On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
The sun simmered red as it slunk towards the jagged horizon. Herman Pope and Krista Hubbard stood watching it from the parking lot at the Houston Space Center anticipating their last day on Earth.
“When will the Object reach perihelion?” The twenty-eight year old systems engineer grasped the older gentleman’s hand without taking her gaze off of the sunset.
The fifty-five year old senior operations manager looked at his watch, which had been his father’s before his. “Less than thirty minutes.”
“That’s how long we have?”
“Maybe. Are you sure you don’t want to go back inside? The Argonaut is transmitting continual status updates.”
“Round trip communications between here and Mercury’s orbit is something like 13 minutes.”
“If it happens, we won’t feel the effects for a while.”
“Yeah, but my brother in Hawaii won’t be having a good day. He’s supposed to graduate from college there next month.”
“Come on, Krista.” He gently tugged on her arm.
“No.” She pulled back harder than she had to. “I want to stay out here.”
Progress spacecraft re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere in a blazing trail of plasma, as seen from the International Space Station – © NASA
The Escapist initiated the landing sequence as the ship began its rapid descent into the stratosphere, his neurochemical link to the spacecraft’s control systems making this nearly reflexive.
“Welcome to my world, Jack. Glad you could join the party.”
The voice of the Beast crackled in his audio receptors sounding as if he were a game-show host speaking offscreen; his tone exuding an untoward friendliness and familiarity.
“I have the Amaryllis with me.”
“The actual item? I’m impressed. Whole armies have been slain, eviscerated by the Negative whose sole task was to guard it unto eternity.”
“You can’t be serious.” Marshall Arnold was the Surface Team Lead for the Tyche expedition and his Science Officer Bertha Rose had just told him something impossible.
“I would have missed it if I hadn’t compared my readings to Marco’s stellar observations.”
“But what made you take readings of dying Tiagos?”
“Blame Gracie. She has this weird intuition and made a connection between the Tiago religion and death rituals with their screwy biology.”
“So wait a minute, Bertha. Gracie…”
“Call her over and ask her, Marshall.”
Image: ABC.net.au / Rocky Roe
Petia, the Chief of the People, had listened to all of the arguments presented by the strangers from the East. He had discussed them with the Council, which included Antipa the Medicine Priestess, Prim the War Chief, Cleitst the Spirit Talker, and Valdem the Voice of the People.
The strangers from the East offered much, but would what they offered be best for the People? They offered more sturdy homes which would be warmer in winter, efficient methods of farming that would produce more food, and an organized education system for the children of the People.
“It is clear the strangers offer different ways than ours.” Petia was old but sturdy, and his wisdom as Chief had not been questioned for all the fifty seasons he had been tribal leader.
“We cannot trust them.” Prim was War Chief and it was his responsibility to state any danger to the People he perceived.
August 29, 2064, Cape Canaveral, Florida
“There it goes. All our hopes for the human race surviving on another planet.”
Chester Menkin put his arm around his wife Helen’s zaftig waist as they watched the launch of the Daedalus One probe together. It was quite literally a “hot August night” as the Orion rocket’s enormous engines erupted with man-made fire, so like the gift of Prometheus, thrusting the space craft away from the launch pad and the surface of our world.
“We’ll eventually go extinct here on Earth, Chester, but we send the best part of ourselves to the stars.”
Dr. and Dr. Menkin were a brilliant Genetics team and responsible for successfully encoding human DNA onto bacteria so “we” could be sent on the long interstellar voyage to the new planet.
Immediately after Dov was revealed to be the heir apparent to the vast Stellar Empire, he was transported to the dwarf planet Arideen by his eternal adversary Serphentine. He was left there for a period of forty standard days with no rations and no shelter in order to contemplate all of the ramifications of his state.
At the end of that time, Serphentine arrived to confront the weakened Prince Dov. The brilliant illumination offered by the dense galactic cluster provided the dramatic backdrop to their encounter on the barren plains of a rock that was just barely larger than an asteroid.
“I am well aware of your abilities young Prince and equally aware of your hunger and thirst. If you really are heir to the Great King, prove it. Command the sand and rock to be your food and drink. I enjoy a good magic show.”
Dov was sitting on the very rocks Serphentine intended to see turned into a banquet. He looked up from his humble position at the tall, dark, and exquisitely handsome noble standing over him.