"How long?" she asked.
"72 hours, maybe less," he replied.
"Can we survive that hit?" she asked again, eyes locking at his.
He flipped through a few pages of a thick book of nonsense about some evil antagonists taking over the world. He inhaled.
"Mr President, can we survive that hit?" she repeated.
He looked at her, observing her sad eyes. He shook his head. "No. No, we can't. Nobody can."
"You do realise we our doing live telecast, so I have to ask you this and it will not go uncensored: what is your best hope?" she reached her microphone closer to his lips.
A meteor seven hundred metres at its widest point, lozenge-shaped, had been zipping past Jupiter and heading straight for Earth. Its speed was boosted by Jupiter's huge gravity well. And now, it had reached top speed of eight times the speed of sound. Hypersonic.
A month ago, nobody reported seeing any incoming celestial danger. There was one huge Trojan asteroid as big as five kilometres minding its own business. It was labelled and categorized properly as L41187. Then something happened to that asteroid. Something slammed on it and chipped a piece of from it.
And that piece headed towards Earth.
When it was discovered, the people realised it was too late. Nuclear missiles were fired, but turned off at the very last minute. The missiles were too slow for the chip. By the time the missles intercepted the chip, the chip would have entered Mars orbit. Scientists feared of contamination of the virgin Mars.
But now nobody could devise a better plan.
"My best hope," he began, "is praying. I urge everyone on this blue planet to stay calm. We can do nothing but bring ourselves closer to God. Wash away our sins. Help each other. All the useless wars we had, we must stop. We must forgive."
"You strike us as a very religious person, Mr President," she said. "Do you believe God will save us?"
"Do you?" he asked back.
She startled. "I believe that this is our punishment for all our sinful and silly acts. We deserve it."
"Look at the countries at war. Will they think like you do?" he questioned. "It's just a filthy rock reported three weeks ago and now every nation is fighting over each other for food and water and shelter. Where is the love? Nuclear warfare is on the verge of erupting. I am glad my nation stays out of the war. Look at that country," he pointed at the computer screen. "Tell me if there's anyone left on that area."
She went silent.
25 hours left.
"Is it ready?" he asked.
"Yes, Mr President," General Sully replied. He opened a huge metal door.
"How many?" They both entered. A blue glow washed over them.
"Easily 400. But till now we have got only a hundred and seventy-three. Some are on the way and some died."
"Died?" he raised an eyebrow.
"Shot down by rebels and wars," General answered.
"Alright, my condol-"
"There's one more thing, Mr President," General began.
"Two hundred containment units went faulty. We have no experts to repair them, let alone time. The ones who are already inside were toasted."
"Is there a place for me?" he asked.
"Certainly, Mr President," General Sully answered.
"Then stop worrying about those. Get me into my unit and I will see you later."
"Regarding on the L41187, does it exist?" General asked.
"Yes, what makes you think it doesn't?"
"Then why I need to activate code L41187 for the missile launch? It coincides badly with the asteroid's name. There was a failed Jupiter exploratory mission whereby the craft Copernicus' Flight went faulty and can never reestablish contact. The last transmission sent in was two light seconds away from Jupiter, that is, close to L41187. Coincidence, isn't it?"
"You think too much, General. L41187 asteroid was named long before the activation code came to my hands. The code restructured to be similar to the asteriod name because it is easier to recognise the target-lock of the missiles. We don't want any wrong missiles firing, don't we? As for that poor chap lost in Jupiter, it remained lost."
General Sully nodded.
"How many countries are beyond hope?"
"Around ninety-four, Mr President. They will be doomed by the time the chip slam in."
"Good, get me onboard."
"Do I have a unit for myself as well, Mr President?"
"Did you sign up?"
"No, but there seems to be some empty units over there," General replied.
"Wait till you are left with 30 minutes. If the casket remains empty, you are allowed to come onboard."
General Sully sealed the door of the unit, leaving the President in it. The casket was a top-secret military unit for cryogenics and life support. It can inter-switch roles. Radiation, heat and any known toxic or physical damage are nothing to that caskets.
General walked out of the chamber and took an elevator to the President's office. He noticed the book the President always read. The book about an antagonist take over the world. He took it and opened it up.
His nostils flared and eyes went red.
"... R and D caskets. They must be done within five years. Deploy and prepare Copernicus for orbit interference on L41187... Reprogramme coordinates of missiles... Destroy Copernicus after chipping using mass drivers..."
So, it was the President orchestrating the doomsday...
He read on, and he felt limp:
"Self-note: real event takes place 24 hours earlier than own speech."
And he saw a glancing white light in the skies.