Lawrence found the President of the Colonial Assembly in Chong’s office in New Canaveral.
“Thank god you’re here,” Assembler Catherine Hamala said. “We’ve had no word from Vice President Hashimoto.  They were about to swear me in today.”
Lawrence decided to skip the normal dig he’d take at Hamala’s pretended lack of ambition. “What do you mean no word?”
“Perhaps you’d better tell me what’s going on Lawrence,” Hamala took a stern tone.
President Chong is on his way up, so perhaps we should sit down outside his office and discuss,” countered Lawrence.
Hamala inclined her head and came out from behind Chong’s desk. “Very well.”
Lawrence had the patience to wait to make her talk, but he didn’t need it.  She began to spill all she knew as they sat down in the outer recption room tothe President’s office.
“When the President’s abduction was reported, Hashimoto was sworn in as acting Chief Executive of the UMC. He wasn’t given the title of President until we knew what had happened for sure. He received some intelligence but wouldn’t share it with me. The last I heard from him, he was in Tranquility and told me he had sensitive information on the President’s whereabouts but that I needed to assume a ready position in case something happened, which I did.” She looked a little put out, as if Lawrence had been accusing her of something for being in the President’s office. “I’ve heard nothing since. Hashimoto was very secretive.  He gave out no information for fear he would risk the rescue. He ordered everyone to stay away from Tranquility for now. That’s all I know.  We were about to countermand his order and issue a search group to go to Tranquility.  When they reported back, if they couldn’t find him, they were going to swear me in as acting chief. That’s when I heard from you that Chong was on his way. The opposition is having a field day, asking all kinds of questions about who’s running the country, and why the President and Vice President have been so secretive. What’s happened to the Vice President?”
“We don’t know,” Lawrence admitted. “Hashimoto rescued President Chong and Speaker Malinao and I was rescued separately by an underground group in Armstrong. The President met with me there before proceeding here. Apparentl the Vice President and the Speaker had other business to attend to in Tranquility, but we haven’t heard from them either.”
“Well, it’s the President’s call now, but I think he should allow the group to go to Tranquility and investigate.”
“I agree.  I’ll inform President Chong of your advice.”
“And what’s all this about a cloning policy speech?  Is this the right time for that?  It seems incredibly out of place?”
“Does it?” said Chong as he came into the room.
“Mr. President,” Hamala and Lawrence stood up.
“I know there are a lot of questions.  I’ll have a briefing for the cabinet and key Assemblers right away. But the policy speech is more important now than ever.  You’ll see why when I brief you.  But suffice to say for now, the Fundys aren’t gone and their involved in cloning.”
“So you want to make it legal!?” Hamala cried.
“We want to prevent them from having any advantage in it being illegal,” Chong explained. “As I said, you’ll see in the briefing why.”
Hamala just shook her head. “I hope you know what you’re doing Chong.  The opposition is calling for your head.  There hasn’t been a President recalled by the Assembly in 70 years and I’d rather not fight a recall vote under my leadership.”
“You won’t.  I think the briefing will take the wind out of their sales.”
Hamala didn’t look convinced but took her leave of the President anyway.
“Lawrence, set up that briefing in time to give me an hour or so to sit down with Ford Junior and prepare the speech.”
“Yes sir– uh– Ford Junior? You mean Mr. Ford, don’t you sir?”
“No, I want Ford Junior,” he sighed. “Just do it Lawrence.  I have my reasons.”
lawrence was taken aback. That was not Chong’s usual style.  IF he didn’t want to explain himself he usually just kept quiet not admonish like that.  It’s one of the reasons Lawrence loved working for him.
“Very good sir, I’ll see to it.”
“Thank you.  Close the door on your way out.”
“The door.”
Lawrence shut the door. That also was way out of character. Chong made a point of never closing his door.  If he really needed privacy he asked Lawrence to just keep people out of ear shot.  He wanted the symbol of transparency to be dead clear. It was dogmatic. Why the sudden change? Unfortunately Lawrence didn’t have time to speculate.  The president had been through a lot.  No doubt it had shaken them all up and knocked themselves out of their usual routines.  He had work to do to get the Assembly leaders and the cabinet together for  atop level meeting on short notice. He’d better get to it.
As he left the office he thought he saw someone in the hallway duck out of sight.
He defeinitely heard whispers.
“Who’s there,” lawrence stroded down the hall, ready to call security.  He found Ford Junior hiding behind a plant.
“Junior?  What are you doing here?”
“Please don’t be mad, I was just so curious.  I know I’m not supposed to be here.  I just wanted to see.”
“No, it’s all right.  The President will want to see you in a few hours. Come with me and I’ll give you a badge so you don’t get tossed out.”
“Can I meet you there?  I have to go to the bathroom.”
“There’s a bathroom on the way.  I need to stay with you until your properly credentialed.”
Ford looked worried. “Uh– OK. Let’s hurry though.”
Lawrence started to lead him back down the hallway.
“Oh wait I dropped something behind the plant.  I’m sorry I’ll be right back.”
Lawrence waited impatiently while Ford fished around for something on the floor.
As Ford leaned down behind the plant, Narang hissed at him from the dark at the base of the pot. “Go, he’ll make you suspicious.  We’ll finish this later.”
Ford nodded and picked up a small plastic trading card of an Ahsaas Colony Movie Star.
“Found it!” he yelled to Lawrence.
“Come on then,” Lawrence shouted.
Ford gave one last look at the hidden Narang and ran back up the hallway.