Sunday, October 3, 2010

7:00 am, Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA
Dianne, busy as usual even so early in the morning was not about to be annoyed by the constant beeping of the central console, as solar flares routinely as ever tend to beep the hell out of the lab’s machinery on a regular basis. She sipped her morning coffee sitting comfortably by her desk surrounded by machines that constantly recorded all kinds of activity of the sun. Her lab was on the last floor of the main building of the complex and it was her workplace for so many years.
Dianne did not let herself become annoyed even working with Josh Clemens, probably the most meticulous man on the planet (and possibly the known universe for that matter, a man so methodical and robot-like that everyone jokingly called him Dr. Intel Inside). Sharing the same lab for so long, she knew all his little quirks and nuances and she supposed he knew hers. They respected each other and knew most of the time what each would say before even finishing their sentence.
The main console to her right was once again beeping furiously, flashing its red lights, demanding her attention. Same flares, different day, she thought. The sun’s activity had increased in the last few weeks and this constant beeping was to be expected.
Josh look at that will ya? Dianne said. It’s going on all morning, I thought I reset it but they must be getting stronger and stronger. Just print the readout and classify it.
The classification folder was where everything was stored. Eruptions, flares, radiation, magnetic field shifts, the works. This particular folder was being replaced almost daily with a new one as reports and printouts very quickly filled it up due to the frequency of these activities. Of course there was an automated electronic backup system but paper was an old friend, one Dianne was not ready yet to let go despite the ITs assurances that computers never lose backups!
Immersed in her work, Dianne who wasn’t easily annoyed and very few things in life and especially in her work surprised her, did jump on her feet when Josh suddenly started screaming as loud as a million bats out of hell, a scream so terrifying that made her skin crawl. Bewildered, she glanced at Doctor Intel Inside’s pants as he was standing there wetting himself, his glasses half-cocked to the right and his hands posed as if holding a piece of paper that was now descending to the floor. She turned her gaze downwards at the printout. The chart that was on it was clearly revealing an imminent build-up on the sun’s core which would result in an x-class radiation wave, the mother of all radiation waves. The chart was off the scale and it was so absurd and impossible that initially her brain refused to process it (Josh’s continuous screaming was not helping either) and it wasn’t until she looked at it again and again that brutal realization settled in as her knees started to give way to gravity. Humanity would cease to exist in about 8 minutes, the time it would take the radiation wave to hit the Earth. Her mind, trusting the machines and their printouts for so many years, didn’t consider even for split second that this could be a technical or computer error and the absolute certainty of that fact was enough to drain all the blood from her face and brain.
Dianne finally fainted as Josh screamed on.