Lunar Escape - Part 6
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Four hours from interception, 101946 Tlaloc already dominated the view out of the bridge’s forward windows. Undulating shadows punctuated the asteroid’s matte black surface as it rotated on its long axis. The three of them on the bridge floated in silence, staring at it.
“We’re right on target,” Werner said, checking his range finder for the 15th time since Lucas had arrived on the bridge.
Grabbing a railing along the ceiling, Lucas pulled himself closer to the window to better view the surface. “When will the anomaly come into view?” He turned to Paxton.
“We’ll first see it when we’re 20 minutes from our closest approach to Tlaloc,” she replied. “Assuming you’ve exactly followed my course directions.” Her hair floated up at odd angles as though she had one hand resting on a Van der Graaff machine.
Unfortunately, her space sickness hadn’t abated—her only complaint Lucas felt sympathy for. But her list of grievances extended well past her nausea. There wasn’t a ship’s cook (meaning she had to eat pre-packaged food), the ship was too cold, the ventilation system was too noisy...
Her running list of grievances never ended—but even worse, she still refused to tell them what the ‘anomaly’ they were looking for was. That missing bit of information left a knot in Lucas’ gut—it was like working on a puzzle without all the pieces.
“How about you tell me about this anomaly before we arrive?” His frustration levels had reached the point where he was willing to shake answers out of the woman if he had to.
She stared at him with wide-eyed, fake innocence. Then she bit her lip, glancing at the asteroid, then back at Lucas.
“I guess I’ll have to explain eventually.” She sighed. “Our initial scans detected the anomaly about 18 months ago, when the asteroid was discovered to be on a collision course with Earth.”
“The Combined Nations Science Board announced discovery of this asteroid only seven months ago.” Lucas crossed his arms.
Paxton shrugged, a motion that put her into a slow spin. She grabbed onto a bar to steady herself. “The Conglomerate knew where to look.”
“Why wouldn’t they share that information?” Werner turned away from his screen to stare at Paxton.
She just pursed her lips and stared out the window without answering the question.
“Bloody Conglomerate.” Werner returned his attention back to his display. “They just don’t give a shit about the average person or anything not related to profits.”
“Careful Werner,” Lucas said. “They’re our employer, and they like to record things.”
“Sure, money makes everything hunky dory.” The pilot didn’t even bother looking his way.
After a quick glance at the looming space rock, Lucas turned back to the only person present who knew what was going on.
“You still haven’t explained what this anomaly is.” Lucas hooked his toes under a strap along the deck before crossing his arms and glaring at her. He could see his reflection in the window behind her. With his black hair floating up from his scalp, he looked imposing. Maybe now, she’d provide some answers.
“Thing is, we know little,” she said.
Lucas deflated. “Then tell me what you know.”
“The anomaly doesn’t have the same origins as the asteroid, and it is small enough to bring back to Maximillian Station.”
“Well, we’re cutting it close, Earth defences will blow the asteroid to dust in less than 10 hours.” Lucas knew the people manning the triggers for the defence satellites wouldn’t hesitate when the time came—too much was at stake.