“Ladies and gentlemen... Ah, pardon me. That's not quite accurate anymore. The world has no more place for gentlefolk. You know this, as well as I. So let me address you appropriately:
“For that is what we are. Make no mistake. Best estimates at the time held that, just over two years ago, approximately three and a half billion people disappeared from the face of the Earth. You've known that many, many people disappeared, but most of you have not had an idea how many.
“Let that sink in for a moment. Between one second and the next, just about a third of the world population just faded away, as if they had never been. Even more miraculously, the disappearances seem to have crosscut almost every demographic criterion you could name. Race, age, sex, sexuality, wealth, nation, religion, politics... Name it. About half of them went missing. This much the various world governments were able to discern before they finally collapsed from one third of their bureaucracies disappearing, too unbalanced by the loss of officials at all levels. Too much lost track of in the chaos that followed.
“Approximately another half billion died in the days and weeks afterward as a direct or indirect consequence of the disappearances. Not so many planes went down as one might imagine, but highway accidents shot through the roof in that instant. Chaos and panic. Rioting by terrified people afraid of a second wave of disappearances, and opportunists reveling in the madness and egging it on to greater heights. Military actions by despots convinced that if their blessed homeland had been so scourged, then those in the next nation over must have been taken even worse.
“Famine, as modern agriculture and distribution chains gradually broke down. Plague, as modern medicine met similar difficulties. The Eastern Seaboard of the United States shut down in a night as a flaw in a transmission station, that should have been spotted by a now-missing technician, finally gave over and caused a surge that cascaded across the power grid and shut everything down.
“It seemed like, on top of the disappearances in general, they had struck precisely amongst those whose loss would cause the greatest trials and tribulations for the rest of the world. It was improbable, perhaps even impossible.
“Nobody had a rational answer. The best one anyone could offer was that all of it must have been acts of God. The disappearances were the Rapture, clearing the elect out so they would be spared what was to come.