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#1 The Mayflower Project
Up close, so near Earth, the Rock looked very small. Seventy-six miles in diameter, it was nothing next to the planet measured in thousands of miles. But, up close, so close, Jobs could see the speed of it. Against the backdrop of space you couldn’t sense the awesome speed. But now, as it angled into the atmosphere, in the brief second in which it could be seen outlined against blue ocean, it seemed impossibly fast.
The Rock entered the atmosphere and for a flash became a spectacular special effect: The atmosphere burned, a red gash in its wake.
It struck the western edge of Portugal. Portugal and Spain were hit by a bullet the size of Connecticut. The liberian peninsula was a trench, a ditch.
The Mediterranean Sea, trillions of gallons of water, exploded into stream. Every living thing in the water, every living thing ashore, was parboiled in an instant.
Portugal, Spain, southern France, all of Italy, the Balkans, the coast of northern Africa, Greece, southern Turkey, all the way to Israel was obliterated in less than five seconds. They were the cradles of Western civilization one second, a hell of super-heated stream and Flying rock the next.
The destruction was too swift to believe. In time Jobs could blink his eyes, Rome and Cairo, Athens and Barcelona, Istanbul and Jerusalem and Damascus were gone. Not reduced to rubble, not crushed, not devastated. This wasn’t like war or any disaster humans understood. Rock became gravel, soil melted and fused, water was steam, living flesh was reduced to singed single cells. Nothing recognizable remained.
The impact explosion was a million nuclear bombs going off at once. The rock and soil and waters that had once defined a dozen nations formed a pillar of smoke and flying dirt and steam. The mushroom cloud punched up through the atmosphere, flinging dust particles clear into space.
Jobs could see chunk of Earth, some fragment left half-intact, maybe twenty miles across, spin slowly up in the maelstrom. There were houses. Buildings. A hint of tilled fields. Rising on the mushroom cloud, flying free, entering space itself.
The entire planet shuddered. It was possible to see it from space: The ground rippled as if rock and soil were liquid. The shock wave was an earthquake that toppled trees, collapsed every human-built structure around the planet, caused entire mountain chains to crumble.
The oceans rippled in tidal waves a thousand feet high. The Atlantic Ocean rolled into New York and over it, rolled into Charleston and over it, rolled into Miami and washed across the entire state of Florida. The ocean waters lapped against the Appalachian Mountain chains, swamped everything in their way, smothered all who had not been killed by the blast or the shock wave.
People died having no idea why. People were thrown from their beds, dashed against walls that collapsed onto them. People who survived long enough to find themselves buried alive beneath green sea many miles deep.
Jobs saw the planet’s rotation slow. The day would stand still for the few who might still be alive.
The impact worked its damage on the fissures and cracks in Earth’s crust. Jobs watched the Atlantic Ocean split right down the middle, emptying millions of cubic miles of water as if it was no more consequence than pulling the plug on the bathroom sink.
The planet was breaking up. Cracking apart. Impossibly deep fissures raced at supersonic speeds around the planet. They cut through the crust, through the mantle, deeper than a thousand Grand Canyons.
Now the Pacific too, drained away. It emptied into the molten core of Earth itself. The explosion dwarfed everything that had gone before. As Jobs watched, motionless, crying but not aware of it, Earth broke apart.
It was as if some invisible hand were ripping open an orange. A vast, irregular chunk of Earth separated slowly from the planet, spun sluggishly, slowly away. The sides of the moon-sized wedge scraped against the sides of the gash, gouged up countries, ground down mountains.
And now this wedge of Earth itself broke in half. Jobs saw what might have been California, his home, turn slowly toward the sun. If anyone is left alive, he thought, if anyone is still alive, they’ll see the sunrise this one last time.
Earth lay still at last. Perhaps a quarter of the planet was bitten off, drifting away to form a second and a third of Earth. The oceans were gone, boiled off into space. The sky was no longer blue, but brown, as dirt and dust blotted out the sun. Here and there could still be seen patches of green. But it was impossible to believe, to hope, that any human being had survived.
All of humanity that still lived was aboard the shuttle that now slid slowly toward the distant sun.
The mike crackled to life. “Come on in, boys. It’s over.”