Amber and her hand picked team of eight had taken up temporary residence in one of Deep Stone’s smaller chambers. There were enough computes terminals to accomplish everything they needed to do and more. They had around the clock monitoring set up. Using POSIS, her satellite imaging system, they were able to keep a close eye on the rogue star. Since they were gathering data 24 hours a day they had to work in shifts.
Amber walked through the hatch, with a metal coffee mug in hand. She was feeling better after her four hours of sleep and five minute shower. She had even been able to spend a few minutes with Lawrence and Riker in the mess hall before rushing back to her duty post.
“What do we know?” She said briskly as she walked in. Carmen and Donald, two new recruits to her team, turned in their chairs. They were young promising science officers. She had given them a crash course in satellite imaging and they had picked it up quickly.
“It’s descending still.” Carmen said. That wasn’t news, it had been doing that for two days. Amber walked across the room, grabbed a chair, and started dragging it toward their station. She wasn’t in a hurry.
“How high does the atmosphere go?” Donald asked.
“The stratosphere reaches about 50 or 60 kilometers.” Amber explained, not sure why he was asking. Donald turned to Carmen.
“See I told you.”
“Why?” Amber’s curiosity was peeked.
“Then the star is going to be in the atmosphere in a few minutes.” Carmen said.
“What!” Amber shouted. Her volume startled them both. “It wasn’t supposed to be in the stratosphere for another two days. “
“Yeah, it changed speeds again.” Donald said.
“Why didn’t you come get me?” Amber said as she shoved the chair she was pulling, set down her coffee, and tapped Donald on the shoulder to signal him that she wanted his chair.
“I don’t know, is it bad for it to touch the atmosphere?” Carmen asked.
“Yes!” Amber barked as she took control of the keyboard. She began to toggle through screens gobbling up data at lighting speed. “Under normal circumstances, it would immediately superheat the air and cause a massive explosion, killing everything on Earth.”
“Under normal circumstances?” Donald repeated, obviously pointing out that nothing seemed to be playing by the rules of normal circumstance.
“Hopefully the containment field theory is true, because if it’s not we’re all going to be dead in about—” she paused to check the screen. “Two minutes.”
“Sorry, I should have called,” Carmen began to say with true penitence in her voice.
“It’s ok, there’s nothing I could do about it. I just don’t want to miss the show. If we’re dead we’re dead.”
“If we’re dead we’re dead,” Carmen and Donald repeated in unison. It had become a team slogan that they would repeat when things started looking bad. Amber had originally said it to calm the team when anxiety was running high. Now it had almost become a joke.
Carmen and Donald leaned over Ambers shoulder. She pulled up a live image feed. The rogue star glowed bright and powerful. In the video it looked as if it were nearly touching the surface of the Earth. If the data was right it would begin to skim the atmosphere in thirty seconds.
The sound of footsteps, heavy breathing, and whispering came from behind them. Two more members of Amber’s team joined the audience; Joshua and Sam. Amber glanced back wondering how they knew to come. Donald answered the question Amber’s eyes implied.
“I called ‘em, I figured they’d want to see this,” Donald said.
“You called them but not me?” She said more joking now.
Amber turned back around. A few seconds later more footsteps down the corridor let her know that the whole team was present. Amber hit a few buttons to zoom in on the place where the glowing orb was closest to the Earth.
“Ok, it’s skimming,” Amber said.
“We’re not dead yet!” Donald called out. Someone clapped but Amber quickly quieted them. She wanted to learn all she could. She leaned over to make sure that the feed was recording.
“This is great data!” She said.
“Why?” Carmen asked. No one took their eyes off the screen. Amber didn’t explained but instead continued as if she hadn’t heard Carmen’s question.
“Look there,” Amber said. Her young prodigies leaned in closer. “See that orange glow around the edge of the sphere.” She clicked another set of buttons that zoomed the image. “This is no normal star.”
Her team was hushed as they watched the proceedings. She toggled between multiple windows trying to learn anything she could. Her practiced hands, and expert eyes were impressive on their own.
“Hey, It’s going to pass over North America,” Joshua said. He pointed to the image. The star was moving quickly across the surface of the planet. At the edge of the screen the landmass of Southern California was materializing.
“How fast is it moving?” Carmen asked.
“Relative to us, it’s clocking about 48,200 Kilometers an hour and dropping.” Amber said. On the screen they could see an orange glow swelling from around the fiery orb. The air was reacting, but not anywhere near as violent as Amber had expected.
“How big is it?” Donald asked. Amber clicked over to an adjacent window and scanned the data for a split second. She found what she was looking for and pointed. Donald saw the numbers but apparently didn’t have a concept of what they meant.
“How big is that?”
“About the size of Texas.”
She zoomed the image out, and they saw that it was now over the North America mainland. The ground moved by underneath the massive mini-sun. It was arching southward toward Mexico. They watched intently not sure if they were about to witness impending doom.
The vibration was subtle at first, something they could feel but not hear. Through the souls of her shoes Amber thought she noticed a slight tremor. She placed her hand on the table to see if she could sense it there as well. The table too, was translating a slight quivering.
“Do you guys feel that?” She said. Before the words were out of her mouth, the tremor had grown to a detectable frequency. She still couldn’t hear it, but it was a sustained vibration.
“I can feel it,” Joshua said, followed by the others. Another second and it had become audible. A constant low note swelled from the stone walls around them. The chamber resonated with the tone as it grew in amplitude.
“What is that?” Donald asked. Amber leaned in toward the screen trying to understand.
“I think it’s the air around the rogue. It’s being heated like a ship on reentry. In this case though, the vibrations can be heard from kilometers away,” Amber said as the sound grew more intense. They had to shout now to be heard.
“If it’s this loud down here, from a thousand kilometers away, it must be defining on the surface, maybe even fatal,” Amber added.
Carmen put her hands over her ears. Some of the others did the same. The sound pulsated through the walls with an undulating regularity. It was beginning to make Amber feel a little nausea. Still it grew in volume. With the tremendous vibrations of sound the computer screens began to glitch with signal interference. Amber’s feet felt like they had been dropped into a blinder, but still the sound grew.
Everyone’s hands were over their ears now. She wondered if it would grow loud enough to kill them, or even collapse the bunker. As the sound amped to a frenzied crescendo, Amber had a strange sense of familiarity. It was certainly destructive, and it was certainly painful, but more than anything it sounded almost like an instrument.
She wobbled to her feet, which could barely stand the feeling of the floor’s reverberation. Though her hands muffled the tone, she paid attention to the noise. It sounded very nearly like a brass instrument played at incredible volume. She closed her eyes and imagined it for a few seconds. Yes, she could envision some large horn. As soon as it came the thought was gone.
It was nearly imperceptible at first, but she thought the sound began to fade. Little by little the note lessened, the vibrating floor slowed, and the noise drifted off into the distance. Amber took a deep breath, realizing that her lungs were screaming for air. As soon as she righted herself she sat back down at the computer. She was physically shaking. The experience had been frightening, so she busied herself.
“That was crazy!” Sam said. The others agreed with their own comments, but Amber wasn’t listening. She zoned her attention on the screen in front of her.
They watched for another hour as the rogue star circled the Earth. It skimmed the upper layer of the atmosphere and it sped along. There was something that felt very intentional about the entire maneuver. There was no longer any doubt in her mind that there was some intelligent force behind this rogue star.
The star circled the planet another six times, never getting close enough for them to hear the sound again, although a few passes Amber thought she could feel the ground vibrate.
The path of the star spiraled from pole to pole. Amber could see a kind of strategy in it. Whoever was driving that star had wanted everyone on the planet to experience that blast. It was probably some galactic dictatorial fear tactic. That might work on some primitive world, but Earth was a place of science. She forced herself to be calm.
They had been glued to the screen for hours before anything new happened. It twisted Amber’s stomach into a knot when she saw the change. Suddenly, the star stopped. It didn’t gradually decrees it’s speed. It just became motionless. Based on the known laws of physics it was completely impossible, but she had seen it.
“How did it stop like that? It didn’t even slow down.” Carmen asked. Amber signed. Anxiety racked through her body. The silence was maddening.
“I’m less concerned with how it stopped, and more concerned with why.” Amber said. She was about to change the view but something stopped her. The shimmering glow of the star changed somehow. With the most subtle tinge of shifting light the star’s surface seemed come loose. It pulsed and then began to move.
“Hey, what’s that?” Joshua said.
Amber hit the button to zoom the view. It wasn’t close enough, so she hit it again. Once more revealed an image that chilled her to her bone. Her mouth fell open and her hair felt like it stood on end.
Coming out of the sphere were streams of light. What looked like little threads of fusion energy flowed from the fiery orb. She hit the button again trying to zoom further. She was at the maximum and couldn’t enlarge it any more. Threads of white hot illumination poured from the rogue like lightning made of fire. There was direction to these streams as they spread out like spiderwebs.
“Oh my God, what is that?” Carmen said.
“The invasion.” Amber pushed back from the table and stood. She ran her fingers through her hair. She was scared. What were the rules of engagement? Were they safe in a bunker? What was the end game? It felt like her stomach was in her throat.
The streams of light flowing out of the star split off like a million little points of light and dropped down to the surface of the planet. She couldn’t tell where the star was currently, but she hoped it was as far away from Deep Stone as possible. She suddenly had the intense urge to be with her family. If this was it, she didn’t want to spend her last few moments in a lab with a bunch of science officers.
“If you have someone you love here, go be with them,” Amber shouted as she ran from the chamber.