“What Happened on Net-Day”
By Cassie McIntyre
A report submitted to Mrs. Harris’ Modern History course.
The discovery that mankind was not alone in the universe was initially anticlimactic. The small alien objects started slipping quietly into geosynchronous orbit without anyone really noticing. Nobody knew for certain where they came from. One day they weren’t there the next day they circled the planet. No little green men, giant flying saucers in the sky, or take us to your leader. By the time world governments and scientists started paying attention the objects had already formed a thin shell around the planet. When they started making room for themselves by vaporizing the world’s existing geosynchronous satellites the rest of the public started to pay attention.
Communications started to suffer first. Networks were designed to have some redundancy but when several relay satellites were taken out simultaneously the networks developed gaps. The remaining systems quickly became overwhelmed. Fortunately the objects didn’t have a grudge against all satellites. Just the ones that got in their way. So while the lines of satellite communication were greatly degraded they weren’t entirely destroyed.
It took the objects three days to spread through the high orbits around Earth. Then they directed their attention down. Using x-ray and infrared lasers, or something believed to be similar, they started to methodically clear the lower orbits of objects. NASA had sought an effective way to remove orbital debris for years. Now the alien objects were sweeping the skies clean for them.
Once the objects worked their way down to the 13,000 mile mark the global positioning satellites started to be targeted. The developed world quickly realized it didn’t know how to read a map anymore as navigation suddenly became an issue. Many people also didn’t realize that the GPS networks provided a backbone for time synchronization around the world. Without a consistent signal the electrical power companies started having trouble synching different parts of their transmission networks. Small blackouts started occurring across the U.S. and other industrial nations.
The world’s governments convened meetings, made speeches, promoted calm, and behind closed doors quietly panicked and argued with each other. Some tried to communicate with the aliens but got no response. No one was even sure how to communicate with them or if there was even anyone to communicate with. Each object was surprisingly small. No sign of a command structure, or mothership, could be determined. Optical and radar images could not provide much detail since the objects’ surfaces appeared to have very non-reflective properties. People started creating names for the aliens, some technical, some silly, some obscene. But most settled on Sylphs, spirits of the air. Government officials struggled to maintain order with the growing public fear and the slow breakdown of functions.
The militaries of the world made fist thumping dangerous sounding threats to retaliate and then returned meekly to their strategy sessions. Turns out that with all the missiles, missile defense systems, and decades of talking about the militarization of space mankind had barely scratched the surface of what space was. There were no near term options for attacking something in high orbit. So the generals and the admirals bid their time trying to find ways to talk with their armies and navies. Forces that couldn’t do much because their sophisticated weapons systems didn’t know where they were anymore.
Five days after the objects were first detected Houston Control ordered the astronauts in the International Space Station to evacuate. The sweep of destruction was getting dangerously close with no signs of stopping. The Chinese decided not to evacuate yet in the hopes of gathering more information on the Sylphs, but more likely just to say the Americans ran first. Eight hours later while prepping to undock from the station the four taikonauts and the Tiangong Space Station became a brief bright star in the night sky. The ISS was destroyed fifteen minutes later
In roughly six days the objects had wiped out nearly the entire complement of Earth’s manmade satellites. The only satellites that had been spared were outside the radius of the objects shell or appeared to be positioned far enough from any object to avoid attention. The number of Sylph objects then seemed to stabilize as they settled into a network of geosynchronous orbits. The world breathed a sigh of relief and waited for what would come next.
Well they didn’t have to wait long. The Sylphs were apparently on a schedule. A second wave of objects started appearing. These took up positions in the low earth orbits the first wave had cleared. By now some generals and engineers had gotten their ducks in a row and had a plan. Now that the objects were in a lower orbit it was easier to reach them. In independent but parallel efforts counteroffensives had been prepared to hit back at the objects.
In the United States several rockets from multiple launch firms had been appropriated. Their normal payloads had been quickly replaced by something with more bite, nuclear warheads of various yields jury rigged to mount on the rockets. The plan was to launch them all at the same time to try and overwhelm the objects. The normal checklists and safety procedures had been largely ignored to get things ready in time. Good luck or bad luck, only one of the rockets exploded on takeoff and another was intentionally denoted when it went off course. Fortunately in both cases the explosion didn’t set off the nukes.
In Russia the scientists had managed to reprogram several of their ICBMs to hit orbiting targets rather than cities. It actually didn’t take that much effort. It turned out the process had already been developed for other reasons years before. Seeing the Americans launch the Russians sent up their missiles several minutes later. The two sides hadn’t communicated their intentions to each other before this because it might reveal too many of their capabilities to the other side. As if that mattered anymore.
The missiles and rockets streaked toward concentrations of the lower objects and their warheads exploded in blinding flashes of radiation and heat. The objects didn’t stand a chance. They vaporized under the onslaught. People around the world cheered and celebrated. For a few minutes. Then new objects from the outer layer started diving down to replace the ones that were destroyed. Within an hour the damage had been repaired.
Aliens, artificial intelligences, Sylphs, whatever was controlling the objects they took notice. The objects in low earth orbit started targeting high altitude planes and working their way down. Jetliners started disintegrating in the middle of their flights. The FAA, airlines, and militaries scrambled to get all their planes back on the ground before they were vaporized. Within a day every aircraft, balloon, blimp, flying pig on the surface of the Earth had either been destroyed or grounded. Most would never try to take off again. The ones that did wouldn’t get far.