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 held his cabinet meeting in a chamber of the Hades level which was in the deepest level of the SuperBunker—almost one-half mile below the surface. This chamber was known as: the UltraBunker. One arrived at the Hades level via elevator that connected from the traditional SuperBunker Oval Office. The Hades level chamber was wrapped in a double-redundant steel faraday cage to make it extra-impregnable to disruption by radio flash and completely impervious to wireless surveillance transmission. One entered the UltraBunker through an eighteen-inch thick blast door that only opened after passing through a particle imaging scanner— referred to jokingly by the POTUS as the “PIS test”, a retinal scan, and finally, an RFID chip validation. No electronic devices were permitted into the UltraBunker.
Inside, the interior walls were stark, smooth concrete, decorated with paintings by Romantics which were brought from the Louvre to be held for safekeeping in the event of its thermonuclear destruction. The drab, nine-foot walls were adorned in a flourish of Victorian crown molding. In the center of the room, a large, polished steel table stood in the center and on one wall hung a large screen with a power cable running down, then up through a grommet in the table and into a power receptacle within arm’s reach of the president’s seat— which enabled the POTUS to completely kill the screen’s power and signal at his discretion. No other electronic devices were present, and if one was snuck in, it was totally erased by an electromagnetic pulse upon entering and exiting the room. The audio-visual data displayed on the screen was piped in via a dedicated fiber optic cable network that passed through seven fire walls.
There was another steel door opposite the blast door entrance, behind the president’s high back chair. It was smaller, standing perhaps four-foot tall. It led to an executive safe room just big enough for the president to stow away within in the event that the SuperBunker was somehow breached by invaders who managed to out-maneuver the thousands of security personnel, make their way down into the Hades level, and penetrate the UltraBunker blast door.
The POTUS sat upon his UltraBunker throne, facing the blast door entrance through which everyone entered. One by one, the special cabinet members entered and took their seats. The COGCON cabinet consisted of only seventeen members as five secretary positions were deemed non-essential; those being:
The Secretary of the Office of Management and Budget
The Administrator of the Small Business Administration
The Secretary of Commerce
The Attorney General
And The Secretary of Government Oversight
There were still not quite enough seats for everyone at the big table. Several secretaries were relegated to sitting on folding chairs against the wall. Secretaries relegated to these kiddie seats included:
The Secretary of the Interior
The Secretary of Health and Human Services
The Secretary of Education
The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
The Trade Representative
And the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
The POTUS did not greet anyone as they entered. He stared through them as they appeared in the doorway with their notepads. Haberdash sat on a folding chair against the wall, scribbling notes on his notepad. Within seconds of the first arrival, every seat at the table was filled except one. The POTUS was flanked on either side by Secretary of State Fricke and Secretary of Defense Buckminster. Next to them sat the secretary of the treasury and an empty chair for the White House chief of staff. Each member of the cabinet sat in silence, waiting for the POTUS to speak but the POTUS just stared at the door. Haberdash’s eyes flitted from the president to the blast door to the empty chair at the big table. The members of the cabinet cast uneasy glances and shrugs at each other. The motions of shuffling papers and sniffles and taking gulps of water subsided. The president continued staring at the door. It became very silent, palpably silent, so silent that everyone could hear their own breathing and stomach noises. It was so silent that a fart would have sounded like pulling the starting cord on a chainsaw… in a chapel… at midnight. And when it had become as absolutely silent as possibly imaginable, the sound of click clack click clack…
Footsteps approached from beyond the blast door.
Click clack click clack.
The sounds grew in decibels until they stopped just beyond the bolts of the doorway. All eyes swung toward the sound. Haberdash scribbled away. The Secretary of Agriculture suppressed a cough. The POTUS remained motionless. Finally, the silhouette of a man with a briefcase appeared in the doorway. He was short, pear-shaped, with narrow shoulders. His wispy silver and blond hair was combed over to one side. He wore thick, horn-rimmed glasses that magnified his gentle, black eyes.
“Welcome home, Frank!” the POTUS bellowed. A wide grin filled his face.
Frank Tibbles adjusted his glasses and grinned humbly in response, then nodded. All eyes tracked him as he walked around the table and took his place at the remaining empty seat, filling out the COGCON Cabinet.
“All right. Let’s get started,” ordered the POTUS. “Who’s up first?”
Just then, the red light in the center of the table began to flash. “Urgent Call from the President of China!” blazed in blood read on the screen.
“Should I clear the room, sir?” asked Fricke.
“No,” answered the POTUS. “Let’s all hear what Huli has to say. Put him through.”
The face of the president of China appeared, six feet tall on screen from hairline to chin. He looked displeased.
“Huli! How the hell are you?” the POTUS asked.
“I’m a-no good, Manfweed.”
“You look upset. What’s wrong?” the POTUS mocked.
“You know vewee well what’s wong.”
“I thought our relations were improving.”
“You are foo of boo-shit, Manfweed.”
“What is it now, Huli? Is it the boy? Are you mad about Chung?”
“Removing him from the bunker was an act of war, Mr. Pwesident.”
“Yeah, and so was sinking the USS Henry Harrison.”
The eyes of the cabinet members dashed back and forth between the presidents as if they were watching the volleys of a tennis match.
“C’mon, Huli. He’s just one kid. You got a billion more of them. I’m sure we can work this out. I’ll make some concessions at our next summit. We’re still meeting Thursday?”
“He is a not just some a-kid. He is the son of a high-wanking party offisho.”
“We’ve all had to make sacrifices, Huli. We all have loved ones back on the surface. No one kid is worth escalating global tensions.”
“This is vewee serious matter. You must a-bwing him back into the bunker.”
“I can’t do that, Huli. His PIN is not valid.”
“His a PIN is a perfecwee vawid.”
“No. His PIN belongs to my Chief of Staff and newly appointed Secretary of Superbunker Operations, Frank Tibbles. Say hello, Frank.”
“You ir-reegeree entered our sovereign territory and kidnapped Master Chung.”
“No. No. That’s incorrect. We detained Master Chung for his own safety after exposure to fungicide, and once it was discovered that he was here illegally, he was deported. It’s all legal, by the book.”
“I’m not going to argue with you, Manfweed. You have twenty-four hour to bwing Chung back in or there will be consequences.”
“Consequences? Like what?”
“You will see, Mr. Pwesident.”
“You don’t want to escalate, Huli. We are already at the brink of Armageddon. Chung will be safe so long as we continue to work things out down here.”
“Consequences, Mr. President. There will be dire consequences for you,” Hu Li repeated.
“The dire kinds!” Hu Li’s lenses flashed.
“Like sinking another aircraft carrier?”
“More dire than that.”
“Like nuking a city?”
“Worse than that.”
“Huli, how do you expect me to take you seriously? You’re bluffing, and badly at that.”
“We are not a-bruffing. Twenty four ow-ah!”
The monitor went dark.
Everyone’s glance pivoted and locked on to the POTUS.
The president, suddenly aware that he might look uncomfortable, rolled his eyes and chuckled to diffuse the tension of the room.
“Relax. It’s Huli. He’s all talk. His English seems to be getting worse, though. Don’t you think?”
There was a smattering of uncomfortable laughs.
“He’s not crazy. He won’t blow up the world over one twelve-year-old Chinese boy.”
“Nah.” “No way.” “Not likely,” responded various members of the cabinet. “He’s all talk like you say.” “Yeah, all talk. Except for the time he sunk the Harrison…”
“It wouldn’t make any sense,” assured the secretary of agriculture. “He wants the boy down here in the bunker so that he is safe. But escalating to a nuclear war over him not being down here is the most unsafe thing he could possibly do for the boy.”
“I think you’re on to something, Mr. President,” observed the secretary of education.
“It’s 3-D chess, Mr. President. Pure Genius.”
“Hell, its 4-D chess!”
“It’s all part of the plan,” replied the POTUS, whose eyes darted around the room searching for additional affirmations and to ferret out dissenters.
“I think it’s brilliant, sir!” said the secretary of transportation.
“Yes, absolutely brilliant,” added the secretary of homeland security.
“You got him by the short and curlies, Mr. President,” barked Secretary of Defense Buckminster. “Very Sun Tzu, sir.”
“Yeah, you’ve managed to use the Chung boy as leverage for peace! It’s… it’s… Rooseveltian!”
“Rooseveltian?” Haberdash pondered, under his breath.
A look of satisfaction flushed the president’s face.
“No, better than Rooseveltian. It’s Churchilian!”
“No, better than that. You’ve the integrity and tenacity of a modern-day Cato, sir!” commented the attorney general.
“Cato?” asked the president who looked at Tibbles. “Who’s that? Is he talking about that guy who did O.J. Simpson’s laundry?”
“Cato the Younger,” answered the attorney general. “The Roman statesman who battled the corruption of the Senate. You know… Cato?”
The president stared blankly.
“Cato…the man who opposed Caesar.”
“The man who opposed Caesar? What the hell? I am Caesar!”
The attorney general’s shoulders curled and slumped and his eyes dropped in the realization that he had likely just ended his career and would probably now be audited by the IRS… if the IRS survived the nuclear holocaust.
“How about, Reaganesque!” suggested the secretary of the treasury.
“I like that,” answered the POTUS. “Reaganesque!”
“Reagan had the Star Wars defense initiative that brought an end to the Cold War,” the secretary continued, “and you, Mr. President, you have your Chung initiative. You’ve probably saved the world, sir.”
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