The wind blew past my face as I pedaled home from school. The Harrisons’ dog, Oscar, barked in full force, charging out of their yard and began to lumber after me, a ritual we performed almost daily. I sped up and pumped my legs harder against the pedals of my bike, sucking air into my lungs imagining myself as a jet engine gulping in air to fuel myself. I peered over my shoulder at Oscar, smiled, barked and growled back at him tauntingly, “Not, this time, Oscar… not this time.”
Rounding the corner onto Main Street, I skidded into our driveway hopped off my bike. I ran to the garage door hefting it with all my might. Dad has promised to fix it, but he was always busy with work. he was a research scientist at the Salina Public Health Department. It seemed to be a fad these days to find high lead levels in children. So, as I said, he kept busy. Salina was a large town about 50 miles away so it took my father about an hour to get home if interstate 40 wasn’t jammed up with some wreck or another. Finally lifting the garage door, I wheeled my bike in and pulled the garage door down, having to use my weight and my foot to close it the final few inches.
I ran into the house, nobody locked their houses in Sylvan Grove, there was nothing to steal. It was a poor town with a declining population. The Jordan Mining Company having moved out of town about 30 years ago. The lead vein they had been mining had run out leaving behind a pile of tailings and misery. I wanted to surprise my dad by having my homework done when he got home around 6pm. It wouldn’t be hard. I only had math and science to do and I was good at both of them, Thank God it wasn’t history! Or I’d be up all night dwaddling about why Napoleon had a thing for some girl named Josephine. Who cares! It was Friday night and tonight was “Star Night.” I was going to look for Uranus tonight, it was next on my list of planets to look for. A list cut short by the unfortunate demotion of Pluto, I was still bummed about that.
* * *
“Ethan?” My father bellowed as he came into the house.
“Hey, Dad. I’m upstairs.”
“How’s the homework coming?”
I came running down the stairs and slid around the corner in my stocking feet. Stopping and placing my hands on my waist and puffing out my chest all official like.
“I’m done” I pronounced.
“Are you now?” He pulled me to him and gave me a big ol bear hug, sat me down and ruffled my hair.
“Math and science again?”
“Let me see your math problems. You know you like making those simple mistakes.”
“Not this time Pop, you will not defeat me with your superior math skills!” I yelled in triumph as I charged back up the stairs to get my math homework! I had double triple checked my math this time. I knew I had them all right.
“What planet are we looking for tonight? he yelled from the kitchen.
“UR ANUS,” I yelled back, “It shouldn’t be hard to find because it’s sooo big!”
“Har de har, how many of those jokes you have prepared for tonight?”
“About fifty,” I stated with a grin as I slid back into the kitchen with my homework in hand.
“Here, stir this” He handed me an old beat up wooden spoon, bringing me back to a memory of my mother. She used to create Culinary Works of Art as my father would call them with this very spoon, things were simpler, sadder now. I handed off my math homework to him and began to stir the soup, mmm tomato soup! and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner! Quite possibly one of my most favorite dinners of all time. Like most 8th graders I had sophisticated tastes!
“Are you sure on number twenty-three? Looks like you graphed in the wrong direction.”
* * *
On board Mining Vessel 16, Senior Jacen looked over his reports. The ship would be entering into system 321 in a few days to begin mining operations. System 321 was expected to produce a high yield of raw material for the RD-7 project. Most star systems only had one or two gas giants and just as many rocky planets. System 321 had a large outer ring of rocky bodies, four gas giants planets, an asteroid belt, and four rocky planets. The star was a typical M-class star deemed unsuitable for the RD-7 project, which required red dwarf stars. The star from this system would be mined in a few months using a star lifting operation and would take several months to harvest entirely. “Yes, system 321 would be very profitable” Senior Jacen thought to himself.
This wasn’t Senior Jacen’s first trip, he had been on several, they had just finished harvesting system 320 about a month ago. As he continued to look over his reports, his experience told him there was a possibility that 3 of the planets in system 321 were in the habitable zone of the star. This system had been surveyed about two hundred standard years ago and no life was detected. The Exacton Survey Corporations (ESC) seal of accuracy was signed into the document. ESC had been set up by the Republic of Nine after the Life Overall Ruling, which was put into law when the original DSP-1 Project was approved. The “Life Overall Ruling” states: “Any system with known life in it cannot be mined for any megastructure project.” Life was known to be rare and precious in the known universe and therefore any life needed to be preserved. Senior Jacen knew the survey was accurate, it had never been wrong. Still, he decided to bring this to Captain Tarvos attention. The punishment for defying the LOR was severe, the loss of all rank and status and relegation to data maintenance for the MATR Supercomputer. This amounted to being imprisoned for life doing mundane repetitious work forever. Not something Senior Jacen wanted to do, ever…
“Our normal meeting is at 15:00, come back then” Captain Tarvos muttered annoyingly without even directing his attention towards Senior Jacen.
“As you wish, Captain” Senior Jacen frustratingly left the Captain’s office, their relations had tenuous at best. Captain Tarvos had been transferred to Mining Vessel 16 at the last moment before departing on this run. Captain Lenose, the previous captain, had been promoted to Captain a star lifter in another quadrant. Captain Tarvos was a strict disciplinarian. Which was unwelcome on a civilian mining vessel, none the less, Senior Jacen had to deal with him. Senior Jacen was due to attend Captain’s Level 1 Training at their return to the core systems and did not need any blemishes on his otherwise stellar career.
At 15:00, Senior Jacen notified Captain Tarvos of his arrival.
“Enter” Captain Tarvos ordered with mild annoyance.
“I have looked over the reports for this system and I have noticed something interesting”
“Again? As interesting as last time?”
During mining operations of system 320, Senior Jacen had reported several anomalies that he has discovered in the data. This had annoyed Captain Tarvos because he considered the information highly accurate.
“Yes Sir, there are planets in this system that are in the habitable zone of its host star.”
Captain Tarvos finally turned his attention toward Senior Jacen. Showing noticeable irritation.
“Ok and, does the survey have the ECS seal thing?”
“Yes it has the “ESC” seal,” Senior Jacen emphasized the correct acronym. Silently musing to himself, “ECS” was slang used in the maintenance training centers for “Everybody Cleans Shit”
“So what’s the issue then Senior Jacen?”
“I thought I would bring it to your attention.”
“Senior Jacen, Do not bring these mundane flights of fantasy to me. Has the ECS…”
There it was again Senior Jacen giggled to himself.
“…ever been wrong? EVER?” Captain Tarvos bellowed.
“No sir, ECS has never been wrong.” Senior Jacen could hardly contain himself.
“How long has it been since your last psych evaluation Senior Jacen?” Captain Tarvos asked with mild irritation.
“Sir, about a week before departure.”
“Perhaps we should check to see if the psych teams reports are accurate considering you want to question the accuracy of the date from a highly regarded company that has never been inaccurate in its history.”
“Sir, there is always a first time for everything.”
Captain Tarvos cut him off. “You are dismissed Senior Jacen, don’t bring me your uneducated observations anymore, Stick to the facts.”
Everybody cleans shit, Senior Jacen thought to himself as he left.
* * *
Jack peered at his screens monitoring the data stream from New Horizons. Things had calmed down to a normal after the excitement of the Pluto flyby. They were still getting Pluto data from New Horizons and would be for several months as it hurled itself towards Kuiper belt object 2014 MU. Jack had been part of the mission since its inception, and he loved his work at the Missions Operations Center. It was a dream job for him. As he looked at the data stream it suddenly went dead. Jack looked puzzled at the screen and began to run a systems check on the computers, everything checked out fine. Following protocol, he then sent a “wake” signal to New Horizons it would take approximately nine hours to get any data back.
* * *
CNN: “Nasa lost contact with the New Horizons probe today, as it journeyed deeper into the Kuiper belt to explore new worlds. You’ll remember New Horizons was the spacecraft that excited the world with its high definition pictures of Pluto about a year and a half ago. Alan Stern, Leader of the New Horizons Team states: “There were no known anomalies with the spacecraft before we lost contact. We are saddened by the loss of New Horizons. The craft did complete its primary mission giving us new and exciting data about Pluto and its moons.”
* * *
* * *
“I have the final data from New Horizons, Alan” Jack said somberly.
“Anything that stands out?”
“The gravity and magnetic meters spiked off scale high just before we lost contact. I think she hit something big.” Jack stated with amazement.
“Also, remember those course corrections we had to make last week.”
Alan looked puzzled.
“There’s nothing out there that big is there?”
“The instruments were only calibrated for small dwarf planet sized objects. We didn’t expect there to be anything else bigger in the Kuiper belt.”
“Correlating the data with the course corrections, whatever the probe hit is larger than Jupiter.”
Planet X? Alan asked with an amused look on his face.
“That’s supposed to be beyond the Kuiper belt nowhere near New Horizons.”
Jack knew Planet X was a hypothetical brown dwarf star that was supposed to be orbiting beyond the Kuiper belt and was to account for the irregular orbits of Neptune and Uranus.
“I think this is something else,” Jack said with excitement, “This data indicates the anomaly would be bigger than Planet X anyways.”
Scientist’s were always excited about anomalies in the data even if they did destroy a multi-million dollar spacecraft.
I looked through my telescope for the third time in as many minutes, I wanted to make sure what I was seeing wasn’t a mistake before I asked my father about it. It looks as if there was another star or planet shining right next to Uranus. As far as I knew it wasn’t supposed to be there.
“Dad, umm, is there supposed to be another star near Uranus tonight?”
“Uranus isn’t a star Ethan, you know that.”
“Duh, dad, it looks doubled in my scope.”
“Clean the outer lens then Ethan.” his dad stated, looking over at him with a grin.
“I already did” mused Ethan as he picked up his lens cap and threw it at his father who dodged it with ease.
“Dad, come look.”
Frank walked over to the telescope, Ethan’s pride and joy, it had been Evelyn’s idea to get it for his 12th birthday. She was already sick by then and wanted something special for Ethan to help him through the rough times. The telescope was expensive but worth it, Ethan took care of it better than anything he owned, even that bike of his. Ethan saw the telescope as the memory of his mother, the anchor in reality that held her to him. Evelyn died a few months later of kidney and stomach cancer. It took a while for them to adjust to their new lives. When Frank moved them to Sylvan Grove from Salina, it added a 50-mile commute, but it removed them from the memories and helped ease the sadness of her death. Frank missed his wife dearly, the nights were lonely without her, he had even considered dating yet he was still pining for his love Evelyn.
As Frank peered into his son’s telescope, he saw what looked like two stars right next to each other, one notably bigger than the other. Frank checked the coordinates in Ethan’s auto-tracker system and then referred to the chart for tonight. They were indeed correct. Cool, he thought to himself, my son discovered a new star.
* * *
Mining Vessel 16 closed in on the third gas giant of the system. It was closest to their entry point into system 321. The gravity buffers had turned on automatically as expected. The ship was ready to begin operations.
“Sir, we are about to start mining operations on gas giant three of system 321.”
“Don’t you mean gas giant two” Captain Tarvos stated in a terse tone.
“Sir, we number from the host star out.”
Senior Jacen could not show the utter disdain he had acquired towards Captain Tarvos in the short time they had known each other. He wondered to himself how he was going to make it through this trip with his reputation unscathed.
“Oh, that’s right,” Captain Tarvos said with official acknowledgment, like a politician agreeing to something he had no clue about.
“Go ahead and turn on the gravity buffers and commence mining operations!” Captain Tarvos ordered in official tone as if reading from a manual.
Senior Jacen had stopped acknowledging Captain Tarvos’ naivety in regards to normal ship operations. He found that letting Captain Tarvos think he was correct and in control was best, to avoid any abrasive confrontations between the two of them. Senior Jacen didn’t like abrasive confrontation, did anyone? Perhaps Captain Tarvos did, that’s why he acted like such an ass.
Senior Jacen entered in the commands and the massive vessel began tearing apart the planet at an atomic level, the system was designed to break down the planet and sort it into its individual components. Hydrogen and carbon were split from the methane, nitrogen, and hydrogen from the ammonia, hydrogen, and oxygen from the water, ice and various other elements effectively storing them in the cavernous holds of the massive vessel. The ship could store the mass of about fifty planets of this size. The size of each hold based upon the percentage occurrence of that element in the universe. I.E: The hydrogen hold was massive whereas the gold, silver and other heavy elements were much smaller. The operation would take a little over a day and then they would move onto the next gas giant in system 321.
* * *
“Dad, what’s wrong? “
“Nothing Ethan, maybe you discovered a new star? What do you want to name it?”
“Let’s name it Evelyn, Dad!” Frank fished his phone out of his pocket and dialed an old friend from Texas A&M observatory. He knew it was late in the evening, but this was important and astronomers were always up late. The image he saw in his son’s telescope was not right, it looked as if two stars were in the same location where just Uranus should be.
“Hey Frank, how ya been?” Mike stated in a hurried voice.
“Been good Mike, you seem busy.”
“There’s something going on with Uranus,” Mike said to Frank with a hint of alarm in his voice.
“That’s what I was calling you about, did my kid discover a new star? If so we wanna call it Evelyn.”
“I don’t think you want to call this thing Evelyn, Frank!”
Mike, Frank, and Evelyn has all been friends during college at Texas A&M. Mike was aware of how Evelyn’s death had affected Frank, he wasn’t the same driven man that he was during college. Evelyn had been his muse, the two had been meant for one another. He remembered when they met, the two actually stood stunned looking at each other for over a minute, since then they had been inseparable.
“Oh?” Frank said with confusion.
“Yea, this thing is actually breaking down Uranus!” Nasa has been on this and the president has been alerted. We noticed it last night as it closed in on the planet”
“How did you find it?” Mike questioned.
“It was on Ethan’s list to look at tonight.”
“Well, do me a favor,” Mike said in all seriousness, “Keep this hush hush for now.”
“Ok will do Mike, just keep us in the loop?”
* * *
The president turned towards his science advisor after looking at the images of Uranus being torn apart.
“Jim, what is this?” He asked.
Mr. President, “We honestly don’t know, this is unlike any phenomenon we have ever experienced in the past. Nasa doesn’t even know what it is.”
“Does it pose a threat to Earth?”
“Well, Sir the lack of Uranus’ gravitational influence will cause adverse effects to other bodies in the solar system, we are running simulations now to find out how adverse those effects will be.”
“Dammit Jim! Does it pose an immediate threat to Earth?” President McVoy asked again.
“Sir we just don’t know, like I said, we don’t even know what it is right now.”
“Jim, it’s a god damned planet eating planet, is what it is.”
“Brilliant deduction Mr. President” Jim started making light of the situation.
“Not funny, Jim!”
President Lenny McVoy and Jim Krik had been friends for a long time. Lenny was supposed to be the Science President, having run on the platform that you could solve the world’s problems with science. Leading the nation into a new age of science and prosperity. He had already accomplished getting a Carbon Tax passed and even managed to get China and Russia to come along. The world had finally acknowledged global warming as a fact and that extreme measures were needed to save the planet from a runaway greenhouse effect.
“Who else knows about it?” The President asked about the Uranus Incident.
“Someone from Texas A&M observatory and a kid and his dad from Kansas. There are other amateur astronomers who are musing on Reddit and other forums. We should make an official statement soon.”
“What exactly should we make a statement about? “Massive planet sized thing eats Uranus? I can just see the headlines.”
Jim laughed out loud, “You’re so eloquent with your words, Mr. President.”
“That’s why I have speech writers Jim,” President McVoy said with a grin.
“Marjorie, the President bellowed.”
“Yes, Mr. President” Marjorie chimed across the intercom.
“Get, Fred and Kim in here, we have a speech to write, alert the media, and wake up Ralph – we’ll probably need a press secretary.”
“Yes, Mr. President.”
The President looked up at his friend Jim. “You sure you’re not pulling my leg on this one?”
“I wish Mr. President.”
* * *
Back in Kansas, Ethan was peering out the living room window at the activity on the street. “Dad, another news truck just pulled up, looks like channel 12!” The news trucks began to enter our small town just after the president’s speech, searching in earnest for me, the one who was falsely credited with discovering the object now dubbed “Ethan’s Object.” Our address in the phonebook lead them directly to us. Apparently our town was so small that my father was the only Frank in Sylvan Grove. In the week since the disappearance or consumption of Uranus depending on how you looked at it, my object had moved towards Neptune, the planet farthest from our sun. Scientists had unequivocally agreed that it was under intelligent control. Several reporters had knocked on the door, but my father decided not to answer. He did not like all of the attention.
“Get away from the window, Ethan!” My dad said with a concerned voice.
“Daaaad,” I whined.
“They just want a story to tell that isn’t theirs to tell in the first place.”
“Dad, if we talk to them maybe they will go away. I saw Mr. Rickson, my science teacher, talk to them. He said he was responsible for my interest in Science. If we don’t talk to them, they will just make up something about us.”
“You know you’re too smart for your own good right?” My father said with a proud look on his face.
“Yep,” I piped up.
“Let’s talk to CNN, I like them the best.”
“Ok,” my father said reluctantly.
My father says he remembers a feeling much like the one we are experiencing now. He spoke about 9-11 when the first plane hit, he like others thought it was a horrible accident at first, but when the second plane hit we knew it wasn’t that. The doomed feeling, he felt knowing that this was a purposeful act. The full-on realization that we were under attack and we had no response. All of our fears laid bare before us. When Uranus fell, there was some off chance it was just a rogue planetoid that had collided with the planet, it could be rationalized away. That is what I had hoped when I saw it happen through the lens of my telescope. But to see The Ethan Object head straight to the nearest planet Neptune and do it again… We all knew at this time; we may be in trouble. More than just a single nation losing a few thousand souls to a senseless act of terror. Nobody said it, but we all thought it. What if this thing heads towards Earth?
* * *
The President’s science advisor barely had any sleep since The Ethan Object was spotted. Jim, like most scientists, was gravely concerned with the current situation. He had to maintain calm when briefing the president.
“Mr. President, after Neptune was destroyed, the object started to head further out to space away from us.”
“Well that’s good!” President McVoy stated with optimism.
“Not entirely Sir, we believe that on its current course it is headed to Pluto. It will take just over a week to get there at its current speed.”
* * *
“Why are we going after this speck of dust,” Captain Tarvos asked Senior Jacen during the daily 15:00 briefing.
“Matter is Matter Sir,” Senior Jacen quipped “It all adds up.”
“Anything else to report?”
“Here are the mass reports from the last gas giant we mined, they are as expected.”
“I’ll be the judge of that Senior Jacen, you are dismissed.”
Senior Jacen wondered if Captain Asshole knew this wasn’t a military ship. He had checked the data banks on Captain Tarvos and found that he was a career military man, it wasn’t entirely clear why or how he ended up on Mining Vessel 16, but it is probably why he was such a jerk. He probably felt this duty was beneath him.
Operations to mine that small rock at the outer edges of the system took all of an hour and course change was authorized to head inwards toward the second gas giant of the system. This one had a matter rich ring system and several small moons not to mention it was the second largest gas giant of the system. This would be a prestigious operation; his status would rise considerably when he returned to the core systems. Too bad, he had to share it with Captain Asshole.
* * *
A group of major countries was formed in order to organize a global response to The Ethan Object now called the “EO. They were formally called the EO Response Group (EORG). Considering the grave perceived danger, the EO posed to Earth, unparalleled cooperation between the nations was achieved. Longtime enemies sat together in harmonious agreement. With a single purpose, polarizing them to action. It was the general consensus that Earth did not have a lot of time. The first act of the EORG was to form the EO Solution Committee.
The EO Solution Committee ( EOSC ) was formed just after Neptune was destroyed. A collective of scientific disciplines and other fields to give broad knowledge base to help solve the general four questions.
1. Was Earth in danger? If so how long until it reaches Earth?
2. What was its purpose?
3. How do we communicate with it?
4. If we cannot communicate with it, and Earth is in danger. How do we stop it?
* * *
After about a week of deliberation, a consensus was reached.
“Mr. President, I have the findings of the EOSC,” Jim stated.
“Go ahead Jim.”
“Question number one, Unanimous yes! Earth is in danger. The conclusion is: If the craft detoured out to Pluto, it isn’t just interested in the gas giants of the system.”
“If it keeps its current course, we have just over two weeks before it reaches Earth.”
“Question number two, what is the purpose of the EO? About 95% agree it is a mining vessel of some sort. This conclusion comes from the fact that it collects all matter like a giant vacuum cleaner. Think of a trail of pennies, if you followed and picked them all up you would have several pennies. “It all adds up.” Most likely the craft is from an extremely advanced civilization building a mega structure of some sort. There is a possibility of a megastructure being found approximately 1,480 light years away called KIC 8462822 or Tabby’s star named after Tabetha S Boyajian.”
“Question number three, how do we communicate with it? There are several debates still raging about this. Personally, I think we should try them all, lasers, radio waves, microwaves, nukes and reflective surfaces. But if they aren’t listening we cannot make them listen. The ship could be automated.”
“Question number four, if we cannot communicate with it and Earth is in danger how do we stop it?” The general consensus is, we can’t, the thing is larger than Jupiter. We could toss every nuke we had at it and it wouldn’t even dent the thing. There are some ideas to try and find a point of weakness, a bridge or antenna and aim nukes at those points, but it is a long shot. Problem is, our nukes can even reach it until it’s so close its gravitational field would begin to tear the planet apart.”
“That doesn’t bode well for us does it, Jim?” the president said somberly. I assume the other EORG leaders have this information?”
“Good, we have a meeting in an hour. Have Nasa coordinate the “EO” communication teams to work out the details of how we would like to begin to attempt communications with the EO. I’m assuming the liaisons of the other agencies from around the world have all arrived in Houston?”
“Correct Sir, the cooperation is unparalleled.”
“Let’s just hope it’s not too late Jim!”
* * *
“Dad come see come see” I yelled excitedly at my father, the EO was close enough now to be seen with the naked eye as it closed in on Saturn. It was still just a bright dot, but you could see it steadily march across the sky.
“Yea yea” My Father bellowed. “Just making some popcorn.”
“Oh oh, me too?” Excitedly I asked, “Do we still have some of that cheese flavored stuff to sprinkle on it?”
“Umm Yea,” my father said as he walked out of the sliding glass door leading to the backyard of our house. With two huge bowls of popcorn in each hand.
“Wanna go and grab the sodas,” He said smiling at me.
I popped out of my chair and ran back into the house, into the kitchen grabbing two Pepsi’s from the refrigerator, palming one in each hand, I shook his behind my back as I ran outside. I handed dad his and he squeezed it a little then deftly grabbed my soda out of my hand and gave me his. He grinned at me. “I ain’t that dumb kiddo, remember I was a kid also once.”
“Dad you’re still a kid” I said, chiding him with a grin.
“I know right, like oh my god!” He flipped his hand at his hair like a teenage girl.
“Stop stop,” I yelled, “I’ll never get that image out of my head like, EVAR.”
I peered back up at the sky as the EO approached Saturn, it was hard to believe in a few hours that the beautiful majesty that is Saturn would no longer exist. The point of light that had graced our skies for eons would be gone. CNN was airing live video images from some of the world’s best telescopes. Dad and I decided to watch outside and enjoy the cool summer air. We would watch Jupiter get munched on CNN later in the week.
* * *
Jim Krik had been voted to be the scientific spokesmen to the EORG as he had good relations with the administrators of NASA. Houston had been made the hub for the scientific response teams that gathered from all major space agencies around the world.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the EORG, I have an update on our latest plans.”
“Go ahead Jim,” Janet Usher, the leader of Great Britain said.
“We will be sending what is essentially a very loud radio pulse from all of the largest transmitters in the world at the EO. This will commence in about 2 hours.”
“Great Jim! What is our next course of action after that?”
“There are a few large lasers on the planet, but the light defuses pretty quickly. We will have to wait for the EO to get closer to use them.”
“There is also some advancement from a joint venture between rocket scientists from Russia, China and the United States. It still needs to be tested, but they believe they can greatly increase the range of our country’s ballistic missile, and quickly. I will update you on this development as more information comes in.”
“What point will that serve?” Janet started with mild irritation.
“Well Ma’am, think of it as a big loud knock on the hull of a ship here on Earth, only we’re knocking with several hundred kilotons of nuclear missiles.”
“Won’t that just piss them off?”
“Ma’am, pissing them off is the least of our worries. They would have to know we are here and care that we are here, in order to change their course. We think of it more as a “Knock knock, Yoohooo, Hi, yea we’re here! Can you go away now, please?”
Jim had figured it was past time to be speaking in formalities and worry about protocol. He felt straightforward common sense English was the best way to communicate quickly.
Janet looked at Jim with mild amusement and smiled which was hard under current circumstances.
“I’d rather piss them off, at least it would give them a good reason to destroy us.”
The group ushered forth mild reserved laughter.
“Other than the fact they just need resources for their big building project and could care less about us?”
“I would like to think that a species or species’ this advanced would have a value for life.”
“So would I ma’am, so would I.”
* * *
Senior Jacen alerted Captain Tarvos and requested an emergency meeting.
“Senior Jacen, if you continue to bother me with your inane babble, I will have to formally reprimand you.”
“Sir, there seems to be a radio pulse coming from the third planet of the system we are in.”
“I do not want to hear your suppositions Senior Jacen, it’s just a radio signal from that nearby pulsar.”
“Now leave my presence, and only come back during prescribed meeting hours.”
Senior Jacen began to wonder if Captain Tavros’s incompetence was purposeful, there was no nearby pulsar. What the hell was he thinking? Senior Jacen had already began to cover his ass he had noted and documented every interaction with Captain Tarvos and stored it in a personal memory bank just for this purpose. In their society it was difficult to override superiors, usually their word was taken over subordinates. He would have to do some maneuvering once he returned back to the core systems if he was going to survive his encounter with Captain Tarvos. Something bugged him though, this wasn’t normal, Vessel captains didn’t not act like this.
Jim walked somberly back into the meeting room of the EORG, the room was filled with multiple big screen TV’s representing each of the major member countries of the EORG. He didn’t know how he was going to tell them the news. Nothing had happened after the radio pulse was sent out. The return pulse was detected so he knew that it did hit the EO. The EO did not change course or respond in any way. The craft was about one day from Jupiter, it had already dipped in and destroyed Mars and took a huge swath out of the asteroid belt which bought them about a week more time.
Jim was startled by his phone ringing it was from Henry Cho, the leader of the rocket dynamics team. Jim hoped this call would be good news.
“Ladies and gentlemen” Jim started the meeting as soon as the phone call was over and the last delegate had appeared on his screen. “I have good news and bad news. First off, operation “Loud Pulse” was unsuccessful, the EO has not shown any course change since we sent the radio pulse.”
“That’s disappointing,” Vladmir Putztan, stated in a thick Russian accent.
“I’m assuming that was the bad news” President McVoy stated with a smile to his friend.
“Yes sir, Mr. President, that’s the bad news.”
“The good news is, Mr. Cho, with the Rocket Dynamics team has successfully tested and confirmed that they can drastically increase the range of our ballistic missiles. We already had pre authorization from America, Great Britain and Russia to begin modifications as soon as it was confirmed. We will just need confirmation from the rest of the nuclear armed member nations and their subordinates.”
A unanimous “aye” came from the rest of the member nations who hadn’t yet given authorization.
“With teams already in place the preauthorized nations will be able to launch in about 16 hours, this should be just around the time the EO finishes Jupiter, the plan is to save the rest of the missiles for a last ditch effort if the original volley doesn’t work. We’re dubbing this “Operation Knock Knock.”
“Have we determined where we are going to aim the missiles yet?” Prime Minister Tetsuo Shima asked.
“There is a small outcropping near the top of the ships intake area we believe it may be a sensor that detects the makeup of the material as it enters into the ship, it in itself is two hundred miles across.”
* * *
Senior Jacen noted the data from the mass collection calibrator and saw some very unusual radiation readings. They weren’t like the radiation coming from the last gas giant they were somewhat… dirty. Finding information in the ships databanks about some very ancient weapons used in the wars before the ascendance he was able to match the radiation readings. They were the same. These radiation readings were from some very ancient weapons. How the heck he wondered to himself. The thought hit him like a hammer, the rush of fear and anger overwhelmed him. There was a habited planet in this system and they had just tried to defend themselves. He could only imagine the fear they were going through. Senior Jacen barged in on Captain Tarvos unannounced.
Captain Tarvos calmly turned towards Senior Jacen as he entered.
“It isn’t 15:00 Senior Jacen is it?”
“Sir, there is a habited planet in this system, the LOR states we cannot mine any planet in a system with life.”
“Oh, what evidence do you have exactly?”
“Sir there was unusual radiation readings on the collection calibrator.”
“Stop right there Senior Jacen, you telling me your getting unusual radiation readings off an instrument that was just stuck into a highly radioactive gas giant planet?”
Senior Jacen knew right then that nothing he could say would change this situation. He was about to witness the destruction of a culture, a way of life.
“Get out of my sight Senior Jacen, you will be receiving a formal reprimand because of this and your continued insubordination.”
Senior Jacen did not say a word as he left, his mind was whirring about what he could do to save the planet possibly billions of sentient beings were about to be destroyed and for what? A planets worth of resources that were insignificant in the scheme of things it was worth a small amount of prestige.
Senior Jacen whipped around back into Captain Tarvos office, “Sir I will use some of my prestige to buy the next planet in the system.”
“You’ll do no such thing; the amount you will lose form my reprimand alone will break you.”
“You are boring me with your lunacy Senior Jacen, just leave, only come during our 15:00 meetings and ONLY then if you have anything factual and significant to report. Now GET OUT!”
* * *
Mr. President, we are ready in 3, 2, 1
“My Fellow Americans, and people of Earth, Operation Knock Knock 2 has failed, the Ethan Object has not changed course and it is headed directly for Earth. Unfortunately, we are out of options. I can only hope you all will find someone you love to spend these last few hours with them. lets us hope that our memories will drift in the cosmos and be herd one day. May God bless you all.”
* * *
I hugged my father as we looked into the sky, it was noon and we could see the white outline of the massive spacecraft looming in the sky. The pull was subtle at first and then…..
* * *
At 15:00 Senior Jacen alerted Captain Tarvos of his presence. “Do you have something significant to report?” snarled the captain.
Senior Jacen did, it was something that he knew Captain Tarvos couldn’t explain away.
“Sir I have the readings from the last planet.”
“Oh good, I’m assuming the iron content was high as we expected?”
“Yes Sir, so were the organics, they were consistent with a habited planet.”
Captain Tarvos showed no emotion as he spoke with complete calm, “Well I’m sure that can be a mistake can’t it? If you don’t want have a formal reprimand on your record before you go to captain’s school?”
Senior Jacen, stunned, left the room. In utter disbelief.
Notes from the Author,
Hello! Thank you for reading my story. I have not written much in my 46 years but I’m finding I enjoy it. I have no formal writing lessons other than the two college courses I have taken. This is the first major story I have ever written in my life. Please understand, I am not an expert in any of these subjects. I just enjoy reading and thinking about them. If you see any glowing errors please politely correct me and explain completely why you feel it is an error.
I understand there may be continuity issues. The solar system formation is from early 2017 where the planets are arranged in a nice spiral. I just made it summer instead of winter. It’s my story, I do what I want ☺. The location of New Horizons and Pluto is also off. I know I destroyed New Horizons before Uranus which would put it way out of position from Pluto. I also realized late in the story that I had my planet order wrong and that Neptune, of course, was the furthest planet from the sun, besides pluto, but we won’t get into that. Looking at a map of the solar system http://www.theplanetstoday.com/solar_system_video_2017.html it would be logical that if Mining Vessel 16 came into the solar system near Uranus that it would mine it first. Plus I’d have to dump all the funny UR ANUS jokes if I had it mine Neptune first.
As far as time is concerned I felt it better to keep with days and months on the Mining Ship in order to not overly confuse things. Plus I didn’t want to sit down and figure out some obscure timing system. Yes, you can call me a lazy writer. I did do research on Ethan and Franks town and it does exist. I have never been there. I also used some concepts from Isaac Arthur on youtube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZFipeZtQM5CKUjx6grh54g. You can assume that the civilization that operates Mining Vessel 15 is a Level 2 civilization on the Kardashev scale outlined here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale
This story is just the first of many I plan on writing in this timeline.
There are questions to be answered:
- What is the Republic of Nine?
2. What is the RD-7 project?
3. And the DS-1 project?
4. What is the MATR Supercomputer?
5. Why is Captain Tarvos such a dick?
6. Why was Captain Lenose transferred at the last second? that seems a little irresponsible.
7. What species are Senior Jacen and Captain Tarvos?