The President stared at the satellite image for a while, comprehension just out of grasp. What the hell was he looking at? He had never before seen such a distorted photo of his United States. He scowled and shook his head as he stared into the photo, "What the hell is this, John?"
His administrative assistant's complexion was ashen and his eyes were gray, as if he'd gone a week or two without sleep. He could only muster a slight shake of his head before he croaked, "I don't know, sir. Nobody knows. Chief of Staff Hayes has summoned everybody for an emergency meeting in Conference Room Two. The Vice President will be here in twenty minutes."
It was then that the gravity of the picture's meaning began to take hold of the President; the satellite image trembled in his wavering fingers as his mouth slowly slid open. He licked his lips more than once but they still felt hot and dry. His breath came in forced gulps from his abdomen and the room darkened around him.
Suddenly he stabbed a rigid finger at the photo and barked at the younger man standing next to him, "Is this a God damn hole in the middle of one of my states, John?!"
"I'm afraid so, sir; something like that."
"Get me a suit. I've got to shave."
**** **** **** **** ****
President Reynolds was just finishing the knot in his tie when there was a knock on the door.
"Come," he answered into the mirror.
The Vice President burst through the door and crossed the room to Reynolds in three strides. A tall man with dark wavy hair, athletic and ten years Reynolds' junior, he could have passed for a man in his mid-thirties. His youthful, clean-shaven face bore the pallid and shocked expression of the President's administrative assistant just a short time ago.
"Collin," he addressed Chief Executive, "what the hell happened?"
"Have you seen the satellite photo, Shane?"
"Yes I've seen it, and it looks like there's a big fucking hole in Montana."
The President sighed and fought to control his trembling hands, "Well, now you know as much as me. Let's get this meeting started, shall we?"
President Reynolds moved from the room with such haste that even with his long legs, V.P. Langdon hurried to keep pace with the older man. He leaned in close and whispered into Reynold's ear, "Is it terrorists? Are we under attack?"
"Pray that it isn't, my friend, because that is one gigantic hole which seems to have appeared for no particular reason and without event. No RADAR or early warning system picked up on any incoming missile. I don't believe anybody has the Stealth technology so advanced they can hide a missile big enough to punch a ninety thousand square-mile hole in the planet."
"Jesus," Langdon hissed as they turned a corner and entered an elevator with four Secret Service agents, "Is that how big that crater is?"
"I'm guessing. I don't know for sure. There was no explosion, we are certain of that."
"We are? How?"
"We've already checked with Denver. There's been no seismic activity at all for the last four days. An explosion that big would have been felt in Chicago for Christ sakes."
Langdon rubbed his chin in thought, then ventured, "A glitch then? In the satellite image? Some weird unexplained shadow or dead spot in the image?"
President Reynolds sadly shook his head, "No, it's a crater, all right. We've just received word from a geologist on site."
The elevator doors opened and they walked through with two of the Secret Servicemen. Langdon asked, "What did he say?"
"That he's terrified."
Langdon stopped dead, "What?"
"I'm serious, Shane. A renowned scientist who's been looking at rocks and craters for damn near forty years just told us he's scared as shit of this one."
Langdon rubbed his face briskly and asked, "Why?"
"Because he can't see the other side."