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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 in 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 and completely impervious to wireless surveillance transmission. One entered the UltraBunker through an eighteen-inch thick blast door that only opened after passing 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 and 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 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.

There was another steel door opposite the blast door entrance, behind the president’s high back 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 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 notepads. Haberdash sat on a folding chair against the wall, scribbling notes on his notepad. Within seconds of the first arrival, every seat at the 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 uneasy glances and shrugs at each other. The motions of shuffling papers and sniffles and taking gulps of 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. 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. His wispy silver and blond hair was combed over to one side. He wore thick, horn-rimmed glasses that magnified his gentle, black eyes.

“Welcome home, Frank!” the POTUS bellowed. A wide grin filled his 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 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 territory and kidnapped 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. President. There will be dire consequences for you,” Hu Li repeated.

“Like what?”

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

“Like sinking another aircraft carrier?”

“More dire than that.”

“Like nuking a city?”

“Worse than 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 and locked on to the POTUS.

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

“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 laughs.

“He’s not crazy. He won’t blow up the world over one twelve-year-old Chinese 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’s 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 hell? I am 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 brought him a MontBlanc pen which was supposedly used by the ministry of trade to sign an accord with diplomats from Bhutan.

“Thank you, father,” Chung said in Mandarin upon receiving it.

“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.”

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?”

“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 had a ball and a goal?”

“Almost. I used to play tennis.”

“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 them, 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 and satin dresses. Everyone 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 still subterranean air.

 

#

 

Earlier that same morning, Hank Chinaski 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 that described the hundreds of flights arriving from remote capitols of the world, descending upon Akron, Ohio which was a primary entry point for the SuperBunker.

Chinaski 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 talkshows and podcasts. There were sasquatch hunters, and planet Nibiru astronomers, UFOlogists, and time travelers, and JFK assassination experts, flat earthers, and Hadron Collider doomsayers, and the accounts of a supposed 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. All the titillating tales were very entertaining to Hank. Even more so because he knew one, and possibly two of them to be more or less true. For not only did Hank know that the bunker reports were a fact, he had also seen a UFO when he was seven— although he often wondered if might have been a dream. Hank relished having confirmation of the bunker conspiracy and he relished having that inside information.

Hank had worked his way up from the ranks of forklift driver to special security agent during his tenure working in 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 rendering him, once again, 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 put to constructing 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 whenI 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 Prince of Watford Gap…” or “I was doing Cuervo shots at the bar of the local Three Amigos restaurante…” Instead, the governments of the world all rolled out the reality of the SuperBunker’s existence a single, barely noticeable degree at a time… so the proverbial frogs wouldn’t hop 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 the 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 used to be 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 NORAD. Hank Chinaski, deprived of his brief dance with mysterious allure, poured himself into his security guard work and cheap vodka to fill his void of loneliness.

One day, while Chinaski 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 Chinasky?”

“Yes sir. Can I help you, sir?”

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

“You’re NSA[2]?”

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

He handed Chinasky a nine-by-six-inch, manilla envelope. Chinasky 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?” Chinasky asked.

“Follow the instructions to the letter. Your nation needs you, Agent Chinasky. 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.”

 

Chinasky 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, Chinasky 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 Chinasky 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 Chinasky, 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 Chinasky, “Wait for my signal.”

Chinasky 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, Chinasky 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,” Chinasky 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.”

Chinasky 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 tool box. The driver immediately got out and confronted him. Chinasky watched as the confrontation escalated. Chinasky’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,” Chinasky shouted. “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?”

“Do you see this badge?” Chinasky 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,” Chinasky 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.” Chinasky 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 handcuffs. Chung saw this and started to run.

Chinasky 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.

Chinasky was gaining.

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

Chinasky’s rippling face was riveted with determination.

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

Chinasky 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. Chinasky’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!” Chinasky cursed.

Chung darted through and banked right down the avenue, losing a sneaker in the process. Chinasky couldn’t risk losing any more ground to 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, Chinasky rammed the closed gate, breaking the graphite steering mast of the Mo-Mo and bending Chinasky in half at the waste. Not to be denied, Chinasky presented his wrist. The gate opened and he staggered through, turning right down the mall in pursuit.

“Bill,” he shouted as he chased.

“You’re losing him, Chinasky.”

“I’m in pursuit.”

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

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

Chinasky 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. Chinasky 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. Chinasky tucked his flask back into his pocket and took out his taser. He approached the bin, silently, carefully. He heard panting, then shuffling. Chinasky 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. He glanced left, then right, then up. He was trapped. Chinasky 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,” Chinasky 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,” Chinasky pled. “You’ll only make trouble for yourself.”

Chung glanced left again.

Chinasky 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.

“Easy, there.”

Chung bit his lower lip.

Chinasky extended his taser.

Chung’s arms tensed.

Chinasky reached down for his handcuffs.

Chung released the ball.

Chinasky followed the ball down with his eyes.

Chung’s back leg swept forward.

Chinasky’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. Chinasky, lowered his hands to shield his loins from the ball careening towards his groinnose, but in this act, he also accidentally depressed the taser button which resulted in the overwheming of his neural circuitry with two million volts of electricity at the very instant the soccer ball careened into his testicals. Chinasky fell onto the ground in a howl of agony. Chung seized the opportunity and fled… to his left.

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

His cell beeped.

“Chinasky, Bill here. Do you copy?”

“Go ahead,” Chinasky groaned.

“We got him!”

“Got who? Over.”

“Chung! We got Chung!”

Chinasky 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, Chinasky. Your nation thanks you for your service.”

[1] Taikonaut: Contrived 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. Security agents scurried into position. When each of the sixty secret service agents indicated to central command that the situation was safe, the footman of Golf Cart One opened the door and President Arman Manfred stepped stiffly out onto the curb. The POTUS gathered himself up, straightened his navy-blue suit, and peacock-strutted his way down the red carpet which was flanked by stone cauldrons bearing virtual flames. He passed under a technicolor awning and through the glass and bronze doors held ajar by two men adorned as Aztec warriors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timoshenko and Hu Li exchanged a glance of acquiescence.

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

A long, tense silence followed.

The president of the United States sighed.

The president of Russia scratched his temple.

The president of China forced a grin.

The president of the United States forced a grin.

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

The president of the United States interlocked his fingers.

The president of China cracked his knuckles.

The president of Russia rubbed his chin.

The president of China stopped smiling.

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

The president of Russia adjusted his glasses.

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

One of the presidents examined his cuticles.

Another licked his lips.

The third rubbed his nose.

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

Another stuck his finger in his ear.

Another re-crossed his legs.

One of them sniffed.

Another coughed to cover up a belch…

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

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

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

The other two presidents watched him.

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

“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 responding to your act of a-war.”

“The Henry Harrison was performing routine naval exercises.”

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

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

“It was to crose,” Hu Li reaffirmed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not my a-prob-rem.”

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

“You should have taken better care.”

“It’s Japan’s rock!”

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

“It’s just a rock, Huli.”

“Tell that to Taki[3].”

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

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

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

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

“Not unanimous-uh-ree,” chimed Hu Li.

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

“What business is it of yours?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course not.”

“Well that’s what you’re gonna get.”

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

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

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

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

“So we are at an impasse.”

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

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

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

Timoshenko cursed. “Stay out of Bolshevistan.”

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

“You first, Mr. President.”

“No, you first.”

“After you.”

“You go, I go.”

“I’m right behind you.”

“No, I’m right behind you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“About what?”

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

“A what?”

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

“Oh, splendid. A new axis of evil.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


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COG Chapter 6

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

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

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

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

“Sure,” answered Dexter Fricke.

“Did you actually just say ‘sure’?”

“What’s wrong, Veruca?”

“Right now? Everything.”

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

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

“Because it always works out.”

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

“Arman is… complex.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A hypersonic missile.”

“One missile nonetheless.”

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

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

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

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

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

“We’ll just have to see about that.”

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

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

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

“And now you have the football.”

They both glanced at the satchel.

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

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

“He won’t be topside for long.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So divorce him.”

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

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

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

“I’m doing everything I can.”

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

“I’m not too worried about Buckminster.”

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

 

 

 

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


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