Melissa drives us at the top permitted speed, avoiding the slower traffic on the turnpike with remarkable skill. This morning she wears black jeans and a blue shirt, her beautiful hair held in a severe bun: her face is taut and serious and she wears no makeup. Sitting next to Julian at the back, as she requested, I observe on the front seat the holster, with the black and flat handgun, the same as she drew out yesterday at our arrival on Long Island. The uniformed officer who came out of the house at that instant would not have stood a chance, had he shown himself to be a foe: our friend had him framed, her steady hand still as rock. To me her posture then was a revelation: the calm and impeccable hold, feet well positioned on the ground, legs a little apart: a trained marksman or assassin. I did not share my reaction with Julian. I think he admires Melissa more than ever, and she frightens him already enough.
We are on our way to meet Gabrielle and Elga again, this time in very different surroundings. Melissa told us last night that we would meet the high ranking Great Power officer, who is now the official liaison with the Coven. We know that after the flurry of media speculation, following the press conference Melissa and Julian attended, there has been a lull. Television channels have been especially sober in any reportage related to the Coven, or any event attributed to it. The name is now out, and no-one knows for sure who it is or what it is for, other than promoting world peace. No extra-terrestrial, let alone galactic, connection is suggested anywhere. The tone of the few articles is only sober and respectful: journalists have been told by their editors to keep it that way, or else.
We reach the freeway in the direction of Brooklyn. Melissa explains that our escort – a grey SUV with reflecting black windows which has been trailing us since Long Island – will now precedes us and that another car will take its place. Soon enough a dark blue van is on our tail, I cannot see inside either but notice the tall antenna on its roof.
As we reach Brooklyn Melissa slows down. We are sandwiched by our escort, front and back. After half an hour through the streets Melissa turns off and the car faces what looks like a massive warehouse. The SUV is in front of us, soon a huge metal door opens and the three cars move in. The door closes.
The escort wears dark overalls and masks. They carry short machine guns. Melissa leads us towards a staircase, preceded by two armed masked men. The stairs lead to a small room with a lift. There is no button or visible control near the lift. It opens, we walk in, the door shuts without a sound. We exit the lift a few seconds later, I think we went up. We now stand in front of a closed door of polished wood. Julian presses my hand, and I can feel his anguish. Then the door opens: Gabrielle is on the threshold, smiling. She signals me to walk in, followed by Julian and Melissa. The door closes silently, I guess our guards stand now by the door.
I follow Gabrielle into a wide corridor, between walls painted a pale ochre. Paintings of boat races and aircrafts ornate these walls. Turning round I see that Melissa is leading Julian by the hand: she smiles and signals me that all is well. Gabrielle opens a door at the end of the corridor: it opens into a large well lit office, and near a massive desk in its middle stands Elga. She is absolutely stunning, her long black hair to the shoulder, wearing a grey suit that perfectly renders her athletic shape in a way I find immediately disturbing. Behind the desk stands a tall man with a crew cut wearing the four stars of a US Air Force general.
Gabrielle does the presentation, and then hugs me. Julian and I shake hands with the general. We are offered comfortable seats and coffee, that Elga serves herself. Julian sits between Melissa and me. I notice that Melissa left the handgun in her car.
The general welcomes us and says how happy he is to meet us at long last. He refers to the press conference but not to the missiles. Then in the quiet and firm voice of a man used to be listened to without fuss, he says that Melissa, Julian and me have been invited to attend a conference of the four largest military powers in the world: the Great Power herself and her Asia challenger, the Russian Federation and Japan. The military Alliance will be also represented. The conference will take place in the fall, in Berlin. Another round of coffee is being served. I relax a little, Elga smiles at me, the general stands up and invites us to look at the view. Then I notice that behind us, where the door stood, is al large bay window. The view is that of the whole of New-York City and a good slice of New Jersey, as if we were at a very high altitude, perhaps a kilometre high. And maybe we are.