The Westerley Wing
"Looks like we've got company, boys," says Dutch, her eyes narrowing as an approaching ship flickers into view on a navigation screen. "Lucy, what's your readout?"
"I'm sorry, Dutch," answers Lucy, "but I don't recognize any of the signifiers being emitted by this ship, and they are ignoring my attempts to hail them. Also, their weapons are trained on us."
"Shit." Dutch scowls, her arms akimbo. "Lucy, raise shields, and prepare and aim weapons. At the first sign of any sort of aggressive attack, fire at will."
"Wait wait wait wait wait." Johnny Jaqobis spins around in his chair, hands raised placatingly, blue eyes wide with concern. "Dutch, we can't just fire on them if we don't know who they are. It could be a super duper serious violation of intergalactic species rights."
"It could be a super duper serious violation of our ability to keep on living, if we don't," Dutch snaps back.
"Maybe something's just wrong with their ship!" Johnny argues earnestly.
"I'm kinda with Dutch, on this one," D'avin Jaqobis pipes in from across the room. "Sketchy unmarked ship, no response to our signals, setting their scopes on us — yeah, I'm definitely with Dutch on this one."
"I'm sorry, John," says Lucy, "but Dutch and D'avin are displaying superior self-preserving instincts, at present."
"What a stab to the back, Lucy," Johnny mutters. "Wait, we're picking up some of their feed."
There is a buzz as Lucy resets the ship's radio interceptor frequencies, and then voices become clear.
"Well, I don't know what to do about it! Do we have shields? We have to have shields! They have those in 'Star Trek,' right? Or 'Star Wars'? Both?"
"C.J., this isn't 'Star Trek' — there's really no guarantee that we have any sort of defensive mechanism against whatever weapons they're pointing at us."
"Thanks for the reassurance, Leo. Oh my god, I can't believe that this is how we're going to die."
"We're going to die. For... space democracy. Fuck."
"Seriously, Debbie? Just — just fly the damn ship, OK? Really, really defensively."
"This was never part of my job description, you know. Charlie, do you want to give this a go? Charlie?"
"He and Sam just disappeared to find..."
There is a further sputter, and the comlinks connect to Lucy. Dutch blinks at the motley crew assembled before her. A scowling middle-aged woman sits at the controls, poking at a glowing button with one finger; behind her, a tousle-headed man is stalking aggressively back and forth, trailed by a bewildered blonde. A tall woman stands slightly agape at the back of the room, flanked by an older man with a grim but determined expression, and a balding man whose expression is just grim. To a person, their eyes widen as their com flickers on and they catch a first glimpse of Dutch and the Jaqobis brothers.
With a clatter, two young men charge through the door of the unmarked ship's bridge.
"We fixed it!" exclaims the more effervescent of the two, clapping his hand on his quieter friend's shoulder. "Or, I should really say, Charlie fixed it, while I stood by and offered such verbal encouragement as I knew how to..."
"Sam," snaps the balding man, and Sam falls silent immediately.
"We're members of the Reclamation Apprehension Coalition, operating within the Quad planetary system of the J," Dutch announces imperiously. "May I inquire as to why you have your weapons trained on our ship, and why you are flying a non-responsive and unmarked vessel?"
"Oh, thank god, at least they speak English," sighs the balding man, and the tall woman jabs him sharply with her elbow.
"Debbie, stop pushing that button," orders the older man, stepping forward. "Our apologies; we're not familiar with this technology and had no intention of training our weapons on you. My name is Leo McGarry, and we're a delegation from the United States of America, a country on the planet Earth."
"A delegation?" Dutch repeats.
"Invited to a moon called Westerley by..." Leo McGarry pulls a notepad from his pocket and furrows his brow as he consults it. "A Dr. Illenore Seyah Simms?"
"Pawter?" Johnny's face breaks into a grin. "Pawter invited you?"
"Am I pronouncing this completely wrong?" asks Leo, holding the notepad out to the tall woman, who takes it, frowning.
"Lucy, please make contact with Qresh and locate Pawter," Dutch sighs. A few mechanical chirrups later, Pawter's hologram appears next to Johnny, regaled in full Qreshi ceremonial attire.
"Whoa, whoa, what just happened?" exclaims the tall woman, waving her hands in disbelief.
"A spaceship literally picks us up from the South Lawn, we fly across the Milky Way and beyond in about seven hours using some sort of warp speed, and this is what you find beyond comprehension?" grumbles the balding man.
"Oh, hello!" Pawter waves from the hologram to the Earthlings assembled on the com screen. "You must be the Americans. Thank you for coming all this way."
"Our pleasure, Dr. Simms," replies Leo, bowing slightly.
"I see you've met Dutch and the boys," Pawter continues, smiling broadly at Johnny.
" 'Met' might be a generous term," D'avin corrects her.
"If I may," Dutch interjects, glaring at Pawter's hologram, "who precisely are these people?"
"They're a diplomatic delegation, with some lessons to teach us about their local form of governance." Pawter beams at them. "Could you possibly escort them down to the surface of Westerley? I'll fly over as soon as I can."
"Of course," says Johnny before Dutch can object. "Safe flight."
The hologram snaps off, and Pawter's projection disappears in the blink of an eye. The tall woman still looks stunned.
"We need to get one of those systems for the West Wing," remarks the blonde woman to the tousle-haired man.
" 'Help me, Donnatella, you're my only hope'?" quips the balding man under his breath, and the tall woman snorts with laughter.
"Yeah," replies the tousle-headed man absently to the blonde woman. "So, uh, what happens now?"
Dutch smiles pityingly at the hapless Americans.
"What happens now is that you keep your hands off all levers and buttons until we can board your ship and show you how to lower your damn guns," she tells them. "Lucy, get us in position to help these hopeless people."
"So there's no manual or anything?" Sam Seaborn asks, watching the younger of the two space men reposition the guns by pressing an intricate series of buttons on the ship's dashboard.
"Not on a fossil like this, there isn't," the space man replies, double-hitting a final button and sitting back as the system whirs down to a contented gurgle. "Wow. It's been years since I've had to deal with a manual alignment system. I honestly can't believe that Pawter didn't send a ship with a fully automated computer for you."
"She's... the woman in the hologram?" Sam clarifies.
"Yeah." The space man grins.
"Is she someone very important?" Sam realizes suddenly that he knows virtually nothing about the political structure of the government with which they are about to meet, and his stomach flips over with anxiety.
"Oh yeah." The space man's grin widens, and he holds out a hand. "I'm Johnny, by the way. Johnny Jaqobis."
"Sam Seaborn. I work at the White House."
"The White House?" Johnny repeats, amused.
"It's... the building in which our federal government is based. Well, the executive branch, at least. You could say it's a metonym for the Presidency, I suppose, but it's also a physical place."
"Uh huh. So you're a politician."
"Oh, no. Well, maybe. Sort of. Yeah. I guess you could say so. I write speeches for our President. Which... may be hard to believe, given how utterly inarticulate I'm being right now."
Sam sighs. He's never been in a position before where the other party to a conversation literally had never heard of the United States of America.
"So... you crank out the propaganda?" asks Johnny with a wry smile.
"What? No! No, not at all," Sam insists earnestly. "OK, sure, sometimes we can't resist tossing a stirring rhetorical flourish into our speeches, but we really try to use our platform to explain our policy positions: what tax money is being spent on, how we're trying to defend the civil liberties of minority populations, why the public should blame Congress for any inaction on legislation. I'm joking about that last part," he clarifies hastily, vaguely realizing that Johnny probably actually has no idea what Congress is. "The point is, we try to inform our citizens about what the government does, to educate them so that they'll know what they're voting for, in the future."
"What they're voting for?" Johnny laughs. "What do you mean?"
Sam stares at him.
"Do you... not have open elections in your society?" he asks slowly. "The opportunity to choose your own political representatives, I mean."
"Not a chance, my friend. We've got the Nine and the Company, and that's all we'll ever have."
"The Nine and the Company." Sam frowns pensively, deciding quickly that Johnny is not, in fact, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court and the C.I.A. "I think I might need you to explain all of this to me."
"The feeling's mutual." Johnny stands. "When we get down to the surface, remind me to buy you a drink at The Royale."
"I'll hold you to it," replies Sam, shaking Johnny's hand.
Before they even reach the surface of the moon, Dutch has had it with Josh Lyman.
"What do you mean, we're going to explain a parliamentary system to them?" Josh rants. "If they wanted a parliamentary system, they should've, I don't know, invited the government of Norway, or something."
"We're going to explain it to them, Josh," Leo repeats. "That doesn't mean they're not ultimately going to choose an American-style presidential system, in which case we're definitely the best people to talk to. But they deserve to know their options before they choose."
"Parliamentary systems are less prone to collapsing into authoritarian régimes," adds Toby Ziegler, whom Dutch appreciates because of the fact that he speaks so damn quietly, especially in comparison to Josh Lyman. "It's harder to end up with a populist strongman in power because the head of government is being chosen by other politicians with lean and hungry looks, rather than by an angry mob of voters."
"The Weimar Republic was a parliamentary system," Josh shoots back.
"Technically semi-presidential," Toby responds a bit more loudly. "The point is, you need a plurality of crazies to be elected to a parliament before a crazy person can be elected by those crazies to become the head of government in a parliamentary system, and even if it does sometimes happen, it's much, much rarer."
"He's got a point, Josh," says Donna Moss quietly.
"You know what? If you all love parliamentary systems so much, then fine, you should all move to Norway and work for their government." Josh glowers around the room. "Real Benedict Arnolds, all of you. Hope you like fjords, and herring, and, and ABBA."
"You're not firing my entire staff without my permission, are you, Josh?"
Dutch turns to face the man who has just entered the room. He's older, with greying rust-colored hair and eyes that sparkle with intelligence and laughter, and he's regarding Josh with more fatherly affection than Dutch could ever imagine an intelligent person would waste on such an obnoxious lunatic. At his side is a woman roughly the same age, whom Dutch assumes to be his wife, and just behind them is another woman who is swiping through the pages of a digital tablet with a serious expression creasing her brow.
"You're done with your briefing, Mr. President?" Leo asks, standing in tandem with the rest of the Americans in the room.
"Not yet, no. Nancy's been explaining to me the recent political changes on Westerley, and the overall hierarchy in the Quad, but we haven't yet touched on the non-political forces at play." The American President spies Dutch and regards her quizzically. "Who's this?"
"This is Dutch," Leo explains. "Her ship's the one that picked us up when our ship reached its destination coordinates and we still weren't on Westerley."
"Well, thank you for the impromptu rescue." The President holds out his hand, and after a moment of regarding him suspiciously, Dutch takes it. "You're from Westerley?"
"I work there a fair amount," Dutch answers. "So, close enough."
The President nods.
"Tell you what," he says, "why don't you come sit in on this briefing that I'm about to have? You can chime in whenever Nancy runs up against something that we can't yet explain, and while of course we'll be taking anything you say with a grain of salt, we'll still be grateful to hear any perspectives you might have."
Dutch is surprised, but nods impassively and follows the President and Leo and Nancy into the adjacent room. (As she does, she overhears Donna say, "Josh? ABBA is Swedish, not Norwegian.")
Dutch emerges half an hour later with three conclusions.
The first is that the Americans have an impressively good understanding of Quad politics, considering they didn't even know the Quad existed 24 hours prior. She assumes that Pawter must have contributed to some of the knowledge that the Earthlings had, and begrudgingly gives the doctor her due credit.
The second is that Dr. Nancy McNally is almost too good to be true: straightforward, confident, extremely well-informed, logical. She seems unbelievably competent. In most ordinary situations, Dutch would immediately be suspicious, but for some reason, Nancy McNally's demeanor hasn't inspired anything in Dutch other than respect. Dutch finds this confusing, but not entirely objectionable.
And the third...
"How'd it go?" asks Toby, looking up at Dutch from the chair in which he is lounging, apparently wasting time by hurling a rubber ball against the adjacent wall and catching it on the return.
"Your President needs a bodyguard," she tells Toby.
Toby catches the rubber ball, then sits up.
"Things are going to get dangerous?" he asks warily.
"Hopefully not, but since it's Westerley we're about to land on, probably yes."
Toby swears softly under his breath. Dutch is once again grateful for the comparative lack of noise.
"OK, then, where do we look for a bodyguard?" he asks her.
Dutch rests a hand casually on her gun in its hip holster.
"You're looking at one."
"You're a bodyguard."
"Not exactly. I'm a Killjoy."
"That seems a little overly self-critical."
Dutch smirks. For some reason, she likes this quiet, dour man.
"It's what they call us RAC agents," she explains. "We're essentially state-licensed bounty hunters."
"I somehow don't feel reassured."
"It's fine, I don't have a warrant to turn any of you over to any party, so you're perfectly safe. My point is, I have a lot of experience keeping an eye open for trouble, and just as much experience fighting my way out of it."
"OK." Toby glances at Dutch with a combination of trepidation and awe. "Um, why, exactly, do you want to do this?"
"Is this a formal interview?" Dutch asks, deadpan.
"Really, I'm just curious." Toby frowns. "Considering that you have a career, and a ship, and probably a number of obligations stacked up on your calendar for the next several days..."
His sentence trails off, but he continues to stare at Dutch, who furrows her brow pensively and, after a long moment, responds.
"What I heard your President saying in that room... I'm not used to hearing people in positions of power talk that way about trying to do good for common people. About giving them agency over their own lives and choices. It made me hopeful in a way that I haven't felt for a long time."
"Yeah," says Toby softly. "Well, if you really don't have anything else that you need to be doing..."
"I'll get my friend to create a warrant just for me, demanding that I safeguard the person of the American President during the duration of his stay in the Quad, if I have to make it official. And then you'll be stuck with me until you leave, by contractual obligation. The warrant is all."
"Great," sighs Toby. "Let's go find Leo, then."
Bellus Haardy likes Debbie Fiderer immediately.
"Can I help you?" the Earthling asks from her seat at a desk in the reclaimed Spring Hill Compound. She has placed a makeshift nameplate on her desk, written on a piece of card paper folded in half to form a little tent. Bellus finds it a refreshing change from the typical Qreshi or even Leithian secretary, who usually doesn't even bother saying "hello" to visitors, let alone offering a name.
"Sure can," replies Bellus. "I'm looking for a Killjoy named Dutch."
Debbie raises an eyebrow.
"For what purpose?"
"I have a warrant for her," explains Bellus.
"For her arrest?" she asks disapprovingly.
"For some guard duty thing she wants to take on." Bellus shrugs. "I don't ask, when it comes to Dutch. In my experience, she's usually doing the right thing, but it's still usually best not to know what that is."
Debbie purses her lips, but nods in approval and hits an intercom button on the desk.
"Charlie, could you send Dutch out here, when she has a moment? Thanks." She hits the button again and looks at Bellus. "Would you like to take a seat?"
Bellus sits down in a ridiculously cushioned chair just as another woman walks into the room.
"Hi, C.J.," says Debbie without looking up from the crossword she's doing. "What's going on?"
"I wish I knew," grumbles C.J. "Wanna know something weird, Debbie? There is no free press in this society. None. Not on any of the moons or planets. People aren't even familiar with the concept, for Christ's sake. It boggles the mind."
"Does it, now?" Debbie erases a few squares of her crossword as C.J. collapses into the chair a few feet away from Bellus.
"I mean, you look at all of these fancy computers, and all of these cool pop-up screen things, and you would think that technological advances like this would make it all the easier to spread information, but no, there's some creepy Company that has even better filters and means of suppressing any sort of free expression. Josh is on the verge of an emotional collapse, he's so worked up over the injustice of it all."
"Figures," replies Debbie drolly.
C.J. notices Bellus and leans over to offer a hand.
"Hi, I'm C.J."
"Bellus. Thanks for coming all this way."
"It's quite literally been the adventure of a lifetime," C.J. answers.
At this very moment, a door opens, and D'avin Jaqobis strides through, casually dressed in a tight black t-shirt and equally tight black pants, his hand resting casually on the holster of a gun slung from his hip. C.J. sits up very suddenly.
"Bellus," D'av says in surprise. "What are you doing here, and all dressed up like that?"
"Looking for your boss," says Bellus. "Shouldn't you be in something a little more formal, given that you're being put in charge of some bigwig from another system?"
" 'Some bigwig'?!" Debbie repeats, raising a disapproving eyebrow, at exactly the same moment that C.J. says a little too loudly, "I think that what he's wearing looks just fine."
"Um," says D'av, unsure what to make of the three women before him.
Fortunately (or perhaps not), Josh chooses that exact moment to barge through the door.
"No online forums? No underground newspaper circulations? Not even clandestine radio broadcasts — are you kidding me?!" he roars, wheeling around and gesticulating wildly with his arms at Donna. "Jesus, you would think the people in this society didn't want to be free, they seem so lacking in imagination."
"Josh, they've never had any democratic norms modeled for them!" Donna pleads. "Just give them a chance, and they'll probably have their own equivalent of Radio Free Europe up and running in no time, you'll see."
"You know what would give me just the slightest bit of confidence in that possibility?" Josh rages. "If they got rid of all of these creepy screens. Seriously, did George Orwell design this world?"
He storms out of the room with a final flail of frustration. Donna looks as if she's about to cry.
"Am I wrong?" she asks C.J. in a shaky voice.
"Of course not," sighs C.J. in frustration. "Josh is just being Josh. Don't let him get to you."
"It's just scary, C.J.," she says. "I mean, I know that there are countries on Earth where a free press doesn't exist, but at least the people there can escape. Here, there's nowhere to go. Even if the people in Old Town had a better sense of democratic norms, there doesn't seem to be a single place in this system where they could practice them."
"Not anymore," D'avin cuts in. "Pawter's the legal owner of Old Town now, and she'll spend the rest of her life making this place better, if that's what it takes. That's why you're here, to help her do that."
Having noticed D'av for the first time, Donna shoots him a watery smile and brushes a strand of hair out of her eyes.
"Yeah, I guess we are," she agrees. "Thanks."
"You're... very, very welcome," replies D'av. "Um. I'm D'avin, by the way."
"Donna Moss," says Donna, shaking his hand.
"And I'm Claudia Jean Cregg, but you can call me C.J.," adds C.J. quickly, springing to her feet and holding out her hand to D'av, who gives her a bewildered look.
"Great," he says uncertainly, glancing at Donna, who seems as if she's about to say something.
But that at that moment, the door opens to reveal Dutch (clearly incensed), and from behind her billows Josh's roar of "DONNAAAAAAAAAA!"
"I have to go," says Donna frantically, and she ducks around Dutch and races towards Josh's distress noises.
Dutch stares after her, nonplussed.
"Is this a common occurrence?" she asks Debbie, who nods. "Hi, Bellus," Dutch adds.
"Hi, yourself," says Bellus, pulling out the warrant and offering it to Dutch. "Here you go, as promised."
Dutch looks the warrant over and nods.
"Great," she says briskly, and takes the warrant from Bellus. "Thanks. D'av, come on. We're officially on guard duty from now on."
"Hm?" says D'av, who has been gazing absentmindedly at the door through which Donna recently departed.
"Oh, but..." C.J. sighs as Dutch storms out the room like a gorgeous Fury, D'av straggling behind her in vague puzzlement. She turns to Bellus. "Are they...?"
"I wouldn't get myself involved in that one," Bellus advises her. "It's complicated."
"Uh-huh." C.J. stands with her arms akimbo for a moment, staring after D'av. "Well, then."
She exits out the other door. Debbie glances up from her crossword, meets Bellus's eyes, and shakes her head with an exasperated but amused smile that Bellus returns. Apparently, some Earthlings are the same sort of crazy as some people from the Quad are. Bellus is just glad to know that at least one of the Earthlings is the same sort of sane that she is.
Jed missed Pawter's introduction by hologram, so he is surprised when a vivacious and impossibly young woman appears at the door, attired in some sort of stately silver gown that shimmers with her every step.
"President Bartlet," she says, dipping into a shallow curtsey and flashing him a winning grin. "Thank you for coming all this way."
"The pleasure is ours," says Jed, planting his cane firmly into the carpet and standing to offer the young woman his hand. "I must say, I feel somewhat underdressed in just a suit; I didn't realize that this meeting was going to be white tie." He breaks off. "You have no idea what 'white tie' means, do you."
Pawter, however, is not paying attention to Jed's attempts to explain American men's fashion norms. She is instead staring in concern at his cane.
"Are you all right?" she asks him, concerned.
"Hm? Yeah, it's just the MS. Multiple sclerosis," Jed clarifies. "Don't know if you have that affliction here, even if your physiology looks fairly comparable to ours. But you needn't fear; it only impacts my limbs, while my mind remains as keen as it ever was."
"How does it work?"
"Excuse me?" asks Jed, surprised rather than offended.
"What's the cause of the disorder?" Pawter is looking Jed critically up and down in a manner that reminds Jed of Abbey at her most clinical. "I'm a doctor; I might be able to help."
"I've talked to a lot of doctors about this, and unfortunately, there's nothing to be done," Jed sighs.
Pawter looks at him earnestly.
"But, from what I understand, your technology is... well, I'm loath to say inferior, but certainly different from ours."
Jed nods slowly.
"Yeah, that's true. This was definitely my first ride on a civilian spaceship, and as President, you usually get to try all of the coolest technologies that are available on Earth." He furrows his brow. "It's a degenerative nerve disorder, but my wife can probably explain it better than I can. She's a doctor, too. May I?"
"Please," says Pawter, smiling radiantly at him.
Jed hobbles over to an intercom button, leaning heavily on his cane, and presses a button.
"Charlie, could you bring Mrs. Bartlet over, please? Thanks."
He laboriously makes his way back over to the couches in the center of the room, and he and Pawter sit in unison.
"So, from what I hear, you're some form of hereditary royalty in this planetary system, and have recently acquired this town by deed?" Jed asks.
"It's a long and complicated story, but that's the basic concept, yes."
"And, before I forget to ask, could you let me know exactly how you would like to be addressed? This was a rare occasion where my staff couldn't pull up any references to inform me further. I assume that 'Ms. Simms' is too casual?"
"Pawter?" Jed repeats skeptically.
"My father's surname. Simms was my mother's; her family is the one that I represent as a member of the Nine. The formal address would technically be 'Seyah Simms.' But here on Westerley, everyone knows me as Pawter."
"No fancy title to go with that? Seyah Pawter?"
"Just Pawter," Pawter insists.
"All right, then." Jed is inexplicably charmed by this, given that most foreign leaders he's met have clung to their titles for all their worth. "How can we help you, Pawter?"
"I've been doing some research into governance across the universe," Pawter begins, "and your country stood out as a particularly long-lived and relatively stable polity, with a remarkably high degree of personal freedom for common citizens. So I thought I would ask if you could shed some light on what makes it work so well."
Jed chuckles, wishing he could explain exactly how dysfunctional American government is without completely discouraging this earnest young woman.
"Well, if you'll allow me, I think it's probably best to start at the very beginning," he tells Pawter. "Before the United States of America was its own country, it was a series of colonies established by a country called England – later reconfigured as the United Kingdom, after the Acts of Union between England and its neighbor Scotland in 1707, but that's a story for another day. Each of these colonies had its own local government and currency..."
So rarely has an audience actually sat patiently (and, in fact, raptly) through Jed's sometimes overly enthusiastic musings on American history that he is actually disappointed when the First Lady arrives.
"Oh, lord, Jed," sighs Abbey as she enters the room about halfway through her husband's descriptions of the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
"I was asked to expound on Madisonian political theory, Abbey," Jed replies indignantly as Pawter stands to greet the newcomer. "Believe it or not, some people actually want to hear me talk about the minutiae of the structure of the American government."
Abbey shakes her head bemusedly, then smiles and holds a hand out to Pawter.
"Hi, I'm Abbey Bartlet," she says.
Pawter, who is clearly used to the formality of bows and curtseys when dealing with political players, hesitates for just a second, but quickly adapts and takes Abbey's hand.
"Illenore Seyah Simms, but please, just call me Pawter."
"Pawter's the new administrator of this municipality, and she's interested in learning more about stable democratic governance," Jed explains.
"Thanks for inviting us here, Pawter. It's been quite an experience."
"For me, as well," Pawter grins. "President Bartlet said that you're a doctor?"
"That, I am."
"Excellent. Can you explain his disorder to me?"
Abbey glances quizzically at Jed.
"Yes. I'm a doctor, as well."
A slight frown crosses Abbey's brow, but she nods.
"It's a degenerative nerve disorder, caused by damage to the myelin sheaths surrounding the cells in the central nervous system."
"So I'm guessing that motor skills are impacted by the inability of the electrical impulses to be correctly routed by the nerves. Is the demyelination a cause or a symptom of the disorder itself?"
"Symptom," clarifies Abbey, her expression shifting rapidly from wariness to pleasant surprise as she takes stock of the fact that the young lady is much more than just a pretty face. "The cause appears to be immune-mediated."
"Leading to inflammation?"
"And lesions. Oligodendrocyte levels drop, and damage to white matter nerve tissue follows."
"I see. And the trigger for the disease is...?"
"No one is quite sure yet, but people think genetics play heavily into it."
"Hmm. And does the disorder prevent any remyelination from occurring?"
"Not at the initial phases, but after too many oligodendrocytes are lost, it's somewhat inevitable."
"Got it." Pawter claps her hands delightedly. "I think I've got just the stuff. My mother did her fair share of biochemical research; she had quite an extensive lab that I've inherited. After we're done here, I think I can find exactly the serum we need to stimulate remyelination and give your oligodendrocyte levels a permanent boost."
The skepticism returns to Abbey's face like a cloud sweeping across the sun.
"With all due respect, is that exactly wise?" she asks. "We don't even know if our genetic makeup is comparable to yours."
"I can test for that, too, although we certainly seem to be the same species," Pawter adds helpfully.
Abbey shoots Jed a swift glare to signal her disapproval, and he returns a measured look containing half of an unspoken conversation that Abbey can nonetheless read perfectly.
"Would you mind giving us a moment alone?" Abbey asks Pawter politely, and the Qreshi nods and steps out of the door, which swishes shut behind her.
"Jed, do we even need to discuss the advisability of trusting your health to someone with completely unknown credentials and licensing and technology?" Abbey snaps.
"If you were Dr. McNally, you be questioning me about the advisability of putting my health in the hands of an unknown leader with an unknown agenda," Jed says calmly, folding his hands over the curve of his cane.
"Well, she'd be right, too," Abbey huffs. "For all you know, this Pawter's let people die on the operating table. For all you know, her family is locked in a power struggle over every planetary body in this entire system, and poisoning and overthrowing the leader of a country with nuclear weapons is a part of her grand scheme."
"Abbey, look at their spaceships," Jed sighs. "If they had wanted to overthrow the United States and steal our nukes, they could have done it 'Independence Day'-style, without this whole display of wanting to learn about democratic elections and American checks and balances. Plus, she seems like a very smart and responsible young lady — sort of like Ellie, don't you think? If Ellie had an interest in governance over anything other than a research lab."
"I don't want her injecting any sort of unknown substance into you, Jed, no matter how paternal you feel towards her," Abbey glowers. "As your wife, and as your doctor, I'm putting my foot down on this."
Jed holds his hands up, conceding defeat.
"OK," he sighs, "although she honestly seems like she's just trying to be helpful, and I think I'm a reasonably good judge of character."
"Don't give yourself too much credit."
"Any chance I can get back to the Federalists now?"
Abbey storms towards the door, and it slides open to let her exit. A moment later, Pawter reenters tentatively.
"My apologies if I caused any trouble," she says with a faltering smile.
"Nah, you didn't do anything," sighs Jed. "Charlie, are you still out there?"
"Yes, Mr. President," Charlie answers, stepping through the door. "Did you need anything from me?"
"I'm telling Pawter here about the Constitution — and don't you roll your eyes like that at our government's foundational document, Charlie," Jed admonished. "He thinks I talk about the Constitution too much," he added to Pawter.
"I've never said that, sir," Charlie answers diplomatically.
"Well, in that case, stick around for one more retelling of Washington's first term as President," Jed orders, waving a hand at Pawter and Charlie, who both sit. "Where was I... ah, yes. So, eventually the delegation from Connecticut came up with an apportionment plan that, while not exactly popular, was acceptable enough to everyone; and that created a bicameral legislature with proportional representation in the lower chamber..."
Charlie has heard this lecture about a hundred times before — three or four times at various stages of his formal education, and 96 or 97 times from one Josiah Edward Bartlet. So instead of listening, he remains respectfully silent and watches the Qreshi politician as she absorbs about 150 years' worth of American history in one sitting. In spite of her elegant attire, the woman seems refreshingly down to earth: she takes notes (using an alphabet that Charlie can't read) by typing rapidly on another electronic pad, politely stopping the President to ask for clarifications that he is only too happy to give, occasionally absently brushing an errant strand of hair behind her ear as she listens. When Charlie begins to nod off ever so slightly, he jolts awake when Pawter subtly kicks his foot with her own, then apologizes by means of a sidelong wink.
"What do you think of her?" Jed asks Charlie after Pawter has finished up taking notes for the afternoon and left to prepare for a formal dinner on Qresh. "Aspiring democrat, or insincere autocrat?"
"She seems pretty sincere to me, sir," opines Charlie.
"Not the type to invite friends to dinner and then poison the wine?"
"No, Mr. President. And frankly, if she wanted us dead, I think she could have done us in, by now."
"Hm." Jed frowns pensively off into space. "I'm not much of a gambler, Charlie, but if she's really and truly got all her cards on the table, then I may have hit the jackpot."
"Sir?" asks Charlie.
"Nothing." Jed smiles reassuringly at Charlie. "It's been a long day, and I've got some work to do. Why don't you go ahead and take the evening off?"
"If you're sure..."
"Absolutely. Thanks for everything, Charlie, as always."
Charlie nods, and, with a final glance at the President, leaves the room. Jed sighs and attempts to stand, but falls back against the couch with a grunt. Seizing his cane with one hand, he pushes himself to his feet and exhales slowly, letting his weight settle into the sturdiness of his crutch, questioning if he is really brave or crazy or selfish enough to do what he is considering doing.
"Hey," says D'av when he sees the American President's aide enter The Royale. "Didn't know if you'd be able to make it. D'avin Jaqobis."
"Charlie Young," replies Charlie, glancing around the bar with some trepidation. "Is it safe to be here?"
"As safe as anywhere in Old Town," D'av shrugs. "Don't pick any fights, and you should be fine. Don't pick up any girls, and you'll be even better off."
Charlie raises his eyebrows skeptically.
"I've had a very weird experience or two, let's leave it at that," D'av says evasively. He gestures towards the counter of the bar. "You met my brother yet?"
Charlie glances across the dimly lit, industrial-feeling room in the direction that D'av has indicated, where Sam is chatting with a young man who matches Sam in blue-eyed earnestness.
"But it's really not like cake or like pudding," Sam is arguing emphatically.
"It's trying to be both at the same time, and that's the problem," Johnny insists.
"And deeply confused."
"OK, no." Sam downs the rest of his drink and slaps the glass on the table. "This is a culinary creation so spectacular that we've co-opted it as a nationalistic point of symbolic comparison, and if you ever make it over to the States, I promise that you will find its cinnamon-filled goodness irresistible."
"Hearts and minds," mutters Charlie, shaking his head in amusement.
"What's that?" D'av asks.
"Nothing. Just commenting on a soft power initiative in the works over at the bar."
"Yeah, you've lost me." D'av shrugs. "Dutch and Pawter may both be royalty or whatever, but I don't really do politics. I'm just the guy who rushes in to shoot at whomever is trying to kill any given politician or RAC agent or Scarback."
"Scarback?" repeats Charlie.
"Warrior monks," D'av explains.
"That's kinda cool."
"Sure, until their social justice initiatives to free the people go off the rails," D'av mutters.
"Social justice initiatives?"
"Yeah, Alvis has this whole underground resistance — and, by the way, when I say underground, I mean underground..."
"Hang on," Charlie interrupts, "you've gotta introduce me to this guy."
Now it's D'av's turn to blink in surprise.
"Because this is exactly who we need to bring into the conversation!" Charlie explains, excited. "Any system of government that we attempt to import from Earth isn't gonna have any traction unless it's got some sort of foundation in a grassroots democratic movement."
"Um, sure?" D'av scratches his head, bewildered. "I guess we can go look for him, then..."
Across the bar from Sam and Johnny's vigorous debate over the merits of apple pie, C.J. watches Charlie and D'avin disappear out the door of The Royale and signals for a refill.
"Oh, honey," says Pree, "you sure that's a good idea?"
"You sure it's a good idea to question the judgment of an independent, self-sufficient woman having an emotionally trying day?" C.J. retorts. She thrusts her glass at Pree. "Another. Please."
Pree obligingly fills C.J.'s glass, then leans his elbows on the bar as she knocks half of it back.
"Wanna talk about whatever's wrong?" he asks.
"Not unless you want a lengthy and probably jetlag-fueled diatribe against the suppression of free speech," C.J. snaps.
Pree raises his eyebrows.
"That's a new one. I thought this was gonna be the typical rant about some fine piece of ass you can't get your hands on."
"Let's not even go there," grumbles C.J.
Pree smirks and extends a hand.
"Prima Dezz," he says, "but friends call me Pree."
"C.J. Cregg," replies C.J.
"One of the Earth people?"
"Rough reality," C.J. explains, gesturing vaguely behind her at the other inhabitants of the bar as she stares into her mostly empty glass.
"Mmm, ain't that the truth."
Pree usually isn't one to argue with customers who want to spend as much money as possible at The Royale, but it doesn't seem fair somehow to let a traumatized visitor from outside the Quad succumb to drink so quickly. He tries to distract C.J. by nudging a small plate in her direction.
"Have a few."
C.J. wrinkles her nose at the dark blobs on the plate, then pops one in her mouth and nearly chokes.
"You OK, hon?" asks Pree in alarm.
"Yeah!" sputters C.J., delighted. "These are olives!"
"Well of course they're olives — what did you think they were?"
"Hey, I'm literally in another galaxy from where I was 24 hours ago, so don't start," C.J. argues, still amazed.
Then, to Pree's surprise, she starts to chuckle with rapidly increasing mirth.
"I'm sorry," she giggles, "the olives, they just made me think of..."
Pree watches, unimpressed, as C.J. practically falls off her bar stool laughing. While she is still righting herself, he carefully sneaks her glass back behind the bar, where it is out of both sight and mind.
"They made me think of this time that we put olives in Will Bailey's pockets," giggles C.J. when her face finally reemerges above the counter, "and then he had to go talk to Marion Coatsworth Hay..."
C.J. snorts hysterically as her guffaws redouble. Pree still isn't quite sure what's so funny, but he has to confess to being wholly entertained by how amused C.J. is.
"OK, here's a glass of water," he tells her, filling a glass and setting it down on the counter, "and you should really drink that all down and eat some more of the olives, because I don't do any diplomatic melodrama in my bar, and that means it's better if you sober up just a teensy bit."
C.J. is still nearly crying with laughter.
"It's just a funny name," she manages to squeak through her mostly silent convulsions of hilarity. "And poor Will Bailey had to make up an award for her, on top of the olives."
Pree nudges the water towards C.J.
"Pain in the ass, this Will Bailey?"
"Oh, no, he's not, really," C.J. sighs, grinning. "He's just one of those people who you can't help but prank. Don't know why, but he is. Also, he's not Sam, so there's that." She blinks and narrows her eyes. "Wait, why is Sam here instead of Will?"
"So you left the illustrious Will Bailey at home?" Pree clarifies.
"I guess so. Huh." C.J. stares into a non-existent distance for a moment, mystified, and then recovers herself. "In any event, Will Bailey is imminently prankable. Eminently prankable. Whichever one is correct. Is that even a word, 'prankable'? Also, in spite of all of this, I swear, the award thing was just because of her name. Not premeditated."
C.J. dissolves into giggles again as Pree leans towards her conspiratorially.
"Sweetie, you really need to think up some better pranks," he tells her pityingly.
"I do, don't I."
"Hmm." Pree nods in approval as C.J. pops another olive into her mouth and takes a swig of water. "We can work on this. But first, you drink down that entire glass of water."
The last thing that Dutch wants and needs at a moment like this is for Khlyen to make an unexpected appearance in the middle of Spring Hill; and yet, here he is.
"What are you doing here?" she hisses at him, her body immediately dropping into a wary stance.
"I need your help," Khlyen says calmly, approaching her with a slow, unconcerned gait. "Yalla, you must come with me."
"Yeah, you know, I've noticed this funny trend, which is that all of our little outings that start with you saying that, never end all that great for me," snaps Dutch.
"I've discovered the location of something of great value to Aneela," Khlyen insists. "Something that could inflict extreme damage upon one strain of Hullen. We might not get another chance."
Dutch hesitates, and then hates herself for hesitating. It's not that she has ever trusted Khlyen, but there's some infuriating impulse ingrained within her that instinctively assumes that she must do his bidding to survive. Besides, what if he's right? What if he really does know some way to deal the Hullen a truly damaging blow, and this is really the only shot they've got to do it?
She ponders all of this for a total of one second, and then shakes her head.
"I'm on a warrant, Khlyen," she tells him. "I can't just go gallivanting around the J with you at a moment's notice."
"Yalla, this is about the fate of the universe!" Khlyen insists, taking a step forward as Dutch takes a step back to maintain the distance between them. "You will listen to me!"
"Sir, I don't think I really need to explain the importance from a global security standpoint of making it back to Earth in time for the multilateral summit with the Chinese premier and the Russian president," says Leo as he rounds the corner with President Bartlet. The two stop in their tracks and stare in alarm at Dutch and Khlyen primed to spring at each other.
"Should we take the other hallway, Dutch?" asks Jed politely.
"Yeah, I think that would be a great idea, sir," replies Dutch without looking away from Khlyen.
Khlyen's eyes flicker in the direction of the American President.
"So this is your warrant?" he asks Dutch, unimpressed, as he turns his attention back towards her. "Well, if that's what it takes, we can relieve you of that responsibility easily enough."
But Khlyen has only just managed to get his hand on his gun and pull it from its holster when Leo's fist connects extremely solidly with Khlyen's jaw, and Khlyen stumbles backwards. That's all the time that Dutch needs to tackle him to the floor.
"RUN!" she shouts at the Americans, who need no second bidding and sprint in the other direction down the hallway. They only stop when they've reached the central command center of Spring Hill and Leo has sealed the door behind them, at which point they double over in tandem, gasping for breath.
"You OK?" Leo pants.
"Yeah," Jed replies, and then straightens up a bit, smiling at his Chief of Staff. "That was an impressive right hook you threw there."
Leo shrugs slightly sheepishly.
"They don't send you to 'Nam without teaching you something about hand-to-hand combat," he explains.
"And thank God for that," Jed says, and for a moment, the two men share a ridiculous grin that encapsulates how lucky they feel to have survived so much insanity by one another's side.
"You think Dutch is OK?" Jed asks finally, his expression sobering.
"If anyone can take care of herself around here, my money's on Dutch," Leo reassures him. "Besides, Mr. President, you know the rules: Your security detail's job is to keep you safe. Your job is to not get in the way of their protecting you, and that means..."
"Doing what they say," Jed finishes, looking no less troubled.
Leo nods, and then furrows his brow.
"It's what she told us to do," Jed says defensively.
"I know, sir. And you ran." Leo glances at the President. "That seems medically improbable."
Jed raises his eyebrows conspiratorially at Leo.
"Only when you're using Earth's medical technology as your standard," he clarifies.
Leo stares at him.
"Pawter offered to sneak me a medication that would cure my MS, and I took her up on it. I swabbed my cheek, uploaded it to some computer system; she made sure that everything would be kosher genetically, had a vial sent over from her planet, and injected it about three hours ago, right before we finished discussing semi-presidential systems and she went home. In all honesty, Leo, I have no idea what she gave me, but I'm already feeling better than I have in years."
Leo continues to stare at his lunatic best friend.
"Just, don't tell Abbey, OK?" Jed requests. "I don't want to give her something more to worry about. Best to wait a few days, until after we're back on Earth and I've proven that this wasn't a fatal decision."
"If you say so, Mr. President," answers Leo, still flabbergasted by his Commander in Chief's recklessness.
Jed impatiently taps the end of his cane on the floor a few times, and then breathes a sigh of relief as the door slides open and Dutch, sporting a split lip, hurtles into the room, slamming the door shut behind her and locking it.
"Everything all right?" Leo asks, concerned.
"We have a situation," Dutch announces, angrily wiping blood from her mouth with the back of her hand.
Exchanging a glance, Jed and Leo turn their attention to Dutch to hear her explanation for what was already obvious.
Nancy McNally is doing her best to concentrate on drafting a memo on Quad politics. She has a whole legal pad's worth of very thorough notes on Dutch's recent clarifications of the cultural norms on each planetary body in the system, and she's been scrolling repeatedly through all of the information uploaded by Pawter to the digital tablets on the ship that had picked them up quite unexpectedly from the White House.
Nancy knows that she should really be writing up a memo on East Asian security policy, in advance of the President's upcoming trilateral summit with the Chinese and the Russians, during which North Korean nuclear deterrence will no doubt be a central theme. But, in all honesty, writing about Quad politics is far more entertaining. It's delightfully reminiscent of the years that Nancy spent working towards her doctorate, during which she and her fellow Ph.D. candidates passed far too many evenings very earnestly applying international relations game theory models to scenarios from within the "Star Wars" universe.
But the question of which memo Nancy is currently writing is, in the end, actually moot, because the answer is "neither." And that is because the steady thump from the other side of the wall is beginning to drive her slightly insane. She finally puts down the laptop on which she's been typing, walks calmly to the door of the conference room in which she's been working, and, upon opening it, glares so icily at Toby Ziegler that he freezes in place, his rubber ball still clutched in his hand.
"Would you mind?" Nancy asks pointedly.
"Sorry," mutters Toby, shifting in the chair from which he's been hurling his rubber ball against the conference room wall. "Nervous habit."
Nancy raises an eyebrow.
"You nervous about something?"
"Only being who knows how many millions of miles away from home; and trying to introduce democracy into what appears to still be a society driven by totalitarian norms; and the fact that I spent the last two weeks working on a speech that the President might not even end up giving, if he decides that playing Jean-Luc Picard is more fun than ensuring that the North Koreans don't nuke Seoul," Toby scowls.
Nancy nods, wishing that she felt more ashamed about how much she's enjoying playing intergalactic state-builder, especially since Toby's right on all counts.
All of a sudden, Dutch rounds the corner, her expression intense.
"We need to get you back to your system," she explains without preamble.
"What happened?" asks Nancy, crossing her arms as Toby swears quietly.
"To make a long story short, someone is trying to kill your President to force me to do something. I've negotiated for one hour's worth of time, but after that, it's probably best if you're not around." Dutch scowls even more fiercely than Toby had a moment before. Nancy presumes from the cut on Dutch's lip that said negotiations were not entirely peaceful. "I'm sorry. This is all my fault; I shouldn't have taken out a warrant with such binding terms."
"Do we have a ready spacecraft that can take us back to Earth?" Nancy asks brusquely. She feels sorry for Dutch, as she always does when people miscalculate while trying their best to do the right thing; but there is a time and a place for offering sympathy for error, and now is not that time. Dutch, she trusts, is a hardened enough professional to not take offense.
"Dock Four, automated to depart in 45 minutes," Dutch answers promptly. "The President and most of his staff are already there; I'll take you over."
Five minutes later, Nancy and Toby are following Dutch briskly through the hallways of the compound.
"Looks like your speech for the summit might see the light of day, after all," Nancy mutters to Toby, her laptop clutched under one arm.
"If we don't run into a bevy of Stormtroopers and get blasted to bits first," grumbles Toby in reply.
"Johnny? How's the programming coming along?" Dutch calls as they emerge onto the landing dock.
"Almost got everything set," Johnny answers, his eyes glued to the console on which he's typing frantically. Sam is leaning up against the wall next to Johnny with his arms crossed, also staring at the console and clearly pretending very hard that he understands what Johnny is doing. "And... presto, landing glitch fixed, and this should get everyone safely home in about eight hours."
"Leo and the President are onboard?" Nancy asks Sam.
"Yeah," says Sam. "We're waiting on Josh, Donna, and Charlie, and that's it. C.J. says she saw Charlie and Johnny's brother head out of The Royale together, and Dutch already called – comm'ed? – Johnny's brother to tell him to get Charlie back here. But we're not sure where Josh and Donna are."
"Typical," mumbles Toby. "If we get stuck here because of Josh, I will kill him."
"Well, I hate to spoil your plans, but that might be a little bit difficult to do if he's already dead," sneers a voice positively dripping with condescension, and everyone turns to see a well-dressed young woman holding a gun before her so that it's pointed directly at Josh and Donna, who are bound and gagged. "Down," she adds to her captives, who obediently drop to their knees before her.
"Delle Seyah," said Dutch in a measured voice, taking a step towards the Qreshi. "Nice of you to show up."
"Oh, I never like to miss a diplomatic party," smirks Delle Seyah Kendry. "Especially when some of the people attending it are so incredibly pretty."
She runs her free hand over Donna's smooth hair, the muzzle of her gun pointing straight between Josh's eyes. Josh fumes, but Donna shoots him a glance, her eyes pleading with him not to lose his temper.
"What do you want?" Dutch snaps.
"I want a lot of things, as you should know by now, Killjoy," Delle Seyah leers. "But, if you're asking what I hope to get out of this little interaction, it's Old Town."
"You signed a treaty," Dutch reminds her.
"Well, yes," sighs Delle Seyah nonchalantly. "But treaties can always be renegotiated, you know. Now, why don't you give Pretty Pawter a call and have her come discuss with me the terms of ceding Old Town back to the Company?"
"Pawter's already gone back to Qresh," Dutch says.
"I can wait," Delle Seyah shrugs, knocking the barrel of the gun casually against the back of Josh's head. "But you'd better tell her to hurry up. She may be a doctor, but I know she always feels so guilty when there's blood on her hands."
Dutch's hand flies to her own gun, and Delle Seyah tsks at her.
"And here I remembered you being so smart. Why don't you turn around," she adds to Donna, running her fingertips over Donna's cheek.
Donna, miserable, teeters halfway around on her knees so that Dutch can see where Delle Seyah has tied a bomb between Donna's wrists.
"It's monitoring my heartbeat, needless to say," Delle Seyah explains. "Kill me, and it's bye bye to everyone else in this hangar."
"She's not bluffing," warns Nancy, who has been watching Delle Seyah warily.
"Shit," mutters Dutch. "Johnny, send a message to Pawter."
Johnny obeys, and there follows a tense moment of silence.
"So, um, why exactly do you need Old Town back?" Sam asks finally. "I mean, it's not exactly an economic powerhouse, and it doesn't seem to have any strategic value or religious significance whatsoever, and from what's been explained, it sounds like you control everything else in this system, so...?"
(Toby wishes he could walk over to Sam and smack him on the back of the head, but he gets the sense that any sudden movement might prove very fatal to Josh.)
"Isn't it obvious?" sneers Delle Seyah imperiously. "In trying to democratize Old Town, Pawter is striking matches next to a political tinderbox. Foolish girl — this could lead to revolts in every single one of the Company's holdings. We'd be able to put down any and all rebellions, of course, but it would be such a waste of time and resources, and undoubtedly it would mean killing an unreasonable number of our workers. They could all be replaced, but it would be costly."
"A human life, once taken, can never be replaced," says a voice from behind Delle Seyah, and she turns her head slightly so that, without removing Dutch from her line of sight, she can watch Alvis Akari stride towards her, followed by Charlie and D'av.
"A Scarback," remarks Delle Seyah. "This is getting more and more interesting by the moment. Perhaps you can give these pathetic people a lesson in suffering for the sins of others, before I give them my own lesson."
The door of the spaceship slides open.
" 'And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins,' " proclaims Jed Bartlet as he emerges. He stops and eyes Delle Seyah disapprovingly. "You can spare us your lessons on redemptive suffering. Josh and Donna haven't done a thing to you, and from a diplomacy standpoint, I'm a much bigger fish for you to fry. Why don't you let them go, and we'll sit down and discuss all of this like reasonable people?"
"Maybe you missed the memo," says Delle Seyah, "but in the Quad, the only people who sit down and discuss things are the ones who can afford to fight. And, right now, I wouldn't say that you can."
And with a smile, she moves her gun so that it's pointing at Jed instead.
"Bingo," whispers Dutch under her breath.
Three things happen then in rapid succession. First, Toby's rubber ball whizzes through the air and slams against Delle Seyah's elbow with a thud; as her arm jolts to the side, her finger pulls the trigger reflexively, but by then the gun is no longer pointing towards the American president, and its blast ricochets harmlessly off the wall. Second, Donnatella Moss has had enough of this Qreshi threatening Josh, and she throws herself backwards against Delle Seyah's legs, toppling her off balance as the gun clatters to the ground. Third, Dutch hurls herself forward and tackles Delle Seyah Kendry to the ground, pinning her so that she can't move.
"What are you doing, Killjoy?" snarls Delle Seyah as she struggles beneath Dutch. "You know that RAC agents are not supposed to get involved in the affairs of the Nine."
"Oh, but you just took aim at the man I'm under warrant to protect, which means I had every right to defend him from you," Dutch gloats sweetly as she flips Delle Seyah over onto her stomach and grabs the handcuffs that Johnny has just slid across the floor towards them. "The warrant is all, you know. Besides," she whispers in Delle Seyah's ear as she cuffs her hands, "you're enjoying this more than you'd like to admit."
The relief across the hangar is palpable, now that Delle Seyah has been disarmed and it appears that the Americans will be heading home in a timely fashion.
"Pawter, better stay put; Delle Seyah is causing trouble, and we should probably confer before you come back to Old Town," Johnny is saying into the comlink, and over to the side, Charlie is introducing Alvis to Jed.
"These guys really know Old Town, Mr. President," Charlie says. "Alvis has been providing spiritual and political guidance to the poor for years. I think the Scarbacks need to start working with Pawter on a grassroots initiative that will help institute democratic norms from the ground up."
"Well, I don't personally object to this plan," replies Jed, returning the slight bow that Alvis gives him. "But, unless we propose that all religious groups around the system are given the same opportunity, I'm not sure that it's legal, and I don't want to make that proposal without knowing anything else about the major religions in the Quad."
"Sir, this isn't the United States," Charlie reminds him. "Westerley isn't under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Constitution. They don't have an Establishment Clause in Old Town. Hell, they don't even have a constitution in Old Town."
"Ah, right you are," says Jed. "Then I have no objection to making that an official part of our recommendations to Pawter. Could you pass that message along?" he adds, turning to D'av.
"Sure," D'av replies.
"Guess you'll be getting involved in at least a little politics, after all," Charlie tells him, grinning, as he and D'av shake hands. "Take care, and say bye to Pawter from us."
"Mr. President?" calls C.J. from the door of the spaceship, watching curiously as Dutch drags Delle Seyah to one side of the hangar. "We need to get everyone onboard now."
"I, for one, need no second bidding," Toby mutters to Nancy as they make their way across the hangar. "Even if it means that I'll have to spend the flight back revising that speech and worrying about nuclear deterrence, I'd rather deal with power politics in East Asia than this ridiculous space opera."
Nancy, for her part, nods seriously, more disappointed to be leaving the ridiculous space opera than she ever would admit to Toby Ziegler, and also mildly irritated that now she'll actually have to spend the next few hours thinking about nuclear proliferation.
"There you go," says D'av, cutting loose the ropes that bind Donna and carefully setting aside the bomb, as Josh rubs his wrists, glowering.
"Thanks so much," Donna beams as D'av helps her to her feet.
D'av runs his fingers through his hair sheepishly, grinning at Donna, and before she turns and heads back to the ship, she stands on her tiptoes and gives him a quick peck on the cheek. D'av flushes slightly and quickly rushes off to help Dutch with whatever she's doing.
"Now remember, you promised to eat an entire slice, and I will hold you to that, if you're ever on Earth," Sam reminds Johnny.
"You're still on," agrees Johnny, shaking Sam's hand. "Safe flight home."
Sam nods, and then notices that Josh is sullenly watching D'avin.
"You OK?" he asks as he approaches Josh.
"Yeah," Josh replies, only half paying attention to Sam. "That guy in the tight black t-shirt... does he strike you as the kind of guy that women would instinctively find attractive?"
Sam follows Josh's gaze.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'd say so," he says, and claps Josh on the back as Josh continues to stare at D'av with a disgruntled look. "Better get on the ship. I hear C.J. has a great new list of pranks for you guys to play on Will Bailey when you get back to the White House."
"Huh," Josh answers, furrowing his brow at D'av one last time before turning and following Sam.
At the door of the spaceship, Jed is shaking Dutch's hand.
"Thank you for everything," he says to her. "And I'm sorry to have caused you so much trouble."
"Don't be," Dutch smiles back. "If you come back for a progress check, I promise not to make the same mistake."
"Well, at least we'll be expecting to hear from you, next time." Jed looks down at his cane. "Please thank Pawter on my behalf. For everything. And, if you would, remind her that democracy is like this cane. If it's imposed on a society that remains at its heart unequal, then democracy is only going to just barely prop that society up, helping it limp along more than anything else. But if the roots of the problems facing an unequal society are addressed properly, and a concentrated effort is made to stamp out inequality as a cultural norm, then democracy will be there just as a safeguard, ready to catch the society if it stumbles."
"And she'll know what all of that means?" asks Dutch, who has spent her life solving cryptic puzzles and not much enjoying it.
"I think so," says Jed seriously. "She's lived in Old Town long enough to understand its worst symptoms, and she's a doctor. I think that, with some careful thought, and some spiritual advice from the Scarbacks, she'll be able to figure out a cure for what ails it."
Dutch nods, and Jed gives her a final warm smile before he turns and makes his way back into the spaceship, his gait confident and his cane swinging unused from the crook of his arm.
As the spaceship slowly whirs into the air, bright lights flaring, Johnny and D'av and Alvis move forward to stand next to Dutch, the three of them watching as their American guests glide slowly out of the hangar.
"I liked them," Johnny says cheerfully, picking up the rubber ball from where Toby left it behind. "Think they'll be back?"
"Some of them, maybe," Dutch predicts. "Others, probably not."
She turns to her team.
"Khlyen gave me an hour to get the Americans off-moon, and I think it's safest if I keep my word to him," she tells the Jaqobis brothers. "Johnny, I think you should go debrief Pawter on everything that's just happened. I wouldn't put it past most of the Nine to be backing Delle Seyah on reclaiming Old Town for the Company, but hopefully we can slow things up with legal proceedings against her for threatening a foreign head of government, while we reassess how to prevent Old Town from falling for good. Alvis, would you go with him, so that you can discuss with Pawter how best to organize people on the ground?"
"And under the ground," Alvis nods.
"D'av," Dutch continues, "I need you to go explain to Turin why we're leaving a member of the Nine tied up in a corner of a Spring Hill hangar."
"When you put it that way, it makes me wonder less why he always thinks of us as his problem children," sighs D'av. "You'll be OK without us?"
"I'll get in touch when I'm back from whatever Khlyen wants me to do."
"Be safe," Johnny tells her.
"You, too," Dutch says, returning his smile. "Lucy, take care of the boys for me."
"I always do, Dutch, even when you are also onboard," Lucy replies mechanically.
"I know." Dutch claps her hands. "Within 24 hours, hopefully we'll have saved the universe, democracy in Old Town, and our own asses. Shouldn't be too hard, right?"
The Jaqobis brothers shoot a bemused glance at each other.
"Right," Dutch answers her own question. "Let's go."
Author's Note: So I fully acknowledge that there's neither a real plot nor a real point to this fic. It came about simply because my friend and I were texting each other about "Killjoys" about a year ago, and she mentioned that she thought that Johnny Jaqobis and Sam Seaborn would have an excellent time being earnest and blue-eyed together, and I started shooting random scenarios at her regarding interactions between "Killjoys" characters and "West Wing" characters, and then I decided to write some of those ideas up, because why not. There are some things that I would have liked to have written that didn't make sense timing-wise even within the very-uncoordinated timeline of this fic (e.g., Fancy Lee and Toby Ziegler hanging out and being grumpy together, only Fancy hasn't been "cleansed" yet at this point, since Khlyen is still alive). But you can let your imaginations run wild in all the directions that I didn't.
Also, if it wasn't already apparent from the writing, I'm much more familiar with "The West Wing" than with "Killjoys," so I apologize for not having captured the full glory of Dutch being snarky. If I ever get around to rewatching Seasons One and Two of "Killjoys," I may make dialogue revisions accordingly.