Chapter Eleven

Ithaca, New York

Arrival -18 minutes


     Snow had stopped falling on the Cornell campus, but sounds were attenuated by the mounds of snow that had already matted the cars, streets, buildings, and playing fields. The thick cloud cover was colored a gray echoed in nature only by breaking waves on a cold sea. The campus stood nearly empty as students and most teachers had not returned from the winter break.

     Mike’s mind was racing as walked the campus trying to come up with a place to hide. He felt very silly trying to hide from an unseen danger, aliens at that, that may or may not hit the earth, that may or may not cause enough damage to affect him here, and in the knowledge that any hiding place he did find in the next few minutes may or may not protect him. But he was equally
just as scared, and his eyes rapidly scanned the buildings around him. He was advised by the White House team to go underground and try to contact them if possible after what had euphemistically been termed “The Event”, but was underground any safer than at the top of a tower? What would the effects of a crash at relativistic speeds by a craft that size be? He decided he better stop thinking and start hiding and underground was as good a place as any.

Just across the quad he could see the red brick and copper flashing of Barnes Hall. The underground Cornell campus store lay just next to it, looking just like a WWII bunker, a large mound covered by earth and grass with a concrete façade extending like welcoming arms.

He walked, then trotted, and finally broke into a full out run toward its embrace.
Mike reached the doors just as a temblor started to send waves under his feet. It is too early! Mike thought, as if trying to call a time out in a game where the refs were biased and the rules kept changing.


     “Not yet…” Mike uttered, a pang of fear striking his heart.

     As he tore through the door, he felt a fierce wind at his back and turned to see trees bending, their tops reaching for the ground in a cartoonish way. He ran into the book store screaming, searching for its deepest point, completely unnerved by the rolling ground and loud roar coming from the wind through the plate glass front. He stumbled through the tilting bookshelves and falling tomes, headed for the back of the store. His brain worked feverishly, trying to find safety. He saw no one as he lurched forward, but he heard a few loud screams coming from the check-out counter to his left.

Just when he reached the back wall, the ground lurched upwards violently and threw him off his feet. The wind exploded into the room, the change in pressure bursting his ear drums and causing them to trickle blood instantly. Glass shards pelted his back at high velocity. He tried and failed to catch his breath as the noise increased to unbearable levels.

At the height of the commotion Mike felt the whole room wobble slowly left and then right before the ceiling above him gave way with the sound of a tremendous detonation.


Arecibo, Puerto Rico
Same Time


     Pudge had not left his desk when the earthquake began. He stood up quickly and raced for the window overlooking the base of the radio telescope. The metal sides of the enormous instrument followed the contour of the valley, and cast a shadow over his laboratory office as they extended to sharp edges three quarters of the way up the circling hills.

     The main administration and office building was located on a hill above the bowl shaped apparatus and was invisible from the lab he was in.

     An explosion tore through the center of the telescope as the main array of antennas that had been suspended hundreds of feet over the dish fell onto it. Pudge took a few stumbling steps away from the window as wind rushed through the newly created opening and filled every cubic inch of space under the inverted dome. He saw the entire dish rise a few feet asymmetrically, like the cover on a boiling pot.

All the power in his small building went out before the cover slammed back down, and individual forty-by-forty foot aluminum squares ripped at the seams and rained down onto the ground. One sharp-edged square neatly sliced his cement block building in half, teetering, and flattenned half the building as it settled to one side.

     Pudge found himself
sittingon his haunches, on the second floor of the other half of the building, as he stared agape at the empty space he had occupied a few minutes ago. Then the building, and the ground beneath it, swayed back and forth like a see-saw, and he was thrown head-first from the building onto the ground.

This time, he had no thoughts on his way down.



PEOC, under the East Wing, The White House
Same Time

     The room shuddered and the floor rolled as if a wild beast had gone mad, and Alan hid under the conference room table on his hands and knees, shuffling to stay under the dancing slab of wood, all the while half-praying, half-promising that if he trusted this piece of wood it would save him. In the conference room next to his he could see the President through the glass walls, (Tommy for christsakes!), laying flat on the floor, and every inch of him covered by Secret Service agents. One agent had removed his bullet-proof vest and placed it over Tommy’s head. The vest turned toward Alan and he could see the President’s eyes. They were calm and unafraid, and Alan wondered what kind of man is this, how can he be so serene at death’s door? But Alan could draw no strength from the man.
The President’s family was in a room further down the hall and not visible to Alan, but he assumed that they would be as protected as possible by their own Secret Service men.

Fear had overtaken him and his personal God was now a shellacked Mahogany table, his single commandment to stay under it.

The “Event” had started fifteen minutes earlier than expected and everyone had still been working on plans. Alan felt sad for the President for he was not with his family in his last minutes of life.

Alan felt the floor behind him give way, and he started to slide, along with the table and the rest of the contents of the room, towards the corner right behind him. He saw the floor ahead of him elevate at a perfect forty-five degree angle, rising so that the opposite corner of the entire structure was now meeting the roof, crushing everything and everyone on that side of the room. The remaining desks, people, cabinets and electronic equipment began to slide his way.

The President also slid down towards Alan and landed to his right, the President's agents fighting to block the incoming debris. One agent turned, lifted the conference room table (Pater Nostrus), and used it to blockade the corner the President and alan occupied.

Darkness and the terrible echoing noise of people and furniture hitting the table followed. The metal leg of another table pierced right through their table and barely missed impaling Alan. The room then seemed to shift from side to side, all the contents pressed against one wall then the other.

Alan began to scream in desperate terror. He screamed no words, just a wail of desperation and hopelessness, of fear and anger, of sadness and inevitability of death.

He heard Tommy call his name and felt him grab his hand, but still Alan screamed.

He  screamed as the lights went out and the sounds of destruction diminished and stopped.

The President's hand went limp in his, and the other cries ceased.

In the darkness, all alone, Alan screamed some more.

Chapter 12