Nebraska Governance and Technology Center (NGTC) Student Fellows Mitchell Clark of the Colleges of Engineering and Arts & Sciences and Morgan Armstrong of the College of Law took their research into the challenges of regulating low-Earth orbit in a creative direction, crafting a short story entitled “Starfall” about a future in which a catastrophic magnetic anomaly (known as the South Atlantic Crisis) knocks out a significant portion of Earth’s satellites, leading to economic damages in the tens of billions of dollars and precipitating an international geopolitical crisis. In Act II, an imminent shift of the Earth’s magnetic poles culminates in an even more catastrophic loss of Earth’s orbital infrastructure, leading a father and daughter to race to flee Earth for “The Lost Colony” before the full calamity ensues.
Morgan and Mitchell will build on their work in the spring semester, developing and hosting an episode of the NGTC’s podcast, Tech Refactored, interviewing experts about the emerging challenges of developing an international regulatory regime for low-Earth orbit.
Morgan Armstrong is a Law Clerk for the Douglas County Public Defender; prior to pursuing her J.D. Morgan received a Master of Arts degree in International/Global Studies from the University of Wyoming, graduating with a 3.9 GPA. While completing her master’s thesis, Morgan spent two months conducting international field research in the Bahamas while simultaneously serving in the Army ROTC.
Mitchell Clark is currently pursuing masters-level degrees in computer science from the College of Engineering and the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Nebraska; in addition to his studies he also serves as Strategic Consultant for Determinacy, LLC, a technical strategic consulting firm which he founded. Mitchell received his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the University of Nebraska, focusing on Bioinformatics, EM Theory, Embedded Devices, and Nanoelectronics.
The smell of recycled air making its way about the cabin is hard to mistake. I’d put it somewhere between new car and ozone. Money can get you anywhere in the world in three hours, but for better and worse physics still holds treasures for which there is no price. The stale breeze reminds me where I am as the previously muted sonic booms rudely return me to consciousness. I open my eyes to see the clouds sprinting away behind us. Intermittent blips of blue from the ocean below are stills from a movie, barely recognizable through the heavy static fuzz.
The month leading up to this deal has been a slow crescendo of scenes, building in action as the pieces came together. The last 48 hours on the other hand have become one unending continuous take, the nap being God’s popcorn intermission before the climax. Somewhere in the back of my mind, it registers that I must have forgotten to plug the noise cancelling earbuds back in after charging my headset. In college, I’d have cringed at missing such a basic thing. For a moment I smile at the nostalgia of simpler times.
“Ahh, good. Welcome back to the land of the living, Maxwell. You have the most auspicious timing.”
“That’s a generous description,” I mutter. “Please tell me we have caffeine somewhere.”
The holotable in front of me is cluttered with documents too sensitive for digital systems as the fab’s rendered blueprint cheerfully floats above their reach. The Icarus specific term sheets in front of me have been dethroned by a compostable cup whose contents, though lidded, steam with promise. Across the table, Ada Schmidt’s classically staid face is interjected by her smirking gaze. Her green eyes lock with mine for a moment before her poker face crumbles under the sound of Lawrence’s chuckling beside me.
Holding back a laugh, she musters, “I remember the week leading into the meeting with the FCC, my nerves were so fried when the day came I was practically catatonic. They probably thought it was confidence.” With the grace of a leopard, she recrosses the legs of her pantsuit, steeples her fingers, and grins. “Thank you Max. Cough up, Stevie boy.”
Steven Castle, Chief Financial Officer of Pilot Wave, groans from the chair beside her and glumly rifles around his jacket pocket by the light of his amber tie. The light of his cell reflects off his blue shirt and silver hair as he opens its faraday sleeve. “Tell Amy to put my space pen on Ada’s desk,” he consigns in defeat. The tips of his cheveux en brosse spend a moment tinted green before the bag and its contents return to his pocket.
With a look of bemusement, he turns to her and asks, “How could you possibly have known?”
“When was the last time you were down in engineering?”
“Point taken. I find out you’ve mistreated my baby, Ada, you should know your department’s coffee budget is a broken out line item.”
The winding path leading to this flight feels like such a natural extension of the licensing structure Lawrence concocted for my solar sails, I can’t help but wonder if he didn’t already have it planned when the deal was inked two years ago. Knowing him, he probably read the provisional when we filed. As my tongue is burnt by my salvation, he leans over to me and mutters, “Don’t worry, the past hour was all on the fab, they just got to the Terminus.”
I breathe a sigh of relief and shoot him a grateful glance. From above, a politely stern voice reminiscent of Morgan Freeman interrupts, “Shall we return to the task at hand?”
The camaraderie of the moment now suddenly grounded, I look up and remember the fifth member of our expedition. Xavier Hughes cuts a daunting figure even as he leans against the fuselage across the aisle. Clad in immaculate khakis and a blue blazer, his kindly smile does little to disarm the intensity of his demeanor. His brown eyes flicker between us.
“Agreed,” Steve concurs. “Maxwell, as I’m sure you’re aware, provided Kyanos is satisfied we have cleared the regulatory hurdles, the deal will most likely proceed. We will open by ensuring they are satisfied with our progress on the Terminus project, after which you and Xavier will be excused and we will move on to discussing the orbital manufacturing facility. Are you prepared for your presentation?”
I nodded. “I’m going to begin by recapping the project’s value proposition. Ada will provide updates on the networking front and I will detail our manufacturing progress. Lawrence will round out the finalized agreement with the US officials and accumulated Letters of Interest. Mr. Hughes will then make some closing remarks on any potential future roadblocks with the international regulatory process ahead.”
“Excellent,” Steve says. “They will be pleased with our progress. I do not expect many questions related to financials for the terminus at this meeting, but if they arise please let me handle them. Kyanos firmly grasps the economic potential of a high speed data relay with a fixed location. Provided they believe sufficient due diligence has been done on our part to manage the risks, I believe the terms will be finalized and signed sometime tomorrow. I’d like to do a final run through the presentation before we arrive. Max, is there anything else you wish to discuss before we do?”
“I think we’re pretty solid at this point, but I want to go over one thing. Lawrence, I know you’ve gotten the signoff of the US authorities on the potential to upgrade the Terminus eventually to a laser based optical network, but I expect Kyanos will want to know the timeframe we have to do it. Mr. Hughes, how do you think it best to address the international regulatory process here?”
“Call me Xavier. Good question though, let me think.” The tip of his pointer finger rests on his soul patch as he holds his face thoughtfully. “During my time, I will focus on the final steps ahead to locking in international blessing for the first iteration. I expect the ITU will be perfectly happy to receive our licensing fees. If the Kyanos side fails to ask for further information regarding how the situation might change under future accords, I’ll add some remarks at the end. That said, if they don’t, I expect you will have bigger problems down the road.”
Lawrence fails to mask his nervous laughter with a cough. Ada turns to stare at him and pointedly arches an eyebrow.
“What?” he protests. “Maria is way too sharp to miss that. Whether Jeremy the Relentless will care -”
“Is of limited relevance,” cuts in Steve. “That’s why he pays people like us.” After regaining his composure, he looks at me and adds, “Anything else?”
“I think we’re set,” I reply. “The headset’s charged, the new omni-connector has worked flawlessly with every holosystem I’ve tried hooking it up to over the last two months, all systems are go. Ada, do you need to make any final tweaks to the designs?”
Her infamous poker face had again descended and she ambivalently nodded. “As of two hours before takeoff, the changes I made yesterday auto-propagated. We’ll have confirmation shortly enough.”
I looked out the window at the Atlantic, now clearly in view below. “Those waves were here long before you, and they’ll be here long after,” I think to myself. I reach into my bag and feel my headset, still warm with promise. I begin, “The Terminus project, a collaboration between Pilot Wave Systems and Icarus Materials, is a groundbreaking project that will revolutionize the landscape of satellite internet…”
The jet pulled in front of the hangar at Teterboro Airport without incident and we quickly disembarked. Not 15 yards from the plane, our air shuttle awaits. The fuselage looks to have begun its life at an F1 racetrack before being converted into an SUV. Where the car would have wheels, chrome rods stick out about a foot, each culminating in an open hoop the size of a wardrobe. A slit running around the interior of the rings gave away their propulsion mechanism. I’d heard about these, but I was still unnerved. Trusting your life to a souped up bladeless Dyson fan is easier said than done. Xavier must have sensed the hitch in my step as we approached the craft, letting out a slow chuckle and putting a hand on my shoulder.
“C’mon, you can ride in the back with me. If the power cuts, that’s where the chutes are.”
“Can’t turn that down,” I laughed. “Are these things really better than classic VTOL?”
Steve, now settled into the front seat next to the pilot, shouts out the open door, “You’re about to find out!”
To my surprise, as Ada opens the main door, the interior is laid out closer to a plane than a traditional helicopter, with two seats split by a small aisle that lead to three more along the back wall. Xavier and I walk past her and take our spots on the right and left side respectively. Lawrence closes the door and the gentle hum becomes a steady buzz. Suddenly, we begin to rapidly rise upward! I look out the window at the engines and see the rods begin to orient the hoops towards the skyline in the distance. With the engines on full blast in flight mode, the distortion of the air flowing through the innocent-looking openings finally becomes visible.
“How are you so sure the parachutes are back here?” I shout over to Xavier. He leans across the middle seat and replies, “they still ran on gas back when I reviewed their design documents, but I expect when they went fully electric the weight distribution didn’t change much. Every model has most of the components EM shielded far beyond what the law requires, so I doubt we’ll find out if I’m right.”
I pause to check my historical bearings. “Wouldn’t that have been before the LEO Treaty? I thought you didn’t go freelance until a few years ago.”
A wistful look crosses his face for a moment. “Right on both counts,” he sighs.
“Arguably, the work I did as a compliance officer set me down the path to commissioner. The rest followed from there.”
“Woah,” I reply. The LEO Treaty was widely held as the end of the wild west of private space, with some proclaiming it the dawn of a new era in human spacefaring. I did some quick math in my head.
“You must have started as the first constellations were going live.” I offer neutrally. He bites.
“Just before,” he replies. “I had a front row seat for almost a decade, though at the beginning they all were. People like you were building first to see what was possible. After all, the sky was no longer the limit. The questions came later.”
He leans back in his seat and turns to gaze out the window, lost in reverie. I struggle to find something to say and come up short. The evidence in the wake of the Southern Atlantic Crisis had always been murky, assuming anyone did have something actionable. Regardless of what really happened, it would prove to be a defining moment I would never forget.
It was a Friday in late January. Classes had just resumed. Mo, my labmate, and I had decided to stick around after the weekly meeting to continue unsuccessfully calibrating an uncooperative laser. While we were discussing the likely root of the latest bug, Mo’s phone buzzed. He looked at the screen and quietly trailed off in the middle of a sentence.
“What’s up?” I asked him. His brow furrowed, eyes quickly scanning right to left. “ Earth to Mohammed...”
“A large magnetic storm will arrive in less than an hour,” he stated mechanically, eyes not leaving the screen.
“Not as bad as it could be, but be very glad we’re nowhere near the Tropic of Capricorn right about now. People are currently trying to assess what the damage will be. It’s looking like Brazil will be the unlucky winner.”
“Well, as long as it’s not powerful enough to set power lines on fire, they’ll be alright,” I replied.
“It’s estimated at the time of arrival, there will still be hundreds of satellites passing through the magnetic anomaly. Everyone is scrambling but this looks really, really ugly. I mean,” he cuts off, finally looking up at me. “Either they dump months worth of fuel trying to dodge this thing, prepare and hunker down, or some combo thereof.”
I sat staring for a moment. “And they’re sure about the data?” I asked.
“Oh yeah. You gotta see these reactions man, you’d think the sky is falling,” he replied, eyes reglued to the screen.
“Don’t jinx it,” I muttered. “Let me try finding a livestream.”
Mo and I stayed in that room for well over twelve hours watching the greatest disaster in space to date unfold in real time. The bonds of space nerdiness are uniquely strong. By the point pizza arrived around midnight, all but one of the lab members had returned, along with several other people. Our PI even pitched in the lion’s share for the grub, having shown up around 10 with a travel mug that smelled more Irish than coffee.
One of the best descriptions I read encapsulating our collective experience that night was that the Southern Atlantic Crisis was the first truly international natural disaster, leaving no one untouched in some way. Mo and I decided to call it quits in the wee hours of the morning, laser long forgotten. The cold wind of winter jolted me awake as we left the warm comfort of the building. I stopped walking and looked up at the sky above the parking lot. Mo’s eyes were still glued to his phone.
“Do you remember the last time you looked up at the night sky without seeing a satellite?” I asked him.
The spell now broken, he looked back at me, then turned to follow my eyes. Above us, man made stars were shooting along, looking for all intents and purposes as though business was back to usual. Looking up, he replied,
“I guess when you see it every night, your standards for ‘normal’ change pretty quickly. Easy come, easy go. Hopefully the cycle resumes without issue tomorrow. Goodnight Max,”
“I sure hope so. See you Mo.”
It turned out the magnetic frying pan was the least of our troubles.
Space had become quite the happening place before the storm. In the immediate aftermath, I learned there is a richness to the term ‘satellite anomaly’. Sometimes, it was a work of art, thrusting the onus of interpretation onto the beholder. It also saw common usage as a scientific way to denote ‘I have no idea what’s going on’. Thousands of different anomalies were reported in the wake of the surge. The majority resolved without incident, but many did not.
Most of the satellites which adjusted their trajectory were able to wait out the weather in unallocated or unfilled orbits. Unexpected changes in trajectory burn irreplaceable fuel, shortening a satellite’s lifespan. Nobody was crazy enough to risk creating space debris by not making room for their now displaced neighbor. However, anyone attempting to recoup their gas money for doing so, be it from another operator or an insurance company, found themselves in a sticky situation. They also knew to count their blessings.
When the storm hit, a constellation operated from Jiuquan had almost a hundred satellites passing through the anomaly. Over 70% experienced some form of catastrophic anomaly. A number of theories circulated the internet. The prevailing opinion was that the subcontractor who provided the electromagnetic shielding had cut corners during fabrication. Both companies pointed the finger at the other in the absence of evidence. I doubt anyone will ever know the truth. The fallout however became infamous overnight. Almost all of the dead satellites went on to degrade into other craft’s orbits over time.
The thing that nearly led to a collective freakout was the handful that vanished during the storm. Their disappearance dominated the news cycle for weeks and some very nervous people scoured the skies until they were accounted for. Foremost among them was the Chinese government. The risk of a satellite being rediscovered after slamming into another satellite or worse, the Earth, was unacceptable. Through the collective efforts of the international community and some statistically significant luck, there were no collisions.
Geopolitical tensions became strained as impacted satellite operators from around the world began trying to seek compensation under the terms of the Outer Space Treaty. The complete economic damage came to tens of billions. As the world looked for an answer, Xavier Hughes rose to the challenge, championing an extension of the OST on the international stage. Under intense public and private pressure, governments around the world came to the table. The passage of the agreement that would become known as the LEO Treaty led many entities previously hesitant to enter the private space sector to begin staking their claims along the final frontier.
I remember the day the VC firm first came to the lab about potentially commercializing my research. It’s weird to think that Icarus might have never incorporated without the hard work of one lone dedicated soul. I look over Xavier’s shoulder out the window and see that we must be flying over the New York bank of the Hudson. A face turns to look at us from a skyscraper as we pass their conference room. In the distance, Kyanos Tower rises up from midtown.
“Do you think I’m doing the right thing?” I say quietly.
“What do you mean?” Xavier replies.
“My solar sails will be a paradigm shift, perhaps the biggest since the original Starship. No dreamer wants to create things that make the world worse. Exclusive licensing agreements can have a big impact when a market is first beginning to be unlocked. I left academia because I think this can do a lot of good, but space is our future. I need to keep my eyes open.”
Xavier looks at me and nods sagely.
“We all do the best we can to leave a better world behind us,” he begins. “But nobody knows the future. Do you know why I moved on from civil service?”
“Honestly,” I confess, “I figured you got bored.”
He cracks a smile. “I did! But not for the reasons you might think. I came to realize that the people who needed to hear what I have to say the most were not in government. I made my mark in that domain and while I hope the LEO Treaty will age well, it has a shelf life. Space is a big place. Technology is only accelerating the trends that made it necessary. It is easy to understand the need for new ideas because of how they better the way we live. It is far harder to intuit how the rules we set for ourselves govern how we grow. The pen lacks the physical appeal of an airplane.”
“Then what’s the solution?”
He sits for a moment, gathering himself. “I don’t know whether there is a perfect one,” he continues.
“But what I do know is this. We must grow in order to survive, thrive, and evolve. Life is a self-organizing replicating pattern. If you had not created your sails, someone else would have. Similarly, when law fails to represent shared interest, conflict resolution devolves and cooperation withers.”
“The work I do now allows me a seat at the table where the greatest laid plans of our era are being drafted, before external approval is ever sought. I am paid handsomely to tell decision makers ‘Here are the pitfalls, here’s how to fix them, and this is how it fits into the wider world.’ All I can do then is hope they appreciate the rules we live by and contribute as best they can. I think you’ll be alright. As to the world, I can only hope we get it right in time.”
The engines of the air shuttle have resumed their vertical orientation as we descend onto the landing pad at Kyanos Tower. As we touch down, I am struck by the realization of how noisy our shuttle would have been when it ran on gas. The iconic blue tint of the windows reflects the light of the morning sun. I gather my things and we disembark into a new dawn.
Caroline jolted out of bed; her soul violently ripped from sleep by the abrupt singsong of an incoming call. She lightly tapped her finger next to her right eye to pick up the incoming video call from her father, Bill, rubbing her eyes and walking over to her floor to ceiling windows. His face swam into her vision as she looked out over the ocean from her penthouse window.
Honey, oh I'm so glad you picked up," he said, in a breathless voice.
"Hello to you too Dad,” she said slowly. Sleep was still heavy on her speech as she gazed out over the water, the bright reflection of the sky casting a yellow glow on the horizon. She watched tiredly at the occasional streaks of light that burst into the already bright night, indicating a familiar launch had occurred, and continued saying, "I really just love being woken up on my Connector in the middle of the night for a chat."
"Caroline, you need to get out of California. You need to leave, now," Bill said forcefully, emphasizing the last word with such a drastic strain in his voice that all of Caroline's grogginess disappeared.
She blinked in confusion, her dad's face staying in her vision. "Leave how?" she asked. "It's not like I can just hop on a plane dad. That's just not possible anymore. Everything's virtual now, physical travel just doesn’t happen. And what do you mean “leave?"
"I mean get off the planet," he said simply.
"Now I know you're crazy," she responded.
"Caroline, it's bad. We have conclusive evidence that the poles are going to switch, and the satellites are all going to be affected in another cascading event. This will be like the Southern Atlantic Crisis but indescribably worse. We've come to the point of no return, but the Chinese, they’ve been working on the tech to get us past the current space debris barrier. They can break us out of the dead orbits of satellites and get us off this planet if we get there before the switch. I have two tickets for us, you just have to get to Beijing," he said quickly.
"Dad, I have been trying to solve the space debris problem for ten years, and you're telling me that they're just going to bust us out of the low-Earth atmosphere. How?" she said accusingly, pacing around the room while also glaring at the brightened night sky as though she could somehow burn the debris encircling Earth with her eyeballs.
"Because they don't care about solving the problem. They gave up on that. They're going to bust through and we're going to start on the next colony," he said.
She blew out air and collapsed on her bed. The lost colony, she thought. There had been a joint international venture to begin a colony on Mars 60 years ago. There had been about four rotations of people that had set up a permanent colony there, but that was before the space debris got so bad that leaving orbit became impossible. When a dust storm destroyed their comms relay, no one knew the status of the colony and so it became known as the Lost Colony.
"So essentially, they've created a battering ram, and you want us to go to Mars to join the Lost Colony?" she asked. Bill nodded. "What about all the people here? What about the space debris and satellites that created this entire problem in the first place?" she asked, gesturing out her window while a perfectly timed streak of light zoomed skyward, the cameras in her apartment and the connectivity of Connector picking up her movements. "Connector has led us to this. Mega constellations of satellites and global connectivity have led to this. Why can't we try to fix it?"
"Because….if there's any chance of getting off this planet it's now before this gets even worse than it already is. China is the only one whose lack of regulations allows this launch, and that means at this point, they're our best hope," Bill said.
"How am I even supposed to get there? Flying nationally is almost impossible, I can't even imagine internationally. The amount of space launches has basically muted international travel. No one communicates! All anyone cares about is connecting virtually through Connector or in the HoloRooms." Caroline began packing but was so confused on how to even accomplish traveling to China that she threw things in a bag absentmindedly.
"Listen, if you go to the Cheapswick airfield, Captain Reynes does chartered commercial goods delivery to Hawaii. From there, I have some other connecting flights that I think can get you there. If you follow my lead and we hit the timing perfectly, we'll both make that launch," he said with a weak smile that didn't reach his eyes.
"Wow, your confidence is overwhelming," she said with an eye roll.
"We're lucky they're even considering us," he said, moving around his house and beginning to pack himself.
"Wait, you said ‘considering’?" she asked.
"Well, I'd been working with them in the HoloRooms on a secret terraforming project. And I…convinced them they would also need an aerospace engineer that is knowledgeable about space debris," Bill said, pausing significantly as though attempting to come up with an answer.
"So, do they even know I’m coming? I mean they have to know. Resource distribution for these missions is literally essential," she said, looking at him stiffly.
"It'll be fine," he confirmed, not continuing to affirm confidence in his plan by ignoring her question. But what other option did she have? As he explained, the poles switching was an apocalyptic situation. With the amount of satellites now in orbit, the dependency of the Earth on satellites, and the space debris already accumulated, all the satellites going defunct at one time would be an impossible situation. It could also lock human beings in orbit forever. If we wanted any chance of escaping the Earth and establishing humans on a new colony, Caroline would have to do it.
Caroline was at the airfield and looking for Captain Reyes while attempting to be as discreet as possible. This of course was hard to do when you had no idea who you were looking for. She tapped the side of her right eye with her finger and swiped with her eyes through the options until she found the contact for Captain Reyes. Although she was fairly confident in the encryption algorithms she had installed into her Connector device to protect her communication, she certainly didn't trust it to fully protect her and worried that was why Captain Reyes hadn't picked up her calls. Had he been intercepted? Had her dad's intentions been found out? He certainly wasn't as good at hiding his tracks.
She attempted to call Reyes again as she rounded into the hangar; suddenly someone approached her from behind, their form shadowing over her. She jumped and spun around, her hands whipped and pumped into fists.
The man put his hands up innocently. "Caroline?" He said questioningly. He was a tall man dressed in a navy pea coat and dress pants, and his blond hair was cropped in a military cut.
She fixed her Connector on him, ensuring it had a good image to reference. Her Connector flashed information before her eyes, establishing this was indeed Captain Reyes, 29, retired Navy, Contract Pilot. She let out a sigh and held out her hand standing tall. "Yes, nice to meet you Captain."
"You as well, but we better get going. Never know who may be following," he said, turning swiftly away as she followed with quick steps to match his long stride.
As she followed him up the steps of the private jet, she thought her dad must have paid a fortune for this flight. Either that or the Chinese really needed his expertise.
Reyes turned to Caroline as he headed to the cockpit and said, "Sit down and buckle up, no part of this journey is going to be a smooth ride."
Caroline stowed her bag in the back compartment and could feel her stomach wringing in knots. Like most people her age, she only knew about traveling to different countries for pleasure from history books. She, like most, had never been on a plane. She relied instead on Connector and HoloRooms to communicate with her business and social connections around the world and participate in immersive experiences. The need to travel had become as obsolete as it had become impossible. Her pent-up anxiety made her stomach flip even before the plane lurched off the ground.
As the plane took off and Caroline gripped the arm rests tight, breathing deeply to calm herself and trying not to think about everything that could go wrong. Caroline attempted to call her dad while the flight ascended, but his face did not appear, instead asking for her to leave a message. She promptly hung up before doing so, assuming he was busy securing passage on his own flight from DC.
She looked out the window at a breakthrough deorbiting satellite crashing into the ocean. They looked as innocuous as the 'falling stars' that were quoted in old children’s stories. But she knew the amount of pollution and chemicals they released into the atmosphere upon reentry, the amount the satellites had brightened the night sky, and the effect they were having on the Earth's orbit. This present had always been her reality. 'Wishing on a falling star' was never written in her children's stories. Now, when the poles switched, those 'falling stars' would become commonplace and become written into the fall of mankind.
"Caroline, this is the part where the launches become difficult to navigate. I can’t know when they’re coming, and although it’s rare, like you just saw, I won’t know if a satellite is deorbiting. I only get communication last minute if I’m lucky enough to get it at all. I'm not gonna lie to you, our chances between here and Hawaii are not high." Captain Reyes spoke over the intercom interrupting her thoughts.
"What?!" she exclaimed out loud even though he couldn’t hear her in the cockpit. She didn't know the odds were that low. But again, what choice did she have.
The entire plane jolted and rocked. "That was a close one." He said as a streak of light passed a football field length from their small plane, launched from a sea platform into space.
Caroline felt like her stomach was going to evacuate through her throat. She knew it was bad, she knew the management between space traffic and air traffic over the high seas was difficult, but this was a nightmare. This was like playing russian roulette in a tin can and she didn't feel confident that she would survive the outcome.
"We can't wait any longer," the man said to Bill, practically pushing him into the airlock.
Bill kept swiping back and forth with his eyes, attempting to call his daughter Caroline on Connector. There wasn't even any connection to make. The line was dead.
"We can't leave without her, Yan." He looked to the man desperately while other people continued to load the craft around them.
"Technically, we didn't even have a spot for her," said Yan softly. "We’re long past fixing the problem. Space debris is not our concern anymore."
Bill let Yan guide him onto the spacecraft in a daze.
As the final preparations were made, and the launch sequence began, the sequence suddenly shut down.
Yan touched his finger to his eye to ask the engineers if they aborted the sequence only to find that his Connector was silent. The poles had begun their switching. The Event had begun.