Chapter 71: Joint session
White House, Two Weeks Later
President Kemper’s POV
I had a massive headache, and my wolf wasn’t helping. ”We need to run, to be with our Pack,” he said.
I had been working non-stop since the last assassination attempt, and I was out of energy. The crash-course in being a werewolf we did back at Camp David had helped a little, helping me to get past the initial rage of the attack and the loss of my wife. Eight hours working with Alphas Ross and Lisa weren’t enough to settle me in, though, and my wolf didn’t like being this far from others. I got up from the Oval Office, telling my secretary I was done for the day. My Chief of Staff walked with me to my private quarters. “Mike, clear my calendar for this weekend,” I said. “I need to go to Camp David again.”
“The Secret Service won’t be happy about that,” he said.
“That’s their problem. Mark is enough personal security when I’m with the Pack, they can secure the Pack borders and observe.” Mark, the lead Secret Service agent who had pulled me out of the Rose Garden following the drone attack, had been with me when I visited the Thurmont Pack to thank the eight women who had pulled survivors out of Marine One. I’d barely gotten out of the limousine when I heard a high-pitched growl. Two agents shoved me back inside as a young woman rushed forward, tackling Mark to the ground and kissing the hell out of him. It turned out Melanie, one of the eight, found her mate in him. It took a few minutes to clear things up, get the limousine to turn around and go back, and get Melanie uncuffed before we could truly relax again. Mark was changed that night, becoming the first Werewolf Secret Service agent since the war started almost seven years ago.
Since I was a wolf, they had asked for volunteers to be turned, and two more had stepped up, a single woman and single man. Ross had turned them last week, but they were still training in their wolf forms. “I need to run, Mike, my wolf is restless and I’m having trouble keeping my temper in check.”
“It’s not like there isn’t everything else in the world to deal with. You should have taken a leave of absence after the crash, no one would have thought badly of it after losing your wife.” He and several other staffers had pressed me to step aside voluntarily, invoking Article Three of the 25th Amendment, and allowing the Vice President to discharge my duties until I notified Congress I was able to resume them.
“People die in wars, Mike. It wasn’t the first time I had to set my own grief aside and get the job done.” I mourned the loss of my wife at her funeral, then I showed up in the Oval Office the next morning. I had a war to fight, and until it was done, I wasn’t relaxing. “At least now the Zetas are gone.”
“Do you know what you want to say to the joint session of Congress tomorrow night?” I had requested the address this morning, and the networks had cleared their Tuesday night schedules for me.
“Have the speechwriters work in segments. We need to show them the Zeta threat is gone, reassure our allies, thank the brave people who won this war, and talk about how we have rid our government of its infestation. Have multiple options for each ready by noon, and I’ll work with the staff to weave them together after lunch.” We stopped outside the door to my residence, I nodded to the Secret Service agent as he opened the door. “Now, I’ve got to get some sleep or I’m going to look like shit tomorrow night.”
“Goodnight, Mr. President.”
“Goodnight, Mike.” I turned to the agent. “Please have the senior agent stop by in ten minutes, I’m taking a quick shower,” I said. He was talking into his microphone as I walked in.
My valet, was waiting for me and took my jacket. “I’m heading for the shower, Jeremiah. Can you have the kitchen send up a piece of that apple pie, and pour me a Bailey’s?”
“Yes Mr. President. Take your time, sir.”
I went into the shower, quickly taking care of things and getting out. One advantage of an Academy education, I could get ready for most anything in ten minutes. When I walked out in my robe, Theo was waiting for me. “You wanted to see me, Mr. President?”
“Yes.” I had made my decision already, I just hadn’t told anyone. “Make plans to take me to Camp David two hours after the speech ends. Plan for at least three days.”
“Are you going to the Pack, sir?”
“Yes. Send an agent to arrange things with them in person, I don’t want word getting out. No one is to know of this except my detail and those involved in my protection, not my staff, not Congress. I don’t want anyone to figure out what is going on until I’m in the air.”
“Good idea, sir, I will make it happen.”
“Thanks, Theo. I appreciate your work, I know I don’t make it easy.”
“It’s an honor to serve you, sir. The men and their families know that, even more now.” I had not been able to make it to the funerals of those killed in the crash, but I made sure to meet privately with their families and let them know how I felt. “Goodnight, sir.”
Wednesday, Eight PM
Joint Session of Congress
“MR. SPEAKER, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.”
I walked in to a rousing ovation, my first time in front of the Legislative and Judicial Branches since the second attempt on my life. Even the opposition party was welcoming; it was amazing what a little war could do. I shook hands as I walked in, finally making it to the podium. The Vice President, Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader sat in the chairs behind me, the Supreme Court justices and Congress in front behind the banks of cameras.
I started the speech on a feel-good note, praising the bipartisanship and the way the American people rallied behind us after the assassination attempts. The biggest praise of the night came when I introduced the men and women who were with me on Marine One, or their spouses or parents if they didn’t make it. “The skill and courage of the pilots, in guiding the helicopter to a clearing despite severe damage, is in the finest traditions of the Marine Corps and military aviation. I was proud to present their wives the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart for their actions in combat.” The chamber rose to thank them.
“I also thank the people on the ground, the werewolves of the Thurmont Pack, who responded to our crash and saved me and others from certain death.” The second ovation was muted, and a number of members didn’t rise. There were still those in government who didn’t like or trust werewolves, and by extension, me.
I spent the next half hour laying out the other major points of my speech; the utter destruction of the Zeta Cartel, olive branches to Mexico and other states upset at our actions in their territories. “We can never forget that our country, through its addiction and use of the drugs they supplied, gave them the money and power they used against us. As such, I am tonight calling for a massive increase in drug treatment and addiction recovery; no more should a person who wants to be clean, not receive the support they need to become clean and regain their life,” I said to loud applause.
“And change we must, for the events of the past months can never be repeated. No President should have to be in a position where their Cabinet, their Law Enforcement agencies and their Judiciary cannot be trusted to carry out their Constitutional responsibilities. When faced with so much evidence of Cartel compromise, I had no choice but to use the US Marshal’s Service and Secret Service to investigate and arrest hundreds of people in the Justice Department and Federal judiciary. Not a day has passed where new revelations have not come out, or new arrests are made. The confidence of the American people in our Government has been shaken, with good reason. I am happy to report that we have completed arrests of all people we have direct evidence of Cartel involvement, and we have honest prosecutors working to deliver justice.” I paused and took a drink at the applause.
The teleprompter had one message, I had another. I pulled the three by five index card out of my pocket along with a pair of letters, one of which I handed to the Speaker and Majority Leader. “There is a plaque on my desk that Harry Truman used, that said, ‘The Buck Stops Here.’ In my military career, it was the same. The Commanding Officer is responsible for their unit, in good performance or bad. It is a responsibility that cannot be shirked, nor will I.” I could see the gasps and shocked faces as they figured out where this was going. “I did not know, I did everything I could to rectify it, but it happened on MY watch and I am ultimately responsible. Therefore, as required by the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution, Article One, I am resigning as President of the United States effective immediately. I have just delivered my letter of resignation to the gentlemen behind me, and I request that the Chief Justice of the United States swear in the Vice President as the next President of the United States immediately. Thank you, and may God Bless the United States of America.”
Now THAT is a mic drop.
I walked offstage to a shocked Congress and America, the Secret Service agents forming around me. “Get to the choppah,” I said in my best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice.
“Yes sir, Mr. President.”
Friday of Memorial Day Weekend
Private Airfield, Gila Pack Territory
“I sure am glad we spent the money on this airstrip,” Renee said as she held one of her triplets, breastfeeding while we waited.
“It’s not like we don’t have money, and it didn’t cost near as much as the private jets in this hangar,” I teased. We didn’t care, it was all a rounding error considering all the Cartel money we had liberated. “I’m just jealous your hangar is bigger than mine.”
“About time I had something that was bigger,” she said under her breath before we both busted out laughing.
“Bigger isn’t always better,” Charlotte said softly as she played with my quadruplets. “Thank God the change gave me faster recovery rates, I felt like an overcooked noodle down there until the change.” Her silver-gray wolf was laying on its side, Josh’s wolf next to her, as the rambunctious cats played between them. She had agonized over the decision between panther and wolf, but went canine, because she wanted Josh to do the turn. Jane Spencer had changed Carl as well, and both had moved into the houses next to us now that graduation had happened. The two couples hadn’t come outside for the last three days, doing what new mates do, unless it was to run and mate in animal form. I was just glad they weren’t sharing a wall with my bedroom anymore.
“There’s the plane,” Gunny said, his sharp eyes picking it out first. The plane from the Thurmont Pack banked into its final approach, and a few minutes later was taxiing into the big hangar. It shut down and the pilots lowered the stairs, and our friends and allies started coming out.
First out were the Alphas, Ross and Lisa. Behind them was the former President, Hank Kemper, his Secret Service escort Mark and his mate Melanie. Then came Charlie and Patricia Stillwater; Charlie had taken over as Beta for the Pack, since Ron Washington had moved to Colorado to be with his daughter in the Nightmare Pack. We lined up in rank order, welcoming them to New Mexico for the Gila Pack’s big get-together.
We were still working through these, with the previous gathering over Spring Break at our Pack. Our expanded pool, complete with waterslides, a swim-up bar and a lazy river, got a real workout along with the outdoor kitchens. It had been a great success, over three hundred attended for an epic week of partying and Packs. We were looking forward to the Fourth of July at the Johnson Pack, which I had briefly visited last year.
When all the luggage was loaded up, Robert and Renee got the group’s attention. “I know it’s been a long trip, but it is a good thirty-minute run in wolf form back to the Pack House, or we can drive,” Robert said.
“I could use a run,” Hank said.
“I can take the babies back in the car,” I said.
“I’ll go with you,” Ella said. “Even in cat form, it seems like my tits are scraping the ground sometimes.” We laughed and started to load them up.
In the end, the wolves gathered around Robert and took off, while we cats took the vehicles. “Lazy bunch of felines,” Charlotte teased.
“Ambush predators,” I said.
Of course, no get-together would be complete without a mating or two, and we didn’t have to wait long. We had brought almost everyone from our Pack, including the associated cats. Minka, the tiny Lynx from Minnesota, found her mate in a Johnson Pack warrior.
And Hank Kemper found his mate in Tatiana Dubronov, and it was hilarious. They were running into the compound when Hank’s wolf froze, causing him to get run over and rolled by a couple wolves behind him. When he got up, he made a beeline for the Siberian Tiger who was resting in the shade of a tree. She didn’t recognize the bond, she reacted to the wolf jumping at her and batted him into the tree. He was knocked out cold, his chest sliced open by her claws, until she leapt at him and got his neck in her teeth. The smell hit her mid-bite, and Hank now has one HUGE mating scar.
I pushed the big stroller past, headed for our rooms, as I wondered what would happen next.