I am Jason Black and I am witnessing a spectacular cosmic event. A wandering planet is entering the solar system of the planet Bella. Bella is a garden world set to terra-form 500 years ago and only recently (50 years) populated by settlers from Earth.
The colony here is 60,000 souls and I am part of the defense force assigned by Galactic Patrol to guard against asteroids, comets and other such phenomenon as might be required to protect the planet.
The wanderer is quite an oddity; it is 1.68 Earth in dimension but masses only 0.89 Earth. There is no atmosphere but it is covered by a thick layer of frozen gases that includes Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide, Methane and other trace gases and a sizable quantity of Oxygen. Almost Earth normal percentages for a gaseous atmosphere 73.5%, 2.0%, 0.5%, 0.5% and 23.5%.
Surface temperature -246°C; speed through space 0.45C; trajectory – IMPACT Bella in approximately 28 days. I have no time to play, Bella must be evacuated but we don't have enough ships or stations to hold 60,000 people.
My only chance appears to be to try and force it off its present trajectory so that it will miss Bella and go on off into space or possibly settle into orbit around the star. I had my computer run some calculations and: given the mass of the rogue and the distance from Bella and the number of asteroid tractor tugs in the system it could be done but just barely. We had to get started so I made the call and ordered every tug and tractor equipped ship in the system to immediately rendezvous at my location.
I got setup and programmed my computer to intercept the rogue at the best possible distance from Bella and fired the engines.
The closer I get to the rogue the more intriguing it is. This massive planet has been wandering through space for who knows how long and now is about to create a catastrophic calamity. I can't help but think that this is part of some greater design and not just a random act.
I have all but thirty of the tractors in place and we have started to push and pull the rogue out of its present trajectory. Computer reports reveal that after 24hrs. we are succeeding as the path has been altered by 0.11 arc-seconds and increasing with each minute that we keep it up. The problem is that we need to alter the trajectory by 2.51 degrees in order for the rogue to miss Bella and at present the amount of change is to slow.
I call in all the tractors and lock their controls to mine and set power levels to maximum safe and start giving it all we have. Everything is on automatic and controlled by my computer as I try to get a couple of hours of shut-eye.
I am startled awake by alarms going off and my computer telling me that we have a fault in the sensors. As I get to the control console I find that the sensors are telling me that the rogue is actually slowing down, speed has decreased to 0.43C. I setup some quick calculations and it is not because of what we are doing; but the rogue is slowing down as the computer tells me it is now down to 0.428C.
I start checking for energy signatures and find a strong reading low in the gravity wave spectrum, and the power level is increasing. I set my computer to keep an eye on the power level and started tracking the changes in speed and trajectory in relation to impact with Bella.
After about two hours I find that if the slow down keeps up at the present pace the rogue will fall into orbit at the L5 position with reference to Bella, WOW!
How can this be happening? Who or What is controlling this thing? Time to try and find some answers, I hope. I release the tractors and set my course to orbit the rogue and start taking in-depth readings to try and find out what was going on with it.
I set orbit at 25,000km, put all my sensors on maximum and started the computer crunching the numbers. Three hours in and the comp is telling me speed is down to 0.41C and dropping fast, power level up 19% and continuing to climb. Suddenly all my sensor alarms went off as this thing came ALIVE!
Power jumped 50% and energy readings across the board went off the dial. Then it dawned on me what was going on, this planet was a space craft, a deepfreeze transport to this star from where? With what or who aboard?
The rogue is slowing even more and the new calculations show that if the slowdown continues at the present rate them the rogue will fall directly opposite Bella in solar orbit. I sent word to the GP office on the station about my findings and recommended that the path of the rogue be cleared of traffic until such time as the orbital status could be confirmed.
I warped my ship into a tighter orbit of 5000km and prepared to send every piece of data I could get to the station as the planet continued on its way into orbit around the local star.
24hrs ago we got conformation that the rogue has a stable orbit around the local star. It is slightly inside Bella's orbit but is in sync at 180° from Bella and will have the same orbital period of 402 days. The planet is under quarantine and no ship is allowed within 250,000 kilometers except mine which is being used as a data relay providing sensor readings to the station and all the scientists tapped in there.
It has been a week and one of the ships at the quarantine line remarks that there appears to be an anomaly developing near a rock outcropping on what will be the equator. I adjust my orbit and geo-sync over the anomaly so that I can maintain a watch on it. Sensors were showing that the anomaly is metallic but of an unknown metal alloyed with an unknown type of plastic like material. Sensors were also telling me that the frozen surface is outgassing and an atmosphere is forming.
It has been a year since the rogue settled into orbit and most of the frozen surface has thawed and the atmosphere although stormy has fully formed. To date:
Orbital period: 402 days (standard)
Rotational period: 31 hours (standard)
Circumference: 67250.4 kilometers
Diameter: 21406.56 kilometers
Gravitational Mass: 0.887 Earth
Atmosphere: Nitrogen: 73.5%
Other Trace: 0.5%
Six months has gone by and the storms are easing and the features of the planet surface can be seen in the periods of calm. My computer has notified me of what appears to be a designed landing area near the anomaly; it is raised above the surrounding area and cut off from the rest of the planet by shear drops on three sides.
With the discovery of the apparent landing zone the patrol is sending a 'First Contact' ship but it won't be here for two weeks and the scientists from Bella want to land now. So I am ordered to fire on any ship that violates the quarantine line regardless of who is onboard. The Bellaians want answers so I agree to set down on the planet to provide direct readings and to check-out the landing area.
I set down on the surface 24hrs ago and instantly lost all communications as an energy barrier sprang up completely encapsulating the planet. Computer tells me that there is no change in the atmosphere and that even though it might have a distinct odor (methane gas) it would have no ill effect on me. Time to find out if I've been invited or if I'm a lamb to the slaughter.
I place the breathing mask on my face and step out of my ship, I can feel the difference in the gravity and there is a very slight odor in the 'air' but nothing unpleasant. I start walking the approx. 1 kilometer to the anomaly all the while sending readings back to my ship's computer for recording and detailed analysis. There appears to be plant life developing as I can plainly see areas where the 'rock' and 'soil' are covered; apparently who or what is running things is getting the planet ready for some form of life to exist here.
As I approach the anomaly I can see that it is artificial and not part of the surrounding plain. It measures approx. 10m wide x 10m deep x 10m high and has an opening in it on the side facing the landing area. The opening is 1.5 meters wide and 2.5 meters high and lets onto a tunnel entering the 'building'. Computer reports a slight energy surge localized to the building and I see a humanoid form standing within the tunnel; waiting for me?
Upon entering the tunnel I feel a wave of nausea that soon passes and the form approaches me and speaks in plain English, "Welcome to Delot; Jason. You are the first life I have sensed in over 12,500 of your years. If you will come this way an explanation is awaiting. I sense you are curious as to the language; the scanner as you entered read your brain waves and extracted your language and other necessary information so that I could more readily communicate with you." "Thank you," I answered and followed 'her' (mental impression) to another opening inside the tunnel. 'We' stepped into a controlled gravity well and slowly descended below the surface to; What?
After descending about 5 kilometers we entered a large room with display screens all the way around its perimeter and more on stands scattered around the room. There was a platform to one side and as I stepped up the screens came to life, depicting as I was about to find out, the life cycle of Delot. I sat on the seat that arose and the console in front of me gave forth the story of the planet.
.... There is more of this story ...