UN is the Loneliest Number
Posted By: Arthur Wellesley<email@example.com>
Date: 28 April 2006, 2:34 am
Sunlight crept over the edge of the bed through the parted curtains, the tousled sheets casting long shadows over the occupants' still faces. The soft morning light caused the woman to stir and bury her face deeper into her crisp white pillow with a small sigh. Slowly, she opened her eyes to look into those of the man beside her. She closed her eyes once more and let a bright smile light up her face.
"Good morning," she said in barely more than a whisper.
The man smiled back and brushed a few stray strands of auburn hair from her cheek. He then pulled the covers up higher and settled in more snugly so that his face was nearly touching hers.
"I thought you'd never wake up," he said affectionately.
"And don't you just look like you've been up for hours?" she returned sarcastically.
Eyal Dayan was very much in love with Claire Freeland. She was his anchor to the real world, keeping him grounded when the magnitude of his position distorted his perception of himself and the world. He had not felt like he did when he was with her for a very long time, and for that reason he spent every free night with her, clinging to her as if holding desperately on to a fragment of his past. She embodied something to him; whether it was something he had lost or something he never had, he could never quite tell. In any case, he counted down the moments when he could be with her next, and loved her more than any other in all his life.
A warm breeze drifted in through the open window, blowing the curtains apart further and pushing the strands of hair Eyal had so delicately moved back across Claire's face. She stretched luxuriously and laid her head back on her pillow. "Christ, I don't want to get up."
"Then don't," Eyal said wishfully, glancing at the clock on his bedside table. It read twenty minutes to six. He groaned and collapsed back on the bed.
"Yes, why don't you ask President Roswell for a day off to screw your 'public relations disaster' girlfriend?" she suggested, poking him in the side.
"That's just his way of saying he likes you," he laughed, rolling out of bed from her onslaught.
He quickly threw on a pair of boxers and strolled leisurely out onto his small limestone balcony. He leaned against the railing and breathed in the fresh sea air deeply, admiring from the height of his apartment the beautiful view of the city he had come to love. To his left were the glittering waters of Farm Cove reflecting the soft red light of the sunrise, and to his right was the bustling metropolis of Sydney, which seemed to be waking with him. The gradual building of the sounds of a city at work mingled with the more pleasant sounds of seabirds circling the cove below. He smiled contentedly, though was reminded by the noise of traffic that the pleasant fiction he built for himself each night was coming rapidly to a close.
"It's a beautiful day," he called back to Claire, who was just rising.
"You've got to stop saying that, Eyal," she said. "It's Australia. It's beautiful everyday."
"You're right, of course, hon," he said, deliberately patronizing.
She glared mockingly at him as she entered the bathroom, saying nothing. He heard the shower start soon after.
He turned back to let the view, sitting down on his deck chair to let the sight sink in some more and calm his nerves that always built just before going to work. His days as the Chief of Staff on the United Nations Governing Council were very long and even more stressful. When he had a moment to think clearly, he often contemplated the radical change from his old life as a lawyer in New York to one of the most influential men in the United Nations. He found the work far more fulfilling and exciting than the drudgery of his old career, yet the nature of the job had taken a lot out of him in just the four months he had been appointed to the position. Nevertheless, he was up to the challenge, and felt like he had made more of a difference in the past few months than he had in all his life prior to entering politics.
On the balcony over, a man in a bathrobe appeared with a glass of orange juice to take in the view just as he did.
"Harry!" Eyal shouted over in greeting. "How are you doing? I haven't seen you in a few days."
"Who's that, Eyal?" he called, raising a hand to shelter his eyes from the growing intensity of the sun. "Yea, I've been in Cairo the past couple of days on business. How's Claire?"
"In there," he answered meaningfully, gesturing inside.
Harry laughed. "Good man. Say no more. We should grab a beer sometime, yea?"
"You got it Harry. I'll see you then."
"Right, mate. Have a good one."
Eyal reentered his apartment just as Claire emerged from the bathroom, half dressed and with slightly damp hair. She slipped neatly into her business suit that she had laid somewhat hastily on the bureau the night before.
"You know, if you want to bring some clothes over, that's fine," Eyal said casually as pulled a leather binder from his briefcase to review the day's events.
Claire looked up sharply, halfway through putting on her top. "What?"
"I just mean so that you'd have clean clothes here," he said, stammering.
"Right," she said, averting her eyes as she finished dressing.
As she made to leave, he said in parting, "So I'll see you tonight, then?"
Her eyes quickly glanced over his, but did not hold them. "Yea," she said lightly, grabbing her own briefcase. "Hopefully."
When she left, Eyal stood staring at the door for nearly a minute, his eyes boring into the maple wood with a stunned gaze. Slowly, he shook his head, and smiled ruefully at his absentminded stupidity.
The floor of the Habenae antechamber was made of dark green marble, the walls of sparkling white marble, and lining the room from one end to the other were two dozen black obsidian columns. In the center of the antechamber was an enormous crystal chandelier, and below that, engraved with intricate detail into the floor, was the seal of the United Nations Governing Council. At the far end was a retractable glass wall that today, like most days, was open because of the excellent weather. It permitted a view of the courtyard that lay in the midst of the Habenae, an exquisitely groomed garden full of palm trees, tropical plants, and beautiful marble statues and fountains. It was where most of the press conferences were held and where many of the staff took their daytime meals. Additionally, it filled much of the building with natural light and warm, fresh air.
The most striking feature one noticed upon entering, however, was an extensive and beautiful mural that ran the entire length of each wall, above the many doorways that led to the numerous adjoining corridors. It depicted the long history of the United Nations, beginning with an image of people of coming together under the UN flag amidst the rubble of a ruined twentieth century Europe, through to the joining of all nations following the Rainforest Wars, and ending with the Forsythe Treaty that kept the Confederation of Planets together after the Eridanus Rebellion. It flowed seamlessly from one landmark event to another, and its style was a subtle blending of art from all continents of Earth. It was breathtaking, both for its aesthetic qualities and for all that it stood for.
Usually Eyal would slow his pace when he entered the antechamber to behold the wonder of his surroundings, take in the power and history that surrounded him, and appreciate the fact that he was inside the seat of the executive branch of the United Nations Governing Council. Today, though, he was distracted, for during his commute on the subway over to the Habenae he was called by the President and told unnecessarily to get in as soon as possible. His unsettlement was increased by the sight of President Franklin Roswell and his Security Advisor Sara McKinnon standing silhouetted by the light of the courtyard beyond, talking softly. They had never waited for him like this before.
"Good morning, Mr. President," Eyal said as he approached them.
"Eyal," Roswell acknowledged curtly. Sara nodded in greeting.
"So what's the emergency?" he asked as the President gestured for them to move into the main corridor.
"Are you aware of the situation on Pegasus II?"
"Of course." Pegasus II was a well populated Outer Colony that had supplied Eridanus military during their rebellion in 2494 and offered them their unofficial political support. Although the government responsible was forced out of office by UN pressure when the rebellion was defeated, it remained a hotspot of underground separationist forces. The Pegasus authorities had recently requested Marines from the nearby UNSC Firebolt to aid them in dealing with one such group. It was thought by the UNGC that the move indicated a lack of government control over the Pegasus military.
"Two Marines were killed and five were injured during an ambush near a rebel stronghold on the planet last night. Early reports indicate the shooters may have been wearing PSDF uniforms," Roswell said gravely, referring to the Pegasus Self Defense Force.
"My God," Eyal breathed.
"You know what this means," Sara said agitatedly. "Whenever UNSC personnel are killed by insurgents, the colonies scream rebellion. The fact that they might have actually been Pegasus military makes the situation ten times worse, and potentially ten times more dangerous."
"What is the Pegasus government's response to all this?" Eyal asked.
"Exactly what you'd expect," Roswell answered, turning into Eyal's office for some privacy. "They're circling their wagons, having formally requested all Marines to leave the planet earlier this morning, and feeding us nothing but bullshit when we try and contact them."
"Not even fourteen hours after the requested help arrived on the surface," Sara added. "Just who the hell is running that place, anyway?"
"And the Marines complied?" Eyal asked the President.
"Of course. They had no choice. Staying would have just inflamed the situation." UNSC personnel had no jurisdiction on the colonies' surface, internal matters being the responsibility of local authorities. "That two of their men died on the surface gave them some claim to be there, but we don't want to risk open rebellion again. Needless to say, the Firebolt is staying in-system, and reinforcements are being maneuvered towards Pegasus."
"What is our response?"
"Right now, we don't have an official response," Roswell said with a sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose. His face looked drawn and tired, more than it usually did. "We're going to keep trying to contact their Premiere, though so far they've just stonewalled us. Their consulate is playing a similar game, saying they need to wait for word from their government."
"The Council convenes in three hours," Sara said. The Council was an assembly of all the United Nations representatives from all seven hundred ninety two colonies, as well as those from Reach and Earth. "If the Pegasus government makes a statement there, we will respond accordingly. If not, we have no other option but to assume the killings were either supported by their government or that the PSDF is outside their control. Either case demands action."
Roswell grumbled throatily, obviously disagreeing. "Let's not act without sufficient information, Sara. We don't even have official reports on the actual attack. They're pretty insubstantial."
Sara shook her head, but said nothing. Roswell did not look too convinced himself.
"There is a press conference scheduled an hour after the Council convenes, Eyal," Roswell said after an uncomfortable pause, turning to him. "Jim came in five minutes ago. Tell him to prepare a speech condemning the attacks and stating our intentions to deal with the situation appropriately. Keep it vague though, no specifics on any kind of action. Tell him to keep on his toes, too, in case Pegasus decides to make a move at the Council."
"Yes, sir," Eyal acknowledged, and the three left his office.
He had sensed it would be a particularly long and hellish day the moment he had gotten the call, and his prediction turned out to be more right than his worst estimation. At least he probably wouldn't have to deal with the situation he had created so clumsily with Claire until tomorrow.
Thinking on it as he walked down the long, sunlit corridor, he wasn't quite sure whether or not he was happy about that.