Vaporized, page 1
Schmall World Publishing
First published in Great Britain as an e-book by Schmall World Publishing
Copyright © Simon Rosser 2014
The right of Simon Rosser to be identified as the author of the work has been asserted herein in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Also by the same author;
The A-Z of Global Warming
Tipping Point – Robert Spire 1
Impact Point – Robert Spire 2
Melt Zone – Robert Spire 3
And just released;
Cataclysm of the Ancients – Robert Spire 4
And now Vaporized 2 – just released January 2016
“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans.” – Professor Stephen Hawking
Cheyenne Mountain Complex
20:10, August 22nd.
“LONG RANGE SYSTEMS are tracking two bogies within the thermosphere, with an incoming trajectory over North America; range; - six thousand five-hundred nautical miles,” Lieutenant Mike Spees, spoke quickly and firmly, eyeing the large flat screen monitor, fixed to the wall in front of him, with increasing alarm.
“Roger that, Lieutenant. Incoming threat data verified; initialising Imminent Threat Defence Protocol. Weapons systems are now armed and ready to launch in, - five...four… three...two...one,” the base’s Launch Commander shouted the countdown, before hitting a large red button on the control panel in front of him.
The command centre fell silent. The flickering light from the wall-mounted monitors bathed the operations room, and the contingent of twelve personnel watching, in an eerie blue glow.
Telemetry on the large central monitor started streaming down the screen, as NORAD’s satellites followed the five ballistic missiles, from their North American launch sites, to the intercept point, - 300 miles above the Earth.
“Height, two-hundred miles, range, three thousand miles and closing,” Lieutenant Spees shouted, breaking the silence. “Alert the International Space Station to the situation. Tell them to expect some fireworks up there!”
“Yes, sir,” Peter Franks, the Communications Officer, said.
Before he could make the call, his phone started flashing red. He picked it up, looking up at the central screen as he spoke. After a few seconds, he turned to Lieutenant Spees. “Sir, it's the Pentagon; they want to know what the hell's going on. The Kremlin are jumping up and down and are threatening a counter-strike. They need immediate reassurance.”
Spees nodded. “I can't say I blame them. Tell the Pentagon we've had to launch five ICBM interceptors, under the ITD Protocol, to intercept two objects on an Earth impact trajectory.” He ran his hands through his hair as he tried to focus. “The objects are about to enter North American airspace. Tell them there was no time to issue any warnings!” he shouted.
“Roger that, sir,” the Comms Officer said, before barking down the phone, relaying the information.
The ten men, and two women, who made up the US/Canadian team, were transfixed to the large central monitor in front of them, situated deep within the nuclear-blast impenetrable Cheyenne Mountain range, home to NORAD - North American Aerospace Defense Command.
NORAD’s Hawkeye geostationary satellites were tracking the two unidentified targets, as they approached the Earth from the plane of the Planet Mars.
Suddenly one of the incoming objects vanished from the screen.
“What's going on?” bellowed Major Shep Barnes, who’d been silently watching the events unfold, from his standing position at the rear of the command centre. “Did our missiles intercept one of the targets?”
“Err, no, Major, all five interceptors are still airborne,” Lieutenant Spees confirmed, somewhat confused, as he continued to double-check the incoming data.
Three of the interceptor missiles then vanished from the screen. Telemetry confirmed they’d spent all their fuel, and had self-destructed 5,200 miles distant, the limit of their range.
“We just lost three missiles, major,” Lieutenant Spees said, his eyes glued to the two remaining white dots on the screen. “But we have two missiles closing in on the remaining incoming object. Impact will take place in, five seconds; four…three...two... one.”
There was an audible intake of breath from the team as they waited for confirmation of the impact. The two dots representing the remaining interceptor missiles blinked out, in two small pixelated flashes of white light, on the large screen.
Lieutenant Mike Spees tried to make sense of the telemetry, streaming down the monitor, in front of him. He shook his head in disbelief. “No, no…the interceptors have missed the target and have self-destructed at five-thousand, three hundred and twenty miles out. Incoming object appears to have…to have, - altered course!”
“What the hell are you talking about, Lieutenant? Whatever that thing is, space junk, a meteorite, or comet, it sure as hell can’t just change course. Check the data again,” Major Barnes shouted.
Spees, wiping a bead of sweat from his forehead, studied the telemetry again. The data confirmed the unpalatable truth; all five ICBM interceptors had failed to hit target, and whatever it was, had now entered Earth’s stratosphere, travelling at just over Mach 10 – 7,680 mph, towards US airspace.
Spees frantically hit a button on the console in front of him, to carry out a trajectory calculation. “Object is arcing in over the Arctic, and is going to hit…Alaska.”
“My God!” Professor Mary Duval said, slumping back into her leather chair.
“I’ll inform the Pentagon,” Major Shep Barnes spoke solemnly. “I want everything we have on the impact damage as it comes in; the object’s size, blast radius, potential casualties and consequences.”
“Yes, Major,” Spees said, punching the keypad in front of him. As he tried to decipher the incoming data, he glanced at the Alaskan Earthquake Information Center screen, which he’d brought up on one of the monitors, to check for real time seismic data. It wasn’t easy deciphering the data, in view of the 50-100 earthquakes and tremors hitting the region on a daily basis, but to his astonishment, the AEIC was only registering a mild seismic event, of 1.45 magnitude for the impact time, at a location, 700N 1550W, southwest of the North Pole.
“This can’t be right. Surely there should be a larger impact signature,” he muttered to himself. He checked a second and third seismic reading from the state; all confirmed the same minor energy release. He quickly checked data from a seismology station in neighbouring Yukon, and found it too was identical.
“Major,” Spees shouted. “This is damned weird. We need to inform the Pentagon that whatever hit 120 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska, did so wit
Amber Lee jolted awake from a deep sleep. She opened her eyes and looked around the dark room of her apartment. What time was it, what day even? She realised she’d had a bad dream, something strange. She recalled a bright flash of white light in the dream that, she guessed, must have woken her.
She rolled over toward her side table and squinted at the red LED digits on her alarm clock; 03.15. She sighed and closed her eyes, - her thoughts drifting to the busy day she had ahead of her, in the office. She tried to get back to sleep, but the adrenalin rush from the dream ensured that sleep eluded her.
She reluctantly slid out of her bed, grabbed her dressing gown from the back of the door, walked over to the window and opened the blinds. Her view was of the River Thames and Battersea Bridge, just over to her left. The river looked inky black, a slight silver sheen rippling across its surface, from the three-quarter moon above. The city hadn’t woken up yet. Just the odd car could be seen making its way over the bridge, towards the Chelsea Embankment.
The prime location apartment wasn’t hers. Although a personal injury lawyer, in a city firm, she’d need to save her annual salary for fifteen years to be able to afford a pad like this one.
She’d actually been asked, by her wealthy uncle, to babysit the sixth floor luxury apartment, while he was working away on a ten-month oil project in Saudi Arabia. She couldn’t complain; low rent, and in a different league to the dump she’d been renting in Crouch End. These apartments had their own security, communal gym and a twenty-five metre lap pool. Her uncle’s apartment even had a high security, impregnable panic room. A bit weird, she thought, but it made her feel a little more secure. Still, she was a little paranoid about becoming trapped in the bathroom-sized room, which her Uncle seemed to be using as a storeroom; for water, tinned foods, packs of flour and other household items. Very weird, she thought.
She hoped her uncle’s contract would be extended by another twelve months; there was a good possibility it would, he’d told her, when she’d spoken with him two weeks ago.
She closed the blinds and wandered sleepily into the kitchen, poured herself a glass of water, and took it back to bed. She drank half of it, placed the glass on her bedside table, pulled the covers over her head and closed her eyes.
Amber awoke to the sound of her alarm. She reached over to her bedside table and smacked the top of it, to shut off the annoying beep, just leaving Radio 2 on instead.
“My God, is it really six-thirty already,” she muttered, recalling waking up from a bad dream in the middle of the night. She swung her legs from under the quilt and sat on the edge of the bed for a few minutes, going through in her mind what she needed to do at work. She had two, fairly complex, telephone court appointments; on two files she was handling. One for a repetitive strain injury claim, and the other for noise induced, industrial, hearing loss. Great, she thought, realising that she hadn’t prepared for either hearing.
She pushed her hair from her face and stood up, opening the blinds as she passed the window. She caught a glimpse of a large river boat, cruising along the Thames, and a steady flow of traffic over Battersea Bridge.
She headed for the kitchen, grabbed one of her favourite Roma coffee capsules for the Nespresso machine, and made herself a strong coffee. She took the hot drink, and a bowl of bran flakes, with milk, to the glass table in the dining area and ate it whilst looking out over the new morning.
There had to be more to life than this, she thought, as she looked out on the morning rush hour, not even fully underway yet. She’d always imagined herself working in an outdoor environment, a geologist, marine biologist or perhaps an archaeologist, instead of sitting in an office getting stressed for the larger part of her working week. Most of her colleagues were great, but her boss was an arrogant pig, and she loathed him.
She’d enjoyed geography and biology at school, and had done well in the former subject, but had flunked her ‘A’ level in science. A resit had only slightly improved her grade. Biology, it seemed, clearly wasn’t her forte.
Fifteen years ago, going into the law had seemed like a great career move. There were plenty of jobs, even back home in West Wales where she’d lived until the age of 19. But, now the legal landscape had changed beyond all recognition. The salaries weren’t anything like she’d expected, not in personal injury anyway. And the poor sods who were now coming out of college in the hope of getting a training contract had virtually zero chance to do so. They were destined to be poorly paid paralegals for years, perhaps for ever; such was the level of competition for legal positions.
She finished her coffee, sighed at the thought of another day in the office, and headed for the bathroom.
She stood under the power shower in the spacious shower cubicle, letting the horizontal water jets massage her back and buttocks, before turning it off and slipping out to dry herself.
As she flossed her teeth, the 7 a.m. news came on. Expecting to hear the usual depressing news about Syria, or another explosion in Afghanistan or Iraq, she heard the newsreader mention that Earth had been spared a seemingly apocalyptic event the night before. She stopped flossing and poked her head out, from the bathroom door, to listen to the news item.
“We now go live to our BBC Science correspondent, who has an update on this story,” the newsreader said.
“Thank you. Yes, news is coming in of a very odd space-related event, that occurred over the United States, at around eight p.m. last night, local Pacific Time. North American Aerospace Defense Command, operated jointly by the United States and Canada, tracked two objects last night, both seemingly headed for Earth. We don’t have all the details yet, but we have it on good authority that five ballistic interceptor missiles were launched, presumably with the intent of destroying the incoming objects. We have learnt however, that one object simply disappeared from tracking radars, and the other, whilst it was tracked, heading for Alaska, seemingly impacted with nothing more than a gentle thud.
Various theories are being mooted; Space debris that burnt up upon Earth entry, or remnants of a meteorite perhaps? Nobody seems to have the answer yet, but you can be sure that this is one science story that won’t be going away in a hurry.
We are told that a joint US/Canadian expedition is already being put together to investigate the impact site, thought to be in remote part of Alaska, close to the North Pole.”
Interesting, Amber thought, as she finished cleaning her teeth. She brushed her hair and placed it in a ponytail, then put on some light red lipstick, her usual make-up routine for a weekday morning. She counted herself lucky as she didn’t need to wear much makeup, having been blessed with olive skin; a genetic benefit from having had an Italian grandfather.
She dressed in a light blue blouse, simple tailored black trouser suit, with black, low heeled court shoes; checked she hadn’t left anything electrical turned on in the apartment, grabbed her black Gucci look-alike handbag, and left for the tube station.
AMBER SMILED AND waved a hand at Bernie, the building’s security guard, as she left through the main revolving glass entrance doors, and headed out onto the street. She walked towards Hester Road and turned right onto Battersea Bridge Road, where her bus stop was located. She checked her watch; 7.40 a.m., just in time to catch the 7.50 bus.
Amber entered the glass and steel entrance doors of the offices of Rochester & Maple, the law firm she’d been employed at for the last six years, and made for the elevator. The doors slid closed and the elevator travelled silently to the eighth floor, where she stepped out onto the corridor which led to her open-plan office.
“Morning, Sammy,” she said, as she walked along the short corridor to the Litigation Department. Sammy was one of the secretaries on her team, a lovely lady, unlike some of the other two-faced bitches who happened to work in the department.
“You’re telling me, great isn’t it,” Amber replied, as she headed through the door.
The first person she saw, as usual, was her not so pleasant boss, Donald Black. “Morning, Amber,” he said, forcing a smile as he glanced at his watch, no doubt checking to see if she was on time.
“Morning, Donald,” Amber said, walking over to her workstation, situated alongside a large window, which gave her a great view of the street below.
She placed her handbag under her desk, powered up her computer, and headed for the kitchen to make a coffee. The caffeine from the Nespresso she’d consumed, an hour ago, had already worn off and she needed another pick-me-up. Two of her colleagues were already in the small kitchen, chatting away about the forthcoming long weekend.
“Hi, Amber,” Ted, one of the firms paralegal’s, greeted her, as he poured hot water from the kettle into his mug. “Got any plans for the bank holiday?” he asked.
Amber smiled. “Yep, I’m meeting up with some friends tonight; going to try the restaurant at the top of The Shard. Apart from that, I’m planning on taking it easy all weekend, do some home cooking, watch a couple of old movies, and maybe get to the gym.”
“Wow, dinner sounds posh,” Ted said. “I’ve heard the restaurant up there is great, but you’ll need to re-mortgage your house to eat there.”