ICEFALL – Book One

In that terrible darkness, a cold wind blew.
And it snowed forever.

To the right is the original prologue to ICEFALL. It ended up on the cutting room floor for several reasons, one of which was that it’s actually the prologue to the entire series, and not just the one book. But we didn’t want to kill it completely, so have posted it here as an extra for fans of the series. It explains the science, and the fiction, behind the Four Falls that thrust the earth into the ice age during which the Clearsky Chronicles series takes place.

By the end of July 2034, scientists could hide the truth no longer. The vast expanse of water ice entering Earth’s solar system from the direction of the Mensa constellation had been confirmed. Mass hysteria gripped the planet. Riots broke out worldwide. Chaos ruled. At least for most…

Wealthy elite in the private sector and influential government officials had received early word of the impending disaster. The fortunate sought refuge aboard specially prepared vessels capable of sustaining life through the upcoming apocalypse. Twenty-two of the cooled and pressurized survival ships set a course to Antarctica hours ahead of the cloud’s arrival.

Initially, the sky greeted the incoming ice fragments as it would any cometary debris: It obliterated them. But eradicating an entire ocean of ice crystals impacting the atmosphere at eighty-five thousand kilometers a second came with a cost: The Mesosphere heated to thousands of degrees Celsius, and an immense cloud of steam enveloped the planet.

As a result of the Rasringer Effect, the bulk of the vaporized water did not immediately fall but remained suspended in low orbit, forming a second atmosphere straddling the Karman Line. For a time, the earth had an ocean above as well as an ocean below. But while the base of the superheated steam lay sixty kilometers above the planet, the heat bathed the earth in an unforgiving amount of infrared radiation.

This wasn’t just an extinction level event.

Earth was being sterilized.

People sheltering in deep mountain caverns around the globe were mostly unprepared for the ramifications of an ocean of scalding vapor overhead. Air pressure increased to levels seen only in hyperbaric chambers, rupturing all but the strongest  seals on safety doors, dooming those inside with the rapid influx of hot gas.

Once the steam cloud had marginally cooled, the rains started. Over a meter of scalding precipitation fell per day. When the event finally ended, sea levels had risen some one hundred meters. It may have been the end of the First Fall, but there was no celebration. Observations from survey rockets showed a second round of ice on the way.

After a six month respite, the Second Fall arrived. Again, tiny ice crystals hurtled toward the upper atmosphere, adding to the ocean of superheated steam high above the planet. Heat from each crystal’s impact radiated in all directions, raising temperatures at the ocean’s surface to the boiling point. Air pressure rose even higher than before, though few were alive to suffer the effects.

And it grew dark. The pressure relented somewhat once the rains resumed. But the end of the Second Fall meant the end of all light. The mass above had thickened enough to completely block the sun. When the second deluge finally ceased, survivors were greeted with a sea five hundred meters higher than before.

The Third Fall lasted as long as the second, but something changed. At some point between the two hundredth and three hundredth meter of the newest torrential downpour, the temperature of the falling water changed. The hot rain was suddenly cold. Snow mixed with hail began to appear, only to be melted by contact with the overheated ocean.

Confounded, scientists concluded the shroud’s heat had radiated selectively out into space. Hope that the catastrophe was nearing its end blossomed in those still alive in the vessels anchored among the icebergs of Eastern Antarctica.

Then the Fourth Fall came. Temperatures skyrocketed as previously. Air pressure at the surface again increased. But this time all that fell in the darkness was cold. Frigid. Once again, rain turned to snow often intermixed with large chunks of hail.

In that terrible darkness, a cold wind blew.

And it snowed forever.