Cue the makeover montage. Within an hour, David was freshly shaven, and his hair cut in a military style. Now he stood in his boxers, blushing his way through a series of measurements. Silent and efficient, the tailor moved David’s arm here, turned his head there, stretched his tape and took his notes; all with the ease and grace of a person accustomed to working with very busy people. Through it all, AD LeMoyne and Special Agent Diaz kept mercifully silent, not wanting to distract the tailor, or give David an information overload.
At last, he was back in the wheelchair, which after the whirlwind of activity was feeling like a safe zone, guzzling from a bottle of water. The blue operational-dress uniform felt odd, but it fit better than the earlier flight suit. He tried his best to take in all the information as LeMoyne finally resumed.
“The plan is simple, legal, and completely above-board,” he said. “Using the existing bureaucratic structure, you’ll be packaged as the next rising political star. But from outside the political arena.”
“Where do these uniforms come in?” David asked.
“The armed services, the Public Health Service, NOAA, and others employ many scientists, and some are commissioned. Your commission in NOAA is being processed as we speak. You’ll take an ‘OJT’ equivalent of a Basic Officer Training Course as we go.”
“But I know jack about NOAA.”
“Nevertheless,” LeMoyne nodded, “your education included more than enough hours in the sciences that they require, for a legit commission. Plus, NOAA was the best fit for this purpose. To the political right, you’ll be a uniformed officer. To the center, you’ll be one with a peace-oriented mission and message.”
“And to the left?”
“There is no political left in America,” LeMoyne said. “The center only appears ‘left’ in comparison to the entrenching ‘right’. Any real leftists are outside, looking in.”
David’s eyes narrowed. “That’s a surprisingly cynical view. So where does Roger LeMoyne fall on that continuum?”
“Irrelevant,” LeMoyne smiled. “I consider myself a public servant. Left, right, that whole paradigm is nothing more than symbolism to me.”
“It’s meaningful to the people,” David pointed. “Symbols have power.”
Diaz snorted a laugh. “Symbols have more power than substance. The flag stands for our freedoms. Take away the freedoms, and they still salute the flag. So. You, David, provide the substance. Your knowledge, values and qualities. All we’re doing is to wrap the substance in the symbology. You’ll carry a great deal more weight that way.”
“You’ll do what you’ve always done, David,” continued LeMoyne. “You’ll deliver your findings and recommendations as you’ve always done, but to a much larger audience and with greater traction.”
“And the people will just lap it up?” David smirked. “From an oceanographer?”
“Not all,” LeMoyne answered. “Hell, some people will say the sky is green, no matter who says it’s blue. Just to try to nudge the conversation and feel like they have some influence. The existing power structures, certainly, will resist. When the lobbyists, special interests and political blocs push back — which they will — your detachment from that fray will only add to your traction. When Congress and the President refuse to act on your recommendations — which they will — the country and the world will continue to slide towards disaster. A national emergency cannot help but ensue, at which time your commission is transferred either to the Navy or DHS. You gain even more traction.”
“You want the shit to hit the fan?”
“It’s unavoidable under our current system. To use the dysfunction and its consequences to fix the dysfunction… is that wrong?”
As he was speaking, Admiral McMillan entered the room and nodded a greeting to all. “David, we need to take care of a formality. It’s the Oath of Office that accompanies your commission. So if you’re amenable, I offer this deal. Take the oath, and the office, and let your conscience and good judgment decide what to do with it after.”
David stewed for a moment, his face in his hands. “I’m not agreeing to rule the world,” he eventually said. “I’ll meet your people. I’ll hear what they have to say. I want to know exactly what it is they expect of me. But if I get one whiff of batshit-crazy, I walk. We cool?”
The Admiral nodded solemnly. “You may want to hold your nose for just one second,” he said.
From a trouser pocket he produced the collar devices of a rear admiral.