Title: 'Forget Paris'
Series: 'Air Force One - Part I'
Author: Anna Rousseau <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Fandom: The West Wing
Genre: INTERACTIVE Drama/Action-Adventure
Archive: Please, just tell me where.
Spoilers: Season one, up to 'Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics'
Set: Alternate Universe, season one finale, so lets just forget the whole thing at Rosslyn (and Sam's bad Season 2 hair) for this fic, otherwise this would be too unbelievable.
Summary: Response to a challenge on the Sam Seaborn Fanfic Archive for an Air Force One-esque story. The West Wing staff set off for an EU summit in Paris, only things don't go as they expected once they're in the air.
Disclaimer: I'm not taking credit for 'Air Force One' or Mr. Sorkin's genius so please don't sue me, or I'll get Sam to bust you like a pinata. Thanks also goes to JedBartlet.com which proved to be an invaluable source of information.
Political Disclaimer: I'm British, ask me about Parliament and I'm your girl. But when it comes to Congress and US politics, everything I learnt about it I learnt from The West Wing and The 1995 World Almanac. So go easy on me :o) I'm using my imagination with the layout of Air Force One, as we haven't seen it that often in the show.
HOW TO VOTE:
As an ER fic writer, I was one of the few to venture interactive fictions with my ER/Voyager and ER/Big Brother crossovers. I wanted to try it with the WW with this challenge. As I'm new to the West Wing scene, I'm not completely sure if you've had this before.
The only thing you need to know is that at the end of each chapter I will give you TWO questions with three or four options on how the story should progress, and in order for you to get your evil ways :o) you will either have to e-mail me with your choice, or if you are reading on fanfiction.net, put your choice in a review.
Please join in as it makes the fic-reading and writing process more interesting as both you and I do not know what to expect! This part is long as it is the introductory part. I hope to get an instalment out every week, so keep your eyes peeled. [Part two will be out in two weeks as I'm in France for the next seven days, lucky me.]
Happy reading, and please vote!
"AIR FORCE ONE I - FORGET PARIS"
JOHN F. KENNEDY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, NEW YORK
It was positively balmy when The President of the United States of America, Josiah Bartlet, stepped out of one of The John F. Kennedy International Airport's terminal buildings and was greeted in with the hundreds of cheers from the gathered spectators who had dragged themselves out of bed to see the President disembark.
Waving enthusiastically at the crowd, President Bartlet muttered something from his between his clenched teeth.
Charlie Young, the President's personal aide and sometimes it seemed, his shadow, matched Bartlet's step with perfected synchronisation. "Pardon, sir?"
"Don't play dumb with me, Charlie," he hissed, casting the other man a threatening glance. "You told my wife about our little pizza party last night, didn't you? She'd been on my back about cholesterol all morning."
Abbey Bartlet was on the other side of the President, doing her duty as the First Lady and stopping to shake hands with an elderly woman who handed her a bouquet.
The young man smiled broadly. Charlie had long ago learnt to take the President's threats with a pinch of salt, "She asked me to keep an eye on you, sir. Personally, I didn't really want to get on the wrong side of Dr. Bartlet."
The President narrowed his eyes, "I'm the one with the nuclear weapons, Charlie. I'm the one you shouldn't be getting on the wrong side of."
Charlie and Zoey Bartlet smiled as her father resumed shaking hands with various members of the public.
Behind them, most of the Senior Staff followed obediently. Chief of Staff Leo McGarry was matching his daughter's steps exactly as he hung just behind the President who was being trailed by Ron Butterfield, one of the top Secret Service agents. Gina Toscano was at his side, casting weary glances into the crowd.
"I wouldn't have come if I knew he was coming," Mallory O'Brian told her father in no uncertain terms. She threw a glance over her shoulder and saw Sam Seaborn talking to Communications Director Toby Ziegler animatedly, whilst Toby just nodded every once in a while giving the impression that he wasn't really listening to what his deputy was saying. "He hasn't even said anything to me this morning."
Leo gave his daughter a wry smile, "You didn't really give him a chance, Mal. Every time he came up to talk, you went to chat with Zoey and Gina."
Mallory pursed her lips with resolve. Just as stubborn as her father, Mallory wouldn't admit to any fault on her part. They walked along in silence for a while.
"You'd think he would have called though-"
"Mallory!" Leo moaned as Toby brushed past him, phone in hand.
"Can you believe him?"
"I've heard this, how many times?" Leo continued with a fatigued expression. "Too many, is the answer. For Heaven's sake, would it kill you to talk to Sam and just stop bugging me?"
Toby caught up with the President, and fell by his side. "Sir?"
He looked up, "Toby, what can I do for you?"
"It landed, sir." The relief Toby felt was evident in his voice.
"Have you talked to your brother yet?"
Toby shook his head, a slight smile hidden beneath his beard, "No, sir. Not yet."
Leo tapped Toby on the shoulder, Toby made a little hand motion which made Leo clap the speechwriter on the back but produced a puzzled expression on Mallory's part. She didn't dare get into the complicated nature of the situation for fear that it had something to do with National Parks and the President would offer her a pop-quiz on the subject for two hours.
Toby turned back to the President, "So, what did you think of the pizzas last night, sir?"
"They were New York pizzas," the President stated.
"Not New England pizzas."
"No, sir. New York pizzas from Brooklyn, hence them not being New England pizzas" Toby replied.
"We make better pizzas in New England," the President told Toby without and qualms.
Toby raised his eyebrows, "I wasn't aware that New England was famed for its pizzas like New York and Chicago are."
A few paces behind the First Family, the Chief of Staff and his daughter was Sam. He was walking just ahead of Josh Lyman, the Deputy Chief of Staff, who every so often stopped to sign something for one of his devotees. Josh and Donna Moss were engaged, as usual, in some trivial topic of conversation that both of them were taking as seriously as a Congressional Bill.
Sam wasn't paying much attention to his friend and his assistant, but instead was concentrating on Mallory's back as she walked next to Leo and contemplating how he could corner Mallory and explain something without her rushing off just when he got around to pulling together enough nerve to talk to her.
"Hey Sam," CJ Cregg announced as she rushed up behind him and fell into step, flattening her hair which was becoming increasingly unruly in the breezy summer morning.
"CJ," Sam replied with a smile, breaking his train of thought.
"Lily Mayes is coming, please don't get into a fracas with her, will you," CJ started by way of an ice-breaker.
"Scout's honour," Sam promised, holding up a hand. He looked at the Press Secretary's grim expression. "This is bad news, isn't it?"
"Yeah," she sighed as they followed the Presidential entourage up the steps and into Air Force One.
"I should probably stop smiling then," Sam concluded, indeed wiping the smile from his face. "It's Connelly and Moore, isn't it."
CJ nodded, "Jones jumped the fence as well."
Sam nearly stopped dead. "Jones?"
They finally got inside Air Force One, and the door was slid firmly into place after the rest of the Secret Service detail rounded up the staffers who were going to the EU Summit in Paris.
"Josh," Sam tapped his friend's arm, dragging him out of the argument he was having with Donna about the advantages of designer sun shades over the five dollar ones she picked up at the drugstore.
Josh looked at CJ and Sam's crest-fallen expressions, "It's the public health bill, isn't it? Please say no, CJ. This is a good day for me so far. I'm going to Europe, the sun is shining and my fan club is out in force. Please say no."
"'No' then," CJ replied flippantly. She sighed, "I can't understand it. You talked to Jones, didn't you Josh?"
"He was on our team," Josh confirmed slowly as he looked at his two colleges. "What happened?"
CJ started drew a curtain aside and entered the area where Toby was sitting, opening his laptop up and leaning forward. "I'm working on it."
"Who else?" Josh asked, beckoning Donna from where she was about to sit down.
"Connelly and Moore," Sam said, chewing his cheek in thought.
Josh laughed bitterly and briefly, "Well that's to be expected. Those two rednecks don't care a damn about anything that won't put their salaries at jeopardy."
Toby looked up. "Four votes."
CJ looked poised to collapse with heart failure, "Who's the other one. Tell me it's not Taylor or-"
"It's not Taylor."
CJ continued without pausing, "-Kimberton."
"It's Kimberton," Toby verified, looking down then back up at the senior staff. "We need this bill confirmed. If it doesn't pass, it won't get put on the table again."
"Not only that, it'll be a terrible waste of Toby's amazing wordsman-ship," Sam commented. The assembled administration looked at the Deputy Communications Director. "I think I'll shut up."
They stood there for a moment, wondering which strings to start pulling and when to do it.
"Does Leo know?" Josh asked quietly, Donna was standing at his side, a pen out, ready in her hand to take down anything that her boss would need for future reference.
"Does Leo know what?"
They turned to face Leo who had just entered the compartment, looking like they he thought they were hiding something from him. Mallory was next to him, trying her best not to look in Sam's direction, as Sam desperately tried to make eye-contact with her.
"Public health bill, we've lost four people," Toby replied, rubbing his neck.
"Connelly, Jones, Moore and Kimberton," CJ offered. She turned and headed into the corridor, "I'm going to brief the press. Be back in ten."
Josh stuck his hands in his pockets and exhaled slowly, "So? Want me to stay on the ground and sort this out?"
Leo shook his head, "We've still got enough people on board. This summit's very important, people are thinking that the US isn't in touch with Europe anymore." Leo took off his jacket and scratched his neck, "Make some calls, try and find out what happened and do your best to sort it out. Okay?"
"Sam, Toby and I'll get to it," Josh assured the Chief of Staff, reaching for the phone on the cabin wall.
"I'm going to have a word with the President about this." Leo turned to his daughter, "Mal, I'd invite you but I'm afraid he's going to lecture you on the history of the fountain pen. Your best bet's to stay here."
Mallory opened her mouth to protest, but her father silenced her with a finger. She have Leo a pseudo-sweet smile went over to sit down the furthest away from Sam, taking out a copy of 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' from her shoulder bag.
"Good luck, guys," Leo said as he left the compartment to go to the Presidential quarters.
Donna scribbled down some notes and handed Josh his organiser. The Deputy Chief of Staff clapped his hands together and started to dial in Senator Jones' number. "Let's put the tax payers' dollars to good use and make some expensive calls."
There was small annoyed noise. "I still want my money back, Josh," Donna said pointedly.
"Yeah, yeah," he waved a hand dismissively as the person on the other end of the phone line picked up. "Senator Jones? Josh Lyman. Hi, we talked the other day-"
Sam opened up his laptop and positioned it next to Toby's on a small table, placing his glasses on his nose as he pulled up some numbers and statistics that would be relevant. Glancing over at Mallory, he heaved a deep sigh settled back to work.
Mallory watched Sam silently over the pages of her book, his forehead wrinkled in concentration, wondering when he would come over and apologise.
Danny Concanon's lips jerked upwards in a smile as CJ appeared at the front of the Press Corps holding a White House clipboard, her suit crisp and stylish, her hair perfectly groomed and her glasses settled at the end of her nose.
A respectful hush fell over the assembled journalists as CJ cleared her throat, "Good morning everybody, nice to see you all got here on time, bright and breezy as always."
"G'morning," the sleep-deprived and caffeine-loaded press responded with a few weary laughs. Danny's smile grew wider as he managed to catch CJ's eye briefly. He pulled out his notepad and pen, and waited, poised for anything of interest.
"Here's the itinerary, people," CJ announced. "The flight will take approximately seven hours, all going well and that means we should arrive at Paris Charles De Gaulle at around 2pm eastern standard time, 8pm in France. The President will then be escorted to Versailles where he will meet with President Chirac, Lionel Jospin and Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as other European delegates. Carol has a full list of prominent guests for you-"
Carol nodded and started to pass across the aforementioned documents. Danny took one, without breaking his gaze, watching as CJ continued in full flow."
"- Photo opportunities will be available. Sandy, Maggie and Danny will have the chance to talk to the President." She held up her hand as some reporters aired their protests, "The rest of you will get your turn during the next few days, please don't shout at me just yet. Tomorrow, the President will travel to the American Consulate to meet with the ambassador before travelling with President Chirac and Mr. Blair to Brussels, Belgium for the EU Summit. More details on that when we land. That's all for now, folks." CJ gave them a smile. "Enjoy the airline food and behave yourselves whilst I'm gone."
Danny braced himself to grab CJ's arm as he saw her heading down his aisle, making a beeline for the corridor. Deftly, he performed the manoeuvre and latched on to the Press Secretary. "CJ!"
"Danny," CJ sighed as she took a step backward, realising there was a force that was preventing her from making a speedy exit to where the rest of the Senior Staff were spending the next seven hours.
"Danny," she repeated, with a hint of amusement in her voice. "You have my arm, be a good boy and give it back, would you?"
"CJ," Danny replied, with a smile, slipping his hand down her arm until it was settled in her hand. "Have dinner with me tonight. Dinner at a nice French restaurant-"
"Really, a French restaurant in France. What a novelty," CJ shot back, straight-faced.
"Sarcasm does nothing for me, CJ. Hear me out," said Danny, in his smoothest tone.
"Tonight. Dinner then a romantic walk along the Seine. Just the two of us. So what'cha say?"
"Tonight," CJ said raising her eyebrows, "I will be with the President, as will you I might add."
Danny lowered his voice, as he felt Sandy King's trained ear listening in on their conversation from the seat next to him. "After that-"
"It will be very late and time for bed," CJ finished.
The Washington Post correspondent thought about firing back a quip, but stopped himself short. "I won't be asleep, I'll be on EST. I never sleep, CJ. That's why were perfect for one another."
CJ narrowed her eyes, "I'm still pissed at you, Danny."
There was a sigh. "You can't-"
"Yes I can," CJ retorted, letting go of his hand. She moved to get away from the red-headed journalist.
Danny turned in his seat, and watched CJ's retreating form. "Helluva waste of a weekend in Paris," he muttered to himself, shooting Sandy King a cautionary glare when he caught her looking in his direction.
Settling back in the plush Air Force One seat, Danny listened with half an ear as the pilot announced take-off his mind elsewhere. Glancing around the cabin, he noticed the regulars that he saw at the White House press briefings every morning, but a few seats away from him, next to Sandy King, sat two men and a woman who he didn't recognise. Danny popped a Tic-Tac in his mouth and chewed on it thoughtfully.
Leaning across Sandy, who was engrossed in something she was reading on her palmtop computer, Danny stuck out his hand, ignoring Sandy's heavy sigh.
"Danny Concanon, Washington Post."
The slightly pasty looking man on her right shook Danny's hand with a vice-like grip, his accent definitely Irish, "David Kennedy, BBC News 24."
"I haven't seen you around," Danny commented with intrigue. "Are you with the other two?"
The people who Danny was referring two were talking amongst themselves. "No," David replied. "I think they work for a European news network, though."
"Ah," Danny replied, sinking back into his seat and turning to Sandy who looked positively disgruntled to have been leaned over. "Sam Seaborn does a good impression of you during Presidential prep."
Sandy raised an eyebrow at Danny and shook her head, turning back to her reading.
"Just making conversation," he muttered, deciding not to offer *her* any of his Tic-Tacs.
AIR FORCE ONE: 1 HOUR INTO FLIGHT
Josh breathed in a deep and long breath from a canister he was holding, then coughed, much to the amusement of Donna who was leafing through some files next to him.
"Don't...laugh," Josh warned as he continued to wheeze.
"Laugh? Me?" Donna replied, innocently. She heard a snigger from Sam's direction, which ended as quickly as it started when Josh shot him an evil look.
A loud 'HA!' was emitted from Toby's mouth. When Josh turned to give the Communications Director the glare he had given his deputy, Toby was looking away, mumbling to himself.
"Alright, alright," Josh relented. He raised a finger, "Time Magazine-"
There was a series of groans from the assembled staffers.
"Time Magazine-" Josh continued, ignoring the others, as so usually he did.
At that moment, CJ entered the room, got the gist of what Josh was about to launch into and groaned loudly. "Is this about your pure oxygen thing, Josh?"
"On a plane-" Josh's flow was, however, not interrupted by CJ's complaints, "the air in the cabin is recycled continuously, every time someone sneezes, someone coughs, it gets into your lungs and puts you at higher risk of being infected with TB and things like that."
Donna shifted slightly, "How's oxygen gonna help that, it's not like you're not breathing the air around you anyway."
"This is what I've been telling him for the past year," CJ replied, glad to have someone to back her up. "I don't know what you read in Time Magazine, Josh, but it has absolutely *nothing* to do with your silly little can of air."
There was a small interlude of silence, the only sound being made was CJ mouthing 'attention seeker' at Donna, and Josh's assistant mouthing 'I know' back at the Press Secretary.
Josh coughed and changed the subject quickly. "We've got an idea about Jones."
"What happened, then?"
"Sam," Josh prompted, looking through a stack of notes.
"He doesn't like our proposition about putting more public funding into medical education," Sam told CJ, glancing at some notes in front of him. "He believes that residents *should* live in enormous debt, because that's what the government has done in the past and why change it. Also, he's not with us on medical insurance reform. It doesn't affect him; he's got insurance, he won't be going to County hospitals. Needless to say, he's not that enthused about helping those who can't afford insurance and still want effective health care."
"And why, exactly, did Josh get the impression the other week that he was for this bill?" CJ asked with a wide-eyed expression.
"He was for it," Josh retorted. "It might be about the bill he proposed but we vetoed a few months back."
CJ's eyes rolled in disbelief. "He's still bitter about that?"
Sam nodded. "Apparently so."
"Any news on the others?" CJ asked, pulling out her pen.
"We're working on Kimberton and I can tell you now, we're not going to get anywhere with Connelly and Moore. They're lost," Toby said, looking up from his computer. He turned to his deputy, "Sam, give Leo an update would you."
"And ask him if they have any of those cashew nuts, like last time," Josh added.
Sam got up. "What about the little cracker things, those were good."
Josh nodded enthusiastically. "Oh, and peanuts. Marshmallows, y'think they have marshmallows?"
Donna, Toby, Mallory and CJ watched Sam and Josh discuss snacks until the two men settled on what Sam should bring back from the galley, and then gave the two deputies disbelieving looks.
CJ cleared her throat as Sam turned to leave the compartment. "Get me some pretzels while you're at it."
Josh looked at CJ. "I sense we're being mocked, Sam."
She rolled her eyes. "I need salty snacks, too, guys."
Sam mentally ticked the cashew nuts, peanuts, little cracker things, marshmallows and pretzels off on his fingers and headed for the place he knew Leo McGarry usually liked to stay on Air Force One. Anywhere that didn't hold the possibility of a lecture on the history of French pastries by the President.
He wasn't four steps out of the compartment when he heard the swish of a curtain being drawn back, footsteps behind him and an abrupt 'Sam!'.
Sam turned on his heel to face Mallory, who was standing a few feet away from him, her fingers playing with the dog-eared pages of 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin'.
"Something about your tone of voice says you're not about to invite me to join the mile-high club with you," Sam quipped nervously.
Mallory gave him a look. "Could you be serious, please. It'll be a lot easier for both of us."
"Mallory," Sam started, rubbing the back of his hand across his temples. "It got very hectic. The photo, the press, the interviews. I was going to call-"
She moved a step closer and held a hand up. "I don't want to hear it."
"What do you want from me then?" Sam asked, in exasperation, yet not willing to let Mallory slip through his fingers another time. "I don't get the on-off thing we have. How am I supposed to know where we stand? We had lunch once, we never actually got around to going on a real date. We're not going out Mallory, we're not dating. I wasn't under any obligation to ring you. You could have rung me, it's not like we don't live in the 21st century. Just tell me where you think we are, because I can tell you that I haven't the foggiest idea. One moment you hate my guts, the next you kiss me-"
"You kissed me back," Mallory retorted, her face growing flushed.
"You kissed me first," Sam countered.
"Okay, okay," Mallory said, taking a breath. "Laurie."
"Yeah?" Sam said bluntly.
"She's the one you 'accidentally slept with that day I met you," Mallory asked.
"It was just a one-off thing?"
"The photo," Mallory took a breath, "the photo where you were...hugging her."
"It was a congratulatory thing, Mallory, for her law school graduation. Nothing happened,"
Sam assured her.
Mallory took another breath. "Do you love her?"
"She's just a friend," Sam replied. He looked Mallory straight in the eyes and gave her a smile. "I'm in love with you, Mal."
She looked slightly taken aback, "You are?"
"When did that happen?" Mallory asked, her austere expression softening.
"That time you came in with your class and I was a moron. I messed up, I know. My head wasn't straight. I'm sorry, I was an idiot. But when we went out for drinks with CJ, Zoey, Charlie and Josh, I knew that I wanted to make it up to you, because I loved you," Sam replied. "Give me a chance, Mallory. Please. I don't mind if you don't feel exactly the same way-"
"I do!" Mallory blurted out, without really thinking. Sam's mouth gaped slightly.
"You do?" Sam repeated, his voice breaking slightly.
Mallory nodded. "I knew when I saw you in the paper with Laurie. Guess I do have an itch for you."
"What?" Sam frowned.
"Never mind," Mallory waved a hand, a smile crossing her face for the first time in days. "Can we start over again?"
Sam smiled. "Yes."
There was a moment of silence. Mallory and Sam didn't break eye-contact until she leant forward and grabbed Sam's tie, bringing his mouth down to her lips.
"Can I borrow your pen?"
Danny raised an eyebrow at Sandy King, who was holding her hand out expectantly. "The Chicago Sun-Times doesn't supply you with pens? Well *that* is a novel way to go about journalism."
"You've got yours out, I don't want to waste five minutes searching for one in my bag," Sandy replied, rolling her eyes and brushing her strawberry-blonde hair out of her face.
Grudgingly, Danny pulled a spare pen out of his shirt pocket and pressed it into her palm. "I want it back."
"And don't chew on it," Danny added, watching out of the corner of his eye as the two European reporters stood up and left the cabin.
Sandy shot him a look. "What are we in, third grade?"
"At least I'm not the reporter who doesn't carry writing materials," Danny replied with a little smile which was not reciprocated.
Once he was satisfied that Sandy wasn't going to interrupt him again, Danny turned back to formulating his plan to regain CJ's affection.
"I gotta get out of here," President Bartlet mumbled as he saw his wife, the First Lady, heading in his direction. He had to get away before she could launch into another attack on his diet, and namely the pizza-fest he and the senior staff had enjoyed last night in his hotel suite whilst Dr. Bartlet was out meeting an old friend from medical school.
"Come on, Zoey." The First Daughter found herself being grabbed by the hand and led her into the corridor. "Let's go see if CJ's throttled Josh yet."
"Mom's mad at you, isn't she?" Zoey smiled as Charlie grinned slightly.
The President kept a straight face. "Where'd you get that idea?"
"A hunch," Zoey replied flippantly.
Her father stopped just a few steps down the corridor as they caught sight of the Deputy Communications Director pinned against the cabin wall by the Chief of Staff's daughter, both of them oblivious to the fact that the President of the United States was standing just a few feet away from them.
Jed Bartlet cleared his throat. "Working hard there, Sam?"
Sam and Mallory froze, their lips still pressed together, but their eyes now wide open. They sprang apart and faced the President, a guilty look evident on their red faces.
"Mr. President," they chorused.
Mallory picked up her copy of 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' from where it lay forgotten on the floor.
"Sir," the Chief of Staff announced. The President smiled as Leo came out of a compartment without any idea of what he had walked in on. "Sam, got those votes back?"
Sam coughed, "Jones doesn't like med. school funding and free medical care, Toby's working on Kimberton. We're probably not going to get Moore and Connelly back. Unless-"
The President looked on in amusement as Mallory made darting glances at Sam's neck, which had a clear lipstick mark on it. She made some subtle hints at Sam whilst he was talking, but putting her hand to her neck and giving him a swift kick in the foot.
Sam looked at Mallory and caught on, putting a hand to his neck quickly. "Unless we talk to...to the Vice-President."
Leo grunted. "Why does it always come down to him?"
"The way of the world, Leo." The President replied. "Now, can we get back to where you lot are sitting before my wife comes to give me a lecture."
"What's wrong with your neck," Leo asked Sam curiously as they started towards where Toby's rarely raised voice could be heard.
Sam rubbed his neck, "I-I..." He finally came up with the most believable explanation. "I fell over."
"And hurt your neck?" Leo asked, raising an eyebrow.
Leo hid a grin. He turned to Mallory. "You alright, Mallory?"
Mallory smiled, "Yeah, Dad. Sam and I sorted things out."
They walked past the Secret Service station where Ron Butterfield and his detail were discussing protocol. They stood up when the President passed with a chorus of 'sirs'.
The President, Zoey, Charlie, Sam, Leo and his daughter were with the other staff when Agents Mike Thomas, Ron Butterfield and Kelly Gilford fell to the floor with the rest of their detail. Blood seeping from their fatal head wounds onto the grey carpeting of the President's plane and necks red from strangulation, without anyone knowing of the incident.
Not a sound was made by the two cautious figures next to the fire arms lock-up as they returned to retrieve the rest of the weapons they would need when their associates finished rounding up the press into the situation room. The woman, six foot tall with long dark hair twisted up in a knot, pulled on a bullet proof vest, as did the middle aged man in a conservative business suit next to her. The man talked into a microphone he held in the palm of his hand. After receiving an affirmative response from his colleague, he gave the woman a nod and they stepped over the prone bodies of the six Secret Service agents.
"Frank Sinatra!" Toby's raised voice silenced the other staffers in an instant. He then lowered his tone to a mere mumbled and gave reasons for his choice of popular singer. "Sinatra is the best. It's indisputable. He wins hands-down, no-one else gets a look in."
"Toby, you just said three things that have the same meaning," announced the President as he entered the compartment, ducking under the partitioning curtain which Charlie held out of the way.
CJ, Donna, Toby and Josh all rose within a second. "Mr. President."
"Personally, I prefer Ella Fitzgerald," the President added secretively. "She had better legs."
"On that count, I think Donna and I may have to object," CJ replied with a wry smile.
The President sat down, and the rest of the senior staff followed suit. Zoey and Charlie sat down in the corner, crushed together on one seat, whilst Sam and Mallory stood in front of the entrance. Sam had one hand clamped over his neck but his other hung at his side, every so often brushing against Mallory's. Donna settled back into the chair in-between CJ and Josh and picked up her yellow notepad.
"If you don't mind, I'm going to stay here a while and hide from my wife." Picking up that morning's edition of The New York Times, the President sat back and reached for his reading glasses. He studied them for a moment and looked up at the people surrounding him. "Anyone got a lens cloth?"
Sam automatically delved the hand which had been covering his neck into his jacket pocket, producing the item in question, "Here you go, Mr. President."
Josh stared at Sam's neck, not trying very hard to hide his smile. "Is that lipstick on your neck, Sam?"
CJ leaned forwards and tried to see what the Deputy Chief of Staff was talking about. "Where?"
Clapping a hand over to mark, Sam stuttered, "No, I...I fell over and..."
He trailed off, his face paling off somewhat, as did Mallory's. Sam gulped and made a signal to Zoey. He could feel Mallory shaking next to him as a cold sweat broke out on his forehead.
Zoey stared at him for a second, then moved her hand slowly to the panic button that was attached to her belt. The President looked across at Zoey, then to Sam and Mallory whose eyes were wide in panic.
Josh recognised the signal as the curtain behind Sam parted slowly, two figures becoming visible, the cool metal barrels of their handguns pressed into Sam and Mallory's backs.
Sam's hoarse voice broke through the silence which had penetrated the cabin. "This is not happening."
Charlie, Toby, Leo and Josh leapt in front of the President and Zoey, not really knowing what to do, just hoping that the Secret Service would arrive any moment. Donna and CJ moved into the corner of the compartment as quickly as they could and CJ made a dive for the red phone next to the outside line and pressing it to her ear. She was connected immediately to the pilot's deck, but there was an unfamiliar voice on the other end of the phone.
"Shit," she breathed as a gun was pressed against her throat. CJ let the phone fall from her hand as she was forced away from the phone.
"Move!" The man behind Mallory barked. Mallory winced as she was driven forward by the hard pressure of the gun barrel. She and Sam were pushed into the group of senior staffers, their assistants, the first daughter and the President.
Mallory clung onto Sam, shaking from shock. The President was surrounded by members of his staff, all willing to take a bullet for him and his daughter. CJ and Donna moved slowly in towards the others as a few more people dressed in suits and bullet proof vests, some whom CJ had seen in the press briefing earlier, entered the compartment.
"Where the hell is the Secret Service?"
The man raised his gun and pointed it at the person who had just spoken, placing a finger on the trigger and squeezing it with an expression of brutal malice.
To Be Continued...
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
WHO IS THE GUN AIMED AT?
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE TERRORISTS?
a) They are Basque separatists seeking publicity and partition from Spain.
b) They want the President to release infamous terrorists/freedom fighters from prisons.
c) Other. Please State.
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