Excerpt 77 days in September
High above the sun-baked prairies of Lawrence, Kansas, the missile reached its target. No one on the ground even noticed the blast. Perhaps had someone been looking at precisely the right location, at precisely the right time, they might have noticed a tiny, momentary spark in the bright afternoon sky. Had they seen the flash, it likely would have been attributed to the glint of sunlight reflecting off a passing airplane. From every vantage point below the detonation, there was no sense of the destructive capacity contained in that tiny speck of light. More than 300 miles above the earth, a nuclear explosion impacts nothing with the force of its blast. It is merely a large bomb going off in a vacuum, creating no shockwaves, no fireballs, no radiation, not even any sound.
Despite the lack of explosive destruction, this was now the most lethal weapon to be unleashed in the history of the world, but it was a weapon that would have had absolutely no discernable affect on mankind 200 years ago, other than creating a more colorful aurora. Upon detonation, the bomb expelled an intense wave of gamma radiation in every direction. The gamma rays traveling earthward interacted with the upper levels of the atmosphere and created a chain reaction of displaced electrons that rushed towards the surface of the earth at the speed of light. Most of the these displaced electrons passed rapidly through the atmosphere and grounded themselves harmlessly in the earth.
A small percentage, however, encountered conductive materials: metal, antennas, copper wiring, and silicon chips. As these conductors absorbed untold billions of free electrons, they experienced sudden surges in both voltage and current. In simple items, like a garden rake, this surge was manifested as a harmless static electricity-like spark. But in larger networks and sensitive objects, the consequences of the electron overload were devastating.
They sat in silence, lost in their thoughts and watching the pandemonium. Ed spoke after a long period of silence. “I don’t think we’ll be flying out of here today, even if we want to. I don’t think anyone is. This is completely different from anything I’ve ever seen or heard of. With all those crashed airplanes, there should be hundreds of emergency vehicles from all over the city out there, but I didn’t see a single one. There should have been enough help for us, even with the other planes down. I bet we’d still be waiting out by that airplane if we hadn’t come in on our own. Something is wrong at a level I can’t fathom.”
Kyle nodded. “I’ve been thinking the same thing. I think everyone is. You can see it in their faces; there’s a fear and helplessness that I’ve never seen. Of course, how are you supposed to act when you’ve seen an airplane fall from the sky?”
“It’s not just one plane wreck, Kyle. It’s multiple wrecks. It’s no emergency assistance to our flight, and no response for those other planes. It’s no power in the terminal. It’s total confusion with the airport employees. You saw them. They had no idea what they should be doing. Some of the smart ones are faking it, but most of them look like they want to cry. And the passengers…they’re freaked out bad. There’s a deeper fear there than just the power being out, more than a plane crash. Have you noticed that no one is using their cell phone? We tried mine, but it’s dead. They’re all dead. In a situation like this, everyone would be on their phone. It’s like…I know this doesn’t make any sense, but it’s like we’ve been attacked.” Ed paused a moment before continuing. “You remember 9/11?”
Kyle nodded. “Who doesn’t? I’ll always remember it. I was listening on my car radio 2,000 miles away from New York when it happened, but I’ll always remember it.”
“It feels like that, but ten times worse. Remember how unreal everything felt that day? How you couldn’t believe it was happening, even as you watched it on TV? This feels the same way. I don’t know why, but it does.”