Not even twelve hours into the Presidency, and Michael Treadmore already had the heads of various agencies coming into his office one by one to brief him on the various Top Secret matters that he needed to know about. He had generally found that he really didn't want to know the nations darker secrets (the CIA had been the worst). He next had a meeting with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who would be retiring as soon he could appoint the next one. Michael didn't think that he would like this meeting any more than the last.
"Mr. President," the imposing general greeted him.
"General Leevey," Michael shook his hand, "I'm glad to finally meet you."
"It's an honor, Mr. President."
"Got anything good for me, General?"
"I wouldn't call any of it good, sir, but I can guarantee that I'll have everyone else who's been in here today beat."
"We'll see about that."
"I suppose we should get through the more mundane aspects of this briefing first…"
Military action in Venezuela? Not too surprising. Secret complex encryption program for missile commands? He would have been scared if there hadn't been one. Research into chameleon technology? That was sort of cool, actually.
"And finally, that brings us to the Stargate program."
"Let me guess, some kind of spy technology."
"We've gotten past the mundane sir. In 1928, there was an archeological dig in Giza which unearthed an artifact that, for a long time, defied explanation."
"You realize that this is starting to sound like the beginning of a cheesy science fiction movie?"
"I hope you like the genre sir, because it gets better. The artifact was technological in nature, but it was determined to be far older than the Pyramids that it was found next to. The device found it's way into the custody of the US Air Force, and in 1994 it was activated successfully." The General pulled a picture out of a folder and put it in front of him. "It's exactly what the name implies, sir. The Stargate is capable of taking people to any other Stargate within the galaxy and, in some instances, in others. The current program's mandate is to seek out alien technology with which to defend this planet from alien enemies, of which we unfortunately have many."
"This is some kind of joke."
"No joke, sir. We four-star generals have generally forgotten how. Now there are a lot more folders where this one came from."
An hour later, Michael felt as though his head would explode from everything he had learned. "General, before we go any further I would like you to answer one thing for me."
"I'd like to know how many times this planet has been in imminent danger."
General Leevey became pensive. "Since the first time we went through the gate… at least nine times, sir. That we know of. Most threats have come from the goa'uld, but there has been a foothold situation perpetrated by an alien species we've had no other contact with, and there have been times when stellar phenomenon have threatened the planet."
"Then tell me, how many times would we have been in danger without this program."
"A lot fewer, sir. But the system lord Apophis found us all on his own. Then one year after we started this program, he launched an attack against Earth that was thwarted by members of Stargate Command. Now we believe that we brought him here sooner, but we also believe that he already had his sights on us. What's more, Mr. President, we've opened Pandora's Box, and we can't close it again. I don't know if we can stand against the goa'uld forever, but we have no other option than to try. The goa'uld would demand our complete subjugation, if not our destruction."
"All right then. I think it's time for you to give me some good news."
The General smiled. "Well I've got some for you."
They went over the program for another three hours; Michael was exhausted by the time the General left, but at least he was done for the day.
"I was beginning to think that he would never leave."
Michael spun around. The voice had come from behind his desk, and there was a man standing in front of the curtains.
"Mr. President, it is a pleasure to meet you."
"Who are you? And how did you get in here? How long have you been here?"
"My name is-"
"Scratch that," said Michael. He raised his voice. "Security!"
"They can't hear you, sir."
Michael walked over to the door leading into the West Wing, but it was locked. He turned to face the man.
"Who are you?"
"My name is Alex Cooper, and for the moment I'm the Secretary of Magic. I got in here using a magical device that allows for nearly instantaneous travel between two points. And don't worry, I wasn't eavesdropping on your secret meetings, just keeping track of when they ended."
It was probably time to start looking for something to use as a weapon. He made a mental note to fire the man in charge of his security detail.
"I'm not crazy, and this isn't a joke, sir."
"I've heard crazy today. This goes a bit beyond it. There's no such thing as magic, but when the secret service busts in here, I'm sure you'll have a good time telling them about it." Aliens were enough for one day, why did the world expect him to put up with magic too?
The man, Alex, pulled a stick from his sleeve and waved it. Michael saw a book from the table next to one of the couches fly through the air to the man.
"Jules Verne. I'm a fan myself."
"All right. I'm wondering how you did that, but the word magic doesn't pop into my head."
"Of course not, sir. The world is governed by science, not the paranormal. Why take your wedding ring for example. It's been on you all day, it can't have been tampered with. So a simple wave of my wand can't make it disappear." Alex waved his wand and the ring disappeared. "It certainly couldn't put the ring back into your left coat pocket."
Michael checked. It was there.
"Nor could a wave of my wand turn that table into a Calico cat," he gave a wave oh his wand, "or that couch into a Labrador," another wave. "It certainly couldn't grant me instantaneous travel across this room." The man disappeared, and reappeared a couple feet away from Michael.
"What do you want?" Michael asked, more afraid than he would care to admit.
Alex shook his head, and a wave of his wand turned the room to rights. "I'm the Secretary of Magic. You are my President, so it's more of a matter of what you want. Soon, you will choose my successor, and together you and he, aside from your other duties, will be the Executive branch of the United States Wizarding Government. It's an odd arrangement, I'll admit, but it's worked pretty well for the last couple hundred years."
"That's right. There's one in almost every country, ever since the International Statute of Secrecy was instated. We keep to ourselves mostly, and we have our own issues, which is why we need our own government. But we are still a part of this country. Over fifty percent of the wizarding population voted in this last election, and the majority of them voted for you."
"This has been going on for two hundred years?"
"Oh much longer. The Roman Magical Senate was the first, of course, but the oldest now is the British Ministry of Magic, which was first founded in the early fourteen hundreds. They're led by the Minister for Magic. He's like the Minister for Defense, or Agriculture, but he doesn't really answer to the Prime Minister. The United States, along with a few others, is somewhat ridiculed in the Magical community, because we actually put ourselves under our head of state."
"How could this have been a secret for so long?"
"Well we're very careful for one. Most wizarding children grow up quite sure that witch burnings are right around the corner, though I believe that the more modern fear is the dissection. Also though, we make use of Memory charms. Not so liberally now that the Muggle protection bill has passed, but it's still used when absolutely necessary."
Memory charms. Just great. "And what's to stop me from going on television and telling the American people all of this?"
"Well sir, aside from the fact that most of the world would think that you've had a breakdown due to the pressures of office, the fact is that you physically can't."
"Excuse me?" Michael said dangerously.
"During the War of 1812, while British troops were burning the Capitol, the British Ministry of Magic placed a curse on the Presidency, making it impossible for you to in any way reveal the existence of the wizarding world to anyone. They had already done the same to the position of the Prime Minister."
"What's next? Are you going to tell me that there's a wizard army out there?"
"No sir, just a wizarding police. There technically hasn't been a full scale international wizarding war since the late fifteen hundreds. Which isn't to say that wizards haven't served in any militaries. We were quite active during World War II. Now there's a lot that you need to be told, but most of it can wait until after you choose my predecessor."
"I choose him?"
"Or her, sir. We're very progressive. And yes, it is your choice. During the election, magical citizens were able to vote to fill the slots for five nominees, from which you must choose one. We have compiled what we feel to be relevant information on all nominees, and you can request any information you feel that you would need to make a proper choice. Then, tradition says that you interview the nominees and decide. Whoever you choose will serve along side of you."
Michael sighed. "I think this calls for a drink. Brandy?"
Michael went to the side table that held the drink. "You know, the Secret Service is going to start wondering what's going on when no one can get in here."
"To the rest of the world, only about two seconds has passed since your last visitor left. We have some time."
"Interesting." He sighed. "So tell me more about your government."
"Well sir, I think that it's best if you think of us more like another state. It's not a perfect analogy, but it comes close. Our government is fashioned much like the federal government, though there has been some divergence over the years. We have a legislature, a Supreme Court, andyou and me. My successor will be responsible for appointing judges, and you will still be responsible for signing off on laws. Really though, it's like they say, politics is the same wherever you go."
"So who are these nominees?"
"Their names are Emily Picket, Lane Diggle, Stephen Lee, Constance L'Argent, and Frederick Armstrong. They are all experienced politicians, well educated, and they come from diverse backgrounds. Whoever you choose will swear a binding oath to you, to serve you and this government in good faith."
"I have a lot of questions, but the one that's foremost on my mind is: even if you are a wizard, how do I know that you represent what you say you do?"
Alex nodded. "I will return here tomorrow with a time turner. That should free us the time to take a visit to our capitol. In the mean time, here are the files on the five nominees." He pulled the folders from thin air. "They can't be read by anyone but you. Everyone else will just see papers on agricultural figures."
"Good night, Mr. President. I'll see you tomorrow, and don't forget to reset your watch." The man disappeared.
Only a couple of minutes later there was a knock on the door.
"Come in," he called.
"Mr. President," his secretary Peggy came in with a proud smile.
"Peggy, what time is it?"
"Seven thirty, sir. Time for me to go home, unless you still need me."
A glance at his watch showed seven forty-seven. "Hang on for just one minute." He went to his desk and grabbed a pad of paper. He wrote down: I was just visited by a wizard. He tore it off to hand it to her, when he realized that he hadn't written down anything. The page was blank.
"Never mind, Peggy. Go on home."
"Thank you mister President. And if I haven't told you enough yet, congratulations."
Michael restrained himself from giving an ironic laugh. Wizards from within and aliens from without. He'd picked up an awfully large mess. He bade his secretary good night and sat down. His wife would be waiting for him, but there was too much to think about, too many files to read. Where to start?