The White House. June 20th, 6:17 a.m. EST.
“It’s confirmed then?” the president said.
“Yes, sir,” replied his national security advisor, James Foreman.
The president faced away, his silhouette etched into brilliant morning light poring from the twelve foot window in the Oval Office. “I want it done. And no one can know. I want the full plan. Everything we discussed.” He turned back around, yet in the stark morning light, none of his facial features were discernible. “I want it done, I said.”
“But, sir…” trembled Foreman’s reply. His voice was hoarse, with a touch of gravel.
“I’m not asking. And I’m not going over it again,” the president retorted. “The decision is made. We’d already planned for this contingency. Now, I’m adjusting our time-table and moving it forward. Look at me, Foreman. There can be no mistakes. It has to look like someone else did it. You make damn sure of that.” The president handed the man a single sheet of paper—presidential authorization for the operation to take place. “If I ever see this paper again, it’ll be your ass.”
As the national security advisor took the paper, he looked like a man receiving a jury’s unpleasant verdict. At the top of the document, just below the presidential seal, it read:
‘Classified: 15.8. E.O.
Access level C12 eyes only.
James Foreman did not have to read the rest. He knew what it said. His stomach churned—an ominous sign—and acid began to rise in his esophagus.
“Fifteen point eight,” Foreman whispered. “President Palmer. My God, sir. The fifteenth…,” his voice skipped and his hands began to feel clammy, “the fifteenth protocol.”
The president sat at his desk and immersed himself in his work. Foreman knew it was too late for talk. He stood to leave, but his legs were shaking so badly he flopped back down. He exhaled, then stood once more and traversed the room allowing the door close behind him. He stopped just outside at the desk of the president’s personal assistant to steady himself, then walked past two Secret Service agents before darting into the nearest restroom. It was a one-man’er that sat just twenty five feet down the side hallway. No sooner had the door swung closed behind him did he begin to vomit. He didn’t stop retching until there was nothing but bile. He was too late—too late to stop the operation from going forward.