#ContinuityOfGovernment, #WW3, #DeepState
With his office infiltrated by a traitor and hobbled by incompetence, an increasingly unstable POTUS attempts a ‘Hail Mary’ that might just save the office of the president… even if it destroys the world in the process.
Buckminster knelt and knocked on the saferoom door located at the back of the UltraBunker. He listened as the locks turned. The steel door opened and the stubbled face of President Manfred peered out. “You have an urgent call on the bat line, sir.” The POTUS crawled out into the conference room and took a seat on his executive chair. He combed his greasy black and gray hair back with his fingers and cleared his throat, then nodded to Buckminster who patched the call through to the wall mount monitor. The first lady’s image appeared.
“Veruca… This is a surprise.”
“To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“I’m calling to say goodbye, Arman.”
“Goodbye? You’ve been gone for weeks already.”
“This time it’s for good. You’ll never see me again. Ever.”
“We’re in a bunker, Veruca. There aren’t that many places to hide. Our paths are sure to cross.”
“No, they won’t. This is it.”
“Should I expect a call from your attorney at some point?”
“So you don’t want a divorce?”
“What would be the point?”
“To protect your inheritance.”
“Thanks to you, it no longer exists.”
“Oh, a re you going to kill yourself?”
The first lady cackled.
“I’ll understand if you do, Veruca. But I want you to know something… I’ll carry on just fine.”
“Still making everything all about you, Arman? I do have to thank you, though.”
“For reminding me of why I know there’s no hope for changing you.”
“Why would I want to change? I’m the President of the United States.”
The first lady winced.
“But I do need to ask about something before you go…” the POTUS continued.
“I figured you would.”
“Not that it matters. We’re going to spin it to our advantage.”
“You don’t have to worry, Arman. Your little sex video is safe.”
“You mean you didn’t give it to the Russians?”
“They’ve seen it, but they don’t have it.”
“So you kept it as a bargaining chip?”
“I did. You see? I’m not as stupid as you think.”
The POTUS glanced at Buckminster who could hardly contain his bubbling glee. “May I ask what prompted you to change your mind about releasing it?”
“What would be the purpose? To humiliate you? You’ve already ordered the destruction of the world. I don’t think anything could be done to worsen your reputation as a human being. If anything, seeing you in your throes of passion with that fat little Frank Tibbles might actually humanize you in some people’s eyes.”
“I suppose you want me to thank you, now?”
“You’re welcome, asshole. Goodbye.”
The screen went dark.
“This is great news, sir!” Buckminster shouted enthusiastically with a pumped fist.
“Indeed it is. Pour me a brandy. I feel like I’ve just cut a giant millstone loose. What a relief.”
Buckminster filled a snifter and set it next to the POTUS. “I’ve brought doughnuts too if you’re hungry.”
Manfred glanced at the box. “We might as well keep it going. What’s on the agenda?”
“Did you get a chance to review my force redeployment directive? If you would sign off, I can issue the order to—”
“Issue the order to whom?” Manfred asked. “No orders are getting out and the nukes have already been launched.”
“Sir, conditions are constantly evolving. I think that in the event Protocol 4 is lifted, we should remain fully prepared to implement our strategy.”
“Strategy for what? You heard the explosion last night. There’s nothing left to strategize.”
“If the surface has been vaporized then it is what it is, but we don’t have confirmation of that. I believe we need to continue to act as if there is still a nation to govern up above. Just in case…”
“Fine. I’ll sign it. There.”
A sinister energy pumped through the president’s veins. He pushed himself upright in his chair and coughed a bit to dislodge some phlegm. Then he rubbed his stubble. Haberdash, whom the POTUS had not even noticed, reached his hand across the conference table and grabbed a strudel.
“Yes, Mr. President?”
“How can we get some intelligence on what is happening on the surface?”
“Sir, the only way I know of would be for you and Hu Li and Dmitriy to get together and agree to end Protocol 4 again.”
“Again?” Manfred laughed. “That’s never happening again. That’s exactly what they want me to do, anyway, to come groveling over to them and beg them to open the doors. The POTUS never grovels, Bucky. Groveling is defeatist and America is never defeated.”
“What about Vietnam?” Haberdash asked, ejecting crumbs of sweet bread as he spoke.
“America never surrenders…”
“What about the Philippines in WW2?”
“America never surrenders… without dignity.” The POTUS slouched back into his chair. “We always end everything on our terms.”
There was a faint knock at the door, after which Nurse Baum entered pushing in a cart.
“It’s time for your vitamin shot, Mr. President,” she said.
“I don’t think I need it, today. I’m feeling good.”
“It will help you get through the day, sir,” Buckminster added.
Baum wheeled the cart next to the president. She gazed down at him like a robot while mechanically pulling on two latex gloves that she released with a snap. She rolled up the president’s right sleeve. Then she tore open a foil packet containing an alcohol swab and wiped the surface of his bicep. Next, she grabbed a plastic pouch off the cart and tore it open with her teeth, producing a needle with an orange safety cap. She clamped down on the cap with her incisors and pulled the needle free. With the orange cap still lodged between her teeth, she aimed the needle at the president’s arm. She plunged it in and withdrew it, re-affixed the cap, and dropped it in a plastic jug. Fricke watched as the president’s expression and posture brightening while Baum took his pulse.
“How are you feeling now, sir?” she asked.
“I’m sure you have a long, busy day ahead.”
“Every day is long and busy, my dear.” He turned to Buckminster. “What else do we have on the agenda?”
“Ag Secretary Roseman.”
“Is he here already?”
“He’s been waiting patiently for three hours.”
“Oh, send him in.”
“Mr. President,” Baum asked.
“I was wondering if I might make a request.”
“This is not the appropriate time,” Buckminster scolded.
“Go ahead, my dear. But make it quick.”
“Do you need any volunteers to go up in one of those missiles you built? You know, to deliver your orders. I would definitely go if asked.”
“Why would you want to go? You’d likely die.”
“It’s my daughter, sir. I’d like to go be with my daughter if she’s still alive.”
The president reached up and gently clasped Nurse Baum’s forearm, his face beaming contrived sympathy. It appeared as if tears were welling up in his eyes and his chin faintly quivered. Baum looked down at him hopefully.
“I’m afraid that’s impossible, honey,” he answered.
The secretary of agriculture entered the room. Baum withdrew her arm and pushed her cart past him on her way out.
“What can I do for you, Rosey?”
“Mr. President, thank you for seeing me. It’s the god damn Canadians, again. They refuse to curb their illegal dumping of genetically modified sorghum flour surplus on our markets. This is in total violation of our trade agreemneent.”
“How do you know?”
“Because the Canadian Department of Agriculture just published their quarterly report and it shows no reduction in their exports.”
“Where are they getting their data?”
“It’s from their regression-based statistical inference… a computer simulation, sir.”
“What do you suggest we do about it?” asked the POTUS.
“Tariffs, sir. Slap some tariffs on those canucks. That’ll teach them.”
“I like your thinking: teach America Junior a lesson. Do you have the executive order drafted for my review?”
“Right here, sir.”
The president signed it with a flourish. “Let me know how it goes, Rosey.”
“Will do, Mr. President.”
“Is there anyone else?” the POTUS asked.
“Secretary of Education,” Buckminster replied.
“Send her in.”
“Good morning Mr. President.”
“Good morning, Mrs. Lebsock.”
“I trust you are feeling better, sir?”
“Much improved. Much improved. What have you got for me?”
“Well, I need to brief you on a little situation brewing in Alabama.”
“What of it?”
“Well, I am hearing rumblings that their state legislature intends to vote to nullify the federal No Education Resource Denied program and spend their grant money on alternative special education programs.”
“We don’t even know that Alabama exists,” Haberdash remarked as he reached for a second strudel.
“Sir,” Mrs. Lebsock continued, “I heard it directly from the governor himself… last night, during the Save The Earth Gala.”
“Those god damn hillbilly republicans. You tell Governor Hogge that, if he signs that legislation, I will get his transportation funding slashed.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Housing and Urban Development.”
“Send Cumberland in. Tom, how the hell are ya?”
“What can I do for you?”
“The Orange County project… we talked about it last week.”
“Ah yes. You need funding.”
“Have you talked to Stu?”
“I have. He said that if you gave a verbal, he would earmark it in the budget committee meeting coming up.”
“Tell him I’m on board. Are they still going to build that petting zoo in the courtyard?”
“They are, sir.”
“Excellent. Those poor minority kids need exposure to wildlife. It’s good for them.”
“I am very aware that the petting zoo is your pet project, if you would excuse the pun. We all love the idea. And at one hundred and seventy million dollars, the zoo’s cost is practically nothing.”
“Thank you, Tom.”
“Thank you, Mr. President. Oh, and when this is all over, we’d like to invite you and the first lady to spend a couple nights in our little cabin in Aspen. It has a helipad so you can get in and out pretty easy.”
“Tom, If Aspen is still there, I’ll be there.”
The meetings continued in this manner for ninety minutes. Finally, they came to the subject of Manfred’s re-election campaign.
“What are the simulated polling numbers saying, Bucky?”
“We’re where we need to be, Mr. President.”
“What does that mean?”
“We’re within striking distance of the lead. We’ll hit Iowa hard with an ad blitz before the caucuses.”
“What’s the theme?”
“Wartime president, sir. We can’t afford to change leadership during an existential crisis.”
“Can I see the ad?”
Buckminster thumbed the buttons on a remote control and the wall monitor came to life.
Ominous music. A grim female voice.
“In an increasingly dangerous world…”
A first-person view of someone stumbling through a murky forest.
“Before the nuclear attack on America…”
The visage of a stalking wolf.
“Senator Mordimer voted to slash military spending…”
A montage of newspaper headlines touting spending cuts.
“…and weakened America’s defenses.”
An unflattering picture of a smirking Senator Mordimer riding in the turret of a tank with an oversized helmet tilting awkwardly on his head.
Cut to a pack of wolves.
“And weakness encouraged our enemies to attack…”
President Manfred appears, talking on the phone, looking presidential.
America needs proven leadership. America needs to stay the course.
“I’m Arman Manfred and I approve this message.”
“What do you think, sir?”
“I love it.”
“We’re uploading it into the campaign computer simulation today. And with Brock on the ticket as your Veep, and the whole gay thing out of the way, we can really take the offensive now.”
“What did you say?”
“The gay thing, sir? I’m sorry, I should have—”
“What are you talking about?”
“You and Frank, the video, the gay thing.”
“I already told you I’m not gay, Bucky. There is no gay thing.”
“Right. Understood, sir. Hang on, I have a call.”
“Who is it?”
“Oh, it’s Tex Cleveland.”
“Excellent. He’s finally ready to sign for CANAMCO. Put him on the monitor.”
A still of Cleveland’s face appeared on screen.
“Tex, how’ve you been?” asked the POTUS.
“Is this Bucky?”
“No, it’s the POTUS. Bucky put you on the monitor.”
“What can I do for you, Tex? I probably shouldn’t tell you this but I’m having a great day so far. I’m anticipating it’s going to get better.”
“Sir, I am just calling to let you know that the CANAMCO board has declined your proposal.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. President.”
“What the hell are you talking about.”
“I’m sorry, but the CANAMCO board simply can’t agree to the terms, Mr. President.”
“Who’s we, Tex? You’re the only board member left.”
“Regardless, we’ve decided to decline your proposal.”
“We had a deal, Tex. What the hell is going on?”
“Well, after talking it over with my wife, I’ve decided to go in another direction.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that I’m throwing my hat in the ring.”
“Throwing your hat in the ring for what?”
“I’m running for president, Arman.”
“As a republican?”
“Afraid so. We’ve got great backing. Hundreds of millions in the bank. It seems there are a lot of corporate boards that are really pissed off about you nuking their balance sheets.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It took some effort convincing them. Them board member types don’t like uncertainty. But they’ve finally decided to back someone other than the man who blew up the world.”
“Tex, don’t do this. You’re wasting everyone’s time and money. Throw your support to me and I’ll get you a cabinet position.”
“No can do, Arman. It’s already in motion. We announce today.”
“Why are you doing this? This makes no sense.”
“It has to be done, Arman. You must be defeated. You and that smug punk of a quarterback you call a running mate. I’m gonna bury you two bastards and I’m gonna love every minute of it.”
The POTUS was speechless.
“Hook ‘em Horns.” Tex gestured before he disconnected.
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