The Beginning of the End
Garry Johnson was officially a United States Department of Agriculture inspector whose job description included spot inspections at any food service facility in the Country, in reality he performed inventory and quality control inspections at the vast underground food storage facilities strategically located at the most geologically stable locations across the continent. His access point today was a local box store in Greensboro, North Carolina. After flashing his credentials and making a show of looking over the fresh food section he entered the dry goods storage area and disappeared.
There was a closely held secret that few knew about and that was hidden in plain sight. Every big box store in America, and around the world, had both a secret walk in and a drive in entrance to an elaborate and complex system of underground tunnels that interconnected all of the major cities on every continent. Today storage room 9861 was due it's final inspection before being sealed shut until such time that it was needed. The tunnel that Garry had entered through the secret passageway was big enough for two electric trams to pass each other and still have room enough on each side for an elevated sidewalk. Taking one of the Segway's that was plugged into a charger against the wall Garry began to wiz along the sidewalk at a good pace passing several empty or partially filled storerooms along the way. As he pulled up to 9861 he felt pain in the soft tissue between his ring finger and the middle finger on his left hand. The black ant looked like a tiny ball between his fingers with a couple of hairs protruding out. Rubbing and crushing the ant with the thumb of his other hand Gary winced at the now discolored splotch of skin with a tiny red dot in the middle where the stinger had sunk home. Holding his hand and cursing under his breath Garry went about his task for the day.
On the other side of the Country in a remote area of New Mexico Jenny Silva was out hiking and exploring with her Jack Russel Terrier Trigger. It was warm and dry and the terrain was very rough and rocky. They were climbing a small hill with Trigger dashing ahead and checking the path for both danger and adventure. Jenny was a gem hunter and amateur rock hound so she made frequent stops to turn over stones or investigate objects that at a glace looked out of place. At first Trigger's barks seemed normal, he barked, and he barked a lot! When entertaining company at home the barking could really get annoying and Trigger often had to be sentenced to time out in a back room. But out on a trail like today the barking was actually very comforting to Jen and it made keeping up with Trigger somewhat easy and so most of the time he got to run free. But now suddenly the barking became more muffled she stood up and started calling him. The sudden scream of pain from the animal sent a chill down her spine, Jen dropped the stone she had been examining and ran up the hill toward the sound, which had now stopped abruptly.
Looking around Jen called frantically for the dog, but all had become still and quiet. Scanning the terrain as she walked Jen made out a darker patch along a rocky ledge. It was a steep slope to reach the area and dog tracks were clearly visible in the fresh dirt scattered all around the slope. Moving closer Jen could see that the fresh dirt piled up around a hole about thee foot wide near the base of the ledge. Digging car keys out of her fanny pack she peered into the hole using the small LED light she used to locate keyholes with in the dark. But the bright sunlight at the entrance meant that the tiny light was never going to penetrate the darkness of that hole unless she got down on her belly and stuck her head along with the hand holding the light inside. Trigger, she called. Trigger are you in there? She thought she heard a scrapping sound but it was just a whisper. She thought about Trigger in there hurt, maybe even snake bit. Snakes! What if there was a snake in there, she shuddered? Well, she decided, I'll just look in the entrance and if he is not there then I will just have to go for help.
Looking inside the hole jen saw that just beyond her hand the hole turned slightly and seemed to open up into a larger cavern. A cave she thought? A little excited about the prospect but worried that the dog might have dropped off of a steep ledge in the dark Jen moved a little deeper into the opening. She was thinking about Trigger and not about what might have created the whole and all of the fresh dug earth along the hillside, had she considered the danger she might have avoided what happened next. Jen's outstretched arm simply disappeared in an instant, the end came too fast for her to fully understand what was even happening. The mass of small insects had covered her face and were stinging her eyes and the back of her throat even as larger mandibles took hold of her hand and arm and began dragging her body deeper into the cavern. She was kicking and screaming for a few moments, but little sound was making it past her mouth writhing with stinging insects and teeth grinding in final stages of agony. In a few days the young woman's vehicle would be found abandoned but there would be no sign of her body or of her dog. If she had been discovered there would have been little remaining that could have identified her. The ants had since completely filled the entrance to prevent any other intrusions, the keys lay in the dust just inside like a tribute to mark the site of the first human taken in the harvest.
At the United States Geological Studies headquarters a situation room had been established years before as part of the World Plan for the Preservation of Civilization. The goal of the WPPC was to give world leaders enough warning so that an orderly evacuation of chosen individuals could be conducted as soon as confirmation of the beginning of the extinction event was received. The plan had five major aspects the largest of which was the land solution. Massive underground cities had been built near every existing major above ground city, all of these underground cities were connected by a series of tunnels and each were individually stocked with enough food, tools and supplies to restore civilization in the event that the cyclical catastrophic earth disaster did in fact actually occur as expected. Any increase in seismic activity above the usual background activity raised the alert level. There were also government agencies watching the worlds oceans for changes, satellites kept track of earth magnetic fields, the Sun, and changes happening in space and on the other planets. Storm trackers watched shifting jet streams and weather patterns while an army of wildlife experts tracked changes in the animal kingdom. Anything that could be tracked for changes was being watched, if the event started then an alert would sound across the globe and this gigantic and costly plan for survival they called WPPC would be initiated.
Besides the Underground project that served as the land point of the five point plan, there were also specially designed ships that represented the Waterborne plan, nuclear powered planes that could fly for years without refueling constituted the airborne aspect, and rockets that would take pods up to several secretly built space stations would serve as the space portion of the plan. Years of planning had went into this project and examples from all people groups had been specially chosen to survive the end of the world if it came to pass. As much as possible, domesticated animals and lifeforms critical to the survival of mankind were also included along with thousands of varieties of seeds. But it was reasoned by the elite think tanks around the world that most living creatures would find some way to survive. After all, if this event had happened multiple times in the past then there had to have been survivors or the planet would have died. So the assumption was made that there would be survivors, including human survivors, even without taking any extraordinary precautions ahead of time. The object of the WPPC was not just to survive, but to not be sent back into the stone age with only a random chance for survival.
Recent earthquake and volcanic activity had increased the alert level from yellow to orange in the last few days. Ice melts, energetic particle blasts from the sun, ocean currents changing dramatically, and super cell storms popping up from nowhere had also added to the rising alert levels. There had been mysterious animal and bird die offs, and now the numbers of wild animals being observed in the various preserves had started to diminish. Monkeys, cats, and even elephants had just started to come up missing. Ranchers were reporting the disappearance of cattle and horses off of open ranges, along with jack rabbits and sage hens that were usually plentiful. There had been plagues of mice in cities also, but they were not the normal varieties. Officials were confused to see hundreds of field mice and other little seen rodent varieties moving into local neighborhoods and menacing people inside their homes. Something was obviously changing now, and the world was just one step away from hitting the panic button and initiating the long awaited WPPC plan to be put into motion.