Close Liaisons

Prologue

Five Years Earlier

“Mr. President, they’re all waiting for you.”

The President of the United States of America looked up wearily and shut the folder lying on his desk. He had slept poorly for the past week, his mind occupied by the deteriorating situation in the Middle East and the continued weakness in the economy. While no president had it easy, it seemed like his term had been marked by one impossible task after another, and the daily stress was beginning to affect his health. He made a mental note to get himself checked out by the doctor later this week. The country didn’t need a sick and exhausted president on top of all of its other woes.

Getting up, the President exited the Oval Office and headed toward the Situation Room. He had been briefed earlier that NASA had detected something unusual. He’d hoped that it might be nothing more than a stray satellite, but that didn’t appear to be the case, given the urgency with which the National Security Advisor requested his presence.

Entering the room, he greeted his advisors and sat down, waiting to hear what necessitated this meeting.

The Secretary of Defense spoke first. “Mr. President, we have discovered something in Earth’s orbit that doesn’t belong there. We don’t know what it is, but we have reason to believe that it may be a threat.” He motioned toward the images displayed on one of the six flat screens lining the walls of the room. “As you can see, the object is large, bigger than any of our satellites, but it seems to have come out of nowhere. We didn’t see anything launching from any point on the globe, and we haven’t detected anything approaching Earth. It’s as though the object simply appeared here a few hours ago.”

The screen showed several pictures of a dark blur set against a dark, starry background.

“What does NASA think it could be?” the President asked calmly, trying to analyze the possibilities. If the Chinese had come up with some new satellite technology, they would have already known about it, and the Russian space program was no longer what it used to be. The presence of the object simply didn’t make any sense.

“They don’t know,” the National Security Advisor said. “It doesn’t look like anything they’ve ever seen before.”

“NASA couldn’t even venture an educated guess?”

“They know it’s not any kind of an astronomical body.”

So it had to be man-made. Puzzled, the President stared at the images, refusing to even contemplate the outlandish idea that had just occurred to him. Turning to the Advisor, he asked, “Have we reached out to the Chinese? Do they know anything about this?”

The Advisor opened his mouth, about to reply, when there was a sudden flash of bright light. Momentarily blinded, the President blinked to clear his vision – and froze in shock.

In front of the screen that the President had just been looking at, there was now a man. Tall and muscular, he had black hair and dark eyes, and his olive skin contrasted with the white color of his outfit. He stood there calmly, relaxed, as though he had not just invaded the inner sanctum of the United States government.

The Secret Service agents reacted first, shouting and firing at the intruder in panic. Before the President could think, he found himself pushed against the wall, with two agents forming a human shield in front of him.

“There’s no need for that,” the intruder said, his voice deep and sonorous. “I don’t intend to hurt your president – and if I did, there’s nothing you can do about it.” He spoke in perfect