying on the fact that he might be wrong. Now that was thrown out the window.

“I’m sorry… what?!” Viola said. Her voice started off as low as Elizabeth’s, but it slowly rose higher. The “what” was so loud that it shook the entire room. Viola had that effect on people, but she also had that effect on rooms, apparently. 

“President Werrington is right,” Elizabeth spoke again. Her words were like thin ice, but much colder. “It’s a bomb, and I’m damn sure it is… From my days in the military… ” Her face suddenly went red, and her breathing quickened. She looked like she was about to pass out. 

“We have to get out of here… ” She managed to get out the words as she stumbled her way from the computer. She pushed to the two of them and ran to the trash can by the door. She proceeded to throw up; she was done being strong. 

 Richard and Viola advanced towards the computer. The nervous, fumbling, shaking employee was zooming in on the image of the light. The entire room was filled with nervous mumbling and the sound of Elizabeth vomiting. 

“Put that one the screen,”  Richard instructed carefully. The words came out slower than he thought they would. He punted to the screen, and everyone in the room seemed to lean towards it to see the image. 

 The image appeared on the screen, and the man behind the computer began to zoom in. As it came closer, the ball of light took on a definitive shape. 

 Richard adjusted his glasses, although he didn’t need to. He could see it quite clearly. Elizabeth, still shaking, walked up to between Richard and Viola. She lifted her head to look up, as much as she didn’t want to.

Elizabeth turned her head slightly and sighed. 

Richard turned to the rest of the group, and flopped his arms to his side. He sighed and let out an exasperated laugh. “Crap,” he said, still chuckling. “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap… ”

This didn’t exactly strike Viola as unusual — Richard was well-known to her as one to laugh when he was nervous. But, whether she was used to it and whether she was bothered by it were two extremely different things.

She had known Richard since they were children. They had lived in the same estate and been friends from elementary school all the way to law school. They flocked to each other because they had the same goal in life — they were the only two children in St. Peter’s Catholic Academy who had wanted to become the president.

But only one of them has achieved that goal.

Steaming with anger — she wasn’t usually wrong — Viola walked up to the front of the room, in front of the screen. “We’re going to issue a national emergency, people!” she yelled. She began to walk up the isles, observing the people. “A national emergency!”

 The lights dimmed and red lights in the ceiling and in the hallway began to flash. The room turned to absolute chaos, with people running and Viola shouting instructions. It suddenly felt strangely hot. 

“Get to the helicopters! Get to the base! You know where to go! Take your laptops! We’ll operate from there!” She commanded, picking up a grey briefcase. All the people began to run. “Get yourselves out of here!”

 Elizabeth Brunswick had gained back her usual air of mightiness and was new walking up to Viola. “I’m going to need Secretary Greene and Secretary Xin,” she said sternly. “I’m almost certain they’re with Ortega at a meeting — you might as well get him too.”

Viola crossed her arms and spat back, “I don’t take orders from the likes of you.” Viola wasn’t fond of Elizabeth. She didn’t like how she always showed up in designer dresses and heels. She believed that work wasn’t a place to dress up like a model to go to.

Elizabeth scowled. The feeling was mutual.

“Fine,” she spat. “I’ll go there myself.” She stalked off towards the door, her red heels clicking so loudly that it nearly drove Viola insane.  

“Richard!” She now turned to him, addressing him by his first name. Richard Werrington turned to her, looking lost in all the hustle and bustle. It was clear that he was a little claustrophobic. “You need to get Madeline and Anthony! Get to the jet. That employee already placed a call. It should be ready for you.”

  Richard paused and stopped to process what she had said. He suddenly gained the face of someone that had just been hit on the head with a frying pan. Richard began to run towards the doorway at full speed. His arms didn’t seem to know what they were doing.

Although he ran fast, Viola ran faster. She grabbed his sleeve before he was ever able to get to the doorway and held out the briefcase. She opened it with a click, to reveal a panel of buttons. 

“You know, Ms. Vice President,” Richard said frankly, catching his breath. He slammed his hand down upon one of the buttons with such force it nearly fell out of Viola’s hands. “Usually I like pressing red buttons.”

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