The meeting in the Brooklyn safe house lasts for hours. The aerial view of the city is wiped out from the wall, replaced by a zoomed high-resolution picture of where we are, the vast warehouse, outside in the street first, then a roaming view across the corridor we had followed on our arrival, and, finally the room where we sit. Sarah and I look at each other, she later said I was as pale as a ghost. The general explains that these views are taken, live, by a drone above us at an altitude of twelve hundred meters. There is a silent pause. Then I say: “I do not know of any sensor capable of that level of precision across solid walls.” Everyone is quiet, then Elga breaks the silence. “You are right Julian. We have used” – I notice the “we” – “a US Airforce drone, but also a little cloud of Coven-technology sensors, controlled through it…” I look straight into Elga’s blue on blue eyes, then at Melissa, I see them both smiling, and behind those smiles I cannot avoid thinking of alien minds, calculating, unassailable to any human being. At that moment I am convinced that my friend is there, but she no longer is the woman I had known, but someone – I hate the thought of thinking “something” – completely different. I also sense that both of them, certainly Melissa, are determined to convince me that it is not the case, and I saw in Melissa’s face the beginning of seduction, as if saying “Look at my soul, Julian, can you challenge my humanity?”.
The general resumes his exposé. The Great Power, her competitor in the East and the Coven are cooperating for the benefit of peace. The GP needs some of the Coven’s technology to achieve her goals. So, important and complex negotiations are taking place. There is a need for discretion, even secrecy, but also carefully tailored information to be presented to the public – a worldwide public – other than through the ordinary channels of commercial TV, radio and newspapers. They will be involved, but the new Alliance – the general actually uses the phrase “the new Alliance” – is creating its own channel. And this is where we come in, the three of us, Sarah, Mel and me…
There is danger, the general continues. Some countries and interests have deep suspicions about what the GP is about. There are jealousies and fear. Incidents may be misrepresented. False news may frighten the public. The conference in Berlin will be the locus for an official launch of the New Alliance. The general pauses, as if to let us reflect.
In a soft voice Gabrielle speaks for the first time. “Melissa and I are moving to Paris in order to prepare for this. You two are invited to join us next month. We have much to discuss to get you up to speed. For the time being the small town is off limits.” I am tempted to ask what is off limits and why, but a look from Sarah convinces me to hold back. The general concludes his account by asking us if we have any question. To her credit Sarah realises that I am in no emotional state to reply. “We are grateful, she says soberly, for your trust and, smiling in the direction of Gabrielle and Elga, that of our friends here. As you all know, in turn, Julian and I have entrusted Melissa to give us support as we endeavour to serve the cause of peace.” Everybody is smiling and Elga, yes, Elga comes to me and hugs me. Soon, after saying good bye to the general, we are walking down the corridor to the lift. Our guard is waiting. This time both Melissa and Gabrielle are with us. As Melissa drives us out of the warehouse, we are on our way back to Long Island for the evening. A grey van is following us, its windows reflecting the sunset light.