Back to Work

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A stunned silence continued for several minutes as more and more stars began to be visible in the too dark sky. The inky black sky was shot through by the Milky way, a promise of billions of stars worth of light, too far, and too cold to be of any help in their current situation. Amanda knew the numbers for a situation like this. It seemed far away, but the exercise had always stuck with her.

Back in grad school, professor Blane gave the thought experiment. What if we somehow lost the sun? What would happen? No longer being bound by its gravity, we would begin a long, but ultimately meaningless journey as our planet would set off in a straight line towards interstellar space, in whatever direction the sudden lack of gravity would have allowed. The earth would become an interstellar spaceship, but its essential life elements would all freeze and the core, too, eventually. The seeds of life might remain, and the planet itself might get picked up in some other gravity well, somewhere. However, how long would life last on the surface? Roughly two weeks, her class had decided.

Amanda shook her head to clear her reverie. She looked up again, trying to observe what it would look like if the sun had disappeared. Something is holding us in place, she affirmed. There is no way we are hurtling away. The night sky looks as it should, just darker, earlier. So what the aliens are saying is likely valid. Either they are blocking the sun, or they have moved it. The impossibility of it all swam in her head.

She realized she was gripping Keith's hand, hard. She smiled towards him, grateful that he was nearby. He looked at her expectantly, perhaps hoping beyond hope that she might have an answer about this situation after all. Unfortunately, all she had was questions.

The loud and all too familiar buzzing klaxon of the National Alert System began emanating from every phone on the boat. The sudden noise startled Amanda. People started pulling out their phones, and Amanda did the same.

<Alien Attack on the Sun. Tune to News Stations for Updates.> was all that the message said.

* * *

Looking exasperated, Keith closed his phone and shoved it in his pocket. "Well, that is certainly not helpful."

"No, I don't think it is." Amanda tugged thoughtfully on her ponytail, twirling it with her finger as she often did when in deep thought. "We're going to have to return to shore, quickly. I need to get back to Aerox. I am sure that the governments will agree to whatever demands they have to. We'll get the sun back, but for how long? At what cost?"

Keith's expression changed to grim determination, and he nodded to Amanda, embracing her quickly, before turning to walk towards the main cabin. "I'll go speak to the captain." As he began walking away, his phone buzzed again, but this time with a particular ring tone, he set aside for this. His office was reaching out to him. COG and COOP activated. Move at best speed to assigned EOC.

Keith faltered for a moment in his mission to speak to the captain. It made sense, of course. Continuity of Government and Operations was a given considering the situation. The problem is that he was almost two hours drive away from his emergency station, under normal circumstances, and this was anything but ordinary. Regardless, I have to get the captain to bring us to shore quickly. Keith steeled himself and pressed forward.

When waiting for drinks earlier, Keith noticed the door that led to the bridge, so he moved quickly to that door, seeing Maxwell standing nearby, obviously guarding the entrance. "Excuse me, Maxwell. I must speak directly to the captain immediately." Keith tried to maintain a measured, but urgent tone as he made the demand. "Both my wife and I must return to our duties, and it is up to the captain to bring us to shore quickly."

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