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Part One

©01 Levite

for my wife with all my love
Based on an idea by PJL.
       [Note: All rights reserved, including rights to publication. Distributed copies to proofreaders and editors remain property of the author. No infringement of copyright is intended. All persons are fictitious, all occurrences, while possible, have not happened. Yet. No cities in Indiana were actually destroyed in the writing of this story. All geologic features actually exist or are presumed by geologists.   Email- dr_leftover{at}themediadesk{dot}com   Selah ]


       "An Earthquake has occurred again along the New Madrid Fault for the second time in three days. That's the lead story today at noon, we'll bring you up to date after these messages."
       The TV went to commercials.
       "It's on!" Clara called to Joe in the kitchen.
       In Middletown, Indiana, anything from the outside world seemed remote. But they had felt the tremors from this one. The first one had been in the middle of the night. Joe claimed he had been woken up by what had been reported as a few quick shakes in the area as a result of the magnitude 4.5 quake in Missouri. Clara told him he was lyin'.
       But this one occurred just before lunch on a Saturday. There was no doubt. It had been an Earthquake.
       "Hush up now and listen." She told her husband.
       "...the epicenter has been calculated as directly beneath the Ohio River between Paducah, Kentucky and Golconda, Illinois. Several aftershocks have also been reported..."
       "I haven't felt no aftershocks." Joe said.
       "... from Jane Freeman in Evansville."
       The TV picture switched to a reporter standing outside a building showing obvious damage from the earthquake.
       "This warehouse is the only structure in Indiana reporting damage from this earthquake three hours ago. Although several buildings in Paducah suffered damage and one bridge over the river has been closed pending inspection. This structure is fifty years old and has never been retrofitted to meet minimum geologic threat standards according to building inspector Trevor Hughes."
       "Hey. I wonder if he's Uncle Simon's boy."
       "Don't you ever shut up." Clara snapped.
       The building inspector talked about the new construction standards to meet what had been perceived as an increased threat from the northeastern end of the New Madrid fault. But no actions had been taken toward existing structures. Now they would have to see about implementing them.
       "For this warehouse. It's too late. It's fortunate the building was unoccupied during the quake, no injuries have been reported. Now back to the studio."
       "How about that. Earthquakes right here." Clara said. "We had them all the time when I lived in California."
       "So you should feel right at home." He looked at the TV. "Can I get back to my books now?"
       "Go ahead." She waved him off.
       "If you don't want me to pass the test its no problem."
       "You said you already knew it."
       "Well I do already know it. But the foreman said they changed some of the questions. So I'm just reviewing."
       "How many times do you have to take the test?" Clara was watching the car commercial instead of paying attention to him.
       "Every time the insurance company tells them their premiums are going up. We haven't had a forklift accident in two years. But that don't matter."
       "Then you better study."
       "That's what I was trying to tell you."

Office of the State Geologist
       "Are you sure those are aftershocks and not blasting in some quarry?" State geologist Saul Monroe asked one of his assistants.
       The woman nodded and pointed to the tracings on the screen. "That's not a blast pattern. These are bona fide aftershocks. And they are from right around here."
       "How many sites are reporting them?"
       She hit a few keys and clicked the mouse a couple of times. "So far five. It looks like the Brown county fault zone, but these are very weak shocks." She looked as the computer beeped. "There's another one, from further east this time, maybe about Shelby county."
       "OK Susan, stay on it." He looked at her and took off his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose. "Sorry about your weekend."
       "That's OK. How often do we have earthquakes in Indiana?"

       "Hey coach, they got to fix that hole. I about broke my leg in it."
       "What hole Johnson?" The coach looked at his receiver with the patience of Job the patriarch.
       "Right here." The high school player pointed at the practice field.
       "Well, how about that. You know a hole when you see one." The coach kicked at its edge. "I'll get the grounds crew, you guys move over there." He pointed toward the other side of the field.

       "Sir, here's another one." The deputy handed Sheriff Donald Adams the sticky note he had just gotten, the town police force was being run to death, they had asked the sheriffs office for help.
       "What's that make. A dozen?"
       "Something like that. Want I should check it out?"
       "Post office." He put on his hat, "I'll get this one, you can run out to the Harmon farm on 120 and see what that's about."
       The Sheriff went out to his car. He almost tripped on a ridge in the asphalt that hadn't been there before.
       Postmaster Dora Clements pointed out the cracked windows in her building.
       "Call your insurance carrier. We're getting reports of all sorts of things around the county. May be related to that earthquake they had in Kentucky."
       The postmaster nodded and shook her head. "We're a long way from Kentucky."


University of Cincinnati
       "I've got shocks ranging all over the lower end of the table from Bloomington to Richmond."
       "That fault hasn't been active before. Why now?" The professor looked at the screen.
       "Beats me. But ever since that event yesterday. This whole section of the Wabash system has become active. I've never seen anything like it."
       The professor smiled at his grad student's remark but he didn't comment. "Stress relief along related lines after major shocks isn't uncommon. But this pattern is." He pointed to the lines of dots representing the disturbances. "Let me call Saul and see if he's got the same data." He reached for his pocket.
       The student nodded and superimposed a political image of Indiana on the geologic map. "How about that? Look at this Doctor Riley."
       "Look at what?" He dialed the number.
       "I think it centers right on my girlfriend's home town."
       "Greensburg. I wonder if they've felt anything?"


       "We've got the same readings. A shock every few minutes centered just west of Greensburg. We don't even have an office there, but there is one in Columbus. At the IU campus, I'll call Patrick and get him over there."
       Saul hung up the phone. "Sue, they're getting the same readings from Cincinnati. I'm gonna call Patrick in Columbus and have him go over to Greensburg."
       Susan made basset hound eyes at him.
       "OK. Go. I'll tell him you'll pick him up in an hour." He gave in telling himself that she needed some field experience.
       "The van?" She smiled.
       He nodded, "The van."

       Patrick stared at his old but still useful rack of seismographs. The needle scarcely stopped from one shock when another began. Some stronger, or closer, others, barely moving the pen on the slowly moving paper.
       "We're standing on a living piece of ground. This is its heartbeat." The geologist said to the young people behind him.
       The workshops had always drawn the cream of the local crop of community college students, young and old. This batch was no different. High schoolers looking to get ahead on college courses, college students wanting extra lab credits, maybe the occasional housewife taking the class to get out of the house on Saturday morning. He smiled as he explained to them that Indiana was not geologically dead. Hot springs were the best indicator that things underfoot were still interesting. Mild motion of the ground was another.
       "But we've never had an earthquake here." One guy said from the row near the windows.
       "Not exactly. Within historical times, there have been two significant events within the state. One at Vincennes in 1887. Another right near here at Shelbyville in 1899." Patrick smiled at them as the pen on his paper recorded another one. He thought he almost felt that one.
       "But I still haven't felt anything since this morning."
       "These are barely registering as a one on the Modified Mercalli scale. Which will upset your cat but you won't notice. Even a three on the scale you might think is a big truck going by. It's not until you get to four or five that most people even realize something unusual is happening."
       "What's that on the Richter Scale?"
       "That's a misleading comparison. The Richter is a measurement of the energy released. Not ground motion and damage. A very deep magnitude seven may not even rattle the windows, while a more shallow event could level a city."
       The student nodded.
       Patrick talked on, in a minute a runner brought him a note. He glanced at it and continued his talk about Earth Science as the needle quivered.

       "I shut the water off to the entire block." The voice said from the manhole in the street.
       "Any idea on when you can fix the break?" Mayor Robert Fulton asked.
       The repairman stuck his head out of the hole. "No sir."
       The mayor sighed and rubbed his chin, his deep thinking habit. "I guess I'll shave at the office for church tomorrow." He said. His house had been one of the ones affected by the water main rupture.
       "I will call a crew in on overtime." The man climbed out and looked down the street at the running water. The mayor nodded and walked back toward his house.

Saint Paul, road 700
       "I don't know buddy. The bridge is out. You got to go around."
       "Down Mound Road," He pointed back up the road. "Make a left, then about a mile, another left. You'll see the sign for Germantown."
       The truck driver sighed and waved, "OK, sure. Thanks."
       The two highway workers went back to putting up the barricades. The bridge over the creek had shifted sharply to one side, making the road impassable.

Route 46
       "Another minor earthquake has been reported, this time near Terre Haute. Waves over two feet tall were seen on the Wabash River. Radio towers swayed noticeably. No injuries or major property damage has been reported."
       Susan nodded to the radio, "And here I am on the road." She sped up, crowding the speed limit.

       "So tell me what is happening then." The Secretary of State said to his people.
       "We don't know."
       The Secretary didn't seem to like that answer. He glared at them.
       "We do know the geologist office is right on top of it. He's sending a team to Greensburg to see what's happening there."
       "Wait a minute. The earthquake was in Terre Haute. Why are they going to Greensburg? That's on the other side of the state."
       The man that spoke took a deep breath. "There's been a series of small earthquakes over there. And there have been reports of sinkholes and stuff. Water main breaks. Things like that. They're worried about groundswell."
       "But they know what's causing that at least... Don't they?"
       The aids looked at each other.
       The Secretary leaned onto the table. He spoke calmly and without emotion.
       "Ladies and Gentlemen. The Governor called me looking for answers. I called you looking for answers. I do not intend to call her back until I have those answers. Find me somebody, from the university, from National Geographic, I don't care. I want to know what's happening before the whole state slides into the Ohio River. OK?"


       "There's definitely a pattern." The professor said into his phone.
       "I see that. Now all we have to do figure out is what it means." Saul replied. "I've got politicians breathing down my neck for answers."
       Dr. Riley chuckled. "The advantages of the fancy title. I told you being state Geologist isn't all it's cracked up to be."
       "Funny. Very funny."
       "Tell them as soon as the ground stops shaking you'll have your answer."
       "While you write a paper on it. Publish or Perish." He quoted the old professor's curse back to his friend.
       There was silence on both ends of the phone.
       "Did you see that one?" They said almost at the same time.
       "I think that was two separate events occurring simultaneously." Dr. Riley said.
       Dr. Monroe concurred. "That's a new one on me. What the hell is going on?"
       "Saul, when do you expect your team to be on the ground there?"
       "Within the hour. She called from the campus in Columbus, they're on their way now."
       "Good. I would love to know what's happening on the surface there."
       "So would I."

Continued in part 2

       [Note: All rights reserved, including rights to publication. Distributed copies to proofreaders and editors remain property of the author. No infringement of copyright is intended. All persons are fictitious, all occurrences, while possible, have not happened. Yet. No cities in Indiana were actually destroyed in the writing of this story. All geologic features actually exist or are presumed by geologists.
Email- dr_leftover(a-t)themediadesk(~d0t~)com email scrambled due to spammer robots
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