Simone Perez, Architect of the Capitol, is stunned when a terrible explosion rocks the capitol, totally collapsing the tunnel which connects the House and Senate Chambers and trapping several people. Simone promptly assembles an interagency committee to help her assess the damage to the capitol and develop a strategy to rescue survivors. She also assumes responsibility for briefing the press, making her job even more daunting.
As the story unfolds, members of the committee work together to find survivors and bring them to safety. We meet several true-to-life characters like Addie Hutchison, the proprietor of the underground cafe; Fire Chief Earl Bentsen, who recognizes that time is of the essence; and Rob Tate, a skinny maintenance worker who realizes that he can reach the cafe as well as the mechanical room by crawling through an old vent space. Through several twists and turns, Simone maintains a steady hand, aided by the Speaker of the House, John McIntyre, who finds her very attractive. Although it seems an impossible task, one by one, victims reunite with their families.