Author : James C.G. Shirk

The automated countdown clock flashed: one hour, twenty-one minutes.

Commander Albright grimaced and adjusted the controls to retract the dome above. The astronomy observation skylight on lunar colony six, located at the southern edge of Mare Sarenitatis, slid noiselessly open. Earth, in its radiant magnificence, hung in the blackness of the overhead sky. “So, where is Goliath going to hit now?” he asked.

His cohort, Lieutenant Conrad, read the most recent data spewing from the telemetry console. “Almost right where originally thought — about six miles off the Newfoundland coast.”

Albright frowned. “Even after the intercept?”

“Yep. Missiles didn’t affect the flight path much — probably because it’s such a big honker.”

“I can’t frickin’ watch,” Albright said, punching the skylight closed.

“At least they let you bring up your wife in the last load of refugees,” Conrad said, trying his best to assuage Albright.

“Yeah, for what good it does my brother and sister…and my parents.”

Conrad winced; Albright was a glass half-empty kind of guy. “Where are they?” he asked.

“Mom and Dad live in St. Louis; brother’s got a farm in northern Indiana; and Sis is in Chicago.”

Shaking his head, Conrad said, “Almost makes me happy I’m an orphan,” and then added, “I guess that it’s good they don’t know what’s coming. It’ll be over in a flash. Thank goodness the government was successful keeping this under wraps.”

“I suppose,” Albright said morosely. “Thing is, the friggin’ idiots shouldn’t have put all our eggs in one basket in the first place.”

“You’re referring to the micro-hole?”

“Exactly. Focusing all our resources to create a miniature black hole in Goliath’s flight path, without developing a viable backup plan, was sheer stupidity,” he sneered. “Unless you call that pitiful attempt at blowing up the damn thing a backup plan.”

Conrad nodded. “Well, they were partially successful. They created the micro-hole okay. Unfortunately, the delivery system failed.”

“It wasn’t deployed early enough,” Albright went on, “and, of course, the damn thing disappeared enroute.”

Albright rose from his chair and walked to the event display screen. On it, the telescopic image of Goliath, a tumbling, black monstrosity, filled the screen — fifteen miles wide; it was a planet killer. Nothing would survive the impact. Nothing.

“You’re an ugly, remorseless bitch,” he murmured under his breath.

The countdown clock suddenly froze, and a staccato beeping blared from the telemetry console.

“What’s happening?” Albright shouted.

Conrad, eyes wide, poured over the incoming readouts. “Something’s changed,” he yelled. “Goliath is speeding up and tracking a half-degree off plotted course…and the variant is increasing.”

“Jesus,” Albright said. He jumped into his console seat and began analyzing the new data. As preliminary results flashed, he couldn’t believe his eyes. “If this continues, Goliath will miss earth by a couple hundred thousand miles. My God, can this be?”

“Check it again!” Conrad yelled.

Albright’s fingers hammered at the keyboard, and a second later, the revised trajectory flashed on the screen. Confirmed! Goliath was going to bypass Earth.

Conrad whooped, unbridled joy in his voice. “I’ll fire this off to Command. The gravitational pull from the micro-hole worked. It was just closer to Earth than anyone knew; it’s the only explanation. How lucky can we get?”

Albright looked up from his screen, face ashen. “Hold on. Final trajectory calculations just updated. It’s…it’s not all good news. Look.” Conrad hawked the screen, jaw grinding. Mare Sarenitatis was now in Goliath’s crosshairs.

The automated countdown clock buzzed and recalibrated: thirty-six minutes to impact.

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