Chapter Four

The President decided he would demonstrate leadership the way presidents had been doing it for decades–by forming a committee. He stacked his newly-formed Committee to Save the Human Race with eight Republicans. If the committee couldn’t stop the apocalypse and everyone died, then it would be their failure–a Republican failure–not his. "We have to shift the blame on this apocalypse thing," the President had explained to Jenkins. "Otherwise we’re going to get killed in the midterms."

Meanwhile, he also formed a secret task force to determine the various details of Operation Colonization, which he had renamed, Operation Legacy. On the task force was Senator Thurmond Kennedy IV, a senate lifer descended from senate lifers. Kennedy was a heavy-set man whose plastic, sweaty face was permanently cast in a frown. He breathed heavily and loudly and moaned and groaned so much he sounded like a wooden ship sailing rough seas. He was joined by the Speaker of the House, Penelope Doe, a squeaky-voiced, bobble-headed sexagenarian who had wild eyes that seemed to be afraid of her own skull and frantically looking to escape. The task force also included Senate Majority Leader, Jackson Rockefeller Jr., another Senate lifer known for talking incessantly about the glory days of the Senate … in between naps. In addition, per Jenkins’s request, the President appointed Dr. Sigmund White, the leading expert on the virus, and General Debuke.

"This calls together the first meeting of Operation Legacy," Jenkins said, tapping a gavel on the White House situation room’s conference table. "I suggest, because of our pressing time constraints, we move right to the selection process."

"That’s fine," the President said, "but if anyone should be banging gavels around here, it should be me."

"Of course, Mr. President." Jenkins handed the gavel to the President and continued. "We asked a team of scientific experts to make a list of recommendations for which crops to grow and which animals to include in the biodomes." He passed out copies of the list. "We’ll start by selecting the animals. When you hear the name called please respond yes or no."

The President banged the gavel repeatedly until he had everyone’s attention, but once their eyes were on him he seemed at a loss for words, as if he had forgotten banging gavels were usually followed by decrees.

"Yes, Mr. President?"

"Shouldn’t we answer yea or nay?" the President asked, feeling compelled to say something.

"Now’s no time to be breaking protocol," Senator Rockefeller agreed.

"Fine, we’ll answer yea or nay."

"Mr. Jenkins," Rockefeller said. "Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the proper decorum, but it is considered quite rude to interrupt someone while they are speaking." He waited before continuing so Jenkins had enough time to feel properly chastened. "I move that we answer with ‘yea’ for the affirmative and ‘nay’ for the negative. And I hereby cede the floor to my colleagues."

"There’s no need to be so formal," Jenkins said. "This isn’t the floor of the Senate."

"It certainly is not." Rockefeller shared a chuckle with Kennedy.

"Right," Debuke said. "If this was the Senate we’d be cutting defense spending and fornicating with hookers!" He glared at Kennedy. The senator had lead the charge to neuter his military; Debuke hated the man with a passion.

"Please, everyone, we have a lot of work to do," Jenkins said. "Now, the first animal for consideration–"

"Hold on, we haven’t voted yet."

"Voted on what?"

"There’s a motion on the floor to answer yea or nay."

"Seconded," Doe said.

"All those in favor?" Kennedy said. Everyone but Debuke raised their hand. "The motion passes."

"Alright, now that that’s settled …" Jenkins said, "The first animal up for a vote is the chicken. All those in favor?"

"We need to deliberate first," Rockefeller interrupted.

"We’re all familiar with these animals, Senator. Let’s just vote."

"Quite frankly, I’m a little uncomfortable with the way you’re trying to ramrod these animals through the selection process," Kennedy said.

"We should deliberate," Doe agreed.

"Okay, how about we vote first. And if any of the votes are close, we can deliberate on those animals."

"Good Lord, you don’t deliberate after a vote," Rockefeller said.

"Look, we need to decide these matters quickly to allow enough time to ship the animals, their feed, and other materials out to the biodomes."

"Perhaps you should have planned this better," Doe said.

"I’ll remember that for the next extinction event," Jenkins said. He read the faces in the room and it was clear he didn’t have any allies. "Fine. Let’s deliberate."

"I like chickens," Rockefeller said.

"I don’t care much for the animal, but I like egg whites." Doe said.

"I like them scrambled," Kennedy said.

"Like your brains," Debuke said.

"I think that’s enough deliberating," Jenkins said.

"Hold on, I haven’t had my say yet," the President whined. He leaned back in his chair and stroked his chin. "While scrambled eggs are good, I prefer them soft boiled so I can dunk my toast in them." The President looked anxiously around the room to see how his input was being received and was relieved to see people nodding.

"Thank you, Mr. President," Jenkins said. "Now, all those in favor of including chickens?"

"Yea," they all said.

The task force managed to make it through most of the animals without incident until the goat vote. The President began deliberations by waxing poetic about how fantastic goat cheese was only to find himself at odds with the rest of the committee. It was clear a vote wasn’t going to go the goat’s way, so the President tried to filibuster which, in turn, degraded into an argument about whether or not he, as President, could filibuster. Rockefeller tried to put the matter to a vote, but the President tried to filibuster that, too.

"You can’t filibuster! You’re not a Senator," Rockefeller insisted.

"This isn’t the Senate. It’s a task force."

"Ha! Task forces don’t have the filibuster."

"Then I move we vote to establish a filibuster for these proceedings."

"And I hereby filibuster that vote!"

"Son of a bitch!"

"Okay, time out," Jenkins said, standing. "Let’s take a five-minute recess." He turned to the President and said softly, "Sir, can I speak with you for a moment, please?"


"Mr. President, we can’t afford to get bogged down in arguments about process," Jenkins started once they were alone in the Oval Office. "Time is of the essence."

"This is your fault, Jenkins. You let me go on for ten minutes talking about how great goat cheese was. If I cave now I’m going to look weak on animal selection. You should have told me the goat didn’t have widespread support before I stuck my neck out like that." The President paced the room, stoking his ire.

"I apologize, Mr. President, but the group has voted."

"I hand-picked that task force and you’re telling me they can keep me from having two lousy goats? It’s that damn Kennedy. He’s trying to get even with me because I put Humbert on the ticket instead of him."

"I really don’t think that’s what this about. He’s probably just lactose intolerant."

"He’s intolerant, alright."

Jenkins stepped in front of the President to deter his pacing. "Sir, did you consider just loading up on actual goat cheese? I’m sure we can store a four-year supply in a freezer."

"I’m not going to eat frozen goat cheese."

"You would defrost it before you ate it."

"I know that. This isn’t even about goat cheese. It’s about principle. I took a pro-goat stand. I’m not going to give up without getting some kind of concession, like assurances on arugula. You can bet that fat bastard is going to fight me on arugula, too. What was I thinking putting him on the task force? This whole time I’ve been worrying about Humbert and now I’ve got Kennedy crawling up my back. That’s why he didn’t want to vote before deliberating. He wanted to embarrass me. And you let me walk right into his trap."

Jenkins grabbed the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. Death by virus was seeming less terrible by the minute.


Come back next week for chapters 5 and 6, or find out what happens next by purchasing on Amazon, here.