Capt. Roger McCoy opened his eyes. The transparent screen on his stasis unit was covered with a thick layer of dust. He pushed a bottom on his control panel, and the screen slid open.
The first thing he did, after getting out, was to check on the stasis unit of his comrade, Capt. Joe Derrick. The unit appeared to be offline. McCoy swept his hand across the dusty screen, to reveal a mummified remains of his comrade. At some point the unit had obviously malfunctioned.
McCoy and his ill-fated comrade were the proverbial canaries in the mineshaft.
This all got started when the mad dictator of a rogue state developed cobalt bombs. He sold these to a jihadist organization. American intelligence picked up on the transaction.
As a precautionary measure, Pres. Todd Whittier ordered the Pentagon to refurbish an old Cold War fallout shelter to serve as a vast, underground city in a worse case scenario.
The stasis units were programmed to automatically open whenever radiation levels returned to safe levels. When that would be, whether decades or centuries later, was anyone’s guess.
If the earth was habitable, Capt. McCoy and Capt. Joe Derrick were to notify the inhabitants of Submetropolis, as designers dubbed it, that they could return to the surface and attempt to recolonize the earth. Assuming the inhabitants were still alive.
This is part of the Project Genesis contingency plan, copies of which were available to the inhabitants.
McCoy took a hidden elevator down to Submetropolis. The elevator was sealed to prevent contamination, and hidden away to prevent survivors from prematurely exiting the shelter.
The first person McCoy bumped into a teenager by the name of Zack. After McCoy briefly explained himself, Zack’s expression took on a mixture of awe, fear, and exhilaration.
Zack took McCoy to the home of the Preacher. As it turns out, Submetropolitan society was divided into two factions. Zack belonged to a persecuted minority movement known as the Genesics. Genesics took Project Genesis literally, and looked forward to the day when a Deliverer from the world above would come down and lead them out of Submetropolis.
But the Genesics were opposed by the Brites, who regarded Project Genesis as a superstitious fairy tale—harmless, if interpreted allegorically, but subversive if interpreted literally.
The Brites confiscated and destroyed all official copies of Project Genesis, but contraband copies circulated among the Genesics. Under the Act of Sedition, Genesics were executed as enemies of the state.
As a result, the Genesics formed a secret society, subdivided into semiautonomous cell groups so that if one member was captured by the authorities, he couldn’t betray his fellow Genesics under torture.
At first, the Preacher was extremely suspicious of McCoy, fearing that McCoy was an undercover agent, posing as the Deliverer, to infiltrate the Genesics. This led to a roundabout conversation in which the Preacher tried to question McCoy without tipping his own hand.
After having satisfied himself that McCoy knew things only the Deliverer could know, the Preacher allowed McCoy to speak with the small band of followers in his cell group. Over the next few weeks, McCoy spoke to a number of Genesiac cell groups.
He had to dampen their enthusiasm by cautioning them about the hardships of life in the world above. Technology was in disrepair. Having spent so much time in this artificial environment, with filtered air and water, Submetropolitans would lack a natural resistance to various diseases. Although most natural predators were wiped out by the fallout, some hardy specimens survived. In the absence of human occupation, they had the run of the place.
To evade the authorities, it was agreed that Genesics should make their escape a few at a time. McCoy only told a few trusted members the location of the elevator.
On his way to a meeting, McCoy was intercepted by the secret police. As it turns out, there was a mole in one of the Genesiac cell groups. He was taken into custody—Mayor Richard Dickens personally conducted the interrogation. After McCoy explained the situation, Dickens challenged him:
“Submetropolis is all there is or ever was or ever will be. It is just there, and that's all,” Dickens said.
“But I just told to you that Submetropolis was constructed by order of Pres. Todd Whitaker,” McCoy interjected.
“That’s a copout!” Dickens exclaimed. “To say ‘Todddidit!’ is a science-stopper!”
“But it’s obvious that someone must have designed Submetropolis,” McCoy replied.
“Submetropolitanism is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of Submetropolitanism, we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories,” Dickens said.
“Why?” McCoy asked.
“An intrusion ‘from above’ is a violation of Submetropolitan laws, and since firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against such an intrusion, in the nature of the case, is about as complete as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined. So no testimony is sufficient to establish such an extraordinary claim. When anyone tells me that he came from an unseen world, I immediately ask myself if it isn’t more far more likely that he’s either a deceiver or self-deceived,” Dickens replied.
“Submetropolis wasn’t meant to last forever. Sooner or later you’ll run out of supplies. Sooner or later you’ll need to leave your underground city for the surface, if you expect to survive,” McCoy said.
“If you insist on teaching our children blatant falsehoods—that someone built Submetropolis, that there’s an invisible world ‘up there’—then you must expect, at the very least, that those of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of dangerous falsehoods, and will demonstrate this to our children at our earliest opportunity. Our future well-being—the well-being of all Submetropolitans—depends on the education of our descendants. I’ll find out where your ‘hidden elevator’ is located and have it destroyed it so that no more Submetropolitans will be deluded by your seditious and superstitious fairly tales,” Dickens replied.
After Mayor Dickens had McCoy summarily executed, he was able, eventually, to track down the location of the elevator, which was duly detonated. But that did not occur until many Genesics made their escape to the world above, and began to make a new life for themselves.
27 years later, Submetropolis ran out of supplies, and the inhabitants all died of starvation, after resorting to cannibalism in the final weeks of their subterranean existence.