Everyone, Thank you in advance. I have posted this story on a sister site and wanted to share here to see what you guys thought. Let me know; I am scrubbing the document before I post so it will be only a few chapters at a time.
23 June 2017
The sun began to peak around the Earth as the International Space Station began its next orbital transit. The Space X shuttle had just arrived six hours before ferrying a new crew consisting of two female Astronauts, one German and one Israeli, and one American male. All three held Ph.D’s in Biochemistry and Mathematics respectively. They joined the three Cosmonauts, all male, who had been alone on the station for three months already. Scheduled for a two week turnover of duties, the Cosmonauts were to return to earth aboard their Soyuz capsule.
Dr. Marsha Levin, a Colonel in the Israeli Defensive Force (IDF), was on duty while the other five slept. She was trying to process the torrent of things that had happened in just the last two days when the leadership at SpaceX had decided to go ahead with launch. She was by far the youngest of the new crew at 37 years old. She had been fast tracked through the space training program after her near prodigy status came to light by a chance meeting with NASA leadership. The time from then till the launch had moved along with alarming speed and alacrity until she finally got this chance to catch her breath.
Yet, in many ways, she preferred to stay very busy. It kept her from dwelling on her internal demons. She didn’t know her crewmates that well, though they had trained together for a period of time before their selection for this mission. She thought back to her childhood in the Kibbutz in northern Israel where she grew up and the stark time interwoven with the sometime overwhelming threat that seem to be ever present from Israel’s neighbors. There was this one time when she was too far away from a bunker when the rockets from Lebanon began to fall on the outskirts of the Kibbutz…..
A shrill warning alarm jarred Dr. Levin out of her thoughts that had begun traveling down a dark road that she didn’t like to travel. However, she would soon see that the dark road traveled in day dreams and nightmares would pale in comparisons to the horror that she was alerted to followed closely by the computer screens she was monitoring showing a huge swath of Corona Mass Ejecta that had leaped off the sun and was screaming on a direct collision course with Earth. The Earth itself had blocked the event from the Space Station until at best there was about five hours left before impact.
Suddenly, Crew Captain Eva Lang appeared next to Levin and gave an audible gasp. “How long?”
Dr. Levin replied, “Five, Six hours tops.”
Eva Lang had grown up in the eastern Hessian village of Nüsttal that was as close to the boarder of East Germany as you could get without actually being there. She saw and experienced the differences between the east and the west and as the gravity of what she was seeing began to set in, she knew that there would indeed be no comparison. “Where?” She really didn’t need to ask. She could see for herself.
“North America.” Levin replied. “But judging how long it is, this will last a couple of days.”
Eva lost in thought mumbled, “The whole world……”
Lang, who was 52 years old and on her fourth space mission, two with the Shuttle program and now her second stay on the ISS, stirred from her thoughts, “And us?”
“Our orbit should keep us relatively safe; our systems are hardened against just this type of event.” Dr. Levin then pressed the toggle button. “ISS to Houston. ISS to Houston.”
“Houston, go ISS.”
Dr. Levin turned to Captain Lang. With a sigh, Captain Lang keyed the mic, “Houston, brace yourself, this isn’t good. Mission Continuing Hope is now changed to Enduring Survival. God help you and God help Mankind.”
3 June 2017
“Left Surface!” Shouted the unnamed Petty Officer manning the life support station/dive station that was responsible for controlling the undersea craft. The support barge had been on station at this site for a couple of weeks. It was very non-descript and to the passing tanker or air craft looked just like any other low draft sea craft. However, its mission was steeped in secrecy.
With those words, the collective tension in the control room rose precipitously as the diving bell slowly began its descent to the ocean floor 600 feet below the surface of this small spot in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, about 100 miles due south of Panama City Beach.
“Mark Time.” Calmly the Dive Supervisor registered the beginning of a two-month Saturation Dive at the bottom of the Gulf. Deep inside, he was on pins and needles as there was a lot at stake for this excursion. This was the first attempt to place United States Navy Divers into a long term deep submergence habitat since the failed Sealab III mission in the late 1960’s. President Clinton had taken a chance on this endeavor as she had in revolutionizing the Space Exploration Program. The next launch, scheduled for 23 June, would include many of the same experiments as this undersea excursion so that a comprehensive understanding of the two extreme environments could be teased out in comparison and in contrast. However, while the world was on stage for the Space part of the exercise, no one knew about the habitat in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
This effort was funded with both private and government dollars and totally supported by people and resources from the Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU) that was located in Panama City Beach. As a mature science, undersea exposures were still in its infancy and there was still much to be learned about this relatively unexplored world. The old undersea habitat, the largest in the world, was modeled after the Ocean Simulation Facility located at NEDU.
The team of divers, three men and two women, would descend the six hundred feet to their new home in the unpiloted submersible. The trip down was conducted in stages and took about four days. During this time, the divers were somewhat cramped as besides the divers, all their gear and rations for their stay had to be transported as well.
On board the diving bell were the dive leader, Hospital Corpsman Chief Petty Officer (HMC) Marc Logan and his crew of two young petty officers and two diving medical officers. Logan, though only 27 years of age, was cut from the old diving school mode of thought and had quickly risen through the Navy ranks, reaching Chief, after nine years of service. He was rugged with a very quiet, confident demeanor. He was a natural born leader who did not have to say a whole lot to get his point across. He kept his hair close cropped and though there was some premature graying, you had to look closely to see it in the light brown offering that he barely left on top. His eyes were slate blue and very intense. Very little escaped their focus or attention. He had the ability to assess his surrounding quickly and make the appropriate decisions that could often decide matters of life or death. His other features were rather unremarkable and this allowed him to fit in without standing out in many settings. Average height at an even six foot fall, and a trim 190 pounds served him well on long missions such as this one.
He was a natural selection to lead this team and with the exception of the diving medical officers, he handpicked the other two enlisted men. And, it was his job to make sure everyone pulled his or her weight safely and efficiently and to ensure that some semblance of harmony ruled. With only five members of the team, there would be little down time.
Taking into consideration that he was having to be confined for three months, he pick two men who were similar to himself in personality and in skill. The first was a six foot, two inch African American who was a Petty Officer Second Class Radioman Diver, Sal Davis. His selection came from necessity for communications but also for his coolness under pressure. He was a skilled fabricator who could work with varying types of metal and exhibited a talent with wood as well. He exhibited no wasted motions and was very fluid on his and Logan’s frequent hunting trips to North Alabama. As expert rifle shot with multiple rifles, he was only bested on occasion by Logan.
The third diver selected was a rather diminutive man of Germanic origin who, though only about five foot, eight inches tall was very stocky and very quick on his feet. For this dive he was the equipment technician and Logan knew there was none better at problem solving on the fly then Kurt Mathis. There were few weekends that went by that he did not join the other two in their excursions. He was almost as good with weaponry as Logan and Davis, but was superior in explosives, supply and logistics. As each man had to fulfill a multiple of roles, these were the best.
The diving medical officers (DMO) were there to keep the crew healthy. Though there has been a lot of research on long term deep submergence exposures, there were still some unknowns in this challenging environment. And the DMOs were fully stocked and skilled to handle most any emergency including minor surgery and depth related injuries.
Their home for the next three months as a habitat that essentially had five large hyperbaric chambers that were daisy chained together, providing their living quarters. The individual chambers were labeled “A” through ”E” and, in the standard military convention, were named “Alpha”, “Bravo”, “Charley”, “Delta”, and “Echo”. Entry into the Habitat was gained through a small chamber located below the Charley chamber. There was differential pressurization in this room that kept the sea out, but provided a large circular access to the ocean. Here, too, all the diving equipment was stored, staged and cleaned. A winch was affixed to the ceiling to raise and lower there diving stage as needed. A small gas farm located just outside the chamber housed enough breathing gas mixes for various depths for up to six months. Resupply was to be done by submersible.
Bunks were located in Alpha, Bravo, Delta and Echo chambers. Bravo and Delta chambers doubled as the movie theater and the shower/toileting facilities; both of which were opened to the chamber requiring privacy on the honor system. Though there were lockout ports in both Bravo and Delta chambers, there was a small galley located at the far end of the habitat in echo chamber. Due to the nature of the breathing gases in the habitat, all food was either consumed as it was or it was warmed chemically in an external device connected to Echo chamber.
They had enough Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to last about a year and for water, there was a closed loop reverse osmosis/forward osmosis water production unit, thanks to an interagency loan with NASA. This technology, developed at NASA Ames Research Center and perfected on the International Space Station (ISS) was key for recycling all of their “gray water” and from time to time, desalinating small amounts of sea water. With proper care, this equipment would function indefinitely. Prior to the dive, all MREs were field stripped and had their heating elements removed and made compression ready. As it wasn’t that desireable to live off of MRE’s for any length of time, there would be periodic resupply via the submersible with fresh fruit and vegetables. Logan was well versed in nutrition in operational environments and had insisted on fresh produce to keep them at the top of their game.
After four days in the submersible, the divers finally reached the habitat. With the destination finally attained, it was like a dream to finally move around the habitat that was palatial by comparison. And after four days the smells in the bell were beginning to reach unprecedented heights. What passed for the port-o-potty had reached it’s capacity and was very ripe to say the least.
The first few days in the habitat involved setting up the living spaces, stowing the diving gear and other equipment, assessing rations and just generally becoming accustomed to the depth and heaviness of the breathing air. At 600 feet below sea level, the air density is at the point where it could be quite uncomfortable to talk, eat or even breathe at the same time. And as HMC Logan knew from prior NEDU research, cognitively, it would take about five days to adapt to the environment so that work could be done safely. So the first five to seven days were filled with the three “M”…. Movies, Meals and Mattresses. Without natural sunlight/night cycles, they would have to rely on the artificial light and dark cycles in the habitat.
In order to insure some amount of privacy for both male and female crew members, HMC Logan assigned female berthing in Delta and Echo chamber while male berthing was in Alpha and Bravo chamber. It wasn’t lost upon the two officers that the chow device was located in their sleeping quarters; HMC quickly established when the other members could and could not heat their meals.
The dive was relatively uneventful for the first two weeks or so. Settling in with a mixed crew was challenging, especially considering each member tended toward an alpha personality. Allowing that there would always be issues that needed to be worked through, the crew settled into a solid work routine, carrying out the business of the dive and all the experimental protocols attached to this particular dive. On the 20th day of the dive, HMC Logan was working on a stuck fitting about 20 yards from the habitat. He had 45 minutes left in his dive when he got a call from Petty Officer Davis. Oddly enough, at that moment the submersible began to quickly head back to the surface.
“Chief, Something is wrong here.” Sal commented upon establishing contact.
Logan watched the dive bell until it was out of sight. “What is it?”
“We have lost coms to the surface.”
“Okay… Probably just a glitch.” Logan began to address the fitting again.
“No, Chief, it isn’t. They had started broadcasted then the transmission ended. They started to say something about a situation.”
His friend addressing him by “Chief” got his attention. It was almost the same way that most sailors will say "Shipmate". “Okay, give me five then I will head in. I have to get this project started at least.”
About fifteen minutes later, the stage raised Logan into the dry-dive area under Charley chamber. He stepped off and with assistance from his diving buddy for this dive, LT Dana Callahan, he was able to get the heavy equipment off and stowed. LT Callahan was the younger of the two DMOs, and was by far the least experienced diver in the group. Though she had an athletic build, she did tend to be on the taller and leaner side of the spectrum. She was also, by far, the most outspoken of the five, tending to speak before she thought most of the time.
The two headed into Charley chamber, which served as the command and control center. All the communication and tactical surveillance equipment was located here. “Okay, replay what you got.” Logan urged.
Petty Officer Davis reached over and hit play as he had already queued the transmission. “Team I do not have a lot of time, you have to listen carefully. As you know this mission was top secret, we didn’t want the politicians to know about it. As such, no one knows you are down there. You will have to make do on……..” This was followed by a loud static pulse then there was nothing.
“That is it.” Davis commented.
“Any video?” Logan asked.
"Yes, just this, then the cameras transmission also went to snow.”
Logan looked at the screen and the time stamp. Both feeds went to snow at the same time. He had Davis freeze the last image. “Look that sailor is holding a hand written sign. Can you make it out?”
Davis fiddled with the controls a little then the sign pulled into focus. Two words were hastily written on the card. “STAY DOWN”. This was the last image that the dive team saw.
LT Callahan blurted, “Stay Down? What does that mean?”
Logan thought for a moment. There was still over two months left in this scheduled dive. He wasn’t sure if it meant to sit tight till then or not. “For now, I do not know. Maybe it means to continue the dive or maybe it means to stay longer. We will need to try to find out.” Logan paused. “Sal, keep trying to reestablish contact. Also look for other anomalies to see if we can piece things together.” Then looking at them sternly, he followed, “Either way, the submersible went topside about 30 minutes ago.” Pausing to let that sink in, he continued, “Without that, we have no way to safely decompress and surface.”
23 June 2017
Carl smoothly lifted the helicopter off of the runway at the Houma-Terrebone Airport in Houma, Louisiana. Carl Levin, who had just turned 45 years old the previous week, had for the last twelve years been the primary pilot for the Bayou Transportation Company (BTC) at its transportation hub from this small airport in South Louisiana. A small corporation, BTC services about a dozen rigs in this part of the Gulf of Mexico off of Louisiana. As he had tenure, he worked a traditional five day week making deliveries of human capital and sustenance resources. His primary helo was the large Sikorsky S-92, a twin engine, medium-lift heliocopter that had a range of about 600 miles and could carry about 20 people.
On this particular trip he had a crew of five mud loggers and a senior Vice President on board. His co-pilot, a just out of school former Navy pilot, completed the load. His plan was to drop off the five workers and his co-pilot at Rig number 23 then fly another 35 miles to a new Rig, number 27, where his VP was to make a visual inspection of the Rig. Number 27 had been put into place two weeks before, but bad weather had hampered setup.
The VP happened to be the youngest daughter of the owner of Gulf Saturation Exploration and this was their newest rig. It was her determination alone to see if the rig was safe to bring out the set up crew.
Having made his first stop Carl brought the Sikorsky into a seaward approach to the temporary landing pad atop the main deck of the rig. He gently set the bird down and the VP looked at him and told him to stay there as she exited the aircraft and began her inspection. Carl chuckled to himself as the helo spun down. He still had a third stop to make to deliver supplies to another rig about 45 miles away. He was sure that they were eagerly awaiting the food and spare parts for their equipment. Rig 27 was about 120 miles from the Mississippi Delta and was about as lonely as you could imagine a rig being. Construction had just been completed and it awaited final acceptance testing before the first team of workers would arrive. The transition team had just left the week before so there wasn’t a single living soul on the rig. The sooner this lady finished her walk about, the better he felt.
Carmen Baker was about average height at 5’4 and weighed around 120 pounds. She didn’t have any trouble making her way around this rig as she had virtually grown up in these isolated cities in the middle of the gulf. She had a head for this business and she was a natural choice for the next senior owner, whenever her father decided he had enough. She kept her dark red hair a comfortable shoulder’s length and was in the company’s dark blue coveralls, keeping her business suits pristine for when she was in the office.
After about 40 minutes Carmen returned to the heliopad and climbed into the Sikorski. “I am ready whenever you are.” She had noticed Carl about a year previous. She always chose him for these trips but wasn’t sure if he even noticed. She fixed him with her green eyes and asked, “How long until we are able to get back to Houma?”
Carl thought for a moment then did his calculations out loud, “15 minutes to spool up, go through checklists and takeoff, about 20 minutes to next rig with about an hour of turnaround time then another 20 minute trip back to the first rig to get the folks heading back then about an hour in…” He left it hanging a bit before he added, “How about you take this left seat and give me a hand? You can see more up here, but then again, how much water can anyone look at?”
She gladly joined him and he started the checklists and when he had them complete and the four blades trimmed and proper touque inputted, the Sikorsky lifted into the air. He continued rising to about 300 feet above the rig and slowly rotated the back end by easing back on the right pedal and allowing the natural tail rotor torque to turn the aircraft. He began to push the cyclic forward to gain lift when both engines suddenly shut down. Immediately he dropped the collective, praying it wasn’t his transmission too, before the bird began to drop out of the sky. Manipulating the pedals he was able to execute a picture perfect autorotation back down to the pad where he raised the collective just before touching down to make the landings less difficult.
Carmen, somewhat ashen, let out her held breathe and exclaimed, “What was that?”
“I don’t know, I just lost all power and all my systems. Good thing we were still here or that would have been a quick trip into the drink.”
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Looking good so far!! Heck yeah, the MOAR Hounds will bowl if they like the read, and want MOAR!
MOAR, FYI, in case you didn't know is a bastardized more in an emphatic state. It, loosely translated, means hurry up and write more, or we will pester the helloutta ya until ya do!
So....MOAR would seem to be in order!!
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That's the scariest part of the whole story
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Time for next installment...
23 June 2017
Looking at LT Calahan, Logan picked up the handheld for the 1MC, the overhead intercom system for the habitat. “Team, something has come up; we have lost contact with the surface. Plan to meet in 45 minutes in Bravo Chamber. I need each of you to bring a summary of our system statuses. Let’s make sure the issue isn’t on our end and that we are safe.” Then after replacing the handheld, the remarked, “Time to let the rest of the team know.”
Logan then went to his bunk in Alpha chamber, and drew the curtain that separated it from the rest of the habitat. His mind immediately went to his previous survival-type war gaming that covered various scenarios. While wondering what had happened, he suspected an Electromagnetic Pulse, it was time to take stock and do what he could to save the lives of his divers. Spitballing it, he knew they were okay to be down in the habitat for at least a year. When they did surface, it would be a worst case scenario requiring all of them to work together. The most pressing need was to decompress safely followed by the need for provisions and weaponry top-side.
On issue number one, coming up with a way to get topside, they would have to get very, very creative to do it safely. Without the submersible this would be near impossible. It usually takes 33 plus hours to successfully decompress from a deep saturation dive. This was in best case scenarios. However, Logan did remember a series of disabled submarine studies conducted at NEDU in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s that successfully provided accelerated decompression guidance. Still, you need a conveyance and 100% oxygen to do this and if it wasn’t done in the prescribed manner, oxygen toxicity could result. And unfortunately, he didn’t have the prescribed manner at hand.
Shifting to the cause of their current situation, if it was an EMP, the dive tender would still be topside but would be dead in the water. He wasn’t sure what their capabilities were; or if all the sailors would still be around on surfacing. It may be some time before they find out. Of all the potential issues to be faced, the lack of information was the most frustrating to him. Fortunately, if they were able to reach the surface and make it to the mainland, he had a place to go. Depending on the status of the infrastructure that remained, he could make it to his father’s old homestead in rural south Mississippi.
His mother and father had both been deceased for fifteen and nine years respectively. They left him an eight acre parcel that he had enjoyed when he was growing up. During his formative years, they had raised various livestock to supplement their groceries. This included a large clutch of chickens, hogs, and a couple of cows. As his brothers and him grew up and moved away, Marc’s father got out of the livestock business, though he continued to grow a quite extensive garden right up to the time he died.
Marc visited two or three times a year, usually during hunting season. He had allowed the land to recover with guidance over the last nine years. The area around the house was kept cleared for fifty yards all around, but the surrounding land upto and around the pole barn that was in the back was now planted in various hardwood and pine trees. The land around the pole barn had previously been planted in pines as a farm but with some strategic plantings, even this area was made to look more natural.
Two years prior, Marc had installed a large underground shelter with heavy equipment he had borrowed from a trusted friend. With the tree coverage protecting him from prying eyes, he had excavated a large hole midway between the existing house and the pole barn and using forms, poured a subterranean structure that had concrete walls that were a foot thick and with footings and load supports, held a concrete ceiling that measured a foot thick and had four feet of soil and sod above. There were four rooms inside the dwelling. The main room consisted of the Kitchen, Food Prep and dining area. There was a room for sleeping, a control room and a storage room. He had included many creature comforts and the control room was well appointed with video feeds from the strategically place cameras around the property as well as communication equipment. There were two long tunnels that connected the house and barn with the shelter.
Being underground, even in the heat of summer, it stayed cool and with his wood burning stove, which served as his cooking stove and heater, insured that the few days of winter would be relatively comfortable as well. He dug a septic tank with a leach field to handle his waste water and as he was only there for long hunting weekends, it would last for quite a while. On the uphill side of the enclosure, and closer to the house he buried a 2500 gallon water tank to collect water from the small spring that was located on the property. On the south side of the house, there was installed a bank of five Monocrystalline solar panels which at peak performance (A nice sunny day) provide about 200 watts of DC power that feed into a bank of four 100 amp/hour lead acid deep cycle batteries via a standard 30 amp controller that keeps the batteries from being overcharged and to protect them from reaching an undercharged status. Finally from the batteries to the subterranean dwelling, there is a power inverter to convert the DC to AC in order to run the house hold appliances and accouterments. While this set up will never power a refrigerator, it will keep the few lights on when they are needed as well and run a few of the power tools that Marc needs from time to time.
His entire system is flexible; the Monocrytalline panels are themselves flexible and can be moved easily inside or out. And with the batteries and other components buried, it leaves a zero footprint except when in use, which was most of the time.
He also made it a point to plant several varieties of fruit and nut trees among the trees at various places on his property depending on their resistance to the temperature extremes that the area experienced throughout the year. All in all, he could be comfortable during his hunting trips to the area, unnoticed while he was there and fully able to enjoy his seclusion. And he knew if push came to shove, he could stay there indefinitely. If he could only reach it.
23 June 2017
International Space Station
Shortly after impact the crew was awakened and Captain Lang gave her brief to the subdued men and women sitting around her. Addressing the Russian Cosmonauts, “Look, I know this seems like a bad deal to you and I will not stop you from taking your Soyuz and returning to Earth.”
The three men slowly got up and made preparations to undock. Dr. Levin spoke what everyone was thinking, “If this is worldwide and we can’t get any confirmation on that, we will be better off here for the short term.”
Dr. Rodrick Franklin, the only American spoke up, “What about our families? I have a wife and two small daughters down there!” He was visibly shaken.
Marsha Levin, after a slight pause, spoke up, “Okay, listen to this. How much food does the average family have in their home?”
Rod answered, “Two, three weeks tops?”
“If that. How much of that is refrigerated or in the freezer?”
“Probably 90%. Look, we are wasting time!”
“No, she is going somewhere with this, hear her out.” Dr. Lang cautioned.
“So here is the thing,” Marsha began, “Our society, Earthwide, has just been pushed back a few hundred years to a time before electricity. Before food became convenient, everyone had a garden, even city folks. Now, there is no electricity; the food will not last and with no electricity, there will be no food deliveries because it takes electricity to pump gas and diesel from underground tanks.” She paused to let that sink in. “There is at best about three days’ worth of food at any grocery store for roughly 500 people. So what do you think is going to happen when a city, say the size of Houston, realizes that their food supply is cut off and you can’t buy anything with credit cards, that require electricity and oh yeah, there is no water coming to your house because there is no electricity?”
Rod was subdued, “We got to try.” He whispered.
Lang then added, “There is more. There will be mass die offs.”
Rod looked at her and said, “Well, that is a bit harsh.”
“Yes, but it is our new reality. There will be an initial wave of folks who require some sort of continuous medical care such as ventilators, dialysis, and what have you. These will be the second wave to die. Everyone who was on an airliner or everyone who had a pace maker, they have all likely perished already. Our lifestyle has gotten more sedimentary. There will be tons of people who all of a sudden have to exert themselves who are not in shape to do so, leading to emergency health issues and with no ambulances running, these folks will die too.” She stopped for a moment, then picked up again. “There is an entire strata of folks who have milked the system for years sitting back while everything was provided for them and then all of a sudden this provision is not coming. They will be the first to become vocal and will initiate the looting and rioting. Society will break down in three to four days. This will end the first wave of death. Eventually, disease caused by the lack of sanitation, that requires electricity, will become rampant and take out a healthy portion of the remaining population. Those who survive will be in a life and death struggle for whatever provisions remain.”
Levin cleared her throat, “This sounds bad, but there will be a few who are prepared to survive, have the knowledge to live the old ways and who adapt to not only survive, but to one day thrive. We have to stay here until we can return after the chaos.”
Rod asked, “How long will that be?”
Lang surveyed the room and said, “At least a year.”
Rodrick sighed and said, “How about I catch a ride with Soyuz?”
Lang look at him and said, “They are landing in Siberia… How and when will you get home from there?”
The silence grew.
23 June 2017
Carl did a quick systems check. There was very little to check for as the blade stopped rotating, there wasn’t a single light, a single signal or anything happening. He keyed his mic, “May Day, May Day, anyone read me?” There was no response. There wasn’t even any static. He looked over toward his passenger who remained still with a pasty white look on her face.
Carmen slowly turned her head and whispered, “What did you do that for?”
He stared for a moment then said, “We lost power. That was an autorotation.” He paused for effect, “We almost didn’t make it!”
Carmen unstrapped, opened the door then stepped out onto the platform.
She bent over to throw up but then stopped as something out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. Something wasn’t right and it took her a moment to realize that the lights were not on anywhere on the platform. She looked back at Carl, “You see that?”
He stepped down from his side and came around the now useless bird. “Are you okay?”
“No, I am not okay!” Shock had given way to a helpless anger.
“What is it about the lights?” He felt helpless.
She was exasperated now, “They aren’t on! They are always on!” She hissed.
Carl took a couple of steps and looked around. An uneasiness settled into his stomach. EMP jumped into his head, but he attempted to dismiss it. Yet all the signs were there. And if this was the case, if it would have happened a minute or two later he wouldn’t have been standing there.
And neither would she. She noticed the shift in his face as the color drained somewhat followed by the setting of his jaw. “What?”
“EMP most likely.”
“What is an EMP?” She asked still trying to grasp what was happening.
“Electro Magnetic Pulse. It results from a nuclear detonation in the Earth’s Atmosphere far above the surface. It fries anything electronic.” He started walking toward the entryway to the stairwell leading to the control room for the rig. Man, he hoped he was wrong.
Carmen followed a few steps behind and stopped midway up to look at a few things. When she got to the control room, Carl turned and said, “this rig is as dead as the Helo out there. We aren’t going anywhere for a while.”
Carmen looked around and then asked the only question she knew to ask, “What shall we do?”
Carl looked out the window to the platform and the ocean beyond and said, “That is the million dollar question.”
24 June 2017
International Space Station
“Do we have the resources to stay up here a year?” Levin asked.
“We will have to be frugal, but yes we do. We will have to at the least, because without land based guidance, we would have a less than 2% chance of successfully landing the shuttle.” Captain Lang answered.
Rod jerked his head around, “What do you mean? We have no way to return to Earth?”
“The parameters for reentry and approach to landing require the supercomputers at Houston and NASA Ames Research Center in California. That is just for starters, with all the planes crashing, it may be difficult to find a suitable landing site.”
“How do you know they all crashed?” Rodrick wasn’t handling this very well. Try as he might, he couldn’t keep his family out of his head.
“We don’t, really, just speculation. Any other word from Soyuz?” Marsha asked.
Lang, who was monitoring the ascent of the spacecraft, answered. “We lost contact as they entered the atmosphere. We don’t know what happened, but it look like their trajectory was not correct and they would miss all of their landing sites in Siberia.”
“By how much?” Martin asked.
“By my calculations, they will end up somewhere in North America, and with the orbit they were on, their momentum may drop them somewhere in Mississippi or Alabama. Remember? Our current orbit was conducive to receiving the shuttle after launch from Kennedy. It needed the week to be optimum for a return to Siberia.”
Rod chuckled sardonically, “I could have gone with them and been that much closer to home…. Well, they are definitely out of the frying pan and into the fire now.”
"Any thoughts on our dilemma? How will we land the shuttle? I know our countries are out of the question.” Levin asked
“Landing won’t be the problem… Surviving reentry will be the million dollar question. Our first priority is survival, now and later.” Lang paused. “Where are we with systems and supplies?”
Marsha looked out the small port hole toward the southern part of the United States. It was dark now and it looked very odd to not see any lights. Anywhere. Then she thought about her husband, Carl, and prayed the he wasn’t airborne when this happened.
24 June 2016
Oil Rig Platform
Carmen and Carl had off loaded the supplies from the Helo. Fortunately, there were already some supplies pre-staged on the platform and by his reckoning, Carl felt that they had about two months’ worth of food on board. If they rationed, it could stretch to three. He had been more worried about the water, but there were several vending cases filled with sodas and energy drinks around the infrastructure. This worry eased even more when Carmen told him about the water purification system. They had found that the battery systems that were stored deep in the platform had not been affected by whatever happened. And after a quick rerunning of the conduit the evening before, the solar panels were reattached and for the time being, they had low load power. Enough to run their water processing and to pump water for a shower every once in a while. And the shelter was about as safe as could be from the elements.
However, they were stuck with the clothes they had on their backs. And if someone were to arrive that were unwanted, they wouldn’t have weapons to fend them off. Other than that, the oil platform was self-sufficient and could be totally buttoned up in harsh weather. Carl couldn’t help but think about how his wife was doing all those miles above the earth and how alike the infrastructure of the ISS was similar to the Oil Rig.
They had selected adjoining staterooms that were just off the control room near the top of the infrastructure. This gave them commanding view of the surrounding ocean.
“Good Morning.” Carmen murmured as she came into the bridge, this is what she called the control room. He was sitting in one of the swivel chairs staring out the 360 degree windows. He could see everything for miles and had indeed found a set of 10 X 200 binoculars to scan the oceans as well. He had spotted several stationary ships out at least 10 to 12 miles but they hadn’t moved in the two or three hours he had been intently looking.
“Good Morning, there’s coffee if you like.” Carl was very aware of her interest in him; he had been upfront with her on many occasions that he was happily married and had a strong faith in God. He wasn’t looking for any other companionship. And now they were dealing with the reality of being stuck on the platform, alone, while who knows what is happening around them.
Carmen stepped over to the coffee mess in the back, “How’d you get the pot to work?” She studied the pot and the cup in her hands.
“It doesn’t pull a lot from the batteries. Nothing does, especially since we do not have to run those huge refrigerators down below. The wiring that were not actively carrying any current seems to have escaped the general meltdown that happened yesterday. Still they are few, that is the only outlet on our level.” He had been alone with his thoughts for a long time this morning and didn’t want his doubts in the situation or in himself to percolate to the surface. He still didn’t know the magnitude of what has happened or if help would arrive.
Carmen nodded. She spent the night thinking things through and though she felt like she knew what was going on, she had a hard time coming to grips with it. It was a kick to her gut to realize that she was stuck here. She also knew that there would be a major problem getting off this platform and onto solid ground.
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2 July 2017
Marc entered the dry-lock from below and quickly doffed his dive gear. “There isn’t any noticeable changes in water temperatures or amounts of fish. At least we have that going for us.” In the week since their mission changed permanently, Logan had kept his crew busy to keep their minds off of what had happened. Half of him wished that the guys topside would send the submersible down and shout out “Surprise! It was all just one big experiment.” However, he knew that this wasn’t any trick or prank. This type of dive was serious business and it wasn’t a place to pull that kind of stunt. Especially on the first mission after 40 years.
“Um, Chief, I think you need to see this.” Sal called as soon as he knew Logan was free of his gear.
Logan sighed and made his way up into Charley Chamber. “What’s up?”
“Well, little things first. The toilet in Bravo chamber is clogged again.”
“And so? I am not dumping the tank this time. Assign one of the docs to go out and do it. I’ve told them not to put their feminine products in there. This plumbing is old, it can’t stand up to the abuse.” He paused to let that settle, “So what is the biggy?”
Sal pointed to his screen. The habitat did have the latest sonar and on the screen a sizable blip slowly moving in their direction.
“Doesn’t move like it. My guess would be a submarine.”
“You’re kidding!” Logan exhaled.
“Nope, it is plausible that like us, whatever happened topside didn’t affect them.”
“Now that is the twenty million dollar question. If it was indeed an attack on the US, then it would follow that some sort of invasion force would put troops ashore at some point and time.”
“Possible. Not likely a large force with a sub. How far away are they?”
“There are no thermals to shoot through here. They are running deep so this is fairly accurate. About a klick, klick and a half south.” Sal paused and hit some buttons. “They will pass about a football field away to our east if they continue their current course; in about 35 minutes.”
“Okay, button up. Turn off all non-essential equipment and get everyone in here. They likely do not know we are here and we do not wish that to change until we know more.”
Twenty minutes later, as the sub approached, Logan had donned his gear and headed back out to get a better look. The Submarine came and then stopped about 500 yards to their Southeast. Then it settled to the ocean floor.
Five minutes later, Logan saw what he needed to see and reentered the habitat. Upon quietly reaching the control room, every eye was on him as he shook his head slightly and said, “Chinese.”
24 August 2016
“Float the habitat?” Logan asked.
Sal, with a lopsided grin said, “Yeah, it can be done and we can control our assent to account for the accelerated decompression profile.”
Logan exhaled loudly then was quite for a while. He liked to work out things in his mind before he spoke. “You know, you may have something there.” Without the submersible, they were stuck.
In the last two months, since the Chinese sub had made an appearance and then left quietly under its own power, they have carried on business as usual. And with every minute in the back of his mind, he was trying to solve the problem of decompressing and surfacing successfully.
“The only problem I see is that those accelerated decompression profiles only were tested for one or two atmospheres. This is ten times greater than that.”
Sal pondered a second, “True, but saturated is saturated. You are no more so here than there.” He paused then added, “We could actually button up here and start decompressing to about 33 feet or so then begin our accent.”
“Yeah, we could… But how would we keep the habitat upright… it will spin as it leaves the ocean floor then the currents will play havoc.” Logan was trying to think of every angle. “I do know we do not want to be here if that sub comes back. What?”
Sal face lit up then took a paper cup out of the pack, filled up the little sink and then put some water into the cup…. We Logan looked at him like he lost his mind, Sal simply said, “Balast.”
“The Wet Pot under Charley! Of course.”
Within a few hours, Logan had run the idea past the rest of the team. Then added, “We do not know what we are returning to. If this is successful, we still have to get to land and then we have to address what is on land, if anything.”
LT Calahan asked, “What are you expecting?”
Logan answered, “The worst. We can salvage what we can and we do have the little life raft thing, but we have no long term supplies or weapons.”
“Weapons? Why Weapons?” LT Sara Carpenter, the senior DMO asked. She was very introspective most of the time, but would speak her mind if pushed to do so.
“I do not know for sure, but the world we are returning to has changed in some unforeseen way. We have to be ready to protect ourselves.” Marc intoned.
“Do you think the Navy Base has any resources left?”
“Betting man that I am, they are probably cleaned out, depending on who got there first.”
“What about our families?” LT Calahan asked. “We have to find them and check on them.”
Logan paced slowly to the other side of the room. “We will look for our families, those of us who have them, and then we can decide what to do. My feeling is that we stay together as a group but if you desire to go off on your own and if the military structure is lacking, I will not hold you to your service commitment.”
“What will you do?”
“I will cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, we need to focus on today’s problem, tomorrows problem will be big enough for tomorrow.” Logan offered.
Sal spoke up, “It has been two months, we are totally blind down here, I say we go immediately.”
LT Carpenter, a pensively said, “The sign said to stay down as long as we can. We need to do that.”
“Well that is easy for you, isn’t it? You aren’t married or have kids do you?” Sal shot back a bit chippily.
Carpenter look at him a long while and said, “No, I don’t. But I come from a large family and I have no clue what has happened. They may have been killed for all I know or they may have made it to our retreat in Tennessee for all I know.” She paused. “But I do know this, our best odds are to listen to the only, THE ONLY, piece of intel we have. I mean, what if there is a war going on? And the Chinese have attacked? Or nuclear weapons used?”
“If there is a war, we wear a uniform and we are bound to get back and do our part!”
Logan stepped in, “Hold it, Guys!” He held his hands up and the two separated. “Listen to me well. That sign wasn’t just a sign or a mark of intel, as far as we are concerned, it was a direct order and within the constraints of our provisions, we will hold to that order. Is that clear?”
Three heads nodded slightly, Sal just looked at his feet.
“Sal, Man, I am sorry. I know this tears you up but it is the way it has got to be. Not knowing is the most difficult. Keep in mind, no one knows about us either.”
Sal sniffed a little then looked up. “My wife is resourceful, if there was a way, she will be thriving. I will do whatever needs to be done here, do not worry.”
Logan looked around the room at each in turn. He stopped on his Loggie, “Kurt, you’ve been quite. How do we look down here.”
Kurt sighed then stated, “My parents were young children during the Nazi socialization of Germany. They saw how bad it could be, scrounging for each meal, the when the front moved through their hometown near the end, for whatever reason, Hitler thought it needed defending and some of the most brutal fighting of the war took place around them. It was door to door and every inch was contested. They knew what it was to be bad and then to get worse. I fear that we will be looking at the worst and we need to be ready. After the war, the starving didn’t end, it only multiplied. The looting and pillaging increased. Disease set in quickly and hit hard. My mother lost a brother and a sister after the war. Eventually, things got better but didn’t improve for her until moving to the states. So yes, we must stay here and out wait what is happening up there, whatever it is, however you can imagine how bad it can be, it will be worse, much much worse.”
Logan sat circumspect for a moment, “How long?”
“We have plenty of food and can make our water; our only limiting factor is battery life and spare parts.” He paused. “We need to let the winter take care of some of the business up there. Going before then is suicide.”
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Good writing! Wrapped up in this one. Keep 'er rollin'!
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On the oil rig platform:
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