It was some time ago that NASA first detected the mountain-sized projectile molded from iron and rock that had been set on a terminal collision course with their fragile planet perhaps billions of years ago. While even the most technologically advanced societies of the world had no way of dealing with the threat it seemed far enough off it was assumed a solution could be thought of and executed promptly.
Humanity procrastinated until the astroid’s jagged crater-pocked surface and it’s burning blue afterburn could be seen even hundreds of thousands of miles away. It wasn’t until the apocalypse was nigh that the grasshoppers finally decided to start acting like ants. In a desperate bid, panicked people scurried into concrete-lined holes where they hoarded as many life-saving provisions the dimensions of their tomb sized burros allowed them.
The sudden surge in demand for the shovels, the cement mix, toilet paper, bottled water, and canned foods quickly emptied the shelves of all the big box stores, but it still wasn't enough. To meet the demand shuddered factories were quickly refitted, and the production lines roared back to life.
President Morgan was barely two years into his first term when he was saddled with the unenviable task of dealing with an oncoming harbinger of the apocalypse. Part of his campaign platform had been to “finally neutralize the threat.” He also believed somehow somewhere someone was going to figure how to deal with the menacing hunk of rock and all he would have to do is let them do it while he took the lion's share of the credit. When Drake Isamov the eccentric CEO of Cosmodrome a private space exploration enterprise announced, his R&D guys finally developed a way to divert the asteroid off course Morgan and his staff were ecstatic over the bump in polls saving the planet was going to give to the administration. Unfortunately, in politics, nothing is ever quite so simple.
The asteroid was drawing closer, $44 billion dollars later Isamov still hadn’t revealed what he had up his sleeve, and a never ending procession of lobbyists were streaming out of Morgan’s office to let him know how the various concerns they represented thought the federal government should handle the asteroid.
Morgan was starting to get nervous. He was pacing around the oval office waiting for Drake to return his call. The intercom on his desk buzzed and he stopped in his tracks.
“Mr. President Ms. Carson is here to see you,” cracked a chipper female voice from the desk mounted speaker.
Morgan cleared his throat, opened up a few manilla folders across his desk, tightened his tie, and planted himself in his chair.
“Send her in,” he replied. He picked up a random folder and pretended to study the contents.
The door opened, and Morgan’s chief of staff entered followed by an attractive woman in the latter part of her 30’s. She wore a blazer and skirt that tightly hugged her body. Her cherry red hair was tied tightly back, and her shark eyes framed by designer glasses.
“Mr. President Cheryl Carson,” she said extending her hand.
Morgan’s gaze lingered on her a bit, he smiled and took her hand. “Nice to meet you Mrs. Carson..” his voiced trailed dreamily.
“Miss Carson,” she corrected him.
“Well, what can I do for you today Ms. Carson,” Morgan asked sitting back down in his commander’s chair.
“Mr. President I know how busy you are so I’ll cut to the chase,” she said as she crossed her nylon clad legs and smoothed out her skirt.
“I’m listening,” replied Morgan.
“I understand you, and Mr. Isamov are going to divert the asteroid,” she said.
“That’s right what about it?” Morgan shrugged.
“While it is the official position of the whole sail retailers association of America that the astroid’s collision with the earth would be a regrettable occurrence we just want you to think about the timing of your administration's actions and the effect it might have on current favorable but delicate economic conditions.”
Morgan leaned back in his chair. “What are you getting at?” he asked.
“I’m not “getting at” anything,” Carson said. “I’m just asking you keep in mind that some of the largest retailers in the country are experiencing record profit and growth. Do you have any idea how much extra help has been hired to cope with this recent and unprecedented uptick in demand?”
Morgan shrugged. “Over forty-four thousand,” she declared. “That doesn’t include the tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs created. The rust belt is being polished do you really want your presidential legacy to be snuffing out an unprecedented economic miracle?”
“Well no but if the asteroid isn’t stopped everyone will die,” Morgan retorted.
“Mr. President can you not see the big picture here?” Carson said slamming her fist on his desk.
The doors opened again. This time a burly man with a full but neatly trimmed beard and a high and tight haircut came strutting in. He was followed by a staffer pleading with him to wait outside.
“Mr. President my name’s Judd Driscoll how do you do?” He walked right up and extended his hand across the president's desk.
“Nice to meet you,” the bewildered commander and chief said meekly.
Oh, Ms. Carson, I didn’t know you were here,” Judd said grinning suggestively.
The silver-tongued political temptress seemed caught off guard. “Mr. Driscoll,” she said turning her eyes away.
“I’m sure whatever is happening here is important, so I’ll be brief,” The ox-sized Judd said pulling up a chair.
“Mr. President I represent the Paper Products Manufacturers of America, the PPMA and we were hoping you might take a minute to hear our position on this whole asteroid thing. Toilet paper is the white gold of the future Mr. President. It’s going to rebuild this country and get you reelected,” he said confidently.
“What does this have to do with the asteroid?” Morgan asked.
“Mr. President you’re a smart man so you must know people are stocking up on toilet paper like there’s no tomorrow. We’ve already built three new plants and have three more on the drawing boards. They can’t cut down Oregon fast enough!” He said proudly. “Now I admit when I heard you and Mr. Isamov we’re going to take care of that damn asteroid I was relieved. That is until I saw this headline in the business section,” Driscoll dropped a newspaper on the desk.
“Record high stock market falls on Isamov’s asteroid announcement,” Morgan read aloud.
Carson interjected. “I think me and Mr. Driscoll are here for similar reasons. You see Mr. President this asteroid has been a great economic stimulator and it’s benefiting a lot of people. You pull the plug on it now, and there’s no telling how big a disaster we might face.”
“Yeah, but if the asteroid hits we might be talking about the extinction of the human race,” he shot back.
“That’s just it. We “might” be talking about the extinction of the human race. Whose to say? What we know now though is the asteroid has people shopping like never before,” Driscoll said. “Mr. President economic opportunities like this don't just fall out of the sky you know. You work with us on this thing, and we can be real good friends. The type of friends that can help you win your next election campaign.”
“I’m gonna have to think about this,” Morgan said firmly.
“Of course, when you want to talk again this is my personal number,” Carson said with a wink as she handed him a card.
“Oh, thank you, Ms. Carson,” Morgan grinned. Driscoll rolled his eyes.
“Mr. President Mr. President!” Morgan’s chief of staff rushed into the room. His face was red, and he was huffing to catch his breath.
“What is it?” Morgan asked springing from his chair.
“It’s Isamov,” The chief of staff huffed.
“Is he on the line?” Morgan asked visibly relieved.
“No, he fled the country. We think he’s in New Zealand.”
“Shit,” hissed Morgan.
“That’s not all. The press got wind of it before we did. People panicked and rushed back to the stores the Dow shot up 1,500 points in under ten minutes!”
Driscoll and Carson looked at each other with bright eyes and Morgan slumped back in his seat. “Well I suppose there’s nothing better for an incumbent to run on than an economic miracle,” he shrugged.