Cascadia Quake – Chapter One – Tomas

Cascadia Quake

By Dave Cline





Tomas Rendillo rented a faded blue cottage on Old Woods Drive in a cozy coastal town in Oregon. Within the home a glass sunroom provided scenic views out over the Little Nestucca River Valley, a valley that ran from the Pacific coast up into the the coastal range. From his favorite wicker chair, one that creaked with every move, he could see across the river’s floodplain to Cloverdale and the town’s hilltop school, its few storefronts and the US Post Office that sat out in the flats next to the river.

Tomas drifted up and down the Oregon coast, writing his travelogues, photographing unique flowers and bird species, and, for the most part, enjoying his early retirement. The bustle of the crowds and the heat of summer had come and gone, and Tomas settled into a comfortable pattern of reading, writing and exploring. But, sometimes the mid-autumn surprised the locals with a warm cloudless day, where a quick drive down to Pacific City and the beach there, would put him in the midst of happy folks frolicking on the sand; folks who lived their whole year in or around town, struggling to make a living in the off-season. During such excursions he didn’t see many birds but the feeling of community revitalized his sense of the place, reminding him why he chose this lifestyle.

However, today wasn’t one of those inviting sunny tokens of summer. The morning dawned grey with moisture dripping from the cedars around the cottage and thick coastal fog lumbering in in great rolling waves up the valley. A breeze managed to intimidate some of the fog to drift away and it was then he spied cautious birds dabbing in puddles and flitting over the tops of the emerald green grass. During the break, Tomas’ keen eyes noticed these fleeting specs out on the field near the river. Using his ever-handy binoculars he identified spotted sandpiper, killdeer and golden-plover; whether the plover was American or Pacific he couldn’t tell. These last pair of birds were some he would add as newly identified in his bird log. 

His phone’s attendant chimed next to him as he sipped sugary tea, “An email from the Pacific City library has been received.”

Tomas looked down at the phone, a relentless habit, and spoke, “Read email.”

The attendant continued, “Your reserved list of titles has arrived in full. Library hours will be from noon to eight pm tonight. The library is located…”

Tomas cut off the recitation. “Remind me at four pm to go to the library.”

“A reminder to ‘go to the library’ has been set for four pm,” replied the agent in a voice reminiscent of his late wife Rialla.

Rialla had died from a stroke four years ago. 23AndMe had warned them of her predilection to the possibility, a pattern of blood vessels and inexplicable clotting concerns, but they’d ignored it. What could you do with such information? Tomas had allowed the phone attendant to scan through his videos of his wife and extract the pattern and tone of her voice. Some found it disturbing. For Tomas, the small comfort of hearing her musical voice calmed and reassured him. Her name even provided the prompt to enable his phone’s agent to begin listening.

“Rialla,” he began.

“I am listening, Tomas,” replied his phone.

“Please record the sighting of a golden-plover for this time and date.”

Rialla, the agent, replied, “The sighting of a golden-plover has been recorded.”

“Thank you.” The widower could not help his innate courtesy.

“You are welcome, Tomas.”


Lunch for an older man might often be described as bland. But for Tomas, lunch was an opportunity to enjoy the area’s still vigorous produce suppliers. Greens, peppers, late harvest tomatoes, squash and some delicious Japanese sweet potatoes filled his refrigerator. Tart Tillamook cheddar and pepperjack melted over locally crafted masa tortillas, grilled papas, and homemade salsa made a colorful and aromatic meal.

“Rialla, please add avocados and eggs to our shopping list.” Tomas’ natural acceptance of having a digital personal assistant at his beck and call was testament to the success of such technology. He still drove his own vehicle, an old model plug-in hybrid, but that was because he felt uncomfortable riding with a driver or traveling in one of the recently approved autonomous cars. The thought of a seaside cliff plunge into the churning waters of the Pacific, all due to the error of some automated sensor, dissuaded Tomas from ever using such a service.

The fog had returned to the valley that stretched out before him as he sat back in his chair with lunch in hand and a tall glass of water containing an ounce or two of zinfandel wine to give it flavor.

It was obviously chilly outside. The winds swirled the fog, driving it up the small hill where he sat, tossing the fir and cedar branches about like marionettes. But the glass sunroom remained cozy, its double paned windows receiving the pale light and its dark stone floor storing the heat and radiating it back into the room. Tomas felt content, secure. Outside, the air ran with the scent of the shore and the cries of gulls and terns kiting in the gusts. But inside, as Tomas finished his lunch, he considered himself lucky.

And then an odd rattling began, like a lumber truck bearing down the road, shaking the cabinets on their hinges. Tomas looked in awe as a physical wave of earth heaved itself up across the field and rippled from right to left, from the direction of the sea, as though a giant was gripping the earth and shaking it like a carpet, causing a thunderous wave to race across the plain in front of him, disappearing up the Little Nestucca River Valley. Then, a tumultuous rumbling began, throwing Tomas to the floor as it heaved and convulsed beneath him. Instantly, he knew he must escape this room of glass. Scrabbling along he managed to make the doorway as the eight large panels of double paned windows imploded into the room. He felt shards strike his covered legs but he remained unmarked. He lay, crying out to Rialla, as the entire cottage beat against itself, tearing siding and lighting, timbers and flooring into shredded pieces of its once picturesque appearance.

“Rialla! Rialla! The earth, it’s thrashing me, tormenting me.”

“Hello, Tomas, I am listening,” chimed the agent from the phone still in his pants pocket.

“Rialla! The house, it will collapse upon me.”

The agent, attempting to interpret Tomas’ statement, replied, “I can notify the rental agency that the home requires repairs.”

“No, no. Rialla, a great earthquake is upon us. It will destroy this house.”

The raging temblor continued to pummel the home. Every window broken, every picture, trinket or feature dashed to the ground. However, the house stuck to its foundation, which helped it combat a common fault of homes destroyed in earthquakes, that of shifting off of their foundations and collapsing.

The agent responded brightly, “The Juan de Fuca tectonic plate sliding beneath the North American plate gives rise to the Cascade Mountain range. Earthquakes along the northwest are expected to be some of the largest on record. If you are in an earthquake along the coast, once the earth ceases shaking, immediately seek higher ground. A tsunami will arrive within ten to twenty minutes and may flood as high as one hundred feet above sea level. Tsunami warning…”

“Rialla, shut up! I need help, not a lesson!” Tomas barked.

The earth shook for another sixty seconds. Four minutes and four seconds after it began, the ground stilled and the deafening noise of renting wood and shattering glass ceased. The calm that descended penetrated the man’s mind making him think he’d lost his hearing. “Rialla?”

“I am here Tomas, listening,” she replied.

“Rialla, mark the time,” Tomas asked softly.

“The time has been marked at one sixteen pm, October eighteenth of the year 2024. Do you wish to label this mark?”

“Yes, please name this mark, ‘Earthquake’,” he announced gravely.

“This time mark has been labeled ‘Earthquake’. Would you like to record a message to attach to this mark?” queried his faithful agent.

“No. I mean, yes. Yes. Begin, It has come. The devastation is upon us. Upon me…”

In his pause, the lonesome wail of the tsunami warning sirens began.

He continued, “I live, but for how long I do not know. The waters are coming and we must save who we can. I will make it down to my neighbors to help if I may. The hill behind the cottage is above the flood and we will be there until, until. I don’t know how long. But I am safe. I will contact you all after the tsunami.

“Rialla, save the message and send it out as an email to all personal contacts. Please.”

After an unexpectedly long pause, the agent replied, “Tomas, network connectivity is unavailable. Should I proceed when connectivity is restored?”

The winds blowing up the valley warbled the sirens blaring song. Tomas was able to raise himself off the floor in the doorway where he remained for the duration of the temblor. The house stood. He looked out the empty windows across to his neighbor’s home leaning over diagonally like it had been pushed over by the giant that shook the land.

“Yes, please. As soon as you can connect, send it. Oh, what’s your battery level?”

“My current battery power is eighty two percent of capacity.”

Tomas breathed a sigh of relief. He’d often forget to set the phone on its power-plate. Last night he’d been true to one of his wife’s nagging requests, “Charge your damn phone, cabrone!”

“Rialla, power down to periodic listening only.” He would save battery power for as long has he could. “Hold on, what time is it?”

“The time is one twenty-two pm. Powering down.”

The man rummaged through his closet and found his hiking boots and rucksack full of basic survival and camping gear and a few days worth of dried food. He donned a wool sweater, his rain pants, slicker and hat. He found his work gloves and walked out of the cottage down the hill, across Old Woods Drive and up to the leaning home of his neighbors Ben and Adina Zamakis. The tsunami sirens echoed across the valley as the entire area waited in fear of the next phase; the worst phase of the catastrophe, the flood.


“Ben! Adina! Are you here?”Tomas shouted loudly.

As in his cottage, every pane of glass, every precariously balanced memento had been shattered or tossed to the ground. The house had folded to the left, like a parallelogram, and had only stopped when its side had encountered the woodshed packed cords full of fir and oak.

Tomas made his way around to the back and glanced west seeking the wave he dred was coming. “Rialla, what is the time?” he asked his assistant.

After a few seconds and no reply he remembered he’d put her into a slow polling mode, one that would only check once every thirty seconds for her trigger name. He reached for his phone, but the agent responded in time. “I am awakening. I am here Tomas, listening.”

“Rialla, what is the time,” he repeated.

“The time is one twenty-five pm.”

He performed a quick calculation. “Let’s see, nine minutes, we have maybe ten before we must head up the hill. Ben! Ben! Are you here?”

A muffled barking rose from within the fallen home. Tomas stood at the back of the house, the door had burst into pieces from the pressure and the entrance to the home was a dark hole from which a dog’s whining could now be heard.   

“Chief! I’m coming.” Tomas set his backpack down, retrieved the flashlight and crawled into the now Seussian home. Through the kitchen with its fallen chairs and shattered decorative plates, he heard the dog’s pleading to his left and followed it into the short hall to the master bedroom.  At the far side a tall dresser had fallen across the queensized bed and drawers were pinning down Ben Zamakis, who lay struggling. Adina, in her attempt to reach her husband, had been struck by a falling book shelf, she lay on the floor unconscious.

“Ben! It’s Tomas. I’m going to try to pull you out from under the dresser.”

Ben, exhausted from his attempts to free himself, begged his neighbor, “Tomas, oh, thank God. Addy, where is she?”

“She’s here Ben, on the floor, I think she’s hurt. But I can’t move her without your help. So help me free you first.”

Between the two of them sliding scattering drawers Ben was able to shimmy over to the close side of the bed. “Oh, Addy, what happened?”

“Ben, we must drag her from the house, the wave is coming; Rialla, what is the time?”

“The time is one thirty-one pm.”

“Oh, geeze, we have just a few minutes. Pull Ben, pull!”

The two older gentlemen rolled the unresponsive woman onto the bed’s comforter and managed to drag her through the kitchen and out into the grey, windy day.

“Ben, you have sixty seconds, fetch shoes and heavy clothing for you and Adina. Don’t ask questions, just go!” Tomas’ nervous looks across the field to the west filled the other fellow’s mind with fear. He, too, knew what followed such an earthquake as they’d just experienced.

“Damn it, Ben! Adina is not coming around and we must carry her up the hill.”

The older fellow emerged on his hands and knees dragging coats and boots. “We can use the wheelbarrow. It’s in the woodshed,” Ben told Tomas as he stood up from his crawl.

The pair of them managed to lift and settle Ben’s wife and their gear into the deep bucket wheelbarrow, and Tomas slung his rucksack and took the first turn at maneuvering the cart around the house, across the soggy lawn and onto the gravel up to Old Woods Drive.

“Chief! Chief come on, boy!” yelled Ben.

“What’s wrong?” bullied Tomas.

“I don’t know. But I can’t leave him.”

“Rialla, the time?”

“The time is one thirty-five pm.”

“Thirty seconds. Go! I’ll push Adina up the drive. Go! Don’t look at me!”

The top of the drive, with the slight woman, her legs hanging out the front of the wheelbarrow, her arms tucked onto her chest, proved too much for Tomas to achieve in one long push. Nearly to the road he turned to wait for Ben.

The cracking snap of a huge timber, like the sound of close thunder — near enough to raise your arm hair — brought Tomas out of his gasping pause for breath. A half mile distant he could see trees whip down, like the Devil himself grabbing their roots and tugging them under. Then the double story hay barn, three fields over, shifted to the left and started to melt, shrinking in height until it disappeared from sight below the brush along the road. “Ben! It’s coming. Get OUT OF THERE!”

The barking dog burst around the side of the house running up to Tomas. “Chief, where’s Ben, go get Ben!”

The dog, sniffing the stockinged feet of Adina, held fast to the side of the wheelbarrow.

“Damnation. Damn, damn, damn!” Tomas watched as first the shooting face of the front wave blasted the water from the river, flooding the fields. It was followed by a twenty-foot tall monstrous wall of unstoppable mud, water and debris. To his right, down past the second curve where the road vanished around a hill, the hoard of flailing timbers and tumbling chaos pushed up and over the road encroaching the land forty or fifty feet above sea level. Tomas realized he was much too low. “Damn,” he said, one last time.

Tomas grabbed the handles of the cart and pushed with all his might up over the tarmac road, along the twenty yards to his own drive and then up toward his house. He looked back when he reached a few steps on his path, his breath incapable of keeping up with his exertion. Ben was just coming around the woodshed and making his way in a half trot that few of his age with a bum leg could manage. The brown tumbling beast of the massive tsunami, consuming every live or dead thing in its path, rolled over the tilted house as if it owned it. Tomas was still too low.

The edges of the colossal wave of sludge pitched up at times in the uneven dips and crests of the land beneath it, forcing itself up much higher than an observer would expect possible. Tomas made the level on which the cottage was built, but even that, he surmised, might not be high enough.  He turned to look back, remorsefully, knowing what he would not find. The heartless wave had consumed all of the green, the land, the pasture, the buildings and farms and barns and livestock. The gritty foul beast had taken Ben without a sound from the old man as he had, no doubt, watched his friend and neighbor, Tomas, wheel his wife and dog up the hill to safety.

“Come on Chief, you owe your life now, time to earn your keep. Find us a safe spot up above all this destruction.”

Tomas pressed forward, aware that a second and potentially a third wave could push into the valley tearing into the cottage and areas even higher than he currently stood. He knew of a small glade a few hundred yards up from the faded blue cottage. After numerous pauses, each one getting longer than the last, he eventually made the site and, without Ben’s help, awkwardly tipped Adina out onto a tarp he’d spread. She stirred at the rough treatment, moaning out her husband’s name. Tomas assumed, rightly, she’d incurred a concussion. So he spent the next hour setting a camp, tending to Adina and listening to the sirens and the creaking and unholy cracking of large trees, the low rumble of hundreds of buildings, machinery, cars and fuel tanks all being ground down and mixed into the morass of total destruction that was happening from Pacific City all the way up to Hebo; miles of low coastal valley wrecked and ruined in minutes.


“Oh my Lord, not another one!” wailed Adina as she lay under a second tarp Tomas had rigged as a lean-to. The third aftershock wracked the forest around them, doing little further damage; what had survived the first tumultuous shaking would survive these five and six Richter-scale temblors.

“There’s no more danger Adina, we’ll be getting these for days. They can bring down damaged buildings and bridges, but where we are, there’s nothing to hurt us.” Tomas’ steady words calmed the woman back into her strange euphoric state. She thought they were camping at a local state park, the intermittent aftershocks forcing her mind to bubble up into reality for a few seconds, after which she returned to her fantasy. Tomas had determined that her injury was non-life threatening, the swollen bump on the side of her head had begun to subside and she was without lacerations.

“I told Ben, ‘Ben, that bookcase is going to come tumbling down when the big one hits.’ I said, ‘You need to get some of those angle brackets and nail that dark ugly thing to the wall.’ But did he listen? No. And now look at me. I, I… Are you camping with us Mr. Rendillo? Where is Ben?” The poor woman had been babbling like this for an hour after she awoke. Ben figured additional waves had come through by now and the sounds of helicopters had been constant, flying up and down the valley doing what Tomas knew was more important than rescuing a couple of old folks on a hill.

“I’ll get a campfire going, what do you say?” Tomas asked encouragingly.

“I do like campfires. Chief likes campfires too, don’cha boy!” The dog had remained loyal to the woman and had only left her side when Tomas offered him a strip of dried jerky.

Tomas was unwilling to explain their situation until he knew the woman would remain lucid. Even then he was reticent to traumatize her further with the knowledge of the loss of her husband. So he pushed off the task, hoping that perhaps tomorrow she would wake stable, but still confused as to their surroundings.

“I have jerky and curried rice and raisins for dinner. It’s one of my camp-cook specialties. Are you getting hungry, Adina?”

“That’s a nice fire you’ve got going there, Mr. Rendillo.”

“You can call me Tomas.”

“Oh, I don’t think so, not without my Benjamin around.” She took the offered aluminum bowl of food and began to eat heartily. Nearly done she looked up with the spoon halfway to her mouth, “Tomas? Where is Ben?”

“Oh, he’ll be along. I’ve got chocolate and granola for dessert. But first how about some herbal tea?”

“Oh, that would be fine. And this is delicious camp-fare. You are a good cook, Mr. Rendillo.”

“Why, thank you.” Tomas busied himself with clean up and tea preparation. He’d rigged a buried “Y” branch and a long stick as a tripod for heating water, which fascinated the woman as he had set it up.

“Here you are,” he said as he handed the woman a cup of steaming tea. “It’ll be dark soon and in the morning we can talk, all right? But tonight we’ll just focus on trying to get some sleep.”

Adina received the cup, nodding her thanks, “I always sleep so well when we go camping.”

Tomas crossed his fingers that the spell of the outing would last through the night. If it weren’t for the constant drone of the helicopters his wish might have worked. That, and a severe aftershock that occurred in the middle of the night, waking them both, made Adina scream in fright and confusion. She was back, fully cognizant of what had happened until her injury, and Tomas found himself compelled to describe the full story of their predicament. He held her in the soft glow of the campfire coals as she sobbed uncontrollably to learn of the the last few moments of Ben’s life. Chief came to sit next to her, laying his head in her lap. “What shall I do? Where shall I go?” she fretted as her mourning tears streamed down her face.

“Adina, for now, and for some time to come, we will just have to live one day at a time. Tomorrow will bring overwhelming challenges and we must be up to the task, or we will not survive this calamity.”

“Oh, Tomas, I know I should thank you, but I don’t know if I can go on without my Ben.”

“Let’s just focus on sleep, food, water, shelter, warmth. Those are simple things that can keep us occupied while we work things out.”

“I’ll try. I’ll try,” she whimpered.

“We’ll both try. We’ll find help tomorrow. You’ll see, the country will reach out in our time of need.”


Blue Across the Sea – story behind the story


During the summer of 2039, sunspot AR2761 blossomed on the face of the sun like a black solar orchid spreading its petals of chaos. On May 13th and again on the 15th, a pair of super X class solar flares erupted from that spot. The flares’ electromagnetic pulses devastated satellites around planet Earth.

What followed, however, set the stage for true calamity. Like a double barreled blast from the sun, AR2761 produced two devastating coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Those two waves of charged particles, and the geomagnetic storms they produced, ended human society as we know it. Those waves of plasma killed the electric grid.

Society failed to recover. Electrons coursing through wires pumped the pumps, lit the lights, beeped, buzzed and squawked through every facet, every layer of society. When the electrons stopped, systems of refrigeration, refinery, transportation, communication, agriculture, Wall Street, main street, banking, the internet, GPS, water pumps, sewage pumps — if they were plugged in — stopped. And never came back on.

Eventually, billions of people died. Refrigerated food rotted in a week. Medicine supplies vanished in a month. Stockpiles of food and fuels lasted for less than two months. The entire northern hemisphere plunged into the second age of iron.

As cultures devolved and died all over the planet they found themselves dealing with more than just their failed electricity and its reliant systems. For years global warming had kicked into high gear. Weather patterns changed, seas dried, deserts flooded. The Great Basin of the United States began to fill with water. After hundreds of years of constant deluge the ancient paleolakes, Lake Bonneville and Lake Lahontan, refilled and merged. Like fabled Atlantis, towns and cities sank below the waves. But around the now verdant shores, villages above the waterline prospered. The waters became fertile and small boats were built to ply the sea and catch the fish that flourished there. After generations of stagnation, human society began its slow return.

This is the prologue and epilogue of Blue Across the Sea.
You can read the first chapter here:


May 13th, 2039

“Hey dad, is the net down again?”

“Yeah, looks like. Six nines quality of service my ass.”

“What’s that?”

“Oh, nothing, give it a few minutes, we’re still using copper you know, no fiber to the curb in this town, yet. Why not just pipe it up through the G?”

“Tried that first. It’s down too.”

Humanity’s century-long love affair with electricity entwined itself ever more tightly as the internet blossomed and like a creeping vine, sent tendrils into every home, every business, every life on the planet. Instant data through virtual reality heads up eye-contacts and glasses, device agents built into cars and appliances, the phones, or “net-bricks” everyone still carried, all of this, like an intravenous electron pump in place of a brain-rattling opioid addiction, drove anyone, with a mere hint of an outage, into a jonesing tantrum.

“It’s still not up dad.”

“I said give it a few. It’ll come back. It always does.”

They would wait for more than a few. In truth, they would wait forever. This time it didn’t come back. This time their Internet of Things would never chime again… The family’s refrigerator never again automatically ordered more eggs and mayonnaise. Their media services ceased to fetch the latest VR movie. Their alarm system, now dark, forever failing to flash its familiar green LEDs indicating all-secure. And their home artificial intelligence matron, Mavis, fell silent; her spoken greeting when a family member entered their home, permanently silenced.

Their connected lives were over. The Internet delivered not a single packet more. The internet wasn’t alone in its failure. Yet, that was how it started. In the suburbs, the cities, the towns, in their autonomous cars and buses, in their coffee shops, and urban office buildings; in their schools, in their homes and condos — the internet just stopped. It quit like accounting forgot to pay the bill. Like the global billing manager flipped a switch and told everyone in the world, no-more-net-for-you.

If being deprived of network connectivity brought digital oxygen starvation, what came next drained the very lifeblood of society.

“If the net and cable are down and all our phones are cut-off, how do we find out what’s going on?”

“Well, there used to be this mysterious audio technology called radio…”

“Quit it dad, I’ve got homework to check-in, and my aug-reality project is sitting here on my tablet. I’ve got to get it uploaded — today.”

“Don’t get your wires all singed, I’ll find the wind-up. I’m pretty sure it’s in with the camping gear in the garage.

“Honey, do you know if that wind-up radio is in with the camping gear or somewhere in the basement?


“Son, where’s your mother?”

“She said she was going to walk the neighborhood to find out what she could about the outage. Nobody’s phone works, but the power’s still on. Isn’t that weird?”


“Darren, I’ve asked five people about our connectivity. They’re all wandering around the neighborhood, too, but nobody knows what’s going on. I hate being unplugged.”

“I think we can find out using this. I’ve got the manually- powered radio working. Listen, there’s a public announcement about some solar flare that happened about thirty minutes ago.”

“Are they saying that it knocked out the net?”

“I guess. I didn’t think the comm-grid was affected by sunspots.”

“Dad, they’re called solar flares — not sunspots.”

“Okay then, you took the class, what’s the difference?”

“A sunspot is just that. A spot on the sun. Sometimes those spots, which are weak areas in the sun’s magnetic field, can cause solar flares. And then sometimes solar flares are accompanied by…”

“Shhhh, the woman is saying something else now. Something about a CME.”









“CME? What’s a CME?”

“Remember, I wrote a paper about it. It a coronal mass ejection.”

“That sounds dirty. It sounded dirty back when you wrote it too.”

“Mom, this is serious.”

“Yes, I know, your project needs uploading. Well I need uploading to the grocery story if what this announcement says is true.”

“You’re going to have to drive the BatBug then. We can’t call up a ride with our phones out.”

“Is the Bug charged?”

“… was yesterday.”

The serious nature of the coming events failed to penetrate the placid communities around the globe which had never experienced a “coronal mass ejection.” Indeed, humanity’s industrial society, racing along the information autobahn at ever increasing velocities, had never experienced a disruptive event of this magnitude. The one example, cited by astrophysicists, a massive CME that struck the northern half of the planet in 1859, resulted in beautiful worldwide auroras, curious messages and spurious fires in telegraph rooms in the rare locations that they existed at the time. The world then, lit only by whale oil, communicated by a fleet of postmen on foot, in carriages or as riders on horseback. In 1859, the electron had yet to be harnessed to do the pumping, grinding, lifting, moving, lighting, and talking that it had, as of the moment when the BatBug pulled into the parking lot of the local grocery mart, which burst at the seams with PEOPLE WHO WOULD NOT BE HARMED BY THIS EVENT.

“Tara, hey, is this crazy or what?”

“Oh, hi Donna, yeah, is this all because of that radio message?”

“Well, that and what the CME is supposed to do to us.”

“You mean kill the power for a couple of days?”

“That’s what the radio said, sure. But Donny, my husband, says that a CME can do more than just knock out the electricity for a few days.”

“Like what? A few weeks then?”

“Well, I don’t want to alarm you, and this is just between you and me, but Donny mentioned a time frame more like years, maybe more.”

“Years!? Are you kidding?”

“It’s possible he says, not likely, but possible.”

“Do all these people know this?”

“I doubt it. But I think we better stock up as much as we can. Did you bring cash with you?”

“Yeah, Kenneth said ‘Mom, you better bring cash in case the store’s networks are down’. We had to scramble to find what we could, I mean, who even keeps cash anymore?”

“I know. Well, let’s get in there then.”

News eventually went out regarding depleted store stocks. Usually auto-ordered by inventory bots watching the levels of every item in the store, low inventory orders had to be hand delivered to local warehouses. But, by the next day most stores had replenished the balance of their stocks. The networks, however, remained inoperable.

The timing of the CME’s arrival had been calculated down to the minute. All electric utilities in the northern hemisphere, operating generation plants, had been instructed to disconnect from the main power grids approximately one hour before the plasma wave of the CME was to strike. Some connections could not be suspended; in the end, it didn’t matter. From vast photovoltaic solar farms to armies of wind turbines, from hydroelectric generators to nuclear, gas, coal and liquid fuel electric generation plants, none of them escaped the tremendous currents that ended up being induced by the geomagnetic storm. A storm about to descend upon a naive and unprepared, technologically dependent, global society.

“Whoops, there goes the power.”

“That means it’s starting.”

“The sun storm?”

“Yeah, the magnetic storm NASA said would hit in a few days.”

“When I was at the store, Donna said it might take longer than a week to bring the power back up.”

“Well, if we use our dehydrated camping food, we have food and water for about a month.”

“She said it might be longer than that. Maybe much longer.”

“What does that mean, ‘much longer’?”

“I don’t know, forever? Darren, do you still have ammunition for your rifle?”

“It’s a shotgun, honey, remember, I used it when I shot trap. Sure I think I’ve got a few boxes stored in the closet. Maybe 75 rounds. It’s birdshot, though, tiny pellets.”

“You could still use it to protect us, couldn’t you?”

“Oh, it’ll do some damage, for sure.”

“Is it enough?”

“Enough for what?”

“I don’t know. Enough to save us.”

As the enormous wave of charged particles slammed down into, and then through, the Earth’s ionosphere, the planet’s weakened magnetosphere tried to direct the onslaught around to the far side of the world. “Weakened,” as the geologists and geophysicists had been detecting a slow change in the dynamo that was the magnetosphere — the poles, they said, were attempting to flip.

There in the ionosphere, as the energies interacted with the oxygen in the air, the skies began to glow and shimmer with dancing bands of aurora. Trails of green and faint red lights, thousands of miles long, undulated like dying cobras, their agonizingly slow writhing in time with the pulses of intense direct current being induced on the sun-facing side of the globe.

The tsunami of geomagnetic energy enveloped every high tension power cable inducing incredible direct current, like that of a Mt. Olympus-sized battery, its terminals short circuited into the wires of the world. As those currents traveled through those wires they ended up plunging down into the centers of transformers and generators that were the hearts of the Northern Hemisphere’s power generation system. The intense arcing power, swelling with each pulse of the solar storm’s internal variation, fused the generator coils with molten nodes of boiling copper.

This eventuality met, then exceeded, the expectations of what the astrophysicists had predicted. Transformers, connected to long antenna like powerlines, would fuse and become ton-sized hunks of useless metal. Where disconnects could be performed, they thought, the transformers would be saved. What they did not predict, however, was the intensity of this particular CME. Nor the intensity of the one that would follow on this one’s scorching heels, a mere sixteen hours later.

What should have passed undamaged, local neighborhood transformers, did not. What they never considered were the induced electrical currents in vast networks of wires, both for electricity as well as communications, in office buildings and industrial buildings across the continents. These currents would not only strike like lightning bolts down into building’s basements and into internal power generation systems, but these geomagnetically induced currents would generate so much resistive heat that the wires would catch fire. Lengths of wire, tens to hundreds of meters long, acted to conduct the relentless currents into fragile areas. Combustible areas. Wires got hot, red hot.

Thousands of buildings, in all the cities directly impacted by the first coronal mass ejection, caught fire and began to burn. Normally, one burning building, maybe two per city, easily exhausted local fire departments. Dozens of burning buildings resulted in conflagrations blasting through all the cities in the western half of the northern end of the planet. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Quebec, Washington DC. Mexico City, Seattle, and stretching over to Oahu and Kauai — all caught fire and burned.

Even in the suburbs and rural areas, where the wires were long and strong enough, high temperature sparks arced out through thinly clad insulation igniting fires in homes and buildings.

“Do you hear that?”

“That popping sound?”

“It sounds like firecrackers out in the street.”

“Firecrackers pop, this sounds more like a buzz-crack.”

“Well, whatever it is, it’s freaking me out.”

“Let’s go take a look.”

“Holy shit! It’s the powerlines, their crackling.”

“If the power’s out, but the wires are all juiced up, what does that mean?”


“Dad, you need to flip the circuit breakers, all the wires are getting hot but I think the wires outside are gonna get hotter.”

“Oh man, the circuit panel is burnin’ up, run and fetch me a pair of oven mitts.”

“There, all off. I don’t think that will do anything, but at least we shouldn’t get that weird crackling coming inside.”

“Son, what’s going on here, what is all this about?”

“It’s the CME, dad, it’s charging all the wires. You know how the charging paddle for the BatBug doesn’t actually make direct contact?”

“Right, induction charging”

“Exactly. The CME is doing that to all the long wires. All the wires everywhere and inside everything. But the current that’s inside the wires is turning into heat, not charging a battery.”

“Is this going to go on all day?”

“No, I think it only lasts a little while.”

“This is what NASA was warning us about, right? This is why the power is off.”

“Yeah. This is why. But from what I remember reading, normal wires aren’t supposed to react like this. I think this CME is much bigger than anything NASA was predicting.”

“Well, the power is off at least for a week. No work for me. Of course I haven’t worked for months. But no school for you. And mom won’t be working either. Sounds like a mandatory holiday!”

With no one realizing it at the time, communities across the continent unwittingly descended into the new dark ages. Some radio stations would eventually return online, at least while their generators held fuel to burn. But for now, only a silent sputtering whispered through the speakers of those seeking information on the devastation slowly spreading across the land.

For those towns and hamlets that had escaped the plasma wave induced fires, those first few nights blossomed with celebratory spirit. Bonfires and street parties erupted in cul-du-sacs and parks. The local police had been briefed on what had occurred in the larger cities and tried to send their folks back to their homes, for safety reasons, but the people failed to listen.

“Whatever money you had last Thursday, that’s how much you are ever going to have. All the banks are dead.”

“We’ve got over forty thousand in the bank, what do you mean they’re dead. How do I get that money out?”

“You don’t. Nobody does. All digital wealth is gone. Wiped out.”

“What? That can’t be. What about our 401k? Our investments? Everybody’s investments!”

“Gone. Wall Sstreet is over. There’s no power in any of the cities. And most of the cities are probably burning anyway. There’s no way to restart the internet, the computers, the exchanges, the brokerages, nothing, every digital dollar is gone. Vanished.”

“And our insurance? Our mortgages? Our credit cards?”

“None of those companies exist anymore. How can they? They relied upon electricity to run their businesses and the internet to communicate.”

“Holy, shit, I’ve got to sit down.”

“I know, it’s a lot to take in. It’s overwhelming.”

“I’ll say. Every account anyone had anywhere, they’re erased?”

“Well, not erased, the data still exists. If the electricity were to magically come back on tomorrow, the internet could start back up and we’d be back to where we were, mostly.”

“But the power is not coming back on?”

“With all these fried wires? I doubt it. I’m pretty sure the double CME that hit, the last one striking yesterday on the far side of the planet, wiped out the possibility that we can ever recover. Those CMEs were huge.”

“Son, you said ever?”

“Well, I’m speaking probabilities here. But from what we know about the impact the first CME had on us here…”

“Wait a minute, there was a second solar flare?”

“Maybe, but it’s not the solar flare that was the problem.”

“Right, it’s the geomagnetic pulse wave thingy.”

“Yes, and the reason I know there was a second one was the aurora we saw yesterday.”

“Ah, the light show. I thought that was from the first wave.”

“No, the show we saw yesterday must have been from a second wave that hit. Europe is history. China, India, Russia. I doubt they survived.”

“We’re doomed then.”

“Doomed is a good word. Well, not a good word. But, yes, we are most likely doomed.”

When the power went out. Everywhere. All at once. A chain reaction began. It started with the fact that most people’s money ceased to be. Their wealth had been virtual wealth stored as data in computers. If you can’t run the computers because you have no electricity to run them… Even if you could power up one computer, or a building full of them, the wealth of people existed more as a set of digital promises. Some banks were able to use internal electricity generators to reboot operation, temporarily. And these were able to release hard currency to account holders they could identify. Yet, like a run on a bank, there’s only so much physical money available. Most wealth sits on hard drives in data centers around the planet. In them reside the promises of real wealth owed. Few people realized that the cash they possessed in small nest eggs or emergency funds, at the time of the calamity, represented all the money wealth they owned. Period.

For a time, this cash was useful. The promissory notes dollars embodied, continued to retain value to people who hoped for a return to normalcy. With such a small supply of actual cash, the practice of barter sprang up almost immediately. Those who had extra “these”, traded with others who possessed extra “those”. Batteries for candles. A bicycle for a camp stove. Fuel for flour.

Yes, fuel did exist, petrol mostly, for months, for a price. With electric powered autos being the recent standard, few people had internal combustion engine cars, except as curiosities. Many folks had solar systems that could charge their battery-powered cars. The solar storm damaged a large portion of these, yet hundreds of electric cars remained operational, scattered across towns and suburbs, for years after they ran. Generators, however, to power refrigeration, lighting and water pumps, required liquid fuels. Fuels like gasoline, kerosene and diesel, stored in tanks as national reserves, represented only a few days to weeks of supply. Without the people to run the refineries, people who were busy trying to protect their own in the chaotic aftermath, the distillation plants ceased operation and fell silent. Generators everywhere, dependent on such fuels, began to fail by autumn. By winter, fuel, of any kind, flowed only for the hoarders and thieves.

Dozens of industrious teams of mechanical and electrical engineers across most countries attempted to repair generation facilities in hydroelectric, wind and solar plants. Only a few succeeded. The destructive force of the CME’s-induced currents slammed the massive transformers and generators rendering most of them inert heaps of wound copper and aluminum. The enclaves where power was restored enjoyed a limited return to what, colloquially, became known as The Before. Their respite lasted just as long as their food.

Of all the luxuries the first world enjoys, ample and continuously available food ranks number two. Clean water being number one. During strong storms the power can go out for weeks at a time. But in the nations of the world where electricity attained the status of a right, not a privilege, one could always depend on finding somewhere to buy, or be given, enough food to eat and water to drink. The source of such a luxury emanated from a vast network of farmers, processors, transporters, warehousing and delivery agents and systems; with the communication and financial glue to connect it and hold it all together. It was a nutrition generation engine of massive proportions. The one critical component of this engine, electricity. Eliminate that and the mechanism seizes and grinds to a halt.

In the countries most impacted by the failure of the electricity grid, warehoused food ran short within a month. The world’s militaries, their National Guards, worked valiantly to deliver what stores governments stockpiled. Yet, such reserves had never been meant to feed whole nations; feed cities and, perhaps, states, yes, but were never planned to sate tens of millions of ravenous people. The Corps held the peace as long as they could. They, too, eventually disbanded, their own appetites failing to be met.

The armed forces dissolution marked the crack in the dams that were nations. Famine being the underlying cause of the failure.

Hunger riots destroyed humanity’s dwindling sense of brotherhood. Altruism surrendered to animosity and aggression. A family’s next meal might depend on basic survival instincts, such as selfishness. Starvation invaded the lives of those who had never known privation. Ironically, there existed tons of privately held food, grain and stored reserves in warehouses dotted around countrysides and urban outskirts. Those who knew of them formed coalitions of control doling out buckets of wheat and corn in return for ammunition and alcohol. The foodstuffs within these reserves, however, remained sequestered by those who begrudged others a meal without equivalent exchange. In many, desperation engendered greed. For lack of transportation and the rule of law to see it distributed, the grain failed to save millions who died wanting just a few cups a day.

“Tara, we can’t stay here.”

“I know. There are too many folk all scratching at the same patch, hoping to find food.”

“We should head to the coast. Maybe setup at the mouth of a river.”

“That’s hundreds and hundreds of miles!”

“We could go east. Fewer people, but less chance of finding food. I hate to say it but we’re going to have to pretend we’re original natives and figure out how to gather, fish and hunt.”

“There’s no pretend about it.”

“No, there isn’t. We’ll rig up the Batbug to charge from a solar panel. We’ll strap one to the roof.”

“The bug won’t fit four of us and carry all our stuff.”

“We’ll rig up a trailer to hold our gear. And, we can take turns driving and walking.”

“Darren, you’re proposing that we walk to the coast?”

“The bug’s battery will last longer if we go slow, stop and recharge during the day.”

“It’ll take weeks to get there. Maybe more!”

“Tara, we can’t stay here. We can’t go north or south, there’s no opportunity for collecting any kind of food that way. East is barren.”

“Well, then, let’s tell the kids.”

“I think they already know.”


“Daddy, I can’t leave Ditto.”

“Honey, the cat will be better off living in territory that’s familiar to her. She knows where there’s running water. And she knows how to hunt.”

“Why can’t we bring her. She doesn’t eat much and, and it would be cruel to leave her.”

“She’ll need to stay in a cage all day. She’ll have to be let out on a leash, which you know won’t work, otherwise she’ll run away during our first stop. And it may take us a long time to get where we’re going. I think it would be more cruel to take her.”

“I don’t care. She’s the only one who loves me. And, and, she won’t run away.”

“I won’t win this I know. But look at me and tell me you understand the risks.”

“She won’t be any trouble, you’ll see.”


“The trailer is packed and ready to go. It gave us plenty of room for our camp gear and a few boxes of mementos. I’m sorry we can’t take more. But, better to bring food than furniture, water than widgets, tools than toys…”

“Will you be serious Darren.”

“Tara, I’m just trying to soothe the loss we’re all feeling.”

“I know, but let us feel the loss just the same. Goodbyes should be somber things.”

“Okay, but a mile down the road the dreary duo’s doom dissipates.”

“Enough already!”

Medium and large cities bled thousands of people as resources dwindled. Few had transportation aside from handcarts and bicycles. Some still possessed privately-owned battery vehicles and left with those. Internal combustion autos and trucks were abandoned, as, by the second month, all available fuels were fanatically guarded, being used only for generators. By mid-autumn folks gave up hoping that government, any government, would rise from the ashes to reestablish services, order and the rule-of-law. Those small communities that had banded together early, held fast. Their solidarity most often stemming from a cache of grain and fuel or other survival resource, like ammunition. Thousands of others abandoned their cityscapes and went off trekking, family by family or more insidiously, as gangs of vicious outlaws.

Depravity and malevolence rose like festering buboes on the skin of society. In a land based on trust, when that civil agreement loses to oppressive power, tyrants reign and only equal force can withstand them. Fortunately, witless tyrants, fighting over scraps, like feral dogs over roadkill, tend, in time, to effectively eliminate one another. Unfortunately, those left to feast on the remains are often the most malicious of the pack. In a land based on trust, where forgiveness for offense underlies that trust, such folk, who believe in that trust, become easy prey. Thus marks the collapse of society. And so it became, across the whole of the northern hemisphere, that fall and winter.


What of the southern hemisphere? Their infrastructures were intact, their power systems and governments had not collapsed. Where was their charity, their relief, their compassion? At first they responded valiantly, determinedly. The numbers, though, were overwhelming. Ships bringing supplies that docked in northern ports were overwhelmed. Riots and mayhem consumed the aid relief. These ships, as well as every other container and passenger ship available, were conscripted into service as refugee transports. Tens of millions of people invaded the southern countries. A massive exodus, unknown in the modern era, descended upon Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Chile, South Africa and others. And still more came fleeing the maelstrom of dying societies in the North. So many in fact, that, in the south, too, collapse began. Sickness swelled the hospitals and camps. Food and water vanished into the mouths of hundreds of millions seeking asylum from the terror enveloping the top half of the planet. The fact was plain, the southern hemisphere could not, could never, sustain the population of the north. When just six or seven percent of people tried to escape to below the equator, the south couldn’t handle it. It, too, failed.

“I’m sorry dear. Ditto is a smart kitty. She’ll find a boyfriend out here, and catch mice and drink rain water. She might even find a nice warm home where she can stay.”

“But daddy! Daddy! She was all I had.”

“When we get to the coast, there will be so many kitties that people have forgotten, we’ll find another who needs a little girl to take care of. Which kind do you think you’ll see first?”


“All the campstove fuel is gone, Darren. And we haven’t seen another soul for two days. This road, what is it again?”

“It’s the interstate that leads to the coast.”

“Well, this road sucks. I hate it!”

“Hey, I’m amazed that we’ve gotten so far. We’re nearly half way.”

“It’s been a month of hell! And now it’s getting cold. And I, I…”

“Here comes Kennie, and look, I think that’s a goose he’s carrying.”

“A goose! God! Can’t we find something normal to eat?”

“Good job, Kenneth! Was it hard?”

“This? No, this part wasn’t hard.”

“What was hard then?”

“Getting away from them.”


“They’ve been following us for a week.”

“Honey, maybe they just want company on the way to the coast.”

“Are you really that naive, Darren?”

“Remember me? I’m the one trying to keep everyone’s spirits up.”


“Give us ya car and we’ll give ya back ya girl here.”

“Okay, okay, please, you can have the car, but leave us enough to camp with, at least.”

“And we want the gun, too.”

“We need that to survive!”

“It’s a hard world mister. And it’s gettin’ harder.”

“Darren, give them the gun.”

“Damn! You know you’re probably killing us by leaving us here with the snow falling like this.”

“So, you wanna die sooner?”


“Darren, Karina is freezing to death. We can’t walk any farther down this damn road!”

“I know. I know. I see some smoke coming from over that hill. I’ll tell you what. Let’s just stop here for now. We’ll go beg at their fire or whatever those people have and we’ll just stay here.”

“Dad, I see someone waving at us from that hill now.”

“See, honey, it looks like they want to help.”

“My god Daren, how did this happen to us?”

“I don’t know dear. The world, the world is broken now.”

“Was that a sign back there. What did it say this place was?”

“It said the place was called ‘Murtaugh’.”

Humans to surpass the Singularity

It may not be a computer that become the basis for the Singularity. It may be a collection of human brains interconnected to think in a super human way.

Life, whatever that might be, seems as a spark of unknown origin. One second you’re alive, the next your dead. What changes? One second an egg is Nitrogen frozen the next, it’s rejuvenated and awaiting to become a new human or other animal.

Will machines every truly become alive? Will that spark ever truly fire in a silicon or gallium, or other exotic material circuit substrate? Sure AI and ML are just tiny steps toward that goal of creating an independent intelligent lifeform. But what if augmented humans could wire themselves together in droves; what if the whole human race could wire its collective brains into a single uberbrainnet? Wouldn’t that just skip the whole machine as an independent, legal entity?

Wall Street / Main street: The two shall never agree

Here is the simplest synopsis of why Wall Street ignores Main street and why Main street despises (and rightly so) Wall Street.

What would Wall Street desire in the development and evolution of any company? Whatever maximized the return on investment, yes? Whatever would deliver the greatest dividend and the greatest market value a company could deliver, yes? How might Wall Street design such a company? That’s easy. Fire everyone but the CEO and fully automate absolutely everything that the company does to research, design, build and deliver product. That is, remove as much overhead as possible, namely people, by full and autonomous automation. “People? We don’t need no stinkin’ People!”

Now, in opposition, what would Main street desire in the evolution of every company on the planet? Something, no doubt, along the lines of the exact opposite of what Wall Street would want; complete and equitable distribution of employment and compensation among all existing and future employees. Main street wants everyone to work. Wall Street wants no one to work. Main street desires a high standard of living for all of its citizens. Wall Street wants to pay as little as possible (nothing is best here) to build and deliver products and services.

These two entities are diametrically opposed. They will NEVER come to agreement.

The future looks bright (and shiny from the light bouncing off the robotic work force.)


Rosy never wanted to render us useless — did she?
A future full of robots. AI bots. Artilects they call them. Bots of every mundane variety. Bots of high level tasks too. Bots supplanting nearly every human endeavor, every human job, every need for work to get itself done. “Get r’ done” Larry would say. Little did we know that that “r” stood for robot.

One of the rosy pictures the happy futurists etch on their iPads is one where humans are freed from the drudgery and toil of hundreds of mundane jobs. Well, we’ve already had that now haven’t we. Brown collar workers, that is, farmers, were the first to go. Then blue collar was next on the list for elimination of grinding toil brought on by robotic automation. Now transbots are on the move soon to replace the eyes and ears and innate GPS of drivers everywhere. Soon AI bots, those artilects, are slated to, in tandem with all the other previously successful robotic replacements, replace easily half of the world’s population in those burdensom, mundane, wage earning jobs.
But that’s OK. No, it’s more than OK, it’s bloody well grand!

Those of us, those millions of us, will be able to settle back and start our little artisanal businesses. You know the type: some will brew beer, bottle wine, distill whiskey. Others will bake bread and sweets. Some will weave and sew and knit. Thousands of others will paint and sculpt, weld steel, blow glass, throw pots. And a fair number of us may sit down and pen away, dreaming up all the epic stories that have yet to be dreamt. Ah, Maggie, can’t ya see it? Won’t it be glorious!

And all those shiny methodical robots will be shuffling about cleaning this, delivering that. Growing our food, taking care of our elders, maintaining and fixing and building and doing all the things our robotic economy will need to get done.

But, you know Jon-Tom’s pub down the street there? The one where he sells that wondrous dark barley ale with the hint of rosemary? Yeah, I’m afraid to say I can no longer afford it. Ol’ Jon-Tom is asking $10.00 a pint now, his expenses being so high. He has to pay for all that grain that the robots grow you know. And you know who owns the robots and the land under the grain right? Yeah, it’s the masters there. The ones who live up on the hill surrounded by their own private robotic police force. So, yeah. I don’t buy Jon-Tom’s fine ale anymore. Can’t afford that savory bread Sonja across town sells either; too dear. Seems that not only does her grain costs so much, but she has to pay for robo-delivery too.

No bread, no beer. No cheese either, same tale. I’ve had to sell all the sculptures I’ve carved (and a few of my tools too) to buy wool clothing for the kids. I’m a fair one with a chisel and gouge you see. I sure wish I could get a job of some sort so that I could pay for the comm-connect my children need to learn their lessons and all the great stuff they have on that KnowledgeNet. But I can’t even afford that. But we survive. The government continues to deliver our human stipend and so we can still buy McDonalds. Those burgers only cost a dollar! I don’t know what’s in ‘em but if it weren’t for them I’m sure we’d all starve. And the ‘Donaldbots that make and serve the food there are darn quick on the job.

Our robotic future is coming. Sure there are hundreds of thousands of existing robotic workers humming along away right now. Well oiled and silent their complaints are a bare whisper. But these are just the first salvo of the robotic arsenal that’s being fired over the wall. With population projections topping 9 billion souls by 2050, you can imagine that we’ll have at least 1 billion TinMen chopping their way into our workforce by then. No one knows the impact 50% automation of all work will have on humanity. But we can get an inkling: current there are 50 million folks on food stamps; shadow unemployment of 15 to 20%, tens of thousands of jobless college graduates. Now double or triple those numbers in the coming decades. That sure is one shiny looking future to me.

The App Economy

In response to:
I see history’s progress as a shift from:
Decentralized to centralization back to decentralized again?
For instance:
From trade craft, blacksmiths, millers, silversmiths, saddlers, bakers, peasants, farmers, hunters, inns, taverns, taxi-drivers, village markets
corporations, large conglomerates, industrial farmers, dispatch centers, market exchanges
The age of the social sharing ‘app’, Uber, Lyft, AirBnb, Angie’s List.
With the app economy, we must trust digital shadows of people and the comments left in this realm about such shadow people. In the distant history we looked people in the eye to judge the trust level. Now? On the net no one knows you’re a dog. Authenticity will always be a problem on the net. And it may be that only those who can afford the authentic credentials will be deemed worthy of trust.