A recent issue of Science contained a research article analysing data from impact craters on Earth, noting a strange spike in activity approximately 290 million years ago.  Unfortunately, this research was conducted only on terrestrial and lunar impact craters, not those at the bottom of the ocean, some of which are far larger than anything found on land.  However, this presents yet another curious fact to strengthen a hypothesis I have, and perhaps an astronomer or astrophysicist out there may be able to provide some thoughts on this subject.  Come to think of it, a geologist or volcanologist may also have some insights.  If you have a degree in any of the above fields, then you probably already know where I’m going with this…

Until fairly recently, palaeontologists had no idea what caused the Great Dying.  Then someone had the brilliant idea to date the igneous rock of the Siberian Traps, and found it to be 251-252 million years old, coinciding perfectly with the placement of the Dead Zone within sedimentary strata.  This has nothing to do with the spike in meteor impacts 40 million years earlier, but there is a strange coincidence that caught my attention: the impact crater on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and the Deccan Traps in India are both 66 million years old, and, at the time, would have been almost exactly opposite each other on the globe.  My hypothesis is thus: large impact events send shockwaves through the Earth’s mantle, triggering magma plumes that result in flood basalt eruptions.

Unfortunately, no such impact crater corresponding to the formation of the Siberian Traps has been found (at least not any large enough to have been the trigger, as it would have to have struck the planet with at least five times the force, if my hypothesis is correct).  Even if one exists, it would have to be at the bottom of the ocean, since all land masses were concentrated on one side of the planet at the time (Pangaea).  Furthermore, such an impact crater may have been subducted by now, so it may not even exist at all for us to find.  However, even if this is all total nonsense, that doesn’t stop me from using it in science fiction!

Moving to my fictional world, I should mention that chuyinka like to be left alone.  In fact, they tend to resent the idea of a “nanny state” more than any human, owing to the fact that they aren’t even social animals.  Their idea of a village has each house separated by at least a kilometre.  Varanganska had already gone through one world government long before the chuyinka were even created, and they were directly responsible for the collapse of the second.  Naturally, the third to arise (long after the events of The Nine Empires) was not something they wanted any part of.  Fortunately, they had control over an entire continent by this point, and with much more advanced technology than the rest of the world, their subjects had absolutely nothing to gain from being assimilated.

However, no world government could call itself such without including the entire world, and Rossberan technology and natural resources were simply too tempting for the new world order to leave alone.  The war did not go in their favour, as they sent millions of soldiers to their deaths without gaining a single foothold on Rossbera.  Nonetheless, they persisted, and even as political schisms from this pointless conflict threatened to destroy both sides from within, the war raged on.  Citizen-soldiers of Rossbera kept facing more and more frightening foes as the enemy’s technology slowly caught up with their own, and for brief moments, parts of the mainland fell into enemy hands.  Chuyinka used their orbiting dreadnoughts to unleash nuclear hell-fire onto areas under enemy control, making it impossible for any landing to have a lasting effect.  However, the Rossberans could not keep up this pace.  The chuyinka, therefore, decided to take drastic measures.

In the middle of the ocean, directly opposite the centre of Bouruskad, where the headquarters of the world government resided, the chuyinka began building a massive ring of eighteen gargantuan towers.  Orbiting the planet, directly above the centre of the ring, was a space station known only as the Piston.  Together, they made up the single largest weapon the chuyinka ever built (even larger than the much later Nova Dreadnought), and was dubbed the World Hammer.  The idea was to capture a large asteroid that was to pass close to the planet and use the magnetic array from both the towers and the Piston to direct it toward the centre of the array.  The necessary impact velocity to cause a near-instantaneous magma plume, however, was too close to the velocity that could potentially shatter the entire crust and, effectively, destroy the entire world.  The best they could do was a 40-year delay, longer than the lifespan of even the chuyinka themselves.

The immediate result of the massive impact was a series of devastating tsunamis, which utterly destroyed coastal cities and most ships.  This put quite a damper on the invasion efforts, but not as much as the following meteoric winter, during which roughly 25% of the global population starved (though only about 2% of the Rossberan population, as they were fully prepared for this travesty).  The chuyinka used this lull in the fighting to construct massive war factories to produce an unprecedented number of robotic fighting units (mostly tanks and point-defense towers) and secure the entire Rossberan coastline.  When the fighting resumed two years later, it went about as badly for the rest of the world as it had initially, with them losing several hundred units for every one that the Rossberans lost, all while not gaining any ground.  This war of attrition continued just as it had the first time, but with Rossbera much better prepared, they did not have to worry about a single wrong move costing them everything.  The fighting also spread to other planets as well, with global forces and Rossberan forces trying to destroy each other’s off-world mining colonies.  All this continued for 38 years, and then Bouruskad cracked – literally.

A series of fissures, some as wide as 30 kilometres, appeared out of nowhere in the heart of the continent, quickly spreading all over.  Over three quarters of the entire continent was covered in molten rock several hundred metres thick within a month.  Needless to say, the world government was finished.  The tide of war changed, and during the following volcanic winter, the Rossberan forces spread out, hunting down and exterminating every last soldier still foolish enough to keep fighting.  This event became known as the Great Purge, and ended with the Battle of Zenabir.  The following Golden Age was the result of most of the weapons, including all but one of the towers making up the World Hammer, being recycled into parts for space stations and orbiting cities.  The Piston, however, suffered severe structural damage and was knocked out of its regular orbit from being used, and therefore was too dangerous to go anywhere near.  Fortunately, it was much farther away from the planet than any other artificial satellite, and thus of no concern to residents of the orbiting cities, but it was quite an attractive challenge for daring explorers.

So, first thought: large asteroid impacts may have more of an effect than previously thought.  Second thought: proving that hypothesis may not be possible – it’s certainly not worth the effort for my purposes.  Third thought: leave solitary creatures alone!  Trying to force us to be social by denying us independence will make us hate you.  Fourth thought: greed is not worth the lives of others, but that won’t stop the greedy from trying to satisfy it anyway.  Fifth thought: those who are self-sufficient are most likely to survive when disaster strikes.  Sixth and final thought: ruined worlds are fun – for some.

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