Buried a thousand feet beneath Ohio, the ten trillion dollar, UN-constructed SuperBunker can shelter a million members of the global elite indefinitely, with all the comforts of the surface including simulated blue skies, boutique shopping, and three golf courses. The President of the United States, Arman “Our Man” Manfred, regains consciousness in one of the bunker’s six hospitals. Surrounded by his trusted advisors and his official hagiographer, his office becomes ensnared in the Machiavellian underworld of SuperBunker geo-politics. The situation worsens when the president’s Russian and Chinese counterparts execute Protocol 4, sealing the blast doors and severing all contact with the surface, relegating the world’s leaders to governing a mere computer simulation of the world above. An attempt to blackmail the POTUS with a salacious video taken by his own security agency forces President Manfred into seclusion. With his office infiltrated by a traitor and hobbled by incompetence, the POTUS attempts one final ‘Hail Mary’ that might just save the office of the president… even if it destroys the world in the process.
“Will he live?”
A gloved hand reached in and pried an eyelid open. A beam of white light illuminated a pale blue cornea causing the tiny muscles of the iris to constrict the black portal into the president’s soul. The fingers released and the eyelid sprung shut.
“Mr. President, can you hear me?”
Specialists in white lab coats, and nurses in teal scrubs converged. The throng of suited, presidential staff pushed their way into the scrum.
“President Manfred, can you hear me?”
A nurse placed a blood pressure cuff on the president’s upper arm. Her nametag read “Baum”. She was thin, with shoulder length, toasted blond hair. Plain-looking, with thin lips and wounded-looking eyes, she performed her task with stolid efficiency. She removed the cuff and injected medication into his IV line.
The president began to open his eyes.. “Whu… Whu…” he mumbled.
Everyone dressed in suits drew back and sighed in relief. Many had heard the rumor that he was brain dead. Some still weren’t convinced he wasn’t.
“You’re safe, Mr. President.,” answered the doctor.
“Whu… where am I?”
“You’re at Fletcher Memorial ICU.”
The president struggled to sit up. His coal and gray hair, long matted against the pillow, splayed outwards from his beady-eyed, puffy Irish face as he pulled himself upright. “Fletcher Memorial? I’m in the SuperBunker?”
“In… in the bunker?
“I’ve got to get… get up… back to White House.”
A broad-shouldered man dressed in a black suit jacket and unbuttoned collar stepped forward. His dark eyes probed from under his thick, hooded eyelids. His black hair was closely cropped. When he spoke, his baritone voice filled the room like the rumble of a diesel train engine. His name was Dexter Fricke. He was the secretary of state.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible, Mr. President,” he rumbled.
“Wh… why??” the POTUS asked as he tried plowed his fingers through his hair.
“We’re in COGCON 2, Mr. President,” Fricke announced.
“Di… did we win?”
“Win what, Mr. President?” Fricke asked.
The doctor motioned Fricke back. “He sounds a bit confused,” he suggested. “We don’t know the cause or after-effects of his episode.” He turned to the POTUS. “Tell me, Mr. President, what is the last thing you remember?”
“D… Did we win?” he demanded.
“War has been averted for now, Mr. President,” Fricke answered.
“No. No… Not the war… the… the…”
The what, sir?”
“The f… The ffff…”
“He’s lost his ability to speak!” someone moaned.
Everyone leaned in for a closer look, to judge for themselves.
“The fff… The fff…”
A man in full military uniform pushed his way in and next to the president. He held his officer’s cap under his arm. He was sixtyish, with a pinkish complexion, and receding, cropped, ashy-blond hair. His crystal blue eyes were set narrowly under bushy, ginger eyebrows that punctuated a puffy, weathered face that invoked the image of an unmade bed. He was Fitzmaurice Buckminster, the secretary of defense. He bent down and spoke softly in the president’s ear, as if he was talking to a child.
“We’ll win, sir. I’ve no doubt.”
“No!” grumbled the POTUS.
“Sir, we’ve gone through this a dozen times. Stick to the plan.”
“Not… not the war!” the president bristled. “The game.”
“The game, sir?”
“I think he means the football game,” Fricke resonated.
“Oh, yes,” Buckminster affirmed. “Yes, the football game. Right. Well sir, you’ll be happy to know that your Saxons beat Pittsburgh 24 to 18.”
The president grinned behind the green plastic oxygen tubes hooked into his nostrils.
“Sir, that game was Monday. Do you know what day today is?” asked the doctor.
“Not sure. Tuesday?”
“Today is Thursday.”
“Thursday? I was to meet with the Prime Minister.”
“Do you remember what day that was?”
“Wednesday… Wednesday morning.”
The doctor turned to the president’s nurse. “Nurse Baum, make a note.”
She marked it in her pad.
“What’s happening? Why am I here?” asked the president.
The doctor nodded at Fricke and Fricke stepped forward, shoulder to shoulder with Buckminster who refused to yield even an inch. “Mr. President, it seems as though you’ve suffered some sort of physical breakdown.”
“Breakdown? What do you mean?”
“You became very agitated when being briefed on the U.S.S. Henry Harrison situation. You collapsed and lost consciousness. They think it was a seizure or possibly a small stroke.”
“We don’t know. We’re still running tests. The amount of stress you’re under has been tremendous. The burden of nuclear war would be an unimaginable weight for anyone to bear…”
“But you are bearing it well, sir,” Buckminster interjected.
“But the war hasn’t started?”
“Where’s my fullback?”
Fricke pointed towards the door of the room. The throng parted to reveal a thin, gray man in his seventies, also in dress uniform, clutching a large leather satchel.
“I’m right here, sir,” replied Major Kilgore in a voice that sounded like sandpaper scraping a rusty pipe.
The president breathed a relieved sigh. Kilgore nodded, his gentle gaze, set within his leathery, hardened face.
“We’ll make sure he is always nearby,” Buckminster advised. “Perhaps we should clear the room and…”
The president started pawing at his intravenous lines and monitor cables.
“Please, Mr. President,” begged the doctor. “Try to relax. You need rest.”
“Your country needs their leader well, now more than ever,” added Buckminster.
“Mr. President,” Fricke interrupted. “We still have a window of opportunity. We can work this out with Timoshenko and Hu Li.”
The president stopped his struggling and took a deep breath, then fell back into his pillow knocking strands of his black and Grey hair loose over his forehead as he relaxed. Nurse Baum rushed in to reattach his wires and hoses.
“Where’s Tibbles?” the president asked. “I need to speak to him.”
The executive staff all looked at each other and shrugged.”
“I said, where in the fuck is Tibbles?”
“Mr. President,” said Fricke with reluctance. “It appears that Tibbles was not issued a valid bunker access PIN.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“We believe it was a clerical error, sir. We could not get the appropriate UN validations, so his entry into SuperBunker was denied.”
“Oh, to hell with that. Get him down here.”
“We are doing everything we can, sir.”
“What about Yates?”
Buckminster answered, “the protocol is for the vice president to be relocated to an independent bunker. That location is classified.”
“What about Peters?”
“He made it in, sir.”
“We’ll send for them in a couple hours,” said the doctor. “Right now, you need some rest.”
“What about Norris?” the POTUS continued, unabated.
“She is unaccounted for at the moment.”
Fricke’s eyes flashed with contempt.
“He’s just outside the door, Mr. President,” Buckminster explained. “I’m sure he’s listening in on everything we say.”
“You will be pleased to know that the first lady is safe in the bunker as well,” Fricke added.
“She’s resting comfortably in the presidential quarters.”
“Okay, okay,” the doctor intervened. “I want all non-essential personnel out. The president needs rest so that he can get back to ruling the world. Let’s go. Out! Out!”
The staff all took their turns smiling and patting the president on the forearm or lower leg, careful so as not to disturb his intravenous lines and cabling before shuffling out of the ward. Only the doctor, Fricke, Buckminster, and Major Kilgore remained. Haberdash, a husky dude with wavy, greasy, blond hair and a graying goatee stepped into the doorway.
“Is everyone out?” the POTUS asked.
Fricke poked his head out past Haberdash, then came back in and nodded to affirm everyone was indeed out of earshot.
“Yes Mr. President.”
The president stared at him with a look that was something of a cross between furious anger and desperate anguish.
“Yes. What is it, sir?”
The doctor studied the charts on his pad.
“Fricke…” The president said, reaching out his hand suspended by his wavering arm.
Nurse Baum typed notes into her pad.
“I’m right here, sir. What is it?”
The POTUS lost consciousness as the sedative took hold.