Tag Archives: Nuclear War

COG Chapter 7


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 7

When the vast majority of the world’s leaders and elites had made their way into the SuperBunker, it was decided that the leaders of the primary world powers should hold a summit as a last-ditch effort to prevent world war 3. Motorcades of black, bullet proof golf carts brought the leaders of Russia, China, and the United States, along with their assistants, advisors, translators, massage therapists, and security personnel to a rendezvous in the event center of Section L— the Latin American section of the SuperBunker.

After a formal contest of pick-a-number, overseen by forty-seven accountants, six international judges, and the secretary general of the UN, the prestigious advantage of arriving last was awarded to the U.S. delegation. The presidential golf carts ambled up to the curb. Security agents scurried into position. When each of the sixty secret service agents indicated to central command that the situation was safe, the footman of Golf Cart One opened the door and President Arman Manfred stepped stiffly out onto the curb. The POTUS gathered himself up, straightened his navy-blue suit, and peacock-strutted his way down the red carpet which was flanked by stone cauldrons bearing virtual flames. He passed under a technicolor awning and through the glass and bronze doors held ajar by two men adorned as Aztec warriors.

The president passed from the main hall decorated in an Incan, stone-block style, filled with press, security, and mid-level diplomats, and into a large chamber with walls of golden, ceiling-to-floor curtains. The chamber was populated by smug ambassadors and pasty-faced elites with bulbous noses, adorned with bow ties, and ruby rings and receding hairlines. The POTUS carved through the gazing herd, through a parting in the gold drapes at the far end, and into an ante-chamber with a low ceiling and plaster walls. He was greeted there by his emergency Cabinet members Dexter Fricke and Fitzmaurice Buckminster and also Haberdash who looked frumpy even when wearing a suit. Fricke and Buckminster briefed the POTUS then Buckminster opened an inlaid oak door at the opposite end that lead to the destination meeting room. The POTUS passed through the doorway but stopped Buckminster from following him.

“Wait here. No advisors are allowed,” the POTUS advised. “Hab… follow me.”

Haberdash squeezed past the astonished-looking Buckminster and the POTUS shut the door in his gaping face.

The cozy conference room was adorned in the provincial Spanish style of hand-troweled, white plaster walls and ceramic tile flooring. A cold hearth stood on one end and centered within each of the other three walls stood an inlaid oak door. Three upholstered chairs were set facing each other in the middle of the room.

In one high back armchair sat the president of Russia, Dmitry Timfimovich Timoshenko. He wore a navy-blue suit with a sky-blue tie. His thin silver hair was receding, slicked back behind his rubbery ears that stuck out from his head like opened doors on a delivery van. His bushy eyebrows were as black as the smoke from burning tires. His thick glasses were held up by a beakish, pink nose that formed a descending point that descended past his upper lip.

In the other chair sat the president of China, Hu Li Jinkun. He was also dressed in a navy-blue suit but wore a mauve tie. He had an oval face mounted atop a vaguely defined neck. His jet-black hair was also badly receding. He also wore glasses with coke bottle thick lenses that hooked onto a tiny, flat nose vented by two enormous, perfectly round, black portal nostrils.

The POTUS huffed before taking the empty seat. “I was supposed to have the middle chair,” he protested. The president of China and the president of Russia looked at each other befuddled. “This was all decided during the official coin flip,” continued the POTUS.

“Mr. President,” spoke the president of Russia in his Dracula dialect, “these seats are aligned in a circle. There is no middle.”

“Why is he a-here?” asked the president of China in his best attempt at English. He gestured to Haberdash who was lounging in a side chair adjacent to the door that he and the POTUS had entered through.

“This was all agreed to in advance, Huli,” explained the POTUS. “He’s my hagiographer. What are you afraid of? That he might put the details of this meeting up on his blog?”

“Perhaps he might,” answered Timfimvovich in his molasses tenor.

“And I suppose you expect me to believe you aren’t recording this conversation for your own purposes, Timmy?” the POTUS asked. Timoshenko demurred. “Relax, gentlemen. Hab’s sworn to secrecy. He knows I’d have him suicided by the secret service if he betrayed my confidence.”

Hab’s eyebrows raised indicating this was the first he’d heard of this.

Timoshenko and Hu Li exchanged a glance of acquiescence.

“So…” Hu Li began, “why are we a-here?”

A long, tense silence followed.

The president of the United States sighed.

The president of Russia scratched his temple.

The president of China forced a grin.

The president of the United States forced a grin.

The president of Russia tapped his thumb on the arm of his chair.

The president of the United States interlocked his fingers.

The president of China cracked his knuckles.

The president of Russia rubbed his chin.

The president of China stopped smiling.

The president of the U.S. cleared his throat.

The president of Russia adjusted his glasses.

The president of China removed his glasses and cleaned the gigantic lenses with his handkerchief.

The president of the United States rubbed the inside corner of his eye with his index finger. Then he looked around the room, resting his sight on a painting by Goya: Saturn Devouring His Children…


Many of the world’s finest works of art had been hastened into the bunker for safe keeping. Even the curators of the world’s great museums feared the inevitability of nuclear holocaust. Michelangelo’s David, for instance, was flown in, along with other sculptures from antiquity, on a C5 Galaxy transport plane. It had to be sawed into five pieces so that it could be brought down into the bunker safely. It was reassembled in the David L. Rothschild Hall in Section E. Everyone marveled at the excellent job of reassembly. One could hardly notice the linear, diamond saw cuts…


After a few minutes of icy silence, the president of Russia re-crossed his legs.

Then the president of China smiled again, forcibly peeling back his lips and exposing two rows of pill-shaped teeth.

One of the presidents examined his cuticles.

Another licked his lips.

The third rubbed his nose.

Another nearly picked his nose, then, realizing he was in a public setting, settled for a mere brush of the end of it.

Another stuck his finger in his ear.

Another re-crossed his legs.

One of them sniffed.

Another coughed to cover up a belch…

It went on like this for over an hour. None would dare initiate a dialogue. No one wanted to be the first. Being the first to speak was regarded as an expression of weakness and submission. In the realm of geopolitics, a leader must never evoke weakness.

Finally, Timfimovoch relented, albeit off topic. “I noticed that the diesel smell has abated,” he slurred.

“Yes,” answered the POTUS. “The nuclear reactor has been brought online.” The POTUS stood and went to the liquor cabinet to pour himself a scotch. He carried his glass over to the Goya painting to study it. “It’s horrible,” he remarked before taking a gulp.

The other two presidents watched him.

“Huli,” the POTUS said to the president of China.


“I can’t forgive you.”

“Forgive me for a-what?”

“Don’t be coy, Huli.”

“Your aircraft carrier was in our territori-oh water. We were responding to your act of a-war.”

“The Henry Harrison was performing routine naval exercises.”

“It was well within the [1]seven-dash rine and far too crose to Grasshopper Island.”

“…Ah, that pile of rocks from where your hypersonic missile was launched,” commented the POTUS before finishing his scotch.

“It was to crose,” Hu Li reaffirmed.

“You have no right to occupy that island, Huli.”

“It is inside the seven dash rine. Check your a-map.”

“So you want to go to nuclear war over a rock in middle of the East China Sea?”

“I ask you the same a-question, Manfweed.”

“We have no interest in that rock, Huli.”

“Then why was your freet sai-ring around it, huh?”

“Because it’s Ticky-Taki’s rock, Huli, not yours.”

“So let us work it out with Japan’s government.”

“You know very well we have an LSA[2] with Japan. There are severe consequences if we do not honor our alliance.”

“Your a-riance is your prob-rem, not a-mine.” Hu Li grinned, mockingly.

“You know damn well that if I do not respond to your sinking of my aircraft carrier, American prestige will be unacceptably damaged.”

“Not my a-prob-rem.”

“God damnit, Huli. Do you know how much that boat cost?”

“You should have taken better care.”

“It’s Japan’s rock!”

“It’s not Japan’s rock, Manfweed. It be-rongs to the peop-uhr of China!” snapped the Chinese president with emphasis on “China”.

“It’s just a rock, Huli.”

“Tell that to Taki[3].”

“Gentlemen, we been over and over this countless times,” the President of Russia interrupted. “Manfred, I could easily raise the same concerns regarding Bolshevistan.”

“Oh, good Lord. We’re not getting anywhere.” The POTUS sat down, lowered his face and massaged his temples between his thumb and middle finger in frustration. “Bolshevistan,” he continued, “is a trial member of NATO, Timmy. We are bound by treaty to defend their sovereignty.”

“It’s not even a real country, Manfred. Brezhnev drew it on a map in 1969.”

“It’s a real country if we say it is, Timmy. And UN agrees with us.”

“Not unanimous-uh-ree,” chimed Hu Li.

“You can’t just go around annexing your neighbors, Timmy.”

“What business is it of yours?”

“What business is it? Really? Let me tell you something, Timmy, I know how it feels to be Bolshevistani. Believe me, I know.” The POTUS pointed at himself for added emphasis. “My great, great grandfather was Estonian. I understand the pain he felt in his soul when that bastard Stalin went in and took it over. Now, my great great grandaddy died before I was born, but I still know his pain. I inherited it. It’s in my DNA. For all those years great, great grand dad was a man without a country. And he passed the torch of liberty to my grandfather— because my great grandfather died in a lumberjacking accident. So my grandfather passed it to my father and he passed the torch of liberty to me. And now I carry that torch.” The POTUS placed his hand over his heart. “And now that torch is me.”

“But Estonia is a free nation, now,” Timoshenko rebutted.

“You know the point I’m trying to make. I can’t let you subjugate the Bolshevistani people like Stalin did to people like my great, great grand daddy. I will not allow it!” The POTUS’s eyes began to well up. “It is my sincere belief that deep, deep down inside every Bolshevistani, there is a Slav yearning for full privilege membership in the EU.”

“Sewenty nine percent of Bolshewistani identify as Russian, Manfred.”

The POTUS’s face hardened. Grinding his teeth in frustration he said: “Look, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t turn my back on them. If we allow you to take it over, Romania will demand NATO defense buildup. Who do you think is going to be asked to supply the mechanized infantry for Romania’s defense? Germany? Don’t make me laugh. It will be the U.S., Timmy. Do you really want U.S. forces massing in Romania?”

“Of course not.”

“Well that’s what you’re gonna get.”

“You can choose not to do that, Mr. President.”

“No, I can’t. If NATO doesn’t honor its defense obligations, Romania will default on their debt payments. I don’t have to remind you what that would do to Deutsche bank. It would require a massive bailout from the EU. Do you think the French are going to bail out a German bank, Timmy? No way. They’ll leave the EU. The dominoes start falling and poof, financial Armageddon.”

“Those are Europe’s problems, not ours.” Timoshenko got up and went to the liquor cabinet to pour himself a vodka. “If we withdraw from Bolshewistan, you will have tactical nuclear missiles and mechanized infantries right on our border. We cannot accept that. Bolshewistan cannot be allowed to be member of NATO. It must remain a buffer between Mother Russia and western imperialism.”

“And we cannot allow them not to be in NATO,” answered the POTUS.

“So we are at an impasse.”

“We have to find some way to trust, Timmy. Isn’t that what Gorbachev said?”

Timoshenko spat. “Trust? You tried to have me assassinated.”

“That wasn’t me, Timmy. That was the CIA.”

Timoshenko cursed. “Stay out of Bolshevistan.”

“No. You stay out. And you too, Huli.”

“You first, Mr. President.”

“No, you first.”

“After you.”

“You go, I go.”

“I’m right behind you.”

“No, I’m right behind you.”

The POTUS huffed. “You sunk one of our aircraft carriers, Huli. We’re at least going to need to even the score before we can even begin to consider any formal concession. If I retreat without reprisal, the American people will skewer me as a gutless coward. I’d be another Jimmy Carter or Neville Chamberlain.”

“If we go to fuhr scare war, no one would be reft to skewer you.”

“You are lucky we didn’t retaliate right then and there.”

“Oh prease. You were given twenty-three warning before we fire.”

“The USS William Henry Harrison cost twenty billion dollars, Huli. That’s a lot of coin that we had to borrow from you. It’s only fair that I get to blow up twenty billion of your shit. Then we can talk about peace concessions.”

“Do you a-want another carrier resting on the bottom of the East China Sea? Don’t forget, we gracious-ree arrowed the remainder of your freet to escape.”

The POTUS downed his drink. “Look, neither of you can win a war with the United States. Even without the Henry Harrison, our navy is still twice the size of both of your so-called navies put together.”

The president of Russia and the president of China glanced at each other.

“So are we having a dick measuring contest now?” asked Hu Li.

“Call it what you want,” replied the POTUS, “but ours is the biggest. It ain’t much of a contest.”

“A-maybe your dick is the biggest,” continued Hu Li with a grin, “but two dick a-better than one.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” asked the POTUS.

“Alone, our dick is too small, we a-cannot win,” answered Hu Li.

“But if we use our dicks together, we can ensure that you cannot win, either,” answered Timoshenko.

“What in the hell is that supposed to mean?” asked the POTUS.

“Hu Li and I have a gentleman’s agreement,” answered Timoshenko.

“About what?”

“We have a mu-chu-rer defense a-pact,” answered Hu Li.

“A what?”

“I think he said they have a ‘mutual defense pact’,” answered Haberdash from his seat.

“Oh, splendid. A new axis of evil.”

“We have pejoratives for you and your allies as well,” answered Timoshenko.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Timmy?” asked the POTUS. “Once you go public with it, there is no turning back. An alliance between you two will make it impossible to unwind this situation.”

“No one wants a-war,” answered Hu Li. “But hope-fu-ree our combine a-strength will read you to the understanding that you cannot push us around. You will not be able to knock us off one at a time.”

The POTUS turned back to the painting depicting the wild-eyed Saturn chewing the arm off a headless child. “If we can’t resolve this, think of all the things that will be lost. Think of all the pieces of art and architecture, the great cities, it will be such an historic tragedy.”

“The world as we know it will be destroyed,” added the president of China. “But there will be many investment opportunities for rebuilding.”

“At least we have this bunker,” the POTUS replied, “so that the governments can emerge one day to rebuild it all.”

“Gentlemen, things appear to be in a deadlock,” said the president of Russia. “Let’s at least agree to meet again and keep the lines of communication open. There are still hundreds of flights arri-wing daily, deli-wering VIPs and supplies and artworks.”

The POTUS added: “I agree. Let us try to delay war as long as possible, at least so that we can save what we can.”


[1] The Seven-Dash Line refers to the undefined, vaguely located, demarcation line used the People’s Republic of China for their territorial claims of the major part of the East China Sea.

[2] LSA refers to a Leveraged Security Alliance whereby the United States promises military defense of a nation and in return, the partner nation promises not to liquidate their holding of U.S. government debt which would trigger a default.

[3] Taki Takiyama. The Japanese prime minister. Referred to as Ticky-Taki by President Manfred.

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COG Chapter 6


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 6

The First Lady rolled over in bed and reached for her pack of Virginia Slims cigarettes. She placed one on her lips and tossed the pack which landed flat on the nightstand. Her fingers fumbled around, finally retrieving her lighter. She struck an enormous flame— perhaps four inches tall— setting her stoic face aglow in warm light and filling the room with aromatic butane. She moved the very tip of the flame to the end of the cigarette and drew, setting the tobacco aflame. She released the igniter which extinguished the flame and tossed the lighter back onto the nightstand with an exhale of sweet smoke. Holding her cigarette aloft in her left hand, she reached out with her right to retrieve her bottle of OxyContin. She unscrewed the cap with the cigarette perched between two fingers. She tipped the bottle and shook once, and a single pill tumbled with a rattle out onto her tongue. She set the bottle on the nightstand. Next, she reached for her short glass tumbler, raised it to her lips and washed down the pill with a last swig of bourbon. She set the tumbler down and took another drag from her smoke.

“You know smoking is not allowed down here,” her partner advised in a deep whisper.

She sighed in the darkness. “Was it good for you?” she asked as she exhaled again.

“Sure,” answered Dexter Fricke.

“Did you actually just say ‘sure’?”

“What’s wrong, Veruca?”

“Right now? Everything.”

“Everything will work out. Try not to carry the weight of the world.”

“You always say that but what do you base that on?”

“Because it always works out.”

“It always does… until it doesn’t. I don’t think you understand him, Dex.”

“Arman is… complex.”

“Manfred’s an idiot who thinks he’s a genius.” She reached out and flicked on the lamp.

“It’s an act, Veruca. He uses it because it’s worked for him.”

“He’s insane.” She glanced at the satchel containing the nuclear football that rested on the arm chair in the corner of the suite.

“All presidents are insane, Veruca. You can’t go through life worrying about them. There are safeguards in place.”

“He’s getting more insane by the day. He’s twice as crazy now that his favorite aircraft carrier was sunk.”

Dexter chuckled. “He did have a thing for that boat.”

“The USS Henry Harrison: sunk to the bottom of the East China Sea by one solitary Chinese missile.”

“A hypersonic missile.”

“One missile nonetheless.”

“Carriers are relics, Veruca. They’re mostly for show. We learned a terrible lesson.”

“Manfred learns nothing. That boat was special to him because he saved it. He saved its funding.”

“That he did. It was going to be decommissioned.”

“It was his baby.” Veruca handed the cigarette to Dexter who took a half-hearted drag. “It’s because it was the biggest of them all. It was an expression of his manhood— like those short rednecks with tiny pricks who drive around in monster pickup trucks. He bragged about having all the foreign dignitaries and leaders visit it, especially Hu Li. He made him walk it with him from end to end. It was like a presidential cock-measuring contest.”

“Hu Li got the last laugh, I suppose.”

“We’ll just have to see about that.”

“Is Arman really compensating?” Fricke joked as he handed her back the cigarette.

“Do I really need to answer that?” the First Lady stubbed out the cigarette.

“Well, he can’t do anything too outrageous. Tibbles has the authentication codes.”

“And now you have the football.”

They both glanced at the satchel.

“Whatever happens, Dex, you can’t ever let him launch.”

“As long as Tibbles is topside it won’t matter.”

“He won’t be topside for long.”

“Relax. We took care of it. It’s impossible to get him in. The moment he crosses the threshold with his duplicate PIN, everyone will be alerted to the breech… the Chinese, the Russians. The allies would turn on us.”

“So what? You think Manfred gives a damn about them? Tibbles is coming. Trust me.”

“Even if he doesn’t give a damn, the moment a person with a duplicate PIN enters the SuperBunker, Protocol 3 will activate. The host country will have its power and water cut by the computers. Tibbles would be a poison pill.”

“Manfred will figure out a way. Don’t you think I know him? You think I don’t know how his psychotic little mind works? He got me, Dex. He got me to marry him. I’m such an idiot. My father warned me.”

“You’re not an idiot, Veruca. You’re the First Lady of the United States.”

“I am an idiot. This is all my fault. Without my family’s money[1] he never would have amounted to anything.”

“So divorce him.”

“What would that accomplish? I’d have even less power to stop him.” She reached over for her pack but thought better of it and threw it back down on the stand. “You have to do more, Dex. You may have to save the world.”

Fricke laughed. “What more can I really do?”

“Promise me you will keep Tibbles from getting down here as long as possible. Delay it, undermine it, do whatever you can, but make sure Manfred doesn’t have access to his authentication codes.”

“I’m doing everything I can.”

“You know he’s got Fuckminster working on something,” she added.

“I’m not too worried about Buckminster.”

“I can smell it. They’re always having their secret conversations. They get quiet when they see me come around. Fucky is Manfred’s lackey, Dex. I bet you anything he’s plotting some way to get Tibbles down here in case you fail. You have to be ready for that.”




[1] Veruca Weinstein’s family money originated from the Weinstein Dill Pickle corporate empire, founded by Frank David Weinstein in 1907. Throughout the following decades, The Weinstein Corp expanded into newspaper holdings, fast food restaurants, and contracting cafeteria services for the department of defense.

Comments, likes, edits and suggestions are welcome. They help increase visibility.

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COG Chapter 5


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 5

Retired Major George Russell Kilgore had been a professional soldier for over half a century. He was just shy of seventy-three years old. Every morning, at four a.m., he would get out of his bunk, relieve himself, drink sixteen ounces of chocolate whey powder spiked with two raw eggs and two shots of Smirnoff, and then go for a seven-mile run… shirtless… even in January.

A graduate of West Point, Kilgore had the distinction of being the only member of the U.S. armed forces to have been in combat in twelve conflicts those being: Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Iraq War I, Somalia, Iraq War II, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Niger, and Operation Restore Democracy in Puerto Rico. He was wounded six times and had a metal plate installed in his head to replace a chunk of his skull blasted away in a firing range accident. He was also kidnapped once, while in Pakistan, but managed to steal one of his captor’s cell phones and order a cruise missile strike directly onto his exact location using the phone’s GPS. He was the only survivor of the blast. At fifty years old, he snuck into the West Point football locker room, put on a uniform, and inserted himself onto the kickoff team in a game against the hated rivals from Navy. He forced a fumble on his first special teams play and recorded two more unassisted tackles before the staff finally figured out who he was and took him out. The NCAA considered making Army forfeit the game for using an ineligible player, but the penalty was waved when the hated rivals of Navy protested out of respect for the major. Widely admired and revered, everyone, including his wife, children, and grandchildren, addressed him as “Sir” or “Major”…


…Everyone, that is, except for the POTUS who referred to Major George Russell Kilgore as “Krusty”.


Although retired, Kilgore continued to serve his country in a position known as “The Fullback”— not because of his football exploits, but rather because he carried the nuclear football— the leather satchel containing a mobile satellite telecommunications system, a dedicated, hardened laptop computer, and a laminated manual resembling a Denny’s menu that instructed the POTUS on how to go about blowing up the earth.

Major George Russell Kilgore was presently seated in a leather recliner in the situation room of the Brown House, looking terribly uncomfortable in is stretched, full dress uniform. He preferred to be standing. There were seven recliners in the room, arranged in a circle. Fricke was there, as well as Haberdash, who sat with his legs crossed scratching the arch of his foot with his pen. Buckminster, the Secretary of Defense, was present, as was Secretary of State Dexter Fricke. Two of the recliners were empty. One belonged to White House Chief of Staff Frank Tibbles. The other empty recliner was raised onto a dais and was slightly larger than the others. The executive chair had the presidential seal emblazoned onto the headrest which formed a halo around the POTUS’s head whenever he sat there.

“So…” Hab started in looking at Kilgore. “Do you carry that thing around twenty-four hours a day?”

“Yes sir,” Kilgore answered.

“So you sleep with that bag?”

“I have it beside my bunk, handcuffed to my wrist, sir.”

“And what all’s inside?”

Kilgore glanced over at Buckminster before answering. Buckminster nodded. “The satchel contains a battery-powered, satellite phone with a long range, communications array. The electronics are hardened to withstand disruption by radio flash. In addition to the array, there is a voice activated laptop computer with a video touch screen that provides the president with instructions on how to handle various thermonuclear scenarios.”



“Such as…?”

Kilgore glanced at Buckminster again

“I can explain,” Buckminster interrupted. “Scenarios such as: Is this a retaliatory scenario or a first strike? Is this a full-scale attack? Where is the enemy launch originating? What is the status of our allies? Things like that.”

“So the president enters those parameters and the screen tells him what to do?”

“Basically, yes,” Buckminster continued. “The computer will make three suggestions: a good, a better, and a best solution.”

“Why wouldn’t the president just choose the ‘best’ solution?”

“I suppose it’s done that way to provide for lack of Pareto Optimality.”

“Pareto what?”

“…Optimality. Although the processor has been loaded with thousands of scenarios, it is quite possible that there is no single, optimal, ultimate, best solution. The top three solutions, ranked by projected risk and projected return, are suggested as ‘good’, ‘better’, and ‘best’.”

Hab bore a look of confusion so Buckminster continued.

“…For example, let’s say that a ‘good’ solution might be to shock-and-awe one or two civilian population centers with a 1 megaton airburst. There might be drawbacks to that such as what is the likelihood that the enemy will retaliate four-to-one. Maybe the ‘better’ solution might be to target a handful of enemy industrial centers with ten megaton assets. This might dampen their military resolve but may harden them, politically. Perhaps The ‘best’ solution might be to launch a full scale, pre-emptive attack and knock them out completely.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“The computer runs tens of thousands of simulations called Monte Carlo experiments by tweaking the parameters and plotting the risk return vector trade-offs of each. It then ranks the solutions by units of return per unit of risk. The ‘good’ solution, in the crude example I gave, is very risky in that there is a percentage risk that our enemy may respond with a full-scale retaliation. The return per unit of risk would be very low. On the other hand, the ‘best’ solution, a full-scale, pre-emptive attack, would be very low risk.”

“Very low risk? How could a full-scale attack be considered very low risk? Wouldn’t that mean the end of the world?”

“Essentially yes, it would, but you’re making a subjective value judgment. The computer does not make value judgements. It is only evaluating objective, quantifiable performance indicators.”

“What does that mean?”

“Quantifiable measures such as: what is the statistical likelihood that the objective will be achieved or not? In a full-scale attack, the objective measure of risk would be the statistical likelihood of preserving the government in lieu of obliterating all of the enemy’s cities. Those odds are actually very high in a full scale, pre-emptive attack, now that we have the SuperBunker. The risk of failure is very low, thus the return to risk ratio is quite positive.”

“That’s a pretty heavy burden you’re carrying there,” Fricke remarked to Major Kilgore.

“How so?” interrupted Buckminster.

“Well,” Fricke answered, “he’s carrying the computer that can launch doomsday. That seems like a heavy burden to me.”

“The major isn’t burdened at all,” Buckminster snorted. “All he has to do is open the briefcase and turn the god damn thing on. The president or one of his advisors can do almost everything else.”

“I see.”

“If I may, sir,” interjected Major Kilgore in his gravelly voice, “I do see it as quite a responsibility. I mean, I do have to make it available to be used.”

“But that doesn’t require any decision on your part,” Buckminster declared. “When the president asks, you turn it on. There’s nothing to it.”

“Well, yeah but—” Major Kilgore replied.

“Yeah but what?” Buckminster interrupted.

“What if the president is… what if he is incapacitated or somehow unable?” Kilgore asked.


Just then, the door to the situation room opened and the president entered. Everyone stood as he walked past and took a seat in his executive recliner with the halo of the presidential seal wrapping behind his dome in the headrest. Hab took out a notepad from his shirt pocket and reclined. The others sat back down together.

“What were you guys talking about?” asked the president.

“Oh, nothing,” Fricke replied.

“Oh, it was something,” Buckminster explained.

“What was it?” asked the president.

Buckminster’s eyes turned to Major Kilgore.

“What is it, Krusty?” the president asked.

Kilgore gulped.

“Spit it out.”

“We were discussing what-if scenarios, sir.”

“About what?”

“About the nuclear football, sir.”

“Like what kind of scenarios?”

“Buckminster interrupted: “The Major was wondering if there could be a situation whereby he would be compelled to refuse the president access to the nuclear football, sir.”

“What?” the POTUS asked Buckminster. He turned to Kilgore. “Is that true?”

“Sir,” Major Kilgore explained, “I was not implying any specific situation.”

“What kind of situation were you implying?” asked the POTUS.

“Sir, I was merely suggesting that if the president was unable to make a rational decision regarding nuclear war, due to incapacity or some extraordinary circumstance, that perhaps my duty to my country might require me to question granting him access until we were certain he was capable.”

“By he, I assume you’re referring to me.”

“I need to reiterate that I was not referring to anyone specifically, sir. I was considering the possibility in general. I have no reason to question your capability, sir.”

“But you were questioning the capability of the president— the commander in chief.”


“Just answer.”

“Well, given a very extreme set of circumstances, sir. But I don’t foresee…”

“So you were questioning the authority of the commander in chief.”

“Sir, but I…”

“Major Kilgore…”

“Yes sir?”

“I am relieving you of your duty. You are dismissed.”


“You are dismissed. You are no longer the fullback. Please turn in your badge to secret service on your way out.”

Fricke tried to intervene. “Sir, do you think—”

“Quiet,” the POTUS snapped. “Major Kilgore, we thank you for your service. My decision is final.”

Major Kilgore glanced right towards an astonished Dexter Fricke then left towards a disgusted Fitzmaurice Buckminster. Then he glanced briefly at Haberdash who just shrugged. Then he stared with piercing grays eyes directly at the president.

“That will be all, Major Kilgore,” said the POTUS.

Major Kilgore stood up, clicked his heels together and saluted. “Yes sir.”

“You can leave the football right there,” the POTUS advised.

Kilgore entered a code into his handcuffs, releasing his wrist, then set the satchel on the table where he was seated. He made a crisp turn and exited the situation room.

Fricke’s eyes darted between the president and Buckminster. Haberdash was scribbling in his notepad as if he was trying to disappear entirely within it. A faint smirk formed on the president’s face, one so faint that anyone who wasn’t dialed in to the entire exchange would have missed it. Manfred waited until the door closed.


“Yes sir?”

“I’m appointing you as the new fullback.”

“Sir, I respectfully decline.”

“Bullshit. It’s you. You’re only one of maybe three people in this world I trust.”

Buckminster leaned in and raised a hand to object. “Sir, I don’t want that responsibility.”

“It’s a direct god damn order. Oh, don’t get all nutty on me. Look, there’s nothing to it. It’s just for while we’re down here. I’ll appoint someone else on the surface if this blows over. You just carry that bag around at all times. When I give the command, you open it, take out the computer, and boot it up. It’s on Windows. What could possibly be so difficult?”

“Sir, I…”

“I won’t accept ‘no’.” The president turned to Buckminster. “You don’t think Kilgore keeps the Denny’s menu somewhere else, do you?”

“I think that is highly unlikely, Mr. President.

“Check it out.”

“Now, sir?”

“No, next Tuesday when Kilgore’s sipping a mojito on a beach in Naples using it as a sunshade. Of course, now!”

Buckminster got up out of his recliner and went over to the satchel. All eyes locked on as he unlatched it. He reached into the pocket. The president’s eyes widened. Fricke stared, unblinking. Haberdash’s thumb found its way into his left nostril— which was what it tended to do when he found himself in tense situations.

“It’s here, sir.”

“Good. Give it to Fricke.” The president pointed. “Fricke, study that thing. Memorize it. Keep it on your person or with the satchel at all times.”

Buckminster slid the tri-fold, laminated instructions across the table to Fricke who looked like he was battling indigestion.

“Now…,” continued the POTUS as he waited for Buckminster to take his seat. “Now we can finally get down to business.”

“What’s on the agenda?” asked Hab.

“Only one thing… Frank Tibbles,” answered the president. “Fricke, what’s the latest report on your progress?”

“What? Oh, right,” Fricke gathered himself. “I just came from the UN bunker office. I would have texted you their answer but I’m not comfortable sending these communications over SuperBunker WiFi.”

“Of course. Of course. What did they say? Are they gonna tell that Wang kid to pack his bags?”

“I’m afraid not, sir.”


“I’m sorry, sir. They said that, according to their interpretation of the codex, a person is granted permanent residence upon entry and that status is irrevocable. The PIN Tibbles holds belongs to Chung Wang, now.”

“This is unacceptable. What the hell am I supposed to do without my Chief of Staff? How many UN chinks were party to that decision?”

“Sir? I don’t know that any Chinese nationals were—”

“Bullshit. I need my Chief of Staff.”

“Perhaps you should consider appointing a new one, sir?” Buckminster suggested.

“Who asked you?” bristled the president. “This is a big problem, Fricke.”

“I understand fully, sir.”

“No, I don’t think you do. If you did you would have found a solution by now.”

“I’m doing the best I can, sir.”

“Fricke, do you know what Tibbles is?”

“I think he’s in Maryland at the moment.”

“Not where is he, Fricke. What is he? Do you know what Tibbles is?”

He’s the white house chief of staff, sir?”

“He’s the halfback! Jesus.”

“The halfback, sir?”

“Bucky, fill him in.”

Buckminster cleared his throat. “Mr. Fricke, Tibbles is what we call the ‘halfback’. He is the carrier of the launch codes.”

“That’s for redundancy, I thought,” Fricke answered.

“This is not for civilian ears, Mr. Fricke,” Buckminster advised. “It’s not done for redundancy. It’s done for what is known as the ‘Two Man’ system. The president must have both the halfback and the fullback present in order to launch nuclear weapons— to instigate the process otherwise known as ‘The Hail Mary’.”

“So have the president appoint someone else,” Fricke suggested.

“It’s not that simple. The halfback has the codes embedded on his person. In order to appoint a new halfback, he must be present, but in order to be present so the codes can be transferred, he must be down here, in the bunker.”

“So why don’t we just send someone up to the surface, do the switch, then bring them back down?” Fricke asked.

“It’s complicated,” Buckminster explained to Fricke. “Any ‘handoff’ of authentication codes requires the presence of the president.”

“How so?” asked Fricke.

“I don’t want someone else, I want Tibbles!” shouted the president as he pounded his fist on the table.

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