Wow, thank you guys so much for all the love on the first chapter! Seeing y'all's excitement makes me excited to write it! I hope you enjoy this chapter 3
"...and Mr. Jackson will introduce you to the President's staff. Then you'll head down to the Situation Room for an intelligence briefing with Alex Kane from the Pentagon about recent events in North Africa. After that is your first confirmation interview. You'll be meeting with a Dr. Henry McCord from the Office of Government Ethics. He'll ask you some questions, probably about your time at the CIA as well as some personal questions. This is just a routine part of the vetting process, and since it's the first interview it'll probably be-"
"How much longer till we get to the White House?"
Blake looked at his watch. "I think about 5 minutes."
"Do you think it's possible for us to spend at least three of them in silence?"
"Well, I think we've covered just about everything, Dr. Adams. I look forward to working with you," said Alex Kane from the Pentagon, extending his hand.
Elizabeth took it. "Thank you so much, Mr. Kane. I do as well."
With that, Elizabeth was leaving her first ever meeting in the Situation Room. She found Blake waiting patiently in the hall for her, and they set off for the next meeting. "How did it go?" he asked.
"Good, I think. I understood pretty much everything, but that didn't stop Alex Kane from the Pentagon from saying it all at least twice."
Blake was already making a note. "I'll try to make sure they send someone else next time."
"Thanks, Blake. What's next?"
"Now you have your interview with Dr. McCord from the Office of Government Ethics. And I believe," he flipped through his notes, "that it's one floor up," he said, turning a corner toward where he knew the stairs would be.
"Lead the way," said Elizabeth.
Soon enough, they made their way to the right room. "This is it," said Blake. "Need anything from me?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "I'm good if you're good." Blake nodded and went to find a place to wait for her. Elizabeth took a deep breath and opened the door. A brown-haired man in reading glasses was sitting at the end of a small conference table, looking at a file, presumably on her. He looked up when he heard the door and smiled brightly.
"Dr. Adams," he said, extending his hand, which she took. "I'm Henry," he said.
"And I'm Elizabeth," she replied. "It's nice to meet you, although you probably already know everything about me."
"Including that you were in the CIA, meaning you know everything about me," he joked, eliciting a slight laugh from her. "Anyway, it's nice to put a face to a name."
"Likewise," she said, pulling out a chair at the corner of the table. "Shall we?"
"Of course," he said, and they both sat. "Should I assume you know the purpose of these meetings?" he asked.
"You want to make sure I don't have a history of drug abuse or an illegitimate child hiding somewhere?"
He chuckled. "Well, those would be the extremes. Mainly I'm here to make sure that we know about anything that could trip up your confirmation process ahead of time, so we'll be prepared for it."
Elizabeth nodded. "I think I can handle that."
"Great. Well, let's get started," he said, opening his folder to reveal what looked like a copy of her resume, as well as some papers where he had taken some notes. She imagined the many other pages were documents pertaining to her time at the CIA, her family, and every other aspect of her life. "As we go forward, these meetings will get a little more in-depth. But for starters, I've got some basic questions about your time at the CIA."
Henry had been at home for about an hour when he decided to call his daughter at school. The first time Stevie had come home during her first semester at Lovell, he had been astonished at how much he was missing. Since then he made an effort to call her once a week. Sometimes she answered; sometimes she didn't, but he always wanted her to feel like he wanted to talk to her.
He knew she had just finished up with midterms, so he hadn't talked to her in over two weeks. He was relieved when she answered the phone.
"Hey, Dad, what's up?" she asked, sounding a bit breathy.
"Hey, sweetheart, I just hadn't heard from you in a while and wanted to check in. Is this an okay time? You sound a little out of breath."
"Yeah, it's fine. I'm just walking back to my dorm from Statistics."
"Oh, well how'd that go?" Henry asked, settling into his seat on the couch.
"Uhh, it was fine. Kind of boring." Stevie arrived at her dorm building and fished for her key in her pocket. "What about you? How was work?"
"It was interesting, actually. I got to interview Dalton's appointee for Secretary of State."
"Oh, I heard about that. What did you think of her? What's her name again?"
"Elizabeth Adams. She seemed like the perfect choice for the job. She worked for the CIA for over 20 years, lived in Baghdad for a year and a half, so she'll be prepared to handle the Middle East, that's for sure."
"Well that's good, I guess. Has she ever held office before?"
"No, she's been a college professor for the past eight years. My understanding is that she left the CIA right after her divorce."
"That makes sense. You think she can handle going from college professor to government official in one day?"
Henry grinned. "I managed it okay."
"Yeah, but you went from ethics professor to working in the Office of Ethics. I don't think that's quite as big a leap."
"Well, she can hire advisors who are proficient in fields she's lacking in. All great politicians do that."
"It sounds like she's already got you in her corner."
"Well, I still have a lot more vetting to do. But from where I'm standing, if I were a Senator...I'd vote for her.
"You know, my friend Hannah asked me the other day what you do. I told her you work in the Office of Government Ethics, which basically means you fight to keep corruption out of the government."
"And what did she say?"
"That the two are synonymous. 'One cannot exist without the other.'"
"Is your friend Hannah a philosophy major?"
Elizabeth was in the middle of a meeting with her new staff. They were finalizing her schedule for the next two weeks leading up to her confirmation hearing when Blake walked into the room.
"Madam Secretary, we need to leave in 5 minutes to make your meeting with Dr. McCord. Should I have the car get ready for you?"
"Oh, that was the other thing I wanted to mention," said Elizabeth, addressing the rest of her staff. "I want to hire Dr. McCord."
"Ma'am?" said Blake, calling her attention back to his question.
"Right. Yes, go ahead and get them ready."
"Ma'am," said Jay, "I'm sorry, you want to hire the ethics advisor?"
"He has worked for NSA, DIA, and is a former marine. He's brilliant and understands...pretty much every religion in the world. I want him at the table."
Nadine was taking notes. "Would you like me to arrange to meet with him?"
"No, that's fine. I'll interview him."
"Yes, ma'am," Nadine said curtly.
"Well, I have to be going now," said Elizabeth. "When I come back, I want to see talking points. We'll pick this up after lunch."
With that, she was out the door. Blake hurried to follow her to the elevator. "Would you like me to set something up with Dr. McCord?"
"No, I'll do it. I don't want it to be too professional, you know? It's not like he's competing for the job. I mostly just want to gauge his interest."
"So what do you think of me hiring Dr. McCord?" she asked him.
"I think it's a brilliant idea," he replied, hitting the ground button on the elevator wall.
"And how would you feel if I wanted to not hire him?"
"It would definitely be the perfect decision."
"Uh huh. And if I decided to dye my hair green?" she looked at him skeptically.
He said in mock seriousness, "you know, ma'am, it is just that kind of out-of-the-box thinking that this country needs right now."
"That's all of my questions. Is there anything else we need to cover?" Henry asked Elizabeth. They were nearing the end of their final meeting, and Elizabeth was surprised to find herself relatively at ease with the process she had been dreading.
"What do you mean?" she asked him.
"Well, is there anything else you're worried could come up during the confirmation? Anything at all?"
"I don't think so. I mean, we've covered the CIA, my divorce, my time at UVA as a student and a professor. What should I be concerned about?"
"Anything that could be made to look bad. I don't mean to pry, but besides your divorce we haven't talked much about your family. Do you think anything could come up about your brother or your kids?"
Elizabeth took a deep breath. "Well, my brother is a trauma surgeon in war-torn countries, so his approval rating will probably be higher than mine. My kids are...well, they're great," she said, a smile appearing on her face as she talked about them. "I mean, my son is a self-proclaimed anarchist. Think that might cause any problems?"
Henry smiled back at her. "He's twelve, right?"
"Has he ever tried to overthrow the government?"
"Not as such, no."
"Then I think he'll be fine."
"I'm glad to hear it."
Henry began shuffling his papers into one large stack that he then put back in the folder they came from. "So how does an anarchist feel about his mother becoming the Secretary of State?"
"I think he's conflicted. He's a good kid, he wants to be supportive. But I think he's probably worried I'll fall prey to the corrupt powers-that-be. Or maybe he thinks I'm part of the corruption now, I don't know."
"Well, if he's lucky, you'll start a revolution from the inside."
"Careful now," she joked. "You never know when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee could be listening." Henry laughed.
"Well, if all goes well, I should see you at the confirmation," he said. "If not sooner," he added quickly, a dash of hope in his voice.
"You know, actually I wanted to talk about that," she said, not noticing the way his face lit up just a little. "I've really enjoyed some of the conversations we've had about religion and geopolitics. I was wondering if you'd want to continue them over lunch sometime?"
Henry smiled warmly. "I would love to. Are you free Monday?"
"I'll make sure I am."
"Where do you want to go?"
"I...haven't lived in DC in 8 years," she confessed. "You pick."
"Well, how about I come by your office around 12 on Monday, and we can decide from there."
With that, she was off to her next appointment. Henry watched her go, joined by her eccentric assistant, and found he couldn't wait for the weekend to be over.
Elizabeth, meanwhile, was oblivious to his wondering about her intentions for the meeting. She was looking forward to a somewhat casual job interview, but for now her mind was elsewhere.
For anyone wondering, yes, the Office of Government Ethics really exists.
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