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GALACTIC TSUNAMI

By: David L. Souers

Chapter 14

Low Tech ---High Tech

Adil and Khalid Hussein, two brothers, fishermen by trade, sat in their small boat, gently bobbing on the regular swells, as they pulled their nets for the third time that day. They were pleased, as the catch had been good. Soon they would be headed for home, families and a nice hot supper, which was located only a few miles down the coast.

Lifelong residents of the small Indonesian island of Tengah, which was located in the Timur sea, albeit not to prominently. Due to the time zone differences, they were fishing from their boat off the coast of the island that was their home, when the wave washed over them. Their wives continued to work in the gardens, and their numerous children chased among the inevitable pigs, dogs, and vociferous chickens. If anything changed, it was not noticeable. Perhaps they would begin to wonder why no jet contrails were to be seen in the sky, and the monthly supply ships failed to arrive, They had an old trans-oceanic radio, but most of the time the old batteries were shot, which was their present condition. It would take quite some time before they became concerned. One thing was certain. It might cool down a couple of degrees in the future, but they wouldn’t need parkas like their northern cousins.

Maintenance worker, Tim Greebe held the, “door open”, button for custodial technician Barb Lopez at the forty-seventh floor of building "One" of the "New WTC Complex." They had both just put in a long midnight shift, each doing their respective duties, and now it was nearly time to clock out and head for home.

She hurriedly pushed her cart of cleaning supplies onboard and smiled at him. “Forty-three, please.”

Tim grinned back. “Forty-three, it is. Are you about done for the shift?”

Not really friends, they occasionally crossed paths in the course of their regular duties. They were destined to become a lot closer, very soon...

“One more bathroom, and I’m outa here.”

Halfway between the forty-seventh and the forty-sixth floors, their world came to a sudden stop.

The intense burst of EMP had annihilated the chips that controlled everything from the switches and breakers, to the actual operating instructions, of the various types of generating stations around the world. In a few nano-seconds, electricity was a thing of the past for most of mankind. A few of the diesel powered generators at the hospitals and emergency departments did kick in, but even the bulk of them relied on chip technology to detect a problem and start themselves. Consequently, they never got the signal, and so remained silent to man’s needs.

Hundreds of thousands of people were stranded around the world, in one kind of impromptu prison or another. Many would die of thirst, hunger, or heart failure as they realized that no help would be forthcoming. Unfortunately, Tim and Barb would eventually add themselves to the list of casualties that would number in the uncountable millions. Crop failures, riots, extreme weather, and a myriad of diseases that mankind thought of as, ”under control”, swept through the population like a farmer’s scythe in a field of timothy hay. Within six months, the world’s population would fall by forty percent, and Gaia would breathe a sigh of relief, as the infection known as mankind, finally began to subside. At the end of the first year, sixty percent of all humans would vanish, and yet, some of it’s inhabitants would not even be aware that a major change had taken place!

Ken and Carolee Amboy were on their way from Ely, Nevada to his mom’s place near Tonapah. Their three kids, Mary, Lois, and Ken Jr. were fast asleep in the camper on the back of the truck. Carolee was just turning around to see if they were still tucked in their sleeping bags, and OK in general, when the wave hit. It was still dark, and when the lights and engine failed at the same time, Ken was hard pressed to keep his truck on the road, as he fought to stop it without power brakes or steering. He wasn’t worried about hitting oncoming traffic, or getting hit from the rear either, for that matter. They were on Nevada’s infamous route six. A television documentary had once named it, “the loneliest highway in America.” It wasn’t a lie. There was over a hundred and fifty miles between the two towns, and little else. They were about two miles short of the intersection of the highway that had been named for the alien rumors that were prevalent down near the small town of Rachel, sixty miles to the south. It’s proximity to the government’s, “non-existent base”, known as area-51, had saved the town, as UFO buffs, and a few other assorted weirdoes came to the town and spent enough hard cash at the motel, bar, and café combo, to keep a few residents hanging on.

“What’s wrong with the truck Honey?”

“I don’t have a clue yet. It just quit. Not a miss or anything else in the way of a hint before it died. It was purring like a kitten one second, and it was kaput the next. Why the lights didn’t keep working off the battery isn’t normal either. I’m going to take look under the hood and check it out. Hand me the flashlight out of the glove box, will you please?”

Without the necessity of a chip to route the power to the bulb, the light worked fine, but its illumination didn’t cast any light on the problem with the truck it-self.

The rising sun took the chill out of the air, and the family had dug into their emergency ration box to make a pot of coffee on the little fire that Ken had built from some dead sagebrush. An old coffee can, sitting in the flames, held the water to be boiled, and when it finally did, he threw in a couple of handfuls of coffee. Within minutes, Ken and Carolee were drinking their coffee, and the kids each had a small glass of juice from the large can that Ken had opened with his jackknife. Donuts for the whole group completed the impromptu breakfast. When you traveled over these lonely roads it was definitely a good idea to keep food, water, medical kit, and for Ken at least, a small can of coffee in a box in the back of the truck, or trunk of the car, whatever the case might be. He was a confirmed coffee-o-holic, and freely admitted it. In the very near future, he was going to wish he had packed a bigger can of fresh roasted coffee in the truck’s grub box, much bigger, if the truth be known.

At noon, Ken decided to walk down to the intersection where the two highways met. There was an old abandoned gas station and cafe there, as well as the warm springs that had given the place its name. Not one car had come by since their truck died, and he hoped he could find someone that could either give them some help, or direct them to a place where they could get some.

He left the hood of the truck up, and told his wife, “Carolee, you’ve got to keep the fort here while I go to get some help. My pistol is in the door caddie. Don’t get overly friendly with anyone that shows up, but make sure they don’t just leave the bunch of you just sitting here, OK?”

“Don’t worry Ken, I sure ain’t going to run off any salvation about now.”

It took just over a half an hour for him to cover the two miles or so to the group of buildings that had been visible as black spots down at the base of the tall, striated basalt and sedimentary prominence at the north side of the seemingly endless valley, ever since he left the truck and his family behind. The buildings stood in an unearthly silence that had been ongoing for many years now. The only exceptions

had been the sounds of the occasional passing vehicle, military jet, or even the stray human that would scale the chain link fence to take a dip in the old hand dug swimming pool. The warm mineral waters were reputed to be nearly identical in composition to the famous springs in Arkansas, and some folks believed it made their aches and pains leave them, so they came to the waters, fence or no fence.

That night they huddled in the camper for warmth. The high desert is susceptible to extreme weather changes, and extreme just wasn’t an apt description of what was upon them. The morning came with a sky that looked as if it was painted with some shade of cotton candy pink in the east, and then seemed to work through every shade of red, until the western sky was just an extremely dirty looking burnt umber.

“Ken, what’s wrong with the sky?”

“I don’t know, but I sure don’t like the looks of it. Do you think there’s been a war or nuclear accident or something like that? I’ve read that the electromagnetic pulse from a large nuclear weapon will fry computer chips for thousands of miles away from the detonation. It would sure fit what has seems to have happened to the truck, huh?

Mary and Lois overheard the conversation, and soon were sobbing inconsolably at the disturbing words.

“Don’t worry you two, it’s probably nothing at all. Let’s see how far we can get the truck to coast towards the old warm springs station. I think if we all push really hard and coast over that small rise down there, we’ll be able to ride almost all of the way, if not right up to the old station pumps. Do you guys want to give it a try?”

The sky was just an indication of the hurricane force winds that were lifting millions of tons of dirt from the floor of the Mojave desert, throwing it skyward for tens of thousands of feet, and miles to the east, the vicious weather began to make it’s appearance to all. The party had begun, and Sol just wasn’t up to penetrating that much murk.

“One, two, three, push! push! Push harder!”

Soon the truck was picking up enough speed and he yelled for them to jump in. He didn’t want to leave anyone standing in the road wishing they were riding. Jumping in behind the steering wheel, he yelled, “Is everybody on?”

“We all made it dad, don’t slow down.”

They coasted over the rise at less than three miles per hour, but the next down-hill grade was sufficient to let them coast all of the way up to the old gas pumps. It wasn’t much, but they thought of it as a poor man’s Shangri-La at that point.

Digging under the spare tire, Ken produced the tire iron and turned to his wife. “You troopers stay here and guard the truck, I’ll go see if I can find a way in.”

He ended up prying the hasp from a side door, and letting himself in. This door was to the kitchen area, and the first thing that he laid his eyes on was the old, box type, wood heater in the back of the room. Pack rats, deer mice, and their contemporaries, had made their homes here for a long time, but they were about to have guests. The writing was on the wall.

A local rancher fed them from his herd all winter, even if he wasn’t aware of it, and they all made it through the seemingly endless misery. All except for young Ken Jr., that is. He caught pneumonia in late February, and died six days before his seventh birthday on March the eighth in the year 2013. His family buried him on the bank of the small hot creek, not too far from where it made its exit from the large pool. It was the only piece of ground for miles around that wasn’t frozen solid. Fashioning a sledge from a couple of four by fours, and a piece of sheet metal, Ken plunged through the deep snow a few days later to the base of the cliffs that over-shadowed the valley. It took him over two hours to find just the right stone for his son’s monument, and two more to drag it down the slope through the clutter of talus that had fallen from the tall ramparts over the ages. Totally exhausted, he sat down heavily next to the small heater, and grate-fully drank the cup of hot Mormon tea that Carol had made for him. The native plant was a far cry from his beloved coffee, but it was warm and comforting. The following morning, he went to the toolbox in the back of the truck, and got out his four-pound single-jack hammer, and a good chisel. His son would not be left in an unmarked grave if he could do some-thing to prevent it. He cut the inscription as deeply as he could into the hard, black volcanic basalt, and knew that from what he’d seen of the prehistoric Amerind art on the same type of stones, that the marker would be legible for hundreds, if not thousands, of years into the future.

The only good thing that came from their isolation was the fact that they didn’t come into contact with the deadly plagues that were sweeping the land. On July fourth of that same year, they were rescued, after a fashion. An old man, who had wintered over in a ranch high up in the mountains, decided to come down to civilization to find out why he couldn’t get anything on his radio, and to find out why his summer relief was over a month late. It was a good winter job for an old man. In return for watching over the ranch house, and as much as he could see from the house and barn, he ate fairly well, and received a lump sum payment from the absentee land owner when he came down from the mountain every spring. He fed the one horse in the stable, and gave what scraps he had from the table to the barn cat that stayed warm under the hay in the loft. This was his twelfth year at the place, and it had never been so bad in those heights. He had to shovel the roof off at least twice a week for most of the winter, and they had a heavy snowfall on June seventeenth that was nearly two feet itself. By July the second, he put the chains on his ancient jeep station wagon, and threw food, water, fuel, and some warm clothing, as well as his arctic style bedroll into the back, and proceeded to abandon his position without even bothering to look back.

Pulling into the parking lot by the old cafe, he noticed the Amber’s truck parked by the pumps which was not unusual by any means in the pre-wave world, and he knew of no other at that point. He needed a good hot bath, and nothing or no one was going to stop him and his big bar of soap from doing just that.

Ken awoke to Mary’s shrill voice, “Dad! Dad! Someone is in the pool. Come here quick.”

Jumping out of the sleeping bag, Ken ran outside and saw the jeep and his heart literally leaped for joy in his chest. “Mary, Tell your mom and Lois to stay in the building while I see who it is. You stay there too. Wait ‘til I tell you it’s OK before you come over there.”

Ken approached the fenced pool with caution, and caught a glimpse of the old fellow rinsing his hair under the little falls where the hot water entered the enclosure.

“Hello.”

Sputtering loudly as he unexpectedly inhaled a little water at the sound of Ken’s voice, he finally managed to reply, “Hello yourself. You startled the devil out of me young fellow.”

“Sorry ‘bout that, but you’re the first person that we’ve seen since everything quit, back around Christmas, and you sure are a sight for sore eyes.”

Laughing outright at that remark, he replied, “You’re the first one to use those words when referring to these old bones in a long time. I guess that anybody that is that happy to see me, can call me Buck. Buck Thornton’s the name, and I’m glad to see you too.”

I’m Ken Amboy, and I’m here with my wife and children. We’ve been here for months. We’ll tell you all about it later. When you get finished with your bath, come on down to the old cafe, and I’ll introduce you to the wife and kids.

We’d be glad to have you stay for supper, such as it is.”

Buck’s stash of coffee was nearly as welcome as he was. They sat around the small table relating what they knew, or suspected, had gone wrong with their world, sipping the delicious brew that Ken had figured he’d never taste again. In addition to the coffee, Buck had given the girls each a small piece of candy, and had put a slightly withered potato for each of them into a pot to boil. He didn’t comment on the large steak that Carolee had fried for each of them. His job in the pre-wave world had been protecting ranch property, but that was then and this was a new set of circumstances, where the old rules just didn’t apply, and he knew it.

“You folks must be getting tired of that meat diet by now.”

Carolee laughed a little shrilly, “Ken killed a jackrabbit with a rock, and it was so tough that you couldn’t have chewed that thing with a blender. We didn’t want to shoot those cattle, but we’d all be dead by now if we didn’t. His uncle is a rancher over by Ely, so we do know better than to do such things under normal circumstances.”

“Don’t worry folks, I would have done the same thing in your situation.”

They all talked far into the night, and the next morning decided it was time to leave their refuge.

Walking to the lonely gravesite the next morning, where they said a prayer, and what they instinctively knew would be their final good-byes to Ken Jr. The days were still on the chilly side of comfortable, and the nights were just plain cold. The consensus was to head south into the lower elevations. They would take Nevada route 375, formally designated the, “Extraterrestrial Highway”, by the Nevada legislature in the late nineties, southward past the now abandoned town of Rachel, where they found two cans of pork and beans and a bottle of instant orange drink in the old store. Ken and Buck broke the lock off the underground fuel tank at the diminutive gas station, and by using a three foot piece of two inch pipe with a cap on one end, and a hank of rope tied to the other, managed to pull twenty gallons of gas out in just a couple of hours. They would have tried for more, but the rope slipped off the pipe and the sound of it hitting the bottom of the tank was enough to convince them to head south once again.

Most of Nevada had often been described as a five thousand foot tall tabletop, with the tablecloth pushed together from side to side. The resulting wrinkles that would occur were the representations of the roughly parallel, mountain chains that traversed the state from northwest to southeast. These ranges were often quite high, and the snow that clung to the heights of the three high passes that the group was forced to traverse, made their travel difficult, to say the least. The third and tallest of these obstacles was drifted to a depth of ten feet in places, and Ken and Buck worked for hours to clear enough of it to allow the jeep to finally break through, and descend the southern slopes, to the valley below.

At the intersection of route 375 and route 93, which was about fifty miles south of Rachel, they found a couple of nearly starved teenagers living by the small springs near there, and they too were soon assimilated into the group. That afternoon, they headed down into the warmer lowlands near Las Vegas. The name was spanish for, ”The Meadows”, but the springs and the verdant green pasture land that gave the place it’s name were ancient history long before the wave made known its existence. The water supply from the plentiful springs had been developed to the point that the artesian effects they had shown for millennia were totally destroyed.

Traveling down Fremont Street, Carolee commented, ”You would need a good imagination to call this place Glitter Gulch now.” For the first time in several weeks, Ken laughed out loud. Why don’t you lend me a couple of dollars, maybe I can hit it big on that gigantic slot machine over there at the Four Queens. I always wanted to do that.”

The small group consisted of a few of the lucky ones that survived the winter in that very harsh land. Most didn’t fare quite so well by any means.

Their odyssey ended on the shores of Lake Mead, when they joined the group that had survived by growing vegetables in gardens that were watered by hand labor, and eating fish that were caught with hand-woven nets from the lake to help all of them get by. Everything was done as communal labor, and all were entitled to an equal share. It wouldn’t have been an acceptable lifestyle for the majority of them last year, but by this year, they had definitely changed their outlooks as to what was acceptable. They would survive, and that’s what really counted.

Hoover dam’s huge turbines still spun endlessly, and power was still being generated, but the distribution system was in a shambles. There were rumors that some parts of the network were once again viable. Older type switches were being installed as fast they could be converted to manual operation, replacing the large numbers of chip actuated units that had been cooked into oblivion when everything failed, including the ones that had literally exploded on that fateful day. At least the source of their power was still functional, which was far more than the folks that depended on the nuclear generators could say.

John Travis, U.S. Navy Seabee, was just finishing his breakfast in the enlisted men’s mess hall when the wave washed over the summer support crew at McMurdo base, Antarctica. Many things ground to a halt very shortly thereafter, but thank-fully, the old generators kept running and the boilers life giving heat continued without interruption through the well insulated lines.

After twenty-two days without a single supply plane coming in, and only scraps of three garbled ham radio messages making it through from the outside world, as those in the frozen wasteland often called it. The captain of the base decided to evacuate all personnel due to the rapidly deteriorating weather conditions. No one expected it to be Miami Beach, but December was supposed to be the milder of the seasons down at the bottom of the world. The last three days had each provided a new all time cold temperature for the base, and they knew in their hearts that if they didn’t leave soon, they probably never would.

One icebreaker and two medium sized freighters were going too have to take them all off, there weren’t any other options. They spent a large number of man-hours in just a short amount of time ferrying everything that they could take in the way of supplies to the ships, and in readying the ships to make the journey northward. All able bodied hands turned to, and they didn’t have to be told it would be for the best if they didn’t waste any time playing silly games. No one knew how the other scientists and their support crews were fairing, except for a Russian contingent that had already evacuated the day before, according to a fourth ham message that had been received just minutes before their departure.

Looking back as they headed out, John could see the once rotten ice that was the front edge of the soon to be stable, Ross ice shelf. It had been disintegrating more and more with each passing year, and everyone on board knew that this weather that was so foul to them was a breath of fresh air to the ancient ice. If these con-ditions persisted for very long, the base itself would soon be trapped in the ice forever, like a huge fly that has been entombed in a piece of pure white amber.

Approaching the tip of South America, they opted for the Atlantic side of the continent, figuring that the warmer waters of the Caribbean and the equatorial waters off the coast, for much of the journey, would be preferable to the frigid waters of the eastern pacific.

Trinidad and Tobago both were known for their petroleum exports, as well as their fame as winter vacation spots. The, now desperate, fleet pulled in for the fuel that would be necessary to complete their journey to the gulf coast of the United States. Very little contact had been made with anyone on the long trip north, but enough had been learned of the situation to convince many of the personnel to jump ship and stay in the inviting climate where they would have a chance to survive without starving or freezing to death. Most of these were unattached, college aged, students that didn’t have a wife and kids back home.

“John, what are you going to do? Stay with the ship, or stay here with Tom and I?”

Turning to Perry, John asked him, “Why aren’t you two going with the ship?”

“Are you kidding, there’s not much left up there for us, or anyone else, for that matter.”

“What about getting court-martialed for jumping ship? These scientists don’t have to contend with the universal code of military justice like we do.”

Perry and Tom both snorted their derision at that statement. Perry said, “Who are you kidding. There’s nothing but total anarchy now. It’s just every man for himself, and this man is staying right here!”

It took him two more days to make up his mind about it, but in the end, all three sat in a secluded location and watched when the rest of the group left them and many others behind.

In the end, the convoy traded the now extra third ship, for enough fuel to get them to Galveston harbor. The ancient diesel powered pumps took three days to fill the big fuel tanks onboard the ships from the huge shore tanks.

Pulling into their destination several days later, the occupants of the mini convoy soon discovered that their shipmates that had stayed behind in the tropical islands had made a good choice. Cholera, diphtheria, and plague were sweeping the gulf coast with a vengeance, and before very long, many found out that they had also made potentially fatal life decisions. Garbage and sewage lay in heaps, and the pestilence it fostered, spread from it like a cancer.

Colonel Randolph Wilson’s lifeless body lay in the perpetual shadow of the crater rim at the south pole of earth’s moon. The multi-million dollar suit that he had used to protect himself from the extreme elements found there, had died not very long before the colonel himself had fallen into the thick dust that covered the crater floor, and the water ice that his crew was, or actually had been, processing for it’s water content. Several of the crew had survived the initial burst as they had not been in one of the suits, but rather had been in the living module that had been set up to allow them to sleep, eat, and work on anything that needed to be constructed or repaired on site. Unfortunately, their deaths were as certain as their contemporaries, they just took a little bit longer to arrive.

The project planned to use solar power to break the water down into hydrogen for rocket fuel, and oxygen that would be used primarily to establish some viable lunar habitats. The plan was very ambitious, and without the EMP burst to upset their meticulous plans, they would undoubtedly have succeeded in getting the first extraterrestrial colony off the ground, no pun intended. It would be a very long time before these intrepid explorers were given proper burials, and mankind once again reached for the stars that he had come so close to acquiring.

On Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, another ambitious project had succumbed to the energy burst, several hours before it hit the lunar pioneers.

The probe had taken many long months to reach the enigmatic, icy moon. Its ice borer was actually more of an ice melting device, as the nuclear heating probe allowed it to melt it’s way though the thick ice sheet, while laying a thin wire behind it from the large spool it carried onboard. Breaking through the ice and into the dark ocean beneath, the probe’s lamps came on, and the television camera began to transmit the first pictures of extraterrestrial life. The place literally teemed with, plankton sized, entities that seemed to have bioluminescent capabilities. Suddenly, a huge creature passed in front of the lens. It’s gaping mouth was meters across, and it seemed to be feeding on the plankton soup in much the same manner that the monstrous whale shark, in the earth’s oceans, fed on what appeared to be the same type of cuisine. The wire fed the astounding pictures to the probe that sat on the ice far above it, and when a sufficient amount of data had arrived, it was supposed to relay it to the vehicle that had carried it to the moon. The transmission couldn’t take place until the mother ship came over the horizon, and while the probe was patiently waiting for the signal to begin transmitting, the wave wiped the infor-mation, and the messengers from existence. You could have still seen them if you were in the area, but they were now deaf, dumb, and blind. Dead, if you will.

Far below, the probe trailed the useless wire, as it plunged towards the bottom of the stygian ocean far below. It really was a shame that it couldn’t record the numerous strange life forms that flashed by its dead optics. When it finally slammed into the bottom far below, it happened to hit near one of the hydro-thermal vents that gave life to many creatures that were amazingly similar to what was found near the, “black smokers”, in the oceans of terra herself. Tube worms, and giant clams were everywhere. Tiny shrimp fluttered daringly close to the poisonous, hydrogen sulfide laced, six hundred degree water. Without eyes, they depended on infrared vision to stay out of the super-heated water, in the inky blackness. The only thing that kept it from boiling away into clouds of super heated steam was the incredible pressure from the miles of water overhead. When the metallic salts that had dissolved into the hot water cooled, they condensed and fell to the bottom, like a black snow. They would soon cover any evidence that man had ever stopped in for a visit.

If the video feed had survived the hours long plunge to the bottom, earthbound scientists would have probably thought the pictures were being hoaxed. Much of the prolific life was so like Terra’s that they would have not thought it was possible to be real. Actually, some of the views would have been similar to viewing a living fossil bed. Europa had undergone far fewer cataclysmic events in it’s past, than terra had been subjected to. Consequently the mass extinctions that, on occasion, wiped entire lines from the gene pool here, never occurred. Comets and asteroids had impacted the moon many times in the past, but in the watery environment, the effect wasn’t global, and enough of each type of life survived to start anew after each event. Natural evolution was allowed to progress unimpeded, over the eons, and the biodiversity was quite amazing.

Some scientists had proposed that the basic blueprints for life had been seeded over the entire solar system by the action of the comets slamming into the planets, leaving water and the basic building blocks of life in their wake. On some of them, like Venus, it boiled away in the intense greenhouse heat. Others simply dried out, and froze into oblivion, and Mars was the best example of that scenario. Geo-thermal action from the intense gravitational forces exerted by Jupiter on its moons was the giver of life, and the various organic compounds from the hearts of the comets went to work in the not quite frozen sea.

As in the cases of the lunar exploration, and the SETI project, it would be a long time before mankind returned to the moons of Jupiter.