#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.
Emma Baum opened her eyes to mottled ceiling tile. She sat up in her cot and stretched the sleep out of her limbs. She grabbed her overnight bag tucked beneath her and went to the locker room to shower and dress for her shift. She stowed her overnight bag in her locker and grabbed her handbag. Digging through it, she removed the small black case that Buckminster had given her when they spoke in the tinted golf cart. She tossed the case back into her locker and slammed it shut, but before she could walk away she returned, entered the swipe code, performed the iris scan, and re-opened the door. She looked around for witnesses, then reached in for a different item, a vial, the vial of Phenobarbital she had filched so many weeks before. She dropped it into her handbag and closed the locker door again.
Her path had become clear in her nadir of despair. Fricke, Quixote, and Buckminster offered nothing. She knew that. She had clung to the idea of them getting her to the surface but she finally succumbed to the acceptance of the lie. When she had completed her task, she would be given a pat on the head and sent away or perhaps disappeared like so many of the Greys. The SuperBunker would be her prison for the remainder of her life… however much longer that would be. The only thing she had control over was the length of her sentence.
She thought of her stint attending to a death row inmate when she was an intern and young and idealistic. She realized she could never know for sure if he had murdered that little girl, but she knew that he was longing for the hopelessness to end and would admit to anything if it would accelerate its arrival.
She wished that it would just end. The only question that remained was what would she do after she administered the lethal dose of Phenobarbital to the POTUS? If ever there was a human deserving execution, it was him. Here was a man every bit as deserving of death as any child murderer, for hadn’t he killed billions of children? But then what? Would she take her own life after? If so, would she turn off the security so that Buckminster’s gendarme could rush in and install a new sociopath?
She walked out onto the avenue. It was early so she took a more circuitous route to the Brown House. She passed many Greys on the walkways en route, all of them aping the undead, lumbering along, sullen and bent inward on themselves, immersed in their misery. Did any of them have any hope? She searched their downcast faces for a sign. Perhaps a sign would change her mind. But there were no glimmers or glints in any eyes she saw.
She parsed her dissonance, slicing away her doubts. The world was over. What benefit was there in trudging on for a few more months or years until the life support systems failed or the food ran out or the elites accelerated the culling of the heard of Greys to preserve their resource runway. Why live with that future? What reason was there to continue on? If she was somehow still alive, she was unreachable, and she would be suffering. Emma Baum would have to exist with that knowledge and the knowledge that she could never get to her to comfort her as the SuperBunker doors would never be opened. That was no life worth living.
Her walk wrapped around Hotel Americana and down Main Street which passed the entrance to the Brown House. She stepped into the queue for the microwave scanner when she was tapped lightly on the shoulder.
She turned. “What?”
“I know. I’m ready,” she replied.
“Excellent. Here, take this.”
“Trust. Remember to trust.”
She felt a card being pressed into her hand. The source of the unrecognized voice drifted back into the walkway crowds. She wondered in confusion what it meant. Were they adding another task? Were they calling it off? Maybe there would be a delay. She looked at the card as the queue conveyor lurched forward into the Brown House.
Meet me where I gave you the note for Mr. Quixote. 1 PM.
Baum checked the time. 12:45. The queue staggered forward. She felt confusion and uncertainty. If she was late to her post they would try to contact her. If she didn’t respond, they would task someone with finding her. It wouldn’t take them long as she was GPS-tagged.
Another step forward.
What if they caught up to her and searched her handbag? They’d find the vial. She would be sent to prison— a prison within a prison. Perhaps that would be relief. No more worry. A fate determined.
Next in line for the microwave scanner.
Once passed through, it would be too late. Turning back after passing through the security checkpoint would surely raise suspicion. Then she remembered Fricke’s words: “Live in your hopes, not your fears.”
“Next!” barked the attendant.
Baum stood frozen.
“I’m sorry,” Baum explained. “I’ve forgotten something. I’ll have to come back.”
“Next!” barked the attendant, motioning the next zombie in line.
Baum stepped out of the queue and back onto the walkway heading counterclockwise along the avenue. The place she met Fricke was not far— perhaps a thousand feet away. She searched the faces of Greys coming her way but she dared not look over her shoulder. The gendarme on their two- wheeled Mo-Mos could be on her in a flash. She doubled her pace, passing guest-worker after guest worker. The golf carts, with their tinted glass, whizzed by. Images of BNN avatars played on numerous big screens affixed at every lamp post and atop the facades of apartments and shops and offices. The canvas sky was powder blue and featureless, casting pinwheel shadows on the SuperBunker avenues.
She turned right onto 115th Street, past the tofu bar and the yogasium, then left onto 4th Avenue. A gendarme rolled past in front, headed towards the turfed green space that lined the rail line. The crowds of Greys were thinning. The shift change was nearly complete. Soon, all that would be left animating the underworld would be the elites in their fleece leisure suits and augmented reality sunglasses… them and the ever present BNN talking faces.
She passed a modern art gallery and a coffee shop and a massage parlor and a nitrous bar, approaching her rendezvous. She checked the time. 12:53. She looked around, then thought better of doing that as it might make her conspicuous. She slowed her pace and drifted to the facade walls, intending to walk about a hundred meters, then turn and come back. In seven minutes, she would be reported as late. In 22 minutes, someone in a cubicle in a windowless room would receive a message to begin hunting for her on their screen using her tag and facial recognition.
“You’re early,” came a voice behind her.
“Keep walking. You’re headed in the right direction.”
The baritone voice was Fricke’s.
“When you get to the alley, turn right, just past the opiod vending machine. Wait there.”
“Where are you going?”
“I have one more person to get. Go on ahead. It’s not far.”
Baum walked on and turned at the alley. She found the vending machine and someone else.
“Hello,” he said.
“Did Fricke send you?” he asked.
Baum stared without answering. “You look familiar,” she asked.
The man grinned. “Do you watch football?”
“Well, then you might know me then.”
“That’s right. Brock McGuinn. Quarterback for the Hartford Saxons.”
“You’re the one they brought into the bunker.” Baum tried hard not seem contemptuous.
“And you’re the president’s running mate.” A streak of fear slashed through her. Everything was all mixed up. What side was she with? Nothing was making any sense.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” he said, forcing a Cheshire grin. “That whole politicizing stuff ain’t for me.”
“Why am I here?” she asked. “Are they going to arrest me?”
“The security guys.”
“Why? Did you do something?”
The two turned toward the alley. Several meters off, at the end where it opens to the avenue, Fricke stood with another man. “Come this way! Hurry!”
“I guess we should go,” Brock advised.
They stared down the alley towards Fricke and the other man. Fricke started to sprint and Baum couldn’t keep up.
“Gendarme! Behind you!” Fricke shouted. “Run faster!”
Baum looked over her shoulder and saw a security guard gaining on his Mo-Mo. It was the portly and profusely sweating Chinansky, although she didn’t know him.
She heard the rubber wheels humming on the concrete right at her heels. She looked ahead, noticing Brock had reached Fricke and the other. They waved her in but she had several yards of ground yet to cover. She wasn’t going to make it. The Mo-Mo engine hissed at her heels.
“Halt! Halt or I will subdue you!” Chinansky shouted.
Baum ran for her life. She felt a hand grasping at her back. She shouted out in terror. She looked over her shoulder just as the chubby, dripping security guard took hold of her forearm with his course, sausage-like fingers. He yanked her, halting her forward progress, and hopped off his Mo-Mo to properly detain her. The Mo-Mo rolled on, slowing to a stop just a few feet ahead.
“You are being detained, ma’am,” Chinansky wheezed between breaths. He released her arm to mumble something into his collar.
Baum looked around in a daze. She presumed she was finished, but then she heard footfalls approaching. She looked ahead and saw it was Brock McGuinn.
“You stand back!” Chinansky shouted at him as he neared.
“You let her go!” Brock demanded.
“She’s being detained.”
“For what?” he shouted as he closed.
Brock stopped just before them. “Let her go,” he ordered again.
“Hey!” Chinansky’s eyes lit up. “You’re… you’re…”
Brock grinned. “Yeah, yeah, I’m him.”
“Yep. College and pro.”
“All time yardage passer!”
“And four-time MVP!”
“Five-time MVP!” Brock, without breaking his smile, reared back with his right leg and let loose with a ferocious whip of a kick that landed the laces of his cross-trainers squarely upon Chinansky’s testicals. The fat gendarme instantly doubled over in howling agony.
“And I also led the Big Ten in net punting average,” Brock added. “Come on, let’s go Miss Baum.”
Brock and Baum jumped onto the Mo-Mo and sped towards Fricke and the other who had just gotten into a golf cart with tinted windows. Baum and Brock hopped off the Mo-Mo and climbed in and they pulled away before Chinansky had regained full consciousness.
No one spoke in the cart until they were safely cruising down the intersectional boulevard, counterclockwise towards Section E. The road left the facades of the North American section behind and coursed along a gentle curve carved out of the rough-hewn stone. The blue canvas sky ended and harsh lamps of white, halogen light replaced the gentle, diffuse back-lighting of the populated sections. To their left, the monorails streamed along, a pair of dull, smooth ropes of raw steel, following their massive arc, marking the orbits of the monorail cars forever turning in the SuperBunker ring in opposing directions.
When the tension eased, Baum finally recognized the other man with Fricke in the cart. It was Haberdash. He had grown a scraggly beard. His hair was greasy. His clothes were stained with sweat and grease.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“It’s not far now,” Fricke answered with a sense of satisfaction about him. Hardly a moment later, their car slowed and exited the avenue. Down they went onto a service road that turned under the avenue and crossed under the rails. They stopped. “This is it. We have to walk from here.” They got out. Fricke pressed a button on the fob and tossed it back onto the driver’s seat. They closed the doors and the empty cart pulled away, back onto the boulevard.
Fricke felt along the surface of a steel wall for the catch. He found it and released it. The door parted. Brock helped swing the interior blast door open and they stepped into the darkness. “Follow me.” Fricke used his cell light to lead the way into a tunnel, hardly tall enough for Brock to walk upright in. It was pitch black save for Fricke’s dull, blue light. “Careful. It’s a little rocky through here. A few more steps. Keep coming.” They finally stopped and gathered around Fricke’s beacon.
“What is this place?” Haberdash asked.
“A way out,” Fricke turned and answered. He aimed his dull light illuminating a steel cage.
“A jail? You said I was going home,” Brock protested.
“It’s not a jail, Brock. It’s a safety grate.” Fricke lifted the grate and stepped through. “This way.”
“Are you sure?” Haberdash asked.
“Get in. I’m riding with you.”
“To where?” Baum asked, hopefully.
“Live in your hopes.”
They packed into the lift. Fricke reached between them and pulled the grate down. “Are you ready?” They all nodded in the blue glow. Fricke felt around and pushed a button. They heard a short buzz. The cage jolted upwards and they began to ascend. Fricke shut off his cell and it went completely dark. The dangling pullies above pinged as the slack tensed and they clanged together. The lift pulled them upwards.
“I know it’s cramped. It only takes about ten minutes so just try to relax.”
No one dared to ask what was left on the surface. What good would it do to know? They would know soon enough. Instead, they reveled in their hopes that could be silently enjoyed for the next few moments before being dashed by reality. Whatever was left of the world was going to greet them either way.
A faint din above changed into a glow and their eyes saw each other’s shapes, and then their faces, gazing upwards when not looking at each other. The cables and gears whined under the strain of the lift. The cage clanged against its guides. Fragments of stone and dirt broke loose and tumbled down into the abyss. The light grew bright, brighter, blinding. A shrill buzz. An abrupt stop.
“Welcome,” Fricke said as he slid the grate open.
They stepped out into the light and breathed in the true air. Their eyes adjusted. Figures came into focus. People were scurrying about dressed in lab coats and polo shirts and khaki pants. Some were taking readouts. Some were tending to others. Some were giving and taking instructions.
“Where are we?” Brock asked.
“You’re in the Wal Mart parking lot in Ashland, Ohio.”
“So the world’s still here?” Haberdash asked.
“It is. I’m under strict orders not to tell anyone until they are topside.”
Relieved smiles filled their faces.
“Wasn’t there a nuclear war?” Baum asked.
“Thankfully, it was averted.”
“Well…” Fricke waxed, “when you remove all the lunatics from the discussion, the cooler heads prevail. Go ahead, go outside. I can’t promise you much of a view, but the sun is shining at least.
The trio walked toward the opening and out into the sun and the cool breeze of autumn. The leaves were beginning to turn.
Brock’s football coach was there waiting. Brock ran toward him and they embraced. “C’mon son, we can have you ready for the Baltimore game.” A silver Lincoln pulled up and they got in the back. Brock didn’t even bother to wave as they sped away.
“Hab,” Fricke called out as he approached from behind. Hab turned. “Don’t forget our deal.”
“I won’t,” Haberdash replied. “It was a pleasure working with you, Fricke, and you, Miss Baum.” He shook her hand briskly and jogged off towards the Walmart to buy himself a new sweat suit and a hot pocket.
Fricke stood at Baum’s side. “What are you feeling?” he asked her as she stared out at the glorious blue sky wrapping beyond the Wal Mart facade.
“Gratitude,” she answered.
Follows, comments, likes, edits and suggestions are greatly appreciated.