Author : Gray Blix

Walking across the Caltech parking lot, Annika, a Swedish native, shivered beneath four layers of clothing, embarrassed to have lost her tolerance of cold weather after a decade in Pasadena. It was 2 degrees Celsius in July. She glanced at the afternoon Sun. Years ago, the ring was hardly noticeable in the bright light, but now a black band cut the Sun in two.

News of alien engineers mining Mercury and constructing something big midway between the orbits of Venus and Earth had generated excitement in the scientific community and terror among the populace. Now that Mercury was gone and Venus was disappearing, scientists, too, were terrified.

Flashing credentials to heavily armed security, she plunged into the crowded lobby, overhearing snippets of conversation.

“Really? THAT’S what you don’t understand? Only 21 million kilometers from Earth and yet they won’t COMMUNICATE with us? Look, when Consolidated Electric builds a new power plant, do they communicate with local ANT COLONIES?”

A former classmate from Uppsala…

“Hej, Annika,” and then he resumed, “No, it won’t set off Velikovsky’s planetary billiard balls. Matter that was Mercury and Venus has been redistributed to the ring, which is on the ecliptic plane. Remaining planets, including Earth, will be little affected. Minor adjustments to orbits, but no catastrophe.”

Moving on…

“…negligible gravity on the ring is irrelevant. They’re not building a ringworld. They’re collecting energy.”

Leaning left…

“After Venus, will Earth be next?” asked an American general.
“Perhaps not,” replied a Chinese scientist. “If they do not build out to a Dyson sphere, they will not need more yuanliao… uh, raw material. And they may have other plans for Earth.”
“Salvage. They could simply thaw out snowball Earth, dispose of surface fei wu… waste, then beam down all the energy needed to create the ecosystem and civilization they desire.”

Leaning right…

“…burning greenhouse gasses and blackening snow and ice to counteract the cooling, but the albedo is increasing too fast…”

The PA interrupted, “Attention. Please take your seats in the auditoruim. Quickly,” and she was swept along with the crowd.

At the podium, NASA’s lead ring scientist abruptly began, “The aliens are stealing the Sun’s energy from us and using it as a weapon when we try to stop them.”

On a screen behind, looped a clip of missile fusillades approaching the ring and rays of white light vaporizing them.

Someone in the noisy crowd shouted angrily, “We already know this. Why are we here?”

“So, the Russians created a device to use the Sun’s energy against them. We learned about it this morning. It’s risky, but they calculated that we’re past the tipping point to a frozen and uninhabitable Earth. Something drastic had to be done, but their device could potentially destroy…” reconsidering his words, “…the ring.”

The crowd was silent. Comet photos appeared.

“You’ve all seen photos of comet Lichtenstein. But you haven’t seen this.”

Video of a craft landing on the comet.

“Eleven months ago, Russia placed their device on comet Lichtenstein, a long period comet, a natural phenomenon, approaching at an angle posing no threat to the ring. The aliens will likely ignore it as it falls into the Sun, in about ten hours. It will trigger unprecedented magnetic disruption, incalculable releases of energy… Electromagnetic rays will reach Earth in eight minutes, a coronal mass ejection could take two or three days.”

In the following hours, in precaution, power grids shut down, communication systems went silent, aircraft were grounded, satellites turned from the Sun.

Annika was giving her infant daughter a two o’clock feeding when everything vanished in the white light of a supernova.

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