Solar rays beat mercilessly on the back of Mvelo. Rich earth turned beneath his hoe, the aroma of humus washing over him. Though the earth appeared parched in this part of South Africa, one turn of the soil revealed a wealth of growing fodder. While not a rich man in terms of rand, nevertheless his father had left him this fertile farm and along with his wife Amahle, he was blessed with two strong sons and a daughter. In this life, a man could ask for little more.
A whine from above, like the wail of 'n gejaagde gees tore through his reverie. What sort of spirit descends from the heavens? Looking up, he shaded his eyes from the sun’s glare. His last thought before the shard tore through his body was for his loved ones as more shards descended upon his home.
. . .
Shin peered out the window if his flat on the undulating mass below. Hong Kong was a seething roiling sea of people and machines all moving at cacophonous pace. The first shard struck a woman laden with wares from who knew where. In moments, shards rained down in torrents. He never even saw the one that tore through his flat and his body pinning him to the window. His dead eyes gazed at the destruction below.
. . .
Maria slumped over her desk at the Mauna Kea Observatory. It had been a long night of staring at screens with little to no activity. A blip on one of the monitors raised her bleary head. Another blip marked a path on the screen. She adjusted the resolution just as a third blip occurred. What the...? Alarms rang out through the complex. She grabbed the phone and hit the red button she’d been told never to press.
“This is Maria Kameāloha at MK. I have an anomaly on the screen moving very rapidly and heading this way.”
“Confirmed. Stand by and record. PriMaria authority inbound.” The click ending the conversation was drowned out by the whir of rotors from a landing helicopter.
The door to the lab swung open to admit an officious man and a small entourage of assistants who immediately took on the task of selecting certain equipment to crate up for removal. He immediately strode over to Maria’s desk and extended his hand.
“Doctor Allen Parker. And you are Maria Kameāloha?
She took his hand and nodded. “Yes, doctor. Welcome to Mauna Kea.”
“Thank you. Would you mind leading us to the underground lab? We’ll need to set up immediately and we’ll be better protected there.”
“Certainly.” She closed her immediate laptop and snatching it up turned toward the door. “But, if I may ask, how did you arrive so quickly? I only just got off the phone.”
“We’ve actually been monitoring the satellite for some time now. We have teams heading for every Observatory that hasn’t already been destroyed to track and record it.”
Maria spun around on the staircase. “Destroyed!?”
“Right.” He gestured onward. “After you.” She turned and continued her descent. “While we were aware of the asteroid’s approach, we had no idea of its impact. The satellite is spewing off debris like shards of highly dense metallic glass and the effect is a hundreds-of-miles wide swath of lethal rain. South Africa is in ruin. Much of India and southern Asia are devastated. Hong Kong is a shambles. And it’s heading this way.”
“My God,” she breathed aloud.
“Millions of people are dead and that number is likely to be in the billions when it’s all over.”
“The reason we’re here is that it appears the satellite has been affected by the Earth’s gravity.” Once again she turned an fixed him with a querying eye. “It looks like it’s coming around for another pass.”
Another pass?! “But,” she stammered, “ it shouldn’t be able to do that!”
“That’s where we come in. It’s our job now to determine whether that is, in fact the case and if so, how.”
Maria passed her ID badge over the door sensor and waited for the click. It took no time at all for the team to set up and plug into the underground equipment. Maria opened her laptop and jacked into the LAN port. Once in, she pulled up the SatCom system and went to work. Using telemetry settings and commands from her log program, she ordered two satellites to adjust orbit and train their cameras and sensors on the object. One of the assistants connected her workstation to the large screen monitors. The images dropped their jaws.
Cometary ejecta formed a fuzzy egg that wobbled as it flew through space. The loblolly roll flung thousands of spear-like objects in all directions. Maria made some adjustments and the pictures zoomed in and focused. Through the haze of the ejecta two masses emerged. One of the masses was slightly larger than the other. They twirled around each other as if on an invisible tether.
“It looks like a bola.”
Doctor Parker raised his eyebrow at her observation. “A bola?”
“Yeah. It’s an ancient tribal weapon used primarily for hunting in places like South America. Two or more rocks tied to each other by a length of rope. You swing it around by holding the middle of the rope and then fling it at your target.”
“And then the centrifugal motion opens up the rocks creating a lethal missile!”
She nodded at his understanding. “Yes, and then the rope wraps around the legs of the target, breaking bones and rendering it immobile.” She pointed back to the screen. “You see the ejecta there?”
He nodded as she continued. “Sometimes, if the stones were wet or dirty, flinging them like that would cause the same effect.”
“Of course. That makes sense.”
She saw by his reaction that he understood, but his posture implied he was still puzzling over something. She stared at the images for a while before it came to her. “Notice how one asteroid is larger than the other.”
“Yes, I was wondering about that. Could that be the reason for the course changes?”
“Right. Bolas can often act something like boomerangs when one rock is larger than the other. Not return exactly, but definitely curve.”
“Perhaps mass and velocity have a lot to do with it.”
“Right. Also, coming so close to our greater mass, the Earth’s gravity would definitely have some effect on the trajectory of such a configuration.”
“Like a gyroscope tipped on its side.”
He squared off with her and asked the question she dreaded. “So. How do we stop it?”
“Stop it?! There’s no stopping that. About the only defense against such a weapon would be evasion or deflection. And since we can’t move the Earth, evasion is out of the question.”
“How would one deflect a thrown bola?”
“Well, I suppose if you happened to have a stick you were already carrying around, and were quick enough, you could use that to catch the bola before it wrapped around your legs.”
“Or in this case, a graviton bomb” He pulled out his phone and clicked a number. “This is Doctor Allen Parker. Get me the Defense Secretary.”
. . .
Maria marked the shard-fall at only a few hundred miles out when the monitors displayed workers mounting a warhead to a missile in North Dakota. Steam was already billowing through the vent ports of the silo as the workers finished their tasks and hurried off the gangway. The countdown began.
The missile rose from the silo with explosive force. In minutes, it angled it’s trajectory and turned toward the oncoming asteroid cluster. Cameras mounted into the rocket displayed the stage one separation as the missile rose into the outer troposphere.
Maria called out the shard-fall location, “Approximately fifty minutes out.”
The rocket broke orbit and sped for the cluster. The team watched as the asteroids came into view of the onboard cameras. The hurtling mass grew on the displays before them.
Maria broke the silence of the watchers. “Thirty minutes out.”
Shards flew all around the missile as it sped toward its target. Exclamations rang out as several struck the sides of the rocket. But, the missile flew true, the onboard navigation computer compensating for the debris strikes.
“Ten minutes out,” she almost whispered.
The rocket flew into the event horizon of the cluster. A moment later, a flash lit up the SatCom monitors. The resultant implosion pulled the smaller asteroid directly into the path of the larger one. The egg-shaped structure collapsed and wobbled. The newly merged rock tumbled wildly breaking the orbital loop it was on.
Shards struck the island with devastating result. Beaches sprouted ten to twenty foot spikes. Halfway up the mountain, the shard-fall ended. The tumbling mass of the newly merged asteroid whizzed past the Earth on a fresh course. Cheers erupted in the lab.
. . .
Relief efforts, already underway in shard struck areas, were bolstered by support from countries disaffected by the destruction. Death toll counts reached estimates at more than one and a half billion people. Shard-fall claimed millions of acres of land. Restoration costs reached into the trillions in terms of the U.S. dollar.
Maria stood on a rock bluff overlooking the shard field. The forest of crystalized fragments vibrated in the breeze; resonating tones like cosmic music. The reverberations tingled her nerves. Uneasiness crept into her subconscious. Did that shard move? A shadow from the interior of the crystal writhed like a snake in a pit or a fish in a hold box.
She pulled her phone from her pocket and tapped in a number. “Doctor Parker? I think you should come and see what’s going on with the shards.”
“They are resonating like a field of tuning forks. And one of them appears to have something writhing around inside it.”
Cracks emerged on the face of the crystal. She dove for cover as the shard bulged and subsequently shattered. An ear-splitting scream erupted from something in the middle of the rubble. A shadow rose amidst a flurry of wings. Something passed over her head causing her to shield her eyes to view it.
A creature out of myth flew by. A nightmare of the Jurassic period. Long nosed. Scaled body. Bat-like wings. Something impossible and yet there it was. Flying for all it was worth. Exploring its new environment. Likely looking for prey. Something to feed upon.
More cracking broke the stillness drawing her attention back to the field. One by one, the shards shattered to reveal their cargo. Showers of the glassy material rained all over the area. Each shard-break forced Maria to cover her head for protection. Grateful for the copse in which she hid, she watched as each shard broke and another dragon rose to meet the world.
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