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Thread: Flare....

  1. #1
    Expatriate American Patriot's Avatar
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    Default Flare....

    Flare



    Robert Snow looked through the 8” reflector high up on top of Pikes Peak where he'd driven earlier today and set it up. He was searching for comets on his summer vacation. Pikes Peak was close, but unfortunately the city below was some what muffling his view of the night sky, even this late at night. He was already on the western side of the mountain but the night time light display below on the eastern side still tended to fog the images he was taking with his digital camera equipment and laptop.



    He was somewhat irritated at the lighting anyway, and had to keep adjusting the imaging on the system. His demeanor was not a happy one and could plainly be observed on his face were it light enough for anyone to see him. As it was the mountain top was pretty much abandoned now, all the summer tourists having filed down the mountain before dark. The only couple of people left at the top were the two Rangers who had driven up to see who was on the mountain and just ruined the last twenty minutes of his work by pointing the headlights of the Jeep Cherokee at the astronomer.


    “Hi Doctor Snow. What are you still doing here,” one of them asked. Snow sighed and turned to glare at them.


    “What the fuck do you think I am doing gentlemen? I'm using my telescope to gaze into the near by apartment complex on yon mountainside. Turn the God Damned lights off when I'm working would you?” he sneered. The two men chuckled at his anger. Neither of them really liked the Doctor, and he was a royal pain in the ass most of the time. He'd insisted that the lighting on the visitor center be turned off for the next two weeks while he was using the mountain top to look for comets. The Rangers didn't like that idea much.


    “Fine Doc. Sorry, we forgot,” the younger of the two men chuckled, half lying, half truthfully.


    “Why don't you go on another mountain without lights?” asked the second man.


    “Why don't you go piss in someone else's Cornflakes Ranger's Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb shit?” he growled.


    “Damn, you're sure snotty tonight....”


    “Look, you guys just fucked up over twenty minutes of work, I have to start all over. Could you at least NOT aim your headlights in my direction when you come up the friggin' hill from now on?”


    “Fine. Have fun. Don't let a bear eat you....” the younger man snorted as they elder one restarted the engine and turned on the headlights on bright as they backed out and headed back down the mountainside.


    “Fuckers....” Snow muttered out loud. He hated cops, rangers and in general pretty much any sort of authority figure – except himself of course. As the head of the Astronomy Department at UCCS he was both loved and feared by students. Those who loved him thought of him as a genius. Those who hated him, hated him for the same reason he hated cops and rangers and authority figures. He was an overbearing, loudmouthed, mostly obnoxious Professor who didn't give a shit what others thought and was honestly proud of himself for ripping students' works to shreds and making them feel smaller than life every chance he got.


    He reset his shot, adjusted the camera, the telescope, turned on the autotracking and clicked on the screen of the little laptop to start the image storage. His little camera was picking up a solid green color where none had been before. He cussed again and kicked the ground and tried to adjust the image to no avail. Looking at the sky it was a very, very dark black with brilliant stars. He shook his head and rebooted the computer, restarted the program and fiddled some more. After thirty minutes he realized that the image was because the camera was either broken or it was picking up an odd wavelength that he himself couldn't see.


    After a bit more work, he realized the camera was fine – and the image was being reported accurately. Scanning the sky slowly with the telescope he observed that this was some kind of infrared image and the sky was actually oscillating around. If he didn't know any better, he would have thought he was looking at aurora borealis. But you can normally see that with your own eyes. In this case, it was only his camera, which was sensitive to IR anyway, and it was very, very dim.


    Scanning northward showed no aurora at all, this was basically above him and to the west. He picked up his cell phone and made a phone call.


    “Hello?”


    “Jim?”


    “Hi Bob. Kind of late don't you think? Are you drinking?” came the voice from the other end.


    “No Jim, I'm on top of the mountain trying to find a new comet. But, something odd... I'm seeing some kind of aurora on the screen here. Did we have some kind of solar flare today or something?”


    “You must be on vacation and not listening to anything. Yeah, as a matter of fact we had something a day or so ago that headed our way, probably hitting this evening. Can you see it with the naked eye too?”


    “No. That's what's odd....”


    “Well, the sun is acting up big time. There are several new spots on the limb and coming around. There have been a half dozen small CMEs over the past few days, but nothing aimed at the Earth. “


    “Well... this is odd. I can't even do a good photo shoot with this. I guess I'll turn in for now. Gonna sleep up here now, not driving down in the dark tonight and since I can't really do a decent photo shoot there's nothing else to do but try tomorrow,” Snow said.


    “Look on the bright side. You're up there communing with nature, and hell you can just LOOK through the telescope, right?” Jim chuckled.



    “I suppose. Perhaps I'll set up some sun shots tomorrow instead. Sounds like more fun.”


    “Yeah. Good idea. Let me know if you get anything good, huh?” Jim said.


    “Sure....” and he hung up. Snow spent another hour looking at the sky, but nothing too interesting caught his attention tonight. He was a photo man himself. He loved capturing images, and then doing it the next night and the next night, then having the computer compare. He had discovered three brand new, unknown comets that way. He was shooting for number four on this vacation but this damned aurora was stopping his imaging work.



    At dawn he was up and cooked himself a quick pot of coffee on his one burner stove, then made himself some oatmeal. It was chilly this morning even in August at the top of Pikes Peak. The tourists would be showing up soon and he wanted to set up to the east of the top of the mountain so he could catch the sun throughout the morning. And of course, not be bothered by tourists saying, “Can I look through your telescope? What can you see” and all the other lame shit that laymen asked. He really hated people sometimes. Why couldn't they all just be smart?


    ==================


    About ten o'clock he got his first 'visitors', three children who were running around like mad people yelling and screaming. Then they saw him.


    “Mister! Are you a 'stronermer?” the snotty nosed seven year old asked.


    “I'm an astronomer,” he corrected.


    “Wow. A REAL ASS Trominer!” another yelled and ran off.


    “Ass.... yeah, that's it kid,” he shook his head. The images he had on the screen showed several clusters of sun spots coming around the limb. A couple were massively large, one in particular. He was less of a stellar physicist than he was a stellar photographer. But he was reasonably sure that sunspots this large were rather unheard of.


    Fortunately, the kids didn't come back, but some commotion near them caught his attention. Apparently one of them it seemed had fainted. Served the little shit right for running around at 14110 feet where the oxygen levels were so low. He chuckled, knowing the kid would be alright in a bit, but would calm the hell down finally. His telescope wasn't really set up for observing the sun, but he had several filters that went over the end of the tube to help him do photography of the sun. He'd turned out many near images of sun spots and today would prove to be very good.



    On one of the stills he examined he could see a massive flare. Doing some quick math showed it would be mostly aimed away from Earth. A few hours later, many, many flares were in the still shots. Of course, he wasn't altogether positive since he simply didn't have the right telescope here for this. He logged in with his Aircard to the internet and forwarded the images off to Jim Byorick down at the college to take a look. Eventually, Jim would send him a note back he hoped.


    An hour later he was looking at a strange brilliant light that he couldn't understand on the surface of the sun. He wished he'd had his little solar scope that was designed to look at the sun with various filter systems. He was upset now he hadn't brought it. He had, at least captured the images and recorded both video and stills of the event. It appeared to be a flare, but he couldn't be sure on this tiny computer screen and it was somewhat washed out in the sunlight anyway. The temperature was a nice, toasty 80 degrees now though, and he took off his outer layers and sat to check his email finally.


    He checked his computer and found a note from his buddy Jim at the college.


    “Holy shit.... you need to get to the college. Quick. That image you sent was awesome. We're looking at it now, and we've alerted the planet of what you've seen. That is the biggest damned flare ever recorded. It's aimed at Earth. We think this might rival or exceed the Carrington event!”


    “Carrington event? Oh my God...” he exclaimed and began tearing down his telescope, computer set up and throwing items into the back of his car as quickly as he could. He set a speed record going down the mountain and getting to the college campus in Colorado Springs.


    As Snow ran into the lab several students who were on vacation had shown up.


    “You're not going to believe this Doctor,” one of them said. Snow looked at the videos pulled from various observatories around the US that day, from some satellites and other observatories in space. The filament was massive, and aimed at the Earth, just as predicted by Byorick. Space Weather was on alert. In fact based on the data he was seeing the US Military had also gone on alert.


    “This is going to hit us in less than twenty four hours, Doctor. What should we do?”


    Snow chuckled, and then he laughed. Then he walked out without responding, still laughing, nearly manically he moved down the hall until he reached his office. Reaching inside his desk he took out the Smith & Wesson model 29, .44 magnum “Dirty Harry” revolver he kept hidden in the drawer. It wasn't quite legal to keep it in the school, but he'd never given a shit about school rules anyway. Fuck them. He checked the loaded weapon, strapped the holster onto his hip and put his lab coat on. Next he grabbed the two speed loaders and hooked them on his belt, and buttoned up his white lab coat. He checked and could reach the weapon through the inside jacket pocket, placed there to allow him to reach his pants pocket.
    Then he walked back to the lab.


    “I'm sorry. I had to go to the bathroom. What do we do? We kiss our asses good bye,” he smiled. The students looked surprised, then confused.


    “It's a solar flare and a coronal mass ejection, Doctor. It won't harm us....” one of the young ladies observed.


    “No, not humans or animals, perhaps not directly,” he grinned.
    “Indirectly?” one asked.


    “Oh, absolutely indirectly, son. You see, when that hits the Earth, the entire grid is going to probably go offline, satellites will be destroyed electronically. GPS will go off line, and essentially anything connected to the electrical grid, computers and anything with semiconductors will be blasted to bits internally,” he said, smiling.


    “What? How? Why?” one of the Sophomores asked. The Doctor shook his head.


    “You've not really studied the sun much I guess – but, I suppose my young friend here can explain it to you. Jim?” he said, turning to James Byorick, a friend, protege and student of Doctor Snow. He was also a graduate student working on his Master's in Astrophysics.


    “I think what the Doctor is saying is that this event will be even more powerful than the one that occurred in September 1859. It's called the Carrington Flare. Richard Carrington observed a flare in 1859 that basically hit the planet the following day. There were no satellites then, and the main observations were aurora as far south as Jamaica, Cuba, El Salvador and Hawaii. The massive flare, however hit the planet and destroyed telegraph systems, caused fires in batteries along the telegraph and shocked and injured telegraphers sending messages,” he stated.


    “Well, that wasn't so bad....” the young lady said.


    “No. As I stated though, there were no satellites. No global positioning system. There were no airplanes full of electronics. There were few ships on the sea that would be affected. There were no nuclear weapons and no computers. No cars with computers. No interconnect electrical grid as we have today...”


    “Ah... the military has gone on alert,” observed the young man sitting at the end of the table staring at the images of the sunspots.


    “Indeed,” Snow stated. “Now all we must await is the end of the world as we know it....”


    “Radios will cease to work?”


    “And televisions, the internet, computers, you name it. The power grid will go offline for weeks if not months. People will flood the streets tomorrow evening wanting to find out what is happening. Honestly, if I were you folks, I'd all go home right now, arm yourselves and get some food stocked into your houses. You're not going to have power about this time tomorrow. Hurry now, before the general public becomes aware....”


    “Are you telling us Doctor that the world is about to end?”


    “No, I'm telling you that the world as we know it is about to end.... the Carrinton Flare happened in 1859 and there was no digital infrastructure like there is today. The world wasn't dependent upon electronics, and airplanes didn't just fall out of the sky when their computers and engines shut down. Militaries didn't have nuclear devices that were counting on computer systems for launch, or to prevent launches. We have a submarine force out there that, to the best of my knowledge still uses a kind of dead man switch. If they do not hear from someone at a certain interval, they can and will go nuclear and launch their missiles.


    “America is about to cease to exist as we knew it my friends. I suggest you do your best to survive until the power comes back. If it comes back. IF we don't get a retailatory strike from Russia or China or God knows who....” he said sadly.


    “I simply can't believe this....”


    “It's four PM. Get out and don't come back here....” the Doctor said. He watched as his students headed for the door, muttering among themselves quietly.


    “They don't believe you, Doc....”


    “Their loss. I'm going back up to the top of the mountain. I want a front row seat to the beginning of the extinction of the human race,” Snow laughed.
    “I always thought you were hateful, and hated people,” Jim said.


    “You're right. I do. Get out. I have some work to do before I leave. Where is the Dean today?”


    “I think he's on campus. I thought I saw him earlier.... why?”
    “You know... things to talk to him about. Like the end of the world and such....”


    Byorick watched as Snow walked out. Jim knew he should leave. He didn't want to be here if all that they thought was true. He had his doubts, but he wanted to be far from this city if nukes started falling. Colorado Springs had several military bases, and most of them were targets. He was sitting near enough as it was to NORAD. That was certainly a target. Jim packed most of his stuff from his little cubical and headed for the door. His backpack was already full of food, and he had several gallons of water loaded in the SUV already. He had his deer rifle and one hundred rounds of .30-06 ammo, his cold weather gear, his warm weather gear and the rest of his survival stuff already loaded. He'd loaded it as soon as he saw the flare images. His on-campus apartment was pretty empty now and he glanced one more time at the college. So much for a college degree, he thought. So much for all of this crap. He climbed into the vehicle and headed west to get to Highway 24 to head over the Great Divide. He knew where a couple of deserted cabins were out there. He'd make it.


    ======================================



    Snow drove slowly away from the campus. It was already getting late, even though the sun was well behind the Front Range, he was going to get to the top of Pikes Peak before they discovered the bodies of the Dean, and two security guards. Snow had told the Dean what he thought of his previous ruling against Snow. There had been some question about his tenure and it had been denied. Snow was going to be leaving the college this year because of that. Snow liked to hold grudges and this one was deadly. He told Doctor Jones what he thought of him, then calmly shot him between the eyes. The body fell to the floor and Snow had turned to see the two security guards looking at him in shock. He'd killed them both before they could get off a radio call or even pee their pants. Snow had dragged the bodies in, rifled Jones for the key tot he office and locked the door after turning out the lights.


    Now he made his way down Highway 24 to the entrance to Pikes Peak. The road was normally closed at night, but he had special permission to pass the Ranger point. The young Ranger from the evening before told him simply, “Have a good evening Doctor,” and went back to his Muscle Magazine. No one else would be going up this late, so Snow would be all alone.


    He checked his food supplies after having stopped at the Safeway and filled up the back end of the little junker he drove. His tent and gun were in the car, as well as enough water to last him for a few days. He'd get water someplace on the mountain. He figured about early morning the coronal mass ejection would hit, and if things went as he expected, there would be no working cars coming up after about eight o'clock.



    He arrived at the top well after dark. He checked the Visitor Center and found the doors locked and the lights out. No one home, but inside was plenty of food and he knew there was water storage inside and no people would be up here tomorrow if the CME did what he expected. Snow set up his beloved telescope and started watching the stars coming out.


    ================================



    Byorick traveled a good ninety miles over the mountain and finding himself well west of Pueblo and Colorado Springs. Somewhere off a beaten path he'd taken off Highway 160 was a dirt road which turned into a rutted road, and eventually turned into a logging road or firebreak. The path was pitch black, the night was warm, and there were no lights to speak of. Five or six miles from the last civilized road was a broken down cabin in the woods, about three hundred yards off the path. He pulled his vehicle deep into the woods and hiked to the cabin using a flashlight, carrying his pack and his rifle.



    Inside he lit an old hurricane lantern he'd stashed here early in the year. He found that the place was intact, no one appeared to have been in here so he lit a second lantern and hiked back to his car. He carried the rest of his supplies in the three hundred or so yards, and set everything down. It was well after midnight when he was finished. Finally, he hiked one last time and pulled his vehicle behind a clump of Quaking Aspen, and covered it with old brush and limbs to camouflage the vehicle. A touch of mud on the lights, and smeared over the shiny bumpers made his SUV nearly invisible to all but someone searching for it.


    Next he went out to where he'd pulled off the road and found brush and branches and scattered them over the area where he'd turned off the dirt path. On the path itself, he brushed away the tire tracks and moved back down the path to make sure there were no marks a hundred yards down the hill.


    Anyone looking for his tires tracks wouldn't find them here. It was one AM by his watch, he was safely away from any cities, had enough food to last himself for a few weeks and it was mid summer. A stream ran near by, no family to speak of and solitude was all around him. If the world was going to end, he'd know it by tomorrow morning.


    He went out and gazed through the trees and could just make out a few stars above him, but not enough through the trees to determine what constellation he was seeing. Good enough, he thought, if he couldn't see up there, it would be very rough for someone looking down to find him. He could survive out here all winter if needed. All he had to do was take a deer or two, he had streams near by and snow in the winter in this place. He'd been scoping this place for nearly three years and was waiting for the chance to use his self-taught survival skills. He only hoped that Snow was right.


    ===========================================



    Dawn broke over the mountain top to the East and a tiny sliver of light crept across the dirt floor of the ancient cabin. Jim looked at it and wondered where he was for a moment. Then realization hit him, he was doing a fool's errand. The end of the world. All night he had dreamed about horrible things and had slept fitfully. The world had been plunged into a new Dark Age in his dreams and everyone fought with sticks and stones. He rubbed his beard and thought about looking at the sky. He wasn't sure what he would see, if anything. If the CME missed Earth, then he'd have made this trip for nothing... but it was quiet!


    Crawling out of his sleeping bag he shook out his boots and pulled them on, took a good, long drink from a canteen on the ramshackle table, something he'd have to fix if he stayed here any length of time and rubbed his eyes. Walking over to the cabin door, he opened it and looked out on a quiet forest, a squirrel leaping around from tree to tree nearby, but nothing out of the ordinary caught his eye. He could barely see blue sky and in the distance he heard a jet somewhere above at 30 or 40 thousand feet. The sun was just rising.


    If the CME had been as predicted, there shouldn't be any jet sounds, he thought. As suddenly as he thought it, the sound ceased as if someone had clicked a switch. He listened harder, thinking that perhaps the plane had merely traveled out of his hearing range. Nothing. He made himself some breakfast from some instant camping food, after boiling some water. He'd inventory later and clean up the cabin. He'd been very tired the night before, and he had a full day ahead of him. As anxious as he was to find out whether the CME had any effects on the Earth, he was hungry and had all day. No one would be looking for him before Wednesday or Thursday anyway, and then it would only be Doctor Snow. He wasn't concerned about that.



    Snow awakened an hour before dawn. He watched the sky. Nothing out of the ordinary. He waited a little longer as the sun showed itself. Suddenly in the early morning light he could make out a kind of greenish tinge in the brightening sky. Then a crimson red.


    “Yes!” he shouted out loud, scaring some crows that were feasting on a dead rat or something nearby.



    “Aurora! It's hit!” he started scanning the sky looking for something.


    Suddenly he saw it. A jet contrail appearing to climb high into the sky, lit by the rising sun. The contrail has suddenly just stopped being there. Grabbing a pair of binoculars he looked at the end of the trail. Sure enough, it suddenly stopped as if the engines had quit functioning. He wasn't ready yet to declare the CME having been a success. So he following the path the plane would be taking and there he saw it glinting in the sunlight over his head. Perhaps 35,000 feet he could see a jet plane rapidly hurtling toward Earth. It would pass well over him and into the plain to the East, in the direction he had been flying. Now, it was simply falling.



    A moment of horror passed over him as he realized he was watching several hundred people plummeting to their deaths on the plains of Colorado. Then he smiled. The cops wouldn't be coming after him today and doubtfully anyone would bother to check on the Dean tonight either. He stood up and took out his single burner hiking stove and lit it, then poured cold water from a jug into the little camping coffee maker to make some coffee. Oatmeal would taste extra good this morning, he thought as he dug out his utensils and found the brown sugar he'd bought last night.


    =========================================



    The coronal mass ejection from the sun hit at about 0725 local time in Colorado. Satellite systems on the sun-ward side of the planet were obliterated by the powerful electromagnetic pulse from the sun. GPS systems shut down. Electrical grids across the United States instantly were spiked with voltages in the billion volts range, overloading equipment, transformers and systems. Generators were received a back electromotive force equivalent to several million amperes effectively burning out everything from hydroelectric systems, to coal-powered generators.


    The US military had been placed on a higher alert status – and when the CME hit, were barely prepared for what happened next. Systems went down all over the planet, radios, communications of any sort ceased to exist. Deep in the Atlantic and Pacific Russian and US submarines stopped receiving their dead-man signals. In the next two hours every commander of every submarine for the US, Russia, China and anyone else who happened to have any sort of undersea capabilities started debating their orders.



    The US and Russia, being the most professional military forces to exist did as their standing orders told them to do. Wait for communication, and then launch if nothing was heard for a given period of time. Moscow, Beijing, Washington all were vaporized, along with several other major cities around the planet.


    ===========================================


    Robert Snow had finished his breakfast, cleaned up his dish and was looking for a way through the thick steel door of the Pikes Peak Visitor Center, having not observed another human being for the last few hours. His assumption was no one was coming, his car wouldn't start and he knew why. He was walking back to the car to get a crowbar, something he'd picked up in the Colorado Springs Safeway last night when the flash from the 25 megaton nuclear device vaporized him into atoms. NORAD was no more, and neither was the top of Pikes Peak any longer 14110 feet high. Snow never saw the other twelve nuclear devices go off over Colorado Springs, Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases, or Fort Carson to the south.


    ========================================


    Jim walked out to his vehicle and tried to start it. Nothing. It cranked but nothing more. So, it was true. The radio didn't come on, confirming his suspicions. Suddenly to the North East he saw a brilliant flash through the trees, but could see nothing else. The flash died after a few seconds. He wondered what that was, and didn't really expect to see any visual effects from the CME. As he walked back to the cabin a distant, deep rumbling, thunder-like sound reached his ears.



    “Strange” he thought, “not a cloud up there. Lightning?”



    Shrugging his shoulders he hiked back up the way to the cabin and started pulling out some small tools to try to fix the rickety table. Far in the distance, just beyond the mountains to the North East the plume of a massive mushroom cloud creating the massive cummulonibus as it blasted skyward, moments later another dozen clouds appears far, far away. Jim did hear the distant sound of thunder for a few moments before that subsided.



    Later Byoric walked down to the road, and over to a an overlook at would let him see the mountain range to the East. He was deep in the National Forest and couldn't see much from his position. When he reached the opening he sought, he could see huge storm clouds in the distance, probably near the Springs, he thought. That explained the thunder. It was stormy season in Colorado, and though it was nothing but blue skies near him, the Colorado Springs area looked to Jim like it might just get some severe weather today.
    Libertatem Prius!


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  2. #2
    Active non-poster MagnetMan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flare....

    Good story Rick. Do you think that moderately well informed people would have a real warning before an event like this or do you think there would be a lot of misinformation?

  3. #3
    Expatriate American Patriot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flare....

    Misinformation is rampant, and worse, a lot of people simply say "It can't happen here."

    No one will know anything at all about the 1859 CME unless they have studied astronomy or they are like us and have hear of it.

    Truth is, folks that are INFORMED won't believe something like this could happen
    Libertatem Prius!


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