She could feel it – the slight chill in the air – indicative of the first week of October in Nashville.
At least, she thought it was because it was the first week of October. She decided it could've been the downright frostiness between the Genius and the Killer.
The Spy sighed. She was indifferent, at best. If she could've avoided this trip, she would have. But no – the Director had decided that the Genius needed to go, to watch over the dialogue between the Veteran and the Prodigy.
As if he would be able to stop anything that the Hidden couldn't. Nonetheless, the Director, and by extension, the Company thought it important that the Genius be there – JUST in case he saw anybody.
Of course, the Genius was elated to have this chance. He had been following the Prodigy since the day he had declared. The Genius had watched in rapt awe as the Prodigy stood where the Emancipator once had, and had declared his intention to become the new Leader of the Free World.
The Killer, of course, thought that the Prodigy was a joke – "And an inexperienced one at that," he had been heard to snort derisively. It almost went without saying that the Killer had a sticker proclaiming the Veteran and his sidekick, the Governess, on the bumper of his precious, shiny car.
Either way, though, both the Genius and the Killer were quite pleased to attend the event – even if they were completely on opposite sides of it. Unfortunately, they'd gotten into something of a kerfluffle on the flight from the City of Angels. The Spy had watched with a mixture of amusement and disgust as they nearly went to each other's throats.
However, now they were barely speaking to each other, and that was bad. If the Genius were to identify anybody, he would need to tell both the Spy and the Killer immediately. But the Killer was acting like the Petulant Child, and so the Spy couldn't help but think that they could be in for trouble.
When it was time to begin, though, they both quieted down and sat. By nature of their assignment, they had been granted choice seats – directly behind the Anchor, within spitting distance of both the Veteran and the Prodigy.
"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen –"
The Anchor's voice carried to the back of the hall. One of the most respected newsmen in America, the Anchor carried about him an air of gravitas that modern newscasters simply did not have. His voice commanded respect, his visage sparked memories in three generations of Americans.
He had been chosen to moderate this dialogue between the Prodigy and the Veteran. By virtue of the fickle finger of Lady Luck, the quarter in the Anchor's pocket declared that the Prodigy would receive the first question.
Much to the dismay of the Genius and those near him, the first question regarded the War. Now, they all believed that the Prodigy was certainly correct in his personal assessment of the war. However, they knew that the moment he stopped speaking, the Veteran would lambast him, likely using his own military experience to back himself up.
And indeed he did. No sooner had the Prodigy finished speaking when the Veteran spoke himself. It could not be said that the Veteran sounded foolish – he truly knew that of which he spoke, and his rebuttal drew several grunts of approval from the Killer – himself a veteran, though of a different branch and more recent service.
So it went, back and forth, forward and backward, until the Veteran made a critical error – he spoke of the relative inexperience of the Prodigy, and the Prodigy leapt on him like a cheetah on a wounded gazelle.
Inexperience, the Prodigy cracked. Inexperience was the WATCHWORD of the Veteran's campaign – after all, what experience did his running mate, the Governess, have? Less than two years as the leader of a distant and remote tundra?
The Prodigy reminded the Veteran that his own running mate, the Legislator, had decades of experience to draw upon, and countless relationships within the Beltway. The Spy noticed a gleam in the Genius' eye when the Prodigy said this, and she saw that he had to actually physically refrain from standing and applauding the Prodigy.
The Killer, on the other hand, looked downright disgruntled. The Spy sighed – sometimes she wished she cared about politics, but in her line of work, it was difficult to be anything more than indifferent about grown men arguing over who would do a better job of cutting taxes and creating energy independence.
The Genius turned, his face aglow with excitement, and opened his mouth to say something to the Spy – but then his eyes glazed over. The Spy recognized the signs – the Genius was experiencing a Flash.
When he snapped out of it, she spoke to him –
"What did you see, Chuck?"
The excitement on the Genius' face was replaced with fear and, yes, anger. Eyes narrowed, he pointed to a man, sitting at the end of the row –
"He's a member of the KKK. There's no way he can be up to any good."
The Spy turned and looked. There he sat, a Skinhead, a laughably stereotypical example of the White Supremacist movement –
"Not him. The guy in the business suit."
The Spy was shocked. Her judgment had been wrong. The Genius said that the mild-mannered looking man in the business suit and horn-rimmed glasses was a Racist Bastard.
"Alright. I'll take care of it. Stay put."
The Spy sat and waited. After five minutes, the Anchor indicated a brief break. At that point, the Spy made her move – she stood – shuffled toward the end of the row – made eye contact with one of the Hidden –
The officer's back stiffened as he realized what the Spy was communicating to him. He began to discreetly move toward the Racist Bastard –
The Spy reached him first, and stopped –
"Federal agent, sir. Please come with me."
He looked confused, angry even. He rose and began to quietly complain about his rights, and then got louder when the Hidden approached. As he was escorted from the hall, the Spy turned toward the Genius and indicated that he should come with her.
The Genius shook his head and pointed at the stage, where the Prodigy and the Veteran were returning to their lecterns. The Spy rolled her eyes, pointed at him, and then pointed at the ground where she stood. Angrily, the Genius rose from his seat and began to stomp toward her.
When he reached her, she grabbed him by the upper arm and began to lead him out of the hall –
"This is a MISSION, Chuck!"
– but they stopped when they reached the foyer. The Racist Bastard was surrounded by four members of the Hidden –
"Yeah, that's him –"
He began to shout bloody murder, alternating between loudly proclaiming his rights and declaring that the Prodigy would surely perish, that the White Man would never allow such a travesty to occur. The Hidden did not seem to care, dragging him out of the building.
The Spy did not care to consider where he might be taken.
But at the moment, she had a pissed-off Genius to deal with. She approached him, fire in her eyes, intent to tear a strip off –
Before she could get a word out, he had leapt to his feet and launched into a tirade. How dare she, he barked. The experience of a lifetime, and she pulls him out simply to make an identification that could have easily waited until the end of the dialogue.
She had no response to that. The Genius was correct – the identification could've waited until it was all over. The Hidden would've had no problem keeping the Racist Bastard under control. So why had she pulled him out?
The Spy found that she had no answer for herself. She heard the Genius angrily grumble that security wouldn't let him back into the hall. She turned toward him, this time intent to apologize –
And discovered that he was halfway to the other end of the foyer, stomping toward a bench like a young boy who has had his toy taken away. He slumped down onto the bench and looked away from her.
The Spy moved to a chair near the doors and sat – it gave her the perfect vantage point to watch the Genius without being noticed. She watched as the anger drained from him. His shoulders slumped, his face turned from rage to disappointment.
The Spy cursed herself for doing this to him. It had happened so many times, and she swore that after Greece, it would never happen again. Yet it still happened, over and over and over.
Such was the nature of working for the Company.
But she had decided that every so often, she owed it to him to try to make it up to him. And so, she pulled out her cell phone and made a call.
Five minutes later, she had spoken with the Director, and he promised her that it would be taken care of. Five more minutes passed, then ten, then twenty –
Thunderous applause indicated that the end had come. The doors opened, and a rush of humanity flooded out.
As the Spy watched, two officers of the Hidden approached the Genius. She saw them speak to him, saw a puzzled look cross his face, and then saw him rise and follow them. As they passed her, she stood and joined them.
The Spy maneuvered herself next to the Genius, and gently slipped her hand into his. She felt his body tense, and saw the dregs of anger wash across his face, but he didn't try to remove his hand. Instead, he tightened it around hers.
She knew where they were going, but he had no idea. His questions to the Hidden went unanswered, and after a moment, she saw a look of consternation begin to appear on his face.
They entered one of the backstage areas of the hall, and the Hidden led them to a classroom just outside of the stage door. One of the officers knocked, and the door was opened from within.
The Genius and the Spy were escorted into what looked like a Green Room –
"Wait here –"
– and the door was shut, leaving them alone.
She turned to him –
"I'm sorry… I know how much this meant to you…"
He sighed. He shook his head. When he looked at her, there was a mixture of hurt and disappointment in his eyes.
"You tell me you love me. You tell me you can't imagine life without me. And then you go and do things like this – something completely unnecessary, something that could've waited until the debate was over. I mean… Sarah, why?"
The Spy had no answer. She just shook her head and looked at the floor. Then a sound startled them both – the door being opened –
Two officers of the Hidden swept into the room, and behind them –
The Genius' jaw fell open. He looked at the Prodigy, then at the Spy. The look on his face was now one of utter shock –
"Sarah… did you… was this –"
She smiled and nodded, and he gave her quite possibly the most brilliant smile she had ever seen. Embracing her tightly, he kissed her –
"Thank you thank you thank you!"
– and leapt to his feet. Chuck Bartowski nearly tripped over himself, but managed to regain his composure as he stuck out his hand.
"Senator Obama… oh my God, sir, this is such… uh…"
Barack Obama smiled and took Chuck's hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Bartowski, was it?"
Chuck's eyes widened, and for a moment, Sarah Walker was afraid he was going to pass out. But instead, he smiled and nodded. "Yes, sir, Senator!"
"Well, I'm glad to make your acquaintance, Chuck – may I call you Chuck?"
Sarah smiled. Chuck was beginning to look like a bobblehead as he nodded.
"Chuck… tell me. I keep getting these CIA briefings about a guy from L.A., named Chuck Bartowski, with this computer database in his head… is this all true?"
Sarah slipped out of the room to leave Chuck to babble about the Intersect to Senator Obama. She ran into John Casey as she exited.
"I cannot believe you did that," Casey growled. "Little bastard's gonna be insufferable."
Author's Note: Okay, so a quick word explaining who's who. Some of the people were explicitly named - Chuck is the Genius, Sarah is the Spy, Casey is the Killer, Barack Obama is the Prodigy. As for the rest of them, obviously the Veteran is John McCain. The Governess is his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. The Legislator is Obama's running mate - Senator Joe Biden. The Hidden are the Secret Service, and the Anchor is NBC's Tom Brokaw, who actually is the moderator of the October 7th debate at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.