NOTES: In case you didn't follow along in the comments section last night, we have a dilemma. Here's where I need help. To those of us who've served in the Marine Corps, a world without the Corps is beyond crazy. But as we've found, that scenario is not impossible. You guys know I like to present relevant and realistic answers to problems in my writing. That's what we did with the ISIS mess and more. Well, now we need to craft a solution to the "Why should the Marine Corps never go away?" question. Beyond tradition and beyond our history, it's important that the Marine Corps continues to proves its relevance for the foreseeable future. Let's put on our "other side" glasses and look at the Marine Corps's mission through the other side's eyes.
Thanks for all your thoughts. I love my evenings because I get to read through what you guys think. Other than writing, it's my favorite time of day.
Back to the story...
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined. Keep in mind that I don’t review what I write until after the first draft of the whole novel is done.)
12:49pm, December 5th
“What the hell is this, Tom?”
Congressman Ezra Matisse (D - New Jersey) was in no mood for games. The Christmas break loomed and the House was still deadlocked on a plethora of items that the stringent Minority leader had planned on putting to rest before they left for the holidays. His phone buzzed for the umpteenth time as he tried to burn holes in the eyes of his fellow Jersey Democrat, Thomas Steiner.
“I think it’s a good proposal, Ezra. Just have your staff give it a once-over and let me know what you think,” replied Steiner, unperturbed by his peer’s outburst.
“I don’t have time for this. The President wants the farm bill and the relief fund shored up by this time next week. If we don’t get this —“
“Just look at it, okay?”
“Fine. Just give me the broad brush.”
Rep. Tom Steiner shrugged as if it were the most routine of requests.
“It’s a proposal to defund the United State Marine Corps.”
The intern watched his boss talking to Rep. Matisse. Just like Steiner had predicted, Matisse threw his hands up, almost tossing the file in the process, and stormed off without a word.
Nothing else was needed. The staffer knew what to do. The cell phone already in his hand, he clicked send and a Twitter status update from a fictitious alias floated out into social media.
Gregory Garbett was a junior at William and Mary. He’d taken the semester off to intern on Capital Hill. Like most of his peers, he shared a tiny apartment with five other guys. Not only was it impossible to bring a female friend home, it was also impossible to get the rank smell of that many male bodies out of the stuffy air.
He was the only one at home, a rarity. Usually he’d be at work or in a cafe networking with potential employers, but he’d answered an ad the day before on Craigslist. It was a simple job and paid well. $100 for sitting around wasn’t bad. He didn’t even make $100 for a whole day of running around and kissing old politician ass.
The cell phone that had arrived on his doorstep an hour earlier pinged. He looked at the screen and saw the Twitter status update. Boring, he thought.
As he picked up the phone that had only one number programmed in it’s favorites, Gregory wondered if he could get in any trouble for what he was doing. He didn’t know who he was doing this for, and what it was he was passing on. They’d promised to send the payment to his PayPal account.
In the end he shrugged of his unease, and dialed the number.
“Hello?” someone answered on the other end.
Gregory looked down at the printout in his hand and read the line that corresponded with the correct Twitter update.
“Yes, I was wondering if you had any jars of pickled eggs.”
It sounded ridiculous to Gregory. If this was some spy shit, they needed to get their stuff together. Nobody ever said something that lame in the movies.
The response came a moment later. “I’m sorry, we just sold out last case.”
The line went dead, and a second later, so did the phone.
He’d been instructed to throw the phone in a public waste can. Gregory put on his coat and headed for the door. He already knew the bar he was going to spend his money at.
Ten more similar interactions were made over the next thirty minutes. All innocent. All simple. Should the NSA, CIA or any other agency intercept one of the messages, analysts would surely skip over the innocuous conversations, a handful in a haystack of millions they churned through every day.
The final resting places of the messages took the news stoically. They knew their roles. For the rest of the day, final preparations would be made. Boots tied. Systems re-checked.
The White House
“Mr. President, you have Congressman Matisse on Line One,” announced the president’s secretary over the intercom.
President Brandon Zimmer looked up from his work.
“Thank you,” he said, picking up the handset and pressing the blinking button. “Good afternoon, Ezra.” Zimmer liked the bookish New Jersey congressman. A lot of the younger generation didn’t. They thought the Jewish politician was too much of a throwback, stoic and diligent when he should’ve been fiery in his rhetoric.
During his brief stint in the House, President Zimmer had come to not only respect Matisse, but truly admire the man’s legacy. He’d been a member of the House since the early eighties. Even his father, the late Senator Richard Zimmer (D-Massachusettes), who leaned conservative more often than not, had said, “If you want to learn how to have a long career in Washington, watch and listen to Ezra Matisse. He’ll still be here long after we’re dead I’ll bet.”
Zimmer had listened to his father, studying the New Jersey Democrats legislation from over the years. Despite Matisse’s natural political leanings, Zimmer found that the Jersey son of a rabbi was pragmatic in his approach, realistic while others merely sought the praise of their constituency of the glare of the media spotlight. Simply put, President Zimmer held Congressman Matisse in high esteem.
“I’m sorry to bother you, Mr. President. I…well, I thought I should bring something to your attention.”
Zimmer couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard Matisse so flustered. He waited for his former colleague to continue.
“I wanted you to know before it leaks to the media. Honestly I don’t have a clue why Tom would do this.”
It was like Matisse was talking to himself.
“Tom Steiner?” Zimmer asked.
The question seemed to snap Matisse out of his haze.
“What? Oh, yes. Tom Steiner. Sorry, Mr. President. As if I didn’t have enough on my plate already.”
“Why don’t you start at the beginning, Ezra.”
Zimmer heard the congressman grunt and then say, “Mr. President, Congressman Steiner has introduced a bill to disband the United States Marine Corps.”
The blunt recital shocked the president. He’d come to know the Marines on a very personal level. General McMillan, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was one of his closest advisors. He’d personally pinned on the new Marine Commandant’s insignia at 8th & I. One of his best friends, no, most of his new best friends, men who had risked their own lives to save his, were Marines. Cal Stokes. Daniel Briggs. The massive black former Master Sergeant Willy Trent. What would they think of Steiner’s proposal?
He knew what Cal would do if he could; march over to Steiner’s office and cold-cock him. Daniel would be more subtle, the sniper always in the shadows with his boundless strength and courage. Trent, hell, who knew what Top would do.
“And you’re sure he’s serious,” asked Zimmer, suddenly remembering that he’d recommended Cal to the Commandant at his change of command, something about an internal investigation. The president didn’t know the details.
“I’m having my people read through it now, Mr. President. It looks like whoever helped Tom put this together was very thorough.”
“Please keep me apprised, and let me know if you need me to step in.”
“I hope that won’t be necessary, Mr. President, but thank you.”
President Zimmer replaced the phone in it’s cradle and sat back in his chair. Surely there was no merit to Congressman Steiner’s jab. Who knew what would happen when the Marines found out. The street of Washington would be clogged with veterans demanding that Congress be torn down for incompetence.
Until he heard more from Matisse, Zimmer decided that he didn’t want to concern Cal. His short-tempered friend would flip his lid and probably hop on the first flight to D.C.
Luckily he had someone who could help and he was a only a few feet away. Earlier that year he’d made one of the smartest moves of his political career. He’d recruited a former Navy SEAL, and former CEO of Stokes Security International (SSI) to be his chief of staff. If anyone knew how to deal with the Steiner situation, it was Travis Haden, Cal Stokes’s cousin.
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