An artificial, inert, near-future comet-chaser, timed to coincide with the reappearance of Halley's comet--and otherwise with little justification for its existence. In Denver, ex-Jesuit priest, cometologist, and think-tank director Dennis Covino awaits a phone call from the White House. He expects to be named Science Advisor to the President, but the appointment may depend on his opinion of some vague reports of a new comet out near Jupiter. The rabidly anti-Russian and increasingly paranoid President Snelling doesn't want to hear anything about comets--he's convinced that the Russians are preparing a nuclear first strike. What, then, should Dennis' opinion be? Dennis gets the job, but soon finds himself hampered by a Presidential directive prohibiting all foreign contacts and foreign-gathered intelligence. The comet is real, as observers around the world quickly confirm; however, the President is still convinced of Russian duplicity. Even worse: according to the Russians--somehow, they've acquired space capabilities and computers much better than America's--the comet will hit New Mexico. As the comet implacably approaches, the mad President orders the US nuclear arsenal fired; fortunately, thanks to cometary interference, nothing works. Finally, the President is dragged away kicking and screaming, New Mexico is evacuated, and the comet strikes. Hogwash.