When Clinton walked onto the campus he hoped everything would be normal here and the power outage just an isolated event. But he noticed the large water fountain in front of the administration building wasn’t running as he walked past it. A bad sign. There were cars in the parking lot, but those could have been there from before the event. He saw none of them move. All of the glass doors were locked except for one that was propped open with a chair. He entered the building via that door and was immediately confronted by a lone security guard.

“The badge readers are all down this morning, I’ll need to see your ID”.

As he fumbled with his wallet to retrieve his identification card Clint asked the guard, “many people here today?” The answer was “not many” but there were more people inside the building than he expected. Quickly walking past the main offices, he headed directly to the ham radio club room in the basement. The elevators were down of course, but the emergency lighting in the stairwell provided some comfort as it was the first powered devices he had seen work since leaving his pick-up truck.

When he entered the large area used by the college radio club he noticed dim lighting and could hear at least one of the generators running. As he entered the primary operating area he quickly counted five other faces and none of them were smiling. One of his closest friends, Lewis Dinsmore, was first to greet him, “glad you could make it”. Without wasting words Clint asked, “what’s going on?”

“We don’t know just yet, but it’s big. Something happened in the atmosphere over North Carolina a little more than an hour ago. In addition to a lot of dead electronics the power is down over a wide area. Internet and phones too. None of the normal info channels, radio, TV, or CATV are broadcasting. The HF bands were impacted, but these seem to be snapping back now. We’re copying some radio signals and trying to piece it together. So far as we can tell VHF and higher frequencies are working as usual, there’s just nothing being transmitted.”

“The public weather station at Fort Liberty isn’t transmitting. Eddie is preparing to launch a radiosonde so we can take a few readings. That should be in the air in the next 30 minutes. The oddest thing is that we are seeing scattered LoRa activity that are probably autonomous data gathering and mesh relay stations powered by solar. A lot of these have been deployed by hams and non-hams alike in this area over the last couple of years.”

Clint was getting a decent SITREP from his friend, but what he really wanted to know was what these fellows couldn’t tell him. What the hell was going on? Was the United States at war and if so, was it nuclear?

“We haven’t been able to make contact with any authorities yet. A couple of the guys hopped on mopeds and headed for the State Police outpost out on the Interstate, but we haven’t heard back from them yet. Maybe in a couple hours we can all sit down to discuss what we do next, but I’m at a loss. We never trained for anything like this…”

Clinton thought that might be the greatest understatement of all time. There wasn’t a training manual for amateur radio operators in the event of global thermonuclear war, if that’s what this was. While waiting for more information to trickle into the datacenter he sat down in front of one of the many available transceivers and switched it on, nothing happened.

“Forgot to mention that some of the gear is working, some of it isn’t. We don’t know why the selective outages, but try this one, it still works” Lewis said, pointing to a vintage Drake transceiver. Sure enough, it fired right up and Clint slapped on a headset and went to work. Tuning around on 40 meters was fruitless. He heard nothing. Not even the religious shortwave broadcast stations were sharing any good news on this day. Switching to 20 meters he heard some activity, but it was very light. He thought if power was out across a wide region, hams would probably be running lower power to conserve whatever energy was available.

He quickly scribbled down the call signs he heard, but these meant almost nothing as the FCC no longer required ham radio calls to be associated with call areas and with the computers and Internet being down, he couldn’t look these up to find the location of the stations he heard. He noticed something else, there was practically no band noise. This was often noted during widespread power outages when all the “noisy” electric devices of modern life powered down. It provided a rare moment of quiet radio signal clarity that wasn’t appreciated this time.

It took considerable effort to fight off the panic attacks that were coming in waves as he allowed himself to consider what was going on around him. He knew this was a horrible situation, but he felt a little better being in the company of friends. They would soon have to make some critical decisions, and at least they would make these together. This was definitely not the time to be alone.

Being alone would come soon enough.