Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
Circa 2086, the war with the Epsilon Eridani System was currently on hold, as leaders from both worlds were attempting to negotiate a truce. However, most of Earth’s military advisors were against a truce, because the Earth Alliance was clearly winning the war. Our technology was far superior to theirs. It was best, they said, to destroy the Eridani’s ability to wage war while we had the advantage, rather than give them the opportunity to regroup and strengthen. What the Eridani lacked in technology, they made up for in aggressiveness. They would be back if they were not destroyed. But soldiers only fight the wars; politicians start and end them.
While the negotiations ebbed on, the Earth Alliance continued to patrol the solar system. The stealth scout ship Casper was assigned the volume of space between Earth and Venus from zero degrees to minus thirty degrees. Normally, a pretty quiet sector. The Eridani almost always attacked Earth from above the ecliptic, most likely because their star was located in the northern hemisphere. They were considered aggressive, but not very imaginative. While the two-man crew of the Casper patrolled their sector, their proximity alarm sounded. “Hey, Commander, look. It’s an Eridani ship. What’s it doing in here?”
“Good question Lieutenant. Let’s follow it and find out. Keep the cloak engaged.” They tailed the Eridani ship to a small asteroid. The Eridani had constructed several large ion drive impulse engines in one quadrant of the asteroid. “What data do we have on this rock, Lieutenant?”
After consulting the ship’s computer, “It’s called 2340 Hathor. It’s an Aten Type asteroid. It’s approximately 5.3 kilometers in diameters, a mass of 200 trillion kilograms, and average orbital velocity of 30.7 kilometers per second. Oh, damn. It’s scheduled to make a close approach to Earth on October 21, 2086. That’s in two months. Do you think those bastards are going to attempt to change its orbit so that it hits Earth, even while they negotiate a peace treaty?”
“Apparently, Lieutenant. Notify Earth and request instructions.”
Two hours later, Earth responded. The celestial mechanics concluded that based to the photographs of the ion engines, a burn of 18 hours was required to produce an intersect orbit. If the full burn was completed, Earth would not have time to alter the new orbit before impact. A battlecruiser was being dispatched, but wouldn’t reach their coordinates for three days. Their orders were to continue monitoring the asteroid, but if the Eridani ignited the engines before the battlecruiser arrived, they were to attempt sabotage, at whatever cost.
The engines ignited the following day. “Well, lieutenant, our moment of truth has arrived. I’ve been thinking of options. Unfortunately, the only sure fire way to stop them is to park next to their fuel tanks and overload our reactor. What do you say?”
“Well, sir, I have three kids on Earth. I’d prefer to have them die of old age, rather than by a comet impact. I say, let’s do it.”
On Earth, Steven Patterson was walking his dog just before sunrise. As he looked into the western sky, he saw a bright star appear near the horizon. It was nearly ten times brighter than Venus, but faded quickly. “What the hell was that?” he wondered aloud.