While I normally put in a lot of internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.
Again, we’re off! Let the madness begin, and let there be no doubt that it probably is madness.
Just as was the case last year, there will be typos and errors galore in these posts. That’s the nature of the beast. They’re “zeroth” drafts, not ever first drafts. They’re hemorrhaging words onto the blank screen. If I’m lucky there will be some sort of resemblance to proper grammar, character development, conflict resolution, and story structure — or at least enough so that the reader can follow along.
To use a baseball analogy, it’s not like I’m trying to pitch a no hitter and strike out twenty-seven batters on eighty-one pitches. It’s much more like I’m trying to survive slogging through a long, long season in the low minors, playing in every game and making it to the end alive. Surviving, and learning from the experience. If I happen to have an occasional hitting streak or good game along the way, so much the better.
Unlike last year, there’s no predetermined destination to this story. My muse has apparently been cooking along quietly in the background (thank you, muse!!) and the outline and basic plot and a few twists and turns spooled themselves out in my head while I was driving back home from the hanger in Camarillo this afternoon. Where does it end and can I do it? We’ll see, there are no guarantees.
It also occurs to me that I have a lot more blog readers than I did last year – perhaps some of you will kick in comments, observations, criticisms, or encouragement as this goes along. After all, there is a reason that I’m putting it up here every day instead of simply giving updates on the progress without any factual evidence to substantiate my claims.
Okay, here goes nothing. I didn’t get nearly as much written today as I would have liked, but it’s a start.
Carson and Phillips were the last ones into the meeting, drifting in with disheveled hair and a befuddled looks, still not quite awake. Their quarters were back near the engine room and it had taken them longer to get forward.
The rest of the crew members were latched onto various hold points, broken up into their established cliques and teams. A low buzz of conversation filled the air, the constant sound of fans a source of perpetual white noise. The command staff was huddled in one corner, a pad being passed between them with a video being shown.
As the engineers arrived and found a place to anchor themselves, the conversations stopped and all eyes turned to Alsby. She glanced around the room doing a quick headcount, then pushed off for the door, grabbing a holdbar there and turning so that she could see everyone.
“It’s Earth, of course. We’ve been expecting something and now it’s happened. SEM, please tell everyone what is happening.”
“Yes, Captain.” The voice came from several speakers around the chamber. A video flickered to life on multiple screens and everyone turned to watch the one closest to them. It looked like a violent lightning storm seen from geosynchronous orbit.
“An hour ago I received a message from FlightOps with the news that hostilities have broken out along the India-Pakistan border. The confrontation quickly went nuclear. At this time casualties are thought to be extensive. The other superpowers have not engaged with either side.”
“Jesus,” said Bryant, “what in hell were they thinking? How could this possibly do anything other than make a bad situation a thousand times worse?”
“It is believed that the attack was prompted by a belief by the Islamabad government that the Indians had an AHF vaccine and cure, which they were refusing to share.” The video was replaced with a chart. “As you can see, they were desperate.”
“Needless to say, the Indians don’t have a vaccine, and so far neither does anyone else,” Alsby said. “But the situation in Pakistan has gotten completely out of control with over twenty-five million casualties so far, while the Indians have limited the deaths in their country to less than a million. The Pakistanis must have panicked, figuring that they didn’t have anything to lose.”
“What’s the current situation? Are they still lobbing nukes at each other?” asked Turing.
“It is believed that both nations deployed their entire nuclear inventory,” SEM said.
“Estimated casualties?” asked someone.
“Highly uncertain at this time,” SEM answered, “but likely to be in the tens of millions from the immediate attacks, hundreds of millions in the next few weeks as starvation and disease spread. Given the current states of emergency around the world due to the AHF outbreak, there will be little or no aid available from outside.”
There was silence as everyone let the news sink in. Despite everyone knowing that something was going to happen soon or later, the reality of it was a shock now that the situation had finally exploded.
“Okay, everyone, I’m afraid that’s just the beginning.” Everyone looked back at Captain Alsby. “SEM, tell them the rest.”
“This news was of course sent to all of the other missions and colonies. Based on this new information, CeresOps believes the critical tipping point has been exceeded for Earth. Given the projected casualty rates from AHF, compounded now by economic, health, and structural damage caused by the India-Pakistan conflict, we now calculate a probability of less than one in ten thousand that the current technological society on Earth will survive more than ten more years.”