Star One: Tycho City Survival (8 page)

BOOK: Star One: Tycho City Survival
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“We don’t know
yet,” replied Mase, understanding Anthony’s concern. He had the same worry. “We
will know more once we get the information back from Star One’s computers.”

The two stood
outside for several more minutes discussing the neutron star and what it might
mean to Farside, Tycho City, and their families on Earth. Both knew the
following months could be very difficult for everyone.

-

Several hours
later, Mase was back in his office. Pierre LaRann had confirmed his worst
fears. The neutron star was coming toward them at a velocity of over three
hundred and sixty miles per second. It was going to intersect the solar system just
outside the orbit of Uranus if the analysis from Star One’s computer core was
accurate. At that range, the entire solar system would be adversely affected. Earth
would probably become uninhabitable and experience a major shift in its orbit.

Mase leaned
back in his chair and thought about what he had to do next. It was difficult to
think clearly as the enormity of this discovery weighed on him, knowing what
its possible ramifications could be. This discovery was overwhelming, and he
felt as if there was a big emptiness growing inside of him. It was as if part
of his world had just vanished.

Mase knew that
the next thing he needed to do was to contact Commander Larson on Star One and
explain to him that he was sending him an important packet of information on
the next shuttle. Steve should receive the information within twenty-four hours.
Mase didn’t want to risk sending the information over a com channel as it might
raise some suspicions. It might also be picked up from Earth.

However, he would
ask Steve to look over the data they had sent Star One’s computer earlier. It
wasn’t nearly as extensive as what LaRann was putting together now. At least it
would give Steve an idea of what they were facing. With Steve’s help, the two
of them could then decide on what their next steps needed to be.

Mase looked
over at the far wall of his office at several large paintings. One showed the
desolate lunar landscape in Tycho Crater with the central massif towering above
the ground. The other showed a lunar shuttle blasting off into orbit. He
recalled his earlier days on the Moon, when they were building Tycho City. They had lived in small, crowded shelters out on the surface. They had
accomplished so much, and now they might lose everything.

The door to
his office opened, and Linda stepped through. “I have Commander Larson on line
one, Sir.”

Linda wondered
just what had happened at Farside. Mase had been unusually quiet since he’d
returned. Linda had a bad feeling that Mase was extremely upset about
something. He just wasn’t acting right, so she knew something was definitely
wrong.

“Thank you,
Linda,” replied Mase, trying his best to keep his voice calm. He didn’t want to
worry Linda, at least not yet. He waited until Linda stepped back out and then,
reaching down, he pressed the button on the com panel on his desk.

“Hello,
Steve,” Mase spoke as he gathered his thoughts. This was going to be a
difficult conversation. A second passed and then Steve replied. Star One was
37,000 miles from the Moon and the communications delay was slight. “I got your
message and it sounded serious. Does this have anything to do with the data
that Farside ran through our computer core a few hours ago?”

“Yes, it does.
I need you to change your com system to encryption Beta One so I can explain
what’s going on.”

Mase and Steve
had set up several secure lines of communication in the event that they ever
needed to communicate without anyone being able to overhear. This prevented
their watchdogs on Earth, such as Senator Farley who was constantly a thorn in
their sides, from hearing their private conversations.

However, these
communications lines weren’t capable of handling the type of data that Mase now
needed to transmit to Steve. It might be necessary, in the near future, to set
up such a line.

Once the
encryption protocol was activated, Mase began explaining to Steve what Farside
had discovered. Mase could tell from the silence on the other end that his
counterpart on Star One was finding it difficult to believe what he had just
heard.

“A neutron
star,” Steve finally replied in a stunned voice. “LaRann and the other
scientists are positive of this?”

“Yes,” replied
Mase, evenly. “It has been confirmed by both the array and the Albertson
reflector. We ran the information through our computers at Farside as well as
the main core computer on Star one. There can be no doubt. A neutron star is
going to invade our solar system. It will intersect our solar system somewhere just
outside the orbit of Uranus. From our initial computer simulations, the entire solar
system will be adversely affected, including Earth.”

Mase waited,
knowing that Steve was trying to comprehend the ramifications of what he just
been told. Mase knew that Steve had worked for years getting the massive Star
One space complex built. It was home to over 2,000 people. Some day soon, it
would be the launching point for all deep space missions. A mission to Jupiter
was already in the works, with the Jupiter probe ship being constructed on the
Space Platform next to Star One.

“I need to
talk to several of my people plus review the data you ran through our computer.
I assume we want to keep this on a need-to-know basis for the time being until
we are certain of the ramifications of this discovery?”

“Yes,” replied
Mase relieved that Steve understood the need to keep everything quiet in the
short term. “I am sending you a packet with all the information we have
discovered. As soon as we’re sure of what’s going to happen we need to notify
Tim McPhryson on Earth so he can brief the president.”

“This isn’t
going to be good, Mase,” Steve commented in a lower voice. “We need to look
very carefully at how Star One and Tycho City will be affected. I don’t want to
evacuate either, but we may have no choice.”

“I know,” responded
Mase, knowing that Steve and he were thinking along the same lines. He looked
over at the picture of the massif on the wall, recalling all the hard work that
had been done to get Tycho City up and running. There was no way he was going
to abandon the city unless there was absolutely no other choice. He felt sure
Steve felt the same way about Star One.

“I wish Teela
was functioning properly,” Steve continued. “She could be a great help in
this.”

“Still having
problems with your AI?”

“Yes,” Steve
replied with a hint of aggravation creeping into his voice. “She has become
very irrational with some of her behavior recently. I’ve been looking for a
specialist from Earth that I could recruit to come up and solve this problem. I
located one young woman, a Jennifer Stone that is supposed to be an up and
coming genius in the AI field. We may need Teela if this neutron star turns out
to be a significant threat.”

“I agree,”
Mase responded. He knew that Teela was unlike any AI on Earth.

He had spoken
with her several times in the past, and she was quite remarkable. Talking to
Teela was almost like talking to a real person.

“As soon as I
have time to study the data you’re sending and can get with Commander Jones and
Lieutenant Commander Williams, I will get back with you. Between the two of us,
we will get a report ready for Tim on Earth. As soon as we’re certain of the
trajectory of this neutron star and what type of threat it’s going to be to the
solar system, we need to notify Tim. He can then explain the ramifications of
Farside’s discover to President Kateland.”

“I wouldn’t
want to be in Tim’s shoes,” commented Mase, thinking about how President
Kateland would react upon hearing all of this. He wondered how it would feel to
have to tell the president that the world might be coming to an end.

“Me neither,” replied
Steve, somberly “This is going to be a difficult situation for a lot of
people.”

“I will
continue to monitor the situation here and at Farside. We currently have a
communication blackout at Farside until we’re sure we can control the
information coming out from the observatory complex. We don’t want to cause a
panic.”

Mase spoke to
Steve for a few more minutes about how this news would affect Earth before
signing off. Leaning back in his chair, Mase closed his eyes. He also wondered
how soon it would be before the big observatories and antenna arrays Earth side
discovered the neutron star.

Opening his
eyes, Mase pressed a button on his desk and the large viewscreen on the wall to
his right came on. It was set to display a view of the surface and was currently
focused on the shuttle launching and landing pads. Everything for now seemed so
normal, but word of Farside’s discovery was bound to leak out shortly. Then
everything would change.

Mase wondered
worriedly what the future held for Tycho City which, over the years, had become
his only home. He also knew it might be necessary for him to contact his
brother Phillip and have him and his family come up to Tycho City much sooner than he had originally planned. It might be crucial to contact a number of key
personnel, and he speculated about how many additional people could be brought
up to Tycho City. He also wondered if Tycho City and Star One could survive
without Earth.

 

Chapter
Five

 

Mase carefully
studied the latest information he had just received from Farside. A copy of
this information was already on its way to Star One aboard a shuttle. There was
no doubt about it: the neutron star was coming, and it was going to prove
disastrous to the solar system.

If these
reports were correct, the orbital path of the Earth would be changed
dramatically. Several of the scientists at Farside questioned whether the Earth
would be able to survive the intense gravity disturbances from the passage of
the neutron star. They felt there was even a slim possibility that the Earth
might break up from the stress.

Mase leaned
back in his chair and let out a deep breath. He had spoken briefly with Pierre
LaRann about these results. LaRann had stressed that these were just
preliminary results, and it would take at least another week of intense
observation of the neutron star to confirm everything in the report.

Mase had also
asked Pierre if they had located the dust cloud that Charles thought might have
played a part in concealing the neutron star. Pierre had reported that, as of
yet, they had not been able to locate the dust cloud, but Charles felt sure it
would be found shortly. Mase only shook his head. He found all of this still
hard to accept.

Linda opened the
door to Mase’s office and stepped inside. “Mr. Anderson and Mr. Darrow are here
to see you,” she announced, crisply.

She saw that
Mase had a strange look upon his face. Something was wrong; she just didn’t
know what. Mase had always seemed to be able to handle any emergency, and she
wished she knew what was bothering him. She wondered if it had anything to do
with what was going on over at Farside. She had heard a few rumors, but they
were so fantastic she wasn’t sure what to believe.

“Send them
in,” replied Mase, leaning forward in his padded chair and thinking about what
he was going to say to the two men. If Tycho City was going to have any chance
of surviving, it would depend considerably on the skills of the two men he was
about to talk to.

Mase knew that,
at some point in time, he was going to have to tell Linda what was going on.
There was going to be too much communication traffic for her not to know that something
was up. He didn’t know how she would react to this neutron star news,
particularly since she still had family living on Earth. Hell, he didn’t know
how anyone would react!

The two men
entered the office, and Linda closed the door quietly behind them. They walked
over and sat down in the two comfortable chairs in front of Mase’s desk.

“What’s going
on?” asked Isaac, feeling curious about what the commander wanted. Mase had
sounded very adamant over the phone about coming to his office immediately. He
had been surprised to see Steffan Darrow, Tycho City’s chief engineer, waiting
to see Mase also.

“There has
been an important discovery made at Farside by the astronomers.” Mase quickly
told the two men what had been discovered and what the possible ramifications
could be for Earth.

The two men
sat in silence for a long minute, staring at Mase in astonishment. Neither
could believe or wanted to believe what they had just heard. Surely, this was a
joke of some kind. However, neither had ever heard or seen Mase pull such a
stunt. They looked nervously at each other and then back at Mase.

“A neutron
star,” Isaac finally mumbled in a stunned voice. “And it’s going to destroy the
solar system?”

“Not destroy
it,” Mase spoke up, shaking his head. “It will just rearrange the orbits of
most of the planets. We’re not sure just how badly the orbit of Earth will be
changed, but our planet will definitely be affected. We should know more about
that in another week.”

“So much so that
people may not be able to live on its surface,” said Steffan, glancing down at
one of the photos that Mase had shown them. It was hard to believe that small,
dim dot could be so dangerous to everyone and everything.

“If the Earth’s
orbit is changed so much it’s pulled much farther out away from the sun than
its current orbit, then yes, the surface could become uninhabitable,” replied Mase,
evenly.

He found it
difficult to say the words, but you couldn’t argue with the data in the packet
from Farside. LaRann had been extremely methodical in the information he had
sent.

“What are we going
to do?” asked Isaac, wondering if they were all doomed to die in Tycho City or on Earth. This was not what he had been expecting when he had come into
Mase’s office. He had thought Mase had questions about the mining operations.

BOOK: Star One: Tycho City Survival
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