2: A Moon Alone (part 1)

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2.1 Janet Davidsen

Conradville, Lussac-Copernicus North Colony: 29 May 2107

Janet Davidsen, Junior Flight Controller for the Lunar Space Agency, watched the multiple views overlapping on her holographic screen as she awaited the destruction of the Earth. Her breathing was shallow, her heart rate high.

The screen depicted four views. The main one showed the entire planet, the Americas basking in the midday sun. The second concentrated upon the tip of Argentina, whose outline was obscured under wisps of cloud. The third centred on a growing dot, hardly visible against the backdrop of space – the camera having difficulty keeping it in focus.

The final view, on mute and pushed to the upper right, held the countenance of a news reporter, her mouth silently spouting words so swiftly, her lips a blur. The caption underneath giving her location as New York was irrelevant compared the countdown inching towards zero alongside it. The worry etched on the woman's face was so tangible that Janet felt her fingers caress every line and furrow.

Unconsciously, Janet chewed on a strand of her flame-coloured hair. Her shaking fingers checked for the fifth time that she was definitely recording the event. Not that she would be the only one.

There was a flash and the reporter's face disappeared, to be replaced by a blank rectangle. A couple of seconds later time ran out, and the remaining three views merged into one. The asteroid, no longer a small dot, crashed into the Atlantic not far from the tip of Argentina.

So began the end of the Earth.

                                                                                      ---o0o---

Minutes later, the front door chimed causing Janet to jump. She dragged herself away from the screen, dabbing tears from her eyes. In the hallway she caught her reflection in a mirror. Dark rings under her eyes betrayed several days lack of sleep along with the burden of worry.

She opened the door.

"Sorry, but I..." Bahira Naru's voice spluttered, unable to complete whatever she was trying to say. Bahira's face echoed her own, Janet thought, inviting her in. Bahira lived a few corridors along and, like Janet, most of her friends and family were on Earth.

The girl, almost eight years younger than Janet's thirty-one, was already well into her third trimester and she was huge – twins having been confirmed months ago. After an awkward hug Janet closed the door, shutting out the white of the corridor whose lack of normal pedestrian traffic rendered it harsher than normal.

Janet attempted normality. "Coffee?"

"Please," Bahira whispered, her eyes drawn to the screen as she sank onto the sofa, a well-used tissue clasped in one hand.

In the kitchen Janet ordered two coffees from the dispenser.

"Mummy," Melissa called from her cot. Bahira's arrival must have woken her.

"It's still bed time," Janet tried, without success, her voice shaking. A couple of minutes later, Melissa's insistence grew louder. Janet released her daughter from her cot. Already, due to the advantage of the Moon's lower gravity, the girl was able, with effort, to haul herself out of it on her own.

"Auntie Bahi," Melissa shrieked with delight once she saw who the visitor was.

Melissa snuggled up to Bahira, unaware of the events being depicted onscreen.

"Eighteen months already?" Bahira forced a smile whilst tousling the girl's hair.

"Yes, amazing. Just flown past," Janet said, as she brought the coffees through and sat on the sofa with Melissa between them.

Bahira sipped and watched the screen. Then her shoulders shook and Janet lifted Melissa onto her lap and hugged Bahira almost as close. The girl whispered, "Oh, why couldn't we do anything?"

Janet had been through that question in her own head far too many times over the past two weeks. At least Bahira's maternity leave meant she'd avoided all the panic at the Lunar Space Agency – Janet had been thrust deep into the melee and still felt battered. How could it have only been two weeks since they'd first received the signal from that tracking device on the Moon's south pole?

Janet had been there when the initial measurements had come through. Fifty kilometres across – unbelievable – five times the estimated diameter of the dinosaur killer. And it was coming from an unexpected direction: straight up from the south.

Janet's experience with satellites and trajectory calculations had given her a prime position on the team analysing the object. Those calculations removed any doubt that it had any chance of missing the Earth.

"Feroze will soon be back," Janet said, attempting comfort, feeling none herself.

Bahira's partner, and father of her twins, was on his way back to the Moon.

"He... They failed," Bahira whispered.

"They did their best," Janet said, unable to think of anything else. "We just didn't have the time..."

In addition to his normal job, piloting one of the many shuttles that connected the various Moon colonies, Feroze was part of the ADTF – the Asteroid Diversion Task Force. They'd been scrambled to intercept the body as soon as the danger had been recognised.

It wasn't their first emergency. Nine years previously, just before Janet had moved to the Moon, the team had successfully diverted a smaller asteroid on a collision course with Northern Europe. On that occasion, the object had been moving in the ecliptic plane and they'd had several months pre-warning. The only hope this time was to deflect the rock a little so that it would come in at a shallow angle causing it to skate across Earth's atmosphere before getting pushed back into space.

They amount of deflection they'd achieved had been minimal.

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