“Oh, that’s not good.”
The insistent beeping didn’t stop. In fact, it increased its pace beeping like an annoying wake-up alarm. The view outside the view port remained a majestic view of the Earth floating serenely complete with fluffy white clouds. It was oblivious to the danger. Ryan Sharpton ruffled his dark hair and glanced down at the scanner. The asteroids were coming in hot. He may have been generous in saying it wasn’t good. This was fantastically, terrifically awful! The Earth was doomed in…
“Four minutes,” Felicia shouted from the corridor, “what’s taking so long? I thought you said you could rig up a shield generator in your sleep?”
“I can, I did!” Ryan waved his hands at the jerry-rigged shield generator. He’d even slapped an eco-friendly power core on to it. It was fantastic! Made from a hologram projector, a digital camera, a sat nav, and a wireless router. It would utilize the solar sails on the space ship and the hundreds of satellites orbiting the earth to create a temporary barrier. Only it wasn’t working! The programming was perfect. He’s made it stupidly idiot proof. It was basically supped up Linux. It had started to boot then the power had cut out. If he didn’t fix it, North America was going to be one giant smoking crater. He ripped open the panel on the side of his lash-up and shoved his hand in up to his elbow. “Something must be loose or maybe too tight?” He jiggled a few wires. Lights flickered weakly on the panel before dying out again.
“Ryan, the guards aren’t going to stay unconscious forever,” Felicia shouted. “Shit, three minutes! This is a helluva first date!”
Letting out a shaky laugh, he resisted the urge to kick the entire setup. Felicia was so right. This was not exactly how he wanted to spend his weekend. He should have never taken Felicia to see that observatory in Mauna Kei, Hawaii. They could have gone windsurfing. She had even suggested it. Ryan was the moron who wanted to see the best view of space in town. They could have been sipping mai tai’s after an evening of close, very close sailing.
The evening had started off pleasantly enough with a luau in a lovely pink hotel near the white sandy beach. Ryan had just finished up a conference for the Amateur Astronomical Society of North America. He was a founding member and the only one with a degree in astrophysics and a PhD in physics. He had cornered a few professionals into doing a panel since the group was mostly day players and older retirees, hence the conference being set in Hawaii this year. The Luau sported the traditional roasted pig in the center of some lovely fruit and poi. Felicia had been tweaking pieces of pork and drinking. She was slim and petite, dressed in a lovely white sundress decorated in little planets. Blonde with dark roots and a generous mouth, she was gorgeous. Catching his eye, she had saluted him with her fruity drink in a traditional half coconut.
“I don’t know you,” he had said brilliantly.
“You don’t,” she agreed, giggling, “do you want to get to know me?”
He wanted to face palm, grimacing at his awkwardness.
“Yeah, think I might erm,” Ryan trailed off his face was 6000 degrees Kelvin.
Luckily for Ryan, Felicia had been just the right amount of drunk to find his lack of cool amusing. She had suggested windsurfing. He had countered with the observatory.
The low atmosphere shuttle bus had dropped them off at the base of the observatory. Giggling and drinking out of her hip flask, they had shared stories on the way to the top of the mountain. Felicia was an amateur astronomer and a professional astrologer.
“I’m all about the stars, Ryan,” she teased and asked if he was a Leo. He was an Aries.
Once inside, he had shown his credentials to a bored woman in a blue jumpsuit named Sandy. She’d waved them into the telescope room. “No idea why anyone wants to come in here tonight,” Sandy said as she unlocked the doors. “I’m not strictly supposed to let anyone in here. It’s against the rules. But I don’t think it will matter much after tonight.”
“Are you quitting?” Felicia asked.
Sandy shrugged. “Let’s just see how this night plays out.”
“She seems…nice,” Ryan muttered as Felicia arched a brow at him.
“I think this is the worst first date, I‘ve ever been on, or the greatest, I can’t tell yet,” Felicia said stepping into the room. Ryan was too busy trying to save their asses to classify the date. Felicia was hot and hadn’t run off when he was being him, so, meh. The impending doom wasn’t great. She continued, “We tied up the guards. I couldn’t explain the situation to them fast enough, so Sandy knocked them out with a moon rock! She smashed a case with a broom handle and brandished that rock like a well, like a rock. Sandy is brilliant! Three minutes, by the way.”
“Windsurfing would have been wetter,” he remarked and sighed. He was destined to never say anything clever or cool in front of Felicia.
“Yeah, it would have been,” she said, kneeling down next to the generator, her sundress torn at the edges. She winked at him. “Still…end of the world.”
They had spotted the space station first. The telescope was strong enough to see the astronauts inside. “We could wave,” Felicia said practically purring into his ear.
“That station is full of soldiers, training for the next alien invasion,” Ryan remarked. “We wave and they see us, they might shoot. Let’s look at Mars instead, much safer.”
“The Mars colony sees us and they might shoot. I heard they were thinking of breaking away from Earth. I had a cousin who went. She sends video messages twice a month. Everything looks a bit dusty.” Felicia nodded at the night sky. “I almost went but I wasn’t sure how to do astrology without being able to tell when Mars was in retrograde.”
Ryan snorted. “Yeah, that might be a problem. Isn’t that how we know if everyone’s about to go crazy?” He asked calibrated the telescope by entering the parameters for the area of sky he wanted to scan. He’d done this once or twice back in New York at One World. It was easy if you were comfortable with star maps. “Next year, they’re supposed to be building a shield to protect the Earth from… uh oh.”
Felicia glanced up at the viewscreen. “Is that what I think it is?”
“If you think that’s a massive amount of asteroids that couldn’t possibly have gotten this close to Earth without us noticing, you are unfortunately, correct. This is so bad.” His fingers flew over the keys. “And weird.” Scan after scan appeared on the screen. “These are the scans of the same area for the last month. Notice anything?”
“No asteroids.” Felicia frowned. “How’s that possible? And how has no one noticed?”
“It’s insane. Our group should have noticed… Any of the amateur groups could have seen this if they had the right telescope. It’s not a hologram… For a month this place saw nothing. And on the viewscreen?”
“Loads of deadly asteroids,” Felicia muttered. “Wow, did I pick the wrong guy to hit on at the luau. What do we do, call the government?”
“You hit on me? No, I… Nah, there’s only about twenty minutes left before we all die, I wouldn’t want to wake them,” Ryan said. “Honestly, they’re not going to believe us if the other observatories are still showing clear skies. There’s not time. It’s gotta be us and we’ve gotta get up there.”
He rushed out of the main room and over to the bored woman in the jumpsuit. “Do they have a transmit here in the observatory? I know they’re new tech but it’s an emergency. Look alive, Sandy. We’ve got a situation.”
“Those things aren’t safe,” Sandy said, dismissing him. “Take a shuttle bus. They can get you anywhere you need to go on the island.”
“We need to get to the space station,” Felicia told her, “Don’t think the shuttle bus can handle space travel. The new said they were much safer now. People are using them up to the moon base. Surely it can get us to the space station without pulping us?”
“We do have a transmat,” Sandy said, perking up, “I’m not supposed to use it. It turned one of the astronomers into soup last week. The odds are probably in our favor now.”
“Yeah, I am feeling lucky,” Ryan said, giving Felicia a smile. “What do you think?”
Felicia kissed him, shocking the hell out of him. Several seconds in, he caught on and pulled her up against him. They broke apart to breath. “What was that for?” he gasped.
“For luck…” she said, as if he was an idiot. She patted his chest.
“Two minutes,” Felicia hissed.
“Not helping,” Ryan insisted as he pulled several strands of wires out and switched them around. “Negative to positive… not like hot wiring a car, or is it? Why won’t you turn on?”
“Hey, Ryan, where would you be without us? Sandy and I got you up here and held those idiots off. I’d say we are helping!”
“Yes, sorry, stressed. Did Sandy get the canon working?”
There was a rumble and the lights dimmed. Felicia made a face. “Yes?”
“Good, great,” Ryan grumbled, throwing the cables down. “Those asteroids will bounce off my shield like super balls if only the stupid thing would TURN ON!”
Felicia frowned. “Kick it.”
“You can’t be serious,” he growled.
“Just do it!”
He kicked the generator. The lights came on green. “Oh shit, that worked! I can’t believe that worked!”
The space station lights flickered as power was diverted from the solar sails to power the force field. One by one the satellites contributed to the shield. Ryan let out a bark of laughter as the blue haze of the force field snapped into place.
“We did it!” Felicia jumped into his arms. He spun her around in a circle laughing.
Sandy appeared in the corridor looking disappointed. “The guns stopped working! I was shooting things! It was awesome!”
“Yeah, Felicia said kick the shield generator and that worked!” Ryan pulled Felicia against him.
“It always works on TV,” Felicia said. “Besides, Aries love to kick things.”
Sandy’s eyes lit up. “That’s amazing! This is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, ever. Wow, I’m so glad I hacked all the observatories to keep them from noticing the asteroids. I mean, I was looking forward to a huge apocalypse but this is so much better!” Sandy put her hands on her hips and let out a loud whistle.
Ryan just sputtered, “Wait, what?”
“Oh, yeah, I was looking forward to watching the world burn. All this technology and life had gotten a bit boring. Thought I’d spice things up with a mass extinction,” Sandy said, eyes glittering. “Dibs on using the transmat first on the way down. I am shocked we didn’t turn inside out. Last guy who used it, Eric, he was a meat puddle…He twitched for a bit.” Sandy made a face. “I’m so glad I took that correspondence course on the dark web.” She walked off down the hall.
Ryan stared after her. “I’m going let the guards loose on her if she doesn’t get pulped by the transmat. I can’t believe it. She’s got to be a genius.”
“No, she’d have to be a super genius. There are four major space observatories and hundreds of smaller ones. The amount of planning and programming…” Felicia sounded impressed.
“No, we are. This never happens when you’re windsurfing,” Felicia said.
“Or seeing sea turtles in a submarine,” he offered.
“Yep. Let’s untie the guards and see if they have a shuttle we can use. I don’t want to be soup.”
“You’d make a lovely soup,” Ryan said and face palmed. “I have no idea why you hit on me.”
“Let’s talk about it on our second date.”
Notes: I wrote this for a client. It wasn’t what they were looking for at the time. I did love the story because it was fun. I expanded it a bit from the original and I hope you enjoy it.