ADVENT - Sample Chapter ... more



30

RECLAIMED LAND IN CHANGI, SINGAPORE. NOVEMBER 22, 2230 HOURS.

The internal timer on the main control panel counted down the seconds to zero. A simple beep was the only sound it made as a mere nine volts of electricity were released and coursed down the firing circuit to ignite the 32 electronic detonators -- one imbedded in each of the shaped SEMTEX 10 explosive charges surrounding the plutonium core.

The core’s thick titanium shell contained the initial blast from the high-grade explosives and directed the force inwards causing an immense implosion of the plutonium sphere inside. The shockwave squeezed and fused the 11.3 kilograms of highly-enriched plutonium into a white-hot mass about a third of its original size. The weapon’s nuclear core had just gone supercritical.

It remained in this state for less than one microsecond longer as the temperature inside rose instantly to 10,000,000° Celsius -- hotter than the surface of the sun. At the same time, the super-dense core was bombarded by a flood of neutrons initiating an unstoppable nuclear chain reaction. The increased pressure building up within the hardened titanium shell of the weapon triggered an instant and massive release of raw explosive energy.

The first indication of the nuclear blast was an intense burst of both gamma rays and X-rays followed by massive neutron radiation escaping from the core. The titanium shell, unable to contain the colossal pressure building up inside, blew itself apart. The gamma rays ionised the atmosphere around the device generating the blinding flash of pure white light. And for a few seconds, just as Saif had predicted, the mighty Saif al-Haidar shone brighter than an exploding star.

At that point of detonation, the entire warhead assembly along with all matter within a radius of 600 metres was simply vaporised. The energy then radiated outwards in an expanding shockwave of total and complete annihilation.

It took only two seconds for the giant mushroom fireball to reach 600 metres into the night sky. In ten seconds, the shockwave with its gale-force winds had already travelled over four kilometres destroying everything in its path. The massacre had begun.


Vice Admiral Forrestal was on the bridge of his carrier waiting for the final reports on the repairs to come in when he was struck by the blinding flash to his left just beyond the treeline in the distance. Instinctively he covered his eyes and turned away as the shockwave tossed him into the air. Being just 700 metres away from Ground Zero, the mighty George Washington together with the rest of its fleet did not stand a chance.

The rolling wave of superheated air slammed broadside into the aircraft carrier blasting it apart. Only small chunks of twisted and melting steel remained scattered over a wide area. It was much the same fate that befell the rest of the American task force and another eighteen Singapore navy warships including two of its highly-prized diesel submarines anchored at the base.

The surface pressure of the shockwave pushed the sea back for almost 800 metres. But within minutes, the waters returned with a vengeance in a tsunami twenty metres high. The crashing wave smothered what was left of the Changi Naval Base before pressing its destructive power further inland.

Two kilometres away from the epicentre, Changi Airport was not spared as the shockwave flipped over airplanes waiting on the tarmac. The intense heat caused two of the three packed airport passenger terminals to spontaneously combust dooming those inside to a fiery death.

Within seconds of the nuclear explosion, five civilian passenger jets on their final approach to the airport began falling out of the sky like giant dead birds as the invisible gamma rays destroyed their flight control systems.

Changi General Hospital, the closest medical facility to Ground Zero was totally decimated along with many factories in Singapore’s eastern industrial sector.

The nuclear inferno also laid waste to several key military bases including a number of infantry brigades, Singapore’s elite commando battalion and two air force bases located on either side of Changi Airport. These housed the 145 Squadron which operated the country’s frontline F-16D Fighting Falcons attack jets.


By military standards, this nuclear explosion was a relatively small one, estimated at about 27 kilotons -- just slightly larger than the blast of ‘Fat Man’ -- the atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki in 1945 which had an explosive yield of some 21 kilotons.

But as this had been a surface detonation, unlike the atomic blasts in Japan which were triggered in mid-air, about a third of the blast wave and the radiation it expelled was directed towards the ground, excavating a crater nearly 130 metres deep.

The thermal shockwave registered as a moderate 6.4 earthquake on the Richter Magnitude Scale, leveling buildings and rupturing underground gas mains, power cables and water pipes.

Ground Zero had been plunged into an unholy darkness illuminated only by the numerous fires and the towering mushroom cloud still growing in the night sky.

Major arterial expressways in the kill zone were demolished as the shockwave continued to radiate outwards.

Minutes earlier, handcuffed in the backseat of the police car, Saif’s eyes had been fixed on the small digital clock on the dashboard which read 10:28pm. They were still driving along the East Coast Parkway and were just 10 minutes away from the bright city lights in the distance.

If they had another five minutes, perhaps they could outrun the shockwave but Saif knew there would be no escape. In his mind, he felt that it was better to die this way, to end his life by his own hands. His conscience was clear as he muttered a short prayer pleading for divine mercy for his soul. He knew his family would be waiting for him on the other side in Paradise and this thought comforted him in his final moments.

The clock now read 10:29pm. Turning to his captors he said: “It is too late now my friends. Pray for your souls and for your families. We were all good soldiers. We did what we had to do but our fight is done. It is finished.”

The two escorting officers simply ignored him as the clock on the dashboard ran down the final seconds to 10.30pm.

Saif struggled to turn around in his seat as he wanted to see it for himself. And through the rear windscreen, he caught just a fleeting glimpse.

The star that he had created had exploded in a heavenly light beyond all mortal description. For him the very gates of heaven had just opened, welcoming home its faithful son. It was the last thing he ever saw as the light seared his retinas leaving him blind. He did not feel the shockwave flipping over his vehicle nor the roaring fires from hell which consumed what was left of it. He was at peace with his maker, ready for the final judgement of his earthly deeds.


The rolling shockwave took out the island’s eastern housing estates of Bedok, Tampines and Marine Parade, home to some 700,000 people.

Most of the victims had been home in their high-rise apartments when the weapon detonated. Their towering blocks, built so close together in land-scarce Singapore, fell like giant stack of playing cards pushed by the unseen hand of the shockwave.

In just minutes, these bustling suburban towns were reduced to a desolate and burning wasteland.
For most, the hand of death came swiftly in the fiery wind. The few who stubbornly clung on to life suffered massive third degree burns as the air around them was spontaneously set alight by the intense heat of the nuclear firestorm that swept over them.

They lay crushed and abandoned under the debris of their once proud and expensive homes, now reduced to melting concrete. Some survivors buried deep underground would linger on in limbo for minutes. The less fortunate would survive perhaps just a few more hours far beyond the pain threshold of consciousness. But for all of them, death was simply inevitable.

A few more who were caught in the open and were somehow unlucky enough to still be alive, were blinded by the piercing flash of the explosion and left deaf by the intense pressure of the shockwave which ruptured their ear-drums. These pitiful few would stagger on like zombies -- blind and deaf, impaled by shards of falling glass and stoned by debris raining down from the buildings crumbling around them. There would be no one to hear their screams for help. It had only been less than five minutes since the explosion but already for all of them, it was much too late. Still the nuclear nightmare was only just beginning.

In ten minutes, the ugly red mushroom cloud had reached its peak of 21,000 metres. And soon Singaporeans would experience their first snowfall of sorts in history.

As the hot materials in the cloud cooled and condensed, highly radioactive fallout in the form of dirty ash-laden specks of ice began to drift down across the island.

In the first seconds since the nuclear detonation, an estimated 50,000 people had perished. Thousands more lingered close to death, soon to be entombed in a thick suffocating blanket of radioactive ash.
Beyond the 10-kilometre hot zone, the slaughter of the innocents continued. Hundreds of people were trapped in their vehicles when the EMPs caused the engines to quit. They faced the dilemma of staying in their cars and buses which provided a limited amount of protection or to run for better shelter in a nearby building amidst the heavy ash fallout which was beginning to cover their vehicles.

Even those further from the blast zone would not be spared from the effects of the invisible radiation. The stronger ones may survive a few more weeks as their withered bodies slowly shut down. The radiation would destroy their cells, making it impossible for them to replenish the blood and fluids they had lost. Their stomach linings would be devastated, causing massive internal bleeding and severe diarrhoea. They would slowly waste away, praying for the warm comfort of eternal sleep.


Amidst the utter carnage, one building on the outer fringe of the death zone remained standing, virtually unscathed. The thick stone walls built nearly two hundred years ago had protected her from the gale-force winds and the fires of the nuclear abyss.

Slowly the lone priest emerged from his spartan room at the rear of the church, close to the Hall of Repose where wakes for the dead were held.

Dazed, he shuffled barefooted into the courtyard of the old church. Father Michel Bata stared unbelievingly at the scene before him. The night sky glowed an angry red and the air was thick and burning hot.

Once surrounded by tall buildings, many now lay broken in ugly heaps of smouldering rubble as if they had been sliced in two by Death’s giant scythe.

Coughing violently from the hot falling ash, he spat out thick globs of blood as he felt a burning sensation grip his lungs. His old brain simply could not process what had just happened. It was a scene from hell, of this he was sure. The priest crossed himself praying aloud for strength amidst the utter silence that engulfed him. And then it dawned on him -- he had one more mission to accomplish.
Stumbling along, he dragged his weary body forward towards the tower. He could barely see now as the falling ash grew thicker but still his weathered hands knew the old stone walls well.

It took him fifteen long and painful minutes to get to where he needed to be. Groping in the near darkness, he reached for the thick ropes and began pulling as hard as he could, just as he had done each day at noon to summon the faithful.

Cursing the slowness of his dying body, he finally heard the sacred brass bells toll their hollow peal. For all those who were still alive and who could still hear, the Cathedral of Saint Joseph which had survived two world wars offered a glimpse of hope and refuge for the people of this crippled nation. The heavy wooden doors of the old church would once again remain open to anyone who needed her help and the shelter of her mighty walls.