The Shaking

Seismic terror is about to strike...

Maverick geologist Brian McLean was ridiculed when he warned London and south east England were at imminent risk of suffering a major earthquake. But when the unthinkable happens buildings collapse, power grids crash, transport is gridlocked, and high-tech life grinds to a shuddering halt.

In the stunned aftermath courier Ryan Buckland journeys through a shattered city to be reunited with his family, Deputy Prime Minister Stuart Pullman sees the emergency as his chance to seize power, while nuclear engineer Alan Carter desperately tries to avert a far greater catastrophe. If he fails, destructive aftershocks will be the least of our problems...

A homage to penny dreadful natural disaster potboilers, The Shaking will rock you to your very core!

A 103,000 word novel. Rated PG 16.

0Likes
0Comments
528Views
AA

16. Chapter Sixteen

Dungeness Power Station.

"I'm all right!" said Alan Carter as he brushed away the proffered hand of a concerned technician. In truth he didn't feel OK, having struck the side of his head against the side of the console when the massive jolt threw him sprawling to the floor along with many others, but his giddiness and blurred vision were problems which could be ignored for the moment. What the hell could have happened?

"Turn that bloody klaxon off and give me a sitrep!" He ordered. But none of the staff had any coherent reply to offer, they were all trying to make sense of their radically altered world or pulling themselves back into their chairs as the back-up lights flickered into action."Come on people! Get a grip on it!"

This must be the mother of all incidents he thought as he looked at the display screens; many of them were blank. That shouldn't have happened; nor should the power have gone out completely leaving just the subdued emergency lighting remaining. The complex's contingency generators - eight large diesel engines - should have started automatically by now, yet they had failed to do so.

At last there was relief from the earsplitting noise as the master alarm was silenced. It was patently obvious to everyone there had been a major event, but of what type? The staff had run simulations of course; preparing for the outside chance that extremists might deliberately crash an airliner against the reinforced concrete reactor vessel, or the detonation a nuclear weapon in the area; be it a small terrorist bomb or a deliberately targeted warhead which had been intercepted or missed its aiming point due to a guidance malfunction: The reactor had been designed to survive such eventualities.

For now until the computerised systems restarted the control room operators were operating blind; reliant on the scant information their analogue instruments provided to monitor the condition of the reactors. Alan reached down to pick up a notepad and biro which had been knocked off a desk and onto the floor; he needed to begin a log, writing down the actions they'd taken along with any measurements they recorded so they'd have a baseline of data to work from. He examined the critical systems first: The control rod status matrix remained unlit so there was no way of knowing for certain that the automatic failsafe mechanism had tripped and dropped the rods back into the pile, so damping the reaction. But if the gauges were to be believed at least some activity - more than there ought to be - was continuing, though given the juddering the station had just endured who knew what readings could be relied upon? The first rule in situations such as this was never to take anything for granted; find the truth of the matter out for yourself.

"Where's the bloody power?" he demanded exasperatedly, reaching for one of the walkie-talkies which had been dislodged from their recharging base; maybe someone elsewhere in the complex had an idea what was happening. As if in answer the lights came back on and the computer systems began to reboot. As they did so more of the consoles came back online, but not all of them.

The operators had run through nearly every conceivable emergency scenario in an on-site simulator suite: It was such a routine part of their training they took it for granted and were confident of dealing with any problem in their stride. But nothing in the most outlandish worst-case imaginings had ever resembled the state of the control room readouts at the moment.

With the emergency power restored the displays were flickering wildly and the indicator lights resembled those of a twinkling Christmas tree, the majority of them were warning reds and ambers rather than safe greens. It appeared to Carter only around a half of the control rods had failsafed; the rest were indicated as still being withdrawn to some degree. But all of them should have dropped fully home under gravity to their shutdown positions in the event of power being cut to the electromagnets coupling the rods to their retractor mechanisms, so why hadn't they?

Something might have gone catastrophically wrong inside the reactor, but without accurate readings from sensors he could have coincidence in Alan had no idea what or how badly.
 

Sandbeach Caravan Park.

"How do you feel now?" Sam Bicknall asked as he irrigated Irene Fenning's eyes with bottled water. "Can you see OK?"

"Oh yes." she replied, dabbing carefully at them with an industrial paper hand towel. She blinked again. "That's much better. Thank you dear!"

"How about you George?" Sam asked.

"I'll be all right." he said quietly. Fenning had been treated with the bottle of eyewash contained in the tractor's first aid kit. His eyes were still watering, and he lay propped up on his elbows, looking around in shock at the scene surrounding him. Where the neat rows of park homes had previously stood with their carefully tended flower beds and well varnished wooden decking was now a shambles. Though George and Renie's caravan had been the only one to be completely submerged, many others nearby were in various states of now fortunately arrested subsidence, tilted at drunken angles. Those which were inhabited had their doors flung open; the panic-stricken occupants throwing whatever they could grab into any cars which weren't bogged down prior to evacuating. The Fennings had no such choice; their eyesore pug of a Korean mini-SUV had had fallen victim to the mire as well. All that was left of it above ground was a white coloured rear left quarter cocking a defiant wheel into the air.

As if reading George's mind Sam said. "It must have been some sort of subsidence. I'll try to pull your car free when the ground begins to firm up again, but the chances are it'll be declared a write-off. But before I can get round to that I'll need to check everyone in the park is safe and accounted for. Are you both up to moving? I reckon the best thing to do is to cover you both with a tarp, then drive you in the trailer up to the site office block. You can have a good long shower there, and while you're doing that I'll pick out some clothes for you from the charity bundle we were collecting: Don't worry; they're all perfectly good and clean! Then, once you're clean and dried I can dress your wounds, though I reckon you'd be wise to get a tetanus booster shot from the local A and E; we'll get someone to take you there. Feel free to use the phone and computer in the office to contact your insurance company; we should have a copy of your policy in our files. Laurie will help you out if you get stuck. And if you feel up to eating I'm sure Babs in the social club will sort you out a meal as well as..."

Sam's monologue faltered as he saw the Fennings weren't paying him any attention. Like rabbits frozen into immobility by an approaching car's headlights he noticed they were staring out to sea, speechless and fatalistically absorbed by what they saw in the distance. Now Bicknall understood what it was they were looking at, and he too felt skewered to the spot by fear. But unlike George and Irene he was able to break free from his paralysis. "GET IN THE TRAILER - NOW!" he shouted at them.

Why, he asked as he scurried back behind the tractor's wheel, hadn't he realised what would inevitably follow the earthquake? Why had he turned off the unreliable ignition? he scolded himself as the engine struggled into life. And what hope did he think this ratty old clattering bucket of a machine had of outrunning a fucking tidal wave?
 

Eastbourne.

Miyahira Tsuki heard a loud spine chilling hiss as the tsunami broke over the nearby beach. She knew she didn't act at once it would sweep her, Ishi, and the grandmother they were trying to rescue away. It was far to late to follow the distant scuffling crowd retreating into the town, and they might be doomed anyway if they'd not got far enough away. No, her disaster readiness training instructed; if you couldn't evacuate inland, you must get up and out of the way of the wave.

But where and how? There were no steel framed and reinforced concrete high rises built to earthquake resistant standards here. The highest building nearby which might be at all suitable was a four story hotel - The Seaview - just across the road from them. Under normal circumstances Tsuki wouldn't have dared enter such a risky structure in the aftermath of an earthquake given the fact it had obviously suffered damage in the tremor and the certainty of further aftershocks, but she had no choice; a higher but unsafe building was a better risk than attempting to outrun a tsunami, and to stay here on the street was to die.

"Ishi, let's go!" Almost telepathically the girls picked up Erin between them and ran for the steep flight of stairs climbing from the street up to the hotel's lobby. In the time it took them to struggle their way up the tsunami had all but reached them.

As they pushed the hotels imposing entrance door open a young receptionist was rising from behind the shelter afforded by her desk. "I'm sorry but-" she stopped at the sight of the grey, ankle deep, foaming water which burst in along with the trio.

"We must go up!" shouted Tsuki.

Seeing what was happening the woman helped Tsuki and Ishi carry Erin as best they could up the plush carpeted stairs to the first floor. Out of breath they all paused at the landing.

"Thank God! I think the water's stopped rising!" said the receptionist, looking down at the foyer which had flooded to waist height.

"More waves may come." warned Ishi. "Bigger ones maybe. Everyone must go to the top floor. Do not use the elevator, only the stairs!" Gathering their strength once more the three women helped Erin along while directing the other guests milling around in the corridors to safety on the highest level. From there they could look out of a window onto the street below.

The scene resembled the news reports of distant foreign catastrophes, but this was real and here right now. Rough, tumbling water still flowed inland past the statue set in the centre of Cavendish Place, reaching up to the top of the stone plinth the figure stood upon. A small, frantically yapping black dog was swept past in the swirling current, and then quickly disappeared from view. This close to the beach there was little in the way of debris caught in the surge, but as it made its way further inland the wave would pick up all manner of vehicles and street clutter, transforming the debris into weapons with which to bludgeon the helpless pedestrians caught unaware.

Fortunately Ishi Nakagawa's prediction was proven wrong; there was only the one major tsunami, but it flowed as far into Eastbourne as the Arndale shopping centre, causing much damage and many casualties as it progressed. When the waters finally drained away leaving a mud slicked, litter strewn, tangled streetscape behind them the bodies of thirty-nine drowned people were discovered by the ad-hoc rescue services. Given the circumstances it was a remarkably low number; one which might have been far higher had it not been for the actions of the two students who were even at that moment busy instructing the stranded guests in the Seaview Hotel on the best ways to store the drinking water and improvise the emergency toilets they would undoubtedly need in the immediate future.

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...