Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

Lieutenant Robinson studied the sensor readings. The Captain stood behind him, patiently waiting for his science officer’s technical assessment. “It’s clearly artificial, sir,” Robinson finally said. “Although its surface composition is consistent with an S-type asteroid, its structure is completely different from the other asteroids in this field. For example, gravimetric data indicates that its density is 70% lower than it should be, and an asteroid with a mass under a trillion kilograms should be potato-shaped. It should not be perfectly spherical.”

“Your recommendation, Lieutenant?” prompted the Captain.

“We need to know what the inside looks like. I recommend we deploy seismic probes with ground penetrating imaging systems.”

Two hours later, they were looking at an intricate 3-D holographic image of the subsurface structure of the anomaly. There were 720 geometrically identically subsurface chambers that were uniformly distributed just below the exterior of the asteroid. Each chamber contained an irregularly shaped object of silicaceous material with a mass of approximately three metric tons each. Beneath the 720 outer chambers, there were additional, larger subchambers, but there was insufficient resolution in the data to determine the contents, or nature, of those chambers.

“Captain,” said the ensign manning the science station, “I’m detecting an increase in seismic activity within the asteroid. There are hundreds of low magnitude earthquakes, I mean asteroidquakes. It appears that the surface of the asteroid is crumbling.”

“Put it on the main viewer, magnification fifty,” ordered the captain. As he studied the viewscreen, the surface of the asteroid blasted away and a coma of dust expanded outward in slow motion. Then hundreds of shuttlecraft-sized rocks flew from the asteroid in random, erratic, corkscrewing trajectories. Eventually, they all settled down, and began traveling in straight lines. A few seconds later, they increased speed, and flew off into the asteroid field with apparent purpose. A dozen of the flying “rocks,” which happened to be heading in the general direction of the ship, paused at a distance of approximately one hundred meters. They hovered like bees for a few minutes and then one by one, they detoured around the ship and headed off toward remote regions of the asteroid field.


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