New Deal Coalition Retained III: A New World

Looks like Ioccoca and the Dems are going to take a major beating in the midterms. There will probably be enough for a definitive Republican majority in the Senate alongside a possible plurality in the House should the South become even more GOP. It's hard to tell which ways the Progressive will stand, but at best it's either moderate gains or losses. Mind if I join the team? I have a few ideas for future events, and I might want to play around with congressional and gubernatorial elections.
Welcome aboard, we are always looking for more contributors:)
 
Extra points to whomever can come up with the most unique First Lady of Washington ;)
Same for the replacements of the dead senators. Let's dredge up some intriguing and OTL obscure names
ITTL, the Governor of VT is Fred Tuttle of the Progressive Party
Laura bush because bush is married to nixon's daughter or Nikki haley (although she could get married to congressman Nick Modi)
Also, @TheCongressman nice to have you back on the thread!
 
Why wouldn't the Progressives stand for the abolition of the Electoral College and Proportional Representation, like the Liberals once did in Britain, since that would be their only way to become a major party?
 
An Explanation of the "Russian Narrative"

That narrative was supposed to be from an ITL perspective, and be mroe of a balance-of-power argument more than anything.

It's not what I would believe, but what someone in-universe would believe


OTL, in I.R. the unification of Germany as lead by the Prussian Militarists (who in most cases became/supported the Nazis), is seen to have threatened the balance of power in Europe.

The same argument could be very well made with WWIII, but the rise of the Hardliners in the USSR being a pretty obvious cause of the war ITL, and the immediate post-war situation, make such a theory not altogether popular. Such a theory could become more popular later though…

ITL, a need for a unifying thread between all three conflicts leads to Russia, and Communism, getting more of the blame.

In WWI, Russian Industrialization, combined with desire for warm-water ports as a source of expansionism, is seen as having made Austria-Hungary and Germany more aggressive in their actions. Combined with Russian pan-Slavism, which lead to unwavering support for Serbia, and thus WWI. Russia is seen as having been partially culpable to the destabilization of Europe pre-WWI at this point in time ITL.

Russian technical assistance to the Germans in the 1920’s, World Communism polarizing domestic politics, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, west-ward expansion (which is seen to have pressured Romania, Bulgaria, etc. into chain-ganging with Hitler), is seen as key help in how Germany was able to perceive the balance of power in their favor enough to start WWII. The Germans are still responsible, but the rise of Fascism isn’t just seen as a pathology that emerged soley within the Axis powers, but a disease supported form the outside. For example, financial/ideological support of Mussolini and Hitler from the west is also seen as a more important element of the rise of fascism.

Pre-WWIII, Russian Imperialism, through the ideology of world communism, is seen as the long-term cause of the war. The rise of the Hardliners is taught as inevitable, just as historians/experts now teach that Communism was always going to fall in the early 1990’s.

In short, the old Russian/Soviet Empire, combined with Russian Imperialism/World Communism/support for a resurgent Germany pre-WW2 is the clumsy ITL attempt to have a unifyinig IR theory at the time.

However, all of this can change depending on the post-war world…


Note: This is an ITL explanation/theory that becomes popular immediately post-WWIII, not the one I would ascribe to ITL, especially in the long-run (the Germans clearly were responsible for WW2 (and a good chunk of WW1) and the rise of Freyism could be considered a key part of the pre-war destabilization before WW3 as was poor American foreign policy).
 
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Why wouldn't the Progressives stand for the abolition of the Electoral College and Proportional Representation, like the Liberals once did in Britain, since that would be their only way to become a major party?
Because the Democrats and Republicans will never stand for this and it will never pass.

Better to try to exploit the system that's already there. See the 92' congressional update for more

Election reforms at a state level are free game though as far ideas like public financing of elections, ranked choice voting, etc.

Also, Progressives want to make sure a 4th party doesn't form...
 
Because the Democrats and Republicans will never stand for this
Altough IOTL, both parties supported the Bayh-Celler amendment in the House and there were high chances that it will pass the state legislatures.


it will never pass.
If the next presidential election is deadlocked in the House, the Progressive could ask in return for their support the abolition of the Electoral College and/or Proportional Representation.
 
Once the President was in office, the Democrats burst into a fury of activity that had never been seen before. The goal was to do as much as possible before the 94 mid terms,which were predicted to turn badly for the Party, with President Iacocca not wanting to waste his first term. This lead to the incredibly speedy (and shoddily prepared and destined to be a huge part of the financial failure in 2008) passage of the Iaccoa Auto Tariffs and the attempted repeal of Taft Hartley (which failed miserably). After these the congressional dems were in a divide over what to focus on, should they push more Communonationalist economic programs, as pushed by Northern demcrats like Hugh Carey who was dead set on a new series of Welfare expansions or should the agenda focus on issues as pushed by Senator Pat Robertson of Virginia, who wanted to increase “the Family's standing and Prestige in American culture”. The impasse was finally broken by Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, who tied both together. The program he pushed was to cure something which many Americans,especilly Democrats, were incredibly afraid of: A population decline. A million Americans had died fighting across the world and about a hundred thousand had died in Soviet attacks on the US.


The military, economic, and social priorities of the Democratic Party all pointed towards the need for a "baby boom". Military analysts of the last war believed that infantry had returned to prominence-tanks were constricted in movement in urban areas and cheap RPG's could make them deathtraps. While Communonationalists cared little about budget deficits, economic analysts predicted that Social Security and AmCare would grow insolvent unless there was a rapid increase in the young, healthy, and working population of the country. The devastation of WWIII, the Marburg Virus, and opposition from "Robertson Democrats" made a massive increase in immigration impossible. Such an increase would have to be home-grown. Lastly, some wary religious figures believed that with a declining population, and thus less children, the institution of the family would be "demographically threatened".


To spur this new baby boom, the Freshman senator from pennsylvania proposed his top to bottom “Family Health and Credit program”. It entailed a birth credit of 60,000 dollars for all married couples directly on Child birth (there was an argument between liberals and more traditonal Communonationalists over whether single mothers should get the credit,eventually a compromise was worked out with Single Mothers getting 40,000, which could be adjusted by the individual states if they wanted to.) Another part of the agenda was a new extension of Public services to children. Preschool was to be made absolutely free of charge and a new department of Children's Health was created to mind the massive Maternity care program which the agenda had in mind. This was all to be paid for by an increase of taxes on the ultra wealthy.


When the plan was introduced to Congress there was immediate opposition from the Debt hawk Republicans and the libertarian wing of the Prongs, due to the estimated 400 billion dollar increase in the federal budget it entailed with Ross Perot calling it the “Biggest boondoggle of all time” and James Stockdale saying “I shall never allow such a breads and circus program here in America”



Enough left-leaning Urban Progressives in the house approved of the package, after the National Association of Women, a powerful Feminist Group, announced their support, for the bill to sail smoothly in the house. However, William Quinn thought he could maintain control of the Senate. Perot had faith in Lamm's leadership in the senate, especially after Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave a firey joint-speech at Georgetown University, which had endorsed the bill, saying it would "reduce women to child bearing slaves remincisnt of Nazi Germany". However, Democrats began to push both Republicans up for re-election in Blue States and "mushy moderate" Republicans, especially in the Northeast, for their support. David Treen, Prescott Bush, John Lewis, Mitt Romney, Mike Castle, and Barbara Hafer all "felt the heat, and endorsed the bill in a joint appearance on CBS. Senate Majority Leader Quinn rushed the vote, hoping to stem the tide, after Pat Leahy, frustrated with the increasing dominance of the more liberterian or centrist Progressives, announced he would defy Perot and "help guide the Progressives in a more kind direction". In the final vote, three more Republicans switched their vote-Lamar Alexander, William Cohen, and John Danfort. The Bill passed 52-48. Quinn, who had promised not to filibuster the bill in return for a $1 billion dollar decrease in Agriculture Research Spending (seen as a bargain at the time), now looked like a fool and would have to be replaced.


A new divide would settle in the Republican Party. John Lewis, the leader of the Solutions Caucus (the moderate-liberal wing of the party, was the centrists prospective candidate for '96 and he pleaded with leadership to embrace, rather than resist the plan. However, he had powerful enemies.



Stockdale and Dole, who wanted to move the party in a more Minaprogressive and budget-focused direction, and hoped to navigate more socially liberal Republicans to the right economically realized that his best hope for success might lay with making alliances with what had been their main rival faction...



The African American Community was divided. Some sided with Lewis, and appreciated the family assistance, and didn't mind that it was heartily endorsed by figures such as Pat Robertson. On the flip side, Clarence Thomas made a name for himself by declining to accept any new funds in his state saying "I will not grovel for pennies from Closet Segregationists". He also demagogued the fact that 95%+ of the new facilities for Children's Health and Maternity Care were in majority white neighborhoods, and that a certain Senator Robertson, the devil incarnate in the eyes of Black Republicans (now that Wallace was old) headed the committee that chose where the newly allocated federal funds would go.
 
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At long last, I finally managed to find enough time (and a proper internet connection) to publish the next chapter of the spy saga.

As usual, President Earl Warren was responsible for the original ideas and helped me with editing and the overarching plot.

*An extended — line signifies a perspective or time frame switch
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An errant convertible blasted through the crosswalk mere seconds after Paige and Henry had crossed over to the other side, drawing the watchful eyes of many of the parents around the school's entrance, including those of the former Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, now Eliza and Patrick of the Julius family. Said convertible was followed swiftly by a police cruiser that pulled out of a concealed outlet and raced around the corner after the convertible, sirens blaring. As the sound of both cars faded in to the distance, so too did the parents' attentions revert back to their previous activities. The two children walked out of sight into a classroom, Patrick and Eliza returned to their car and drove away, paying little heed to the yelling of the supervising teacher about not parking in the turnabout.

“Does that Mr. Rossfield ever get sick of yelling at every parent that stays in the turnabout for more than half a minute?” snarked Eliza, “You'd think he'd have lost his voice long ago.”

Patrick, having to pay attention to the road, didn't turn to face his wife, but still smirked, “Well, he is also a PE teacher, so I'd imagine he probably has to yell a lot. Besides, have you looked at him? That's probably the most exercise he gets every day.” Eliza had to use her sleeve to stifle her laughter so that the cars around them wouldn't hear. Patrick let out a slight chuckle as he got onto the highway.

Ten minutes later, Patrick was seething.

“*Censored* this. I'm getting off this freeway at the next off ramp and taking the local route until it gets better. I don't have the time nor patience to deal with this *censored* traffic. Otherwise, neither you nor I will make it home before noon. I don't want to waste even one day of our 7-day break.”

“Are you sure you know the way?” Eliza raised an eyebrow at her husband, “We've never driven here before.”

“We do have the GPS, so I think it'll be fine,” replied Patrick nonchalantly.

As it turns out, Patrick was right: the GPS guided them flawlessly through the streets. The two continued their idle chatter as they navigated through the small roads, until Eliza happened to glance out the window less than a mile from the place where the GPS indicated for them to reenter the freeway.

“Look!”

On their right, isolated from the baseball park to its right and a small forest to its left, was an old abandoned church. Normally, Eliza and Patrick would've taken no notice of this, and indeed there was nothing special about the church itself. Instead, what drew their attention was the sign in front of it. The sign was partially faded and there was a paper on the sign that announced the church's demolition in the coming week, but Eliza could still see what the sign read:

Red Hunting Committee Meeting: 6 am to 9 am.

Eliza blankly stared at the sign, “Patrick, look.”

Patrick braked and half-turned his head, not quite understanding his wife's sudden request, but he saw the sign in the corner of his eye.

Neither husband nor wife said anything for a few moments, until Patrick let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding, “I'm glad those days are over. No more lying to the kids, no more meetings in the middle of nowhere, no more government agents watching our every move, no more colleagues being killed just on someone's random suspicions.”

Eliza turned back towards her husband, “those last couple of months were the worst. We rarely saw each other, the FBI and Misha's group seemed like they both wanted us dead, and who knows what happened to Paige and Henri while they were in Misha's hands. Sometimes I feel like fate wanted us to suffer for a bit.”

A thought crept into her mind, “Actually, dear, now that I think about it, we never talked to each other about what happened during that last month of so, did we?”

Patrick was more skeptical, especially considering his wife's reaction to the sign, “I could, but it might bring back some painful memories. Do you really want to talk about it?”

Eliza paused for a moment before raising her head back up, “Well, it's better than leaving it inside, and might give us some actual closure.”

Patrick was silent for a moment, before sighing. “Alright, I'll start then.”

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Unlike most Red Hunting Committees that met early in the morning, the one in the suburbs of Washington DC that Philip was a member of preferred to meet late at night for various reasons. Due to being in the capitol, daytime traffic was incredibly dense, and most of the members had to get up early and spend long hours at their various jobs (government and otherwise) before getting off. Perhaps the early morning meetings worked for the parts of the United States that experienced less traffic and shorter work hours, but Washington DC was not one of them. In addition, the event center they used as a meeting ground usually was busy with various wartime home front activities such as selling war bonds and collecting donations for raw materials for most of the day, so even if the members of the committee did have time to meet in the morning, the event center staff would refuse them entry until after all the other activities were finished.

Scarcely seconds after Philip arrived and took one of the few remaining empty seats, the committee's leader, Douglas, stepped onto the front stage, carrying a clipboard with the meeting's weekly agenda.

“Alright, I hereby call this meeting of the Red Hunting Committee into order. Let's see what's on the agenda...” he briefly paused to look at a clipboard, “last time we met, some of you had orders to find out more about various suspected Communist activities that you had previously reported. We'll discuss those as well as anything new that you all have seen or heard. Anyone want to share their findings?”

A policeman, of which there were a couple in the Committee (all of whom only attended when they were off-duty), cleared his throat to grab everyone's attention. “Well, a few days ago, while some other cops and I were on patrol near the local college, we caught some teenagers walking around with large duffel bags that were stumbling around and generally acting rather intoxicated. After we cuffed them, read them their rights, and sent them off , we discovered that they had military-grade firearms inside of the duffel bags. I have no clue how they managed to gain possession of such weapons, especially since the nearest gun store is more than a dozen miles away from the college, none of them had a gun license, and we've been cracking down pretty heavily on the local gangs. It could be a Communist plot, but I've seen teenagers do some pretty stupid things in my time as a police officer, and it's possible that some hoodlums, possibly gang members that slipped into the military, got them drunk and convinced them to smuggle those weapons for them while they were intoxicated, maybe to trick us into thinking they were just average college students walking home after one too many drinks from the local bar. At this point, however, with the investigation going on, this is all speculation, and the most we are going to charge them for right now is possession of illegal firearms and public intoxication. We hope the interrogation and further investigation will net us clearer answers on these questions. At the moment, however, the idea that this is a Communist plot is merely speculation. Nothing more.”

“And why do you say that?! Are you just going to let those red bastards walk free?!” yelled out one of the more hot-headed members.

“Because unlike the lot of you," the policeman replied, his words clipped in shark rebuke, "we actually know how to conduct an investigation without any presumptions.”

Douglas nodded, “Interesting. Well, I'm sure that as long as you do your job properly, whether or not this was a Communist plot will become clear in due time. Oh, and by the way, I hope you all are taking notes.”

The entire room immediately degenerated into a flurry of unzipping bags and papers and pens being taken out as everyone scrambled to take notes. Some of the quicker ones began scribbling down a summary of the officer's remarks, but Philip simply sat and waited for the group to continue. However, he decided that he wouldn't take too many notes: he wasn't exactly a typical Red Hunting Committee member and, as the officer had earlier noted, many of these committee members had a very loose definition of the term “investigation”.

One of the more unusual reports he did write down was from a construction worker, who claimed that his wife might be a spy.

“Why would you suspect your wife, of all people, is a Communist spy?” asked Douglas, who was actually sounding rather skeptical for once.

“She's been going out at night with a camera, says she's going out hiking to go look at the stars at night. Frankly, I don't believe a word of that story, especially since the last time she returned to the house was more than a few nights ago!” The man was gesturing wildly, as though incontrovertible proof of his wife's presumed crimes would somehow materialize from thin air through these motions.

Little more than silence filled the room.

“...So your wife goes hiking at night with a camera to take pictures of the stars, eh?” A woman spoke up.

The construction worker shot around, “That's what she claimed. What about it?”

“Would she happen to be a Mrs. Katlin Annabel?”

The construction worker mentally reeled, “Yes, but how the hell do you know this?”

“Hmph, for someone who seems to be so concerned about his wife's whereabouts, you completely failed to realize that your wife has been hospitalized for the last few days!”

Before the construction worker could reply, the woman continued, “she apparently got a bit disoriented in the dark while taking pictures of the night sky and fell from a decent height. She'll be fine, but we're keeping her for a few days in order to ensure no complications ensue. And yes, I do work in that hospital.” Stunned into silence, the construction worker could only meekly sit down, followed by the rather amused hospital worker.

Douglas was speechless for a few moments too, before regaining his composure, “Alright, now that that's settled, anyone else?”

The committee continued on with its reports, some of which had more basis in fact than others—Philip himself was certain that at least one or two of the subjects discussed were, in fact, his fellow spies. Others were made on much shakier grounds or, in the case of the last two cases made by two business owners, outright motivated by personal grievances.

“I think this man here, the one that owns the restaurant right across the street from my store, is a spy! He always opens way into the night, when nobody should have any business doing anything at those hours!”

“Bah, who says you're not a Communist spy trying to get a simple hardworking restaurant owner like me arrested? It's probably because I actually make food that doesn't taste like *censored*!”

“Why you little—“

“SILENCE!” Douglas may have had his quirks and imperfections, but acquiescence to inane arguments and a lack of a commanding voice were not among them.

The entire room, including both the men arguing and some who had started making idle chatter with the people sitting around them, stopped and turned towards the committee leader.

“I understand that Soviet spies may come in all colors, genders, and professions, but that is not a good reason to go about randomly accusing others of being Red spies, especially if there are possibly personal motivations behind them! We must remember that the vast majority of the people in this nation are, in fact, red-blooded Americans.” He paused and, to the surprise of the other committee members, suddenly smiled.

“However, I must thank these two gentlemen, because they have given me the perfect transition for the following part of today's agenda: namely, how do we distinguish the traitors from the patriots? How can we tell whether or not someone merely has an unusual habit or circumstance but is otherwise a red-blooded American or a backstabbing Communist turncoat?”

Douglas scanned his audience, and cut off one of the committee members who was about to speak, “Since evidently, passions are running a bit too high tonight for a free-for-all discussion, I will be personally selecting those I want to hear from. Rest assured though, it will be completely random.” A few hands dropped down.

He looked around the room once more, “Let's start with you there, yes the young man in the red vest! Tell us how to find these spies!”

The young fellow quickly recovered from the slight surprise of being chosen, “Well, I'd say anyone who leans left is to be watched. Hoover had it right when he monitored King and those Vietnam War protesters, and if—“

He was cut off by a sound of a metal pole slamming on the floor with a loud thump. Everyone turned towards the source of the noise, and at its center was a man in his forties. Crutches braced under his arms, an old military uniform with not an insignificant number of medals attached to it. The ones everyone paid attention to, however, were the Purple Heart and the Vietnam Service Medal. The missing right leg explained everything.

A good number of the committee members stood up in a gesture of respect to the amputee veteran, the former soldier nodding to each one as he slowly walked up to the young man and stopped.

“So you say all leftists can't be trusted to be loyal to their country, is that so?”

“You bet, old man, you yourself obviously saw them calling you baby killers while you were in Vietnam.” More than a few narrowed eyes turned towards the young man at those words.

The veteran turned his head away disdainfully, “Hmph, I should've known someone who used the Coast Guard as a way to get out of having to go into the army and being shipped out overseas wouldn't be the most respectful in the world,” he whipped back around continued before the young man could retort, “And don't you go denying that, because your parents told me that themselves!”

The young man attempted to reply, “Well, what I said was still true.”

The veteran scoffed, “Really, now?” and turned out the lapels of his coat to reveal the official button badge of the Progressive Party. Everyone gasped.

The veteran stopped and turned towards the others, “What? You guys didn't know I was a progressive? Next time, just ask me!” He turned back towards the red-vested man.

“That's right, you little *censored*-face. I'm a Vietnam veteran—lost a leg, as you can see—and a *censored* leftist as well: a Progressive, for that matter. So tell me now, who is the traitor? The one that shall never walk normally again for the service of his country or the one that fled to the coast guard to avoid the draft? Say it to my face, boy, tell me that I'm a *censored* Commie spy.”

Seeing the angry tide of faces and a few murmurs threatening violence, the thoroughly chastised young man sat back down. Douglas looked on in interest.

“Alright, settle down, folks. The show's over, back on topic. You there, the black lady with the pink dress! How would you go about looking for Communist spies?

“I suppose they're probably going to be probably working close to government-related places or jobs. I mean, it's not like you could get a lot of information working as a farmer in the middle of nowhere.” Her response was met with nods and a few sounds of approval, including from Douglas.

“Indeed, we must know where a Soviet spy is likely to be lurking. After all, the only thing my old swimming coach would learn—if he was a spy—is how much I don't practice!” A wave of chuckles followed, before Douglas raised his hands to quiet them.

“Now let's have someone who hasn't talked in a while. Hmm, you there! Philip, was it?"

Philip jolted out of his thoughts, “Um, huh?” His reaction earned him a few smirks from some of the other committee members.

“We wouldn't want to make you feel left out now, would we?” Douglas tilted his head, “So come on, give it your best shot! How would you go looking for a Soviet spy?”

Philip started to sweat, “Um, hmm, well...”

“Don't be shy, just come out and say it! Anything!”

“Well, maybe those that show an excessively high level of patriotism could be spies? I mean, they could be using it as a front for espionage activities—“ Philip was interrupted by several angry retorts and several other members standing up.

“What the hell are you on about?!”

“So you're telling me Rockwell's a traitor?!”

“Sounds like just the thing a Soviet spy would say!”

“Yeah, let's string him up on the tree outside!”

As the crowd started to converge on Philip, Douglas loudly whacked his clipboard on the podium. “EVERYONE, BACK TO YOUR SEATS!” Their fervor broken, the committee members hurried back into their seats.

“Sometimes I wonder if you all read the news, or have you all forgotten about Charles Duluth?! The guy was probably second only to Rockwell, yet look at how that turned out! He was a *censored* Red spy all along! And during that time, we all thought he was one of the staunchest defenders of liberty out there!” Perhaps realizing that he was shouting, Douglas took a deep breath before continuing, “This man has managed to notice something that, it seems, everyone else missed. I expect you all to do the honorable thing and apologize.” A host of quiet sorries and even a couple words of praise followed.

Philip took his seat again, trying to mentally calm himself down. Because of this, the rest of the meeting was a blur to him. That is, until just before the end.

“Alright, before we leave, I'd like to mention something I think is important. Approximately a week or so ago, police discovered what appears to be a home invasion gone wrong, I believe.”

The policeman that had spoken first at the meeting cleared his throat again, “Indeed, a couple of our detectives found the homeowner, an old lady, dead along with a younger man, who appears to be her grocery deliverer. So far, evidence is hard to find, but they have noted some irregularities.”

“Irregularities?”

“The burglars left some pretty valuable stuff behind, and I don't mean hidden gems and all that. I mean things in the wide open like the TV and radio sets. Also, the filing cabinets were ruffled through. There have been cases of burglars looking in the cabinets for bank documents and the like, but it's not exactly standard procedure for home invaders. Moreover, no financial documents were missing, so either the culprits were in a hurry or there was another motive.”

“Well, I can only hope that the police are up to the task of catching whoever committed these heinous murders. And with that, I declare this meeting adjourned!”

As Philip was walking back to his car, he could only think of the fate of Granny and Zhukov, a fate that loomed over Elizabeth, himself, and their children, waiting to occur at any time. The hammer of the KGB and the anvil of the FBI, both waiting for an excuse to crush them all.

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“Hmph, amateurs.” Gaad's comments echoed in Philip's ears as he drove home from the meeting of the Red Hunting Committee, “Pretty much the only ones there that actually knew how to conduct a proper investigation were the cops. Everyone else was like a panicked housewife trying to kill a spider.”

“The committee should consider itself lucky it has those officers, then, or otherwise they might just start accusing each other of being spies,” snarked back Philip.

“Hmm, in any case, I do wonder how long they'll stay there.”

“Huh? What do you mean?” Philip was no expert on police policies, despite being a Soviet spy.

“Police participation in groups like these is highly frowned upon; it's an offshoot from the days when some officers were also members of the KKK. Even if it's merely an 'I hate Communists' organization, most departments still scrutinize such memberships heavily.”

“Huh, I see. I do think my hyper-patriotic comment back there was actually quite clever, if I do say so myself. In fact,” cracked Philip, “perhaps I could even apply it to you!”

Gaad was silent for a moment, “I have had my loyalty tested before.”

Philip turned his head, “Eh?”

“You heard me correctly. Now shut up and drive. I have to go check in on your wife.”

When Philip arrived home, it was 2 am, but surprisingly, Elizabeth wasn't home. Instead, a note greeted him on the kitchen table: “Important meeting with Misha—will be back in a few hours.” Shrugging, Philip went to go prepare for bed. It had been a long day.

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“Now that I think about it, you never told me the exact details of that meeting, did you?” Patrick finished his reminiscing and turned back towards his wife.

Eliza looked up in thought, “Hmm, I don't think I have. Want to hear it? It's my turn anyways.”

“Eh, go ahead. Who was there, anyways?”

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Festooned with American flags and propaganda posters supporting the war effort in all accounts, nobody who walked by the gun store would have suspected that this would be the place which the Soviet spies had chosen to meet. The store had a double purpose: apart from obfuscating the loyalty of those inside it, including the owner, it also made for a convenient excuse to store all types of arms, including those that the agents used. After all, who would suspect the presence of illegal weapons when they were displayed out in the open alongside the countless other arms which lined the shelves and display cases?

Elizabeth walked into the backroom where the other agents were and took one of the empty seats that touched the back wall of the gun store. Behind her, she could hear various vehicles parking as more and more of her fellow Soviet spies arrived. No doubt about it, something big was happening if Misha was calling them all in. At least the room was very large, so they could all fit in there.

Besides her, Hans, a teaching assistant who started working for the KGB after having witnessed the horrors of Apartheid and being disgusted with America's support of South Africa, smiled before turning to an older lady whom Elizabeth didn't recognize, “Quite ingenious, wouldn't you say, using a gun store as a front? Nobody would be the wiser!” The woman directed a small smile at Hans before tilting her head back to the center of the room.

Elizabeth could hear a male and female spy talking from behind the wall she was sitting next to as they were locking their car.

“Have you heard anything about the war?”

“Not sure, I haven't been checking the reports too much lately, but I'm sure the Americans and their puppets will soon surrender. The Socialist Revolution cannot be stopped, comrade.”

“They say East Germany has fallen to the west, and that now their tanks are rolling into the motherland itself.”

“A temporary setback, if it isn't just capitalist propaganda. The fascists couldn't take Moscow then, and neither will the capitalist dogs.”

“But if it's true, and if Moscow falls, what do we do? We'll be spies without a country, hunted down like deer!”

“Perhaps we'll just have to wait and see. We could always make a deal if it comes to that. If I were you, I'd shut up until then. Take it from me, that kind of talk could get you killed. You never know who is listening.”

Like me, thought Elizabeth amusedly. She turned to the door as the two agents walked in and memorized their faces. Kompromat, she mused, for if they ever decide to try something with me. Better to save this conversation for a rainy day than to out them now.

As Misha watched the two take their seats, she realized just how many spies had come to this one meeting. Over a hundred, quite a few of them probably from out of the state. If the magnitude of whatever was about to unfold wasn't evident to her before, it was now.

The thumping of footsteps signaled Misha's arrival as she walked down the stairs into the backroom. “Good evening, comrades. Before we say anything else, I'm sure some of you are probably wondering where a few of your other fellow agents are.” That caused some of those present to sit up straight.

“Some of your former comrades were insufficiently loyal to the World Revolution. In addition to Granny and Zhukov, which I'm sure is old news for you all at this point, Irina and Gregory have also paid the price for their disloyalty.” Nobody said a thing or even had any obvious reactions, but Elizabeth could see some of those present slightly leaning back. Probably worked with them in the past, noted Elizabeth, and probably afraid they're next.

Misha, on the other hand, had no reaction whatsoever, instead proceeding to ask for the reports of the various groups regarding their activities and updates on any ongoing operations. Elizabeth didn't pay too much attention to these, but she did note that most of these plans were either still in their infancy, not particularly ambitious, or outright failing. Misha finished hearing the final report, silent as ever, and then spoke.

“To those of you who are currently demonstrating your dedication to the cause of the Soviet workers and peasants, continue as you have before. There are also those of you have not, I must express both my disappointment and warning. Remember the cost of failure and disloyalty. You know who you are. Now, to the reason why I called you here.” She paused, as if to build dramatic effect.

“Comrades, we are approaching the end game. The International Revolution shall either perish or triumph. We will have to deal with it today. There can be no more delays. Now I know some of you have wavered in the cause and we have even had to take...preventive measures...to ensure your full dedication to our cause, but I know that you are all competent agents of the Revolution and you will all take your act with the utmost seriousness.”

“Now to the mission," Misha laid out a map of Capitol Hill, "President Rumsfeld has felt it is going to be safe to venture out of his bunker for a national address to Congress."

One of the other agents in the room let out a gasp, "We’re going to assassinate him."

Misha smiled, "Exactly, my friend, the hope back in the Kremlin is that this assassination will cause a power struggle between the capitalist factions and that, like the ravenous hyenas that they are, they will devour themselves."

Elizabeth almost let out a howling laugh. You mean like what the Kremlin and we are doing but she contained both laughter and thoughts and continued listening with a straight face.

Misha's smile vanished. “Now, due to the unprecedented importance of this operation, we will be splitting you into groups, each of which will play a particular role. I will brief each group separately. I cannot emphasize enough that absolute secrecy is necessary: not one word of this must leave this room, and you are absolutely prohibited from talking to other groups about your duties. In addition, should you ever be captured before or during the operation and your loyalties exposed, you must be willing to sacrifice yourself to preserve our chances of success.”

She rolled out a large map of the Capitol Hill area onto a table that one of the agents had wheeled into the room. On it were a few different colored circles with labels, marking things like the president's position, the location of security forces (with a few question marks indicating possible but unconfirmed security), the press, the members of Congress and the general public. “As you can see, he is making his speech right outside of Congress—not inside of Capitol Hill, luckily—but make no mistake, it will not be easy. We will need both quick and overwhelming force as well as a distraction in order to succeed. Any questions?”

A few hands rose up. Misha selected one in the back, “yes?”

“Is suicide really necessar—“ The agent's words died in his mouth as blood and brain matter dripped from the gaping hole in his head. Misha put the silenced pistol back in her concealed holster. “Anyone else wish to back out?” Nobody said a word, even as the dead agent collapsed onto the floor.

Another agent raised her hand, “If this is an assassination, why not simply shoot him from afar with a sniper rifle, like how Oswald took out that bastard Nixon? I bet some of us could make that shot, and he's making his speech out in the open.”

Misha betrayed no emotion as she replied, “Indeed, that is a simple method, but there is no doubt that the president's security forces have also anticipated the possibility. They will most likely have their people watching nearby vantage points and inside the audience for any possible snipers. In addition, a sniper rifle, even disassembled, is not exactly easy to hide, and should it be discovered, I have little doubt that it would cause the Americans to cancel the speech, even if Rumsfeld himself objects, thus depriving us of our chance. Anyone else?”

“Why are we letting him make the speech in the first place? Why not simply take him out while he is still en route?”

“Unfortunately, our spies have reported that there will be enormous amounts of guards—both military and police—escorting the president on the road. We would be heavily outgunned at any point by the convoy, and there will be security forces sweeping ahead of it, so pre-set explosives are out of the question. In addition, the president's limousine itself is quite heavily armored. It can withstand just about anything that we can conceal, and we will lose the element of surprise should we bring anything heavier.”

Misha began wheeled the table with the map on it towards one of the adjourning rooms “I think that's enough for now. The Kremlin and I have already decided the groups in advance. I will call out the names, and you will enter this room which I am about to go into. I will give you your briefing there. Make sure to close the door behind you. Oh, and if I catch any of you trying to eavesdrop on any group that isn't yours, or if I see you trying to leave early...” She stopped there, but the implication was obvious.



——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The first group, including Elizabeth, stepped into the room.

“Welcome,” Misha began, but there was no trace of warmth in her voice, “Gather around the table.” The agents did so as Misha drew a semi-circle on the map with a pencil. Behind her stood her direct subordinate, the gun store owner.

“You will blend in with the press groups here. We have falsified credentials and uniforms ready for you.” She walked over to a very large box and opened it for all the agents to see.

“Some of these are camera guns, but the rest are actual cameras. I know you're wondering why they aren't all guns, and the reason for this is because it'll make it a lot harder for the Americans to try and screen for hidden weapons if there's no large group for them to target, 'like looking for a tree in a forest', as their saying goes.” A few of the agents nodded in agreement.

“Your names are written on the particular piece of equipment you're supposed to use. As for which ones are guns and which ones are cameras, I believe you all are competent enough agents to figure that much out for yourselves.” Indeed, Elizabeth could make out her assigned camera, and she was quite certain that it was just that, an ordinary camera.

“We have arranged for something to distract the security forces, and when that happens, those of you that are armed will shoot and kill the president. Afterwards, either make your escape in the ensuing chaos or sacrifice yourself if you cannot avoid capture.”

“And what exactly is this distraction?” asked one of the agents present.

“I'm afraid I cannot tell you, but I will say that it will be a very obvious distraction, one that you cannot miss.”

Elizabeth pondered for a moment before a sudden thought struck her, “What about you, Misha? Exactly what role are you playing in this entire operation? You haven't told us that.” Elizabeth couldn't be sure, but she thought she saw a flash of panic in Misha's eyes just before it morphed into a steely glare. “Don't tell me you're chickening out of the operation.”

“I hope you are not accusing me of cowardice, comrade. I would go as well, but unfortunately the Kremlin has ordered otherwise.” This time there was no such flash.

“Of course not, comrade, we couldn't afford to lose the brains behind this operation, after all.”

If Misha heard the subtle sarcasm behind Elizabeth's words, she brushed it off. “That's all I have to say. Now go.” She began erasing the semi-circle as Elizabeth and her group filed out.

The last agent stepped out out just as the first one of the second group entered. As soon as the door closed, Misha began to speak, drawing a larger semi-circle around where the first one had been.

“Around the press will be various security personnel which are enforcing a perimeter around the president's immediate vicinity. Their job is to protect both the president and the important guests, namely members of Congress and the press.” She paused to open a large box, inside of which were police uniforms and various bits of equipment.

“Thanks to our contacts within the black market, we were able to procure enough police uniforms for you all. You will use these uniforms to blend in with the local police force which is assisting with the security detail.” She opened a second, smaller box that her subordinate had set down on the table. Inside were what appeared to be several cigarette packs, but all present knew their true nature.

“However, that alone won't be enough to get you through to the president. Which is why we have these concealed cigarette guns. You will use these when the guards are distracted. We have arranged for something to occur, but I cannot tell you more. Dismissed.”

The second group left, and in walked the third group just as her subordinate had put away the box of cigarette pack guns. Misha waved to him, who grabbed a cart that was covered with a tarp and pushed it over to her. She then drew two X's on either side of the podium on the map, having already erased the large semi-circle.

“This group will be the one that shall signal the start of the attack.” She pulled off the tarp, revealing a host of anti-war signs, some hippie clothing and decorations, a well as a rectangular box. “You will arrive shortly after the speech begins and masquerade as peace protesters. You will be split into groups: the majority of you will enter on the left, while the other, smaller group will enter from the right. The larger group will heckle the president and distract security. The guards will focus most of their attention on them. That is when the smaller group will strike.” On cue, she opened the box, revealing a small stack of AK-47s. “This group will be armed, and use the diversion the larger group creates to attack and kill Rumsfeld. That is all.”

Out went the third group, in went the fourth group, to whom Misha revealed a large collection of small melee weapons, everything from knives to boxcutters. She had, of course, already erased the two X's, and instead circled the spectator section.

“You will blend in among the crowd, which will fall into chaos which we will help create. At that moment, you will use the panic of the Americans as cover to rush the president, overwhelm his no doubt confused security detail, and kill him.”

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Elizabeth watched the final group come out, but she couldn't help but notice that two of the agents present, both men, had been left out of all four groups. Misha followed the last group out to the doorframe, then motioned to one of the two men, who nodded and followed her back into the room. After a short period, the first man left, then the process was repeated with the second one. None of the agents dared leave the room or even ask about why these two agents received individual briefings. Regardless of whoever they were, however, it was plain to all present that these two men had their own special assignments. What those assignments were, however, would remain a mystery even to them for a long time.

—————————————————————————————————————————

Misha watched the first man come in.

“Victor Christopher reporting, comrade. What is it that you require?”

Misha smiled. Victor Christoper was one of the best agents of the Soviet Union that was based in America. The Kremlin had taken great care to ensure that his cover, that of a reporter of a major news agency, was never blown by the various western intelligence agencies, even sacrificing other agents to maintain his anonymity. He repaid that care in kind, having oftentimes been privy to various rumors and tidbits regarding military movements and other government affairs from sometimes loss-lipped military and political personnel as well as from his fellow reporters, information which Moscow always enthusiastically received.

“Comrade Christopher, while you have managed to maintain your cover so far, I'm afraid that, should the other groups fail, you will be one of our two trump cards to ensure the success of this operation. Given what I am about to task you with, this is a suicide mission. Do you understand and accept this?”

Victor nodded, understanding both his restricted options and the fact that there was another trump card in play, probably the man still sitting in the back. “I understand and am fully prepared to give my life for the World Revolution, Comrade Misha.” He glanced at a box of explosives behind Misha, “I suppose those have something to do with my task?”

“Sharp as ever, I see,” Misha replied without skipping a beat, “You are to rig the van which the first group will travel to the speech in with these explosives; however, you are not to attack immediately. Instead, you will wait until the other groups have attacked and see if the president is still alive. If he is, then the Secret Service will probably try to hurry him away. In this case, you will drive this truck as close as possible to the president, ideally running him down, and then detonate the explosives. You will die, but if you succeed, so will the president.”

Misha put the lid back on the box, “Handle with care, obviously.” She followed Victor as he gingerly carried the box out with him to go store in his car. As hewalked out the door, explosives in hand, she motioned for the fourth and final man to enter.

“Darren Gibbs, you are, without a doubt, the last and final resort should all other groups have failed.”

Gibbs nodded gravely. The Soviets had spent a great amount of time and resources getting him past the various background checks and tests that the Secret Service made all of its potential agents take, and had ordered him to not do anything that could possibly give away his loyalties until a moment like this occurred.

“If the president manages to survive everything that we will throw at him, you and your other Secret Service agents will probably have drawn your weapons out by then. At this point, while you are escorting President Rumsfeld away, you will surreptitiously aim at and shoot Rumsfeld. Since pointing your gun at his head will be a dead giveaway, shoot him in the stomach instead. In addition...” she paused in order to lug a suitcase onto the table, “you will also have at your disposal this bomb, which we have made so that it resembles one of those suitcases you Secret Service agents usually use to conceal machine guns with or as bulletproof shields. Carry it with you and, should you somehow lose your gun, use this to ensure that the president dies.”

Darren grabbed the suitcase, gave a curt nod, and strode out the door. Misha followed him and nodded to her subordinate standing off to the side, who made for the stairs leading to the second floor of the building the gun store resided in.

“Alright, that is all. I'll state this again, you are prohibited from discussing any part of your group's plan with anyone that wasn't there in the room when I gave you the briefings. Your equipment will be handed out to you all at the next meeting, 11 pm in eight days, same place. Dismissed!”

She watched as everyone hurried to leave: it was close to 4 am, after all, and even Soviet spies had to sleep. Truthfully, she didn't expect total secrecy—most people privy to sensitive information tend to give out bits and pieces of it eventually, trained or not—but she hoped that not enough would slip out so that any group had a concrete idea of what was going on.

The last few agents filed out, including Elizabeth, who had dropped her purse and was hurriedly picking up all the scattered items. As she stood up and turned to leave, she glanced back at Misha, “By the way, any idea of what that noise upstairs is? I thought I heard some thumping. Is someone up there?”

Misha shrugged, “Probably one of our comrades needing to go relieve him or herself.”

She watched Elizabeth exit the building and patiently waited for the sound of car doors closing and engines starting to fade away, before taking a quick glance outside. Seeing the coast was clear, she made her way up to the second floor.

Her subordinate waited for her, and behind him were Henry and Paige, both blindfolded, gagged, and restrained to chairs. They were too exhausted and disoriented to struggle, Misha and her accomplice having only given them enough food and water to survive in a weakened state.

“Well?”

“Take them to the van. She's already starting to ask questions. Questions we can't afford to have her find the answers to.”

“Where do we go from there?”

“We'll decide once we're underway. That way, we'll leave no pattern for anyone to follow.”

“Very good.” With that, he began undoing some of the ropes that bound the two children to their chairs. Meanwhile, Misha went downstairs to start her car. She had recently arranged for a new license plate and color scheme in order to hide the fact that it was the same car that she had used for the initial kidnapping. She was no fool, however: such a disguise could only fool potential investigators for as long as it took them to track down the shop which had changed the paint, and then it only became a matter of time before they found out who owned said car.

Precisely the reason why she decided that out of the state was the best place to go.

The other agent walked to the car and shoved the two children into the trunk. Misha got into the passenger seat, and the car roared away into the night.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

“I don't even know how I'm even supposed to do what you asked!”

“Don't give me that *censored*! You're a bloody Soviet spy, and I don't care how much you protest, but you will find out exactly how this assassination plot is going to happen! Or so God help you and your family!” Elizabeth had to hold the earpiece, which was currently doing its best at resembling the sound of a very angry tiger, about a foot away from her ear, lest she go deaf.

“Can't you just have the president cancel his speech?”

“You know *censored* well that Rumsfeld would see it as a sign of weakness! And if you don't tell me how you're going to find out each group's role right now, I will go and personally end the search for your children immediately!”

Elizabeth was starting to mentally panic: as much as the life of a Soviet spy required one to have a certain degree of detachment to everyone around them, her children, her flesh and blood, were something that she couldn't lose—not without losing so much more. There was no question here: she had to keep the search going.

Think, think! How am I going to be able to find out what all the other groups are doing? Her mind shifted through each second of the meeting. I know how one of those agents feels about the state of the war, at least...wait! That's it

“Well, Mr. Gaad, sir, if there's one thing I learned as a Soviet spy, it's that absolute secrecy is impossible. People tend to leak things one way or the other. It's only a matter of how one goes about it.”

The earpiece was silent. “...Your point?”

“I don't know what each group is supposed to do, but I do know who is in each group. I'm sure that if I pry into some of the more talkative ones, I can figure out what each one is doing.”

“...It's worth a shot, I suppose. Do not assume that gives you permission to take your sweet time, however.”

“Of course not.”

“Very well, I'll expect you to start making some house calls some point in the future.”

Elizabeth exhaled sharply. For now, at least, she could continue to maintain hope that Henry and Paige would be saved.

As she waited at the traffic light, one of the cars of other Soviet spies surrounding her's backfired. She glanced at the offending vehicle briefly before turning back to the now green light, heading for home.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

“What in the hell was that?”

Vince Paul opened a sleepy eye and peeled apart two of the window shades to look outside, having heard a loud bang outside his window. All he could see, however, was a large group of cars waiting at a red light.

He was about to go back to sleep, when a thought crept into his head. “That's certainly a lot of cars out there at this time of the night. Something must've been going on.”

The light turned green, but one of the cars, instead of heading out and away into the night, pulled over on the corner, the driver stepping out to check the exhaust. Vince found a pen and a piece of paper and began writing down the license plate.

He had just finished when he heard another backfire, as the car in question drove off. Setting the paper down on his nightstand, he crawled back into his bed. “I'll just bring this up at the Red Hunting Committee meeting next week and see what they make of it; probably won't hurt to mention it.”

To be continued.
 
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