Chapter 1

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The start of the end of the world should be a pretty hard thing to miss.  But in a peaceful Australian paddock, under a moonlit sky, four friends on a camping trip were giving it their best shot.

Two tents were pitched side by side.  From one came the sound of static.

Her expression tired but resigned, Cora rolled over and regarded the other occupant of her tent.  "Max, I'm trying to sleep."

"Sorry, won't be long.  I just need to check the cricket score and I can't get a signal on my phone."  Max took his cricket very seriously.

Cora could probably have cared less about cricket, but only with a significant effort.   Sleep, on the other hand, was something she currently felt very strongly about.  "One minute," she muttered, pulling her sleeping-bag over her head.  "If you're going to drag me out here to the middle of nowhere, and make me fish all day, then the least you can do is not keep me awake all night."

"It's weird," said Max, frowning as he delicately adjusted a dial.  "Every time I find a station it keeps fading away."  Reception in their isolated location was invariably poor, but usually provided at least a couple of stations.  And this being Australia, there was generally somebody talking about the cricket.

The radio crackled and hissed and then, out of the static, a voice emerged.  "—defence forces have been overwhelmed.  Parliament house has been destroyed and the prime minister is unaccounted for.  Attacks have also been reported in Washington, London, Paris, Beijing and—"  The voice faded and disappeared back into white noise.

Wide-eyed, Cora's head re-emerged from the sleeping-bag.  "Can you get that station back?"

"I'm trying."

A different voice cut through the static.   "—know where they came from!  Big boxes just floating in the sky and then these things starting coming out and shooting—"  Once again, the voice died away.

Cora sat up and hugged her knees to her chest.   "What on Earth is going on?"

"Don't know, but it sure as hell doesn't sound good."  Max hunted for another station, but when his continued efforts were in vain, he gave up and switched the radio off.  "I'm going to wake up Cam and Mel.  Maybe their radio can get a decent signal."

Unzipping the entrance to the tent, Max stepped outside, but when Cora tried to follow, she found her way blocked by his legs.

"Hey, move it."

Slowly, Max stepped aside.  "Cora," he breathed, "you've got to see this."

"See what?"  Slipping out of the tent, she stood beside Max—and then, looked up.  "Whoa..."

Overhead, the night sky was ablaze.  Silent trails of fire streaked in all directions across the firmament, bathing the countryside around them in flickering golden light.

"Max, what is this?  I've never seen anything like it."

The unearthly light revealed the wonder on Max's upturned face.  "That makes two of us.  I think this camping trip is over—we need to head for home and find out what's going on."

Expression serious, Cora nodded.  "No arguments here.  We need some answers."  She ducked slightly, as a particularly bright streak of fire flamed across the sky, directly above them.  "And I want a roof over my head."

Max strode over to the other tent pitched a few metres from their own, and scratched on the canvas.  "Hey, guys." There was no response.  "Guys," he repeated, raising his voice a little.  "Time to wake up.  We need to talk."

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