“Good morning, sir; it’s good to see you awake. How are you feeling?” The Army nurse’s smile was genuine, and David couldn’t help returning it.
“Thanks. Little sore; good overall though. Where are we… Walter Reed?”
“Very good guess,” she perked as she perused David’s vitals. “Welcome to your nation’s capital. Your heart and lungs sound excellent, Dr. Solomon. Temperature is ninety-eight-three… your blood pressure is still a little low, but satisfactory…”
David nodded. “Um… I don’t suppose a phone call would be okay?”
“Your handlers would have to clear it, but I doubt that’ll be any problem. I’ll let them know you’re awake.”
Hardly five minutes later, the agents and McMillan were in the room, all smiles, and the Admiral himself carrying a landline phone. The gesture felt cheap, but David went with it, smiling through the introductions and the inevitable oh-no-please-just-call-me-Ed. The threesome gave David some space while he dialed.
Michael must have been caught napping. “Mmrph. ‘Lo?”
“Michael, it’s me.”
“Shit- ! David, how are you? Where are you?”
“Dude, you’re safer not knowing. Things have been getting weirder by the minute. I just needed to see if you were okay.”
“It’s been quiet. I’ve been home since yesterday, but I think my place is under watch. Oh! Hey, you got a voice mail from the University. A Professor Ellis… ?”
“You’ll wanna call him, first chance you get. You’ve got yourself a job offer, bro. Federally-funded position; tenure track.”
“I know! I dunno what you’re doing right, but it looks like you’re finally in with the right people.”
That stuck a bit. David felt a red flag go up in his mind’s periphery. “Huh. Yeah. Hey listen, I think I’m about to be on the move again, so I’ll touch base as soon as I can. Try not to worry, ‘kay?”
David disconnected and looked at his keepers, who sensed their cue and approached his bed.
“So”, he asked, leveling an accusative stare, “did we ditch Lorelei before or after I passed out?”
There was an awkward pause, and McMillan nodded his acknowledgment that the hard questions would no longer be put off. He dragged a chair to David’s bedside and sat.
“Roger’s report tells me that your friend was extremely valuable last night. And believe me, if we can find her again, I hope to thank her personally.”
David nodded but didn’t respond. The Admiral wasn’t addressing the question he’d actually asked.
McMillan continued, “You were separated during the gun battle that occurred at the hotel. Roger and Rebecca took you out an alternate exit, away from the shooting. I do hope she’s still alive. But you were the priority, and she clearly knew that too.”
David shook his head with an exasperated groan. “This, again. Why? Why am I considered any less expendable than anyone else? Is this connected to whatever the hell ‘Protocol Six’ is?”
The Admiral sighed. “That is something you were going to need to know about, sooner or later. I confess I had hoped for more time before we launched into the subject.”
“So, what is it?”
“Protocol Six is… nothing, really,” McMillan shrugged. “Just a screening protocol out of CDC’s long list. Every unit of blood donated has to be screened already for infectious diseases, blood-borne pathogens, correct typing, and so on; using a set of mostly-automated processes.”
“For what purpose?”
“Ah, well for that answer, I need to offer some backstory. You’re probably painfully aware of some popular myths of so-called ‘Illuminati’ among our Founding Fathers? It’s one of the stubbornest, most intractable stories in all of American culture. And it doesn’t help matters that many Founders were members of a variety of secret societies, such as the Freemasons.”
“But most of those were scholarly, or just social,” David added.
“Very true. But these stories continue to resonate because they address one of the greatest dilemmas of the American psyche. Ever since a rich, white, male slaveowner wrote the words ‘all men are created equal’, we’ve been ruminating whether the Founders themselves actually believed those words. No doubt you’ve read at least some of the Federalist Papers, or some other of their essays during the period? If so, then you know the answer.”
David nodded in chagrin. “They feared that ‘tyranny of the majority’ from the very beginning.”
“Yes,” LeMoyne finally chimed in, standing. “Superstition. Hate. Fickle opinion. Willful ignorance and often simple stupidity. These are the things that decide matters in the minds of the people. It’s the very reason we have layer after layer of insulation between people and power. A representative system. An extensive bureaucracy. The Electoral College. It’s all part of that task of protecting the people from themselves.”
“You say that as if we’ve somehow done better for it,” David snapped. “All we have now are a pack of foxes guarding the henhouse.”
LeMoyne nodded sympathetically. “Politicians quickly learned to pander to the evil and the stupid. And worse, occasionally the evil and stupid send one of their own.”
McMillan folded his arms and tilted his chair back a bit. “We’re not saying it’s right, David; far from it. We’re saying that it’s what we seem to believe, as a culture: that little people are not to be entrusted with big things.”
“Little people,” David sneered. “Like me, you mean.”
The Admiral smiled.
“No. Not like you at all.”
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