Humankind has made what it believes to be great strides in the study of its place in the universe — putting a man on the moon, unmanned craft on neighboring planets of Mars and Venus, satellites studying the rest of our solar system and even progressing into deep space. Yet at the same time, we too have been being watched closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own.
We now know that while mankind busied itself with the problems of their little world, struggling with a financial crisis that they believed threatened to plunge them into another Great Depression, they were being scrutinized and studied, much the same way human scientists have studied bacteria under a microscope and watched them swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With complete ignorance of their being watched, people went about their affairs, calm in the assurance of their dominion over this small, spinning fragment of solar driftwood that, by either chance or design, man has inherited out of the dark mystery of space and time.
Across the dark voids of space, there were minds — vast intellects — that coolly and unsympathetically regarded this Earth with envious eyes and drew their battle plans against us. They wanted to make this planet their own. In the ninth year of the twenty-first century came the great disillusionment, showing us we are not alone.
It was late October. Business was better, stocks were rebounding, more men were back at work and sales were picking up. The government bailout plan for the banking and financial industries appeared to actually be working. On this particular evening, October 30, the Nielsen rating service estimated that over sixty-two million people watching their televisions, as the major networks came together to simultaneously air a special to raise money on the final day of Breast Cancer Awareness month.
"Really, it's time that we all come together on this issue ... we have to save breasts like these," joked Kevin James, his hands cupping his own chest. "It's time to call in and help by using the numbers scrolling on the bottom of your screen. Together, we can..."
Suddenly, television screens changed to a Special Report screen and the dramatic music that always seems to accompany them. Across the United States, people were then confronted by Tom Brokaw, Katie Couric, Charles Gibson or Brit Hume — depending on which network they had been watching.
"Space scientists around the world are suddenly buzzing tonight," Brokaw told the NBC audience. "The interest began to pick up about one hour ago, at approximately 8:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time when Professor Robert Farrell of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California reported picking up several apparent eruptions of incandescent gas occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars. Spectroscopic analysis indicates the explosions to be largely hydrogen gas and each explosion have sent some sort of projectile object from the Martian surface hurtling toward Earth.
"Professor David Pierson of the observatory at Chicago's Adler Planetarium confirms the Farrell's observations. Pierson now joins us live from Chicago. Dr. Pierson, could you tell us what you have seen?"
"It has been the most unusual phenomenon, with the eruptions, or explosions if you will, almost appearing to resemble a muzzle flash from a gun," Pierson said. "We've never seen anything like this anywhere before and aren't quite sure what to make of it at this point. Dr. Farrell and the team at the JPL are currently working on sending instructions to the Hubble Space Telescope to try and get a closer look, as the Martian rovers are too far away from the location of the blasts to provide any useful information. But the Hubble will take several days before we get any useable images back and processed."
"Dr. Pierson," Brokaw followed. "Reports indicated that the explosions had propelled some sort of object in the direction of Earth. Is this anything we need to be immediately concerned with?"
"At this point, I would have to say there is nothing to worry about," Pierson said. "With the vast distances between the planets, even though Mars is currently at its point of opposition with Earth, which means the planets are currently at their closest points to one another, it would take several months for those objects to travel to Earth. And even when they get here, it is likely they would then break up in our atmosphere like millions of meteorites do each year."
"Thank you Dr. Pierson," Brokaw said. "We will continue to update you with any further developments in this unusual situation, but we return you now to our regularly schedule programming, currently in progress."
Television screens then returned to the Go-Go's performing their 1980s hit "We Got the Beat", with Belinda Carlisle singing and shaking a still very attractive now 51-year-old body as various 1-800 numbers scrolled underneath her trying to induce viewers to call in with donations.
The show progressed for just over 20 minutes, before Special Report screens returned to televisions across the nation.
"This is Tom Brokaw in New York. In what has been a very unusual night in the world of space science, we are now presented with an unusual happening here on Earth as reports are coming in of seismic activity centered just west of the City of Chicago. While not completely unheard of, the region is not normally subjected to seismic activity. Initial reports put the tremors at a mild 4.6 magnitude on the Richter scale.
"We go now to reporter Zoraida Sambolin from our affiliate WMAQ in Chicago for a live update."
"All over the City of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, calls flooded into 911 centers reporting the earthquake, which shook the area with enough force to knock items off store shelves and put a good scare into a populace not used to such tremors," Sambolin reported. "Initial reports from the U.S. Geological Survey put the epicenter of the quake about 35 miles west of the City, near Batavia, Illinois. Making the reports even more unusual though is that the initial readings from the USGS indicate that the quake was extremely shallow in nature, more resembling a quarry blast or other surface-oriented activity based than normal seismic activity that, in this area, is usually based deep below the surface.
"We also have reports from tower staff at both O'Hare and Midway airports, as well as the FAA Air Traffic Control Center in Aurora, IL, of three images streaking across radar screens just moments before the quake, implying that this may be something more similar to a meteor collision than an actual earthquake. We currently have a news crew on route to the reported epicenter of this event and expect a live report from them in the next 20 to 30 minutes."
"Very interesting," Brokaw answered. "Especially considering the astronomic reports we received earlier this evening.
"We now go back to David Pierson at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago ... Dr. Pierson, could there be any relationship between what we saw earlier on the planet Mars and this sudden, apparent impact just outside of Chicago?"
"Well Tom, the quake took us quite by surprise here, but I see it being virtually impossible for the incidents on Mars being related to this event in any way," Pierson said. "Even though Mars is at its closest point to the Earth, the two planets are still approximately 232 million miles apart. Considering the elapsed time between the two events was about an hour, which would mean the objects from Mars would have had to travel nearly a third of the speed of light. As hard as it is to imagine any solid object traveling at that incredible speed, even in the vacuum of space, it's hard to envision an object safely making it through all the interstellar debris and holding together all the way to earth while traveling that fast. And traveling that fast, it would likely have been destroyed upon impact.
"Still, we have been requested by NASA, on behalf of the President, to send a team out to investigate whatever impacted the Earth and help determine its origins. I will be leading that team and we plan to depart here as soon as we can get our equipment loaded."
"Very interesting Professor," Brokaw said. "We'll let you get back to your work. As we also have a team on the way to the site, will you update us when you have any new information?"
"Thank you for your time then," Brokaw closed. "That was Professor David Pierson of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. We now return you to our regularly scheduled...
"Wait, we are getting new information. Let's go back to Zoraida Sambolin in Chicago. Zoraida..."
"Yes Tom," Sambolin said. "We are now getting reports from the Batavia, Aurora and Warrenville areas that police are getting hundreds of calls about sightings of a huge fireball falling through the night sky. It is believed this has been caused by a large meteorite that has landed in the vicinity of the Fermilab facilities, located in Batavia, Illinois, approximately 35 miles from our location here in downtown Chicago.
"For those unfamiliar, Fermilab is a large particle accelerator and physics research center. The positive note is that because of the nature of the accelerator, the impact appears to have occurred in an open area of over a square mile that houses the underground accelerator rings, meaning that nearby residential areas would likely have been spared the brunt of potential damage from the impact."
"What about potential damage to the research facilities?" Brokaw asked.
.... There is more of this story ...
Science Fiction /