Peterson Air Force Base
Colorado Springs, Colorado
12 hours prior to indicated impact
"I think we need to escalate on R6."
The room was grim and silent, full of people who agreed with the statement, but didn't like having to agree with it. The unit in question - full designation C/2020 R6 - was merely one of many comets that had been spotted over the course of the year. Most were of little interest to anyone besides scientists, and plenty weren't of any interest to them
, either. C/2020 R6 had become unfortunately interesting because it was moving very quickly, as far as comets were concerned - indeed, it had been discovered only at the beginning of the month, and was already visible with a backyard telescope, if one knew where to look and what to look for.
It was also headed, more or less, directly towards the Earth. When it had first been observed, the trajectory data had suggested that it would be one of those interesting public phenomena - visible to the naked eye on the right night, but harmless. The trajectory had shifted somewhat, though, influenced by unknown gravities or simply calculated in error in the first place. As of this morning, there was no doubt that R6 was headed directly for Earth itself.
"It's not that big. It ought to burn up in the atmosphere." There was an optimist in every group, it seemed, someone who hoped for the best - but NORAD wasn't there to hope for the best, NORAD was there to prepare for the worst.
"Where's it going to hit if it doesn't?"
Another one of those grim silences, as people considered the implications of that. Even if most
of C/2020 R6 burned up in orbit, having a meteorite strike in the middle of a busy city was never a good sign. The danger from idiot drivers who stopped to gawk at it would probably be responsible for at least a few dozen deaths, and that was even if there was no impact damage at all.
"We'll have to evacuate."
"The mayor will love that." Sarcasm, the first line of defense against any invasion. The unfortunate fact was that 12 hours was hardly enough time to plan an evacuation of anything, much less a major city. 12 hours was hardly enough time to convince people they needed
to evacuate, much less get them moving - and there would always be those who needed to pack absolutely everything, or who simply refused to believe that there was any problem at all, and insisted they would be just fine. Maybe they would - but organizations like NORAD existed because of the possibility that they wouldn't
They should have had weeks to plan an evacuation - or at least days. The problem was that C/2020 R6 should have
missed Earth entirely. All the predictions had indicated that it would - until two hours ago, when something had changed.
And now the clock was ticking.
Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base
26 minutes before indicated impact
"You really think this is going to work?"
"Oh, hell nah. I don't care how good we are - and we're good - but they're saying we'll have less than five seconds between that thing coming into range and it hitting the ground, and in that time someone's gotta get a bead on it and shoot it off the trajectory? Nah. Ain't gonna happen. It's a CYA maneuver."
"So they can claim they did their part when it hits, I suppose."
"Yeah. And we can't use anything big enough to do any real damage because it's right over a city, so we're sitting around with our thumbs up our asses."
"Great. Hey, how come they can't just get one of those superheroes to come punch it back into orbit or something?"
"You kidding? That'll be worse collateral than the fucking asteroid. Look, they're saying even worst case scenario, most of it's gonna burn up in orbit, maybe it'll flatten a few houses, and we know where it'll hit, so people are out of that area. We just shoot at it to make ourselves look good, then everyone goes home. Except maybe one or two people, but that's why people have insurance."
"Come on, heroes aren't that bad- Look, really. Come on, that Total Experience guy's all right."
"Hey, Jim, when you signed on, did you tell the recruiter you were a thirteen-year-old girl? 'Cause-"
"Ladies, cut the chatter. Clear to take off in five minutes."
7 seconds to impact
"Ho-lee shit that thing's moving fast. Clear to fire any time you think you've got a shot."
"Damn, that's a miss."
"Close one. Fuck."
"Swear I hit it."
"You did not."
"I thought I did. I don't know. I thought it moved a little."
"Too late. Good try."
"Didn't they say it was gonna be smaller?"
"Get clear. Impact in three - two - one-"
In the beginning, there had been light.
For a time after that, the lights were small, and far away, and not so bright. At some point, the lights became closer, and carried a hint of something that had once been. There was belief
- not belief in the right things, but belief nonetheless, and it called across the stars.
It summoned her, the prodigal daughter, and she came to the altar - not to kneel before it, but to accept its offerings, as was her due. Space turned to sky, and sky brought strangeness, things that flew towards her. She caught one coiling around it through her fall, and struck the ground beneath. The world broke, as it should - a crater of destruction, toppled buildings, several blocks in every direction reduced to rubble. Beyond that, tremors filled the city, windows shattering and car alarms adding their noise to the rising panic.
The lambent deity did not heed their cries. She stood, appearing as they did, these people that surrounded her impact site, her hand upon the missile that had been shot at her. She looked upward and cast it towards the skies, hurling it back from where it had come. The aircraft shattered in the sky, and she walked forward, her hand taking hold of the frame of what had once been a vehicle, twisting her body with the grace of a discus thrower and casting it, too, into the squadron of aircraft above, bringing one more down to earth.
One after another, they would fall as she had.