Space. Our solar system. The sun that wakes us each morning and eight planets locked in orbit around that glowing orb. All spinning and moving together for billions of years through,
Space. Pluto, Haumea, Sedna and one trillion other objects large and small composed of rock, metal, and ice orbit in Kuiper belt rotating in the same direction as the eight planets all moving together through,
Space. The heliosphere, a tear-shaped bubble of solar wind that envelopes the total mass of our inner and outer solar system as it moves through,
Space. This bubble of planets, moons, comets, and asteroids travels at the speed of five hundred thousand miles per hour in an orbit around our Milky Way galaxy. A single transit taking over two hundred million years.
This orchestrated masterpiece of objects has moved and rotated in observable, predictable patterns for untold millennia, until one day when a young scientist saw something he didn’t quite understand. He observed something unpredictable. He checked again and as he adjusted his glasses; he spotted an old newspaper article lying on his desk:
Scientists have claimed that a giant meteorite, that exploded in the Earth's atmosphere, may have triggered the extinction of ice age animals such as woolly mammoths.
Researchers found evidence that a large meteorite broke apart in the atmosphere around 12,800 years ago; around the time when mammoths died out. By studying deposits at eighteen archaeological sites around the world, these researchers found tiny spheres of carbon they say are characteristic of multiple impacts and midair explosions from meteorite fragments. They concluded that the spheres were formed by the melting of sediment at temperatures of over 2,200 degrees Celsius, caused by the heat and shock waves created by an "extraterrestrial object" passing through the atmosphere. Their study, which is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that ten million tons of these “spherules” were thrown over an area of more than nineteen million square miles by meteorite fragmentation.
Besides large animals dying out around the time of the impact, scientists also claim that there is evidence for major human cultural changes. Professor Kenneth Tankersley, an anthropologist and geologist at the University of Cincinnati, who took part in the study, said the changes appeared to have happened “within a lifetime.”
“This likely caused climate change and forced this scenario. You can move, downsize, or you can go extinct. Humans at the time were just as resourceful and intelligent as we are today. With mammoth off the dinner table, humans were forced to adapt, which they did to great success. It's a reminder of how fragile we are. Imagine an explosion that happened today that went across four continents.
"The human species would go on. But it would be different. It would be a game changer."
Published in The Telegraph May 21, 2013
The young scientist was well aware that asteroids have impacted Earth many times throughout history, sometimes with catastrophic consequences, but what he observed was not a single asteroid. His jaw clenched. Panic is not an appropriate response, he rebuked himself. He adjusted his black-rimmed glasses again and straightened the collar of his white button-down shirt. He must verify his observation. If confirmed, he had bad news for planet Earth. Who could he tell? How does one prepare for the end of the world?
Part One–The Bliss Protocol
Chapter 1: Frog Giggin’
Near Future: Briarcliffe Acres—Myrtle Beach, South Carolina USA
Early Sunday Morning
Sander lies in his bed listening in the dark. Silence. His parents are asleep. He looks to his younger brother’s bed across the room. Heavy breathing. Good, the little brat’s asleep. Sander checks the time: 1:00 a.m. He needs to get moving. His best friend, Brody, will be down the street.
Sander slides out of bed and pulls on the clothes he’d tossed to the floor earlier. The boy’s bedroom features a window at a height of five feet. Sander had removed the window screen a few months earlier and hid it behind the bushes in the backyard.
Sander also moved his old toy box to rest beneath the window, creating a perfect step. Now the window is waist height; easy for him to get out. It’s a six-foot jump from the window to the grass. It’s a perfect way to sneak out of the house.
He has snuck out many weekend nights to meet up with Brody and other friends to hang out or go frog giggin’ in the South Carolina wetlands. After slipping on his shoes, he steps up on the wooden toy box and slides the window open.
“Where are you going?” The voice of his younger brother, Colton, breaks the night’s silence. The sound startles Sander. He’s snuck out and back many times without waking Colton.
“Shush. You’ll wake up Mom and Dad,” Sander says in a hushed tone.
“Going out for a date with your boyfriend, Brody?” asks Colton.
Sander responds to Colton’s comment by stepping from the toy box to his brother’s bed then dropping to his knees, straddling his brother’s body. He lowers his fist to the center of Colton’s chest. “One punch, brat. One hard punch, right here, and your heart will stop beating. You’ll be dead. Good riddance!” Sander presses his knuckled fist hard into Colton’s chest, knowing it’s painful.
Colton thrusts his hips, attempting to buck his brother off, causing the headboard of the bed to knock against the wall with a loud thunk. Both boys freeze. They listen for parents awakened by the noise. Colton whispers, “Let me go with you.”
Sander grinds his fist into Colton’s chest once more for good measure, before rising and stepping back to the toy box. “Find your own friends, wimp. We don’t want you tagging along,” argues Sander.
“I won’t bother you guys. Come on. Dad said I should get out of the house more,” Colton pleads.
“Yeah, he said you should make your own friends, not hang out with mine,” Sander replies, as he slides the window open wide enough to scramble through.
“I’ll tell Mom you’ve been sneaking out.”
“You tell Mom and I’ll kill you, you friggin’ little brat. God, why couldn’t I have been an only child?”
“Let me go with you and I won’t tell.”
“All right. Shit! Don’t make any noise and stay away from me.”
Colton throws back his blankets to reveal he’s dressed and ready for adventure. The boys then crawl out the window and jump to the grass.
Sanders friend Brody waits down the street. Brody is a fifteen-year-old boy, tall and thin with unruly dark hair and a face full of acne.
Brody spots the boys approaching. “Hey, Sander. I almost gave up on ya. What? You brought the little Colt? I thought he’s afraid of the dark.”
“He begged me to bring him along.”
“Hey, Colt. Better watch out, the swamp monster might get you!”
“Yeah, let’s feed him to the swamp monster, or dump him into the pond and frog gig him,” exclaims Sander as the three boys walk along the street heading toward the wetlands of scattered ponds and tall grass.
“Ah, knock it off, guys,” Colton replies. “I’m not afraid. In the wetlands, it’s the coyotes you need to worry about. Didn’t you hear on the news? They found two teenagers in the wetlands last week. Their bodies all chewed up by coyotes. It was a bloody mess.”
“Coyotes! We’ve never seen coyotes out here, have we Sander?” Brody asks.
“Nah, Colton’s making it up. I don’t think we have coyotes on the Carolina coast,” Sander says.
The boys walk along a dirt trail that winds through tall grass, leading into the wetlands. “If you listen, you might hear a coyote howl in the distance,” Colton whispers in his creepiest voice.
“Shut up, Colton! You won’t scare us,” Sander says, as he picks up his pace to walk abreast of Brody. Colton walks behind the older boys, then pulls his shirt over his mouth and lets out a soft howl, trying to make it sound like the howl is coming from a distance.
“Colton, knock it off. I know that was you. I should have tied you to your bed and gagged you, so you can’t squeal to Mom.” Then Sander hears another howl. He’s startled and stops for a moment to listen.
Brody tries to keep his composure, but when Sander looks at him, he can’t contain himself and breaks into a giggle. Colton howls again. Sander smiles, then makes a loud exaggerated howl. The boys walk through the wetlands howling in the night.
After several howls, the boys walk through the thicket of trees that ring their favorite frog gigging pond where the sound of croaking frogs replaces the sound of howling boys. Brody goes to a nearby tree to retrieve the frog gigging sticks he and Sander had prepared earlier. They’d cut long thin branches, stripped them of leaves, and sharpened one end to make six-foot-long spears. Brody hands a spear to Sander. “We only have two spears, so you have to watch our deadly attacks,” Sander says to Colton as he holds his spear like a warrior.
Colton doesn’t look disappointed.
“Don’t worry. If I get tired, I’ll let you use my spear,” says Brody.
Sander walks through the tall grass to the edge of the pond, holding his spear at the ready. He listens and looks for nearby frogs, then jabs his spear into the weeds at the pond’s edge, making a sound. “Hi-ya!” He extracts the spear from the weeds. No frog.
Brody tiptoes along the edge of the pond, looking for a good spot to mount his attack. He steps closer to the edge. Water seeps into his shoes. He sees a frog, raises his spear, and thrusts. The frog jumps just in time to miss certain skewering. “Damn it! I missed,” cries Brody. Sander and Brody search for their next quarry.
Colton quickly loses interest in the frog-spearing expedition. He studies the sky. It’s a clear moonless night allowing the stars to shine brighter. He can make out some constellations he learned about at scout camp. As he gazes at the stars, a bright light appears in the eastern sky over the Atlantic. Growing bigger and brighter, the light moves fast toward the shore, heading directly over wetlands.
“Hey, guys, look at the sky,” Colton yells. “It’s a shooting star.”
Brody and Sander look up, spears in hand. The object becomes blindingly bright before it explodes in the sky. The boys cover their eyes, shielding them from the sudden brightness. They see the explosion first. The sound comes later.
Brody jumps and hollers, “Wow, did you see that? It blew up!”
“Dang, that was awesome! Maybe it’s an alien spaceship crashing to Earth,” exclaims Sander.
Seconds after the explosion, a strange sphit, sphit, sphit sound races past the boys, sending ripples across the calm pond, tearing leaves off trees, and causing some branches to fall. The boys stand quiet and still. A dog barks in the distance.
Twenty seconds after the explosion, a tremendous hot wind knocks the boys over. The wind passes and all is calm. Sander attempts to stand. He gets up on one knee.
Colton, laying in the mud, looks to his brother and sees several blood spots staining Sander’s shirt. “You’re bleeding.”
Sander looks at his shirt and notices the blood spots. “I don’t feel anything.” Sander looks at Colton. Colton has several spots of blood on his shirt, and they’re growing larger.
“You’re the one bleeding, don’t blame me.” Sander looks over to Brody, who’s lying in the mud. He isn’t moving.
Colton struggles to move. He tries to get out of the muddy patch he fell in, but he can’t move his body. He whimpers, “I’m telling Mom.” Those are Colton’s last words. He lies quiet and still at the muddy edge of the pond. The blood spots on his shirt swell, growing into one big blood stain.
Sander feels warm blood run over his night-chilled skin. The blood is his. He tries again to stand. With great effort, he gets to his feet and stumbles over to Brody. In the dim light, he can see Brody’s face. There’s a black hole where his friend’s nose was. Brody is dead.
Sander turns and takes a few steps up the trail then slumps to his knees before toppling over onto his side. He lies in the muddy trail breathing in halting gasps. He doesn’t move or cry out. Sander’s eyes are open. He observes the wetland grass and watches a small bug climb up a stalk. “Damn, I left the bedroom window open.” He exhales. Sander is dead.
CTBTO Monitoring Station
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) has a network of forty-five infrasound stations designed to track atomic blasts across the planet. The strange thing is, beginning in the year 2000, they intercepted strange sounds that were not atmospheric atomic blasts. Through the year 2030, the infrasound system had catalogued one hundred eighty-six major explosions on Earth. A-bombs didn’t cause any of the explosions. They were all the result of asteroid strikes.
The CTBTO dug into the reports. The asteroid events ranged in energy from one to six hundred kilotons. By comparison, the bomb that destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima was a fifteen-kiloton device. Fortunately, most of these space rocks disintegrated high in the atmosphere and caused few problems on the ground. Some events people will have heard about, such as the twenty-meter-wide object that ripped across the sky above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013 or the forty-meter-wide asteroid that lit up the skies over Buffalo, New York on a winter day in 2024. But many of the asteroid strikes on Earth went unseen and unreported because they occurred over oceans.
The CTBTO has monitored atmospheric asteroid impacts since 2013. What they don’t know is another government agency is also monitoring the feed. And that agency does more than listen.
Early Sunday morning, the CTBTO detected an atmospheric asteroid explosion over the South Carolina wetlands.
A remote monitoring station managed by an obscure government agency also detects the explosion. Because the impact is over a populated region, a surveillance satellite outfitted with cameras and infrared imaging scans the impact area to determine if there is any damage.
A young woman sits in a dark room. Her young face glows from the light of several screens arrayed before her as she views the satellite footage in real time. She wears a blue tunic, and she wears her long hair pulled back. She is professional and stoic as she surveys the impact site. Three heat signatures appear on a screen. She presses an icon and reports. “We have three down at North thirty-three degrees, forty-seven minutes, eleven point three nine seconds by West seventy-eight degrees, forty-four minutes, fifty-nine seconds.”
There is silence for a moment, then a monotone voice replies, “Confirmed. Dispatching.”
Before Daylight–Wetlands near Myrtle Beach, SC
Fog lingers lazily over the silent wetland pond. A team of four men dressed in flat-gray, digitally generated camouflaged suits work efficiently and nearly invisibly in the predawn light.
The four men do not work to eradicate the scene. The dead are dead. No one can change that, but they can control the perception of the cause of death. Brody’s body is already stiffening. Rigor mortis is setting in. All the easier to stand him up. One man squats down and struggles to keep Brody standing while another man positions a shotgun in the dead boy’s hands, pointing the barrel at his face.
The team’s leader, a tall, muscular man with a bald head, receives a call on his VUE lens. He views a stout, Caucasian man wearing a white business shirt and thick black-framed glasses. The chubby man speaks. “Kobalt, is the site under control?”
The team leader, dressed in the same gray camouflage as his team, wears no markings to indicate rank or military affiliation, yet his physique and the way he moves conveys that he is military or ex-military. He speaks, with a deep raspy tone. “We’re almost finished.”
The shotgun blasts. A mist composed of pulverized blood, brain and bone fills the air. The kneeling man holding Brody allows the teenage body to jolt backward. Brody’s body falls stiffly in the grassy mud. The frogs are silent, watching.
The white man displayed in the VUE lens speaks. “The gun shots will be reported to the police. Local news will report an accidental shooting followed by suicide. A late-night teenage adventure gone wrong. Another episode of an illegal gun used by juveniles.”
Kobalt nods. With hand gestures, he directs his men to sweep the ground to cover their footprints. He looks in his VUE lens to continue his report. “Understood, sir. That’s what local law enforcement will find when they arrive to investigate the scene.”
The white man with the black frame glasses gives an approving nod. “Tragic for the families. What happened is out of our control. We can only control the perception.”
Kobalt and his team move through the grass of the wetlands, sweeping the trail of their boot prints while leaving the imprints of the boys’ shoes, leading the way for investigators to discover the gory scene.
Kobalt speaks softly but with a force picked up through the microphone of his VUE lens. “We can’t keep this up. My team is exhausted. The frequency of the events is increasing. We’ve been chasing these things around the globe. How long do you think can we keep going like this?”
The man in the VUE replies, “Kobalt, the time is near. We have controlled the news and information to keep the masses peaceful. We have worked ceaselessly to keep them unaware of what’s coming, and we have been supremely successful. Even the highest levels of government around the world are oblivious to what’s about to happen. It’s almost time. Once you have secured the scene, bring your men and join us in the city.”
After the sun rose on the wetlands that morning, police investigators and the coroner came to the desired conclusion. There is no news about the threat of asteroids impacting Earth killing teenage boys.
Later that morning, the portly man dressed in the white button-down shirt and black rim glasses watches a video stream from the Myrtle Beach news. He watches a young female reporter recount the story:
A sonic boom woke residents of Myrtle Beach early this morning. There are reports of shattered nerves and broken windows, but no injuries. Authorities attribute the event to supersonic aircraft flying out of nearby Shaw Air Force Base. The Air Force has not responded to inquiries. In other news, local police report that three boys were found dead this morning. Authorities believe the boys were playing with an old, outlawed shotgun they found in the wetlands. Police are calling this a terrible accident. They believe one boy fired a shot striking his two friends. The boy with the gun then took his own life. It’s a sad day for our community. We send our condolences to the boys’ families.
The report moves on to an interview with the chief of police, who warns citizens not to pick up or use illegal firearms.
The news is controlled.
Control. This is the objective of the man who observes. He watches the screens displayed in his VUE, satisfied with the outcome of this event.