Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2287446
Ten extinction-level asteroids are bound for Earth
|"How many asteroids are coming?" The president gulped when he heard the news for the first time.|
"We estimate there are ten in the cloud approaching the earth. Each one is equivalent in size to the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs." The aide replied with a grim look on his face. He clutched a file close to his chest, its horrible contents, apparently all too clear in his mind. The president noticed he never needed to refer to it.
"Can we stop them?"
"We have a plan, but we are unlikely to stop all the asteroids from getting through. Our best option is to use the entire world's nuclear missile arsenal in a coordinated strike on one of the asteroids. If we can deflect it early enough, it should cross the paths of the other asteroids and deflect them off course."
"But do you think this plan is likely to succeed?"
"We cannot predict the outcome; we call it the 'Poole Ball effect.' Ten asteroids are heading our way. By diverting the asteroid on one side, we hope to push all the others off course by using the entire mass of that asteroid as the weight. But the possibility exists that some asteroids will simply bounce back on the same course. We fear that two or three may still get through. By messing up their current trajectories, we simply randomize where they will land on Earth. We had hoped that we could somehow speed up or slow down the moon's orbit so that it could take the blow of the asteroid strike, but the energy required does not exist."
"OK, so assuming some are going to get through, what will happen?"
"We anticipate that one will strike land and two will likely strike the ocean. So we are looking at thousand-meter tsunamis that circle the world several times, wiping everything out at low altitudes. All coastal cities would be destroyed, and the only refuge from such a disaster would be on high mountains. Following the initial strike, there will be a dust cloud that will darken the world's atmosphere, and we are looking at a global ice age that might last millions of years. During that time, nothing can be grown on the planet's surface, and the earth will be well nigh uninhabitable."
"What are your solutions?"
"We estimate we can save about 12,000 people. We can ship about 1,000 people to Mars, to the old Musk City colony that was abandoned about fifty years ago. Much of its infrastructure is still in place and just needs a big resupply and revamping. The colony was abandoned for political and economic reasons, but it remains a viable technical option for life. There are smaller bases on the moon which we are trying to resurrect but these are in much worse shape and it might not be possible to repair and then stock them in the timeframes."
"Do we have enough spaceships to rebuild Mars and the Moon? Do we even have a space industry anymore? I thought the Earth First movement destroyed all that."
"We still have satellite launchers based on the old Mars ship design, and using a combination of these, we can put 1,000 colonists on Mars with enough supplies for the next 300 years. The consensus is that it would be better to focus on Mars as some of the asteroids may well hit the moon also."
"OK, so what about the rest of us?"
"We can save a further 11,000 people in an underground facility in the Rockies. It is a development on the old Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado which was extended in the 2030s during the tensions between China and the USA. We also have bunkers at Raven Rocky Mountain Complex at Blue Ridge in Pennsylvania and Peters Mountain in Virginia for smaller groups. Cheyenne has a well-stocked nuclear power plant and underground greenhouses and could be self-sufficient for as long as we need it to be. We are busy stocking and extending this as we speak. Water supply is a crucial issue, and we are installing the latest recycling plants to maximize supply. Our military's top priority is to defend these facilities. There are other privately run facilities and most of these are above 1000 meters but not all."
"But these people would have to sit there for millions of years. That still sounds very risky. Is it possible to end the ice age sooner?"
"Yes, we have two solutions: global warming and dust collectors. The problem with the post-strike world will be that there is so much dust in the atmosphere that, as a result, no sunlight gets through. So the earth cools, and we get an ice age. So we need to remove the dust and warm up the earth. We can remove the dust with giant electrostatic precipitators that we originally designed for Mars. We estimate that in coordination with other nations, we can build about 100 of these with integrated nuclear power sources by the time the strikes occur. mainly in mountainous areas. These will reduce the excess dust back to normal levels in about 30 years. We can also increase the amount of CO² in the atmosphere by burning excessive amounts of fossil fuels before the missile strike occurs. We plan on setting fire to all the oil fields, oil reserves, and coal stocks, and after the strike occurs we plan to continue the burn where possible. Since most oil and gas fields will be swept away by tsunamis, we will need to rebuild this burn possibility after the strikes occur. We also need to decommission all nuclear facilities near the coasts and all dangerous chemical facilities before the strike occurs."
"What about the people who live in these areas and rely on power to get by before the strike?"
"Well, they do not know yet, but that will not last. We hope to keep the ignorance going for as long as possible. After that, we will need the military and police on our side. We anticipate major civil strife, rioting, and attempts to sabotage our plans from these people. It is vital that the military and police remain loyal during this time, and so we have set up a secondary survival strategy for these people and their families. It is not one that we believe can actually save them, but it is one that we believe we could sell to them as having a chance.
"We are building big concrete bunkers in cities at an altitude of over 1000 meters and stocking these with food and energy provisions for a year. When the time comes, we will evacuate the military to these locations. This will also provide alternate targets for the uninformed mob in terms of potential sanctuary locations. If they try to storm any places, it will be heavily fortified military camps, not our underground city in the Rockies. With rationing, some may drag out their supplies for another few years. We are telling these people that we will provide shelter in exchange for their cooperation. But in reality, when their food supplies run out, it will still be a frozen wasteland outside, and they will all starve.
"We plan to launch the space colonists in two months' time, with as many resupply ships as we can send following that also. The people designated for the underground city will be in place before the general population is even aware of the problem, and this facility is completely top secret and heavily guarded by forces stationed in the city."
"Do other nations have their own survival plans?"
"Some, yes; for example, Switzerland has extensive underground facilities in the Alps. The Russians have their own plans and a big facility in the Urals, and the Chinese have built facilities in the Himalayas as well. The Germans have a facility at Rothenstein but we predict that will be submerged under the flood waters. The Czechs have a major facility called the Oppidum which could survive."
"There are a lot of moving parts to this plan, and the politics may yet sabotage it, but I guess it is all we have." The president stared up at the blue sky through the Oval office window. There was nothing he could see to suggest that the world's end was approaching yet his heart sank within him.
The last news anchor had been the only single person on the CNN team. The rest went home for their final moments. They continued to broadcast images of people waiting while the commentator read his script.
"Is this what the end of the world looks like? People pray alone or dance at the end of a wild, drunken party. Some gathered in their favorite spot to witness the skies darkening and the asteroids' explosive impacts one last time. One man in his study reading his favorite book; a family playing games; mothers in a playground watching their kids on the swings, large groups in churches determined to worship the Almighty until He calls them home.
"The seconds tick away and..." The commentator clutched his earpiece, gulping at the news relayed to him.
"We have confirmation that three asteroids will make it through from the original ten. Our time has come."
The cameras switched to an external view, and the commentator fell silent. There were flames in the sky and clouds of dust and smoke, and then, as the studio was shaken by ground impacts thousands of miles away, the TVs reverted to white noise and then went black.
W/C & Notes ▼