Timeline

The New Year

2015: The new year brings no sign of trouble, at least so far as the great mass of humanity know. Life continues around the globe without a break in mankind's usual fluctuations between strife and joy.

The Arrival

At the end of January, news stories start to break about a mysterious object spotted within the solar system - already past Mars, it is apparently on course for Earth. Speculation runs wild - much of it concerning the impending doom or salvation of the world. It soon becomes clear that the object is not natural, and is most definitely moving towards the planet.

The Ten Days: The object moves into orbit around the Earth, low enough that it can clearly be seen as a greenish point of light moving across the sky each night. All attempts to contact it fail. NASA talks of recommissioning a Space Shuttle to carry astronauts up to make contact, while other space agencies scramble to develop their own plans.

The rest of humanity tends to fall into three categories (though many people fluctuate between the approaches over time):

Celebrants: Whether in belief that the Others are here to save humanity from itself, to deliver the Word of God, or to end it all… many people decide that this is the best possible time in the world to party, rush to complete their bucket list, or chase their dreams before it's too late.

Defenders: Others conclude that the world is about to go to Hell in a handcart, and that they need to prepare. Many lay in supplies at home, resulting in huge runs on canned food, bottled water, and other "crisis" goods. Another option is to leave the big cities and retreat to the wilds, away from likely targets of military value and the potential risk of urban rioting and martial law.

Hopers: A lot of people try very hard indeed to ensure that life continues as normally as possible. Though some regimes around the world declare martial law, and some cities have serious trouble with disorder, for most people life can continue with at least a veneer of mundane reassurance. For some, this is a sincere belief that things will turn out all right; for others, it's a desperate response to being terrified. But schools stay open, buses run, and people turn up to work to do the filing and process insurance claims.

The First Wave (Beginning of February)

EMP, HEMP, or Something New: On the eleventh day, the lights go out. The phones shut down. The radios fall silent. And the aeroplanes drop from the sky.

Initial casualties are later estimated at somewhere in the region of half a million people around the world. Naturally, the most developed countries are worst hit, with their bustling airports and higher proportion of people in fast-moving and abruptly-inert hunks of metal.

Tragically, half a million later comes to seem like a drop in the ocean. But for the time being, governments and communities really start to feel the strain. Whatever the Others use does more than any human EMP weaponry could, seemingly knocking out everything with any electronic components at all. The authorities largely keep order, on foot and by bicycle, while people try to work out how to get the power back, or at least the automobiles running again… but the bonds of society and order are starting to be seriously stretched, in many areas.

And still, there is no word from the orbiting spaceship.

The Second Wave (End of February)

Dropping Something Heavy: The mothership's next gift literally falls from on high. Subsequent rumours suggest that they use great rods of metal, dropped from orbit onto fault-lines around the world. They certainly pay particular attention to coastal regions and the generation of tsunamis.

Naturally, some parts of the world are less affected than others. But anywhere that is both coastal and geologically unstable is likely to be entirely wiped out. A few survivors make it out of areas that fall into just one of those categories, but whole regions - such as lowland California - are simply gone.

Pre-Arrival models of major disasters suggest that the cumulative effects of the Second Wave would reduce the human population to around four billion, now largely focused on higher ground far from the coasts.

And the aliens still don't come down.

The Third Wave (Mid-March)

The Red Tsunami: Following on from the global tsunami assault comes a wave of a different kind. Initially delivered by birds - specifically their droppings - the plague acquires many names… but "The Red Tsunami" is perhaps the most popular. It attacks the blood, then the internal organs, and near the end it reduces its victims to hallucinating, delusional mockeries of their former selves. Eventually, they die in a welter of gore, as their bodies lose the capacity to hold the blood inside.

People aren't all infected at the same time. They're not all equally susceptible. Consequently, there's plenty of time for refugees, attempts at quarantine, treatment camps, looting of hospitals, martial law, and the breakdown of what's left of civilisation.

Without advanced medical care, the Red Tsunami kills around 97% of those exposed to it. With advanced medical care, and a constant supply of antivirals, around one in ten of those who develop symptoms manage to survive. Naturally, such drugs tend to run out very quickly indeed. The accompanying violence, looting, starvation, and secondary diseases (as the cities fill with corpses and overflow with sewage) account for many who might otherwise have lived.

The Third Wave doesn't really come to an end, since some people might still - somehow - not have been exposed in the few months since it started, and many of those who've survived can't help but wonder if every hint of a sore throat or headache is the first sign that they are finally succumbing.

But by the time it has faded to a constant background terror, only one in thirty of those who survived the Second Wave have managed to make it through to the start of the Fourth. Human population might now be little more than a hundred million across the whole planet.

It's a couple of months into this wave that the first alien craft are seen - strange, greenish metal cylinders, zipping silently across the sky. They can hover, hit supersonic speeds, go straight up or down… and all in silence. They're clearly beyond human technology - yet they don't seem to do anything. No ray guns zapping survivors, no demands for surrender, no landing parties of bug-eyed invaders to fight.

And there's still no word from the green light circling the planet every night.

The Fourth Wave (April and continuing)

It's just a rumour: But most of those alive have come to put at least a little bit of faith in certain kinds of bad news….

This particular story says that the aliens are finally making their presence felt directly upon Earth. In addition to the bandits, the me-at-all-costs types, the simply desperate, and the fear of infection with the Red Tsunami, there's another threat: people who look, sound, and act like humans… but are hunting humans.

Whether they're aliens in disguise, whether the Others look exactly like us, whether they're traitors trying to save their skins, no one seems to have any proof. But now, there's a new fear that any stranger you meet might kill you not because he wants your boots or your food or your medical kit but because he's working for the aliens - or because he simply doesn't dare take the risk that you are.

Naturally, these hunters - whom some call Silencers - are said to be crack shots, able to see in the dark, superhumanly stealthy and athletic and deadly.

And still, more than four months after they arrived, the only clear gifts from the orbiting mothership are suffering, fear, and death.

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