Author Katie Mettner

Chapter One ~ The Omega Chronicles ~ Mark Carnelley






Prologue

Omega is defined as the last of something.

An example of the Omega is the final day on Earth.


1962


Man has always looked to the stars and dreamed. From the earliest caveman in total awe, to the present Homo sapiens, some who had less intelligence than their ancestors. It was the start of the golden age of space exploration. By 1959 American and Russian scientists were in a mad race to get a spacecraft to the Moon; the Russians made it first. Their space probe Luna 2 magnificently crash-landed onto the moon’s surface at a speed that would’ve killed anything on-board IF there had been anyone or any living thing travelling in it. They didn’t care, they were the first.

They won the gold medal again, with lots of back slapping and vodka shots, when, in 1961 Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. It was only one quick earth orbit and two hours later he parachuted out of Vostok 1 and floated gracefully down as his craft was designed to crash-land. One has to admire Russian ingenuity.

On the 21st June 1962, a Thursday, if anyone was interested, a young professor, Howard Longstreet, from Cambridge University, was using the Greenwich Great Equatorial Telescope, as he did every month, for his research. He was part of a team that was searching for double star systems. The team generally finished around 9pm, but as was his want, Howard stayed longer to search for anything. He just loved to look at the wonders that were out there. At precisely 10:22pm, according to his meticulous log, he saw, what at first he thought, was a speck of dirt on the outermost lenses. He moved the giant telescope half a degree in declination down and looked again. No problems. He cleaned his glasses, placed the telescope back to its original position and looked again. This was the first sighting of what came to be known as the Longstreet Cloud, a massive cosmic dust cloud that, by his calculations, was just beyond the orbit of Pluto. Almost 5 billion miles away.

His second sighting, on the 19th July, again a Thursday, confirmed his sighting. His calculations as to its position determined its speed through the vacuum of space. It was also a large cloud, extremely dense and measuring approximately twice the size of Jupiter. It was a globular cloud which was a rarity. It was a pity, he thought, that his calculations showed that the outer edges of the cloud would intersect with earth’s orbit on December 14th, 2017. Again with a Thursday he thought. At 62 years of age, he would not be alive to see his discovery, unless he lived to be 117, which he severely doubted. He would have liked to have seen the effects of those dust particles as they entered the earth’s atmosphere. The borealis effects would alone be an amazing sight. The earth, he deduced, would only be affected by that cloud by thin wispy tendrils and for no more than two or three nights.

He took his discovery to the others at Cambridge, who passed the information onto the Government. Their scientific boffins did their own calculations and over the next few years they were of one singular opinion. The cloud would envelop the earth for far longer than Longstreet had predicted and that was a prospect that scared the living shit out of these guys.

There was no way this information would ever be allowed to become public knowledge. Those who knew of this discovery, found themselves dead, including Howard, who died when his car flew off Beachy Head. An autopsy showed him to have been drinking, unusual for a teetotaler, his relatives thought, but maybe he had been celebrating his discovery and his tolerance of alcohol would not have been high at all. Three others, members of his team, died over the next few months. All tragic accidents of course. All data was gathered up and deposited within safes in underground bunkers, known to only three men. The Prime Minister, the President of the United States and the head of MI5. Their successors over the years had this knowledge passed down to them.

What Howard didn’t know at the time, couldn’t have known, was that within that cloud was a substance, unknown to man. It didn’t appear on their periodic table and as such the effects were unknown. What was known, was that sub-freezing temperatures over the entire globe could possibly mean snow formations over all the continents.

The unknown effects weren’t known until 2017, when the cloud’s particles met the earth’s atmosphere.

Chapter 1

Alpha (-1 month)

Ends are not bad things, they just mean that something else is about to begin. And there are many things that don't really end, anyway, they just begin again in a new way. Ends are not bad and many ends aren't really an ending; some things are never-ending. 



My name is Colton Lee Steele, Colt or Cole to those who know me well. Only my father called me Colton, and that was when I knew I was in all sorts of trouble. I was born on October 12th in 1976, in a small rural town in the Australian outback.

We owned approximately 1,000 acres just out of a town called Mount Magnet, about 600kms northeast of Perth. At one stage Dad’s grandad had Steele Station at 5,000,000 acres, but other stations had bought us out bit by bit due to many reasons, but mainly drought. At one stage, we had 15,000 head of Angus cattle roaming far and wide and the musters, I have been told, were a sight to see.

What remained was the one thousand acres with the original homestead where four generations of Steeles had been raised. It was already a dust bowl by the time it was sold, barely 500 sheep, we had downgraded, were the sole animals on the station. I would hate to see it now.

I was the youngest of three boys, Bobby four years older and the middle child, and Sean who was born six years before me on Christmas Day. They both looked after me during my early years at school, never letting anyone hang shit on me or bully me.

My Dad flew during the Vietnam War and when he retired from service, he purchased a crop duster to keep the bank from his doorstep. It was only him and me, I never knew my mum, as she had died from complications during my birth.

My Mum’s sister stayed with us during my formative years, she was a spinster and taught at the local school. A hard woman, who I think never knew love. She certainly didn’t show any to me. I always thought that she felt obligated to help out and didn’t have any time for herself. We were an obstacle in her path.

My best friend at school was Charlie, a local aboriginal boy, one of three at that school. We did everything together, after school and during holidays. He used to walk the 50 miles during holidays, from his family’s area, stay with us during the breaks and walk home again. Charlie could always outrun me, throw further and more accurately.

One day he said to me that there was going to be some sort of ceremony at his place. Men only he said. It was going to happen in three days. I told my Dad and Aunt that I would be going to Charlie’s for a week or so. Dad was kind enough to give us a lift, this time, and dropped us only ten miles from Charlie’s.

That night, when the ceremony was to take place, Charlie and I crawled on our bellies and hid behind a small bush to watch. It was a death ceremony, the elder who held the title of Traditional Healer, though I still called him a Witch Doctor, pointed a fragment of bone at some poor unfortunate fella whose only crime was to steal an axe head form his cousin. Charlie said the bone was hundreds of years old.

When we both got back to my place in a few days’ time, I told Dad all about it. His comment was, “Total bullshit boy, that poor abo will die but only because he believes he will. These fellas know the land, I will say that for them. They treat the land with respect and the land looks after them, provides for them. But don’t ever think that their damn mumbo-jumbo means anything to us. I only agree with one thing that they say and do, and it’s about the land. You treat the land with care and it will look after you.”

I never forgot those words, they would come to be my mantra in years to come.

Dad had used his pension and bought a beaten-up Pitts Special which we both lovingly restored, admittedly he did most of the work. I was six when he first took me up, I was hooked. Bobby and Sean had absolutely no interest in flying, or for that matter even staying in what Sean described as “one shit-heap of a dust bowl, and the closest to a living hell.”

As soon as they finished school, they both left, vowing never to return. Bobby ended up in Melbourne as a partner in an accounting firm. He always did have a head for figures. Our grandfather was a chartered accountant who could, and this we all witnessed, add a column of 30 or more nine digit numbers in his head. He never made a mistake.

Sean joined the Army, saw a “bit of action”, as he mildly put it and was honourably discharged with his country’s gratitude. However, that didn’t pay his bills and he started up his own security protection firm in Sydney, looking after the rich and famous and a lot of wannabees. But hey, if they paid they got what they asked for, and believe me, Sean did not come cheap. Using his military contacts, he tracked down members of his old unit, all who had left the service, and they became the “Elite Protection Services”.

We still kept in contact, the obligatory cards at Christmas and on birthdays, plus we rang each other about two to three times a year just to catch up and make sure everyone was still okay.

I stayed on with Dad, I just couldn’t leave; I knew that if I left it would kill him. We did all our own repairs. I could break down an engine and put it together blindfolded, I reckon, by the time I had reached the age of sixteen. I had left school by then, Dad had been diagnosed with bowel cancer and I was the only one to keep “Steele’s Dusting” fully operational. “Go with Steele for the best deal”, was our motto. Hence my love of flying.

My baby though was a Cessna 172, which I was given by our neighbour, 240kms away, after her husband died. It had sat in their shed for six years, after he became too ill to fly. She knew I loved flying and knew that I wouldn’t let it become scrap metal. It took us a further 2 years to get it to operational status and its maiden flight, for me, was sheer joy. If you’ve never been flying, you would never understand. “It was either in you or it weren’t”, my Dad said numerous times. Mainly to the non-believers, as he called those who didn’t understand.

After Dad died, in ’98, I sold our property and the Pitts, and went into partnership with an old school friend, Patrick McDonald, who needed a replacement pilot for his modified C130 Hercules, running supplies and people from Christchurch to McMurdo Station in the Antarctic. The last pilot couldn’t stand the cold at McMurdo, and upped and quit after only four trips.

One condition of the sale was that the Cessna was to remain my property and left in the shed where it was always housed. I could, and did, have use of it at any time. Though over the last few years I hadn’t gone up there at all. I told myself it was because things were just too busy. “Next year,” I kept on saying to myself, “next year.”

After my first flight I fell in love with “Bella”. Pat’s name for the C130, not mine. He already had another member of the crew, Brian Staker, who doubled as our flight engineer and sometimes navigator, though we all took turns when necessary. I don’t mix my words and considered Brian a prick, even telling him to his face numerous times.

Brian thought he was the world’s greatest pilot and didn’t mind telling everyone exactly that! Even though we had to replace our nose wheel and/or skid from his hard-and-fast landings, numerous times, which he totally refused to acknowledge. Pat and I could land Bella like a butterfly alighting on a petal of a delicate flower.

There were numerous snippets of information regarding the Longstreet Cloud, but with all the Governments of Australia, UK and the USA, misinformation and disinformation were rife, not that anyone knew any different. That’s what governments did, lie. Anyone who thought different was naïve. We were told that there would be magnificent light shows; The Aurora Australis or as we know them, The Southern Lights, are caused by very fast moving electrons striking atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, primarily oxygen and nitrogen atoms which make up most of our atmosphere. I’m not a science nerd and admittedly had to look that up. These new light shows would be a spectacle, better than ever before.

I was scheduled to be at McMurdo when this celestial event was to take place. I was to arrive with four new scientists and 8,500kgs of supplies the week beforehand, stay for two weeks and fly back to Christchurch with a cargo-hold of rubbish. A routine flight, one we had all made hundreds of times without incident. I told Macca I would take pics for him, and thought nothing more about it. After all, with 19 years flying to and from McMurdo I had pretty much seen it all.

One more fucking flight and then it was my time for some R & R. I was due six weeks and was looking forward to a hiking trip of the Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park. I’d been to the Rockies before and loved the views and the solitude. I suppose I am what some people might call a loner, I actually liked my own company better than pretty much everyone else. Then, after I got that out of my system, some serious drinking and womanizing were at the top of my list after I finished that trek, but definitely not before.

The job really didn’t allow for any serious relationships, I think the longest I had ever had was three or four months, and that came to a crashing halt when she gave me THE ULTIMATUM, her or Bella. Naturally my Bella came first by a long, long way. She didn’t like that answer, slapped me, packed her gear and headed out the door. I didn’t call her back, there was no point; I wasn’t going to change. I even got the finger and a “fuck you”, when I told her not to let the door hit her gorgeous arse on the way out. The job paid more than enough to keep me very well off and there would be more where she came from. There always were.

On December 7th we were scheduled to depart from Christchurch at 07:00 hrs. I would be there two hours earlier to ensure everything was stowed correctly, and do a full pre-flight check as I did prior to every flight. The flight would take approx. 7 hours, depending on wind. It wouldn’t be comfortable for the four passengers, but that really wasn’t my concern.

Everything went according to plan, all the stores, food, medical and scientific equipment were secured. The four scientists were on time. I gave them all a set of ear muffs for the noise, told them we were A-ok for departure and at 07:02 took off, levelled off at 32,000ft. and set course for McMurdo Station. Three of the nerds had been before but the fourth was a newbie and tad green around the gills during some slight turbulence. He got the sick bag and was moved away from the others just in case he decided to share his breakfast and last night’s dinner with all of us. We landed with no problems, only a slight cross breeze to contend with and we had all cargo offloaded and the scientists in their sheds setting up the equipment they had brought with them. They were here to do some deep core drilling and test that the dust found in the ice at the numerous drilling levels was similar, or not, to the dust from the Longstreet Cloud, when it hit us.

According to our scientific nuts, almost 40,000 tons of cosmic dust reaches the surface of the earth every year. I didn’t listen all that much, dust was dust for fucks sake, and whether it contained ice particle or fragments of meteorites, or both, made not one iota of difference to me.

On December 12th, two days prior to the cloud making contact with the Earth, there were more disturbing blogs regarding this cosmic event. Yes, we had the internet down there. Word was getting out that the whole planet was in danger of being covered for a significant amount of time. We could even see the start of a total global climate change. Weeks, maybe months they were saying. I put it all down to conspiracy theories and pretty much dismissed it.

Within hours, these thoughts were totally out of my mind, pretty much everything was. I had contracted a severe cold and during a sneezing attack I slipped on a small water spillage, cracking my skull on the flat edge of one of the dining room tables. There was swelling on the brain and to limit any damage I was put in an induced coma. I had tubes sticking out of pretty much every orifice. Most importantly, I had a breathing tube down my throat with a great supply of bottled oxygen. This is what I believed saved my life, though sometimes, especially during the first few months, I wish I had died.

Copyright Mark Carnelley

About The Author

Semi-retired. Father of 5. Grandpa to 1 munchkin. Two novels published. Working on 3rd & 4th plus 2 children's series. Family is everything.
Post a Comment