1984, the burst
Date: - Words: 459
1984 was, overall, a very bad year for the population of the planet Earth. It began with the burst of the real estate bubble in Europe, which ironically made a lot of people homeless, and only worsened when the 3rd June rolled around -at exactly 07:07:07 GMT every single digital clock on the planet stopped working, and every unshielded piece of circuitry went up into flames. Panic spread throughout the globe as the firefighters worked overtime to put out all the fires, but it calmed down. Until, that is, people started dying. First old people and children, then middle-aged men and women, then the rest of the population - nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and seizures culled the weakest first, and the few survivors were left bald and with extensive burns across their bodies. The mass hysteria was a sight to behold, but strangely enough, even with thousand of bodies littering the streets there was no smell.
The reason for this became clear when the remaining people managed to put the telecommunication infrastructure back online - a gamma ray burst, orders of magnitude bigger than any detected before, had hit the planet, sterilizing it. Acute radiation syndrome killed billions of people throughout the world, leaving only a couple million alive - miners, scientists, those who were underground in cellars, bunkers or galleries when the burst hit.
The survivors, devastated by the loss of their whole world, at first turned against each other or killed themselves in desperation, then huddled together into small groups, trying to eke out a living on a sterile planet. Luckily the food wasn't going to rot anytime soon, but it couldn't last forever.
Expeditions were sent to the seed banks - three groups died trying to reach the Svalbart Global Seed Vault, but in the end they managed to establish a camp and, after two months, to penetrate its blast-proof doors. The video of the head of the expedition, Nicholas Black, holding up one of the packages of seeds was broadcast all over the world, and people rejoiced.
The first crop took two years to grow, as, while filled with nutrients, the terrain was, too, sterilized by the blast. Soon the population boomed, doubling and doubling again, until laws were put into place to limit the number of children per couple.
It took twenty years for the people to recover and repair the old infrastructure. But in the meantime they looked at the stars, and started plotting how to escape from a dead planet.
Nukes were useless, and the environment already destroyed, so the old Project Orion files were dusted off. The first starship was completed in 2010, and launched the next year to land on the Moon, carrying two hundred people and enough supplies to last them a year.