Dreamweaver Anthology: An asteroid heads towards earth, the stranger brings a solution.
| Black as the night, its igneous surface melted by the heat of another sun the asteroid hurtled towards the light and out of the darkness of deep space. For thousands of years, it had kept this trajectory, its purpose clear. This was a planet destroyer, and it was bound for earth.
The brown-cloaked hooded stranger jumped the eight-foot-tall electric fence landing quietly in the grass beyond. He waited a moment looking directly at where he knew the cameras to be. Empowered as he was he only needed to think them broken and they would break. They broke off their hinges and crashed to the ground without getting any good pictures of him. He looked a little like a monk except armed with a broadsword and with the stature, shoulders, and bearing of a warrior. He walked in a straight line to the electronic doors. He glanced a moment at the entry pad and then jammed his sword between the two doors with his right hand. He put his left hand in the gap and with an impossible telekinetically enhanced strength he pulled the left door open as if it were nothing. Then he walked into the building.
His target was the billionaire owner of Blue Space, on the second floor of the mansion, playing on a gaming console in front of a 292-inch TV screen that filled one of the walls of his room. He was alone there. He walked into the room and greeted the billionaire politely. The man looked startled by the sudden entry and reached for a phone to alert his security. This mysteriously moved away from his hand as he did so. Confused and a little frightened by that the billionaire turned to face the intruder.
" Mr. Besk, it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance," the stranger said in perfect English with just a hint of an indecipherable accent that could have come from anywhere on the planet. Besk looked startled like a rabbit in headlights.
"You are not English, where are you from, and why are you here?" said Besk.
"That does not really matter and I have no time to explain this to you, there is an urgent matter we need to discuss," said the stranger.
The stranger studied the man in front of him. Outward appearances were irrelevant to him. He looked instead directly into the billionaire's soul, behind all the masks. Besk was spiritually shallow, selfish, vain, and greedy but as such he would be easy to control.
"Who are you and how did you get past my security?" Besk took out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his sweating brow.
"My name does not matter and do not be too harsh on your security guys. They could not have stopped me." The stranger saw the fear in Besk's eyes grow and how they darted around looking for some kind of escape but finding nothing.
"Why are you here then? To kill me?"
"No Mr. Besk, I am here to make a trade and to save the planet. The matter is of some urgency and so I need your help."
The stranger watched as Besk relaxed, stopped looking for the exit, and now seemed more curious than scared.
"Could you not have booked an appointment like everyone else. People always think it is urgent." Besk put on airs that he had practiced all his life when confronted by unwelcome visitors or requests. He was after all a very busy man.
The stranger stopped Besk in mid-sentence with a wave of his hand.
"I will cut straight to the chase. There is a 10-mile-wide asteroid hurtling to this planet that could cause an extinction-level event here. We are going to stop that from happening."
"How do you know this and how come NASA is not aware of it? I get all their reports and there are no unmapped near-earth objects that big in our vicinity."
"Correct sir, they will not notice the asteroid in question for another three months yet and the NASA development cycle would, we estimate, take a minimum of four years to create an adequate response. The asteroid itself will strike a month after it is discovered. Therefore, using the US military or NASA is simply out of the question to stop an object of this size. The bureaucracy involved would be far too burdensome. The organization that I work for is prepared to trade you some upgrades to your rocket efficiency, stability, and speed and some marked improvement in your navigational and scanning equipment for your help."
"What kind of rocket upgrades?"
"We can stabilize your rocket design and improve it so that the rocket will be twice as fast, use half the fuel, and will be such a stable design that you could group 100 of these improved engines together in the same rocket base."
Besk looked impressed at that and then asked.
"And the navigational and scanning improvements?"
"We can improve the processing power of your navigational computers so that they can deal with objects even as small as few centimeters in width. We can also improve your scanning capability to be able to scan the mineral content of whatever you survey. Effectively, when this is over, you will have a workable rocket design that could take you anywhere in the solar system. That with a vastly improved asteroid mining capability and a significant head start in that industry. I am reliably informed for instance that the target asteroid includes thousands of tons of gold and platinum. If we can shift the trajectory of the asteroid to hit the moon, it will shatter on impact. Mining its content would then be easy pickings for you."
The stranger watched the greed on the billionaire's face with some satisfaction. We have chosen the right strategy he thought to himself, this man will do as he is told.
"2000 tons of gold would be 35 million dollars a ton. That is $70 billion."
"Well, I think such a large quantity would drive the price down a little. It would not be that much. But all in all, yes, we are offering you roughly $200 billion worth of assorted minerals to achieve our goal here. You would then also have enough resources to turn mankind into a multi-planetary species, which I believe is your life ambition."
Besk nodded and smiled but then doubt spread over his face.
"And how do I know that any of this is true? You are saying exactly what I want to hear."
"Because it is in no one's interest that you fail. Indeed, it would be the end of most life on earth if you do not divert the asteroid. Incentivizing you with the potential rewards and with the prospect of fulfilling your ambitions is a means to an essential end."
"Can you give me a taster so that I know you are for real?"
"Yes, these are the full specs for the navigational and scanning array. Have your engineers check these out and build them as outlined in the files. Once built this will also confirm the existence of the asteroid and its trajectory." The stranger handed Mr. Besk a USB stick, "This includes a full list of preparations we wish to see completed by the beginning of next week to begin the program."
Taking the USB and pocketing it for the moment, Besk asked, "So what is the broad concept here?"
The stranger moved in front of Besk's gaming console which was displaying an army of zombie invaders that Besk had been mowing down before the stranger arrived. Besk switched it off with a remote beside him, so as not to be distracted.
"You are familiar with NASA's DART program for Asteroid Avoidance Impact?" said the stranger.
"Yes, of course, I was consulted on that. So, you want to use my new improved rocket as a kinetic impactor?"
"Yes exactly, but the rocket will need to be five times the size of your current one and weigh ten times more. Also, the design of the main capsule will be constructed with a view to causing a maximum impact on the asteroid. Our navigation software and new scanning capabilities will precisely calculate the best point to strike the asteroid, to divert its course into the moon."
"Why not just divert it into space and mine it out there? Would that not be safer?"
The stranger paused wondering if Besk was approaching information overload and whether he should share the fuller picture. He decided to give him a little more information.
"Mr. Besk, the world is not as you know it. There are powers at work for good and evil in this world of which you are not aware. The impact point has to be so close so that there is no possibility of any counteractions being made by rival powers."
"Are you telling me that some of the most powerful people in these shadow kingdoms you allude to are intent on destroying our planet and would just let the asteroid strike us?"
"But they would destroy themselves if they did that."
The stranger did not answer, just shrugged, and looking Besk in the eye nodded.
"Before I leave, I must inform you that you will need a bodyguard. A man will arrive shortly and will shadow you for the duration of the project. When you begin the building of the ship then you and your key personnel must live nearby the ship, as his priority will be protecting the rocket. This man has powers, as do I, with which you are not familiar. Like me, he will wear a monk’s habit and a broadsword like this." With that, the stranger drew back his cloak to reveal a long sword strapped to his side. "He will protect you until you have completed the work."
Besk looked puzzled at the sight of such an ancient-looking weapon following such a hi-tech conversation but he nodded, nonetheless.
"Mr. Besk, we chose you because you can get things done without having to answer people's questions about why you do what you do. We expect you to respect our anonymity as far as possible."
Besk nodded excited by the project and keen to read what he had been given on the USB. He reached into his pocket feeling the stick his eyes momentarily leaving the stranger. When he looked up the stranger was gone.
Besk had his Chief Engineer Mr. Jacobs and his accountant Mr. Rubenstein assembled in the conference room. The brown-cloaked figure in the corner stood hooded, his eyes scanning the room and otherwise silent and still.
"Have you checked out the specifications for the navigation array and scanners?" Besk asked Jacobs.
"Yes, they check out, the software is twenty years ahead of anything on the market today. May I ask where you got this? The computer language they are using includes code libraries and possibilities that simply do not exist yet."
"You can ask but you will get no answers, do you really care so long as it works," said Besk glancing at the hooded man then back at the Chief Engineer to whom he directed his question. "Can you build it?"
Besk noticed Jacobs's eyes were full of excitement and realized he was too enamored by the technology to really care how Besk had obtained it and to follow on with his previous question about where Besk had gotten the specs.
"Yes, we have already begun. The specification documentation is superb and gives very precise instructions. We should be finished by the end of next week."
"Do we have the finance in place?" Besk directed the question at Rubenstein, who paused annoyingly, shuffled his papers, looked a little worried but then finally answered.
"Yes, sir we have some $10 billion in liquid assets. We had to sell a lot of stock and we drove down the price of your companies doing so," said Rubenstein.
"Don't worry about that. The stock will rebound once we complete our project."
With that, the man behind him moved for the first time since the beginning of the meeting. He held out his hand. In it was a new USB stick.
The reporter stood outside the South Texas-based launch pad in Boca Chica. He was directly in front of the workshop there for the Blue Space Company excitedly pointing to the giant rocket being assembled behind him while his cameraman filmed the scene.
"As you can see Mr. Besk is building a rocket that will be five times the size of the Saturn 5. He appears to be building this directly on the launch pad as the workshop to the right is clearly too small to accommodate the rockets great size. Parts are being assembled in the workshop and then added to the rocket. No explanation has been given for this investment and sources close to Mr. Besk are saying nothing, Speculation is rife and includes the idea that he may have a top-secret military project. We can say nothing definite at this time."
As the reporter was speaking, he noticed the cameraman start pointing the camera at something else behind him. He joined the cameraman behind the monitor to view the close-up of the scene that the camera had on its screen. He noticed two cloaked men. One wore a black cloak and the other a brown cloak. They were fighting with broadswords before the rocket. A third man, similarly attired, joined them shortly after. He did not take part in the fight and just guarded the rocket itself and some distance from the fight. The cameras kept their focus on the sword fight. The reporter and with him, the whole world watched as the swordsmen left the ground fighting while levitated. Flying at each other at great speeds and doing impossible somersaults through the air.
The reporter came back on audio while the camera stayed focused on the unfolding situation.
"This is coming to you live from the Blue Space center in Texas. We are viewing two apparently supernatural swordsmen fighting in front of Mr. Besk’s Top Secret new rocket. The identity of these men is unknown."
As he spoke three Apache helicopters flew overhead. He continued to commentate audio-only watching bullets strike the black-cloaked figure only. The incessant fire of bullets seemed to simply bounce off him yet gave his brown hooded opponent an advantage by way of distraction. The reporter did his best to commentate on the strange and brand new situation.
"The US military appears allied with the brown cloaked men and the black-cloaked man appears to be trying to sabotage the rocket. It seems therefore that the American government may be aware of the purpose of this rocket. Their help appears to have tipped the balance and the black-cloaked man is retreating. My goodness, he moves fast... and he is gone."
The Head of Space Command seemed uncomfortable sharing the Observation Deck with the silent Warrior- Monk that guarded Besk. He turned to Besk.
"Does this man have to be here in the Launch Center with us?"
"He is our security General?"
"The entire US military is defending this site!" said the General.
"Maybe, but he is the one who is keeping it secure. Despite your support, this is not a US Military project. You saw the swordfight on TV, and you saw how ineffective the Apache machine guns were against his opponent," said Besk.
The hooded man said nothing, his head bowed as if in prayer or meditation. It seemed he was ignoring the discussion.
The countdown for launch reached ten and a voice started sounding. "10..."
All attention shifted to the immense rocket on the launch pad.
The hooded man disappeared in a flash from the room. The countdown continued. A few seconds later the General watched as he appeared outside near the base of the rocket.
"3, 2, 1, Liftoff."
As the General watched from the Observation Deck, the rockets stirred into action and immense flames shot out from the rocket. These apparently engulfed the watching hooded figure. Nonetheless, as the rocket surged into the sky he could be seen flying alongside the rocket. His sword was drawn. The reason for that became suddenly clear as a missile came out of the nearby ocean and hurtled towards the rocket. The hooded figure flew towards the missile at speed, diverting it with a fist and then slicing it in half. It fell harmlessly to the ground. The rocket continued surging into the sky. The cloaked man followed for a while and then disappeared.
In the launch center, Besk turned towards the General who merely smiled and nodded, acknowledging the worth of the hooded man.
Some minutes later, the rocket surged into orbit continuing towards the approaching asteroid. The media were broadcasting across the world having finally been informed of the purpose of this mission. The world watched with bated breath. They wondered if they would live or die? It all hung on the success of this mission. As the rocket approached its target pictures were streamed from a camera in the cone of the spacecraft and two camera satellites were deployed to ether side to view the results of the strike. A global audience gasped in horror as they started to make out the dark menacing shape of the asteroid which was annotated and highlighted on the camera view by the scanning software. It was ten miles across and being mainly metallic completely deadly. The navigation software refined the precise place to strike the asteroid, as it approached, factoring in a reading of the mineral composition and mass. Finally, it slammed into the asteroid at some 30,000 miles an hour, its 1000 tons of mass just enough to cause a jolt to the asteroid's trajectory. As the main camera view disappeared the satellite views replaced them in the media feed. The world watched as the asteroid shifted course and just minutes later slammed into the moon. It created an enormous impact crater and smaller rocks spewed upwards due to the power of the collision.
There was a massive cheer from the Launch Center. The Earth was saved.
Besk smiled. The satellite he had placed by the moon started returning data about the fragmented remains of the asteroid. Vast riches were now scattered on the moon's surface. These were easy pickings for any spacecraft. He phoned the Chief Engineer of Blue Space.
"Start building," he said.
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