Science Fiction

Lights Out

            The CIA station office should be a busy place, but Dan’s cubie rarely saw any action.  He only received communications regarding Baltic state trans-oceanic communications.  He passed the time most nights reviewing his Rosetta Stone App to try to gain fluency in different languages and dialects.  Then everything changed.  

            There was a sudden maelstrom of messages from the Russian government to Latvia.  A Latvian source was in turn relaying the communications to the CIA.  Apparently, an antenna array covering thousands of miles across Russia and the Baltic nations was about to be activated.  Dan had no information regarding any array or any experimental or operational system.  He was in the process of spreading this information up the command chain when further information gave him a chill.  The translation included the term EMP (electromagnetic pulse).  Russia and North Korea were known to be doing research on EMPs, but the pulses were only known to occur when associated with a nuclear detonation.  The effects of an EMP would kill any electrical activity in its range.  To Dan’s knowledge the antenna array as he had discovered, should have no connection to an EMP.  

            As he continued listening, but now with ten or fifteen added intelligence agents; then he heard an unmistakable voice of a count down.  Homeland Security had already been notified, but at this point little could be done except to monitor the test to determine exactly what result was expected or would occur.  


Marge was accustomed to the sudden episodes of darkness.  The house was an old farmstead that had needed new wiring 20 years ago.  Ollie had cancelled the insurance last year because the old fuse box was so outmoded that the premium was prohibitive.  Now on a night of a new moon the power had failed again and the dark penetrated every corner of the house.  With Ollie on a second shift at the plant, Marge gingerly felt her way to the basement stairs.  She passed through the kitchen and felt on the counter for her trusty flashlight.  Son-of-a-gun, it wasn’t there.  Ollie must have needed it to get to the back of the hall closet and not returned it.  ...typical of Ollie.  She felt her way down the stairs to the fuse box at the corner of the basement.   She was able to find the box with the old-style fuse by feeling.  They were obsessive about keeping a fresh box of fuses since the old house’s wiring was so hinky.  She successfully found the fuse and carefully replaced it.  The expected recovery of light and running furnace didn’t happen.  Well, she guessed she would just have to wait for Ollie to come home, find the errant flashlight and restore power.

            On her way back into a dark living room, she happened to look out a window.  The street light was also out.  She also missed the glow on the horizon of the town fifteen miles away.  They were accustomed to occasional blackouts in county, but they were always due to an electrical storm or a car colliding with a power pole.  They were never to this extent.


            As the crisis room of CIA headquarters observed, a detonation of intense energy was detected.  It was not in earth’s atmosphere, but rather far out in space The moon is an average of 250,000 miles from earth, but this detonation was much further, perhaps 500,000 miles.  And while it was far enough away to be of little radioactive consequence, its energy seemed to be focused in an earthward direction.  And as the CIA/DHS observed, the antenna they had just discovered became active.  It was as if it caught the energy and transferred it across the ocean to America’s eastern seaboard.  As the pulse almost instantly spread, the team sent out immediate and urgent signals.  The transmissions were initially to the United Kingdom, then to Atlantic islands including ships and air carriers and finally to the entire Eastern seaboard.

            Captain Neil Andrews was piloting a 737 with 150 souls on board when he received an urgent message: “TO ALL TRANSOCEANIC FLIGHTS, EXPECT MASSIVE ELECTRICAL…”  The rest of the message was never received.  Captain Andrews was heard to respond, “Say again,” but no other contact was ever made.  Aboard the airliner, communications were severed and all control was lost.  The plane went into an irretrievable dive and crashed into the sea.  Similar tragedies occurred across the North Atlantic.  Even ships at sea were not spared.  Modern ships rely heavily on electronics for stabilization, guidance, communication and other vital activities.  While, ships couldn’t crash, they could lose power, collide, capsize and generally lose their way. 

A ship that is dead-in-the-water without communication or any power was almost as dangerous as a powerless airplane.

            In the eastern United States, massive power losses were endemic.  Lights winked off from the Carolinas to New England.  Communications instantly shut down.  Any machinery with a computer, whether a toy, an automobile, or a medical device such as a pacemaker were disabled.  The computers were literally fried.  

            Cities were dark.  Only the few older vehicles that were deficient of computers were functional.  The rest were junk, and turned clogged freeways massive parking lots.  Traffic signals were out.  Hospitals could not function and even their emergency generators were of no use.  


Ollie was close to finishing his shift, but all the doors were electrically operated and he could not exit.  Finally, he found a maintenance ladder to the roof and was able to exit from the roof to the parking lot only to find his pickup was useless.  He was able to commandeer a bicycle and luckily it had a battery flashlight.  Even though Ollie had not been on a bike for years he was able to navigate to the farm house.

            Marge and Ollie survived.  They were better than most.  They gardened and canned and like most in their community they shared.  Their freezer was full, and that would go first with cooking, canning and drying foods to either eat immediately or save for later.  They would survive, though they felt they had been plunged back one hundred years. Those people living in the cities who were more dependent on the conveniences of modern life did not fare nearly as well.  Without communications or newspapers, the story of what actually occurred was slow in coming and watered down at best.


            In Washington DC, the head of state with hardened communications was better informed, but otherwise nearly as helpless.  In the depths of the Situation Room, the conference table was surrounded by some of the most powerful men in the world.  After the scenario was laid out for the president he was ready to make a pronouncement, “Gentlemen, I hoped this day would never come, but come it has.  Now, I think we have a consensus that we have sustained an attack worse than Pearl Harbor or 911.  We have no choice but to unleash operation Lights Out on our adversaries.  Do we all agree?”

            The cabinet heads, congressional leaders, and advisors were individually poled and all agreed.  The president made the call and was heard to say, ”I  hope we haven’t just assured our mutual destruction.

September 07, 2020 03:56

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Molly Leasure
16:40 Sep 13, 2020

This was an interesting way to arrange a story, but I think it worked well with the concept. From the two characters, the small picture, to the Eastern seaboard, the big picture. I liked the contrast! You write highly detailed stories, but I enjoyed it a lot. I hope Marge and Ollie continue to survive!


Sam Newsome
20:07 Sep 13, 2020

Thanks for the comment. It's a little different from my usual stories.


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