We were all tightly packed in the Control room. Is not that the room was small. Is that we were too many. The Intruder space probe was approaching orbit around X-89, the largest comet to ever pass near our solar system. Who would want to miss such historic moment?
Up until that day, the only images we had of the comet were blurry ones that amounted to little more than a white circle agains a black background. We thought Intruder would change that. And we were right but we had also made a mistake that would change the course of our story. We had underestimated the gravitational pull of the comet. Alarmed we observed the satellite get closer to the surface of the comet with every circling orbit.
As the probe got closer to the comet it gave us sharper and sharper images of its surface. The room felt into silence. Instead of mountains and and valleys, we saw geometric constructions resembling buildings, and a complex network of something similar to roads. What appeared to had been clouds were in reality cities, complex elaborate floating works of engineering.
After a few hours, Intruder crashed into the comet. The room exploded in cheers. We had destroyed our expensive probe, yes, but in return we had discovered life beyond Earth. Champagne was passed around.
I noticed the Ground Controller next to me wasn’t celebrating. Instead she was pointing to the maze of numbers in her screen, eyes wide open and a pale white expression on her face. I kicked the kid in the shoulder to snap her out of it.
“The comet is changing course,” she whispered to me. “It’s slowly… changing course. It’s impossible.”
I didn’t care about what was “possible” after what we had seen. I sat in silence while the everybody around us celebrated in excitement.
“Could somebody in that comet,” I asked, “trace the trajectory of Intruder back to us? Back to Earth?”
The young engineer nodded slowly.
“Well, that’s most unfortunate,” I said. “From the perspective of somebody in that comet, our crashed stately could surely look like a hostile attack.”
I looked around the room for the Director of Operations. Somebody would need to talk to him. It looked like we would soon be seeing more than just photos of our newly discovered aliens.
September 2, 2017