The other week, Ms Red Pen asked me to come up with the word for the 5-word challenge – the goal is to write a short story that incorporates five (more or less) random words. The words I chose were: evolve, green, growth, knack, and rope.
Well, it’s pretty funny – I’d been thinking about those words all week, and what did I come up with? Nada. Then I read a story and tried to extrapolate that to a moment.
Kathy stared, still dumbfounded by the output. She double-checked the parameters and ran it again. Green lines of numbers cascaded down the screen. The answer was the same. She knew it would be – this had been the third time she’d reinitialized the calculation. Fifty thousand miles per hour. Three-hundred and twenty three million miles. She blinked and it felt like a rope was tightening around her lungs. She forced herself to breathe to try and calm herself.
The Pan-STARRS control room was empty but for her on a Sunday night. Still she looked around. How long until someone else confirmed her discovery? A couple of days? A week? It didn’t really matter, did it? She knew that she should call the Director, but she understood how this situation was likely to evolve: the call to NASA, the Pentagon, eventually the White House. They’d want to keep it a secret. Could they in this day and age? Panic would swell and its growth would tax authorities’ abilities to keep order.
Kathy stood up. Sat back down, heavily. She’d originally gotten into astronomy because she wanted to study planetary origins. She shook her head ruefully. Her brother had always said she had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Well, with a Torino Scale “10” event in – what was 269 days? – nine months, there was no “right” place to be. For anyone.
She should call now, she knew. But she didn’t. It could wait. She walked out of the lab and into the balmy night air.