"What's going on down there?!"
"We aren't sure, Captain," Lt. Kozlov replied. "We've lost all contact with Ground Control."
The two men, along with Dr. Eva Russo, the station's physical sciences specialist and medical officer, watched out the forward view port as Earth slowly rotated beneath them. A wave of darkness moved across the night side of the planet, snuffing out the intricate web of city lights that normally decorated it.
"Could it be some kind of EMP effect?" Captain Adams asked.
Dr. Russo, her sharp features grave, pondered the question for long moments before answering. "Not without massive nuclear explosions in the atmosphere. To be honest, Captain, I'm at a total loss to explain this phenomenon."
"Is it possible that we could be affected, as well?"
"At this point, anything is possible, however-" Dr. Russo began.
"Captain, look!" Lt. Kozlov interrupted, pointing out the view port, his face white with shock.
A blue glowing line had sprung up around the Earth's equator as the last of the man-made illumination vanished. The three astronauts watched, stunned, as the odd light expanded toward the poles, quickly engulfing the whole planet. Then it exploded outward, slamming into the space station with physical force. The whole construct shook as though it were about the fly apart. The shriek of tortured metal was deafening, sparks flew from damaged consoles and acrid smoke from burning electronics filled the tiny control module.
Captain Adams and Dr. Russo, who had not been strapped into command chairs, spent several frantic moments trying to avoid being flung into the walls until the violence subsided.
"Damage Report!" the Captain shouted after the shockwave had passed.
"Internal sensors are offline, Captain!" Lt. Kozlov reported. The big Russian smashed his fist into the control console in frustration. "Everything is offline!"
"Listen," Dr. Russo rasped, trying not to choke on the smoke-filled air. The others quieted and, after a moment, they heard it, too. The unmistakable hiss of escaping air. The ominous sound grew louder and the smoke began to swirl as it was drawn down the access tube toward the common area.
"Evacuation protocols! Now!" the Captain ordered. "Get everyone in suits and onto the escape shuttle!"
"Captain, we don't know what's happening down there," Dr. Russo pointed out. "We could be landing in a war zone, or worse."
"We know what is happening up here, Doctor. We don't have time to argue about this. Now move!"
The escape shuttle, which, luckily, had been spared the brunt of the shockwave, was programmed to land on a huge airstrip in the Nevada desert. As they drew closer to the site, however, there was no sign of the air base. Or of the desert, for that matter. Everywhere they looked they saw nothing but vibrant greens and watery blues. The shuttle, its AI too basic to notice the change, brought them down to a bumpy landing in a field of waving grass and wild flowers. There was nobody waiting for them when they popped the hatch and slid down the emergency ramp.
"What the hell?" asked Randy ‘Hands' O'Connell, the lead mechanical engineer.