If you don’t already know, EMP means electromagnetic pulse. EMPs are one of the more frightening PA scenarios because of how quickly it would bring our nation to its knees and also because numerous countries already have the technology to do it. If an EMP hit, what’s the scariest place you can imagine being?
For my money, I’d say being on a a big passenger plane because the pulse would shut down all avionics and thus make landing safely a major problem. So, guess what happens in Chapter 1?
Chapter 1 (a preview)
The plane shuddered through yet another pocket of turbulent air. Cade Bowman gripped the armrests so hard the veins in his forearms bulged beneath the skin. He swallowed hard to keep from losing fifteen dollars worth of a cheese and crackers plate. He never got airplane food because it was always overpriced and usually terrible. But it had sounded better than an energy bar from his Get Home Bag. So he’d splurged and was now determined to keep those expensive calories down.
Two months working construction in Seattle had paid well and put some padding into a depleted bank account. The time away had been tough, but at least they could catch up on bills and have some room to breathe. A connecting flight in San Francisco and then he’d be on the way home to Durango, Colorado.
He couldn’t wait.
An elderly lady sitting next to him patted his hand. Her skeletal fingers cold and light as a feather touch. “It’s going to be okay, dear. I take this flight every summer to visit my grandson in San Francisco and I always get there. Now, two summers it wasn’t so easy, mind you. There was a problem with the plane and they made us wait on the tarmac for three and a half hours. Can you believe that?”
Cade forced a smile and then grimaced when another pocket of rough air shook the plane.
The intercom crackled. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We’re beginning our descent to San Francisco International Airport. As you’ve noticed, we’re moving through some turbulence, so hang tight and we’ll be below it in a few minutes. Once again, on behalf of American Airlines and the crew, it’s a pleasure to have you with us and we hope to see you again soon. Flight crew, please prepare for arrival.”
Cade looked out the window and the saw the city in the distance. Twinkling lights through a thick blanket of fog. Unfortunately, he also saw the black void of the bay as well. The bright lights of boats here and there punctuated the vast stretches of darkness between. He didn’t much enjoy flying in the first place and flying over large bodies of water at night was even worse. His phone lit up. A text from his wife, Samantha.
Call me when you land. Love you.
He texted back.
Will do. Love you too.
Then decided to send another.
And don’t stress. We’ll figure it out like we always—
The screen went dark.
The cabin lights did too, plunging the interior into darkness.
The plane dropped and Cade’s stomach flopped, the queasy feeling of plunging down a roller coaster.
Voices rose in panic. Some broke into screams.
He sunk into his seat as the plane leveled out some, but it was still angled down far more than it should’ve been.
“What’s happening?” someone yelled.
“We’re gonna crash!” another voice added.
Cade clenched his torso tight and groaned through through the surge of adrenaline, barely keeping the rising fear in check.
A hand latched onto his arm and slid down.
He peeled his fingers off the armrest and clasped the old woman’s hand. He wanted to reassure her, tell her it was going to be okay, but it was all he could do to keep himself under control. Instead, he held her frail hand in his and squeezed, careful to keep the pressure gentle. Decades of work in the trades had made his body strong and his grip like iron.
A door slammed somewhere ahead and a frantic voice yelled above the din. “Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm! We’ve lost power and will have to make an emergency landing in the bay. Life jackets are below your seats. Please do not inflate—”
Her words were drowned out by a new wave of screaming and shouting. Terror filled the cabin with a palpable, suffocating weight.
Cade reached beneath his seat but couldn’t find anything that felt like a life jacket that could be removed. Years ago, he’d once taken the time to locate the vest and run through how to retrieve it and put it on. But that wasn’t helping now because it wasn’t there. Or maybe it was tucked somewhere that wasn’t obvious in the dark.
A soft voice whispered in his ear. “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”
Cade hadn’t been all that religious since leaving the church as a teenager, but he joined the woman in prayer, silently speaking the parts he remembered.
They finished it together and Cade added a prayer of his own.
Please let me live. I have a wife, a daughter, and a son who need me. Please let me be there for them.
A shadow hurried by in the aisle. “Put your heads down, arms around your legs and brace for impact! Put your heads down, arms around your legs and brace for impact!”
Cade snatched his bag from below the seat in front and stuffed it down at his side. He leaned over, doing his best to keep his breathing slow and steady even as his heart ran wild in his chest.
“Mommy, what’s happening? I don’t want to die! Mommy!” a young voice wailed over and over.
The elderly woman spoke in a strained whisper. “If the Lord takes me, tell my grandson that I love him.”
“You’ll tell him yourself when we get through this,” Cade said through gritted teeth.
“Please, tell him.”
What was he supposed to say?
“Okay, I’ll tell him.”
It wasn’t important that he didn’t know her grandson’s name or address or anything. It was about comforting her in what could be their final moments together.
Cade’s body pressed down as the the descent flattened out and the front of the plane lifted. He grunted through the pressure until it eased.
For a few seconds, time froze.
The plane was neither falling nor climbing.
And then the curse of the present slammed into gear as the rear of the plane hit the water. The fuselage quaked and shivered.
The seatbelt dug into his waist from the abrupt deceleration. The front of the plane dropped and it felt like the belt was about to cut him in half. Blood filled his head. His heart thumped in his ears.
Like a bucking bull, the cabin thrashed around as the plane bounced along the surface of the bay. Overhead compartments flew open, hurling bags into the aisle and onto people.
Cade held onto the woman’s hand, probably gripping it too tight but he couldn’t tell. His foot hit the floor and bounced a knee back into his face.
His nose erupted in white-hot pain and warm blood spilled over his lips.
The terrible shaking began to settle as the plane slowed.
Amidst the crying and yelling, a single voice cheered. Howling joyous whoops that spoke to the gift of life snatched from the jaws of death.
Cade sat up and glanced at the old woman. The pale light of the full moon coming through the window cast a dim blue glow onto her face.
She pointed past him.
He turned to look out the window just as a massive barge filled with shipping containers sheared the wing off and smashed through the tail of the plane.