Chapter 1

19 March 2009.

0904 hours.

Washington, D.C., United States.

It was 6:45 in the morning when Kelly Antilles, her husband and her two children left Washington, D.C., to Kelly's parents' house in San Francisco, California. Kelly and her husband, Jake, had packed all the belongings they had planned to take with them across the country the night before. Spring Break had come early for their children, Mary and Jason, and the family decided to take advantage of the fact. Even while having made every attempt to avoid traffic, the city was coming to life just as they left, and the family was unable to make it more than about sixty miles out of the city in the two-and-one-half hours since they had left.

They were on the highway, traveling at seventy-five miles per hour, when suddenly a car headed the opposite direction suddenly swerved into their lane. Kelly pounded on the brakes in the Plymouth Voyager that she was driving, skidding sideways, to try to avoid the oncoming car. A Honda Civic hit her from behind when a bright white light enveloped her and her family.

She came to a few minutes later and instinctively turned around to see if her kids were all right. Never mind her husband; she had to see her children. She saw that Jason was bleeding from one side of his face, and both were unconscious, but noticed that both of them were breathing, and was relieved. She turned to face her husband, only to find that the door had been ripped off and that he was missing. The door was nowhere in sight. Leaves were blowing into and out of the minivan. It was strangely quiet, considering they were on the highway. She looked back over to her side of the vehicle, and realized that they were not on the highway any longer. Still dazed, she thought she saw her husband standing up on a hill not too far away. His name escaped her lips in an inquisitive murmur, "Jake... ?"

20 March 2009.

0104 hours.

Between Melbourne and Sydney, Australia.

Andrew Russell was on his way to Sydney from Melbourne. He had to be there in the afternoon, for a business meeting. Being one of the more prestigious politicians in the nation, he had to attend. He had decided, however, to take the long route, to drive along the beach. On his left were the sand dunes. It was quiet. He noticed there were no birds out, there were no sea gulls. There was no real sound, just the lapping of the waves on the shore, the distant roar of water out in the deep ocean, against the dark, midnight blue sky. It was clear, except for a few clouds. The Southern Cross was clearly visible at this time. It was straight ahead of him. He watched it for just a moment, and as soon as he let his eyes off the road completely, a brilliant white light surrounded him. He was thrown off the road, and onto the beach.

His vehicle rolled several times before coming to a stop. Andrew was cursing the entire way down, griping about how this would make it more difficult to explain why he'd taken the route he did. He was used to a lack of sleep, but this was beyond his comprehension. He couldn't afford to waste any more time, getting his car towed out of a sand trap of some form. He repeatedly damned the beach's existence, as if it were somehow the shore's fault he ended up in his current position. Upon landing, he hit his head on the steering wheel, and was knocked unconscious.

Some minutes later, he woke, and his eyes were bleeding. There was a dull ringing in his ears. His car was flipped over, and he was still inside. The hood was crunched in, and the top was fairly smashed, as well. "Damn," he said, "I'm going to be late for the meeting." And he promptly passed out.

19 March 2009.

1604 hours.

Alexandria, Egypt.

Aswad Isa and Omar Alwafai were in bed, when all of a sudden, there was a bright light from their eastern window. They woke, but lay still. Suddenly, the window shattered, spraying both men with tiny slivers of glass. The light was so bright, even if from so far away, that they were momentarily blinded. The bed shifted, ever so slightly, enough to make a small creak and grind softly over the floor. As far as they knew, a nuclear blast had gone off.

Neither said anything to the other. There was nothing that they could think to say. When they were able to see again, they looked at each other with frightened eyes, and lay down again. Aswad whispered to Omar, "What will happen, now?"

Omar quietly replied, "We go to headquarters. And wait. And pray."

Aswad simply nodded and rose from the bed, gathering clothes for the both of them. While neither of them really knew what was going on, they both had their ideas. They both felt, regardless, that their worst fear was yet coming true. Considered conspiracy theorists, at best, they still feared that this was really happening. Excited by it at the same time, they dressed in silence, and left their home.

19 March 2009.

1404 hours.

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom.

Darren Montgomery had been taking a late lunch break, and was on his way back to work. He was a few minutes early, but that could be good or bad, depending on who was the boss for the second half of his shift. It was a partially cloudy day, so when a booming noise reverberated through the sky, he was taken by surprise. There wasn't any oncoming thunderstorm, to his knowledge. But when he noticed a car veering off the road ahead of him, he said, "What in bloody—!"

Darren almost didn't notice the car in front of him stopping, but he managed to slam on his brakes, fishtailing, and was blinded in the same moment by some illumination in his rearview mirror. However, his car had shut off, but that didn't stop it from careening into traffic. Not being able to see what he was doing, he turned the steering wheel sharply to the left, to avoid any other cars that he might run into, and landed in a ditch.

He woke up a little while later to the sounds of ambulance sirens and someone tapping on his window. "Sir? Sir, are you all right in there?" a woman's voice asked. When Darren realized that it was the voice of the person at the window, he opened his eyes and mumbled incoherently in response. He gazed a glassy-eyed stare at the blonde-haired, blue-eyed paramedic for a second or two afterward, and passed out again.

19 March 2009.

1404 hours.

Marseilles, France.

Bastien Rowley had restlessly been trying to sleep. He was the night security guard at the Marriott in Marseilles. He was also the most feared. Since he had been hired, there had been little trouble in the hotel. Very few people realized why, including his supervisor. But it was something he had never really had to discuss, and for that, he was thankful.

All throughout his attempts to rest, Bastien had dreamt of the Arc du Triomphe, the Llouvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, followed by nothing. Emptiness. He woke up in a cold sweat, relieved that his wife, Susanna, had taken a trip home to Madrid, Spain, to visit her parents. He did not yet understand why he felt appreciative of this, though.

He rose in his boxers, and made a move toward the bathroom to clean up. He was grateful that he had the night off. He got halfway to the doorway to his bathroom when the windows suddenly flew open, and a strong wind knocked him to the ground. He landed backward on his butt and his elbow, and slid back about a foot, scraping skin off his forearm. He sat for a moment, knowing what had happened.

19 March 2009.

2304 hours.

Seoul, South Korea.

Phong Nguyen had been walking home after a late night out on the town. Sure, he had had fun, what with all the girls and drinks and all, but he needed to go to work in the morning. He was just beginning to walk past a park when he heard a low, distant rumble, but he passed it off for thunder, as the sky was overcast. When it lasted too long for the normal rumble from the sky, he looked up, curious.

In the moment that he looked up, he was blinded by a great flash. It swept over him, encompassing everything. He took a step back, and then there was an aftershock, throwing him to his face on the ground. He tumbled for a moment before he was able to get up. He started for a nearby hospital, barely able to walk, and after thinking about all the possibilities of what it might have been, all he could do was shake his head and say, "Shit..."

Despite running through all the different conceivable ideas he'd had, he still could not form any logical conclusion. Regardless of everything that was discussed in his workplace, he didn't have anything that he could place as to what happened. It dawned on him, eventually, as he made it into the emergency room. But he was already looked down upon as some loony, so he kept his mouth shut, ready to get out of the ER and into work.

19 March 2009.

2004 hours.

St. Petersburg, Russia.

Aleksandr Petrovich was just about to leave the lab when Olga Borisokov made an astounding discovery. "Sergei! Aleksandr! Come, look at this!" Sergei Lipinski and the other bio-geneticists were working on reading the human genome. They had apparently happened upon some incredible evidence—telepathy was, in fact, real. It wasn't always hereditary; it was a mutation occurring here and there due to defects in DNA strands, but it was real.

"Hurry! Record the information!" Sergei commanded.

"Computer, download findings," Aleksandr ordered to the computer, scribbling something down on a notepad. Then, to the others, wildly, "Do you know what this could mean?"

"Files... downloaded," stated the robotic voice of the computer as the building began to shake. Things fell off of shelves, flasks shattered on the ground, objects of glass and metal clattered and clanked as they knocked against each other. A fluorescent light crashed down from the ceiling, hitting one of the monitors on the long table, throwing it to the floor.

"Get down!" Olga yelled. The commotion concluded. "What—what was that? I didn't think we got earthquakes here," she whispered.

"I—I don't know," said Aleksandr softly, getting up from his crouching position under the table, wary.

"But," Sergei said, grinning broadly, "we have our evidence, safe and intact." He patted a somehow unscathed computer tower. "No worries."

20 March 2009.

0204 hours.

Kyoto, Japan.

Aki Oro and Hikari Yurimoto sat in their apartment, discussing the assignment that was due in the morning. They were graduating in two months, both with a degree in nuclear engineering. Things were definitely different since the end of the second Persian Gulf War, and although electronics was not the favorite subject of either woman, they managed to pull through every electronics class before this, and they were determined to make it through their last one.

"Finally!" Aki cried, exclaiming their success in finishing the project.

"Yes, we're done," replied Hikari, "and in only two months' time. We've only one more project. Just think..."

And that was when the windows blew open, and the building began to tremble. Glass shards were sprayed all over Hikari and Aki's bodies, minutely piercing their skin here and there.

"Cover it!" yelled Aki.

Hikari threw a blanket over their project as soon as everything died down and said, "I wonder what that was?"

"I don't know," Aki responded, looking at Hikari, concerned, "but I don't like the looks of it. I don't like it at all."

Hikari, perturbed, simply nodded. "We will have to make sure it wasn't damaged."

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Story tagged with:
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