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Aspiring author abrasive satire.

COG Chapter 27

CogCoverSquare

#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.

 

 

 

 

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Chapter 27

The day after the election, SuperBunker life carried on as it always had. The massage parlors, hemoglobin cafes, and aromatherapy boutiques brimmed with plucked elites just as they had the day before, and the day before that. The monorails ran on time. The virtual sun rose according to its program. The ambient sounds of simulated chirping birds started on cue. At Ten O’clock Bunker Standard Time, the president’s face appeared on every screen in the North American Zone.

“My fellow Americans… The first lady and I have been so touched by all the encouragement we’ve received over the past few weeks. Today, it’s my turn to give thanks. We’ve been through some difficult times together. Whether we have seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, the conversations I’ve had with you are what have kept me inspired and kept me going. You made me a better president, and you made me a better man.

“After four years as your leader, I still believe in the beating heart of our American ideal— our bold experiment in self-government. It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that we, the people, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.

“This is what we mean when we say America is exceptional. Not that our nation’s been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow. The work of democracy has always been hard; it’s always been contentious. Sometimes it’s been bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels that we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion.

“Tomorrow, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy. We will all bear witness to the system of checks and balances, as memorialized in our Constitution. These checks and balances, envisioned and implemented by our founding fathers, have ensured the continued existence of our exceptional nation for a quarter of a thousand years.

“Elections cannot be conducted in an atmosphere of rancor. Nor can they be simulated. Real men and women and transgendered… and the non-binary types must exercise their franchise. A true election involving human beings is good for this country. Anything else is anathema to freedom. The founding fathers were very clear— that true elections are to decide who our representatives shall be. So, let us continue to work together to anticipate the challenges and address those challenges because we have the capacity to do so.

“Therefore, after long deliberation, I have decided that I must continue to serve as your president until we can hold a true presidential election, one to be decided by the actual surviving voters of this nation. As president of the United States, it is my patriotic duty to suspend democracy in order to save democracy… until we can hold real elections.

“Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.”

All of this barely penetrated the consciousness of the elites who were sipping their designer coffees, performing their yoga poses, selecting their specialty bath salts, or engaging in their sessions of hair removal.

The Greys were too busy to take note of the machinations of the executive, either. With so many of them having gone missing from their posts, the work shifts of the remainders had been increased out of sheer necessity. Every day for them was becoming a drudgery. What was happening to their ranks? One grim rumor took root within their minds: that they were being systematically liquidated, disappeared by the gendarme of the elites, one at a time, secretly, so as not to foment a panic, in order to extend the stores of finite provisions. But that couldn’t be true. The Greys simply could not bring themselves to believe in the murderous nature of their masters. To accept that horror meant they would be compelled to take action for their self-preservation. No more than a handful of Greys was prepared to do that, so they instead persuaded themselves it was all just a wild conspiracy and carried on as they had.

Nurse Baum was half-watching the president’s speech on the ubiquitous BNN monitors while in transit between shifts. But she was distracted by the sensation of being stared at from behind. The monorail decelerated into the station and Baum gathered herself to step out onto the platform. Once off, she glanced back over her shoulder, noting a man in a black jogging suit and sunglasses. This was the moment she was anticipating. What will I do? She asked herself. She held eye contact with him for a moment, then walked to an empty bench and took a seat. The man in black looked both directions, then walked over to her and took the seat beside her.

“Miss Baum?” he whispered, while watching the monorail fill with passengers.

“Yes?”

“I have someone who would like to speak to you.”

Baum had contemplated this moment many times, trying to imagine what was going to happen. If it were to be something sinister, Mr. Quixote surely wouldn’t have alerted her to it in advance. Her nervousness manifested in her racing heartbeats. She tried to remain calm. “I… I’m ready,” she forced herself to reply.

“Don’t worry,” the man in black explained further. “You are not in any danger.”

“How do I know that for sure?”

“In a moment, a black golf cart with tinted windows will pull up. Please get up and walk over to the cart and get in.”

Baum searched the avenue over her shoulder.

“There’s nothing to worry about.”

“You already said that.”

The cart soon appeared and stopped at the curb just a few paces from their bench.

“Walk casually over and get in.”

Baum got up from the bench and approached the cart. The plastic door opened. She looked inside. There was a driver and a man seated in the back seat who was hidden in the shadow cast by the tinted vinyl windows.

“Please, get in.”

Baum slipped into the back seat. The plastic door clicked shut and the cart whirled off down the avenue.

“Do you know who I am, Miss Baum?”

The voice was not the one she expected to hear. It wasn’t Fricke. She watched as he took off his sunglasses and then she recognized him.

“My name is General Buckminster. Do you know that name?”

“Yes. I’ve seen you with the president many times.”

“You look surprised.”

Baum pondered the situation. Matters had become uncertain. Fricke had exhibited nothing but contempt for Buckminster, so why would he send him in his stead?

“I was expecting someone else. That’s all.”

“Who?”

“Oh… no one in particular. Just someone else. Not you.”

“Do you know why you’re here?”

“I don’t think so. Am I in trouble? Did I do something?”

“No.”

The cart whizzed along the avenue, passing the boutiques and cafes.

“Are you a patriot, Miss Baum?”

“I… I suppose.”

Buckminster cleared his throat. “Your country is in dire need of patriots, Miss Baum. Are you sure you are a patriot?”

“I… I guess. I don’t know for sure…”

“Excellent. Did you vote in the past election?”

“For president?”

“Yes. Did you vote for president?”

“Actually, no. I had to work a double shift and I’m a nurse so it is difficult to break away.”

“But if you did vote, who would you have voted for?”

She answered carefully. “I don’t share my political views.”

“That’s fine. That’s fine.” Buckminster repositioned himself so that he was facing more towards her in the backseat of the luxury golf cart. He extended his arm on the setback behind her shoulders. “What do you think of the election outcome?”

Wariness filled her. She had felt nothing for the POTUS short of resentment for incinerating the surface of the planet, but Buckminster was the POTUS’ right hand man. She thought it best to play coy. “I don’t know. I saw that Cleveland won.”

“He didn’t just win, he won by a landslide, the biggest margin of victory in electoral college history. 531 to 7.”

“I didn’t realize that.”

“And yet…” Buckminster paused.

“And yet what?” Baum asked.

“And yet, President Elect Tex Cleveland’s victory was stolen from him.”

“How so?”

“Didn’t you watch the presidential address this morning?”

“I’m sorry, I was busy working.”

“The president of the United States suspended the results of the recent election and is refusing to hand over power”

“Wow. That’s…,” she hesitated, “audacious.”

“Audacious is an understatement, Miss Baum.”

“So why am I here?”

“You are here because you are a very special person.”

“Me? How so?”

“You are special because you have access to the president.”

“What do you mean?”

“You are his nurse. You administer his medications and perform his health checks.”

“So?” Baum shrugged.

“Miss Baum, the president is holed up in that UltraBunker, running the government and simulated country with total impunity, flouting the Constitution and rule of law. He intends to continue doing this despite losing the election. It is time for him to go, but none of us can get close enough to make that happen. He’s paranoid and delusional. He’s had my security clearance revoked and we have no one else on the inside who can get to him. We… your country desperately needs your help to get him removed so that we can restore the republic.”

Baum felt a sense of betrayal as if she had been belted in the ribs by it. She had expected something different after speaking with Fricke and Quixote. They seemed genuine. Now she saw that she was just being used.

“Will you do this patriotic duty for us, Miss Baum?”

“Do what?” she asked.

Buckminster reached into his breast pocket and handed her a small black case. He unzipped it revealing a small vial.

“What is it?” she asked, although she already immediately recognized the name scribed on the label.

“It’s a sedative. Once administered, it will put him under for several hours. When he is out, we need you to deactivate the security systems for the UltraBunker. The instructions are on this lanyard. Here, put it on. Once that’s done, we will send in the SEALs to extricate the president from the office of the presidency.”

“Then what?”

“Then we’ll install the duly elected President Tex Cleveland as the new president of the United States.”

“Yeah, but then what happens to me?”

Buckminster smiled. “You, my dear, become a hero to the republic.”

“Is that it?”

Buckminster scowled. “What do you mean ‘is that it?’”

“I mean is that all? Do I get anything else?”

“Well, we can give you an honorary PIN and a priority number so you can become a permanent resident of the SuperBunker.”

Baum stared Buckminster in the eyes as a spirit of resistance welled up inside of her. Her gaze hardened. She had something of value that they wanted, access. That was leverage. So few Greys had any leverage. “That’s not what I want.”

“What do you mean?”

“I want something else.”

“I’m sorry Miss Baum, but we are making a very generous offer.”

“Oh, to hell with your offer.”

“Miss Baum…”

“You are going to meet my demands or you can find someone else to do your dirty work.”

“Miss Baum, there is no one else. You or going to do this for us or else.”

“Or else what? You’re going to disappear me like you have all those other Greys? I don’t care anymore. Do what you have to do. Do it right now. Get it over with. I won’t do anything for you unless you give me what I want.”

Buckminster huffed. “All right. What is it you want?”

“I want out of this bunker. I want to go home.”

Buckminster laughed. “Why on earth would you want to do that?”

“To find my daughter.”

Buckminster sighed. “Oh, Miss Baum, there’s nothing left up there. This is all that remains of the world.”

“I don’t care. I want to try to find her or die trying. I want you to let me go.”

“I don’t know how that is possible in lieu of Protocol 4. perhaps we could get you a luxury apartment and a job promotion. Would that be enough instead?”

“I said I want out of here! I don’t care if I am poisoned by radiation the moment I step on the surface. I want out of this hell.”

“I don’t see how…”

“That’s what I want or no deal.”

Buckminster bit his clenched fist trying to contain his frustration. “O.k. I’ll see what I can do. Perhaps President Elect Cleveland can make an overture to the Chinese and Russians to address Protocol 4 again ad let you out. That’s all I can promise for now.” Buckminster stuck out his hand. “Do we have a deal?”

“No. I want you to guarantee me passage to the surface, in one of those missiles if necessary. Guarantee it or no deal.”

“Miss Baum…”

“Pull over and let me out.”

“All right. All right. Stop the cart.”

Buckminster extended his hand. Emma Baum stared him in the eye, probing his dead expression. She knew he was a liar.

“Tomorrow morning, Miss Baum. It has to happen tomorrow morning.”

 


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COG Chapter 26

CogCoverSquare

#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.

 

 

 

 

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

Chapter 26

“Thank you. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.” President Manfred waved at the crowd of summoned Greys from behind his teleprompter. A Manfred/McGuinn campaign banner formed a backdrop. The “u” in “McGuinn” was fashioned into a goal post. “Tonight, America goes to the polls to exercise their unalienable right to choose their rulers. It’s been a long, hard fought campaign. And these have been trying times. We have battled an opponent in this race hardened by decades of corporate profiteering and pillaging of the environment, but we know our message of ‘staying the course and rebuilding America’ is a winning message.”

Smattering of applause.

“America loves a winner. My running mate, Brock McGuinn, is the embodiment of a winner— the winningest quarterback in football history! He brings the spirit of a champion to the Brown House, for now, and to the White House after we rebuild it!”

Brock McGuinn grinned.

Applause.

“My fellow Americans, we had to make some tough choices. Leadership is never easy. But we are firm believers that America should always stand by her convictions and never, never surrender. Americans do not stand on the sidelines. They get into the game. So do your patriotic duty and go to the polls and exercise your right. Due your patriotic duty and remember to vote for your champions.”

Applause.

The POTUS held up Brock McGuinn’s fist and smiled and nodded. A Cheshire grin remained frozen into McGuinn’s face. His chin dimple was made especially prominent by the makeup team and lighting. The POTUS released Brock’s fist then gestured for him to take center stage. Buckminster, dressed in his military dress uniform, entered the frame and crouched down over a red white and blue football. Brock got behind him, placed his hands between Buckminster’s legs, under his crotch, and barked out the signals. “Red eighty-eight! Red eighty-eight! Ohio! Ohio! Hu-hut!” Brock took the snap, dropped back, planted his back foot, and fired a bullet pass that rifled just over the heads of the crowd, finally hitting a bespectacled Grey in the face some fifty yards away, dislodging his glasses upon impact. The crowd went bananas. Brock raised his hands to signify a touchdown. The crowd cheered even louder. Brock pumped his fist. The crowd started jumping up and down, some started to weep. A few wetted themselves in the excitement. Then the loudspeakers began the opening chords of the Saxon football team fight song. When concluded, the crowd broke off into a fevered chorus of “Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey.”

The surveillance cameras captured everything that happened, converted it to binary code, and fed it into the supercomputer election algorithm.

POTUS and Brock and Buckminster shook a few more hands and retreated into the UltraBunker to watch the election returns. Buckminster turned on  BNN. Haberdash poured everyone a brandy. Brock stood with his hands on his hips, leering at the screen.

“How’re we looking?” Haberdash asked.

“It’s early,” Buckminster replied. “The polls haven’t closed on the East Coast.”

“Can someone explain why this whole process isn’t just instantaneous? Can’t they just push a button and have it over with?” asked the POTUS.

“Sir,” Buckminster explained. “An authentic, reliable modeling of the voting decisions of every single potential voter from a voter population of over two hundred million requires a very complex computer simulation. Every conceivable voter parameter has been included. Unemployment rates. Price levels. foreign policy decisions. The stock market indices. Consumer confidence. The time of day. The results of other states. The results of the past Super Bowl…”

“I was MVP!” shouted Brock McGuinn.

“…The simulated eastern time zone results, as reported by BNN, impact voters in the west. That parameter has to be applied sequentially. There really is no way to get the most accurate simulation without processing it in real time.”

The POTUS downed his brandy and watched the television avatars break down the results.

“…and here is Wolford with the latest results in Florida where polls have just closed. Wolford…

“Thank’s DeForest. We are getting simulated results in from the panhandle precincts. President Manfred has a strong lead in Broward country, which is strongly democrat, but is it strong enough? Let’s have a look. If Tex Cleveland can win these seven counties, all historically republican counties, he will probably have enough to win Florida.”

“Shit!” cursed the POTUS. “Why did we only get 55% in Broward county? Bucky?”

“I don’t know what’s happening there, sir. I’ll call my people in the IT department.”

“Tell them we should be getting 65% in Broward. Those damn Mexicans and Jews all vote democrat. This is wrong. The simulation is broken.”

“I think they’re Cubans, sir, not Mexican, and they tend to be more conservative.”

“I don’t care what you want to call them. They should be voting for democrats. What the hell is going on?”

Buckminster made a call on his cell.

Brock tossed the red white and blue football to himself.

Haberdash, who was already on his second brandy, began watching BNN intently.

A faint knock came from behind the UltraBunker blast door.

“Who is it?” the POTUS asked.

“It’s Nurse Baum, sir.”

“Yes, yes. I’m sorry there is no one there to let you in. My assistant has not been reporting for duty. Hab, will you let her in please?”

“Sure.” Haberdash got up from his chair and backstepped to the blast door without taking his eyes off the screen or spilling his snifter.

“Oh, for the love of Christ!” shouted the POTUS. The returns from Virginia were flashing on the screen. Tex Cleveland was the projected winner. “What in the fuck is going on?”

Haberdash opened the door and Nurse Baum rolled her cart in. The POTUS stood up to curse the screen, but took a seat when Baum pulled up next to him. She took his vitals while he fumed.

Brock raised the red white and blue ball to his ear and feigned a throwing motion.

Buckminster made more calls on his cell.

“Bucky!” the POTUS shouted.

Nurse Baum wiped a vein on the president’s arm with an alcohol swipe.

“Bucky! What the hell?”

“I don’t have any information yet, sir.”

Nurse Baum removed a needle from a plastic package, bit off the cap, and flicked loose the tiny air bubbles.

The avatars on the monitor discussed the surprising victories for Cleveland. “It’s going to make things interesting,” one remarked.

“Bucky!”

“Just a moment, Mr. President.”

The POTUS leaned back in his chair, trying to calm himself while awaiting his injection.

Haberdash picked over the adjacent buffet tray.

Nurse Baum reached in to administer the amphetamine shot.

“BNN is now projecting republican Tex Cleveland as the winner of North Carolina.”

“What the fuck, Bucky?! Who are you talking to? Here, give me that goddamn phone.”

Bucky handed his cell to the POTUS.

“Hello. Who the fuck is this? Chester? Chester who? You listen to me, Chester, you go find out what the hell is going on or it’s your ass. Do you hear me?” He handed the phone back to Buckminster.

“What do you want me to do, Mr. President?”

“What do you want me to do?” the POTUS mocked, then glanced over at Brock who carefully laid his ball down on the conference table, then crossed his arms and glared at Buckminster. “You’re my campaign manager, Bucky. Start managing things.”

“I don’t know what I am supposed to do, Mr. President. I’m hopeful things will turn around in New York. New York is always blue.”

“I don’t want any excuses,” the POTUS replied. “Brock, do you like excuses?”

“We don’t make excuses,” Brock answered. “Champions don’t make them. One time, we got down by 21 points to Denver due to some really bad calls and a bunch of guys on I.R., but did we make excuses? Hell no! We sucked it up and started making plays… came back and won that one in overtime.”

“Yeah! yeah!” the POTUS interrupted. “Do you hear that Bucky? No excuses.”

“What should I do then?” Buckminster asked.

“You get on the phone to that Broward County and make sure they find some missing ballots.”

“Some missing ballots, sir?”

Some missing ballots, sir?” the POTUS mocked again. “Yeah. Missing ballots. Like they missed an entire truckload of them or something. Get them tabulated. We gotta have Florida.”

“Sir, this is a computer simulation.”

“No excuses!” Brock barked.

“Find a way, Bucky,” added the POTUS.

“But sir,” Buckminster continued. “How do I engineer a truckload of ballots to show up in a computer simulation?”

“Not my fucking problem. Figure it out.” The POTUS fell back into his chair and presented his vein to Nurse Baum who promptly injected him. He exhaled and relaxed and barely stirred when it was announced minutes later that New York had gone to Cleveland.

“We still have Texas and California,” Haberdash offered…

 

…But by 9 PM standard bunker time, it was all over. BNN called the race in Texas for Cleveland which put him over the top. Manfred had lost. Not only had he lost, but he had lost every single state except one— Connecticut— which is where Brock McGuinn’s Saxons played their home games.

“I don’t understand,” lamented Buckminster. “You’re a war time president. War time presidents never lose.”

“Now you’re just a one-and-done,” Brock pined. “Like those losers Bush and Carter and the Eagles.”

“I just don’t get it,” Buckminster moaned as he paced the room. The POTUS reclined in his chair, barely lucid. Buckminster shuffled over to the president’s side. “Mr. President,” he asked in a timid tone. “I think we may need to make the call to President Elect Cleveland.”

“What the hell for?”

“To concede.”

“Why?”

“Well, because it’s what the losers do, sir. They call and concede. It’s a gesture that promotes national unity. It helps us to move forward as one republic.” Buckminster presented his phone to the POTUS as if he was a waiter presenting the check. The POTUS stared at it, his expression darkening.

“Buck…”

“Yes sir?”

“You can take that phone of yours and shove it straight up your ass.”

“Sir?”

“You heard me.”

“But…”

“I’m not conceding anything.”

Just then, Buckminster’s phone rang.

“Who is it?” asked the POTUS.

“Uh, it’s Tex Cleveland, sir.”

The POTUS stared at Buckminster lost in his diabolical thoughts.

The phone rang again.

Brock stared at the POTUS.

Haberdash piled caviar onto a cracker.

“Should I answer, sir?”

The POTUS broke from his trance. “Sure. Put him on speaker… Hello! Who is it?”

“I have President Elect Brandeis Cleveland on the line. Are we speaking to the president?”

“You are.”

Ruffling sounds.

“Hello, hello Mr. President.”

“Tex. What do you want?”

“I was expecting a call from you.”

“Were you?”

“Oklahoma just came in. I’m over 270 electoral votes.”

“Congratulations.”

“Aren’t you going to concede?”

“Sure. Congratulations for winning a rigged computer simulation.”

“Don’t be a sore loser. Hey, is Brock there?”

“He’s here. You’re on speaker.”

“Hey Brock…”

“Yeah. What do you want?”

“What did you think about that ass-whoopin we put on you tonight? I can’t recall any presidential election ever being a shutout.”

“It wasn’t a shutout,” Brock snapped in a shrill voice that sounded as if he was choking back tears.

“Oh, right. You guys won Connecticut. Still, 531 to 7, that’s an ass-kicking for the record books.”

“You don’t have 531. We still have a chance to win the west coast and make a game of it.”

“No way, Brock. We’re running up the score. We’re gonna rub your nose in shit all the way up until the polls close in Guam. We want all the votes. 531 to 7. Hell, we might even contest Connecticut. You only won that by half a percent.”

Brock tried to speak but stopped when his voice came out as a squeak.

“You all have a pleasant evening.” Cleveland signed off.

“That bastard!” The POTUS slammed his fist.

Brock massaged his eyelids to prevent tears from bursting out and rolling down his face.

Bucky slouched in dejection. “Sir, what should we do?”

“Shut the fuck up, Bucky! I’m not conceding that I lost an election that didn’t even happen.”

“But sir, that would be an abuse of power.”

“I said I’m not conceding. I demand a real election, with real voters and ballots, where most of the rules are enforced.”

Buckminster looked dumbfounded.

“Get that stupid look off your face, Bucky. Now listen to me…”

“Yes sir?”

Listen carefully.”

“I’m listening, sir.”

“You’re fired! Now get the hell out of here and don’t come back.”

“Sir?”

“Get lost!”

Buckminster stared at the president, then glanced at Haberdash who shrugged before shoving another cracker piled with caviar into his mouth. With nothing left to say, he stormed out.

“Brock…”

“Yes sir?”

“I’m promoting you to chief of staff. Can you handle that?”

“I don’t see why not? I was a walk-on at Michigan.”

 


Follows, comments, likes, edits and suggestions are greatly appreciated. 

Previous Chapter

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COG Chapter 25

CogCoverSquare

#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.

 

 

 

 

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

Chapter 25

To V.

C/O Mr. Quixote

1569 Section L

 

Emma Baum stared at the note, being careful not to appear conspicuous as she did. She had stared at it many times over the previous three days. She was riding the monorail, whirling through the SuperBunker towards the Latin America section of the SuperBunker— Section L. She found an open seat which was unusual as the trains at that time were perpetually standing room only.

The Asia section flew past in the windows. Billboards covered every surface, picturing glamorous, symmetrical, flawless Asian faces, layered over vistas of aquamarine surf and sugar sand beaches and mountain pinnacles framing airbrushed, luminescent melon sunsets. Words flashed and scrolled in oriental characters, sentences each punctuated with national flags. The elites were out and about upon the avenues, sipping their tea and snorting their powders, bathing in the pristine, climate-controlled, bug-free, ersatz world of the SuperBunker… in their prescription-induced fogs.

The Greys served them dutifully, if not enthusiastically. In the Asian section, the workers stood apart with their pasty skin and fair hair—when it wasn’t died blue or green or some such. European guest workers were assigned to the Asian section. The race of the guest worker caste did not match that of the host elites. This was by design. The sociologists had determined that elites would feel less dissonance and discomfort when their servants were not of the same racial heritage. In Section N, the North America section, the Greys were of brown skin and dark hair and round faces and short stature. In Section E, the prole class was comprised of sinewy North Africans and Middle Easterners. When the monorail stopped at the border between Section A and Section L, white workers boarded and the blacks got off. The Greys that worked the Latin American facilities and serviced the Latin American elites were entirely Sub Saharan African or Aboriginal.

Baum stepped off with the crowd of uniformed passengers who quickly dispersed in the directions of their myriad destinations. She passed through an RFID tracking gate, down an escalator, and onto the colorful avenues of Imperium Hispanicum. She passed under the gaze of Simon Bolivar and Che Guevara and soon found avenue 1000, then block 500 and unit 69 without trouble. She entered a cozy, terra cotta cafe and sat at a small round table surfaced in bright tiles, facing the pedestrian avenue. An image of President Manfred giving a campaign speech with scrolling Spanish subtitles filled the television monitor behind the coffee bar. His strained grin and baggy, drooping eyes divulged the wear and tear of an intense campaign. The simulated election was going to be close.  Baum was greeted moments later.

“Buenos dias,” chimed a Nubian server topped in a wreath of interwoven braids.

“Hello,” Baum replied.

“Inglais?”

“Yes please.”

“What will you to order?” she asked in shaky English.

“I’m only here to make a delivery.”

“Oh?”

Baum reached into her bag and withdrew the envelope. “I have something I am to deliver to a Mr. Quixote. Is he here?”

The server’s lips pursed in confusion. “Who do you say?”

“I’m looking for a Mr. Quixote. Is he here?”

The server pondered. “I am not know any Senior Quixote.”

“Are you sure? My instructions say I am to give him this card here, at this address.”

“May I see?”

Baum was apprehensive but relinquished the envelope after considering the simple, cryptic note it contained. The server examined the envelope. Then she examined Baum. She handed it back. “One moment, please,” she said in faultless English, and she went off behind the counter and through a door into the back.

Baum turned to watch the passersby as she waited, noticing it looked like a typical sunny midday on the surface, betrayed only by the soft multiple shadows cast by the diffuse overhead lighting rather than the hard-edged shade made by a true sun. The server returned within two minutes.

“Mr. Quixote will see you now,” she remarked before drifting into a back room.

Baum tried to call after her but instead sat silently at the table.

“Hello, Ms. Baum,” came a voice from behind.

She turned to find a Chinese face stretched up from behind his laptop screen.

“How did you know my name?”

“You were expected.”

“You’re Mr. Quixote, then?”

“For our purposes, yes.”

“I am supposed to give you something.”

“That card you’re holding, I presume?”

“Yes. But how do I know you really are Mr. Quixote?”

Quixote grinned. “Is your note addressed to V?”

Baum nodded.

“Have you read the note inside?”

“Yes, I have.”

“Does it say ‘Guacamole’ or ‘Habenero’?”

Now convinced of Quixote’s authenticity, she handed the card over. “See for yourself.” He reached out to retrieve it and opened it up, read it, nodded, and tucked it into his shirt pocket.

“Do you have any idea about what’s happening?” he asked, probing her mind with his intense gaze.

“No,” Baum answered. “Are you going to tell me?”

“No. I’m afraid it’s too dangerous for you to know right at this moment. You wouldn’t want to know, anyway. It would be hard to get through your days with that knowledge, being unable to share it. But you’ll know everything soon enough. I promise you that. I’ll say that big changes are coming soon.”

“Should I be worried?”

“No. You should be hopeful.”

“What reason is there for hope? Hasn’t the world been destroyed?”

“Live in your hopes, Ms. Baum, not your fears.”

“Well, when will I find out?”

“Days. A week or two at the most. Just be ready.”

“Ready for what?”

“Be ready to trust.”

 


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COG Chapter 24

CogCoverSquare

#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.

 

 

 

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Chapter 24

Nurse Baum had barely slept for a week. The fate of her daughter consumed her thoughts, filling her with despair. Most of the Greys felt this way, having been separated from their loved ones on the surface and presuming them to be incinerated or dispersed by the mass destruction. Yet Emma Baum and the thousands of other guest workers carried on with their duties, imprisoned in the SuperBunker, subject to the perplexed or often indignant stares of their underworld masters. The elites just couldn’t comprehend why the Greys weren’t more grateful for being spared.

Emma opened her eyes and turned to the cot next to her. It was vacant and had been so for the last three nights. She got up, grabbed her duffle, slid her slippers on, and navigated the maze of snoring, staring, weeping, coughing co-workers to make her way to the changing stalls. Once dressed, she went to the lockers where she fixed up her hair. She no longer wore makeup in hopes of currying the president’s favor as a rumor had spread that the POTUS had gone insane, having murdered his gay lover in an apocalyptic rage, deep in the inner catacombs. This was dismissed as wild conspiracy theory by the elitists, of course, so the subject was not broached in conversations with them.

Emma Baum stared at the contents of her locker, locking on the vial of phenobarbital she had swiped from the pharmacy. She buried it with her duffel bag and removed her handbag from her locker. She walked out of the dorm and onto the avenue. The canvas sky, high above, was clear blue, and the simulating orb lights were soft and yellow. She strolled past the boutiques that were preparing to open for business: the designer barista, the fine clothier, the waxing salon, the cigar shop, the cosmetics emporium— each manned by glum-faced Greys. She forced herself to keep her eyes focused directly ahead as she walked.

“Psst,” hissed a voice from behind.

Emma dismissed it and continued to walk.

“Wait!”

She redoubled her pace, turning slightly and catching a glimpse of a figure stepping out from the alley she had passed. She pressed on hoping whoever it was would relent but the footsteps gained. She turned to see who was pursuing her. He was a shadowy man with a high collar coat, sunglasses, and a Gatsby hat pulled down low on his forehead. She still had a few hundred meters to go to the safety and security of the medical center security queue. Surely, he wouldn’t attempt anything out in the open.

“Hold up!”

Baum broke into a trot. Her mind raced. “What did I do?” She immediately thought of the phenobarbital she had. Busted!

“Emma Baum,” the voice called.

The voice was familiar.

“Nurse Baum, I have something for you.”

They were both standing in the avenue, passed in both directions by a steady stream of elites dressed down in designer fleece sweatpants, exotic sneakers, highlighted hair pulled or slicked back, faces masked in thousand-dollar sunglasses.

“Nurse Baum, it’s me.”

She recognized the voice. “Mr. Fricke?”

“Yes.”

She started to turn.

“No, don’t!” he ordered. “The camera AI will catch it as a suspicious gesture and hone in.”

“What are you doing here?” she whispered.

Just then, a portly security guard on a Mo-Mo rolled up. She pretended to check her screen until the gendarme was safely past.

“No time for that. I have a very important favor to ask.”

“What is it? I don’t want any to get involved in anything.”

“I just need you to deliver a message. A piece of paper.”

“Why me?”

“Because you’re the only Grey I can trust at the moment.”

“Why would you trust me?”

“Because we have something you what in return.”

Baum immediately thought of her daughter. “And what would that be?”

“It will be well worth it for you.”

“What does that mean?”

“That’s all I can say, for now. Just trust me.”

Even if her instincts told her it was most likely a bureaucrat’s bullshit, she had nothing to lose. A fleeting hope rooted in bullshit was better than total despair.

“Who am I delivering it to?”

“It’ll say on the message.”

“What is the message?”

“I’ll walk past you and place a card in your handbag. It has instructions written on it.”

“Is it top secret? What if I read it?”

“It doesn’t matter if you read it. Just deliver it. Do that and I will come for you.”

Baum nodded her head in agreement. Fricke walked past her and slipped the card into her bag with an imperceptible sweep of his hand.

“I’ll find you after,” he whispered as he walked past. “You must be ready to come with me at any moment. And don’t speak of this to anyone.” He kept walking ahead, turning left into a vegan confectionary.

Baum walked on to the hospital. She turned off the mall avenue and passed through the automatic sliding glass doors, past the desk, and into the security queue. Once through the imaging detector manned by another sullen Grey, she boarded an elevator. She ran her thumb along the ridge of the heavy paper card as the lift carried her down, not daring to remove it as there were cameras recording every movement. She waited until the door opened and she poured out onto hallway. There, she plucked the card from her bag. Holding it at her waist as she walked, she glanced down to read it. The face of the card was addressed:

 

To: V

C/O Mr. Quixote

1569 Section L

 

She unfolded the white cardstock paper card. Inside was a note written in a flourish of blue fountain pen ink… a note consisting of one word:

 

Guacamole

 


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COG Chapter 23

CogCoverSquare

#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.

 

 

 

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Chapter 23

“Mr. President…”

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.”

“Hello, Arman.”

“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?”

“No.”

“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 what?”

“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.

“Bucky…”

“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.

“Even better.”

“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.

“What?”

“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.”

“What?”

“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.”

“Who’s next?”

“Housing and Urban Development.”

“Send Cumberland in. Tom, how the hell are ya?”

“Great, sir.”

“What can I do for you?”

“The Orange County project… we talked about it last week.”

“Ah yes. You need funding.”

“I do.”

“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?”

“Certainly.”

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…”

 

Happy music.

 

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.”

“I see.”

“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.”

“What?”

“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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COG Chapter 22

CogCoverSquare

#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.

 

 

 

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Chapter 22

The Save the Earth Gala was scheduled for the upcoming evening. Widespread gossip suggested that it might be canceled in lieu of nuclear Armageddon, but it was decided by the bunker superpowers that snubbing the environmentalist movement would be bad political optics.

The POTUS had his themed wardrobe brought down into the UltraBunker. Haberdash helped him dress, assisting with his buttons and his cummerbund. The presidential nurse was summoned and a stoic Ms. Baum appeared within moments, toting her medical bag. She removed a syringe, drew medicine from a vial, and plunged the needle into Arman Manfred’s upper arm. The president’s posture immediately stiffened and his eyes brightened as the amphetamine took hold. He shooed Haberdash and finished dressing himself. The expressionless Nurse Baum left once excused. Haberdash used a brush to sweep the lint from the back of the president’s baroque tuxedo and escorted him out of the UltraBunker, up the elevator shaft, and helped him into his bullet proof, executive golf cart.

The black motorcade spun along the gently arcing arterial roadway flanked by the monorail line on the left and a wall of roughly hewn stone on the right. They passed beneath an endless succession of white orb lights that cast everything in lunar harshness. After several minutes, the motorcade entered the facades beneath the canvas skies of Section F, stopping before the Ballroom Africana

The host delegation of African leadership met the POTUS as he arrived. Manfred greeted each of them and their escorts with a forced grin and a handshake. The gauntlet of festooned, propped dictators, muti-national corporate puppets, and media-contrived statesmen culminated at the President of Zimbabwe. He had grown quite fat since the two leaders had last met.

“Where is your… your significant other?” The POTUS asked.

The president of Zimbabwe was patting his belly when asked. He forced a toothy grin and nodded but didn’t answer.

The POTUS continued up the steps and into the ballroom foyer where he found a Napoleonic Buckminster waiting. They were instructed to wait behind a red curtain. The Mozart music soon faded and was replaced with Hail to The Chief. The curtain was pulled aside and the POTUS, with Haberdash in his muted navy coat and pantaloons, and Buckminster Bonaparte in tow, stepped into the cavernous, ornamented hall. The crowd— women adorned in shimmering, sack back gowns and petticoats and men with long, gold-fringed waist coats and knee breeches exposing silk stockings— turned their gaze to soak in the grand entrance and assess the festiveness and presence of the American contingent. With the elite American’s arrival, the Rococo-themed ‘Save The Earth Gala’ had achieved validation.

The POTUS shook a dozen more hands on his way down the aisle, stopping before a priest-like figure dressed in head-to-toe, blood red robes, with a hood that covered his face. Suspended in the air above, heavily feathered trapeze artists swung and flipped like exotic birds. Jugglers dressed as court jesters tossed ivory bones and skulls into the air. A massive, faceted disco ball fired multi-colored laser beams across the domed ceiling.

Buckminster stepped forward, bowed, and handed a decorated box to the POTUS who, in turn, presented it to the priest. The priest bowed and turned, slowly walking up the dais behind him. He placed the box upon a glass altar shaped in the form of two feminine hands emerging from the earth. The priest raised both his hands and muttered something in Latin. He reached down and lifted the lid on the box, releasing a white dove that flew upwards into the dome to the vigorous applause of the guests. The bird circled the disco ball three times until it was blinded by a laser beam at which point it fluttered outwards, crashing headfirst into the molding and dropping motionless onto a high ledge. The Mozart resumed and the POTUS was escorted off the ballroom floor and up to his box that overlooked the festivities.

The costumed patrons mingled and bowed and curtsied, weaving around a formation of twelve-foot tall guide stones set in a Stonehenge pattern in the center of the floor. Acrobats in flesh-toned spandex twisted and spun and flung themselves through the air. At exactly eight o’clock, an army of tuxedoed staff infiltrated the maze of round tables carrying silver trays. They set them before the famished guests and lifted the cloches revealing the gourmet courses. The meals were carved and sliced with utensils that glimmered in the reflected laser beam light. They filled their mouths and chewed and swallowed and washed it down with vintage wine, spilling crimson droplets on their silk jabots. They smudged their lipstick with embroidered linen napkins and washed the grease off their fingers in crystal finger bowls. Occasionally, one gave pause and pondered what piss the survivors on the surface might be drinking now that war had begun.

During this feast, the order of what was soon to be a post war world was being arranged. Who would be doing the rebuilding? What would be rebuilt? Who was going to pay for it? Who was going to be left out and what would it take to buy their complicity. The New New World Order metastasized with handshakes, nods, and toasts.

The final courses were devoured and the army of tuxedoed servants infiltrated the maze of tables once again, like coiffed black lab rats, and snatched up all the trays and cleared all the tables and then they  scurried out through the walls.

Seated in their balcony loft, the POTUS gestured to Buckminster who handed him his miniature field glasses. The POTUS put them to his eyes and scanned the crowd, searching for the president of China. With some difficulty, he found him seated in his box, barely recognizable in his powdered white wig, but identifiable by his thick eyeglass frames. He searched for Timoshenko and found him as well, dressed like a Romanov, with a blue silk sash draped over his shoulder and a saber sheathed in his belt.

The Mozart music stopped and was replaced with an eerie baritone— the low groan of a waking dragon. A spotlight shined within the guide stones and all eyes drew towards it and the discussions, that had turned toward the frivolous as the alcohol and opiates had taken hold and the window for deal-making had closed, ceased with a hush. The disco ball stopped spinning and the lasers went dark. The floor within the guide stones opened. The baritone drone grew louder.  The patrons rose from their tables and gathered around the stones and the widening window into the abyss, with some still clutching their silver cutlery.

The servants appeared once again, encircling the patrons like a shadow as a platform rose from the depths. A jeweled crown appeared first, rising up from the floor, then the priest in the red hood beneath it, then another altar, then upon the altar, a naked man and woman, entangled in thorns. The platform rose up past the floor-level forming another dais. It stopped and the groan of the dragon ceased with it.

The priest motioned as if in a form of genuflection, then he withdrew a blade from his hilt and with two gentle strokes, he cut through the necks of the naked man and the woman to the gasps of the audience. The servants stepped into the circle and handed the guests fine china plates and the patrons formed into a queue that passed by the dais where they received a slice of the marzipan man and woman.

A servant appeared in the presidential balcony to deliver their desert. Haberdash took his piece which contained a confectionary eyeball that stared up at him with unblinking courage as he sectioned it with his silver fork and delivered it to his tongue.

Finally, the last guest received their portion—Adam’s genitals, served to the president of Cambodia— and all that was left of the edible Adam and Eve was a bit of frosting vines and a section of Adam’s right heel. The priest in the red robes and crown descended with the dais back down into the abyss within the floor.

Just as the well closed back up, a booming thunder shook the ballroom, so powerful that it knocked the dead dove loose from the ceiling ledge and downwards where it plunked onto the table where the English royals were seated, splattering the Duke of Watford Gap’s face with cream.

“What do you think that noise was?” asked Haberdash.

“Sounds like Fricke’s mission was a success,” answered Buckminster.

After a momentary pause of grim reflection concerning the end of the world as it was known, the party resumed, carrying on into the wee hours.

 


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COG Chapter 21

CogCoverSquare

#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.

 

 

 

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Chapter 21

Due to his declining health, the POTUS began conducting all his briefings and meetings in the UltraBunker. He stopped returning to the Brown House at night and slept in the eight-foot by eight-foot safe room accessible by a reinforced steel door located on the wall directly behind his UltraBunker executive seat.

It had been three days since launching Fricke to the surface. During that time, the POTUS appointed Brock McGuinn to a newly created COG cabinet position titled Special Advisor/Presidential Life Coach. The oath of office was administered by Buckminster at the UltraBunker conference table.

“Raise your right hand… No Brock, your other right hand. There you go. Now repeat after me: I, Anheuser Brock McGuinn…”

Brock grinned, eyes glazed.

“Repeat after me, Brock: I, Anheuser Brock McGuinn…”

“I, Anheuser Brock McGuinn.”

“Do solemnly swear…”

“Do solemnly swear.”

“That I will faithfully advise the President of the United States…”

“That I will faithfully advise the POTUS.”

“According to the best of my abilities and my understanding…”

“According to my best capabilities and understandments.”

“Agreeably to the Constitution, and laws of the United States.”

“Agreeing with the Constitution and the United States.”

“So help me God.”

“So help me God. Amen.”

“You can put your hand down now, Brock.”

Brock grinned.

“I have big plans for you, Brock,” said the POTUS after congratulating him with a pat of his shaky hand. “Come. Have a seat here, next to me.” The POTUS pointed at the cushion of the leather high back chair placed next to his. Brock complied.

“So,” continued the POTUS to his COGCON special council of three plus Haberdash, seated at the conference table with places for twenty. “What’s on the agenda today?”

“World War 3, sir,” Buckminster answered.

The POTUS yawned. “All right. What’s the latest report?”

“Well, we obviously cannot obtain any real information due to Protocol 4, so we have to rely entirely upon computer simulations. Our models are telling us that there is a 97% likelihood of widespread gasoline shortages occurring nationwide.”

“I thought we enacted price controls.”

“We did. But the models say that the price controls only exacerbated the problem.”

“Who programmed these god damn models?”

“The program was written by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, sir.”

“Can I fire them?”

“You could, sir, if we could contact them. But even if we could send the order, there is no guarantee that they are still alive. Either way, it would not be possible for them to re-program them.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do about it, then?”

“I think we need to implement rationing.”

“How would we implement it?”

“We can plug it into the simulation, but we’re going to need to enlist the oil companies, sir. They have the logistical wherewithal to actualize a directive.”

“Is there anyone from Big Oil we can reach out to that’s down here in the bunker?”

“There is, sir. Do you know Brandeis Tex Cleveland?”

“The CEO of CANAMCO? The billionaire who donates to that natural gas PAC?”

“That’s him. He’s waiting outside. Should I bring him in?”

The POTUS pondered, then turned to McGuinn. “What do you think, Brock?”

Brock shrugged, eyes still glazed, smirk etched within the frame of his chiseled jaw line.

“Have the new admin send him in.”

“Sorry, sir, she didn’t come in to work today. She emailed saying she was ill. Hab, would you please go and bring in Mr. Cleveland.

Hab stopped doodling and set down his notepad. He pushed back from his seat, straightened his Bermuda shorts, strode over to the door and opened it. Tex Cleveland, a balding, barrel-chested man in his mid-sixties was seated in a chair in the concrete corridor. He stood. He wore a navy suit with a pinstriped shirt and a belt clasped with a massive silver buckle emblazoned with a five-pointed star surrounded by an outline of the border-shape of Texas. He held a white, ten-gallon hat in his hands. He entered the UltraBunker and the POTUS met him and shook his hand. They both took their seats opposite each other.

“Thanks for coming, Mr. Cleveland.”

“My pleasure, Mr. President. Please, call me Tex,” he said with a grin that revealed one golden-capped canine tooth.

“You already know Bucky, and I’m not sure if you’ve met my new special advisor, Brock McGuinn.”

“Although I’ve never met Brock in person, I’ve been a big fan of his over the years… so long as he wasn’t playing against Dallas.”

Brock was still smirking.

“To what do I owe this honor?” Tex asked in his beefy drawl.

“Well, we need your help, Tex—”

“Let’s not forget about your beloved Longhorns, either,” Brock interrupted.

“Ah, yes,” Tex replied, with a tone of reluctant deference. “You must be referring to your big game against us. That was a few years back. What’s it been, twenty years now? I must admit it took some time to get over that one.”

“Which game are we talking about?” Buckminster asked.

“I’m sure Brock is referring to the Raytheon-Boeing Fiesta Bowl. Michigan certainly got the best of us that day,” Tex demurred.

“I’d say ‘got the best of you’ is a little bit of an understatement,” Brock clarified.

“Yeah, I guess it wasn’t much of a game now, was it.”

“67 to 2, as I recall.”

“Well…” Tex replied, “…at least we scored.”

“Yeah, you only scored because we fumbled the second half kickoff and the ball rolled out the back of our own end zone.”

“I forgot all about that game,” the POTUS remarked. “Brock, how many passing yards did you have?”

“I was 31 of 38 for 534 yards and 7 TDs. And they took me out at halftime.”

“Can we get down to the business at hand, gentlemen?” asked Buckminster.

“Sure. Sure. Go ahead, Bucky. Tell the CEO what we have in mind.”

“So, as we are currently on the verge of global thermal nuclear war, we are encountering special circumstances and situations that will require a shared sacrifice by our corporate partners.”

“Shared sacrifice?” Tex asked.

“We are getting reports of widespread, nationwide fuel shortages.”

Tex winced with skepticism. “How can you know that? No one is supposed to have any contact with the surface. Do you have special communications equipment? Oh, the CIA must have laid some secret fiber during construction… I knew it.”

“Actually, none of that,” Buckminster explained. “This is what our computer simulations are telling us. They are pretty good at predicting socio-macroeconomic behavior. The Bureau of Stats has been using them for years, long before this place was even built. Hell, the BLS and the Treasury Department haven’t published any real observational data in over a decade. Everything they report is simulation-based.”

“Hey, coach uses those computers too,” Brock added. “He says he can predict what the other coach will call on every play. Some say that’s how we won the last three Super Bowls.”

“I see,” added Tex. “So what do you want from me?”

“We are asking you to cooperate with FEMA in the allocation of fuel and implementation of price controls.”

“Oh boy. Now that’s a tall order, there.”

“Why so?”

“Well, for one, I can’t communicate with the surface.”

“We are aware of that,” Buckminster replied. “We are asking you to comply virtually, so we can plug that into our computer models.”

“Oh…”

“We just need your signoff.”

Tex stared blankly.

“Your signoff so we can proceed,” Buckminster repeated.

Tex sighed.

“Do you have any questions?”

“What’s this fixin’ to cost me?”

“Nothing, Tex. All your costs and lost income will be reimbursed.”

“Yeah, but at what premium?”

“Premium?”

“Reimbursed at what percent margin? Fellas, CANAMCO ain’t in the business of doing your dirty work for nothin.”

“How’s ten percent?” Buckminster answered.

“Ten?”

“Okay, fifteen,” declared the POTUS.

“So we get fifteen percent, plus pocket any enhanced margin.”

The POTUS glared at Buckminster as if to ask, ‘why did you bring this asshole in here?’

“Just to be clear,” Buckminster answered, “you’ll have to implement our regulatory and price controls. That’s part of the deal.”

“Why wouldn’t I just raise our prices. That’s sure enough a means of rationing… and CANAMCO keeps the profit.”

“Tex,” Buckminster remarked, “if you were to raise prices to market levels, that would seriously jeopardize the president’s re-election chances in the Midwest. Indiana soccer moms won’t vote for ‘Our Man Manfred’ if they can’t afford to fill up their minivans.”

“Does Indiana even exist anymore?” Haberdash asked.

“Twenty percent!” the POTUS snapped. “That’s all I can do. It’s more than fair. If you don’t like it, I’ll talk to the boys over at Alabrasco.”

Tex pondered in stoic silence for a moment. He scratched his bald head, then rubbed the rim of his hat with his thumbs. Then his face brightened with a wide southern smile. “Gentlemen, CANAMCO is always happy to help America in her time of dire need. Where and when do we work out the details?” Tex began flipping through the pages of the agreement that was lying on the table. “The cost of implementing some of these logistical controls could get quite exorbitant. I’ll need to make sure our shareholders are protected.”

“You’ll be reimbursed fully. I guarantee it,” the POTUS affirmed.

“The costs are all outlined in the proposal. Those numbers come from our most detailed and accurate spreadsheet models,” Buckminster explained.

“Well, you have your spreadsheets and we have ours.”

“What else do you need, Tex?” asked the POTUS. “How can we get this done right now?”

“Frankly, I want signoff on my new refinery in Panama City.”

“Impossible. The greens would revolt. I’d lose Oregon and Hawaii in the general.”

“Yeah, but you’d win Florida, sir,” Buckminster advised. “We’ll feed the jobs number statistics to the simulated cable news networks.”

“One Florida is worth way more than Oregon and Hawaii,” Tex added.

“Well, we think we can win Florida even without a jobs bump.”

“I still think it’s a tossup, sir.” Buckminster explained.

The POTUS scowled at Buckminster who was proving to be terrible at negotiation. “Brock, do you have any thoughts?”

Brock, who had had never ceased smirking, replied: “All I know is we crushed Florida in the Lockheed Martin-General Dynamics Cotton Bowl my junior year!”

Tex forced a smile to cover up his building annoyance at McGuinn. “I’ll get back to you with our answer shortly, Mr. President.”

 


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“Finally, Some Good News”

I loved this one.

One quote from the book that sums it up for me:

“It was the day of his annual review. In one or more areas he had not been Very Satisfactory. He woke up thinking he was late. Then remembered. There had been a nuclear holocaust.

“Thank God, he thought.

“Then felt bad. Millions dead. Millions more burned. Irradiated. Trapped even now, lungs half crushed choking on smoke. Pinned in flaming rubble. Can’t even scream, and if they did, who would come?

“Still. It felt like a snow day.”

I wrote an Amazon review but it went into mod-review purgatory. I tell myself it’s just the corpo-marxists shutting me down.

Regardless, Delicious Tacos captures the essence and ennui of post-modern, post-industrial, consumerized Western Civilization where humanity has been reduced to sub-mammalian, econometric parameters. I read it after Houellebecq’s ‘Submission’ and loved it the same. Hope to see more from Tacos.

 

Check it out.

COG Chapter 20

CogCoverSquare

#ContinuityOfGovernment, #WW3, #Deep State

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.

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Chapter 20

And so the race to put a man on the surface of the earth ensued­. Originally deemed the “Race to the ‘Face,” it ultimately came to be known by academics and historians as the “Face Race.”

The Chinese and Russians pooled their resources and technology into this endeavor, for the first state to put an agent on the surface would be the first to be able to order its obliteration or at least prevent the other from doing so.

The Americans and the Sino-Russian Alliance did a great deal of spying on each other’s progress over the twenty-one days during which the Face Race raged. The Chinese and Russians struggled with cooperation as the Chinese regarded their Russian counterparts as troglodyte drunkards and the Russians regarded the Chinese as backwardized Mongoloids, but they nevertheless caught the Americans, beating them to the surface. The first terranaut was not a human agent, mind you, but was instead a Jack Russell terrier who was latched into a fabricated steel capsule and exploded upwards through a ventilator shaft. Igor could be heard, via microphone, vigorously and healthily panting until the very moment his capsule burst through the embedded, metallic Faraday latticework that protected the SuperBunker from electro-magnetic pulse, but also prevented the transmission of radio signals.

The Sino-Russian face program had beaten the Americans to the surface. ON word of this, President Manfred, now exhibiting tremors and looking ill, understood that the situation was beyond desperate. If the Russians and Chinese were first to reach the surface with a human being, not only could they order a nuclear first strike, but they could stifle any American response by destroying the ventilator shaft that the Americans were intending to use for their mission. This meant that there was no time for the Americans to send a test dog or other suitable mammal. The survival of the American government required bold, brave urgency.

“You should be safe,” Buckminster assured Dexter Fricke as he stood before the coffin-sized steel tube. He opened the door.

Fricke, who was dressed in a spandex suit, holding his helmet and clutching the Nuclear Football, didn’t appear convinced. “Why does it look like a cruise missile with a window?” he asked.

“Because that’s what it basically is,” Buckminster explained.

“I was expecting an elevator type of thing. Why a missile?”

“Fricke, when you work for the Pentagon, the solution to every problem ends up looking like a missile.”

Fricke pondered.

“Isn’t it a thing of beauty? Look at the head. It’s made of solid titanium, strong enough to smash through ventilator fans, steel grates, backflow traps and flanges. It’s the toughest material we could find. Beneath your feet will be a foot of ceramic insulation protecting you from the searing heat generated by the combustion of the solid fuel rocket boosters.”

“And you put a window in.”

“Yes, although there won’t be much to see until and if you reach the surface.”

The door to the situation room opened and in walked the frail POTUS, flanked on either side by a secret service agent, and trailed by Haberdash clad in Bermuda shorts and polo shirt.

“Mr. President!” Buckminster greeted with a salute.

The POTUS approached Fricke and patted him on the shoulder. “Are you ready to be a hero, Dexter?” he asked in his weakened voice.

“I don’t believe I have a choice, sir.”

“Excellent. You’re the next Neil Armstrong. A pioneer.”

“I’m just hoping I’m not the next the next Gus Grissom.”

“I see you have the Football.”

“Right here, sir.”

“Good. Now, when you get to the surface, open the laptop and make sure you have good connectivity. Then plug in the red button thing and press it. There’s nothing more to it.”

“Are you sure that will launch the nukes, sir?”

“That will do it.” The POTUS turned to the technician seated at the computer. “Are we ready for launch?”

“Sir, we are nearing completion of our pre-checks.”

The POTUS turned back to Fricke. “Dexter, do you have any apprehensions or doubts about your mission?”

“What do you mean, sir?”

“Do you harbor any second thoughts about pressing the button?”

“No sir,” Fricke answered.

“Dexter, do you love democracy?”

“I love my country, sir.”

“Excellent,” the POTUS replied while patting Fricke on the shoulder once more with his trembling hand.

“Dex, you’re saving democracy.”

“By destroying the world,” Fricke added.

“Indeed. Here, let me help you with that.” The POTUS took the helmet from under Fricke’s arm. Fricke bowed and the POTUS slid it onto his head with his trembling grip. A technician rushed in to check that it was properly fit. The POTUS shook Fricke’s hand and patted him on the helmet. Fricke turned and stepped into the capsule, clutching the Nuclear Football at his chest. Buckminster approached to give final instructions.

“Don’t be alarmed if you hear an explosion once you reach the surface. The capsule is equipped with a C4 activated parachute. If you break through with too much speed, it will deploy and hopefully soften your landing.”

Fricke nodded.

“Let’s review one more time. What is your mission?” Buckminster asked.

“First, I need to find WIFI. Once a connection is obtained, activate the PAL and push the red button. Then I have to maneuver to the air duct located behind the Wal Mart on 2887 S Arlington Rd in Akron Ohio.”

Buckminster nodded. “Exactly. Guard that shaft and make sure no Sino-Russian terranaut breaks through. If one does, you’ll have to neutralize him.”

Buckminster closed the capsule door and saluted. Fricke gave a thumbs up sign in the portal. The technician made a few last-minute checks then he and Buckminster joined the POTUS and the other lab coats behind the protective glass of the control room.

“Can you hear us, Dexter?” one of them asked into the radio.

“Loud and clear,” Fricke shouted back.

“Are you ready?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be.”

“Do you know what to do when you reach the surface?” asked POTUS.

“Bucky and I just went over it.”

“Don’t forget. Wal Mart. Akron, Ohio.”

“I have the address in my pocket.”

“Failure is not an option, Dexter,” the POTUS advised.

“Understood.”

“God bless.”

Buckminster turned to the technician seated at the computer terminal. “Are we a go?”

“Roger. All systems are go.”

Buckminster turned to the POTUS. The POTUS nodded. Buckminster gave a thumbs up to the technician.

“…Five… Four… Three… Two… One…”

The tech seated at the computer depressed the enter key. The crudely fashioned rocket fuel stored in the base of Fricke’s capsule ignited. The launch chamber filled with white smoke. The chamber’s air vents whined as waves of oxygen rich air was exchanged for carbon dioxide. Fricke looked out helplessly from his portal window. His capsule thrusted upwards, slowly at first, then building momentum, up, up, up it ascended into the vertical air shaft. In moments, it was accelerating through the ductwork, its titanium- shielded nose puncturing the screens and fans and grates that barred the way. Up, up, up. The capsule dubbed The Victory climbed from its subterranean Hades, through the steel tube carved like an artery that coursed through the geological strata. Up, up, up. The capsule began to rifle, spun by the patterned welds in the cylindrical shaft.

Buckminster, Haberdash, the POTUS, and the technicians in white lab coats watched the capsule cam of Dexter Fricke’s face. His cheeks rippled with vibrations. His irises rolled back into his skull. Drool ran drawn down his chin and ran across his face, drawn out by the rifling action and the G forces generated in a roar of breaking covalent bonds. Up, up, up. The Victory spun towards the surface, rotating once per second. Fricke’s eyes rolled to the right. His foaming spittle ran horizontally across his right cheek. The technicians could not discern if he was still conscious. Up, up, up.

Then nothing. The feed went black.

The POTUS stared at the floor. Haberdash stared at Buckminster. Buckminster stared at the men in white lab coats.

“Did he make it? Haberdash asked.

“The Victory has passed through the Faraday barrier,” explained a technician. “Radio communication is no longer possible.”


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COG Chapter 19

CogCoverSquare

#ContinuityOfGovernment, #WW3, #Deep State

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.

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Chapter 19

Before the applause for Brock McGuinn’s entrance had subsided, aides were already whispering into the ears of the presidents of Russia and China. Within moments, they were whisked away in their executive golf carts. The POTUS left shortly after them, before the conclusion of McGuinn’s press conference. Upon arrival at the Brown House, he got into the elevator along with Tibbles, Haberdash, and his personal secret service bodyguard, and descended into the depths of the Hades Level. The door opened into the concrete chamber cast in the bluish hue of fluorescent lighting. They came upon the glass security coral where they placed their personal effects in a bowl and stepped through one at a time. The doors closed. A shotgun like sound fired which trailed off into a high-pitched buzz. The door on the opposite end opened and one by one, the POTUS, Tibbles, and Haberdash passed through. The secret service agent stayed behind, handing President Manfred his .44 magnum, then stood guard over their other effects.

On the other side of the scanner, they came to the internal blast door where Tibbles presented his eye to a monitor for identity scanning and his wrist for RFID identification. The massive steel door pinged as the locking bolts released. It opened. They passed through into the UltraBunker.

They entered the conference room and took their seats. Fricke and Buckminster were already there. The nuclear football rested on the floor at Fricke’s feet.

“Gentlemen,” the president began. “Welcome to Plan B.”

“Yes sir,” Buckminster fawned with the eagerness of a low-ranking sycophant.

“Shut up, Bucky. Your failure is the reason we’re here.”

“So, what is the plan, sir?” asked Fricke.

“We’re going to be back in Protocol 4 shortly.”

“Are you certain?” asked Fricke.

“I’m one hundred percent certain.”

“I’m not following what is unfolding, here. What do you see as the possible scenarios?” Fricke asked, guarding the nuclear football with his leg.

“We can only hope that the first bitch hasn’t given them anything yet.” The POTUS turned to Buckminster. “How far along is your project to get a man on the surface? We’re running out of time.”

Buckminster swallowed. “We believe it is nearly operational. We just haven’t tested it.”

“Sir,” Tibbles added, “perhaps we can at least work up a short list of possibilities and…”

“There are no other possibilities. What god damn difference would it make anyway, Frank? We know where this is headed. We had their couriers assassinated.”

“What was that?” Fricke asked with grave concern.

“Don’t be naïve Dexter,” the POTUS replied.

“What is happening?” Fricke asked. “Why wasn’t I informed?”

“Plan B was a top-secret operation,” Buckminster answered. “Only those who need to know were informed.”

Fricke looked as if he had just had the wind knocked out of him. He spent a moment gathering himself.  “Can we just discuss this for a minute. We only think we know what the first lady has done or will do. We know that Timoshenko and Hu Li must know that we have reneged on our end of the deal, but they may not know for certain that we had their couriers assassinated. Perhaps we should try to find out all of what they know before they make any moves. We need to buy some time. Who terminated the couriers?”

“Faucett carried out the order,” answered Buckminster.

“Well, maybe we can promote the idea that Faucett was a rogue agent.”

“There’s no chance they’ll buy it,” Tibbles replied.

“I support the president. The time for dialogue is over,” barked Buckminster. “It’s time for action.”

“Sir, I…” Fricke pleaded.

“Enough!” snapped the president. “Put me through to Timoshenko right now. Do it!”

“Right away, sir.” Tibbles lifted the plastic cloche off the bat phone and lifted the red receiver to his ear. “Hello. This is the Chief of Staff for the President of the United States. President Manfred would like to speak to President Timoshenko…”

All eyes in the UltraBunker fixed upon Tibbles.

“Yes…,” Tibbles continued. “I’ll hold.” Tibbles put the phone on speaker. A tinny Muzak version of Tchaikovsky played. “Sir,” Tibbles whispered after clicking mute, “my advice would be to let him make his demands. Don’t capitulate. We can come up with a way out of this. I know it.”

“I didn’t ask for your counsel,” rebuffed the POTUS.

“Do you know what you’ll do if he tries to blackmail you?” Tibbles asked.

“Let’s just pray Veruca hasn’t given him anything. If she has…”

The Muzak stopped. Tibbles picked up the receiver. “Yes,” he said into the phone. “Yes… of course… I’ll let him know.”

“What is it?” asked the POTUS.

“They want to connect on screen, sir.”

They? Who’s they?” Buckminster asked.

Tibbles’ became doe-eyed. Sweat instantly beaded on his forehead. “Hu Li is with Timoshenko.

The POTUS winced and clenched his fist. “Fine. Put the commie bastard on, too,” he relented.

Tibbles pressed a button and the scowling faces of President Timoshenko and President Hu Li appeared. The POTUS didn’t offer a greeting.

“Hello, Mr. President.” Timoshenko greeted in his thick toned voice.

“Heroh, Mr. President,” added Hu Li in his labored English.

“What do you want?”

“You called us,” answered Timoshenko.

“Do you want to negotiate?”

“Negotiate what?”

“A solution to this crisis,” answered the POTUS.

“There is only one sorution to this a-crisis. There ohnree one way out for you.”

“And what would that be?”

“Your resignation.”

The POTUS scoffed. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“It will be very embarrassing for you if you don’t.”

“That’s not happening.”

“Mr. President, you have this one final opportunity to save your dignity,” explained Timoshenko.

“Be very careful,” the POTUS cautioned. “You don’t have the leverage you think you have. Do you want to trigger world war 3?”

“This does not need to be the end of the world, Arman,” Timoshenko continued, “…just the end of your presidency.”

“I can’t resign, Timmy. I just announced my campaign for re-election.”

Buckminster pounded his fist on the table. “We won’t surrender! The president of the United States is the symbol of America and America never surrenders.”

“It seems that your General Buckminster overestimates the loyalty of his fellow commanders.” Timoshenko punctuated his explanation with a snort.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Buckminster asked.

Timoshenko leaned back with a confident look on his blotchy, pink face. “How do you suppose your first lady came into possession of this most scandalous video?”

Buckminster faked ignorance. “What video?”

Timoshenko continued: “You don’t think she just asked someone for it, do you? No. That wasn’t how it happened. The video was given to her. It was given to her by an insider— a high-ranking, insider.”

“Who was it?” Buckminster demanded, veins throbbing in his neck. “I’ll have him shot for treason.”

“The who is not so important as the why they did it. Mr. President, even your closest allies are turning on you. They no longer believe you can lead your nation through this crisis. They are plotting for your removal from office.”

Buckminster shook his head in denial.

“I already know who leaked it,” the POTUS replied.

The eyes in the room jumped from person to person, glazed in suspicion.

“Who?” Tibbles gulped.

“It wasn’t me,” Buckminster protested before glaring at Fricke.

Fricke shook his head in denial.

Haberdash ceased scribbling tits on his notepad to observe the tension.

“It was Krusty. Krusty did it!” the POTUS groaned. “Krusty betrayed the Office of the President. Krusty sold out America.”

“That son of a bitch!” Buckminster growled.

“This pornogwaphic video is not the ohnree information that we have been given, Mr. Pwesident,” added Hu Li. “We have recent-ree discovered that you have begun work on a SuperBunker escape tunnel. We can ohnree presume it is being built to make it possibo for you to send an agent to the surface to give your order.”

“And what of it?”

“That is fo-bidden!”

The sound of the blast door alarms rang through the complex and down into the depths of the UltraBunker.

“They must have re-triggered Protocol 4,” Fricke observed.

The POTUS had no reaction.

“That is legally incorrect,” Tibbles interjected. “Our lawyers found nothing in the codex that explicitly forbids sending someone out of the SuperBunker during Protocol 4. It only forbids making any effort to open the doors.”

“It vio-rates the intent,” Hu Li rebutted.

Timoshenko intervened. “Regardless, your tunnel is no longer an advantage. Due to receiving this information, we have begun our own joint, Sino-Russian mission in the race to put a man on the surface of the earth.”

“You’ll never beat us,” Buckminster gloated.

Timoshenko laughed, then continued: “American hubris is both your best and worst quality. It fills you with the confidence to confront any challenge but it blinds you to the possibility of catastrophe. You don’t even see that we have nearly completed our own tunnel.”

Tibbles looked at Buckminster who was silently cursing.

“There’s nothing left to discuss here,” said the POTUS. He motioned to Tibbles who disconnected the monitor. The room fell silent. The POTUS appeared shaken. He drew a breath but began to speak in a calm tone. “What the hell is happening? Is there no respect for the office of the president? Who do my commanders think they are to do this to me?”

Buckminster stood up from his seat and watched the POTUS in emotionless anticipation. Fricke’s face filled with weariness. Tibbles began to tear up.

The president’s voice turned sharply louder. “So this is what it has come to: My own men, the military, everyone spying on me? Even the NSA? They’re all a bunch of contemptable cowards…”

“Sir,” Buckminster interrupted out of compulsion, “I can’t let you insult the dedicated men and women serving our country.”

“They’re all traitors! “

“Mr. President, this is outrageous!”

“The Joint Chiefs of Staff are the scum of the American people! Not a shred of honor!” The president stood and started to pace, his voice rising. “They call themselves generals… years of training at the academy just so they can become little treasonous voyeurs! Useless! For years they’ve prevented American victories overseas. They have decades of training but they can’t even keep an aircraft carrier afloat.” The president rubbed his temples. “They have all these smart-bombs and laser-guided things and satellites but they can’t even conquer ass-backwards countries defended by sheep-shagging musket-men. Worthless!” He pounded his fist on the table sending a stack of papers over the edge. “But they can turn on me like this? Why?”

Buckminster turned to Fricke as if imploring him to do something. Fricke sat motionless.

“You know what I should have done? I should have liquidated all of them like… like Stalin did. Traitors!”

The president plunked himself down into his seat and attempted to gather himself. Tibbles filled the moment of brief silence with his blubbering. Buckminster fumed in silence. Haberdash stood up, eyes widened in amazement, and sidled over towards Tibbles.

The POTUS’s rant continued. “I’ve been deceived all along by them… by this cabal… by this Deep State. What a monstrous betrayal of the American people!” The president curled his right hand into a fist.  “But all these traitors will pay! They shall drown in their own blood!”

Haberdash patted the weeping Tibbles on the shoulder as if to say: “There, there, Frank. It’ll be all right.”

The president exhaled. His posture slumped. He appeared spent. He curled up in his seat and started to rock like some distraught grandmother. “Under these circumstances,” he mumbled, “I am no longer able to lead. There is only one thing left to do.”

Fricke’s face filled with a glimmer of hopefulness but it was quickly quashed when the president spoke again.

“…But if you think I am going to resign, you are sadly mistaken. I’d rather blow my brains out.”

Fricke glanced at Tibbles who had stopped sobbing upon hearing the president’s remark.

Buckminster broke the short silence. “What are your orders, sir?”

The POTUS pondered.

Buckminster turned to Fricke.

Fricke shrugged.

Tibbles produced a wad of tissue from his pocket and blew his nose into it.

“Fricke…” the POTUS groaned.

“Yes sir?”

“Set the football on the table.”

“Sir?”

“You heard the president,” barked Buckminster.

Fricke remained motionless. The POTUS produced his gold-plated .44 magnum. Fricke reluctantly lifted the satchel off the floor and placed it on the table.

“Open it,” ordered the POTUS.

“But sir…”

“That was an order,” Buckminster snapped.

Fricke complied.

Haberdash leaned in to have a look.

Buckminster’s eyes widened.

Fricke reached in and pulled out a laptop computer emblazoned with the presidential seal and the Numenor Corporate logo in the right corner.”

“Turn it on,” the POTUS ordered.

Fricke opened it and it lit up and began its boot up sequence. He reached down into the satchel and pulled out the laminated sheet that resembled a Denny’s menu. He handed it to the president who passed it to Tibbles. Lastly, Fricke produced a metallic metal cube with a large red button affixed to the top, and set it on the table alongside the computer.

“What does it say?” the POTUS asked of Tibbles.

Tibbles scanned down a few lines then read from the menu. “It says: Connect the Permissive Active Link (PAL) transponder to the computer with the black connector cable…

“Do it!” the POTUS ordered.

Fricke connected the cable. The red button blinked three times.

Tibbles read on: “When connected, the red indicator light on the launch button will flash red three times. The PAL will then begin its boot up sequence. When complete, the mouse pad will become active. Use the mouse pad and the left button on the computer to click ‘Proceed’. You will then be taken to the Strategic Algorithm Matrix (or SAM) program…

Buckminster moved behind Fricke to observe. “It’s ready.”

Fricke clicked the mouse pad button.

“Welcome…” came a sultry but offish female voice through the laptop speaker. “My name is Sam. I am here to assist you. To initiate the Strategic Algorithm Matrix, please select a geopolitical scenario…”

“What are the options?” the POTUS asked.

Fricke read them off:

 

Unipolar

 

Bipolar

 

Multipolar

 

Fricke reluctantly eyed the POTUS, awaiting instruction.

“I presume multipolar, sir,” Tibbles offered.

“Sure.”

Fricke maneuvered the mouse pointer over ‘Multipolar’ and clicked.

“Now,” came the voice, “please enter the number of global superpowers. Please note that you can back up one step at any time by simply pressing the control and backspace buttons simultaneously.”

Fricke entered ‘3.’

“Excellent. Now please identify the global superpowers. Please enter all superpowers regardless of political alliance. For a definition of superpower, please click the appendix button on the menu bar.”

Fricke scrolled through the list of nations and selected ‘Russian Federation, The’ and ‘China, The People’s Republic of’. ‘United States of America, The’ was pre-selected.

“Great. Now, on the next screen, please select all the strategic conditions that apply. Click advance to conditions to proceed.”

Fricke clicked advance and the screen filled with text and check boxes. At the bottom, he noticed a page selector. The screen was on page 1 of 207.

“Please note,” continued the voice, “that there is a search box in the upper right of the screen. You can also search for conditions by voice command by saying ‘Hello Sam, search conditions… dirty bomb,’ for instance. Or, ‘Hello Sam, search conditions… Chinese invasion Taiwan.’“

“Hello Sam,” Buckminster shouted. “Search conditions… Russian invasion Bolshevistan.”

An hourglass appeared onscreen. After a moment, Sam said, in her sultry deadpan, “I’m sorry, there are no conditions that contain ‘Russian invasion Bolshevik stand.’ Here are some results that contain ‘Russian invasion’. Please select from one of the following or refine your search terms…”

 

Russian invasion of Afghanistan

Russian invasion of Alaska

Russian invasion of Bulgaria

Russian invasion of Canada

Russian invasion of China

Russian invasion of Finland

Russian invasion of Lithuania (or other Baltic State)

Russian invasion of Lapland

Russian invasion of Mongolia

Russian invasion of Monte Carlo

Russian invasion of Nepal

Russian invasion of Other

Russian invasion of Poland

Russian invasion of Turkey

Russian invasion of Uzbekistant

 

“Select ‘other‘,” Buckminster urged.

Fricke toggled the checkbox.

“What else?” Tibbles asked. “Should we put more information in?”

“Hello Sam,” Buckminster barked. “Search conditions: blackmail.”

“Here are some results that contain ‘blackmail’.”

 

Extortion of Prime Minister of Canada by China

Extortion of Prime Minister of Canada by Russia

Extortion of Prime Minister of Germany by China

Extortion of Prime Minister of Germany by Russia

Extortion of Prime Minister of Germany by China

Extortion of Prime Minister of Germany by Russia

Extortion of Prime Minister of Israel by China

Extortion of Prime Minister of Israel by Russia

Extortion of President of France by China

Extortion of President of France by Russia

Extortion of Prime Minister of United Kingdom by China

Extortion of Prime Minister of United Kingdom by Russia

There are 188 More results…

 

“Hello Sam, search conditions… extortion of President of United States,” Tibbles asked.

 

Extortion of President of United States by China

Extortion of President of United States by Russia

Extortion of President of United States by Israel

Extortion of President of United States by Mongolia

 

Fricke checked the first two boxes.

“What else?” Buckminster asked.

Tibbles consulted the laminated instructions. “It says to click ‘advance to secondary criteria.’” Fricke clicked the button and a popup question appeared:

 

Have nuclear weapons been detonated by any nation state?

 

Fricke clicked ‘No’. Another popup immediately appeared.

 

Is it confirmed that nuclear weapons have been launched by any nation state?

 

Fricke clicked ‘No.’

 

Are any nation states preparing to launch nuclear weapons (including rogue states)?

 

Fricke looked at the POTUS who was staring at his gun in a catatonic state.

“Yes, of course!” Buckminster scolded.

Fricke clicked ‘Yes’. A popup appeared with a list of countries and check boxes. Fricke clicked ‘Russian Federation, The’ and ‘China, Peoples Republic of.’

 

Have the critical members of government been evacuated to hardened facilities in order to ensure continuity of government?”

 

‘Yes.’

 

What day of the week is it?

 

‘Friday.’

 

Proceed?

 

Fricke looked over his shoulder at Buckminster for affirmation. Buckminster glanced at Tibbles who was faintly shaking his head. The trio turned to the POTUS who was still staring at his gun, motionless. “Just do it!” he ordered.

With a shaky hand, Fricke moved the mouse pointer onto the ‘Proceed’ button, but he hesitated.

“You have your orders. Do it!” growled Buckminster.

Fricke clicked the button. The screen went instantly black. Fricke hopped back, looking as if he had broken something.

“What did you do?” Buckminster demanded.

“I… I just clicked ‘Proceed’,” Fricke appealed.

“Please stand by…” SAM implored.

The screen came back with the icon of an hourglass with the sands running out.

“Please stand by… Pareto-optimizing…”

The sands ran down the hourglass.

“Please stand by… Pareto-optimizing…”

“Please stand by…”

The last grains ran out and the hourglass icon froze in the middle of the screen. Everyone but the POTUS gathered and stared at the screen in anticipation.

“What happens now?” Haberdash asked? “Is it frozen up? Did it crash?”

“Shouldn’t the hourglass flip over or something?” Tibbles queried.

“How long should we wait?” Buckminster asked. “I think we need to call someone.” Buckminster grabbed the black telephone receiver and lifted it to his ear. “Get me IT!”

After about two minutes, Tibbles asked: “Can you put it on speaker?”

“I don’t know how to do that. I’m afraid I’ll hang up and go to the back of the queue.”

“It’s easy,” Tibbles advised. “Here…” Tibbles took the receiver from Buckminster, pressed the speaker button, then hung the receiver up. The room filled with the melody of Summer Breeze by Seals and Croft.

“Catchy, isn’t it?” Haberdash chimed in after several effervescent measures.

Finally, someone answered on the other end. “Help Desk. Who am I speaking with?”

“You are speaking to General Fitzmaurice Buckminster, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Special National Security Advisor to the President.”

“Did you say ‘Buckmeister’?”

“Buck-min-ster.”

“Okay. Got it.”

“I’m letting you know you are on speaker as well.”

“Thank you. What can I help you with?”

“It seems that the PAL system has frozen up on us.”

“The PAL system?”

“Yes. The Permissive Active Link.”

“Hmm. One moment while I look that one up. Oh, here it is. Okay, what seems to be the problem?”

“Like I just said, it appears that it has crashed or locked up on us.”

“Do you see an error message?”

Buckminster leaned in to look at the screen. “No. There’s just a frozen hourglass.”

“Can you tell me what you saw before it froze?”

“Well, it said it was ‘Pareto-optimizing.’ Then it just froze up.”

“Hmm. Hmm. Uh, how long has it been frozen?”

“It’s been a couple minutes.”

“Have you experienced this issue before?”

“No. I don’t believe any of us have ever tried to launch nuclear weapons before… No.”

“I see.” They could all hear the click clack of keyboard typing. “Unfortunately, I cannot access this system remotely. We will have to try to solution it over the phone.”

“Fine.”

“Mr. Buckmeister, can you hit control-alt-delete, please? Make sure you press all three keys simultaneously.”

“Sure.” Buckminster nodded to Fricke who carefully pressed the three keys.

“Can you tell me what you see?”

“Nothing. I still see the hourglass.”

“Hmm. And you said you didn’t see any error message?”

“No. Nothing like that.”

“Well, I think at this point we should try a hard reboot. Can you turn the PAL system off, wait thirty seconds, then turn it back on for me? I’ll hold while it reboots.”

Buckminster picked the computer up and looked under it and on the back side and scanned the keyboard. “I don’t see a power switch.”

“Hmm. Well, let me ask someone else in the department if…”

“Hang on!” Tibbles urged. “It just did something.”

The hourglass disappeared and was replaced with a popup.

 

Pareto-optimization complete.

Click to proceed.

 

Tibbles reached in and clicked the link.

 

“The Strategic Algorithm Matrix has resolved the current scenario to three possible strategic solutions. Select the appropriate solution and click Proceed.”

“What does it say?” The POTUS asked.

Tibbles scanned the screen. Fricke got up from his seat and Tibbles sat down in his place. “It has three solution buttons titled ‘Good’, ‘Better’, and ‘Best’. Click for details.

“Click the ‘Good’ one.”

Tibbles clicked the button.

“What does it say?”

“It says: ‘Limited tactical nuclear strike upon frontline military and naval targets. Pros: Shock and awe should undermine adversarial resolve. Cons: A limited military strike prior to a threatened enemy launch may trigger a military coup against the Office of the President as the Joint Chiefs of Staff will view it as a waste of initiative. Chance of preserving continuity of government: 29%. Press select to transmit launch codes.

“What is the better option?” Buckminster asked.

Tibbles read it off. “Large scale thermo-nuclear detonation over select industrialized population centers. Pros: Enemy may become demoralized and resolve to detente. Cons: If successful detonations are skewed toward civilian targets, the U.S. civilian population may attempt to overthrow the current government of the United States. Chance of preserving continuity of government: 55%. Press select to transmit launch codes.”

Buckminster pondered. Fricke gazed at the screen in astonishment. Haberdash scribbled notes over the scribbled tits in his notepad,

“And the best option?” asked the POTUS who remained fixated on his magnum.

“It says…” Tibbles started.

“It says what?” the POTUS asked.

“It says…”

“Spit it out, Frank,” ordered Buckminster.

“It says: ‘Total, full scale, thermonuclear first strike.’” Tibbles’ lip quivered.

“What could possibly be the pros of that?” Fricke asked.

“It says: ‘Pros: Enemies will be totally annihilated.’

“And the cons?” Fricke asked.

Tibbles gulped. “It says: ‘The end of the world as we know it.’

“What are the odds?” asked the POTUS.

“The odds, sir?” asked Tibbles.

“Yeah. The odds of preserving continuity of government, so we can at least save democracy.”

“It says: ‘the chance of preserving continuity of government is… is 99%.’

“This is ridiculous,” Fricke intervened. We don’t even know that the Chinese and Russians will launch their nukes. Gentlemen we still have time to negotiate a peace.”

“The time for talk is over,” Buckminster rebutted. “It’s time for action.”

The POTUS started to rock again in his chair. He reached up and massaged his temples, with his pistol clasped in his right hand. Then he ran his fingers through his hair. “I choose…”

“What was that, Mr. President?” Buckminster asked.

“I said, I choose…”

You don’t have to do this, Mr. President,” Fricke urged.

“I… choose…” the sentence dissolved into mumbling.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t roger that,” Buckminster said.

“I said I…”

“Don’t do it!” Fricke pleaded.

“Best!” shouted the president. “I choose best. Now get on with it.”

Fricke looked desperately at Tibbles imploring him to stop the madness. Buckminster’s hand slid down and unsnapped his holster, forgetting that only the POTUS was permitted to possess a sidearm in the UltraBunker.

“Best! Best! Best! I choose best. Do it!”

“You heard the president, Frank,” Buckminster added.

Tibbles’ finger moved the mouse pointer. He toggled the box. Then slid the pointer down to the link that said ‘proceed.’

“Do it!” Buckminster ordered.

 

Click

 

The hourglass returned. Tibbles watched the screen as the grains of sand ran out. When the last grains passed through the icon, a new popup appeared.

 

Please enter authentication code.

 

“Authentication code?” Buckminster asked. “Fricke, give me the code.”

“I don’t have it.”

“Give me the code or I will have you shot for treason.”

“I don’t have it.”

“Mr. President? Do you have it?”

“I don’t,” mumbled the POTUS.

“Who in the hell has it, then?” Buckminster asked. “Fricke? You’re a damn liar.”

Fricke shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not lying.”

Tibbles backed away from the PAL.

“Tibbles, do you have it?”

“Uh…” Tibbles gulped.

“It’s Tibbles. Tibbles has the code,” the POTUS muttered. “But you have to get it out of him.”

“What do you mean, sir?” Buckminster asked.

“I’m sure it’s all there in the instructions.”

Buckminster yanked the Denny’s menu from Tibbles’ who had started shaking. He flipped to the last page where he saw the diagram of a person’s head and neck, but with the skin peeled back revealing the cardiovascular system and musculature. An arrow pointed to the external carotid artery and the depiction of a small splice connecting both ends of it. A text box on the instructions described how the authentication code was contained within the arterial splice.

“How in the hell do we get it out of him?” Buckminster asked.

“You have to cut it out,” the POTUS lamented.

“But won’t Frank bleed to death,” asked Fricke.

“It’s part of the Fail-Safe Thermonuclear Protocol,” the POTUS explained.

“We can’t just cut him open, can we?” Haberdash asked, backing away from Frank.

“I think it would be best if we euthanized him first,” the president suggested.

“Does anyone have any poison?” Haberdash asked.

“Sir, you can use your pistol,” Buckminster advised.

“No, I… I can’t do it,” the POTUS protested.

Tibbles sighed in relief.

“Why not?”

“I just can’t. I can’t do it.”

“Thank God,” Fricke exclaimed.

“Why not, sir?” Buckminster asked.

“I just can’t.”

“Well what do we do now?” Buckminster asked.

“I said I can’t do it,” repeated the POTUS.

“We understand, sir.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Sir?”

The president looked up at Buckminster. “Here, you do it!” The POTUS slid his gold pistol across the table to Buckminster.

“Why me?” Buckminster cringed.

“Because you got us into this mess.”

“Gentlemen, we really don’t have to do this. We can…” Fricke interrupted.

“I’m sorry, sir, but I just can’t shoot a man point blank.”

Tibbles’ eyes darted between Buckminster and the POTUS.

“What?” asked the POTUS.

“I said I just can’t kill someone like this.”

“What in the hell are you talking about?” The POTUS smoldered. “You’ve killed hundreds… thousands of people. You’re a soldier… a general.”

“Yeah, but that was by text message. It was never in person. Not face to face.”

“What the hell difference does it make?”

“This is different. I… I can’t do it.”

“You have to.”

“I can’t.” Buckminster’s voice cracked. His chest heaved and fell. He sniffed. His throat tightened his voice into a squeal. “I… I…” He started to sob.

“Do it!” the POTUS urged.

“Arman, are you sure?” Tibbles whimpered.

“I… I can’t, sir,” Buckminster wept openly.

“That’s a direct order, Bucky.” The POTUS got up from his seat and slapped Buckminster across the cheek.

“Arman…” Tibbles beseeched.

Buckminster hefted up the gold-plated magnum.

“Gentlemen, please!” Fricke shouted. “Let’s talk about this for a minute.”

“Arman,” Tibbles implored, “I… I…”

Haberdash cleared further out of the way.

“Bucky, I’m giving you a direct order!” shouted the POTUS.

Buckminster stepped forward, tears and snot running down his face. Blubbering incoherently, he placed the barrel against Tibbles’ temple.

Tibbles stared lovingly at president Arman “Our Man” Manfred, who himself had sat back down and stared at the floor rather than looking his lover in the eye.

“Sir…”

“What, Frank,” the POTUS asked, finally looking up.

“I love you.”

 

BANG!

 

Fricke sat frozen in terrified disbelief. Haberdash vigorously scribbled notes in his notepad. Buckminster wiped the tears and blood splatter and brain matter from his face with his handkerchief and reflexively stuffed the president’s sidearm into his holster.

“Is everything okay there?” came the voice of the IT support person who was still on the speaker phone. “I heard a loud bang and crying or something.”

Buckminster cleared his throat, straightened his splattered uniform, then withdrew his pocket knife and proceeded to cut out the authentication code splice capsule from Tibbles’ neck. When he had retrieved the capsule, he broke it open and unraveled a tiny strip. He took out his reading glasses.

“It’s like a fortune cookie. What does it say?” Haberdash asked.

“It says ’42’,” Buckminster answered.

“42?”

“What do I do now? Enter it in the computer?”

“You have to enter the complete code. I have the prefix,” murmured the president. “Enter #… @… A… first, then 42.”

Buckminster entered the code. “What now?”

No one answered.

“Hello Sam, what do we do now?” Haberdash asked.

“One moment please…”

Buckminster stared at the screen.

“One moment please…”

Fricke looked at the president.

“One moment please…”

The president stared at his shoes.

“I am unable to establish connection.”

“What did she say?” Buckminster asked.

“It must have been trying to transmit the launch sequence to NORAD. It can’t connect due to Protocol 4.”

“Well, what do we do now?” Buckminster asked, glaring at Fricke. Fricke was unresponsive, as if in catatonic shock. Buckminster turned to the computer. “Hello SAM, what do we do now?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.”

“Hello SAM,” asked Buckminster. “How do we deliver launch sequence manually?”

“Due to loss of connectivity, you must deliver the launch codes manually.”

“Hello, SAM. How do we deliver the launch codes manually?”

“Simply re-establish internet connectivity with PAL.”

Confusion filled Buckminster’s face.

“You’ve gotta take the PAL and the red button thing up to the surface,” the president mumbled, “so it can connect.”

“Oh, of course,” Buckminster replied. “So we’ll need to send someone up to the surface, in the transport capsule? You’re not going to send me, are you? I get claustrophobic.”

“Not you, Bucky,” said the president. “You’ve already failed me once.”

“Who then, sir?”

All eyes were set upon the president who looked down at the floor. “Fricke,” he answered. “I want Fricke to do it.”

 


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