The book should be published in a month.
“Radar return on significant reentry body number 14 today. Bolide or cometary fragment. Its trajectory indicated a natural source in solar orbit. The radar return is gone now as it broke up at altitude already.”
The controller touched the bracket on his screen to remove it after his voice note was logged. Nothing exciting happened for a long time. Four hours later into his shift, he got another radar return of a bigger snowball on its ionized plunge into the atmosphere.
“Diffuse return that visibly fragmented on radar. Body 17 for today. Object broke up low enough to expect possible reports of a flash, sonic boom, or seismographic reports.”
He thought about how closely it mimicked the previous object.
“A repetition of a significant object on the same impact zone is of a very low probability. Note to oncoming shifts. This sequence may constitute a probe of our defenses.”
There, that felt safe. At least they’d know he was awake. It was a relief when another didn’t happen before his shift ended.
The next operator read the station notes and sneered. The other operator was an alarmist in his opinion. He’d hit the panic button three times this year, worrying people needlessly. In his opinion, they needed to force the fellow to switch to decaf.
Object 19 for the day was right on the same impact path as the previous two. It wasn’t a snowball and it was big enough their radar painted a return off it just before it hit the atmosphere and left a trail that would reflect radar. The scope said it was twenty to thirty meters across. He hit the alarm without a second thought. Three down the same line was no accident of nature. Once he figured that out another part of the pattern occurred to him. The next one would be bigger.
* * *
Constable Howard stopped for lunch as soon as the restaurant opened at 4 am. Everyone else was having breakfast and he did the same, ordering a breakfast special for his lunch. It wasn’t dark when he went in and almost sunrise when he returned to his cruiser. It was a lovely eleven-degree day and clear for August. He was going to park observing a main road and intersection until called. He needed to conserve fuel because it was rationed even to the police. Churchill was still a quiet little town without much stirring coming up on 5 am and he’d just turned east when a flash over the horizon dazzled him. The flash faded briefly and then grew again covering a quarter of the horizon. It was further to the north than the natural sunrise.
“Dispatch, I’m uncertain what just happened unless somebody bombed the snot out of Quebec, but I think you should send out a local alert on the phone system to stay away from the bay. Something just came down to the east, man-made or natural I can’t tell you.”
“Yes, we are getting all kinds of alerts on the national systems. What kind of alert should I issue?” his dispatch asked.
“Do you have one on your list for a tsunami?” Howard asked.
“That’s amazing… I do.”
“I’d issue a tsunami alert, a boating hazard alert, and a dangerous weather alert. If folks can’t figure out something strange is happening from all that they are pretty dense.”
“I’m issuing those on your say-so,” the dispatcher said. “If I didn’t have all kinds of weird warnings off the national systems, I’d wake up your supervisor and ask him to make sure you haven’t been drinking.”
“Call the Tundra,” Howard invited her. “I just had breakfast there and they’ll tell you I was as sober as can be.”
“Did you feel that?” Dispatch asked him.
“Feel what? I’m in my cruiser. I didn’t feel anything,” Howard said.
“Like somebody stomped on the floor or dropped something, but I’m alone here for another couple of hours.”
Howard thought about that. He wasn’t stupid and he’d been in the military. He cracked both windows down.
“Don’t be surprised if you hear a boom,” he told his dispatcher. “I think you felt the
ground wave and we’ll have an atmospheric shock wave follow on.”
When it arrived, it wasn’t much of a bang, it was more like a muted roar.
“Was that it? I heard something,” Dispatch said.
“Yeah, I have my windows down. You’re all sealed up and it wasn’t that big a deal.”
“Should I leave the warnings up then?” she asked.
“Oh yeah. Any wave will be much slower. I have no idea if it will be three centimeters or three meters,” Howard said. “Better not to take any chances.”