A flash fiction piece (300 words).
As thermonuclear detonations go it wasn’t a very big one. But it was plenty big enough to vaporize the flotilla of warships, along with the helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft that had been circling overhead for the last few days.
Several thousand curious bystanders had been watching the goings on from the crowded mass of high rises surrounding inner Victoria harbor. Their retinas were burned out by the flash of light that marked the release of the unimaginable energy produced by the forced fusion of hydrogen into helium. They would never see again. Not that it mattered; they died a few seconds later as the super-heated shockwave rolled across the harbor, leveling much of the city’s industrial and business districts, knocking buildings aside as it spread out toward the suburbs.
A dark, roiling column emerged from the initial fireball, climbing nearly ten kilometers above the epicenter of the explosion, where it formed a malevolent maelstrom that gradually took the characteristic shape of a terrible mushroom cloud, a beacon of death that could be seen a hundred miles away, an obscene tombstone marking the mass grave beneath it.
One hundred and twenty thousand people were incinerated in the first few seconds without knowing they were dying. Another quarter million died in the next sixty seconds, probably equally unaware of their dying. A few hundred thousand more would die in the next few hours, horribly and painfully aware. A hundred thousand more would die from radiation burns and radiation poisoning over the next few weeks. Uncounted tens of thousands would die over the following decades as a result of the damage done to their cells on that day.
Hong Kong was gone. The space craft was gone. Mankind’s first contact with an alien species had not gone well.