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COG Chapter 9

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 9

The president held his cabinet meeting in a chamber of the Hades level which was the deepest level of the SuperBunker—almost one-half mile below the surface. This chamber was known as: the UltraBunker. One arrived at the Hades level via elevator that connected from the traditional SuperBunker Oval Office. The Hades level chamber was wrapped in a double-redundant steel faraday cage to make it extra-impregnable to disruption by radio flash. The cages were electrified to make them completely impervious to wireless surveillance transmission. One entered the UltraBunker through an eighteen-inch thick blast door that only opened after visitors passed through a particle imaging scanner— referred to jokingly by the POTUS as the “PIS test” — a retinal scan, and finally, an RFID chip validation. No electronic devices were permitted into the UltraBunker.

Inside, the interior walls were stark, smooth concrete, decorated with paintings by Romantics which were brought from the Louvre to be held for safekeeping in the event of its thermonuclear destruction. The drab, nine-foot walls were adorned in a flourish of Victorian crown molding. In the center of the room, a large, polished, steel table stood in the center. On one wall hung a large screen with a power cable running down, then up through a grommet in the table and into a power receptacle within arm’s reach of the president’s executive seat— which enabled the POTUS to completely kill the screen’s power and signal at his discretion. No other electronic devices were present, and if one was snuck in, it was totally erased by an electromagnetic pulse upon entering and exiting the room. The audio-visual data displayed on the screen was piped in via a dedicated fiber optic cable network that passed through seven fire walls. The dedicated audio visual system was built by a company called Fossen-Stein, headquartered in Virginia, at a cost of one hundred and fifty million dollars.

There was another steel door opposite the blast door entrance, behind the president’s high back, executive chair. It was smaller, standing perhaps four-foot tall. It led to an executive safe room just big enough for the president to stow away within in the event that the SuperBunker was somehow breached by invaders who managed to out-maneuver the thousands of security personnel, make their way down into the Hades level, and penetrate the UltraBunker blast door. The safe room was furnished with a twin-sized bed and a mini fridge and held two weeks of rations.

The POTUS sat upon his UltraBunker throne, facing the blast door entrance through which everyone entered. One by one, the special cabinet members entered and took their seats. The COGCON cabinet consisted of only seventeen members as five secretary positions were deemed non-essential; those being:

 

The Secretary of the Office of Management and Budget

The Administrator of the Small Business Administration

The Secretary of Commerce

The Attorney General

And The Secretary of Government Oversight

 

There were still not quite enough seats for everyone at the big table. Several secretaries were relegated to sitting on folding chairs against the wall. Secretaries relegated to these kiddie seats included:

 

The Secretary of the Interior

The Secretary of Health and Human Services

The Secretary of Education

The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

The Trade Representative

And the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

 

The POTUS did not greet anyone as they entered. He stared through them as they appeared in the doorway with their laptops clutched in hand. Haberdash sat on a folding chair against the wall, scribbling notes on his notepad. Within moments of the first arrival, every seat at the big table was filled except one. The POTUS was flanked on either side by Secretary of State Fricke and Secretary of Defense Buckminster. Next to them sat the secretary of the treasury and an empty chair for the White House chief of staff. Each member of the cabinet sat in silence, waiting for the POTUS to speak, but the POTUS just stared at the door. Haberdash’s eyes flitted from the president to the blast door to the empty chair at the big table. The members of the cabinet cast subtle, uneasy glances and shrugs at each other. The motions of shuffling papers and sounds of sniffles and gulps of sipped water subsided. The president continued staring at the door. It became very silent, palpably silent, so silent that everyone could hear their own breathing and stomach noises. It was so silent that a fart would have sounded like pulling the starting cord on a chainsaw… in a chapel… at midnight. And when it had become as absolutely silent as possibly imaginable, the sound of click clack click clack…

Footsteps approached from beyond the blast door.

Click clack click clack

The sounds grew in decibels until they stopped just beyond the bolts of the doorway.

Click clack

All eyes swung toward the sound. Haberdash scribbled away. The secretary of agriculture suppressed a cough. The POTUS remained motionless. Finally, the silhouette of a man with a briefcase appeared in the doorway. He was short, pear-shaped, with narrow shoulders. He took one step forward, into the light of the UltraBunker. His wispy silver and blond hair was combed over to one side. He wore thick, horn-rimmed glasses that magnified his doey, black eyes.

“Welcome home, Frank!” the POTUS bellowed. A wide grin filled his square face.

Frank Tibbles adjusted his glasses and grinned humbly in response, then nodded. All eyes tracked him as he walked around the table and took his place at the remaining empty seat, filling out the COGCON Cabinet.

“All right. Let’s get started,” ordered the POTUS. “Who’s up first?”

Just then, the red light in the center of the table began to flash. “Urgent Call from the President of China!” blazed in blood read on the screen.

“Should I clear the room, sir?” asked Fricke.

“No,” answered the POTUS. “Let’s all hear what Huli has to say. Put him through.”

The face of the president of China appeared, six feet tall on screen from hairline to chin. He looked displeased.

“Huli! How the hell are you?” the POTUS asked.

“I’m a-no good, Manfweed.”

“You look upset. What’s wrong?” the POTUS mocked.

“You know vewee well what’s wong.”

“I thought our relations were improving.”

“You are foo of boo-shit, Manfweed.”

“What is it now, Huli? Is it the boy? Are you mad about Wang Chung?”

“Removing him from the bunker was an act of war, Mr. Pwesident.”

“Yeah, and so was sinking the USS Henry Harrison.”

The eyes of the cabinet members dashed back and forth between the presidents as if they were watching the volleys of a tennis match.

“C’mon, Huli. He’s just one kid. You got a billion more of them. I’m sure we can work this out. I’ll make some concessions at our next summit. We’re still meeting Thursday?”

“He is a not just some a-kid. He is the son of a high-wanking party offisho.”

“We’ve all had to make sacrifices, Huli. We all have loved ones back on the surface. No one kid is worth escalating global tensions.”

“This is vewee serious matter. You must a-bwing him back into the bunker.”

“I can’t do that, Huli. His PIN is not valid.”

“His a PIN is a-perfecwee vawid.”

“No. His PIN belongs to my chief of staff and newly appointed Secretary of Superbunker Operations, Frank Tibbles. Say hello, Frank.”

“You ir-reegeree entered our sovereign tewitory and kidnap Master Chung.”

“No. No. That’s incorrect. We detained Master Chung for his own safety after exposure to fungicide, and once it was discovered that he was here illegally, he was deported. It’s all legal, by the book.”

“I’m not going to argue with you, Manfweed. You have twenty-four hour to bwing Chung back in or there will be consequences.”

“Consequences? Like what?”

“You will see, Mr. Pwesident.”

“You don’t want to escalate, Huli. We are already at the brink of Armageddon. Chung will be safe so long as we continue to work things out down here.”

“Consequences, Mr. Pwesident. There will be dire consequences for you,” Hu Li repeated.

“Like what?”

“The dire kind!” Hu Li’s lenses flashed.

“Like sinking another aircraft carrier?”

“More dire than that.”

“Like nuking a major metropolitan area?”

“Even worse than a-that.”

“Huli, how do you expect me to take you seriously? You’re bluffing, and badly at that.”

“We are not a-bruffing. Twenty four ow-ah!”

Click.

The monitor went dark.

Everyone’s glance pivoted, locking on to the POTUS.

The president, suddenly aware that he might look uncomfortable, rolled his eyes and chuckled to diffuse the tension.

“Relax. It’s Huli. He’s all talk. His English seems to be getting worse, though. Don’t you think?”

There was a smattering of uncomfortable chuckles.

“Huli’s not crazy. He won’t blow up the world over one twelve-year-old China boy.”

“Nah.” “No way.” “Not likely,” responded various members of the cabinet. “He’s all talk like you say.” “Yeah, all talk. Except for the time he sunk the Harrison…”

“It wouldn’t make any sense,” assured the secretary of agriculture. “He wants the boy down here in the bunker so that he is safe. But escalating to a nuclear war over him not being down here is the most unsafe thing he could possibly do for the boy.”

“I think you’re on to something, Mr. President,” observed the secretary of education.

“It’s 3-D chess, Mr. President. Pure Genius.”

“Hell, its 4-D chess!”

“It’s all part of the plan,” replied the POTUS, whose eyes darted around the room searching for additional affirmations and to ferret out dissenters.

“I think it’s brilliant, sir!” said the secretary of transportation.

“Yes, absolutely brilliant,” added the secretary of homeland security.

“You got him by the short and curlies, Mr. President,” barked Secretary of Defense Buckminster. “Very Sun Tzu, sir.”

“Yeah, you’ve managed to use the Chung boy as leverage for peace! It’s… it’s… Rooseveltian!”

“Rooseveltian?” Haberdash pondered, under his breath.

A look of satisfaction flushed the president’s face.

“No, better than Rooseveltian. It’s Churchilian!”

“No, better than that. You’ve the integrity and tenacity of a modern-day Cato, sir!” commented the attorney general.

“Cato?” asked the president who looked at Tibbles. “Who the hell is that? Is he talking about that guy who did O.J. Simpson’s laundry?”

“Cato the Younger,” answered the attorney general. “The Roman statesman who battled the corruption of the Senate. You know… Cato?”

The president stared blankly.

“Cato…the man who opposed Caesar.”

“The man who opposed Caesar? What the fuck are you talking about? I’m Caesar!”

The attorney general’s shoulders curled and slumped and his eyes dropped in the realization that he had likely just ended his career and would probably now be audited by the IRS… if the IRS survived the nuclear holocaust.

“How about, Reaganesque!” suggested the secretary of the treasury.

“I like that,” answered the POTUS. “Reaganesque!”

“Reagan had the Star Wars defense initiative that brought an end to the Cold War,” the secretary continued, “and you, Mr. President, you have your Chung initiative. You’ve probably saved the world, sir.”


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COG Chapter 8

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 8

Chung Wang was an only child. He spent most of his twelve years alone, filling his free time with social media, making videos, and playing air hockey. He was a lanky boy with an awkward grin and distant demeanor when in the company of adults. He drank cream soda by the liter and was occasionally seen kicking a soccer ball around. He was almost one full standard deviation above mean intelligence but was a B-minus student. He dreamed of one day being either a taikonaut[1] or a marine biologist.

Chung did not see his parents very often— his father, almost never. When he did see him, his father always brought a gift. On this most recent encounter, his father presented him a MontBlanc pen. Chung received it unenthusiastically. He felt its weight and examined the engraving.

“It has historicity,” said Chung’s father.

“Historicity?”

“Yes. It was used to sign a significant document.”

“Oh?” Chung removed the cap and scribbled a line on his forearm.

“This is the very pen used by the ministry of trade to sign a trade accord with diplomats from Bhutan.

Chung put the cap back on. “Thank you, father.”

“So how are you, my son?”

“I am well, father.”

“Are you improving at your studies?”

“I suppose so, father.”

“I want you to know that we are going to be seeing much more of each other for a while.”

Chung nodded and grinned, crookedly.

“I hear you have taken an interest in soccer.”

Chung shrugged.

“I am happy to hear that. Athletics are good for the body as well as the spirit.”

“Did you play soccer, father?”

“Not exactly.”

“Did you play basketball?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“How about golf?”

“Oh, once or twice.”

“Father, what sports did you play?”

Chung’s father grinned. “I tried many sports in my youth.”

“Which was your favorite?”

“My favorite was…” Chung’s father pondered. “My favorite sport was… Mah Jong.”

Chung looked perplexed. “Father, did you play any sports that used a ball and a goal?”

“Almost. I used to play tennis.”

“Really? On a grass court?”

“Umm, no. It was indoors.”

“So, a clay court?”

“No.”

“Was it on concrete?”

“Wood, actually. I played tennis on wood.”

“Wood? Like a basketball court configured for tennis?”

“It was table tennis, my son. Ping pong as it is also known.”

“Oh, I see.”

“But I was just a boy, probably about your age.”

“Were you any good? Did you win any tournaments?”

“Not that I recall.”

“Father?”

“Yes, my son?”

“Would you like to go kick the soccer ball around a little bit?”

“Hmm. That sounds like a wonderful idea. But let me check my work messages, first.”

“Of course, father.”

“You go ahead. Have the driver take you over to the athletic fields and I will meet you there in a half hour.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

Chung’s face beamed with a full-fledged grin. He hugged his father tightly who hugged him back with one arm while thumb-scrolling through his messages on his Mondo 9.0 smartphone. Chung broke loose, snatched his ball, and darted out of the sitting room towards the main hall. The doorman opened the elevator for him and Chung rode the lift up to the lobby. Before the doors could fully retract, he sliced through, darted across the marble floors, hurdled a large luggage trunk, sidestepped a decorative porcelain vase, and pushed through the revolving doors of greenish glass and bronze trim. He quickly found his driver and hopped into the back seat of the stretch golf cart.

“Where to, Master Chung?”

“To the athletic fields. My father and I are going to play soccer!”

“Should we wait for him, young sir?”

“No, he said he would meet me there in thirty minutes.”

“All right, sir.” The driver pushed the start button and pressed the accelerator. The limousine golf cart whirled to life and accelerated down the winding path between the ornate facades of residences and shops and cafes, passing the throngs of strolling pedestrians dressed in their designer, seersucker suits, neoprene, and satin dresses. Every elite wore sunglasses even though they were several hundred feet below ground, and the sky above was a suspended canvas, and the daylight was provided by defused backlight. There were six skies in the Super bunker, one for each section, each synchronized to distinct times of day. Daylight hours were broken into twelve periods of time. They transitioned from one period of lighting to the next over the span of thirty seconds.

The limo-cart arrived at the edge of the athletic field and Chung darted out onto the green faux grass with his ball in hand. The driver watched him from his seat in the cart between glances at his handheld devices. A half minute later, Chung, by then a hundred yards off, dropped his ball onto the turf and kicked it up into the calm, subterranean air.

 

#

 

Earlier that same morning, Hank Chinansky rolled out of bed, had a shit, showered, dressed in his black, polyester security uniform, cursed his disgusting appearance in the mirror, and made himself toast and a pot of Folgers. He scrolled through the news on his cracked Mondo 4.0 cell phone reading the reports of the hundreds of flights arriving from remote capitols of the world, all descending upon Akron, Ohio, which was a primary entry point for the SuperBunker.

Chinansky recalled how— for over the past twenty years— wild conspiracies abounded regarding how this contractor saw that and that contractor saw this… and how there was a giant tunnel being dug in secret… and how seventy thousand Mexicans were brought in on United Airlines 757s, in the dead of night, and whisked away by Greyhound buses down into a secret netherworld to lay tile and hang drywall… and how Chinese muckety-mucks were spotted eating surf and turf at the local Kosar’s, which was an Akron steak house… and how silver-haired twits with flaring nostrils and European accents were booking all the deluxe hotel rooms, smoking filter-less cigarettes, and ordering chateau le fete…

Hank took a gulp of his muddy, morning coffee and a bite of his buttered jelly toast, recalling the prior evening’s listening and the muffled, monotone voices who said “uh” a lot, and who would drone on and on, on radio talk-shows and podcasts. There were sasquatch hunters, and planet Nibiru astronomers, UFOlogists, time travelers, and JFK assassination experts, flat earthers, Hadron Collider doomsayers. There used to be eye-witness accounts of a supposed super bunker being built where the world’s elite were going to gather and ride out an apocalypse designed to cull the human herd of useless eaters. Those guests weren’t invited on anymore.

For years and years, Hank was entertained by the titillating tales. His enjoyment was heightened in that he knew one, and possibly two of the conspiracies to be more or less true. For not only did Hank know that the bunker reports were a fact, long before it was revealed to the world, he had also seen a UFO when he was seven— although he often wondered if might have been a dream.

Hank had worked his way up from the ranks of forklift driver to special security agent during his tenure working on the construction of the SuperBunker. By the time its existence had become public knowledge, he had already earned his pension, which was a good thing for Hank because the instant the shadowy conspiracy became public knowledge, his mystique of having inside knowledge of its existence melted away, returning him to the status of a mere mundane civil servant.

When the bunker was still legend, people wanted to get to know Hank— and any other insider who authentically purported to know what was going on underground— even if they just cleaned the toilets. Hank, a flabby, pock-marked, stringy-haired man with beady eyes, man boobs, and a drunkard’s nose, leveraged his secret knowledge to conquer otherwise unattainable bar-wenches at the local taverns.

Prior to the SuperBunker’s public reveal, one might have expected an awakening in proletarian consciousness immediately following the outing of the truth. There would surely be a public outcry at the trillions of dollars diverted from schools, and bridges, and healthcare, and directed to the construction an absurdly luxurious bunker built to house and spare the world’s elites while the rest of us die. But there was no public outrage when the SuperBunker reveal occurred. There wasn’t even a specific date or moment or event one could point to. No one could say: “I remember exactly what I was doing that very moment when I found out that the SuperBunker was real­,” which is how people anchor and personalize grand, societal events. No one could say that when they found out the SuperBunker was for real, they were “standing in line behind some fatass at 7-11 trying to buy a bag of Doritos and a Mountain Dew…” or “I was on a 737 halfway to Albuquerque, reading an article about the Duke of Watford Gap…” or “I was doing Cuervo shots with my brother’s ex at the bar of Three Amigos Restaurante…” Instead, the governments of the world rolled out the reality of the SuperBunker’s existence a single, barely noticeable degree at a time… preventing the proverbial frogs from hopping out of the pot. The public rollout occurred over the course of about five years.

The first step in the process of slow acclimatization was that public officials, whose custom was to previously ridicule and mock whoever brought any conspiracy up, stopped scoffing whenever they were questioned about events pertaining to its existence. It went something like this: “Mr. Mayor, Mr. Mayor, does your office have any information regarding the two-hundred caterpillar end loaders that were seen by multiple witnesses driving into Akron last night at two a.m.?”

The answer to such curiosities was initially an incredulous snort or shrug followed by: “I don’t know what the hell you are talking about.”

But after a while, the government response to such questions became: “This is the first I’ve heard of that.”

Which then changed into: “I don’t have any details about that.”

Which later evolved into: “That’s interesting. I’ll have my office look into that.”

Which subsequently became: “You are not the first person to bring this up. Someone from my office will get back to you on that.”

Which then morphed into: “We are not prepared to comment on that at this time.”

Which then became: “I’ve been instructed that the purpose of those machines is being kept classified in order to protect national security interests.”

Which then transformed into: “All I can say is that those assets are being deployed for use in a classified project that has to do with national defense.”

Which emerged as: “All I know at this time is that the federal government, in conjunction with the United Nations, is upgrading security assets located in the area.”

Which evolved to: “I’ve been instructed to inform the public that the UN is expanding its continuity of government bunker system to ensure the world’s governments can survive any conceivable, global, existential threat.”

Which ripened as: “What I can say, at this time, is that they are building a bunker system to preserve democracy in the event of nuclear war.”

And then to: “We are pleased to announce that the City of Akron has won the contract to be the site of a major nodal entry point for the UN SuperBunker. This will have a tremendous financial impact on our local economy!”

And finally as: “Akron welcomes our global friends and contractors! Our goal is to make you feel at home in our fine city while you continue the patriotic construction of the UN SuperBunker!”

…By the time it had gotten to that point, Hank’s knowledge was no longer esoteric and he had lost his allure to those of the opposite sex. He was just another flabby, government-employed security guard— one faceless face of a hundred thousand— who worked in a gigantic government facility, like those people who punch a clock at the Mint or the Department of Agriculture. Hank Chinansky, deprived of his brief dalliance with mysterious allure, poured himself into his security guard work and cheap vodka to fill his void of loneliness.

One day, while Chinansky was rolling around his sector on his two-wheeled, single axel, Mo-Mo scooter— basically a motorized hand truck— he was stopped and approached by a gentleman dressed in a white polo shirt and wearing sunglasses.

“Agent Chinansky?”

“Yes sir. Can I help you, sir?”

The gentleman showed his special agent identification. Chinansky scanned it with his phone.

“You’re NSA[2]?”

The agent nodded. “I’ve been instructed to deliver this…”

He handed Chinansky a nine-by-six-inch, manilla envelope. Chinansky opened it and withdrew a glossy photograph.

“Who is this?” he asked.

“All the details are included in the dossier.”

“What am I supposed to do?” Chinansky asked.

“Follow the instructions to the letter. Your nation needs you, Agent Chinansky. This mission is of the utmost importance. The continuity of the U.S. government is at stake.”

“But I technically work for the UN.”

“Not for long, should you fail or be discovered. You are now a special secret agent for the U.S. government.”

“Like a spy?”

“Yes. Like a spy.”

 

Chinansky relished his new secret agent role. It restored his sense of power. He was partnered up with two phony maintenance crew members known to him only as Bill and Carl. Together, the trio surreptitiously surveilled their target, notating and transmitting their daily observations back to their NSA contact, waiting for the signal to proceed with their mission objective.

One morning, Chinansky wheeled up for his daily rendezvous with Bill and Carl who were pretending to be busy going through the motions of faux ventilation inspectors. Bill and Carl were both Deep State assets— as far as Chinansky could discern— judging by their complete lack of knowledge of ventilation conduit. He listened briefly as they made up mock jargon to sound authentic.

“Carl, can you please give me a transducer readout on that PH?”

“Sure, Bill. Mind handing me that eleven-seventy mil spigot wrench…”

“Hang on, dispatch is calling…” Bill put his phone to his ear. “Yeah Boss? Yes… Understood… Yes sir… Ten four!” Bill turned to Carl and Chinansky, who was idling silently on his Mo-Mo. “It’s go-time, fellas!”

Carl quickly packed up their tools and stowed them on the back of their maintenance golf cart. Bill hopped into the driver’s seat.

“Position yourself there, by the gate,” he ordered Chinansky. “Then wait for my signal.”

Chinansky twisted the throttle thrusting his Mo-Mo forward down the pedestrian avenue, carving through the throng of elite pedestrians flouncing about between the boutiques and plastic chestnut trees. In that moment, with his heart pumping blood and adrenaline through his sclerotic arteries, with the rush of recycled air rippling his plumpish, blotchy face, Chinansky felt a sense of intense purpose and meaning that he had never experienced once over the course of the entirety of his life. He wheeled himself into position. In just two minutes, he obtained visual confirmation of the target.

“Yes,” Chinansky answered into his cell. “Yeah, I have visual confirmation… I see him… Yes, I see the limo-cart, over there by the Mao statue… Understood… Yes… Got it. Wait for Carl to distract him, then proceed.”

Chinansky waited and watched, heart racing, as Carl drove over to the limo-cart. Carl parked in a manner that blocked the limo in, hopped out, and began digging through his toolbox. The driver immediately got out and confronted him. Chinansky watched as the confrontation escalated. Chinansky’s phone pinged. That was his signal. He twisted the throttle and the Mo-Mo sped out onto the athletic field. He was upon his target in seconds.

“Excuse me,” Chinansky shouted as he closed in. “Excuse me!”

The target paid no attention.

“Hey you! Hey kid!”

The kid turned.

“Hey, is your name Chung?”

Chung let his soccer ball drop onto the plastic turf. He turned and stared at Hank incredulously.

“I said are you Chung Wang?”

Chung shrugged. “Who wants to know?” he answered in impeccable English.

“Do you see this badge?” Chinansky exclaimed as he came to a stop beside him.

“Yeah? So?”

“Are you Chung Wang?”

“Maybe. Who the hell are you?”

“Show some respect for authority.”

Chung smirked before reaching down for his ball.

“I need you to come with me,” Chinansky ordered.

“Why?”

“We are concerned that you may have been infected with fungicide. Apparently you didn’t notice the signs posted indicating that this field has just been sprayed for mold.”

“Why aren’t you telling everyone else to come with you?” Chung asked. “Look, there’s a dozen other people out here.”

“We’ll get to them soon enough. You need to come with me so that you can be tested for carcinogens.” Chinansky reached out to grab the boy’s wrist but Chung pulled back.

“How do you know my name?” Chung asked.

“Please come with me. It’s for your own good.” Hank grabbed at him again but the boy stepped further back. Hank wheeled forward on his Mo-Mo and reached down for his zip-tie handcuffs. Chung saw this and started to run.

Chinansky twisted the throttle and sped off in pursuit.

Chung, with his ball tucked under one arm and other arm flailing at the air with each stride, glanced back over his shoulder.

Chinansky was gaining.

Chung’s gangly, pubescent gait evoked the gallop of a newborn foal.

Chinansky’s rippling face was riveted with purplish determination.

Chung galloped across the plastic turf, kicking up black, rubberized pellets with each footfall.

Chinansky leaned into the Mo-Mo, compelling his two-wheeled scooter even faster.

Chung reached the turnstile gate accessing the park. He extended his wrist to activate the scanner that controlled the gate. Chinansky’s thumb furiously swiped at his heads-up display as he closed in, attempting to override the turnstile… but he was too late. The gate opened.

“Damn!” Chinansky cursed.

Chung darted through and banked right down the avenue, losing a sneaker in the process. Chinansky couldn’t risk losing any more ground on his objective. His thumb flicked through the park access user interface as the Mo-Mo raced along. He swiped at the image of the red turnstile so that it would open and allow him to pass through without slowing his pursuit, but the icon wouldn’t change from red to green. A second later, Chinansky rammed the closed gate, breaking the graphite steering mast of the Mo-Mo and bending Chinansky in half at the waste. Not to be denied, Chinansky presented his wrist. The gate opened and he staggered through, turning right down the mall in pursuit.

“Bill,” he shouted into his wrist as he chased.

“You’re losing him, Chinansky.”

“I’m in pursuit.”

“Failure is not an option, Chinansky. Your country needs you.”

“Where are you? He’s headed towards the Terra Cotta statues. Can you cut him off?”

Chinansky observed a sashaying hoard of elites just ahead. How was he going to find Chung among this mass of humanity? He stomped on, now oozing sweat, searching for a sign of the cunning fugitive. Exhausted and in pain, he turned off the main walkway into a quiet alley and called Bill again. Bill didn’t answer. Chinansky tried to gather his breath with a series of deep wheezes. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his flask. He unscrewed the cap and took a drink but just as he was tipping it back, he noticed a socked foot under a recycle bin not ten feet away. Chinansky tucked his flask back into his pocket and took out his taser. He approached the bin, silently, carefully. He heard panting, then shuffling. Chinansky extended his taser and stopped just on the other side, gathering himself. He drew a deep breath and lunged forward, cutting off the escape. “Aha! Got you!” he shouted.

Terror filled Chung’s face beneath his swooping bangs. He glanced left, then right, then up. He was trapped. Chinansky pointed his taser. “I’m going to need you to come with me, Chung Wang. Put the ball down.”

Chung glanced left, again.

“You are endangering me,” Chinansky shouted. “Put the ball down or I will taser you!”

Chung, not knowing what else to do, extended the soccer ball forward with both hands.

“Don’t be a fool, boy,” Chinansky pled. “You’ll only make trouble for yourself.”

Chung glanced left again.

Chinansky furrowed his brow. “Nobody will hurt you, kid,” he urged as he took a step closer.

Chung bared his teeth.

“Easy, there.”

Chung planted his right foot back.

“Don’t do it!”

Chung glanced left again.

“Whoa…”

Chung bit his lower lip.

Chinansky extended his taser.

Chung’s arms tensed.

Chinansky reached down for his handcuffs.

Chung released the ball.

Chinansky followed the ball down with his eyes.

Chung’s back leg swept forward.

Chinansky’s hands moved reflexively.

Chung’s foot swung, connecting with the ball in a perfect transference of kinetic energy. The ball launched forward, rocketing through the short distance separating assailant and pursuer. Chinansky, lowered his hands to shield his loins from the ball careening towards his groin, but in this act, he also accidentally depressed the taser button which resulted in the overwhelming of his neural circuitry with two million volts of electricity at precisely the instant the soccer ball careened into his testicals. Chinansky fell onto the ground in a howl of agony. Chung seized the opportunity and fled… to his left.

After five minutes of incapacitation, Chinansky managed to prop himself up onto the side of the plastic bin. He was drenched in sweat and had also pissed his pants.

His cell beeped.

“Chinansky, Bill here. Do you copy?”

“Go ahead,” Chinansky groaned.

“We got him!”

“Got who? Over.”

“Chung! We got Chung!”

Chinansky staggered up onto his feet. “Where? How?”

“We snared him as he darted out of the alley. We’re holding him at the Jade Formosa Massage Parlor and are awaiting extraction. Nice work, Chinansky. Your nation thanks you for your service.”

[1] Taikonaut: English word for a Chinese astronaut

[2] NSA: National Security Agency


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COG Chapter 7

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 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 in front of the center facade fashioned to resemble the Royal Palace of Madrid. Security agents scurried into position. When each of those sixty 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 polished, armored pikemen and stone cauldrons bearing virtual flames. Manfred passed under a technicolor awning and through the glass and bronze doors held ajar by two African guest workers 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, and thin lips, adorned with bow ties, strings of pearl, ruby rings, and thinning hairlines. The POTUS carved his way through the gazing herd, through a parting in the gold drapes at the far end, and into an antechamber 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 ordered. “Hab… you 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 colonial Spanish style of hand-troweled, white plaster 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 drooped down 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 too wore glasses with coke bottle thick lenses that hooked onto a tiny, flat nose vented by two enormous, perfectly round, 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.

“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 if he betrayed my confidence.”

Hab’s eyebrows raised in concern at the threat.

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 Lucius L. Rothschild Hall in Section E. Everyone marveled at the excellent job of reassembly. One could hardly notice the linear, diamond saw cuts used to sever the limbs…

 

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 semi-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, Timfimovich 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. The ugliest thing I’ve seen,” he remarked before taking a gulp.

The other two presidents watched him.

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

“Yes?”

“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 wesponding 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 irrevocably 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’ve 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?” Manfred glared. “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 over his country. 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…” 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 granddad. 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 an American, 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 Bolshewistan.”

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

“You first, Mr. President.”

“No, you first.”

“After you.”

“You go, then 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 refurbishment 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.”

“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 went to the cabinet and poured another 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, what are we having a dick measuring contest now?” asked Hu Li.

“Call it what you want,” replied the POTUS, “but our dick 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 cannot a-win,” answered Hu Li., looking at Timoshenko for affirmation.

“…But if we put 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. So 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 combined dick 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.”

“Well, at least we have this bunker,” the POTUS replied, “so that the governments will be spared to emerge one day to rebuild.”

“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 referenced by 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

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 6

First Lady Veruca Weinstein rolled over in bed and reached for her pack of Virginia Slims cigarettes. She placed one on her lips and tossed the pack back where it landed flat on the nightstand with a smack. Her fingers fumbled around in the dark, finally retrieving her lighter. She struck an enormous flame with the slender silver lighter— nearly four inches tall— setting her stoic face aglow in warm golden light and filling the room with sweet, aromatic butane. She moved the very tip of the flame, where the fire dissolves into wisps of black smoke, to the end of the cigarette and drew in, setting the tobacco ablaze. She released the igniter which extinguished the flame and tossed the lighter back onto the nightstand while exhaling. 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 remaining perched between her two fore fingers. She tipped the bottle and shook once, and a single pill tumbled with a rattle out onto her tongue. She set the bottle back 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.”

“It will all work itself out. Try not to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

“He’s still the president. Plan A failed.”

“Then we’ll come up with a plan B.”

“You always say that things will work out 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 as completely as I do, Dex.”

“Arman is… complex.”

“Arman’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 armchair in the corner of the suite.

“All presidents are insane, Veruca. You have to be to become one. 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, single, solitary, Chinese missile.”

“To be fair, it was a hypersonic missile.”

“One missile nonetheless.”

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

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

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

“It was his baby, like a sports car or a Harley.”

Veruca handed the cigarette to Dexter who took a half-hearted drag.

“I can see that.”

“It’s because it was the biggest of them all. It was an expression of his manhood— like those short, bald rednecks with tiny dicks 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 have to wait and see.”

“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.”

“We’ve taken 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.”

“You really 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. I know him. You think I don’t know how is 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 tossed 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?”

“For now, just 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 already 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 the stench of their plots. 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 mayostard and 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

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 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 seen combat in twelve conflicts, those being in: 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 active 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 in the hell 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 the ruling out of their 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.

Currently, Major George Russell Kilgore was seated in a leather recliner in the situation room of the Brown House, looking terribly uncomfortable in his stretched, full dress uniform. He preferred to be standing. He considered sitting to be a self-indulgent. There were seven recliners in the sitrep 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.

“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 nuclear battery-powered, satellite communications array. The electronics are hardened to withstand disruption by EMP. 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. It is better known as a SAM device.”

“Instructions on scenarios?”

“That’s correct.”

“Such as…?”

Kilgore glanced at Buckminster again

“I can explain,” Buckminster interrupted. “It gives instructions on the optimal way to handle various 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?”

“Pareto optimality. Although the processor has been loaded with tens of thousands of scenarios, it is possible that there is no single, optimal, ultimate, perfect 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-for-one. Maybe the ‘better’ solution might be to target a handful of enemy industrial centers with ten megaton nuclear 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.”

“When the parameters are entered, the SAM 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 sub-optimal in that there is a percentage risk that our enemy may respond with a full-scale retaliation that incapacitates our government. The return per unit of risk for that option would be very low. On the other hand, the ‘best’ solution, a full-scale, pre-emptive attack, would be very low in terms of 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 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 more to it.”

“Well, yeah but—” Major Kilgore replied.

“Yeah but what?” Buckminster interrupted.

“I withdraw my last statement, sir.”

“No. Tell me what you meant.”

“I apologize, sir. I was speaking out of turn.”

“No. Tell me what you were going to say.”

All eyes focused on Major Kilgore who began to turn pale.”

“Out with it, Major!”

“Well, sir, what I was going to say was, what if the president is… what if he is incapacitated or somehow unable?”

“Unable?”

Just then, the door to the situation room opened and the president entered. Everyone stood as he walked past and took a seat his seat in his executive recliner with the halo of the presidential seal wrapping behind his head 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 where 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 like a medical issue, 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.”

“Well…”

“Just answer.”

“Well, sir, given a very extreme set of circumstances. 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’re fired!”

“Sir?”

“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 gray eyes directly at the president.

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

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.

“Fricke!”

“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!” The POTUS’s tone softened. “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 all blows over. You just carry that bag around at all times. If 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.”

“What!?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. President. 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, Bucky?” 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 he is, Fricke. What is he? Do you know what Tibbles is?”

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

“He’s the halfback!”

“The halfback, sir?”

“Bucky, fill him in.”

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

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

“This is not for civilian ears, Dexter,” 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 on his person. In order to appoint a new halfback, he must be present to hand over the codes. In order to hand over the codes, 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, impatiently, as he pounded his fist on the table.


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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 the presidential suite. She passed through a microwave particle scanner, then a micro-EMP gate– procured from a Tel Aviv security firm at a cost of seventy million dollars– which was designed to erase any media she might be attempting to ferret out. Then she 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. Once aboard, 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 the elites. Some seventy-thousand maintenance staff members, servants, clerks, therapists, delivery drivers, gardeners, sanitation crew, janitors, security personnel and nurses, among many others, were all 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 all passed through a security checkpoint with revolving steel turnstiles and then up a ramp finally reaching a wide tunnel. They walked through the blast door archway. The door would close by descending from the ceiling. Once up the ramp, 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.

Emma Baum was relieved to be outside the suffocating tomb of the SuperBunker, but she also felt a nakedness in that she was now unprotected from 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 to her third-floor condominium. She unlocked the deadbolt on the door and went 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. “Nora had pizza rolls and mixed veggies for supper. Her homework is all finished.”

“Thank you.”

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

“How are you, Nora?” Emma 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, did it?”

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

“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.”

“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?”

“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 that, though, if I really expected world war 3 to happen. You wouldn’t want everyone coming to your cabin trying to get your supplies.”

“Do you think he would let us come?”

“I doubt it.”

“How come?”

“There probably wouldn’t be enough room. But I do 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?”

“It’s true. But it’s temporary, though, until the crisis is over.”

“Do you ever see the president?”

“I’ve seen him a couple times.”

“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?”

“Well, he is the president.”

“Doesn’t that mean he’s the ruler?”

“Presidents certainly seem to think so. Let me tell you 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.”

“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?”

Emma paused, then forced a smile. “Everyone dies, honey. But hopefully not for a long, long time.”

“Why does everyone die?”

“That’s a good question. I’m not sure. 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 was designed to ensure 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. I could not have imagined our great leader risking his life to travel deep into the heartland of the American empire on this last chance mission of peace. Let us all hope that the American Hitler 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 American Hitler must be made to understand that Mother Russia will not except their imperialist provocations…”

 

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 taken, 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.

While the elites settled in, each day, two hundred thousand civilians with special access PINs commuted into the SuperBunker to deliver their food and goods, maintain their equipment, cut their hair and manicure their nails, cook their meals, mop their 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 facing doom 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

An attempt to blackmail the POTUS with a salacious video, taken by his own security agency, forces President Arman “Our Man” Manfred into seclusion, deep within the depths of the UN SuperBunker. With the world on the brink of nuclear war and his office infiltrated by a traitor, the POTUS 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 just couldn’t help myself. You really are put together.”

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

“Not for 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.”

“Oh, 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 within four hours of notice.”

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

“In truth, we paid for about forty percent of it, sir. Eighty percent of that was shadow budget.”

“So send Fricke to visit 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’ll be in a nuclear war before that. Just make Tibbles a guest worker, then.”

“We tried that. The UN won’t approve a guest worker PIN for him. He’s too high level. The Russians and the Chinese blocked 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 of tunnels, sir.”

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

“We could prevent his arrest, but his detection would be virtually 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, and the Russians and Chinese approve, 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. I think 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 thirteen years old, the son of the founder of Li Chung construction of Beijing. They built the $4 billion People’s Tower in Hong Kong and laid the fiber for their social credit spying network.”

“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 five-hundred-foot tall, gilded statue of a peasant charging towards Japan with a bayonet.”

“Oh, right.”

“The Chung family has very 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 thirteen-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. Tibbles is critical to the continuity of government. Like I said, he’s the halfback.”

“The Chinese will be very upset.”

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

[1] DOD: Department of Defense


Comments, likes, edits and suggestions are welcome.

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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 Center on the fifth day after his episode. They dressed him up in a navy blue leisure suit, fuzzy slippers, and a U.S. flag pin. They 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, year-round 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 Chair Force One for a total of 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 onto his wheeled throne, nevertheless, 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! 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 greatly appreciated.” He gave a thumbs up as they loaded him into a black, bulletproof golf cart, also emblazoned with the presidential seal and decorated with presidential flags mounted on the front fenders. The U.S. federal government contracted for the construction and maintenance of the bullet-proof, executive golf carts with a defense contractor named Hegel-Strauss. Each one cost sixty seven million dollars. A procession of eighteen black, Hegel-Strauss, bullet-proof, executive 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 coincidentally 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 part time laborers in Arkansas, each of whom was working at their day jobs on the surface at that very moment, 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 secret codewords into their lapels. The presidential entourage boarded and the monorail car doors slid shut and the train launched into the cavernous tunnel. It accelerated to maximum velocity, whisking through the tube 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 darkness 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 with lighting that evoked neon. A new squad of secret service agents in black suits and black sunglasses and fade haircuts and constipated looks scrambled into position and whispered codewords 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, 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 greenish vein in the back of 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 rolling 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. 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 a 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 waited for the agent standing guard there to open 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?”

“Uh, 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 five-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. It would have only cost eleven-million dollars but the federal government bought the extended warranty.

“You can control the network feed there, sir,” 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 five-hundred-inch television and six-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 comm button on his control panel. “Anyone there?”

“I’m here, sir.”

“Who’s this?”

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

“Can you come in here, please?”

“Right away, sir.”

Faucett appeared five seconds later dressed in a black jacket with tails and a 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. More like Michael Cain and less like Napoleon Dynamite, 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 a few 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 halftime, with the game knotted at 17, First Lady Veruca Weinstein Manfred appeared. She was a petite woman with dark, narrow eyes set under scrawling, thin 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 curling 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 finally 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 idiotic 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 of the United States.”

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? Who in the hell would visit it?”

“Lots of folks.”

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

“It’s for the academics and historians.”

“Historians study Hitler, too.”

“Are you comparing me to Hitler?”

“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 as a direct result of your ego.”

“War is inevitable, Veruca. People die in war. I doubt it will be billions.”

“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 halfback.”

“We spoke about this earlier, sir. There was a mix up. His PIN is invalid. UN 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.”

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, sir .”

“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.”

“Obviously, sir.”

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

“That sounds somewhat bigoted, Mr. President.”

“Why, because I called him Negro?”

“It could be interpreted as racist, sir, especially in this day and age.”

“Oh bloody hell, Hab. You know I’m no racist. 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 network 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. Look! 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 whiny, pussified, liberal men don’t feel threatened. He’s black, but he’s light-skinned without that Negro dialect that scares the suburban white folk. He’s a good-looking, well-spoken, non-threatening, gay, black man. He appeals to everyone.”

“Everyone except for rednecks, 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: her hair dresser, her chef, her life coach, her queer 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?”

“She’s over fifty.”

“No, I mean about needing the rational male mind.”

“Women like gay men because they need a man’s rational faculty but 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. Bad news.”

“I see.”

“Put all that in my book. Wordsmith it, though. Make it read like the statesman 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 five-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, the POTUS attempts one final ‘Hail Mary’ that might just save the office of the president… even if it destroys the world in the process.

Next Chapter

Chapter 1

“Will he live?”

A gloved hand reached in and pried an eyelid open. A beam of white light illuminated a pale blue cornea causing the tiny muscles of the iris to constrict the black portal into the president’s soul. The fingers released and the eyelid sprung shut.

“Mr. President, can you hear me?”

Groans.

Specialists in white lab coats, and nurses in teal scrubs converged. The throng of suited, presidential staff pushed their way into the scrum.

“President Manfred, can you hear me?”

More groans.

A nurse placed a blood pressure cuff on the president’s upper arm. Her nametag read “Baum”. She was thin, with shoulder length, toasted blond hair. Plain-looking, with thin lips and wounded-looking eyes, she performed her task with stolid efficiency. She removed the cuff and injected medication into his IV line.

The president began to open his eyes.. “Whu… Whu…” he mumbled.

Everyone dressed in suits drew back and sighed in relief. Many had heard the rumor that he was brain dead. Some still weren’t convinced he wasn’t.

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

“Whu… where am I?”

“You’re at Fletcher Memorial ICU.”

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

“That’s correct.”

“In… in the bunker?

“That’s correct.”

“I’ve got to get… get up… back to White House.”

A broad-shouldered man dressed in a black suit jacket and unbuttoned collar stepped forward. His dark eyes probed from under his 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.

“Wh… why??” the POTUS asked as he tried plowed his fingers through his hair.

“We’re in COGCON 2, Mr. President,” Fricke announced.

“Di… did we win?”

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

The doctor motioned Fricke back. “He sounds a bit confused,” 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?”

“D… 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 for a closer look, to judge for themselves.

“The fff… The fff…”

A man in full military uniform pushed his way in and next to the president. He 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 that punctuated a puffy, weathered face that invoked the image of an unmade bed. He was Fitzmaurice Buckminster, the secretary of defense. He bent down and spoke softly in the president’s ear, as if he was talking to a child.

“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… not the war!” the president bristled. “The game.”

“The 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.

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

“Not sure. Tuesday?”

“Today is Thursday.”

“Thursday? 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 even an inch. “Mr. President, it seems as though you’ve suffered some sort of physical 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 parted to reveal a thin, gray man in his seventies, also in dress uniform, clutching a large leather satchel.

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

The president breathed a relieved sigh. Kilgore nodded, his gentle gaze, set within his leathery, hardened face.

“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 leader well, now more than ever,” added Buckminster.

“Mr. President,” Fricke interrupted. “We still have a window of opportunity. We can work this out with Timoshenko and Hu Li.”

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

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

The executive staff all looked at each other and shrugged.”

“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 entry 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.”

“Haberdash?”

Fricke’s eyes flashed with contempt.

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

“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. Out! Out!”

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 of the ward. Only the doctor, Fricke, Buckminster, and Major Kilgore remained. Haberdash, a husky dude 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 hand suspended by his wavering arm.

Nurse Baum typed notes into her pad.

“I’m right here, sir. What is it?”

The POTUS lost consciousness as the sedative took hold.

 


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