Five years and six months ago, the world had Changed. Whether it was for better or for worse hadnt been decided yet.
No-one was entirely clear on what had happened. The facts of the case were pretty obvious, but they left so many gaps that people couldnt help but speculate.
Early on a sunny, crisp November morning five years and six months ago, six black speedboats were spotted running up the river toward the university, flying at full tilt. Eyewitnesses, mostly students on their way to class, reported seeing four men dressed in black leap out of each boat at about 9:05 AM and race silently across the street, up the middle of the practice field through some very confused soccer players, and disappear into the intramural sports building behind it. Reports differed, but the men were visibly armed, and most accounts described the weapons as AK-47s.
Dozens of calls were phoned to 911. A dozen police cars arrived rapidly and surrounded the building. The campus was locked down. Attempts to call people inside the sports building yielded no responses.
Ten minutes after the police arrived, the building exploded.
The bang came from the southeast corner, either on the ground floor or in the basement, and most of the police later described it as having probably been a few pounds of explosive being set off. The fire department was called as flames started to lick at the old buildings ivy-coated walls.
A burst of shots was fired from somewhere inside the building. The police leapt into action and trained their rifles on every window. A second burst was fired.
Another smaller explosion was heard, and it sounded to the witnesses less like a bomb and more like a water pipe bursting.
The fire department arrived at 9:43 AM, and at nearly the same time, so did members of the National Guard and FBI. This was starting to look like a terrorist incident, and the scene had to be controlled.
Many people later speculated that if the FBIs men had spent less time arguing with the fire department officials and police about jurisdiction, the incident might never have happened. The fire department might have been able to put out the fire. The police might have been able to well, that was all history now. Argue or not, it was what it was.
On a crisp Tuesday morning in November one hundred thirty miles away, Caitlyn Camberley was walking between classes when she heard students shouting and saw them run toward the commons. She followed them inside and pressed her way through the throng that had surrounded the large-screen TVs.
...at this time whether this was a terrorist attack or merely an accident, but the flames are growing rapidly. DHS has issued a security alert for the city of Philadelphia. If youre just joining us, youre looking at live footage of the university
Caitlyn didnt hear the rest of the sentence as an elbow struck her head. Its owner, a bulky lacrosse player, apologized, and moved out of the way so she could get closer.
have attempted to contact whoevers inside, and, oh, God, look at that, oh, man, the north end of the building just collapsed, apparently the fires weakening the building pretty badly. Were getting word that on a typical day there are two or three hundred people in there, and theres no telling how many people are in there right now.
Were switching to our helicopter feed now, Jerry, do you have that? People have suddenly started swarming from the building, theyre coming out every door everywhere except the north end, and holy hell, what the f what was that!? Jerry? Jerry? Are you alright?
The picture would stick in Caitlyns mind for the rest of her life. It had been replayed on television a thousand times, of course, but she didnt need to see it a thousand times to be able to see it a thousand times.
At 9:56 AM, a sudden shock-wave burst out from the building, knocking to the ground the escaping throngs, police officers, firefighters, FBI officials, and slack-jawed gawkers alike. Seconds later, the building seemed to suddenly shrink and darken for a moment, and then a huge wash of rolling blue-tinged light burst from it. The helicopter stuttered at the first shock-wave, and then lost control as the blue light swept over it. Swirling, swirling, round and round, the camera and helicopter plummeted into the burning building, and then the picture showed white static.
The director quickly cut to the news man, who looked visibly pale. We... weve lost our signal with our chopper at the scene... were going to try to reestablish our link with another camera on-scene, if youll give us just a moment
The picture cut to another helicopter flying out over New Jersey. The city lay in the foreground. There was a blue bubble surrounding the university in the background, and as they watched, the bubble expanded, more and more rapidly, until it had consumed the entire city. Another camera went to static.
Caitlyn swallowed hard. Another girl in the audience started crying.
The television had switched to the news man, who had begun reiterating the story for those who are just joining us.
Caitlyn shook her head. Had Philadelphia just been nuked?
Without warning, the entire room darkened a moment and then was dimly lit in an eerie bluish glow. All at once, the commons building shook as it was struck by a wave of brilliant blue light, and most of the students fell over.
Caitlyn sat up slowly and looked at her hand. There was glowing, a shimmering blue light that seemed to dance on her fingertips as she moved her hand this way and that, a ghostly blue that seemed to have a life of its own. But it wasnt just her hand; her whole body was glowing and then she realized everything around her was too. The other students stood up, mesmerized by the brilliance in the room, and began wandering about in a daze. No-one had even noticed that the television man had stopped talking.
An hour later, the blue glow had subsided, and the room had returned to its normal colors. Students had collected throughout the room in hushed groups, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Some just sat quietly, waiting for an answer, or waiting for the end of the world. The television flickered back to life from the static it had been displaying, and a student quickly turned up the volume.
youre seeing us, said the news man, that means were back on the air after an incident that well, is beyond description. Reports are coming in that the strange phenomenon that started in Philadelphia has spread all across the world, so youve probably seen the strange blue light yourself. There is no word yet as to what it is or what caused it, as it does not seem to have caused significant damage outside of the Philly area. Were going to switch now to a live camera
It was about this point that Caitlyn stopped paying attention. The blond-haired girl sitting next to her shrieked. Sticking out from her skirt was a long, reddish-brown, scaley snake tail, and not a hint of the shapely legs that had been there a few minutes before.
The Change had begun, and while the blond-haired girl would be one of the first affected, she would be far from the last.