YAPC would like to welcome Craig Zerf to the blog today. He is here to share some info and an excerpt about his book The Forever Man – Book 1: PULSE. If this looks like something you would like to read, please go pick up a copy!
The world, as we know it, has ended.
One man stands resolute. A man who has been trained in the savage arts of war. A man who lives his life according to a creed. A simple man who wants none of the power thrust upon him. This man is Marine Sergeant Nathaniel Hogan, seconded to the American Embassy in London and, although he does not know it, he is – The Forever Man.
The first pulse occurred in the old calendar year of 2022. A sequence of gigantic solar flares created a series of massive electromagnetic pulses that stopped the heart of our modern world and returned us to the DARK AGES.
Buy The Forever Man – Book 1: PULSE:
Master Gunnery Sergeant Nathaniel Hogan stood outside the new American embassy at Nine Elms, London and stared at the boats drifting down the river Thames. He was dressed in his standard combat utility uniform or ‘digies’, so called because of their MARPAT Digital camouflage. He was wearing the darker woodland version as opposed to the light desert one, even though, strictly speaking, it was for winter use only.
Hogan was a large man. Raw boned, six foot four, around two hundred and forty pounds. And, at only twenty-six years old, one of the youngest Master Gunnery Sergeants in the corps. His black hair was cut in the standard marine style, short back and sides, the length not exceeding three inches. He was clean-shaven. His eyes, deep set under thick eyebrows, their dark green color like emeralds in pools of shadow. High cheekbones suggested Native American ancestry backed up by his broad, white teeth and straight Roman nose.
He did not carry an assault rifle but, on his hip rode a Colt 1911M25, the latest update of the venerable 1911. Still chambered for the 45 cal round but with a staggered magazine holding ten rounds and also with an inbuilt compensator.
He glanced at his watch. Eighteen hundred hours. The last of the public had left. Sunset was forecast for twenty hundred. Change of guard was scheduled for the same time.
Hogan was in charge of eight marines stationed at the embassy. It was what the corps called a ‘reward posting’. Eighteen months of cushy duty in one of the most fun cities in the world. Tonight he was knocking off after change of guard and was heading into the city to meet an English girl. Emma Rittington. Tall, blonde, horse rider’s build. His English friends referred to her as Posh Totty, his American ones said that she was ‘Fancy.’ She had a three-bed apartment, or flat, in Sloane Square and seemed to want for nothing. But that was not what attracted the marine sergeant to her. His attraction to her was based almost entirely on the physical. In all fairness, she had admitted to the same about him. Plus, being an American and a non-commissioned officer had, in her words, ‘caused daddy a veritable lavatory full of anguish’, something that seemed to give her an inordinate amount of pleasure.
He gazed once more at the Thames. The clouds in the sky reflected in the fast flowing water below, a brown mottled facsimile of the firmament above.
And then a rainbow of color skittered across the surface. Like a thousand gallons of oil had been instantly dumped into the water. An orgasm of color. Hogan glanced up to see the sky ablaze with light. Flowing forward, retreating, spreading and coalescing. He had seen this sight before, although never with such clarity. And never in broad sunlight. He had seen it when he had been seconded to the embassy in Moscow. It was the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. He stared at it, entranced, as it rippled across the sky. Vast. Overpowering. And utterly silent. With such a vast display he expected some sort of accompanying sound. Thunder. Wind. Some sort of environmental drum roll. But nothing. Not a sound.
He cocked his head to one side and concentrated. The silence was eerie. In fact, there was no sound. Nothing at all. The constant background of a city in motion was not there.
Two and a half million cars and buses. Two thousand eight hundred construction sites, one thousand road working projects, one hundred and twenty thousand air-conditioning units, over one hundred passenger carrying commercial aircraft.
Then the sound of running footsteps. Marine corporal Manson sprinted up and came to attention in front of him.
‘Gunny, the power in the building is out and the emergency generator hasn’t cut in. Complete power failure.’
‘Right, Manson. Tell the men to stay at their posts. Then find the janitor and see what you can do with the generator. Double time.’
Manson didn’t move. It was as though he had been frozen in place, staring with wide eyes over Hogan’s shoulder. And then, like a man pointing at his own death, he raised an arm. Hogan turned to look.
The sky was raining aircraft. Ten, twenty, thirty of them. Hundreds of thousands of tons of steel plummeting down from the skies. Spinning clumsily to earth. Succumbing to the laws of gravity that had hereto been conquered by three hundred thousand horsepower jet engines.
The first one struck the city. Kensington. Dust, then flame. Finally, sound. A massive thumping wall of sound as the one hundred thousand liters of aviation fuel exploded. Within seconds the next aircraft plowed in. And the next. And the next.
Brentford, Fulham, Shepherd’s Bush. Belgravia.
The sounds of the explosions thundered through the city. But there was no corresponding sound of sirens. No klaxons of fire engines. No warning bells. Nothing but the sound of fire. They were too far away to hear the screams of the dying.
Hogan grabbed the corporal by his shoulder and shook hard. ‘Manson. Ten-hut. Now, go inside. Tell the civvies to stay indoors. Get sergeant Johnson to open the armory. I want all marines in full battle gear, M16s, four extra mags, colts, two extra mags. Bring me my gear plus a M249M22 machine gun plus three 200 round belts with bags. Move.’
Training took over rational thought and Manson saluted and sprinted off, heading back into the embassy.
Hogan trotted across to the main gates. On the way he pulled his cell phone out and looked at the screen. Dead.
The two marines there saluted him. Arms shaky. Faces ashen with shock. But discipline still intact. He saluted back. ‘Ronaldo. Jessup.’
‘Sir,’ asked PFC Ronaldo. ‘What’s happening?’
‘Can’t be sure, marine. I suspect an EMP strike. Some sort of electromagnetic pulse.’
‘Are we under attack, sir?’
Hogan thought for a few seconds. ‘Remains to be seen, soldier. Could be natural causes. Could be a nuclear detonation in the atmosphere. Johnson and Manson are tooling up, they’ll bring your kit. I want you all in full battle gear. Stay at your posts. I’ll be back.’
Hogan strode back towards the embassy doors. Halfway there, Johnson and Manson came jogging out, festooned with armfuls of kit. Johnson carried on to the men at the gate. Manson helped Hogan on with his kit. Modern tactical vest with scalable armor plates. Camelbak hydration pack complete with inline water purification system. First aid kit. Enhanced combat helmets. Ammunition carrying vest with extra ammunition bags attached. And finally, the M249M22 light machine gun.
‘Sir,’ said Manson. ‘I ran into the sparky. He said that the generator is FU. Circuits all burnt out.’
Hogan knelt down and placed the butt of the M249M22 on his knee, wracked the charging handle, released the feed tray cover and clipped a belt of ammo in. As he stood up he saw Liz Tutor, the Deputy Chief of Mission, approaching. She descended the stairs rapidly. Low heeled sensible shoes. Below the knee pink dress suit. Brown bob as sleek and hard as a helmet. Teeth as white as a Hollywood wanabee.
‘What is going on?’
‘Looks like some sort of EMP strike, ma’am. An electrical pulse that seems to have taken out all of our electronic capabilities. The generator has burnt out, all comms are down and aircraft are falling out of the sky. I have put the marines on full alert.’
‘Are we under attack?’
‘Not enough intel, ma’am. But if I had to guess I’d say that it’s a natural occurrence.’ Hogan pointed at the sky. ‘Aurora Borealis, ma’am. If it were a nuke then the sky would be clear.’
‘So, what do we do now?’
‘Not sure, ma’am. Perhaps we should ask the ambassador.’
‘Can’t. He’s not here today. Meeting with the British PM.’
‘Well then, ma’am, I suggest that we batten down the hatches and wait a while. See what transpires. Keep everyone indoors; we have enough food and water for at least ten days. I’ll get one of the boys to break out the gas lamps and cookers. Tomorrow we see what happens and react accordingly.’
Liz nodded her approval. ‘How long before help comes?’ She asked.
Hogan took a deep breath. ‘Ma’am, there will be no help. Particularly if this has been a worldwide phenomenon. No transport, no comms. We’re on our own, ma’am.’
Liz shook her head. ‘Don’t be silly, Gunney. We are Americans, the most powerful nation on the face of the planet. I hardly think that a mere power outage is going to bring us to our knees. However, I accept that we stay here tonight. I am sure that we shall hear good news by tomorrow.’
She turned and clipped back up the stairs into the embassy.
Hogan went and stood by the gate next to the two marines.
The sun sank slowly behind the horizon.
And London glowed with fire. Every now and then the still night was rocked with an explosion as a fuel station or gas line erupted sending vast balls of flame heavenwards.
And as the night progressed, the two thousand year old city began to burn its way back into the dark ages.
But what humanity did not yet know, was that the pulse was not only affecting earth. It was also calling. Across unimaginable distances measured in both time and dimension.
The Pulse had called.
And someone had heard.
About the Author: Craig lives in England and writes full time. He was lucky enough to be awarded the Golgonooza gold medal for fantasy as well as being voted ‘Best Read’ by radio 4 BBC. He also writes thrillers as C. Marten-Zerf.