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The beginning of the world is nigh…
A virgin landmass is ‘extruded’ into the Bay of Biscay by a solar-tidal magmatic pulse. Waiting to claim the emerging island are 80 people in a flotilla of trussed up barges with supplies to last a year.
Who are these accidental tourists?
How did they know the island would be surfacing?
And what do they plan to do with it if their claim to sovereignty is accepted by the world community?
Racy and thought-provoking, The O.D. paints a picture of how humanity’s rush to self-destruction could be halted, given the global will to take a colossal leap… backwards.
‘Science fiction for today – an intelligent, timely and highly readable story, well told.’
- Karen L. Zimmerman
‘Chris James writes a compelling story combining politics, science, wit and wisdom. The plot is original, well researched and will be remembered every time you hear the news.’
- Shirley Tobolowsky
‘I thought this book was beautifully written and thought provoking. It is not science fiction, so I understand the disappointment of those sci-fi reviewers who gripe that it was different from their usual fare. It is set in the future (slightly, I believe) and does carry a strong message about living well with the planet and all of its inhabitants; but I did not find it preachy. I do think it's a little haunting; as in reading the news since I finished the book, I find myself thinking "Damn! Chris James was right!”’
CHAPTER ONE (part)
May Day. Penwith, Cornwall. Black sky afternoon. A lone jackdaw battled the wind overhead, while a lanky figure on a bicycle did the same under Rosewall Hill.
Neither bike nor rider was well put together. The cycle jangled over the road’s rough surface like a tambourine in a tumble dryer. The long body of the rider was stooped at the spine and punctuated at the head by a prominent nose. With the wind hitting him from the side, it was all the cyclist could do to stay upright.
Lonnie Pilot, twenty-five years old and prematurely grey, had just spent three hours in the library reading The History of Human Migration. Every day, he would take to the hills to digest his morning’s intake and burn off nervous energy.
As Pilot pedalled south towards Nancledra, a grey 4 x 4 joined him at Cold Harbour and fell in behind. He moved to his left to allow the vehicle to pass, but as it came alongside, it slowed. Pilot looked over at the driver, then wobbled as his front wheel hit a stone. He dismounted. The car stopped and an electric window whirred down. “Lonnie Pilot.” The wind almost blew away the driver’s words. He held out a business card. Pilot squinted to read it.
Institute for Geophysical Projections
“Your grandfather and I were friends and work colleagues and I need to talk to you. Please get in the car. It’s a job offer, Lonnie. Put your bike in the back and I’ll explain.”
Pilot peered in at the driver as he weighed the man’s words. It was the reference to his grandfather, not the employment bone he had been thrown, that caught his interest. He didn’t remember much about his paternal grandfather, only that he had been an oceanographer at the Hydrographic Office in Bath. Pilot had come across the IGP more than once in his studies, and the fact that his grandfather and the man in the car once worked together was good enough for him. He lifted his bike into the boot as invited, got in the car, and sized up his host. The way the man was folded into his seat with knees sticking up at an acute angle said tall. The parchment skin and snow-white hair said old. The accent said American. Forrest Vaalon put the car in gear and drove off at a speed Pilot thought inappropriate for Cornish back roads.
“Before he got sick, “ Vaalon began, “during his last year at the Hydrographic Office, your grandfather helped us research a particular theory we were developing. In our downtime, we’d talk about our families. What he said about you stayed with me. But it wasn’t until eight years ago that something happened to bring you back into the frame. I’ve been keeping tabs on you ever since.”
Pilot wondered what had been so interesting to have required ongoing espionage. “You’ve been spying on me since I was seventeen?”
Vaalon reduced speed. “I never thought of it as spying,” he said. “More like monitoring − with a view to mentoring. I’ll explain when we stop.” Pilot watched the stone walls and Butcher’s Broom flying past his window, then glanced again at the driver, trying to make sense of the strange scenario in which he found himself.
“What can you tell me about solar tides?” Vaalon asked.
Pilot drew a blank. “Solar tides? I know solar winds and solar flares, but tides?” Pilot closed his eyes and sat in silence around two bends in the road, rifling through his stored memory before recovering the answer. “About two years ago Science magazine published an article by the IGP on solar magnetics.”
Travelling in a strange person’s car was not conducive to easy recall for Lonnie Pilot. “The gist of their… your theory will come to me in a minute.”
Vaalon smiled, but gave no prompts. Soon, pieces of the article came out of the shadows into Pilot’s working memory. “The title of your thesis was Solar Tides and Magma Displacement,” he said.
“Solar Tides and Magmatic Attraction. Near enough.”
“You believe that the Sun has a heartbeat – a regular pulse of magnetism capable of moving the Earth’s magma.”
“Well retrieved, Lonnie. Sixteen years ago your grandfather researched the properties of the Earth’s crust as a sub-strand to our main premise. But it was another fourteen years before the final pieces came together and we were able to publish.” Pilot’s eyes widened at this piece of family history that had been unknown to him. “Next pub, we’ll stop.”
When they parked up at The Engine Inn, Vaalon took a briefcase from the back seat and led Pilot into the pub. “Mine’s an orange juice,” he said, pressing a ten pound note into Pilot’s hand. “Have whatever you want, Lonnie.”
“What’s this job offer of yours, Mr. Vaalon?” Pilot asked, setting the drinks on the table a few minutes later.
“Call me Forrest. I’ll come to the job in a minute. Explain the Sun to me first.”
“Explain the Sun?”
“Yes. The way you’d explain it to one of your pupils.”
Pilot felt uncomfortable being put on the spot by a man with such lofty scientific credentials, but rose to the challenge. “Okay. It’s mostly hydrogen… some helium. Hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields. It radiates charged particles across the Solar System − solar wind. The Sun rotates faster at its equator than at its poles and this causes the Sun’s magnetic field lines to twist together, creating magnetic field loops that erupt from the Sun’s surface. Solar flares and sunspots are caused by the Sun’s strong magnetic field, which −”
“Do you know what the Thompson spiral is?” Vaalon asked.
“The Thompson spiral? No. Is it like the Parker spiral?”
“Similar. But this one occurs when the sun’s rotation twists the magnetic field of the heliospheric sheet into overlapping knots of nuclear ferment – the Thompson spiral, named after the man who discovered it. Edgar Thompson used to work for me. And towards the end of his life, his work led him from the heliosphere down into the very core of the Sun itself, and to his theory of Solar Tides.” Pilot sat froz