Chapter One: The Principle of Erosion
In later days, when the buildings had been rebuilt and the people who knew the dead were themselves also dead, society was at last able to pause and wonder if there hadn’t been some sort of purpose to the meteor strike. Given the sudden order which followed the disaster, as new growth follows the fiery death of an old forest, it became only natural to question if perhaps the three fiery bolides that destroyed the United States government were not directed by blind chance. Perhaps a benevolent God, or even extraterrestrials, frustrated by humanity’s lack of progress, had understood what would be gained by the destruction and simply… nudged a few rocks out of their natural orbit. Yet we in the future must not judge those who witnessed the absolute devastation of the nation’s Capitol with hopeless despair, for they had as little notion of the grandeur that would follow as a medieval peasant would have had of what had been destroyed.
Whether by divine providence, blind chance, or alien will, on a chilly February morning two years into a disastrous presidential term -85% of all people agreed that all recent presidents were disastrous, but lamented at what could be done when only 85% of the population supported such a notion- a meteor plummeted into the sky over Washington DC, struck the upper atmosphere at several dozen times the speed of sound and broke into three separate pieces. Later, by consensus of the internet, the meteor would be called Columbus. The three resulting bolides would be called la Nina, la Pinta, and la Santa Maria.
The resulting collision was both totally apocalyptic and… oddly specific.
In the immediate aftermath of the impact, it was of course assumed the meteor strike was an attack by an enemy power. Nuclear arsenals were readied for launch yet the destruction of senior leadership was so total that no one could be readily identified with the authority to end human civilization. What were the odds, after all, that a meteor would randomly break into three separate pieces over Washington DC and simultaneously and exclusively destroy the White House, the Senate, the Congress and pretty much all of K Street? -A large field of debris had been thrown into the air by the destruction of the White House and flown in a parabolic arc for several blocks before obliterating K Street. Interestingly, the destruction of K Street was also the first time that K Street was discussed publicly at a national level, as one of the primary purposes of K Street had been to conceal its own existence. It had been quietly understood by all political parties that even the knowledge of a street dedicated to bribing the government would be immensely counterproductive for the lobbying industry- Let alone on the same day that the president and vice president were meeting with fourteen of the fifteen members of the Cabinet?
Even that much was stretching coincidence, but for it to also happen on the same day that the Congress and Senate were in session with record-breaking attendance to pass emergency bathroom legislation? It seemed impossible. -for younger readers, who may be incredulous, you must understand that before the creation of the Forum, and its vast distributed Extelligence, and ability to prioritize initiatives, it is no exaggeration to say that it took the combined effort of almost the entire senior government to determine the logistics of how people should most appropriately use the restroom and that billions of Sapient run-time hours were consumed in trying to answer this question- Not even the aerospace lobby had time to clear the area.
The odds were, ironically, astronomical. Yet in a flash of light and a clap of thunder, almost the entire senior leadership of the United States of America simply evaporated.
Good-looking sociopaths in khaki vests -it was an unspoken cultural norm of this era that whenever a reporter was delivering news from a hazardous area that they should wear a khaki vest- rushed to the scene with cameras and made a fuss of standing in the middle of the street. While they ostensibly endeavored to report the news, mostly by pointing a camera around and saying that everything looked “pretty bad,” -the average reporter on the scene repeated this phrase an average of seventeen times per hour- they mostly managed to get in the way of people who were nowhere near as good-looking, nor sociopathic, but who were actually doing practical things like providing emergency aid.
In the absence of a centralized body to organize the effort, the responders had adapted and created their own supply and escalation chains. The size of the emergency galvanized social media and the efforts of millions of citizens were productively funneled to provide assistance. Ad hoc committees of amateur astronomers armed only with smartphones, and without a single khaki vest to be found, assembled their own broadcasts on streaming services. It was not as perfect as today, for their organizations were entirely improvised, and they had neither Forum nor the Index, but amid the death and despair, in the rubble of their Capitol, for those who had eyes to see, these noble citizens were the first sign of what was to come.
Exactly two hours and forty-nine confused minutes passed this way before the old system began to reassert itself for what no one realized would be the last time.