1 of 6 | Chapter 13

Energy war

 

ASEC preparations for the conquest of space could not, to say the least, have happened at a worse time. All indications had pointed to a normalization of international relations in Europe, but the first sign of serious trouble came in late October of 2077 in the form of a worrying international conflict.

Although the Gravitor had been decommissioned in Greece following pressure from the Energy Alliance and the work of conciliatory diplomatic envoys, the seemingly magnanimous continuation of natural gas deliveries suddenly stopped again just as winter was imminent. The large and ever growing ego of the Middle Eastern supplier could not be held in check. They had discovered that the Europeans were building sites for new power plants all over Europe. In the official notification, the gas supplier listed serious breaches of contract as the reason for the termination of supply.

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In November, the energy crisis erupted into a full blown conflict in what seemed like an instant. Europe desperately reached for plan B, and the Ukrainian government opened up its stocks to the entire region in accordance with their agreement, but its contingency reserve was almost solely supplied to gas powered electricity generation plants and industrial concerns. Domestic households and firms with fewer than one thousand employees were left stranded without a gas supply.

ASEC ships delivered twenty-five power stations almost immediately with plans to follow up with an additional ten per week, but it was expected to take at least a month before they would be up and running everywhere.

Matters grew steadily worse when transit countries began to interfere with events. Iran and Iraq generated significant income from territory leased by the Energy Alliance for gas lines, who on their part, referring to the breach of contract, suspended the disbursement of funds. There was no need for any special insight to attribute the trouble, that followed, to yet another breach of contract by the UNE; a transgression that, in Islamic countries, was considered paramount to treason.

Since the Great Twenty-first Century Depression—in which six states had to be bailed out from crippling debts—Europe had never fully recovered, and the wounds still dug deep into the flesh of the old continent. After some economic plastic surgery, with a fresh facelift and new wisdom, the Europeans had tried to find renewal with an undiminished force of will, but once injured, fear of new pain puts a serious hole in self-confidence. Thus, the actions of the Energy Alliance were somewhat akin to kicking the heel of Achilles.

 

Warning signs

The movement of a fuel convoy in Iran, shown on US satellite pictures, caused a stir. Measurements also showed that the tanks were much longer than reasonable. US News intelligence became suspicious and immediately warned their European counterparts to strengthen their air defenses in the southern states, as the shipment moved north-west. Iran had medium-range ballistic missiles, with which it could reach as far as the center of the European continent.

The Europeans struggled with other difficulties, and although there had been an increase in the degree of preparation within the region, no real attention was paid to the signs that a serious potential threat was brewing. They were rather more afraid of the threat of terror attacks. Because of this, military presence in major cities in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece had been increased, causing general unrest amongst the population and disrupting markets. The situation was gradually spiraling out of control, and because of this, at dawn on November 12, innocent victims paid the price.

 

Penalty

Not long after midnight in Athens, a sharp shrill sound echoed out across the city, one that had never been heard in real life by anyone still living.

Many may have found the sound familiar, having heard it on the history channel, but in middle of the night it shocked and startled residents out of their dreams and chilled them to the bone.

The mind rending scream of air raid sirens caused the disturbed populace to flow out onto the streets within minutes, all of them wondering what to do. From a distance, at least forty spot lights were visible, their powerful light columns scanning the sky. By now, most people had realized that something serious was about to happen, or was already underway, but they all hoped it was part of a training drill.

After a while, the earsplitting sound had become etched in their minds and it kept up a solid unchanging pressure that made many feel as if they were no longer walking on the ground.

But the noise was the strangest when it stopped.

A blinding flash soaked up all sound, and even the earth trembled. In the vacuum of nerve-racking silence, for a moment, they all floated in an unknown place as time stood still for an eternity.

Then the deadly explosion washed across the city like a lethal tidal wave, the blood-red pillar of fire turned the horizon into a wall of flames that illuminated walls, buildings and the surrounding hills.

Then destruction arrived.

It swept aside everything in its path; shook apart buildings as if they were made of tissues, tore up roads and cremated trees.

No one was left alive.

 

Encounters

Puzzled, angry and dismayed, people all over the world faced the terrifying reality. The Earth had never been a peaceful place, and at times, no one could remain calm when whole regions could financially collapse at any time. Uncertainty had always been present at different levels, which meant that lives were never entirely free of care, but no one had ever imagined in their wildest nightmares that a two-megaton bomb would be deployed, and certainly not in a crowded city.

Sean Steersman met Oliver Trenerry in his office the following morning to review the latest reports on catastrophe. Neither of them moved while reading. Their postures both became increasing tense. As the blood vessels expanded under the skin, the space round them narrowed and they felt their pulses begin to beat in their temples.

“… at 0:31am local time, the Islamic Union launched an attack against the states of Greece and Italy, and thus against the United Nations of Europe. The Commander of the European Forces has ordered the return of all ambassadors and diplomatic staff, whose efforts to peacefully settle the dispute and tensions caused by the embargo have failed. Immediately following news of the attack, military forces were put onto the highest level of alert. Air Force squadrons lifted into the air at 0 hours and 41 minutes, however, there has been no counter-attack as yet …”

“They've lost their fucking minds,” Trenerry concluded.

“I'm going to call the president,” said Steersman.

Karen was close to passing out as she flew through the door.

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 4 | ATTACK
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 6 | THE SCIENCE CENTER
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH