"I don't know what to do. Where's the manual, the training course, for the job? Whom do I ask? Where do I go?"
Debt of Honor ended with Tom Clancy's most shocking conclusion ever: a joint session of Congress destroyed, the President dead, most of the Cabinet and the Congress dead, the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs. Dazed and confused, the man who only minutes before had been confirmed as the new Vice-President of the United States is told that he is now President.
President John Patrick Ryan
And that is where Executive Orders begins. Ryan had agreed to accept the vice-presidency only as a caretaker for a year, and now suddenly an incalculable weight has fallen on his shoulders. With stunning force, his responsibilities crush in upon him. He must calm an anxious and grieving nation, allay the skepticism of the world's leaders, conduct a swift investigation of the tragedy, and arrange a massive state funeral – all while attempting to reconstitute a Cabinet and Congress with the greatest possible speed.
But that is not all. Many eyes are upon now, and many of them are unfriendly. In Beijing, Tehran, and other world capitals, including Washington, D.C., there are those eager to take advantage where they may, some of whom, from Ryan's past, harbor intense animosity toward the new President himself. Soon they will begin to move on their opportunities; soon they will present Jack Ryan with a crisis so great even he could not imagine it.