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CHAOS BEGINS

Chapter 2

Alex

Alex looked through the glass wall in his office toward the reception area. The power had just gone out, but sunlight from the glass doors at the entrance to the small building let in enough light for him to see that his co-workers were beginning to gather in the small foyer. He stood from his desk and joined them.

“Wonder how long it will be out,” someone said.

“Probably not long,” Greg said. 

Alex hoped he was right. He had a lot of work to do. As a product development engineer for a laser company, he kept extremely busy. He wondered if the power was out at Melissa’s office. Her building was in downtown Salt Lake, several miles north of where he was. It seemed unlikely they would both have a power outage at the same time. Not on such a clear spring day. Still, he wanted to ask her. He took his phone out of the pocket of his dark gray slacks and tilted it up like he always did to wake it, but the screen remained black. He pressed the power button. Nothing happened.

“That’s weird,” he murmured. No one heard him over their own conversation. He pressed the buttons to turn the phone off, waited several seconds, then long-pressed the power button to turn it back on. Nothing. Last time he’d checked, his battery had been nearly full. He looked at the people around him who were busy chatting and joking. “My phone won’t turn on,” he said.

Greg shifted his eyes to Alex. “Battery’s probably dead.”

“I don’t think that’s it.” Although he didn’t want to consider what it might actually be. “Does yours work?” He fervently hoped it would.

Greg pulled his phone out of his pocket and tapped the screen. Nothing happened. He pressed the power button. Still nothing. “Huh.”

This got everyone else trying. Not a single phone worked.

Oh crap, he thought as mounting dread swept over him.

It was becoming increasingly clear that Alex’s worse fear was being realized. And he had no way to get in contact with Melissa who would have been affected as well. Did she realize it was an EMP? If so, what would she do? Should he go to her office? Should he go home where the kids would, hopefully, be safely waiting? 

Slight panic began to build inside him. He needed to protect his family. That was the kind of thing he did. But how could he when he was miles away from them and completely unsure what they were all doing in this situation? Because he knew if this was an EMP, cell phones and electricity wouldn’t be the only things that had stopped working. Most cars wouldn’t run either. At least that had always been the theory. But theories were sometimes wrong. Often wrong, in fact.

Fresh hope surged inside him. Not waiting to see what anyone else’s theory might be, he walked away from the group and toward the glass doors. He stopped in front of them, waiting for them to automatically slide open like they usually did. They stayed in place.

Duh. The power was out. They wouldn’t open without power. Annoyed with himself for not thinking straight, he strode back through the main space and down a short hallway toward the side door exit. It was extremely dark in the hallway, but he knew his way and had no trouble reaching the exit. He pushed the door open. Sunlight streamed through the doorway. He squeezed his eyes closed against the sudden brightness, then walked out into the parking lot, going straight to his truck. He took his keys out of his pocket and pressed the unlock button on his key fob then grabbed the handle on the driver’s door. It was still locked. The key fob hadn’t worked. Not a good sign. Going old school, he inserted his key into the lock and turned it, then opened the door. He slid inside, then jammed his key into the ignition, a sliver of hope dancing inside him. He turned the key to start his truck. Nothing. Not even a click. Swearing quietly, he tried again. Then, once more. It was dead. Completely and utterly dead.

He lifted his gaze to see that his co-workers had all flooded out of the building. They were going to their cars as well. These were not stupid people. They had obviously figured out the same thing Alex had. Somehow, an EMP had taken out the power grid and everything else that ran on computer chips. Which was just about everything in today’s world.

Concern growing, Alex got out of his truck and looked around, hopeful that someone’s car would be old enough to be immune.

The sound of an engine starting reached his ears. Heart stuttering, he spun around. Colton’s classic Mustang had started right up.

Yes!

Alex hurried over to him, as did everyone else whose cars were now nothing but huge chunks of metal. About fifteen people now surrounded Colton’s Mustang, all wearing smiles of relief.

“Can I get a lift?” someone asked.

“Me too,” another person said.

“Same here,” a third person said.

“I can only fit three people,” Colton said, his expression apologetic. “Four, if we really cram in. I live in Ogden. Who else lives that way?”

Ogden was in the opposite direction of Alex’s house. Like, an hour away from Alex and Melissa’s house. And that was in normal traffic. If this was an EMP, the Interstate would be clogged with stalled cars, which meant getting home from Ogden could take hours.

Then again, walking would take a heck of a lot longer than that. 

Maybe Alex could get Colten to drop him off at Melissa’s office. At least that way he could protect her as she headed home. But what if she managed to get a ride from someone at her work? Someone who had a car that was functional? That would put him that much farther from home.

Still, it was worth a try.

Alex opened his mouth to make his suggestion, but four people who either lived in Ogden or on the way there were already climbing into Colton’s Mustang. And two other people were getting angry that there wasn’t room for them.

Crap! Alex thought as he shook his head in frustration. Now what?