Lost in Space
Lost in Space
There was no one at the front desk.
The phone was hanging off its cord, coffee splattered all over the desk and weirdly, a lone shoe was propped up on the printer. There was no security either which seemed odd to Ivan. This was a top government building. Last time he was here, he'd been eyed at least three times on top of being asked a million questions.
Now? There was nothing. A quiet hush waved over him making him wonder if this was a dream. He leaned forward and rang the bell and waited. There was no answer. Security remained elusive and Ivan didn't understand how this was possible. Unless there was external security somewhere monitoring remotely and ready to act if necessary.
The clock struck, alerting Ivan that he had ten minutes to get to his destination. He signed the open visitors' log and walked through the doors on the right-hand side of the desk. He made a quick stop in one of the bathrooms, deciding to continue as normal instead of leaving or calling the number he had. He knew where his new office was, it made sense to go there and see what was going on.
Perhaps this was part of the welcoming committee, some light hazing for the new boy. The lack of welcome wouldn't matter if he was late on his first day and Ivan kept going, marvelling at how empty the hallways were. His phone buzzed several times but he didn't dare look at it.
At least not until he heard the screaming.
A loud, tortured wail that had him running, pulling out the small device just in case he needed to make an emergency call. Instead, he stumbled upon a large conference room packed full of people. What struck Ivan was their matching looks of horror. Dread twisted its way up Ivan's spine and he turned to face the large screen that was captivating the room.
He saw three words which made the hairs on the back of his neck stand, his muscles tensing so violently that it stung when he swallowed.
LOST IN SPACE
His fingers trembled and his phone clattered to the ground. The world had been abuzz over the past few days with what was being hailed as the next big innovation - space travel. After years and years of research and flight runs, the SS GLOBO had set off, full of most of the world leaders. It was said to be the largest space shuttle built and fully capable of a three-day tour and return trip. Experts had purred over it, commentators dismissed the notion that anything would go wrong.
"Look, if this thing was going to go kaput would the President be going on it? No. People need to calm down."
The conspiracy theorists had other ideas, but nobody listened to them. Even Ivan had spent the better part of yesterday convincing his girlfriend that everyone would be fine.
How wrong he'd been.
"They're gone. They're all gone."
The lone voice seemed to break through the shock because the room erupted into sound. People were running around, barking into their phones and grabbing papers like they were currency.
Ivan could only stare until someone pointed at him and barked, "YOU, FOLLOW ME NOW!"
He glanced around quickly, but there was no one paying close attention to him. He did as he was told, running briskly to keep up with the pace. If his internship didn't work out, he'd have a hell of a story at least. It would pay off one way or another, so he didn't mind being commandeered.
The people in the hallway fell with each swift turn and Ivan realised where he was. It was the room. The war room. The big choices room. The one where politicians gathered to make life or death decisions.
Except this wasn't just life or death, it was somebody - multiple bodies - being lost in the galaxy.
"I should have stopped for coffee," Ivan muttered to himself, loosening his tie while more people spilt into the room. The man who'd asked him to follow him was John Smith. He was a no-nonsense politician who believed in fact and right now he was eyeing Ivan strangely. He nodded once and Ivan understood. This is what he had come here to do.
Turning back to face the room, he took in the sight of the oval table and what seemed like the hundred chairs around it. The smell of roasted coffee hit his nose and someone shoved a laptop into his arms
"We need you to dictate everything."
That was it.
From that moment, Ivan ceased to exist and he could only look on, the lone scribe in a room full of voices.
"The President is gone," Reginald Hunter, the house secretary, said. "We need to announce a transfer of power now."
"We don't know what happened." John looked at Ivan again. "We need to wait until we get the full facts."
Ivan kept his head down from that point, only looking up to steal furtive glances. He didn't want anyone to notice that he wasn't supposed to be here.
"For God's sake John, the space shuttle blew up. We all saw it on live television, and we were damn lucky the general public got a five minute time delay."
"Think about what you're saying, Reginald. We need to see how the other nations are handling it first."
…and on and on they went, voices getting more and more animated. They were discussing people's deaths like it was an inconvenience and acting like the crash was something bothersome and irritating. Ivan grew harried while typing, struggling to conceal his disdain for the people in the room.
Eventually, they switched back to the news and silence dawned when the newscaster appeared. The ticker at the bottom of the screen was still screaming "BREAKING NEWS: LOST IN SPACE" but this time Ivan wasn't full of confusion. Instead, his stomach was churning violently and he wished he'd never stepped past the empty desk.
He wished he hadn't accepted this job.
"Good evening, and welcome to all viewers. News broke hours ago that several world leaders were lost in space. We can now confirm that all world leaders who were on the shuttle are considered to be gone."
It was an odd choice of words.
Not dead, but gone.
Ivan thought about how he'd feel if he'd known any of them. To hear that they were just gone. Not dead or hurt, or blown to smithereens, but gone.
"Is this a joke, John? Gone? That's what we're going through? We need to be honest with the public or we can kiss re-election goodbye."
Ivan shook his head after he'd typed the words. He was never a political person or even a patriotic man, but everything he'd seen and heard so far made him question them. For one, they didn't seem to be affected by what happened. It was all stock market, re-election, power, power and power.
"Reginald, re-election is the least of our worries. If anyone finds out that we sat on that report from last week…"
The room fell silent.
John's face ran through a colour palette, morphing from rosy red to white. To the untrained person, it might seem like the man was genuinely frozen stuff, but there was a gleam in his eyes. He knew what he was doing.
There was one more glance at Ivan, a subtle: 'are you getting this?'.
"What report?" Vice President Anne McManus asked. She'd been oddly quiet during the meeting, something which Ivan thought was a calculated move. If she pushed for the transfer of power, she'd seem ambitious, if she sat there and let the discussion flow…no one could accuse her of anything. It was the perfect strategy.
Reginald cleared his throat and shot John a dark look. "There was no report Ms Vice President."
John slammed his hand down onto the oak table. "No. No. Mr President was an honourable man and what you did. What we all did was send him to his d--"
"John, I think you need to leave." Reginald sounded bored almost. "You're too close to this."
It was over quickly. Security rushed in and glided out, removing John with such swiftness that it was like he'd never been there at all.
Anne McManus turned to Reginald, and what she said sent a chill down Ivan's spine. "What were you saying about a transfer of power?"
Ivan sat in that room typing for the next two hours, and by the time he stumbled out he had a thumb drive full of information concealed in his pen. It had been a gag gift from his girlfriend, but it'd come in handy.
In a few hours, Anne McManus would be announced as the new President.
…and Ivan was certain she'd done something to that shuttle. Positioned her way to the top by staging the most audacious of coups. It was no coincidence that she was one of the people who had spearheaded the SS GLOBO project. And now she was about to sliver her way into the top seat.
Stepping into the bathroom, Ivan took out a pair of glasses and slipped them on, walking into a stool to retrieve a backpack he'd stashed there earlier before he stumbled across the room full of people.
He activated the button on the glasses he did a sweep of the room and determined it to be empty. He pressed the button again, twice this time. "This is Agent 57 reporting from the Mountain Top. We are a go. Repeat we are a go. The asset has been extracted and I'm uploading the information now."
With that, he changed his outfit and used a small comb to change his hairstyle. He slipped out of the bathroom, reactivating the cameras that had been jammed from the moment he'd stepped into the bathroom.
By the time anyone figured out what had happened, he'd be long gone. Smiling to himself, he walked out, flashing his second ID badge at the lone security guard who was now stationed by the reception area.
"It's terrible what happened isn't it," the guard said, barely looking at Ivan.
"Don't worry," Ivan reassured him. "They'll get to the bottom of what happened."
Being part of the cleanup crew wasn't the ideal job, but Ivan would never lie.
He got a kick out of taking people like Anne McManus down in plain sight. Plus, with what he had he was looking at a promotion. His job had been simple.
Infiltrate and find out if she was dirty.
Now it was up to the right people to do what was necessary to honour the lives that had been lost.