This day began as most others. The alarm went off at 6:15am. Clint rolled out of bed and hit the shower. At 6:20am the coffee maker started to brew what had been setup the night before. Thirty minutes later the professor was shaved, dressed, munching on a bagel, and filling his travel mug for the 20 minute commute to the University where he had been employed for nearly two decades. Pulling out of his driveway he took note of the clear, blue skies and bright sunshine. “Nice” he thought as he began the short journey, maybe this afternoon he could slip into the park to play with his newest acquisition, an Elecraft KH1. It was a unique hand held portable HF radio.

Clint had been a licensed radio amateur for thirty years.

On this day he avoided the car radio again, wanting to ignore the news and opting instead to listen to an audio book. The last few months had been highly contentious with a presidential election that was still undecided months after the voting had ended. Anger was rising across America as the highly divided nation was livid that this thing seemed an unending soap opera with no resolution in sight. What was worse, the instability in Washington was creating pockets of instability around the globe with skirmishes breaking on the borders of several nations while threats of terrorist activities flooded the news outlets.

Even more, Clint had noticed a significant uptick in activity around the military base just ten miles to the west. Jets were scrambled several times a day and there was no way for him to know if these were training missions, or if they were dealing with potential threats.

It was all very disturbing and like most people, he decided to just tune it out and let it resolve itself. Things would return to normal eventually, they always did. Still, his mind was wandering, considering these present troubles as he drove toward the University to begin another day.

Then suddenly, his 2021 Ford pick-up truck came to a screeching halt. He tried to restart the engine without luck. He couldn’t understand what was happening. There was no rough idle or anything, the truck simply died. And worse, the information panel didn’t tell him a thing. It was dead too. Dead like an electrical failure. The battery was fairly new, but clearly there had been some problem with the truck and now he would have to deal with that too. Reaching into his pocket he fished out his cell phone only to see it was dead too.

He stood outside his truck, glancing around the small neighborhood that was on his daily commute and everything looked completely normal. At least it did until some of those who lived there walked out their doors looking bewildered as it dawned on them that there had been a power outage. This wasn’t rare, storms took out the power here frequently, though it was unusual now given the nice weather. A car must have hit a power pole. Sure. That was it. It would be inconvenient, but the power company would have it fixed in no time.

Clint didn’t count, but there must have been a dozen people including himself standing in the street without anyone saying a word. The silence was deafening. Why were there no sirens, no sounds of emergency vehicles headed in their direction? Why was it so beautiful yet so quiet. Silence covered them like a thick blanket. Until suddenly the silence was shattered. A woman in a housecoat was standing in her driveway, not far from Clint, pointing at an odd looking thing in the sky that elicited her scream.

They all looked up, in the direction the woman was pointing, to see an odd looking cloud-like formation that was large, but it appeared so far off it could have been on the edge of space. The people standing on University Boulevard moved closer together and began to murmur about what it might be. The professor was standing with them now as a strange foreboding fell over the observers. Clinton had an idea, though he kept it to himself. Given the current political problems in the homeland and unrest around the world, and given the power problem that killed his vehicle and phone, he wondered if this could be the result of an Electromagnetic Pulse triggered high in the atmosphere. Surely not. That’s science fiction and X-files stuff. Isn’t it?

While the others continued to stand and watch, Clint grabbed the backpack with his portable HF gear from his truck, and began walking toward the university. He worried about leaving his pick-up truck in the middle of the busy road although that was needless worry. His truck would be heavily vandalized though it wouldn’t move again for six years when the New Northern Federal Army of the Sixth Region (NNFA6) finally began clearing the roadways around Asheville.