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, he attempts one final ‘Hail Mary’ that might just save the office of the president… even if it destroys the world in the process.
The president was released from the Fletcher Memorial Medical Center on the fifth day after his episode. They dressed him up in a navy blue leisure suit, fuzzy slippers, and a U.S. flag pin. They hoisted him into a wheelchair nicknamed “Chair Force One” which was emblazoned with the presidential seal on the seatback and fashioned with bullet proof glass shields on the sides. It had an electric motor that helped move it along due to its weight– the built-in defensive counter-measures caused it to weigh over 800 pounds. Chair Force One was constructed by a defense contractor named Numenor Corp at the bargain price of twenty-five million dollars. Chair Force One had seven full time, year-round attendants who were paid $100 per hour. Numenor also collected an annual maintenance fee to service Chair Force One totaling forty million dollars per year. The medical staff anticipated that President Manfred would be in need of Chair Force One for a total of forty-eight hours.
The POTUS protested when they hoisted him in, but Buckminster and the president’s newly assigned personal nurse, Emma Baum, hoisted him onto his wheeled throne, nevertheless, being careful not to disturb the intravenous lines and other monitoring equipment connected to his veins and skin. The POTUS put on a brave and pleasant face as he wheeled out of the Fletcher Memorial infirmary by joystick control, and into the main hall where a throng of press corps reporters and videographers were waiting and shouting: “Mr. President! Mr. President! Mr. President!”
Manfred did not give a speech. He said only, “God bless America,” and “but for the grace of God go I,” and “your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated.” He gave a thumbs up as they loaded him into a black, bulletproof golf cart, also emblazoned with the presidential seal and decorated with presidential flags mounted on the front fenders. The U.S. federal government contracted for the construction and maintenance of the bullet-proof, executive golf carts with a defense contractor named Hegel-Strauss. Each one cost sixty seven million dollars. A procession of eighteen black, Hegel-Strauss, bullet-proof, executive golf carts whizzed off in procession into a white-tiled tunnel, led and trailed by a motorcade of SuperBunker security personnel riding two-wheeled mopeds with red and blue flashers known by their trademark name as “Mo-Mos.” Mo-Mos were not built by a defense contractor, per se, but by a firm coincidentally headquartered in the district of the Speaker of the House.
The procession snaked along the gently arcing motorway for three quarters of a mile until they reached the monorail station. From there, the POTUS and his entourage boarded a sleek, silver monorail car with tinted glass, bulletproof windows, and plush leather seats— hand-stitched by part time laborers in Arkansas, each of whom was working at their day jobs on the surface at that very moment, and feeling greatly distressed by the possibility of being vaporized by Sino-Russian nukes.
Secret service agents in black suits and black sunglasses and fade haircuts and constipated looks were posted on the platform of the station. They whispered secret codewords into their lapels. The presidential entourage boarded and the monorail car doors slid shut and the train launched into the cavernous tunnel. It accelerated to maximum velocity, whisking through the tube reaching speeds of over one hundred miles per hour. Orange marker lights embedded in the walls streaked past in the windows like tracer bullets in the night. But within a minute, they were decelerating out of the darkness into a massive, open chamber filled with building facades and wide walkways lined with plastic ficus trees beneath a canvas sky backlit in pastel blue. The monorail stopped at the platform of Section N Depot C. The depot and the adjacent Hotel Americana were crafted in the art deco style and brightly illuminated with lighting that evoked neon. A new squad of secret service agents in black suits and black sunglasses and fade haircuts and constipated looks scrambled into position and whispered codewords into their lapels. The doors of the train slid open and the president was wheeled out onto a long red carpet. Another throng of press corps, lying in ambush, sprung out from behind the dolphin fountains and the faux palm trees to capture the president’s arrival for posterity. “Mr. President!” “Mr. President!” “Mr. President!” they shouted, but he just smiled and waved. Chair Force One paused when it reached the front doors of the hotel, beneath a red awning—which was a purely non-functional design element as they were nearly a half mile underground and no rain-simulation lines had been installed at this particular location. The POTUS, seated on his wheeled throne, saluted the marine posted at the door with such crispness that he nearly tore his intravenous line loose from the greenish vein in the back of his hand. The flashes of the press cameras went off like silent firecrackers on Chinese New Year. “Mr. President! Mr. President! Mr. President!” But he still did not speak. Nurse Baum guided his rolling throne through the doors via supplemental joystick control and the presidential phalanx was swallowed up by the vertical spires and radiating patterns of the hotel facade.
They wheeled the POTUS through the lobby, past the gawking staff, around a koi lagoon and miniature tropical garden, past the doors to the entertainment and convention halls, and into an elevator. Only Buckminster, Haberdash, and Nurse Baum, and two secret service agents, entered the elevator with the president. Buckminster presented his cornea for security scan. After the ping of approval and clearance, he pressed the button labeled “62.” The elevator descended at about a third of freefall velocity, causing some vertigo like one feels when riding in a roller coaster and it begins to accelerate downwards from a crest. After a few moments it came to a stop and the doors opened. They were greeted by two more secret service agents who escorted them past another dolphin fountain and down to the end of a corridor carpeted in minimalist Mondrian motiffs. They stopped before two ornate double doors, finished in gold leaf, and waited for the agent standing guard there to open them. Chair Force One rolled in.
“Welcome to the Brown House, Mr. President,” said the secret service agent who manned the door.
“The Brown House?” asked the president.
“Who in the hell thought of naming it that?”
“Uh, I believe it’s in lieu of it being underground, Mr. President. You know, brown… the color of earth.”
“It sounds like a place where you go to have a shit,” replied the POTUS.
“Then I won’t call it that again, sir.” He whispered something into his lapel.
The POTUS looked at Haberdash who was stroking his wiry goatee beard. “Make sure you put that in my hagiography, Hab. The people love that no nonsense command-and-control talk.”
“You got it, sir.”
The president scanned the foyer which was finished in fine marble. Corinthian columns flanked each of the three ten-foot tall doors before them.
“Where’s the media room?” asked the POTUS.
“This way, sir,” Buckminster answered. They wheeled him to the left, through one of the massive mahogany doors, down a long hall, past several smaller doors, until they reached a dark room with a five-hundred-inch television screen affixed to one wall. Baum pressed a button and Chair Force One’s seat lifted the POTUS up off the chair so that he could easily maneuver himself onto an adjacent recliner. The recliner had a touch panel built into the arm so that he could adjust its positioning as well as access all the telecommunications available without having to get up. It was constructed by a defense contractor named Longfort-McBurton at a cost of twelve-million dollars. It would have only cost eleven-million dollars but the federal government bought the extended warranty.
“You can control the network feed there, sir,” Buckminster advised as he showed the president the controls. “You can also alert security with that button there, and charge your cell phone wirelessly there. That button adjusts the lights, and this one sends the butler…”
“Thank you, Bucky. Where’s my bat phone?”
“Right here, sir.”
“Great. That will be all.”
Buckminster left, taking Nurse Baum and the secret service personnel with him. The president was alone with Haberdash and his five-hundred-inch television and six-foot-tall images of himself being released from the medical ward moments earlier on cable news. At the bottom of the screen, a line tracked changes in his public approval rating in real time with twelve pings per second. His popularity had never been higher at sixty two percent favorable—which was a record for presidents in the twenty first century. The looming global thermo nuclear Armageddon had bumped his numbers up twenty points and his hospitalization had knocked it up another ten.
“These god damn news reporters never say anything,” the president fumed as he ignored the television and watched the exact same video feed on his cell phone.
Haberdash, who was distracted by an itch inside his loafer, nodded in agreement. “No doubt, sir.”
“Yes, Mr. President?”
“Off the record…”
“What the hell happened? I can’t remember a damn thing.”
“Oh, I don’t think I am a reliable conveyor of the facts, Mr. President?”
“What do you mean? You’re the executive hagiographer.”
“I think you should have Fricke fill you in on all those details… when you’re up to it, sir.”
“God knows these idiots on television won’t give me anything useful.”
The president reclined in his chair, reached over to his touch panel, and dimmed the lights. He watched news reports of himself for several hours while Haberdash futzed around on his notepad. When he finally tired of seeing himself, the POTUS pushed the comm button on his control panel. “Anyone there?”
“I’m here, sir.”
“Faucett, sir. I’m the Brown House butler, sir.”
“Can you come in here, please?”
“Right away, sir.”
Faucett appeared five seconds later dressed in a black jacket with tails and a black bow tie. He was narrow-shouldered, with straight, reddish hair and pale skin.
“You’re the butler?”
“You don’t look like a butler.”
“How is a butler supposed to look, sir?”
“I don’t know. More distinguished. Older. More like Michael Cain and less like Napoleon Dynamite, I guess?”
“Where’s the First Lady?”
“She hasn’t come in to see you yet, sir?”
“No. It’s just been me and Hab in here for a few hours.”
“I’m sorry, sir. Shall I send for her?”
“Right away, sir.”
Faucett turned and left.
The POTUS switched on a football game but left cable news on in the picture in picture. The Hartford Saxons were taking on Miami. An hour later, at halftime, with the game knotted at 17, First Lady Veruca Weinstein Manfred appeared. She was a petite woman with dark, narrow eyes set under scrawling, thin black eyebrows. She was dressed in all black— a short black dress, black hose, black heels, black gloves, black ribbon in her pulled up, silky black hair. Her monotone blackness was accented with a star-dusting of silver bracelets, silver earrings, and a delicate silver chain necklace.
“Where in the hell have you been?” barked the president.
“What do you mean?” she replied, unable to prevent her thin lips from curling as she spoke.
Haberdash swept his tawny waves aside and studied the terse exchange.
“Did I stutter?” The First Lady didn’t answer. The POTUS finally sighed. “Why in the hell are you wearing all black?”
“Because I’m in mourning.”
“What are you in mourning for? I’m not dead.”
“Does he really have to be here?” she asked, pointing to Haberdash who averted his eyes.
“Yes. He’s always with me.”
“Because he’s capturing my life.”
“Capturing your life for what?”
“For all posterity.”
“For history. For future generations. He’s going to write the story of my life.”
Her eyes narrowed into slits and a crease formed in her brow. “What sane person would want to read about your idiotic life?”
“Millions of people. I’m the president, the ruler of the free world.”
“You’re the ruler, all right.”
“Yes I am.”
The first lady rolled her eyes.
“I asked you why you’re dressed like you’re going to a funeral when I’m obviously not dead.”
“Why does it always have to be about you?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I meant exactly what I asked.”
“Of course it’s always about me, Veruca. I’m the fucking president of the United States.”
The First Lady groaned. “I hate you,” she snapped. “Everyone hates you. Everyone wishes you were dead.”
“That’s ridiculous. They don’t hate me. My approval ratings are over sixty percent. That’s a record approval rating for this century.”
“You are unbelievable.”
“Are you getting all this, Hab?” asked the president.
Haberdash stopped picking his nose and started scribbling notes.
“What do you need him around all the time for?” she asked. “Just record every second of your pathetic life on a meCam. You could put the camera on a giant gold necklace and wrap it around your neck. Maybe you’d do us all a favor and hang yourself with it.”
“I already record everything. But a writer still has to put my life into prose. MeCam doesn’t write prose, Veruca. An author has to put it all together. It’ll go into my presidential library.”
“Your library? Who in the hell would visit it?”
“Lots of folks.”
“The only people who will ever visit it are psychiatrists studying megalomaniacs.”
“It’s for the academics and historians.”
“Historians study Hitler, too.”
“Are you comparing me to Hitler?”
“I hate you.”
“You already said that. Why are you in mourning?”
“I hate you because you don’t know why I’m in mourning.”
“How in the hell would I know? I’ve been unconscious.”
“I’m in mourning because billions of people are going to die as a direct result of your ego.”
“War is inevitable, Veruca. People die in war. I doubt it will be billions.”
“It’s not inevitable.” She went to the liquor cabinet and poured herself a scotch, neat.
“Pour me one of those.”
“Pour it your fucking self.”
“Hab, do you mind?”
Hab lumbered up from his seat on the sofa and went over to the liquor cabinet. He reached toward the First Lady to take the carafe from her but she set it down rather than handing it to him.
“Look, if war wasn’t necessary, we wouldn’t have to wage it.”
“It’s a war you started.”
“It was unavoidable, Veruca. We have alliances and obligations.”
“You can still stop it but you won’t.”
“I have no choice. It’s complicated.”
“Maybe,” Hab interrupted, “…everyone being down in this bunker together will help us to work things out before, you know…” He broke off as he was pouring the president’s scotch.
“Mind your own damn business,” snapped the First Lady.
Hab walked over to the president and handed him his glass, then sat back down on the sofa and returned to picking his nose.
“Oh, how I hate you,” said the First Lady.
“You’ve already said that three times. Jesus.”
The president took the bat phone from its charger and activated it. “Fricke!” he shouted.
“Yes, Mr. President?” came the baritone voice in the tinny speaker.
“Where in the hell is Tibbles?”
“What happened to Tibbles? Where is he? I need my halfback.”
“We spoke about this earlier, sir. There was a mix up. His PIN is invalid. UN Security wouldn’t let him into the bunker.”
“I don’t give a god damn about any mix ups, Fricke. I want solutions. Solution this. I need my chief of staff. I need him down here with me.”
The first lady downed her scotch, shook her head, and stomped out of the room in disgust.
The president touched the control screen. “Faucett!”
“Can you come in here, please?”
“Right away, sir.”
Hab glanced up.
“Stop picking your nose and look at that television.”
“I said look at that television.”
“I’m looking at it, sir .”
“What do you see?”
“I see DeForest Reese.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Then what do I see, sir?”
“What you see is the most powerful man in the universe.”
“I thought you were the most powerful man in the universe.”
“Off the record, Hab?”
“Sure.” Hab set his notepad down.
“You know he’s gay, right?”
“Of course, sir. Everyone knows DeForest Reese is gay.”
“And you also know that he’s black.”
“Hab, that gay Negro is the number one cable news anchor.”
“That sounds somewhat bigoted, Mr. President.”
“Why, because I called him Negro?”
“It could be interpreted as racist, sir, especially in this day and age.”
“Oh bloody hell, Hab. You know I’m no racist. I’m a god damn democrat for Christ’s sake!”
“Democrats can’t be racist?”
“What I’m trying to explain to you, Hab, is that DeForest Reese is the most powerful man in the universe.”
“Because he’s a news anchor.”
“Partly, but not entirely.”
“He has the ultimate toolset, Hab.”
“Sir, no one watches network news anymore.”
“The statistics show declining viewership at a—”
“He has the screen, Hab,” interrupted the POTUS. “He has the screen and an audience of millions. That gives him the power to shape public opinion.”
“I suppose he—”
“But there’s more to it. Just look at him. Look! He’s handsome. He’s a sharp dresser. He obviously works out. He’s got that effeminate, coifed look about him so that women and those whiny, pussified, liberal men don’t feel threatened. He’s black, but he’s light-skinned without that Negro dialect that scares the suburban white folk. He’s a good-looking, well-spoken, non-threatening, gay, black man. He appeals to everyone.”
“Everyone except for rednecks, I suppose,” Hab interjected.
The president continued. “You know why women have gay man-friends, don’t you?”
“It’s true. Women love gay men. Ask the first bitch yourself. She’s surrounded by a dozen of them: her hair dresser, her chef, her life coach, her queer trainer…”
“Why is that?” Hab readied his pen.
“Because women are subconsciously intelligent enough to know what they need. Women want a rational male mind around to keep them grounded… you know, when they get all hormonal and crazy like the first bitch does every god damn second of every god damn day. You know what, I’m starting to think she might be menopausal. “
“She’s over fifty.”
“No, I mean about needing the rational male mind.”
“Women like gay men because they need a man’s rational faculty but while feeling self-assured that he isn’t putting on an act.”
“An act?” Hab asked as he scribbled away.
“Like he’s shining her on just so he can bang her. Women don’t have to worry about authenticity with gay men.”
“I suppose that makes sense.”
“Hab, in case you weren’t aware, women make up more than half the voting population.”
“Is that so?”
“It is. And that makes DeForest Reese half of the electorate’s gay best friend.”
“That’s an excellent point, sir.”
“…And because he’s gay and black no one can ever question his objectivity or criticize him. If they do, they are instantly censured as homophobic racists. That’s a double whammy. Bad news.”
“Put all that in my book. Wordsmith it, though. Make it read like the statesman genius that it is. Add a few lines about my admiration for gay, black men so no one takes it the wrong way.”
“Of course. Hagiography is my forte, Mr. President.”
The president watched DeForest Reese on the five-hundred-inch video screen as if he were transfixed. “I’m so jealous of him. He has the ultimate power.”
“Yeah but can he push the button, sir?”