Author : Patricia Stewart, featured writer

Professor Murphy carefully reviewed the checklist of the Warp Vortex Generator. In a few minutes, it would be used in an attempt to divert a three kilometer asteroid from striking the Pacific Basin. This impact wasn’t going to be a “civilization destroyer,” but it was estimated that it would kill close to one billion people if it couldn’t be diverted.

The asteroid had been detected six months earlier by the Shoemaker Spacewatch Observatory in Arizona. A few days after its orbit was calculated, scientists from around the world gathered to determine the best method to alter its current path, but no satisfactory solution could be found. The asteroid wasn’t detected early enough to make any significant change to its orbit with the existing technology. That’s when Professor Murphy suggested using his experimental Warp Vortex. The prototype hadn’t actually been tested, but these were desperate times and they required desperate measures.

Murphy’s Warp Vortex had originally been proposed for space vessels. In theory, the generator would distort space-time in such a way that it would simulate a very large gravity well immediately in front of the ship. The ship would subsequently “fall” toward the vortex. However, since the generator was mounted to the ship, the Vortex would also advance. As a consequence, the ship would continue to fall faster and faster as it tried to drop into the ever advancing simulated gravity well. Later, when the Vortex was collapsed, the ship would maintain its forward velocity. Murphy’s current idea was to construct a massive Warp Vortex Generator on the surface of the Moon, at the Armstrong Lunar Base on the Kant Plateau. Then, as the asteroid shot past the Moon toward the Earth, he would generate a 200,000 kilometer wide space-time distortion that would cause the asteroid to whip around the centerline of the newly formed gravity well. When the Vortex was collapsed 30 seconds later, the asteroid would continue harmlessly into space.

“We’re ready, professor,” said an astrotechnician. “The asteroid will be in position in 10 seconds.” Ten seconds later, the computer initiated the Warp Vortex. The lunar base shook violently. Everybody was being tossed around, the lights flickered, and most of the bench-top equipment vibrated off the tables. The module walls groaned in protest, but remained air tight. After 30 seconds, the computer shut down the generator.

“Damn,” announced Murphy, “I didn’t expect there to be a moonquake. It’s lucky we weren’t killed. What’s the trajectory of the asteroid?”

“Tracking stations report that the asteroid is heading out of the ecliptic. It’s going to miss the Earth!” The lunar base erupted into spontaneous cheering and self-congratulatory hugs and handshakes. It wasn’t until one of the engineers, who wanted to look at the asteroid through the viewdome, realized that they had a serious problem. “Professor,” she yelled. “You need to look at this. The Earth is getting larger.”

“What?” The professor, and most of the staff, crammed into the viewdome, or looked out the bulbous wall ports. Sure enough, the Earth was twice its normal size, and growing larger. The professor staggered backward, and collapsed onto a lab stool. He steadied himself on a nearby table, as he brought his trembling left hand to his forehead. “Oops.”

This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows
365 Tomorrows Merchandise: The 365 Tomorrows Store
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow