After the Apocalypse
Chapter 8: New Order

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

Melinda Arkwright sat in the living room of a Hawaiian condominium and stared, agape, at the still-sketchy reports coming over KHON's special news report. The reporters were quick to underline the speculative nature of much of their broadcast, but the meaning was clear to the Secretary of Commerce: the government was in chaos due to some sort of all-out Russian attack. As near as she-or anyone else-could determine, many of the federal government's leading officials were assumed dead in the first wave of bombs which had hit America.

The fury and the timing of the initial Russian nuclear strike had effectively nullified years of planning to relocate the federal government at various secure sites along the Eastern seaboard in the event of a direct attack on Washington. Mount Weather in Virginia was effectively unreachable, and it seemed clear that President Al Gore and Vice-President Bob Kerrey had been killed in the first strikes. Other Congressional and Cabinet officials, who had scattered to various states for the Christmas holidays, were known to be in areas under heavy attack, and little hope could be realistically held for the survival of any of them. Arkwright had known from the start that she stood tenth in the succession order, but she had never, even when she was designated as the cabinet member not to be in attendance at Gore's first State of the Union address, thought that that would amount to anything.

For reasons that would never be clear, Operation North Wind had not included plans for an attack on Hawaii. Arkwright's decision to spend the holidays on Kauai had spared her life.

She was startled from her wide-eyed staring at the set by the telephone.

"Hello?"

"Secretary Arkwright?"

"Yes. Who's calling?"

"Madame Secretary, this is Scott Metcalf of the Secret Service in Honolulu. I assume you are aware of what's going on out there?"

"Uh, yeah. How bad is it?"

"Ma'am, nobody knows for sure. All we know is that we can't raise anybody along the East Coast. All the phones are out, the computer networks are down-nothing."

"And what can I do for you, Mr. Metcalf?"

"Madame Secretary, my men are on their way to Kauai to take up a detail guarding you. As far as anyone can tell right now, you're the first one on the succession line who's still around. Until we hear differently, we're covering you like you were the President. Which, for all we know, you might be."

Arkwright was stunned at the suddenness of this development. "No one else?"

"As far as we know. We've got only the faintest details of what's really going on out there, but it doesn't look good for the President, the V-P, and most of the cabinet. Whatever's going on in Russia, they did a pretty good job wiping out much of the planet. We think Ellis Robins might still be alive; he was in Kansas for the holidays, and I'm not sure if that part of the country was too badly struck. Seems possible that less ugliness went on there."

"He outranks me; he's Secretary of Agriculture," said Arkwright.

"But he's ineligible for the Presidency; he's not 35 until next October. You're it, Ms. Arkwright. Until we get further notice, my men have orders to stick to you-"

"Like I was President. I see," said Arkwright. "How soon until that happens?"

"Actually, the Lihue Police Department is dispatching a pair of officers at our request to see that you're kept safe from harm until we get there. They should be at your place any minute."

Even as Metcalf explained this detail to Arkwright, she heard a loud but somehow courteous knock at her door. "I believe that's them now. Nice timing, Mr. Metcalf."

She hung up the phone and crossed to the door. "Who's there?" she asked in what she recognized was a totally useless question.

"Secretary Arkwright, this is the Lihue police department," came the reply. "We have orders from the Secret Service to guard you-"

The officer's set speech was interrupted as Arkwright pulled the door open. "I heard. Metcalf just told me."

Two police officers entered the room. "Ma'am, I'm Faron Anu'ala'a, and this is Lieutenant Katherine Callon. She's the head of this detail."

"Pleasure to meet you, Ms. Secretary," said Callon. "Call me Kathy. You've spoken to this Scott Metcalf guy from the Secret Service, so I assume you have some idea of why we're here and what's going on."

"As much idea as anyone has," said Arkwright.

Callon launched into a formal speech. "Until further notice, Secretary Arkwright, we have been ordered by the Secret Service to protect your life against any threat in your role as possible President of the United States." She relaxed slightly. "Metcalf said his agents would be on the next plane out of Honolulu, which should put them here in a couple of hours. Not a major problem for any of us. Nonetheless, we have orders to be on you like a raven on roadkill."

"Fair enough. Could you call me Melinda, though? 'Secretary Arkwright' is one of the things I hate most about this job."

"'President Arkwright' may not be any easier to like."

"This isn't likely to be all that tricky, is it?" said Anu'ala'a. "I mean, nobody knows that you might be President. I don't think anyone on the island even knows who you are. Or that you're here."

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