ROOSEVELT FELT FEAR. It washed over the vice president and chilled him to the core as he stood on the outside deck of his airship, the Benjamin Butler.

He braced himself against the wrought-iron railing that ringed the platform. Ten feet away, his eighteen-year old daughter Alice clung to the railing by her hands and kicked off, her entire body blowing in the wind at 30,000 feet.

“Father, it is exhilarating,” she shouted. “You must try it.”

Theodore Roosevelt swallowed and took a deep breath. He worried that a sudden move on his part could spur his daughter to try something even more reckless, like a one-handed hold. Beads of precipitation streaked across the goggles covering his eyes, his short-trimmed hair blowing in the hurricane-force wind.

“Alice, please come back down,” he said. Alice laughed, and he stood his ground. If she lost her grip, he could not save her. At their current speed, she would vanish into the clouds and be lost forever. His mind refused to speculate what might remain of her after a fall at that altitude. Jumping after her — to his own certain death — was preferable to facing his wife.

“Father, look,” she yelled, “I can see Washington.”

The airship’s twin jet engines roared as they cleared the clouds, beginning a descent over the Potomac to the City of Washington.

Theodore Roosevelt stepped forward, seeing her distracted, but before he could reach her she moved hand over hand until she stood back on deck. The setting sun bathed them in a golden glow. He could breathe again.

A young marine, Lieutenant John LeJeune, stepped out of the doorway from the main cabin and approached Roosevelt from behind, yelling into his ear over the roar of the wind.

“Sir, the captain insists you come inside for the landing.”

The lieutenant’s right forearm was one of the newer prosthetics with miniature gears operating each finger. They whirred as he saluted the vice president.

LeJeune motioned to the hatch, and the vice president took one final look at the approaching city as he and his daughter went inside.

The main cabin was quiet except for the low rumble of the engines. Rows of guests buckled into their seats, few of them enjoying the flight, wishing they had taken the train.

They made their way to the front row as the airship banked and the floor tilted upward. LeJeune slid back several feet while walking to his own seat.

The vice president climbed into his seat aside his wife, Alice, Senior, a slender blonde. He pulled the seat belt across his muscular chest, offering each woman a chaste peck on the cheek.

“Father,” said young Alice, pointing for him to remove his goggles, “You should be in the middle of your first Cabinet meeting, not ferrying wealthy donors to Washington. You cannot allow McKinley to treat you this way.”

“It’s alright,” said Roosevelt as he slid the goggles over his head. “We have won him a second term, he knows my value to him.”

His daughter brushed her long hair away from her face with a wry smile. “Then we ought to remind him,” she said.

The vice president chuckled, sat back, and put an arm around the two most important women in his life. “If I am not invited to the next Cabinet meeting, I will talk to him,” he whispered.

Mrs. Roosevelt rolled her eyes at her husband. “Theodore, it’s best to avoid any misunderstanding. Speak to him today.”

“Custer was the first vice president to attend Cabinet meetings,” Roosevelt said, “And the last. He made sure of it when he became president.”

A crackle and loud hum filled the cabin. “This is the captain. On behalf of Vice President Roosevelt, myself, and our crew, I welcome you to the City of Washington. Please remain seated until our landing is complete and the craft is moored and—”

Roosevelt was out of his seat, approaching the hatch on the far end of the compartment before the captain had finished his message. His wife and daughter were right behind him. A smattering of dignitaries followed, unbuckling their seat belts and hoping it was safe to exit.

Roosevelt was halfway down the gangplank, grinning ear to ear, as it hit the ground on F Street in the middle of Judiciary Square. He slowed as he reached the street. The cobblestones made walking in heels difficult for his wife and daughter.

Three hundred people stood around the airship. They formed a wall between the Zeppelin and the National Pension Building, a cavernous hall that was the de facto site of presidential inaugural festivities.

Secret Service agents created a narrow corridor through the crowd that led straight back to the redbrick building’s steps. Off to the side was a large raised platform for reporters and their bulky cameras and microphones. As Roosevelt and his guests approached the crowd, a hearty cheer went up, which increased his energy level. “Delighted to see you! Thank you for joining us tonight!” The crowd went wild. Reporters tried to get Roosevelt’s attention, but he smiled and walked to the doorway.

Roosevelt nodded to the young marines, and the doors opened. Inside, the band played ruffles and flourishes. Then, arms locked with wife and daughter, the nation’s new vice president strode into the inaugural gala as the band performed “Hail, Columbia.”

The interior of the National Pension Building was a giant atrium, with terraces ringing the entire room on each of the upper floors. At either end of the hall were four eight-foot-thick gilded stone columns, each rising seventy-five feet to the ceiling.

Over a thousand party loyalists, campaign donors, job seekers, and the occasional senator or congressman and their wives packed the gala event. Veterans were prominent, many with the new mechanical limbs that were becoming available. Flags and bunting adorned the hall, along with giant posters of President William McKinley and his running mate, the young and vigorous Theodore Roosevelt.

Each end of the hall had raised platforms holding huge thirty-inch screen versions of Edison-Tesla’s popular TeslaVision sets. They played a loop of campaign footage from the previous fall. Most were shots of McKinley at the Executive Mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue or on the front porch of his Ohio home. The McKinley footage repeated to give balance to the far more numerous clips of Theodore Roosevelt as he barnstormed the nation for the ticket.

Guests marveled at the giant TeslaVision screens. The wealthier attendees had standard fifteen-inch versions at home. Middle class families were buying tinier models as fast as Edison-Tesla could produce them, at $89 per set.

Others perused a miniature gallery of exhibits on loan from the Smithsonian. There were glass cases with skeletal examples of man’s rise from primate to homo sapiens. One display held illustrations depicting theories on the evolutionary missing link. It contained Roosevelt’s book, The Wilderness Hunter, which told of the horrific Bauman incident of 1890. Roosevelt never said a sasquatch caused the deaths, allowing readers to decide for themselves.

Roosevelt worked the crowd, pumping hands and greeting old friends and foreign dignitaries. They lined up to see the amazing American vice president, hero of the Second Mexican-American War. While steaming back to Florida after liberating Cuba, Roosevelt learned of the Mexican government’s military distraction with bandits in Baja California. He took advantage of the crisis by diverting his ship and others to land in Veracruz. Within a week, American forces under Colonel Roosevelt’s command had seized the capital at Mexico City and declared Mexico an American protectorate. McKinley only endorsed the incursion when the fighting ended. He promoted Roosevelt to general and announced that TR would administer Mexico’s government until they held free elections.

Roosevelt’s ingenuity and frenetic energy in Mexico won over even his harshest critics at home and abroad. Within three months, clean water was available in most of the country. In six months, more than 95 percent of the school-age children attended public schools. The Rough Riders and other members of America’s occupying forces built those schools.

Roosevelt reached through the crowd to grab his old friend Henry Cabot Lodge, the senator from Massachusetts. “Pinky,” he shouted, “I am here due to your efforts, so I shall try to do a decent job for your sake.”

Lodge hugged his friend and beamed at Alice and her daughter. “Ladies, he belongs to the nation and the world now. But I suspect you will still need to remind him to scrape his boots before he enters the house.”

“Uncle Cabot, you know the president better than most,” young Alice asked. “Will McKinley honor his word to my father?”

Lodge shook his head. “That,” he replied, “is a good question.”

Just then, Alice spotted her classmate Takahira Mieko leaving with her father, the Japanese ambassador. Mieko smiled at Alice.

Lodge whispered to Alice, “Another row with Custer.” The Japanese ambassador was an impatient fellow. “I understand you and his daughter enjoy your martial arts training.” He winked at her.

A lanky man with muttonchop sideburns and a huge handlebar mustache approached Lodge. “Senator, good to see you,” he said.

“Nicholas! So good of you to attend. Have you said hello to our new vice president?” asked Lodge.

Theodore turned and grasped Nicholas Fish’s hand. “Nick, where’s Clemence? Is she here tonight?”

“I’m afraid not,” he said. “She’s had a bad week.”

There was an awkward silence between them. Theodore spoke. “There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about Hamilton, Nick.”

Fish sipped champagne without looking at him. “I know.” He still blamed Roosevelt for his son’s death in Mexico.

Lodge moved things along. “Nick, have you spoken to Baron Moncheur? He asked for you.” The Belgian ambassador was a fixture in Washington society, serving as the controversial King Leopold II’s most trusted advisor.

Fish and Lodge walked off into the crowd together.

Roosevelt scanned the room until he caught the eye of McKinley’s personal secretary, George Cortelyou, a graying New Yorker with a dark mustache. A nod and a smile. Cortelyou was a good man.

The vice president continued greeting guests with a quick handshake and an occasional pat on the back to propel himself away and on through the crowd.

Roosevelt was in the northeast section of the hall when he caught sight of a familiar face. A dark-haired man in his mid-twenties locked gaze with the vice president before bolting. Roosevelt was in quick pursuit.

The stranger disappeared into the crowd while Roosevelt was twenty feet away. His best manners on display, the vice president made his apologies and rushed past several small clusters of guests.

He reached the corner of the vast room. The stranger was gone. Roosevelt turned around, looking for him.

Behind him, he heard clanging coming from the bathroom, punctuated by moans and the sounds of a violent struggle.

Roosevelt flung open the men’s room door and ran inside. A row of metal stalls had collapsed onto the floor like dominoes, burying the young stranger. Standing over him was a large figure whose punches clanged as he struck the metal stalls. The attacker’s back was to Roosevelt, and he wore the uniform of the Russian cavalry, complete with flowing cape and a large helmet that—no, he wore no helmet. Yet he had no face.

Another caped stranger stood in the corner by the shattered bathroom sink. Water splashed over him and the unconscious body of George Cortelyou. The president’s secretary lay in a growing pool of blood and water on the floor. Dust from broken plaster filled the air. Roosevelt felt a strong breeze and realized the windows and their frame were lying somewhere out on the street, torn away from the building. The hovering stranger prepared to inject Cortelyou with a needle.

Roosevelt a grabbed a piece of metal from the collapsed stalls and flung it across the room. It snapped the hypodermic syringe just as it entered Cortelyou’s shoulder. Roosevelt seized a large wastebasket and lifted it over his shoulders, bringing it down on the head of the nearby foe.

The steel wastebasket crumpled around the attacker’s head as if it were paper.

The assailant stood straight up and without moving his legs, his entire torso twisting around 180 degrees to face Roosevelt head on. Its face was metal and glass with a single red light emanating from deep within. It studied Roosevelt for several long seconds.

Roosevelt stepped sideways, steadying himself with a pipe that ran along the wall. He grasped a section of it with both hands and pulled at it. Two feet of metal broke off in his hands and he turned and swung it at the attacker.

He struck thin air. Both attackers jumped out onto the street, disappearing into the night. Roosevelt moved through the rubble. “Are you alright?” he asked the buried stranger.

“I’m fine. See to Cortelyou,” he said, coughing from the dust as he tried to slide out from under the debris.

Roosevelt hurried to the back of the room and knelt alongside Cortelyou, checking for vital signs. Blood and plaster dust covered the stricken man’s face.

“George? Can you hear me?” Roosevelt asked, cradling Cortelyou’s head and brushing away pieces of tile and dabbing at the blood with his handkerchief.

Cortelyou coughed, “Who?”

“It’s Roosevelt.”

Cortelyou was agitated. “Theodore, you can’t…”

“I can’t—what?”

Cortelyou blinked at Roosevelt. “You can’t trust McKinley. They’ve gotten to him.” Cortelyou wheezed once and was unconscious.

The door burst open and three armed marines rushed in. The vice president pointed to the buried stranger.

“Take this man into custody,” ordered Roosevelt. “And summon an ambulance for Mr. Cortelyou.”