About of ton of Indian food and four hours later, we have a group draft.
“I don’t think there’s anything to add,” Nan says. “The rest will have to be filled in by the DOJ.”
“Shouldn’t we try to direct which agency of the DOJ leads the rules efforts?” Kevin asks, poring over a chart of agencies.
“It would be ideal if we could reach out to agencies and determine who would best support our vision,” Birch says.
“We have time for that?” I ask.
“Of course not,” Birch laughs. “But it would be ideal.”
“So we’re done?” Kevin says, stretching.
“I think the Senator is still here,” Birch says, checking his watch, which is by no means a good tool to measure the Senator’s location. “Nobody move.”
We make a feeble attempt at a joke by freezing. When he’s out the door, I yawn, the exhaustion hitting me squarely.
“I hope this is it,” I whine.
“From your lips…”
In ten minutes, Birch returns. His smile tells the story. He claps the papers onto the table in triumph.
“It’s a go!”
We erupt in the kind of joy only possible after a long day that ends productively. Kevin pours cups of energy drinks and we toast one another. One sip and my stomach lurches.
“Mind if we get out of here?” I ask.
“Oh, yeah,” Birch says. “The Senator sent a message that Victoriana would like to see you after you finish up. The others can go. I’ll get this wrapped up in a bow for the Senator to introduce tomorrow.”
We share goodnights and good lucks as we make our way out of our conference room prison.
I grab the fewest possible items from my cube before heading out in search of Victoriana. I needn’t go far. She waits in the outer secretary’s space, chatting like familiar acquaintances. She spots me and excuses herself from the conversation.
“I heard it’s finished?” Victoriana presses her thick curls from her face.
“Not quite, but yeah. Birch is finalizing it.”
“Well done,” she says and I think she means it. “A car waits for you. I’ll call it around. Be prepared: I understand E shares the car.”
I amble toward the door nearest Victoriana’s pick-up point while she calls the driver.
“You’re all set,” she says, but I sense she doesn’t want to leave me yet.
“Is there anything else?” I ask while peering into the dark night.
“Do you think you’ll be back?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Her eyes betray her outward calm. My heart batters my ribs. “I’m finished?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “Things are becoming, um, tenuous. The further you are implicated in this bill, the more likely you will be discovered.”
“I mean, I guess there’s not much I can do after this.”
“The Senator expects you to accompany him to speak to his fellows. It’s not my call, of course, but I think that exposes you too much.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you cared what happens to me,” I joke. Victoriana’s face is set in a deadly serious expression. “I’ll be fine,” I say more gently. “What could they really do to me?”
“Arrest you,” she says. “I didn’t think you were up to the challenge of this project. I told E as much.” Victoriana stares past me now. “You’ve proven me wrong.”