Monday, February 8, 2016

Sun Strike - Revised Chapter 1

This is an old draft.  For the latest go here.

Back to Work
September 27th, 2018, 2030 hours
Lights started flashing in her rear-view mirror. Gina cursed as she pulled to the side of the road.
“Good Evening, Captain Regina Phillips?” said a tall, skinny and young military police officer as he checked his clipboard.
Gina nodded and the man continued, “Ma’am you’re ordered to report to your duty station.”
“What’s this about officer?” asked Gina.
Suddenly, Gina heard blaring base alarms coming from the towers spread throughout the base. The alarms sounded like an old ambulance if you were standing next to it. As the sirens belted out their song, red lights mounted on each of the telephone poles began flashing at a slow and steady pace.  
“…Ma’am, …ease report …arty… station,” repeated the young MP loudly, but his voice couldn’t overcome the cacophonous base alert horns with their endless high-low screams. 
The young policeman returned to his car and sped off into the distance.
Damn it.
Gina quickly rolled up her window to dampen the horrible wailing sirens. She grabbed her phone and dialed her husband of thirteen years.
Russ Phillips answered, “Phillips’ residence”. 
“Hey dear. How’s your day?” Gina asked, playfully as she circled back toward her office. 
Russ replied in a sarcastically loud tone, “Oh! Gosh! Pretty well so far Gina. I was just out mowing." He raised his voice further for emphasis, "When my ears started ringing and I started going deaf because we live under one of those god-awful base alert horns!” 
Gina laughed and replied, “Yeah… So… I’m going to be home late tonight. If I get off before the exchange closes I’ll grab some chicken we can grill tomorrow night.”
Russ responded, “Could you bring home some bottled water you people haven’t put mind-control drugs into yet?” 
Gina giggled at Russ and told him, “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
All the base’s traffic lights were now blinking yellow.
Russ worked as an on-line independent blog writer concocting a slew of conspiracy theories for his followers and she knew he didn’t believe any of the fiction he wrote.
Gina sped through an intersection and said, “sure dear”. 
“If you’re out late, I’ll entertain myself. Have fun saving the world,” was Russ’s playful response.
“Oh, I always do. Be home when I can,” she told him and hung up her phone.
Why the hell did they send MP’s after me?
Several other cars began swarming around like bees fleeing from a broken hive. Gina saw organized chaos everywhere.
United States Army. A well-oiled and precise machine of military prowess.
She grinned.
Well, let’s not get carried away, it’s the US government after all.
The five male and two female trained combat soldiers she commanded worked in Sanitation, and, they were good at pushing paper but only Specialist Tina Pollard had been in combat.
We go where needed.
Retracing her route, Gina could hear the high-pitched whine of turbine helicopters spooling up. 
Surprised anything is louder than these damn sirens.
She drove by the front gate and peered out at ominous steel cylinders rising from the concrete.
“Shit!” she yelled and stomped on the brake pedal with both feet, narrowly missing a group of soldiers jogging across the street. A man stood inches away from the front of her car signaling the universal gesture to “stop” with his outstretched arm and white-gloved palm.
Gina watched the last man step off the street. Two traffic monitors stood to attention. They saluted the cars waiting and ran to catch their unit.
Watch the road Captain, she silently ordered.
She saw men standing near the gate's steel barriers, cradling rifles across their chests. Several of them were turning back cars at the gate on both sides while others photographed each car and its occupants. 
Unofficial cars are refused entry and, no car would be permitted to leave until the nature of the alert had been communicated.
A car honk from behind Gina reminded her to move. She hit the gas, lurching forward on her way. These dry-runs happened monthly and were a part of military life, but they had one as recently as two weeks ago. 
Why are we on alert again so soon?
Gina approached her office and saw the shoddy and pothole-filled parking lot was full of cars. She had previously made multiple requests to have the potholes in the lot filled in, however, it seemed to Gina, the Army cared more about tanks than the Sanitation parking lot. 
Good, the squad is already on station awaiting inspection. This alert will be short.
She pulled into the bumpy lot and noticed a green jeep with military police designations. She pulled into her reserved spot by the front door. 
Walking the few steps to the front door, Gina saw the MP’s in the jeep looking at her suspiciously. She looked back at them, equally suspiciously. Two of the men swiveled their heads away to peer intently at nothing to the front of the jeep. Gina smiled, then the third officer must have had a sudden urge to check something at his feet because he disappeared down here Gina couldn’t see him. 
She turned her back on them and walked across a few feet of the sorry excuse for a parking lot and felt the MPs gazes return. Used to the occasional checking of her posterior, Gina was, after all, a fit, young and attractive officer. 
Gina reached out for the handle on the steel door. The door swung open making a horrible racket. 
This door would be more at home on a deserted shed in a dark Louisiana bayou instead of on the front door of a military facility. 
Gina walked into the climate controlled air of her unit’s headquarters and allowed the front door to slam noisily shut on its huge, creaking, spring-loaded hinges.
The door muffled the sound of the base sirens. Inside Gina’s office was a tumultuous frenzy of seemingly random actions. When combined with the military police out-front and the helicopters screeching away into the distance, was enough to shred her remaining confidence. Her stomach dropped and the blood drained from her face.
The severity of the situation had revealed itself.
This is no drill.
Second Lieutenant Benjamin Schaffer bumped into her, and mumbled “Sorry Ma'am.” 
Gina wondered why Ben called her Ma’am; they weren’t usually formal around the office. 
Ben shouted, “Attention!” 
Gina heard the men all smack their heels together as they stood up, rigid as boards, and stared straight ahead, no matter where they had been facing. One man, Corporal Bruce Kilner, had come to attention to the snack machine. 
Gina called out “At ease!”
Everyone resumed what they had been doing. Bruce turned around and met Gina’s gaze. He rolled his eyes, grinned nervously and walked back to his desk.
Captain Gina Phillips’ men were throwing everything from on top of their desks into filing cabinets and powered down their computers. A man Gina didn’t recognize methodically walked to each computer, pulled out the hard drive and dropped them unceremoniously into a large metal box.
Odd, he isn’t making any notes anywhere to track those drives.
Whatever was going on, it didn’t appear, to Gina, life would be back to normal anytime soon.
“Ben! What the hell is going on?” She asked loudly across the room. 
Ben, face shaved smooth and professional-looking in his crisp officer’s uniform, looked up and tipped his head back, pointing his chin at Gina’s closed office door. She took the hint and walked quickly to her office.
Whoever is in my office has some explaining to do.
Collecting her thoughts for a moment before entering, she felt nervous and still a little mentally off-balance. Someone she didn’t see slipped a bottle of cold water in her hand. She rubbed the cold bottle against her pale and clammy face.
Something isn’t right.
Walking into her office, she was startled by a gruff time-wizened voice, even though she was expecting someone. 
The man’s voice ordered her, “Shut the door, Captain.” 
She looked over at her bookcase where she displayed various plaques, awards, and the occasional book and saw a U.S. Navy Captain.
She immediately came to attention to the senior officer, by several pay grades. 
The man said, “at ease, Captain Phillips.” 
Gina, knowing a Navy Captain equaled an Army full-bird Colonel, realized this alert had just reached a whole new level of scary. Gina felt like she might become ill.
The man introduced himself, “I am Captain Ronald Greene. I have orders for your unit.”
Gina, having a hard time speaking through her tight jaw muscles and tumbling stomach, asked before thinking, “why not just send them the usual way?”
He motioned for Gina to have a seat and told her “you may want to sit down for this Captain Phillips.” 
“Thank you, sir, I’ll stand,” she replied, trying to look strong and competent. 
Captain Greene looked into her eyes, nodded.
“I am hand delivering your orders, and those of many other units, because we can no longer rely on electronic communications. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, specifically the Space Weather Prediction Center, told us about some unusual solar activity which started yesterday morning.
“To be candid, we’d foolishly stopped doing much if anything about these notices because NOAA gives us three or four of them each year.
Gina nodded, she suddenly felt dizzy with shock. 
I should have taken a seat when he offered it. 
Captain Greene continued, “Yesterday there were a couple of small disruptions and extra static on the radio waves. Also, as you may have heard, some of the more sensitive scientific computers and most networks are offline or only sporadically available.”
“Okay Captain Greene, so you need bodies out there making people feel safe?” Gina asked, trying to appear normal.
“Yes and no Captain Phillips, I’m here because we’re going cross-branch to get these orders in the hands of our officers. We can’t rely on comms because we don’t know when they’re going to fail us. We can’t have any misunderstandings right now. This may be the last new information we receive for a couple of days. 
“Captain, what I’m going to tell you is for military ears only. NOAA tried to measure the magnitude of the blast with their ACE satellite, but they have been… unable to locate it. 
“NOAA had contacted NASA to examine the issue. NASA tried to reach the ACE satellite and discovered that ACE wasn’t off course or offline, it was gone. The only thing NASA found was a small debris field and a large coronal mass ejection heading straight for Earth.
Gina looked over at her wastebasket as it sat calmly next to her desk.
Good. I’m going to need that soon.
Gina casually walked over toward her desk and, she was sure, her future vomit container as the Captain continued.
“Late this afternoon NOAA told the government the outages we’ve experienced so far are nothing when compared to the epic hell coming sometime tomorrow. Our experience with this storm so far is just a small preview of the main blast that NASA observed.”
Her mouth felt tight as her throat constricted, preparing her body to expel her stomach contents. 
Here it comes.
“We’ve lost contact with most of Asia already, Captain. Civilians have noticed and they are asking questions. Our last reports from the East were of widespread panic and riots which had decimated the major cities in Russia, China and most of Europe.
Oh my God.
“Even if they could obtain measurements from their satellites, NOAA has nothing to compare this storm to, however, they have reassured the government the Earth’s atmosphere should dampen the radiation levels, preventing them from being lethal, but… the inevitable electromagnetic burst has the potential to destroy every single electronic device man has ever created.”
Gina felt cold and faint. She fell heavily backward, thankfully landing on one of the soft guest chairs.