Disorder of Succession, Part 3

This is a continuation of “Disorder of Succession” released (and occurring) 23 February 2017


The following is a work of fantasy. Any resemblance between our characters and real-world people is imaginary and meant for entertainment purposes only. Any resemblance between events depicted below and events in the real world is surely just your and our imagination.

“I’m asking you, if you had to guess, gun to your head — what the fuck was General Mattis doing in Abu fucking Dhabi on an ‘unannounced visit’ just three days after his boy Harward — dreamboat badass war hero-slash-criminal turned military industrial corporate shill that he is — said no to the National Security Advisor gig?” Brook Weber took a long pull off her freshly lit cigarette, as if to punctuate her overdrawn sentence.

“How the fuck should I know? And who said you could smoke in here?” Alex Lee was no longer amused by Brook’s slobcore approach to everything but her journalistic craft — particularly in the ways she made her presence felt whenever she spent the night. It had been slightly endearing to learn Brook occasionally puts toilet seats up after sitting to pee, some kind of quirky performance art. Less endearing was her picking and planting of toenails around Alex’s small apartment, or the random, dude-like ass slapping and grabbing. And now there was smoking. She was the best writer Alex knew, and she was an amazing lay, but Brook was unnervingly crude.

“Just tell me that isn’t fishy, and we can drop it,” Brook implored as her smoke began to linger in the late morning light.

After half listening the previous night to Brook unfold her latest convoluted fantasy of what was “really happening” in the halls of power, sobriety had not made Alex more susceptible to Brook’s logic. Even though Brook was a respected journalist who did excellent investigations in addition to biting analysis of major geopolitical and strategic matters, Alex thought Brook was losing her grip.

It had started small, before the inauguration, when Trump’s team announced James Mattis would be the next Secretary of Defense. Brook had made a name for herself pursuing unpopular stories about drone strikes and other operations in Obama’s many wars on the Muslim world. That was basically the Mattis beat, since he was head of US Central Command in Brook’s formative years as an independent journalist. She’d spent years cultivating a deep hatred of Mattis as he distorted reality and excused atrocities in press events and interviews. All these years later, she grew overwhelmed by an eerie sense of dread, somehow greater than that invoked by Donald Trump himself, when her old foe got the nod to run the Pentagon.

Brook started digging immediately. She filed numerous stories about the Trump cabinet, most of them centering more on Mattis as a driving force either complementing or balancing Steve Bannon’s considerable power. It appeared to Brook’s friends that she had decided Mattis was the one to watch, even while his spectacle-addicted boss was flailing and shouting and tweeting. To Brook, it was more like Mattis was her one to watch. Mattis was a threat she thought she could get ahead of.

On Sunday, Brook had been putting the finishing touches on her story about the balance of power among the President’s national security team when one of her sources inside the Pentagon called her back and ominously told her to look where Mattis was. Sure enough, Abu Dhabi, current home of retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, the man who just disappointed Mattis quite publicly.

Brook knew Harward even better than she knew Mattis, but she’d thought him gone from the scene permanently. When he surfaced as Trump’s top pick to replace Flynn, Brook thought Trump would dislike Harward if he bothered to actually interview him. He would not have pumped Trump’s ego; it would have gotten ugly fast.

Brook would have been astonished if Harward had taken the job. But if she knew that, she figured Mattis must have as well. So why did he drag his old friend through the routine?

The whole affair stunk, unless Mattis had flown 12 hours just to tell Harward off for calling his and Trump’s offer a “shit sandwich,” the assessment heard around the world.

Alex geared up to get Brook off this latest iteration of her obsession with Mattis. “First, why is it so weird for a general to go visit troops in the Gulf states on his way to Baghdad? The Iraq leg is why the trip was unannounced. The whole thing was probably planned for weeks, if not longer. Probably long before Flynn got canned.”

“That’s fine; Flynn doesn’t have to have even been fired for my theory to work. Harward just has to be instrumental to Mattis’s plot. And like I said last night, I found out the trip wasn’t planned.”

“You have a single source saying he didn’t know of any trip until two days before Mattis went.”

“Someone who would have known,” Brook retorted. “My theory holds.”

“Let’s not go calling it a ‘theory,’ love,” Alex sneered, prompting Brook to blow smoke toward her lover.

“At least open a damn window,” Alex protested, before picking up the thread. “So let’s say you’re right: Mattis abused his authority and used military resources to pay his friend a visit. I’m not sure your exposé on the affair will get the clicks you’re hoping for. The trip doesn’t have to mean they were conspiring. Maybe the geezer just wanted an excuse to go visit his old war buddy. Whom you have not put in a room with Mattis, may I remind you.”

Brook scowled at Alex, but she could make no real argument.

Alex got out of bed but didn’t bother putting her robe on as she headed to the bathroom, leaving the door open. “Second, for the sake of ridiculous argument, what if you are onto — Jesus fuck, Brook!”

“Sorry, babe,” Brook called out, then chuckled. She hadn’t left Alex a seatless toilet in weeks, though she had not been around much, either. Brook wandered into the kitchen, out of sight, but her lover’s words were loud and clear from the bathroom.

“Grow up, Brook!”

Brook ashed into the sink.

“Is the problem that you are short on leaks?” Alex yelled from the toilet. “Are you somehow unaware of the leak volcano that is this administration? I have some you can run with, and I’m not even a journalist.”

Brook reflexively spoke louder over the sound of the flushing toilet. “Because I’m not a lazy fuck like all these other buzzards circling Washington, hoping to fight for one unique scrap of the next big dead story, and swallowing at least as many bad tips as good in the process. And every fucking leak and tip out there is about yesterday’s news. I’m looking for tomorrow’s story.” As Alex emerged from the bathroom, Brook dragged on her cigarette and spoke through the smoke as she exhaled, “Besides, I’ve got more than that coincidence. I’ve got a meeting today with an intel source who says I’m onto something.”

“The hell you do,” Alex stomped. “I don’t have to believe Trump is going to have to cry out ‘et tu Mattis?’” — Alex clutched her stomach and performed the accusation of treachery to impress upon Brook the extent to which she thought the ‘coup’ story was a joke. “I can still think you shouldn’t be meeting up with someone claiming they have info on such things. Do you really not see this?”

“You’re worried about me? That’s adorable,” Brook teased, but also taking it as indication Alex saw some credence to her… hypothesis.

“I’m worried you’re playing with fire. And I admit I don’t get what all could be happening, but have you even stopped to wonder what you’re hoping to learn? Or what you would do with it? Do you want to be the reporter who uncovered the coup plot Donald Trump harped on for eight long years as justification for crushing dissent down to the atomic level?”

“You are so worried. You’re getting soft.”

“Right, soft, for not wanting you to get disappeared. You are incapable of acknowledging risk, aren’t you? Look, just because I’m not gullible enough to marry your bi-promiscuous ass, doesn’t mean I don’t care if you live or die.” Raising an eyebrow, Alex added, “Besides, you’ve never once proposed to me sober.”

“Because this is how you are in the morning,” Brook quipped, tossing her cigarette in the sink and approaching Alex. “You’re like a hangover for my inspiration. You weren’t shitting on all my ideas last night on that booze, weed, and Molly.”

“Your conspiracy theories are better when we’re both high and wet, as are your other kinds of ideas.” Alex grinned at her own remark, but she turned and offered only her cheek when Brook leaned down for a kiss. “Brush your fucking teeth, and no more smoking in the apartment.”

Looking forward to Brook’s biggest scoop ever? The story continues in Part 4. Follow us on Medium or sign up to receive updates about Disorder of Succession, the story of a parallel present serialized in real time.

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