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Title: The Luminous Order

The Sun now touched the horizon to the west.  The sparkling Pacific Ocean was calm, the sky clear, and the summer breeze soft and warm.

Tom reached across the table for the bottle of red wine.  “Top up?”

Emily smiled and nodded.  “Just a little.”  She was sitting on the deck, partly reclined, soaking up the last rays of the Sun before it set.  “We should definitely do this more often.”

Tom poured the wine and then looked around at the yacht.  “We could, if this was our boat.  Maybe one day we can afford one, if we work and save like crazy, that is.”

“No need with a filthy rich friend like Anton!”  She held up her glass as if toasting him, and then took a sip.

Tom had to agree.  “He said I could use the Bentley next week.”

Emily eyes widened.  “Awesome!”

“Can’t wait to see the look on Dad’s face when we turn up in that!”

There was a loud whoosh.

Emily jumped, dropping her glass.  “Shit!”  She said, looking down at the wine soaking into her skirt.

There was an almost deafening roar.  The yacht rocked.  Water sprayed across the deck.

Tom gasped and ducked.  He was looking east.  “What the fuck is that?!”

Emily turned.  Something large and white was rising up on a column of fire and smoke.  “Oh my G…”

“Inside.  Now!”

Emily went below deck, pushed by Tom.  He followed close behind and closed the door.  The yacht, still rocking, was enveloped in a thick grey cloud of smoke.

Tom climbed onto the sofa and peered out through a port hole.  The smoke was starting to clear.  “That’s a missile!”

“How?”  Emily said, confused.  The shock of the experience hit her.  She trembled.  “Where did it come from?”

“A submarine, of course.”  Tom said.  He was still looking through the porthole.  I guess it’s a test.”

“Didn’t they see us?  Why do a test right next to us?”

Emily joined Tom at the porthole.  She could clearly see the bright trail of the missile arcing up into the darkening sky.  “It’s heading inland, isn’t it?”

Tom nodded.  “Directly east.  San Diego’s about twenty-five miles away.”  He turned and headed for the door.  “I need a better look.”

“We should stay inside.”  Emily said.  “The smoke…”

“Has gone.”  He said, sliding open the door.  He stepped out onto the deck.  “Come on.” 

The Sun had set, and the sky was a dome of different colours: orange to the west fading through blue to almost black in the east.  There was a faint tang of smoke.  The missile’s trail now stretched far into the distance, made jagged by the varying winds.

Tom stood at the wooden railings at the starboard side of the yacht.  “It must be far over California by now.”

“It looks like it’s going down!”  Emily said standing next to him.  Her voice was shaky.

“Only from our point of view, I expect.”  Tom turned and grinned.  “The Earth is a globe.  The Sun didn’t just sink into the ocean, you know!”

Emily frowned and elbowed him.  “Stop it!  I’m not an idiot.”  She looked back to the now dark sky to the east.  “It’s below the horizon now.”

“Yeah.  It could be over Arizona.”

“No.  That seems too far.  Maybe it’s…”  She gasped.

The horizon directly east had suddenly brightened.  A piercing ball of light rose into view. 

Tom squinted, staring for a moment, before looking away.

Emily looked at him, her face almost ashen.  “What is it?”

“I think that’s San Diego.”  He said.  He looked back at the distant ball of light.  It was dimming, it’s light yellower.  His breathing was faster, noisier.  “It’s been fucking nuked!”

Emily blinked away tears.  “No.  Why would that happen?  Who would do it?  We…”

Tom grabbed her.  “Who cares?  It’s happened!”  He thought quickly.  “We need to get away from here.”  He climbed up the ladder to the bridge and started the engines.

“Where can we go?” Emily asked, following him.

“Somewhere that’s not the USA.”  Tom pointed at the navigation screen.  “Find the nearest island.  We’ll head there.”  He throttled up the engine and turned the yacht west.

Emily shook her head.  “There’s nothing west for hundreds of miles.  And then only Hawaii!”  She pointed.  “North!  There’s San Nicolas Island!  That’s a Navy base, isn’t it?”

“We can’t go there.”

“We’re US citizens.  They’ll help us.”

Tom glared at her.  “They’ll be on high alert.  They’ll probably shoot at any boat that approaches!”  He looked ahead, his face orange in the deepening sunset.  “French Polynesia.”  He turned the yacht southwest.  “That’s the best option.”

Emily looked at the map.  “That’s thousands of miles!  Can this boat go that far?”

“I don’t know!” Tom shouted, angrily.

There was a noise to the south.  They looked.  About fifty metres away something was rising out of the water, matching their speed.  It was dark grey, and looked huge, with what looked like antenna rising out from its top.

“Shit!”  Tom said, pushing the throttle to maximum.  “It must be the submarine that fired the missile.”

The hull of the submarine was now visible, foaming water gushing down its sides.

Emily said nothing.  She simply stared at the submarine as it drew closer, its conning tower now towering above. 

Two men appeared at the top of the tower.  They was dressed in black, one holding a megaphone, the other a rifle.  The one with the megaphone spoke.  “Heave to.  I repeat.  Heave to.  Fail to comply and you will be fired upon.”

The other was now aiming his rifle at them.

“What does that mean?!”  Emily asked.

Tom replied, glaring at her.  “If we don’t stop we’ll be shot, of course!”  He cut the throttle.  The sound of the engine faded.

Emily was shocked.  “You can’t stop!  They might…”

“We have no choice.  We can’t outrun or fight that!”

The submarine was also slowing, and it was now only a couple of metres away.  The man spoke again.  “Ma’am, you will come with us.  Sir, you must stay on your boat.”

“We stay together!” Tom shouted.

“We do not require any more males.  We only require females.”

Emily spoke. She was trembling heavily.  “We’re staying together!”

A hatch on the long surface of the submarine opened and several men climbed out.  A woman followed.  All wore black uniforms, and all but the woman held rifles.  Two of the men quickly unfolded a gangway and connected it with the yacht.  They stepped on board, raising their rifles to point at Tom and Emily. 

The woman then stepped on board.  She looked at Emily.  “If you want to live, or at least live in relative comfort, you must come with us.”

Tears streamed down Emily’s cheeks.  “Just leave us alone.”   She looked at Tom.  “Let’s just go home.”

Before Tom could answer the woman spoke.  She pointed east.  “You have very little to go home to.”

Emily and Tom looked.  There were more flashes of light over the horizon.

The woman continued.  “The attack on the USA, and on Russia and Europe will continue through the night.  China and Japan will follow.  If you come with us you will live, and live well.  If you don’t, you must take your chances in a post-apocalyptic world.”

“Why?”  Tom asked.  He looked bewildered.  “And how can you possibly hope to destroy those countries?  They’ll find you and…”

“They will blame each other, and within days they’ll be launching what they believe are justified retaliatory strikes.”  The woman looked pleased.  “It has all been planned.  The Luminous Order have thought of and accounted for everything to ensure success.”  She smiled, almost sweetly, at Emily.  “Part of our mission is to seek out surviving females of child-bearing age.  You will come with us.  You will be well looked after.”

Emily sobbed, but nodded.

Tom’s eyes widened with disbelief.  “Are you agreeing to go with them?!”

Emily looked at him.  “I must.  It’s the only hope… For our child.”

“What?”

She hugged him.  “I wanted to tell you over dinner tonight.  I’m pregnant.”

“Excellent.”  The woman said.  She turned to the two other men with her.  “Take her below and see that she’s looked after.”

The men nodded and pulled Emily away from Tom.  Tom raised his arm, preparing to strike one of the men.

The barrel of a pistol was resting against his forehead.  The woman spoke.  “Be selfless.  Think of your child.”

Tom glared at her, and lowered his arm.  And then he looked at Emily.  She had already been ushered across the gangway and onto the submarine.

The woman backed away and up onto the gangway.  “You may well survive if you can make it to one of the larger islands out there.  Avoid US territory, though.”  She headed back to the hatch where Emily was being helped down.  “I suggest French Polynesia.”

Two men pulled the gangway back and folded it up.  The submarine was already moving away.  The men followed the woman down into the submarine, closing the hatch behind them.  As soon as the hatch was closed the vessel powered up and cruised away, and then began to submerge.

Within a minute it was gone.

It was quiet; the only sound the lapping of gentle waves against the yacht.

Numb, Tom walked over to the table at the centre of the deck.  Remarkably his glass of wine was still there.  He picked it up and took a sip.  It was a little salty.

He drank it anyway.

 
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