Author's Note:

I've slated this story to start just before the action in The Dover Test (Season Six, Episode 6). It will bleed into it, and then carry on from there.

As a quick recap, in the previous episode - The Hubbert Peak - CJ had been roped into learning how to play chess. In The Dover Test, news comes during the unveiling of the future Bartlet Presidential Library that the US Peacekeeping Compound in Gaza has been attacked and that there has been loss of American life.

The story I'm dropping into the mix is based on real events. I've inserted a few characters from the series, thereby taking a few liberties.

Nancy McNally doesn't appear on the show in Season 6, but I've brought her in for my plotline because I really like her. From what I understand, General Nicholas Alexander replaced Admiral Fitzwallace.

Thank you alix33 and Luppiters for your support ❤︎


Chief of Staff's office
The White House
July 25th, 2005

"What's this?" CJ called out as she picked up the neatly wrapped package on her desk and walked into Margaret's office.

"Charlie brought it. He said it's what you asked for."

"When?"

"After your third chess game .." Margaret said without looking up from the screen across her desk.

CJ tore off the wrapping and hefted the book from one hand to the other.

"Chess for Dummies?" she asked with a laugh. "This isn't what the kid from HUD suggested, is it?"

Margaret didn't respond, and CJ turned round to look at what had her so captivated.

"I can't believe this is still going on .." Margaret said after a while.

CJ shook her head sadly.

"What's it been? A month?"

"Almost."

"I was still Press Secretary when the earthquake hit Indonesia in December of 2004. The tsunami waves killed 300 and displaced tens of thousands on the Somali Coast."

"I remember that."

"And now here we are six months later. Half a million people starving in drought conditions in Somalia, no functioning central government, rival warlords, and then this happens?"

Margaret nodded.

CJ was running a hand through her hair, on the verge of admitting that she felt guiltily relieved this wasn't a problem they had to deal with, when Margaret spoke again.

"I dream about them at night sometimes. Faceless people on a boat with armed gunmen."

"CJ .."

She turned around to see Kate Harper standing in the middle of her office.

Her stomach did an uneasy flip as she realized that if she was standing there, Kate's first stop had to have been the Oval Office.

"State just informed us that there's a situation. You're needed downstairs," she said. "The President is already on his way down."

"I'll let Senior staff know that the morning meeting is pushed back," Margaret said as she relieved CJ of the book.

"What's going on?" she asked Kate as they headed downstairs.

"Nothing good," was all Kate said. To prove her point she added, "General Alexander, Nancy McNally .. both here.

"Mr. President .." she acknowledged as she took a seat to his left.

"What's going on?" Jed Bartlet asked as General Nicholas Alexander took up a position by the brightly lit screens on the wall.

CJ recognized part of the African map.

"June 23rd .. the United Nation's World Food Program-chartered vessel MV Semlow left the Kenyan port of Mombasa" the General began. "Destined for Bossaso in Puntland."

"Carrying 850 tonnes of rice donated by Japan and Germany," Nancy McNally supplied, reading from her notes.

"June 27th .. the Semlow was hijacked by Somali pirates between Haradheere and Hobyo" the General indicated on the map, "about 186 miles northeast of the capital, Mogadishu."

"The crew included a Sri Lankan captain, a Tanzanian engineer and eight Kenyan crew members."

"The boat was carrying enough food aid for around 28,000 tsunami survivors," CJ interjected.

"Correct," said Nancy. "They made a demand for a half a million dollar ransom - which the WFP refused to pay."

"Early July .." the General continued, "the WFP suspended shipments of humanitarian assistance to Somalia."

The tension in the room escalated as Nancy McNally stood up.

They knew all of this, so whatever was coming next was the reason they'd been called here.

"Ten minutes ago State informed us that Reuters was contacted by phone from an undisclosed location on the Somali mainland by Mohammed Abdi Hassan".

"Mohammed Abdi Hassan?" Bartlet asked.

"He claimed his men are holding the Semlov at anchor and that they intend to release some of the crew and .. one of the American journalists."

The President leaned forward in his seat.

"Are you telling me that American citizens have been held hostage for almost a month and this is the first we're hearing of it?"

"Yes, Sir."

A photo of a brunette flashed onto the screen.

"Skye Sinclair, freelance photojournalist. Works mostly for National Geographic. The best we can ascertain is that she and the other reporter were working together on a human interest story. She is the journalist they plan to release with the crew."

"Do we know who the other journalist is?"

Nancy hesitated long enough for a second photo to flash onto the screen.

"Danny Concannon, on special assignment for the Washington Post. Sir, they've given us the courtesy of a heads up, and considering the relationship between the White House and Mr. Concannon, I'd advocate briefing the Press Corps ourselves before the news breaks."

"CJ .. brief the press," Jed Bartlet said without looking at her.

"Yes, Sir."

"Have they given a timeline for the release?" he asked Kate.

"Not yet, Sir. We'll keep you apprised."

The President's eyes shifted from her to General Alexander and then to Nancy McNally.

"What about Danny Concannon?"

"This just came in. We'll work on it with State," she said.

The President left the room with a curt nod.

"You doing okay?" he asked CJ as they exited into the hallway.

"Yes, Sir. Excuse me .. I'll see you at the unveiling."