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COG Chapter 4

CogCoverSquare

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 4

When Nurse Baum finished her shift, she swiped out at a kiosk manned by a secret service agent posted at the doorway of presidential suite. She passed through a microwave particle scanner, then was escorted into an elevator which she took up 62 floors to the lobby level. She walked out the front doors with her secret service escort and across a pedestrian bridge over the outer train line— which ran counter-clockwise round the SuperBunker— and down onto the platform of the inner line which ran clockwise. The trains arrived every twelve minutes and her escort silently waited with her until it arrived, ensuring that she boarded, according to routine. She was unable to find a seat as it was in the middle of shift change and the monorail cars were loaded with “Greys”— as the guest workers were known by those who had bunker IDs. Some seventy-thousand maintenance staff members, servants, clerks, therapists, delivery drivers, gardeners, sanitation crew, janitors, security personnel and nurses, among many others, were going top side, heading home to their families on the surface.

The monorail whisked southeast, arching slightly to the right for a couple minutes before slowing and stopping at Baum’s topside station. She de-boarded, along with a good portion of the remaining Greys. They passed through a security checkpoint with revolving steel turnstiles and then rode up five lengthy escalators until reaching a wide tunnel. They walked through two blast door archways. The first dropped from the ceiling. The second swung and was so large it looked as though it was designed to hold back King Kong. The imposing door hung on hinges with steel bolts larger than a man. The Greys passed through a final chain link gate before reaching the breeze and evening sunlight of the surface world. Shuttle busses stood by to gobble them up and whisk them away to their homes in the world.

Emma Baum was relieved at finally being outside the suffocating tomb of the SuperBunker but she also felt a nakedness in that she was now unprotected from a potential nuclear annihilation. She took a bus home, got off at her park-and-ride lot, drove her ten-year-old crossover SUV to her apartment, and climbed the stairs up to her third-floor apartment. She unlocked the deadbolt on the door and slipped in, relieved, as she always was, to find her daughter and the sitter on the sofa, watching videos.

“Oh, hello, Emma. Didn’t hear you come in.” The sitter got up and collected her things. “Sophie had pizza rolls and mixed veggies for supper. Her homework is all finished.”

“Thank you, Lisa.”

“See you tomorrow.” Lisa slipped out the door. Emma Baum watched her descend the stairs and bolted the door behind her.

“How are you, Nora?” Nurse Baum asked as she took a seat next to her on the sofa.

“Fine.”

“How was school?”

“Fine.”

“What did you learn about, today?”

“We learned about World War I.”

“Oh really?”

“Mrs. Tewksberry said that it was called the war to end all wars. But it didn’t end all wars.”

“No, it didn’t.”

Nora leaned over into her mother’s lap while the videos of precocious house cats played on.

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“Tommy Mueller says that we’re going to have world war 3. Is that true?”

“I wouldn’t worry about it, honey.”

“Tommy Mueller says that we’re going to get vaporized.”

“How did Tommy Mueller express his feelings about being vaporized?”

“Huh?”

“Did he sound worried or was he just trying to scare you?”

“He said it like he was trying to make me mad or scared.”

“Don’t you think that if he really believed that then he would sound a little worried?”

“He says his family is going to their cabin.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah. Tommy Mueller says his dad has enough supplies to last them a year.”

“Well that’s good for them. I don’t know that I would be bragging about it though, if I really expected world war 3 to happen. You wouldn’t want everyone coming to your cabin if it did.”

“Do you think he would let us come?”

“I doubt it.”

“How come?”

“There probably wouldn’t be enough room. I hope the Chinese or the Russians give them two or three days advance notice so they can get to their cabin in time.”

“Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“Is it true that you work in the SuperBunker?”

“I do, Nora. It’s temporary, though, until the crisis is over.”

“Do you ever see the president?”

“I’ve seen him a couple times so far.”

“What’s he like?”

“Well…” Emma Baum sighed to buy time to formulate her answer. “He’s always going around talking about being the ruler.”

“But isn’t he?”

“He’s the president.”

“Doesn’t that mean he’s the ruler?”

“President’s certainly seem to think so. Let me tell yu a little secret…” Emma hugged her daughter tightly on the sofa. “Someone who has to go around reminding everyone that he is the ruler probably isn’t much of a ruler.”

“I think he’s strange.”

“Well, he certainly is a character. But I imagine you have to be a bit of a character to become president to begin with.”

“Rock Willis is a character. Do you think he could be president?”

“Rock Willis is an actor. But I’m pretty sure he could probably be at least as good a president as the one we have now.”

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

Nora paused to gather herself. “Are we gonna die?”

“Everyone dies, honey. But hopefully not for a long, long time.”

“Why does everyone die?”

“That’s a good question. I think it’s partly because if we didn’t die, we wouldn’t really appreciate being alive.”

Nora pondered for a moment, then stood up. “I’m going to get some pretzels.”

“Okay, honey.”

Nora went to the kitchen. While she was rummaging around, Emma Baum flicked through the channels, stopping briefly on the grim visage of DeForest Reese in a split screen with a picture of an airport…

 

“And there,” Reese commented, “stopped on the tarmac, Air China flight 0628. Aboard that plane sits the president of China and his family, as well as several high-ranking Chinese party members and industrialists. If you were wondering how our enemies can land a jumbo jet in the middle of our country, their flight into our airspace was guaranteed by international treaty and by what is referred to as ‘Protocol 4′. Any member nation of the security council can permanently seal the doors to the SuperBunker and lock everyone in and everyone else out. This protocol ensures cooperation between nations who have deteriorating relations.

“Once they deplane, they will board those buses you see lining up there and will be taken to Entrance 12 of the Continuity of Government Bunker— or the SuperBunker as it is commonly called. I don’t know about you but I can feel the tension…”

The image of Reese was replaced with a female analyst wearing heavy eyeliner and pancake makeup.

“I just can’t believe my eyes. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this tyrant— this Chinese Hitler, as some have labeled him— being permitted to land on our soil. This is a man who, with the aid of the Russians, has driven the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust…”

Far across the world, in Beijing, a similar television newscast was being broadcast in which a male analyst with tinted glasses was commenting in Mandarin.

 

“…I just can’t believe my eyes. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined our great leader risking his life to travel into the heartland of the American empire on this last chance mission of peace. Let us all hope that the American Stalin can be convinced to come to his senses…”

 

And far across the world, in the opposite direction, a similar newscast was being broadcast into households in Moscow.

 

“…I just can’t believe my eyes. The president of China has just landed deep within the borders of America. Soon, the father of the Russian Federation will be joining him, alongside other rulers of the world. The Americans must be made to understand that Mother Russia will not except the imperialist provocations of the Americans…”

 

The steady stream of oligarchs and cronies, apparatchiks and bureaucrats, elites and nobles arrived at one of three Oho international airports over the course of the following days. By terms of the UN accord and SuperBunker protocols, anyone who possessed a valid PIN was whisked away by bus or luxury limousine and driven down into one of the twelve bunker access points. They were ferried through the enormous, steel blast doors, photographed, DNA profiled, and GPS micro-chipped. After an interactive video orientation, they were then driven by monorail and golf cart to their apartment in their designated section arranged within the circular bunker according to their country and continent of origin.

Each day, two hundred thousand civilians, with special access PINs, commuted into the SuperBunker to deliver the food and goods, to make the repairs, maintain the equipment, cut the hair and manicure the nails, cook the meals, mop the floors, and do whatever other manual functions that could not be performed by machines or the elites themselves. They each signed a contract that stipulated that, in the event that the doors had to be closed, they would remain inside the bunker and continue performing their assigned tasks as well as any others as may be required. Six barracks nodes were established along the three-hundred-mile, circular monorail route, where the workers would be quartered in the event of a worst-case scenario. The conditions were Spartan and dorm-like, but to be locked inside the bunker was considered a perk, at least by the elites who had written the provisions. Little consideration was given for the heartache that would be felt by the Greys who would be separated from their families back on the surface.

The workers were divided into three eight-hour shifts— the first starting at 8:00 A.M, which was Nurse Baum’s shift. Her routine was quite typical. In the morning, she would get Nora ready for school, then drive her to the bus stop, then drive to the park-and-ride where she would catch the bus that took her to her SuperBunker entrance. She had seniority, so her shift ran Monday to Friday, which was a good thing for workers who didn’t wish to be trapped in the bunker. History had shown that whenever the U.S. government intended to unleash global havoc— which presumably included a potential nuclear first strike— it would most likely do so on a Friday afternoon so as not to disrupt the stock markets.


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COG Chapter 3

CogCoverSquare

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 3

“Good morning, Mr. President.” Nurse Baum clicked on the lights illuminating the president’s sprawling master suite. The president stirred awake under the silk sheets of his California king-sized bed, the posts of which rose nearly fifteen feet above the floor. Across the room, a muted and dimmed one-hundred-inch screen was set at an angle so it could be viewed comfortably from bed. It flashed pictures of various world leaders giving speeches. A ten-foot tall oil painting of FDR, cigarette holder between his teeth, swinging a cricket mallet while riding on a galloping horse adorned one wall and a ten-foot tall painting of Ronald Reagan losing his Stetson hat clinging to the reins of a bucking bronco adorned the other. Hab was fast asleep in an overstuffed chair next to a virtual fireplace.

Nurse Baum placed a blood pressure cuff on the president’s arm and pumped it up, then listened to the stethoscope as the air hissed out. “160 over 115.”

“That’s better than it was,” he remarked as she ripped the cuff loose and stowed it in her bag.

“Here, take your pills.” She presented a plastic container resembling a tray from a tackle box. He fished out twelve pills and swallowed them, three at a time, chasing them with the remains of a glass of scotch that was sitting on his nightstand. He finished and handed her the glass. As soon as she took it, he reached behind her and squeezed her on her ass.

“Really, Mr. President?” Nurse Baum turned and scowled at him.

“Oh, don’t get all worked up honey. I couldn’t help myself. You really are put together.”

“That’s totally inappropriate, Mr. President.”

“Yeah, but I am the president.”

Nurse Baum passed Buckminster who just entered the room as she was leaving.

“And how are we feeling today, sir?”

“Splendid. I’m ready to get back to work.”

“Good to hear that. But we’re going to ease you back in.”

“Please…”

“Doctor’s orders.”

“What’s on my agenda? Where’s Tibbles?”

“Fricke’s working on it. Here’s what I know: Tibbles is topside, but we can get him to a DOD[1] bunker with four hours advance notice.”

“I don’t want Tibbles hiding out in some cave in Missouri, eating cheese and sleeping on a bunk bed. I need him in here, with me.”

“I understand that. The issue is that the PIN ID he was issued was a duplicate of someone else’s, so he can’t enter this particular facility until that matter is resolved.”

“Well, issue him another.”

“It’s not so simple, sir. This is not a U.S. government-run facility. We don’t have carte blanche. The UN is the arbiter on these matters.”

“Bullshit. We paid for the god damn thing.”

“We paid for about forty percent of it, sir.”

“So tell Fricke to go to those UN twats and tell them there’s been a mistake.”

“He’s working those channels. The trouble is the process is very bureaucratic. It could take weeks to sort it all out.”

“Weeks? We could very well be in a nuclear war before that. Just make him a guest worker?”

“The UN won’t approve a guest worker PIN for him. He’s too high level. The Russians and the Chinese would block it.”

“Then have secret service sneak him in.”

“That’s very difficult to do. We could bribe the guards to let him through, but his mere presence will ping the security surveillance facial recognition system. It will be a diplomatic mess the instant he enters. They would probably invoke Protocol 4.”

“Bucky, this facility holds over a million people…”

“Yes sir. It’s huge, over three hundred miles in circumference, sir.”

“You’re telling me we can’t hide one person in this giant complex?”

“We could prevent his arrest, but his detection would be instantaneous.”

“For Christ’s sake…” The POTUS rubbed his chin stubble. “Okay, so there’s a million people down here…”

“At capacity, sir, with an additional 250,000 guest workers.”

“So over a million people when filled, whatever… People are gonna die down here, Bucky. It’s just a mathematical reality given that many people. People die all the time. When somebody dies, just give Tibbles their ID.”

“It would have to be an American, sir, which narrows that list to 200,000, but even when that opportunity arises, there are waiting lists for each of the PIN numbers of the deceased. The waiting lists are over a thousand deep.”

“Bucky, you are not understanding the gravity of the situation. Tibbles is a national security priority. He’s the halfback. He has the launch code password.”

“I fully understand the gravity of the situation, Mr. President. But the waiting lists have already been worked out. Billions of dollars have been invested by these people for their bunker access priority numbers. As nuclear war approaches, they are going to demand entry. And they aren’t going to give up their PIN to Tibbles.”

“God damn it, Bucky. I need a solution to this.”

“We’re working on it, sir. There is another angle.”

“What is it?”

“I had the UN provide a dossier on the person who was assigned Tibble’s ID.”

“And?”

“It’s in your email.”

The president reached for his cell and brought up the message from Buckminster. He scrolled through the text and images.

“Chung Wang?”

“Yes sir.”

“He’s a Chinese national?”

“That’s correct, sir.”

“He’s just a boy.”

“He’s twelve years old, the son the founder of Li Chung construction of Beijing. They built the $4 billion People’s Tower in Hong Kong.”

“Is that the building with the sickle and hammer footprint?”

“No, you’re thinking of the Revolution Center. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s the two hundred story building topped with a thousand-foot gilded statue of a peasant charging towards Japan with a bayonet.”

“Oh, right.”

“The Chung family has close ties to the party, there.”

“He’s a goofy-looking little Chinaman…” the president remarked. Bucky glanced at Hab who cringed. “This seems like a slam dunk to me. We go to the UN and tell them there’s been a mix up. We tell them that this Wang Chung kid got issued an ID by mistake.”

“The Chinese won’t surrender him, sir. But…”

“But what?”

“If you’re okay with deporting a twelve-year old, we think we can make that happen. Although it will require rendition.”

“Don’t get soft on me, Bucky. We’re talking about the survival of the U.S. government, here. Tibble’s is critical to the continuity of government. He’s the halfback.”

“The Chinese will be very upset.”

“They’re already upset. Just do what has to be done.”

[1] DOD: Department of Defense


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COG Chapter 2

CogCoverSquare

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 2

The president was released from the Fletcher Memorial medical ward on the third day after his episode. They dressed him up in a navy blue leisure suit and fuzzy slippers and a U.S. flag pin and hoisted him into a wheelchair nicknamed Chair Force One which was emblazoned with the presidential seal on the seatback and fashioned with bullet proof glass shields on the sides. It had an electric motor that helped move it along due to its weight. The built-in defensive counter-measures caused it to weigh over 800 pounds. Chair Force One was constructed by a defense contractor named Numenor Corp at the bargain price of twenty-five million dollars. Chair Force One had seven full time attendants who were paid $100 per hour. Numenor also collected an annual maintenance fee to service Chair Force One totaling forty million dollars per year. The medical staff anticipated that President Manfred would be in need of a wheel chair for forty-eight hours.

The POTUS protested when they hoisted him in, but Buckminster and the president’s newly assigned personal nurse, Emma Baum, hoisted him nevertheless onto his wheeled throne, being careful not to disturb the intravenous lines and other monitoring equipment connected to his veins and skin. The POTUS put on a brave and pleasant face as he wheeled out of the Fletcher Memorial infirmary by joystick control and into the main hall where a throng of press corps reporters and videographers were waiting and shouting: “Mr. President! Mr. President!”

Manfred did not give a speech. He said only, “God bless America,” and “but for the grace of God go I,” and “your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.” He gave a thumbs up as they loaded him into a black bulletproof golf cart emblazoned with the presidential seal with presidential flags mounted on the front fenders. The bullet-proof, executive golf carts were constructed by a defense contractor named Hegel-Strauss at a cost of sixty million dollars a-piece. A procession of 18 Hegel-Strauss, bullet-proof golf carts whizzed off in procession into a white-tiled tunnel, led and trailed by a motorcade of SuperBunker security personnel riding two-wheeled mopeds with red and blue flashers known by their trademark name as “mo-mos.” Mo-mos were not built by a defense contractor, per se, but by a firm headquartered in the district of the Speaker of the House.

The procession snaked along the gently arcing motorway for three quarters of a mile until they reached the monorail station. From there, the POTUS and his entourage boarded a sleek, silver monorail car with tinted glass, bulletproof windows and plush leather seats— hand-stitched by laborers in Arkansas, each of whom was working at their day jobs on the surface and feeling greatly distressed by the possibility of being vaporized by Sino-Russian nukes.

Secret service agents in black suits and black sunglasses and fade haircuts and constipated looks were posted on the platform of the station. They whispered codes into their lapels. The presidential entourage boarded and the monorail car doors slid shut and the train launched into the dark, cavernous tube. It accelerated to maximum velocity, whisking through the tunnel reaching speeds of over one hundred miles per hour. Orange marker lights embedded in the walls streaked past in the windows like tracer bullets in the night. But within a minute, they were decelerating out of the dark tunnel into a massive open chamber filled with building facades and wide walkways lined with plastic ficus trees beneath a canvas sky backlit in pastel blue. The monorail stopped at the platform of Section N Depot C. The depot and the adjacent Hotel Americana were crafted in the art deco style and brightly illuminated in floodlights. A new squad of secret service agents in black suits and black sunglasses and fade haircuts and constipated looks scrambled into position and whispered into their lapels. The doors of the train slid open and the president was wheeled out onto a long red carpet. Another throng of press corps reporters, lying in ambush, sprung out from behind the dolphin fountains and the faux palm trees to capture the president’s arrival for posterity. “Mr. President!” “Mr. President!” “Mr. President!” they shouted, but he just smiled and waved. Chair Force One paused when it reached the front doors of the hotel, beneath a red awning—which was a purely non-functional design element as they were nearly a half mile underground and no rain-simulation lines had been installed at this particular location. The POTUS, seated on his wheeled throne, saluted the marine posted at the door with such crispness that he nearly tore his intravenous line loose from the vein in his hand. The flashes of the press cameras went off like silent firecrackers on Chinese New Year. “Mr. President! Mr. President! Mr. President!” But he still did not speak. Nurse Baum guided his throne through the doors via supplemental joystick control and the presidential phalanx was swallowed up by the vertical spires and radiating patterns of the hotel facade.

They wheeled the POTUS through the lobby, past the gawking staff, around a koi lagoon and miniature tropical garden, past the doors to the entertainment and convention halls, and into an elevator. Only Buckminster, Haberdash, and Nurse Baum, and two secret service agents, entered the elevator with the president. Buckminster presented his cornea for security scan and, after the ping of approval and clearance, he pressed the button labeled “62.” The elevator descended at about a third of freefall velocity, causing some vertigo like one feels when riding in a roller coaster and it begins to accelerate downwards from its crest. After a few moments it came to a stop and the doors opened. They were greeted by two more secret service agents who escorted them past another dolphin fountain and down to the end of a corridor carpeted in minimalist Mondrian motiffs. They stopped before two ornate, double doors finished in gold leaf and the agent standing guard there opened them. Chair Force One rolled in.

“Welcome to the Brown House, Mr. President,” said the secret service agent who manned the door.

“The Brown House?” asked the president.

“Yes, sir.”

“Who in the hell thought of naming it that?”

“I believe it’s in lieu of it being underground, Mr. President. You know, brown… the color of earth.”

“It sounds like a place where you go to have a shit,” replied the POTUS.

“Then I won’t call it that again, sir.” He whispered something into his lapel.

The POTUS looked at Haberdash who was stroking his wiry goatee beard. “Make sure you put that in my hagiography, Hab. The people love that no nonsense command-and-control talk.”

“You got it, sir.”

The president scanned the foyer which was finished in fine marble. Corinthian columns flanked each of the three ten-foot tall doors before them.

“Where’s the media room?” asked the POTUS.

“This way, sir,” Buckminster answered. They wheeled him to the left, through one of the massive mahogany doors, down a long hall, past several smaller doors, until they reached a dark room with a two-hundred-inch television screen affixed to one wall. Baum pressed a button and Chair Force One’s seat lifted the POTUS up off the chair so that he could easily maneuver himself onto an adjacent recliner. The recliner had a touch panel built into the arm so that he could adjust its positioning as well as access all the telecommunications available without having to get up. It was constructed by a defense contractor named Longfort-McBurton at a cost of twelve million dollars.

“You can control the network feed there, sir,” said Buckminster advised as he showed the president the controls. “You can also alert security with that button there and charge your cell phone wirelessly there. That button adjusts the lights, and this one sends the butler…”

“Thank you, Bucky. Where’s my bat phone?”

“Right here, sir.”

“Great. That will be all.”

Buckminster left, taking Nurse Baum and the secret service personnel with him. The president was alone with Haberdash and his two-hundred-inch television and ten-foot-tall images of himself being released from the medical ward moments earlier on cable news. At the bottom of the screen, a line tracked changes in his public approval rating in real time with twelve pings per second. His popularity had never been higher at sixty two percent favorable—which was a record for presidents in the twenty first century. The looming global thermo nuclear Armageddon had bumped his numbers up twenty points and his hospitalization had knocked it up another ten.

“These god damn news reporters never say anything,” the president fumed as he ignored the television and watched the exact same video feed on his cell phone.

Haberdash, who was distracted by an itch inside his loafer, nodded in agreement. “No doubt, sir.”

“Hab…”

“Yes, Mr. President?”

“Off the record…”

“Certainly, sir.”

“What the hell happened? I can’t remember a damn thing.”

“Oh, I don’t think I am a reliable conveyor of the facts, Mr. President?”

“What do you mean? You’re the executive hagiographer.”

“I think you should have Fricke fill you in on all those details… when you’re up to it, sir.”

“God knows these idiots on television won’t give me anything useful.”

The president reclined in his chair, reached over to his touch panel and dimmed the lights. He watched news reports of himself for several hours while Haberdash futzed around on his notepad. When he finally tired of seeing himself, the POTUS pushed the com button on his control panel. “Anyone there?”

“I’m here, sir.”

“Who’s this?”

“Faucett, sir. I’m the Brown House butler.”

“Can you come in here, please?”

“Right away, sir.”

Faucett appeared five seconds later dressed in a black jacket with tails and black bow tie. He was narrow-shouldered, with straight, reddish hair and pale skin.

“Faucett…”

“Yes, sir?”

“You’re the butler?”

“Yes sir.”

“You don’t look like a butler.”

“How is a butler supposed to look, sir?”

“I don’t know. More distinguished. Older. Like Michael Cain, I guess?”

“I see.”

“Where’s the First Lady?”

“She hasn’t come in to see you yet, sir?”

“No. It’s just been me and Hab in here for the last two hours.”

“I’m sorry, sir. Shall I send for her?”

“Please.”

“Right away, sir.”

Faucett turned and left.

The POTUS switched on a football game but left cable news on in the picture in picture. The Hartford Saxons were taking on Miami. An hour later, at half time, with the game knotted at 17, First Lady Veruca Weinstein Manfred appeared. She was a petite woman with dark, narrow eyes set under scrawling black eyebrows. She was dressed in all black— a short black dress, black hose, black heels, black gloves, black ribbon in her pulled up, silky black hair. Her monotone blackness was accented with a star-dusting of silver bracelets, silver earrings, and a delicate silver chain necklace.

“Where in the hell have you been?” barked the president.

“What do you mean?” she replied, unable to prevent her thin lips from snarling as she spoke.

Haberdash swept his tawny waves aside and studied the terse exchange.

“Did I stutter?” The First Lady didn’t answer. The POTUS sighed. “Why in the hell are you wearing all black?”

“Because I’m in mourning.”

“What are you in mourning for? I’m not dead.”

“Does he really have to be here?” she asked, pointing to Haberdash who averted his eyes.

“Yes. He’s always with me.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s capturing my life.”

“Capturing your life for what?”

“For all posterity.”

“What?”

“For history. For future generations. He’s going to write the story of my life.”

Her eyes narrowed into slits and a crease formed in her brow. “What sane person would want to read about your life?”

“Millions of people. I’m the president, the ruler of the free world.”

“You’re the ruler, all right.”

“Yes I am.”

The first lady rolled her eyes.

“I asked you why you’re dressed like you’re going to a funeral when I’m obviously not dead.”

“Why does it always have to be about you?”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I meant exactly what I asked.”

“Of course it’s always about me, Veruca. I’m the fucking president.”

The First Lady groaned. “I hate you,” she snapped. “Everyone hates you. Everyone wishes you were dead.”

“That’s ridiculous. They don’t hate me. My approval ratings are over sixty percent. That’s a record approval rating for this century.”

“You are unbelievable.”

“Are you getting all this, Hab?” asked the president.

Haberdash stopped picking his nose and started scribbling notes.

“What do you need him around all the time for?” she asked. “Just record every second of your pathetic life on a meCam. You could put the camera on a giant gold necklace and wrap it around your neck. Maybe you’d do us all a favor and hang yourself with it.”

“I already record everything. But a writer still has to put my life into prose. MeCam doesn’t write prose, Veruca. An author has to put it all together. It’ll go into my presidential library.”

“Your library? The only people who will ever visit it are psychiatrists studying megalomaniacs.”

“It’s for the academics and historians.”

“I hate you.”

“You already said that. Why are you in mourning?”

“I hate you because you don’t know why I’m in mourning.”

“How in the hell would I know? I’ve been unconscious.”

“I’m in mourning because billions of people are going to die because of your ego.”

“War is inevitable, Veruca. People die in war.”

“It’s not inevitable.” She went to the liquor cabinet and poured herself a scotch, neat.

“Pour me one of those.”

“Pour it your fucking self.”

“Hab, do you mind?”

Hab lumbered up from his seat on the sofa and went over to the liquor cabinet. He reached toward the First Lady to take the carafe from her but she set it down rather than handing it to him.

“Look, if war wasn’t necessary, we wouldn’t have to wage it.”

“It’s a war you started.”

“It was unavoidable, Veruca. We have alliances and obligations.”

“You can still stop it but you won’t.”

“I have no choice. It’s complicated.”

“Maybe,” Hab interrupted, “…everyone being down in this bunker together will help us to work things out before, you know…” He broke off as he was pouring the president’s scotch.

“Mind your own damn business,” snapped the First Lady.

Hab walked over to the president and handed him his glass, then sat back down on the sofa and returned to picking his nose.

“Oh, how I hate you,” said the First Lady.

“You’ve already said that three times. Jesus.”

The president took the bat phone from its charger and activated it. “Fricke!” he shouted.

“Yes, Mr. President?” came the baritone voice in the tinny speaker.

“Where in the hell is Tibbles?”

“Sir?”

“What happened to Tibbles? Where is he? I need my fullback.”

“We spoke about this earlier, sir. There was a mix up. His PIN is invalid. Security wouldn’t let him into the bunker.”

“I don’t give a god damn about any mix ups, Fricke. I want solutions. Solution this. I need my chief of staff. I need him down here with me. He has the launch codes for Christ’s sake.”

The first lady downed her scotch, shook her head, and stomped out of the room in disgust.

The president touched the control screen. “Faucett!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Can you come in here, please?”

“Right away, sir.”

“Hab…”

Hab glanced up.

“Stop picking your nose and look at that television.”

“Mr. President?”

“I said look at that television.”

“I’m looking at it.”

“What do you see?”

“I see DeForest Reese.”

“No, you don’t.”

“I don’t?”

“No.”

“Then what do I see, sir?”

“What you see is the most powerful man in the universe.”

“I thought you were the most powerful man in the universe.”

“Off the record, Hab?”

“Sure.” Hab set his notepad down.

“You know he’s gay, right?”

“Of course, sir. Everyone knows DeForest Reese is gay.”

“And you also know that he’s black.”

“That’s obvious, sir.”

“Hab, that gay Negro is the number one cable news anchor.”

“That sounds somewhat bigoted, Mr. President.”

“Oh, hell. You know I’m no racist, Hab. I’m a god damn democrat for Christ’s sake!”

“Democrats can’t be racist?”

“What I’m trying to explain to you, Hab, is that DeForest Reese is the most powerful man in the universe.”

“Because he’s a news anchor.”

“Partly, but not entirely.”

“Explain…”

“He has the ultimate toolset, Hab.”

“Sir, no one watches the news anymore.”

“Says who?”

“The statistics show declining viewership at a—”

“He has the screen, Hab,” interrupted the POTUS. “He has the screen and an audience of millions. That gives him the power to shape public opinion.”

“I suppose he—”

“But there’s more to it. Just look at him. He’s handsome. He’s a sharp dresser. He obviously works out. He’s got that effeminate, coifed look about him so that women and those wimpy, liberal men don’t feel threatened. He’s black, but he’s light-skinned without that Negro dialect that scares the suburban white folks. He’s a good-looking, well-spoken, non-threatening, gay, black man. He appeals to everyone.”

“Everyone except for the deplorables, I suppose,” Hab interjected.

The president continued. “You know why women have gay man-friends, don’t you?”

“Do they?”

“It’s true. Women love gay men. Ask the first bitch yourself. She’s surrounded by a dozen of them: hair dresser, chef, life coach, trainer…”

“Why is that?” Hab readied his pen.

“Because women are subconsciously intelligent enough to know what they need. Women want a rational male mind around to keep them grounded… you know, when they get all hormonal and crazy like the first bitch does every god damn second of every god damn day. You know what, I’m starting to think she might be menopausal. “

“Really?”

“Women like gay men because they need a man’s rational faculty while feeling self-assured that he isn’t putting on an act.”

“An act?” Hab asked as he scribbled away.

“Like he’s shining her on just so he can bang her. Women don’t have to worry about authenticity with gay men.”

“I suppose that makes sense.”

“Hab, in case you weren’t aware, women make up more than half the voting population.”

“Is that so?”

“It is. And that makes DeForest Reese half of the electorate’s gay best friend.”

“That’s an excellent point, sir.”

“…And because he’s gay and black no one can ever question his objectivity or criticize him. If they do, they are instantly censured as homophobic racists. That’s a double whammy.”

“I see.”

“Put all that in my book. Wordsmith it, though. Make it read like the genius that it is. Add a few lines about my admiration for gay, black men so no one takes it the wrong way.”

“Of course. Hagiography is my forte, Mr. President.”

The president watched DeForest Reese on the two-hundred-inch video screen as if he were transfixed. “I’m so jealous of him. He has the ultimate power.”

“Yeah but can he push the button, sir?”


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COG Chapter 1

CogCoverSquare

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 1

“Mr. President… Mr. President… Can you hear me?”

A gloved thumb and forefinger pried an eyelid open. A beam of white light illuminated a cornea causing the tiny muscles of the iris to constrict the black portal of the president’s pupil. The latex digits released and the eyelid sprung shut.

“Mr. President…”

Groans.

A cadre of specialists dressed in white lab coats and nurses clothed in teal scrubs converged. A throng of well-dressed, high-ranking staff pushed their way into the tightening huddle as well.

“President Manfred, can you hear me?”

More groans.

A nurse placed a blood pressure cuff on the president’s upper arm. She was thin with shoulder length, toasted blond hair. Plain but pretty-ish, with thin lips and wounded-looking eyes, she performed her tasks with stolid efficiency. When done taking his pressure, she injected medication into his IV line.

“Where am I?” groaned the president of the United States.

Everyone dressed in suits drew back and sighed.

“You’re safe, Mr. President. You’re in ICU,” answered the doctor.

“Where?”

“Fletcher Memorial.”

The president struggled to sit up. His coal and gray hair, long matted against the pillow, splayed outwards from his beady-eyed, puffy face as he pulled himself upright. “Fletcher Memorial? I’m in the SuperBunker? I’ve got to get topside— to the White House.”

A tall, broad-shouldered man dressed in a black suit jacket and unbuttoned collar stepped forward. His dark eyes probed from under thick, hooded eyelids. His black hair was closely cropped. When he spoke, his baritone voice filled the room like the rumble of a diesel train engine. His name was Dexter Fricke. He was the secretary of state.

“I’m afraid that’s not possible, Mr. President,” he rumbled.

“Why not?” the POTUS asked as he tried to comb his hair with his fingers.

“We’re in COGCON 2, Mr. President,” Fricke declared. “Continuity of government protocols have been implemented.”

“Did we win?”

“Win what, Mr. President?” Fricke asked.

A doctor motioned Fricke to step back. “He may be a bit confused or groggy from the sedatives,” he suggested. “We don’t know the cause or after effects of his episode.” He turned to the POTUS. “Tell me, Mr. President, what is the last thing you remember?”

“Did we win?” he demanded.

“War has been averted for now, Mr. President,” Fricke answered.

“No. No. Not the war… the… the…”

The what, sir?”

“The f… The ffff…”

“He’s lost his ability to speak!” someone moaned.

Everyone leaned in to judge for themselves.

“The fff… The fff…”

Another man in uniform pushed his way in and next to the president. He wore a full dress uniform and held his officer’s cap under his arm. He was sixtyish with a pinkish complexion and receding, cropped, ashy blond hair. His crystal blue eyes were set narrowly under bushy ginger eyebrows, within a puffy, weathered face that invoked the image of an unmade bed. He was Fitzmaurice Buckminster, Secretary of Defense. He bent down and spoke softly in the president’s ear.

“We’ll win, sir. I’ve no doubt.”

“No…” grumbled the POTUS.

“Sir, we’ve gone through this a dozen times. Stick to the plan.”

“Not the war, Bucky!” the president bristled. “The game.”

“What game, sir?”

“I think he means the football game,” Fricke resonated.

“Oh, yes,” Buckminster affirmed. “Yes, the football game. Right. Well sir, you’ll be happy to know that your Saxons beat Pittsburgh 24 to 18.”

The president grinned behind the green plastic oxygen tubes hooked into his nostrils. “Good.”

“Sir, that game was Monday. Do you know what day today is?” asked the doctor.

“Not sure. Tuesday?”

“Today is Thursday.”

“Thursday? Really? I was to meet with the Prime Minister.”

“Do you remember what day that was?”

“Wednesday… Wednesday morning.”

The doctor turned to the president’s nurse. “Nurse Baum, make a note.”

She marked it in her pad.

“What’s happening? Why am I here?” asked the president.

The doctor nodded at Fricke and Fricke stepped forward, shoulder to shoulder with Buckminster who refused to yield an inch. “Mr. President, it seems as though you’ve suffered some sort of breakdown.”

“Breakdown? What do you mean?”

“You became very agitated when being briefed on the U.S.S. Henry Harrison situation. You collapsed and lost consciousness. They think it was a seizure or possibly a small stroke.”

“A stroke?”

“We don’t know. We’re still running tests. The amount of stress you’re under has been tremendous. The burden of nuclear war would be an unimaginable weight for anyone to bear…”

“But you are bearing it well, sir,” Buckminster interjected.

“But the war hasn’t started?”

“No sir.”

“Where’s my fullback?”

Fricke pointed towards the door of the room. The throng of attendants parted to reveal a thin, erect, gray man in his seventies, also dressed in uniform, clutching a large leather satchel. The president breathed a relieved sigh.

“I’m right here, sir,” replied Major Kilgore in a voice that sounded like sandpaper scraping a piece of oak.

“Stay close to me, Krusty,” the president ordered.

Kilgore nodded, his gentle gaze set within his leathery, hardened face never left the president.

“We’ll make sure he is always nearby,” Buckminster advised. “Perhaps we should clear the room and…”

The president started pawing at his intravenous lines and monitor cables.

“Please, Mr. President,” begged the doctor. “Try to relax. You need rest.”

“Your country needs their president now more than ever,” added Buckminster.

“You can still put a stop to this madness,” suggested Fricke.

The president stopped his struggling and took a deep breath, then fell back into his pillow knocking strands of his black and gray hair loose down over his forehead. Nurse Baum rushed in to reattach his wires and hoses.

“Where’s Tibbles?” the president asked. “I need to speak to him.”

The doctors and nurses and staff all looked at each other and averted their eyes.”

“I said, where in the fuck is Tibbles?”

“Mr. President,” said Fricke with reluctance. “It appears that Tibbles was not issued a valid bunker access PIN.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“We believe it was a clerical error, sir. We could not get the appropriate UN validations so his passage into SuperBunker was denied.”

“Oh, to hell with that. Get him down here.”

“We are doing everything we can, sir.”

“What about Yates?”

Buckminster answered, “the protocol is for the vice president to be relocated to an independent bunker. That location is classified.”

“What about Peters?”

“He made it in, sir.”

“We’ll send for them in a couple hours,” said the doctor. “Right now you need some rest.”

“What about Norris?” the POTUS continued, unabated.

“She is unaccounted for at the moment.”

“Dorfman?”

“He’s topside, for now. He’ll come down if we go to COGCON 1.5.”

“Studge?”

“He’s here.”

“Trout?”

“Arriving soon. He’s waiting for his family. They are flying in from Fresno.”

“Haberdash?”

Fricke eyes flashed with contempt.

“He’s just outside the door, Mr. President,” Buckminster explained. “I’m sure he’s listening in.”

“You will be pleased to know that the First Lady is safe in the bunker as well,” Fricke added.

“Oh swell.”

“She’s resting comfortably in the presidential quarters.”

“Okay, okay,” the doctor intervened. “I want all non-essential personnel out. The president needs rest so that he can get back to ruling the world. Let’s go.”

The staff all took their turns smiling and patting the president on the forearm or lower leg, careful so as not to disturb his intravenous lines and cabling before shuffling out. Only the doctor, Fricke, Buckminster, and Major Kilgore remained. Haberdash, a husky man with wavy, greasy, blond hair and a graying goatee stepped into the doorway.

“Is everyone out?” the POTUS asked.

Fricke poked his head out past Haberdash, then came back in and nodded to affirm everyone was indeed out of earshot.

“Fricke…”

“Yes Mr. President.”

“Come closer.”

“Yes sir.”

“Fricke…”

“Yes?”

The president stared at him with a look that was something of a cross between furious anger and desperate anguish.

“Fricke…”

“Yes. What is it, sir?”

The doctor studied the charts on his pad.

“Fricke…” The president said, reaching out his tired arm.

Nurse Baum typed noted into her pad.

“I’m right here, sir. What is it?”

The POTUS lost consciousness as the sedative took hold.


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