Every eleven years, solar activity reaches a maximum. Solar flares and coronal mass ejections are more common during the Solar Max. When the Sun aims toward Earth and shoots off a billion tons of charged particles moving at a million miles an hour, all Hell can break loose. That’s what happened. That’s why I’ve been offline. Down and out in a high-tech world without power and communications. We weren’t prepared and we paid the price.
Sometime in the past two months, the days are sort of a blur and me without my digital counterpart to remind me about things like this… activity on the Sun picked up. We have had issues every couple years with certain old satellites. No biggie. But this year was different, huge flares targeted Earth and what would have gone mostly unnoticed a few solar cycles ago, had a big impact this time around.
There was little warning. When the energetic wave of alpha particles and protons hit, solar powered satellites in their path were put out of commission. The great mass ejection of fast-moving Hydrogen gas pushed back the Earth’s magnetic field, which usually envelopes the planet and channels charged particles toward the poles, leading to the Northern Lights. With the Earth vulnerable, the effect was devestating. All the satellites that weren’t specially sheilded, which was about two-thirds of them, were destroyed or sent spinning out of their orbit. Many burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere. It offered a good show. Shooting stars filled the sky. Normally, the light polution of the Sprawl would prevent you from viewing such a spectalcle, but the violent wave of energy that hit also took out the National Power Grid. Transformers blew, and most cities were plunged into darkness for days.
For the most part, computers and electronics on the ground were unaffected. They weren’t directly taken out, but without electricity and communications, they were useless. Then the riots and civil unrest came like a third wave.
In the Sprawl, you look out for your own. In times of emergency, people watch out for one another. The riots were to be expected. So, most people stayed at home, expecting the governments to provide military support. They were safe at home, for the first few days. Then people started dying from the heat. People needed food and water. Clean water. Safe food. It wasn’t pretty. It was the kind of thing they say could never happen. We were living through the aftermath of a war we never fought.
I had friends outside the city, and I walked and hitched rides and left the Sprawl. It kept me alive, I’m sure of that. It was over a week before power was fully restored, and then we had rolling brown-outs. Emergency aid helped those in need, but by the time it was all said and done, the population of the planet had been reduced by a few million.
The Sprawls were hit the hardest. The dense megalopolis that spread down along the coastline was in gridlock. And the summer had just started to heat up. The Feds lost the ability to track people with the RFID tags and biometric scanner, so anyone with the nerve could get through the checkpoints. Bullets still worked though. The private police of the mega-corps weren’t afraid to use them either, to protect their property. The mega-corps had generators, and the mega-rich were above all the dismay in their air conditioned high-rises. Hydrogen generators were quickly brought online to keep them cool, while the masses below were left to the heat and the riots.
I have to sign off now. Running on battery power. I’m still not back in my apartment. I don’t know if I have much to go back to there. It’s going to take months to stablize the cities still, to get them back to some state of normalcy. And, years to replace all the burnt out infrastructure. The satellites and power stations, electronics, lost data. Destroyed by a unforgiving nature and the violent side of Man.
Did I find the guy I was searching for? I’m sure I won’t hear from the Johnson again, but yes. I found him. For what good it will do. I imagine prisoners didn’t fare well through all this. And for all my efforts, the credits I earned are probably so many lost bits in the now defunct data stream. But I’m resiliant. I can bounce back. I’ve got more motivation and purpose now than I’ve had in a long time, and I think that having to rely on myself and not use the Sprawl as an excuse and my electronics as a crutch will bring out the best in me. I only hope in the long-run it makes us all stronger.
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