Happy is he who...writes from the love of imparting certain thoughts and not from the necessity of sale-who writes always to the unknown friend.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)





Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Apophos

“Good morning, ma’am,” Hiro said as she entered the command room. She raised an eyebrow questioning the likelihood of that. He smiled and placed her favorite mug in her hands filled to the brim with steaming hot coffee.

She sighed enjoying the aroma. Out of all the people on Lunar Outpost Lobos, Hiro was her favorite to work with. When she showed up in the morning the command center was well organized and running along without a hitch. She never worried when he had the watch. And he made coffee. Good coffee at that.

“Anything, I need to know?” She asked as she walked over to the sliding doors that separated the command center from the “outside”. The lunar base was situated under a dome made out of a synthetic carbon lattice. It perfectly mimicked the hardness and clarity of diamond. She remembered standing on earth as it was being constructed. Whenever the sun’s light struck the dome it looked very much like the man in the moon was crying. One single crystalline tear.

Around the base of the dome was a opaque wall several stories high. Upon that was cast a hologram. Today, it was the ocean. They even piped in the sounds and smells associated with each scene. And so it was, as she walked out onto the lunar soil, the glowing blue magnificence of Earth hung above an azure Caribbean sea. She could even hear gulls crying soprano to the deeper voice of the ocean waves.

From the command center she heard the triple chime that heralded a call from Jupiter Space station.

“Ma’am, I think you need to come in here.” Hiro was never agitated, that his voice quavered concerned her.

With one last glance at the cerulean waters she strode back inside, closing the door behind her, silencing the surf.

A spate of Mandarin flowed freely over the intercom. When she took this assignment three years ago she was required to learn no less than 5 languages. Mandarin was not included in her packet. She looked at Hiro inquiringly.

“I’m Japanese. I don’t speak Mandarin.”

“This is commander Daniels speaking. I don’t speak Mandarin. Please use the common tongue.”

“Sorry, we have a situation, ma’am.”

“I gathered that. Are you going to tell me? Or must I guess?” she asked downing the last dregs of her coffee.

“It’s Apophos,” he said.

“The meteor? What about it? We have been watching it. Its not supposed to pass by Earths orbit for 105 days. We estimated it would come no closer than 2.5 LD’s. I don’t see why that’s a problem.”

“There’s been a miscalculation.”

“Elaborate,” she commanded.

“It passed closer to Jupiter than we expected. It was caught in the gravity well… and…Jupiter launched it like a shot put.”

She did her level best not to curse. It was a habit that did not suit a commander. Or at least that’s what her father drilled into her from the time she could walk. The only problem was that she now knew several more languages. “What’s it’s new trajectory, speed?”

“We don’t know”

“What do you mean you don’t know?” And this time she indulged herself, swearing under her breath in fluent Japanese. The corner of Hiro’s mouth curled up. Being a lifelong military man, he new that discretion was the better part of valor, and left. She would need more coffee, he was bound to find it.

“We had it clocked at approximately 250,000 kph. It’s current speed has taken it out of range. Mars station should be picking it up on long range sensors soon. They should be able to get a read.”

“Hiro…”

“Mars Space Station on the vid, ma’am,” he said as he placed another cup of coffee in her hands.

“Tell me what you’ve got, Commander Fedorov,” she demanded in lieu of greeting.

“We just spotted it. At first I thought we had missed something important. I could not believe that this was Apophos.”

She grunted, imagining his surprise when his long range sensors started squawking.

“We have it traveling at a speed of approximately 442,000 kph.”

She cursed again, this time in Italian. “What’s the impact probability?”

“Impact is assured.” A quick glance at the solar system simulation on the wall showed that Jupiter was currently at it’s closest to Earth.

“That is just perfect.” The urge to throw the mug across the room was hard to resist. But the waste of good coffee and the destruction of millions of dollars of equipment stayed her hand.

Normally, she would put on her dress uniform when she spoke with Earth’s President. There simply was no time today. “How long?” He asked coming straight to the point.

“59 days.”

“What can we expect?”

“Apophos is 0.270 kilometers in diameter. If its a land impact you can expect earthquakes of 13 on the Richter scale. If its a water impact there will be Tsunamis between 1-2 kilometers high.

“What is your advice?” he asked running a hand over his face.

“Get to higher ground, and get under ground.”

“We have 9 Billion people on this planet commander. What do you propose I do with them?”

“I don’t know, sir. Lobos is self-sufficient for 72 people. Those of us who took this assignment have been chemically sterilized. We cannot handle even one extra person.

The space stations were similarly balanced. Getting supplies to outposts was so expensive there was no margin for extra people.

“Sir?” she asked hating what she was about to say.

“Yes, Commander,”

“We expect a 70-80% extinction rate.”

The president being x-marine looked at her like one old soldier to another. “It’s been a pleasure serving with you, Commander.”

“And you, sir,” she said as she killed the video connection.

Two months later as cool Himalayan air greeted her, she stood and watched, along with mankind’s remnant as Apophos slammed into the middle of the Atlantic.

“Whose bright idea was it to name a meteor after a demon?” she asked.

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