The prompt for this week was that the story had to start with the phrase ‘The lights were off when he entered the room.’
Kyros’ twisted mind immediately jumped to a Men in Black type organization that keeps the current president’s followers from questioning his actions too closely and keeps their attention focused on his former opponent.
Last week, we shared the story we wrote for Inauguration Day 2017. This week’s story was written for the first anniversary of that day. We plan to do this every year that this administration is in power as a continuing act of protest. Hopefully, this is the last one we have to write.
INTO THE LIGHT
The lights were off when Trevor entered the room.
He was momentarily blinded when a motion-sensor-triggered light blazed to life, illuminating the path to a large steel door on the far side of the room. Emblazoned upon the door was an ornate golden logo with gigantic letters reading ‘Department of INTB & WAH.’
Where the hell did all this come from? he thought. I’ve worked in this building for over twenty years and never seen it before. He pulled back, looking up and down the hallway. This wasn’t even here the last time I was in the basement. Curiosity getting the better of him, he crossed the room, opened the door, and carefully peeked in.
He found a room packed with people. Everyone scurried about, intent on some mysterious business. Whiteboards covered the entire right-hand wall. Covering the far wall was a solid bank of digital screens displaying several columns of data. The first two columns were filled with names and addresses. Squinting, he could barely read the next few headers: Last Visit, Next Visit, and % Confidence. The remaining columns were filled with acronyms that he couldn’t parse: %TT? LQ? LMD?
“First day?” a chipper voice inquired.
Trevor started. A man with a clipboard was studying him with curiosity. Deciding to play along, Trevor nodded.
The thin man, with rolled up sleeves and a slightly askew tie, smiled at him and held out a hand. “Kevin Marshall. I’m one of the supervisors here.”
“Trevor Baker,” he said, shaking the man’s outstretched hand.
The supervisor consulted his clipboard. “Hmmm. I don’t have you on my list, but,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders, “we’ve been growing so fast that our HR department rarely gets us the correct paperwork. Even when they do, it’s usually two weeks late.” He chuckled, then began walking away. “I know this is a lot to take in, but you’ll learn the ropes fairly quickly.”
When Trevor didn’t immediately follow, the man turned and frowned at him. “Well, come on, then. There’s work to be done.”
As they rounded the corner, Trevor halted in stunned surprise. His initial assessment of the room’s size was nothing compared to the football-field-sized area laid out before him. “This place is huge,” Trevor gasped. “I never imagined this was all down here.”
Kevin beamed, gesturing around the room with one arm. “This used to be storage. But we managed to outfit it and get up and running in no time.” He clapped Trevor on the back. “You should have seen our old offices in New York. Back when we worked in news, we were only a small team of thirty or so.” The man smirked. “But since the election, we’ve grown to over two thousand operatives.”
Since the election? Trevor thought. What in the hell have I gotten myself into? He shivered as a cold chill ran down his spine. Oh, shit. This must be some clandestine conservative group operating out of the basement of the White House. Trying to compose himself, he wondered, How do I get out of here without tipping them off that I’m not one of them? If they find out I’m one of those ‘damn liberals’, they’re likely to just ‘disappear’ me!
The supervisor pointed over his shoulder to one corner of the gigantic room where people were hunched over computers. “That’s our internet division. They handle all of our online operations.”
The man chuckled. “I know it’s hard to believe looking at all of this,” He gestured around the room. “but when we first started, that team accounted for over half our staff.” He shook his head. “Those were the days. Of course, now we have way more field agents. The online stuff has mostly been farmed out overseas or automated with bots.”
Trevor gulped. “When did all this happen?”
The supervisor gave him an odd look. “I’m surprised you weren’t briefed on that already.” He harrumphed. “I’m getting sick of HR not doing their jobs. They are supposed to have you up to speed before you ever get in the door.”
Clearing his throat, he continued, “Anyway, after the inauguration, it just made sense to move our base of operations here to the Capital. We wanted to be close to the action so we could react quickly when needed. Speaking of which, because of the high volume of work we’ve had, it’s been necessary to open satellite offices all over the country. You know, to be closer to our ‘clients’.” He made air quotes around the word. “That way, we can keep an eye on them and be on hand to respond to any,” The man glanced at a large monitor with the words ‘Latest Concerns’ at the top. “issues that surface over the course of the day.”
Trevor touched the supervisor’s arm. “You said you started out in New York. If you don’t mind my asking, where was that?”
“They didn’t tell you that either?” He let out a long sigh. “I am going to have a serious talk with Tom in HR when we’re done. This is unacceptable!”
Kevin took a deep breath. “So, when I started, we were a tiny department at Fox News.” The corner of his mouth quirked up. “But, thanks to our new president, we are now our own independent government department. Yeah, we still communicate with some of our old colleagues back there,” His voice dropped to a stage whisper. “so they know what to say and don’t inadvertently screw up all our hard work.”
Pointing at the list of names on the monitors, he laughed. “It’s our job to make sure that our base stays loyal. After all, it’s right there in our name.”
Trevor nodded. “You…you’re right, I guess it is.”
Kevin shot him a dirty look. “Actually, what is the name of this department, Trevor?”
“Uhhhh…it’s the Departments of INTB & WAH. Everyone knows that.”
“Uh huh,” Kevin said, squinting at him, “but what exactly does the acronym stand for?”
“Th…they didn’t tell me that at the agency,” Trevor stuttered. “They just sent me over.”
“See, the thing is, Trevor, we don’t work with an agency.” He reached into his pocket and produced a silver, pen-shaped object. “All our recruits are recommended by someone already working here, so we know they are true believers. Loyalty is of utmost importance here at the Department of It’s Not That Bad and What About Hillary.”
“I’m sorry,” Trevor said, backing away. “I won’t tell anyone about you guys being down here.” He waved his hands frantically in front of himself. “I promise.”
“You’re right about one thing, Trevor. You aren’t going to tell anyone about us.”
There was a brilliant flash of light.
“Trevor! Where have you been?” his boss demanded. “You were supposed to deliver those reports two hours ago.”
“Sorry, sir. I….” He searched his memory. “I guess…I got lost in the tunnels downstairs?”
The other man laughed. “Well, you’re still having a better day than Trump. Did you see what’s happened today?” The man pointed to the monitor hanging from the ceiling. The talking heads on CNN were analyzing another presidential misstep.
Trevor rolled his eyes and waved a hand at the screen. “C’mon, boss. It’s not that bad. Besides, what about Hillary….”