It had been a grueling few hours. With the help of General Andrew’s team, Amber was able to tap into POSIS, the imaging satellite system she had designed and built. Andrews sat and waited for the briefing that Amber had prepared.
She came in whipping sweat from her forehead. The chamber was cool, but she was nervous. Andrews and a few other uniformed men sat at a large conference table in a glass room that overlooked the command center. She laid out a bundle of hand written notes on the table and took a deep breath. She didn’t feel ready, but it was time.
“What can you tell us about this rogue star?” Andrews said.
“We’ve been taking parallax readings for the last hour.” She paused realizing that her words would need explanation. “Parallax is one of the ways we can tell how distant an astronomical body is from Earth.”
“Thank you,” Andrews said, obviously appreciative of the explanation. Amber continued.
“We discovered something that seems impossible.” Her eyes were wide, hardly able to believe what she was about to tell them. “The star is doing something that we didn’t expect.”
“Something you didn’t expect? That’s an understatement.” One of the men said. Amber recognized him as York, the guard who had manned the door of the helicopter. She did her best to push the image of York murdering Senator Yates from her mind. She turned to him and affirmed his hypotheses.
“Yes, everything about it is unexpected. It’s size is very small for a star. Based on the known laws of physics it shouldn’t be able to hold together at it’s current mass. It’s moving independent of galactic motion. All that is unexpected, but what we discovered a moment ago is even stranger.”
“Don’t keep us in suspense Miss. Levy-Hope.” Andrews said.
“It’s velocity is decreasing.” She explained. She assumed that would mean something to the men, but it was clear from the blank stares that she would need to explain further. She grabbed a pen, and shuffled her papers, looking for a blank space to sketch.
“Are you familiar with Newton’s first law?” She didn’t wait for a response. “You’ve probably heard it. It says that an object will remain at rest or at uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.”
Amber drew a circle on the blank page and then a straight line to demonstrate the path the star was taking. She then dashed hash marks along the path. She held up the page as she explained.
“The rogue star should either keep a constant speed, or speed up as it moves closer to the sun. That’s not what it’s doing.” She laid the page down on the table and prepared to go on. Andrews interrupted her train of thought.
“So, that’s a good thing? If it’s slowing down that means it may not hit Earth, right?”
“If it’s slowing down,” Amber paused. “It could mean something else all together.”
“Please elaborate?” said Andrews.
“I’m not certain. We’ve never seen anything like it.”
“You’re the expert here. We are relying on you to give us your educated guess. What could it mean?”
Amber thought for a few seconds before she reached for the empty chair in front of her. She pulled it out and sat down. There had not been a moment to slow down and consider the possibilities. The General’s question bounced around in her mind like a pin ball.
“It could mean that we have our calculations wrong. It could mean that some gravitational well has begun to slow it’s trajectory.” Amber said, although her voice didn’t sound like she was convinced.
“That’s not what you think is going on, is it Miss Levy-Hope?” Andrews said. He was perceptive which was inconvenient at the moment. She would like another few minutes to think it over, but the men’s penetrating stare let her know she needed to give an answer.
“No, I don’t think that’s what’s going on.”
“Amber, Tell us what you think is going on!” The General barked. It made her jump to hear him raise his voice. Under the circumstances, his annoyance was the smallest thing on her mind.
“I think it’s being controlled by something.”
“That’s ridiculous. You’re saying that this rogue star is some kind of celestial recking ball?” York chimed in. His tone was condescending, but she ignored the insult and answered the question.
“I don’t know. It’s velocity decrees is not consistent like it would be if it were caught in a gravity well. It’s incremental, more like what you’d expect a space craft to do when its making periodic retro-thruster burns.”
The men around the table all looked to General Andrews as if there was some unspoken information that hung in the air. It was like a group of friends who had an inside joke she was not privy to, except no one was laughing.
“You know something don’t you?” She asked. She was thirsty for answers.
“We know something, we’re just having a hard time believing it.” Andrews said. He spun around in his chair and reached for something. He stood and walked to the end of the table where Amber sat. He tapped his thick finger against the screen of a hand held device and placed it in front of her.
A tall man, incredibly good looking, was giving a speech in front of a packed room. She didn’t recognize the venue but she was sure it wasn’t in the U.S. She read the subtitles as the man spoke slow and deep. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. When the video was done she looked to General Andrews with confusion.
“Miss Levy-Hope, you’ve just corroborated E.T.’s story.” Andrews said as if it were an everyday affair. She wilted. Visions of alien overlords, and an insane galactic dictator flashed through her mind.
“It can’t be,” she whispered. Andrews walked back to the other end of the table with the device.
“You said it yourself, Miss Levy-Hope. We have no choice but to proceed as if this threat is real.” Andrews said with a grave tone of voice.
“He’s claiming that an alien dictator is using a star as a space ship. He’s claiming that this dictator is going to take over Earth. He’s claiming that he can save the human race.” Amber said testing out the theory in her mind. It was impossible, but the data lined up. She had no better explanation.
“So what do we do?” Amber asked.
“As of right now, we need you to learn all you can about this rogue star. Find out if it has any weaknesses. Determine what it’s weaponry is. Find out if we can fight it.”
“I… uh…” Amber was lost. How could they fight a star. They didn’t even understand how it worked. If what Zao had said in his speech was true then there were two sides of the coming battle. One side had tanks, guns, and bombs. The other side had technology that used stars as transportation. It occurred to her that the safest course of action would be to join the side that had the rogue star.
“Whatever you need you can have. This is a matter of human survival.” Andrews said.
She was numb. It seemed like every step of the way things were getting worse. Her emotions had been cauterized and in their place a charred mess of confusion stood. She tried to busy her mind with the task at hand. What would she need?
“My lab has been destroyed,” She gulped hard at the thought. “All we can do from here is observe. We’re gathering data, but we don’t have the power to analyze it. I had racks of servers for data modeling in my lab but—”
“I know just the person to help,” Andrews said.