The apocalypse wasn't enough.
As predicted, the Earth's magnetic poles switch places. What hadn't been expected was how it would expose the shifter community as well as trigger shifts in many who had thought themselves normal.
Survivors had to deal with not only the collapse of much of the technological world, but also with creatures from myth and legend.
Captain Martin Schaffer, skipper of the USS Georgia was in his stateroom when he heard he was needed. The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine had just been refueled and refitted in King's Bay, Georgia. She was just off the continental shelf and running at a comfortable cruising depth and speed.
“Captain's on the bridge!”
“As you were, gentlemen. What's up, Felipe?”
His Chief of Boat answered. “Everything is perfect on our end skipper, but we're getting some intense activity topside.”
“What sort of activity?”
“It looks like a really bad thunderstorm but the weather report gave us at least two days of clear skies. Not only that, but the radioman just reported a low-frequency transmission that was suddenly interrupted and now, he's getting deluged with signals.”
“XO, you have anything to add?”
“Barring further instructions, I think we should wait out the topside storm, and then surface for an update on fleet common.”
“I agree, skipper. A tropical thunderhead usually blows up quick and is gone in an hour or so.”
The helmsman interrupted. “Sir! Take a look at the compass!”
The magnetic compass was spinning wildly, as if the giant submarine was rotating on its own center.
Captain Schaffer only took a moment to stare before he started examining the rest of the instruments
at the helm station. There were all acting strange. “What about sonar?”
“There's an unusually high amount of background noise, but I don't hear any other vessels nearby.”
“Call general quarters. Every man to his station until we figure out what's going on here. Maintain depth and cut back to minimum speed for stability. I don't want to run into anything until we find out for sure where we are and what is going on topside.”
As the warning klaxon and announcement brought everyone to battle stations, the skipper turned to the CoB. “Chief! Deploy a communications buoy and get me some information.”
A few moments later, an antenna array on a float popped to the surface. The radioman's face went ashen as he listened, flipping through a dozen channels in as many seconds. “Captain? I'm getting nothing but static on most of the bands. Nothing nearby at all and there is no chatter on fleet common. It sounds like something had knocked everyone off the air.”
“Maintain radio silence and take your time searching, Sparks. I hate to think what would take all the stations off the air.”
The XO and Chief of Boat looked at each other, then the CoB asked what everyone else was thinking. “Do you think we're dealing with a first-strike scenario here?”
Captain Schaffer shook his head. “Too soon to tell. Navigator! Have you got GPS fixes yet?”
“Yes, Sir! But things aren't making much sense.”
“Well, according to the GPS we're still on-course, but the compass is finally starting to settle down, only-”
“It's pointing the wrong way, Sir. The north end of the compass needle is pointing more than ten degrees off and still moving.”
The skipper asked the radioman for another update and was told that aside from a lot of noise, there wasn't anything on the air. He ordered him to keep scanning.
This time, the XO broached the subject. “What do you think, skipper? Have we been attacked?”
“I don't think so. In all the scenarios I've seen, any of our major adversaries would try to take out our GPS satellites first.”
“What about an EMP?”
“I can see a big enough pulse disabling civilian radio stations, but the military has been aware of this problem for years and our stuff is well-grounded and shielded.”
“Captain!” The radioman's voice betrayed his excitement. “I've got a weak signal on a commercial band. It's a mayday call. Sounds like a civilian woman.”
“Where away, Sparks?”
“I can't say how far, but the RDF shows her near dead ahead.”
“Helmsman! What's the sea-state readings topside?”
“She looks good, Sir. The storm has passed.”
“Take her up and muster a rescue team.”
“Take 'er up, Chief. XO, get your sextant and meet me on the flybridge as soon as we're clear. I want to know exactly where we are and what the hell has happened.”
While the XO and Captain were double-checking their sun readings, both lookouts called out almost at the same time. “Smoke on the horizon!”
The largest plume was dead ahead, so the skipper ordered a cautious approach.
The monstrous hull of a cruise liner was smoking from several fires, and listing badly. It was obvious it would roll over soon. Debris and bodies, some of them burnt, were bobbing in the gentle swells around the hulk. The experienced sailors knew it wouldn't be long before sharks would show up.
The CoB shook his head. “Something isn't right here, skipper. I know she's on fire, but that thing must hold a couple thousand people. Why aren't they all in lifeboats?”
The XO pointed at two bright orange rafts. “There's a couple. No signs of life, though.”
They held the sub a few hundred yards away as a safety precaution while a rescue team in an inflatable went searching for survivors. There were no responses to any of the Coast Guard channels. Even the woman asking for help had gone silent.
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