8) Red Alert

Biltar ap Dyn finished the paper he’d been writing, collated and bound it, then opened the steel safe and put it in. Tomorrow, if the red alert lifted, he would send out copies to his coworkers.His most important scientific breakthroughs always came while he was sleeping. In dreams, he often found himself before a group of beautiful and highly advanced beings. They would never give information but only assist him to organize the knowledge already in his mind. At first the dreams were vague and he didn’t remember much but after he quit Project Quant he began to discern and construct thoughts into solid forms and apply them in creative rather than destructive ways. Now, the dream council seemed to be gently encouraging him toward the fulfillment of his vision for world peace. Whoever these celestial beings were, he was grateful and longed to understand more. It was, perhaps, the biggest question of his life.The dreams had started after his incredible experience with a mysterious flying craft. He and his friend, Edyn ap Tau, had gone through a weird encounter on Falu island when they were young science students. He tried so hard to understand the wonder and power of it, but it was still a mystery.“Still totally unidentified,” he said to himself. “What happened to Edyn ap Tau? It’s been thirty two annoms since he disappeared. Did they take him? Perhaps they wanted him for something special … will I ever know?”

That evening long ago when the varying frequencies of light from the hovering craft fell upon them, various areas of his brain, or mind, seemed to be stimulated. For the entire night, which seemed like an eternity, he and Edyn were probed by powerful lights of every color which released, and meaningfully organized into their conscious minds, experiential and subconscious knowledge – geometry, chemistry, mathematics, music, electromagnetics, acoustics, biology and physics. Also, the highly charged emotions of human relationships – love, sex, friendship, spirituality, metaphysics and deep feelings beyond words or description in human language.

Then, there was the missing time. Before the “big gap”, as they later referred to it, the last thing he remembered were the lights coming in much closer and Edyn saying, “they want to pick us up.” It was as if Edyn was already familiar with their intentions. Biltar was not afraid as he and Edyn walked toward the glowing ship. The next thing they remembered was standing back on the beach, sometime much later. The bright craft was up there still – hovering above the beach – and the sunrise was only moments away. When the ship faded out as the sun rose, he began to wonder if the experience had been real or an hallucination or a dream but he was left with a strange inner certainty that soon coming events would open a new way for Miraba. They had both come out of the experience changed forever yet hardly able to even describe, much less explain what had happened to them.

A short time later, his friend Edyn ap Tau vanished. There was a police investigation but no results. Biltar never told anyone except Sinya about his strange experience on Falu island. For many annoms he did his own investigation about such encounters. Surprisingly, they seemed rather common but the known details were bizzar. A confused mish mash of information, misinformation and disinformation from many sources. Eventually, he put it all on the shelf and focused on work yielding practical results. Unfortunately, he made a terrible moral misjudgement and went to work for the government on Project Quant.

“Damn this pain in my spine! That bastard Hersh ap Zet took away my herbs and my pipe too. Paraphenalia!”

He went into the living room and settled down in his big chair by the fireplace and continued talking to himself. “I paid dearly for my early stupidity … family … my life withering away. Oh well. Resentment is a downer. I choose a better way … an easy choice because the very matrix of creation has opened her secrets before me and I bow thankfully in awed admiration.”

Biltar stretched his back and groaned, then shifted around trying to get comfortable. Memories flooded him. Sinya, love of my youth, it was a new paradigm that filled our souls and quickened us. The real possibility of our world in harmony with nature at last. Finally taking our place along side those who journey to and from the stars … our relatives … perhaps … perhaps …

He had almost fallen asleep, when the audicom chimed. A sudden rush of anxiety brought him to his feet. The pain almost knocked him down. “Uh … hello?”

“Biltar, this is Fryd. Are you watching the monitor?”

“No, what’s up?”

“Red alert is on indefinitely. They say they’re expecting several major fanatic attacks within the next few days and everyone should remain exactly where they are and stay tuned to the media.”

“Oh, yeah … by all means stay tuned to the propaganda network.”

“How are we going to proceed now?”

“I don’t know Fryd … but … there’s going to be a way. Don’t ask me how. The best thing for us to do is just sit tight and see what happens. It could be that some of the early trash from the planetoid is about to reach Miraba and they want to immobilize the nation so they can quietly escape to their undeground bunkers, space station, or wherever … or, the whole thing might be another dry run.”

“Yes, they actually put their trust in those mega facilities but they may turn out to be nothing but expensive tombs.”

“Listen, Fryd, if and when this alert loosens up, we’ll go immediately.”

“Okay.”

“Peace.”

He muted the audicom and settled back into his chair. No doubt every word of their conversation had been recorded by the NSS but he didn’t care. When those big chunks of sky start to fall, he thought, everyone will leave their jobs immediately to be with their families.

When he thought of “families”, grief and loneliness returned. He felt tears welling up, so he quickly changed focus and went into the kitchen to make some tea.

He returned with a steaming cup and sat in his chair. The audicom chimmed again.

“Hello.”

“Biltar … Rysen here … My family and I are out in the country. I guess you’ve heard the news?”

“You mean the red alert?”

“No, no … Urbantia 9 was just wiped out by a meterorite and more are on the way. Millions are already dead.”

Although Biltar expected something like this, the shock immobilized him momentarily. Then he let out a long sigh, “I guess it’s beginning … the hand of the One bless you and your family.”

“I just wanted you to know again how much I respect you and how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to work with you on this most important project.”

“Thanks, Rysen, I enjoyed working with you too. Now we’ll see if it really pays off, huh?”

“It will Biltar, it will … goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

Biltar ap Dyn muted the audicom. He didn’t know it then, but this was Rysen’s last farewell.

He walked out on his balcony and looked at the sky. The wind was picking up and dry clouds of dark yellow dust were rolling in.

Should I run? Where to? “Not a good day to fly,” he said in a whisper.

He went back inside, put supplies into a big rucksack and headed for the basement. There would be some protection there. He propped up a mattress, sat down in the middle and declared to the four walls, “the days of days have now begun.”

The skies of Miraba grew dark. The planet began to shudder in its competitive struggle with the planetoid. Meteorites rained fire from the sky. The larger ones hit like nuclear explosions. Volcanos exploded with increasing ferocity, sending plumes of ash and thick smoke high into the atmosphere. Rivers of lava flowed through cities burning everyone and everything in hellish firestorms. In some mountainous countries, pyroclastic flows smothered whole populations with choking blankets of boiling gas. Severe quakes split continents apart. Huge tidal waves innundated coastal regions. Tanks filled with poisonous chemicals ruptured, splashing their contents across the landscape into churning rivers and seas. Nuclear power plants were torn and crushed, spewing forth deadly radiation.

Rysen, his wife and two daughters took refuge in a square shipping bottle which he had secured with cables. The cables snapped like strings during a quake and Rysen lashed his wife and two daughters to the inside just before the undulating ground caused it to buck like a wild horse. A mudslide took it down the hill. After flipping over several times, it came to rest upside down in a tangle of burning trees. The door was badly damaged and could no longer be opened. Rysen was prepared and used his cutting torch to slice a hole in the side. His shaken family crawled out, escaping the fire. A rumbling jolt sent them sprawling. Suddenly, several pods of manchines swooped down in aerocars and surrounded them.

A loudspeaker boomed. “Stay where you are. You are under arrest!”

“Arrest? For what?” Rysen objected. “Are you insane! Can’t you see what’s happening?”

“National Security violations!” came the reply.

“The ‘chines must be on auto,” Rysen said to his terrified wife.

They were handcuffed and flown with ten other hapless prisoners to an internment camp by a large transport VTL which barely made it around the thick clouds of ash from a sudden volcanic eruption.

Rysen, his wife and two daughters were incarcerated with several hundred others behind a tall fence out in the open. They endured twelve more quakes throughout the night. In the morning, the intensity of the cataclysm temporarily diminished and Rysen was interrogated. They only wanted to know one thing – where were the PSGs? He never told them.

CONTINUE: 9) The Day of Days

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