Thursday, December 8, 2011

excerpt: Transmat World 

by Glen Hendrix


Jakarta, 2045 A.D.

The day the world he knows ends, Daniel Fulbright sits on the fifteenth floor balcony of the Aston Hotel. He gazes westward over the top of his laptop at a tropical urban landscape and sips iced tea. Occasional high-rises puncuate stretches of hazy green horizon blanched by humidity. He flings condensate from the glass off his fingers and dabs a cloth napkin after each sip before using the keyboard. The smell of clove cigarettes drifts around the privacy wall.
Plans to shop for the wife and kids, close the sale on a solar retrofit of the BNI Tower, and get to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in time for the flight home were successful. All he has to do is throw bags in the rent car and drive to the airport.
He clicks the CNN button in the taskbar after going over the purchase order. Scientists assure everyone the asteroid Isadora will miss Earth by 80,000 kilometers; scary, but a miss. Apophis came close in 2036. Media hype caused people to give away possessions and join cults in droves. An end-of-the-world-weary public pays no attention this time.
The Aston is three red-orange towers, the tallest forty floors, impaling a blue mid-afternoon sky. No chocolates on the pillow, but Plaza Semanggi across the street offers good shopping. He finds trinkets for the kids, nieces and nephews, and something more alluring for the wife. It’s her birthday soon. He runs fingers through her hair in his mind. Pool-blue eyes lock on his and her upper lip puckers to one side as she smiles. Daniel misses that smile. Home’s a good place to be. He’d call if it wasn’t 4:30 in the morning in Atlanta.
Sparse traffic murmurs through lush cloverleaf landscaping beyond Plaza Semanggi. The interchange soon finds its voice and announces the afternoon rush hour with a hydrogen-powered roar. Streets dampen with water vapor exhaust. A great white oval, the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium roof floats on an emerald carpet beyond the freeway. Sunda Strait, home of the volcano Krakatau, lay 150 kilometers due west, and beyond that the Indian Ocean.
His peripheral vision detects movement in the sky. He raises his hand to block the sun, and a bloated streak of fire and smoke pours out the end of his thumb and heads straight for his crotch. Daniel watches with anxious awe as the glowing smudge widens and disappears below the horizon.
Maybe it will burn up before it—
God’s camera flash goes off, defining the arc of the Earth in stark black and white for an instant. A vacuum forms in the pit of Daniel’s stomach, as if he’d stepped off a ledge in pitch darkness. Eyes adapting, the flash morphs into a glow lighting the atmosphere. The source hides beyond the horizon, but its intensity grows until the sun seems dim by comparison. A shadow line develops on tall buildings. Below the line buildings seem dark, but he still makes out details—people on balconies making gestures of fear. It seemed dark, but only in comparison to everything above the line, where buildings possess a preternatural brightness. As Daniel watches, the bright portions of the buildings smolder.
He is on his feet, snapping shut the laptop, the tea a spreading abstract on the table. Perceptions now come through a lens of adrenaline, sharp and focused. A flaming sarong drops past his patio. The screams rise in tone and then drop like a train at a grade crossing. He sticks his head past the balustrade, looking up in staccato thrusts. Small bits of spalled stone and stucco pelt his face. The Hotel Aston above the twentieth floor is on fire.
He grabs his laptop, runs into the room, scoops up bags, and opens the door in one continuous fluid motion. Scanning walls for a fire alarm, he runs down the hall to the elevator lobby, bag straps biting into his shoulder each time a foot hits the carpet. A small crowd gives evidence the elevators are off. Around the corner from the elevators Daniel spots a staff member in another hallway waving his hands.
“Bule, this way! Follow me!”
He’d never hear the common term for “white person” used by hotel personnel under normal conditions. Now it barely registers, and he doesn’t care. People in the elevator lobby can’t see help around the corner and down the hall. They are still busy punching buttons and scratching heads.
“People, follow me. There’s a gentleman who can lead us out,” Daniel says. “Come on.”
They hesitate.
“Now!” he shouts.
They follow as he turns and runs after the hotel employee. Daniel rounds the corner. The man stands in the open door of a stairwell. Daniel pauses until someone spots him. Now they know the way. He bounds down the stairs behind his savior. The man stops at the next floor and tells people standing in the hall to get everybody out. Daniel realizes the plan of action and takes the next floor. They leapfrog each other down to the eighth floor when the fire alarm finally activates. Daniel is breathing hard by the time they reach ground floor. A dinged and rusted metal exit door protests with creaks and groans and reveals a scene of devastation. To the horizon in all directions, tops of all but two skyscrapers blaze like tiki torches of the gods.
“Thank you. Come with me now,” says Daniel.
The man stands in disbelief, blinking as though to clear the cataclysm from deceitful vision. The mind’s cruel assurance of verity brings the tiniest fire-tinged pearl to the corner of his eye.
“I cannot. I must stay here.”
Daniel does not know what else to say and turns at a dead run, mind now focused only on getting home. A prayer he learned in Vacation Bible School when he was eight comes to him.
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear …
 Door unlocked and open, he slings everything onto the passenger seat, folds into the driver’s seat, and punches the start button. The driver’s door slams shut as he accelerates out of his spot and through the parking turnstile, breaking the flimsy drop-arm in two.
no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod, and thy staff they comfort me.
An incredible four minutes and thirty seconds after grabbing his bags in the room, he turns onto Jalan Garnisun Dalam 8, next to Atma Jaya University heading for the freeway when the earthquake hit. The Land Rover sways and bounces. A pronking springbok, the vehicle returns to the air as soon as it comes in contact with the ground. Daniel is a cowboy on a bucking bronco, hanging on to his pommel steering wheel while pens and a travel mug instead of rope and horsehair float in the air at odd angles and impact the floor at the same time his butt hits the seat; then the whole thing starts again. It reminds him of vids from the space station, except for the butt-impacting part.
Always fasten your seat belt, thinks Daniel.
The vehicle rotates as it bounces, and the Aston jounces into view through the windshield. The tallest tower collapses, shedding large, flaming chunks onto the smaller towers causing them to fail from structural damage and seismic loads. Daniel watches numb and disbelieving, aware most people did not make it. There wasn’t time. Briefly glimpsed faces flicker through his memory.
The Land Rover’s final bounce is into hedges on college property. Daniel sits in stunned contemplation. No point in going to the airport. He must go east, away from the conflagration. A tsunami is coming. The triangular Sunda Strait would become a funnel, increasing the height of the wave until it spilled over the southern end of Sumatra and northern end of Java. Daniel doesn’t know if it will reach Jakarta, but there is nothing to be gained by assuming it won’t and everything to lose.
A tower that withstood the earthquake and was not burning had to be found. He knows where to look—BNI Tower. Daniel studied the plans for days to make the sale he completed today.
Forget that commission.
BNI was built with large safety margins for seismic loads and the fire control systems were the best in the city. Plus, it had a somewhat aerodynamic wing shape with the leading edge pointing west, toward the asteroid strike. It might make a difference when the water came. It is three klicks due east. He makes it out from where he sits. It is one of the two buildings just smoldering, not burning.
He hits the accelerator hard. All four of the Land Rover’s wheel-mounted electric motors max out. Rooster tails of dirt fly into the air as it spins out of the hedges onto the blacktop. The vehicle uproots bushes and fishtails for a couple of seconds before the computer finds traction and stability. People vacate their vehicles at whatever angle the earthquake has left them. Autos turned upside down or bounced over freeway guardrails—quite unfortunate at the overpasses. He swerves around copulating taxis and heads for the feeder road, going east to get on the Jalan Jenderal Sudirman. He brakes to avoid a wide-eyed, twisted face in a Toyota Hydro going scary fast in the other direction. Daniel goes but another fifty meters when he hears the complaint of tires asked to stop too fast and aluminum-can-crunching noises. The poor frantic soul did not make the curve. His mirror reveals people abandoning their own plights and running to the wreckage.
Weaving through islands of catastrophe, the going is slow. Small groups gather around stricken vehicles talking loud with animation. Many strike out in quick strides with clear destinations in mind. Clamorous beseeching reaches Daniel from all directions. He decides to save as many as he can. Shoving the now dented laptop between seat and console to prevent further damage, he slows and starts yelling “BNI”. A woman and her daughter climb into the front seat. The little girl perches on the woman’s lap. Both offer profuse thanks.
“I am Sujatmi, and this is Liani,” the woman says. “Thank you so much.”
A father tells his three sons to get into the cargo area. The father gets in the back seat, and a young man and wife get in beside him. Two adolescents approach.
“I am Guntur, and this is Chahaya. We will ride on top.” As they clamber up, Guntur hands Daniel a 1,000 rupiah note, about ten cents American. “Make it snappy, bule.”
Daniel cannot help but laugh at their bravado and the rest join in, easing tensions. The SUV is full. He pulls away as others approach. He can’t carry them all. The heavy load creates mushy steering as he dodges wrecks on the freeway. Bounced up and down by an earthquake going down the road at eighty kilometers per hour is not what the typical passenger vehicle design specs call for. Slewed, on one side, and bottoms-up vehicles hulk everywhere. Air bags hang out of windows and sunroofs like deflated viscera.
A methane-to-hydrogen conversion bus lumbers along the clear shoulder; wide-eyed driver hunching over the wheel, staring straight ahead while passengers animatedly discuss their situation. Daniel zigzaggs through several lanes for a position behind it and takes advantage of a clear section of the freeway to pass it on the right.
The Land Rover nears the front of the bus when the bus windows explode in a maelstrom of bloody glass. Tires on the bus and Land Rover blow simultaneously. Particles of glass sting the back of Daniel’s neck as he instinctively looks away and closes his eyes. Being at the same elevation as the bus windows, Guntur and Chahaya are swept from the top of the Land Rover, and it surges forward from the lightened load. Headlights, grill, and most of the front bumper disappear in an instantaneous cloud of bits and slivers as the Land Rover edges past the bus.
His passengers scream in terror, yelling at each other and Daniel. His hormone-drenched perception of time slows to a crawl as he touches the brakes to stay even with the now tireless, driverless bus as it lurches to a stop against the guardrail. Wheels emit rubber flapping and metallic scraping noises as the SUV grinds to a halt next to the bus’s engine compartment. Sequential concussions string together in a continuous roar from the far side of the bus.
His passengers now gape in wide-eyed shock. A distant phalanx of thousands of machine guns targets the bus, and not only the bus. As their immediate death now seems less imminent, they take in the surrounding situation. Everyone is dead or dying. People that were in other cars, standing in clusters, or walking are all dead and now being reduced to something unrecognizable as human. Just one minute before they were all alive and aware with hope and purpose. Now they are gone. The smell is a burning tire in a slaughterhouse extinguished with a can of talcum powder. Daniel closes his eyes and tries to shrink into a smaller, untargetable self.
He had not even thought of it, and it nearly killed him. Molten bits of rock up to twenty-five millimeters in diameter traveling more than 8,000 kilometers per hour—ejecta—arrive just over eight minutes after the asteroid strike. Still soft, larger pieces expand like red-hot hollow point bullets when striking flesh. Smaller stuff solidifies into streamlined slugs of destruction. The heavy gauge steel of the bus engine compartment and the engine block shielded Daniel and his passengers from certain death. As the sound of ejecta strikes dies down, a curious dull roar grows in volume.
Oh, God, now what? thinks Daniel as he feels a warming on his face, opens his eyes a slit and sees.
Glistening clouds of atomized glass now shroud the burning towers. Ejecta explosively shatters all glass in the upper floors and keeps breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces. These same stone bullets then shred combustible material in the tops of the already burning buildings, increasing its surface area hundreds of times for super-efficient burning. Ignition and consumption of this material is what he hears. The fires increase to such intensity that miniature suns sit atop shining pillars of sparkling mist.
Daniel’s glance in the rear view mirror shows Guntur and Chahaya lying on beds of glass, rivulets of blood finding their way outwards through shards. Guntur wore orange and Chahaya white, but now he cannot tell one from the other. Daniel’s lips become thin lines as he looks away from the mirror. Making a conscious effort to control his emotions, he looks at the dimpled metal of the bus centimeters from his face because it doesn’t horrify him. Liani’s tug on the sleeve of his shirt brings him back to the moment. She reminds Daniel of his youngest girl, Samantha.
  “Daniel OK?”
  He looks at her and manages a smile, “Yeah, Daniel okay. Let’s all go to a safe place now.”
A glance at Sujatmi shows an impassive mask, drained of emotion and glistening with sweat. The whites of her eyes extend completely around the irises. Arched eyebrows convey desperate hope.
  The sound of ejecta becomes an almost-done bag of microwave popcorn. When the hits die completely, he eases the truck forward until the flip-flop noise of shredded rubber gives way to the abrasive, metallic din of bare rims on concrete louder than the distant roar of burning towers; a scorching twelve kilometers per hour. BNI is still two and a half kilometers by road. They can see its pointy buttress, the highest thing around. Glass gone and smoking, it does not burn like the others. The fire management system must have worked. Daniel focuses only on the path he needs to get to the tower, ignoring details of catastrophic tragedy in every direction.
  “Sujatmi, a big wave is coming and… oh, crap, the wind. I forgot about the wind.” Daniel presses down on the accelerator, going as fast as he can while dodging bodies and wreckage and temblor cracks in the freeway. Sparks fly from the rims as the decibel level rises. Even with the windows up and the air conditioning on re-circulate, the smell is barely tolerable.
“The tower,” he continues, “is the safest place to ride it out, but it may be days before we’re rescued. When we get there we have to hit every vending machine we can find for food and water. Here is some money,” he reaches in his pocket and pulls out his money clip. The wadded-up thousand rupiah note Guntur had given him falls onto the console. Everyone looks at it with a tight, forlorn intensity. Daniel retrieves it and sticks it in his shirt pocket.
“I’ll just hang on to this,” he says. A consensus of unspeakable grief acknowledged and appeased, if only for an instant, by this sentiment for two people they did not even know. 
“Daniel, my husband, Indro, is a chef at The Cilantro, a restaurant on the 46th floor,” Sujatmi says. “There will be food.”
  “Poppy good cook,” Liani says. Sujatmi manages a smile.
  “I can’t wait to try his cooking, Liani,” Daniel tells her and looks at Sujatmi, “nevertheless, the power will be gone. The restaurant owner may have different ideas about food distribution.”
  Sujatmi divvies the money up and explains the plan to everyone. Their mood brightens at the chance to take part in their own salvation. The BNI Tower looms on the left half a kilometer west of the freeway. Daniel goes past it almost to the river just to the north, turns left onto Jalan Karet Pasar Baru Barat and another left to get to the building parking lot.
Bodies and riddled vehicles, many burning, fill the lot. Blood, oil, and engine coolant drain into storm sewer openings. Daniel parks at the edge of this killing field, and they emerge from the vehicle in slow motion as though untrusting of the environment beyond its protective shell. A giant sword sticking out of the ground with the thickness of the blade greatly exaggerated, the BNI Tower thrusts skyward. Stone and blue glass once clad the building. Now the blue glass of Bank Negara Indonesia is gone. The north main entrance mars the blade where it enters the ground. They make their way to the entrance along a bare strip of concrete next to the building.
“Don’t look at the parking lot,” says Daniel. He knows there will be nightmares enough for this group without staring at that particularly vivid carnage.
Sujatmi’s bosom shields Liani’s view as she carries in the child. Everyone holds their nose. The light and heat from burning buildings give a hellish cast to the landscape—Dante’s Inferno become real. Daniel walks ahead of his group into the ground floor lobby. A few survivors mill about the lobby in shock. 
A haggard bank guard approaches. He speaks English in a tone of strained civility. “Sir if you don’t have business with the bank I must ask you and your friends to leave. Please return after the authorities arrive.”
  All communications are down. First to arrive at the building since the catastrophe began, they do not know what to expect. The bank guard does not know the extent of what happened. The man thinks the ejecta a terrorist blast that coincided with the earthquake. As Daniel tells their story, the guard crumples to the floor and weeps openly knowing his family is probably dead. Sujatmi comforts him while the others spread out to collect provisions. She questions him concerning the survivors.
The guard haltingly relates the events. “A fire started in the upper floors. Some people got trapped and died before the sprinkler system controlled it. Evacuation of the building began. It was somewhat orderly until the earthquake hit. Then everyone panicked. Many people trampled. It was a terrible thing. Everyone headed for the parking lot, and that is where they were standing when the explosion came. It blew out the windows and killed everyone outside in the parking lot.”
The Shangri-La Hotel sat just west and north of BNI, leaving a gap between the two buildings that gave no protection from the ejecta fussilade out of the west. Everyone in line with that gap was killed by ejecta. That included everyone in the BNI parking lot. Sujatmi gets up yelling “Indro!” and runs toward the parking lot. Daniel sprints after, intercepting her before she makes the door.
“Sujatmi, it’s too late!” He has visions of her combing through hundreds of shredded bodies as wind and water approach like death on wings. “The wind is coming! If he’s out there, what can you can do? Think of Liani.”
Liani has now caught up and wraps her arms around Sujatmi’s legs. He puts his arms around Sujatmi while she cries into his shirt. Coaxing her away from the door, they head back to where the bank guard sits cross-legged on the marble floor, still in shock.
“His name is Yandi. Yandi Durmali,” says Sujatma. “He is worried about his wife and children.”
“Yandi,” says Daniel.
The guard looks up.
“I know this is difficult, but it is not over. We must act now to save these people from the wind and water that are coming. It is all we have time for.” His appeal to the guard’s sense of duty seems to bring him around. He gives Yandi a mission to keep him occupied and focused. “Yandi, gather up these people, tell them what is going to happen, and lead them up the stairs to the 39th floor.”
The 39th floor is the last floor clad in stone and, Daniel hopes, protected from the elements. The stone-clad portion of the tower has small windows recessed a third of a meter. Daniel hopes the recesses spared at least some glass from ejecta and would repeat that performance in the upcoming wind. The guard is on his feet gathering shell shocked loiterers together as Daniel’s party straggles back with their loot of chips, candy, bottled water, and sodas. Taking inventory, Daniel decides he should scavenge for vitamins later. As they make their way to the stairwell, two boys surrender their shirts to use as booty bags.
The stairwell is part of the core of the building, a reinforced concrete honeycomb of an inner tower. It contains elevator and utility shafts stretching from the basement to the top. Floor trusses span between this stone tower and the tubular, load-bearing outer frame of structural steel. Daniel now realizes the concrete core saved the glass on the east wall. The west wall of this central tower, pockmarked and cratered from ejecta, maintains integrity. Hypersonic stone missiles destroyed the thin strip of glass on the sharp western edge of the blade-shaped building, going through office walls of gypsum like tissue, shredding everything until it hit the concrete core.
They trudge upwards, taking a break on fifteen and another between twenty-nine and thirty. The wind hits while they are catching their breath. The initial vibration knocks them to the concrete.
God, not another earthquake, thinks Daniel before the noise identifies it as wind.
The vibrations continue at smaller, faster amplitudes, and the sound fills up their reality. They see each others mouths open wide screaming but cannot hear it. Clutching their ears, they lie down on the concrete stair landing and use their feet against the walls and arms on the hand railing to brace themselves against the swaying vibration of the building. The one-minute duration seems like thirty. The noise and motion soon die down as they lay on the landing assessing their condition. Liani is the first up. “Let’s go. Let’s go see Poppy!”
Daniel turns a cautious glance at Sujatmi. Sujatmi has not talked with Liani about this, and before he can say anything she speaks up.
“Yes, Liani, let’s go do that now,” she tells Liani.
He figures it can’t hurt to go the 46th floor if it still exists. It is high enough to escape the water sure to come. Answered shouts to the bank guard and his group verify they still trudge upward. Daniel and his gang continue up the stairs from the intermediate landing to the 30th floor.
“Let’s take a look,” says Daniel.
He turns the handle with caution. As the latch clears the jam, the door blows open, shoving Daniel back and slams against the concrete wall of the core with a boom. A stiff wind blows, but sixty kilometers per hour, not six hundred. It startles everyone. It is not the noise of the door that is surprising. Everyone’s hearing remains temporarily muted by the din of semi-sonic wind.  More astonishing is what the door does not reveal.
A band of Jakarta skyline looking south instead of the interior of an office building inhabits the doorframe. The facade of the building has disappeared, exposing the steel framework to which it attached. Scoured of ceiling tiles and hangers and everything else, the ceiling reveals major utility pipes and cableways. Water squirts from smaller, broken pipes. Wires dangle from broken conduit, devoid of power and vibrating in the wind. Furniture is gone. Interior walls are gone. An occasional bare metal stud stretches from floor to ceiling. Patches of scorched carpet still adhere to the floor here and there. The sky swirls an angry, pinkish gray.
Offices and glass on the east side have vanished, unprotected by the building core as they were against the ejecta. One thing remains intact outside the core walls; a storage vault welded directly to the truss steel top and bottom. Daniel walks as close to the edge as he dares. He feels the wind trying to herd him over the edge so he stops four meters shy of the chasm. The rest of the group stands on each side and behind him. They look upon devastation they had never imagined.
Some buildings have no intact floors and ceilings as does the tower they stand in. Some have collapsed like the World Trade towers. Others are but frames of bare metal. The tops of steel columns curve to the east, ending in points where wind froze metal in mid-melt after ripping burning upper floors from the buildings. Streets are scoured clean of rubble and bodies left by the fusillade of ejecta. All of it has blown somewhere east of them, perhaps into the ocean.
At least the fires are gone, candles blown out at a birthday party of the gods by winds of more than 500 kilometers per hour. They check each floor as they go up the stairs. Each level looks the same, up to and including the 39th, their intended destination to ride it out. The whole party would have died.
The climb to forty-six registers high on the miserability index for everyone but Liani. She is not in complete denial of everything she sees, but is still eager to see her father. Daniel opens the door and looks around the floorscape. It mirrors the rest of the floors except for a vault like the one on thirty. On closer inspection, this vault appears different in several aspects. Broken utility connections at one corner suggest a storage freezer, perhaps for the restaurant. The door stands solid and closed.
Daniel allows himself a lottery ticket chance of hope but says nothing to Sujatmi. He tries the handle. It turns, but the door does not open. The frame has racked during the earthquake, and the door is jammed. After a particularly hard tug with no results, Daniel smacks his hand on the door in futility. There follows an immediate banging from inside the vault. Sujatmi is at the door in an instant yelling “Indro! Indro! Indro!”
“Sujatmi? Is that you? What are you doing here? Can you turn on the power? What was that noise and shaking?”
Sujatmi laughs and cries at the same time. Liani jumps up and down yelling “Poppy! Poppy! Poppy!”
Daniel finds a steel wall stud and twists back and forth until its tentative grip on the floor gives way. Newly liberated pry bar in hand, he forces open the freezer in creaky partial arcs. Sujatmi, Indro, and Liani hug and yell and cry. Indro looks around and joy turns to incredulity as his gaze falls on sky everywhere he turns. They explain the situation as Daniel explores the freezer. He mentally combines the contents with the foraging in the lobby to estimate how long they can hold out. Twenty people survive, including the lobby people still hiking up the stairwell. He estimates they have food and water for a week. Daniel sends one of the kids back down to thirty to bang on that vault.
Scraps of drywall litter the base of the west wall of the concrete core. He carts debris upstairs two floors to the roof and spells out a giant S.O.S. on the graveled tar. Two of the boys follow out of curiosity and start helping when they realize the plan. Taking a break, he walks over to the western edge, scanning the horizon. A boy pops out of the stairwell with an armload of scraps; Daniel motions for him to approach. He points at the horizon and looks at the boy for confirmation. Young eyes widen, and the boy drops the drywall he has gathered. White gypsum powder puffs and disappears in the wind. Daniel’s fears are confirmed. Something on the horizon is getting bigger. The boy gets his brother from the roof, and Daniel runs down the stairs to warn the others. Liani meets him halfway.
“Daniel, it’s coming!”
“I know, Liani. Let’s go downstairs.”
He opens the stairwell door on 46 and chuckles. It looks like the rear view of a police lineup to identify the batik killer. Daniel walks up behind them, lifting Liani to peer between heads. Small movements in the line of gray on the horizon are visible where the water hits a hill or a building. It looks alive.
“We should go to the stairwell,” says Daniel.
“Let us watch a little longer. I think we have time,” says Sujatmi.
She is right. Daniel says nothing.
“Before this gets here, thank you, Daniel. You saved…” Sujatmi’s voice trails off in quiet sobbing. A brief hand squeeze in acknowledgement and they stand in silence watching the approaching water. He estimates a distance of five kilometers and a speed of forty kilometers per hour. It looks to be fifty meters in height. Daniel has no trouble now herding them into the inner core of the building to huddle in the stairwell. The sound and concussion occur together. Anticlimactic compared to what they had been through; they don’t mind. A tubular steel outer frame of the structure offers little surface area for the water to exert its power, and the concrete inner core proves too substantial. Silence becomes an irresistible lure as they venture out and creep to the edge. The water is down to ten meters and receding fast.


Indro is on the roof directing preparation of the last of the meat from the freezer on a smoky fire of paper ripped from drywall scraps. The boys are learning how to cook at the most basic level. It is the fourth day Post-Hit. An unmistakable swelling beat of helicopter blades causes everyone to look at each other in hopeful anticipation. The boys remove their ever-useful shirts and wave at the now visible trio of choppers flying over the bent metal tiara of the BNI building. Helicopters hover, dropping supplies onto the roof along with a message that they will soon return. There is jubilation on the roof of the BNI Tower. They are saved.

Sawyer, G. T. (2063), The incredible survival of Daniel Fulbright and company, Tales of the Hit (pp. 98-117) Denver, CO: Kornbluth Foundation Press

Telescopic satellite video feeds showed a previously untracked chunk of rock struck Isadora, changing the near-miss trajectory calculated by scientists. Three billion deaths from volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, exposure, disease, and starvation over the next five years made it clear to those that thought about these things that if humanity insisted on keeping all its eggs in one basket the universe was determined to make an omelet someday. Space travel was about to get a shot in the arm.
Before the ash and rumblings died, wise men of power and wealth took action.  “Agreement for the Survival of Mankind” was adopted by the nations of the world to pool resources in protecting the human race from vagaries of the universe. A Board of Agreement was formed by the treaty and put in charge of those resources. The Board would be a powerful force driving technology advances for the next one hundred years, culminating in the Age of Transmat.


Excerpt and postscript above are reprinted by permission of the Maynard P. Kornbluth Foundation for the Preservation of Mankind founded in 2027. Concerned a nuclear winter might cause the starvation of millions Maynard P. Kornbluth founded an organization that spanned the planet with information and tools to help feed mankind should this unfortunate event ever occur. Mr. Kornbluth’s far-flung foundation sites house millions of spores of every edible mushroom known to man and the literature in appropriate languages on how to grow them. These provide protein even without sunlight. 18 years later, the Hit proved Mr. Kornbluth a prescient genius. His mushrooms saved an estimated one billion people from starvation. The Foundation is still taking its job of protecting humanity very seriously, so take time today to go online to or stop by one of the friendly Foundation outlets and pick up your syringe of mushroom spores with instructional smart paper. Donations are always welcome online and in person.
Thanks from the board of the Maynard P. Kornbluth Foundation for the Preservation of Mankind.

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