The door opened revealing a cramped but well-lit passageway.
"This way, Prime Minister. Everyone's in the command gallery."
The Prime Minister followed his Defence Secretary. "What's going on, George? I was in the middle of lunch with the Italian ambassador. She was not impressed when..."
"We think we're under attack." The Defence Secretary said as they passed two armed guards who were standing by a formidable-looking steel door.
"Attack? By whom?"
The Defence Secretary said nothing as they passed through the door. And then he turned to the guards. "lock us down." The guards nodded. The heavy door began to close.
The Prime Minister grabbed the Defence Secretary's shoulder. "Damn it, George. What's going on?" He looked around. "And where are we?"
"You're in Pindar, Prime Minister. The command bunker under Whitehall. You received a detailed brief on it months ago."
"I've been overwhelmed with briefs since I took office. There's no time to read them all!"
They walked onto a gallery overlooking a chamber dominated by a huge display screen on the far wall. The screen showed an almost overwhelming array of maps and data. It also showed a video feed of what looked like another command bunker.
The Defence Secretary guided the Prime Minister to a comfortable chair. The Prime Minister sat down and spoke impatiently. "Details. Now!"
The Defence Secretary spoke. "Something was detected by NORAD an hour ago over the north pole, at the edge of the atmosphere.” He pointed at the centre of the vast display. A large map of the UK was overlain with a bright circle that was moving down over northern Scotland. “It's been heading south ever since on a course that will take it directly over London. It'll be here within a few minutes."
"A few minutes? Is it a missile?"
"No. Much too big."
"What is it, then?"
"We have no idea yet."
Someone sitting at a console below spoke. "We now have a visual from RAF Leuchars, from a Typhoon in One Squadron."
The right side of the display changed to show the image. It showed a distant blurred disk high in the sky. It was moving fast towards the horizon.
“Get that aircraft to follow!” The Defence Secretary said.
“It is following, sir. But the object’s too fast. We estimate it’s travelling at close to Mach-5.”
The image from the fighter suddenly brightened, washing out the view of the horizon. A second later it went blank.
The Prime Minister stood up. “What happened?”
“The signal’s been lost, sir. Trying to re-establish the link.”
A voice spoke. “Pindar. NORAD. General Parks.”
On the left of the huge display a face, stern and lined, appeared. The Defence Secretary answered. “Hello again, general. We just managed to get a visual on the object. We lost the link but we’ll send you…”
The general interrupted. “One of our satellites just detected two detonations, centred on Glasgow and Edinburgh.”
The quiet chatter in the room fell silent.
“We are still calculating the yields, but they will be high – many megatons. Three similar objects have been detected, one over Canada on a course for Washington DC. The others appear to be heading towards the Russian and Chinese capitals. We are now at DEFCON One.”
The display now showed the tracking information for all the objects. The one over the UK was continuing south.
The Prime Minister spoke, his voice noticeably trembling. “General, this is the Prime Minister. Do you know where the objects came from, and what they are?”
“Not at this time, Prime Minister. They seemed to simply appear over the Arctic. We have detected many more detonations. Details are being sent now. Three in Canada, and six in Russia and China. And two in England centred on Manchester and Leeds.”
The information on the detonations appeared. The Prime Minister froze, staring at the graphical representation of the attacks. He felt sick.
“We have calculated the yields.” The general continued. “Seventy-two megatons. That’s much higher than anything we have. We are now at DEFCON Zero. The President is heading below, as are we. Recommend you do the same.”
The Prime Minister was confused. “DEFCON Zero? I have no knowledge of that level?” He turned. “George, what…”
The Defence Secretary frowned. “It was in the briefing, Prime Minister!” He shouted towards the gallery. “Set threat level to ‘Final Critical’. Evacuate now. All facilities.” He grabbed the Prime Minister. “We must go. That object will be over London in four minutes. Pindar will not survive such an attack.”
“There’s nowhere to go, George!”
The Defence Secretary glared at him, and then dragged him towards what looked like a lift entrance.
The Prime Minister nodded. “Yes, I know. It was in the briefing.”
A minute later the Prime Minister was ushered out of the lift and along a wide passageway. It was teeming with staff. “Where are we now?”
The Defence Secretary ignored him and spoke to a uniformed woman that had walked up to him. “One more minute, and then seal this entrance.” The woman nodded and walked briskly away.
“Tell me something, George. Please!”
“We are in ‘Haven’. It’s a much deeper and much larger facility than Pindar.”
The Defence Secretary led the Prime Minister into another galleried command centre, twice as large as Pindar’s. This time, as well as the giant display screen, there was a huge panoramic window. It looked out and down onto what appeared to be a large cavern. The subdued lighting in the command centre allowed the Prime Minister to see hundreds of dimly lit structures and buildings spreading right to the far end of the cavern hundreds, if not thousands, of metres away. “My God, George! How on Earth was such a place…”
A deep and sustained rumble spread across the command centre. The ground shuddered. The maps on the display were updated. There had been hundreds more detonations around the world since they had left Pindar. And now London had been hit. All of the UK’s major cities had been destroyed.
The Defence Secretary spoke solemnly. “It’s continuing south. It will reach Paris in a couple of minutes. I suspect France will suffer as we have.”
The Prime Minister gasped. “Our families… They’re…”
The Defence Secretary reached for a console – an array of touch-screens. “They were at Chequers preparing for the weekend, were they not?”
“Yes. I guess they may have survived the initial attack, being so far from…”
The Defence Secretary sighed. “They did. They were received into Haven a minute ago!”
“But they’re forty miles away from here. How could…”
The Defence Secretary brought up some data on one of the screens. “Look at this.”
The Prime Minister stepped over to the console.
The Defence Secretary pointed. “This is a map of Haven. As you can see it is far more extensive than the cavern we are in. There are seven such caverns, most of them larger than this one. All are interconnected. And there are special access tunnels from key secure command centres, such as those at High Wycombe and Northwood. And also from the bunker at Chequers.”
“This is so vast! How could such a thing be kept so secret?” The Prime Minister frowned. “In fact, how could we possibly afford to build such a facility in the first place?”
“Well, I’ve only recently found out myself, from the briefing. But what I know is that it was conceived by Churchill. Shortly after he became Prime Minister again in the ‘50s this cavern was discovered a mile beneath London, exactly how and by whom I don’t know. Churchill immediately ordered the construction of this facility within the cavern as a safe haven from the Soviets. Numerous deep caverns were discovered after that and developed by subsequent governments. We call this Whitehall Cavern.”
“But how can this all be financed? As a nation we can barely afford to…”
“Western governments are not the inefficient and wasteful entities that most people believe. Quite the opposite, in fact. They are super-efficient. The reason they come across in such a way is because so much money – most of it – was directed towards the construction and maintenance of Haven, and the others. It was made to look like incompetent budgeting and overspend. The dot-com crash and the financial crash in 2008 were all initiated so that huge sums of money could be diverted to this project. Recessions in the ‘70s and ‘80s were deliberately brought on for the same reason.”
“That’s incredible.” The Prime Minister thought for a moment. “ Others?”
“The States has a similar but even larger deep facility. And Germany, too. Russia is believed to have a comparable network beneath the Urals, and China beneath some of its inland cities.”
The Prime Minister shook his head and then looked up at the command centre and the cavern beyond. “How many can live down here, and for how long?”
“A million. And almost indefinitely, until surface conditions permit a return. I don’t know all the details yet, but geo-thermal energy powers the whole facility, and there are numerous rivers and reservoirs here. There are even farms with solar lighting.”
The Prime Minister thought for a moment. “George, we barely had time to get into this facility ourselves. How could all the others get here? This place must be almost empty. Its purpose has failed, surely.”
The Defence Secretary shook his head. “Most were already here. Some have been living here for decades. All those stories of the brain-drain: our best scientists, engineers, doctors etc. leaving? Most of them came down here. Their families, too. Just in case a scenario like today’s happened.” He looked around. Once things have settled on the surface we’ll send teams out to look for viable survivors. They’ll be brought in to fill the remaining spaces. Children will be born here, of course, which will…”
The Prime Minister was shocked. “Viable? What is that supposed to mean?”
“Those that are healthy and with little chance of contaminating the rest of us. We cannot risk taking in any that will jeopardise our survival, or that will waste our resources as we try to save them. Times have suddenly changed. We have to accept that.”
The Prime Minister looked up at the maps on the display. There were now over a thousand detonations across the entire northern hemisphere of the planet.
A female officer approached the Prime Minister. “Sir, a call notification has arrived for you from Sanctuary. It’s the President of the United States. He would like to speak with you in fifteen minutes.”
“You can take it at this console.” The Defence Secretary said. He looked at the Prime Minister. “Sanctuary is the name of the US deep facility.”
The Prime Minister forced a smile. “Yes, I guessed that.”
The officer spoke again. “The President requested that you take the call in private.”
“I see. Where can I do that?”
“Perhaps your office, sir.” The officer pointed towards a polished wooden door at the back of the chamber.
The office was larger and far grander than the one he had had up at 10 Downing Street. As he waited for the President’s call the Prime Minister wandered around across the fine deep blue carpeting, admiring the wood paneling and the fine artwork, and the shelves and cabinets filled with books and ornaments. He recognised many of the famous gifts received by past Prime Ministers from visiting heads of state. They had been put into storage, or so he had heard. Even the collection of classic American movie DVDs given to Gordon Brown by President Obama was there. It was unlikely they had ever been watched by the recipient.
Taking his plush seat at the large crescent desk at the back of the room, the Prime Minister played with the wide touch-screen that filled most of the desk’s surface. Its use was highly intuitive, and he had soon brought up a plethora of information about Haven. To his relief he had even confirmed that his wife and children were safely underground, and on their way to Whitehall Cavern on a train, of all things.
There was a soft chiming sound. He touched the symbol of a telephone on the screen. The image of the female officer he had spoken to before appeared. “The President of the United States is on the line for you, sir.”
“Thank you. Put him through.”
After a second the image of President Goldman appeared on the large screen on the far wall. He was flanked by the US flag and the presidential seal. “Good morning, Prime Minister.”
“Good morning, Mister President. If you can really call it that.”
The President pursed his lips. “I don’t think we can. But we can be thankful that our predecessors had the forethought to build the facilities that we find ourselves in.”
“Indeed. I must admit to being somewhat in shock, having only found out about Haven less than an hour ago.”
“Really? Surely you had a briefing on it when you took office?”
The Prime Minister nodded. “Of course, but there were other more pressing matters than what appeared to be relics of the Cold War. I didn’t read it.”
“Hmm… Well, they got you down there pretty quick, which is good.”
The Prime Minister looked at the current information about the attacks. “It’s odd, but at the moment I’m finding myself quite numb to what’s happening to the world. It’s almost impossible to comprehend.” His screen showed that the entire northern hemisphere had suffered more than three thousand multi-megaton detonations, and now two trails of detonations could be seen spreading down to southern Africa and Australasia.
“Do you have any idea who or what is behind this?”
President Goldman paused for a moment. “Actually, we do.”
The Prime Minister did not expect that answer. “Really?”
The President nodded. “We’ll be sending you details of what we know in a day or so.”
“I would like to know now!”
“We need to collate a lot of what we thought was disparate intelligence and make it more coherent, which will take time. But I can at least give you an idea. It will be surprising, to say the least.”
“I like surprises.”
“It seems that one or more of the nations of South America are behind this.”
“That is surprising. No South American nation possesses nuclear weapons.”
“That’s what we thought, until today. Look at the progress of the devastation on your screen. Notice the only part of the world unaffected.”
South America did indeed seem to have been spared. The objects spreading destruction over North America seemed to have vanished over Mexico. The ones over Europe, Africa and Asia were continuing south.
President Goldman continued. “Argentina and Brazil had nuclear weapons ambitions while under military rule in the ‘70s, but stopped such development soon after civilian government was restored. This was confirmed by inspections, or so we thought. It seems such development was continued by at least one of them, and in a remarkably covert and significant manner.”
“How could such a huge development, not just nuclear weapons but their method of delivery, take place for decades without our knowledge? It beggars belief!”
“We managed the construction of the facilities we now inhabit in such a manner, funded by our illusion of economic mismanagement. We managed to keep such activity secret.”
The Prime Minister nodded. “We certainly did. I’ve just brought up some economic details for South America. Argentina used to be one of the wealthiest nations on Earth in the early twentieth century. Since then it has suffered with regular and severe recessions, issues of income misdistribution and poverty. It appears as if they may have been siphoning off their wealth even more than we have.” He thought for a moment. “Do you have any idea how they managed to get their aircraft, or whatever they are, up to the Arctic to begin their attack? It seemed that they appeared out of nowhere.”
“We have some intelligence relating to submarine movements beneath the ice near the North Pole. It seems they may have launched something from beneath the ice, which is why they seemed to appear out of nowhere. The objects seem very large so how they achieved that without us knowing is something we need to figure out, and fast.”
“I’m very keen to know. I look forward to receiving your more detailed intelligence report. Then perhaps we can start figuring things out.”
The President nodded. “And once we are more settled in our new environments we should arrange a face-to-face meeting to discuss strategies, and how we can move forward.”
“Face-to-face? I think it will be a long time before anyone should be venturing up to the surface, let alone us risking our staff in arranging such a meeting.”
“We certainly will not be visiting the surface anytime soon.”
“Then how could you and I possibly…”
President Goldman smiled. “Read that briefing, Prime Minister.”
The Prime Minister took a deep breath in an attempt to hide his embarrassment. “I think I will.”
“Good. I must go. There’s plenty of work to be done here. We’ll talk again very soon.”
The Prime Minister nodded. “I look forward to it, Mister President. Goodbye.”
The screen on the far wall faded to black.
The Prime Minister tapped on his desk’s screen. He soon found the information he was looking for. He started to read.