GM Note: This part of the playground is specially reserved for Fic based in the setting of Princess. The same rules as the rest of the playground apply here.
Content warning: Mildly graphic gore
By the time Grace entered the shop, it was already stripped barren. The hordes of panicked citizens had already flooded through the shops, taking anything not nailed down. Fortunately the news that missiles had been launched travelled faster than the missiles themselves.
She ran up and down the aisles, shoving the minimal remains into the basket; hoping whatever she could gather up would be enough to survive if she made it through the impact. The cries of the few others who were around rang through the empty building, hinting at the horrors that would come soon enough. She looked at her basket; 3 miscellaneous tins, a couple of bottles of water, and a loaf of bread. Everything else was already gone.
She looked around, hoping there might be more somewhere, but spotting the large double doors to the rear of the store. Maybe there was still some stuff in the store room. She dashed back past the checkouts for the fifth time. Then the world went white.
The floor comes up to meet her body. As her ears come back into focus, a thousand alarms go off in the city outside, mingling with the autonomous voices of the self checkouts. She looks down to where her legs used to be, at the bloody display case that lies there.
As the world fades out, all she hears are the ominous voices of the checkouts, repeating themselves ignorant of the what has happened.
“Please wait. Help is coming.”
The first flash was the brightest, if only because the display was configured for the low lighting on the dark side of the Earth. Even though the men on the bridge were not really subjected to the actual sight of nuclear fire snaking over the surface of the planet – rather, they helplessly saw it through the video link to the cameras on the exterior of the ship – they still turned away, almost expecting themselves to be blinded by looking at the destructive power.
It had been Russia where it first happened. The tactical overlay at the CIS stations showed it had been a silo in the godforsaken reaches of Siberia, not yet decommissioned owing to the lack of proliferation risk from such distance from civilisation. Lieutenant Commander Nunes rushed over to one station and began to call out the pertinent tactical information.
“Six RS-28s. Each carrying ten heavy warheads… five to ten megatons apiece.” “All gone?” Franco, the Intelligence Ensign, asked. “Blown up on the ground. Must have been loaded beforehand. The fallout is going to be immense.”
They had been trained for this eventuality, and so all that prevailed on the bridge was a terse and uncomfortable silence punctuated by the occasional inquiry for intel or sensor readings. There was even hope that this was just an isolated incident, a hope which prevailed for all ten or so minutes.
Franco caught it first from his station. A plume; the first stage of a parabolic arc rising from the desolate sea of the pacific. A Trident III, given the ascent profile. That could carry sixteen warheads, each with a payload of up to two-hundred kilotons. Trajectories were plotted.
“They’re saturating the Western US Seaboard. Targets plotted as Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco…”
Most ignored the callout of doomed cities, focusing mostly on implementing contingency procedure. The Portuguese Naval Starship Rubicon was presently orbiting at low earth orbit, just above the wreckage of the old ISS. The thrusters kicked in, taking its apogee up towards geostationary orbit. Those not buckled into their seats wrapped their hands around a console to make sure they were not knocked over the acceleration.
They were passing over the doomed cities as the nuclear explosions went off. The screen had adjusted itself so the flash was not so excruciating to see, but most of the crew just turned down to face their consoles and worked away. They did not dare think. This was what they were trained for. This was what the Chief had told them could happen. They heard him walk in, and those not engaged in their duties or strapped down turned to face him and give him the accustomed salute. Commodore Delgado saluted back and moved towards the small mezzanine that functioned as the warship’s command centre.
Tactical reports flooded in. More missiles launching. Frantic chatter from the White House, the Kremlin, Whitehall, thousands of people trying to see where their Command and Control structure had gone wrong, trying to find the hole in their infallible war machines that could be plugged. One after another they were cut off, as more and more of the planet lit up and mushroom clouds soared over the stratosphere.
Delgado did not blink with each flash. Nor did he seem perturbed by the governmental and civilian comm traffic alike which was calling out for help, sometimes cut off by half of a screech of agony followed by silence. The Commodore simply sat and watched. One or two vessels were making emergency take-offs as they realised judgement day had come, but for the most part the people on Earth were stranded and helpless.
It felt like years that they circled the Earth, it growing smaller as they raised their orbit. They kept zoomed in on their home, though. Or what was left of it. The surface liaison near the back was communicating with Lisbon, keeping his calm as the soldiers and civilians on the other end panicked.
“Those are unsubstantiated, sir,” he said to a Brigadier screaming about impending doom in the enclave of peace that was the capital, “the Rubicon cannot make an emergency landing. Please hold… yes, yes. Do not worry, there is no immediate threat, ma’am. Please be assured we have an evacuation fleet on standby if nuclear hostilities do break out.”
Everyone on the Rubicon knew he was lying through his teeth. And they appreciated that. There was nothing they could do now, aside from helplessly circle above the surface and try their best to see if this would subside. It didn’t. After twenty minutes screams and flashes were heard from the liaison’s desk, accompanied by a flash over western Iberia. He tried to see if anyone would answer, and then gave an agonised moan before crumpling over his station.
Delgado stood up and walked to the front of his command station. There was no words or tears from him, only a single gesture towards the CIS. Cut it off.
So their final picture of Earth was cut off. So the comm traffic was shut off. So there was only silence and the surreality and horror of their situation. They did not say anything, apart from an occasional murmur about course corrections on the navigation terminals.
The Commodore hunched over his terminal, hiding his face from the rest of his crew. Some of them turned his way, expecting something from him other than silence. Some nearby could swear that he was just staring at his hands in the days afterwards, but not many particularly cared. It felt like an eternity until he stood, his posture rigid and his arms behind his back.
“Turn about and head to join the migrant fleet.”