The Fall of Terra #32: Panic


Extract from:

Comprehensive History of the Nineteen Galaxies, Book One: The Core War

By M’Der Tr’n, Famous Historian

 

From my own knowledge, I can’t recall the news reel that informed Earth’s citizens of the impending danger of the asteroid, and the Prime Minister’s address.  But I did manage to watch it later on; the newsreader was white as a sheet, sweating profusely and uttering every word as if she were about to die.  Of course, the studio they were in was in orbit on the far side of the planet, extremely vulnerable.

I had been… inebriated, shall we say.  But I still recall the disbelief around me and my brother, as if the very thought was an insult.

“Couldn’t possibly be true,” I heard one person in the bar we were in say to his girlfriend or wife.  “This is Terra; Terra is invincible.”

He soon changed his tune when the footage of the asteroid itself was shown.

Several whimpered, others screamed.  One man even ripped open his own throat with the edge of a smashed bottle rather than live on.

The entire planet went insane with panic.

 

Later, I heard stories from survivors.

One man killed his entire family with a plasma rifle before going on a rampage through Port Angel and murdering fifty-three people before throwing himself in front of a mag-train.  It was thought by witnessing survivors that he had been particularly unlucky beforehand, having lost his job and been briefly arrested for somebody else’s crime.

A woman, having literally received her winning millions from her local lottery, walked into her bank, withdrew all her money and then proceeded to hand it out to anybody she passed.  The woman in question was later seen boarding a starship that escaped, though she was not seen for some time after.

The planet went into meltdown, however.

Rioting became commonplace, some blaming the government and military for what was coming, despite it supposedly being a natural occurrence.  Others had been waiting for an opportunity to create havoc, whipping crowds into frenzies and leading them through violence.

Looting was widespread, although it seemed to be confined to the city centres rather than residential areas, a sign that perhaps humanity wasn’t entirely lost.

In Singapore, Navy Headquarters was subjected to abuse from outside, crowds gathering to hurl shouts and insults at the walls.  The gate didn’t open, and the Navy were too busy to worry about them.  After the debacle in space, losing half of the 1st Fleet, they were hard pressed to find a solution.

Emergency services, suddenly halved as many tried fleeing with the civilians, found themselves overwhelmed.  Police tried to curb the riots, but many were either beaten or killed.  Fire fighters were ordered not to bother trying to put fires out and instead focus on saving lives directly, leaving buildings to burn down and crumble.  Paramedics fought a losing battle against a tide of horrendous injuries both from the riots and simple panic.  Even the Coastguard and voluntary Lifeboat services were pushed beyond their limits, dealing with masses of oceanic vessels overloaded with people circumventing everybody else trying to get to a starship by taking to the water.

Every starport, airfield, and landing pad became inundated with thousands of people wanting to get off the planet.  Many of the ships took off before they could take anybody onboard, not wanting to risk being caught by the panicking crowds.

All ships with teleporters were ordered to immediately start beaming people up from the surface, a random selection so as to prevent panicked riots trying to force others out of the way.  Those ships quickly filled to their capacity, some lining the corridors; these ships left orbit in a hurry, sending messages to any planet in short range that would take them, although the effects of the asteroid’s dampening field was still interfering with long-range communications.  The ships were ordered to leave the system, as there was no telling what might happen.

These ships were sent in all directions, to whichever planet they could feasibly get to with the overloaded passengers onboard.

Those ships that didn’t have teleportation devices were left to either ferry people up in shuttles, or go down into the planet’s atmosphere itself.

Several ships were overwhelmed, thousands of scared citizens desperate to escape charging the ships to get in.  One ship, at Tuscany Spaceport, took off with people clinging to the outside of the hull, clawing their way to the hatches even as they died.

Many ships that hadn’t yet been able to land because of the sheer volume of craft saw this, and refused to go down.  Their reasoning was that they didn’t want to be caught by thousands of people, and their crews didn’t want to see the faces of those left behind.  The Navy couldn’t enforce this, although one cruiser, the Rampkin, fired on a mass conveyance that refused to send shuttles down, despite having massive empty holds and a working FTL drive.  The ship, trying to escape the Navy’s wrath, turned in the middle of a swarm of other freight runners, swatting some on its huge hull.

The HMS Rampkin fired again, this time accidentally hitting its engines just as it was about to jump to FTL speed.  The super-heavy freighter’s engines briefly ripped a hole in the space-time continuum, and the explosion could be seen from the surface as it took thirty other ships with it, including the Rampkin.

There were dozens of riots around spaceports, the remaining Police having to be bolstered by members of the Terran Army, including one Lieutenant Lenson Gardner.  The entire planet was in chaos, and the worst was yet to come.

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