The Codex

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The way it started was, he was just going to meet the President. 

As a general rule, lobbyists don’t meet with the President individually.  But Richard had friends, and they had friends, and their friends . . . well, you know how it goes in D.C.  It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  And Richard knew those people.  And their friends.

So now he was going to meet with the President.  In the White House.

In D.C., like in New York or London or Paris or any other big city, it’s important to be cool, worldly, nonchalant.  Nothing phases you, nothing surprises you, even the most amazing things are just cause to raise a single eyebrow, questioningly; “Is that it?  Really?”  This was the standard M.O., and Richard was well aware and adhered to it.

But truthfully, he was so excited he hoped he wouldn’t get flop sweat.

The entire thing was like some weird, wild dream.  Getting ID’s, showing them to the guard, going through the security check and the metal detector and the X-Ray machine.  Answering questionnaires about stuff he couldn’t think had the remotest connection to what he was meeting the President about.  It had that level of unreality you get when you are first starting to get sick.  You know, one of those horrible late spring/early summer viruses when everyone else is healthy but you’re just coming down with something, and the air seems like thick syrup and it seems as if you can visually locate every individual particle of dust floating in it, and your body feels more like some poorly-made marionette connected to your head with bungee cords and springs and you’re piloting it around carefully like a huge Lincoln Continental rather than simply walking.  That kind of sick.  That level of unreality.  Richard was feeling it now.

He was sitting upstairs in the White House, in some sort of side-room or antechamber or some damn thing.  He didn’t know if he was outside the Oval Office, or the Blue Room, or the Roosevelt Room, or the Lincoln Bedroom, for that matter; he wasn’t an expert in White House geography.  He was just a lobbyist.  Waiting to see the President.  The President!

Finally, it was his turn.  The Secret Serviceman looked him over, then opened a door to what looked very much like some kind of an air-lock.

“What’s this?” Richard asked.  “I thought I was going to see the President?”

“Through the codex,” the agent said.

“The what, now?”

The agent didn’t exactly smile—Richard thought smiling must be against regulations or something—but something about the set of the muscles around his mouth and eyes, the slight twinkle, gave the impression of a smile.  A hint.  The idea the agent was smiling on the inside.

“The codex,” the agent said.

“I heard the first time,” Richard said.  “What is it, exactly?”

“Last security measure before you get to see the Big Man,” the agent said.  Now the impression was of slight irritation rather than a smile.  “C’mon, man; either through the codex, or back out the door.”

“It’s just a security device?  It won’t bath me in gamma rays or neutrinos or something?”

The agent shook his head by, maybe, a millimeter.  “Naw.  You just walk through.”  A slight pause; so slight, Richard wondered, later, if he had imagined it.  “It might take longer than you think; it’s bigger than it looks.  Longer,” he said.

“Like the Tardis?”

“The what?”

“It’s a . . . never mind,” Richard said.  “Okay.”  He went in.  The door shut behind him.  Richard found himself in something that looked like a short hallway, maybe 10 feet long, slightly curved as it were going around the outside of a round wall (the Oval Office?), and apparently made of . . . he could barely think how he would describe it.  Corrugated glass?  Transparent wrinkled plastic?  But it wasn’t quite transparent; it was slightly polarized, giving everything on the outside—the guard, the antechamber—a smoky appearance.  On the inside, where he supposed there was a wall, he couldn’t see anything.  It was weird and somewhat unsettling.  It was like being inside a hamster’s Habitrail, people-sized and made of wrinkled, smoked glass.  He didn’t like it.  Best to get through it as quickly as possible.

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