PROLOGUE

97,000 BC — Yamalo-Nenetsk region, northern Russia

The sonic boom made the herd of tundra mammoth pause momentarily in their slow march to the south. The group, several hundred strong, watched the small light in the sky streak toward them and then disappear in the near distance.

The second boom came as the object struck the earth. The vibration was felt firstly beneath their massive feet, then came the shock wave that made the huge creatures lower their heads as though bracing themselves against a gale.

After another few seconds, the calm returned, and the bull herd leader lifted his head to trumpet dismissively, and begin again the long trek to the warmer lands.

By the time they passed the massive scar, its center was still boiling like a cauldron, with its rim of hard-packed frozen earth cracked and crazed like a broken plate. Its edges were lifted in towering slabs, dozens of feet thick, and were already cool enough to allow a dusting of fine snow to settle. The immense crater would flatten and fill and in generations of marches would eventually become buried by every season’s debris.

The wound in the earth would heal and, for nearly a thousand centuries, be forgotten.

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