Friday, April 20, 2012

Prologue to Kingdom of the Hill Country

© 2011 by Henry Melton

Kingdom of the Hill Country, coming out in just days, is the second book of the Project Saga, and takes place some eleven years after the events in Star Time.  I certainly recommend that you read that novel first, but for those who don't, I'm including this short prologue to get people up to speed.  I thought I'd share it here as well.

After Star Time
After thousands of years being nothing more than the ‘arm-pit’ of the constellation Orion, Betelgeuse had the last say.  It was getting old, as stars go.  For all of human history and more, it had been a red giant, bloated up and puffing off gas clouds, just hanging on.
It was those clouds that made the difference.  The star collapsed and exploded into a supernova.  Not a tidy one.  There were lobes and flares in this gigantic eruption.  One of those flares just happened to be aimed at a much smaller star, Sol, and it’s little collection of planets.
Normally, at that distance the brightness in the sky would have been spectacular, worthy of parties and short-lived end of the world panics.  There would have been some gamma radiation, but most of it would have never made it through the atmosphere.  Scientist would have have become media stars of the moment and then the world would have gone back to normal as the star faded.
But there were those gas clouds.  When the explosion ripped atoms and the star itself apart, first in line to get the untamed brunt of the blast were the bands of gas, smashed to plasma.  What continued on towards Earth was more than just pretty lights and gamma radiation.  The tortured remnants of the gas clouds had spawned electromagnetic pulses with power beyond anything created by puny hydrogen bombs.  Spread out over long enough time to bathe the entire rotating planet with EMP spikes, the star fried everything made out of semiconductors.
Surely, some rural villages might not have noticed the sudden failure of all radio, all Internet, all computerized engine controllers -- basically all the infrastructure of the Techno civilization.  Unfortunately, even those villagers couldn’t escape what came next.
Astronomers had taken pictures of many supernova remnants.  With their spectroscopes and historical records, they had a very good idea of just how fast the expanding envelope of a ruptured star could travel.  There was certainly no worry that anything from Betelgeuse could arrive at Earth for a long, long time.  That confidence, unfortunately, was based only on what their telescopes could see.  They couldn’t see those EMP spikes, and they couldn’t see the shock wave of ruptured atoms speeding away from the main envelope at nearly the speed of light.
Like ions from a particle accelerator, those came a bit later than the EMP and smashed into the upper reaches of the atmosphere like cosmic rays and bathed the planet in high energy fragments.  Even the isolated villagers couldn’t ignore livestock collapsing, at least those exposed to the evil looking light in the sky.
By the time the Star began to fade, it had made an indelible impression on the surviving human race.  With no long distance transportation nor communication, nations fragmented into small, isolated communities.  The global Techno civilization was gone.  It wasn’t about to reboot.  It would have to be rebuilt, piece by painful piece.
Eleven years later, a turning point was reached...

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