“SHOOTING STAR” (Sci-Fi – Chapter 5)

CHAPTER 5

It was just over a month ago when Danielle Price, the National Security Advisor of the president, was shocked to learn of the news that her long time secret agent, Jeremy Kill, was found murdered in his house in a suburban neighborhood of Central Maryland.  After the brief phone conversation with Special Agent Strawberry, Head Special Agent of the Terrorism Task Force of the F.B.I., she made a vow to him and herself to find out the domestic terrorism connections he had while working under the NSA.  Almost immediately after that phone call, Danielle made a quick call to one of her trusted side kicks still employed by the NSA and would possibly know Kill’s exact connections.

She was able to contact her loyal ally, and former lover, Brian Hartwick, who works for the Domestic Intelligent Division, and ask him to do his best to locate and find all of Jeremy Kill’s domestic terrorism ties.  It took Brian several days to track all of Kill’s contacts, but he was able to find them except for one.  In the late evening of November 5th, Brian made a surprising call to Danielle’s home located in a high scale neighborhood in Northern Virginia, just outside of the Nation’s Capital.

November 5, 2018 – Phone Conversation

DANIELLE PRICE:  Answers the phone call, which comes nearly at midnight.  Hello?  (Answers in a tired, sleepy voice)
BRIAN HARTWICK:  Hey, wake up Danielle.  I have some news for you that you might want to hear.
DANIELLE PRICE:  Who the….Brian?  What the hell?!  You know what it is?!
BRIAN HARTWICK:  I’m sorry to bother you this late at night, but we need to talk real quick about some information you asked me to find on Jeremy Kill.  I couldn’t wait until morning to forward this to you since you will be busy with the president tomorrow in Baltimore.
DANIELLE PRICE:  (Sighs)  This better be some good stuff.  Go ahead.  I’m listening.
BRIAN HARTWICK:  I found all of his list of connections he had with several domestic terrorism groups, but with the exception of one person with one group.
DANIELLE PRICE:  Whose that?
BRIAN HARTWICK:  Do you know a woman by the name of Teresa Gateway?
DANIELLE PRICE:  (Takes a second to think about her answer and her knowledge of this woman)  I don’t recall that name at all.  Who is she?
BRIAN HARTWICK:  Well, Teresa Gateway was a member of the group called Animal Liberation Army.  I’m assuming you know who they are?
DANIELLE PRICE:  Of course, during my time there we received a lot of chatter about the ALA planning and plotting attacks on veterinary centers and universities that they claimed were subjecting innocent animals to torture for research sake.
BRIAN HARTWICK:  Right, but now the ALA has gone underground and we don’t hear much from them lately.  However, Teresa Gateway, apparently was a loose member of the group known as a “Ghost Member”.  Meaning she was an official member of the group, but she was allowed to conduct acts of terror and threats against installations and people.  The catch is that she can only do it with the authorization of the group and its leaders.
DANIELLE PRICE:  Okay.  Where is she now?
BRIAN HARTWICK:  That’s the thing.  According to the notes I found within Jeremy’s file, Teresa has been missing for the past two years.  You remember the bombing of the veterinary center in Southern Maryland last summer?
DANIELLE PRICE:  Of course.  How can I forget that political nightmare?
BRIAN HARTWICK:  It is suspected that Teresa has something to do with that bombing.  After the ALA and its members sabotaged the Richmond Veterinary Institute for Scientific Study Center, Teresa had her eyes on the next target being the Southern Maryland Veterinary Center and its employees.  She apparently brought this up to her high command, but they rejected her idea of going after the institution with lack of evidence.
DANIELLE PRICE:  Oh no!  You saying to me that Teresa might have gone rogue from the group to bomb the vet center, and now she is being hunted down by her own group for an unsanctioned mission?
BRIAN HARTWICK:  In so many words that is what I’m trying to explain to you.  Since her disappearance, and apparently she allowed someone from the media to get a hold of some information, the group has gone underground and maybe hunting for her as we speak.
DANIELLE PRICE:  Oh my God!  Do you think there is any possible connection between her disappearance and Jeremy Kill’s death?  I’m curious.
BRIAN HARTWICK:  (Sighs)  Nothing at this time brings me to that conclusion, but with her being the only one not accounted for, she could be your prime suspect in that case.
DANIELLE PRICE:  Thanks Brian for your help.  I’ll inform Agent Strawberry of Teresa Gateway and the possible lead of her being a suspect.
BRIAN HARTWICK:  I would caution you in what you say since Jeremy still has connections out there and they might not know he is dead.  Any kind of federal investigation might spook them and make it a lot harder to track them down.
DANIELLE PRICE:  Don’t worry about that Brian, I’ll take care of that aspect of the investigation.  What about the alleged threat that we have received involving domestic terrorism?
BRIAN HARTWICK:  Nothing more at this point.  Our indication of how we track and trace people is known to the public now, so we have to find other means that they might be using to communicate and plan.  We’re working as hard as we can on this one.
DANIELLE PRICE:  Okay.  Thanks Brian for all your help.  Keep me posted on whatever you find out.  On both ends.
BRIAN HARTWICK:  Sure!  I miss giving you those late night briefs in the kitchen at dinner.
DANIELLE PRICE:  (Chuckles)  I bet you do!  Somehow those briefings led to the confines of my sleeping quarters.  At that point you start giving me briefings of another kind.
BRIAN HARTWICK:  You know you loved those, right?
DANIELLE PRICE:  Goodnight Brian! (Hangs up the phone in his ear)

The following morning the president’s chief of staff, Michael West, meets with the head of the U.S. Secret Service to quickly talk about the security details for the president’s visit to Dallas, Texas.  Both men meet in a conference room inside the White House.

MICHAEL WEST:  Samuel North, glad you can meet with me real quick to discuss the details of the security plans for the president coming up next month in Dallas.
SAMUEL NORTH:  Yes sir, I have some of my agents down in Dallas right now surveilling the city and the traveling routes.  Just like normal we need to find the weak points and make sure the president and his family are safe and out of harms way.  Especially with this vague threat we have right now.
MICHAEL WEST:  Awesome.  Are you preparing your agents for this vague threat we have or are you just playing it by ear at this point?
SAMUEL NORTH:  Well sir, at this point there is nothing to really prepare for except prepare for what we did during his campaign trail before the election.
MICHAEL WEST:  Good!  There is another thing I need to speak to you about that has been weighing heavily on my mind.  I’ve been busy dealing with the president’s appointments and schedules so I haven’t been able to pull you aside to speak to you about this.
SAMUEL NORTH:  What’s on your mind?
MICHAEL WEST:  (Sighs slowly and removes his glasses)  I need to know do you still have that reporters name you spoke to in Dallas last time?
SAMUEL NORTH:  Rachel Sparks?  I still keep in contact with her since we went to college together way back when.
MICHAEL WEST:  Awesome!  (Just sits there and stares at Samuel in the eyes)
SAMUEL NORTH:  (Slight turns his head still making eye contact)  Why must you know whether I still have her information?  You plan on giving her the exclusive to the president when he makes his trip?
MICHAEL WEST:  What I am about to tell you must not get out until I am ready for it to come out, but now is not the time.  I need you to understand that.
SAMUEL NORTH:  (Turns head back straight and leans closer to Michael)  What are you talking about Michael?  Spreading scandals during the president’s economic tour is not a smart move and you know that.  So there is something that you know that most of us don’t know.  Yet.
MICHAEL WEST:  (Smiles)  You know pretty well, huh?  Well, lets just say that I do have information that most of us don’t know, but especially the American public.  The deadline is ever coming so quickly and we need to let them know before mass panic erupts.
SAMUEL NORTH:  Oh my goodness, Michael!  (Sits back)  You trying to undermine the president, not to mention Danielle who will have your balls in a sling when she finds out what you are doing.
MICHAEL WEST:  (Long pause and sits back into his chair before revealing his secret)  NOAA and NASA are tracking asteroids, meteors, in space at this time and have set a tentative date for a major impact coming this spring.
SAMUEL NORTH:  (Long pause)  How credible is this information?  If that is what you planning on releasing to the media I would advise that you rethink that notion.  Besides why do it during the economic tour and in Dallas?  You want that news to spread like wildfire, you just need to release it here to one person on the street and I guarantee you the whole world will know.
MICHAEL WEST:  I know about it, Danielle knows about it and so does the president of the United States.  He’s the one that decided to keep it from the public at this time.  The president hasn’t stated when he will release this information to the public at all.  I can only assume he will wait until after his tour or the holidays so not to make anyone scared or damn nervous.
SAMUEL NORTH:  The American public will be nervous and scared either way.  Whether you release it now or later, but the true facts of the administration knowing this earlier and not releasing it will be known sooner or later.  Are you trying to destroy the credibility of the administration and our president Mr. West?
MICHAEL WEST:  (Smiles deviously)  If you must know my intentions are not to undermine our president or anyone thereof.
SAMUEL NORTH:  Then what is your purpose I might ask then Michael?
MICHAEL WEST:  The absolute truth.

From that point on, up until today, Michael has several phone conversations with Rachel, but doesn’t admit to the real truth of why he needs to speak to her in person.  Although she is reluctant to do so without knowing the real reason, even though in her mind the chief of staff meeting her is highly curious, she agrees to meet with him off the record.  During Michael’s devious plan to release this information to the public, Danielle is in communication with Agent Strawberry about the information she received from her contact inside the NSA.  The agent leading the investigation, Samantha Hopkins, is soon later told about the new information that comes up, but some of the statements made to Danielle are left out of their conversation.  Now Agent Hopkins must work with what she has and try to track down the unidentified voice, who might be Teresa Gateway.

November 29, 2018 @ 8:00am (Dallas, Texas)

Prior to today, Michael and Rachel agree to meet with each other out in public at a small café in the downtown area.  Rachel arrives first and a few minutes later Michael walks in and spots her at a table for two.  This morning, inside the café, is not busy and so it is not likely for a lot of people to notice them two.  Michael knows he has to be quick so he doesn’t waste a lot of time getting to the point after meeting with Rachel and ordering his coffee.

RACHEL SPARKS:  Morning, Mr. West.  I have to be somewhere else in Dallas in about an hour so I hope this doesn’t take too long.
MICHAEL WEST:  Oh, Rachel what’s the hurry?
RACHEL SPARKS:  I have to cover the president’s return to Dallas since his campaign run and find out the people’s opinion of him.  You know how that goes Michael.  I’m surprised you’re not up to speed on that kind of thing.
MICHAEL WEST:  Oh, I am all about the nation’s public opinion about our president, which could easily turn in a drop of a hat.
RACHEL SPARKS:  What do you mean?
MICHAEL WEST:  Well, lets just say although I am on his side and want him to do well and succeed in his term, I am not always in agreement with his policies and strategies.  However, I politely and quietly disagree and object to some of his views, but that doesn’t stop me from following orders or what he ask me to do.
RACHEL SPARKS:  I’m not stupid Michael.  I’ve done journalism for a very long time.  First in Los Angeles, then in New York, and now here in the lovely city of Dallas, which I might add is my favorite place to work.  Even though the summer months are extremely scorching, the dry heat makes for a perfect story when it is a slow news day.  Nothing much has come from the president since the Iranians invaded Afghanistan several weeks ago.  With this being his economic tour of America, I can only assume you have something for me related to that or something out of this world.
MICHAEL WEST:  You spoke to Samuel, huh?
RACHEL SPARKS:  He called me up about two days after you had a meeting with him discussing the president’s security plans.  I know that information is not privileged to me, but I wouldn’t dare write anything pertaining to that without some kind of backlash.  However, he did tell me that you had some news worthy information that could very well undermine the president and his administration.
MICHAEL WEST:  (Sighs slowly)  My intention is to tell the public the truth about the threat, but I was kindly pushed in the face, sort of speak, to not mention this to the media.  My opinion on that was that the public needs to know sooner rather than later.  So I wanted to run it by you to see if it is something that you would be interested in.
RACHEL SPARKS:  I’m listening.  (The coffee for Michael arrives)
MICHAEL WEST:  There is an asteroid heading on a collision course with earth by this coming spring.
RACHEL SPARKS:  (Laughs and gently taps her hand on the table)  Why would I be interested in that story?  This is something that scientist have been predicting for years, but nothing has been set in stone or no proof of that happening for another hundred years.
MICHAEL WEST:  I’ve seen proof of this and the president was told several weeks ago when NASA and NOAA discovered it.  The tentative date is April 1, 2019 and the size, which I can’t disclose at this time, will be two times the size of the Hiroshima bomb in World War II.
RACHEL SPARKS:  (Stops laughing and smiling)  So you want me to release a story, and keep my sources secret, of an asteroid on a collision course to earth that will have an impact two times the size of the atom bomb dropped in Japan over seventy years ago?  You are insane!  You know that?  You don’t need me for that political nightmare you trying to create.  You could’ve easily told a reporter back in Washington, D.C. the same thing if you wanted that kind of result.
MICHAEL WEST:  The reporters in D.C. are way too quick to release stories such as this one.  Before I would even leave the café and get in my car, the entire country would know and cameras would be in my face as I return to the White House.  I needed to come somewhere, such as Dallas, where the media’s opinion is not nationally known.  I’ve chosen you because, not only are you gorgeous, but you report stories that no one knows or hears about back home.  I need this to stir up slowly and soon by the time it gets to D.C. no one will know where this came from and we can move to the next step.
RACHEL SPARKS:  You are too damn devious for my liking Michael.  You trying to start a stir and create a panic amongst the public for something that might not even be true.  Before I give this information out to anyone, let alone the public, I need to have solid proof of such a story.  You should know the media nowadays need solid proof before printing or reporting a story of this caliber.  I will not be the laughing stock at my station and get stuck with reporting on elementary kids and why their school lunches are being scaled back.
MICHAEL WEST:  I know the significant of this story and how one slip up can ruin careers all around once the facts about it got out.  We have already avoided one scandal this term.  No way am I trying to start another political mud fight in the White House or through Congress.  My goal is to make sure that the public knows the truth sooner, rather than later, so they can prepare for what is to come.
RACHEL SPARKS:  Well, others might not see it that way at all.  The president and others will soon know the source of where this story came from.  I highly doubt anyone from NASA or NOAA will claim stake in that story.  You have an uphill battle Michael, but as of now I won’t be part of this devious plan you have to undermine the administration.  Unless I have solid proof of all this, I will not mention it to anyone.  Now, unless there is something else you need to say, I will be going now.  (Gets up from the table) I’ll be seeing you later Michael.  (She walks out the café and doesn’t look back)

Michael stays behind to finish his coffee and watches her walk by the window staring at her pantyhose legs, in stilettos.  He begins to think to himself of how to break this story to the public without being the source of the information or having it tracked back to him.  This situation has become a lot harder than he anticipated and now he has to worry about two other people knowing his plan to release this story prematurely.  What will be his next step?

TO BE CONTINUED…CHAPTER 6

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