Thar she blows

The numbers on the screen didn’t add up. Not to Josh, anyway. He’d been a private researcher for years and had never seen data like this. Not even when he’d studied Mount Saint Helens’ 1980 eruption.

The small, bespectacled man ran his algorithm once again, hoping that first time was a fluke, a mistake in the coding or maybe a mistype of his own. But no, the data flashed back, exactly the same as the first time.

Josh shook his head. Disbelief warred with worry on his face. He turned to his sleeping companion, hesitant to wake his assistant. Lana had been collecting data all day, running from seismograph to seismograph, fine tuning the expensive equipment scattered around the massive caldera.

The small scientist paced to the end of his research trailer, considering the fantastic situation he found himself in. If his data held true, then the world was in for a hell of a wake-up call. But, if it was a mechanical error, or an operator error, and he sounded the alarm only to have nothing happen, he’d become the laughing stock of the century.

Behind him on the small couch, Lana stirred, her eyes fluttering open. He turned to her, waiting for her flash of awakeness before he asked her to look over the data.

“Hey, boss,” Lana grinned at him. “What’s got you all pace-y and such?”

“I need you to look at something for me,” he replied, no trace of amusement in his voice. “It’s important.”

His raven-haired assistant nodded, her usual playfulness replaced with intent somberness. “Sure thing, Josh. Point me at it.”

Josh led her to his bank of computers, pointing out the concerning data. Lana peered at it for a few seconds, then started typing furiously on the keyboard.

Her boss watched her movements, unwilling to interrupt even though he’d already re-run the mathematical equations. He wanted her to know it wasn’t a problem with the algorithms.

Minutes later, having run the math several times, Lana turned a horrified face to Josh. He nodded at her unspoken question.

“Josh, we have to tell someone. The USGS, the President, someone.” Her voice broke with fear. “Our families. Oh, God, we have to tell our families.”

The small scientist smiled sadly. “Sure, Lana. We will. But, ask yourself honestly, where would they go? Our families, I mean. IF all this,” his sweeping arm took in all the data they’d collected over the past few months, “is true, and it does erupt, where would our families go? Where would we go? It’s a worldwide disaster looming, Lana.”

“NASA?” Her suggestion was whispered.

Josh shook his head. “They can’t do anything. Even with the help of their contractors, they can’t shuttle that many people off the planet in the time we have left. The moon base can’t hold all of us, either. The Mars colony is barely started.”

The volcanologist turned back to his equipment. “No, dear, we won’t save many. Most, even. But you’re right, I do need to tell someone.”

Josh picked up his nearby phone, dialing three numbers. “Sir, I have some bad news… Yes, sir, it’s as we feared. Impending eruption. Yes, sir, Yellowstone Caldera… Yes, sir, world-ending…. Thank you, sir.”

“Time’s up, Lana,” the bespectacled scientist said as the ground tore apart under the research trailer.

 

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