By the time I stepped outside, the leaves where on fire.
“How long?” I asked, dreading the answer.
“Five months,” Rob responded. I took a deep breath, words failing to form as a thousand chaotic thoughts raced through my brain.
Scarlet and orange leaves coated the ground making it look like the buried grass was covered in flames. In my last memory, the sky was clear and the grass was dewy and lush. Now, there was a thick layer of frost on the ground and a chilly nip in the air. I spun around the vast field not knowing what to say, ask, or do.
Five months and one day earlier
“Status update?” I asked frantically, turning to face my lead scientific advisor.
She merely shook her head grimly. I spun around and peeked my head out of the oval office. The white house had descended into chaos. Everywhere I looked there were people running from room to room, shouting, and bumping into each other. Only a few hours before I had been the target of an assassination attempt. Or at least I hope it was only an attempt. Living in the 23 century was both a curse and a blessing. With technological advances came new discoveries in medicine and science. But, the ability to cause mass destruction had only grown.
6 hours ago
“What happened?” I asked softly, rubbing my head as I sat up.
“What is it Dr. O’ Connel1?” I repeated, starting to stand up from my hospital bed, presumably in George Washington University Hospital. I struggled to remember anything from the last few hours, which wasn’t helped by the pounding in my head.
“You need to rest,” Matthew O’Connell urged, but it was in vain.
I began to stand up, but quickly had to step back down as a strong feeling of lightheadedness and dizziness filled my head. I just looked at the Dr. as he helped me to sit back down.
He sighed and gave in, “You were attacked by a pair of secret service officers.”
“That’s simply not possible. We have looked into their past so deeply and I have had all of them since I was sworn in.”
“Exactly. I don’t know much but if I had to guess… this attack has been planned carefully.”
“So it would seem,” I responded, taking a deep breath.
“There is more.”
“Wonderful,” I said, sarcastically, my brain still swirling from the fact that two men I had known for over two years went to such lengths just to kill me.
“This assassination attempt… it’s still ongoing.”
“What do you mean?”
“They’re goal was not to kill you in the middle of the White House.”
“Then what was it?”
“Too kill you and everyone in 30 city blocks.”
“What are you talking about?”
“They injected you with a serum that turns your blood into a bomb. Every time your heart beats the timer ticks down.”
“How long do I have?,” I asked, dreading the answer. I could feel my heart beating faster and faster. It felt like my brain was trapped on a treadmill, the quicker questions and thoughts raced through my brain the more tired it got.
“As far as we can tell… 7 hours.”
“Okay…” was all I could manage to say.
My entire life seemed to flash before my eyes as advertised in the movies. I took another long breath and managed to compose myself, half denial and half reminding myself of my duty as a president was what made that possible.
I began to stand up again, determination masking the pain I felt when I did so. Again, Dr. O’ Connel protested.
“Madame President you really mustn’t-”
“Dr. O’ Connel,” I said in a strict voice, “I am the president of the United States. It is my duty to help and serve the people no matter what.”
I made for the door but he blocked me just as I reached for the silver doorknob.
“But-” he started.
“I recognize that at the moment I am literally a walking talking super bomb with a current life span of less that six hours,” I spoke with a false smile and in a sarcastically chipper voice. Joking tended to be my defense mechanism. “However if we are going to get ahead of this then I need to be working with our nations best and brightest. I seriously doubt they will all be here. No offence,” I added, slipping through the door.
A half hour later I was standing in the oval office with a group of twenty men and women that had been deemed qualified enough to help me.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” I began, in proper presidential fashion, “Thank you for coming on such short notice. I am sad to say that this briefing will have to begin on a rather somber note. However, before I begin, I need to confirm that everything that will be said in this room stays in this room. If that will be an issue for you, you know where the doors are.”
I waited with bated breath for a few moments as the assembled group looked around tentatively but remained where they were. After a minute, their gazes shifted back to me. I summoned all my courage and continued with a warm smile.
“This morning I was attacked by two of my most trusted secret service members. While this betray has been difficult to wrap my head around, I must keep marching forward. As far as my doctors can tell, I was injected with a serum that, put simply, turns me into a living bomb.”
I paused as a wave of whispers swept through the crowd.
“You must have a lot of questions and I regret to say that I can not answer all of then or even one.”
Another round of small voices could be heard from the group as they turned to one another. I took a deep breath, I seemed to be needing a lot of those today, and cleared my throat. They turned to me and one dark haired man stepped forward as if the chosen speaker of the restless crowd.
"Madame president?” he asked timidly.
“What is your name?” I asked.
“What would you like to ask me William? I’m sure you all have a lot of questions.”
“Why are we here?”
“You are here because you have been deemed the best and the brightest of our country.” A few smiles could be seem in the group and they began to settle down, but only slightly.
“If it...if I explode this bomb will take out 30 city blocks with it. Let’s see what we can come up with.”
5 hours and 42 minutes until detonation
“What if we froze her?”
“Like a president popsicle? That will never work!”
“We have to do something!”
“I can’t work like this!”
Voices of frenzied scientists and leaders filled conference room. I stood at the end of the table sighed.
“What if we-” I tried to interject, but my voice was drowned out by the rest of the yelling group.
“Madame president?” a voice sounded from next to me.
I hadn’t noticed my assistant come into the room, my brain had been to full with terrifying, then hopeful, and back to terrifying thoughts.
“The First Gentleman is here to see you.”
“I’ll be there in a second. Thank you Charles.”
With a sigh of relief I walked, almost ran, towards the door. I was thankful for any excuse to escape, especially this one.
When I burst through the door I stood dumbstruck in the middle of the hall. All the chaos around me seemed to fade away, leaving only Rob’s face in the entire world. I held one hand to my mouth and desperately tried to hold back the tears that had begun to form in my eyes.
Standing about thirty feet away from me was the love of my life. Rob’s deep blue eyes started glimmering with tears as well and it was as if I was seeing him for the first time. It is strange what imminent death can do to a relationship. We ran to each other at the same moment, as if it was a scene from a movie.
He hugged me tightly and when I looked up at him I could see the fear in his eyes.
“It’s going to be okay,” I said, trying to comfort not just him, but myself as well.
“You can’t possibly know that,” he said as a shimmering tear ran down his face.
“I know this. I will do everything I can to come home to you tonight. Okay?”
“Okay,” he said softly and hugged me again.
“It doesn’t look so productive in there,” Rob commented, nodding to the open door of the conference room.
“It’s the opposite.”
“Do you have an idea?”
“They haven’t come up with anything that could realistically work.”
“That’s not what I asked you.”
“I do have one.”
“Will it work?”
“I haven’t had anyone-”
“If you think it will, it will. Lily you are the smartest person I have ever met. You need to go into that room and tell those crazies exactly what your brilliant brain is thinking.”
We both were really crying now.
“Okay...okay,” I said, wiping away my tears.
“I love you.”
“I love you,” he responded sweetly, kissing my forehead.
Reluctantly I left my own personal paradise and headed toward my own personal Hell. I could feel Rob’s eyes following me into the chaotic room as I entered it. I took my place at the end of the table and checked my watch, five and a half hours left. The mob was now standing up, gesturing to express their frustration, and yelling louder than ever as notebooks and loose papers were thrown into the air.
“Attention!” I yelled, no one heard me. Rob’s confidence in me gave me strength. I pulled out a chair a stepped on top of it.
I banged on the table with my foot five times and repeated my message. This time silence filled the room and twenty faces stared at me in confusion.
“I have an idea that I think will work.”
“With all do respect Madame President I really think you should leave this up to the experts.”
“What is your name?” I asked calmly.
“Michal, I just so happen to be the president of the United States. If that does not make me an expert I do not know what will. And unless you have a foolproof plan right now I suggest you listen to you president.”
Michal appeared to have gotten the message and sat down. The rest of the crowd followed in doing so. Later I would lean that at that moment Rob had been listening to me and had whispered, “That’s my girl.”
“We could put me in a stasis. If this bomb ticks at the speed of my heart, almost stopping it will buy you enough time to figure out how to deactivate it,” I said, sitting down.
Another huge wave of whispers filled the air as people leaned over to the person next to the, discussing my idea. Five minutes later someone spoke.
“That could work,” A young lady said.
“Good, then let’s make it happen,” I responded, trying to hide the relief that filled me.
Three hours until detonations
“You’re going into what?” Rob demanded. I had just filled him in on what was going on. We stood in the oval office, trying to escape the madness just outside.
“A stasis. We’ll use one of the pods that was going to go on the next ship to Mars. It will slow my heartbeat down enough to by them some time to fix this.”
“How long?” he asked, shaking his head as he paced around the room.
“It will depend on how long they need.”
“You mean those idiots in there?” he asked rhetorically, pointing to the door. “They couldn’t even come up with a plan together!”
I just sat down on the sofa and looked at him.
“How long?” he repeated, approaching me. I could see the fear in his eyes.
“A while,” I said with a sigh.
“Lily…” he said softly.
Rob sat next to me and I let me head fall onto his shoulder.
“What are we going to do?” he asked, his head leaning against mine.
“The only thing we can do, keep swimming.”
“Together,” he said, taking my hand in his.
I wanted to stay like that forever, but time was running out. As if on cue, Charles opened the door.
“Yes?” I stood up from the couch, giving one last quick kiss to Rob.
“Your needed in the conference room. It’s time.”
“Bye,” I said, barely able to say the words.
“Just keep swimming," he repeated.