“Mister Jefferts, what I would like to know is why the fuck El Uni – these fucking people, we know this isn’t a solo effort – blew up an empty building… in that particular shithole.” The President of the Progressive States of America held out a cigarette and one of the interns flitted by, lit it, and then disappeared. “It’s a bad habit I picked up in grad school,” she said wanly. Then she leaned in and with the hum and buzz of staff around them, so no one could hear.

“You were able to… you know… dress it up with some…uhhh…?” She paused and met Jefferts’ eyes. “Yes?”

He nodded, the top of his clean-shaven, black head showing briefly.

“Of course, Madame President.” His voice was deep and clear and had the slightest hint of some Caribbean accent… or was it African? He was only slightly taller than she was, but she was tall for a woman. She wondered if he was gay. “A terrible terrorist attack that killed at least a dozen Americans… by the time the final tally comes in. I suspect,” he deadpanned.

“Hm.” She stepped back. “Do you think this is related to my trip there in two weeks?”

“Madame President, that is what I would like to talk to you about.” He stepped closer to her and turned his back on the noise and crowd behind them. “We can’t rule out that possibility. I mean, first Baltimore, now this.”

She nodded in agreement.

“I hadn’t considered that…” She took a deep inhale and held it. She looked around.

Camp David was the Presidential retreat and she sure as hell needed a retreat. The election had gone mostly as planned, with the expected court challenges, the finger-pointing, some violence – the National Guard and military activation had worked out perfectly. Now came the consolidation.

“Ma’am, I’m also concerned-” and now he looked around at the staff bustling in every direction, the security with weapons at port arms – then leaned in closer and whispered, “that we might have a leak on our – your staff.” He waited a moment to give her a chance to process it. He continued, “The Chief of Staff sent me to survey your routes in EV City; I only included him, the Secret Service, and the Head of Citizen’s Justice. That building is right along the route.” He stepped back for a moment.

“Well… what are you saying, Jefferts?” The President took another drag and blew it upward.

“I do not say this lightly, ma’am, and perhaps I am being overcautious. But I would like to use this as an opportunity to perhaps test my theory, by conducting a bit of… an operational security test. We can never be too certain that this group – this El Unico – whatever it is, might not have sympathizers among our people. We need to be vigilant, ma’am.”

She tapped the ashes from her cigarette onto the floor. Someone will get that.

“Go on.”

“I suggest that we continue forward with the trip in two weeks to Detroit, but – I will give three new, unique, and different sets of travel plans to each of the three offices. I will have those routes monitored. Then we will wait and see. Perhaps nothing will come of it.”

“Which of the three plans will we use?” she asked.

“None, ma’am.” He scoffed. “We are dealing with a sophisticated enemy. This implicates your security and that of- of the whole movement.”

“You’re a tricky-” she almost slipped and said nigger, but caught herself, “-man, Jefferts. I like it.”

He smiled slightly. “Operational security is a serious business, Madame President.”

“I’m not going to have this election stolen from me, Jefferts. You understand that?” Her voice climbed in pitch. “Has the Chief been monitoring the lawsuits in Texas?”

“Of course, Madame President.” Jefferts folded his hands in front of his abdomen.

“Well…?” She prompted, exasperation leaking into her voice.

“We have… contingencies in place to deal-” Jefferts began.

She jabbed her finger in his face.

“I will not have some goddamn, racist fucking rednecks trying to subvert democracy and – and, and steal the Presidency from me,” and now she pointed at her own chest, “the people’s choice.” Her voice rose again, and some of the nearby staff lowered their voices and moved away in response. Jefferts’ eyes cut briefly to the side, though he never let his focus shift from her. She took another drag and then blew it out. “And I want that fucker, Unique-o or whoever is running this, I want his, her, their, xir, fucking balls in my hands, Jefferts.”

Jefferts nodded. “Of course, Madame President. We are working under the Chief’s direction on that right now.”

“The Chief says you came recommended because of your ability to get things done, Jefferts.” She stared at him and let the phrase hang for a moment.

Her demeanor softened.

“Does it bother you…” she began and he raised his eyebrows in response. “I mean, knowing that it’s some… group of disaffected white-boys,” she tripped on the word a bit. She had never used that word in her entire life. Most of her life had been spent passing off her heritage as Hispanic or Mediterranean in schools back east; until it had become such an asset to be part-black. She suddenly resented how commandingly black Jefferts was. “Not someone like us…” She continued and gestured with her eyes. “…That this Unique-o is some kind of white supremacist group?” she hissed the last.

He smiled coldly. “On the contrary, ma’am. It is what makes the sacrifices of the job worth it.”

She smiled and nodded, folding her arms after another drag. “Thank you, Jefferts.” She waved him away and he backed up, bowed slightly, and disappeared amid the bustle of her staff. She didn’t know anything about the guy, but he was one of those types that were always hanging around the edges of power – watching, waiting to be helpful, doing things that needed doing… but couldn’t be done by truly important people. She’d seen his kind again and again over the years. Kendrick always had a stable of fixers to get shit done; that’s exactly why he was where he was. That and his ability to raise money.

She mused about traitors in her own Cabinet. Of course there are, she tapped her ashes onto the floor again. There always are around all of the great leaders.