Sunday, June 10, 2012
Saturday, April 7, 2029, Washington, DC, The White House
President Gonzales called a Saturday morning Cabinet meeting. Secret Service men and armed Marines in uniform were everywhere, surrounding the White House, in the halls, anterooms, bathrooms and in the Cabinet Room all grim faced. Every door has an armed two man detail.
Cabinet Men and women in suits are chatting around the great table. All forcing smiles They are tense. What is so important for a Saturday meeting with all this security?
The President sweeps into the room, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll get right to it,” says he.
“The asteroid Apophis will strike Earth at noon our time in exactly six days.”
“Friday the 13th!” interrupts one of the men. The President continues.
“It will hit on a line running from San Francisco to Bogota, Columbia with the highest likelihood east of Mexico City. There is nothing we can do. This is the end of the world. Everyone will be killed, ultimately. The lucky ones will be under it.”
The room was silent. A few gasps were heard, women started crying, men were red-faced, some ashen. Suddenly, the Secretary of Environment stands up, “We have to tell the world! The people must know! What will happen to the trees?” He breaks down crying.
President Gonzales pulls a 10 mm Glock from his shoulder holster, takes careful aim and puts one bullet in the chest of the trembling man who drops to the floor as the women shriek. Secret Service men pull guns and guard the doors. No one seated moves a muscle.
The Secretary of Commerce, known for his sense of humor says, “Gee, I guess this isn’t April Fool’s after all.” No one laughs as Marines carry the body out.
“No, it is not April Fools,” says the President, “I wish it were.”
“Does anyone know about this?” asks Layton Panola, Secretary of Defense.
“The major world leaders and some scientists,” says the President.
“Sir,” one man put up his hand, “I heard on the radio that several astronomers were killed this morning.”
“By my order,” said President Gonzales and gasps are heard.
“Your order?” erupts Chief of Staff Daniels.
“Have you lost your mind, Jose?” yells Secretary of State Feldstein.
“Let me explain my decision. I want consensus, but…” and he does not finish the sentence instead reaching for a report.
“This was written for us in 2004 when it was first realized this asteroid constituted a threat and then updated in 2008,” he says as he opens the folder labeled “BLACK”. “The upshot is there are many factors affecting the path of these things even color, direction and rate of rotation. The first idea was that the orbit would expand, but now we re told it has contracted in a way that means it will collide. It has been under constant surveillance for years and this is confirmed. And, I can tell you now that it is ten times larger than we reported. That was our first secret regarding this rock.”
The room is dead silent. Nobody moves or asks a question. He continues: “This thing is several miles in diameter and coming at us at 28,000 miles per hour. Wherever it hits it will get the effect of 100,000 Hiroshima sized atomic bombs, maybe more.”
Gasps are heard and one of the women sobs. He continues:
“The Hiroshima bomb vaporized everything for three miles. This thing will do it for 180 to 200 miles. It will cause tidal waves several miles tall in both the Pacific and Atlantic. They will kill 80% of the world’s population within six hours. Everyone on the planet will hear the impact. For some it will be the last thing they hear as their eardrums will be blown. The shock wave will flatten everything for at least 1000 miles, probably more.”
“My God,” say several men who are visibly shaken.
“The explosion will probably ignite the atmosphere. All the oxygen will be burned to oxides of nitrogen which we cannot breathe so everyone will be dead within six hours. And, dust from the explosion will turn day into night for centuries freezing everything, even the seas. Earth will be an ice planet.”
The President paused and stood silent for a long minute. He looked stooped, but then pulled himself up and said:
“I have decided to do the only thing I can do is give the people six days of life rather than six days of terror. I have told all the world’s leaders that release of this information will be considered and act of war against all of us and will be responded to with thermonuclear annihilation. England and France have agreed and I expect Russia and China will soon. This is all top secret and release of it means death. Do not to tell your loved ones, but get your things together. We all have six days to live. OK, now tell me what you think.”
“I think you’re right!” said one of the men and other chimed in while the women sat stunned, tears running down their faces.
“What can we do for you, sir?” asked another man.
“Just hang tight and be with your families. I see no reason for any more Cabinet meetings unless this story breaks, somehow. Then, we’ll have to swing into full coverup,” and he pauses to look around the room.
“World riots will break out if it gets out,” said the President, “all of you must understand that any word of this will cause massive rioting with millions of deaths. All we can do is give the people the peace of ignorance. They must not know.”
“Do you mean to say we cannot tell anyone?”
“Or be shot.”
Gasps were heard around the table.
“You are to tell no one, not even your wives or husbands. You are to act as if nothing is happening, but you will want to gather your families, take a vacation, visit family or go to a place you’ve always wanted to see. That kind of thing. Most of us will be dead six days from today. The lucky ones that is…”
“The lucky ones?”
“Yes, those who survive the first blast will either die of asphyxiation, in riots or freeze to death over a few days or weeks. This thing is coming at us at 40 miles per second. It will pass through our atmosphere in 1/2 second and the shock wave will kill every living animal in a ten thousand mile radius. The dust from the collision will cover the Earth putting it in pitch black darkness for many years, killing all the green plants and freezing everything else. The lucky ones will have died in the first instant.”
“Rather than starve?”
“What do we do?”
“Nothing,” said the President with emphasis, “absolutely nothing to alarm the people. We can talk about it, but I cannot change my mind. All the world leaders agree with me,” said an ashen-faced President.
“It my job to protect the people as I can, give them all the days of peace and safety that I can. We have six. The way to do that is keep them ignorant.” There were murmurs.
“Make your plans, gather your loved ones, but tell them nothing. If you tell the press you will be shot. I’m sorry, that is the way it has to be. The only thing we can give the people is the bliss of ignorance.”
No one moved. After a few minutes the Surgeon General, Dr. Lydia Gotham rose from the table and said, “I have some ironing to do,” and everyone laughed as the Secret Service and uniformed Marines conducted her from the room.
Some moved close to the President who was sitting with hands folded like an obedient school child. Some consoled him, concurring with him. All expressed sympathy for his position and then they were gone.