Chapter 1, Prolog

The Shift

By; Weirwolf One five

PLEASE read the Prolog, it sets the stage for what happens in the rest of the story and allows you to understand why and where it takes place.

July 2nd, 2006

In the 'M-Cell' complex of the PUREX (Plutonium, URanium, EXtraction) building, eight technicians and engineers were completing the set up for an experiment in isotope separation using lasers. Most of the Operators, Technicians and RCTs just wanted to get the special job they were assigned to over with, the only one who seemed happy to be there was the team leader. All eight men were dressed in identical yellow Gortex outer coveralls, worn over the top of tightly woven white cotton inner coveralls. The cotton coveralls were taped to canvas boot covers which in turn were covered by smaller shoe covers held in place by Velcro fasteners and rubber shoes (Galoshes). Their hands were incased in three sets of rubber latex surgeon's gloves, the inner set taped to the wrists of the cotton coveralls and further protected by stiff yellow and black canvas Werx gloves. As the atmosphere in the 'M-Cell' complex was ladened with a large variety of airborne radioactive particulate matter, all eight men were wearing battery powered PAPR's (Powered Air Purifying Respirators). Their heads in turn were covered by a surgeon's cap and two hoods, the outer hood taped to the Gortex coveralls and the respirators face pieces. While the protective clothing appeared to be bulky and uncomfortable (which it was), it was necessary to insure the health and safety of the technicians and engineers.

One of the eight men was a Radiological Control Technician (RCT), it was his job to ensure that the other seven men were kept away from areas of the stainless steel covered walls and floor that were 'hotter' than the rest. During the time when the 'PUREX" facility had been used to extract plutonium and other useful radioactive isotopes from spent fuel rods, the 'M-Cell' complex had always been used for maintenance, decontamination and repair of equipment that couldn't be removed from the facility's highly contaminated process areas (the cells and canyon area). The other seven men were made up of a scientist, the project engineer, three technicians (one electrical and two that specialized in laser technology) and two Operators. The scientist, Rick Hoose, was the senior man present, and he made sure everyone was aware of this fact, frequently, or rather continuously to everyone's disdain. Back in the early eighties Hoose had started out at the Medford Works as an RCT and moved his way up the ladder of success, usually on the backs of his co-workers and friends (or rather those that tried to be his friend, but after being fucked over by him decided otherwise). Hoose was the type of person who never made a mistake, mainly by ensuring that someone else was blamed for anything that went wrong. He brownnosed his bosses, tolerated his peers and held everyone else in contempt. This way of doing business was about to bite him, and close to 250,000 other people right square in the ass.

The job he was put in charge of that summer night, actually the 2nd of July 2006 was of major import to the Medford Site's prime contractor and the government of the United States. The primary research for it had taken place at other facilities on the East Coast, Oak Ridge and Savanna River. Due to the population density around the high profile East Coast facilities, the actual test of the project was to take place at the Medford Site. During the early years of the Twenty First Century, the PUREX Facility had been decommissioned as a sop to the environmentalists of North America. While the facility would never again process nuclear material, areas located in the huge building were still used for various things. So, it was natural that the PUREX M-Cell Complex would be a convenient and secure work location. Unfortunately, Mr. Hoose failed to consider the six hundred liters of 99.92% pure Plutonium in solution being stored in the vault that was accessed only through the north wall of M-Cell. When the facility was closed down, the geometrically safe storage tanks were left in place, as was the six hundred liters of sixteen hundred micro-curies per mili-liter of Pu-239 in them. The test that was being set up was a full power run of seven multi frequency frozen matrix lasers for the separation of Pu-239 from a solid block of mixed hazardous waste. If the test worked the way it was expected to, the process would allow Plutonium to be separated from all of the radioactive and non-radioactive material it was part of. This would cut the cost as well as the waste material that was generated during the conventional 'cooking' process that was required to separate the Plutonium from spent fuel rods. This included all of the mixed hazardous waste that was being stored at various secure locations on the Medford Site. Quicker, cleaner and more cost effective, it sounded too good to be true. It really was too good to be true!

Mr. Hoose was bouncing around M-Cell like a sex crazed ferret on a sugar high. Constantly directing the technicians to hurry up, even though they were ahead of the scheduled time line, Hoose wanted to impress his bosses with how much work he could get out of the peons. The Operators were just about to wrap him up in duct tape and hang him on the 40 Ton overhead crane hook when the project engineer reported that the lasers were in place and the test could begin at any time Mr. Hoose gave the order. Rick Hoose held his portable radio close to his respirator face piece and keyed the transmit button and reported to the oversight leader who was in the Site Emergency Command Post located in the bottom of the Federal Building twenty miles away. Upon receiving the go ahead, he turned to the technician running the control board for the seven lasers and was about to tell the tech at the control panel to start the test when the senior of the two Operators said; "Before we start, let's take a break, we been at this for close to four hour now and I want to grab a smoke and get something to drink." Hoose looked at the Operator and said; "We need to get this done, by the time we get out, take a fifteen minute break and then dress out again we'll lose over an hour and a half." Turning back to the tech he said; "Initiate." At 20:32:21 the tech started pushing several buttons in a pre-determined sequence, then all hell was out for lunch.

At the same time the tech was engaging the lasers, one hundred and ten miles almost due north of M-Cell and thirty miles below the surface of Oroville Washington, two tectonic plates on a here-to-fore unknown geological fault line were about to slide across each other. The region had never shown any sign of seismic activity during any portion of its' recorded history. That was about to change, and change in a really big way. The plates had been grinding away at each other for the last fifteen hundred years, building up an enormous sink of energy. At 20:32:26, fifty miles west of Oroville, a well known fault line originating at the base of the east side of the Cascade Mountains let loose with a minor earthquake, a mere 1.9 on the Richter Scale.

Unfortunately it was large enough to cause the Oroville fault line to let lose. When it went at 20:32:29, an earthquake that registered on just about every seismometer in the world at 9.6 on the Richter scale occurred. The quake caused major structural damage from as far south as Portland Oregon and as far north as Victoria, British Columbia. The quake was also credited with causing several fault lines from California to Alaska to let lose and start further seismic activity registering from 2.2 to as high as 9.3 along the eastern side of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The thirteen active volcanoes in the Cascade mountain chain from Washington to northern California erupted one after another down the line. Mount Saint Helens went off flinging ash, earth and stone into the stratosphere. Mount Hood, followed closely by Mount Rainier near Seattle went from being dormant volcanoes to active ones and erupted, the blast front scouring the cities on the coast from Longview to Mount Vernon, removing them from the face of the earth. The blast front from the erupting volcanoes with winds in excess of 400 miles per hour and temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit caused the death of every living thing in its' path between the volcanoes and the Pacific Ocean. Only cockroaches, microbes, and if he was in the Seattle area, Michael Jackson would survive. Seattle was gone, as was Tacoma, Kent, Mount Vernon and every small town between the volcanoes and the sea. The Cascade Mountains to the east acted as a blast shield to the Eastern part of the state, reflecting most of the blast back to the west. This caused a doubling, in some cases, a tripling of the blast front that ravaged the cities and towns between the mountains and the ocean.

The Cascade Mountains on the East and West sides of Snoqualmie Pass shook with the fury of the earthquake, landslides crashed down on I-90, bridges crumbled, thousands of men, women and children died, entombed it their vehicles under millions of cubic yards of earth, rock and shattered trees. Earthen dams used to contain the water in the reservoirs on the east side of the mountains collapsed, allowing the water they held to rush down their natural water courses, destroying anything and everthing in it's' path.

The night sky was blotted from view by the smoke and ash from the two volcanoes, aircraft flying over the affected area sucked in ash and matter thrown in to the air by the volcanoes. Jet engines came apart in an orgy of self destruction, sometimes taking the wings they were attached to with them, causing the aircraft to plummet to the ground. Propeller driven aircraft faired no better as their air breathing internal combustion engines became clogged by the ash and seized up, causing them to auger in the same as their larger brethren.

A tidal wave hurtled westward across the Pacific towards Hawaii, Midway, Guam, the Philippines, the islands of Japan and the Orient traveling at six hundred miles an hour. Tens of millions died. Billions, upon billions upon billions of dollars in property damage occurred, and that was just the beginning. The Grand Coulee Dam crumbled and a tidal wave in excess of one hundred eighty feet in height rushed down the Columbia River destroying everything in its path. The people driving trucks and cars east and west on I-90 were some of the first to feel the ground shocks of the earthquake, some were able to maintain control of their vehicles. Some were not. Before the phenomenon that was later to be dubbed the "Globe," close to a thousand accidents occurred. Some minor, some major. Many people were injured and died immediately because of these accidents, some were trapped in their vehicles and died after suffering injuries that normally would have not been life threatening, but due to the lack of emergency services, ended up that way.

At 20:32:31 the first ground shocks from the Oroville quake caused structural damage to several buildings on the Medford Site. PUREX was one of them. The wall separating M-Cell from the storage vault directly behind the target of the laser experiment cracked open, the stainless steel sheathing ripping along the gap, exposing the interior of the vault. A Gap six inches wide from the floor to the ceiling appeared at the same time the target being used for the combined seven lasers fell to the floor. The output of all seven lasers passed through the gap and struck the highly polished stainless steel mirror attached to the north wall of the vault. The mirror was used by personnel for the periodic inspection of the physical condition of the Plutonium storage tanks so direct entry was not necessary. Because of the ground shocks from the Oroville quake, particulate matter, both radioactive and non-radioactive, that had been accumulating during the fifty year history of the building fell from ceilings of both the vault and M-Cell itself. The tight beam from the combined seven muti-frequency lasers passed through this material before striking the mirror and being reflected at the storage containers of Plutonium. At 20:32:36 a silver dome eighty-five miles in diameter appeared, with M-Cell as its very center.

As quick as it started, the ground shocks stopped, it was as if there never was an earthquake. As the dazed survivors looked around them, they also noticed that something was very strange. Instead of it being night, it was now mid-day, and the temperature was hovering in the sixties instead of low eighties as it had been before the silver dome had appeared. Visitors to the Twin-Cities, the partiers and tourists who'd come from all over the state and country to experience the Hydroplane races air shows and other events of the Water Follies, were mostly in shock. The locals knew that something had gone wrong, desperately wrong.

End of Prolog

Next; Chapter 1

"What Happened"