Apparently I am the President of the United States of America.
It's not something I've processed all the way yet. There are three people in front of me, and they're all talking at once. I'm trying so hard to figure out what they are all telling me. I just...I just want to cry.
"...we're not sure of the city's current..."
"...after activation, and the resources are now 70% deployed to the disaster area..."
"...we're still trying to work out the cause."
In my last sensible memory, I'm on a morning news show in the middle of a home fusion demonstration. And I'm still just the Secretary of Energy.
Now I'm not, and I want to know why.
"BOYS! Everyone stop talking all at once." That gets their attention. I use the voice that makes my sons snap to attention, a pointed weapon sharpened with frustration. Seems it also works on presidential staffers.
I'm back in control. Time to get some things done.
"Bill--It's Bill, right?"
"Yes, Madam President."
"All right, Bill, here's what I want you to tell me," I have to pause mid-sentence. Jeez, it took so much out of me just to get them to quiet down. I need a drink, and I don't even know what's going on yet. Deep breaths, Lisa. Let's finish this sentence, "is why I'm on Air Force One right now, and what the hell is going on in Washington."
Now nobody wants to talk? A minute ago they couldn't stop their mouths from running, and now it's like I've got a lousy set of life-size action figures.
Bill stammers out, "Madam President, you see...we don't know what's happened, really. We're almost as in the dark as you."
As if this helps, Robert chimes in, "All we know is that the city's gone."
Gone. I thought I heard someone say that while they pulled me off the news set. "What the hell do you mean, 'gone,' Rob? Cities don't just leave. Was it a nuke, a tidal wave, what?"
Now they all look at each other. I want to jump across the table and shake all three of them until they've given me all the answers. I don't know if Presidents can do that kind of thing.
"Madam President, if we knew more, we'd tell you."
"Then get your asses out of here until you can tell me something useful." I want to channel Jonathan, to fill the space he's left behind. Did that sound like something a President might say? I hope so.
I never had a real chance against him. Almost thirty years ago, now, I sat in a bar in Adams Morgan with my Capitol Intern ID and a rum and coke that I couldn't afford. I didn't even want to drink it in the first place.
That's when he walked in, surrounded by friends. Not perfect by any means, but perfect enough to talk to. Jonathan bought me drinks and listened to complaints about the other staffers. It's hard to be a woman with a passion for both science and politics. He listened to me, unlike everyone else in the DC area.
Three hours in, I found myself around a table with him and the others. Just as I felt at home, he leaned in, and I felt more across the table from him and the others. In a low voice that somehow pierced the bar's ambient noise, he asked, "So, Lisa. Do you think this country can be fixed?"
He asked me right as I came off from laughter at one of his jokes. I could tell this seemed more serious, though. The gear change confused me. I know now that was the idea. Caught off guard, I gave an honest answer, "Maybe, with the right people."
Jonathan and his friends looked at each other with smiles.
"Lisa, I think we'll be great friends. I'll call you next week?"
"You'll need my phone number."
"That had occurred to me."
"Oh." At the time, I had no idea how much I'd just changed my life.
Five hours in the air now. We're going to need some kind of fuel soon, I think. Maybe this thing can in-air refuel. I don't really know. Only the President cares about those things.
I guess I'm the President, now. I haven't really thought about it since the three stooges left a few hours ago. Sigh. Goodness, what a joke. I've got a PhD that's about making hydrogen-exchange fuel cells more efficient. Does that mean I can run a country? Especially when we have no idea where the hell the Capitol went.
There's a knock on the door. I'm pretty sure I'll hate that sound by week's end.
"Yeah, come in." Country's not going to go away if I keep the door shut.
Actually, considering what happened to DC...
The door creaks open and I don't even look up. "What the hell is it now?"
"Uh, Madam President, I wanted to give you an updated sitrep." That grizzled Dallas voice doesn't sound anything like Huey, Dewey, or Louie, so I look up, a little taken aback.
I know those formidable white eyebrows. "Oh, General Meyers, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to be rude to you. I've got a lot on my mind."
"I understand, Madam President. Would you like my report?"
"Yes, please, General. I hope there's some good news in there somewhere."
He grins a little into his answer, "Well, for a military definition of good, I suppose."
I smile back, for the first time since we got aboard. "Carry on, then, General."
He nods, the projector screen comes down, and it's straight on into the powerpoint. "As you know, the Washington, DC metro area was the target of what we're terming a disappearance event. The DC DE resulted in major water movement activity and a near total disruption of the central functions of the Federal Government."
"So what does that mean for the people who lived there?"
"Sir, there isn't an easy way to say this. We suspect that everyone who was within the city at time zero was killed. No survivors."
There's a finality to a statement like that when it comes from a General. The people I saw on the street, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and all the cabinet department employees are dead. It means the end of the road for what our administration stood for, together, from the days when we met as summer interns.
All my friends are gone. I didn't realize that bef--My sons! How could I forget that they went into DC today? I want to scream. I want the plane to crash. I hate this plane. I hate survival.
"Sam, my children...my best friends..."
"I know, Madam President. My kids, too. Our best friends."
Right. Sam was a class below Jonathan and Geoff at Stanford.
"There's still a lot we don't know. We'll be landing shortly, and we'll get more information then. Maybe we'll find a reason to hope."
He's showing me satellite photos of the giant lake where my weekday crashpad used to be. My rebel organs tie up in knots while I try to control myself. The President doesn't cry. Not in front of her generals.
They hustle me off the plane and into a tunnel faster than I'd imagined possible. So far the only thing I know about my new location is that is has a runway, planes, and pine trees. For all I know this could be Canada.
We're running through the hallway and again the three musketeers are all yelling different things at me.
"We identified a signal, perhaps from a Russian satellite..."
"High power burst, can't determine what it really was..."
"It's not any kind of conventional weapon we've seen..."
"Wait." Those are my words, which I follow with, "Not conventional?" Those bastards killed my boys.
Solemn nods follow.
I've been trained to react a certain way to those two words, like all official successors. I have already started to root through my bag, where I would normally look for my supermarket club card or my tenth-coffee-is-free at the Capitol slip. Right now I'm looking for my biscuit. Not the breakfast food. It's an ID card that will allow me to end the world.
I'm not kidding about that, either. It's got the day's Gold Codes on it, to launch our nuclear weapons. They gave it to me the minute I took the oath of office aboard the E-4B acting as Air Force One. I pull it out just as I say, my throat a little dry, "I want the nuclear football."
Those bastards. Killed my boys. I don't have to say it. They can see it in my eyes and hear the wound in my quiet voice.
They all wince. I understand, of course. They know what this means, too. The football is the briefcase that lets me launch our nuclear arsenal. I was supposed to stop people from destroying the world. We planned to make it a better place. I guess if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
"Madam President, ah...well--"
"All three Footballs were in DC," General Meyers interrupts.
This is like waking up paralyzed. I'm not even supposed to be the President, but if I'm going to be forced into it, I don't want to feel powerless. Isn't being powerful the whole damn point? "So what the hell do we do, Meyers, call Domino's and have them deliver the fucking nukes?" I am not my best today. Anyone with kids should understand.
"Ah, Madam President, I know your orientation didn't go so far into depth on this. You can launch from the E-4B. It's got full command center capability."
"Oh." Great. Back to the plane.
I don't really think I should describe what happens next, not in detail. It's important to National Security, you know. You can imagine it, though. I cram in to a conference room on the E-4B with Meyers and the triumvirate and we set about the business of marshaling our nation's nuclear weapons.
Picture a big board, some buttons. You know how it should look. It's not quite as shiny as in the movies, except the table. That's shinier. My hands won't stop shaking.
"Madam President," General Meyers' low, buttery voice spreads over the room, "This black book has your immediate nuclear retaliatory options against Russia. You'll find them well organized and clear." He slides a black book across the table, about the size of a sheet of letter paper.
It's easy enough to open the instruction manual for ending the world. The letters within are Times New Roman, 12 point, black, except the titles. They're a little larger, and red.
They say things like "Rare," "Medium," and "Well Done." I almost laugh. I'm surprised that someone would write the apocalypse field guide with a sort of Texas flippancy, but really, it's kind of a relief. Even in this totally alien world, where our capital city is a memory and I'm forced into the Presidency, somebody has an American sense of humor. Yes, it's dark. But at least it's funny.
Each plan has infinite details that I don't fully understand. Personally I'm still digesting the fact that I even have this power. Using it feels like some nightmare from another world. Still, I'm going through the motions. We cannot appear weak in the face of a decapitation strike. My hands are still shaking.
"Medium, Meyers. I want medium. Our capital's been attacked. Vaporized, I guess...but it's not a full scale attack." Do I really want to go through with this?
"Can't say I blame you, Mada-"
"Skip it, Sam, at least while we're destroying the planet."
"All right then, Lisa. I think you're making the right choice in a world of shitty choices."
I look around at the pit crew. They've got the thousand yard stare, and open mouths. Maybe I've got that same look, too. Meyers is the only person in this room who ever saw combat, but we're all shellshocked. This is not how I expected my day to go.
My mouth knows what to do, though, "I suppose it's time we issued an order, then."
Everything else is procedure. I read a code, to identify myself as President. Meyers reads a code, to identify himself as the Acting Secretary of Defense. The two-man identification rules are satisfied. Now all I have to do is issue the order. You can do this, Lisa. They killed your sons.
Just issue the order.
I wished for flowers during his first inauguration. Not the cellophaned, preordered kind that everyone showered at our feet while Jonathan spoke. I wanted some honest-to-Dawkins flowers on the trees and petals in the air, but I'd have to wait until spring for the sakura to bloom. I wanted the world to seem as happy as I was, for Jonathan, for our family, for all of us. Thoughts like that wove in and out of my attention to Jonathan's speech.
"...On this day, America, we take the first steps towards empowerment. Technology is no longer to be a way for the government to control you, but for you to control your government. You..."
What did people think, seeing me up there? Our marriage was still an open secret, and everyone knew that I would be the Energy nominee. The Senate seemed happy about it, but the tabloid talk still made me self-conscious.
"...And it's in this environment that we'll change who we are, as a nation. Consumerism died decades ago, when it collapsed on our Capitol's steps from a major heart attack. Today we start to make the economy work for us, and with that philosophy we welcome a new era of Producerism. It is time for every American to get out there and make something."
I wondered if they knew his words' real purpose. He designed each word to prepare them for the next steps of this plan, the beautiful plan that was to unfold in his administration. I watched him practice the night before, in clothes that none of these people would ever see. Even if I never see them again, I'll always have a devilish smile at the memory. He was mine then, but I could share him with my country. I knew I couldn't keep him if I didn't let him have his dream. I couldn't keep him anyway.
"The next four years and beyond will be a time when the people of this country return to the art and craft of effective leadership. To do this, I am your President, and that means I am your workhorse. I call on you to take the reins."
He was mine then, but now no one has him, and his dream, the grand plan that we all had, is at the bottom of a river. I don't like it better this way.
I'm going to do this. I'm going to press the button. A part of me never wanted to be President. It screams at the mere idea of taking this kind of responsibility. Another part of me was always the President. It argued with Jonathan every time he tried to give me some excuse for not changing things the way they needed to be changed. To argue with the President, you have to be the President, just a little bit.
While determination wells up inside my finger and pushes it ever closer to the button, I can feel all the eyes in the room fixed on me. They act against that decisive spirit. It's all happening too fast for us to talk about, but there is a discourse in our faces.
The part of me that is a mother, an ex-wife, and a friend casts the deciding vote. Thinking about my sons, about Jonathan and the others makes the strong part of me concentrate itself and beat back the insecurity. It has to be done. It has to be done, or more cities will be next. I fire my finger forward, to the button, to launch the arsenal. I am the goddamn President.
That's when I hear the knock at the door. I pause, and in that moment, the fury overtakes me. "What the fuck is it now? Answer it!" I don't think this tiny room was ready for that outburst. With my anger released, it washes out of me and that shuddering, whimpering thing inside me takes over. I don't know what I am anymore. Bill's got his head stuck out the door. "You're serious?" I hear. Not reassuring words.
He turns his head back to me, "Madam President, you'll want to hear this."
"Damn it, Bill, I know I want to hear it. Let whoever it is through."
A soldier stumbles in, the kind who stares at screens and looks much too uncomfortable in her uniform to ever kill anyone. She salutes, her hand exactly parallel to her forehead and to the velcro patch on her shirt that reads "Isaacs."
"What is it, Lieutenant?" I'm trying to hide evidence of little war I just fought inside myself.
"Sir, ah, we've found a signal, of sorts, sir. It's related to the DCDE. It claims...really I think you want to hear it for yourself."
"Lieutenant, do you realize what I'm doing in this room? What's in this signal that's more important?" I mean really. I am trying to end the world here. It can't wait?"
"The message...well, it says it wasn't the Russians, and this wasn't an attack. And we're pretty sure it's true. I think you'll want to come hear it for yourself."
I guess it just can't wait.
"Madam President look in your desk. It's not a foreign power. Five seven zero two three. Eight five zero nine six. Five seven zero two three. Eight five zero nine six." The voice stops and the speaker plays the opening to the Magnetic Fields' "Washington DC." Then it repeats the same message. I've heard it four times now.
"Turn it off. What the hell is that?" Sounds insane to me.
Meyers pipes up, "It's a numbers station, sir."
"A shortwave radio station that broadcasts numbers and some kind of identifier. Most governments have them, for espionage. You send a spy abroad and set up a station. They tune in, get a coded message in the numbers, and then unravel it with a one-time pad. It's unbreakable."
"Right. I think I've actually heard about this. So what is this one?"
The Lieutenant pipes up, "It's one of ours, sir. Based in Newfoundland, courtesy of the Canadians. It's meant to broadcast to an agent in Russia, but it's been repurposed, it seems. That takes a very high clearance."
"Like how high?"
"Practically you, sir."
"Okay. So what's the message?"
She frowns. "Well, sir, we don't have a copy of that spy's codebook, so we can't decode it."
"Then I think I need to go have a look in my desk." Back to the E-4B. I'd love to get the hell away from that plane.
Do you have any idea how many desks the President of the United States has? My whole administration fits on a plane, and still I go through five empty desks before I find the one that the message told me about.
There it is, plain as day. A pack of cigarettes. I know that's not mine. I guess I have to pick it up. I don't even really want to touch the things. I pick up the pack and open it. Ick.
I didn't expect to smile, but then I see what's inside. No cigarettes, just rolled up pieces of paper. About thirty in all. Just over half are blue, the rest white. I know this system. It's like the visitor nametags at the Capitol building. After your allotted time is up, they expire and turn blue, so that security knows to help you find the exit. I wince when I remember it's gone.
I pluck out the first white one and unroll it. There are five numbers. The third number is zero. Like in the signal.
"Bill!" He's wandered off again. "Get in here." I'm a little surprised at myself. I didn't know I could bark orders like that.
My thoughts drift back to when I saw him last. The oval office felt too clean and too bright to me that morning. This was just a week before...the event. I didn't really have a lot to do that morning, just needed to sign approvals on some new fusion plants. Nothing out of the ordinary.
So of course, when Jonathan called me, I said I'd come right over. I figured he wanted an update. Things were still a little rocky with us, but it had been a year since we ended it. I made him choose between me and his plan, and I'd come to terms with his choice.
He wasn't there when I got in, but that's pretty normal for him. Was pretty normal, I guess. At long last, meaning at the end of ten long minutes, he rushed in with a cloud of advisers. Of the five, I knew Ariana, the National Security Adviser, from that first night, and Bill, from being a pain in the ass.
Jonathan bloomed into a smile the minute he saw me, which made me feel better for a moment. "Lisa! I forgot I called you!" Great.
"I hope you remember why, Jonathan."
His smile changed, for a second, to a guilty smirk, "I remember now, is that all right?"
"I guess I can accept that."
"Good then." The smile disappeared into, "Ariana, stay. Everyone else, out."
That raised an eyebrow for me, and I pounced the minute they left. "Jonathan, what's this all about?"
He looked at me, then at Ariana, and then back at me. These were the sort of looks that Jonathan gave, the ones that went right into you. "The State of the Union's next week, you know."
"I know that, Jonathan. I'm the designated survivor." I wanted to get out of there. Call me a fool, but I felt jealous of Ariana. She'd never make him choose.
"And I know that, Lisa. It was a segue."
"Well, get to it, then. I'm curious."
"Listen, Lisa, it's probably nothing. Remember Ariana's population crash disaster algorithm, from back when she interned with that hedge fund in college?"
Of course I remembered it. It's the goose that got us started on this whole damn chase. I nodded.
"Well...Ariana, you take it from here."
I always thought that Ariana would have made a great love poet, with her way of speaking. If love poetry involved cigarettes, computer games and bourbon. She jumped right in, "We don't have a lot of time, so I'll keep it simple. The learning algorithm is all over the place. Each inescapable disaster I identified has increased its probability. It makes sense--they're all connected. Warm up the planet too much, and the flooding causes nuclear wars over the territory that's left. Solve the food crisis, and the population increases too far and you get a deadly viral-"
"Ariana, I get it." You think you're so damn smart.
"Right. The point is, we're not that worried, it's just a small blip, but the threat I'm seeing is higher than usual. We want you to travel next week, keep away from DC. Just a precaution, you know?"
"Makes sense to me. I'll tour some new research facilities." I got up to leave.
On my way out the door, I heard Jonathan's voice for the last time, "Take Bill with you! And extra security!"
"I know you'd rather be working on this answer to the code, Madam President, but there's the rest of the country to attend to." Meyers voice can make anything sound easy. I see why Jonathan liked him.
"What's more important than figuring out what happened to the rest of the government, General?" I think that's a pretty valid question.
"For one thing, I want the rest of the military to know that you're in control and on point here. Bill and the rest have kept things managed with the press, but they didn't disappear when Washington did. The state governors--and their National Guards--want to know the game plan. So far we've been ducking and covering, but it's time to put our heads back up."
You do not want to know how many military bases, governors, and newspaper bureaus there are in this country. And to think I could be working on something interesting. I hate my new job.
For the first time, I'm overjoyed when Bill knocks on the door to interrupt us.
"All right, Bill, any progress?"
"Well, it wasn't hard to decipher the code itself. Lieutenant Isaacs figured it out, actually. She thinks it's a location."
"What good is that? I'm starting to worry that we're being stalled here, Bill."
"Isaacs thinks it's a geocache, and that the message is the longitude and latitude."
"Interesting. We've sent someone for it?"
"Already done. We've got a helicopter full of Marines on their way there."
Huh. Didn't expect that initiative. "All right, Bill. You earned your pay today. Patch their commander through to me when he calls."
When I first imagined the call, I thought of some static-filled garble like in a movie. Instead, Captain Thomson, the kind of late twenties kid who's seen far too much for his age, is projected onto the wall in front of me via satellite link. The mother side of me wishes I didn't have to force this young man to do my dirty work.
"All right, Captain, what do you have over there?"
"Well, Madam President--honor to be speakin' with you--we got a steel box, about one cubic foot, with a glass panel so we can see in. We got three things inside. There's a pretty old-lookin' book, a DVD, and a pretty sophisticated lock on it. Seems it needs today's gold codes to open, or the whole box explodes. Somebody wants you to be the one to open this thing."
"How'd they...you know, let me give-"
Meyers leans in to my ear, "You can't give him the code, Lisa."
I knew that. Really. "As I was saying, let me give you permission to pull that thing out of the ground and get it over to where I am as fast as you can. Good work, Captain."
"See you in two hours, Madam President."
I spend the next two hours with the strange feeling that I'm getting yanked by the belt from task to task. It's starting to feel a bit more natural. Not much, though.
I leap a little when I hear the chopper on its way in. With all the details and work, I almost forgot about Thomson and the box. Now I'm greeted with a game of metal case football on the tarmac. A Marine jumps out of the helicopter with a black duffel and runs 30 yards, then hands off the bag to Bill. Bill unzips it, sees the case, and as the wind blows his tie back over his neck like some impotent windsock, he jogs up to the E-4B.
In seconds, I hear the knock on my door.
"Come on in, Bill."
"Sure, but I'm not Bill." Meyers pokes his head through the door, "I don't want you in the same room as that case, Lisa. I don't care if we think it's friendlies who left it behind. They're obviously not on just our side."
"Then have Bill open it. I'll give him the code, as long as you two aren't planning a coup?" I laugh, because I'm kidding.
Meyers doesn't laugh. "Of course not, sir." Maybe not so funny. It's different being President.
After all that hassle, it took Bill all of one minute to open the case. Now I'm holding a DVD and a short book. The book says, "Watch DVD first." I flip through it anyway. Maps and big black words like "STAGE ONE" reveal themselves to me in a broken cartoon parade.
It seems to me that the answers I've dreaded all day are going to be yet another hassle I have to deal with. I pop the DVD into the conference room's drive.
In seconds, it dominates the projector screen with a video player of its own. A title slashes across the screen, in a pulpy font that makes me feel like THE COMING DECADES is going to be the best Indiana Jones movie I've ever seen.
Instead of Indy, I get Jonathan's smiling face. My heart leaps into a pit full of spikes.
"Good afternoon, Lisa. I suppose you're the President, now." I feel a knot in my gut as I wonder how he got on this video, or knew that I would be the one watching it.
"I know you must have a lot of questions. I wish that we could have given you the answers before we left, but it just wasn't possible. Too much information would have jeopardized everything that we worked for." We?
"So, I'll start with the obvious. No one in Washington is dead. The city may be gone, but that was intentional. You could even call it a government operation, though really, where the government begins and our organization ends is kind of a difficult thing to determine these days.
"The book you're holding goes into greater detail on what happened today. It's our emergency plan, our backup from day one. I know I didn't tell you about it before, and I'm sorry for that. There had to be one person who didn't know.
"Basically, it all started back in college. Geoff had too much gin one night, when he should have been finishing his general relativity problem set. He doesn't remember how, but when he woke up there was a whole lot of math on his tablet. In addition to finishing his work, he also figured out how to generate future-directed closed timelike curves artificially."
Jonathan pauses for a moment. My jaw drops, and I whisper, "Wormholes to the future..." Sort of.
"I know what you're thinking, that it's impossible. We tested it, though. Geoff built his machine, and I sent my PSP through the hole. It arrived, on schedule, one week after finals." Jonathan pauses to smile. I wish I could have been a part of their group, back then. "We tried a kitten the next semester, then a person. Then a patch of ground. It works. With enough energy, we learned how to send something arbitrarily far into the future. We couldn't get it to work the other way. It's not a very useful technology, at least not unless you can predict events that you want to skip."
Wait...that means...oh, no, Jonathan. I can't believe this. My sons could be alive.
"I'm sorry we didn't tell you before, that we filled your head with hopes that our goals would be easy to attain. I hoped--we all hoped--that we would not have to use this, but if we released the knowledge that it existed, it could have been manipulated by our enemies."
Spit it out, Jonathan. Tell me why you left. Please tell me. I'm begging you. God, I'm begging your recording. This is pathetic.
"We meant it for a failsafe. I can't tell you exactly why it went off, because really, I don't know. We tied it to Ariana's learning algorithm, the one to predict cataclysmic disasters, things that would kill 90 percent or more of the world population. We'd all live in DC, and work to keep the balance, but if the software ever gave a 99 percent chance of catastrophe? Geoff's machine would take us all with it, automatically. We'd be 30, 50, 100 years into the future. We would be preserved, as insurance against total extinction. Then we would reappear, and repair the world.
"We knew we'd need to leave somebody behind, at any stage of the plan. We all picked you...we knew you'd be the best. Someone to stockpile and weather the storm. I'm glad that I got to be President before it came. I guess 'designated survivor' means a little more for my administration. I hope...I hope you actually survive. I'm sorry. You'll find more information in the book." His smile is so weak that I laugh into the chasm he's just opened inside me.
My sons are alive, but it doesn't change that my friends got the hell out and left me behind, paralyzed with fear. What a pack of bastards.
Each time that I tap my fingers on the ultrapolished mahogany desk, I am hoping that it will somehow ease my fury. Jonathan could have told me that he'd planned a personal Rapture and decided to leave me behind. That would have been the barest of courtesies. So what if he needed his insurance policy kept secret? I had a right to be asked.
I have to tell General Meyers what I now know. He's sitting across the table. It would be nice if he'd speak first for once, but he won't, because he's not the goddamn President. Why can't he be?
No. No. I am the President. And I'm going to do my damn job.
"General, none of this is going to sound normal, but you're not going to laugh, because it's not funny. Bottom line: DC was sent to the future. That information doesn't leave this room.
"We're living in the here and now, though, and there's a major crisis on the horizon. The kind of thing that would tear the government to shreds, if we still had a government."
"What are you saying to me, Lisa?"
"I'm saying that Jonathan and company had a failsafe that packed them up and left if they were sure the apocalypse was coming. They're preserved, outside of time, while the crisis kills nearly everyone. Our role is to stay behind and get things in place so they can rebuild when they return. Part of me wants to resign and let the wolves tear the world apart. My friends abandoned me, and I want revenge. But that's not the best part of me."
Meyers tightens his lips, then says, "So he wants you to be the Joseph to his Pharaoh, and see the world through the lean years. Are we going to do that?"
"Maybe...but he didn't count on the idea that once he's gone, I'm not Joseph anymore. I'm the Pharaoh now, and his plan be damned. We'll use it as a backup. He did go to a lot of trouble to leave me an instruction manual for being President, and I wouldn't want it to be a total waste. But it won't be our top priority. I've got a better idea." It's in these words that I feel the rights and privileges of my office for the first time.
"And what's that, Lisa?"
"We do our best to stop the crisis, Sam, when it comes. We do what Jonathan couldn't. We save the world."
John Skylar is a PhD candidate and science fiction writer who occasionally masquerades as a fictional professor at the University of Constantinople. In addition to Fusion Fragment, his work has appeared in The Cynic Online Magazine, Larks Fiction Magazine, and Schlock Magazine. He blogs about writing at www.johnskylar.com and you can follow him on Twitter @johnskylar. He lives in New York City along with his ramen soup.