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The year was 2041. It was the day after the Inauguration of President Callan Kai – the first Chinese American president to date. Kai was in his early fifties, but looked much older due to the last two decades he’d spent as a Democratic senator for Nevada. They weren’t lying when they said politics age you. Kai was vastly different from those that came before him, refusing to tolerate nonsense or waste time with unnecessary conversations or bureaucracy. He had the rare power to remain diplomatic while still inspiring change through his words. After all, Kai did mean “victory,” and he knew he would be victorious. He had to do justice to his name. President Kai knew he could do a better job than his predecessors; with that as his goal, failure wasn’t an option.


The most influential man in the world sat in the backseat of the Presidential State Car – the one they famously called The Beast. Despite the importance of the day, the weather did not seem to approve of America’s celebrations, unleashing never-ending torrent of heavy rain, which the president intently watched roll down the tinted, bulletproof windows in huge droplets.


Throngs of camping tents and makeshift roofs lined Washington, DC’s New York Avenue. The city had done its best to relocate the homeless population during King William’s visit two months earlier, but the tents had returned shortly after. It had long been one of President Kai’s biggest goals for his presidency to vastly improve the homeless statistic, as well as making a living wage possible for everyone. As difficult as it may have seemed, he was adamant that he would make a change.


The Beast was protected by a convoy of Secret Service covered each exposed corner. The technologically advanced vehicle drove down various streets and avenues, making its way to its destination as discretely as possible. The Secret Service had been well versed in their roles that day. Trained to never jeopardize the president’s health and safety no matter what, they went above and beyond to protect him; their dedication did not go unnoticed. The team were taking the brand new president to the vault at the Department of Defense Complex, a large intimidating compound near the Potomac River.


Kai knew about the security measures and high-level protection given to presidents due to their public status. Now, he was also aware of a few traditions know to very few people on the outside. He had picked up these long-held secrets from whispered discussions he had overheard while walking the halls of Congress; the rest came from several online forums that discussed presidential conspiracy theories. For many years, Kai didn’t really believe anything he had read or heard, but that ended yesterday. After the inauguration, the Secret Service had advised him that he would need to follow specific protocol very closely. Kai had expected that all the previous Presidents of the United States had gone through such a process, when they were told the country’s innermost secrets and sworn to secrecy and fidelity. Despite his strict and unwavering appearance of professionalism, on the inside, President Kai was excited to find out what he was now allowed to know.


“I have never heard about this vault,” said President Kai, continuing to watch the rainfall outside.


There were three Secret Service agents in the car with Kai – one in the front, beside the chauffeur, one beside the president himself, and another directly across from him. Each was dressed in a signature black suit and neutral tie. The lead agent – a large, stoney-faced man who had served two presidents prior to Kai – was the agent facing him. Chris Staros had grey hair and a number of creases on his face, but he was incredibly strong and well-experienced in his difficult field of work.


“Mr. President, you will receive more details about the vault when we arrive,” Staros responded, promptly. 


The seasoned agent may have had a great deal of experience, but President Kai didn’t particularly like him. Staros treated rules and security with a grave seriousness, making him appear cold and unapproachable on the outside. Though, this was probably for the best, as the president would need to surround himself with only those with his best interests in mind – people keenly aware of how to protect him from any number of threats. 


The President sighed, he unzipped his jacket and tried to remain collected. It was getting warm, despite the rain and air-conditioning. To his delight, however, it wasn’t much longer until they arrived at the Department of Defense Complex. 


The Complex consisted of an indeterminate number of buildings, barely visible in the dull streetlights which didn’t illuminate much past the curb. President Kai couldn’t figure out which building was home to the “vault,” but he realized this was probably a good thing. The Secret Service swiftly escorted him out of the Beast, where he was immediately met by more agents; these were tasked with guarding every inch of the Complex. The sound of whirling helicopters filled the area as two hovered as close to the arrival as safely possible. Kai trailed Staros as they entered the building, feeling a short shiver run down his spine as they walked inside a cold and empty interior room. The marble floor under his feet stretched in all directions through the lobby. Staros led the president and the team to a door at the far end of the lobby.


“They’re waiting for you, Mr. President.” Staros gestured toward the door and gave the leader of the free world curt nod.


President Kai sighed. Though he understood the secrecy, he felt left in the dark since the Secret Service refused to tell him anything about what to expect. He had a feeling the Joint Chief of Staff had something to do with it, but, then again, he wasn’t a man for surprises. What's all this secrecy? He thought to himself as he walked into the next room.


It was so poorly lit, he could only see what was lit by a few small lamps. He made out a white table and few people – to him, just silhouettes – sitting around it. As he cautiously approached the table, President Kai noticed that the people didn’t stand up to greet him, which was unusual. Even though he could hardly see their faces, he could feel their piercing eyes burning holes into him, which made him feel uneasy. He did his best to appear as powerful and intimidating as he could, but he had never been in a situation like this before. 


“Have a seat, Mr. President. We’ve been expecting you.” A woman spoke from her seat at the table, her voice soft, but firm. Kai felt relieved once he heard her speak, as her calm tone had a relaxing effect. 


The President pulled out a chair at the head of the table. As he eased into it, he looked for Staros, but couldn’t find him. He frowned briefly, annoyed that Staros had left his post as soon as his part of the meeting was over. He eyed everyone sitting around the table. Something was off; the meeting felt incredibly suspicious and oddly informal. He was the President, and he had every right to know the details of anyone with whom he would be communicating. He glanced around again. He also needed to be close to his agents at all times.


He turned to the woman who had spoken seconds earlier. “And your name is?”


“My name is not of any importance,” she said, confidently.


President Kai couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. He was not about to tolerate this woman questioning him. He pushed his chair back and attempted to stand, but felt a firm hand land on his shoulder. Looking up, he saw Staros standing above him, a stern look plastered across his face.


“I suggest that you listen to them, Mr. President.”


“Excuse me?” President Kai asked, many disparate thoughts flying through his mind as he tried to comprehend what exactly was going on. 


Staros gave the President a look that demanded he pay attention to what the rude woman had to say, so, once again, Kai found himself reluctantly pushing his chair back towards to the table. He examined the woman’s face as best he could in the dim lighting. Even as his eyes had started to adjust, he could still barely make out any obvious features.


“Please.” He coughed, then cleared his throat. “Continue.”


“I assume that you have heard of the 1947 Roswell crash.”


The President thought back to when he had first heard about the crash as a child. I’m the bloody president, he thought to himself. Is she taking me for a fool? Of course, I know about the Roswell crash. 


“Who hasn’t?” he mocked her tone as he responded.


The woman abruptly stood up from her seat, her facial features fully disappearing into the room’s darkness. 


“Everything that you have seen, read, or heard about in the media was all entirely false.”


President Kai cleared his throat again. His mouth was feeling drier and drier as he watched the woman pace around the table. He swallowed and asked, “So, it was not a weather balloon, but aliens instead?”


There was no response from the darkness. The woman stopped pacing. All President Kai could see were the silhouettes of the rest of the people around the table. Each seemed to be staring directly at him.


“You’re kidding me, right?” He chuckled nervously as he waited for any response. Still nothing. The room had gone completely silent, even the faint sounds of breathing were barely audible.


“Who put you people up to this?!” President Kai shouted, hoping to rattle the table and catch them off guard. “Was it Senator Stikov?”


The silence grew deafening. He subtly turned his head for some kind of affirmation or signal from Staros, who stood beside him, but the lead agent didn’t react, staring blankly at the wall, seeming to avoid the president’s eye.


With the sudden clack of a high heel, the woman resumed pacing around the table slowly.


“After the crash, there were survivors. The Department of Defense called them the Travelers. At the time, the DOD decided that these Travelers were from another world, and that they were too precious to let go.”


Kai had heard conspiracy theories about the secrets former Presidents knew, including stories of aliens making contact with Earth.


She went on. “It’s true; they were precious. Imagine their knowledge of the universe. Imagine their weapons. The DOD wanted to find out how they powered their spacecraft, so they took them as hostages. The brass knew that there would be repercussions, and repercussions did follow. A few hours after the crash, an armada of ships from the traveler’s fleet surrounded the planet.”


President Kai felt alone in his thoughts as he sat silently, surrounded by people who seemed to know more than he did. He had just absorbed shocking information of great importance, but he felt extremely confused. What am I supposed to do with this information?


The woman could sense his apprehension. She continued, “The United States Government was given an ultimatum. Either free the hostages or there was going to be a regime change.”


Kai couldn't hold it in. “This is a joke!”



“Is it, Mr. President?” She chuckled at his response. “You see, after they released the hostages, the travelers gave them another ultimatum. It was one they couldn’t refuse. The travelers ordered them to surrender the United States.”


“I’m not going to sit here and listen to these lies!” President Kai shouted, his voice echoing off the bare walls. He couldn’t believe the nonsense he was hearing. He also wanted to know why no one would tell him their name. Once again, he tried to stand up, but was forced back down by Staros. Kai accepted, slumping back into his chair. He felt mortified by Staros’ behaviour. He ignored the throbbing pain in his shoulder and refrained from instinctively rubbing where Staros had grabbed him.


The woman was now behind him. President Kai could feel her presence, and he could smell her sandalwood perfume. She had stopped directly behind his chair. He felt anxious, unsure if he should turn around. He nearly jumped when she spoke again.


“You are the leader of the free world, President Kai. You can still perform your executive duties. Spar with your Senate over stimulus checks and bomb the countries you despise. At the end of the day, however, you work for the travelers.”


Sighing, President Kai hesitantly turned his head to face the mystery woman. To his surprise, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her innocent face reminded him of an angel, someone with completely pure intentions. Her blonde hair fell in gentle waves down to her chest, and her petite nose and plump lips took his breath away.


Seemingly aware of her effect over him, she looked him in the eye as she continued. “Now, the only rule that you need to follow is to never discuss this with anyone. Nothing you witnessed here tonight. If you care about your friends and family, you need to keep quiet, Mr. President.”


President Kai nodded his head slowly, still trying to comprehend everything he had heard her say.


“Do you understand, Mr. President?” the beautiful woman asked.


“Yes,” he said, though he failed to sound nearly as confident as he would have liked.


“You must understand, because they are powerful. And they are everywhere.” She pointed around the room.


Just as President Kai was about to ask the woman for more information about the Travelers, she slowly lifted her fingers to the side of her face. The woman rubbed her chin gently with the palm of her hand, and then slowly slid her fingers under her jaw. With a chilling nonchalance, she proceeded to peel off her entire face; the beauty that once was, was no more. President Kai was horrified by the faceless woman standing before him, holding her lifelike mask in her hands.


The shocking sight, combined his entire experience at the Complex so far, made his legs weak and his hands shake. He threw himself out of his seat, but Staros quickly intercepted him. President Kai looked at Staros in pure shock, but the agent's expressionless face told Kai that he had seen this all before.


President Kai couldn’t believe that everything the woman had said was true. She was one of them. She was a Traveler.

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