And now the news

“How is your steak, sir?” The waiter asked diffidently.

“Mmm, you say this is the very last filet mignon from the very last black rhino in existence?” The waiter nodded at the demon’s question. “Needs salt.”

“We have a selection of briny crystals…”

“Yes, yes, I know. Pass me the tear one.” The demon clacked down his knife to receive the shaker from his servant.

“The dried tears of a million starving children. Here you are sir.” The waiter selected a vial with a perforated lid from a tray containing an assortment of bottles and flasks.

The demon sprinkled the woeful grains across the slab of grilled rhino and gave it a try. “That’s better. Now, send in Spink, I need his report.”

“Very good sir.” The waiter turned to leave.

“Oh, and take that craven thing with you.” The demon pointed to a decrepit individual cowering at the other end of the table. It sat chained to a wheeled chair, its chest pressed up to the edge of the table, its mouth hanging slack, bloody drool pooling in a saucer beneath its dangling tongue. “It’s slavered enough. Prepare the drippings for my dessert.”

The waiter kicked loose the chair’s foot-break and trundled the creature from the ornately paneled study where the demon religiously ate his noonday repast.

In the waiter’s place returned a squat, porcine man who waddled up to shift uncomfortably from foot to foot at the side of the table. “I have the news sir. If you’re ready.”

The demon spat a rubbery wad of gristle from his mouth that hit the plate and rolled to the middle of the table, between the legs of an imp that stood quavering, holding a tarnished candelabra; wax from eight candles dripping down its arms congealing there. “You can have that Spink. I know you like the fatty bits.”

Spink, swallowing hard, shuffled closer to the table’s edge and reached up, stretching to retrieve the pale yellow mass. Try as he might he couldn’t manage to touch it.

“You there, Flimp is it? Kick that bit over to your mate. There’s a fellow.”

The candle-holding imp risked a glance between his legs, wax from his forehead cracked and fell to the cloth at his feet. He managed to perform a twist which tapped the ball of fat to within the pudgy grasp of the pig like man.

“I’ll save it for later, your highness,” said Spink as he pocketed the globule.

“So, get on with it then,” said the demon, who crossed his arms, the main course now fully consumed.

Spink pulled forth a digital tablet and began to read. “Two hundred and twenty-five thousand died yesterday. Two hundred and forty-three thousand born…”

“Well, that’s better,” said the demon, pushing out his thin lower lip and nodding, pleased, the curved horns on his head bobbing, their tips nearly skewering the hands of the candle-imp. “Another few months of our Four “F”‘s program and we’ll be running the two neck and neck, wouldn’t you say?”

The wide dollop of a man pushed his smudgy glasses up closer to his tiny eyes and smiled briefly. “Fratricide should ramp up nicely surpassing Flood and Fire as soon as Famine has had a chance to spread.”

“Excellent. Go on.”

“The global divorce rate is up. Wealth inequality, up. Poverty, homelessness both up.” Spink retrieved a yellowed handkerchief from a pocket and wiped his sweaty brow. “Education and class mobility, both down.”

The demon was flexing his fingers now, tips to tips. “This is all marvelous news. But I know you Spink, you’re avoiding something, saving the worst for last. Out with it!” The demon rested an elbow on a gilt armrest and turned to stare intently at his fidgeting adviser.

“Well, there is one thing.”

“Ha! See. You can’t fool me, my rotund friend.”

At the mention of the word friend Spink’s eyebrows lifted in sad surprise. “Friend sir?”

“Don’t push it Spink. Give me the bad news.”

“Well sir, the global extinction rate has reached a new high.” Spink began.

“And…” The demon leaned in closer.

Spink returned the tablet to his pocket. “And, sir, it seems you’ve eaten your way through all of the endangered species. There are no more to be had.”

“Oh, that is unfortunate,” the demon said, tilting his head from side to side, whipping his crimson colored horns back and forth, eyeing, like a butcher, the likes of his aid. “I leave it up to you then Spink, to find another list from which you can derive my menu.” The demon pushed himself away from the table, stood upon his cloven hooves, removed the napkin from his chest and said, “Who knew endangered species tasted so good.”


The feeling of suffocation, like a blanket of wet insulation, its glassy tendrils scratching to get under his eyelids, nearly forced him to gasp for breath. The clinging nature of his cocoon though, kept his mouth clamped around the tube, his eyelids shut, and his limbs stuck to his side. A heater began to hum beneath his torso, he could sense the warmth leaking into his body. Something had triggered his thaw. A tiny rivulet of melted ice from his brow trickled into his ear; a shiver rattled his hands in the gel that encased his extremities.

The lid to his capsule sighed open.

Where am I? he wondered groggily. Oh yeah, I’m in a cryo-berth. What triggered me to wake? he asked himself. I’ve been here for, for. He couldn’t remember the duration of his sentence. Ah right, a prison sentence. Yeah, that’s why I’m here. I did, something.

I hurt someone. More than one someone. I think.

The aching in his toes started. Blood pulsing through what seemed like frostbite, burning through his feet and ankles, the cramps and searing pain spread up through both calves. When the thaw reached his crotch he passed out from the torment. Back awake, he tried to roll his eyes; nope, still fixed in place. He waited while the icy flames spread across his chest. His fingers were operable; he’d missed the needles of pain they’d experienced. He tried to wiggle them, they creaked like stiff rubber.

Ah, I can shift my eyes at last. Some automated system then extracted his intubation system; it slurped as it withdrew from his esophagus and trachea. Gagging, as the end of it finally cleared his throat and mouth, he took a crippling first breath. Agony gripped his chest. Damn!  I don’t know what’s worse, the cold air burning my lungs or the coughs squeezing my heart. His feeble coughing eventually produced a wad of bloody sputum which, as he still lay trapped, was forced to swallow.

Gaaaa, I need a shot of whiskey. No. No whiskey for me. Dead people. Prison sentence. Right.

The heater kicked in full force. The molded gelatin in which he was ensconced melted and he sank the few inches to the bottom of the capsule, the warmth spreading.

Patience. Just be patient. But his body jolted and jerked uncontrollably, his nerves reviving.

But, where am I? His thoughts clarified with the expanding heat. I was frozen. I killed those, all those people. I was frozen — instead of executed. Right. Prison sentence. But, where am I?

He tried to say hey and only coughed. He tried again. Nothing. I’ll have to get out of this goop first. His eyes focused and he noticed a placard above him on the inside of the opened lid of the capsule.


Oh, should have read that earlier, I guess.

INMATE: #882229

Feckin’ hell! So that’s where they stuck us all.

INDUCTION: 1/7/2041

What the hell? Mebe they’re gonna release me on good behavior. A coughing fit rattled his whole body at his inmate humor.

The soup he floated in had warmed to jacuzzi temperatures. As he sloshed around he managed to tug at the monitor pads and wires still attached to his neck and chest. They popped loose as he tried to roll and hook an arm over the edge of his tank. He failed and settled back in the practically simmering gelatin. He held his hands in front of his face.

Christ, look at my nails. Must be an inch long.

He continued to read from the inside of the lid.


After what felt like an hour of floating, all the while flexing his muscles to ease the kinks, he started to hear splashing and slapping when he lifted up his head. Attendant? What attendant? “Hey!” he shouted as best he could. He suppressed a cough and yelled louder. “HEY!”

“Quit your yelling, ya fool!” replied a voice that echoed in the long gallery which housed the cryo-capsules. “Ain’t no ‘tendants gonna show up. We’re on our own.”

The woman’s voice, Dillard recognized, sounded like she was probably from the States.

“Aye, how d’you know we’re on our own?” he asked.

The woman started to curse, graveled out a set of gurgling coughs, spit and replied, “Can’t you see the date read-out on yer lid? Mine’s all question marks. Didn’t you read the details before they froze you all up? Question marks means ‘contingency’,” the woman said, pronouncing the word deliberately. “They abandoned us. We’re on our own.” Her energy fell off and she began to cough again.

Feckin’ hell! Stuck in Antarctica with a redneck woman from the States. Mebe she’s a looker…

[To be continued…]




It shits, candy?

“She’s all charged up.” Synamin backed away from the chrome plated bot as it began to palpably vibrate in the summer heat. The girl set a small, bright-red bottle on the ground next to her toolbox. “As soon as her inner temp reaches 130C…”

“What? What happens when it gets to 130C?” Mr. Brennon, science teacher, classroom 119, forth period (right after lunch, a chaotic affair given to malodorous wafts from the autobot-kitchens), said as he, too shielded his face from the now wobbling four legged monstrosity, Synamin Snappf, a 15 year old bio-eco-chemo prodigy, had built from scraps from NASA’s offloads (a donation orchestrated by Mr. Brennon himself.)

Ms. Snappf arched her eyebrows at her teacher. “You’ll see. It’ll be grand. Just, just marvelous!” She paused in her delivery, caught up with the excitement of witnessing her creation’s first productive activation. She leaned in closer from her stance some few meters distant. The area around she and her teacher was vacant. It had cleared like a bomb threat when Synamin announced, “She’s loaded up and cookin’!” (The evidence of the girl’s last experiment provided a handy foxhole where students now hid, awaiting the results of this, her latest effort.)

“Ooh, look,” she said, ogling the wisps of steam. At least Mr. Brennon hoped it was steam rising from the spout at the top of its — well, it could only be called a head. “I hope I put enough lawn clipping in the hopper,” she continued. “I think I put enough in. I’m pretty sure I did…”

“What? What will happen if you didn’t… Wait. What did you say? Grass clippings?” Sweat dripped off of the teachers brow stinging his one good eye. The other, a cybernetic prosthesis, never stung, but its socket did ache late at night after spending all day swiveling around in its independent monitoring capacity.

“Grass clippings, garden trimmings, any fresh plant stuff. Lots of natural carbohydrates.” The other children had begun to crawl away, like worms driven from a glowing heat source. But Synamin took a step closer. And then another. Mr. Brennon started to reach out to stop the child, but she continued to encroach upon the shiny chrome creation as it started to pound the dirt with its forelegs lifting a bit of dust in its wake. Steam whooshed from the top vent now and its legs churned up and down as it began to step across the yard of the school.

“It’s about to start. Yes! Yes, there it goes!” The girl squealed in delight, racing after her dazzling steed. Just when Mr. Brennon expected the worst, an explosion surpassing the last one that left the six-foot deep divot, the elaborate, solar powered, tube entwined, pop-riveted, hydraulically enabled beast leapt into the air, in a rather graceful arc, clattered back to earth and began to poop tiny pellets.

“What’s that coming out of its back-end?” the teacher croaked, utterly confused.

“Can’t you tell?” The girl ran up behind the beast, picked up one and then another small red spheres, all in a row, like crimson deer poop in the snow, and popped them into her mouth, chewing delightedly. Synamin Snappf then went on, “Remember, Mr. Brennon, when you were discussing my last experiment with my mother. And how you said it would have worked except for the flaw in the material (which was not my fault, by-the-way), and you said — which I overheard — that, ‘Synamin could probably make a unicorn that crapped candy.’ Well, there you are.” She waved to the clever contraption, sweet red seeds pinching out from the tiny hole beneath its raised tail.

“What? It shits, candy?” the stunned teacher asked, bending down to pick up his own sample. “Are you kidding me? Are they safe?” The teacher sniffed it experimentally. “What flavor are they?” The critter had wandered around in a circle and must have run out of grass clippings, battery power or both for now it stood still, its unicorn horn shimmering in the afternoon sun, a ribbon of steam drifting away from the tip.

The last crimson drop plopped from the machine’s shiny posterior dropping into the girl’s out stretched hand. “Flavor? Oh, I don’t know. You tell me.”


“Unity drive shutting down. Preparing to flip-ship for deceleration phase.” EMMA, the ship’s artilect, spoke to the crew of the Solar System Luxury Liner M-Class, or Selma. “This is crew’s opportunity to inform our passengers that we have reached our midway point en route to the planetoid Ceres.”

Commodore Williton thanked the AI and doled out orders. The procedure required no effort on the part of the crew, EMMA handled all engineering tasks, but deferring to the acting captain was courteous if not regulation. “Thank you, Emma. Ensign Sebastapoli please announce to the ship we have reached midpoint and will be rotating the drive portion of Selma to begin our deceleration.” He paused and added as an after thought (passengers constantly badgered him for details of the trip — as if the details weren’t always available through heads-up or VR taps.) “If they’re curious, passengers can review onscreen simulations or ask Emma for ocular network access.”

“Aye-aye cap’n,” said the ensign. She straighten her cap atop her copious red curls, her light Scottish accent had been one of the primary reasons for her hire, and lilted out the announcement.

The ship, Selma, slowly arc’d through a sweeping 180 degree flip; her rear-end swapping place with her front. Pointed backwards now EMMA re-engaged the army of trashcan sized EM drives which imperceptibly eked out a tiny but constant thrust, this time slowing, rather than accelerating the ship. Her bow, now pointed back toward Earth, continued to be the hub of the great wheel that housed all of the amenities for the guests.

The “Wheel”, which spun like the tire of a unicycle whose seat formed the engine compartment containing the hundreds of Electro-Magnetic drives that pushed the ship through space, never slowed. It continued to rotate around its perpendicular axis providing, at its perimeter, the gravity that allowed inhabitants of the Selma a modicum of simulated weight.

If you’re a fan of Stanley Kubric and Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001  A Space Odyssey then you might be familiar with the failed model of rotationally induced gravity. Spinning a habitat wheel about the “waist” of a space craft, it was found, induced the Coriolis Affect on all those who tried to jog around the inside rim of the pressurized wheel. As a spacecraft accelerated or decelerated — with this hula-hoop like wheel spinning around its middle — anyone trying to walk or even move within the wheel found themselves etching a veritable corkscrew path through space. Every time you went to take a step on the inner rim of the wheel the ship would shove it just a tad to the front, the results of which would make you miss your step. The first ship to deploy such a midriff wheel ended up with dozens of sprain ankled crew and not a few contusions and one nasty arm break.

The worst part was the nausea.

Pivoting the rotation of the wheel 90 degrees to be inline with the direction of travel eliminated this affect. The Selma was analogous, as noted, to a unicycle traveling with the direction of the spinning wheel, having forks in place to hold the wheel and the stem being the location for the systems, crew, storage, fuel and at the end (where the seat would be mounted), the engines.

A few words about the engines. EM Drives, those early 21st century contentious contraptions which used magnetrons (microwave emitters) to provide directional thrust, racked together in vast arrays, powered by a small nuclear power plant, could shove spacecraft through the inner solar system, well, pretty darn fast. CESA (Chinese/European Space Agency) figured out early on they could build craft that could quickly travel between the inner planets and the asteroid belt (the home of Ceres). And as soon as BlueX Space Corp. figured they could sell tickets to the Moon and Ceres, well, they gladly spent the one or two hundred billion needed to get the program going.

The Solar System Luxury Liner industry was born.

J class came first (the ill fated Coriolis affected craft). Then L class. And finally, Selma, the first M-class Luxury Liner was birthed in orbit, roughly 550 kilometers up from the surface of the Earth. Shuttles containing the first cadre of passengers began arriving eight months later. Six years after that the route to and from Ceres was fully plumbed and ticket prices dropped to less than eighteen-million yuaneuros — a steal, considering.

“Will we go into orbit around Ceres?” asked the Fifty-third spoiled-like-a-sour-cabbage teenager to Commodore Williton as Ensign Sabastopoli repeated what EMMA had instructed to deliver to the passengers, namely, that they had arrived at their destination.

“No. We will not be orbiting Ceres.” The captain repeated for the fifty-third time. “We will use side thrust to match the planetoid’s solar orbit for the time being. This will give us plenty of time to exchange freight and passengers.” Williton stooped to come face to face with the blond girl of about thirteen. “You’ll be staying on Ceres for about a month, yes?”

The girl, dressed in her orange space jumper with the thick round collar that housed the emergency helmet and communication radio, nodded wide-eyed. “We’re going to fly and swim and learn space-acrobatics.” She waggled her hands in front of the captain’s face as she described her family’s vacation plans.

Forcing a smile he said, “That sounds like a marvelous adventure.” Then, not gently, he ushered her along the gangway. “Maybe I’ll see you on your return trip. You have a great time. And remember, space is great!” The BlueX’s motto tore at his soul every time he recited the words.

Space wasn’t great. Space sucked, he told himself. I’m a spacebus driver and space definitely is not great.

Blue Across the Sea – Epilogue

Here is the story that precedes the story line of Blue Across the Sea. It’s appended to the novel, but, in reality, happens 200+ years before the story.

The actual story, Blue Across the Sea, if you would care to read it, can be purchased at your favorite book retailer, a $2.77 ebook.

The Before

May 13, 2039


“Hey dad, is the net down?”

“Yeah, looks like. Six nines quality of service my ass.”

“What’s that?”

“Oh, nothing. Give it a few minutes. We’re still using copper you know, no fiber to the curb in this town, yet. Why not just pipe it up through the G?”

“Tried that first. It’s down too.”


Humanity’s century-long love affair with electricity grew to total commitment when electricity’s child, the Internet, emerged. Like an expanding fungus, the Net sent mycelium-like tendrils into every home, every business, every life on the planet. Instant data through virtual reality heads-up glasses and eye-contacts, device agents built into streetlights, cars and appliances, and the phones, oh, the phones—that even toddlers carried—all of this, providing a continuous opioid-like electron pump, drove anyone, at the mere hint of an outage, into a jonesing tantrum.


“It’s still not up, dad.”

“I said give it a few. It’ll come back. It always does.”


They would wait for more than “a few.” In truth, they would wait forever. This time it did not come back. This time their Internet-of-Things became a silent dead-eyed army, never to chime or beep or glow again: The family’s refrigerator never again automatically ordered more eggs and mayonnaise. Their media services ceased to fetch the latest VR movie. Their alarm system failed to flash its familiar green LEDs indicating all-secure. And their home-based artilect, Mavis, fell silent; her cheerful greeting when family members returned home, permanently silenced.

Their massively connected lives were terminated. The Internet delivered not a single packet more. Although the Internet wasn’t alone in its total failure, that was just how it started. In the suburbs, the cities, the towns, in their autonomous cars and buses, in their coffee shops, and urban office buildings; in their schools, in their homes and condos–the Internet simply quit. It quit like accounting forgot to pay the bill. Like the global billing manager flipped a switch and told everyone in the world, no-more-Net-for-you.

If being deprived of network connectivity brought digital oxygen starvation, what came next drained the very lifeblood of society.


“If the Net and cable are down and all our phones are cut-off, how do we find out what’s going on?”

“Well, there used to be this mysterious technology called radio…”

“Quit it dad, I’ve got homework to check in, and my augmented-reality project is sitting here on my studio. I’ve got to get it uploaded… today.”

“Don’t get your wires all twisted, I’ll find the hand-cranked radio. I’m pretty sure it’s in with the camping gear in the garage.

“Honey, do you know if that wind-up radio is in with the camping gear or somewhere in the basement?


“Son, where’s your mother?”

“She said she was going to walk the neighborhood to find out what she could about the outage. Nobody’s phone works, but the power’s still on. Doesn’t that seem weird?”


“Darren, I’ve asked five people about our connectivity. They’re all wandering around the neighborhood, too, but nobody knows what’s going on. I hate being unplugged.”

“I think we can use this thing to find out. I’ve got the crank-powered radio working. Listen, there’s a public announcement about some solar flare that happened about thirty minutes ago.”

“Are they saying that it knocked out the Net?”

“I guess. I didn’t think the comm-grid was affected by sunspots.”

“Dad, they’re called solar flares, not sunspots.”

“Okay then, you took the class, what’s the difference?”

“A sunspot is just that. A spot on the sun. Sometimes those spots, which are weak areas in the sun’s magnetic field, can cause solar flares. And then sometimes solar flares are accompanied by…”

“Shhhh, the woman is saying something else now. Something about a CME.”











“CME? What’s a CME?”

“Remember, I wrote a paper about it. It’s a coronal mass ejection.”

“That sounds dirty. It sounded dirty back when you wrote it, too.”

“Mom, this is serious.”

“Yes, I know, your project needs uploading. Well, I need uploading to the grocery store if what this announcement says is true.”

“You’re going to have to drive the BatBug then. We can’t call up a ride with our phones out.”

“Is the Bug charged?”

“… was yesterday.”


The serious nature of the coming events failed to penetrate the insular shell of placid communities around the globe, communities which had never experienced a “coronal mass ejection.” Indeed, humanity’s industrial society, racing along the information autobahn at ever increasing speeds, had never experienced a disruptive event of this magnitude. The one example, cited by astrophysicists, a massive CME that struck the northern half of the planet in 1859, resulted in beautiful worldwide auroras, and spurious messages and fires in telegraph rooms in the rare locations where they existed at the time. The world then lit, only by whale oil, communicated by a fleet of postmen on foot, in carriages, or as riders on horseback. In 1859, the electron had yet to be harnessed to do the pumping, grinding, lifting, moving, lighting, and communicating that it had, as of the moment when the BatBug pulled into the parking lot of the local grocery mart, a store bursting at the seams with ‘PEOPLE WHO WOULD NOT BE HARMED BY THIS EVENT.’


“Tara, hey, is this crazy or what?”

“Oh, hi, Donna, yeah, is this all because of that radio message?”

“Well, that and what the CME is supposed to do to us.”

“You mean kill the power for a couple of days?”

“That’s what the radio said, sure. But Donny, my husband, says that a CME can do more than just knock out the electricity for a few days.”

“Like what? A few weeks then?”

“Well, I don’t want to alarm you, and this is just between you and me, but Donny mentioned a time frame more like years, maybe more.”

“Years! Are you kidding?”

“It’s possible he says, not likely, but possible.”

“Do all these people know this?”

“I doubt it. But I think we better stock up as much as we can. Did you bring cash with you?”

“Yeah, as I left, Kenny said ‘Mom, you better bring cash in case the store’s networks are down’. We had to scramble to find what we could, I mean, who even keeps cash anymore?”

“I know. Well, let’s get in there.”


News eventually went out regarding depleted store stocks. Usually auto-ordered by inventory bots watching the levels of items in the store, low inventory orders now had to be hand delivered to local warehouses. But, by the next day, most stores had replenished the balance of their stocks. The networks, however, remained inoperable.

The timing of the CME’s arrival had been calculated down to the minute. All electric utilities in the northern hemisphere, those operating generation plants, had been instructed to disconnect from the main power grids approximately one hour before the plasma wave of the CME was to strike. However, some connections could not be suspended.

In the end, it didn’t matter.

From vast photovoltaic solar farms to armies of wind turbines, from hydroelectric generators to nuclear, gas, coal and liquid fuel electricity generation plants, none of them escaped the tremendous currents that ended up being induced by the geomagnetic storm. A storm that was about to descend upon a technologically dependent, naive and thoroughly unprepared global society.


“Whoops, there goes the power.”

“That means it’s starting.”

“The sun storm?”

“Yeah, the magnetic storm NASA said would hit us.”

“When I was at the store, Donna said it might take longer than a week to bring the power back up.”

“Well, if we use our dehydrated camping food, we have food and water for about a month.”

“She said it might be longer than that. Maybe, much longer.”

“What does that mean, ‘much longer’?”

“I don’t know, maybe forever? Darren, do you still have ammunition for your rifle?”

“It’s a shotgun, honey, remember? I used it when I shot trap. Sure, I think I’ve got a few boxes stored in the closet. Maybe 75 rounds. It’s birdshot, though, tiny pellets.”

“You could still use it to protect us, couldn’t you?”

“Oh, it’ll do some damage, for sure.”

“Is it enough?”

“Enough for what?”

“I don’t know. Enough to save us.”


As the enormous wave of charged particles slammed into, and then through, the Earth’s ionosphere, the planet’s weakened magnetosphere tried to direct the onslaught around to the far side of the world. “Weakened,” as the geologists and geophysicists had been detecting a slow change in the dynamo that was the magnetosphere–the magnetic poles of the earth, they said, were attempting to flip.

There in the ionosphere, as the energies interacted with the oxygen in the air, the skies began to glow and shimmer with dancing bands of aurora. Trails of green and faint red lights, thousands of miles long, undulated like dying cobras, their agonizingly slow writhing, in time with the pulses of intense direct current being induced on the sun-facing side of the globe.

The multi-waved tsunami of geomagnetic energy enveloped every high-tension power cable. These waves induced massive direct currents, energies similar to a Mt. Olympus-sized battery—its terminals short circuited into the wires of the world. As those currents traveled through these wires they terminated in the centers of transformers and generators that formed the hearts of the Northern Hemisphere’s power generation system. The intense arcing power, swelling with each pulse of the solar storm’s internal variation, fused the generator coils with molten nodes of boiling copper.

This eventuality met, then exceeded, the expectations of what the astrophysicists had predicted. Transformers, connected to long antenna-like power lines, fused and became ton-sized hunks of useless metal. They had thought, where disconnects could be performed, the transformers could be saved. What they did not predict, however, was the intensity of this particular CME, nor the intensity of the one that would follow on the first one’s scorching heels, a mere sixteen hours later.

What should have remained undamaged, local city and neighborhood transformers, were not. Why? What the experts never considered were the massive induced electrical currents in vast networks of wires, wires both for electricity as well as communications, coiling and lacing through office buildings and industrial buildings across the continents. They never realized that these currents would not only strike like lightning bolts down into buildings’ basements and into internal power generation systems, but, also, that these geomagnetically induced currents would generate so much resistive heat that the wires would melt, glow and catch fire. Lengths of wire, tens to hundreds of meters long, acted to conduct the relentless direct currents into fragile areas. Combustible areas. Wires got red hot. Embedded incendiaries that stitched the entire world together, smoldering, and, eventually, igniting.

Thousands of buildings, in all the cities directly impacted by the first coronal mass ejection, caught fire and burned. In normal cases, one burning building per city, maybe two, easily exhausted local fire departments. But dozens of burning buildings resulted in conflagrations blasting through all the cities in the western half of the northern end of the planet with no hope of being extinguished. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Quebec, Washington, DC, Mexico City, Seattle, and Miami stretching over to Oahu and Kauai–all blazed in unstoppable infernos.

Even in the suburbs and rural areas, where the wires were long and strong enough, high temperature sparks arced out through thinly clad insulation igniting fires in homes and buildings.


“Do you hear that?”

“That popping sound?”

“It sounds like firecrackers out in the street.”

“Firecrackers pop, this sounds more like a buzz-crack.”

“Well, whatever it is, it’s freaking me out.”

“Let’s go take a look.”

“Holy shit! It’s the powerlines, they’re crackling.”

“If the power’s out, but the wires are all juiced up, what does that mean?”


“Dad, you need to flip the circuit breakers, all the wires are getting hot, but I think the wires outside are gonna get hotter.”

“Oh man, the circuit panel is burnin’ up, run and fetch me a pair of oven mitts.”

“There. All off. I don’t think that will do anything, but at least we shouldn’t get that weird crackling coming inside.”

“Son, what’s going on here, what is all this about?”

“It’s the CME, dad, it’s charging all the wires. You know how the charging paddle for the BatBug doesn’t actually make direct contact?”

“Right, induction charging”

“Exactly. The CME is doing that to all the long wires. All the wires everywhere and inside everything. But instead of charging a battery, the current that’s inside the wires is turning into heat.”

“Is this going to go on all day?”

“No, I think it only lasts a little while.”

“This is what NASA was warning us about, right? This is why the power is off.”

“Yeah. You’re right. But from what I remember reading, normal wires aren’t supposed to react like this. I think this CME is much bigger than what NASA predicted.”

“Well, the power is off for at least a week. No work for me. Of course, I haven’t worked for months. But no school for you. And mom won’t be working, either. Sounds like a mandatory holiday.”


With no one realizing at the time, communities across the continent unwittingly descended into the new dark ages. Some radio stations would eventually return online, at least while their generators held fuel to burn. But for now, only a silent sputtering whispered through the speakers of those seeking information on the devastation slowly spreading across the land.

For the few towns and hamlets that had escaped the plasma wave-induced fires, those first nights blossomed with celebratory spirit. Bonfires and street parties erupted in cul-du-sacs and parks. The local police had been briefed on what had occurred in the larger cities and tried to send their folks back to their homes, for safety reasons, but the people failed to listen.


“Whatever money you had last Thursday, that’s how much you are ever going to have. All the banks are dead.”

“We’ve got over eighty thousand in the bank, what do you mean they’re dead. How do I get that money out?”

“You don’t. Nobody does. All digital wealth is gone. Wiped out.”

“What? That can’t be. What about our 401k? Our investments? Everybody’s investments!”

“Gone. Wall Street is toast. There’s no power in any of the cities. And most of the cities are probably burning anyway. There’s no way to restart the internet, the computers, the exchanges, the brokerages, nothing, every digital dollar is gone. Vanished.”

“And our insurance? Our mortgages? Our credit cards?”

“None of those companies exist anymore. How can they? They relied on electricity to run their businesses and the Internet to communicate.”

“Holy shit, I’ve got to sit down.”

“I know, it’s a lot to take in. It’s overwhelming.”

“I’ll say. Every account anyone had anywhere, they’re erased?”

“Well, not erased, the data still exists. If the electricity were to magically come back on tomorrow, the Internet could start back up and we’d be back to where we were, mostly.”

“But the power is not coming back on?”

“With all these fried wires? I doubt it. I’m pretty sure the double CME that hit, the last one striking yesterday on the far side of the planet, wiped out the possibility that we can ever recover. Those CMEs were huge.”

“Son, ever recover?”

“Well, I’m speaking probabilities here. But from my research and what we know about the impact the first CME had on us here…”

“Wait a minute, there was a second solar flare?”

“Maybe, but it’s not the solar flare that was the problem.”

“Right, it’s the geomagnetic pulse wave thingy.”

“Yes, and the reason I know there was a second one was the aurora we saw yesterday.”

“Ah, the light show. I thought that was from the first wave.”

“No, the show we saw yesterday must have been from a second wave that hit. Europe is history. China, India, Russia. I doubt they survived.”

“We’re doomed then.”

“Yeah, doomed is a good word. Well, not a good word. But, yes, we are most likely doomed.”


When the power went out. Everywhere. All at once. A chain reaction began. It started with the fact that most people’s money ceased to be. Most people’s wealth had been virtual wealth stored as data in computers. If you can’t run the computers because you have no electricity to run them… Even if you could power up one computer, or a building full of them, the wealth of people existed more as a set of digital promises. Some banks were able to use internal electricity generators to temporarily reboot operation. And those banks released hard currency to account holders they could identify. Yet, like a run on a bank, there’s only so much physical money available. Most wealth sits on hard drives in data centers around the planet. In them, reside the promises of real wealth owed. Few people realized that the cash they possessed in small nest eggs or emergency funds, at the time of the calamity, represented all the money they owned. Period.

For a time, this cash was useful. The promissory notes dollars embodied, continued to retain value for people who hoped for a return to normalcy. But, with such a small supply of actual cash, the practice of barter sprang up almost immediately. Those who had extra “these,” traded with others who possessed extra “those.” Batteries for candles. A bicycle for a camp stove. Fuel for flour.

Yes, fuel did exist, petrol mostly, for months, for a price. With battery powered autos being the recent standard, few people possessed internal combustion engine cars, except as curiosities. Many folks had roof-top solar systems that could charge their battery-powered cars. The solar storm damaged a large portion of these, yet, scattered across towns and suburbs, hundreds of electric cars remained operational for years after the catastrophe. However, generators to power refrigeration, lighting and water pumps required liquid fuels. Fuels like gasoline, kerosene and diesel–stored in tanks as national reserves–represented only a few days to a few weeks of supply. Without the people to run the refineries, people who were busy trying to protect their families in the chaotic aftermath, those distillation plants ceased operation and fell silent. Generators everywhere, dependent on such fuels, began to fail by autumn. By winter, fuel of any kind, flowed only for the hoarders and thieves.

Dozens of industrious teams of mechanical and electrical engineers across most countries attempted to repair generation facilities in hydroelectric, wind and solar plants. Only a few succeeded. The destructive force of the currents induced by the CMEs infiltrated the massive transformers and generators rendering most of them inert heaps of wound copper and aluminum. Society’s enclaves, where power was restored, enjoyed a limited return to what, colloquially, became known as The Before. Their respite lasted just as long as their food.

Of all the luxuries the first world enjoys, ample and continuously available food ranks number two. Clean water being number one. During strong seasonal storms the power can go out for weeks at a time. And in the nations of the world where electricity attained the status of a right, not a privilege, one could always depend on finding somewhere to buy, or be given, enough food to eat and water to drink. The source of such a luxury emanated from a vast network of farmers, processors, transporters, warehousing and delivery agents via payment systems. Systems glued together by communication and financial networks to hold it all together. It was a nutrition generation engine of massive proportions–with the one critical component of this engine being electricity. Eliminate that and the mechanism seizes and grinds to a halt.

In the countries most impacted by the failure of the electricity grid, warehoused food ran short within a month. The world’s militaries, their National Guards, worked valiantly to deliver what stores governments had stockpiled. Yet, such reserves had never been meant to feed whole nations; feed cities and states, yes, but they were never meant to sate tens of millions of ravenous people. The Corps held the peace as long as they could. However, they, too, eventually disbanded, their individual appetites failing to be met.

The armed forces dissolution marked the crack in the dams that had been nations. Famine being the underlying cause of the failure.

Hunger riots destroyed humanity’s dwindling sense of brotherhood. Altruism surrendered to animosity and aggression. A family’s next meal might depend on basic survival instincts: selfishness, theft, kill or be killed. Starvation invaded the lives of those who had never known privation. Ironically, there existed tons of privately held food, grain and stored reserves in warehouses dotted around countrysides and urban outskirts. Those who knew of them formed coalitions of control doling out buckets of wheat and corn in return for ammunition and alcohol. The foodstuffs within these reserves, however, remained sequestered by those who begrudged others a meal without equivalent exchange. In many, desperation engendered greed. For lack of transportation and the rule of law to see it distributed, the grain failed to save millions who died needing just a few cups a day.


“Tara, we can’t stay here.”

“I know. There are too many folks all scratching at the same patch, hoping to find food.”

“We should head to the coast. Maybe set up at the mouth of a river.”

“That’s nearly a thousand miles!”

“We could go east. Fewer people, but less chance of finding food. I hate to say it but we’re going to have to pretend we’re original natives and figure out how to gather, fish and hunt.”

“There’s no pretend about it.”

“No, there isn’t. We’ll rig up the Batbug to charge from a solar panel. We’ll strap one to the roof.”

“The bug won’t fit four of us and carry all our stuff.”

“We’ll rig up a trailer to hold our gear. And, we can take turns driving and walking.”

“Darren, you’re proposing that we walk to the coast?”

“The bug’s battery will last longer if we go slow, stop and recharge during the day.”

“It’ll take weeks to get there. Months!”

“Tara, we can’t stay here. We can’t go north or south, there’s no opportunity for collecting any kind of food that way. East is barren.”

“Well, then, let’s tell the kids.”

“I think they already know.”


“Daddy, I can’t leave Ditto.”

“Honey, the cat will be better off living in territory that’s familiar to her. She knows where there’s running water. And she knows how to hunt.”

“Why can’t we bring her. She doesn’t eat much and, and it would be cruel to leave her.”

“She’ll need to stay in a cage all day. She’ll have to be let out on a leash, which you know won’t work, otherwise she’ll run away during our first stop. And it may take us a long time to get where we’re going. I think it would be more cruel to bring her.”

“I don’t care. She’s the only one who loves me. And, and, she won’t run away.”

“I won’t win this, I know. But look at me and tell me you understand the risks.”

“She won’t be any trouble, you’ll see.”


“The trailer is packed and ready to go. It gave us plenty of room for our camping gear and a few boxes of mementos. I’m sorry we can’t take more. But, better to bring food than furniture, water than widgets, tools than toys…”

“Will you be serious, Darren.”

“Tara, I’m just trying to soothe the loss we’re all feeling.”

“I know, but let us feel the loss just the same. Goodbyes should be somber things.”

“Okay, but a mile down the road the dreary duo’s doom dissipates,” Darren alliterated.

“Enough already!” Tara demanded, brushing her hair back from her face.


In a few months, medium and large cities bled tens of thousands of people as resources dwindled. Few had transportation aside from handcarts and bicycles. Some still possessed privately-owned battery vehicles and left with those. Internal combustion autos and trucks were abandoned, as, by the second month, all available fuels were fanatically guarded, being used only for generators. By mid-autumn folks gave up hoping that government, any government, would rise from the ashes to reestablish services, order and the rule-of-law. Those small communities that had banded together early, held fast. Their solidarity most often stemming from a cache of grain and fuel or other survival resources, like ammunition. Thousands of others abandoned their cityscapes and went off trekking, family by family, or more insidiously, as gangs of vicious outlaws.

Depravity and malevolence rose like festering buboes on the skin of society. In a land based on trust, when that civil agreement collapses before oppressive power, tyrants reign and only equal force can withstand them. Fortunately, witless tyrants, fighting over scraps, like feral dogs over roadkill, tend, in time, to effectively eliminate one another. Unfortunately, those left to feast on the remains are often the most malicious of the pack.  In a land based on trust, where forgiveness for offense underlies that trust, such folk, who believe in that trust, become easy prey. Thus marks the collapse of society. And so it became, across the whole of the northern hemisphere, that fall and winter.


What of the southern hemisphere? Their infrastructures were intact, their power systems and governments had not collapsed. Where was their charity, their relief, their compassion? At first they responded boldly, determinedly. The numbers, though, were overwhelming. Ships bringing supplies that docked in northern ports were overwhelmed. Riots and mayhem consumed the aid relief. These ships, as well as every other container and passenger ship available, were conscripted into service as refugee transports. Tens of millions of people invaded the southern countries. A mass exodus, unknown in the modern era, descended upon Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, and others. And still more came fleeing the maelstrom of dying societies in the North. So many in fact, that, in the south, collapse occurred there, too. Sickness swelled the hospitals and camps. Food and water vanished into the mouths of hundreds of millions seeking asylum from the terror enveloping the top half of the planet. The fact was plain, the southern hemisphere could not, could never, sustain the population of the north. When just six or seven percent of people tried to escape to below the equator, the south couldn’t handle it. It, too, failed.


“I’m sorry, dear. Ditto is a smart kitty. She’ll find a boyfriend out here, and catch mice and drink rain water. She might even find a nice warm home where she can stay.”

“But daddy! Daddy! She was all I had.”

“When we get to the coast, there will be so many kitties that people have forgotten, we’ll find another who needs a little girl to take care of. Which kind do you think you’ll see first?”


“Darren, all the campstove fuel is gone. And we haven’t seen another soul for two days. This road, what is it again?”

“It’s the interstate that leads to the coast.”

“Well, this road sucks. I hate it!”

“Hey, I’m amazed that we’ve gotten this far. We’re nearly half way.”

“It’s been a month of hell! And now it’s getting cold. And I…”

“Here comes Kenny, and look, I think that’s a goose he’s carrying.”

“A goose! God! Can’t we find something normal to eat?”

“Good job, Kenneth! Was it hard?”

“This? No, this part wasn’t hard.”

“What was hard then?”

“Getting away from them.”


“They’ve been following us for a week.”

“Honey, maybe they just want company on the way to the coast.”

“Are you really that naive, Darren?”

“Remember me? I’m the one trying to keep everyone’s spirits up.”


“Give us ya car and we’ll give ya back ya girl here.”

“Okay, okay, please, you can have the car, but leave us enough to camp with, at least.”

“And we want the gun, too.”

“We need that to survive!”

“It’s a hard world mister. And it’s gettin’ harder.”

“Darren, give them the gun.”

“Damn! You know you’re probably killing us by leaving us here with the snow falling like this.”

“So, you wanna die sooner?”


“Darren, Karina is freezing to death. We can’t walk any farther down this damn road!”

“I know. I know. I see some smoke coming from over that hill. I’ll tell you what. Let’s just stop here for now. We’ll go beg at their fire for whatever those people can offer and we’ll just stay here.”

“Dad, I see someone waving at us from that hill.”

“See, honey, it looks like they want to help.”

“My god, Darren, how did this happen to us?”

“I don’t know dear. The world, the world is broken now.”

“Was that a sign back there? What did it say?”

“It said they call the place ‘Murtaugh’.”

Author’s Note

The town names used in this novel are fictional but are based on those found around the Great Basin of the United States.

The astrophysical and climatological phenomena portrayed in this novel are real. The Bonneville Inland Sea (Lake Bonneville & Lake Lahontan) has existed in the past and most likely will exist again in the future. The prior instances of this sea were the result of melting glacial ice sheets from the last ice age. The refilling of the Great Basin due to climate change, over centuries, is not beyond the realm of possibility. This author has taken liberties with the extent and boundaries of the sea.

The Earth’s sun, Sol, has and will again emit coronal mass ejections that have struck and will again strike the earth. Modern technological society has never experienced a CME of the size or frequency mentioned in this story. Such CME’s exist. A pair of them, according to NASA, missed the Earth on July 23, 2012–by two weeks. That geomagnetic storm, as determined by experts in the field, might have cost $2.6 trillion and taken more than two years for society to recover.

This author would point out that what is unknown is the extent of damage a massive CME would have on the systems and wires of our everyday connected life. At this point, no one really knows.