Author: Glenn Leung

The wail of sirens grew louder as I ran towards the control room. We had drilled for this at least a hundred times in the past year, and I had hoped this was yet another drill. The image on the Heads-Up Display said otherwise.

‘Comet inbound for Artemis One’ were the large green words on the screen. Marty was already there, typing in the activation code for the Gravitational Wave Amplifier.

“Help me turn on the graviton supply,” he shouted over the noise. I scrambled over to the controls and started flipping the switches. As I began keying in the access codes, I heard Marty say the first cuss word I have ever heard him say.

“This is bad. Today’s Harmony Day.”

I felt my heart and mind mash together in a panicked frenzy. Harmony Day was the day the two flagship space cities, Artemis One of the Earth Empire, and Galaxis Suprema of the Kuiper Federation, came in close proximity to celebrate the end of the Fifty Year War. Citizens from both cities would visit each other and partake in joint festivities. This also meant that activating the Amplifier would push the comet towards Galaxis Suprema. Even with today’s technology, we do not have fine control over the amplification process.

Marty and I looked at each other in joined paralysis, scared of our next move. The implications were pretty clear. If we did nothing, we would be sacrificing our Empire’s flagship city, along with a large part of the Ministry of Space Colonization and bureaucrats visiting from the home planet. On the other hand, pushing the comet towards the Federation’s city would not sit well in this fragile peace. It was certain to start another war.

“We have less than a minute to act, no time to ask for orders,” I did my best to steady my voice. “I say we sacrifice Artemis One. We will lose our jobs, there’ll be some political vacuum, but at least there’ll be no war.”

Marty’s look was one of disbelief and hardly suppressed irritation.

“We would lose more than just our jobs! The Emperor would have our heads! Besides, a comet like this wouldn’t just appear out of nowhere. This has to be an attack by factions in the Federation unhappy with the peace. It’ll be war either way.”

The decision should have been clear from that statement alone, but none of us wanted to go down in history as the one who pushed the button. Even if we absolved ourselves of murder, the Federation would not spin it that way. I imagined nasty books written about us, parents telling children horror stories about monsters in our likeness, our tombstones desecrated with unflattering graffiti, our kids living in a shadow of hate.

“Hey, Tim the maintenance guy doesn’t have kids, right?”

I looked at Marty with confusion before realizing what he was intending. I saw him take out a miniature welding torch from the toolbox, walk over to the Amplifier’s chiller control, and fired at the wires inside. The Heads-Up Display went dead.

“I’ll doctor the evidence further. I’ve seen blown-out circuits before.”

I did not want to question the moral grounds of the action. Marty had been the faster thinker, and he had decided that selfishness was justified here and now, that we should let historical forces bury this moment in the sands of time. I gave him a thankful nod as silent fireworks erupted in the darkness of space.