~ 7:00am, Tuesday 20th July 1999 ~
Jack Harper woke and turned off the alarm. A new day had dawned in Miami. Jack sighed wearily. For the past few years he had always looked forward to sleep. It was a welcome release from the pressures of the day. A pity, then, that sleep seemed to last but a moment. It felt like only a couple of minutes ago that he'd put his head down on the pillow at the end of the first day of a working week.
And now it was Tuesday morning.
Megan, his wife, stirred as Jack got up and made his way to the bathroom. He always got to use the bathroom first due to the fact that Megan left the house later than he did. She'd given up her job as a nurse a couple of years ago and now worked in the local store part time. She'd said working in the hospital had reminded her of the past and Jack had agreed that she should change jobs. Eighteen months later he'd done the same thing.
Jack joined his wife for breakfast after showering. It was a simple and quiet affair. They said little to each other beyond enquiring as to whether each other had slept okay and what the day's weather would be. Eventually, after getting himself ready for work, Jack picked up his briefcase, kissed his wife goodbye and drove away in his reliable Honda.
It appeared to be a normal, ordinary day in the life of Jack Harper, ex-ER doctor and one of the many current employees of GenTech Industries.
~ 8:55am, Tuesday 20th July 1999 ~
Entering the small Miami office of GenTech, Jack flashed his badge at the security guard and smiled at the receptionist. The receptionist, Clare something, smiled back and said hello. Although he was a doctor and a scientist, Jack didn't look like your typical science-geek type. He was tall, broad, plainly handsome and built like a linebacker. People tended to notice him, women especially. Jack tended to ignore them back.
Entering the elevator, Jack made his way to the labs, via his shared office. He'd been employed as a research assistant at GenTech for only six months now, primarily working for the Department of Advanced Neo-Genetic Experimental Research. As Jack entered the "DANGER" lab, as some amusingly called it, a voice shouted out a greeting.
"Hey, Smilin' Jack. How're things?" called a small, grey-haired man dressed in a bright white lab coat.
It was Bob Morgan. Doctor Bob as people called him and the man who had christened the department the "DANGER" lab. He was also Jack's boss.
"Not bad, Bob. How about you?" answered Jack, without the glimmer of a smile on his face.
"Ready for another stimulating day in the Danger lab!" Bob replied, a broad grin on his face.
Jack nodded, grunted and put on his somewhat more drab lab coat over his sports shirt and trousers. The lab coat was a little small for his frame but Jack felt reassuringly comfortable in it. Indeed, thought Jack, it was another day in the lab. However, it was far from as stimulating as his days in the hospital's emergency room. And for that, Jack was grateful.
~ 11:20am, Tuesday 20th July 1999 ~
Jack's current work was in the area of Engineered Negligible Senescence and (ultimately) involved trying to replicate the regenerative properties of certain amphibians in humans. A number of years ago, research had indicated that some mice had this ability and Jack now had the task of tying down what that process was and what genes were responsible for this capacity. He had it down to six specific genes and now had to see if these could be stimulated in the human genome to enhance the innate regenerative ability of people.
Jack was busy studying the possible use of hepatocyte nuclei when, suddenly, the fire alarm went off. He hadn't heard that a drill was scheduled which meant the alarm was probably genuine - albeit due to a minor fire in one of the other labs, no doubt. A second later, a young research assistant rushed into the lab.
"Hey, have you lot heard? They're getting everyone to evacuate the city", gasped the co-worker, a little out of breath.
"What?" said Doctor Bob incredulously. "Who're 'they'?".
Jack looked from his boss to the other man, a deep frown on his face. He hastily continued to put away his work. The research assistant shrugged and began to turn around, heading back the way he had come.
"Not sure", answered the man over his shoulder. He then added, "Someone said the FBI and Homeland Security had announced it. The military are getting involved. Everyone's heading out". He retreated out of the door and off to tell others his news.
One of his fellow workers had been tapping away on a terminal and he pointed to the screen.
"He's right", he exclaimed in excitement. "The internet's full of the news. The national guard has been deployed to get Miami clear. There's some sort of huge monster heading this way. Cosmonaut and the Professor are heading out to meet it".
Jack grumbled, the low, deep noise rumbling from well inside his broad chest. All he wanted, he thought, was a quiet life. Was that so difficult? What on earth was going on out there? Would the cosmics stop this creature? He had to get to Megan and make sure she was safe.
All of a sudden, the building shook, causing a few bottles to crash to the floor. His fellow researchers were already heading to the door, whilst Jack tried to clear away the dangerous biochemicals.
"C'mon Jack", Bob called from the doorway.
"Just a second!", Jack replied, although by then Bob had already rushed out of the room and was now half way down the corridor. Deciding to leave everything as it was, Jack took a stumbling step towards the open doorway.
It was then that the second, much larger quake hit the building...