Straker sat in the chair behind the desk. The only chair, the only desk that mattered now. He had never really anticipated this outcome. He hadn’t set out to get this job, but in the end he had almost been forced into it by public opinion. Well, here he was, and now he had to make the best of it, even though, technically, he had no training for this post.
It seemed only yesterday that the aliens had finally ceded and he had formally accepted their surrender. In actual fact it had been one year ago, come March. He remembered the shock he felt as he received the initial communication from the aliens. He recollected endless, difficult hours of negotiations, the desire to end the war and finally the elation as, after all the talking, the aliens capitulated and agreed to his terms. And afterwards there had been the immense world-wide uproar when SHADO’s operations were made public. As with all SHADO’s senior operatives he was still internationally famous. Even more so after the events of the past few months. Still, he mused ruefully, he had an excellent security detail keeping him safe from everyday harassment.
He really didn’t care what happened to the aliens now. Yes, many of them had settled on Earth, particularly in desert regions. Their home planet was dry and barren and they thrived in the hot, drought ridden zones of Australia and Africa.
Earth scientists were working to help them overcome their sterility and with time it was anticipated that the aliens (he would never think of them as other than ‘the aliens’) would be able to integrate completely with the human race. Their genome was practically human to start with anyway. However, it would be decades before that happened. Many people would never forgive them for what they had done. He doubted that he would. He had attended too many funerals of their victims to be able to forget.
He had been proud to stand in the Cathedral last September, and read out the names of all those SHADO operatives who had died doing their duty. To finally be able to give them the public, though posthumous, recognition of their sacrifice. His one regret was that SHADO no longer existed. The underground complex was now a major tourist attraction, the Skydivers had been updated and functioned as deep ocean exploration vessels, and Moonbase was a multi-national lunar station planned for use as a jumping-off point for journeys to Mars. He had only been to Moonbase once in the last six months, and that was to oversee its decommissioning. He missed the excitement of lunar travel, but he was now far too busy preparing for this new venture to go on casual jaunts off-world.
Thankfully he had been able to keep the team together. Despite all the offers of extremely lucrative jobs, fame, and other inducements, nearly all the SHADO staff had stayed to help him out in his new post. Alec Freeman was here, with him, in this room, as his Second in Command, loyal and supportive as ever; Ford was running communications with his usual efficiency, and Foster was dealing with PR. He had found places for all those who wanted to be here with him, utilising their vast expertise and experience. He was grateful to them all for staying, for helping him in this difficult time of transition. He was greatly touched by their loyalty and trust in his capability to do this job. He knew he had been a hard taskmaster over the years but it had been necessary. He hoped that soon, free to love and be loved, to care and be cared for, he would be able to find peace and happiness and a family of his own. He envied Alec with his wife and baby daughter.
Nina was coming again this evening for dinner. She was comfortable with the situation now and he intended to ask her the question he had always wanted to ask. He was very confident that she would say yes.
He reached for the phone, his hand brushing the green glass paperweight that used to sit on his old desk.
‘Miss Ealand, you can send the British ambassador in now. Thankyou.’
And ex-Commander Edward Straker, USAF General , now President of the United States of America, stepped out from behind the Roosevelt desk in the Oval Office and prepared to greet his first visitor on this, his inaugural day in office.
LtCdr Aug 2009