The Lunadyne Incident and Other Stories

CME is a fea­tured near future sci­ence fic­tion short sto­ry in the col­lec­tion The Luna­dyne Inci­dent and Oth­er Sto­ries by Torn MacAlester, is now avail­able at


Excerpt from CME, a science fiction short story


Nils and Doc descend­ed into the cel­lar with a cou­ple of min­utes to spare.

“Nice of you to join us,” said the Sheriff.

“We’re here, that’s the impor­tant thing,” answered Nils.

“Yeah, I thought we might need some radi­a­tion med­i­cine,” said Doc. “Or would you pre­fer I put it back?”

“Get in here,” said the Sheriff.

“Is that everyone?”

“Every­one that is at the sta­tion,” said McPherson.

“Okay, close it up before we fry.”

McPher­son closed the upper hatch, then pushed some blocks of foam over it and strapped them in place. As part of the orig­i­nal sta­tion con­struc­tion, they had piled lunar regolith up along the sides of hab D, mak­ing it effec­tive­ly under­ground. In the room above, most of the sta­tion’s water stor­age sat over their heads. The water and ceil­ing foam pro­tect­ed them from the charged par­ti­cles rain­ing down from the sun.

Nils took a seat next to Doc and relaxed. It would take a while until all clear.

“Did this hap­pen a lot before?” asked Doc.

“Twice I’ve had to shel­ter from a CME. This is real­ly the first solar-max that I’ve done in space though,” answered Nils.

“What were CME like?”

“Not like this,” said Nils. “The last one I did in my hab. I’ve got a room under some regolith that serves as my shel­ter. The time before that, I drove my crawler into a crater and into the shade to ride it out.”

“How does that help?”

“If most of the par­ti­cles are com­ing from the direc­tion of the sun, the crater wall puts a bunch of rock between me and the source. It’s not per­fect, but it’s bet­ter than nothing.”

“Sounds rea­son­able,” said Doc.

“How about you?”


“Yeah, first CME?” asked Nils.

“Yeah, I got recruit­ed about a month back to be the doc­tor for an expand­ing station.”


“From what the boss says,” said Doc, “We’ll be dou­ble in two years and con­tin­ue dou­bling at that rate. But yes, this is my first CME.”

“There will be plen­ty more, I am sure,” said Nils.

“Speak­ing of plen­ty more,” said Sher­iff Ander­son. “Every­one, lis­ten up!”

The mur­mur­ing of con­ver­sa­tions end­ed, and Nils saw many faces turn toward the Sheriff.

“Okay,” con­tin­ued the Sher­iff. “We’ve got thir­ty peo­ple in the area, but only twen­ty-five here. We need to know where every­one is and if they are safe. Get on your phones and make it hap­pen. From what I can tell, we’re miss­ing John­son, Vol­berg, Richards, Mas­ters and Vargas.”

Nils pulled out his phone, flipped to Milt Johnson’s num­ber and called.

“John­son,” said Milt. “What the hell Nils, it’s the mid­dle of the night.”

“What are you talk­ing about?” asked Nils.

“Why did you need to wake me?” coun­tered Milt.

“We’ve had a CME,” explained Nils. “I’m check­ing in to see if you’re in your cellar.”

“Nils I’m in Lon­don. I haven’t been on the Moon in over a week.”

“It is good that you’re not here. I’m trapped in the cel­lar with 25 oth­er unhap­py peo­ple. We’ve got to hide out while this flood of radi­a­tion pass­es us by,” said Nils. “I’ll ask you anoth­er time why you are in London.”

“Good luck.” The con­nec­tion was closed.

“Okay, Radi­a­tion is here,” announced Doc. “I just detect­ed the increase.”

“How bad?” asked Sher­iff Anderson.

“Bad enough,” said Doc. “Over four thou­sand 100 MeV pro­tons per square cen­time­ter sec­ond and rising.”

“Four thou­sand!” said anoth­er voice.

“What does that mean?” asked the sheriff.

“If some­one isn’t in a shel­ter,” said Doc. “They are dead.”

“Okay, who’s not account­ed for?” asked the sheriff.

“I’ve got a hold of John­son,” said Nils. “He’s okay.”

“Vol­berg is account­ed for,” said another.

“I’ve heard from both Var­gas and Richards,” said Alex. “They are okay.”

Then anoth­er said, “I can­not reach Tilly Masters.”

“Some­one else try,” said the Sheriff.

“I’m on it,” said Nils as he thumbed Tilly Mas­ters’ num­ber from his phone, try­ing to reach her. His phone showed no con­nec­tion. It meant she wasn’t with­in reach of Conrad’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions tow­er. “She’s prob­a­bly behind a moun­tain. I can’t reach her.”

“What can we do?” asked Doc.

“Alex, call Var­gas back,” said the sher­iff. “See if he can reach her. His hab is a lot clos­er to hers.”

“Damn Tilly,” Nils said.

“What?” asked Doc.

“She’s been head­ing out toward the SW site for sev­er­al weeks now,” said Nils. “She talked about a KREEP out­crop­ping out there. I’m bet­ting that some­one hired her to prospect it.”

“I’m sor­ry, did you say creep?” asked Doc. “At least that I what I thought you said.”

“Yup,” answered Nils. “It stands for potas­si­um, rare earth ele­ments, and—”

“Phos­pho­rus,” fin­ished Doc.

“Yup,” said Nils.

“I took chem­istry. I just nev­er heard the term before. You think she’s gone after it?”

“If they direct­ed her to,” Nils agreed. “She would go after it.”

“Tilly is one of the inde­pen­dent con­trac­tors, like you,” said Doc.

“Yup. Well, I am inde­pen­dent. A min­er­al com­pa­ny sent her up. But nei­ther of us are Luna­dyne employees.”

“Var­gas can’t reach her,” said Alex.

There was silence in the cel­lar. Nils knew, just like the oth­ers, what that might mean. Tilly was out of the net­work. She would have received the CME alert. They broad­cast those from Earth using high gain antennas.

“I have an idea,” Nils broke the silence.

“What do you have?” said the Sheriff.

“We’ll need to see about using Earth as a relay,” said Nils.

“Yes, I’ll see if I can get a link through the com­pa­ny offices,” said the Sher­iff. “It’s late on the east coast, they’ll like­ly be hard to get ahold of.”

Nils thumbed his phone, call­ing Mil­ton again.

“What the hell Nils?” said Mil­ton, this time not grog­gy sounding.

“Milt, we have a prob­lem. Can you sync me up with the GNR anten­na in Alas­ka?” asked Nils.

“Oh, I think I can do it.” Said Milt, “Let me get my laptop.”

“What’s up?” asked Doc.

“I’m try­ing anoth­er way. Luna­dyne might take too long to get their comms up,” said Nils.

“I just got the link with the sys­tem,” said Milt after a few min­utes. “The radio is warm­ing up for you. I’ll send you an audio link as soon as every­thing is up. What’s the frequency?”

Nils rat­tled off the fre­quen­cy that he’d last used to talk with Tilly. Admit­ted­ly, a few kilo­me­ters sep­a­rat­ing their crawlers was a much eas­i­er dis­tance than the four hun­dred thou­sand he was attempt­ing now.

A few min­utes lat­er, Milt said: “You’re all set, Nils. The audio link should be active.”

“Tilly Mas­ters, this is Con­rad Sta­tion on retrans­mis­sion from Earth,” said Nils after switch­ing the audio link. And then wait­ed, the almost two sec­onds it would take for the mes­sage to be received and at least two more sec­onds for the reply to come. A cou­ple more sec­onds and no reply. “Tilly Mas­ters, Con­rad Station–retrans from Alas­ka, this is Nils Carmike — over.”

“Any­thing?” asked Doc.

“Not yet–” Nils answered.

“Nils, this is Tilly. I can hear you.”

“Did you get the CME warning?”

“No, I must have been out of the net. I noticed the rad sen­sors go whacko and fig­ured it would be best to bail to the shade of a crater.”

“How long did it take you to get there?” Nils asked, know­ing they could esti­mate the poten­tial dosage she might have taken.

“Twen­ty min­utes,” answered Tilly. “I know. That’s far too long.”

Nils looked at Doc, who shook her head.

“Tilly, I’ve got Doc Keller sit­ting next to me. I’m going to give the phone to her. Please lis­ten to her. We’ll fig­ure out a way to take care of you.”

Nils hand­ed Doc the phone and turned to the Sheriff.